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.

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.

Cruz on tax reform: “Simpler, flatter, fairer”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz issued a press release today outlining seven key principles he sees as crucial to reforming the federal tax code.

Among the items mentioned are the establishment of a single “low flat tax rate”, a reduction in the corporate tax rate, and simplification of the tax code so that those filing can “file their returns on a postcard”.

“Now is our moment to remake our tax system from the ground up, employing conservative principles to create a new tax code that is simpler, flatter, and fairer,” Sen. Cruz said. “Much like Ronald Reagan, today’s conservatives hold to the simplest of ideals: that the best-utilized tax dollar is the tax dollar that goes uncollected. The best place for a taxpayer’s money is with that taxpayer, not the federal government.”

Cruz presented his seven elements earlier today during the keynote speech at a Tax Foundation event. Those elements are “based on three key principles of growth, simplicity, and fairness”.

Though the list is rife with conservative ideals, getting such a proposal through Congress and past President Trump will be a monumental task. Trump is scheduled to discuss tax reform over dinner with his new liberal friends “Chuck and Nancy”, neither of whom is likely to endorse any of the seven items on Cruz’ list. Add to that the fact that establishment Republicans seem either unwilling or unable (or both?) to enact substantive change and … well, you get the picture.

But we can always hope – and more importantly, we can call and email our elected officials and get the word out via social media that regular, everyday Americans want and need serious, conservative tax reform.

The “seven critical elements” as they appeared in the press release:

  • Create a Low, Flat Rate: Currently there are seven individual tax brackets, with rates as high as nearly 40 percent. We should have one low flat tax rate.
  • File Taxes on a Postcard: Each year, more than 90 percent of taxpayers seek help to prepare their returns, either through tax preparers or tax preparation software, costing them $99 billion. Simpler, flatter taxes will save Americans time and money, and allow them to file their returns on a postcard.
  • Allow Immediate Expensing: Domestic capital investment increases productivity, which results in more jobs and higher wages. And that means higher living standards for American families.
  • Lower the Corporate Rate: Companies are leaving the United States in droves, and taking their jobs with them. By lowering the corporate rate to 15-20 percent, America becomes competitive with the rest of world.
  • Encourage Repatriation: Current law discourages companies from bringing home foreign earnings. Moving to a territorial system would ensure foreign earnings are not double-taxed.
  • End the Death Tax: More than 99 percent of U.S. employer firms are small businesses, many of them family-owned. The death tax establishes a burden that prevents families from being able to keep their businesses running from one generation to the next, and should be put to an end.
  • End the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT): The AMT applies to four million households, and requires millions of taxpayers to calculate their taxes twice, once under the regular tax code and again under the AMT. Ending the AMT will drastically simplify taxes for millions of American families.

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Charlie Dent Is Calling It Quits

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent announced Thursday night that he is not seeking re-election.

The Republican congressman has represented The Keystone State’s 15th Congressional District since 2005 and is completing his seventh term in office.

Dent, currently chairman of the House Ethics Committee, is more widely known as a stalwart member of the House GOP’s moderate wing. Since the 2016 election, he has been a more vocal critic of President Trump than many of his Republican colleagues. Dent also serves a co-chair of the Tuesday Group – a caucus of moderate Republicans in the House of Representatives.

While the announcement comes as a surprise to some, Dent says he’s been mulling retirement for quite some time. The Pennsylvania Republican’s opinion of Capitol Hill soured after the 2013 government shutdown. He has since been very discouraged by what he sees as chronic dysfunction in Washington. The recent gridlock was a major factor in his decision to leave.

“I’ve always said down the street there’s been a fair amount of instability, uncertainty and dysfunction. I’ve always come to accept a certain amount of dysfunction in government,” he said Thursday. “But, I guess they’ve taken it to a new level. They’ve taken the fun out of dysfunction.”

“Accomplishing the most basic fundamental tasks of governance is becoming far too difficult,” Dent also said. “It shouldn’t be, but that’s reality.”

However, Dent added that it was never his plan to serve in Congress for an extended period of time. He actually didn’t think he’d be in office this long.

“Frankly, I never planned on serving, voters permitting, more than 5 or 6 terms in the US Congress,” Dent said. “I’m now serving my seventh term.”

Dent leaves behind a seat that Democrats think they can win. Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District does have a moderate streak. The district includes Pivot Counties – counties that voted for Obama, but swung to Trump last year. In fact, President Obama won the district outright in 2008 and barely lost it 2012. But Democrats should not get too excited. This district voted for Republican Donald Trump by 8 points last year (a pretty decent margin). Also, Dent carried his district by a 20-point margin last year.

Nevertheless, Democrats see the open seat as a pickup opportunity and will surely pounce as 2018 nears.

As for the GOP, Pennsylvania state Rep. Justin Simmons, a more conservative legislator, had announced a primary challenge against Dent earlier. He was, unsurprisingly, thrilled at the Thursday announcement. It’s unclear if Simmon’s challenge had any influence in Dent’s decision to retire.

Dent follows a few other GOP House members retiring next year.

Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced in April that this would be her final term. On Wednesday, Rep. Dave Reichert, a Republican from Washington state, said he, too, would not be running for re-election. Both Ros-Lehtinen and Reichert represent districts that voted for Hillary Clinton last year – making their retirements much more of a headache for the GOP.

More retirement announcements are expected to come in the following months. Twenty-two House members, on average, retire every election cycle.

Five Gubernatorial Seats Likely To Flip

The 2018 gubernatorial map will be nothing like the its Senate counterpart. Democrats make up the vast majority of Senate seats in play next year, opening the door for major GOP gains. However, the opposite is playing out at the gubernatorial level.

The Republican Governors Association is without a doubt the most successful campaign arm of the GOP. The GOP currently controls 34 governorships to the Democrats’ 15 (Alaska is run by an independent). Unfortunately, there is a price to pay when you are at the top. In the 2017 and 2018 gubernatorial elections, Republicans will be defending 27 seats to the Democrats’ 10. Without factoring in the partisan swing of the country or the environment in each state, math alone suggests a growth year for the Democratic Governors Association.


Here are five gubernatorial races that could flip party control.

 

New Jersey:

While most of the states on this list are in no particular order, New Jersey comes first as it will undoubtedly fall into Democratic hands. All thanks to Gov. Chris Christie.

The outgoing leader of The Garden State boasts a special title: he’s the least popular governor in the country. A Morning Consult poll released last month has been at near 70 percent disapproval by his constituents.  Once a rising star, Christie had amazed national Republicans just a few years ago by winning election in New Jersey (a very blue state) by wide margins, despite having an “R” after his name. This star power vanished after the Bridgegate scandal, a feeble run for the presidency and subsequent support for Donald Trump. Christie is now term-limited, but his legacy will serve as an albatross for the Republican nominee.

New Jersey holds off-year elections and will be choosing their next governor this November (not next year). Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and ambassador to Germany, is the official Democratic nominee. He is running against Kim Guadagno, the current lieutenant governor of the state. The choice of Guadagno by Republicans is odd, given she is the least likely person to distance herself from the unpopular Christie.  And her candidacy does appear to be hopeless. A Monmouth University Poll released last month shows Murphy leading Guadagno by a staggering 27 points.

Inside Elections rates New Jersey as likely Democratic, as does Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

 

New Mexico:

Republican Gov. Susan Martinez is term-limited and cannot run for re-election, leaving this seat open. Despite New Mexico’s light blue lean, Martinez has performed well here. She won the governorship in 2010, becoming the state’s first female governor, and won re-election in 2014 by double digits. However, many pundits point to a lagging economy and high crime rates as reason for voters seeking a change in direction.

Rep. Steve Pearce is the only major Republican candidate running thus far (Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is mulling an entrance). Pearce’s background makes him a formidable candidate. First elected to the state’s 2nd congressional district in 2002, he’s won re-election by wide margins every time (not including 2008 where he stepped down in a failed bid for the Senate). Pearce is the only Republican in New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation. A larger swath of candidates are running on the Democratic side. The likeliest candidate to emerge victorious in the Democratic primary is Michelle Lujan Grisham, the current representative of New Mexico’s 1st congressional district. She is serving her third term in Congress.

I find this race somewhat perplexing because I believe it is more competitive than how it’s ranked by almost every other tracking outlet.  Most analysts rate this gubernatorial race as lean Democrat. A recent poll by The Terrance Group does show Lujan-Grisham leading Pearce 47 to 43 percent, but with 10 percent of respondents saying they are undecided.

Both Inside Elections and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate this race as leans Democrat.

 

Illinois:

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has not had an easy first term. Elected in 2014, the governor almost immediately entered into a budget battle with the state’s Democrat Speaker of the House. A budget impasse lasted over two years, leaving Illinois with a dismal credit rating and unfunded liabilities.

The Land of Lincoln is the home base of Barack Obama and voters here have rejected every Republican presidential candidate since George H. W. Bush  – it’s a solidly blue state. Rauner was able to secure a victory three years ago amid the huge unpopularity of his predecessor. This go-around, however, he may be the unfavorable one out the door. Chris Kennedy, a businessman and the son of Robert Francis Kennedy, currently leads the pack of Democratic contenders. A recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll showed him leading by large margins over J.B. Pritzker, a philanthropist and venture capitalist, 44 percent to 11 percent. The winner of the Democratic primary will face off against Rauner.

The Republican governor does have two things in his favor: incumbency and a whole bunch of cash at his disposal. Unlike many of the other Republican governors leaving office next year and leaving their seats open, Rauner was elected in 2014 and gets a go at re-election. The power of incumbency goes a long way. The Republican businessman is a multimillionaire who poured millions into his last race. He has plenty of cash to do it again.

The downside for Rauner: both Pritzker and Kennedy are filthy rich as well, essentially negating the Republican’s cash advantage. Pritzker boasts a net worth of $3.4 billion and Chris Kennedy, a member of the wealthy Kennedy clan, is holding onto millions. This gubernatorial race is shaping up to be the most expensive in history.

Inside Elections rate this as tilts Democrat. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball gives it a toss-up.

 

Connecticut:

This is one state where Republicans have an opportunity to capture a seat. Outgoing Gov. Dan Malloy, beset by approval ratings in the 20s, is deeply unpopular and has opted out of running for a third term. He has been more concerned with virtue signaling than actual governing. A slew of GOP candidates have already entered the race in a campaign that looks promising for their party.

Connecticut runs deep blue, having opted for only Democratic presidential candidates since 1992. However, The Constitution State has a propensity for voting for Republican governors. Malloy was the first Democratic governor in almost twenty years and both his 2010 and 2014 elections were won narrowly. The GOP has also been making recent gains in the state legislature. Republicans captured seats in the state House and moved to a tie in the state Senate. Connecticut Democrats have their smallest House majority in thirty years.

GOP candidates who are exploring a run or have made it official include Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton (his third run for this office), Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, US Comptroller General David Walker, Glastonbury Rep. Prasad Srinivasan and several others. Middletown Mayor Dan Drew is the only major Democrat to have entered the race thus far, with several others to decide at a later date.

Inside Elections rates Connecticut as leans Democrat, but Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates it as a toss-up.

 

Nevada:

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, a popular moderate, is term limited and will not be running again. Nevada is a swing state, but has leaned blue in recent years. The Silver State voted for Obama both times and chose Hillary Clinton in 2016, along with Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto – who succeeded the retired Harry Reid. Democrats also captured the state Senate and state House last year. Reid ran a strong operation that kept Democratic candidates afloat across the state.

What’s interesting about this race is the lack of development. Jared Fisher, the owner of a tour company and bike shop, is the only Republican to have officially declared. The 47-year-old has never run for elected office and he kicked off his campaign with none other than a bike tour across the state. Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt is considered a front-runner for the nomination, but he is still deciding on a run.  State Treasurer Dan Schwartz is also mulling a campaign bid.

On the Democratic side, Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak is the only candidate to have officially entered the race. While he’s not known statewide, Clark County makes up the vast majority of Nevada residents. Sisolak also enters the race with a formidable campaign war chest. Stephen Cloobeck, a rich Las Vegas businessman, is also considering a bid.

Inside Elections and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate this state as a toss-up.

 

A Side Note:

The majority of these states are Republican-controlled, but that doesn’t necessarily mean conservative voters need to sweat the upcoming governor races. Of the many seats up for grabs next year, a relatively few amount are actually considered vulnerable. A big factor in these races will be President Donald Trump and his popularity, but unlike congressional contests, American voters tend to separate state executives from those in Washington. We see this with the success of Republicans Larry Hogan and Charlie Baker in the deep blue states of Maryland and Massachusetts, respectively.

For all the vacancies and vulnerable seats up for grabs in the upcoming gubernatorial races, maybe only a handful will actually change party control. This would be good news for the GOP, as they rule the largest number of governor mansions in recent history. This control will be crucial when the 2020 Census approaches and state leaders must redraw congressional maps again – greatly influencing the makeup of the U.S. House districts.

People tend to pay more attention to the movers and shakers in Washington, D.C., but governors all across our states play a crucial role in our country’s political process.

 

 

A Susan Collins Gubernatorial Run Would Boost The GOP




I know, I know. Bear with me here.

Sen. Susan Collins isn’t exactly the poster child for American conservatism. The Maine Republican boasts a Club For Growth lifetime rating of 35 percent. The Heritage Action scorecard is even worse. They currently rate her at a dismal 16 percent. The senior senator from the Pine Tree State solidified her moderate bonafides with her rejection of Obamacare repeal this year – playing a key role in healthcare reform’s failure.



However, I am here to tell you that if Collins decides to run for Maine’s highest executive office, it will be a boost to both the Republican Senate Majority and the Republican Governors Association.

Collins, currently serving her fourth term in the Senate, is seriously considering a run for governor. She will make a final decision by the end of September and, according to most indications, she will likely go for it.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage – having won election in 2010 and re-election four years later – is term limited and will be leaving office by January 2019. Besides having a public demeanor to the man who currently occupies the White House, LePage is known nationally for having quite a conservative record. His implementation of welfare reform has done wonders – giving Maine higher wages, more employment and showcasing to the country that conservative reforms work.

That is just one example of the many executive accomplishments by LePage. He has done much to turn this particular New England state around. Which is why InsideGov listed him near the top of the list of the most conservative governors in the United States.

Why does he matter? Should Collins run and win the race to succeed him, LePage would be the one to pick a replacement for her vacant Senate seat.

Imagine a conservative like LePage getting the opportunity to replace a moderate like Collins? Remember, we lost the “skinny” ObamaCare repeal measure by one vote. Collins was one of the few Republican senators who bucked her party and voted against repeal. With a conservative rating as poor as hers, it’s hard to image LePage appointing anyone less conservative.

If Collins can maneuver to the Republican governor’s house (referred to as the Blaine House), it would have implications for Republicans across the country. Our Republican majority in the Senate is thin and any change to the balance could be monumental.

So a Collins governorship would be good for Republicans everywhere else in the union. But what about Maine? Would conservatives in her state be “taking one for the team?”

I don’t think that’s the case.

Make no mistake, Maine is a blue state. Voters here haven’t chosen a Republican candidate for president since 1988 (although they now divvy up their electoral points by congressional district). However, Republicans can survive here – they control the state Senate, governor’s office and one U.S. Senate seat – but they must boast moderate records to survive.

Gov. LePage, a staunch conservative, is an anomaly to my above description and is not a perfect reflection of Maine voters. He won both his statewide elections with the help of left-leaning, third-party candidates. Both in 2010 and 2014, independent candidate Eliot Cutler ran impressive third-party gubernatorial campaigns, splitting the vote and helping to pave the way for LePage victories.

Cutler has announced that he will not make third run for governor in 2018 and there is no real indication that another independent can make as strong a showing again. Other independents will be running next year, sure. But the Maine Republican Party cannot bank on other candidates splitting the liberal vote in 2018.

How well do Democrats think their chances are in this race? That can be answered with the fact that they already have nine declared candidates so far.

LePage said in a recent interview that Collins does not have a shot at winning the GOP primary solely because of her moderate record. This prediction makes sense on the surface, but holds no water when you consider the make-up of the race.

Almost every GOP candidate is waiting on Collins to announce a decision before they make up their own minds – telling you all you need to know about how much authority she carries in the state. If she runs, many of them will opt against challenging her. The only serious Republican candidate to have officially entered the race is former Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew – a woman who has never run for office before.

It should also be noted that Mayhew served as a longtime employee of LePage’s administration. The governor showered her with praise following her resignation earlier in this year. This detail, along with Collin’s aversion to conservative legislating, is perhaps why LePage is reluctant to endorse the senior senator outright. LePage wants to believe Mayhew will win.

The question should be: who is best positioned to win the general election?

Democrats are running top talent such as Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, several former state lawmakers and others. Many of them are known statewide and carry campaign experience. Contrast this to Mayhew – a campaign novice who has never run for elected office and is virtually unknown to voters. Mayhew would begin a general election at a huge disadvantage against the Democrat nominee. LePage even said it himself during his radio interview: if Collins wins the primary, she has the general in the bag.

Collins is a proven darling in her state. She has won election to the Senate four times by significant margins. In her last election, she won with over 68 percent of the vote.

A Collins victory also gives us a two-for-one bonus. A Republican governor and a more conservative lawmaker in the United States Senate. If Mayhew were to win, on the other hand, her victory would do nothing for conservatives on Capitol Hill.

The choice for the Blaine House’s next occupant is an easy one.

 

 

Menendez Trial Could Bring Good News For Senate Republicans




Sen. Bob Menendez goes to trial in less than three weeks and the stakes could not be higher.

The New Jersey Democrat was indicted almost two and a half years ago on bribery charges. He is accused of exploiting his position as a United States senator to help Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor and huge donor to his campaigns.



In return for campaign donations and gifts worth almost one million dollars, Menendez allegedly provided many personal favors to Melgen. Perks included pushing a Medicare policy that would have helped Melgen’s business, supporting a port security deal on his behalf and pushing to obtain visas for his college-aged girlfriends from around the world.

Jury selection begins on Tuesday and opening statements are planned for Sept. 6. The trial is predicted to last for one to two months.

The implications of the trial go far beyond Menendez’s own well-being.

Should Menendez, a liberal Democrat, be removed from office, the governor of New Jersey would appoint a replacement to fill out the remainder of his term. That person, of course, is Chris Christie, a Republican ally of President Donald Trump.

The GOP holds a majority in the Senate chamber, but not a very large majority. Controversial votes, as we’ve all noticed, have come down to the wire many times already during this congressional session.

Without a doubt, the biggest legislative failure of this administration so far was health care reform. By how big a margin did we lose the skinny repeal vote?

One vote.

Replacing just one Democrat in the Senate would have major legislative implications.

Menendez’s term ends in 2018. Is it possible he is forced to resign amid a bribery conviction and Christie replaces him with a Republican who can legislate conservatively for over a year (before New Jersey voters surely elect some other liberal social justice warrior in the mold of Cory Booker)?

This is absolutely possible. But there are complications.

Technically, a bribery conviction (should the jury find him guilty) would not force him out of office. For over the past two years, Menendez has fanatically maintained his innocence. Should he be convicted, he may stay on the job for as long as possible to save face.

The beleaguered Democrat could be ousted by a two-thirds vote from his Senate colleagues. However, it’s hard to imagine 15 Democrats – knowing full well the implications of his dismissal – would choose to kick him out.

Also, Senate Republicans hoping for a new, like-minded colleague are on a time crunch. New Jersey holds gubernatorial elections on off-years. Christie leaves office in January 2018 – that’s not a lot of wiggle room for those hoping to see Menendez kicked out and replaced by the current governor.

Conviction or not, Menendez would probably be game to ride this out until a Democrat has safely replaced the outgoing Christie.

New Jersey is already a deep-blue state. And with Chris Christie’s approval rating at record-setting lows in the Garden State, we can be certain the successor to the governor’s mansion will have a “D” after his name.

It’s very possible Menendez could be ousted in time for a GOP replacement to completely upend the balance of the Senate…

But things would have to happen sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

 

 

Donald Trump And The Conversion Of West Virginia




Last week, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice surprised the country when he announced he was switching political parties. The once-Democratic executive is now a member of the GOP.

The stunning decision allegedly took members of his own staff off guard.



“Today I will tell you with lots of prayers and lots of thinking,” Justice yelled at a rally in the town of Huntington. “I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor. So tomorrow I will be changing my registration to Republican.”

The event was a Trump rally, no less.

Before entering politics, Jim Justice made a successful career in the coal industry in West Virginia. He is the state’s richest man and the only billionaire. He ran for governor in the 2016 election cycle as a first-time candidate.

In last year’s campaign, Justice defeated Republican Bill Cole – the state’s former Senate president – by about seven points. The Democratic Governors Association spent around $1 million helping Justice get elected to the governor’s mansion.

Despite winning by a healthy margin and the DGA spending liberally on his behalf (WV is a relatively cheap market), Justice felt it was necessary to change parties only seven months into his four-year term.

Why?

To hear it from Justice, he claims the Democrats in the state legislature became too difficult to work with. I have no doubt this is true, but there is obviously much more to the story.

West Virginia has been turning red for years. Now with the arrival of Donald Trump – a man who appeals to the same white working-class Americans that make up the state – the partisan alignment has made a complete shift.

The Mountain State used to be a blue bastion not long ago. Union membership dominated politics where coal mining was (and still is) the bloodline of the state. Before the 2000 election year, West Virginia Democrats controlled almost every statewide office, the state House, the state Senate, the entire Congressional delegation (all two senators and every U.S. House district) and WV residents voted Democrat for most presidential elections.

However, George W. Bush shook the electoral map when he won West Virginia by a squeaker against Al Gore in 2000.

It was this election that began the state’s rightward trajectory. Not because Republicans changed, but because the national Democratic Party changed. Bush’s team was able to hit Gore hard on environmental extremism and his antagonism towards the coal industry. West Virginia voters listened and opted for Bush.

Democrats continued their dominance at the local level during Bush’s presidency. However, under Obama’s tenure, their brand clearly plummeted.

Following the 2010 elections, Republicans gained the majority of U.S. House seats – the first time doing so since the 1940’s. The 2014 midterms were a pivotal year for WV Republicans: the GOP captured the majority of the state House, the majority of the state Senate, one U.S. Senate seat and all three U.S. House seats.

Obama’s “war on coal” proved too much for local Democrats.

If 2014 was a pivotal election year, then 2016 was monumental. Donald Trump won West Virginia by over 40 points against Hillary Clinton. Such a decisive election came with strong down-ballot winds. The GOP built upon their state legislative majorities and captured all but two statewide offices.

Jim Justice was able to outperform Clinton incredibly, but he had to keep his distance to do so.

In a year when Republicans were keeping away from their party’s presidential candidate, Justice was quite the anomaly in that he was a Democrat who bashed his own party’s nominee. He continually said on the campaign trail that he was leaving his box blank at the top of the ticket on Election Day.

It’s hard to imagine a politician more disliked by Appalachia than Barack Obama – the 44th president was proactively aggressive against the coal community. However, Hillary Clinton takes the cake in being outright hateful towards coal workers. She soured her already-doomed chances in West Virginia when she said she wanted to put “coal miners and coal companies out of business” in March of 2016.

West Virginia was once deep blue because it was a union stronghold (of course, unions have always been strong opponents of the Republican Party and their free-market ways). But what do you do when you don’t even have a job to begin with? It’s hard to dictate how your union dues are spent when you’re not even taking home a paycheck. The Democratic Party may be pro-union, but they are, without a doubt, anti-coal. The monumental regulations placed on coal companies during the Obama era have led to massive job losses.

These communities are struggling.

Democrats gave coal miners reasons to be pushed away. Donald Trump gave them reasons to be pulled in.

Trump did not run as a traditional Republican. He ran a campaign that can be best described as conservative populist. His “America First” talking points – along with constant talk of free trade killing stateside workers – resonated with the working class like no other. Love him or hate him, Trump brought new voters into the GOP camp like no other Republican before him.

Without a doubt, Trump’s message resonated with traditional, working class and evangelical voters. While already trending red, Trump’s dominance last November in West Virginia catapulted a partisan shift that would have otherwise taken several more years to complete.

With all of this information laid out on the table, it’s really no surprise Justice changed teams.

The now-Republican governor said it best himself when speaking at the Trump rally: ““My mom and dad were staunch lovers of Ronald Reagan, staunch Republicans. My mom and dad, with no question in my mind, are in heaven right now, and they’re both saying the same thing, but my mom is saying it more profoundly: Jimmy, it’s about damn time you came to your senses.”