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.

SCOTUS agrees to hear challenge to addition of citizenship question on 2020 census

The United States Supreme Court agreed on February 15, 2019, to hear a case challenging the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Oral argument is scheduled for late April 2019.
Judge Jesse Furman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a ruling in the consolidated case on January 15, 2019, holding that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by including a question regarding citizenship status in the 2020 census. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) appealed Furman’s decision to the United States Supreme Court. DOJ requested that the court bypass an appellate court decision in order to issue a ruling in time for the 2020 census.
Judge Furman stated in his decision that Ross had “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices.”
In addition to concerns about administrative procedure, the plaintiffs had also argued that Ross violated the equal protection component of the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process Clause because his actions were “motivated by invidious discrimination,” according to the ruling. Furman, however, held that the due process claims fell short because the administrative record in the case did not demonstrate discrimination as a motivating factor for Ross’ decision.
The case consolidated two legal challenges before the Southern District of New York: State of New York, et al. v. United States Department of Commerce, et al. and New York Immigration Coalition, et al. v. United States Department of Commerce, et al. The plaintiffs in the cases included a coalition of 18 states and the District of Columbia, fifteen cities and counties, the United States Conference of Mayors, and a group of advocacy organizations.

Obama-Obama-Trump pivot counties in 2018 U.S. House elections

There are 206 pivot counties in the country: those that voted for Barack Obama (D) in both 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump (R) in 2016.
What happened in those counties in the 2018 elections for the U.S. House?
Democratic U.S. House candidates won 113 (55 percent) pivot counties and Republican candidates won 93.
Overall, Democratic candidates won by an average 12.3 percent margin while Republican candidates won their counties by an average 10.1 percent margin.
In counties won by a Democrat, the Republican candidate’s share of the vote was an average 21 percentage points lower than Trump’s in 2016. In counties where a Republican candidate won, their share of the vote was an average 6.9 percentage points lower than Trump’s in 2016.
Twelve congressional districts that intersect with a pivot county changed party control in 2018: 10 from Republican to Democratic, and two from Democratic to Republican.
Those districts were…
  • Republican to Democrat: FL-26, IA-1, IA-3, ME-2, MN-2, NJ-2, NM-2, NY-19, NY-22, SC-1.
  • Democrat to Republican: MN-1, MN-8.
 Across all 435 districts, Republicans lost a net of 40 of their 235 seats (17 percent). In the 203 districts that contain pivot counties, Republicans lost a net of eight of their 66 seats (12 percent).

Trump signs bill to fund parts of the government and border barrier; declares state of emergency

President Donald Trump signed a $328 billion spending bill that includes $1.375 billion in funding for barriers on the southern border. He had requested $5.7 billion in wall funding. Trump, because he said he did not get the amount requested, declared a state of emergency on the southern border and directed $8.1 billion to build a border wall.

In a Rose Garden announcement, Trump explained his emergency declaration, saying, “It’s a great thing to do because we have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized the declaration, saying in a joint statement, “The president’s unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist does great violence to our Constitution and makes America less safe. The president is not above the law. The Congress cannot let the president shred the Constitution.”

The day before Trump declared a state of emergency, the Senate passed the $328 billion spending bill by a vote of 83-16, and the House passed it by a vote of 300-128.

In the Senate, 42 members of the Democratic caucus and 41 Republicans voted for the bill. Eleven Republicans and five Democrats voted against the bill. 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker (N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) all voted against it. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also voted against it. The 11 Republicans who voted against the bill were Sens. Mike Braun (Ind.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Josh Hawley (Mo.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Tim Scott (S.C.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

In the House, 213 Democrats and 87 Republicans voted for the bill. One hundred and nine Republicans and 19 Democrats voted against the bill.

The package of seven spending bills includes funding for unfunded departments and agencies through September 30, 2019. It also included “$1.375 billion for construction of 55 news miles of physical barrier along Border Patrol’s highest priority locations along the southwest border,” according to a Senate Appropriations Committee summary. This was the same amount of money that was in the 2018 spending bill, according to Politico.

The bill was the result of negotiations that began on January 25, 2019, when members of Congress and Trump reached an agreement to temporarily fund the government while they worked out a larger plan to address immigration and border security.