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SCOTUS issues opinion in case concerning federal maritime law

On March 30, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in the case CITGO Asphalt Refining Co. v. Frescati Shipping Co., Ltd. The case came on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

The case: An abandoned anchor in the Delaware River pierced the hull of the Athos I, an oil tanker, causing an estimated 264,000 gallons of crude oil to spill into the river. The cost of cleanup was $143 million. Frescati, the shipowner, paid for the cleanup effort and was later reimbursed for $88 million by the U.S. federal government. Frescati and the U.S. sued CITGO, the intended oil recipient, for a portion of the costs.

The issue: Whether under federal maritime law a safe berth clause in a voyage charter contract is a guarantee of a ship’s safety, as the 3rd Circuit below and the 2nd Circuit have held, or a duty of due diligence, as the Fifth Circuit has held.

The outcome: In a 7-2 decision, SCOTUS affirmed the 3rd Circuit’s decision, holding that a safe berth clause in a voyage charter contract is a guarantee of a ship’s safety. Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Samuel Alito.

In the opinion, Sotomayor wrote, “The charterer’s assurance of a safe berth is the entire root of the safe-berth clause, and crucially, it is not subject to qualifications or conditions.”

Additional reading:
Supreme Court cases, October term 2019-2020
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

America First Action launches $10 million ad campaign against Biden

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing
April 2, 2020: America First Action is spending $10 million to target Joe Biden in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Biden expects the Democratic National Convention to be postponed from July to August. blank    blankblank   

Ballotpedia is monitoring changes made to election dates and procedures in response to the coronavirus pandemic

Here are the presidential primary updates you need to know:

  • West Virginia: Gov. Jim Justice announced on Wednesday that West Virginia’s primary will be postponed from May 12 to June 9.

Notable Quote of the Day

“Voters in swing states with larger coronavirus outbreaks could behave differently than other swing states on Election Day due to the effects from the outbreak. An extended order to shut down businesses, for instance, could keep more people out of work and strain local businesses. Those in states with a higher death toll could be more critical of Trump’s leadership.”

– Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner


  • Joe Biden said he believed the Democratic National Convention would have to be postponed from July to August due to the coronavirus. “And then, even then, the Republican and Democratic conventions are going to have to…be prepared for the alternative.” He said it would be easier to move since the Olympics Games were postponed until 2021.

  • Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said the campaign would communicate with Donald Trump’s team to arrange a phone call between Biden and Trump on the coronavirus.

  • In an interview on ABC’s The ViewBernie Sanders defended his decision to remain in the race. “Last I heard, people in a Democracy have a right to vote and have a right to vote for the agenda that they think can work for America,” he said.

  • Sanders also called for Wisconsin to postpone its April 7 primary due to concerns with the coronavirus. He said early voting should be extended and the election should move to be entirely vote-by-mail.

  • The Democratic-aligned group, Protect Our Care, made a five-figure ad buy in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania that criticizes Trump’s response to the coronavirus.


  • Donald Trump campaign director of communications Tim Murtaugh discussed campaign strategy with surrogates on Wednesday. According to NBC News, Murtaugh said, “This is the bottom line: President Trump is leading the nation in this war against the coronavirus, and Joe Biden, the Democrats and the media have decided to be the opposition in that war.”

  • The pro-Trump America First Action is spending $10 million to target Biden in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin with television and digital ads and a mail campaign

Flashback: April 2, 2016

Reuters reported that the State Department suspended its plans for an internal investigation of how classified information was handled on Hillary Clinton’s private email server at the request of the FBI. “The internal review is on hold, pending completion of the FBI’s work. We’ll reassess next steps after the FBI’s work is complete,” said State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau.blank

Click here to learn more.

West Virginia postpones statewide primary to June 9, 2020

On April 1, 2020, Governor Jim Justice (R) issued an executive order postponing West Virginia’s statewide primary, including its presidential preference primary, to June 9, 2020. The primary was originally scheduled to take place on May 12, 2020.

According to the press release announcing the postponement, “Secretary of State [Mac] Warner said his office continues to work in conjunction with county clerks across the state and that details for the new election day are being finalized.”

Seventeen states and one territory have postponed state-level elections. In another five states, officials at the state level have either directly postponed or authorized the postponement of municipal elections.

Coronavirus daily update: April 1, 2020

As part of Ballotpedia’s coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, we are compiling a daily summary of major changes in the world of politics, government, and elections happening each day. Here is the summary of changes for April 1, 2020.
Federal responses
  1. No updates today.
Election changes
Overview to date:
  1. Sixteen states and one territory altered state-level primary or general election dates. Six states postponed municipal election dates on a statewide basis.
  2. Seven states adjusted their candidate filing procedures.
  3. Eighteen states implemented changes to their voting procedures. In 17 of those states, the changes involve absentee voting.
  4. Political parties in 10 states made changes to party events on a statewide basis.
  1. Idaho – On March 30, Gov. Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) announced that Idaho’s May 19 primary election would be conducted entirely by mail.
  2. Vermont – On March 30, Gov. Phil Scott (R) signed H0681 into law, making a series of temporary changes to the state’s election laws in response to the coronavirus outbreak: suspending candidate petition signature gathering requirements for both the August primary and the November general elections; authorizing local legislative bodies to transition upcoming local elections from floor meetings to Australian ballot (i.e., secret ballot) elections; and authorizing the secretary of state, with the consent of the governor, to enact temporary changes to election procedures (e.g., expanding voting by mail).
  3. Wisconsin – On March 31, in a brief filed in response to a federal lawsuit seeking postponement of the April 7 election, Assistant Attorney General Hannah Jurss indicated that Gov. Tony Evers (D) would deploy members of the National Guard as poll workers.
Ballot measure changes
Overview to date:
  1. Ballotpedia tracked 13 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
  2. Three states changed ballot measure procedures.
  1. No updates today.
State legislative responses
Overview to date:
  1. To date, 279 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
  2. Fifty significant bills have been enacted into law, about 18 percent of the total number that have been introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.
State legislative session changes
Overview to date:
  1. Twenty-five state legislatures suspended their sessions. Three of those (Louisiana, New York, and Vermont) have since reconvened.
  2. Nineteen legislatures either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
  3. Five state legislatures are in regular session.
  4. One state (Minnesota) partially suspended legislative activity.
  1. Alabama – The Alabama legislature suspended all legislative activity through April 28.
  2. Arkansas – The Arkansas legislature, after adjourning a special session on March 28, suspended its session through April 8.
  3. Louisiana – The suspension implemented by the Louisiana legislature concluded on March 31.
State court changes
Overview to date:
  1. Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
  2. Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
  1. No updates today. 
Prison inmate responses
Overview to date:
  1. Ten states ordered the release of inmates at the state level.
  2. Twenty-two states ordered the release of inmates on the local level.
  3. Seventeen states have not released inmates due to coronavirus.
  4. One state prohibited the release of certain inmate populations.
  1. California – According to court filings from California state lawyers, the state plans to release 3,500 inmates early within a few weeks. The inmates considered for early release are serving terms for nonviolent crimes and were due to be released within 60 days.
  2. Missouri – On March 30, Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice George Draper issued a letter to trial court judges clarifying statutes for pre-trial, post-conviction release, and the court’s authority to release an offender sentenced to a term in county jail or on parole.
  3. New York – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on March 31 that 900 inmates have been released to slow the spread of coronavirus in the city’s jails.
  4. Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed an executive order on March 29 prohibiting the release of inmates accused or previously convicted of violent crimes without paying bail.
State stay-at-home orders
Overview to date:
  1. So far, 37 states issued statewide stay-at-home orders. Seven of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 30 announced end dates.
  1. Florida – Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued a stay-at-home order effective from April 2 to April 30. This does not impact schools in the state, which are closed until May 1. DeSantis previously announced a similar order for four counties in southeast Florida.
  2. Illinois – Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced that the statewide stay-at-home order, initially scheduled to end April 7, was extended through April 30.
  3. Maine – Gov. Janet Mills (D) issued a stay-at-home order, effective April 2 through April 30. The order extended the statewide school closure, which was scheduled to end on April 27.
  4. Nevada – Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued a stay-at-home order, effective immediately and lasting until April 30. The order extended the statewide school closure, which was scheduled to end on April 16.
  5. Pennsylvania – Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued a stay-at-home order statewide. Previously, he issued orders on a county-by-county basis. The order is effective from April 1 through April 30. The order does not affect schools, which were already closed indefinitely.
  6. Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a stay-at-home order, effective April 2 through April 30. As part of the order, Abbott extended the statewide school closure through May 4.
School closures
Overview to date:
  1. Forty-eight states ordered a statewide school closure. The remaining states are leaving school closures up to local officials. Those 47 states served 49.8 million students during the 2016-2017 school year, accounting for 98% of the 50.6 million public school students in the United States.
  2. Seven states closed schools for the remainder of the academic year: Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Virginia.
  1. Maine – Gov. Janet Mills (D) issued a stay-at-home order effective from April 2 to April 30. Although schools in Maine had handled closures at a local level, this order extended closures statewide through April 30.
  2. Nevada – Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued a stay-at-home order effective from April 1 to April 30. This extended the statewide school closure, scheduled to end on April 16, through April 30.
  3. Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end April 3, was extended through May 4.
Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia in the last 24 hours
Federal politicians who tested negative for coronavirus
  1. Rep. Ronald Wright (R-TX)
State politicians who tested positive for coronavirus
  1. State Rep. Reggie Bagala (R-LA)
  2. State Rep. Reginald Murdock (D-AR)
State politicians who tested negative for coronavirus
  1. Gov. Kate Brown (D-OR)

Florida governor issues stay-at-home order

On April 1, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued an executive order closing nonessential businesses and requiring individuals to remain in their homes except for essential activities. DeSantis’ order is effective from April 2 through April 30. It does not impact schools in the state, which were already closed through May 1.

Thirty-five states have issued stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders to residents. Seven of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 28 announced end dates. Of those 35 states, 21 have Democratic governors and 14 have Republican governors.

Although the names of the orders—shelter-in-place, stay-at-home, stay home, stay safe—vary from state to state, they include at least two common elements: the closure of nonessential businesses and requesting all residents to stay home except for essential trips.

Additional Reading:
States with shelter in place and stay at home orders in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Idaho to conduct May 19, 2020, primary election by mail

On March 30, 2020, Governor Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) announced that Idaho’s May 19, 2020, primary election would be conducted entirely by mail.

According to the press release announcing the change, “The Governor and Secretary of State will work with the Attorney General and the clerks of Idaho’s 44 counties to refine the absentee voting process for these unique circumstances, including setting appropriate deadlines for registering to vote, requesting a ballot be sent to your home, and returning the ballot. Governor Little will issue a proclamation addressing the election in the coming days.”

Seventeen states have implemented changes to their absentee voting procedures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Additional Reading:
Changes to election dates, procedures, and administration in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Republicans-Issue 12 (April 1, 2020)

This week: Nearly half of Jon Huntsman’s petitions rejected, Massie’s coronavirus bill procedural move becomes focus in primary, and we profile Senate Conservatives Fund.

Click here to follow developments on the Democratic side. Have a tip or see something we missed? Email us at And please share this newsletter with your colleagues!

On the news

Where do Republican and conservative pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“In the middle of the 20th century, conservatism went from being dismissed as a set of ‘irritable mental gestures’ to having several competing ideological frameworks—some more ‘libertarian,’ some more religious. These all found common cause in the fight against Soviet communism—but it is now clear, in retrospect, that in the absence of such a defined enemy (radical Islam served the role briefly), conservatism is falling apart. Not only is it losing whatever unity it had. It is losing its own sense of self-definition and instead is degrading back to the level of irritable mental gestures.

Nothing exposes this like the right’s response to the coronavirus. Conservatives have been almost comically prone to grasping at quack pseudo-science and wild speculation on social media, anything that will help them cast doubt on the real and evident epidemiology of a disease. Why? Simply to poke a finger in the eye of the mainstream media, the experts, the ‘Deep State,’ the ‘elites.’ All that is left of conservatism is ‘own the libs’: If their partisan enemies are for it, the conservatives are against it, and there is no other, deeper reality to consider.”

Robert Tracinski, The Bulwark, March 30, 2020

“Both the crude and sophisticated efforts [to psychologize the partisan divide] tended to agree, though, that the supposed conservative mind is more attuned to external threat and internal contamination, more inclined to support authority and hierarchy, and fear subversion and dissent. And so the political responses to the pandemic have put these psychological theories to a very interesting test. …

So one might say that the pandemic illustrates the power of partisan mood affiliation over any kind of deeper ideological mind-set. Or relatedly, it illustrates the ways in which under the right circumstances, people can easily swing between different moral intuitions. …

But the right’s varying responses to the pandemic also illustrate two further points. The first point is that what we call ‘American conservatism’ is probably more ideologically and psychologically heterogeneous than the conservative mind-set that social scientists aspire to measure and pin down.”

Ross Douthat, The New York Times, March 31, 2020

U.S. Congress

Massie’s coronavirus bill procedural move becomes focus in primary

Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District last week requested a roll call vote on the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, which was ultimately passed by voice vote. News of Massie’s plan, which would have required a majority of House members to be present to vote on the bill, led several House members to travel to D.C. amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Massie said that “if we’re going to pass the biggest spending bill in the history of mankind … people should go on record for this.” He also said, “If this is truly a national emergency, and you’re being paid $174,000 a year to work, and you haven’t been to work in, you know, 10 days, I think you can go to work for this.”

Todd McMurtry, who is challenging Massie in the June 23 primary, tweeted, “People’s livelihoods are at stake while he’s playing political games. His top priority is to make himself the purest Libertarian politician in the House while failing to deliver results for Kentuckians.”

President Donald Trump tweeted Massie should be thrown out of the Republican Party, saying, “Looks like a third rate Grandstander named @RepThomasMassie, a Congressman from, unfortunately, a truly GREAT State, Kentucky, wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers Bill in Congress. He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous & costly.”

Massie said he hoped to patch things up with Trump. 

Massie was first elected to the House in 2012. McMurtry is an attorney. He recently represented a Covington Catholic High School student who settled a defamation lawsuit with CNN regarding its coverage of a confrontation between the student and an activist.

VA-05, VA-07 Republican conventions up in the air

Republicans in Virginia’s 5th and 7th Congressional Districts are scheduled to select their party’s nominees for the general elections at conventions, as opposed to primaries, on April 25. Amid the coronavirus outbreak and prohibitions on large gatherings, Republican leaders are considering contingency plans.

Fifth District incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman told Roll Call that prohibitions on gatherings could limit the convention vote to members of the 5th District Republican Committee. Roll Call‘s Stephanie Akin wrote the following: 

“That could shrink the number of eligible voters from about 3,000 registered delegates to less than 40 committee members, a potential political death sentence for Riggleman, who was censured by one county committee — the district includes all or part of 21 counties and two cities — last summer after he officiated a gay wedding. The larger district committee debated censuring him at the time as well. And the National Journal reported last month that at least four district committee members had donated to Good’s campaign.” 

Riggleman was first elected in 2018, defeating Leslie Cockburn (D) 53% to 47%. His 2020 challenger, Bob Good, said that “Republican voters within the 5th District want to choose a bright-red conservative over a purple, progressive Republican.”

In the 7th District, nine candidates are running for a chance to face freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) in November. Before Spanberger took office in 2019, a Republican had represented the 7th District since 1971. Spanberger defeated Dave Brat in 2018. Brat defeated then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the district’s 2014 Republican primary.

Brat endorsed Nick Freitas, a member of the state House of Delegates, for the 7th District Republican nomination. Freitas also has support from the Club for Growth PAC.  Former Trump administration Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Andrew Knaggs, House of Delegates Member John McGuire, and nonprofit founder Tina Ramirez are among the nine candidates.

NY-27 special election, regular primary to be held same day

New York’s 27th District special election was originally scheduled for April 28, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo changed the date of the state’s special elections and presidential primaries to June 23 because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Republican state Sen. Chris Jacobs is running in the special election and is one of four regular primary election candidates. Eight county Republican Party chairs selected Jacobs as the party’s special election nominee. Trump endorsed Jacobs in the special election.

The Buffalo News‘ Mary B. Pasciak wrote that, because the elections will be held on the same day, there is no chance Jacobs could enter the regular primary election as an incumbent.

The state Conservative Party and several county Conservative parties endorsed Beth Parlato in the regular primary election. Regarding the date change, Parlato said, “The people of NY-27 will be able to choose who they want to represent them. I have always felt confident going into the primary. (Jacobs’) voting record is too liberal for the voters in NY-27.”

Primary candidate Stefan Mychajliw Jr. said, “My opponent was banking on running as an incumbent. Now that potential strength has evaporated.” 

The special election will fill the vacancy left when Chris Collins (R) resigned Oct. 1, the same day he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements.

State executives

Nearly half of Jon Huntsman’s petitions rejected

Utah’s elections agency announced Thursday it had rejected nearly 20,000 signatures submitted by Jon Huntsman’s gubernatorial campaign. Huntsman must submit an additional 11,500 valid signatures before April 10 in order to earn a guaranteed spot on the primary ballot.

More than half of the 36,112 signatures the Huntsman campaign submitted—19,653—were rejected. According to, Huntsman’s rejection rate is nearly twice that of the two campaigns that have submitted signatures so far. More than half of the rejected signatures were found to be from individuals who were not registered Republicans.

Candidates running for governor of Utah may qualify for the ballot by either submitting signatures from 28,000 registered party members or by winning a spot on the primary ballot at their party’s nominating convention. No more than two candidates can win a spot on the ballot at the convention.

Incumbent Gary Herbert (R), who is not seeking re-election, signed an executive order allowing campaigns to collect signatures online. Herbert said the measures were implemented to aid in social distancing. Huntsman and Jan Garbett are the only primary candidates yet to submit their signatures. Spencer Cox and Thomas Wright have already qualified for the ballot via signature. The other four candidates are focusing entirely on the nominating convention.

A Dan Jones & Associates poll of likely primary voters conducted on behalf of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce found Huntsman leading Cox 34% to 23%. No other candidate received more than 10% of the vote. The poll had a margin of error of 3.5%.

The June 30 primary will be open to registered Republicans only. The winner of the primary is likely to also win the general election—no Democrat has won election as governor of Utah since 1980.

Jim Justice, Woody Thrasher launch ad buys

West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Woody Thrasher launched his tenth ad of the campaign season on March 26. The spot, titled “Leadership”, called for policy changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Thrasher outlined his support for expanding unemployment benefits, providing loans to small businesses, and allowing deferment of mortgage payments.

Incumbent Jim Justice launched his first television ad on March 18. It contains footage of Justice on stage with President Trump at a rally and says Justice has helped grow West Virginia’s economy while opposing regulations on firearms, supporting restrictions on abortion, and appointing conservative justices to the state supreme court.

The May 12 primary will be open to registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters only. No Republican has won election as governor of West Virginia since Cecil Underwood in 1996. In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton 69% to 27%. Justice was elected as a Democrat in 2016 before joining the Republican Party on August 3, 2017.


New York Senate Minority Leader will not seek re-election

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-02), once the state’s top Republican elected official, announced he would not seek re-election this November. Flanagan was elected to the state Assembly in 1986 and moved to the Senate in 2002. He became the highest-ranking Republican in New York in 2015 when he was elected Senate Majority Leader. After Democrats took control of the senate in 2018, he became Senate Minority Leader.

The Suffolk County GOP had already endorsed Flanagan for re-election. On March 30, the county party announced it had selected Mario Mattera, a member of the Suffolk County Water Authority Board, to replace Flanagan on the ballot. Democrat Mike Siderakis has also announced his intention to run.

Republicans currently hold 22 of the 63 seats in the New York state Senate. Flanagan is the eighth Republican senator not to seek re-election. The filing deadline for party-affiliated state legislative candidates in New York is April 2.

Term-limited South Dakota House Majority Leader faces first primary in bid for state Senate seat

State Rep. Lee Qualm (R-21) will run in a contested primary for the first time since winning election in 2012 as he attempts to switch chambers by running for state Senate.

Qualm is unable to run for another term in the House due to term limits. First-term state Sen. Rocky Blare (R-21) filed to run for one of the district’s two House seats. In February, Qualm filed to run for the Senate seat held by Blare, setting up the possibility of Qualm and Blare switching seats.

Later in March, Erin Tobin, a healthcare provider from Winner, also filed petitions to run for the state Senate seat. As a result, Qualm will face a contested primary for the first time since being elected to the state House in 2012. Qualm became Majority Leader in 2017.

Two candidates intend to run in primary after incumbent Tennessee representative announces his retirement

State Rep. Martin Daniel (R-18) announced he will not seek re-election this year. Following his March 24 announcement, two candidates—James Corcoran and Eddie Mannis—indicated their intentions to run for the Republican nomination.

Corcoran previously challenged Rep. Daniel in District 18’s 2016 Republican primary, placing third with 25% of the vote. Mannis ran for mayor of Knoxville in 2019 but lost to Indya Kincannon. Democrat Virginia Couch also intends to run for the seat. 

Daniel was first elected to represent District 18 in 2014 after defeating incumbent Rep. Steve Hall (R-18) in the Republican primary. The deadline to submit petitions to appear on the primary ballot is April 2.

Power players

“SCF seeks to bring bold conservative leadership to Washington by supporting candidates who have the courage to fight for limited government, a strong national defense, and traditional family values.” – Senate Conservatives Fund website 

Founded in 2008 by former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) is a political action committee that says it “helps candidates by bundling contributions for them from thousands of freedom-loving Americans across the country, and by running hard-hitting radio and television ads to promote their conservative campaigns.”

The SCF website lists policy goals in the following areas: “Stop Spending,” “Healthcare Freedom,” “Enforce Immigration,” “Term Limits,” “Ban Bailouts,” “End Earmarks,” “Protect Life,” and “2nd Amendment.”

SCF has endorsed seven Republican candidates in 2020 congressional races. Senate endorsements include incumbent Steve Daines (Mont.), challengers John James (Mich.) and Don Bolduc (N.H.), and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), who is running for an open seat.  

The group says it supports “a select group of House candidates each cycle to bolster our farm team for future Senate races and to help take back the House.” In 2020 races, SCF endorsed incumbent Reps. Chip Roy (Texas) and Scott Perry (Pa.), and Lynda Bennett, who is running for the open seat previously held by Mark Meadows in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District.

Heart of the Primaries 2020, Democrats-Issue 12 (April 1, 2020)

This week: Tlaib, Jones rematch in MI-13, LaJeunesse withdraws from Senate primary in ME and endorses Gideon, and we profile Planned Parenthood Action Fund

On the news

Where do Democratic and progressive pundits and commentators disagree? Each week, we bring you excerpts that highlight differing views.

“Though Biden has all but officially reached the position of the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, he continues to face overlying challenges that will make his path to the White House increasingly difficult. The first issue here is the impact of the pandemic on his strategy. For a politician whose greatest strength is his ability to connect with voters, which is traditionally done by traveling all around the country, speaking to voters at rallies, and of course shaking hands, Biden has been struggling to keep his campaign afloat during such untraditional and unprecedented times. …

While Biden holds a critical statistical advantage over Trump at this point, leading Trump by 9 points in the most recent Fox News poll with 49 percent of the vote, compared to 40 percent for Trump, the job approval ratings of the president both generally and regarding his handling of the coronavirus crisis have actually been rising.

The other problem is Sanders. Now that he plans to stay in the race, and both campaigns have effectively stalled because of the coronavirus, the momentum for Biden has come to a near halt. In a campaign that already lacked enthusiasm and the ability to draw in younger voters, Biden now faces the difficult task of seeking to do so from the confines of his house through pixelated online messages. This is hardly a way to win over more progressive voters, especially with Sanders still in the race.”

Douglas Schoen, The Hill, March 29, 2020

“It’s been a momentous few weeks, but one thing has not changed: Biden is still overwhelmingly likely to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, and he’s still better positioned than any other candidate to defeat President Trump in November. …

[Biden’s] perceived vulnerabilities are leading Sanders to stay in the race through this extended lull in the voting, ready to pounce as soon as Biden implodes, and also encouraging fantasies of some mysterious alternative mainstream candidate magically swooping in to take Biden’s place. …

It may well be true that Biden himself inspires only mild levels of enthusiasm among voters when pollsters ask them about it in the abstract. But in reality, when faced with a choice between Biden and Sanders, voters have showed up in states across the country to express their support for the former vice president. That’s a very good sign that they will do the same when his opponent is the far more widely loathed Republican in the White House.”

Damon Linker, The Week, March 30, 2020

U.S. Congress

LaJeunesse withdraws from Senate primary in ME, endorses Gideon

Ross LaJeunesse withdrew from the Democratic primary for Senate in Maine and endorsed the state’s House speaker, Sara Gideon. In a Medium post, he said the following:

“I cannot ask my supporters to continue working hard, to continue making financial contributions, to continue volunteering, to continue advocating for my campaign when the country is focused on an unprecedented health and economic crisis, and when the type of campaign I planned, meeting voters where they live and work and speaking person to person, is impossible.”

LaJeunesse, whom the LGBTQ Victory Fund endorsed, ran on a 10-point tech policy agenda and criticized Gideon by saying she received special interest money.

Gideon had raised $7.8 million by the end of 2019. LaJeunesse was second in fundraising with $600,000. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, EMILY’s List, and NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsed Gideon early in her bid. 

Bre Kidman and Betsy Sweet are also running in the June 9 primary.

Majority Forward, a not-for-profit affiliated with the Senate Majority PAC, recently announced a six-figure ad campaign praising Gideon’s work on a coronavirus relief bill in the state legislature. The PAC also spent six figures on an ad campaign in November criticizing incumbent Sen. Susan Collins’ (R) votes related to Medicare and saying she hadn’t held a town hall in 20 years.

Three election forecasters rate the general election Toss-up, Tilt Republican, or Lean Republican. 

Tlaib, Jones rematch in MI-13

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones entered Michigan’s 13th Congressional District Democratic primary, setting up a rematch against Rep. Rashida Tlaib. 

In August 2018, Tlaib defeated Jones in the regular primary election 31.2% to 30.2%, while Jones defeated Tlaib in a special primary the same day 37.7% to 35.9%. Jones completed the term to which John Conyers Jr. had been elected in 2016 until Tlaib took the seat in January 2019.

The Detroit Metro Times wrote,

“In the last election, Jones had the backing of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s formidable political machine.

But since Tlaib was elected, she has become a household name nationwide — thanks, in part, to her promise to ‘impeach the mother******’ on her first day in office — and raised $1.6 million this cycle, bringing her campaign chest total to $2.8 million.”

The primary is Aug. 4, and April 21 is the filing deadline.  

Sunrise Movement endorses Bowman in NY-16, Morse in MA-01

Sunrise Movement endorsed two challengers to longtime House incumbents last week: Jamaal Bowman in New York’s 16th District and Alex Morse in Massachusetts’ 1st District. The incumbents in both districts—Eliot Engel in New York and Richard Neal in Massachusetts—were first elected in 1988.

Sunrise Movement is a nonprofit organization that describes itself as “a movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” 

In New York’s 16th, six candidates are running, including Bowman and Engel. Engel chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Bowman is a middle school principal. He is running to Engel’s left and received the Working Families Party endorsement. The Working Families Party endorsed Engel in previous elections. The primary is June 23. 

Rep. Neal chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. Morse was elected mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts at age 22 and is running to Neal’s left. Neal and Morse are currently the only candidates running in the Sept. 1 primary.

Find our previous story on New York’s 16th District primary and our “Power Players” feature on the Sunrise Movement here.

State executives

Salango, Smith, Stollings participate in first debate

Three of the leading Democratic candidates for governor of West Virginia participated in the campaign’s first debate on March 24. Ben Salango, Stephen Smith, and Ron Stollings each discussed their platforms while criticizing incumbent Jim Justice’s (R) response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Salango, a Kanawha County commissioner, said he would prioritize workforce training and small business. Salango added that because different parts of the state face different challenges, he would be more inclined to support region-specific policies rather than trying the same programs throughout. Salango said he supported shifting the ideological balance of the state Democratic Party to expand its base.

Smith said West Virginia is wealthier now than at any point in its history but that large out-of-state businesses held too much of that wealth. Smith said he supports legalizing marijuana and ensuring that every resident has access to broadband. He said he was the only candidate to have published a plan to eliminate corporate tax breaks.

Stollings said his economic plan put small businesses and entrepreneurs first while encouraging growth in the state’s technology sector. He proposed opening an executive office focused on issuing grants and seeking partnerships to boost the post-coronavirus recovery. Stollings said his experience in the state Senate and relationships with key legislators in both parties made him the candidate best-positioned to implement his agenda.

The May 12 primary will be open to registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters only. No Republican has won election as governor of West Virginia since Cecil Underwood in 1996. In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton 69% to 27%. Justice was elected as a Democrat in 2016 before joining the Republican Party during his first term.

Former Kansas City Councilwoman Alissia Canady to run for lieutenant governor of Missouri

Former Kansas City Councilwoman Alissia Canady is laying the groundwork to run for lieutenant governor of Missouri, according to The Kansas City Star.

Canady was first elected to the city council in 2015 and served a single term. Rather than running for re-election in 2019, she ran for the city’s open mayoral office. Canady did not advance to the general election but was the third-place finisher in the nonpartisan primary with 13.6% of the vote.

So far, the only other Democrat in the running is venue owner Gregory Upchurch. Upchurch ran for a Republican-held state house seat in 2018, losing the Democratic primary 65% to 22%. The filing deadline was March 31.

Missouri is one of 17 states where the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor. Missouri’s lieutenant governor presides over the state senate and casts tie-breaking votes. Additional powers may be delegated by the governor. The last Democrat to serve as lieutenant governor of Missouri was Joe Maxwell in 2005.

2021 race preview: Jennifer McClellan weighs run for governor of Virginia

In this year’s run of Heart of the Primaries, our coverage of state executive races will include stories on emerging state executive candidate fields in the 2021 and 2022 elections as well as the most recent news from this year’s races.

Virginia voters will choose a new governor in 2021 to replace term-limited Ralph Northam (D).

Among the possible contenders for the race is state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.), who has been a state legislator since 2005.

Richmond Times-Dispatch‘s Mel Leonor wrote,

“Before Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, McClellan was among Democrats mentioned as a potential replacement for U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a close mentor, if he was elected vice president as Hillary Clinton’s running mate.”

Other potential gubernatorial candidates include Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, and state Attorney General Mark Herring.


Six-term former South Dakota representative files to challenge incumbent in primary bid for his old seat

Former State Rep. Dean Schrempp (D) submitted petitions to run for South Dakota’s House District 28A last week, setting up a primary with incumbent Rep. Oren Lesmeister (D-28A), who filed his petitions earlier this year.

Schrempp served two separate two-year terms representing District 28A in the 1990s: 1992-1994 and 1996-1998. He later represented the district from 2008-2016, serving four consecutive two-year terms. Schrempp could not run for re-election in 2016 due to term limits. 

Lesmeister was first elected to represent District 28A in 2016 after running for Schrempp’s open seat and was re-elected in 2018. He ran unopposed in both races.

Unlike most districts in the state House of Representatives, District 28A elects only one representative. The filing deadline to appear on the primary ballot was March 31. At the time of publication, no Republican candidate had filed to run for the seat, meaning the winner of the primary will likely be the district’s next representative.

Former congressional candidate files to run for Kansas state senate seat

Tobias Schlingensiepen (D) announced on Wednesday he will run for District 18 of the Kansas State Senate. The incumbent, Sen. Vic Miller (D-18), has not yet announced if he will seek re-election. In May 2019, Miller was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in a case that is currently pending.

In 2012, Schlingensiepen challenged incumbent U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R) in a race for Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District. Jenkins defeated Tobias 57-39%.

Miller was appointed to District 18 in 2019 to replace outgoing Sen. Laura Kelly (D), who was elected governor in 2018. 

No Republican candidates have filed to run in District 18. The filing deadline to appear on the August 4 primary ballot is June 1.

Longest-serving state legislator in U.S. history to retire

Wisconsin State Sen. Fred Risser (D-26) announced Thursday he will not run for re-election in November. Risser was first elected to the Wisconsin state Assembly in 1956. He has represented District 26 in the state Senate since 1962. With 64 years as a state legislator, Risser is the longest-serving legislator in United States history. He is also the only remaining World War II veteran serving in a state legislature. He will be 94 at the time of his retirement.

Power players

“Planned Parenthood was founded over 100 years ago on the revolutionary idea that women have the right to access the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives. Today, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF) fights to protect that right — often in the face of extreme politicians trying to take it away.” – Planned Parenthood Action Fund website

Founded in 1989, Planned Parenthood Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that says it “works to advance access to sexual health care and defend reproductive rights.” The organization is affiliated with the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the super PAC Planned Parenthood Votes.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund website lists policy goals in the following areas: “Abortion Access,” “Birth Control,” “Health Care Equity,” “Attacks on Planned Parenthood,” “Judicial Nominees,” “Sex Education,” “Sexual Assault,” “State Attacks,” and “Voting Rights.”

Politico reported on March 26 that Planned Parenthood Action Fund recently endorsed the following candidates: Al Gross (AK-Sen), M.J. Hegar (TX-Sen), Phil Arballo (CA-22), Pritesh Gandhi (TX-10), and Hillary Scholten (MI-03). For a full list of over 200 federal candidates endorsed by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, click here.

Vice President Joe Biden endorses Milwaukee Public Schools Revenue Limit Increase Measure

On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden voiced his support for the Milwaukee Public Schools Revenue Limit Increase Measure that will appear on April 7 ballots. Biden said the measure “will give public school educators the tools they need to help our students succeed – and they’ll allow us to invest in 21st-century facilities and technology so our children can learn in quality schools.”

The measure would incrementally increase the district’s annual revenue limit by a total of $87 million over four years and maintain that level thereafter with a total estimated additional property tax of $160 per $100,000 of assessed property value (a total tax rate of $1,118 per $100,000 in assessed value). The district’s revenue limit would increase according to the following increments:

  • by $57 million for the 2020-2021 school year,
  • by $20 million for the 2021-2022 school year,
  • by $7 million for the 2022-2023 school year, and
  • by $3 million for the 2023-2024 school year.

The 1993-1994 school year was the first year Wisconsin enforced school revenue limits across the state. A revenue limit is the maximum amount of revenue the district is allowed to raise via property taxes according to state law. In 2018, 157 school districts placed similar referendums on Wisconsin ballots, and 90 percent passed.

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Anchorage to hold elections for city council and school board April 7

The city of Anchorage, Alaska, is holding general elections on April 7 for six city council seats, two school board seats, and 15 special district seats. The elections will be vote-by mail, and all of the races are nonpartisan.

The Anchorage City Council, also known as the Anchorage Assembly, has six of its 11 seats on the ballot in 2020. District 2-Seat C incumbent Fred Dyson was the only assembly incumbent to not file for re-election.
  • District 1 – Seat B: Incumbent Christopher Constant is unopposed in the general election.
  • District 2 – Seat C: Jamie Allard, Roger Branson, and Stephany Jeffers are running in the general election.
  • District 3 – Seat E: Incumbent Austin Quinn-Davidson, Nick Danger, and MoHagani Magnetek are running in the general election.
  • District 4 – Seat G: Incumbent Felix Rivera faces Christine Hill in the general election.
  • District 5 – Seat I: Incumbent Pete Petersen, Monty Dyson, and David Walker are running in the general election.
  • District 6 – Seat K: Incumbent Suzanne LaFrance and Rick Castillo are facing off in the general election.
The Anchorage School District has two of the board’s seven seats on the ballot in 2020. Incumbents Dave Donley and Andy Holleman both filed for re-election.
  • Seat C: Incumbent Dave Donley faces James Smallwood in the general election.
  • Seat D: Incumbent Andy Holleman, JC Cates, and Phil Isley are running in the general election.

In 2020, Ballotpedia is covering elections in 52 of America’s 100 largest cities by population.

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