The Fight For State Legislatures Begins

The drubbing Republicans took on Tuesday revealed more than just a window into the looming battle for control of the U.S. Senate and House chambers next year. The shocking losses endured by Republican members in the Virginia House of Delegates highlight an imminent battle for something many political talking heads have never paid much attention to, but a sector of American government that wields a remarkable amount of power: the control of state capitols.

Much has already been analyzed about Virginia’s gubernatorial and down-ballot races. Yes, it was a referendum on President Trump, and yes, it was a result of extreme Democratic voter enthusiasm. But there is much more going on here. Democrats did not just win the three statewide races at play in Virginia.

Heading into Election Day, Virginia Democrats only controlled 34 out of 100 House of Delegate seats — a size so small even the most conservative of forecasters predicted their numbers would grow at least by some numbers. However, the gains made by their party shocked Democrats themselves. As of this writing, Democrats have expanded their caucus to a total of 49 seats, with several races under a recount and could possibly lead to Republicans losing majority control altogether.

The major gains made by Virginia Democrats could be explained by the fact that Old Dominion has trended blue in recent years — voting for the Democratic candidate in three past presidential elections. However, Virginia wasn’t the only state on Tuesday where local Republicans took a shellacking.

Georgia — a ruby red state by any definition — witnessed three state legislative seats flip party control, two state House seats and a state Senate seat fell into Democratic hands. The two districts that flipped, previously occupied by GOP state Reps. Chuck Williams and Regina Quick, are so conservative, they weren’t even contested by Democrats last year.

Also on Tuesday night, Washington state Republicans lost their state Senate majority, and local Democrats won special elections in areas across the country.

This isn’t simply the result of Democratic voter enthusiasm generated by President Trump. Taking a close look at the money invested in these races, we see Democratic operatives and donors who have adopted a newfound interest in state legislatures.

An interesting observation made following the 14+ Democratic gains in the Virginia House of Delegates.

One more screen shot to drive home what we’re talking about here.

These tweets are completely accurate. A look into the Virginia Public Access Project reveals that Democratic candidates enjoyed monumental amounts of campaign donations over the Republicans they unseated.

For example, Republican Bob Marshall had occupied his Delegate seat for 26 years. It should certainly raise eyebrows that a 33-year-old transgender, who has never before run for elected office and holds no political experience whatsoever, can not only outspend Marshall, but outspend him by almost half a million dollars.

A look through campaign finance records and we see the same type of spending disparities across the board among down-ballot Virginia candidates. Democratic candidates — many of them novices who typically would never have the connections to amass such fundraising numbers — were able to far outspend Republicans in their quest to capture their districts. Campaign expenditures to this degree are not usually seen for such local races.

So what the heck happened?

Local Republicans flourished under the Obama years. GOP state legislators saw their numbers grow in the hundreds since the 2010 sweep and onward. Peaking after the 2016 elections, Republicans controlled both legislative chambers in 32 state capitols across the country. Democrats only enjoyed total control of state legislatures in 13 states.

Unlike the gridlock we see in Congress, partisan domination in a state capitol results in serious authority in policy agendas. Control of a state’s upper and lower chamber and gubernatorial seat (referred to as trifecta control) gives a sate party almost unchecked power in legislative priorities and has showcased states as microcosms of what partisan domination looks like. The laws passed in California make it look almost unrecognizable in comparison to states like Texas or Oklahoma.

Given Republican domination of down-ballot races, it’s the GOP that has enjoyed the spoils that come with state control. Not only are states across the country able to pass legislation that Republicans in Congress appear incapable of doing (despite their majorities in the U.S. Senate and House), but local Republicans are given one thing in particular that has proven to be a game changer in American politics: control of the redistricting process.

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census releases their updated numbers of the American population. With these new numbers bring changes in the number of congressional seats allotted to each state. The new numbers mean state governments are tasked with adjusting their congressional districts accordingly. And of course, control of this process means control of how the districts are created. State government control has awarded the Republican Party with an upper hand in the U.S. House of Representatives.

For a long time, national Democrats, marveling at their own advantages in the Electoral College, had turned a blind eye to local politics. However, in the face of Republican domination in state capitols and the U.S. House not seen in almost a century, progressives are redirecting their attention.

In September, a group of former Obama operatives formed a political action committee, named Forward Majority, with only one focus: winning state legislative races for Democratic candidates. Not much attention was paid to Forward Majority when it was founded only a few weeks ago and announced an ambitious goal of capturing 12 legislative bodies. Unfortunately, this local-focused PAC garnered enormous amounts of attention following the Virginia House of Delegates sweep.

The numerous seats won by Democrats were helped in part by a $1 million dollar investment in campaign advertisements by Forward Majority. The innovated strategies conducted by the group, co-founded by Obama campaign senior staffer David Cohen, resulted in the shocking election outcomes.

According to Forward Majority’s website, they are only just getting started. The group is very blunt in their stated purpose of gaining control of the redistricting process. They also tout on their homepage a desire to see restrictions placed on our Second Amendment rights and greater access to abortion.

The game has changed and Democrats are ready to go to war for the state legislatures we currently control.

How do we fight back?

We simply invest the same amount of interest — if not more. The Democrats have a built-in advantage when it comes to the Electoral College, but we hold the advantage at the local level. By simply matching progressives in resources into state legislative campaigns, we will undercut their attempts.

The major losses in Virginia seem terrible, right? But did you know that only one of the seats that flipped had been won by Trump the year prior, and only by one percentage point. The vast majority of the House of Delegate seats taken by Democrats were previously won by Hillary Clinton, and those seats were only captured after unmatched investments were made by progressive donors — many of them resulting in the thinnest margins of victory.

This alone showcases the GOP’s advantage at the local level.

The GOP is the party of the everyday man. Controlling power at the local and state levels is a testament to our image and the preservation of common sense legislation despite the nonsense coming out of Washington, D.C.

Let’s keep it that way.

Candidate Makes Dead Voters Into A Campaign Ad

Buzz Brockway, a state representative who is running to be the next Georgia Secretary of State, came out with an amusing campaign ad regarding voter fraud.

While working away at his desk, Brockway is seen denying a zombie’s application to vote.  Interestingly, the zombie appears to be a supporter of failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

As hilarious as the campaign ad is, it focuses on a systemic election issue.

Dead voters did not sway the presidential election last year, but enough instances of voter participation by people who passed away long ago are enough to warrant attention to voter fraud. We hear of examples every two years.

An investigation by a local Colorado news outlet found extensive numbers of residents in the state — people who died not just months ago, but years ago — voting in subsequent elections following their passing. One local Colorado woman, Sara Sosa of Colorado Springs who died in 2009, had cast ballots in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 — eliminating any possibility that her case was a simple clerical error, but a case of malicious voter fraud. That single investigation uncovered 78 dead people still eligible to vote in the state.

The numbers are much higher in other parts of the country.

Reporters in southern California discovered 265 eligible dead voters in the area, the vast majority of them located in Los Angeles County alone. 212 deceased voters in the county were listed as eligible to vote and had the potential to participate in the 2016 election. Despite being dead as can be, records indicated many of these people voted not just once beyond the grave, but year after year.

These numbers around the country can add up, especially when we look at the increasingly narrow margins of victories in swing states.

An analysis by Judicial Watch and National Review reveal 462 counties in the United States where the registration rate surpassed 100 percent — something that should obviously be impossible. There were 3,551,760 more individuals registered to vote than voting-age U.S. citizens who reside in the flagged counties.

Georgia, typically considered a noncompetitive state, saw itself thrust into the national spotlight during Democrat Jon Ossoff’s failed (but competitive) bid to replace longtime Republican congressman Tom Price. That special election to represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District included Fulton County. The report revealed that this voter-rich county in the state at an 108-percent registration rate — a number that should raise alarms for anyone who cares about the democratic process.

Unfortunately, as the 2018 elections heat up and voters once again begin to pay attention to political campaigns and their messages, not much attention will be given to candidates for secretary of state. As Americans who care immeasurably about our free and fair elections, however, we should give extra focus to secretaries of state — the office holders most responsible for keeping order in the voting process.

Kudos to Brockway for running on such a theme.

Surprise, Surprise: Bernie Sanders To Remain An Independent In 2018

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders headlined a Democratic fundraiser on Sunday and delivered his same old spiel to a liberal audience.

During a speech at the Strafford County Democratic Committee fundraising dinner, Sanders was able to wow attendees with a wish list of amazing policy items such as: a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free college for everyone, his “Medicare for All” bill and other impractical goodies that sound great to people who don’t wonder how it gets paid for. The 45-minute speech was sprinkled with several standing ovations.

Sanders also made one other thing clear as he addressed the room full of Democrats: he won’t be running as a member of their party next year.

The Vermont senator, who identifies as a democratic socialist, serves the upper chamber as an Independent, although he has caucused with Democrats since his arrival to Congress. The admirer of Eugene Debs will run for a third term next year and many Democratic leaders were hoping he would finally make the official move to the Democrat Party.

Those people were left disappointed Sunday.

“I am an independent and I have always run in Vermont as an independent, while I caucus with the Democrats in the United States Senate. That’s what I’ve been doing for a long time and that’s what I’ll continue to do,” Sanders stated in an interview.

Sanders, of course, made a monumental splash into Democratic politics during the 2016 election. Giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money, the lover of the nanny state amassed a huge following of supporters while running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Although he ultimately lost to Clinton, he walked away a superstar in a party he still refuses to call home.

The location of the event on Sunday was also telling. The Strafford County Democratic fundraiser is located in New Hampshire — his home state’s next door neighbor and the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state. It was his second visit to New Hampshire in under two months.

Despite being 76 years old, many are keeping an eye on Bernie’s next moves as Democrats are already maneuvering into 2020 campaign mode. Before he can even move to this phase, however, the Independent senator must first win re-election next year — which shouldn’t be hard given his popularity in the state.

Nearly dethroning Clinton during the presidential coronation nomination gave Bernie many friends, but he’s also amassed quite a few critics, as well. Many Party insiders blame him for Clinton’s eventual loss in the general election to Donald Trump. He’s subsequently faced mounting pressure to officially become a Democrat. Bob Mulholland, a Democratic National Committee member, went so far as to introduce a resolution at the Party’s fall meeting that would have called for Sanders and Sen. Angus King — an Independent from Maine that also caucuses with the Dems — to run as Democrats. Angus also faces re-election next year.

That particular resolution failed a simple majority vote, so Sanders and King don’t have to sweat over actually having to call themselves Democrats just yet.

As Sanders keeps the door open for another go at the White House, it’s amazing he still refuses to identify as a member of the party he’s caucused for years with.

He’s OK with getting the Democrat’s nomination for the presidency, but don’t you dare call him a Democrat.

Trump And Corker Exchange Fire

It’s safe to say any goodwill left between Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and President Donald Trump has gone out the window. On Sunday morning, Americans woke up to a series of Trump tweets directed at the outgoing senator.

 

 

Corker, set to retire at the end of next year, had no problem returning fire, calling the White House an “adult day care center.”

It’s not exactly clear what prompted the tweets from Trump this morning, but the declining relationship between the junior Republican senator and the president has been public for months now.

Way back when, things didn’t use to be this way between the two men. In the midst of the presidential election last year — when many GOP politicians were keeping their distance from Trump and his unconventional campaign — Corker was under consideration to be the real estate mogul’s running mate. Prior to meeting with the then-presidential candidate at Trump Tower in March of 2016, Corker had just publicly praised a foreign policy speech given by Trump.

While Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was ultimately chosen for the running mate slot, the relationship between Corker and Trump seemingly remained strong. Immediately, following the election there was talk of Trump choosing Corker, currently the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to be Secretary of State.

The relationship has since deteriorated — apparently beginning with the fallout of the Charlottesville riots.

In August, following the president’s controversial response to the racially motivated riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, Corker ripped Trump in public comments. The Tennessee Republican said Trump “has not demonstrated he understands the character of this nation.” He also called for radical changes to be made in the White House. While the comments mimicked those of other GOP lawmakers, the denouncement appeared more harsh considering the warm relations between the two men.

Things only devolved from there.

Trump later knocked him on Twitter for the criticism, suggesting that Corker was having trouble in his home state and was asking for advice as to whether or not he should run for re-election.

Following a report that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” Corker told reporters that Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly were helping to “separate our country from chaos” — a sharp jab at the president.

Corker ultimately chose to announce his retirement, with his term ending in 2018. Sources to CNN said Trump’s claims that Corker had asked for his endorsement is false.

Despite running and winning the presidency as a Republican, Trump has not shied away from attacking GOP lawmakers. The president has used his twitter account to attack various GOP senators, such as Jeff Flake, John McCain, Dean Heller, Corker and others. Flake, the junior senator from Arizona, appears to be weathering the attacks horribly, per his sinking polling numbers. Heller, considered the most at-risk Republican up for election next year, faced unprecedented attack ads from a Trump-friendly super PAC.

Politico released audio of Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, calling on GOP donors to withhold campaign cash from Republican lawmakers who were not on board with the president’s agenda.

Kasich Hints At Leaving The Republican Party

During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich surprised no one when he expressed dissatisfaction with the state of the GOP and gave indications that he may leave the Party altogether.

In response to Tapper’s review of GOP senate candidate Roy Moore’s past controversial remarks, Kasich issued the following comment.

“I don’t run the party, I can tell you for me — I don’t support that. I couldn’t vote for that,” he said on Tapper’s State of the Union program. “I couldn’t tell you what the heck I’d have to do, but I don’t live in that state (Alabama). Those claims — I mean — the’re ludicrous. They’re divisive. And if that’s where we’re headed… If the Party can’t be fixed, Jake, then I’m not going to be able to support the Party. Period.”

Tapper then asked for clarification. Specifically, the CNN anchor questioned if the outgoing governor would ever become an independent if the GOP does not change its ways.

To that, Kasich did not offer a definitive answer.

 

The idea of leaving the Republican Party and becoming an independent is, of course, a serious consideration of Kasich’s.

The governor of Ohio ran as an anti-Trump candidate during the 2016 Republican primary. After winning only his home state, Kasich went on to become one of the president’s most vocal critics from the right. Taking centrist positions on various issues, such as Defending Obamacare and wanting permanent legal status for Dreamers, the GOP governor has continually called for moderates on both sides of the aisle to come together to enact change.

In August, a source to Axios revealed that the idea of a “unity ticket” between Kasich and Colorado Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper has been causally discussed between the two men. Under the proposed plan, both candidates would run together as independents in the 2020 cycle, with Kasich at the top of the ticket and Hickenlooper as his running mate.

Claims of formulating an independent run for the White House in 2020 were emphatically denied.

However, it should be noted that CNN also reported an independent claim that the governor duo were in talks of running a unity ticket together.

Kasich and Hickenlooper are both finishing the remainder of their second terms and will be vacating office in January 2019 — they have nothing better to do. The two governors have become very familiar with each other over the years, having worked together extensively on health care, economic and other reform packages.

Having made two separate bids for the White House already — both times only drawing lukewarm interest from conservative voters — Kasich may feel that an independent campaign is his only possible route to the Oval Office.

As for now, Kasich has not completely shed his Republican affiliation.. but let’s not be too surprised if (or when) that day finally comes.

Jeff Flake Is In Trouble

I would not want to be Sen. Jeff Flake right now. The junior Republican senator from Arizona is facing challenges from both the left and right — and they are serious challenges.

Not too much consideration was given to Kelli Ward when she announced a 2018 primary challenge against Flake almost an entire year ago. The former Republican state senator had just been defeated in the GOP primary after running a long-shot bid to unseat Sen. John McCain. Flake and friends still had their eye solely on the general election.

However, the logistics of the primary race changed drastically after primary polling began to roll in.

A Morning Consult poll released in June revealed Flake to have a dismal 37 percent approval rating from registered voters. Then a survey conducted by HighGround in August showed Flake trailing Ward 42 percent to 25 percent – numbers so shocking the guys at FiveThirtyEight had a hard time believing them. But then in mid-September a new poll by GBA Strategies group came out. The latest survey showed Flake trailing Ward 58-31 percent in a head to head match up… the margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points.

Obviously these are numbers Flake’s team cannot ignore. He isn’t just underwater in a primary match up, he’s down by double digits.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand what’s happening to him. Flake has been an avid critic of the president. And for every time Flake has knocked Trump, the president has hit right back. Anyone with a Twitter account would know.

I attended Trump’s Phoenix rally in August and watched him (without actually naming Flake) make several jabs at the beleaguered senator. Interviewing various people in the crowd, I asked if they planned to vote for Flake next year… Everyone I spoke to said no.

Attacking Trump works for some people and it doesn’t work for others. Clearly, this isn’t working for Flake.

The GOP lawmaker recently authored a book titled, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle. A rejection of the many populist and economic protectionist policies supported by Trump, the book was a harsh critique of the president.

In return, Trump, like a seasoned politician attacking his opponent, has consistently called Flake “weak” on everything under the sun. The attacks are clearly having an effect.

Flake had already entered the Senate on shaky grounds. A first term senator, he won election in 2012 by only three points against his Democrat contender. It was the worst showing for a Republican senate candidate since the eighties. 2012 was a bad year for the GOP — sure — but keep in mind that Mitt Romney won Arizona by nine points that year. Flake under-performed badly.

Election analysts are also suggesting Arizona is slowly shifting leftward. Trump won the state by only four points last year and several other Republicans under-performed, as well. This may all make another headache for Flake: the general election.

In a YouTube video published Thursday, Democrat Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema announced her campaign for Flake’s seat. In a clear sign of approval by the establishment Left, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List quickly endorsed her.

Sinema is an interesting candidate. She touts a moderate record, chairing the political arm of the Blue Dogs — a group of centrist House Democrats. Sinema, however, also identifies as bisexual and describes herself as more-or-less an atheist. I have a hard time figuring out if this odd combination of centrism and progressive identity will work for her in a general election among light-red voters.

Either way, Flake has his work cut out for him. He has to claw his way out of red primary numbers and then face off against a formiddable general election challenger. In an election year with many GOP pickup opportunities, this seat is not among them.

At least Flake has the backing of the Senate Leadership Fund. They have already run ads against Ward. Those guys have a great record protecting establishment Republicans, right?

Democrats Are Searching Anywhere For An Election Victory

The Democratic Party is clearly looking anywhere and everywhere to find an election victory to point to… And things are looking desperate.

To recap the last few months: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost in an historic upset to political newcomer Donald Trump. The GOP retained their House majority and (surprisingly) held their Senate majority. The Democratic Party lost even more gubernatorial seats and state legislative chambers. Following the transition into the new Trump administration, Democrats went on to lose four-out-of-four special congressional races.

Maybe Trump was right — we’d eventually get tired of winning.

Democrats, on the other hand, are hopelessly scrambling for good news. They may have finally found that good news — not at the national level, nor the state, nor the congressional.

Liberal pundits are in utter glee over a recent string of state legislative victories.

In special elections last week, Democrats captured two state House seats in New Hampshire and Oklahoma. This puts their state House and Senate takeovers this year to a grand total of six seats. Six seats!

CNN’s Chris Cillizza proudly reported on the news, replete with a picture of the United States — as if these local elections had national implications. Huffpost suggested the outcomes could be a sign of a wave building. Daily Kos’ jubilation over the recent elections is almost sad to look at.

Why is it premature for the the Democratic Party to get excited over six state legislative seats?

The number just seems a tad minuscule when you consider that, over the course of Obama’s eight years in office, Democrats lost a grand total of 958 state legislative seats.

Does that not make six appear quite trivial?

Actually, forget about local seats for a second.

During that eight year period, Democratic gubernatorial seats dropped from 28 to 16, the Democratic Senate majority dropped from 55 to 46 and their House majority vanished from 256 seats to 194. Their chosen successor to Obama lost to perhaps the most beatable candidate in a century — ceding control of the White House to the GOP.

Believing momentum was finally behind them, national Democrats invested heavily in several special House races following the November election. They lost all four of those, too.

But Democrats really want you to focus on those six state legislative wins.

The Democratic Party Has Finally Embraced Single-Payer

No one is really surprised – we all saw this coming. The Democratic Party has slowly encroached closer and closer to full-blown socialized health care for years now.

Conservatives warned that Obamacare would lead to this.. and now we are here.

Numerous Senate Democrats have openly embraced Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for all” bill. This is legislation that would take the federal program that currently covers health care costs of citizens 65 and over and expand it to all Americans. If such a bill were to pass, the federal government would pay the tab of all medical expenses.

It’s not necessarily the number of Senate Democrats who have come out in support of this bill, but it’s the who. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), among others, have publicly announced support for this legislation.

What do all four of these liberal senators have in common? They are all top contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

These are people who will lead (or already leading) the Democratic Party in the years to come. The fact that they have already announced support for this bill before it’s been formally introduced (the bill drops today) demonstrates how much of a litmus test this will be. Any Democrat wishing to run against single-payer will automatically be branded as too moderate for their party nomination.

Bernie Sanders – a Democratic socialist who refuses to call himself a Democrat – is the sponsor of this bill. After his stunning performance in last year’s Democratic primary, it’s no shocker he returned to the Senate chamber a more powerful man among his caucus. Democrats hoping to run in 2020 don’t want to be outflanked from the left as happened to Hillary last year.

This bill has already gained strong momentum among Democrats despite it only being introduced today (Wednesday). Other, less interesting Democrats have also signaled support for the measure. They include Sens Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI.) and others. Even Sen Jon Tester, who represents the red state of Montana, has expressed mild interest in such an expansion of government into the healthcare realm.

Expect many more to follow the herd.

All the action isn’t only happening in the upper chamber. John Conyers, a Democrat representative from Michigan, has re-introduced a single-payer health care bill that has amassed well over 100 supporters – over half the Democratic caucus stands in approval. Conyers’ bill, a measure he introduces in the House on a perennial basis, enjoys more backing now than it ever has since he began introducing it over 10 years ago.

In other words: single-payer is no longer a sensitive subject for Democrats. It’s now mainstream.

There are, however, still some holdouts within Democratic ranks. After previewing it on Tuesday, both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have distanced themselves from Sander’s bill. Pelosi says she wants to focus on protecting Obamacare and Schumer more-or-less waffled by saying “there are many different bills out there” and did not endorse this particular one. The two are official congressional leaders of the Democratic Party – at least on paper.

These Democrats can hold their ground all they want, but the dam has already been flooded within their party.

Like it or not, Republicans are the only ones left to stop socialized health care from washing up on our shores.

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