Monday, November 12, 2018

New Hope in the US House: Ben McAdams from Utah

I lived in Salt Lake City for four years and first got involved in Democratic Party organizing there, canvassing door-to-door for Eugene McCarthy during his 1968 insurgency against President Lyndon Johnson. I was bit by the bug and never recovered.

So I'm interested in that solidly red state, especially when it shows some blue cracks, which usually open up around the capitol city. The 4th Congressional District stretches south of Salt Lake City through prosperous suburbs but also takes in some deeply conservative enclaves.

As of yesterday, Democrat Ben McAdams is leading incumbent Republican Mia Love by 4,906 votes, with roughly 55,000 mail-in and provisional ballots still left to be counted in Salt Lake County and 72,000 ballots in Utah County (though some -- many? -- of those ballots actually belong to other congressional districts).

The race still hasn't been called.

Ben McAdams is a lawyer who served in the state senate before becoming mayor of Salt Lake County in 2013. He's a Mormon and a moderate, which means he may sometimes be a no vote on abortion rights (though he voted against a state law which would allow medical personnel to refuse to perform abortions on moral grounds and he voted against extending the waiting period for an abortion, so his record is mixed on that subject).

McAdams supports same-sex marriage. After the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have the right to marry in the United States, McAdams said, "This decision enshrines what I’ve long believed — that all families should be treated equally under the law."

He's on record opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and has also called on Congress to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) after its funding lapsed in September 2017. For a Utah Democrat, he bravely opposed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, citing the expected $1.5 trillion increase of the national debt over 10 years. He said it clearly favored the "wealthy over the middle class."

Incumbent Republican Mia Love was until Tuesday at least a rising star in the national Republican Party. As an aspiring Utah politician (she had converted to the Mormon church), she was given a prominent speaking slot at the 2012 Republican National Convention, and then she ran for and won the 4th District in 2014, becoming the first black woman Republican in Congress. She was reelected in 2016 while keeping her distance from Donald Trump, who's toxic among some Utah Mormons.

Love ran a relentlessly negative campaign against Ben McAdams, but screaming "liberal liberal liberal" over and over has ceased to work with an educated electorate. And DJT dissed her very publicly on Wednesday, saying he'd never gotten any love from Mia Love, so good riddance to her.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

New Hope in the US House: Lucy McBath from Georgia

The can't-get-past-the-Civil-War South fades a little more every year. A black woman will now represent the 6th Congressional District of Georgia.

Not only that. She's a pro-gun-control black woman. Lucy McBath lost her son to gun violence in 2012 because he was playing his music too loudly and "took an attitude." White man shot him. Because the music was too loud. On Tuesday, Lucy McBath won the 6th (admittedly by a thin margin, 50.5%), the very seat in Congress that Newt Gingrich once used to step up on and take a leap into the nation's bloodstream. Lucy McBath.

“Six years ago I went from a Marietta mom to a mother on a mission,” she said.

No mean feat, taking the 6th. It's majority Republican overall (+2 aggregate margin), with Cobb County really Republican. According to them-what-count numbers (FiveThirtyEight), "a Democrat would be expected to lose Georgia 6 by 9.5 percentage points in a neutral national environment (one in which the two parties fought to a tie nationally)."

Some of us thought a Democrat was going to turn the Georgia 6th blue on June 20th, 2017, in the special election that Democrat Jon Ossoff ran in and became a phenomenal fundraising machine but couldn't close the deal. Ossoff got national star attention as part of a building "blue wave," and he got damn close -- 48%. How McBath did it better possibly reflects the Trump Fatigue among suburban Republican women. (Just spit-balling here.)

Have to feel a little sympathy for incumbent Republican Karen Handel, who hasn't served in office but a scant year, and who has a history of close ones that she's usually lost. She lost a Senate bid in 2014, coming in third in a Republican jungle primary. In 2010, she had beaten Nathan Deal in the first round of the Republican jungle primary for Governor but lost to him in the second round by .04 percent of the vote.

But wait, there's another potential Democratic flip in Georgia!

Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux in the 7th District -- Bourdeaux trailed the Republican incumbent by nearly 3,000 votes Wednesday morning. After mail-in absentee ballots got counted, Bourdeaux trailed Woodall by only 890 votes. In Gwinnett County, the heart of the district, there are also 2,400 provisional ballots to be counted. Historically, around 90 percent of the county's provisional ballots are accepted, according to the Gwinnett Elections Director. Provisional ballots tend to be overwhelmingly Democratic votes.

(SOUR NOTE: New voter ID laws in Georgia under Secretary of State Brian Kemp require provisional voters to go in and present identification to a local office.)

Bourdeaux had good company on Tuesday. She was running on the same ticket with seven Democrats who flipped seats in the Gwinnett legislative delegation — five in the Georgia House of Representatives and two in the state Senate.

The election is supposed to be certified next week.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The North Carolina "Seven": New Black Sheriffs Elected Last Tuesday

Paula Dance, Pitt County
Paula Dance, Pitt County, became the first African-American female sheriff in the state of North Carolina and only the fifth in the entire country. She was already a major in the sheriff's office, running for an open seat. She has 28 years of law enforcement experience, 26 of those in the Pitt County department.

Quentin Miller, Buncombe County, 25-year veteran of the Asheville Police Dept., won with over 61% of the vote against both a Republican and a Libertarian. It too was an open seat, and the Libertarian had been jailed on a stalking charge in September.

Ennis Wright, Cumberland County, was already serving as an appointed sheriff following the retirement of a fellow Democrat. Wright won on Tuesday with more than 63% of the vote.

Bobby Kimbrough Jr., Forsyth County, defeated 5-term Republican incumbent Bill Schatzman with 53% of the vote. Kimbrough is a retired agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration. “People are ready for change,” Kimbrough said. “This race wasn’t about me, and it wasn’t about him [Schatzman]. It’s about building some bridges.”

Gerald Baker, Wake County, "in a stunning upset," defeated 4-term Sheriff Donnie Harrison. The 55-45 winning margin made it doubly stunning. Baker had worked for the Wake County Sheriff's Department for 28 years, 15 of those under Harrison. Harrison had partnered in and defended a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement program that meant transferring people to federal custody who have been arrested and were believed to be in the U.S. illegally. Baker was critical of the program.

Danny Rogers, in Guilford County, ended the 24-year reign of Sheriff B J Barnes, a politician so powerful he was considered unbeatable. (That was Monday. Wednesday, people were thinking otherwise.) Rogers took 53% of the vote.

Clarence Birkhead, in Durham County, had virtually won the office back in the primary, taking some 69% of the vote against an unpopular white incumbent, and faced only write-in votes last Tuesday.

New Hope in the US House: 3 Women From Virginia

Personal Note
We'd like to meet the chief political minds behind these winning campaigns. Call us.

Jennifer Wexton in Virginia's 10th Congressional District beat incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock with over 56% of the vote.

Wexton had been a well known Virginia state senator from Loudoun County, and she won the June congressional primary against a slew of Democratic opponents. She was an immediate favorite to knock out Comstock, widely considered the most vulnerable Republican in the nation. Wexton ran her campaign not so much as an insurgent but as a frontrunner protecting a huge lead. (Trump is sufficiently unpopular in her northern Virginia district. And she wasn't shy about being the resistance. "Change Is Coming" was one of her slogans.)

Loudoun County was jet fuel for Wexton. It's both the heart of and the population center for the 10th District. Government professionals, non-profit professionals, local business entrepreneurs, suburban Republican women. The 10th hasn't voted for a Democrat in over 60 years. But Wexton was already known and respected as a state senator. She won her seat in a special election in 2014 and was reelected in 2015 with over 56% of the vote. She had earned distinction as a lawyer and a prosecutor -- an assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney. Plus she'd done a ton of pro bono legal work, served as president of the local bar, and was appointed a special judge in Loudoun District Court.

Perhaps a new political icon -- Suburban Professional Woman.

Abigail Spanberger in Virginia's 7th Congressional District beat incumbent Tea Party Republican Dave Brat by a 6,500-vote margin. A Libertarian candidate got just over 1% of the vote.

Spanberger grew up in Short Pump, Virginia, in Henrico County. She attended J.R. Tucker High School’s Spanish immersion program, served as a Senate Page for US Senator Chuck Robb, and graduated from the University of Virginia. After college, she moved to Germany and earned her MBA from a dual-degree German-American program. She was picking up important languages for espionage.

Before the CIA, she was a federal law enforcement officer working narcotics and money laundering cases with the US Postal Inspection Service. With her background speaking multiple languages, Abigail joined the CIA as an Operations Officer (entering the clandestine service and specializing in counter-terrorism). She traveled and lived abroad collecting intelligence, managing assets, and overseeing high-profile programs. In 2014, she left government service to begin a career in the private sector with EAB, a higher education consulting firm. At EAB Spanberger has helped colleges and universities create diverse student bodies, increase graduation rates, and break down financial barriers to higher education.

Good introductory video:

Elaine Luria in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District beat incumbent Republican Scott Taylor with a little over 51% of the vote. The 2nd District contains the HDQs of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.

Michael Tackett profiled Luria way back last January in the New York Times (along with two other women veterans of the Armed Forces running for high office in 2018):

Luria joined the Navy at the age of 17, eventually "majoring in" surface warfare at the Naval Academy. She rose to commander rank and served for 20 years before retiring.

"Luria said that she felt the pull to run for office after Mr. Trump’s election, and that her husband quit his job to help take over household duties so she could focus on campaigning .... she had earned a black belt in taekwondo, passed all the required endurance tests and flourished in the classroom .... After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, she said, she felt compelled to stay in the Navy. She had a letter of resignation stuck in her desk, but never submitted it." 

Luria had the backing of the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) and ran a disciplined and (judging from my own in-box) relentless campaign.

But There Were Also 3 Heart-Breaks in Virginia

Organic farmer and writer Anthony Flaccavento in the 7th, whom I profiled back in July.

Investigative journalist Leslie Cockburn in the 5th, whom I profiled back on May 30th.

"Bold progressive activist" Jennifer Lewis in the 6th, whom I profiled in July.

Vote outcomes: Flaccavento didn't come close, Cockburn got almost 47%, and Lewis got 40%.

 Flaccavento's loss probably means it'll take years before another Democrat attempts it (I at least hear that from a political activist in the 7th). Cockburn (or someone like her) could possibly win it next time. And Lewis has something to build on.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Coach Jerry Moore Gets Used by the Watauga GOP

AsheCountyLine has the story.

At the Election Eve prayer meeting on the Watauga County courthouse steps last Monday night (they streamed it live), Republican faithful were urged to supply themselves with the yellow flyers advertising "Coach Jerry Moore's MVPs," an obvious counter-attack on "Pam'sPicks," a decades-old election year endorsement by a local progressive warrior that I happen to know very well.

"PamsPicks" is well known and closely attended to by people in and out of Watauga County and has attained a certain local fame.

The Republicans needed a celebrity name to attach to an "endorsement" of their candidates, and someone apparently thought, "I know! Legendary ASU football coach Jerry Moore ... that's the answer! The students will swoon!"

But someone's enthusiasm for a bright idea got ahead of their performance of that idea. No one bothered to ask Coach Moore for his permission.

So they produced their flyers ... actually several versions of their flyer. There's the one pictured here, and there's a better designed one with Coach Moore's photograph that's reprinted with the AsheCountyLine article, but on election day, there were other versions circulating that had no "Paid For By ____" disclaimer on them, which is required by North Carolina state election law and which caused the complaints that alerted Coach Moore that his name was being tossed around as the celebrity supporter of the entire Republican ticket, including all six constitutional amendments.


There's sloppiness ... and then there's the Watauga County Republican Party.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Watauga GOP Shoots Self in Kneecap

Just leaving this here without comment.

New Hope in the US House: Joe Cunningham from South Carolina

Among the many nationwide Congressional races that animated my political corpuscles and my hope for surviving Trump ... Democrat Joe Cunningham's campaign in the 1st Congressional District of South Carolina, a coastal district that includes Charleston. Cunningham won the seat on Tuesday with 50.71% of the vote. I'm proud to say that I first took note of Joe Cunningham's arrival as a brand-new candidate back in February 2018, and I kept up with what looked to me like a winning and newly minted politician.

He's the first Democrat elected in this district in over 30 years. This was the seat once held by Tim Scott, the black Republican who went on to the US Senate, and by Mark Sanford, who went on a hike ... actually, two hikes, the second one being his loss in the Republican primary last spring after he dared to criticize Twitterman.

Katie Arrington, the Trump-endorsed woman who won that primary, had the Trump laying-on-of-hands during the final days of the campaign (see photo below), and her defeat is being called an "upset" by South Carolina political operatives. Arrington chose to ape Trump in talking about the "immigrant invasion" of our Southern border, and that didn't earn her any enthusiasm in the 1st District. She also supported Trump's plan to allow more offshore oil and gas exploration, something the coastal tourism industry hates and dreads.

Donald Junior stumped for Arrington on election eve, and The Donald Himself recorded a robocall for her ... more evidence that lashing yourself to Trump's axle in a urban/suburban district might not be good for your political health.

Junior with losing candidate Katie Arrington,
Nov. 5, 2018

New Hope in the US House: Sharice Davids from Kansas

New Congresswoman Sharice Davids
The Kansas 3rd Congressional District elected a lesbian, native American, civil rights lawyer to Congress. Oh yeah, and she's also a mixed martial arts fighter. Sharice Davids tried out for Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighting Championship, a pay-for-view venue with a big following. She didn't quite make the cut, but she's been a successful professional fighter since 2013. Davids is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and graduated from Cornell University. And she's going to Congress.

Say what? A muscle-woman in the marble halls?

She's also the first openly gay member of Congress elected from Kansas, and she joins Debra Haaland of the New Mexico 1st District as the first ever Native American women elected to Congress.

The Kansas 3rd District is suburban Kansas City. Hillary Clinton carried the district in 2016, but Republican incumbent Tea Party Congressman Kevin Yoder held on too, even though Republican women in the suburbs (even in Kansas) had begun to get a stomachful of Twitterman. This year Yoder earned the full Trump endorsement -- tweets and in-person campaigning, which probably helped doom him. When reporters questioned Yoder during October 2016 about "grab 'em by the pussy," Yoder couldn't think of one critical thing to say about DJT. He had also voted very publicly to repeal the Affordable Care Act many times, but by 2018 that vindictiveness toward the poor and sick just seemed unnecessarily cruel. That apparent lack of moral compass bit Yoder in the pants.

Yoder served eight years in the Kansas state legislature before getting elected to Congress in the 2010 Republican wave. By this year, he had gotten some rank, especially on the Homeland Security subcommittee. That's over now.

If the woman fighter who beat him -- with over 53% of the vote, mind you -- can just develop some policy chops to go with her karate chops, she might become the kind of new voice we need in Congress.

FOOTNOTE: Who Helped Get Sharice Davids Elected?

In the 2016 campaign, Chris Gentry worked as a field team member for the Watauga County Democratic Party's Coordinated Campaign. He was a ball of fire. In the 2018 campaign just past, Chris Gentry worked for the Progressive Turnout Project (PTP), an "independent expenditure" group headquartered in Chicago. This is their self-description:
Progressive Turnout Project is a grassroots-funded organization with a single mission: get Democrats to the polls. We design, test, and execute specialized voter turnout programs targeting inconsistent Democratic voters in the most competitive districts in the country. In 2017, our trained teams flipped 10 Republican House of Delegate districts in Virginia. In 2018, we’ll bring that same strategy to competitive districts across the country.
The key is recruitment and training, which means boots on the ground for direct voter contact. PTP raised the money to target many flippable districts this year (I count 24 district field organizers on the PTP website), and they hired experienced field managers willing to live and work in those targeted districts. Chris Gentry earned the privilege of running the Kansas 3rd. He was working totally independent from the Sharice Davids campaign (the PTP is one of those "Not Authorized by Any Candidate" groups that continue to proliferate since 2016). Chris stayed on the ground for months in Kansas, organized troops to knock doors and register voters, and he obviously helped sweep the table.

Watauga County salutes an alumnus of local campaigning, Chris Gentry!

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

This May Be the Greatest Legacy of North Carolina's 2018 Blue Wave

Democrats Swept All State-Wide Judicial Races in North Carolina

Anita Earls Won Her Seat on the NC Supreme Court!
Anita Earls is a legal rock star. She founded the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and served as its executive director and became a major warrior against voter suppression and the evils of gerrymandering. She was the lead attorney challenging the gerrymandering of the state, the voter ID law, and other voting restrictions. 
“I passionately believe in the importance of the right to vote, and that an independent judiciary is crucial to the balance of powers necessary to maintain democratic government of, by and for the people,” Earls said. “... In these times, I am seeing how those values are under attack, and I admire the determination of ordinary people who take great risks to stand up for their rights.” 
"...Too often this political process feels like a powerful few rigging the system against a powerless many,” Earls said. “In light of recent attacks on the independence of North Carolina’s judiciary, and on the right of all citizens to cast a ballot that is counted equally, it is clear to me that I have to not just talk the talk, but also must have the courage to walk the walk.”
Earls took 49.48% of the vote against incumbent Republican Barbara Jackson's 34.12%, with the other Republican Chris Anglin drawing 16.39% of the vote. 
The NC Supreme Court now has a 6-3 Democratic majority.

 John Arrowood won reelection to the NC Court of Appeals!
Arrowood won reelection yesterday against his Republican opponent with 50.71% of the vote. 
Arrowood is famous in our household because of the way he was appointed to the bench by Governor Roy Cooper. When Cooper was sworn into office in December of 2016, the Republicans in the General Assembly were facing an unappetizing prospect. Three judges on the Court of Appeals — two of which were Republicans — were going to be forced into mandatory retirement during Governor Cooper’s term, meaning he would get to appoint their replacements. 
The troops under GOP legislators Phil Berger and Tim Moore got busy and came up with a new law reducing the Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 seats, meaning that those mandatory retirements would not be replaced at all. Governor Cooper vetoed that bill in April and before the Republicans could override the veto, Republican Judge Doug McCullough, one of the three facing mandatory retirement, retired suddenly and early to allow Cooper to appoint his replacement before the General Assembly could override that veto. Boom! Cooper appointed John Arrowood of Charlotte to the bench. 
So, naturally, the Berger/Moore machine has put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to give themselves appointment powers over all the judiciary. That constitutional amendment was soundly defeated yesterday. 
Arrowood has more than a quarter-century of legal experience behind him as a lawyer in private practice aside from his two stints on the Court of Appeals. He graduated from the UNC law school at Chapel Hill, clerked for NC Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Arnold, and also served as a staff attorney and head of the Court’s central staff. He was vastly more experienced than his Republican opponent.

Tobias (Toby) Hampson won an open seat on the NC Court of Appeals!
Hampson took 48.71% of the vote against two Republicans who divided the rest of the vote between them. 
Hampson is a Moore County boy who was plucked out for advanced studies during high school at the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham in 1994. He went on to earn his law degree in 2002 from Campbell University with multiple honors including a seat on the Law Review. He began his career at the North Carolina Court of Appeals clerking for judges K. Edward Greene, Wanda Bryant, and Bob C. Hunter. He then practiced with Patterson Dilthey in Raleigh focusing on trial and appellate litigation before joining Wyrick, Robbins, Yates & Ponton in Raleigh in 2007, where he now leads the firm’s Appellate Practice group as a full partner. 
Hampson is massively qualified for a seat on the appellate bench. He was named one of the “Top 100 Super Lawyers in North Carolina” (2015, 2017, 2018) by Super Lawyers Magazine. He was a top-rated appellate attorney by North Carolina Super Lawyers — recognized in Appellate Practice (2014-2018) and as a “Rising Star” (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). He is recognized as “Legal Elite” in the area of appellate law (2018) and “Young Guns” (2010, 2012) by Business North Carolina magazine.

Allegra Collins won an open seat on the NC Court of Appeals!
Collins took the seat with 48.50%. The rest of the vote was divided between a Republican and a Libertarian. 
Collins is both a judicial scholar and an athlete with a pedigree of high-level competition. She represented the United States at the Pan American Games in 1999 and 2003 as a member of the United States Women’s Handball Team. She was a “resident-athlete” at the United States Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY, in preparation for the 2003 Pan American Games. She’s played professional team handball in Italy and Germany. She received a full athletic scholarship (tennis) at both UCLA and the College of William and Mary. And she played on the professional tennis circuit, earning a world ranking in doubles. 
In addition to her education at UCLA and William and Mary, she attended Campbell Law School in Raleigh for her J.D. She was no slouch at legal research either: While still a student, she received the I. Beverly Lake Constitutional Law Award for outstanding writing in constitutional law. She served an important apprenticeship under Court of Appeals Judge Linda Stephens, 2007-2010, and she’s established her own practice specializing in appellate cases. 
She knows the Court of Appeals inside-out.