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Daily Kos Elections weekly open thread (August 18, 2017, 06:01 PM)

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Sore losers: Nevada Republicans can't win regularly scheduled elections, so they're forcing recalls (August 18, 2017, 03:50 PM)

Shady GOP antics are afoot in the Silver State.

Nevada Republicans are, understandably, less than thrilled about losing what had been a slim 11-10 majority to the Democrats in the 2016 elections. The loss of Senate control coincided with a dramatic power shift towards Democrats in the state Assembly, where Republicans went from a 24-15 majority (plus one Libertarian) to a 17-27 minority overnight last fall. And one senator added insult to the GOP?s new minority-status injury by leaving the Republican caucus a few days after the election, declaring herself an independent and caucusing with Democrats, giving them an effective 12-9 majority in the state Senate. Only GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval stands between Republicans and relative political irrelevance in the state.

Republicans theoretically have a chance for a comeback next year, but their electoral prospects are less than sunny in the upper chamber. In 2018, the half of the state Senate that wasn?t on the ballot last fall is up for election. Unfortunately for the GOP, however, the 10 Senate seats going before voters next year include only three districts currently held by Democrats, all of whom survived the rather difficult 2014 cycle with strong performances. The most viable pickup ?opportunity? for Republicans is to replace party-switcher Patricia Farley in a seat where Clinton edged Trump 48-47. But that only matters if they can successfully play defense, because one Republican incumbent on the ballot next fall currently occupies a seat Clinton carried easily (52-43), giving Democrats an opportunity to further expand their majority.

So, faced with a tough election cycle, Republicans could attempt to do things like recruit great candidates, raise a ton of money, or resign themselves to working cooperatively with their Democratic colleagues for the next three years to advance policies that move Nevada forward.

Instead, Republicans are trying to trigger election do-overs in three districts: two in seats they lost last fall and one in a competitive district they worry they can?t win in a general election. The third senator they?re trying to recall?Farley, who now caucuses with Democrats?isn?t even running for re-election, but Republicans are clearly worried they won?t pick her open seat back up.

Multiple media outlets are already decrying Republicans? attempt to recall Farley and two of her colleagues, Democratic Sens. Joyce Woodhouse and Nicole Cannizzaro. Provisions for recalling elected officials exist in state law, but to date, no Nevada legislator has ever been successfully recalled from office.

For that track record to change, petitioners must get signatures from 25 percent of each district?s voters who participated in the 2016 elections within 90 days. The organizations behind the signature-gathering efforts won?t reveal the rationale for these senators? recalls (legally, they don?t have to until signatures are submitted). Sandoval and most GOP state senators are distancing themselves from the recall efforts, but no Republicans have been willing to condemn it on the record. Republican Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, however, says the recalls are a response to a legislative session he decried as ?pro-felon and anti-business.?

Roberson?s statement gets closer to the dirty heart of the matter: Democratic senators cast votes Republicans don?t like. Elections matter; winners get to govern. Democrats in Nevada have conducted normal legislative business, proposing and voting on bills, some of which Republicans also supported, some of which they did not.

Being in a legislative minority is no fun, and Republicans reasonably expect to be stuck there through the next election cycle. But triggering new elections just to undo the results of the most recent election simply because you don?t like them is a lousy way to do democracy, and it effectively demonstrates why Republicans deserve their minority status. They can?t sell their candidates or their ideas to the electorate, so they?re attempting to trigger (historically) lower-turnout special elections in the hope it will give them more control over who shows up at the ballot box (although recent special election results suggest Republicans are screwed in that regard, too). 

We won?t know until late October or early November whether these efforts to trigger recalls will be successful, but the mere fact that Republicans are attempting this farce is both troubling and an insult to these districts? voters, who sent the candidates of their choice to Carson City as recently as last fall. But regardless of the success of these antics, the recall attempts themselves prove that Nevada Republicans are willing to take extreme measures to take back the majority and merit continued scrutiny, lest they try to pull further shenanigans.


Voting Rights Roundup: Court strikes down Texas GOP's congressional map, but doesn't go far enough (August 18, 2017, 12:14 PM)

Leading Off

? Texas: Late on Tuesday, as Donald Trump was busy defending white supremacists, a federal court in San Antonio struck down Texas?s congressional map on the grounds that the Republican lawmakers who drew it had engaged in intentional racial discrimination in violation of both the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment. The court ordered lawmakers to swiftly lay out their plans to redraw the map, which is shown at the top of this post (click here for a larger version). The new districts will take effect for the 2018 midterm elections if this ruling survives a likely appeal to the Supreme Court. If the high court ultimately sustains this ruling, Democrats and Latinos could gain one congressional seat, but that?s a major disappointment compared to the two or even three seats that plaintiffs had hoped for.?

Campaign Action

?Specifically, the court invalidated Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold?s 27th District, which is based in Corpus Christi and branches northwest toward Austin and northeast toward the Houston area, and Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett?s 35th District, which connects San Antonio and Austin via a narrow tendril. Regarding the 27th, the judges ruled that removing Corpus Christi?s Nueces County from a Latino-majority district during redistricting in 2011 had deprived Latino voters there of the opportunity to elect their candidate of choice (most likely a Latino Democrat).

Meanwhile, the court held that the narrowly Latino-majority 35th District was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander whose configuration did not satisfy any compelling government interest. Indeed, said the judges, the district merely functioned to pack in Democratic voters to make the surrounding seats safe for white Republicans. What?s more, it was not even capable of consistently electing the preferred candidate of Latino voters since white Democrats from Austin have always had considerably higher turnout rates in Democratic primaries.

Unfortunately, the court did not strike down Republican Rep. Will Hurd?s 23rd District, a huge beast that stretches from El Paso to San Antonio, something that multiple redistricting experts had expected to happen. Republicans intentionally diluted Latino voting strength in this district by adding low-turnout Latino populations and high-turnout white voters, giving the district a nominal Latino-majority population while ensuring that the actual electorate was majority-white. The fact that the court has left this district untouched is a major blow to Democratic hopes, but the swingy seat may nonetheless be winnable if 2018 turns out to be a good year for Democrats.

In addition, the court declined to strike down any districts in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area even though plaintiffs?and an analysis by Daily Kos Elections?have repeatedly demonstrated that Republicans could have easily drawn another district in the region that would allow Latinos to elect their candidate of choice. While such an outcome was less likely than the prospect of the court ordering changes to the 23rd, its failure to materialize is nonetheless another disappointing aspect of this ruling.


Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 8/18 (August 18, 2017, 09:01 AM)

Welcome to the Daily Kos Elections Live Digest, your liveblog of all of today's campaign news.

Please note: This is a 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primary-free zone.

Friday, Aug 18, 2017 · 3:15:01 PM +00:00 · Stephen Wolf

ND-Sen: State Sen. Tom Campbell just recently became the first prominent Republican to join next year?s race against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, but he is already out with his second TV ad. The segment features a shot of Trump before Campbell advocates: ?cut spending, build the wall, bold tax reform, and term limits.? Campbell?s spot introduces him as a ?conservative farmer? and ?not a career politician,? conspicuously omitting that he has served in the state senate since 2012.

Friday, Aug 18, 2017 · 3:33:03 PM +00:00 · Stephen Wolf

AK-Gov: Former GOP state Senate President Ben Stevens revealed in an interview on Thursday that he is considering running for governor against independent incumbent Bill Walker next year. Like his father, the late Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, the younger Stevens was also the subject of a federal investigation into political corruption last decade. While Ben Stevens was never convicted like his father was in 2008, or even charged with a crime, the details of the investigation surely don?t make him look good.

While he was serving in the legislature, Stevens was paid over $240,000 for ?consulting? for Veco, which the Alaska Dispatch News described as a ?politically active oil-field services company at the center of the investigation and whose executives testified in subsequent corruption trials.? Stevens never accounted for for what he did to earn that money, and a Veco executive testified in another legislator?s trial that it was a bribe, but Stevens went uncharged and didn?t seek re-election to the state Senate in 2006.

While Sen. Ted Stevens was a four decades-long political institution in Alaska, he narrowly lost his own bid for re-election in 2008 to Democrat Mark Begich after the incumbent was convicted a mere week before the election on several counts of lying on Senate ethics forms. That conviction was later overturned, and Stevens died in a plane crash in 2010. However, it?s unclear if the lingering odor of corruption surrounding both members of the Stevens family will prove to be a major hinderance if Ben Stevens runs for office again.

Friday, Aug 18, 2017 · 3:39:22 PM +00:00 · Stephen Wolf

CA-10: Former Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueno, a Democrat, had previously said she was considering a campaign for California?s 10th District. She recently filed to run with the FEC, but Madueno has yet to formally announce whether she?s running or if this is just an ?exploratory? phase. This Modesto-based seat favored Hillary Clinton 49-46, but Republican Rep. Jeff Denham narrowly won his fourth term by 52-48 in a heated race last year.


Morning Digest: Trump comes just shy of endorsing a primary challenge to Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake (August 18, 2017, 08:01 AM)

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.

Leading Off

? AZ-Sen: In between offering passionate defenses of Nazis, Donald Trump found some time to weigh in on another favorite topic: Jeff Flake. Trump has always hated Arizona's junior senator because Flake has had the temerity to occasionally criticize him, which to the permanently rageful Trump means Flake has to be destroyed. To that end, Trump inserted himself directly into Flake's re-election campaign on Thursday, tweeting, "Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!"?

Campaign Action

?"Flake Jeff Flake." *smacks forehead* Why didn't we think of that! The real flake, though, may be Trump himself. A report a day earlier in the Washington Times said that Trump was going to endorse state Treasurer Jeff DeWit at a rally next week in Phoenix. That could yet happen, but Politico reports that DeWit allies were "surprised" by Trump's tweet. (How are they not used to this kind of shit already, though?)

But while Trump's remarks fell somewhat short of an outright endorsement of Ward, whom most Republicans consider a very weak challenger, backing DeWit would be a bit awkward, too, because he hasn't actually announced a campaign yet. And maybe he never will: DeWit "laughed off" the Washington Times story, according to the Arizona Republic. And he certainly doesn't sound eager to serve in the Senate, saying, "What I like about being treasurer of Arizona is I see my family every night because it's a 30-minute drive to get home."


This Week in Statehouse Action: Racist Is As Racist Does edition (August 17, 2017, 02:57 PM)

Mama always told me life was like a box of Confederate sympathizers.

(No, of course she didn?t. My mother?s advice was generally excellent, judiciously dispensed, and never cliché-based.)

The horrific violence perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville last weekend is still fresh in our minds, and we?ll be dealing with its aftermath for a long time.

But one of the consequences of that abhorrent display of neo-Nazi hate involves confronting the many monuments to treasonous losers of a war fought to defend slavery. Some 1,500 statues and other memorials intended to honor soldiers and leaders of the Confederacy are scattered all across the country?some in states that didn?t even exist during the Civil War.

Campaign Action

A movement to remove these reminders of a failed insurrection to defend an indefensible institution has progressed slowly in recent years (about 60 have come down or been renamed so far), but now it seems to be accelerating.

Stone Love: Just look at North Carolina, where Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has already declared his intent to remove all monuments to the Confederacy on state property?a noble goal, to be sure, but he?s got one thing standing in his way.

It?s the thing that always stands in his way: the GOP-controlled state legislature.

Three guesses as to which way they?ll vote, and the first two don?t count.


Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 8/17 (August 17, 2017, 09:01 AM)

Welcome to the Daily Kos Elections Live Digest, your liveblog of all of today's campaign news.

Please note: This is a 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primary-free zone.

Thursday, Aug 17, 2017 · 3:16:47 PM +00:00 · Jeff Singer

TX-30: On Wednesday, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announced that she would seek another term in her safely Democratic Dallas seat. Johnson, who is 81, has been the subject of retirement rumors for years, bur she's never had trouble winning renomination.

Thursday, Aug 17, 2017 · 3:39:55 PM +00:00 · Jeff Singer

ID-01: Armed with the power of the Star Forge, state Rep. Luke Malek announced this week that he was joining the Sith campaign to conquer the Republic? whoops, we were thinking of someone else. Armed with the power of the vice-chairmanship of the Idaho House Judiciary Committee, state Rep. Luke Malek announced this week that he was joining the GOP campaign to conquer the Republic to succeed tea partying Rep. and gubernatorial candidate Raul Labrador in this safely red western Idaho seat.

Malek is the third notable Republican to enter the race. Malek will face ex-state Sen. Russ Fulcher, who has Labrador's support, and attorney David Leroy, a former lieutenant governor who lost a very tight 1986 gubernatorial general election.

Thursday, Aug 17, 2017 · 4:02:25 PM +00:00 · Jeff Singer

AL-Gov: On Thursday, state Public Service Commission chair Twinkle Cavanaugh announced that she would seek the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor rather than run for the top job. Cavanaugh never officially announced she was running for governor, but she had self-funded $500,000 into her statewide account. But Cavanaugh said on Thursday that she decided that she would rather work with Kay Ivey, who became governor earlier this year when her predecessor resigned in disgrace, than run against her.

Ivey herself hasn't announced her plans, but she's reportedly been telling business leaders and legislators that she'll seek a full term next year. A number of Republicans have already jumped in the race for governor rather than defer to Ivey, but we'll see if some of them follow Cavanaugh's lead and drop out if and when Ivey announces she's running.

Thursday, Aug 17, 2017 · 4:10:06 PM +00:00 · Jeff Singer

IL-Gov: Rep. Robin Kelly, who represents part of Chicago, endorsed state Sen. Daniel Biss on Thursday in the crowded Democratic primary to face GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner. Kelly didn't rule out a bid of her own back in November, but she never showed any more interest after that.


Morning Digest: Court ruling striking down Texas GOP's congressional map still disappoints Democrats (August 17, 2017, 08:01 AM)

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.

Leading Off

TX Redistricting: Late on Tuesday, a federal court in San Antonio struck down Texas' congressional map on the grounds that the Republican lawmakers who drew it had engaged in intentional racial discrimination in violation of both the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment. The court ordered lawmakers to swiftly lay out their plans to redraw the map. The new districts will take effect for the 2018 midterm elections if this ruling survives a likely appeal to the Supreme Court.?

Campaign Action

?Meanwhile, Texas' Republican Gov. Greg Abbott didn't sound too keen on calling a special session over redistricting, stating that he feels "confident the Supreme Court will overturn [the ruling]." If he doesn't do so ahead of the court's Friday deadline, the court itself could redraw the map after its upcoming Sept. 5 hearing.

??If the Supreme Court ultimately sustains this ruling, Democrats and Latinos could gain one congressional seat. However, that's a major disappointment compared to the two or even three seats that plaintiffs had hoped for. Specifically, the court invalidated Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold's 27th District, which is based in Corpus Christi and branches northwest toward Austin and northeast toward the Houston area, and Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett's 35th District, which connects San Antonio and Austin via a narrow tendril.

However, the court did not strike down Republican Rep. Will Hurd's 23rd District, a huge beast that stretches from El Paso to San Antonio, something that multiple redistricting experts had expected to happen. The court also declined to strike down any districts in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area even though plaintiffs?and an analysis by Daily Kos Elections?have repeatedly demonstrated that Republicans could have easily drawn another district in the region that would allow Latinos to elect their candidate of choice. In a new post, Stephen Wolf takes a detailed look at what could happen next in Texas.


After badly losing a GOP Senate primary, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks faces a fight to stay in the House (August 16, 2017, 03:17 PM)

On Tuesday evening, Rep. Mo Brooks took just 20 percent of the vote in Alabama's GOP Senate primary, while ex-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and appointed Sen. Luther Strange took 39 and 33 percent, respectively. Brooks quickly announced that he would run for re-election to his Huntsville-area 5th District next year, but while the GOP nominee should have little trouble in this 65-31 Trump seat, Brooks may be in for another tough primary battle.

Brooks did carry his northern Alabama seat on Tuesday, but his margins were not impressive. According to our calculations, Brooks took 41 percent of the vote in the 5th District, while opponents Roy Moore and Sen. Luther Strange grabbed 28 and 27 percent, respectively. Brooks' showing at home was far better than his statewide performance, but 41 percent is not a great performance for a four-term congressman. A credible opponent may be able to convince primary voters to dump Brooks, and he may already have one.

Businessman Clayton Hinchman, an Army Ranger who lost his right leg in Iraq, entered the race a little while ago, and he has an important ally. As the Washington Examiner's David Drucker noted in July, Hinchman's general consultant is none other than Ward Baker, who served as executive director of the NRSC in 2016 and is an advisor to the high-profile Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC closely tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Until Tuesday, Brooks was running against Strange, who had the support of McConnell and the SLF. It's likely that McConnellworld was helping Hinchman in part to distract Brooks during the final weeks before Election Day. Now that Brooks' role in the Senate race is over, it's unclear if McConnell and his allies will turn their attention elsewhere, or if they decide to make an example of Brooks by driving him out of Congress. However, a Tuesday night tweet from Josh Holmes, a former McConnell chief of staff who remains close to the majority leader, hints that Brooks' battle with the McConnell network isn't over.

If McConnell decides to continue his war on Brooks, he already has a ready-made line-of-attack. During the Senate race, SLF ran ad after ad featuring clips of Brooks disparaging Donald Trump during last year's presidential primary. Brooks was backing Ted Cruz, but the SLF made it sound like Brooks was siding with Nancy Pelosi over Trump, and the congressman never found a good way to fight back.

Brooks' meh performance at home on Tuesday hardly indicates he's doomed, though. As we've seen before, it's easier to convince primary voters to deny an incumbent a promotion than to convince them to fire him. In March of last year, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio lost the presidential primary at home to Trump by a brutal 46-27 margin. But Rubio decided to run for re-election, and in late August, he turned back a primary challenge from wealthy businessman Carlos Beruff 72-18.

And while McConnell's allies may help Hinchman raise money, it's very unlikely that they'll direct much outside money to a House race in a year where there will be a ton of competitive Senate races to get involved in. But if Hinchman has the resources he'll need to get his name out, Brooks could still be in for another rough ride.


Wealthy state Sen. Tom Campbell kicks off Senate bid against North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp (August 16, 2017, 02:08 PM)

On Wednesday, state Sen. Tom Campbell became the first major North Dakota Republican to enter the race against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. Campbell reportedly is wealthy, and a campaign consultant suggested back in April that if he ran, Campbell could immediately drop $2 million into his fledgling Senate bid. North Dakota is a very conservative state, and Heitkamp will be a top GOP target next year. Heitkamp has not yet announced if she'll seek a second term, but her fundraising strongly indicates that she's in.

At the beginning of this cycle, Rep. Kevin Cramer, who represents the entire state in the House, was the top choice of national Republicans. Campbell himself reportedly said that while he would run for Congress, he would campaign for whichever seat Cramer wasn't running for.

However, Cramer spent the first half of 2017 making embarrassing statement after embarrassing statement, most notably criticizing female congressional Democrats for their attire, and national Republicans reportedly decided months ago that Campbell would make a better candidate. Cramer himself still has yet to announce his 2018 plans, and it's unclear if Campbell jumped in the race believing that Cramer wasn't running, or the state senator just decided he wasn't going to defer to him anymore.


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