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.

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The Downballot: Why House Democrats’ best defense is a good offense (transcript)

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Yes, it's a tough-looking midterm, but Democrats can still go on offense! The Downballot takes a deep dive into 10 House districts across the country where Republicans are vulnerable for a variety of reasons, whether due to redistricting, retirements, long-term demographic trends, or plain old GOP infighting. Our tour runs from the eastern tip of Long Island in New York all the way to sunny Southern California, with many stops in between.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also investigate Ron DeSantis' turbocharged gerrymander aimed at undermining Black representation; discuss two more Republican Senate primaries where Trump endorsements have made a mess of things; call out a Democrat for running an offensive ad that risks contributing to anti-Asian hatred; and take stock of upcoming elections in France and Australia.

Daily Kos' House fundraising slate.

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. We have a special request for you. Apple Podcasts is sort of like the New York Times Best Seller list for podcasts and The Downballot has been shooting up the charts. But you would be doing us a huge favor if you subscribed to us on Apple Podcasts and left us a five-star rating there. You can do that very easily. Just pop open the Apple Podcasts app on your phone or on your desktop. Type in The Downballot and you'll find us right there.

David Beard:

Let's dive into today's episode. What are we going to be covering today?

David Nir:

First up, we're going to be talking about the bizarre situation unfolding with redistricting in Florida. We're going to be talking about the absolute mess that Trump is making of a couple more GOP Senate primaries in Ohio and Pennsylvania. We're also calling out a Democratic candidate for Senate for running an offensive, xenophobic ad, and we are previewing upcoming elections in France and Australia. Beard and I will also be taking a deep dive into the house playing field and looking in particular at 10 Republican-held districts where Democrats have a chance to go on offense and actually pick up seats this year.

David Beard:

Great. Let's get started.

David Beard:

Let's go ahead and get started with our weekly hits. Why don't you kick us off down in Florida where we've got a new map to consider?

David Nir:

So we have a new map, but it comes from a totally bizarre source, and that is Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Normally in states where the legislature is in charge of redistricting, the legislature draws new maps. But after a protracted showdown with DeSantis, Republican lawmakers decided to abdicate their responsibility. It's really shocking on one level, but on the other hand, the way that we saw the Republican-run Congress bow down before Donald Trump, it's really not all that surprising to see the Florida GOP go totally supine.

David Nir:

So they simply said, well, the way we're going to resolve this impasse is to let DeSantis draw the map that he wants and we're going to pass it. They're well on their way to doing that. DeSantis introduced his map just a few days ago and on Wednesday of this week, the state Senate passed the map on a party-line vote. And the map itself is a total travesty.

David Nir:

Now, for starters, it is an extreme GOP gerrymander that would create 20 seats carried by Donald Trump compared to just eight for Joe Biden. And that's compared to just a 15-12 advantage for Trump under the current map. And of course, Florida is a perennial swing state. It certainly leans somewhat to the right, but Trump only won it by about three or four points in 2020. So this map gives the GOP a huge advantage.

David Nir:

But it's how the map goes about doing this that is so troubling. Over a decade ago, Florida voters approved amendments to the state constitution to reform redistricting and crack down on gerrymandering. These are generally known as the Fair Districts amendments, and they block lawmakers from drawing maps that unduly favor one party over the other.

David Nir:

They also contain a provision that bars legislators from drawing maps that diminish minority voting power. Now, the most salient feature of DeSantis's map is the demolition of the 5th Congressional District. This is a seat in north Florida that runs from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. It is quite Democratic-leaning, and it is home to a plurality of black voters. Black voters are the largest proportion of residents of the district, and it's represented by a Black Democrat, Al Lawson.

David Nir:

DeSantis's map completely shreds the district and turns it from a seat that Biden would've won by a 63-36 margin into a seat Trump would've won by a 57-41 margin. That's a swing of 43 points. That's just absolutely massive. Of course, it becomes a white district. Very, very likely to elect a white Republican. And even if the map passes the house as is expected and of course DeSantis signs it, those Fair District amendments still lurk and Democrats are absolutely certain to file a lawsuit.

David Nir:

The Florida Supreme Court has gotten much more conservative over the years. It cracked down on GOP gerrymandering using these amendments in the previous decade. And the justices may be more inclined to be favorable toward DeSantis and the GOP particularly because DeSantis himself has appointed some of them. But legal experts say that the language in the state constitution protecting minority voting rights is actually quite strong and quite clear.

David Nir:

So there is a realistic chance that the Supreme Court throws out at least this part of the map. Of course, this huge GOP impasse that lasted for months and months, benefits Republicans in another way, which is we have seen courts refuse to strike down or adjust unconstitutional or flawed maps because it's supposedly too close to the election to do so.

David Nir:

So even if the state Supreme Court does have a problem with this map, there is a real chance that it's still winds up getting used in November. So definitely keep an eye on the litigation over this map. We will be revisiting it as soon as there is anything to report on.

David Beard:

And my theory during this whole long stretch of Florida back-and -forth between DeSantis and the legislature is that DeSantis has just been pushing for a maximalist GOP map the whole time and doesn't really care whether or not it gets struck down. His goal is to push this so that he can go to GOP activists in Florida and across the country, because he's clearly eyeing the presidency at either 2024 or beyond, and say he did everything he could to get Florida Republicans elected. He pushed it to the brink. Some court, be it the Florida state court or federal court around the Voting Rights Act, stopped him from pushing this maximalist map, and then he can blame the judges and all of that. But he can go and talk to the activists. That's, I think, his main goal. And then if he gets this map, then great. It's like a win-win. But if he fails to get this map, he can still say he did everything he could, which I think is his main goal, because he's looking out for his future more than anything else.

David Nir:

I think that's exactly right though. It will be really amusing if DeSantis winds up railing against his own judicial picks as liberal activist judges. But of course you can't put it past him.

David Beard:

Oh, yeah. He would absolutely do that if it came to it. I'm going to take this now to a couple of Senate primaries that Trump has gotten himself involved in. We've talked some about Alabama Senate and Georgia governor, where he's been very involved in endorsing Republicans in primaries. So late last week, Trump endorsed venture capitalist J.D. Vance, which is a few weeks to go until the May 3rd Republican primary in Ohio.

David Beard:

It's frustrating many Republicans there, particularly the other candidates who have been fighting hard for Trump's endorsement: former state treasurer, Josh Mandel, most notably. He even made sort of a Hail Mary ahead of the endorsement when it became clear that it was happening, releasing a poll claiming that he would win for sure with Trump's endorsement. He would easily win this primary, but Vance very well would lose even if he got Trump's endorsement.

David Beard:

So trying to play on Trump's idea that he doesn't want to be a loser by instead saying, "Well, Vance is going to lose even if you endorse him, so you better endorse me because I'm going to be the winner." And of course, all of this happened just the week after Trump endorsed Dr. Oz in the Pennsylvania Republican Senate race, to the consternation of many Republicans in Pennsylvania and otherwise who didn't want to see Oz be endorsed because he has some apostasies against a number of conservative positions.

David Beard:

He's not seen as the true conservative. And so there's sort of this tension between Trump and his sort of personal favorites and the Republican Party's desire for sort of true conservative candidates. And as Politico wrote, "The former president's endorsements have often added more chaos to these already contentious fights." So it's really interesting to see this sort of division between Trump, who has these really idiosyncratic reasons for endorsing candidates.

David Beard:

One of the theories even that he endorsed Vance was because Vance used to be an anti-Trump Republican. He once labeled himself a never-Trump guy. He had now-deleted tweets. Called Trump reprehensible. He claimed that he was voting for Evan McMullin. So he's somebody who was sort of forced to come down to Trump. And the theory is that Trump likes that. He likes not just somebody who's always been in his corner, like somebody like Josh Mandel would be, but somebody who he forced to come to heel and then sycophantically praise him. And that's one of the reasons he endorsed Vance.

David Beard:

So it's just really interesting to watch the sort of weird, almost psychological drama as Trump goes around and picks these candidates much to the upset of all these other Republicans who are involved in these races. And we'll see how it turns out. Trump now has a number of Senate candidates he's endorsed. Some of them very well may not win. I think there's no guarantee that either Vance or Oz are going to win their primary. So we'll see how Trump reacts if they fail to come out on top.

David Nir:

The idea that longtime loyalty to Trump is quite literally trumped by more recent obeisance to Trump is really amazing. Though I think the story of Oz is a bit different. My guess is that Trump simply likes other TV celebrities and Oz has had Trump on his show in the past. So do you think that's why he picked him in that race?

David Beard:

I think that was definitely a major factor. They knew each other from before. He loves TV. We saw that for years. The most important thing to Trump was who was on TV in front of him when he was watching it. And so the fact that Oz is another TV personality. Apparently, I saw that Melania Trump is also a big fan of Dr. Oz, so that couldn't hurt. So that certainly played a big factor in this endorsement. Because the safer endorsement was clearly to just endorse David McCormick, who's the other leading candidate, who's a hedge fund guy, very conservative, liked by a lot of the establishment Republicans.

David Beard:

Trump's endorsement of him probably would've helped him sort of sail through or would've made him, I think, a pretty strong favorite. And now we have this very messy thing, but Trump is going to do what Trump does, I think. And everyone is beholden to that, particularly with the Republican Party.

David Nir:

So I would much rather spend my time on this show complaining about Republicans, but this time I'm going to register my objection to a Democrat. Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan is running for Ohio's open Senate seat and he just launched a new ad declaring, "We've got to take on China and be Americans first." But it's his first ad, which featured an even more amped-up version of this offensive anti-China rhetoric, that really has me upset. And we're going to play it now.

Tim Ryan:

“China, It's definitely China. One word, China. It is us versus China. And instead of taking them on, Washington is wasting our time on stupid fights. China is out-manufacturing us left and right. Left and right. America could never be dependent on communist shine. It is time for us to fight back. We need to fight back. It's time to fight back. We need to build things in Ohio by Ohio workers. I'm Tim Ryan and I approve this message.”

David Nir:

Asian Americans were furious. Ryan's colleague, New York Congresswoman Grace Meng, demanded that he take down the ad. Asian American advocacy groups demanded likewise. And even Senator Sherrod Brown, who previously endorsed Ryan, declined to defend the ad and said that Ryan should have introduced himself to voters with a biographical spot instead. The reaction in many quarters has been dismaying. It's been the kind of thing you see all too often when members of a minority group call out racism or bigotry.

David Nir:

A lot of folks simply refuse to take it seriously. I saw one remark online saying, "Well, the ad only mentions China, not Chinese people. So what's the problem?" That's not how incitement works. Hate crimes against Asian Americans didn't spike because Donald Trump exhorted goon squads to terrorize individual people, they spiked because people like Trump sought to demonize China as a way to deflect blame for their atrocious handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

David Nir:

And that is what led to a spike in hatred that really the worst Americans turned into violent action. Rhetoric really matters. Now, the professional class was more polite, essentially deflecting these concerns and saying, "This is an effective message in the Rust Belt. This is what it takes for a Democrat to win." But I want to point to a Washington Post piece by Dave Weigel exploring the ad and some unnamed Democratic operatives pointed out, well, former Governor Ted Strickland, he's a Democrat and when he ran for this same Senate seat in 2016, he relied on similar messages.

David Nir:

Here's the problem. Even if you are going to this as a matter of bare-knuckle politics and tell Asian Americans that their concerns don't matter, Strickland got crushed. He lost by 21 points and not only did he get his ass handed to him, he ran 13 points behind the top of the ticket.

David Nir:

Hillary Clinton didn't deploy this same kind of rhetoric. So if you're going to argue that this kind of angry demonization works, at least come up with a better example. And the fact of the matter is other Democrats have won Senate races in many other states throughout the Midwest, including in Ohio as well without sounding like this. In the end, what makes this extra dismaying is that Ryan is selling voters a bill of goods.

David Nir:

He's been in Congress for 20 years. So why hasn't he managed to fight back, quote-unquote, against China in that whole time? What's going to be different about electing into the Senate versus electing into the House? If you really want to help Americans who've been harmed by the decline in manufacturing and the outsourcing of jobs, telling them that you're magically going to roll back the clock to a better time is just not the way to do it.

David Beard:

And the particularly revealing aspect is, is that China isn't even the place where most manufacturing jobs are going overseas at this point. Jobs are going overseas to a ton of different countries in a ton of different sectors for different reasons. So the idea that the problem with jobs overseas is China in particular versus American policy or trade policy is just not true. So to point out one country over the broader situation is clearly wanting to find a villain and blame the villain as opposed to actually solving policy.

David Nir:

Right. Why not go after greedy American corporations who are undermining American workers at home?

David Beard:

Exactly. So I'm going to wrap us up with another international election roundup really quick. We'll start off in France where the presidential runoff is already upon us. We've talked about it the past couple of weeks. Voting takes place this Sunday, the 24th of April, just two weeks after the first round and President Emmanuel Macron's lead over his challenger Marine Le Pen has expanded a bit in polling since we talked about it last week. It's now around 10% as things seem to have settled a bit.

David Beard:

So hopefully that means he'll comfortably win on Sunday. That's obviously, I think, the broadly preferred thing. Le Pen is a far-right candidate, is very concerning, has a been a big fan of Russia in the past. That was the issue that came up a lot in the debate that happened just on Wednesday where Macron went after Le Pen for her party's loan from a Russian bank, and really attacked her on her past contacts with Russia and support for Russia before the invasion of Ukraine.

David Beard:

At the same time, Le Pen went after Macron for his proposed pension reforms that would raise the retirement age to 65 in France, which has been very unpopular, and which Macron has sort of halfway walked back to talk about compromises and things like that as he realized this was really a problem for his race. So that's coming up on Sunday. We'll have the results next week.

David Beard:

And then the other major news story is that in Australia, the date for the upcoming general election was set. Australia has elections every three years for their House. It's going to be on May 21st. Incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison is going to attempt to win a fourth consecutive election for the Liberal National Coalition while Anthony Albanese will try to win back power for the Labor Party after a decade in opposition. And just to clarify, the Liberal National Coalition is the center-right coalition. Don't get confused with liberal. It's not what liberal means here in America. And of course the Labor Party is the major center-left party in Australia.

David Beard:

The election will have all 150 seats in the lower House and then 40 of the 76 seats in the Australian Senate. The Labor Party remains in the lead in polling, but it has narrowed in the past few weeks. So it's certainly something to watch as the campaign heats up as we go through the end of April and into May to see if the Labor Party can maintain its lead, or if it really becomes a toss up.

David Nir:

That's it for our weekly hits. We are going to take a short break. And when we come back, Beard and I are going to be discussing the districts where Democrats have a chance to go on offense this November in the House. Stay with us.

David Nir:

So this week, we're going to talk about Democratic opportunities to go on offense in the house this year. Now, I know we've talked about constantly, 2022 as a midterm year. Democrats control the White House. They have every reason to expect a difficult time at the ballot box in November. But for a whole host of reasons, the best defense may in fact be a good offense. There are a lot of Republican seats this year that actually present interesting ripe targets for Democrats to potentially flip.

David Nir:

One key reason, of course, is redistricting. Democrats were unexpectedly aggressive in many states in gerrymandering the maps in their favor, but there are also retirements and GOP primaries that are creating opportunities as well. Now, in fact, Daily Kos just put together a slate of 10 races where we are asking for donations to the eventual Democratic winner of the primary. And these aren't necessarily the top 10 pickup targets for Democrats. They aren't the only possible pickup targets for Democrats, but they are races that we feel, for a variety of reasons, represent a really good use of small-dollar donors efforts, that these are races where you'll get a good bang for the buck. And if you want to keep the gavel out of Kevin McCarthy's hands, this is the place to start.

David Nir:

So we thought it would be a good idea if we dug deeper into each of these 10 contests to understand why we think that these Republican seats are vulnerable and why grassroots donors should consider giving their hard-earned money to help Democrats in these contests. So we're going to start off with a couple of races where two Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year are facing difficult primaries.

David Nir:

And they, in fact, might not even wind up being their party’s nominee in November. And the first one we want to talk about is Michigan's 3rd Congressional District. This is a seat held by freshman Republican Peter Meijer. It's in the Grand Rapids area. And things have changed a lot because of redistricting. So what's going on here, Beard?

David Beard:

Peter Meijer is the incumbent there. As you said, he voted to impeach Trump. It is a district that's no longer gerrymandered. In the previous decade, it had been part of the Republican gerrymander that sort of broke down in the Detroit suburbs and Democrats picked up some seats, but it really held up in Western Michigan.

David Beard:

So now the un-gerrymandered map has a seat based in the Grand Rapids area that Biden would've won by 8% if it had existed in 2020. And so obviously that makes it a very good opportunity for a pickup. Meijer, of course, could be a tough opponent. But he is facing a primary, as you said, against John Gibbs who is a former Trump administration official that Donald Trump has endorsed. And meanwhile Democrats have former DOJ attorney Hillary Scholten, who ran in 2020 against Meijer in the gerrymandered version of the seat and lost by just about 6%.

David Beard:

So if Meijer survives as primary that'll probably be somewhat of a tougher race. You could certainly imagine middle-of-the-road voters who are not crazy about Trump, who might want to reward Meijer or who would vote for Meijer, but would otherwise vote for Scholten if maybe Gibbs won, but I think the race will definitely be very competitive either way.

David Beard:

And the other factor to think about is that the primary isn't until August 2nd, so we still have months to go of Meijer and Gibbs going at each other and causing more Trump chaos in that district before a nominee is selected.

David Nir:

And Scholten there has the primary to herself. She has been raising pretty good money. And you have to wonder if Meijer loses the primary, would he endorse Scholten over Gibbs? Or maybe just sit the race out? That could raise an interesting question after August 2nd.

David Beard:

Yeah, I definitely don't see him endorsing Gibbs given his real ability to stand up to the Trump wing and desire to stand up to the Trump wing that you really don't see very often amongst Republicans, even though he's very conservative otherwise. I would think he might just sit it out. I don't know if he would go actually endorse a Democrat, but maybe Gibbs will win and we'll find out.

David Nir:

So there is one other pro-impeachment Republican on this list. That's David Valadao in California's 22nd District. This is in California's Central Valley. I want to point out that Valadao currently represents the 21st District. This seat has changed numbers, but it's still quite similar geographically to the seat that Valadao already represents. And he has been in and out of office a couple of times.

David Beard:

Valadao had been a congressman, previously lost in 2018 to a Democrat, came back to reclaim his seat in 2020, and is now running for reelection. And as you said, a slightly changed seat in the Central Valley for this year. Now, Biden won this seat by 13% in 2020, but it has some significant turnout issues in the midterms where turnout really drops which can really hurt Democrats, depending on the year.

David Beard:

So Rudy Salas is the Democratic front runner. He's a five-term Assembly member. He's got some really deep roots in the district and he was pretty widely seen as the top Democratic recruit that was possible for the district. He was who people wanted to run against Valadao. If you asked people, what is the number one Democratic recruit for this district, it was Salas. So if anybody can be Valadao in 2022, it's him.

David Beard:

And as you said, Valadao may not be on the November ballot. He's being challenged from the right by Chris Mathys who's running, again, largely on the fact that Valadao voted to impeach Donald Trump. Mathys unsuccessfully ran for office in New Mexico back in 2018. And in 2020, he's mostly been self-funding this year. So it's a little bit of an oddball candidate. You would normally dismiss it, but because of the Trump issue, because of the fact that Valadao voted to impeach Trump and a lot of the Republican primary electorate hate that idea, there's a very real possibility that Mathys could advance in November.

David Beard:

And that's the thing that I want to mention as well. California of course has their top-two primary system. So all of the candidates will appear on the ballot in June. Salas as the main Democratic candidate is expected to advance to November, but Valadao and Mathys will be competing for that other spot on the ballot. So if Mathys wins, he's a really bad fit for this district.

David Beard:

Now, obviously if it's a good-enough Republican year, anything could happen. But it's really hard to imagine Chris Mathys being the right fit for this district, so that would be a big boost to Democrats. But I think again, even if Valadao advances to November, Salas is a really great Democratic nominee and has every opportunity to go and win this Biden +13 seat.

David Nir:

Yeah, California's top-two primary really changes the calculus here because Valadao would have to finish in third place not to wind up on the November ballot. And in the decade that California's been using this system, no incumbent has ever finished in third. So it would be extra remarkable, but I really wouldn't rule it out. One other thing I should mention is that there is also a special election taking place on June 7th for a district that is also numbered California 22, but that is Devin Nunes' old district, the one that he vacated to go run Donald Trump's Truth Social media company into the ground.

David Nir:

Completely separate race, completely separate candidates, completely separate district. They just happen to share a number. This is something you always have to watch out for in a redistricting cycle. So let's move on and talk about a trio of open seats that Republicans are either giving up or are open because they're brand new, thanks to reapportionment. And we will start in the eastern corner of the country on the eastern tip of Long Island in New York's 1st Congressional District, where we have an open seat because the incumbent is running for governor.

David Beard:

So Biden won this new district by 11%, which is a big difference from how the district used to be when Trump won the district by 4% back in 2020. So that's a big change and a really big opening for Democrats, which is probably a big reason that Zeldin bailed. So the district has three Democrats running in the primary. One of whom is veteran and educator, Jackie Gordon, who ran in the 2nd District in 2020.

David Beard:

Now, that district was also redistricted, but it took a lot of the Republican-leaning areas that the 1st used to have. So it's a much more safe Republican seat. So she's running in the 1st District in 2022 and she's joined by two Suffolk County legislators, Bridget Fleming and Kara Hahn. So those are the three Democrats. It's a pretty competitive primary, and the primary is not until the end of June, on June 28th.

David Beard:

So it'll take a while to sort of see how that develops. Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Republicans have unified around Nick LaLota, who is the GOP and Conservative Party-endorsed candidate. Of course, in New York, there are additional parties such as the Conservative Party and others that share candidates so they can essentially co-endorse, which can be beneficial to certain candidates to have both, in this case, the GOP and the Conservative Party endorsement.

David Beard:

He's a veteran and a local official in the area. So he's going to do his best to defend a Biden now plus-11 seat, but it could be a tough road.

David Nir:

One thing I should note is that a state court judge struck down New York's congressional map sort of in a really confusing and messy opinion, partly on the grounds that it was a gerrymander, partly on the grounds of the legislature, which he said didn't have the authority to draw a new map. That ruling was stayed by the appellate courts. I think it's overwhelmingly likely that we will use the map that Democrats passed this year. Candidates have already filed petitions to get on the ballot, but I suppose there is an outside chance that the map could change in years to come.

David Nir:

Now out in Colorado, we have a very different situation, one that we haven't directly addressed yet, which is that thanks to population growth, Colorado added a congressional district. It had seven seats and now it has eight. And number eight is of course open because it's brand new. There is no incumbent and it's a rather competitive seat, but Democrats are very much hoping to pick this one up.

David Beard:

So Biden would've won this seat by 5%. So compared to some of the other ones we've talked about a little bit narrower, but still a Biden win, and more than his national average of 4.5. On the Democratic side state Representative Yadira Caraveo has essentially locked up the nomination because she won the ballot at the state convention with 71% of the vote. And to get on the ballot via the state convention in Colorado, you need a minimum of 30% of the vote.

David Beard:

So she had one primary opponent at the convention, but he only received 29% and didn't make the ballot, didn't petition on, which is the alternative way to get on the ballot in Colorado. So she'll be the only Democratic candidate on the primary ballot. And then meanwhile, there'll be a four-way Republican primary between Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine, state Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer, Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, and former Army Green Beret Tyler Allcorn.

David Beard:

So a bit of a mess again on the Republican side. A lot of candidates. Saine is the one who qualified via the convention. The only one to do it in that way, but has not raised much money. So it's very open at this point. The other three all petitioned onto the ballot. And so we expect that this'll be a primary that goes on for a while and could get very messy.

David Nir:

Moving on to another open seat, let's talk about North Carolina's 13th Congressional District, which is in the southern suburbs of Raleigh. North Carolina also won a new congressional district in reapportionment, but it's a little bit difficult to say which seat actually counts as the, quote-unquote, new seat because there's also the 14th District. That's a much bluer seat that Democrats are almost a lock to pick up. So you could call the 14th the “new one.” You could call the 13th the “new one.” Either way, this seat does not have an incumbent.

David Beard:

Yeah, it's interesting because this is almost sort of Ted Budd's old seat, but of course he's running for Senate. And so in a way it's open because of that, but it's so different that it's really hard to even imagine that as the successor seat. But anyway, in this new seat, Biden won it by 2% had it existed in 2020. So it was very narrow, less than his national margin. So it's going to be a really tough seat, but it is in a growing Democratic area. So that does give some hope that this will increasingly become better for Democrats.

David Beard:

So this is a good opportunity to try to get it, win it as an open seat. There are two main Democratic candidates, state Senator Wiley Nickel and former state Senator Sam Searcy. And then there's eight Republican candidates. So if you thought we had a bit of a cluster in Colorado, much more so here over in North Carolina.

David Beard:

The, I think, most notable Republican candidate is Bo Hines who was endorsed by Trump. He's a former college football player. He's not from anywhere near the district. He previously announced that he was going to be running in other congressional districts closer to where he was from in Western North Carolina. But that district didn't end up materializing, because if you'll remember the previous version of the North Carolina map that the legislature had passed had a Republican leaning district west of Charlotte.

David Beard:

So at one point he was going to run there. At one point, he was going to run in the Triad area. Now he's running here, just because it's the open seat in North Carolina that he thinks he can win. So it's sort of all over the place for him, but he has Trump's endorsement, which in an eight-candidate race could be enough.

David Beard:

Another notable candidate is former Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, who is running again. She however has not raised much money and so she's not seen as maybe the leading candidate despite having the federal experience, having won congressional races before. It doesn't seem like she's the one who's picking up the establishment endorsements here.

David Beard:

And so otherwise it's really a free-for-all. There's a lot of candidates who you think could win or potentially advance to a runoff. So North Carolina has a runoff only if the winner doesn't receive 30% of the vote, which doesn't usually come into play. In a two- or three-candidate primary, it would be impossible to fall below the 30% barrier, but in an eight-candidate primary, it is very possible, particularly without really a leading candidate.

David Beard:

I guess Hines is the leading candidate, but you could easily imagine him only getting 25% of the vote or something based on Trump's endorsement and all the other candidates getting some number that adds up to their other 75%. So it's very possible we see a runoff here. The primary is May 17th. So that's coming up fairly soon. But if the primary does go to a runoff, we go all the way to July 26th is the runoff. So that would be another two months of messy Republican primary-ness in this seat.

David Nir:

We're halfway through this list and we are going to head back out to California. The rest of the seats that we're going to talk about all have incumbents seeking reelection and some of them were reconfigured a little bit. Some were reconfigured a lot. California's 27th District in the northern suburbs of LA. This is a district that used to be numbered the 25th. You may recall that Democrats lost a special election in 2020 after the former Congresswoman Katie Hill resigned. And now they are once again trying to reclaim it.

David Beard:

Biden won this seat by 12% in its new form. And so Congressman Mike Garcia, the incumbent, is facing a difficult challenge by trying to overcome that margin. And he also, in redistricting, lost sort of a base area for him, which was Simi Valley, which is a pretty conservative area of the Los Angeles region. And he's got two Democrats challenging him. One is Christy Smith who lost in 2020, both in the special and in the general. The general was very, very close. She lost by less than 400 votes.

David Beard:

But there's another Democrat running, who's also running a strong campaign, Quaye Quartey. And so the two of them are going to have to fight it out for the top two primary slot alongside Garcia in the top two primary on June 7th. Garcia does have a very conservative voting record, given the district. He's not somebody like Valadao or Meijer who has sort of done some things that might appeal to Democrats or incumbents. He is really gone after a very much hard-right voting record, very close to Trump. So it may be more difficult than your average sort of Republican who tries to moderate himself to win a Biden +12 seat.

David Nir:

So just a little bit to the south is California's 45th District. This is represented by freshman Republican Michelle Steel in the western part of Orange County. And this is also looking like another plausible target for Democrats.

David Beard:

Yes, it's a narrower, closer seat than the one we just talked about. Biden would've only won this seat by 6%. A little bit more than his national margin, but not a lot. But Steel only represents 16% of this redrawn district. There were a lot of changes in Orange County. So in the district she ended up running in, it doesn't have a lot of her old constituents. So there's going to be a lot of instances where she's going to have to reintroduce herself to voters, which sort of makes it like a semi-open seat. It's not obviously the same. She has a lot of the benefits of incumbency, but a lot of voters are not going to have voted for her before.

David Beard:

She has one main Democratic challenger; Jay Chen is the leading Democratic candidate. He's a Reservist. He's on the Mount San Antonio Community College board of trustees. And he's done some good fundraising. So this is really sort of a straight top two expected to go through easily into the primary all the way to November.

David Nir:

We're going to shift to a totally different part of the country. Smack in the middle is Nebraska's Second District. This is held by Republican Don Bacon. This is a seat that Democrats have targeted for years. In fact, they held it for a while with former Congressman Brad Ashford, who in fact just died this week. Republicans engaged in a defensive gerrymander to try to protect Bacon. They didn't really make it redder if you're looking at the top lines, but they prevented it from getting bluer as it naturally would have by adding rural areas instead of consolidating it around the Omaha area. But it's still a competitive seat.

David Beard:

Biden won this district by 6%, which is around the same margin of the old district. And so it's definitely still a very competitive seat, just slightly more Democratic than Biden's national margin. Bacon was first elected in 2016 and he's never won more than 51% of the vote in the district. So all of his races have been very close. And the Democrats have a couple of candidates running. State Senator Tony Vargas is the state establishment Democratic choice, but he's facing a primary challenge from mental health counselor Alicia Shelton, who has been endorsed by EMILY's List. So that's some real oomph behind her candidacy there. The primary is May 10th, so it's coming up pretty quickly and we should see which of them advances to the general election to take on Bacon.

David Nir:

To wrap up this segment, we are going to head to the American Southwest. And we're first going to talk about Arizona's First Congressional District. Again, this is another seat where the numbering changed. It is represented by Republican David Schweikert in the Eastern Phoenix area and its suburbs. It was previously numbered district six, but it has been growing more and more competitive as many suburban regions have.

David Beard:

Yeah. And Biden won the seat by only 1% in his current form. So it's a very, very competitive seat. It's the most Republican seat of the ones on this list, but it is an area that's trending Democratic, so we do have that going for us. The Democratic candidates: There's a few candidates here. Jevin Hodge is a businessman and community leader. He narrowly lost a race for Maricopa County supervisor by just about 400 votes in 2020 and so is now running here in this race.

David Beard:

Ginger Sykes Torres entered more recently, but has the endorsement of Congressman Raúl Grijalva who's sort of the dean of the Democrats in Arizona. He's been in there a long time. And then we've also got former Phoenix Suns director of membership experience Adam Metzendorf, who's also running. And then on the Republican side, Dave Schweikert is the incumbent Republican.

David Beard:

He has a couple of issues. He has a primary challenge from insurance executive Elijah Norton, who has self-funded nearly $3 million into the race. So that is a lot of money to come up against you in a primary race, particularly when you've got some new constituents. Like we said, this one doesn't have as much change as the California race that we talked about. There are some new constituents for Schweikert, so that's something for him to be thinking about. And the other issue Schweikert has is that he was reprimanded on the House floor in 2020 for a number of ethical issues, including misusing taxpayer dollars, violating campaign-finance reporting requirements, and several other violations of House rules, which is not something that happens very often. Reprimands on the House floor are not a common thing.

David Beard:

And his 2020 race was very competitive. This issue came up a lot and he really narrowly won. So it's certainly something we could see come back here in 2022. And again, we've got a very late primary here. It's not until August 2nd, so Norton has a lot of time to spend that $3 million, hitting Schweikert before the general election comes around.

David Nir:

Let's wrap up in the state next door in New Mexico. Democrats controlled the redistricting process and they made the state's lone Republican-held seat—that's the 2nd District, which is represented by Yvette Herrell—considerably bluer. This is a seat that actually Democrats managed to win under its old configuration, but now presents a much juicier target.

David Beard:

So this district now includes the western part of Albuquerque, which gives it a really good, strong Democratic base that it didn't have before. The previous district was Trump +12, which, even though Democrats were able to win it in 2018 like you said, it's going to be really hard to have ever held onto in that configuration. But the new district is Biden +6. So just a little bit above his national margin.

David Beard:

So it should be a really competitive, a really good target. We've got a couple of Democrats running. The probably leading candidate is Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez. And then we have also got Dr. Darshan Patel running on the Democratic side. The primary is June 7th. So that's coming up pretty soon. And then we'll have a Democratic nominee to go after Herrell for a number of months leading up to the general election.

David Nir:

So as I mentioned at the outset, Daily Kos put together a fundraising slate this week for all of these races. We are using ActBlue nominee funds. These are a very interesting fundraising vehicle. If you're not familiar with them, they allow you to donate right now. And the winner of the Democratic primary in each case will receive all the funds, they're held in escrow, the moment that they win the nomination right after their state has the primary. So it's a great way to get involved right now, if you're not sure about which candidate to pick in a primary with multiple Democrats running. And it also helps make sure that whoever the Democratic nominee is in each case winds up with a nice chunk of change the moment they finish their primary.

David Nir:

Usually, that's a time when campaigns have really spent a lot of their money. And so getting an infusion of resources all at once is extremely helpful to allow them to start the general election off strong. You can find a link to our post describing this slate and internal linking to our ActBlue page in the episode description.

David Beard:

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

House Republican touts ‘Dignity Act’ bill claiming to make path to legalization, but don’t be fooled

A South Florida Republican has introduced an immigration bill she’s touting as “The Dignity Act.” Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar claims the legislation will “provide a dignified solution to immigrants currently living in the US.” On its surface, it would appear to make Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar a rarity of sorts, a Republican putting forward a pathway to legalization.

But don’t be fooled. Experts and immigrant rights advocates note that the path to legalization in Salazar’s bill is a “dead end,” thanks to the ridiculous standards it sets—which Republicans will make sure can never be met. Advocates note the bill is, in reality, a re-election ploy for Salazar, who voted against the insurrectionist president’s impeachment.

“We appreciate that some House Republicans support a path to citizenship (which the American public wants), but Rep. Salazar's bill as written is seriously flawed,” noted American Immigration Council policy counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. “For example, the path to citizenship is a dead end thanks to a border security ‘trigger’ that will never be met.”

Roll Call reports that this “trigger” ensures border security “is emphasized first before any other bill measures are implemented,” including that path to legalization. The problem here is that Republicans will never, ever, especially under a Democratic administration, publicly say the border is secure. Remember, the Biden administration has kept some of the previous administration’s worst asylum policies in place, and the GOP is still screaming “open borders.” 

Reichlin-Melnick also notes another provision could likely scare away prospective applicants, rather than encouraging them to step forward to gain relief for themselves and their families. 

“The Salazar bill would make it a federal crime to be undocumented for more than 90 days if you're an adult. As a result, anyone who wanted to apply for the path to citizenship would be risking prison by applying. That's one example of what I meant by ‘seriously flawed.’”

It’s also a dead-end because Kevin McCarthy has said so, previously promising racist rag Breitbart that he’ll kill any immigration legislation should he become speaker. “Unless and until McCarthy and other GOPers stop kissing the nativist ring, the Rep. Salazar bill is dead on arrival and designed for optics, not as a real proposal,” America’s Voice notes

Salazar is also promoting this “Dignity” ploy as Republicans in her state are aiding Gov. Ron DeSantis’ despicable anti-child agenda. In recent weeks, both chambers of the state legislature have advanced hateful bills targeting asylum-seeking children and other migrants.

“In Arizona, Mark Brnovich, the state Attorney General and a candidate for the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, called immigration into the state an ‘invasion’ in a legal opinion he issued this week justifying Arizona’s ability to send troops to the border,” America’s Voice continued. “And national Republican candidates and official party committees continue to run hard on nativist tropes and lies.”

Salazar is pushing her ploy as the House has already passed legislation putting millions of undocumented people onto a path to legalization. The Dream and Promise Act, as well as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, passed nearly a year ago under Democratic leadership and support from some GOP votes. 

Salazar could just push her party in both chambers to line up behind those bills, but then that would mean a realistic path to legalization. You know, actual “dignity.”

“It’s not that Rep. Salazar is naive about the rest of the Republican Party and their open embrace of nativism,” America’s Voice deputy director Vanessa Cardenas said. “Instead of taking on those forces in her Party, she is in concert with those same forces and enables them by seeking to launder the Republican brand for select diverse districts ahead of the midterms, while seeking to blame Democrats for legislative inaction on immigration reform blocked by Republicans.”

RELATED: GOP-led Florida House committee advances Ron DeSantis' anti-child agenda

RELATED: House passes path to citizenship for DACA recipients, temporary status holders, and farmworkers

DeSantis urges students write about anti-vaxx surgeon general, Big Lie ally for Black History Month

The fact that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis even knows that Black History Month is an actual thing is surprising, but that he ran a statewide essay contest about it contradicts everything he’s been attempting to do to erase Black people.

Remember, this is the same guy who proclaimed he was "taking a stand against critical race theory” in Florida schools and in the workplace by enacting “Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act," or the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act.” Not to mention his support for the Parental Rights in Education proposal, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

So what does DeSantis want the budding young minds of Florida to write about? Well, it isn’t actually impressive Black Americans, nope. He’s suggesting that students write about his anti-vaxxer, numbskull surgeon general, Dr. Joseph “I don’t know a thing about science” Ladapo. A Harvard-trained doc who denies standard COVID-19 mitigations like vaccines and masks over unproven treatments such as ivermectin and monoclonal antibodies

DeSantis also suggested the kids write about Republican Rep. Bryon Donalds, who has been public about having COVID-19, and that he believes that he’s not eternally protected from getting it again and therefore doesn’t need a vaccine.

“I chose not to get vaccinated because I chose not to get vaccinated,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “I already had COVID-19 once, I’m 42 years old, I’m in very good health, I actually get checkups regularly and do all those things. That is a personal decision for myself; members of my family, my wife and three kids, they’ve all had COVID. They’re not getting vaccinated, they’re all healthy. That is a decision they’ve chosen to make.

“If people in the United States are concerned about contracting and being hospitalized and dying, of course, from COVID-19, please go get vaccinated. I will never tell you not to get vaccinated. What I’m saying is: I made a decision not to get vaccinated and it doesn’t matter if it’s you or Joe Biden or anybody else that’s going to stress or want me to get it … I made that decision as a free person.”

Getting the picture? 

He has opposed masking and opposed mask mandates whenever they arose. This included appearances in Cape Coral and before the Collier County Commission.

“You have no authority to mandate what people can put on their body. The fear people are having doesn’t justify it,” Donalds said when he spoke before the Cape Coral City Council on July 6, 2020. “As a council, you have the solemn duty to vote this down and get back to common sense.”

Ron DeSantis’ “Black History Month” essay contest recommends students write about Florida’s Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who shared unproven covid treatments, and US House Rep. Bryon Donalds who objected to the January 6th election certification. pic.twitter.com/mrI6duLizl

— PatriotTakes 🇺🇸 (@patriottakes) February 9, 2022

Like most things DeSantis-related, the motivation must be questioned at the very least, and at the most it should be ignored. The only thing Lapado and Donalds have in common? They’re both Black. 

It’s not about the fact that they’re both Republican (although given what we all know about the Republican Party, that part is questionable), it’s that neither is an example of what students should be looking toward as examples of successful Black Americans, or any Americans for that matter. 

On Jan. 6, Donalds was hanging with his buddies outside the U.S. Capitol during Trump’s rally. 

This you at the rally from the video at the opening of the impeachment trial? Asking for all constituents in #FL19 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽 pic.twitter.com/vSDh1rGGb8

— Dr. Cindy Banyai for Congress FL19 (@Cindy_Banyai_FL) February 10, 2021

And prior to the insurrection, Donalds posted a video of himself walking into the Capitol saying he was planning to challenge Biden’s win. 

“I’m about to sign the objection forms to object to the certification of the electoral college in four states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia,” he said. “It’s important we always uphold our law and the constitution no matter what, and that’s my job here in Congress.”

I’m walking into the Capitol to sign the objection to the Electoral College certification. It’s important we always uphold our laws and our Constitution, no matter what. pic.twitter.com/jg91w8uzqs

— Byron Donalds (@ByronDonalds) January 6, 2021

Donalds ultimately was among 12 Florida members of Congress to object to all four states’ slates of electors. 

Not all skin folk are kinfolk. And I’ll leave it at that. 

Sex trafficking investigation seems to be hurting Rep. Matt Gaetz’s pocketbook

If you haven’t heard, Florida Man Rep. Matt Gaetz continues to be the focus of speculation that he has done some real dirtbag criminal stuff. Since one of his best buds, Joel Greenberg, has cut a plea deal with investigators, there have been numerous reports of witnesses who seem to say Mr. Gaetz has involved himself in human trafficking, sex with a minor, illegal drug use, and possible misuse of campaign funds. This is on top of completely unrelated reports that Rep. Gaetz has received dubious campaign donations from sketchy sources. 

In the meanwhile, Gaetz has alternately hidden from the public, and then burst back into the public on what can only be called political theater events. Along with Marjorie Taylor Greene, and other MAGA diehards who may be feeling the need to find a dictator who can pardon them in the future, Gaetz continues to promote the Trumpian Big Lie that our elections were stolen and that anyone investigating what happened on Jan. 6 is probably a part of the “deep state.”

These moves have seemed desperate attempts to both provide cover for what investigators may very well discover concerning a possible conspiracy to overturn the election results in 2020, and a way to fundraise for elected officials who have voted against every single piece of popular legislation that lands on their desks.

According to ABC News, Mr. Gaetz’s most recent campaign financial disclosures show that the suspected sex trafficker seems to be having a hard time keeping up the big fundraising numbers. In the final quarter of 2021, born-rich Gaetz reportedly pulled in just over $500,000 in donations—less than a third of what the Gaetz campaign was able to fundraise in the final quarter of 2020.

According to ABC, this diminishing return for the Gaetz campaign has been a pattern since Donald Trump lost the election, and certain GOP representatives decided to hitch their train to outright support of transplanting a fascist into power. This follows with how poorly Gaetz and fellow mad king cosplayer Marjorie Taylor Greene’s attempt at fundraising together has gone. Over the summer, the Daily Beast reported that the Gaetz/Greene “joint fundraising committee” were posting “a combined loss of $342,000.” Not to get wonky here, but that’s the opposite of fundraising.

The Daily Beast is now reporting that Gaetz’s legal costs, the costs he put toward paying PR firms to spin the ongoing sex and drug crimes investigations have left his Friends of Matt Gaetz campaign committee at an almost $100,000 net loss on the year. Gaetz told the Beast that he is the only Republican that doesn’t take “lobbyist or PAC money.”

This may be true [once again, see the strange money contributions story about Matt Gaetz]. It may also be true that the money Matt Gaetz has taken for his campaign was used both illegally and for illegal things. But kissing the ring of a wannabe dictator is also costly, according to the Daily Beast.

As is customary for MAGA fixtures like Gaetz, the campaign paid its tributes to Donald Trump, tithing more than $2,200 to Trump properties in 2021. More than half of it came during the final months—$729 on Nov. 2 for lodging at Mar-a-Lago, and $445 for a late-October meal at Trump International Hotel in D.C.

Recently Matt Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend reportedly reached an immunity deal with investigators in exchange for her cooperation in the investigation of the Florida official. Gaetz has steadfastly said that all reports of illegal activities on his part are lies, and that the investigation is a witch hunt of sorts. Does this sound familiar?

Val Demings says she’s ‘seriously considering’ running against Marco Rubio

Rep. Val Demings of Florida, is considering throwing her hat in the ring for Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat next year instead of launching an expected bid for governor of the state. Her name was trending through much of the morning on Tuesday after Politico reported on the prospect of Demings running. “I'm humbled at the encouraging messages I'm seeing today,” she tweeted. “I know the stakes are too high for Republicans to stand in the way of getting things done for Floridians, which is why I'm seriously considering a run for the Senate. Stay tuned.” 

Alex Sink, a former chief financial officer who unsuccessfully ran against former Florida governor and now-Sen. Rick Scott, told Politico he would’ve supported her bid for governor “but this is the right fit for her and for us.”

Rubio voted to protect former President Donald Trump when he was facing his second impeachment trial for inciting a riot at the U.S. Capitol in January. A month earlier, the Florida Republican helped himself to a COVID-19 vaccination in short supply in his state at the time. “She’s going to draw a contrast between who she is and how she represents Florida vs. Marco Rubio, who a lot of people where I live never see him,” Sink said.

Demings tweeted on Tuesday: “This is my Twitter account as Representative for the People of Florida’s 10th District. For my campaign Twitter, see @val_demings.” On her campaign account, she had pinned a video in early May of her running for a seat in Congress and highlighted Rubio’s disappointing history as a senator.
“A great example of a flip-flopper,” Demings called Rubio on Friday then defined the phrase as ”when a Senator says that the former President ‘would shatter the party and the conservative movement’ and then raves he ‘was lucky enough to be one of his first posts’ in a fundraising email.” ”Leadership matters. Florida can do better,” Demings tweeted. She would be undeniably better.

Demings, a former Orlando police chief and the first woman to hold the title, was a House manager in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, and she has been an important voice in seeking accountability for the former president for his embarrassing response to the coronavirus pandemic. "At the very least, we ought to be able to have a leader that we can trust,” she told MSNBC last May. “We don’t have that right now.” Demings said at a point she was no longer able to “endure or bear” Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings because the words coming out of his mouth have been “unbelievable.” She said they “risk lives all over this country.”

"No one—the president or the governor here in Florida—should be taking a victory lap when people are continuing to lose their lives because of COVID-19,” Demings said.

She’s been just as outspoken about a movement that spread like wildfire to save Black lives following the death of George Floyd, who was unarmed when former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. "I believe that what Derek Chauvin did was brutal, it was senseless, and it was murder," she told the nonprofit website The 19th earlier this month. "We had no choice but to try to look at what we could do as a legislative body to make the system better and prevent tragedies like that from happening.”

legislation, which the House passed but Senate Republicans have stalled, would ban no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and racial and religious profiling as well as establish a national database to monitor police misconduct. “As members of Congress, our primary responsibility is the health, safety, and well-being of the American people," Demings said last June. "We have made progress. We've come a long way, but we still have a ways to go."

Demings spoke just as passionately when she attempted to prevent the GOP from holding hostage the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, a bipartisan effort aimed at discouraging hate crimes against Asian Americans in the wake of a deadly shooting at an Atlanta spa in March. Republicans tried to randomly tie the Hate Crimes Act to an amendment preventing police department defunding efforts. "I want to make it quite clear that this amendment is completely irrelevant," Demings said at a House Judiciary hearing in April. The Hate Crimes Act, which the Senate passed, is expected to pass the House soon despite Republican Rep. Jim Jordan trying repeatedly to derail the process and disrespect Demings in the process.

"I served as a law enforcement officer for 27 years,” Demings told her peers. “It is a tough job. And good police officers deserve your support.

“You know, it's interesting to see my colleagues on the other side of the aisle support the police when it is politically convenient to do so,” the Democrat added. “Law enforcement officers risk their lives every day. They deserve better, and the American people deserve ..."

Jordan tried to interrupt Demings, but she continued. “I have the floor Mr. Jordan. What? Did I strike a nerve?” the congresswoman asked. “Law enforcement officers deserve better than to be utilized as pawns.”

Demings instead of Rubio should be an easy decision for Floridians should the mother of three decide to run for his seat. Take a look at what Twitter users have to say about the prospect:

I may be the first Black woman to have run for Senate in Florida, but @RepValDemings is going to be the first to WIN! Let’s make is so. Let’s go BIG and INVEST in building a permanent community facing infrastructure that can actually disseminate the messaging to defeat the

— Pam Keith, Esq. (@PamKeithFL) May 18, 2021

Val Demings voted IN FAVOR of covid relief for Floridians. Marco Rubio voted AGAINST it. Your RT and small donation helps us blast him for his bad decision making, and defeat him in 2022. https://t.co/Bj8tAptG4o

— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) May 18, 2021

Representative Val Demings to run for senate against Marco Rubio. I support this 100%. Even if you don’t live in Florida, the entire nation needs to get behind this. pic.twitter.com/wZfNjgS8eM

— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) May 18, 2021

Ask yourself this question every day for the next 19 months. What have you done today to help Val Demings unseat Marco Rubio?

— Chris Hahn (@ChristopherHahn) May 18, 2021

Shit just got real for Florida’s little political windsock. Hope ⁦@RepValDemings⁩ holds Rubio accountable for all the shape-shifting and putting craven politician ambition, over the needs of a Floridians. https://t.co/VxQTMzpv14

— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) May 18, 2021

RELATED: 43 Republicans turn their backs on their country to side with Trump, and we're listing them all

RELATED: Marco Rubio advocates for COVID-19 vaccinations by helping himself first

‘It’s really bad news for Republicans’: Continued GOP defections could upend party primaries

The great GOP exodus continues in some of the very states that will prove most critical in the battle for control of Congress in the midterms. In Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that some 19,000 voters have left the Republican Party since Donald Trump's Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol. And while that represents a tiny slice of the state's 8.8 million registered voters, the number of voters who have left the GOP accounts for about two-thirds, or 64%, of overall defections—up from a third or less in typical years, according to the Inquirer.

The data on exactly who is leaving the GOP—pro-Trumpers or never-Trumpers—are still a little murky. Based on interviews, the Inquirer concludes that the defections are fueled more by a swath of older, formerly loyal and highly engaged Republicans who have been turned off by Trump's takeover of the party. 

"Former Republicans interviewed largely were united in why they left," writes the outlet, "They saw it as a protest against a party that questioned the legitimacy of their votes and the culmination of long-simmering frustration with Trump and his supporters, who now largely control the GOP."

Lifelong Republican Diane Tyson, 68, renewed her license at the DMV on Jan. 5 and opted to wait until after the pro-Trump Jan. 6 rally in Washington before deciding whether to change her party affiliation. The attack that unfolded along with her watching her congressman vote to nullify the Keystone State's election results sealed the deal. Tyson officially became an independent on Jan. 7.  

“I knew I could not be a Republican anymore,” she said. “I just can’t—it’s not who I am. The Republican Party has gone down a deep hole that I want no part of. I don’t want an ‘R’ after my name.”

Similarly, 70-year-old Tom Mack, who has been a Republican since the late 1970s, offered, "It’s not the Republican Party I know. ... It’s drifted far away from my beliefs."

If the Inquirer is right about about the demographics of the GOP defectors and the trend holds, the Republican Party could end up saddled with a slew of right-wing primary winners heading into the 2022 general election contests. The party will also be losing some of its most active and loyal voting base—the people who are more likely to turn out in off-year elections and non-presidential cycles. 

The whole cocktail will make it that much harder for Republican candidates who prevail in the primaries to muster the votes to beat Democrats in the midterms. “If these voters are leaving the party permanently, it’s really bad news for Republicans,” Morris Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford University, told Reuters.

Reuters homed in on GOP defections in the three battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina and found that roughly three times more Republicans as Democrats had left their party in recent weeks. In all three states, the outlet also noted that defections were concentrated in the urban and suburban areas surrounding big cities—areas where sagging GOP support for Trump helped deliver the presidency to Joe Biden.

Based on interviews, Reuters also concluded that Trump was the main catalyst fueling the exodus, though some party switchers did say they don’t believe the Republican Party was supportive enough of Trump. 

But the sentiment of Nassau County Floridian Diana Hepner, 76, suggests that Republican Party leaders really blew their opportunity to pivot away from Trump following the election and reestablish itself as something beyond a cult of personality.

“I hung in there with the Republican Party thinking we could get past the elements Trump brought,” Hepner said. “Jan. 6 was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Now Hepner is hoping to be a "centrist influence" on the nominating contests in the Democratic Party. 

Political observers generally agree about the inflated rate of GOP defections, what remains to be seen is whether the trend continues and how it affects the contours of the nominating contests that are already taking shape.

In North Carolina, for instance, the GOP saw a slight uptick in party affiliations following Trump's acquittal, a reversal after weeks of declining registrations following the lethal Jan. 6 riot. There’s still a lot of time between now and next year, but the Jan. 6 riot does appear to be an inflection point. And despite Trump’s acquittal, the impeachment trial really gave Democrats an opportunity to reinforce for voters Trump’s culpability for the murderous assault on the Capitol.

Last week, following the vote to acquit Trump, there was a slight increase in weekly NC Republican Party registration changes, reversing the downward trend pic.twitter.com/ufrBnwuYOj

— Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) February 21, 2021

Ivanka Trump Reveals Whether Or Not She’ll Challenge Rubio For His Florida Senate Seat

Back in December, we reported that rumors were swirling that Ivanka Trump was about to challenge Marco Rubio (R-FL) for his Senate seat. Now, however, she appears to be putting these rumors to rest.

Ivanka Says She Won’t Challenge Rubio 

Ivanka has reportedly informed Rubio that she will not be running against him after all, despite the fact that she just moved to Miami with her husband Jared Kushner and their three children.

Speculation had been mounting that Ivanka was planning to launch a political career of her own, and given her move there, it seemed likely that she would challenge Rubio when he was up for reelection in 2022.

Ivanka told Daily Mail that she considers Rubio to be a “good personal friend” of hers, which could be why she doesn’t want to run against him.

“Marco has been a tremendous advocate for working families, a good person friend and I know he will continue to drive meaningful progress on issues we both care deeply about,” Ivanka said.

Related: Ivanka Trump Reportedly Considering Florida Senate Run Against Marco Rubio, Source Alleges

Ivanka And Rubio To Team Up

Ivanka and Rubio are reportedly thinking about teaming up together on an event in Florida sometime in the next few months on their expansion of the Child Tax Credit, an issue she worked on when she served as a White House adviser.

“Marco and Ivanka did speak a few weeks ago. Ivanka offered her support for Marco’s reelection and they had a great talk,” said Nick Iacovella, a spokesman for Rubio. “We are discussing a joint event to highlight Marco and Ivanka’s successful push to expand the Child Tax Credit.”

If this event goes through, it will be seen as Ivanka’s endorsement of Rubio in his reelection campaign.

Related: Ivanka Trump Comes Out As ‘Pro-Life, And Unapologetically So’

This comes as Ivanka’s sister-in-law Lara Trump, who is married to her brother Eric, is reportedly considering a run for Senate in her home state of North Carolina.

After retiring Republican Senator Richard Burr voted in favor of impeaching former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that Lara would almost definitely score the Republican nomination if she runs.

“My friend Richard Burr just made Lara Trump almost the certain nominee for the Senate seat in North Carolina to replace him if she runs,” Graham said last Sunday.

This piece was written by James Samson on February 19, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
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GOP Rep Kinzinger Is Blasted By His Own Family After Calling For Trump’s Removal

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Former First Lady Melania Trump Announces That She’s Opened New Office At Mar-a-Lago

Former First Lady Melania Trump has just announced that she is opening a new office out of her Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. This comes after Melania was attacked by the media over reports that she has spent much of her time in the spa since moving out of the White House.

Melania Opens Office 

“Mrs Melania Trump is announcing the opening of The Office of Melania Trump. Please follow this account for news and updates,” tweeted Melania’s official Twitter account.

This came after CNN reported that Melania was spending much of her time at the spa and was annoyed by the coverage her successor Jill Biden is getting.

“She goes to the spa, has lunch, goes to the spa (again), and has dinner with Donald on the patio. Rinse and repeat. Every day,” a source said, with another adding that Melania’s schedule is “pretty much the same as it was before (she was First Lady) or even when she would come down during vacations.”

Related: Melania Trump Reveals Her Post-White House Plans – She’s Going To Maintain ‘Be Best’

An insider claimed that Melania is “bitter and chilly” at times towards her husband, former President Donald Trump, about the way they left the White House.

“She could see how it was going to go for her,” the source claimed, referring to the days before they left the White House. “Once (the Capitol riot) happened, she knew there was nothing to gain for her by speaking out or doing something — so she didn’t do anything.”

Melania To Continue Be Best

Last month, we reported that Melania had planned to start an office so that she could maintain her Be Best campaign.

Her post-White House staff will include three familiar staffers: Hayley D’Antuono, who previously served as her director of operations and trip supervisor; Mary Finzer, who previously managed Melania’s “gift closet;” and Marcia Kelly, a former unpaid senior adviser in the White House.

Sources said that the team is planning to initially work remotely and out of the Trumps’ private Mar-a-Lago Club, though Melania, 50, is looking for a separate office space in Palm Beach.

Read Next: Melania Trump’s Final Words Before Leaving White House – ‘Being Your First Lady Was My Greatest Honor’

This piece was written by James Samson on February 13, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

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Lindsey Graham Predicts ‘Not Guilty’ Impeachment Votes Are Growing After ‘Absurd’ Arguments From Democrats

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Gaetz Challenges Anti-Trump Republican Adam Kinzinger: ‘F***ing Bring It’

Florida congressman Matt Gaetz challenged anti-Trump Republican Adam Kinzinger (IL) to “bring it” after the latter named Gaetz as a target for his newly formed PAC.

Well, he actually used slightly more colorful terminology than that.

Gaetz, first elected to Congress in 2016, has fast become one of former President Donald Trump’s biggest supporters.

In a late-night tweet on Wednesday, the Florida Republican began by praising Kinzinger for his military service before making it clear he wasn’t afraid of a fight.

“Adam is a patriot who fought for America from Northwest Florida. We will always appreciate [and] honor his service,” Gatez wrote.

“Now, he wants to target my America First politics, referencing me by name,” he added. “My response: F***ing bring it.”

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

GOP Civil War: Matt Gaetz Fights Back Against Adam Kinzinger

Matt Gaetz was responding to an article published by The Hill in which Adam Kinzinger announced a new PAC he claims is fighting to “take back” the GOP from Trump.

Kinzinger went on the offensive against Gaetz and recently punished Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

“Oh, there’s a huge list. … I mean, look, all you have to do is see people like, of course, Marjorie Taylor Greene. You look at people like Matt Gaetz, who know better,” Kinzinger said. “I think neither of them believes the stuff they ascribe to, they just want fame.”

Ironic, considering the only reason anybody even knows Kinzinger’s name is because he’s willing to pimp himself out to liberal media by attacking Donald Trump.

Kinzinger voted to impeach Trump, one of 10 Republicans in the House to do so, making him a poor man’s Mitt Romney. Or a dumb man’s Ben Sasse, depending on how you look at it.

“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,” Kinzinger suggested.

RELATED: Marjorie Taylor Greene Fires Back After Mitch McConnell Calls Her ‘Cancer’ To The GOP

Gaetz Leads the Way

Gaetz has been leading the charge in the GOP’s civil war against anti-Trump Republicans.

Gaetz actually traveled to Wyoming for a rally in which he ripped Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), another pro-impeachment Republican.

There, he suggested the only two things Cheney has done in Congress is “frustrate the agenda of President [Donald] Trump and sell out to the forever war machine.”

Cheney and Sasse (R-NE) were both censured by their own party in various counties due to their anti-Trump actions.

And many Republicans who sided with Democrats in the House are facing other issues.

Of the 10 House members that voted for impeachment, seven of them, including Cheney, already have primary challengers.

Senate Republicans have seen controversy of their own, with six of them voting Tuesday alongside Democrats to affirm that the impeachment trial is constitutional.

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