Harris (R) elects not to run in North Carolina election do-over

Mark Harris (R), who ran in last year’s invalidated election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, announced on February 26 that he would not participate in the do-over election ordered for the seat. Harris cited health reasons for not competing in the new race. “Given my health situation, the need to regain full strength, and the timing of this surgery the last week of March, I have decided not to file in the new election,” Harris said.
According to election night returns on November 6, 2018, Harris led opponent Dan McCready (D) by 905 votes. However, the North Carolina State Board of Elections declined to certify the results after reports of ballot fraud. On February 21, 2019, the board called for a new election in the 9th Congressional District and invalidated the 2018 contest.
Harris has endorsed Stony Rushing (R), a county commissioner in Union County, for the seat. Rushing was first elected to a four-year term on the commission in 2002 and most recently won election again in 2018.
Rushing is the only declared Republican candidate so far. Dan McCready, who ran against Harris in the 2018 race, is currently the only declared Democratic candidate.
On February 27, the North Carolina Board of Elections announced it will set the schedule for the special election on March 4.

Senate Judiciary Committee member expresses concern over Rao’s position on substantive due process

Senate Judiciary Committee member Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) expressed concern on Sunday about confirming Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Neomi Rao to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit due to Hawley’s reading of Rao’s academic writings that he claims favor substantive due process.
Hawley stated in a February 24 interview with Axios that Rao’s writings suggest her support for substantive due process—a legal interpretation that aims to safeguard general rights not specifically named in the U.S. Constitution. Hawley and other lawmakers who oppose abortion criticize substantive due process because it has been applied to advance abortion cases, including Roe v. Wade, through federal courts.
“I get worried anytime I see a candidate for the bench who takes a warm view for substantive due process because to me that’s just code for making stuff up from the Constitution,” said Hawley in a February 25 radio interview with Marc Cox.
Conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, the Judicial Crisis Network, and the Faith and Freedom Coalition, restated their support for Rao. “Instead of supporting President Trump’s top judicial nominee, [Hawley] is spreading the very same kind of rumors and innuendo and character assassination that Republican leaders fought during Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, in a statement.
President Trump nominated Rao to the DC Circuit seat, which was vacated by Brett Kavanaugh following his confirmation to the United States Supreme Court, on November 13, 2018. Prior to joining the Trump administration as the administrator of OIRA in July 2017, Rao worked as an associate professor of law at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, where she founded the Center for the Study of the Administrative State. She also served as counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary under U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R), as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and as a special assistant and associate counsel to former President George W. Bush (R).

SCOTUS releases 10th unanimous opinion of term

The U.S. Supreme Court released its 10th unanimous opinion of the term.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the unanimous opinion in Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert, a case concerning claim-processing rules. It was her first opinion of the term.
The justices have issued 11 decisions, 10 of which were unanimous.

Upcoming Republican nominating convention in PA-12 special election

Republican Party leaders and representatives from the 15 counties that make up Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District will meet on March 2 to choose their party’s nominee for a special election on May 21. Six candidates have declared their candidacy on the Republican side. Democrats already nominated Marc Friedenberg on February 12—he was the only Democratic candidate to file to run.
The seat has been vacant since Tom Marino (R) resigned on January 23, 2019. He beat Friedenberg 66-34 in the 2018 election. Marino left Congress to take a job in the private sector.
This will be the first special election to fill a vacancy in the 116th Congress. One other special election is scheduled for 2020 for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, and two others have been called but not scheduled in North Carolina (NC-3 and NC-9). There were 17 special elections held during the 115th Congress from 2017 to 2018. In those elections, Democrats picked up four seats, and two of those were in Pennsylvania.

President Trump announces he will nominate Kelly Knight Craft to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

On February 22, 2019, President Donald Trump (R) announced that he would nominate Kelly Knight Craft to be the 30th U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Trump tweeted, “I am pleased to announce that Kelly Knight Craft, our current Ambassador to Canada, is being nominated to be United States Ambassador to the United Nations…Kelly has done an outstanding job representing our Nation and I have no doubt that, under her leadership, our Country will be represented at the highest level. Congratulations to Kelly and her entire family!”
Craft was confirmed to be U.S. Ambassador to Canada by the United States Senate on August 3, 2017. She is originally from Kentucky and served as the state finance chair for the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush in 2004 and Mitt Romney in 2012, as well as for other Republican campaigns in the state. She was a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention and a member of the RNC Rules Committee.
If confirmed, Craft would succeed former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Haley served as the 29th U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from January 27, 2017, to December 31, 2018.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is responsible for assisting the President of the United States and the U.S. Department of State in conducting U.S. policy at the United Nations, an international organization founded in 1945 with 193 member states.

North Carolina State Board of Elections orders new election in state’s 9th Congressional District

The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously on February 21 to order a new election in the state’s 9th Congressional District following four days of hearings on alleged ballot tampering and election fraud.
The state Board will set the date for the primary and general election, unlike the nearby 3rd Congressional District, whose upcoming special election will be scheduled by the governor. Rep. Walter Jones (R), who represented North Carolina’s 3rd District since 1995, died on February 10.
Pastor Mark Harris (R) led businessman Dan McCready (D) by 905 votes according to unofficial returns last November. The board declined to certify the results after reports surfaced of voting irregularities in Bladen County.
In the months-long investigation that followed, evidence was presented allegedly showing that Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., a Harris campaign contractor, and others had engaged in misconduct in the handling of absentee ballots.
Harris said during the hearing that he was unaware of any illegal behavior and also called for a new election. While prosecutors are examining the Dowless operation, no criminal charges have been brought against anyone in the matter.
Incumbent Robert Pittenger (R), who was first elected in 2012, was defeated by Harris in the Republican primary last May.

Sanders raises nearly $6 million in first 24 hours of presidential campaign

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) raised nearly $6 million in the first 24 hours of his 2020 presidential campaign, marking a record total for 2020 candidates with his initial fundraising haul and the number of donors—223,000—who contributed.
Sanders, who came in second in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary with 46 percent of pledged delegates, formally entered the race Tuesday.
Former American Civil Liberties Union national political director Faiz Shakir will serve as Sanders’ campaign manager. Shakir has previously worked with top Democrats Harry Reid (Nev.) and Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Jeff Weaver, who managed Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, is expected to join the team as a senior adviser this time around.
Sanders is one of twelve elected officials or notable public figures running in the Democratic primary for president, as of February 21.

SCOTUS releases two unanimous opinions

The U.S. Supreme Court released two unanimous opinions this week.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered the unanimous opinion in Timbs v. Indiana, a case concerning the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines. It was her second opinion of the term.
Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the unanimous opinion in Dawson v. Steager, a case concerning federal retirement benefits and state income taxes. It was his second opinion of the term.
SCOTUS has heard arguments in 44 cases this term and has 25 cases scheduled for argument.
The justices have issued 10 decisions, nine of which were unanimous.

SCOTUS to hear four cases next week

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the following four cases next week:
*Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, a case concerning the First Amendment’s limitation on governmental restriction of free speech and public access television channels.
*Mont v. United States, a case concerning supervised release for criminals.
*United States v. Haymond, a case concerning additional time for sex offenders who violate terms of supervised release.
*The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, a case concerning a World War I memorial cross on public land.
SCOTUS has heard arguments in 44 cases this term and has 25 cases scheduled for argument.
The justices have issued 10 decisions, nine of which were unanimous.

Special elections to the 116th Congress: What’s coming up

As of February 20, 2019, two special elections have been scheduled for the 116th Congress: one for Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District and another for one of Arizona’s U.S. Senate seats. Another will be scheduled for North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District.
Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District: A special election to fill the vacant U.S. House seat will be held on May 21, 2019. The vacancy occurred following the resignation of former Rep. Tom Marino (R) on January 23. Marino won the November 6, 2018, election with 66 percent support.
Rather than hold a primary, party committees are nominating their candidates for the race. On February 12, the Democratic Party nominated Marc Friedenberg as its candidate. Republican Party delegates are scheduled to choose their nominee on March 2.
U.S. Senate seat from Arizona: On November 3, 2020, there will be a special election to fill the rest of the 2017-2022 term that John McCain (R) was elected to in 2016. McCain died on August 25, 2018.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) first appointed Jon Kyl (R) to fill the seat until the special election winner takes office, and Kyl resigned on December 18, 2018. Ducey then appointed Martha McSally (R). The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of McCain’s term, ending in January 2023.
North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District: North Carolina’s 3rd District Rep. Walter Jones (R) died on February 10. Walter was unopposed in the 2018 election. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) must schedule a special election for the seat. Dates have not yet been set.
Ahead of these special elections, Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the U.S. Senate, and Democrats hold a 235-197 majority in the U.S. House (with two vacancies and one 2018 election, in North Carolina’s 9th district, still to be decided).
There were 17 special elections called to fill vacancies in the 115th Congress in 2017 and 2018. Nine Republicans and eight Democrats won those elections. Four races resulted in a partisan flip from a Republican to Democratic officeholder.