Senate page     Aug. 15

Senate map
Previous | Next

New polls:  
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: (None)

Two Noteworthy Primaries Are Going to Take Place Tomorrow

Two states are holding primary elections tomorrow, so Let's go Sarah.

We will have a rundown of the results, of course, but because of Alaska's far westerly location, and its ranked-choice system, we may not know what happened there until Wednesday or Thursday.

Next week we have to biggies: Florida and New York. (V)

Hawaii Holds True to Form

Hawaiians hulaed to the polls on Saturday, and... chose exactly the candidates everyone expected them to choose.

For governor, to replace the term-limited David Ige (D), the Democrats will run Josh Green, who crushed his six rivals with 62.9% of the vote. His Republican opponent will be former lieutenant governor Duke Aiona. Aiona took a slightly less dominant 49.7% of the vote. Further, about a quarter million people voted in the Democratic primaries whereas only 75,000 voted in the Republican ones. So, Green can start looking at curtain patterns for his new office at 320 South Beretania St. in Honolulu.

For the U.S. Senate, Sen. Brian Schatz (D) was renominated with 94% of the vote. He'll face former state Rep. Bob McDermott (R), who took 39.6% of the vote. McDermott is an outspoken Trumper who hates gay marriage and is known for publicly holding forth on anal sex. He even brings visual aids:

McDermott holding a sign 
that spells out that 'oral sex' means 'mouth on genitals,' 'vaginal sex' means 'penis enters vagina' and 'anal sex'
means 'penis enters anus'.

Thank goodness he cleared that up, because we were not clear. Anyhow, that shtick might play in some red states, but it isn't going to get it done in blue Hawaii. This is probably the Democrats' safest Senate seat this cycle.

As to Hawaii's two House seats, Rep. Ed Case (D) easily won renomination in HI-01; he'll now go on to defeat 40-year U.S. Navy veteran Conrad Kress, who's actually pretty moderate by the standards of the modern-day GOP, but not moderate enough to win in the Aloha State. In HI-02, former state Sen. Jill Tokuda (D) took the Democratic nomination, as expected, with 57.6% of the vote. Her victim will be Joe Akana who, like Kress, is a military veteran and is pretty moderate. He'd be a promising candidate in some places, but that's just not gonna fly in a state that's two-thirds Democratic. In the 62 regular House elections held since Hawaii became a state, the Democrat won 60 of them. That's a .967 batting average.

And finally, in the somewhat dramatic race for state house district #26, longtime officeholder (since 1994) and current Speaker of the Hawaii House (since 2017) Scott Saiki (D) will keep his job. He defeated the more progressive Kim Coco Iwamoto (D) by 167 votes 2 years ago, and this time he's improved his margin a little bit, to 212 votes. Incumbency matters, folks.

So, there you have it. The Democrats who will occupy Hawaii's most important political offices for at least the next 2 years (or 4 for Green, or 6 for Schatz). (Z)

A Former U.S. Attorney's Take on Documentgate

Renato Mariotti is a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted white-collar crime in Illinois. Last Thursday, we had an item about his view of the search at Mar-a-Lago. But since then, the search warrant has been released, so Mariotti wrote another article that focuses on the legal aspects of the search, based on the newly available information.

Mariotti writes that if the government learned that someone who wasn't a former president had 21 boxes of government documents at home, some of them classified, the Feds wouldn't bother to get a search warrant or even ask permission. They would just swoop in and take them to prevent them from "disappearing." Earlier this year, Trump was asked if he had any government documents at home. He said he did and surrendered 15 boxes. Only he didn't surrender all of them. This could be crucial in a potential court case.

One of the laws Trump may have broken is the Espionage Act, which says willfully storing government documents you have no right to store is a crime. A key problem for prosecutors is proving the willfulness. However, when the feds took the first 15 boxes, they most definitely told Trump that storing government documents without authorization was a crime. But he continued to do it, even after being told that was illegal. This pretty much kills off the excuse of "I didn't know it was a crime." When the agent who told Trump that he wasn't allowed to store government documents tells the story to a jury, there goes Trump's excuse.

Also, in a trial, Trump would surely be asked why he needed to store government documents, some of them classified, at his house. Saying they held a sentimental value for him is not going to cut it. Pleading the Fifth Amendment isn't either. In a criminal trial, jurors are not supposed to regard taking the Fifth as evidence of a crime, but jurors aren't totally stupid. If the answer to the question "Why did you keep them?" is "I'm not going to tell you," very few jurors will see that as a sign that he is innocent.

Trump's current story, that he had a standing order to automatically declassify anything he took home, is going to run into a couple of problems. Back when the first set of boxes was taken, he didn't bring this up. If he really had a standing order to bulk declassify documents, why didn't he mention it earlier? Furthermore, there is a procedure for declassifying a document. The first page of a classified document states the classification level. That has to be removed. Every following page has the classification status in the header or footer. That has to be blacked out. He didn't do that, so a strong case can be made that by not following the correct procedure, he didn't actually achieve declassification. Legality aside, when a jury hears about the declassification procedure and Trump's failure to follow through, are they going to believe him, especially when he never mentioned this standing order when the first batch of boxes was taken?

Mariotti believes that absent obstruction, the DoJ might not pursue charges. But after the first round of box removal, one of Trump's lawyers signed a document saying that all classified material was removed from Mar-a-Lago. The lawyer who signed that could be criminally liable. That would force the lawyer to say either: (1) Trump told me they were all gone or (2) I made up the lie myself. Count on (1). But that would be evidence of obstruction—Trump lied in order to cover up a crime. Mariotti thinks that this could be the government's strongest case: Trump broke the law, he knew he broke the law, and then he lied to cover it up.

This story is far from over. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, have written a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines asking for her assessment of how much damage to national security Donald Trump's possession of classified documents might have caused. She could potentially inform the two chairs of the damage in a closed session, including all the details, or make a public statement without getting into the details. This is unlikely to be the last demand for accountability. (V)

Trump Is Not Al Capone

Renato Mariotti (above) was just looking at the narrow issue of what Donald Trump could be charged with for storing documents in his house illegally. He wasn't considering if the main charge should be about documents at all. Two other lawyers looked at that. Claire Finkelstein, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, and Richard Painter, the chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, have written an op-ed in The Washington Post arguing that while it was OK to nail Al Capone for tax evasion and not murder and racketeering, it would not be OK to solely nail Donald Trump for mishandling government documents. They say that for history and the preservation of democracy, he needs to be charged with crimes that reflect how serious his offenses against democracy were. Popping him for illegally storing government documents in his basement just doesn't cut it.

They say Trump should be charged with insurrection and seditious conspiracy and possibly lesser charges, but only in addition to the first ones. At the end of one of the hearings, Liz Cheney also suggested Trump was also guilty of witness tampering, but Finkelstein and Painter think that should be an add-on, not the main charge.

They believe that since Trump incited a mob to storm the Capitol (and would have led it if the Secret Service hadn't forbid it), he is clearly guilty of insurrection, as defined in 18 U.S. Code 2383.

They further believe that he is guilty of seditious conspiracy, as defined in 18 U.S. Code 2384. This law makes plotting with one or more other people to overthrow the government of the United States a felony. In their view, plotting to replace the lawfully chosen president-elect with someone who lost the election qualifies as "overthrowing the government." The Select Committee has already produced a great deal of evidence that shows a clear conspiracy with John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, among others.

Focusing on these crimes is important because Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment states that no one who engaged in an insurrection shall be eligible to hold public office. People who have mishandled federal documents are still eligible to be president.

The conclusion here, according to Finkelstein and Painter, is that if leaders cannot be held responsible for their most serious crimes, we cannot expect democracy to survive. (V)

Sunday Talk Shows Focus on Documentgate

As expected, all of the main Sunday morning talk shows devoted some time to the FBI's search or Mar-a-Lago and subsequent seizure of documents that Donald Trump was illegally holding there. Here is a quick rundown of who said what.

This is obviously not a random sample, especially not of the Republicans. If the networks had invited Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and Jim Jordan (R-OH), there would have been a lot of shouting and demands to defund the FBI and impeach Garland, and little else. (V)

Members of Trump's Cabinet Are Talking to the Select Committee

On Jan. 6, 2021, and the days after it, many people were asking—no, demanding—that the vice president and the Cabinet invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment and declare that Donald Trump was unfit to carry out the duties of the president (like, for instance, seeing that the laws are faithfully enforced). As it turns out, some members of the Cabinet were asking the same question. Not surprisingly, the Select Committee has some questions for them.

Several members of the Cabinet discussed the possibility with then-Vice President Mike Pence. When he made it clear that he was not going to invoke the Twenty-Fifth, two members, Betsy DeVos (Education) and Elaine Chao (Transportation), promptly resigned. They have since testified before the Select Committee in private. In fact, at least nine members of Trump's cabinet have already met with the Committee. These include Steven Mnuchin (Treasury), Chad Wolf (Homeland Security), Eugene Scalia (Labor), Chris Miller (Defense) and Jeffrey Rosen (AG). Former NSA Robert O'Brien was scheduled to have a chat with the Committee last Friday. He was not head of any executive department, so he wouldn't have gotten a vote if it came to that, but he was definitely in the middle of he discussions.

In addition to getting a better picture of what was going on at the White House on Jan. 6, the Committee no doubt asked the cabinet officials about Trump's mood and mental state on Jan. 6. That could be important because some of the crimes he could be charged with involve knowing whether he willfully did certain things and the secretaries might be able to shed light on his state of mind. The Dept. of Justice is likely to want to see the transcripts of the interviews to save itself some work. (V)

Democrats Are Hammering Republicans on Abortion

Since the Dobbs decision, Democrats have spent eight times as much money on abortion-related ads as the Republicans. It's as if the Republicans don't want to talk about it. Here are images from just a few of the ads.

Abortion ads Democrats have run; pretty
much all of them target specific Repulbicans, like Blake Masters and Doug Mastriano, and what those Repulbicans have said about abortion.

Of course, when any political party takes a clear stance against what most of the voters want, it would be political malpractice for the opposing party not to make the election all about it. Trump-backed gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon (R) in Michigan wants to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. That is practically inviting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) to latch onto that. In Georgia, Democrats have attacked Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) with an ad in which fearful women talk about how they could be sent to prison for a miscarriage. It's a powerful ad. Similar ads are running in Arizona and other states.

Since the Dobbs ruling, Democrats have spent $32 million on ads about abortion to the Republicans' $4 million. Four years ago, Democrats spent $1 million on abortion-related ads. That's a 32-fold increase. The goal is to make the election about abortion, not inflation.

In a sense, Democrats have flipped the script on Republicans. Going back to at least the infamous Willie Horton ad, Republicans have run on fear They run ads about crime, especially rapes committed by Black men (and not violations of the Espionage Act committed by white men). The goal is to scare people. The Democrats' ads now are designed to make women fear a forced birth if they are raped. So now it's the Democrats focusing on rape. How the times have changed.

The abortion-related ads are showing up all over the country, even far from swing states. They have run, for example, in Alaska, Iowa, and Virginia, among other states. Many of the ads call Republicans "too extreme." Some say that other fundamental rights are now also in danger if Republicans win. Some ads for candidates who are veterans tie abortion to their military service. In a race for a House seat representing upstate New York, U.S. Army veteran Pat Ryan (D) is running an ad that says: "He sure didn't fight for our freedom abroad to see it taken away from women here at home."

Many political operatives think that ads that hammer on someone taking away existing rights is generally more powerful than ones promising new rights or new programs.

In gubernatorial races in states with a Republican-controlled state legislature, the governor's race will determine whether abortion will be banned in the state. Democrats Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania, Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, and Tony Evers in Wisconsin understand this well and are hitting hard on the issue. The Dobbs decision was handed to the Democrats on a silver platter and they are not going to waste it. (V)

Sinema Demonstrates Why People Think Congress Is Corrupt

Many people, ourselves included, are perplexed by many of the positions Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has taken in the past 2 years. They don't seem to make any sense. The AP now has an article that seems to explain at least some of it. It's actually fairly simple: She's basically corrupt.

The AP is reporting that Sinema has received nearly $1 million from private equity professionals, hedge fund managers, and venture capitalists whose taxes all the other Senate Democrats, especially Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), want to raise. Most recently that played out when Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) worked out a deal for the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Sinema balked because it would eliminate the "carried interest" provision in the Internal Revenue Code that hedge fund managers use to have their income taxed as capital gains instead of ordinary income. Now that we know that Sinema has received $1 million from people who would be affected by the change, her killing the provision makes sense. What she did was technically legal in the U.S., since she can't pocket the money herself, but in almost every other country it would be considered taking a bribe.

Sinema is one of the top recipients of money from the hedge fund industry. From their point of view, the money is peanuts and is money well spent. What's unusual is that the connection between the money and the senator's actions is so transparent.

What is also amazing is that she started out as a Green Party activist and once said that taking money from industry groups and then doing them favors was like bribery.

Corrupt politicians are not new, but what is really unusual here is how low her price is. Sinema is smart enough to realize that Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) is champing at the bit to announce his run for her seat in 2024. She is so hated by Democrats that he is certain to raise many millions of dollars on the day he announces, and other Arizona Democrats may also challenge her. The $1 million she got from the hedge funds is not going to go a long way in a very expensive primary in 2024. (V)

Coal Country Is Furious with Manchin

Kyrsten Sinema may have done herself in by being so transparently corrupt. Joe Manchin may have done himself in by (1) blocking Joe Biden's agenda for a year and a half and then (2) supporting just enough of it to enrage people whose jobs depends on coal. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 has a couple of things coal miners like, specifically permanent funding to help miners who have black lung disease. But it also is a big step moving away from coal and toward renewable energy. That could be fatal for him in 2024. More than a year of opposition has made Democrats hate Manchin and the final bill made everyone in West Virginia who is directly or indirectly dependent on coal hate him.

The West Virginia Coal Association wrote in a recent letter that the excise tax in the final bill will cost them tens of millions of dollars and make it harder for the coal companies to compete. Other coal-aligned groups are reacting the same way.

Republicans are already licking their chops about the race for his seat in 2024. Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) is already running ads on television accusing Manchin of betraying the state's coal industry. The ad says: "Alex Mooney won't let Joe Manchin and Joe Biden destroy our coal industry and devastate West Virginia." This is West Virginia-speak for "I'm running for Manchin's seat in 2024."

Manchin does have some local support, though. Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers union, noted that the bill includes tax credits for carbon capture, which could extend the life of coal-fired electricity plants. It also has $4 billion in tax credits for companies that create clean-energy jobs in communities devastated by the closing of coal mines.

Manchin's approach ended up giving him the worst of all possible worlds. He angered the Democrats by obstructing Biden for over a year and he also infuriated many coal miners by partially giving in at the end. Clearly he was in a tough spot from the get-go, but he could have taken a different approach from the start. He could have supported the entire Build Back Better bill provided that it created tens of thousands of jobs in West Virginia. He could have had it finance the biggest solar panel factory in the world in West Virginia, provide funding for hiring thousands of people to clean up all the toxic abandoned mines in the state, allocate millions for research on clean energy at West Virginia University, along with tons more pork. He would have probably gotten it all. Then he could have told West Virginians something like: "I hate to say it, but coal is dying. But because I have so much seniority and clout I was able to get funding to create tens of thousands of new jobs with a big future in West Virginia. No first-term Republican senator would have anywhere near the power I have to help West Virginians." That might have worked. As it is now, he's probably in deep trouble in 2024 from Mooney and others. (V)

Political Ads Will Hit Almost $10 Billion This Year

AdImpact, a company that tracks television ads, expects the total spending on political ads this year to be about $9.7 billion. Not only does that beat every previous midterm year, but also presidential years as well. The total spending on ads in 2020—a presidential year—was $9 billion. In 2018, the most recent midterm year, it was $4 billion.

Why is this year likely to be so expensive? For one thing, majorities in both the House and Senate are up for grabs. One seat could flip the Senate and five seats could flip the House. Also, the 36 gubernatorial races this year are going to be hugely expensive because Democrats know the governor is the only firewall stopping Republican legislatures from passing laws to impede voting and abortion rights. Republicans also know this. States with huge spending on the gubernatorial races include Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

AdImpact projects $2.43 billion for governors' races, $2.37 billion for Senate races, $1.88 billion for House races, and $2.99 billion for other races (including for secretary of state). The $5 billion already spent is more than the total outlay in 2018, and the main show hasn't even started.

In 2018, Florida was the only state with a Senate race that crossed the $100 million mark. This year, six Senate races have already passed it, namely in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The Georgia race has already passed $200 million, in fact.

Partisans from both parties understand how important this year's elections are and are donating at a furious rate and are expected to continue doing so until Nov. 8. Nevertheless, a huge amount of money is just being wasted. There is not a whit of evidence that having a viewer see the same ad 30 times in an evening is more likely to get him or her to vote for the candidate than seeing it 10 times. In fact, it might anger the voter so much as to be counterproductive. But as long as the money keeps rolling in, the spending will continue. (V)

Dan Goldman Is Running TV Ads for a House Race in NYC

Despite the huge amount of spending on ads (see above), you rarely see television ads for House candidates because that rarely makes sense. House districts almost never line up well with media markets. In big cities, a House district is often a small piece of the city, so buying television time on one of the city's channels is expensive and wasteful since most of the people who see the ad don't live in the district. In rural areas, the reverse is often true: a station in the district's largest city might reach only a fraction of the voters.

New York City is the worst place for a House candidate to advertise on television. It contains many House districts and is the most expensive media market in the country. Only a candidate with more money than he knows what to do with would buy ads on the city's TV stations, knowing that probably 90% of the people who see the ads can't vote in the election in question. And now we present you with such a candidate: Dan Goldman.

Goldman is running in NY-10, which covers lower Manhattan and part of Brooklyn. Money isn't a problem because Goldman is an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune. His net worth is in the $250 million ballpark and he is good at conventional fundraising as well. If he wins the seat, he will be one of the richest members of Congress.

Goldman isn't just some rich kid who wants to buy a seat in the House, though. He was the chief counsel to the Democrats during the first impeachment of Donald Trump and was the one asking a lot of the questions of the witnesses on television. Many Democrats loved his performance, which is why he thought he would stand a good chance to win a House seat in a D+27 district.

His main opponent is Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), who was previously in a different district in lower Westchester County, but switched to NY-10 because he thought it would be an easier race. So the race pits a gay Black guy with a J.D. from Harvard against a very rich straight white Jewish guy with a J.D. from Stanford. The newly created district is very diverse, with many Black, white, Latino, Asian, Jewish, and gay residents. However, some neighborhoods have extremely high turnout rates and others have dismal turnout rates. The New York primary doesn't have a lot of exciting races at the top of the ticket, so it is expected that most of the turnout will be from highly engaged voters from Park Slope in Brooklyn and the West Village in Manhattan, both heavily white areas. This favors Goldman.

While these two are the best-known candidates, there are many more candidates, most of whom are not so well known. New York does not have runoffs, so the person with the most votes gets the nomination and almost certainly the seat. Due to the combination of his national exposure in the impeachment proceedings and his money, that looks to be Goldman. The primary is a week from tomorrow. (V)

Previous | Next

Back to the main page