Court nixes special elections for redrawn North Carolina legislative maps

The Daily Kos Elections Voting Rights Roundup is written by Stephen Wolf and edited by David Nir.

Leading Off

● North CarolinaOn Monday, a federal district court declined to order special elections this year for a slew of North Carolina legislative districts that will have to be redrawn after the Supreme Court struck down the Republican-drawn maps as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders in June. This ruling is unwelcome news for voting rights advocates and Democrats, who had sought to hold new elections before next year’s legislative session, especially since these illegal maps have been in place for most of this decade.

However, the judges did order an expedited timetable for re-redistricting that will still ensure new maps are in place in advance of the regularly scheduled elections in November of 2018, rejecting Republicans’ preferred deadline of Nov. 15 of this year. The court directed the GOP-dominated legislature to produce new maps by Sept. 1, although the judges also held out the possibility of a Sept. 15 deadline if Republicans act in good faith to seek out public input. Either way, completing redistricting as soon as possible will give candidates more time to decide if they want to run in 2018 before the filing deadline late this year.

Following the court’s ruling, GOP legislators returned for a special session this week and held a public hearing on new maps Friday. Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. David Lewis, who is spearheading the GOP’s redistricting efforts, indicated his committee would adopt criteria for new maps on Aug. 10 and could vote on the new districts on Aug. 24 or 25.

Of course, despite the court’s hopes, Republican legislators will undoubtedly ignore public comments and proceed to draw a replacement gerrymander that they’ll claim relies strictly on partisanship, not race. We know this because Lewis explicitly made this exact claim when the GOP had to redraw North Carolina’s congressional map in 2016 thanks to similar illegal racial gerrymandering. Republicans have even hired the same consultant for the upcoming legislative redistricting, Thomas Hofeller, who drew their now-invalidated congressional and legislative maps in 2011.

Still, the court will have the final say over whether these replacement districts survive legal scrutiny, reserving the power to reject the GOP’s maps and draw their own remedial lines, which would be the best outcome for Democrats and black voters. However, Republicans could appeal such a rejection to the Supreme Court again, taking up even more valuable time.

And because this is North Carolina, this isn’t the only case still in play. A separate racial gerrymandering lawsuit targeting the state’s legislative districts is still proceeding after the U.S. Supreme Court sent it back to the state Supreme Court for reconsideration earlier this year. The state’s high court upheld the GOP’s legislative districts on a party-line vote in 2015, but Democrats have since gained a majority on the bench. This altered court will now rehear the case on Aug. 28, and it’s possible they could decide to redraw the districts themselves, which would of course be subject to another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There’s still a long way to go until North Carolina’s protracted redistricting saga comes to a close. Nevertheless, 2018 could at long last see new maps produce modest gains for Democrats, allowing them to break the GOP’s slim supermajority in one or both chambers and finally be able to sustain Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes.


● Ohio: In 2015, Ohio’s GOP-majority state legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the ballot to reform the Buckeye State’s bipartisan commission on legislative redistricting, which voters passed overwhelmingly. While those reforms have substantial flaws compared to commissions in other states that are truly independent of the influence of elected officials, it may nonetheless prove to be an improvement over the status quo, which allowed unimpeded partisan gerrymandering by the majority party. However, these reforms still left control over congressional redistricting in the hands of the legislature, thanks to opposition from key Republicans.

This year, a new coalition backed by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause is working to put a measure on the 2018 ballot that would finally add congressional redistricting to the purview of the redistricting commission. The group recently announced that it had already gathered over 100,000 signatures, giving it a healthy start on its way to obtaining the necessary 306,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot by mid-2018.

Unfortunately, this effort lacks one key ingredient: funding. The coalition has raised a mere $54,000 so far and is completely reliant on volunteers to gather petitions instead of paid circulators. A successful ballot initiative in a big state like Ohio will likely cost millions, and an underfunded 2012 effort crashed and burned amid GOP opposition. If this effort ends up on the 2018 ballot, proponents will need to raise a whole lot more money to stand up to the near-certain barrage of hostile ads from Republicans, who benefit from the status quo of one of America’s most aggressive partisan congressional gerrymanders.

● South Dakota: Republican gerrymandering in South Dakota gets overlooked because the state has just a single congressional district, but activists did try to take away lawmakers’ power to draw their own legislative districts in 2016. That ballot initiative failed 57-43, but that margin was considerably closer than Trump’s 62-32 landslide, demonstrating that the idea attained a decent amount of bipartisan support even in the face of GOP opposition.

Now reformers want to try again next year and have begun taking formal steps to get the state’s go-ahead to start circulating petitions for signatures to get on the ballot in 2018. However, they’ll have to gather the necessary signatures in just three months, which would be a tall order, and they’ll also have to convince some of those voters who opposed the reform last year to change their minds.

Voter Registration

● Georgia: Republican-run Georgia recently purged nearly 600,000 registered voters from the rolls for alleged inactivity, meaning they hadn’t voted, updated their information, or responded to mailing for the past three years. While voter registries undoubtedly need to be kept updated as voters move or pass away, this sweep was very large, accounting for roughly one in 12 voters in the Peach State.

Such mass purges can ensnare many eligible voters simply for not voting in every election, something that runs afoul of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (known as the “Motor Voter” law). Given Georgia Republicans’ recent history of trying to enact voter-registration restrictionsthat are likely to ensnare black and Latino voters, any mass cancellation of registrations runs the risk of wrongly terminating many voters’ records.

● Massachusetts: In late July, a state court struck down Massachusetts’ 20-day registration deadline as a violation of the state constitution, finding that it unnecessarily prevented thousands of citizens from casting ballots. If this ruling stands, then Massachusetts could find itself adopting same-day registration (SDR), at least during the state’s early voting period if not on Election Day itself. The Boston Globe subsequently published a review of the research on SDR showing that it likely boosts turnout substantially and might even make the voting process more secure because new registrants are verified in person rather than by mail or online.

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin was the top defendant in this case and says he’ll appeal this ruling. However, Galvin, a Democrat, also sounds open to reaching a compromise and says he doesn’t oppose SDR on principle but rather wants to avoid “chaos” if election administration activities aren’t properly funded and staffed to handle the new policy. Hopefully, this court ruling will spur the Bay State’s Democratic-dominated legislature to finally craft a law to allow same-day registration while addressing the concerns of election officials who have scarce resources at their disposal.

● New YorkOn Monday, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring that every state agency provide voter registration forms to all citizens they interact with in an effort to increase access to registration. Sixteen different state agencies already offer registration forms, though, and New York allows online registration, so it’s unclear if this change will have a significant impact. More importantly, New York still doesn’t have same-day registration or automatic voter registration, and Cuomo’s support for the Republican-run state Senate ensures that of these reforms will pass, so this may well just be a fig leaf for Cuomo to cover up his flagging progressive bona fides.

● Oregon: A new report from public policy analyst Sean McElwee and political scientists Brian Schaffner and Jesse Rhodes looked at Oregon’s new automatic voter registration system, and they conclude that this reform did indeed boost turnout, particularly among groups who are most underrepresented in the electorate. In 2015, Oregon became the first state to enact automatic voter registration by signing up any eligible voter who interacts with the Department of Motor Vehicles, unless they later opt out. While several states have followed suit, Oregon was the only one whose law went into effect before the 2016 elections, making it a valuable test case.

According to the report, 44 percent of those who were automatically registered voted in 2016, and 95 percent of those were first-time voters. Automatic registrants were disproportionately likely to be black or Latino, young, and lower-income—all demographics that typically register and turn out at lower rates than whites, older voters, and high-income voters.

Of course, some of these first-time voters likely would have cast a ballot anyway, since many automatic registrants include people who have only recently reached voting age. Automatic registration also might not produce as big of an impact in other states since, with few exceptions, they don’t vote by mail, as Oregon does. Be that as it may, the authors of this report conclude that automatic registration may have increased turnout by 2 to 3 percentage points, similar to an earlier analysis from the progressive Center for American Progress, which reached similar conclusions.

More research is needed as more elections unfold following the adoption of automatic registration in other states. However, the data available so far shows that automatic voter registration makes voting easier, boosts turnout, and can help make the electorate more closely resemble the demographics of the eligible voter population. If enacted nationally, as some congressional Democrats have proposed, automatic registration could add more than 40 million new voters to the rolls, expanding access to voting and likely increasing participation by millions.

Felony Disenfranchisement

● Alabama: In June, Alabama’s staunchly Republican state government surprisingly passed a new law easing the Yellowhammer State’s strict felony disenfranchisement regime. Alabama had previously rescinded the voting rights all of those convicted of felonies of “moral turpitude,” but that term was left intentionally vague enough to allow selective enforcement targeting African Americans during the  Jim Crow era. The new reforms passed this year finally lay out which exact felonies constitute crimes of moral turpitude, which could lead to the re-enfranchisement of thousands of people in a state that had barred 8 percent of its citizens from voting.

Unfortunately, there were reasons to be skeptical of this reform’s impactright from the start. In a recent lawsuit, a federal judge ruled that Republican officials do not have to automatically register those who regained their voting rights, nor do they even have to take steps to educate those whom the new law affects. Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican who is Alabama’s chief elections official and a strong proponent of its strict voter ID laws, has also confirmed that he will do as little as possible to inform the newly enfranchised that they can now register to vote.

As of 2016, Alabama had disenfranchised roughly 300,000 adults and precluded African Americans from voting at a rate that was three times higher than whites. And even these new reforms conspicuously left many white-collar crimes out of its definition of moral turpitude—crimes that are more likely to be committed by whites than those it did include. Furthermore, the new law requires those who’ve completed their sentences to repay all their court fines and fees before getting to vote again, which effectively amounts to a poll tax. Combined, these restrictions and state Republicans’ refusal to educate those who have completed their sentences about the changes in the law could leave hundreds of thousands still disenfranchised.

● Florida: No state disenfranchises a greater proportion of its citizens than Florida, which bars almost everyone convicted of a felony from ever voting again, but a proposed 2018 ballot initiative is trying to change that. Organizers are currently gathering signatures to automatically restore voting rights to those who have completed their sentences for most felonies, which constitutes the overwhelming majority of Florida’s disenfranchised population, according to the Sentencing Project. In a key development, the ACLU has pledged at least $5 million toward this initiative, which could prove critical to helping it get on the ballot and pay for advertising in this expensive state.

Enacted to further white supremacy during Jim Crow, felony disenfranchisement prevents one in 11 Florida adults from voting despite having fully completed their sentences. That proportion includes a staggering one in six African-Americans who can’t vote, again even though they’ve served their time. Consequently, this ballot measure could restore voting rights for well over 1 million disproportionately black and Latino Floridians, which is why Republicans will almost certainly oppose it vigorously at the ballot box. The ACLU’s $5 million is a necessary ingredient for success, but proponents will likely need a whole lot more money if they are to prevail.

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GOP House incumbent retires in Tennessee seat that Democrats haven’t won since 1852

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.


• TN-02On Monday, longtime Rep. Jimmy Duncan announced that he would not seek re-election to his safely Republican Knoxville-area seat next year. Duncan, who has represented East Tennessee since 1988, is close to the Paulist wing of the GOP and he is the last remaining one of the few Republicans in Congress who voted against the Iraq War.

Duncan never faced a serious primary challenger, but that may very well have changed if he tried to stick around a bit longer. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett has said he will run either for the Senate or for Tennessee’s 2nd District. Just before Duncan made his decision to retire public, Burchett said he would announce his 2018 plans on Saturday—and that he was unlikely to run for the Senate.

A few weeks ago, Duncan got some negative attention after the Knoxville Sentinel reported that over the last decade, he had used his campaign treasury to pay family members hefty salaries during his uncompetitive re-election campaigns. We’ll never know if this story would have done Duncan any damage at the ballot box, and it’s not clear how much Burchett’s likely primary challenge convinced the 70-year-old that it was time to call it quits.

Trump won this seat 65-30, and it’s not in much danger of going anywhere without Duncan. The last time a Knox County-based House seat elected a Democrat was in 1852, before the Republican Party was even formed. In fact, this seat has had a congressman from the nativist Know Nothing Partymore recently than that! East Tennessee was the rare part of the South that was solidly Republican in the century after the Civil War when the Democratic Party dominated almost all of the region, and it’s remained that way ever since.

Burchett himself says he’ll still announce his plans Saturday. A little more than 60 percent of this seat is in Burchett’s Knox County, so if he goes through with a bid, he’ll likely start out with plenty of name recognition. However, when Burchett was flirting with a bid for governor earlier this year, he predicted that he’d have trouble raising money. Instead, Burchett indulged in some Loser Speak and argued that his grassroots platform could break through, because “I think my message is pretty clear. And I don’t need some New York advertising agency to help me talk to the regular folks, because I am the regular folks and I think that’s my appeal.”

A bid for the House is a lot less expensive than a gubernatorial campaign would have been, but if Burchett doesn’t raise much cash, he could have trouble in what could be a competitive primary. But unlike in most Southern states, it takes just a simple plurality to win a Tennessee primary, so it’s not implausible that Burchett could coast to victory on just name recognition in a crowded race.

It didn’t take long for other Republicans to start getting the Great Mentioner treatment. State Rep. Jimmy Matlock (all together now: Matlooooock!) acknowledged that he’s wanted to run for this seat once it opened, though he says he’s still considering. Last year, Matlock tried to unseat fellow Republican Beth Harwell as speaker, but he lost the party nomination vote 40-30. A few months later, Matlock was canned as chairman of the Transportation committee. However, Harwell is giving up her post to run for governor, and if Matlock ran for Congress, he’d give up any chance to succeed her.

Baptist Pastor Chris Edmonds, the son of a local World War II hero, says he’s likely to run and could make up his mind within a few weeks. Normally, we’d wonder if Edmonds had the money or political connections to mount a serious race … but Edmonds himself says, “I have no money, no political connections—some would say no sense, to think about running.” Still, weird things can happen in crowded races, and sometimes, candidates with a religious background can do well: Just ask Baptist pastor-turned North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker, or Baptist camp director-turned Oklahoma congressman-turned Sen. James Lankford, two Southern Republicans who both looked like Some Dudes throughout most of their first primaries but won.

The Knoxville Sentinel also writes that Blount County Sheriff Jim Berrong and state Sen. Richard Briggs are rumored possibilities, though neither man has said anything publicly yet. State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, who is the congressman’s sister, doesn’t sound likely to get in, though when the Sentinel asked if she was definitively ruling it out, she replied, “I never say never, but I’m not considering it at this point. I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing.” This seat has been in the family since John J. Duncan Sr. first won it in 1964, a family reign that’s long for anyone who isn’t a Dingell.


• AL-Sen: Sen. Luther Strange’s latest ad in the swiftly approaching Republican primary features the incumbent touting his work to “drain the swamp,” highlighting how he investigated corruption and convicted the state House speaker when he was Alabama’s attorney general. Strange then pivots to his frequent themes of building a Mexico border wall to stop illegal immigration and his NRA endorsement, once again showing the senator at a firing range to prove he’s a Big Man With a Big Gun.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mo Brooks’ latest ad finds the insurgent challenger writing a $2,500 check to buy a first-class ticket aboard the Trump Train. Well, not literally, of course—Brooks attempts to prove his pro-Trump bona fides by noting he donated $2,500 to Trump’s campaign in last year’s general election and votes with Trump “95 percent of the time” in Congress. Brooks also makes sure to name-drop the endorsements of several “conservative thought leaders” who have been among the biggest media sycophants for Trump: Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, and Mark Levin.

• PA-Sen, PA-03: Following a recent Associated Press story that Republican Rep. Lou Barletta will run for Senate, fellow GOP Rep. Mike Kelly announced on Tuesday that he will seek re-election to the Houserather than run for the Senate too. Kelly’s move is unsurprising given previous reporting that the two men were unlikely to run against each other, although Barletta still has not yet formally declared his intention to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.


• CA-Gov: Politico recently published the fundraising totals for the first half of 2017 for the major Democratic candidates in California’s open 2018 governor’s race, which are shown below:

Gavin Newsom (D): $5.4 million raised, $16 million cash-on-hand

John Chiang (D): $2.7 million raised, $9 million cash-on-hand

Antonio Villaraigosa (D): $2.3 million raised, $4.5 million cash-on-hand

Delaine Eastin (D): $321,000 raised, $107,000 cash-on-hand

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom dominated the money chase by raising about as much as his three major opponents combined, leaving him with an auspicious $16 million on hand. Both state Treasurer John Chiang and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa raised respectable amounts. However, former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, who left office in 2003, raised a sum that’s a mere fraction of what it will take to run a competitive race in this incredibly expensive state.

What little polling exists in this race has typically shown Newsom leading with a modest plurality, but a significant share of the electorate polls as undecided. No candidates have begun advertising on TV yet, but even seven-figure sums only go so far in a state as big as California.

• CO-GovOn Tuesday, Democratic Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne filed the paperwork to mount a campaign for governor next year, but stopped short of declaring she was officially running. Lynne says she’s still just “exploring” whether to try to succeed term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper, but filing now will allow her to raise funds while she hopes to decide by the first week of September. With Rep. Jared Polis having the ability to self-fund tens of millions and other Democratic rivals already having raised significant funds, Lynne or any other aspirants can’t afford to wait too much longer if they want to run a competitive primary race.

• CT-Gov: Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, a Democrat, revealed on Tuesdaythat he will go ahead with a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that prohibits him from participating in Connecticut’s public financing system because of his past felony convictions for corruption, which saw him serve seven years in prison from 2003 to 2010. Connecticut’s strict campaign finance laws have seen most other major candidates from both parties seek to qualify for public funds by raising $250,000 in donations of $100 or less.

Ganim could consequently struggle to raise enough money without access to public financing. Of course, even if he does succeed in getting the provision overturned and successfully qualifies for public funds, convincing the roughly 96 percent of Connecticut voters who reside outside of Bridgeport to overlook his past corruption issues will be an uphill challenge by itself.

• ID-Gov: Fundraising reports for Idaho’s open governor’s race are now available for the first six months of 2017, and wealthy developer Tommy Ahlquist leads the pack on the Republican side. Alquist raised $575,000and self-funded $378,000 since kicking off his campaign in early March. The first-time candidate has already spent heavily on TV ads and had roughly just $140,000 in cash-on-hand.

Meanwhile, Rep. Raúl Labrador brought in $309,000 since announcing his candidacy in early May, while he finished the month of June with $288,000 in cash-on-hand. Finally, Lt. Gov. Brad Little raised just $228,000 even though he was the only one of the three candidates who was in the race for the entire six-month reporting period, since he joined the contest shortly after last November’s elections.

• MI-Gov: Following the release of their Senate portion on Monday, Target-Insyght unveiled the gubernatorial primary segment of its recent statewide Michigan poll on behalf of MIRS. On the Democratic side, former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and prominent attorney Geoffrey Fieger are tied at 35 percent apiece while former Detroit Health Commissioner Abdul El-Sayed and wealthy businessman Shri Thanedar trail far behind at 4 points and 3 points, respectively. Unlike the other three Democrats, Fieger hasn’t joined the race yet, but he likely has substantial name recognition from his long and often notorious legal career; he was also Team Blue’s disastrous 1998 nominee for governor.

On the Republican side, state Attorney General Bill Schuette trounces Lt. Gov. Brian Calley by 42-14, while state Sen. Patrick Colbeck earns a minor 4 percent and physician Jim Hines takes a miniscule 1 percent. Neither Schuette nor Calley has officially kicked off his campaign yet, but both men have reportedly been jockeying for the open governor’s seat for quite some time. With so many voters undecided on both sides of the aisle, there’s still a long way to go until next year’s primaries.

• NY-Gov: Republicans still have no notable challenger to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but former hedge fund manager Harry Wilson has been considering running for a while. In a recent interview, Wilson stated that he’ll make a decision by late November and is “50-50” on whether to run or not.

Wilson’s only previous electoral experience consists of losing the 2010 general election for comptroller, but his 4.5-point loss margin against a Democratic incumbent is nonetheless the closest Republicans have come to winning any statewide race since 2002. Beating Cuomo in this expensive blue state with an unpopular Republican in the White House would be quite difficult, but Republicans are likely eager to mount a credible campaign lest a weak nominee wreak havoc for their down-ballot candidates.

• OH-Gov: Campaign finance reports for the first half of 2017 are now available in Ohio’s gubernatorial contest, and both parties feature heavily contested primaries. First, the Republicans:

Jon Husted (R): $2 million raised, $4.3 million cash-on-hand

Mike DeWine (R): $1.3 million raised, $1 million self-loaned, $4.7 million cash-on-hand

Jim Renacci (R): $576,000 raised, $4 million self-loaned, $4.4 million cash-on-hand

Mary Taylor (R): $640,000 raised, $437,000 cash-on-hand

Secretary of State Jon Husted led the field with a hefty $2 million raised, but state Attorney General Mike DeWine actually finished with the most cash-on-hand thanks to a $1 million self-loan. Rep. Jim Renacci raised the least, but as one of the wealthiest members of Congress he was able to loan himself a whopping $4 million. All three men finished the month of June with over $4 million on hand, but Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor lagged far behind with just one-tenth of that amount. Taylor will need to step up her fundraising pace if she hopes to increase her name recognition and remain competitive against her much better-funded rivals.

A recent Tarrance poll gave DeWine a hefty plurality lead, but it also showed how his rivals weren’t nearly as well-known, particularly Renacci. That name-recognition deficit almost certainly won’t persist after Husted and Renacci unleash their millions on TV ads, and this primary is consequently far from settled.

Connie Pillich (D): $547,000 raised, $721,000 cash-on-hand

Nan Whaley (D): $455,000 raised, $395,000 cash-on-hand

Joe Schiavoni (D): $342,000 raised, $245,000 cash-on-hand

Betty Sutton (D): $275,000 raised, $210,000 cash-on-hand

None of the four major Democratic candidates raised as much money as any of the four notable GOP ones, but former state Rep. Connie Pillich came closest with $547,000 raised. Ohio is an expensive state for campaign ads, and Team Blue’s candidates will have to pick up their fundraising pace if they hope to avoid being overwhelmed once the eventual nominee reaches the general election.

• RI-Gov: There have been hints all year that Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo could be vulnerable as she seeks a second term next year despite Rhode Island’s blue lean in federal races, but the second quarter fundraising numbers tell a somewhat different story. Raimondo hauled in $547,000 and finished June with $2.7 million on hand, a sizable sum for such a small state.

No notable Republicans have formally jumped into the race yet, but Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who narrowly lost to Raimondo in 2014 and is considering a rematch, raised $80,000 and finished the quarter with $180,000 on hand. Meanwhile, state Rep. Joseph Trillo and House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan are also considering running, but they ended June with a miniscule $5,000 and $8,000 in cash-on-hand, respectively, meaning they’d effectively have to start from scratch if they decide to run. A handful of other candidates have previously expressed interest in running, but do not have campaign accounts open yet that they could use for this race.


• CA-39: Wealthy businessman Andy Thorburn is the latest Democrat to jump into the race against longtime Republican Rep. Ed Royce in this suburban Orange County congressional seat. Thorburn doesn’t seem to have run for office before, but he immediately loaned himself a considerable $2 million, giving him far more money at his disposal than any other Democratic challenger at this point. Thorburn was once a public school teacher in New Jersey and was active in the American Federation of Teachers. In an unusual move to emphasize how he’ll advocate for working people, his intro video highlights how he was arrested and jailed for 30 days for participating in an illegal teachers’ strike way back in 1970.

Thorburn will first have to get past the top-two primary if he hopes to face Royce in next year’s general election. The Democratic field here already includes education consultant Phil Janowicz, pediatrician Mai-Khanh Tran, and Navy veteran Gil Cisneros, who once won $266 million in a lottery and could presumably self-finance his campaign like Thorburn if he wants to. Royce won’t be easy to dispatch in this historically GOP-leaning seat, but Democrats sense an opening in this well-educated and diverse seat after it flipped from 51-47 Romney to 51-43 Clinton.

• CO-07: Dan Baer, who served as ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, announced this week that he was joining the Democratic primary for this open suburban Denver seat. A few local state legislators are already competing for this open 51-39 Clinton seat, which includes Arvada, Westminster, and Lakewood, and we’ll need to see if Baer has the connections to get his name out.

However, none of Baer’s primary foes were exactly drowning in money at the end of June. State Rep. Brittany Pettersen had the most cash-on-hand, but her $122,000 is hardly the stuff of legends. Dominick Moreno led his fellow state Sen. Andy Kerr $77,000 to $63,000.

• FL-26On Tuesday, consulting firm president Debbie Mucarsel-Powell became the first noteworthy Democrat to enter the race against sophomore GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo. Mucarsel-Powell ran for the state Senate last year against local GOP state Sen. Anitere Flores, and while she lost 54-46, Mucarsel-Powell’s campaign impressed Democratic leaders.

Mucarsel-Powell is the first major Democrat we’ve even heard interested in this seat, which includes Key West and some of the Miami suburbs. While Clinton won here 57-41, this area still often favors Republicans down-ballot. Curbelo himself won a rematch with ex-Rep. Joe Garcia by a brutal 53-41 margin last year in what originally looked like a top-tier race. Garcia was dogged by a 2012 voter fraud scheme and by his own appalling behavior, but Curbelo also managed to badly outspend his opponent. Curbelo remains a formidable fundraiser, and he took in close to $600,000 from April to June of last year and has over $1 million in the bank already.

• FL-27: This week, former Miami Herald reporter Matt Haggman became the latest Democrat to join the race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Haggman recently stepped down as Miami program director for the Knight Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes journalism. This Miami-area seat backed Clinton 59-39, but the GOP still does well down-ballot here.

• IN-06: Things have been pretty quiet here since Rep. Luke Messer announced last week that he was giving up this safely red eastern Indiana seat to run for the Senate. The only Republican who had even publicly expressed interest was state Sen. Mike Crider, who jumped in right after Messer hit the eject button. However, state Rep. Milo Smith says he’s considering, and will decide in the next few weeks. Looming over the field is Greg Pence, the older brother of Mike, who hasn’t ruled out a bid.

• KY-06: Recently retired Marine Lt. Col. Amy McGrath upgraded her campaign from exploratory to official on Tuesday with a hard-hitting introductory video that quickly generated media buzz. McGrath retired from active duty this year after two decades in the Marines, and her service includes flying 89 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus a more recent position as a U.S. Naval Academy instructor. McGrath hasn’t run for office before, but she did previously work as a foreign policy advisor to California Democratic Rep. Susan Davis. However, McGrath raised just $36,000 during the month of June when she launched her exploratory campaign.

McGrath will first have to get past state Sen. Reggie Thomas in the Democratic primary if she hopes to oust three-term Republican Rep. Andy Barr in this greater Lexington-area House district. The 6th District backed Trump 55-39 and Romney 56-42, while Barr has not faced a close race since his initial 2012 victory, meaning he likely starts off as a heavy favorite next year.

However, the 6th does have a history of being more amenable to Democrats further down the ballot. Indeed, 2015 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway won the 6th 49-46 while he was losing statewide 53-44, and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray carried it 52-48 while he was losing his 2016 Senate bid to GOP incumbent Rand Paul 57-43. Consequently, Barr could be vulnerable in a Democratic wave, especially given how the GOP’s health care proposal, which Barr eagerly backed, would likely increase Kentucky’s proportion of uninsured people by more than almost any other state.

• MN-01: Two more Democrats have recently entered the race to succeed outgoing Democratic Rep. Tim Walz in southern Minnesota’s 1st District. Regina Mustafa is a Rochester-based political activist who serves on various local civic boards. She hosts an interfaith talk show about religious issues, and she would also be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress if she prevails. Meanwhile, Attorney Joe Sullivan works for a nonprofit that focuses on energy policy and related issues. Neither candidate appears to have run for office before; Sullivan says he’ll abide by the party convention endorsement process, but Mustafa was undecided.

Mustafa and Sullivan join a Democratic primary that includes former Defense Department official Dan Feehan, businessman Colin Minehart, and former state Sen. Vicki Jensen, but the field has no obvious frontrunner. This relatively rural seat has long been a swing district at the presidential level, but it lurched from 50-48 Obama all the way to 53-38 Trump last year, which could make it tough for Democrats to hold the 1st in 2018.

• NC-09: One year after he lost the GOP primary to Rep. Robert Pittenger by 134 votes, minister Mark Harris announced that he would seek a rematch this week. Harris, who badly lost the 2014 Senate primary, will likely have a much tougher time against Pittenger in this suburban Charlotte seat this time around. As we’ve noted before, last year, Pittenger was running for a redrawn seat that was 60 percent new to him. Furthermore, the FBI and IRS recently dropped, without any charges, their investigation related to Pittenger’s old real estate company over loans he made to his 2012 congressional campaign.

This seat backed Trump 54-43, and Team Red is favored to keep it regardless of what happens in the primary. However, Democrats are fielding a stronger candidate than in past cycles. Dan McCready, who served in Iraq as a Marine and went on to start a business that finances North Carolina solar farms, kicked off his campaign in late May, and he raised a credible $452,000 over the next few weeks. At the end of June, McCready even held a $412,000 to $132,000 cash-on-hand lead over Pittenger.


• NC State House, State Senate: In early June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down nearly 30 of North Carolina’s Republican-drawn state legislative districts as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders and ordered the legislature to redraw them. However, in a disappointing outcome for Democrats, the federal district court overseeing the redrawing of the maps did not order 2017 special elections to take place for the affected districts, meaning Republicans will enjoy their narrowly veto-proof majorities at least until after the regularly scheduled 2018 elections.

This order had some good news for Democrats too, though. The lower court directed the legislature to produce new maps by Sept. 1, rejecting the GOP’s proposed deadline of Nov. 15. Republicans could try to replace their illegal racial gerrymander with a legal partisan gerrymander like they did with the congressional map, but the court still reserves the power to draw its own districts if it finds that the GOP-dominated legislature’s remedial maps are still deficient.

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The poetry of justice – fight back against the money bail industry

Brave New Films
As part of our #EndMoneyBail this Summer campaign, we present the latest film in our series – “How Much Is Your Freedom Worth?” A spoken word poetry presentation, this is a stylistic departure at Brave New Films, but we’re always trying to reach people in new and innovative ways. Take a look.

Watch “How Much Is Your Freedom Worth?
Join Brave New Films and Alyesha in fighting back against money bail. Take part in our campaign to #EndMoneyBail this Summer. And to bring more people into this fight, organize a screening at your home, at your school, or with your faith community to see four films about this important issue. Please help us get the word out now about the movement to end money bail.

We all need to do our part – watch, share, take action.


Robert Greenwald
President, Brave New Films

P.S. We need resources to continue this work, please consider contributing $10 to this effort. With every donation, big or small, you’re helping to tell this story.

“without a sense of dread”

We are Working Washington

Keeley works as a line cook in Seattle. Check out what he has to say about what happens when we raise wages & improve labor standards. 

“Making $12.50 per hour in a city as expensive as Seattle felt like a punishment for a crime I’d never committed. I could only afford a small room in a friend’s house.

It was difficult, as he had a wife and child. Working the closing shift meant I would get home late and be woken early by the kid getting ready for school, so I was always tired. It’s not easy to find new work when you are always half asleep.

I saw no future for myself, and no way out. The only other jobs I could find paid similarly and were the same menial jobs like the one that I had. I couldn’t think about my future because it seemed too bleak.

Now I have found a better place to live, and make around $16 – $17 dollars after tips. I can save money and go out when I want. I can use my savings to go back to school, start a small business or just have something for when I get old. I can now think about my future without a sense of dread…” 

Click here to read the rest of Keeley’s story on our website. 

Working Washington

P.S. Have a story of your own to share? Send us an email and let us know about it!