GOP disarray: Trump blasts Mitch, Bowers calls out GOP ‘fascism,’ Colorado senator switches to Dems

While Joe Biden and fellow Democrats are getting things done, the GOP is increasingly in disarray as it embraces the MAGAverse and the cult of Trump. In fact, so much is going on that it might be time for periodic roundups of the internal fissures within the GOP.

Democrats still face an uphill battle in the November midterms, but the tide is turning in our favor. So let’s start with the dust-up between Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Last week, McConnell conceded that the House has a better chance of flipping than the Senate. During a stop in Kentucky, McConnell told reporters:

“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” McConnell said. “Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome,” he added, without mentioning any names.

But it was clear that he was referring to Trump-backed candidates in key swing states who are all trailing their Democratic opponents in recent polls—Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, J.D. Vance in Ohio, Herschel Walker in Georgia, and Blake Masters in Arizona. McConnell is backing pro-impeachment incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, while Trump is supporting her 2020 election denier rival, Kelly Tshibaka, in Alaska’s Senate race.  

That didn’t sit well with the master of the MAGAverse. Over the weekend, Trump posted this on his Truth Social platform:

Why do Republican Senators allow a broken down hack politician, Mitch McConnell, to openly disparage hard working Republican candidates for the United States Senate. This is such an affront to honor and to leadership. He should spend more time (and money!) helping them get elected, and less time helping his crazy wife and family get rich on China!

Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife, served as secretary of Transportation during Trump’s four-year term, but resigned shortly after the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. 

Immediately after the insurrection, McConnell took to the Senate floor to say that Tump is “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events” of Jan. 6. However, he spinelessly voted to acquit Trump at his second impeachment trial a few weeks later.

As for Chao, whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan when she was a child, there have been questions raised as to whether she aided her father’s shipping company through her government positions. The U.S. Transportation Department's Inspector General's office investigated Chao for potential violations of ethics rules and misuse of her position, and published its findings in March. Chao's father, James S.C. Chao, founded a shipping company, now called the Foremost Group, which her sister Angela now heads. The firm does significant business in China.

McConnell’s criticism of Trump was relatively mild compared with what Arizona’s ousted House Speaker Rusty Bowers had to say about Trump and his party in an extraordinary interview with The Guardian. Bowers, a staunch conservative, testified in a public hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection about the pressure he faced to overturn Arizona’s presidential election result that gave Joe Biden a narrow win.

Earlier this month, Trump got his revenge when Bowers lost a Republican primary race to challenger David Farnsworth, who claimed that the 2020 election had been satanically snatched from Trump by the “devil himself.”

Bowers detailed to The Guardian how Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and John Eastman pressured him to have the state legislature use an arcane Arizona law to switch the election outcome to Trump. He resisted the bullying. ”The thought that if you don’t do what we like, then we will just get rid of you and march on and do it ourselves—that to me is fascism,” Bowers said.

With the primary loss behind him, Bowers, who is a Mormon, felt unhindered in letting loose on Trump and the GOP. “The constitution is hanging by a thread,” he told The Guardian. “The funny thing is, I always thought it would be the other guys. And it’s my side. That just rips at my heart: that we would be the people who would surrender the constitution in order to win an election. That just blows my mind.”

Bowers said he remains optimistic that the GOP will one day find its way back on to the rails, but said that things are likely to get much worse before they get better. He said the Arizona GOP seems to be lost at the moment. “They’ve invented a new way. It’s a party that doesn’t have any thought. It’s all emotional, it’s all revenge. It’s all anger. That’s all it is,” Bowers said.

And in Colorado, one GOP state senator went even further when he announced Monday that he couldn’t remain a Republican any longer and was defecting to the Democrats. State Sen. Kevin Priola wrote in a two-page letter that there is “too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge.” He added: “Simply put, we need Democrats in charge.”

Priola cited two main reasons for switching parties: Many Republicans peddling false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and the party’s efforts to block legislation that would fight climate change even as Coloradans endure worsening wildfires and drought.

Priola has served in the Colorado legislature as a Republican since 2009, first as a representative and then, starting in 2017, as a senator. Term limits bar him from seeking reelection in 2024. His defection increases the Democratic state Senate majority ahead of the November elections.

“I haven’t changed much in 30 years; but my party has,” Priola wrote. “Coloradans cannot afford for their leaders to give credence to election conspiracies and climate denialism,” he wrote, adding: “Our planet and our democracy depend on it.”

The Downballot: The Kansas abortion earthquake, with Quinn Yeargain (transcript)

Kansas rocked the political world on Tuesday night, rejecting an attempt to amend the state constitution to strip away the right to an abortion in a massive landslide. In this week's edition of The Downballot, we pick apart the vote with law professor Quinn Yeargain, an expert on state constitutions. Yeargain explains how the amendment came to be on the ballot, what might've caused the huge spike in voter turnout, and what lessons Democrats should take away from the election (hint: abortion rights are popular, so lean into them).

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap Tuesday's other key races, including Trump picks prevailing in Senate races in Arizona and Missouri (if you allow that "ERIC" nonsense); a pro-impeachment House Republican going down to defeat in a Michigan seat Democrats are now better-positioned to flip in November; and the return of the notorious Kris Kobach, who narrowly won the GOP nod for Kansas attorney general and could once again jeopardize his party's chances in a race Republicans have no business losing.

Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

David Beard:

Hello and welcome. I'm David Beard, contributing editor for Daily Kos Elections.

David Nir:

And I'm David Nir, political director of Daily Kos. The Downballot is a weekly podcast dedicated to the many elections that take place below the presidency from Senate to city council. You can subscribe to The Downballot wherever you listen to podcasts, and we'd be grateful if you would leave us a five-star rating and review on Apple podcasts.

David Beard:

Primary season is back in full force this week and we have a ton to cover. So what are we going through today?

David Nir:

Oh man, do we ever. We are going to be wrapping up results in Kansas, Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. And of course, we are going to be spending a lot of time talking about that state constitutional amendment vote that went down in massive flames on Tuesday night. We're going to be talking about that with law professor Quinn Yeargain, a long-time Daily Kos Elections community member and an expert on state constitutions. So, so much to dive into. Let's get started.

David Nir:

We have a ton of elections to catch up on from Tuesday night. Number one, of course, on everyone's lips is the Kansas constitutional amendment that would have stripped the right to an abortion from the state constitution. It went down to defeat in flames by a huge double-digit margin, about 18 points. We are going to get into that one in great depth with our guest on this show coming up in the second part of this program, but there is one other Kansas race, though, that we do want to mention. That's the Republican primary for state attorney general. That position is open this year and the GOP primary was won by Kris Kobach, the former secretary of state, who you'll remember from his disastrous 2018 bid for governor. He was so awful that he played a key role in allowing Democrat Laura Kelly to flip that seat. Kelly is up for reelection this year.

David Nir:

Kobach also ran for Senate in 2020 and Republicans were so worried that he could jeopardize that race, too, that they spent millions of dollars to successfully stop him from getting the nomination. Outside Republican groups really didn't try to stop Kobach this year and there's a chance that his sheer and unique awfulness will put this race into play. He faces Democrat Chris Mann in November.

David Beard:

And Kobach, of course, has near-universal name recognition among Republican primary voters after such contested races over the past four years. So the fact that he only got 42% of the Republican primary vote here shows that there are a ton of Republicans who did not want him to be the nominee and who could potentially vote for the Democrat in November.

David Nir:

Over to Arizona. We also had a bunch of hot races there. In the GOP primary for governor, it still has no call from the Associated Press, but former TV anchor Kari Lake, who is Donald Trump's pick, leads Karrin Taylor Robson by about 2% of the vote. In a great irony, Robson won the vote that was tallied on the earlier side while Lake dominated among the vote that came in on Election Day. Lake is an extreme Big Lie conspiracy theorist who is exactly the sort of Republican who would scream about the results shifting after Election Day, except, of course, they've shifted in her favor this time. She is looking like the likely nominee at this point and she will take on Democrat Katie Hobbs, the secretary of state, who won her primary easily. This is for an open seat held by term-limited Republican governor Doug Ducey.

David Nir:

Of course, Arizona also has an extremely high-profile race for Senate where Blake Masters won with 39% of the vote. He is the candidate backed by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, and also Donald Trump. He will face Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly, who, of course, won the special election to flip this seat two years ago. Kelly has absolutely dominated in fundraising. Polls show him with small leads. Of course, Republicans are going to do everything they can to try to take this seat back, but right now it looks like Kelly has a small edge.

David Beard:

Then up in Michigan, there were a number of really important races that took place on Tuesday. We'll start at the top with the governor's race, where conservative commentator Tudor Dixon comfortably won the GOP nomination for governor with 41% of the vote and she'll be facing Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, who will seek a second term. Of course, this race was shaken up after two leading candidates where dropped from the Republican primary ballot after fraud was discovered in their election petitions, which left, really, a total lack of a frontrunner and real lack of clarity. Of course, Tudor Dixon started to come to the front and then Trump endorsed her, which very much solidified her position as the frontrunner and so she'll face Whitmer this November.

David Beard:

Then there were two congressional incumbents who were defeated in Michigan on primary night. We'll start in the 3rd District where John Gibbs defeated GOP incumbent Peter Meijer, who, of course, was one of 10 Republicans to vote for Donald Trump's impeachment, which painted a very large target on his back, of course, by Trump and many others in the Trumpist wing of the party. It ended up being very close. Gibbs won by 52 to 48 margin. I think the expectation was that Gibbs would win a little more comfortably than that, but of course margin doesn't matter when you've advanced to the general election. Gibbs will go on to face Hillary Scholten in November in a seat that Biden won by 9 points, so should be highly competitive.

David Beard:

Then in the 11th District, two democratic incumbents were paired together after redistricting and representative Haley Stevens defeated Andy Levin in this matchup, winning by about 60% to 40%. Stevens and Levin each won their parts of the district fairly comfortably, but Stevens really dominated in the part of the district neither of them had represented before, which led to her comfortable victory.

David Nir:

One really unfortunate thing about this outcome is that Levin was a rather well-liked member of Congress, especially among progressives and labor and a lot of folks, not just commentators like ourselves, but other members of Congress really felt that he should have run in the open 10th District. That is certainly a much more difficult district. It is very narrowly divided, whereas the 11th is comfortably blue-leaning. Of course, Levin, if he had run in the 10th, might nonetheless have lost in November, but he at least would've had a stronger chance of returning to Congress. The fact that he got blown out 60 to 40 is really an unsurprising result that I think a lot of folks had anticipated.

David Nir:

Moving over to Missouri, we had a hotly contested GOP primary for the state's open Senate seat, but it turned into a landslide there. State Attorney General Eric Schmitt won with 46% of the vote. He beat Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who took just 22% and disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens' finish with just 19%. This, of course, is the race where the day before the election, Donald Trump oh so cleverly decided to endorse ERIC in all caps so that way he wouldn't have to decide between Eric Schmitt, who the GOP establishment greatly preferred, and Eric Greitens, who, because he is an alleged abuser, Donald Trump preferred. Trump did totally hate Vicky Hartzler, reportedly, because she refused to back off her criticisms of Trump's behavior around Jan. 6. So Trump gets his Eric, and Schmitt will now face off against Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine. This is a seat that Republicans are overwhelmingly favored to hold.

David Beard:

Lastly, we'll wrap up in Washington state where we have partial results. Of course, Washington state is almost entirely vote by mail and as a result, many of the ballots will come in the days to follow, obviously, as long as they've been postmarked by Election Day, but we do have a significant chunk of results and so we can look at the results in the two Congressional races where GOP representatives who voted to impeach Donald Trump were facing Trumpist challengers who were trying to knock them out of the top two slot. Of course, in Washington state, everyone runs on one primary ballot and the top two finishers in the primary advance to the general election. And it's looking like as of now, with the results that we have, both Jaime Herrera Beutler in the 3rd District and Dan Newhouse in the 4th District will be able to advance to the general election in the top two slot for November.

David Beard:

Right now, in the 3rd District, we've got Marie Perez, who is the main Democrat leading with 32% of the vote. We've got Herrera Beutler in second place with about 25% of the vote and Joe Kent, who is the Trump-endorsed candidate, on 20% of the vote and that's with about 57% estimated in. And then in the 4th District, Dan Newhouse is leading with 27% of the vote. He's the incumbent Republican. Doug White, the main Democrat, has 26% of the vote. He's in the second spot. And Loren Culp, who was the, again, Trumpist-endorsed challenger, has 22%, so in third place. And really, in both of these cases, the Trumpist candidates were hurt strongly by the clown car effect, for lack of a better term. There were four Republicans running against Herrera Beutler and they combined for over 35% of the vote, which would've comfortably led Herrera Beutler's 25%. And over in the 4th District, there were six Republicans challenging Dan Newhouse and the one Democrat and they combined for over 40% of the vote. Had one challenger been able to consolidate the Republican anti-Newhouse and anti-Herrera Beutler vote, there's a good chance they would've been able to advance and certainly, in the 3rd District, they would've advanced against the Democrat.

David Beard:

It's conceivable you would've ended up with Newhouse versus Trumpist candidate in the 4th District because that's much more a Republican district, but either way, it looks like both Newhouse and Herrera Beutler will likely advance and then will likely comfortably win their elections in November.

David Nir:

That means as a result, we might see as few as three of the 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment on the November ballot. The only other one with a guaranteed spot is David Valadao in California's 21st District. Liz Cheney still has her primary coming up, but she is looking very likely to lose. Valadao could also certainly lose the general election as well. So if Newhouse and Herrera Beutler hold on, they might be the only two pro-impeachment Republicans to make it into the 118th Congress.

David Nir:

That does it for our weekly hits. Coming up, we are going to be talking with state constitutional expert Quinn Yeargain about the amazing results out of Kansas and also interesting and quirky features of state constitutions nationwide. Please stay with us.

David Nir:

I am extremely excited to introduce our guest on today's show. Quinn Yeargain is an assistant professor of law at the Widener University Commonwealth Law School and they're also an expert on state constitutions and a longtime Daily Kos Elections/Swing State Project community member, so it's amazing to see someone who I originally knew in the comments section truly make good in this field. Quinn, thank you so much for joining us.

Quinn Yeargain:

It's fantastic to be here. And I'll just say I think I've been around since 2009 and a number of comments helped inspire some of my very, very first academic works. It's really been a wonderful community and I'm so glad to come back in this capacity.

David Nir:

That is truly fantastic to hear about that inspiration and what makes it all the more perfect is that the area of expertise that you have developed in state constitutions and state politics is exactly what we have to talk about on this episode. On Tuesday night, we, of course, saw Kansas voters reject an attempt to amend their state constitution by a massive landslide, 59-41 margin. This amendment would have said that the Kansas Constitution does not recognize any right to an abortion. And the most amazing thing about this, to me anyway, is that Republicans did this to themselves. They handed themselves this opportunity for this enormous defeat because they're the ones who put this amendment on the ballot in the first place. So Quinn, why don't you walk us through the background about how exactly we got here?

Quinn Yeargain:

Yeah. Kansas is a place that rather strangely, maybe, has had a pretty good string of Democratic governors in the last 15 years or so. And so as a result, for a while, a majority of the Kansas Supreme Court has been Democratic appointees. And so a few years ago, the Kansas legislature passed a pretty strict abortion ban on some second-trimester abortions, specifically dilation and extraction abortions. And several Kansas doctors challenged that in state court, arguing for the very, very first time to the Kansas Supreme Court that the Kansas Constitution's Bill of Rights actually is more expansive than the U.S. Constitution and contains an explicit and stronger protection of abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution does.

The Kansas Supreme Court was almost entertained by this argument because they pointed out nobody really litigates state constitutional provisions. Anytime that anybody's making an allegation that something violates a right or a liberty or something like that, they rely on the federal constitution, so this was the first time that they'd ever had the opportunity to actually rule on this. And in a 6-1 ruling that Kansas Supreme Court said, "Yes, there is a right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution," they used something akin to strict scrutiny, which is really, really critical of government regulation of particular rights to strike down this particular law.

But the effects of this, actually, weren't really all that clear. Kansas has had a Democratic governor again since 2019 with Laura Kelly and so the legislature hasn't had an opportunity to really try a whole lot to outlaw abortion. They have a veto-proof majority right now. It's not clear if it's actually a veto-proof majority to enact new abortion regulations and so the actual long-term impact of this ruling is not really all that clear. So in 2021, they proposed an amendment to the Kansas Constitution that said that there's no right to an abortion or government-funded abortions in the Kansas Constitution. And then they decided to schedule it in a way that coincided with the Republican primary, or all primaries in Kansas, in the hopes that it would ultimately benefit their side to have that, so they called a special election and happened to have it coincide with the primary election, then obviously, went down in flames and defeat.

David Nir:

You mentioned that Republicans put the amendment on the ballot, but they took that action in 2021. Do you know why it took so long, basically almost a year and a half, before it could actually come up for a vote?

Quinn Yeargain:

So they could schedule a special election for any time that they want, I believe, and so this is more my guess than a statement of fact, but I think that they decided that it would probably be to their advantage to do it when there was a contested Republican primary. At this point in 2021, I think it looked like there was going to be a contested Republican primary for governor. And in that event, high Republican turnout probably would've been really helpful. Obviously, that didn't end up being the case and Derek Schmidt won his nomination pretty much unopposed, seriously unopposed anyway, so it didn't end up panning out for that reason. But even in Kansas, when there's no real big contest, you're still going to get more Republicans turning out, especially in a primary election, than you are Democrats.

David Nir:

And yeah, on that note, it is pretty clear that they were hoping for generally low turnout in a summertime primary, perhaps juiced by this gubernatorial primary that really never came to pass, but we saw that backfire spectacularly. Just to put this in perspective, as of right now, more than 900,000 voters showed up on Tuesday. And many of them, as Beard noted on Twitter, only voted for the amendment. They didn't vote in other races. By comparison, in the 2018 general election, which saw an extremely heated race for governor, you had about 1 million voters, so we're talking turnout of almost 90% for a summertime primary compared to a general election. What do you make of that?

Quinn Yeargain:

I saw somebody on Twitter say that this is what happens when the dog catches the car. For years, Republicans have been pushing to overturn Roe v. Wade, to criminalize abortion and I don't think that they've really grappled with the electoral consequences of actually getting what it is that they've been organizing for the last 50 years. And you have this thing that is not wanted by the vast majority of Americans, the exact percentage, obviously, depending on how you ask the question, but Americans generally supporting Roe v. Wade and a lot of voters haven't really had to grapple with what do their votes mean when it does actually determine whether abortion is legal in their state or not. And that's where I think a lot of this comes from, that voters understood even with the bullshit way in which this amendment was written, which was terribly unclear, I think voters grasp that, "Okay. If this amendment passes, then the legislature is pretty much free to do whatever it wants to regulate or much more likely outlaw abortion altogether."

And I think that in that kind of context, when you don't have to sort through the issues, a candidate's platform, anything like that, you don't have to think really critically. It's really one thing that you care about on the ballot and that's what you have to show up and do. The stakes are really clear. It's really understandable. Voters get that and I think that it made it really easy for people to get involved. I think it also helps that when you're seen as doing this backhanded sneaky move of scheduling the election at a weird time, I think it's really easy for it to backfire and I think that it absolutely did that here. I think it's the exact same dynamic that in South Dakota two months ago, when, again, legislature put an amendment on the ballot in the primary election, voters came out in droves to oppose it. I think it's the exact same dynamic.

David Nir:

I did appreciate when Republicans on Twitter, as soon as it became clear they were going to go down to defeat, started complaining that the badly written ballot language, which was written by Republicans, as the reason that voters voted against the amendment, so that was a nice bit from after the election. But before the election, you actually went and predicted that the amendment would fail on Twitter in part, because, and I quote, "The surprisingly close outcome of similar amendments in more conservative states." And you also predicted it would be a margin of 8 to 10 points, which it, of course, ended up being even larger than that but that was fairly close, considering the close polling that had taken place before. So what led you to make that prediction?

Quinn Yeargain:

Well, what really inspired it was I saw a tweet that summarized a press briefing that the Kansas Secretary of State's Office had with reporters when they said that turnout was exceeding their wildest expectations and they'd previously disclosed a few days ago that they were anticipating high turnout. And so to hear that, that they're anticipating really, really, really high turnout that's higher than what they were anticipating anyway, which is already going to be high, that made me have the realization, that the dynamic that I just talked about. When you are trying to sneak something through and voters get wind of what's going on, I think that dynamic can flip on you where it can supercharge turnout in the exact opposite direction. It makes it easy for voters to turn out because like I said, there's one thing that they really care about on the ballot. It's easy for them to do it.

And if you look at the range with which states have ratified similar amendments, it’s all over the map. You have Alabama and Louisiana ratifying amendments like this with really, really high double-digit margins but then in Tennessee and West Virginia, only by single digits and it's pretty close. And the real difference is that in Tennessee and West Virginia, there were state-supporting court holdings on point that were the law in those states that said that there is an independent state constitutional right to an abortion. So by voting yes in those two states, voters were actually changing the status quo. But in Alabama and Louisiana, those constitutions have never been held to imply any sort of separate right to an abortion.

And Kyle Kondik had shared this really interesting article that came out last year on the status quo bias in ballot initiatives and that when push comes to shove, if an amendment or an initiative is going to change the status quo dramatically, “no” probably has something of a built-in advantage because voters aren't going to do something if they don't fully understand the consequences. All that stuff came together and I think that Kansas is a state that seems uniquely primed to not want something like this, despite its socially conservative reputation, because it's also a heavily suburban state. And if you supercharged suburban turnout, which seems like that's exactly what happened, then that suggested to me that it would lose by a fairly wide margin. I think that pretty much everybody's wrong assumption was that they were too conservative about how supportive of abortion rights they thought Kansans would be, which is a fun sentence that you didn't really think you'd get to say in 2022.

David Nir:

Speaking of that status quo bias, we've talked on this show about two other states where abortion will also be on the ballot this fall: Michigan, where activists are trying to enshrine abortion rights affirmatively into the state constitution, and then Kentucky, where an amendment similar to the one that just went down in flames in Kansas is going to be on the ballot. Now, Kentucky is a much more conservative state even than Kansas is. Trump won it by 26 points; he won Kansas by about 15 points. And also, Kentucky, based on your research as I understand it, does not have a similar State Supreme Court ruling that has said there is a right to an abortion, so you don't have that status quo bias in place. So what, if anything, do you think the Kansas vote says about the chances of defeating the similar amendment in Kentucky?

Quinn Yeargain:

I think it's tough. I mean, obviously, Kentucky is a much more conservative place, I think, maybe not in terms of always how it's voted in the past, obviously, at the state level, but in terms of the values that a lot of its voters have. 

It's a much more socially conservative place. I think that there are also fewer places that you'd logically anticipate might otherwise vote for Republicans, but would vote against something like this. I mean, you're really putting a lot of stock in the three Kentucky counties that are sort of the Cincinnati suburbs, really having sort of a hard left shift that they kind of had in 2019, but not as much and not as dramatically as Kansas. It all comes down to what the Kentucky courts do in the next few months.

As you know, a couple weeks ago, a Kentucky court blocked the state's abortion ban on state constitutional grounds. That ruling was later stayed, but it could well be the case that the Kentucky Supreme Court steps in at some point to issue some ruling. I'm pretty doubtful that they would come in and say, yes, there is a separate constitutional right to abortion in the Kentucky Constitution. It's a pretty conservative court. That would be pretty surprising to me. I guess if I really had to predict an outcome, I would say it probably narrowly passes, but I'm not confident enough in that. It wouldn't surprise me if there was some kind of backlash, but anticipating a double-digit win like in Kansas seems too optimistic.

David Beard:

Now, there're a ton of states that won't allow initiatives on abortion moving forward because of the variety of ways in which states govern and have rules around that. Folks are going to have to look to Democrats to protect abortion rights. Now, Trump, as Nir mentioned, won Kansas by 15 points, but the no vote prevailed by 18 points. So that's a massive, massive 33-point swing and it means that a hugely significant number of Kansas voters voted for Donald Trump and then voted against that amendment.

But of course, as we've seen in a lot of instances, voting on an amendment or an issue does not necessarily translate to voters voting for the party associated with that position on that issue. What can Democrats learn? What can progressives learn thinking through this and how to use this to motivate, to pull votes for Democrats in these states where you're not going to have an amendment to vote on for abortion rights?

Quinn Yeargain:

I think that the message kind of has to be that abortion is on the ballot, even where it isn't explicitly. I think that the idea that the sort of generic congressional ballot would have this kind of vacillation that it's had back to Democrats where I think it's tied in 538's tracker as of today, to me that's not something that really is all that common in midterm elections. Not to mention the fact that Biden's approval is obviously still really bad and Democrats are doing much better than you anticipate given that as well as general pessimism relating to the economy. And that suggests to me that there's some sort of fundamental shift in this country, that voters really do actually care about this in a way that maybe they're not actually showing to pollsters.

And I think that, especially in swing states—it’s probably less likely to be successful in really conservative states—Democrats have to lean into this message. I think at this point it is about base mobilization. It's obviously about persuasion too, but abortion is an issue where you can both motivate and persuade. I think that making the stakes really clear to voters that if you vote for a Republican, for governor, for legislature, they'll ban abortion. There's not a question about that. They'll ban abortion. And to the extent that they're saying, “Oh no, we won't,” a lot of them are on record saying that's exactly what they want to do.

There are these really draconian laws that maybe they never thought would ever come into effect, maybe where they were just test cases to get them the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. It doesn't matter because they can be the law now. So I think that in a way that they've never really had to in the past, Republicans really have to stand on their record on abortion. And it's not a record that I think a lot of voters are going to be sympathetic to once they learn a little bit more about it.

I think that rather than buying into the nonsense advice of just playing to pocketbook issues or something like that, they need to lean into something like this. Abortion is a pocketbook issue. Tell someone who is not of very much money in a very conservative state, that's bordered by other conservative states, who has to either take a flight or drive hundreds of miles to get an abortion, that's a pocketbook issue. And I think they're framing it in sort of that kind of economic justice way, I think that could be successful. I also think that again, this is something that you can both motivate and mobilize on. And so in the end, I think that this is a winning issue for Democrats.

David Beard:

Obviously, abortion is going to be the number one issue for the election going forward, at least for large segments of the population, but there are quite a few other ballot initiatives taking place in other states. And we want to keep an eye on those too. So what are some of the most interesting issues that are going to be going directly before voters this year?

Quinn Yeargain:

Well, in pretty much every state, there's something interesting on the ballot somewhere. Maybe it's interesting to just a really narrow sliver of the population and me on top of that, but it's interesting to someone somewhere. I think that one of the biggest things that is happening this year is Alabama is voting on what you might call a new constitution. Alabama has long had the longest constitution, not just of any state, but of any country or subnational entity anywhere in the world and it's bulky, it's overburdened, and they're voting on a new one this year. Hooray, it's going to be shorter. But even with all of the racist provisions cut out and all of the superseded provisions cut out, it's still going to be the longest constitution anywhere in the world. So maybe not that impactful on practice.

In terms of some attacks on direct democracy, there're two in Arizona that I think are significant to point out. Arizona does not have a single subject requirement for its initiated statutes and constitutional amendments. Single subject requirements are hardly ever applied in any sort of consistent way. And a lot of courts use them to strike down a lot of progressive initiatives. Florida, horrible offender on this. Arizona doesn't have one, but there is one on the ballot this year to add one.

They're also trying to raise the threshold required for initiated amendments in both Arizona and Arkansas to 60%. There hasn't been a huge effort in Arkansas to use the initiative process, but it's been used some in the last few years. There are some changes to the structure of state government. There's an amendment on the ballot in Arizona to create a lieutenant governor. There's also one in West Virginia that would bar any state court from exercising jurisdiction over impeachments. Hypothetically, should that ever be relevant again, definitely not based on the time that the state legislature launched a coup of the state Supreme Court in 2018, and some of the court stepped in to stop some of that.

And there're also some efforts in a couple states that would allow the legislature to call itself into special session. That's a really small, specific thing to point out, but in a lot of states, legislatures actually can't convene themselves unless the governor calls them at a session, and that affects a lot of things, like how long governor's appointments serve or appointees serve, administrative rules and regulations, and really limits the ability to legislature to check the governor. This is happening in a lot of states where there's been pushback to public health measures in particular. And if the legislature's out of session, it can't undo the governor's public health measures. So those are on the ballot in Arkansas, Idaho, and Kentucky.

There could be some election law changes. There's an early voting constitutional amendment in Connecticut finally, and there's going to be a top five primary election amendment on the ballot in Nevada this year. We mentioned some of the other abortion amendments. There's also going to be two, one in California, one in Vermont, that will add abortion protections to the state constitution. Neither of those currently has that. And then there's other various and assorted fun things: an affirmative right to health care in Oregon, something that is relevant given how frequently Senate Republicans have fled the state in Oregon. An amendment that would ban absentee lawmakers from running for reelection. Medicaid expansion in South Dakota and right to work in Tennessee.

David Beard:

So you mentioned the initiative to create a lieutenant governor position in Arizona. Many states now have lieutenant governors, but that wasn't always the case. It's one of the more interesting creations of American politics since the creation of the country, and you've done a lot of research into that. So tell us about sort of the evolution of lieutenant governors, and if you think there's a best way to handle this position out of the many, many ways states do so.

Quinn Yeargain:

Yeah. There're a lot of very specific things that I've chosen to focus on or obsess over in the last few years and lieutenant governors are one of them just because it's kind of a fun role. It's only relevant in a handful of cases, really just for stepping in when the governor vacates for whatever reason. That's just kind of a fun idea to me that there's a position specifically just for that.

In many cases in many states, that's literally all that it does. It doesn't have any other constitutional responsibilities. And most states did not have lieutenant governors. I mean, most states did not even have popularly elected governors in 1776 when a lot of state constitutions were drafted or even in 1789, when the U.S. Constitution was ratified. That happened over time, but they didn't have lieutenant governors either. In most states, the president of the state Senate became governor if there was a vacancy and this triggered a lot of very silly questions like, well, the state Senate president is a temporary job technically. What if somebody else is elected state Senate president? What happens then if they're the acting governor?

Most state courts answering this question said, well, then the position of acting governor switches to the new Senate president, which is really weird and really chaotic. There's also the question, if the state Senate president is acting as governor, do they actually become governor? And the answer is no, they don't. Well, okay. Do they then stay as state Senate president? And in some cases, the answer is yes. And so all sorts of really weird questions resulting in really unsatisfactory succession procedures, ultimately, and they very, very slowly produce this gigantic increase in the number of lieutenant governors.

One of the weirdest things to me is that this was an innovation from the North in Southern constitutions during reconstruction. Southern constitutions were quite anti-democratic, unsurprisingly, before the Civil War. And so they didn't have lieutenant governors in most cases. When northerners came down and a lot of them were at these state constitutional conventions, they created lieutenant governors, sometimes copied and pasted from their home constitutions. The Democrats in these states hated lieutenant governors with a burning passion. They specifically amended their constitutions and got rid of lieutenant governors and unloaded them with a burning weird passion. And it was only when a lot of these states again had problems with succession that they were recreated and they've ultimately been recreated in every state that they've been abolished in.

So it's just one of these weird things that the history of it is extremely specific, has a lot of really weird stories, and it's just one of these facets of modern state government that we don't really think about all that much. In terms of a model procedure, I think that team ticket elections are better than not just because I can't really imagine in most cases that voters are really making a conscious decision of, “Okay, I'm going to elect a Democrat as governor and a Republican as lieutenant governor. So if the Democrat governor vacates, then a Republican becomes governor.” I'm not sure that's a choice that voters are making a lot of the time.

I think they're just—you have somebody like John Bel Edwards in Louisiana that voters really like, and there's nobody comparably like that at the lieutenant governor level running in that race. So I think team ticket elections are better. I think that the idea of having separate primaries is kind of weird. It's been called a shotgun wedding and I prefer to think of it as a double blind experiment where voters are choosing a running mate for a gubernatorial nominee they don't know.

And you can't really do that because if you're trying to balance something out, you can't if you don't know what you're trying to balance. Some of the arguments in opposition to creating team ticket elections when this first happened in the 50s and 60s was, well, it's just going to encourage gubernatorial nominees to pick somebody who's going to balance the ticket. And it's like, yeah, that's the whole point. That's exactly why you do that to ensure some sort of geographic diversity and now some sort of racial diversity or gender diversity or ideological diversity. So I think the idea of separate primaries is not good. Where I don't—and this is I realize far more specific than the question you were asking—where I don't have a clear answer myself is whether there should be a rule that gubernatorial candidates have to pick a running mate before the primary, or if they can do it after the primary.

David Nir:

So Quinn, one other area that your work touches on, particularly with regard to state constitutions, is of course redistricting. And there was an unusual situation that together we explored at Daily Kos Elections and yourself, regarding Montana, which somehow is going to finish out the year 2022 without adopting new legislative maps, even though of course every other state has produced new legislative maps because we got census data last year from the 2020 census. So what did you uncover with Montana? Why are they so weird? Why don't they have new maps?

Quinn Yeargain:

This is the dumbest shit. So when the Montana Constitution was amended in the 1970s, it created a redistricting commission to draw state legislative and congressional maps. This is a bipartisan commission that's selected from the majority and minority parties and the state legislature. And then they picked a theoretically independent fifth member. And so the way that it basically works is different for each of those two responsibilities that it has.

So congressional maps, super easy. It gets the census data. It draws the maps and it files them with the secretary of state, easy. With state legislative maps, there are a couple of things that are intersecting in really weird ways. The kicker is that the legislature has to have the opportunity to provide feedback on the maps. This feedback is totally gratuitous and the commission doesn't have to take it into account, but it still has to provide it. So the basic confines are as follows: The commission gets the data from the Census Bureau. It has to hold at least one public hearing. And then at the next regular session of the legislature, whatever the next regular session is, it gives its map proposal to the legislature, gets its feedback on the proposal, makes any modifications it wants to, and then files them with the secretary of state.

Now at no step in that process did I say anything that explicitly, like to people who are listening really carefully, necessarily requires that this happened on an off cycle. The problem though is that the Montana legislature's regular session is once every two years in odd-numbered years. So if the redistricting commission doesn't get the data from the Census Bureau until the legislature's regular session is over, then it has to wait until the next regular session to give the legislature its proposed map.

To provide a specific example, last year, the states got their data from the Census Bureau in August 2021. The only regular session that the Montana legislature will have from 2021 through the end of 2022 ended in spring of 2021. So it was too late to do anything. So it has to wait until spring of 2023 to give its legislature that proposed map, get any gratuitous feedback that the legislature wants to provide—which it can totally ignore—make any revisions, and then file them with the secretary of state for some sort of election in 2024.

David Nir:

Now, the maps that Montana is going to use this year are badly malapportioned. Some districts have too many people, some districts have too few people. This would seem to violate the well-settled constitutional provision of one person, one vote, particularly because we have new and better census data. Could someone have sued to force Montana to make new maps earlier?

Quinn Yeargain:

They totally could have. It's really kind of astounding that nobody did. This was litigated in Maine, for example, with respect to congressional districts, which Maine was theoretically operating on a similar cycle as Montana until 2011, 2013. And it's astounding that nobody sued because what do you really have to lose? If you're Democrats in Montana, why not do it? You're in a permanent ... Probably a permanent minority for a while, unless the state radically changes. Why not upend everything and force new elections with new maps this year, rather than relying on these malapportioned maps?

I think the real challenge is it's obviously too late to sue now, and it's not necessarily clear if in the aggregate, the map is unconstitutional. The typical standard used by the Supreme Court basically says that if there's 10% population deviation between the largest district and the smallest district, it's probably okay. And if it's greater than 10% deviation, it's probably not. With relevant context, adding color as necessary. But there is at least a plausible case that this was unconstitutional, that it is unconstitutional. That at a bare minimum, the elections taking place this year are unconstitutional, but obviously nothing happened. But I think that's my perpetual frustration. There is a lot of stuff that happens that arguably violates one person, one vote or basic principles of settled election law that just go totally uncontested. Like the fact that the Nebraska special congressional election last month happened under the new district boundaries instead of the old district boundaries. Illegal, clearly illegal, but nobody sued. I don't know why. If I were barred in Montana, I would sue on their behalf, but I'm not.

David Nir:

Now, as we've mentioned, state constitutions can be quite unusual documents. They can vary a lot. So is there any particular provision or amendment that you found in your research that is really, really strange or out there?

Quinn Yeargain:

So there're two that I think are particularly interesting or funny. One of the ones is from 1934, when the state of Louisiana added a map to its constitution. One of the amendments was about highway routes that it was paving. And rather than specify where the highway routes were, they drew a map and added it into the constitution to say this is where the highway routes should go. And it's 1934. So it's not a great map with a lot of detail. And that's how the routes had to be drawn, with this map that was in the constitution.

And I first saw this, not even when I was looking at specific amendments, I was looking at a dated Louisiana Constitution from some year. And I saw a map in there and I thought there's no way. That doesn't make any sense. But indeed, I went back, looked at the specific amendment and indeed it appended a map to the Louisiana Constitution.

David Nir:

I have to ask, why couldn't they just pass a law or regular statute saying build the roads here. Why did they have to amend their constitution to do that?

Quinn Yeargain:

I think asking why didn't the Louisiana legislature simply pass a law instead of a constitutional amendment is a great question that I really wish that they had asked themselves between the years of 1920 and 1970. There was one year, for example, when there were enough amendments added to the Louisiana Constitution that it added a whole 65 pages to its constitution. Longer than most state constitutions anyway, but it added that year alone, 34 amendments added 47,000 words. So it's a great question. A great question.

David Nir:

But one with no answer.

Quinn Yeargain:

One with no answer. The second amendment that I came across that I just ... I really thought I misunderstood it at first as an amendment to the Colorado Constitution in the 1970s that said that before any nuclear device is put into the ground and detonated, it has to have been put to the voters and gotten their approval. And my first gut reaction to that was what are you talking about? Like what on Earth are you talking about? Are you talking about the U.S. government getting permission from voters before it ... Does it test? Are you talking about the Soviets, like petitioning for an initiative measure before they bomb Pueblo? What are you talking about? And it's not about that at all. It's actually about using nuclear devices to shake loose gas that's in mineral formations in the state so that it can extract the gas, which has been done a few times apparently, and was not well received by Colorado voters understandably.

So they pass an amendment barring the detonation of nuclear devices. It's still in the Colorado Constitution. If you live there, I think it's article 25 or 26 of the Colorado Constitution. It's still there. So it's still the case. So I guess any would-be nuclear powers up there—if Kim Jong-un is listening, you have to get the voters’ approval before launching a nuclear attack in Colorado.

David Nir:

I would love to see that litigated in court one day. We have been talking with Quinn Yeargin, who is an assistant professor of law at Widener University Commonwealth Law School, long time DKE and SSP community member. Quinn, it has been fantastic having you on the program and I hope we can have you back to talk about some more of these state elections soon.

Quinn Yeargain:

Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me.

David Nir:

That's all from us this week. Thanks to Quinn Yeargain for joining us. The Downballot comes out every Thursday, everywhere you listen to podcasts. You can reach us by email at thedownballot@dailycoast.com. If you haven't already, please like and subscribe to The Downballot and leave us a five-star rating and review. Thanks to our producer, Cara Zelaya, and editor, Tim Einenkel. We'll be back next week with a new episode.

MAGA Victory: Trump-Endorsed Kari Lake Wins Contentious Arizona GOP Gubernatorial Primary

Former President Trump’s track record of endorsing winning candidates kept going this week, as former news anchor and journalist Kari Lake won a close race in Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial primary. The race between Lake and Karrin Taylor Robson remained too close to call until Thursday, two days after election day, when the Associated Press called the race for Lake.

Lake will now go on to face Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in the general election in November. 

RELATED: Whoopi Goldberg Claims God Giving People ‘Freedom Of Choice’ Shows He Supports Abortion

Razor Thin Race

While mail-in ballots coming in prior to election day gave Robson an early lead, election day polling place results and Maricopa County releasing the results of their mail-in ballots gave Lake the win.

The race became a referendum of sorts between Lake, a Trump-endorsed candidate, and Robson, who was endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence, current Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Trump candidates were victorious in many Arizona races including Senate, Secretary of State, Attorney General, U.S. House seats, and State House seats. Arizona was a crucial spot in the 2020 election, and will certainly be again in 2024.

Lake has been very outspoken on her views of the 2020 election. She has stated that she would decertify Joe Biden’s 2020 win in Arizona, saying, “He lost the election, and he shouldn’t be in the White House.”

Lake has also not been afraid to dish back to left leaning media outlets what they attempt to dish out.

RELATED: After Getting Verbal Lashing From Comedian-Turned-Activist Jon Stewart, Senate Passes Veterans Burn Pit Legislation 86-11

Latest Round Of Primaries Go Well For Trump Candidates

Tuesday night’s latest round of primaries was a good one for Trump endorsed candidates. In addition to Arizona, candidates in Michigan did well.

Rep. Peter Meijer, one of a handful of House Republicans to vote to impeach President Trump, lost his primary race to former Trump administration official John Gibbs. 

Those who voted for impeachment are being picked off one by one with Meijer being the latest. Trump took to his own social media platform Truth Social and wrote, “Not a good time for Impeachers – 7 down, 3 to go!” Tudor Dixon won the GOP gubernatorial primary and will face Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.

Nationwide, it was a good night to be a Trump candidate. Of the 42 endorsements Trump gave in this most recent round of primaries, 32 won their respective races, and some may still be pending. 

RELATED: DeSantis Suspends State Attorney For Refusing To Prosecute Violations Of Florida’s 15-Week Abortion Ban

Democrats Bracing Themselves For November

For Democrats, election night this fall could look a lot like Tuesday. Democrats have pinned their hopes on things like the overturning of Roe vs. Wade and the Jan. 6 hearings, however those are not priorities for Americans. Soaring inflation and high gas and food prices are.

Joe Biden’s consistently low approval numbers have Democrats saying out loud that they do not want him to run again in 2024, and many shy away from inviting him on the campaign trail with them. 

Another takeaway from Tuesday night’s primaries: while Democrats and the media try to downplay Donald Trump’s influence over the Republican Party, there is no mistaking that it is very much in play. Biden’s unpopularity coupled with Trump’s winning track record could be a lethal combination for Democrats.

Several more states have primaries in the coming weeks, including Wyoming, where Liz Cheney trails her opponent, Harriet Hageman by roughly 20 points. “Number 8” for Trump could be waiting in the wings.

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Tuesday Primary Preview: Trump’s Big Lie slate aims to go three for three in key Arizona races

Primary season is back in full force on Tuesday with major contests taking place in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. Ohio voters will also go back to the polls for primaries for their state legislature, which were delayed because of redistricting litigation (primaries for the Buckeye State’s other offices took place as planned in early May).

Below you'll find our guide to all of the top contests, arranged chronologically by each state’s poll closing times. When it’s available, we'll tell you about any reliable polling that exists for each race, but if we don't mention any numbers, it means no recent surveys have been made public.

And of course, because this is a redistricting year, every state on the docket has a brand-new congressional map. To help you follow along, you can find interactive maps from Dave's Redistricting App for Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington.

Note that the presidential results we include after each district reflect how the 2020 race would have gone under the new lines in place for this fall. And if you'd like to know how much of the population in each new district comes from each old district, please check out our redistribution tables.

Our live coverage will begin at 8 PM ET at Daily Kos Elections when polls close in Missouri as well as most of Kansas and Michigan. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates, and you’ll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates for primaries in all 50 states. Lastly, you can track the outcomes of each of these key races with our cheat sheet, which we’ll keep continuously updated throughout election night.

Ohio

Polls close at 7:30 PM ET.

Kansas

Polls close at 8 PM ET / 7 PM local time in the portion of the state located in the Central time zone, where virtually all Kansans live, and an hour later in four sparsely populated counties along the state's western border with Colorado. Individual counties have the option to keep their polls open an extra hour.

KS Ballot (56-41 Trump): The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the state constitution protects abortion rights, but the Republican-dominated legislature has placed a proposed constitutional amendment on the primary ballot to change that. If a majority votes “yes” on Tuesday, then the legislature would have the power to end abortion in the state. A win for the “no” side, however, would keep the status quo intact. The only poll that’s been released was a mid-July survey from a Republican pollster on its own behalf that showed “yes” ahead 47-43.

Other Kansas races to watch: KS-AG (R)

Michigan

Polls close at 8 PM ET in the portion of the state located in the Eastern time zone, where almost all Michiganders live, and an hour later in four small counties in the Upper Peninsula along the state's western border with Wisconsin.

MI-Gov (R) (51-48 Biden): The Republican contest to face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer transformed dramatically in late May when a massive signature fraud scandal prevented former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who had been the frontrunner, and four other candidates from appearing on the primary ballot. One of the five remaining contenders, conservative radio host Tudor Dixon, soon earned the backing of former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and other members of her influential family, plus a last-second endorsement from Donald Trump. She’s posted leads in most recent polls, and national Democrats seem convinced that Dixon will advance as well, as they recently launched ads against her.

Self-funding businessman Kevin Rinke, who most surveys have had in second, has used his wealth to decisively outspend his rivals; Rinke has aired commercials faulting Dixon for accepting the help of DeVos, who resigned from Trump’s cabinet a day after the Jan. 6 attack. Another candidate, real estate agent Ryan Kelley, attracted national attention in June when the FBI arrested him on misdemeanor charges related to his role in the riot, but he’s struggled to turn that notoriety into votes. Chiropractor Garrett Soldano and pastor Ralph Rebandt are also running, while Craig is using his limited remaining funds in a long-shot effort to win the nomination through a write-in campaign.

MI-03 (R) (53-45 Biden): Freshman Rep. Peter Meijer, who was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump, faces primary opposition from a Trump-backed challenger, conservative commentator John Gibbs. The winner will go up against 2020 Democratic nominee Hillary Scholten, who faces no intra-party opposition for her second bid, in a Grand Rapids-based seat that Michigan's new independent redistricting commissions transformed from a 51-47 Trump seat to one Biden would have decisively carried.

Meijer and his allies have massively outspent Gibbs’ side, though the challenger got a late boost from Democrats who believe he’d be easier to beat in November. The DCCC launched an ad campaign in the final week declaring that Gibbs was "[h]andpicked by Trump to run for Congress" and saying he supports a "hardline against immigrants at the border and so-called 'patriotic education' in our schools." A pro-Meijer PAC quickly responded by running its own commercial arguing that Gibbs is actually the “handpicked candidate” of Nancy Pelosi.

MI-08 (R) (50-48 Biden): Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee is defending a seat in the Flint and Saginaw areas that’s a little more competitive than his current 5th District, and three Republicans are campaigning to face him.

The frontrunner is former Trump administration official Paul Junge, who lost to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin 51-47 in the old 8th District in 2020. (The old and new 8th Districts do not, however, overlap.) Former Grosse Pointe Shores Councilman Matthew Seely, like Junge, has self-funded almost all of his campaign, though Junge has spent far more. The third candidate, businesswoman Candice Miller, shares her name with a former congresswoman who used to represent a neighboring seat, but she’s reported raising nothing.

MI-10 (D) (50-49 Trump): Five Democrats are competing to take on Army veteran John James, who was Team Red's Senate nominee in 2018 and 2020, in a redrawn seat in Detroit's northeastern suburbs that's open because of the incumbent-vs.-incumbent matchup in the 11th (see just below).

The most prominent contender is probably former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga, who was the county’s longtime prosecutor. The best-funded candidate, though, is attorney Huwaida Arraf, while Warren Council member Angela Rogensues also has brought in more money than Marlinga. Sterling Heights City Council member Henry Yanez and former Macomb County Health Department head Rhonda Powell are also in, but they’ve each struggled with fundraising. James himself faces only minor opposition in his own primary.

MI-11 (D) (59-39 Biden): The Democratic primary in the new 11th is a duel between a pair of sophomore House members, Haley Stevens and Andy Levin. Stevens' existing 11th District makes up 45% of this revamped seat in Detroit’s northern suburbs, while Levin’s 9th is home to another 25%. Retiring Rep. Brenda Lawrence represents the balance of this district, and she’s backing Stevens.

Stevens and Levin have largely voted the same way while in Congress, though while Levin has emphasized his support for Medicare for all and the Green New Deal, Stevens has portrayed herself as more pragmatic. The congresswoman has enjoyed a huge financial advantage over her colleague; outside groups, led by the hawkish pro-Israel organization AIPAC, have also outspent Levin’s allies by a lopsided margin. A recent independent poll showed Stevens ahead 58-31.

MI-12 (D) (74-25 Biden): Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is one of the most vocal progressives in the House, faces a prominent intra-party challenge from Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey. Two other candidates, former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson and Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett, are also running, but they haven’t attracted much attention. The three challengers, like a large portion of the electorate in this Detroit-based seat, are Black, while Tlaib is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants.

Tlaib, whose existing 13th District makes up 53% of the new 12th, has far outspent Winfrey, who has faulted Tlaib for casting a vote from the left against the Biden administration's infrastructure bill. However, a newly established group called Urban Empowerment Action PAC has gotten involved to help Winfrey, and it’s responsible for most of the more than $600,000 that’s been spent on her side.

MI-13 (D) (74-25 Biden): A total of nine Democrats are competing in an extremely expensive contest to succeed retiring Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who is Michigan's only Black member of Congress, in a seat that includes part of Detroit and its southern suburbs. The top spender by far is state Rep. Shri Thanedar, who unsuccessfully sought Team Blue’s nomination for governor in 2018 before winning his current office two years later; Thanedar, who is originally from India, is the only candidate who isn’t Black.

State Sen. Adam Hollier, meanwhile, has benefited from over $6 million in outside spending promoting him and attacking Thanedar. Most of this has come from AIPAC, but VoteVets and the crypto-aligned Protect Our Future have also expended considerable sums. Lawrence, for her part, is supporting Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner Portia Roberson.

A recent independent poll showed Thanedar leading Roberson 22-17, with Hollier at 16. The field also includes hedge fund manager John Conyers III, who is the son and namesake of the late former congressman, and former Detroit General Counsel Sharon McPhail, who each clocked in with 7%, as well as Detroit School Board member Sherry Gay-Dagnogo and Teach for America official Michael Griffie.

Missouri

Polls close at 8 PM ET / 7 PM local time.

MO-Sen (R) (57-41 Trump): Republicans have a crowded contest to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt in this conservative state, though only three―former Gov. Eric Greitens, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler―appear to have a shot at the nomination. The field also includes Rep. Billy Long, state Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, and wealthy attorney Mark McCloskey, but none of them have registered much support in the polls.

Early surveys gave the lead to Greitens, who resigned from the governorship in 2018 in the face of multiple scandals. The candidate, though, has been on the receiving end of millions of dollars worth of ads from a super PAC that, among other things, has highlighted his ex-wife's accusations that Greitens physically abused both her and their children in 2018.

Hartzler, for her part, has the backing of Missouri’s other senator, Josh Hawley, but her efforts to get the biggest endorsement in GOP politics went badly: In early July, Trump publicly announced that he “will NOT BE ENDORSING HER FOR THE SENATE.” Instead, the day before the primary, Trump announced "that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!" Both Greitens and Schmitt thirstily lapped up the statement as a bona fide expression of support, ignoring the fact that Trump pointedly did not choose between the two.

Unlike the lightning-rod Greitens, Schmitt has managed to avoid any toxic headlines throught the race, though his opponents have tried to portray him as being too close to China. Schmitt has also benefited from more outside spending than anyone else, and recent polls have shown the attorney general in the lead.

The Democrats have a primary battle of their own between Marine veteran Lucas Kunce and businesswoman Trudy Busch Valentine, though the winner will be a longshot, even if they get to face someone as tainted as Greitens. A onetime Republican, former U.S. Attorney John Wood, is also campaigning as an independent.

MO-01 (D) (78-20 Biden): Freshman Rep. Cori Bush pulled off a major upset two years ago when she unseated veteran Rep. Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary, and the high-profile progressive now faces four intra-party opponents in a St. Louis seat that only experienced small changes under the new map.

Bush’s main foe is state Sen. Steve Roberts, who has gone after Bush for casting a vote from the left against the Biden administration's infrastructure bill and has Clay’s backing. Bush's team, meanwhile, has highlighted accusations of sexual assault against Roberts by two different women in 2015 and 2017, though he was never charged in either case. A July poll showed the incumbent ahead 40-20.

MO-04 (R) (69-29 Trump): Seven Republicans are competing to replace Rep. Vicky Hartzler in what remains a safely red constituency in the western part of the state, and there’s no obvious frontrunner.

Cattle farmer Kalena Bruce has the backing of Gov. Mike Parson and the influential Missouri Farm Bureau, while state Sen. Rick Brattin has the prominent anti-abortion group Missouri Right to Life in his corner. Former Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks is the only other candidate who has held elected office, while former Kansas City TV anchor Mark Alford enjoys some local name recognition. Retired Navy SEAL Bill Irwin is the final candidate who has spent a notable amount of money.

Outside groups have almost completely focused on helping or hindering only two of the contenders. School Freedom Fund, which is an affiliate of the anti-tax Club for Growth, has spent over $1 million to support Brattin or attack Alford; two other organizations, the crypto-aligned American Dream Federal Action and Conservative Americans PAC have deployed a comparable sum to help Alford and weaken Brattin.

MO-07 (R) (70-28 Trump): The GOP has a similarly crowded eight-way race in southwestern Missouri to replace another Senate candidate, Rep. Billy Long, and no one has an obvious advantage here either. The field includes a trio of state senators, Eric Burlison, Mike Moon, and Jay Wasson, while another name to watch is Alex Bryant, a pastor who would be the first African American Republican to represent Missouri in Congress. The final candidate who has spent a notable amount is physician Sam Alexander.

Wasson, who is self-funding, has far outspent his competition, but Burlison’s allies at the Club for Growth have also dropped $1 million to stop him. The Club and the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus, likewise, have deployed almost $600,000 to promote Burlison. A third group, Conservative Americans PAC, has spent close to $700,000 to beat Burlison and a bit less than half of that to hit Moon.

Arizona

Polls close at 10 PM ET / 7 PM local time.

AZ-Sen (R) (49.2-48.9 Biden): Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly will be a top GOP target following his close win in 2020 for the final two years of the late John McCain's term, and five Republicans are competing to face him. Most polls show that the frontrunner is former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, who picked up Trump’s endorsement in June. Masters’ old boss, conservative mega donor Peter Thiel, has poured $15 million into a super PAC to support him, while the anti-tax Club for Growth is also spending on his behalf.

Masters’ main intra-party rival appears to be wealthy businessman Jim Lamon, who posted a lead in one recent survey. Lamon has tried to portray Masters as a phony conservative who only recently relocated to the state from California, and he’s also run a commercial using recent footage of his rival calling the Unabomber “a "subversive thinker that's underrated."

Attorney General Mark Brnovich, meanwhile, began the race looking like the frontrunner, but Trump loathes him for insufficiently advancing the Big Lie and he’s faded in recent months. State Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire round out the field.

AZ-Gov (R & D) (49.2-48.9 Biden): The Republican primary has turned into an expensive proxy battle between Trump and termed-out Gov. Doug Ducey, a one-time Trump ally who wound up in the MAGA doghouse after he refused to go along with Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election.

Trump is all in for Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned far-right conspiracy theorist. Ducey, meanwhile, is supporting Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who has used her wealth to massively outspent Lake. Former Rep. Matt Salmon, who was the 2002 nominee, is also on the ballot along with two others, though he ended his campaign in June and endorsed Robson. Most polls show Lake ahead, though a Robson internal had the race tied.

Robson and her allies are trying to pull off an upset by highlighting Lake’s past as a supporter of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and they got some help in June from an unexpected source. After Lake targeted drag performances as "grooming" and "child abuse," a prominent Phoenix drag queen named Richard Stevens responded by posting images of the two together during their now-severed friendship and revealing that he’d performed for her multiple times. The story wound up in an anti-Lake ad in which another drag queen said that the candidate is “not just a fake, she's a phony'.”

The Democratic side has been a far more low-key affair, though there’s been little recent polling. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has been the frontrunner from the start, and she’s enjoyed a big financial advantage over former Homeland Security official Marco López.

AZ-01 (R & D) (50-49 Biden): Republican Rep. David Schweikert is seeking re-election in a reconfigured seat in the eastern Phoenix area that’s more competitive than his existing 6th District, but he needs to get through an expensive and ugly primary before he can worry about that. Businessman Elijah Norton has enjoyed a huge spending advantage thanks to his personal wealth, and he’s aired ads attacking Schweikert over a major scandal that resulted in the incumbent admitting to 11 different violations of congressional rules and campaign finance laws in 2020.

Schweikert, for his part, has focused on Norton's turbulent departure from his insurance company. The congressman has also circulated mailers showing his challenger and a male friend with the caption, “Elijah Norton isn't being straight with you.” Norton quickly fired back with a defamation lawsuit accusing Schweikert of falsely insinuating that he’s gay. The field also includes Josh Barnett, who badly lost a 2020 race against Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego but could cost Norton some much-needed anti-incumbent votes.

The Democratic contest between Jevin Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf has been far less incendiary. Hodge, who would be Arizona’s first Black congressman, has far outspent his rival, and the DCCC backed him in June.

AZ-02 (R) (53-45 Trump): Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran is defending a seat in northern and eastern rural Arizona that’s considerably more conservative than the 1st District he holds now, and seven Republicans are competing to face him. One of them, Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane, picked up Donald Trump’s endorsement in the final weeks of the race, a decision that earned Trump loud boos at his rally a few hours later (possibly because of a coordinated effort by opponents who've criticized him for not living in the district).

Crane himself released a survey before he earned Trump’s nod showing him in the lead with 19% while state Rep. Walt Blackman and businessman Mark DeLuzio tied 12-12 for second. Outside groups have spent $1 million to either promote Crane or attack Blackman, a fellow Big Lie promoter who would be the state’s first Black member of Congress. The field also includes Ron Watkins, the reputed founder of the QAnon conspiracy cult, though he’s raised little.

AZ-04 (R) (54-44 Biden): Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton faces six Republicans in a seat based in the southern Phoenix suburbs that is considerably more competitive than the 9th District he now serves. The GOP establishment has consolidated behind Tanya Wheeless, a former president of the Arizona Bankers Association. Her best-funded rival is restaurant owner Kelly Cooper, who has financed most of his campaign himself, while Chandler City Councilman Rene Lopez is also in. Outside groups have deployed over $1 million to support Wheeless and bash Cooper.

AZ-06 (D & R) (49.3-49.2 Biden): Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced her retirement last year before Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission drew up a new Tucson-based seat that’s well to the right of her current 2nd District, and both parties have contested primaries to succeed her.

The Democratic side pits former state Rep. Daniel Hernández, who as an intern helped save then-Rep. Gabby Giffords after she was shot in 2011, against state Sen. Kirsten Engel; a third candidate, engineer Avery Anderson, hasn't earned much attention. Both candidates have brought in a comparable amount of money, and major outside groups haven’t been involved here.

Until recently, the Republican primary looked like it would be an easy win for Juan Ciscomani, a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey who has far outraised his five intra-party foes. But things got more interesting in the final days when the House GOP’s main super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, spent over $1 million to support Ciscomani, whose decision to campaign as a unifier may not be resonating with the primary electorate.

Ciscomani’s main rival appears to be former mortgage banker Kathleen Winn, who has thrown far more red meat to the base. Winn has spread conspiracy theories insinuating that American leaders are “being paid off” by China and Russia, so naturally she has the backing of notorious far-right figures including Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar and Kari Lake, Trump’s candidate for governor.

AZ-AG (R) & AZ-SoS (R & D) (49.2-48.9 Biden): Both the offices of attorney general and secretary of state, which along with the governor are involved in certifying election results in the Grand Canyon State, are open, and Trump is backing an election conspiracy theorist for each.

Trump’s man in the six-way contest for attorney general is former prosecutor Abe Hamadeh, who has denied that Biden won the state. Hamadeh's intra-party foes are Tiffany Shedd, who lost a close general election last cycle in the 1st Congressional District against Rep. Tom O'Halleran; Rodney Glassman, a former Democrat who now sports an endorsement from far-right Rep. Paul Gosar; former prosecutor Lacy Cooper; former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould; and manufacturing executive Dawn Grove. The winner will go up against former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes, who has no opposition in the Democratic primary.

Over in the four-way contest for secretary of state, Trump is backing state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Biden's victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol. Finchem faces two fellow legislators, state Rep. Shawnna Bolick and state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who have both promoted voter suppression measures. The final candidate is advertising executive Beau Lane, who has Gov. Doug Ducey’s endorsement and is the one candidate who acknowledges Biden’s win.

The Democratic contest for secretary of state pits state House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding against Adrian Fontes, who narrowly lost re-election in 2020 as Maricopa County clerk. A recent poll for an unnamed super PAC put Fontes ahead 44-29, but a pro-Bolding group gave their candidate a 35-30 advantage.

Other Arizona races to watch: Maricopa County, AZ Attorney

Washington

Polls close at 11 PM ET / 8 PM local time.

Washington’s top-two primary requires all candidates to compete on one ballot rather than in separate party primaries. The two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, advance to the Nov. 8 general election. Candidates cannot win outright in August by taking a majority of the vote.

WA-03 (51-46 Trump): Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler earned herself a prominent place on Trump's shitlist after she voted for impeachment, and she now faces four fellow Republicans, two Democrats, and two unaffiliated candidates in this southwest Washington constituency that's very similar to her previous district. Trump himself is pulling for Joe Kent, an Army veteran who has defended Putin's invasion of Ukraine and has ties to far-right extremists.

An outside group called Conservatives for A Stronger America, though, has spent over $1 million to attack Kent and elevate a third Republican, evangelical author Heidi St. John. Kent has argued that this organization is trying to “prop up a spoiler candidate and split the vote” in order to help Herrera Beutler advance to the general election, though he’s trying something similar on a smaller scale. His campaign has sent out mail pieces highlighting how the only serious Democratic candidate, auto repair shop owner Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, is the one "pro-choice candidate for Congress,” a move aimed at costing Herrera Beutler Democratic votes. The field also includes GOP state Rep. Vicki Kraft, though she’s earned little notice.

WA-04 (57-40 Trump): Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse, who also voted for impeachment, faces six intra-party opponents in this largely unchanged eastern Washington constituency, while businessman Doug White is the one Democrat in the running. Trump has thrown his support behind 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, an ex-cop who has refused to recognize his decisive loss to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, but he’s badly struggled with fundraising.

Defending Main Street, which is aligned with the GOP leadership, has spent over $1 million praising Newhouse and attacking Culp, while the challenger has received no major outside help. Team Red’s field also includes self-funding businessman Jerrod Sessler and state Rep. Brad Klippert.

WA-08 (52-45 Biden): Three notable Republicans are challenging Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier in what remains a competitive seat in suburban Seattle.

Schrier's most familiar foe is 2020 nominee Jesse Jensen, who unexpectedly held her to a 52-48 win last time despite bringing in little money and is proving to be a considerably stronger fundraiser this time. Another well-established Republican is King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who was the 2012 nominee for attorney general; Dunn is the son of the late Rep. Jennifer Dunn, who represented previous versions of this constituency from 1993 to 2005. Team Red's field also includes another failed candidate for attorney general, 2020 nominee Matt Larkin.

Jensen has outspent his intra-party rivals, and he’s also benefited from over $300,000 in support from a super PAC set up to help him. The group’s efforts include ads against Dunn, including mailers highlighting his past struggles with alcoholism.

Other Washington races to watch: WA-SoS

2020 was an election theft dry run for Republicans. Next time, they could succeed

Every election starting now and into the foreseeable future is going to be the most important election of our lifetime. Until the Republican Party as we currently know it is ground to dust, scorched, and the earth on which it stands is salted, the threat of white nationalistic fascism will remain. Right now, in 2022, Republicans are running explicitly on undermining representative democracy, from the smallest local positions up through the state legislatures and all the way to Congress. They are converging behind the Big Lie and promising that they are going to fix it so that they don’t lose any more elections. So that Donald Trump (or his stand-in) will take the 2024 election.

They’re not even trying to be subtle about it—it’s explicit in so many campaigns for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state in plenty of battlegrounds, including the states that Trump tried to contest in 2020.

“What we’re seeing right now is unprecedented,” Joanna Lydgate, co-founder and CEO of States United Action, told CNN’s Rod Brownstein. “To see candidates running on a platform of lies and conspiracy theories about our elections as a campaign position, to see a former President getting involved in endorsing in down-ballot races at the primary level, and certainly to see this kind of systemic attacks on our elections, this spreading of disinformation about our elections—we’ve never seen anything like this before as a country.”

RELATED STORY: Republican state legislators are laying the groundwork to overturn the next election

Brownstein reports on a study released last week—commissioned by the groups States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward—which determined that 13 states have already approved laws to make sure there will be partisan control over election administration, laws to intimidate election administrators, and laws requiring audits of the 2020 election, as if that is a thing. That’s beyond the orgy they’ve been having for the past decade with voter suppression laws, which hasn’t ended either. Thirty-three states have another 229 bills related to denying the results of the last election, and to limiting the electorate and predetermining the outcome of future elections.

“Taken separately, each of these bills would chip away at the system of free and fair elections that Americans have sustained, and worked to improve, for generations,” the groups concluded. “Taken together, they could lead to an election in which the voters’ choices are disregarded and the election sabotaged.”

“In the leadup to the 2020 election, those who warned of a potential crisis were dismissed as alarmists by far too many Americans who should have seen the writing on the wall,” Jessica Marsden, counsel at Protect Democracy, told Brownstein in an email. “Almost two years later, after an attempted coup and a violent insurrection on our Capitol, election conspiracy theorists—including those who actually participated in January 6—are being nominated by the GOP to hold the most consequential offices for overseeing the 2024 election.”

“It’s all connected,” Lydgate said. “The playbook is to try to change the rules and change the referees, so you can change the results.”

They’ve got a very powerful referee on their side in the form of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

A casual observer might reasonably conclude that Ginni and Clarence Thomas are working in tandem to lay the groundwork for the next coup—with Ginni taking up the politics and Clarence handling the legal side. The symmetry between their work is remarkable. https://t.co/wUh5TiHk4q pic.twitter.com/tooRedMQJk

— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) May 23, 2022

Thomas won’t recuse himself from any of these cases, and as of now, a Democratic Congress doesn’t seem particularly interested in trying to force him to via the threat of investigation and impeachment.

“What’s past is prologue, and what was done sloppily in 2020 is being mapped out by experts for 2024,” Slate’s Stern and Dahlia Lithwick write. “It didn’t work in 2020 because the legal and political structures to support it weren’t in place at the time. Those pieces are being put into place as we type this.” That’s the story Brownstein is also trying to get to Democrats and the rest of the traditional media—anyone who will listen and can do something about it.

There are answers. There are ways to fix this. They start with electing enough Democrats to state offices to make sure the damage the fascists can do is limited. We can also elect enough Democrats to the House and to the Senate to make the two Republican-friendly, obstructionist Democratic senators irrelevant.

Then it’ll be a matter of convincing that Democratic majority and a Democratic president that none of this is blogger hysteria, but a very real threat to our freedoms that has everybody else’s hair on fire. Saving our representative democracy means expanding and reforming the court.

RELATED STORIES:

This Week in Statehouse Action: Spring Cleaning edition

Confession time.

I … [[deep breath]] am a hoarder.

I hoard web browser tabs.

I open something I mean to read or use for research, and four times out of five it just … sits. Unused. Unread.

In the Chrome window I’m using to write this week’s missive, I have 38 tabs open.

I’m not proud.

It’s time to admit that I have a problem.

So I’ve decided: Out with them.

This week, I’ll click on them, and then I’ll use them and/or close them forever.

From right to left—everything to the left of this window is important: Google docs and sheets, necessary-for-everyday-work tabs, that kind of thing.

Campaign Action

Okay, here goes.

Far-leftmost tab: Ah, yes, the GOP-controlled West Virginia legislature is trying to amend the state’s constitution to allow lawmakers to successfully execute the kind of high-court coup they failed to pull of back in 2018.

This is both weedy and based on a political event that was esoteric at the time and ancient history now.

But considering that I covered the Republicans’ attempt to oust and replace Democratic justices with GOP appointees way back when, you’re in good hands.

  • It all started in fall of 2018, when reports began to surface that the justices had indulged in exorbitant spending on expensive furniture amid lavish renovations of their chambers (in the neighborhood of $700,000 for things like fancy couches, elegant flooring, and pricey rugs).
  • Fast forward to June 2018, when prosecutors indicted Republican Justice Allen Loughry on state and federal charges (54 in all!) of fraud, witness tampering, making false statements, and more.
    • He was swiftly suspended from the bench, but he refused to resign.
      • His suspension gave Democrats an ostensible one-seat majority on the court. (Republicans made elections for the state Supreme Court officially nonpartisan after they took control of the legislature in 2014.)
    • Then, in early July, Democratic Justice Menis Ketchum announced his resignation, although he faced no criminal charges or formal allegations of ethics violations at the time. (He did later plead guilty to one count of fraud.) 
  • If impeachment proceedings had been concluded by Aug. 14 of that year, the resulting vacancies on the court would have been on the ballot in November 2018’s general election, and West Virginia voters would have had the chance to elect new justices.

But why would the GOP-controlled legislature want that when foot-dragging would let them game the state’s election deadlines and allow the Republican governor to just appoint the replacements himself?

  • In early August 2018, Republicans in the legislature finally got around to passing 14 articles of impeachment against all four remaining justices, and the full House convened the day before that Aug. 14 deadline to consider the matter.
    • Lawmakers approved 11 of the articles (mostly along party lines), but a trial still had to be conducted by the (also GOP-controlled) state Senate.
  • So by waiting until August to start proceedings, Republican lawmakers essentially guaranteed that the impeachment process couldn’t wrap up in time to let voters select replacement justices.
  • And if the state Senate had voted to remove the remaining three justices, replacement GOP appointees would have served two years on the bench before facing voters.

Remember, prior to this entire debacle, Democrats held a three-to-two majority on the Supreme Court.

  • But just in case you think this is anything but a brazen Republican attempt to usurp an entire branch of government through GOP appointments, consider this:

And why entertain timely steps to remove allegedly corrupt justices when you can slow your roll and execute a Supreme Court coup instead?

  • Anyway, in a surprise move on the morning of Aug. 14, 2018, Democratic Justice Robin Davis announced her resignation just in time to trigger a special election to replace her in November.
    • The crucial timing of her maneuver helped mitigate—but not obviate—Republican lawmakers’ scheme to fill the entire court with GOP appointees.

The drama continued for months.

  • Then-justices Margaret Workman and Allen Loughry and current Justice Beth Walker underwent impeachment trials in the state Senate.
    • Loughry resigned in November 2018, after he was found guilty on some of those 54 charges mentioned above.
    • Justice Walker, a Republican, was acquitted but censured by the Senate.
    • Workman, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit in October seeking to halt the proceedings.
      • Because it’s obviously pretty messed up for state Supreme Court justices to rule on a case impacting their own ability to remain on the bench, five district court judges were temporarily elevated to hear the case.
      • They ruled 5-0 that the House had erred in its adoption of the resolution of impeachment and, in doing so, had essentially run afoul of the whole separation-of-powers thing.
    • The GOP-run Senate tried to continue the Democrat’s impeachment trial anyway, but the justice presiding over the affair didn’t show (the court ruling effectively prohibited him from participating).
  • None of the other justices stood trial.
    • And Republicans in the legislature have been salty about it ever since.

Okay, finally, back to that pesky tab.

  • The article that piqued my interest enough to preserve it in tab form is about an amendment to the state’s constitution proposed by the GOP-controlled legislature.
    • House Joint Resolution 2 specifically prohibits any West Virginia court from intervening in any impeachment proceedings conducted by the legislature.
      • Despite the fact that there are some pretty obvious separation-of-powers issues inherent in such a proposal, the proposed amendment passed the House and is waiting on Senate action.
      • If the state Senate passes it with a two-thirds majority before the legislature adjourns on April 10, West Virginia voters will vote on it in the November 2022 election.

In a nutshell, because Republicans in the state House got sloppy in their fervor to game the impeachment of Supreme Court justices to benefit their own party (remember, the court was 3-2 Democratic when this got underway), they want to permanently usurp the power of a whole branch of government.

Something to remember when the GOP screams about Democratic efforts to expand federal courts, which, by the by, is extremely legal and would very much not require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

… as I found out in my next open tab, the YouTube page with this week’s episode of Daily Kos’ The Brief, for which I was a surprise guest co-host on my first day back from vacation.

But it was fun, and I learned things, and because I’m me, I managed to find a state legislative angle on D.C. statehood.

Which conveniently brings me to my next tab, which is an article about various legislatures debating the merits of (and passing resolutions for and against) Washington, D.C., becoming an actual state.

Which, by the by, it should.

  • To help raise awareness, improve understanding, and build support for statehood, organizers have encouraged lawmakers across the country to introduce resolutions in their legislatures encouraging Congress to make D.C. a state.
  • Republicans, who can’t see past their horror at the likelihood of two additional Democratic members of the U.S. Senate to consider the underlying issues of basic fairness and democracy and taxation without representation and racial equity and self-determination, are pushing their own anti-statehood resolutions in various legislatures.
    • The first legislative push against statehood reportedly came from South Dakota (a state with a population that only barely exceeds D.C.’s), where the resolution’s sponsor cited fear that two D.C. senators would “dilute” his state’s power in the chamber.
    • Meanwhile, in a hearing on Arizona’s anti-statehood resolution, GOP Rep. Kevin Payne had words for residents of the District who want a voice in Congress:

If they want representatives, move. That’s what they made Mayflower for.

Jackass

  • As of last month, Democrats in six states had introduced pro-statehood resolutions.

Of course, none of these resolutions for or against making Washington, D.C., a state have any sort of force of law.

But the fact that they’re being considered at all is quite new, and it speaks to the sudden salience of the issue.

Okay, next tab … 

  • The GOP-controlled Arkansas legislature has passed (and the governor has signed into law) a near-total ban on abortion in the state.
    • The law permits abortions only to save the life of the mother.
    • There are no exceptions for fetuses conceived via rape or incest.

And next tab … oh hey it’s another Arkansas story.

  • A sitting Arkansas state senator has left the Republican Party over its continued fealty to former President Trump.
    • Now-independent Sen. Jim Hendren, who was particularly horrified at the Trump-promoted violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, is the nephew of current Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, which is a nice touch here.

Conveniently, my next tab is story that dropped this week about the growing hold of right-wing extremism in state legislatures.

It’s certainly not the first piece on the topic. And it does a nice job of covering familiar (to you, as an erudite consumer of this missive) legislative leaders who have become standard bearers of Trump-flavored Republicanism.

Like our old pal, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.

  • You remember, the Mike Shirkey initially feigned outrage at the Capitol violence on Jan. 6 and then privately met with one of the organizers of the earlier, practice riot at the Michigan capitol to discuss the poor “optics” of the situation.
  • The Mike Shirkey who publicly cozied up with members of violent militias and spoke at one of their rallies. 
  • The Mike Shirkey who was caught on video claiming that the Capitol riot was a “hoax” staged to make Trump supporters look bad.
  • The Mike Shirkey who’s arguably the most powerful Republican in Michigan.

But of course, he’s far from alone.

We can’t forget Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem.

Anyway, all this is to say that GOP lawmakers’ extremism might once have been brushed off as a fringe-y distraction with few material consequences, but we can’t afford to take this with anything but grave seriousness now. The Trump wing of the Republican Party holds real power in statehouses.

But not only does their rise to power poses an existential threat in statehouses across the country; the upcoming round of redistricting could cement—even expand—that power for the rest of the decade.

[[shudder]]

Welp, I didn’t clear out all those unused tabs, but I made progress! There’s a little breathing room in my browser window.

I’ll take my wins where I can get them, and you should, too. Maybe knock off early, call it a week, spend some time closing some of your, ah, spiritual browser tabs.

Just print this out and show it to your boss, she probably has more tabs open than I do.

Voting Rights Roundup: The House’s new voting rights bill now curtails gerrymandering right away

Programming Note: The Voting Rights Roundup will be taking a break the week of March 13 but will return the following week.

Leading Off

Congress: On Wednesday, House Democrats voted 220-210 to once again pass H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” the most important set of voting and election reforms since the historic Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965. It also includes a major modification to provisions that would curtail gerrymandering, ensuring that they'll take effect right away. All Democrats except Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson voted for the bill, while all Republicans voted against it.

H.R. 1 would implement transformative changes to federal elections by (1) removing barriers to expanding access to voting and securing the integrity of the vote; (2) establishing public financing in House elections to level the playing field; and (3) banning congressional gerrymandering by requiring that every state create a nonpartisan redistricting commission subject to nonpartisan redistricting criteria.

These reforms, which House Democrats previously passed in 2019, face a challenging path in the Senate given Democrats’ narrow majority and uncertainty over whether they can overcome a GOP filibuster, but their adoption is critical for preserving American democracy amid unprecedented attack by Republican extremists both in and outside Congress. Senate Democrats have announced that they plan to hold hearings on the bill on March 24, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has committed to holding an eventual floor vote.

Using Congress’ power to regulate Senate and House elections under the Elections Clause and enforce anti-discrimination laws under the 14th Amendment, the bill would:

  • Require states to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting;
  • Establish nonpartisan redistricting criteria such as a partisan fairness provision that courts can enforce starting immediately no matter what institution draws the maps;
  • Establish automatic voter registration at an array of state agencies;
  • Establish same-day voter registration;
  • Allow online voter registration;
  • Allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so they'll be on the rolls when they turn 18;
  • Allow state colleges and universities to serve as registration agencies;
  • Ban states from purging eligible voters' registration simply for infrequent voting;
  • Establish two weeks of in-person early voting, including availability on Sundays and outside of normal business hours;
  • Standardize hours within states for opening and closing polling places on Election Day, with exceptions to let cities set longer hours in municipal races;
  • Require paper ballots filled by hand or machines that use them as official records and let voters verify their choices;
  • Grant funds to states to upgrade their election security infrastructure;
  • Provide prepaid postage on mail ballots;
  • Allow voters to turn in their mail ballot in person if they choose;
  • Allow voters to track their absentee mail ballots;
  • End prison gerrymandering by counting prisoners at their last address (rather than where they're incarcerated) for the purposes of redistricting;
  • End felony disenfranchisement for those on parole, probation, or post-sentence, and require such citizens to be supplied with registration forms and informed their voting rights have been restored;
  • Provide public financing for House campaigns in the form of matching small donations at a six-for-one rate;
  • Expand campaign finance disclosure requirements to mitigate Citizens United;
  • Ban corporations from spending for campaign purposes unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its shareholders; and
  • Make it a crime to mislead voters with the intention of preventing them from voting.

Importantly, the bill that won approval on the full floor on Wednesday contained critical amendments strengthening its anti-gerrymandering provisions. While the original version would not have required states to use independent commissions and nonpartisan redistricting criteria until 2030, the revised bill would implement them right away. And even if states don't have enough time to set up new commissions ahead of the 2022 elections, they would still be banned from drawing maps that unduly favor a party, which a court could then enforce.​

Campaign Action

​Ending Republicans’ ability to gerrymander is of the utmost importance after Republicans won the power to redistrict two-to-three times as many congressional districts as Democrats after the 2020 elections. If congressional Democrats don’t act, Republican dominance in redistricting may practically guarantee that Republicans retake the House in 2022 even if Democrats once again win more votes, an outcome that could lead to congressional Republicans more seriously trying to overturn a Democratic victory in the 2024 Electoral College vote than they did in January, when two-thirds of the House caucus voted to overturn Biden's election.

If this bill becomes law, Republicans would lose that unfettered power to rig the House playing field to their advantage. Instead, reform proponents would gain the ability to challenge unfair maps in court over illegal partisan discrimination, and the bill would eventually require states to create independent redistricting commissions that would take the process out of the hands of self-interested legislators entirely.

Protecting the right to vote is just as paramount when Republican lawmakers across the country have introduced hundreds of bills to adopt new voting restrictions by furthering the lies Donald Trump told about the election that led directly to January's insurrection at the Capitol. With Republican legislatures likely to pass many of these bills into law—and the Supreme Court's conservative partisans poised to further undermine existing protections for voting rights—congressional action is an absolute must to protect the ability of voters to cast their ballots.

The most important remaining hurdle, however, is the legislative filibuster: The fate of these reforms will depend on Senate Democrats either abolishing or curtailing it. Progressive activists have relaunched a movement to eliminate the filibuster entirely, while some experts have suggested that Democrats could carve out an exception for voting rights legislation. Either way, Democrats will need to address the filibuster in some fashion, since Senate Republicans have made it clear they will not provide the support necessary to reach a 60-vote supermajority to pass H.R. 1 into law.

Redistricting

Minnesota: A group of Minnesota citizens, including a veteran redistricting expert and a former state supreme court justice, filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to prevent Minnesota's current congressional and legislative districts from being used next year if state lawmakers are unable to pass new districts by Feb. 15. That outcome is likely given that Democrats hold the state House and governorship while Republicans hold the state Senate. Similarly divided governments have led the courts to intervene to draw new maps in each of the last five decades.

New Mexico: A committee in New Mexico's Democratic-run state Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would establish a bipartisan advisory redistricting commission to handle redistricting for Congress, the state legislature, the state Public Regulation Commission, and the state Public Education Commission. Democratic state House Speaker Brian Egolf endorsed the proposal after previously opposing a competing reform measure that passed unanimously in state House committee in early February.

The Senate bill would create a commission with seven members, with four chosen by the leadership of both parties in each of the state's two legislative chambers, two unaffiliated members selected by the state Ethics Commission, and a final seventh member named by the Ethics Commission who would be a retired appellate judge and would serve as commission chair. No more than three commissioners could be members of the same party, and anyone who is or has served as an officeholder, candidate, or lobbyist (or whose close family members have) in the two years prior to redistricting could not participate.

Commissioners would devise three proposals for each type of office and hold public hearings to discuss them. Districts would have to be drawn according to the following criteria: equal population; legislative districts cannot split precincts; adherence to the federal Voting Rights Act and its protections of voters of color; compactness; preservation of communities of interest and local government jurisdictions; and preservation of the cores of existing districts. The criteria apparently do not prohibit mapmakers from considering partisanship or incumbency.

Once commissioners have come up with three different proposals for each office and held public hearings, they would submit the maps to the legislature for approval by lawmakers. The bill doesn't mention any prohibition on lawmakers amending the proposed districts, meaning this reform measure could nevertheless result in legislators adopting gerrymandered districts.

South Dakota: Last month, the League of Women Voters and other good-government organizations announced a plan to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot next year that would establish an independent redistricting commission. Supporters would need to file just under 34,000 signatures, roughly 10% of the total vote for governor in the most recent election, by this November in order to get onto the ballot.

Since South Dakota only has a single statewide congressional district, the proposal would only affect legislative redistricting. The measure would create a nine-member commission chosen by the state Board of Elections with no more than three members belonging to the same party, though the proposal is vague on the specifics of the selection process.

Mapmakers would have to adhere to several criteria, which prioritize compactness, followed by preserving communities of interest and keeping counties and cities undivided to the extent practicable. Commissioners would be barred from considering partisanship or incumbency. While Republican lawmakers would still have the opportunity to draw new districts for the 2022 elections even if the amendment passes, the commission would sweep into action immediately, crafting new maps in 2023 for the 2024 elections and then in years ending in "1" every 10 years afterward.

Voting Access Expansions

Congress: House members are set to introduce a bill with bipartisan support that would make Puerto Rico a state following a referendum last November in which voters backed statehood by a 52-48 margin. The bill's 48 sponsors in the House are mostly Democrats but also include around a dozen Republicans, several of whom are from Florida, which is home to a large Puerto Rican population. However, even if the House passes the bill, it will face a challenging path to overcoming a likely filibuster by Senate Republicans, as only Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are reportedly supporting the bill on the GOP side.

Delaware: Democratic state Rep. Bryan Shupe has announced he plans to introduce a bill later this month that would end Delaware's unusual system that requires voters to register twice: once for state and federal elections and separately for local races. This system regularly leads to situations where voters who are registered in state elections try to vote in their local elections only to find out on Election Day that they can't vote. Democrats hold both legislative chambers and the governor's office in Delaware.

Idaho: Idaho's Republican-run state Senate has unanimously passed a bill to set up a standardized process for requiring local election officials to contact voters and give them a chance to fix any errors with their absentee ballots such as a voter signature supposedly not matching the one on file.

Maryland: Maryland's Democratic-run state House has passed a bill to create a semi-permanent list that will automatically mail absentee ballots in all future elections to voters who opt in. A handful of other states have similar systems, though this proposal differs in that voters who don't vote in two consecutive election cycles would be removed from the list and have to reapply.

Meanwhile, state House Democrats passed a bill with some bipartisan support to strengthen voting access on college campuses, military bases, retirement homes, and other "large residential communities." Sites like these would be able to request an in-person voting location, and colleges would be required to establish voter registration efforts on campus and give students an excused absence to vote if needed. The bill would also let military service members register online using their identification smart cards issued by the Defense Department.

New Mexico: New Mexico's Democratic-run state House has unanimously passed a bill that aims to protect Native American voting access in a variety of ways. Among other provisions, the bill requires that every reservation or other Native community have an in-person polling place, which fills an important gap since many Native communities lack reliable postal service for mail voting and also have a large proportion of residents who lack a driver's license or access to other transportation options.

New York: Following its recent passage in the state Senate, a bill has been approved in committee by Assembly Democrats that would automatically restore voting rights to everyone who is not currently incarcerated, which would permanently end the disenfranchisement of parolees. Currently, many parolees are only able to vote because Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order two years ago to restore the rights of people on parole who were convicted of certain crimes, meaning their right to vote could be rescinded by a future governor unless this bill passes.

New Jersey: New Jersey's Democratic-run Assembly has passed a bill with bipartisan support to create an in-person early voting period after their counterparts in the state Senate passed similar legislation last week. The Assembly's bill would adopt 10 days of early voting for general elections starting in November, five days for presidential primaries, and three days for all other primaries and any municipal elections taking place in May. The measure would require each of New Jersey's 21 counties to establish between five and 10 early voting locations.

Utah: Utah's GOP-run legislature has unanimously passed a bill creating a system where voters can track the status of their mail ballots via email or text message. Utah is one of a handful of states that mails ballots to all active registered voters by default.

Virginia: Both chambers of Virginia's Democratic-run legislature have passed a constitutional amendment that would abolish felony disenfranchisement for everyone who is not currently incarcerated. Currently, state law imposes a lifetime ban on voting by anyone convicted of a felony, but that system has been curtailed because Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and his Democratic predecessor issued executive orders to automatically restore voting rights upon completion of any prison, parole, or probation sentences. Those orders, however, could be rescinded by any future Republican governor.

To become law, legislators would have to pass this same amendment again after the 2021 elections before it would have to win approval in a November 2022 voter referendum. A separate amendment that would have abolished felony disenfranchisement entirely, including for people currently in prison, failed to advance before a key deadline.

Voter Suppression

Supreme Court: On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case over two Arizona voting restrictions that could deal a crippling blow to what remains of the Voting Rights Act after the high court's conservatives gutted a key part of the law in 2013. Observers widely agreed that the court's conservative majority was leaning toward upholding the Republican-backed voting restrictions, but it was unclear from oral arguments just how gravely the court could undermine the standards used to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

This case involves two Arizona laws that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found had both the effect and intent of discriminating against Black, Latino, and Native American voters. If both findings are overturned, it may become impossible to challenge similar laws in the future.

Last year, the 9th Circuit blocked both measures: one that bars counting votes cast in the wrong precinct but in the right county, and another that limits who can turn in another person's absentee mail ballot on a voter's behalf.

Arizona had largely transitioned to mail voting even before the pandemic, but the 9th Circuit observed that only 18% of Native American voters receive mail service, and many living on remote reservations lack reliable transportation options. That led some voters to ask others in their community to turn their completed ballots in, which Republicans have sought to deride as "ballot harvesting" in an attempt to delegitimize the practice. The invalidated law had limited who could handle another person's mail ballot to just close relatives, caregivers, or postal service workers.

The 9th Circuit's ruling also invalidated a separate provision prohibiting out-of-precinct voting, in which a voter shows up and casts a ballot at the wrong polling place but in the right county on Election Day. Under the invalidated law, voters in such circumstances could only cast a provisional ballot, which were automatically rejected if it was later confirmed that the voter had indeed showed up at the wrong polling place.

This decision relied on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits laws that have a discriminatory effect against racial minorities regardless of whether there was an intent to discriminate. The finding of a discriminatory effect is critical because it's often much more difficult if not impossible to prove that lawmakers acted with illicit intent, whereas statistical analysis can more readily prove that a law has a disparate negative impact on protected racial groups.

Consequently, it's this so-called "effects test" that is the key remaining plank of the Voting Rights Act following the Supreme Court's notorious 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Some legal observers remained optimistic that the worst may not come to pass, since Arizona Republicans' oral arguments did not touch on the constitutionality of the VRA's effects test. However, others have noted that even if the effects test isn't formally struck down, the Supreme Court could make it so difficult to comply with the requirements to prove discrimination that the VRA would nevertheless become meaningless.

In one revealing exchange, conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Republican attorney Michael Carvin why the state GOP was even party to this case. Carvin responded with an admission that the 9th Circuit decision striking down the two voting restrictions "puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats" because "every extra vote they get ... hurts us."

Arizona: Republicans in the Arizona Senate have passed a bill that could purge roughly 200,000 voters from the state's "permanent" mail voting list, which is supposed to automatically mail a ballot in all future elections to participating voters and has proven very popular since its implementation. The bill would remove anyone who doesn't vote in two consecutive election cycles, even if they still remain eligible to vote. Republicans only hold a two-seat majority in both the state House and Senate, so they would need every member on board to overcome Democratic opposition.

In the state House, meanwhile, Republicans have passed a bill that would require people and groups who register more than 25 voters in a given year to themselves register with the state, mandating that they put unique identifying numbers on every registration form they submit. Voter advocacy groups have condemned this bill and warn that it could lead to registration forms being rejected.

Alabama: Alabama House Republicans have passed a bill that would ban local election officials from establishing curbside voting or setting up voting machines outside of polling places, which would make it harder for people with disabilities and limited mobility to cast their ballots.

Arkansas: Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill into law that makes Arkansas' voter ID law much stricter, making it one of the first of many Republican-backed voting restrictions under consideration nationwide to become law following the 2020 elections. The bill removes the option for voters who lack an ID to vote by signing a sworn statement under penalty of perjury, instead mandating an ID in order to have one's vote counted.

Georgia: On Monday, state House Republicans passed a far-reaching bill to enact several new voting restrictions that would:

  • Require that voters provide the number on their driver's license, state ID, or a photocopy of their ID when requesting an absentee ballot and a photocopy of their ID when returning an absentee ballot;
  • Limit weekend early voting;
  • Restrict absentee ballot drop boxes to only the inside of early voting locations or county election offices, making them unavailable outside of regular business hours;
  • Set a minimum of one drop box per 200,000 registered voters (other states such as California require one drop box per 15,000 voters);
  • Shorten the runoff period in federal elections from nine weeks to four weeks, with the apparent intent of giving campaigns less time to mobilize voters (instant runoffs would be used for overseas civilian and military voters to avoid running afoul of federal law mandating that their ballots be sent out 45 days before an election);
  • Ban state officials from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot request forms to all voters after Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger did so in the 2020 primary;
  • Disqualify ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct but in the right county, which currently may be counted as provisional ballots;
  • Limit mobile early voting buses to only emergency situations;
  • Bar counties from receiving private funding to help administer elections; and
  • Block officials from distributing food and drinks to voters waiting in line to vote.

Meanwhile, in the state Senate, Republicans passed a bill in committee to end no-excuse absentee voting for voters under age 65, who typically lean more Democratic than older voters. Late last month, Republicans in the full Senate also passed a bill that would give the state the power to take over local election boards that supposedly fail to meet certain standards, which Democrats condemned as a way to let Republicans usurp control over election boards in Democratic-leaning counties.

Montana: State House Republicans have passed a bill over Democratic objections that would bar anyone who isn't a family or household member, caregiver, or an "acquaintance" who is a registered voter in the same county from turning in another person's ballot, thereby preventing voter advocacy groups or political campaigns from organizing ballot collection efforts.

A previous Republican-backed law imposing similar restrictions was blocked in court last year for discriminating against Native American voters, who often live on remote rural reservations where mail service and transportation access are limited. This latest bill may therefore also face difficulty surviving a likely lawsuit.

New Hampshire: New Hampshire's Republican-run state Senate has passed a bill along party lines to add a voter ID requirement for requesting and casting absentee ballots, sending it to the state House, which is also controlled by the GOP. New Hampshire is one of several states where Republicans are considering extending voter ID requirements to absentee ballots after Democrats disproportionately voted by mail in the 2020 elections.

Wyoming: State House Republicans have passed a bill establishing a voter ID requirement, sending it to the state Senate, where Republicans are also likely to pass it.

Ballot Measures

Idaho: Idaho's Republican-run state Senate has passed a bill that would make it all but impossible for progressive initiatives to get on the ballot by requiring proponents to submit voter signatures equivalent to 6% of registered voters in each of the state's 35 legislative districts instead of 18, the current requirement.

The bill, which would take effect immediately, would disproportionately impact progressives because left-leaning voters are heavily concentrated in a handful of denser urban districts. Liberal organizers would therefore have to canvas in rural districts where receptive voters are few and far between. Conservatives, by contrast, would have an easier time canvassing for signatures in cities because, even if right-leaning voters represent a relatively small proportion of voters, they live in closer proximity to one another.

Republicans in Idaho have advanced similar restrictions on initiatives in recent years as a reaction to successful efforts by progressives to expand Medicaid and increase public education funding at the ballot box during the last decade. Fearing a lawsuit, GOP Gov. Brad Little vetoed a similar bill in 2019 but the Senate passed this most recent bill with a veto-proof majority.

South Dakota: South Dakota's Republican-run legislature voted this week to put a constitutional amendment on the June 2022 primary ballot that would institute a 60% supermajority requirement for ballot initiatives that raise taxes or spend more than $10 million in public funds within a five-year period. The amendment would not, however, require a supermajority to cut taxes or spending. Democratic legislators blasted Republicans for trying to manipulate the election to their advantage by placing the amendment on the primary ballot instead of sending it before voters in the general election, noting that turnout in the 2020 primary was just one-third as high as it was last November.

Republicans have repeatedly tried to enact restrictions on ballot initiatives in recent years after voters approved an initiative in 2016 that would have placed strict limits on lobbying, created an independent ethics commission, and implemented a public campaign finance system that would have given each voter a voucher to donate to their preferred candidates.

In 2017, Republicans resorted to declaring an actual state of emergency to enable the legislature to immediately repeal the voter-approved ethics law and make it immune to a veto referendum, meaning supporters of the reform needed double the signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to restore the measure. Although they did just that in 2018, then-Republican Attorney General Marty Jackley gave the new amendment a ballot summary that said it would "likely be challenged on constitutional grounds," and voters rejected the second ethics commission amendment 55-45.

Electoral System Reform

Burlington, VT: Voters in Vermont's largest city of Burlington voted by 64-36 margin to approve a ballot measure that will adopt instant-runoff voting in City Council elections starting next year. This vote comes just over a decade after Burlington voters narrowly repealed instant-runoff voting for mayoral elections after it had been used to elect the mayor in 2006 and 2009. Before it can take effect, though, it must be approved by the Democratic-run legislature and Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

Senate Elections

Kentucky: Republican state senators have passed a bill that would require the governor to fill any future U.S. Senate vacancies with an appointee from the same party as the departing senator.

Currently, Kentucky's governor is Democrat Andy Beshear while both of its senators are Republicans, meaning this bill would prevent Beshear from replacing either McConnell or fellow Sen. Rand Paul with a Democrat if either were to leave office. Republicans easily hold enough seats to override a potential veto by Beshear. The bill would allow the party committee of the departing lawmaker to send a list of three names to the governor, who would be required to pick a replacement from that list.

Ever since Beshear's narrow 2019 win, Kentucky Republicans have advanced a series of moves to strip him of his executive power, and this proposal is part of the same partisan effort to constrain Beshear's authority. However, despite the GOP's self-interested motives, the proposed system is already used in many states for legislative vacancies and a handful of states for Senate vacancies and better ensures the will of voters is respected.

Don’t look now, but GOP already in disarray over Senate battleground races

With any luck, Donald Trump will apply the very same kiss of death he did in the Georgia Senate runoffs to at least a half dozen 2022 races that stand to decide the fate of the Senate.

In fact, we are already seeing Trump's toxic sludge begin to seep into those races in critical states like North Carolina and Pennsylvania, swing states with open seats that are potentially fertile ground for Democratic pick ups.

In Pennsylvania, the vote of retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey to convict Trump has already pitted county parties against Republican moderates like former Rep. Ryan Costello, who is eyeing a bid to replace Toomey. In saner times for the GOP, Costello might be the type of statewide candidate with crossover appeal that the Mitch McConnell wing of the party would champion. 

But Costello has made the fatal error of defending Toomey's vote against Trump. "Former Trump aides, in turn, are making plans to torpedo Costello before he announces a campaign," writes Politico.

Cue Trump-pardoned grifter Steve Bannon. "Any candidate who wants to win in Pennsylvania in 2022 must be full Trump MAGA," Bannon, a former member of the most corrupt White House cabal in American history, told Politico. Bannon also called Costello a "sellout to the globalists" in a separate statement.

Costello had the temerity to claim the rush to censure to Toomey will "hurt Republican candidates," and he even called a censure resolution drafted by his home county, Chester County Republicans, "staggeringly dumb."

The statement of one GOP county official that went viral really summed up the Trump loyalty test and why the inanity of his cultists is anathema to any reasonable voter. “We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing, whatever he said he was doing,” Washington County Republican chair Dave Ball told Pittsburgh television station KDKA Monday. “We sent him there to represent us, and we feel very strongly that he did not represent us.” 

Of course, Toomey represents nearly 13 million constituents and a majority of Keystone State voters rejected Trump at the ballot box last November.

As Trump advisers promise to take aim at Costello, the former congressman dismissed the effort. “They can say whatever they’d like, it won’t bother me,” he said. “It might help my fundraising, to be honest with you.” Costello has also dissed "Sloppy Steve" Bannon's broadside because "he's forever indebted for his pardon."

So Pennsylvania is off to a rousing start, but North Carolina isn't any less intriguing. Similar to Toomey, the state's retiring GOP senator, Richard Burr, voted to convict Trump. But Burr is vacating his seat under the cloud of a trading scandal in which he dumped a bunch of stock just before the pandemic tanked the market. While Trump lost Pennsylvania by about 80,000 votes, he narrowly won North Carolina by roughly 74,000 votes.

But Burr's conviction vote forced state Republicans to choose sides with nearly all of them lining up behind Trump. According to CNN, the state party censured Burr, he was banned from at least one county GOP headquarters, and every Republican eyeing his seat took Trump's side. So much for moderation—whoever wins that primary will almost surely be the most Trumpy of the bunch. And certainly the prospect of Trump daughter-in-law Lara Trump potentially entering the race is already pushing the GOP primary to extremes.

The problem isn't lost on GOP strategists in the state, who fear Trump's brand took a big hit in the aftermath of Capitol insurrection. But they also aren't speaking openly about it. "They're all making a play for the primary," one state Republican strategist told CNN anonymously. "But my worry is that we're going to lose the seat because we get the Trumpiest guy of the bunch."

On the flip side of the equation, Trump's influence already has Republican strategists fretting he could doom their chances in potential pick-up races. In particular, they fear Trump's tinfoil hat loyalists such as Arizona GOP party chair Kelli Ward and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene could kill whatever chances they have to defeat Democratic incumbent Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia.  

These races and more are likely to offer a bevy of Trump-inspired surprises for Republicans throughout the 2022 cycle. 

Of The 10 Republicans Who Voted To Impeach Trump, 7 Are Already Facing Primary Challenges

Seven out of the 10 Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of impeaching former President Donald Trump are already facing primary challenges for their congressional seats.

Newsweek indicates that the pro-impeachment GOPers have “been publicly scolded, pushed to resign and warned that local organizations will mount a strong push to oust them from office in the primary.”

The report profiles primary challenges already forming for Reps. David Valadao (CA), Liz Cheney (WY), Adam Kinzinger (IL), Dan Newhouse (WA), and Anthony Gonzalez (OH).

They add, “Another Republican has created an exploratory committee in a potential bid for Representative Tom Rice’s seat and local GOP organizations have vowed to recruit someone to go after Representative Jamie Herrera Buetler’s spot in Congress.”

RELATED: Lindsey Graham Teaming With Dick Durbin To Introduce Legislation That Could Grant Citizenship To DREAMers

Republicans Who Voted to Impeach Face Challenges

Two of the more high-profile of the Republicans facing challenges after voting to impeach former President Trump are Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.

Kinzinger announced the formation of a new PAC he claims is fighting to “take back” the GOP from Trump.

“The party that always spoke about a brighter tomorrow no longer does,” he said. “It talks about a dark future instead. Hope has given way to fear. Outrage has replaced opportunity. And worst of all, our deep convictions are ignored.

“This is not the Republican road and now we know exactly where (that) new and dangerous road leads. It leads to insurrection and an armed attack on the Capitol,” he claimed.

Kinzinger has a history of struggling to comprehend basic concepts, having once chastised Trump for sharing a story about a “civil-war like fracture” in the country.

Yet, here he is tearing the country apart with another impeachment witch hunt.

Kinzinger, it should be noted, along with an aide to former House Speaker Paul Ryan, was one of the first recipients of the infamous Steele dossier, according to court memos back in 2018.

Cheney, meanwhile, has had several GOP lawmakers call for her to resign from her leadership post following her vote to impeach the former President.

“She is weakening our conference at a key moment for personal political gain and is unfit to lead,” Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) said at the time. “She must step down as Conference Chair.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) eviscerated Cheney saying her legacy in Congress is simply to “frustrate the agenda of President [Donald] Trump and sell out to the forever war machine.”

RELATED: FEC Reports Indicate Maxine Waters Paid $1 Million In Campaign Cash To Her Daughter

Voters Aren’t Siding With Anti-Trumpers

A recent poll from Axios-Ipsos shows Republicans are siding with President Trump over Republicans who supported the impeachment drive, signaling trouble for those facing primary challenges.

The results show a vast majority of Republicans do not hold Trump responsible for the Capitol riots, believe he had a right to challenge the election, and are even sticking with him as their preferred nominee in 2024.

What Trump does over the next 18 months will be key in how the Republican party moves forward. Those who voted to impeach will be tested.

The post Of The 10 Republicans Who Voted To Impeach Trump, 7 Are Already Facing Primary Challenges appeared first on The Political Insider.

Biden White House Responds To Twitter Banning Trump – They Feel ‘Blessed’

President Joe Biden’s White House reportedly feels “blessed” over the fact that Twitter banned Donald Trump earlier this month.

Biden’s White House Feels ‘Blessed’ Trump Has Been Banned From Twitter 

“The President spent two years ignoring Trump’s distractions and staying focused on the message he wanted to deliver, and it paid off with a commanding win,” an unnamed White House official told Politico, which described Twitter banning Trump as a “priceless gift.”

The official went on to say that the Biden administration will stick to its communications strategy regardless of what Trump does in the future.

“Whether or not Trump slinks back into public view or opens up a Parler account isn’t going to make a difference in how we communicate with the American people,” the official said.

Another source who Politico described as an “outside adviser” said that Biden’s White House feels “blessed” by Trump not being on Twitter.

“Not having to deal with a deranged new tweet every hour? They feel blessed,” the adviser claimed.

Related: Trump Supporting MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell Permanently Banned By Twitter Over Alleged Election Misinformation

Trump Banned From Twitter Earlier This Month

Twitter banned Trump earlier this month after accusing him of inciting the riots at the Capitol. Since then, Trump has remained almost completely silent after leaving the White House and heading to Florida.

“It has become abundantly clear since his absence on Twitter how much Trump was driving a media narrative,” said Paul Bentz, an Arizona-based Republican strategist and pollster.

Philip N. Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, celebrated Trump being removed from Twitter as well.

“Trump had an amazing ability to distract from issues. He was able to plant seeds of doubt about entire institutions and regular democratic processes,” he said. “Having him off Twitter allows the conversation about climate change to stay on topic — and about evidence. The conversation about race and social inequality can stay focused on policy ideas.”

“He was a kind of sinkhole in the media ecosystem,” Howard added, “which often trapped professional journalists into covering inane stories or simply burned them out as individuals.”

Related: Biden Says Impeachment Trial ‘Has To’ Happen

Though Twitter banned Trump, however, support for him is not dwindling. A new Morning Consult poll found that an increasing number of Republicans, 50 percent, want Trump to play a “major role” in putting together the future of the GOP.

This piece was written by James Samson on January 28, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
Cindy McCain Breaks Her Silence After She’s Censored By Arizona GOP
Meghan McCain Blasts Katie Couric For Saying Republicans Need To Be ‘Deprogrammed’ – ‘Go To Hell’
Judge Rules Elections Board In Virginia Broke The Law With Rule About Late Absentee Mail-In Ballots

The post Biden White House Responds To Twitter Banning Trump – They Feel ‘Blessed’ appeared first on The Political Insider.