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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2020: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2020 : (None)
Political Wire logo Quote of the Day
Raffensperger Warns of More Political Violence
The New GOP Brand Is ‘Trump Light’
Is Virginia a Purple State Again?
Biden Caught Falling Asleep
Progressives Ready to Give In

The Virginia Election is Tomorrow

The only major competitive statewide election this year is the Virginia gubernatorial election, which will finish tomorrow. The Hill describes it as "tight as a tick." If one averages the past six public polls, former governor Terry McAuliffe (D) is leading by 0.8%, which is to say either candidate could win. We also don't know if there is a differential nonresponse (again), with Republicans refusing to talk to the pollsters. Earlier this year McAuliffe was way ahead, so the trend favors Glenn Youngkin (R). But will his gains be enough?

One indicator we could have but don't is early voting. Three-quarters of a million voters have already cast their ballots. That is about 30% of the total turnout in the 2017 gubernatorial election. It is also four times the early turnout in 2017. Traditionally Democrats like to vote early and Republicans like to vote on Election Day. In 2020, Joe Biden carried the state by 10 points, but Trump won Election Day by 25 points. However, Virginia does not register voters by party, so we don't know which party is doing better at early voting. Probably it is the Democrats, but by how much? Youngkin has urged Republicans to vote early, so the mix this year could be different from usual.

One thing we do know is where the early votes are coming from. About a third are from Northern Virginia, a Democratic stronghold. According to one model, 11.5% of early ballots are from Black voters, higher than their 8.5% early voting total in 2017, so it looks like Black voters, who skew heavily Democratic, are enthusiastic about voting. There appears to be a small dropoff among white noncollege voters compared to 2017. Twice as many young (18-29) voters voted early this year compared to 2017, but their share of the total vote is just half of what it was in 2017. In contrast, older voters have voted early in droves this year. Of course, history is only a rough guide and none of this says anything about who will show up in person tomorrow.

It is important to realize that Youngkin is not campaigning as a Trump clone. Five groups and issues appear to be the key to Youngkin's rise in the polls in the past month, as follows:

  • Independents: In three polls released last week, independents favor Youngkin by 7, 22, and 8 points, respectively. About a third of voters self-identify as independents. There are more Democrats than Republicans in Virginia, but Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting, so that might even out, making independents even more important than usual.

  • Parents: Youngkin has made education the centerpiece of his campaign. Traditionally this has been a Democratic issue, but Youngkin has flipped the script. He has argued that Democrats have gone too far protecting transgender students (e.g., allowing trans girls on sports teams) and are placing too much emphasis on race and ethnicity. Around the country, and also Virginia, once-soporific school-board meetings have become battlegrounds, with angry parents demanding that school cease teaching critical race theory—even though no elementary or high school (and precious few universities) even mention it. So Youngkin has latched onto the idea that parents, not schools, ought to determine what children learn. The idea is popular among parents. Taken a bit further, if parents believe that the earth is flat and was created by God in a marathon 6 x 24 hours of creative work with all the current animals in place, then that is what the kids should learn.

  • Marginal Biden Voters: In order to win, Youngkin has to peel off a fair number of Biden voters. He seems to be doing it. Polls show that Youngkin is winning 99% of Trump voters and also 6% of Biden voters, while McAuliffe is winning only 89% of Biden voters. Part of McAuliffe's problem is that 14% of the Biden voters are not happy with how Biden is doing. These are low-hanging fruit for Youngkin.

  • Trump base is enthusiastic: Republican voters are raring to go. Youngkin has been extremely good at getting Trump voters to be excited about voting for him without his mentioning Trump much at all in his campaign. He is doing just as well as Trump with noncollege whites. He is also killing it with rural and small-town voters. However, typically, it is affluent college-educated suburban voters who are the ones with the best turnout rates in off-year elections. If McAuliffe wins, it will because Youngkin's supporters didn't bother to vote.

  • COVID-19: As cases wane, the pandemic is becoming less and less of an issue. Voters trust McAuliffe more than Youngkin to handle it. Voters generally trust Democrats more than Republicans on COVID-19 management, but if the whole issue isn't on the front burner, that may not matter so much.

Democrats are worried that their months-long bickering over the infrastructure bills is going to hurt them tomorrow in Virginia and next year. The image of a party that is badly divided internally does not project "strong leadership," which many voters really like. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was really hoping to get the hard infrastructure bill through Congress before Tuesday's vote, but the votes weren't there because neither the moderates nor the progressives trust the other group to fulfill any promises it makes. So Pelosi pulled the vote. Maybe there will be a vote Tuesday, but that is too late to affect the election.

The Virginia race is not necessarily predictive of 2022, but it is certainly instructive. McAuliffe has made his whole campaign about how awful Donald Trump is, kind of like Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Maybe it will work better this time. Maybe not. In contrast, Youngkin has managed fancy footwork focusing on local issues, especially education, without alienating Trump supporters. If that works, it will certainly be a guide to other Republicans in swing states and districts next year. Youngkin said that his victory would send a shockwave across the country. He is probably right. Biden won the state by 10 points and McAuliffe had much better name recognition than Youngkin at the start of the race on account of his 2014-2018 stint as governor. He was certainly the favorite at the start of the race.

If McAuliffe loses, moderates will blame progressives for not passing the hard infrastructure bill (thus giving McAuliffe something to cheer about) and demand its immediate passage post-election. Progressives will say that they must give new voting-rights laws top priority.

If McAuliffe loses, Democratic representatives in swing districts may perceive the handwriting on the wall and choose to retire rather than spend a year campaigning and go down to defeat (or end up in the minority). This could make the Democrats' situation in the House even worse. Of course, a solid McAuliffe victory will give them hope. Every Democrat knows about Republican Bob McDonnell's 2009 victory and the disaster that befell the Democrats in 2010. In addition, they know that after Lyndon Johnson got much of his Great Society legislation through in 1964-65, the voters turned out in large numbers for the Republicans in 1966. Similarly, Barack Obama's ACA may have been a major cause of the Democrats' "shellacking" in 2010. On the one hand, if a new president does nothing, his party tends to be beaten because his supporters stay home, but if he does a lot, his party tends to get beaten because his opponents show up in great numbers. Midterms are always a referendum on the sitting president, and it is very hard to please all the people all the time.

The plural of anecdote is not data, but Politico has a whole story based on one anecdote that may or may not turn out to be important tomorrow. It is about one small block of Crestwood Drive in Alexandria, VA. There are a couple of yard signs for McAuliffe and a couple for Youngkin, but mostly no signs at all. So?

One of the people who lives there is Chad Wolf, one of Donald Trump's acting cabinet secretaries (DHS). Last year there were signs for Joe Biden, Black Lives Matters, and a host of other liberal causes. People held rallies and parades in front of Wolf's house to demonstrate what they thought of him and his boss. That one block was a hotbed of liberal activism, all aimed at Wolf. Now there are a couple of signs for the two candidates and that's it. One of the people interviewed for the story said: "That crisis [Trump's reelection] has been averted. I can go back to other priorities in my life." In other words, Democrats may feel the battle has been won so they are tuning out politics and may not vote tomorrow. After the votes are counted, it will be interesting to compare the Democratic vote vs. 2017 and the Republican vote vs. 2017. If Youngkin wins, it could be that the Democratic vote dropped while the Republican vote held steady. (V)

Four Cities Will Choose New Mayors Tomorrow

Virginia and New Jersey are the only states with gubernatorial elections tomorrow, but there is plenty of action lower on the ballot. Four major cities will choose their mayors tomorrow. Here is a brief summary of those races:

  • New York: Let's start with an easy one. Tomorrow, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (D) will be demoted from president to merely a mayor, but it will be mayor of all of New York City. There is also some Republican running, but we forget his name. Fortunately, it doesn't matter, as Adams will win in a landslide. A former cop, Adams has campaigned on the idea that he is ideally positioned to deal with increasing crime. He will be the city's second Black mayor, after David Dinkins.

  • Boston: Beantown will also pick a new mayor, but this one is somewhat competitive. It will also be historic, since the city's voters are sure to break the streak of only white men ruling the city for hundreds of years. They are going to elect a woman of color. How can we so sure? Well, both candidates are Democratic women of color. Polls have shown Michelle Wu, a progressive champion, is leading the moderate Annissa Essaibi George. Wu's parents came from Taiwan. George has a Tunisian father and a Polish mother. Both women have talked extensively about being the daughters of immigrants. Wu was born in Chicago but moved to Massachusetts to attend Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where she was a student of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). George is a lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her thick Boston accent. Since most of the Boston electorate is left of center, Wu is the favorite here.

  • Atlanta: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) is not running for reelection, but 14 candidates want her job for some reason. Tomorrow's election will be the first one since the Georgia legislature enacted restrictive voting laws. It could give a window into how effective they are at keeping voters from the polls. With 14 candidates, voters have plenty of choice, but polls show they are confused by it and haven't decided whom they want. All the major candidates are Black. There are former mayor Kasim Reed, City Council President Felicia Moore, and Council member Andre Dickens, among others. Crime is a major issue that all the candidates are addressing. Reed wants to hire 750 new officers and ramp up training about implicit racial bias. Moore has emphasized police reform measures such as releasing body camera footage after a shooting. Dickens wants to hire 250 more officers. If no candidate gets 50%, there will be a runoff on Nov. 30.

  • Buffalo: In the June primary, Democratic Socialist India Walton defeated four term Mayor Byron Brown in a huge upset. However, Brown mounted an aggressive write-in campaign, so she will have to beat him again. Some Democrats don't like the idea that Brown, who, like Walton, is Black, is a sore loser. Both U.S. senators back Walton. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Walton "won the primary fair and square." However Buffalo native Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) has stayed neutral. Brown has attacked Walton for her inexperience and policies that he said would compromise public safety. She responded that she never promised to defund the police. However, she wants to allocate more funds to hire other professionals to deal with problems like homelessness in order to free up police officers to deal with actual crime, as being homeless is not a crime and doesn't require armed police to be involved in dealing with it. Since Walton won the primary, she is presumably the favorite again, especially with the backing of much of the Democratic establishment.

So for an off-year, we still have a fair amount of action tomorrow. And there is more—see below. (V)

Will Minneapolis Kill the Police Department?

In addition to the high-profile Virginia races and exciting (and unexciting) races for mayor tomorrow, there is a very unusual referendum in Minneapolis tomorrow. The ballot proposal in liberal Minneapolis would abolish the Police Dept. and replace it with a Dept. of Public Safety. This initiative is a direct result of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. The envisioned Dept. of Public Safety would include the police, but also experts in mental health, addiction experts, and people trained in de-escalating conflicts in situations where sending an armed officer might make matters worse. The new department would also address the root causes of crime and try to prevent it before it takes place. It would also answer not only to the mayor, but also to the 13 city council members, which would give residents more say in how policing is carried out.

The Minneapolis mayor and chief of police both oppose the measure. Voters are split across racial and socio-economic lines, among others. Part of the confusion is that the ballot proposal doesn't spell out all the details. If it passes, the mayor and city council would have to work them out.

Since Floyd's murder, more than 200 officers have left the police force. Some of the remaining ones have stopped engaging with the community, for fear of being involved in another incident similar to the one that led to Floyd's death.

Compared to last year, homicides, robberies, and aggravated assaults are up in Minneapolis. Most of the increase is in North Minneapolis, a poor area where many Black residents live. Nearly half of all murders have taken place there. Residents complain of shootings, carjackings, and out-of-control petty crime. Teto Wilson, who owns a Black barber shop in the area said: "This entire thing is a white, progressive movement, man. They're trying to turn us into some damn big experiment." Just north of his shop, Anna Gerdeen, who is white and progressive said she will vote against the proposal. She said: "My neighbor's house got hit with bullets a couple months ago. I can't let my son play outside in the yard anymore. As a mother, I just can't risk any more chaos."

Supporters of the proposal say that such violence shows that the current system is not working and change is needed. Minnesota AG Keith Ellison, a progressive Democrat, agrees and says this is the time for true change. (V)

Democrats Are Trying to Pass the Two Infrastructure Bills by Tomorrow

Although passing the two bills tomorrow probably won't help Terry McAuliffe at the ballot box, Democrats are in a huge hurry to reverse Joe Biden's descent in the polls as an ineffective leader who can't get his party to follow his lead. House leaders told the various committees involved that they had to finish all changes before this morning so the Rules Committee can meet today, with a possible vote on the bills tomorrow.

However, it is not yet clear if there is an actual bill that can get 218 votes in the House. Progressives see this as their last good shot at changing the country for perhaps a decade and don't want to give it up. But moderates don't want those changes. They want progressives to stop yapping and just pass bills that have very wide support in Congress and in the country. Nancy Pelosi doesn't want any bill to go down to defeat so she won't hold a vote until she is sure the votes are there. But she is hoping for vote a tomorrow, if she can herd all the cats.

A complicating factor is that progressives want the Senate to go first. They are afraid that if they pass both bills, the Senate will immediately pass the hard infrastructure bill but either Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) will demand a "few" amendments that are unpalatable to the House progressives, pass it, and send it back to the House with a Post-it note reading: "Take it or leave it." In any event, Biden and Pelosi really want to get the bills done this week. (V)

Will Women Be Angry at the Democrats Due to Paid Leave Being Cut?

Joe Biden wanted to have a provision in the reconciliation bill that would provide paid pregnancy leave for women and also provide paid leave for anyone to care for a sick child. In practice, it is mostly women who care for sick children. Biden talked about those provisions a lot but in the end, they won't be in the bill because Joe Manchin wants the price tag to be around $1.5 trillion, not $3.5 trillion, and certainly not $6-7 trillion. The problem with being a politician is that you have to make all kinds of promises to get elected and if you can't fulfill them, your supporters are disappointed, become apathetic, and then don't vote next time. A big question is whether women in particular will hold it against the Democrats for not enacting paid leave, which would mostly have benefited them.

Democratic strategist Christy Setzer said: "Like universal pre-K, the genius of paid leave is that it's easy to understand and makes a tremendous difference in our lives." An Oct. 27 memo from Lake Research Partners called paid leave a crucial component of Biden's plan because it polls so well. Fully 87% of Democrats, 63% of independents, and even 43% of Republicans favor it. But Manchin thinks it is too expensive.

What is telling here is that not a single Republican senator has said that if paid leave and universal pre-K are in the bill, he or she will vote for it. So while Manchin gets of the blame for killing it, any one of the 50 Republican senators could have saved it and become a national hero. Not one was willing to save it, despite the enormous popularity of these items. Republicans don't like some other provisions of the reconciliation bill, like saving the planet, but since the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the majority party can pass multiple reconciliation bills, someone like Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) or Susan Collins (R-ME) could have said that if the Democrats put together a second reconciliation bill with only universal pre-K and paid leave, she will vote for it, thus canceling out Manchin's no vote. But not one of the 50 Republican senators was willing to defy the leadership and vote for a bill that would have been overwhelmingly popular with their constituents. This goes to show how unified the Republicans are and how fragmented the Democrats are. At the same time, it suggests how little Republicans care about policy. (V)

Biden's Approval Sinks to 42%

Joe Biden is being mauled in the polls and even half the Democrats think the country is heading in the wrong direction. To some extent, that is the fault of Congress for not being able to agree on infrastructure, but most people don't know that or understand a president's power to get senators and representatives to do what he wants is determined by not only his personality and skills (LBJ and FDR had different skill sets) but also the circumstances and the leverage he has on them.

A new NBC News poll has Biden's job approval at 42% and his disapproval at 54%. That's a huge drop from April:

In April, Biden was at 53/39,
in August he was at 49/48, and now he is at 42/54.

Biden is now lower than any modern president at this point except Donald Trump. Further, he is taking the party with him. Americans think Republicans can do better on the economy, inflation, and immigration. Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt, who did the poll in partnership with Republican Bill McInturff, said: "The promise of the Biden presidency—knowledge, competence and stability in tough times—have all been called into question." Fellow Democratic pollster Peter Hart said: "What people voted for was stability and calm. And what they got was instability and chaos."

When asked about the direction of the country, 71% said it is on the wrong track and 53% said its best years are behind it. When asked about specific issues, the Republicans lead on border security (+27%), inflation (+24%), crime (+22%), national security (+21%), the economy (+18%), and getting things done (+13%). The Democrats lead on climate change (+24%), the coronavirus (+12%), and abortion (+10%).

Also noteworthy is that 20% of registered voters say that their vote in 2022 will be a signal of opposition to Donald Trump and 21% say it will be a signal of opposition to Joe Biden. However, 52% say their vote won't be a signal to anyone.

If the Democrats lose tomorrow in Virginia (especially if they lose not only the governorship but also the House of Delegates) and are crushed in 2022, and really especially if the Republicans take the Senate in 2022 and not-quite-as-immortal-as-he-would-like-to-be Justice Stephen Breyer dies in 2023 or 2024, there will be a lot of finger pointing and many autopsies. Things could change, of course, but at this point if we had to assign blame, we would point to progressives in Congress. They wanted to change the country and sensed this was their last chance for perhaps years. But the votes aren't there and they were never there. Like it or not, Joe Manchin was never going to vote for the New Deal, Part II, and nobody really has any leverage over him. What they could have done is picked two or three popular items that Manchin likes, such as universal pre-K, refundable child tax credits, and some aspects of fighting climate change, put them in the reconciliation bill, and passed it last March. Now they are going to get the same thing more than half a year later and it will look like a defeat. If it had been done in March, it would have looked like a victory and Biden and the Democrats would be flying high. It's terribly disappointing to come so close and fail, but that was foreordained when Cal Cunningham reached for his zipper. The one thing successful politicians can always do is count votes. The reality is that there are not 50 progressives in the Senate and politics is the art of the possible. Maybe the bills will pass and in a year the country will be in a good mood, but it is clear from this poll that if the midterms were held now, the Republicans would cruise to victory in many races.

Ironically, there is one organization that might save the Democrats: the Supreme Court. If the Court rescinds Roe v. Wade in the Mississippi abortion case it will hear next month, that will so inflame Democrats—especially women—that 2022 could be all about abortion, in which case all bets are off. (V)

Adam Kinzinger Won't Seek Reelection

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) announced Friday that he will not seek reelection in 2022. He voted to impeach Donald Trump earlier this year and Trump is determined to punish him. Trump doesn't mind if the punishment is self-inflicted (voluntary retirement) although endorsing someone to beat him in a primary would have been sweeter. Kinzinger didn't rule out running for other offices in the future. To make it worse, Kinzinger is also on the Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 coup attempt.

Yesterday he was on ABC's "This Week" where he slammed fellow Republicans for not saying "a dang word" about the lies and conspiracies they implictly support.

Trump reacted to Kinzinger's retirement by putting out a statement: "2 down, 8 to go" and it wasn't about bowling. He was referring to Kinzinger and Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), who also voted to impeach but who has been essentially forced into retirement as a consequence. Trump won't be satisfied until he manages to force the other eight into retirement or has them defeated in primaries.

While Democrats probably feel sorry for Kinzinger, given a choice between him and an actual Democrat in his district, they would clearly prefer an actual Democrat to any Republican. Getting reelected with Democratic votes was never in the cards.

But the real reason Kinzinger is calling it quits is something quite different: redistricting. Illinois Democrats control the process and they have carved up his district and lumped him together with Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL). The district is very heavily Republican, but Trump would certainly have gone all in to support LaHood in the primary. In all likelihood, LaHood would have won the primary and sent Kinzinger packing. Rather than go down in flames (and possibly ruin a subsequent run for some other office), he decided to opt out "gracefully." But it is not really "graceful" when it was clear you would lose.

Redistricting Kinzinger out of a job isn't the only important thing in the new Illinois map. A last-minute change puts Reps. Sean Casten (D-IL) and Marie Newman (D-IL) in the same district, forcing a primary between them in June. Legislators carefully moved Newman's home town of La Grange out of the district. Clearly, they favor Casten.

These specific changes are somewhat incidental to the Democrats' overall plan of making their House delegation 14D, 3R, despite losing a House seat in 2022. The current House delegation is 13D, 5R. This is definitely a case of being handed a lemon and trying to make lemonade out of it. (V)

Letitia James is Officially Running for Governor

To no one's surprise, NY AG Letitia James (D) (and in New York, AG stands for "Aspiring Governor") has made it official by formally announcing that she is running for governor of New York. She was planning to do this even against three-term former incumbent Andrew Cuomo, but now that he has self-destructed (with a bit of help from James), she may have an easier time of it against the new governor Kathy Hochul. Working for James is that hardly anyone knows anything about Hochul. In fact, James is probably much better known than the governor. On the other hand, she can no longer use "It is time for a woman governor" as a key part of her campaign. In her announcement, James said that her guiding principle has been to stand with vulnerable people against powerful people. If she indicts Donald Trump for financial crimes, that will surely make the point abundantly clear among New York voters.

If James is elected governor, she would be the first Black woman elected governor of any state in the country—ever. However, her path won't be an easy one. She will have to knock off a white woman (Hochul) and probably a Black man (Jumaane Williams) in the Democratic primary. Williams is the New York City Public Advocate, a job James knows well, since she held it from 2014 to 2018 and used it as a springboard to statewide office, just as Williams is trying to do.

Hochul is somewhat progressive, but not nearly as much as James and Williams. For many progressive New Yorkers, the prospect of James and Williams going after each other for months is not a pleasant one. Both are Brooklyn natives with strong ties to the city's liberal leaders and organizations like the Working Families Party.

Early polling from Marist College has Hochul at 44%, James at 28%, and Williams at 15%. But that was before James officially jumped in. Williams hasn't even formally announced yet, although that is expected soon. Once the race really gets going and people begin to think about who they want as governor, the polls could change very quickly. One thing that progressives fear is a split between James and Williams that allows Hochul to eke out a narrow victory. That could easily happen unless either James or Williams establishes an early and commanding lead over the other one and effectively makes it a race between him or her against Hochul. (V)

Many Jan. 6 Rioters Are Running for Public Office Now

Complete this sentence: "A number of people who took part in the Jan. 6 riots are going to ..." If you said "jail" you are right, but that was the easy answer. If you said: "the Virginia House of Delegates" you get extra credit. At least a dozen people who participated in the events of Jan. 6 in some form are running for state or local public office this year in Virginia, New Jersey, or Connecticut. Many more are expected next year.

Some of the candidates are incumbents and some are challengers. Here is a brief rundown:

  • Virginia Del. Dave LaRock (R) is running for reelection to the House of Delegates. LaRock went to D.C. for the Stop the Steal rally and marched to the Capitol. He claims not to know where the Capitol grounds begin exactly, but says he didn't enter the building. He faced calls for his resignation, but refused. He blamed the violence that day on antifa and paid provocateurs. This led the speaker of the House of Delegates to take away one of his committee assignments. LaRock's district leans Republican, but his Democratic opponent, Paul Siker, is well funded.

  • Virginia Del. John McGuire (R) was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but didn't brag about it. In fact, he didn't even admit to being there until July. But a selfie he later posted showed him there. His district is heavily Republican and he has been endorsed by the Republican State Leadership Committee. He is very likely to be reelected.

  • Marie March (R) is running for a seat in the House of Delegates. She proudly attended Donald Trump's rally that day, but says she did not go to the Capitol. She also said: "I apologize for nothing, I regret nothing." She has boasted/whined about the "cancel culture mob" that has attacked her for attending the rally. She has warned of a coming civil war between millennials and older Americans and is willing to fight and die for her family and businesses. She is in a very red district and is almost certain to be elected.

  • Philip Hamilton (R) is running for a seat in the House of Delegates. He climbed the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6 along with a mob of Trump supporters. He later said he was surprised to hear the Capitol had been breached. He said he heard the crowd yelling: "Hang Mike Pence." He claims he did not enter the building, though. He suggested the possibility of widespread election fraud and supports more audits of the 2020 election. His Charlottesville-based district is heavily Democratic, so he is unlikely to win.

  • Maureen Brody (R) is running for a seat in the House of Delegates. According to her post on Gab, Brody was on the west side of the Capitol when it was hit by tear gas. She refused to comment for the story linked to above. She is running in a heavily Democratic district and is unlikely to win.

  • Edward Durfee Jr. (R) is long-time member of the Oath Keepers who worked security for the extremist group on Jan. 6. He is running for a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly, which is also holding elections tomorrow. However, the district he is running in is fairly Democratic, so he is a long shot.

  • Charles Ausburger (R) is a member of the Mansfield, CT, town council who is running for reelection. He witnessed some of the violence on Jan. 6, but blames a small number of people for ruining a nice day. He claims he left at 3 p.m. However, when a resolution came before the town council decrying the loss of life that day and supporting democratic values, he voted no.

  • Susan Soloway (R) is running for reelection to the Hunterdon County, NJ, board of commissioners. She attended the rally and marched to the Capitol where she took and posted a (now-deleted) selfie of herself there. She blamed "thugs" for the riot. When asked if the election was stolen from Donald Trump, she refused to answer, simply saying that Joe Biden would be inaugurated.

  • Steve Lynch (R) is running for county executive in Northampton County, PA. He attended the rally and marched to the Capitol. He also claims that he didn't enter the building. He said parts of the events of that day were staged. In his campaign, he has asked for "20 strong men to join [him] in removing school board members over mask mandates." He refused to say who won in 2020 and ominously said he might not support the result of his own election if he doesn't like the results. He is running in a swing county that went for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020.

  • Monica Manthey (R) is running for city council in Annapolis, MD. She attended the rally but claims she left after Trump's speech. She says she didn't know the Capitol was breached until she heard it on the news. On her Facebook page, she had a now-deleted photo of the mob attacking the Capitol. She says she didn't take the photo but also said she has no regrets about going to the rally.

  • Now let's go farther west to Mason, OH, where T.J. Honerlaw (R) is running for reelection to the city council. He says that he was in D.C. on Jan. 6 and called it a "wonderful, peaceful event." He said he went to the Capitol and got close to the door. He said the riot was a great event.

  • Finally on to Idaho where Natalie Jangula is running for city council. She went to the rally and then on to the Capitol. She posted several photos of herself there. She called it a patriotic experience. She is yet another who claims she didn't enter the building. City council elections in Nampa are nominally nonpartisan.

If this many people who were at the rally are running in a year with hardly any elections, it is a safe bet that many more will run next year. (V)

Missouri AG Files Suit Against Vaccine Mandate

Eric Schmitt, who is Missouri's attorney general, but more importantly a candidate for the Senate seat Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is vacating, is against Joe Biden's mandate that federal contractors must make sure all employees are vaccinated. So he and nine other Republican attorneys general have filed a lawsuit claiming that Biden's directive is unconstitutional. It is an important lawsuit because one-fifth of the national workforce is employed by companies with one or more federal contracts. Biden's order applies to all of a company's employees, even if only a small number work on federal contracts. For example, since Boeing builds aircraft for the Air Force, employees who are building 787s also have to be vaccinated.

It is all about politics, of course. Schmitt is in a tough primary with disgraced former governor Eric Greitens, Rep. Vicky Hartzler, gun-wielding Mark McCloskey, and a few others. His strategy is to excite the base by visibly opposing mandatory vaccinations. Schmitt argues that Biden's order violates procurement law.

This isn't the only lawsuit Schmitt has filed against Biden. He has also filed suits challenging mask requirements in schools and mask ordinances from local governments. The White House has disputed Schmitt's reasoning and has said that the president has the authority to protect the federal workforce.

Vaccination mandates are proving tricky elsewhere. In New York City, a vaccination requirement went into effect on Friday. However, one consequence is that up to 20% of the fire companies and 20% of the ambulances could be shut down because of noncompliant workers being placed on leave.

Biden's order is separate from one that is expected shortly from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. That one will require all businesses with 100 or more employees to mandate all employees to either be vaccinated or take a COVID-19 test weekly. Missouri Republicans are lining up to oppose the OSHA regulation. They claim that employees will quit en masse if it is enacted. No doubt as soon as OSHA makes the rule final, Schmitt will be at the front of the line to sue the federal government. Filing lawsuits is apparently how one campaigns in Missouri. (V)

North Carolina Releases Its New House Map

North Carolina has a spotty record when it comes to drawing congressional district maps. In 2010, Republicans drew a map that greatly favored the GOP, but the courts struck it down as unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. Still, that took a while and the elections of 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018 were all held with an unconstitutional map.

Now the Republican-controlled North Carolina state legislature has produced the map for the 2022 House elections. Here it is:

North Carolina House map for 2022

The map is different from the current one because North Carolina got an extra House seat, bringing its total to 14. An analysis of the new map shows that Republicans have eight safe seats to the Democrats' three. Two of the other districts would lean Republican and one would lean Democratic, leading to a likely 4D, 11R congressional delegation, despite the state being split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. In 2020, Donald Trump carried North Carolina by just over 1%, so the map is a serious attempt to undermine a fair delegation.

It took about an hour after the map was released for the NAACP and Common Cause to file a lawsuit claiming it was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The suit asks the judge to prohibit the legislature from adopting the map and also to delay the primary elections until an approved map is adopted.

State Sen. Ralph Hise (R), who drew the map, complained that the Southern Coalition for Social Justice "sued us previously because we used race and now they're suing us because we didn't use race." The Democrats have no leverage here because although Gov. Roy Cooper is a Democrat, state law bans him from vetoing district maps. (V)

Susan Collins Casts Her 8,000th Vote in the Senate

Many people who don't live in Maine wonder how Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) managed to beat Democrat Sara Gideon in 2020, despite Maine being a blue state and Gideon having more campaign money than Scrooge McDuck. Maybe part of the answer is that Collins works hard for her constituents. Last Thursday she cast her 8,000th vote in the Senate (to confirm Elizabeth Prelogar as U.S. solicitor general). Since Collins arrived in the Senate 24 years ago, she has never missed a Senate vote. Not once. When she visits schools, she tells them about her voting streak and compares it to never missing a day of school from kindergarten until high school graduation. The kids go "wow!" She says that never missing a vote shows her constituents that she is working hard for them and they are being represented on each and every vote the Senate takes.

The other senators, many of whom often skip votes, were well aware of her 8,000th vote last week. They cheered when she cast it and showered her with confetti. During the pandemic, she had to arrange her schedule around flight cancellations from the airport near her home in Bangor. She goes home every weekend, and when flights were being canceled willy nilly last year and this one, she sometimes had to drive 2 hours to Portland, ME, to catch a plane to D.C. from there.

She is still thousands of votes short of the all-time record, though. Former senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin voted 10,252 times without missing one. The pandemic broke one streak last year though. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had voted in 8,927 consecutive votes until he was forced to quarantine last year and break his streak. Collins said that her heart went out to Grassley when he had to break his streak, but he did the right thing by quarantining. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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