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Georgia lawmakers vote to limit judicial deference

The Georgia House of Representatives voted 158-8 on Tuesday to approve legislation that would end the practice of judicial deference to tax regulations in the state. House Bill 538—sponsored by state Representatives Todd Jones (R), Mitchell Scoggins (R), and Brett Harrell (R)—would require the Georgia Tax Tribunal to decide all questions of law without deference to the regulations or policy interpretations of the state’s Department of Revenue.

Judicial deference is a principle of administrative law that instructs federal courts to defer to administrative agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous statutes or regulations. State-level approaches to judicial deference vary significantly, and state courts are not obliged to defer to state-level administrative agencies or adopt federal deference doctrines. Thirty-six states, however, have implemented forms of judicial deference to state administrative agencies similar to the federal deference doctrines.

If the legislation becomes law, Georgia would join a group of other states that have addressed judicial deference practices in recent years. Since 2008, Wisconsin, Florida, Mississippi, Arizona, and Michigan have taken executive, judicial, or legislative action to prohibit judicial deference to state agencies.

Ballotpedia tracks state responses to judicial deference as part of The Administrative State Project.

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Alabama voters to decide whether to change education board from elected to appointed on March 3

Voters in Alabama will decide Amendment 1 on March 3. The constitutional amendment would rename the State Board of Education as the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education. The amendment would change the board from being elected by voters to being appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Under the amendment, the name of the State Superintendent of Education would be changed to the Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education. Amendment 1 would also direct the governor to ensure that members of the commission “reflect the geographical, gender, and racial diversity of the students enrolled in public K-12 education in the state.”

Under the amendment, the commission would be tasked with adopting “course of study standards that ensure nationwide consistency and the seamless transfer of students from within and outside of the state, in lieu of common core.”

Currently, the Alabama State Board of Education is an elected executive agency of the Alabama state government, responsible for managing the state’s public K-12 education. The board’s mission is “To provide a state system of education which is committed to academic excellence and which provides education of the highest quality to all Alabama students, preparing them for the 21st century.” The board is responsible for appointing a superintendent of education and adopting courses of study and learning standards for each subject area, including what textbooks will be used. The board also approves university and college teacher preparation and certification programs.

In 26 of 50 states, members of the state board of education are appointed by the governor and approved by either the state senate, the full state legislature, or, in the case of New Hampshire, the Executive Council. In six other states, members are appointed by the governor but not subject to confirmation. Six states including Alabama use partisan elections. Two states and Washington, D.C. use nonpartisan elections. Seven states use a combination of appointment and election. Minnesota and Wisconsin do not have a state board of education.

Governor Kay Ivey (R) supports Amendment 1. Ivey said, “Every Alabama voter will now have a chance to drastically change the structure for education governance in our state. It is time that bureaucracy no longer stands in the way of our educators, and most importantly, our students. Our current system is simply not working. Statistics prove that. However, through this bold change, I am confident that Alabama will have a system that will work more effectively for our students and educators.”

Ballotpedia identified one committee registered to support Amendment 1: Yes for the Best Education Committee. The committee reported $100,000 in contributions, all from the Alabama Farmers Federation. The committee reported $98,000 in expenditures. Ballotpedia did not identify committees registered to oppose the amendment.

Opponents of the measure include the Alabama Republican Party and the Eagle Forum of Alabama. Eagle Forum of Alabama Executive Director Becky Gerritson said, “Amendment 1 will take away the right of Alabama voters to vote for their State Board Education representative. Amendment 1 has bait and switch language that is deceiving, such as ‘in lieu of common core’. One will notice that ‘common core’ is in lowercase which refers to something in generalized terms, and not in specific terms such as Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This is a play on words, yet very deceiving. The authors of this Amendment did not intend to get rid of Common Core State Standards, yet are telling the public Amendment 1 will get rid of them.”

Many board members shared their viewpoints on Amendment 1. Board member Tracie West said, “Just because a board is appointed does not mean it’s going to be successful and effective. Just because a board is elected does not mean that it is going to be successful and effective. I think that there are many other factors involved other than just being an appointed board.” Board member Dr. Wayne Reynolds said he would take legal action if Amendment 1 is approved. Reynolds said, “If I’m a constitutional officer elected to serve through 2022, and there’s a constitutional amendment that says I’m removed, and the Governor chooses not to appoint me, that is a point that I would litigate.”

Mason-Dixon Polling Strategy conducted a poll of 625 registered voters from February 4-6, 2020, asking respondents how they would vote on Amendment 1 if the election were held that day. 41% of respondents said they would vote no to reject the measure, 38% said they would vote yes to approve it, and 28% said they were undecided.

From 1996 through 2018, the state legislature referred 95 constitutional amendments to the ballot. All but six of the amendments appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years. Of the 89 measures that appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years, voters approved 81% (72 of 89) of the amendments and rejected the other 19% (17 of 89).

To learn more about the amendment and read statements from board members, click here.


Gilbert City Council member appointed Maricopa County Assessor

On February 19, 2020, Gilbert City Council member Eddie Cook (R) resigned to accept an appointment to become the Maricopa County Assessor. Cook replaces Paul Petersen, who resigned in January.

A county assessor is a public official responsible for determining the value of properties for tax purposes. As county assessor, Cook will organize regular evaluations of properties throughout Maricopa County and use those evaluations to calculate property tax obligations for residents and businesses. County assessors also maintain property records, deeds, and other documents related to county properties.

Cook’s appointment comes after former assessor Paul Petersen (R) resigned on January 7, 2020. Petersen resigned after being indicted in connection with an adoption fraud on October 8, 2019. The 32-count indictment alleged conspiracy, theft, forgery and 29 counts of fraudulent schemes, according to AZ Central. Petersen’s attorneys released a statement asserting his innocence.

A special election will be held to fill the vacancy created by Cook’s resignation. The winner of that election will serve out the remainder of Cook’s term on the Gilbert City Council, which is set to end in January 2021.

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Vermont state representative resigns

On February 14, 2020, Vermont State Representative Matt Trieber (D) resigned from the state House after representing the Windham-3 District for nine years. Trieber stepped down to focus on his job as a youth student counselor.

In Vermont, state employees elected to serve in the legislature must take an unpaid leave of absence from their employment during legislative sessions. Trieber recently became a full-time employee for the state of Vermont and would have been required to take a leave of absence during Vermont’s five-month-long legislative session.

Vacancies in the Vermont state legislature are filled by the governor. The person appointed serves the remainder of the resigning officeholder’s term. Local Democratic Party leaders will forward suggested appointees to Gov. Phil Scott (R). There are no deadlines set by statute on when this vacancy has to be filled.

Trieber previously served as a selectboard member in Rockingham, Vermont. Before becoming an elected official, Trieber was an environmental consultant with Atkinson Street Environmental in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

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Utah initiative signature deadline passed on February 18

The deadline for submitting signatures for a direct initiative to qualify for the 2020 ballot in Utah passed on February 18, 2020. The deadline for indirect initiatives was November 15, 2019.

Proponents of a carbon tax measure and a term limits measure had been circulating petitions. Neither group reached the signature requirement to qualify for the 2020 ballot. To qualify for the ballot, 115,869 valid signatures were required. Before 2020, the deadline for direct citizen initiative signatures was April 15 instead of February 15. Since February 15 was a Saturday in 2020, signatures were due on the next business day (February 18).

Clean the Darn Air, sponsors of the carbon tax initiative, announced in November 2019 that they would target a future ballot instead of the 2020 ballot after they had “not been able to get a major donation or other game-changing development” to help them reach the 2020 ballot. They had collected 27,651 valid signatures. The measure would have established a carbon tax and eliminated the state sales tax on food and residential and commercial fuel.

Unite for Term Limits, sponsors of the term limits initiative, had collected 858 valid signatures. The measure would have established term limits of 12 consecutive years for state legislators and eight consecutive years for executive officers (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state auditor, and state treasurer).

A veto referendum filed against Utah Senate Bill 2001 qualified for the ballot but will not appear on the ballot since the state legislature repealed the targeted bill. The state legislature may refer constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot during its legislative session, which is set to run until March 12, 2020.

From 1995 to 2018, an average of four measures appeared on the ballot for even-year elections in Utah, of which 86.5% were approved by voters. In 2018, there were three citizen initiatives on the ballot. Before 2018, Utah voters last decided a veto referendum in 2007 and last decided a ballot initiative in 2004.

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North Carolina Representative Johnson dies

North Carolina Rep. Linda Johnson (R) died on February 18, 2020, according to a statement released by North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R). Johnson, who served as Chairwoman of the Senior House Appropriations Committee, represented District 82.

Johnson was most recently re-elected to the House in 2018. She previously represented District 83, which became District 82 in the 2018 election due to redistricting. Johnson was first elected to the North Carolina House in 2000.

This is the second vacancy in the General Assembly of North Carolina this year and the first in the state House. The current partisan composition of the North Carolina House of Representatives is 64 Republicans, 55 Democrats, and one vacancy. Vacancies in the North Carolina legislature are filled by gubernatorial appointment.

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Cisneros and Cuellar receive endorsements in TX-28 primary

Over the past week, both candidates in the Democratic primary for Texas’ 28th U.S. House district received new endorsements. Jessica Cisneros announced support from former presidential candidate Julián Castro, the AFSCME, SEIU Texas, and the Texas AFT. Rep. Henry Cuellar was endorsed by LIBRE Initiative Action and the Texas Municipal Police Association.

Both have also received competing endorsements from sitting Democratic members of Congress. Cisneros has the endorsements of Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.). Cuellar has been backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Rep. Cheri Bustos (Ill.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The Democratic primary takes place on March 3, 2020. The winner will face Sandra Whitten (R) and Bekah Congdon (L) in the general election.

The 28th District has a Cook 2017 Partisan Voter Index score of D+9, meaning this district’s results were 9 percentage points more Democratic than the national average in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. All three major race rating outlets rate the race as solid Democratic.

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Illinois Supreme Court justice Robert Thomas to retire

On February 10, 2020, Chief Justice Robert Thomas (R) announced that he will retire from the Illinois Supreme Court on February 29. In the event of a midterm vacancy, the Illinois Supreme Court appoints an interim judge. The interim judge serves until the next general election occurring at least 60 days after his appointment. The judge must then run in a partisan election to remain on the court. The Illinois Supreme Court has decided that following Chief Justice Thomas’ retirement, Appellate Justice Michael Burke will assume his seat as an interim judge.

Alongside Thomas’ seat (to be held by Burke), there will be three other seats on the ballot in November. Lloyd Karmeier (R) announced his retirement on December 6, 2019, and his seat will be up for partisan election on November 3, 2020. P. Scott Neville (D) was chosen to fill a vacancy on the court in 2018 and his seat will also be up for regular election on November 3, 2020. Thomas Kilbride (D) will also face retention election on November 3, 2020.

The retirement of Thomas and Karmeier leaves Justice Rita Garman the lone Republican on the seven-member Court.

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Heart of the Primaries 2020, Republicans-Issue 6 (February 19, 2020)

This week: Trump endorses House challengers, DeMaio, Issa ramp up criticisms ahead of CA-50 primary, and MN state senator in swing district announces retirement.

On the news

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

“One of the most common misconceptions I hear about Donald Trump is that he is not a fiscal conservative. …

And yet, every year, when the president has presented his budget proposals to Congress, they have contained more spending cuts than any president in history. They sought to achieve balance within 10-15 years. They outline streamlining reforms to bloated and dysfunctional programs. …

It’s an election year now, and Democrats would love nothing more than to trigger another government shutdown in the cynical confidence the media will blame the president. And Washington Republicans love trying to buy goodwill from voters with money borrowed from our grandkids. So this year’s spending totals may end up no better than the last three years.

But it’s not Donald Trump’s fault. And when – not if – he wins re-election in the fall, the second Trump Administration will be ready to fight, and win, on this issue too.”

Jim DeMint, Daily Caller, Feb. 18, 2020

“Deficits have ballooned under President Trump. The popular narrative has been that the culprit is 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Alas, facts are stubborn things, and the available data so far shows that current deficits are primarily being driven by spending. There is room for reasonable debate over the long-term impact of non-offset tax cuts, but what is inescapably clear is that the other side of the federal ledger – spending – has increased dramatically under Trump’s watch. …

Under this budget, spending will increase to more than $4.8 trillion in 2021, though as Cato’s Chris Edwards points out, the true number is closer to $5.4 trillion when accounting for hidden fees and other budgetary gimmicks. …

Meanwhile, President Trump campaigned on and continues to support not touching entitlements, the single largest driver of deficits and debt. As [the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget] also highlights, the Administration has proposed reforms that would reduce Medicare costs by hundreds of billions of dollars, as it has in past budgets. But color me a pessimist for thinking that the most likely outcome is for those responsible elements never to materialize and all the existing spending (and a whole lot of new spending) to continue on autopilot.”

Jonathan Bydlak, Daily Caller, Feb. 18, 2020

U.S. Congress

Trump endorses 7 House challengers

 

President Donald Trump tweeted endorsements for seven House challengers Feb. 12. The endorsements are for battleground races with Democratic incumbents and open seats with retiring Republican incumbents. Four of the endorsed candidates are running in March 3 primaries (three in Texas and one in California). 

 

The following table shows each endorsed candidate’s race, including the district’s incumbent, whether the seat is open, race ratings from three outlets, and noteworthy district election history.

For more of the president’s 2020 endorsements, as well as endorsements from previous election cycles, click here.

DeMaio, Issa ramp up criticisms ahead of CA-50 primary

Former Rep. Darrell Issa and former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio are criticizing one another over their immigration stances and Trump-supporting credentials ahead of California’s 50th District top-two primary

On Friday, DeMaio released an ad comparing Issa to Mitt Romney, the only Republican senator who voted to convict the president on the abuse of power article of impeachment. The ad’s narrator said Issa was “the only Republican to support the witch hunt against Trump” and that Issa supports amnesty for people in the country illegally. 

An Issa campaign ad released Feb. 12 says DeMaio supports amnesty, open borders, and sanctuary cities. A Feb. 13 ad said DeMaio “opposes Trump’s pro-life agenda.”  

Daily Kos wrote, “DeMaio and Issa each raised more money during the final three months of 2019 than any non-incumbent Republican candidate in any of the nation’s other House races.”

Nine candidates are running in the March 3 primary: four Republicans, one Democrat, three independents, and one member of the Peace and Freedom Party of California. The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 3 general election.

California first used its top-two congressional primary system in 2012. In each 50th District election since then, a Democrat and Republican have advanced to the general election. Duncan Hunter (R), who resigned in January after pleading guilty to a count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds, won each of those general elections.

State executives

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson preparing for a possible primary challenge from ex-Gov. Eric Greitens

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s campaign is preparing for the possibility of former Gov. Eric Greitens seeking a return to office. Greitens was elected governor in 2016 and resigned in June 2018.

In an interview Friday, Greitens said the truth surrounding the allegations against him was beginning to come to light. He declined to say whether he would run again in 2020. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, an unnamed Parson advisor said of Greitens, “Will he run? I doubt it…Are we going to be haunted by his ghost until he declares or filing for the primary closes? Absolutely.”

Greitens resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of campaign information. A Missouri Ethics Commission investigation concluded Thursday that Greitens’ campaign had violated state campaign finance law but did not find that Greitens himself had committed any wrongdoing. 

The pro-Parson PAC Uniting Missouri launched a $1 million statewide ad campaign Feb. 11 describing him as “a former sheriff, a conservative tough-on-crime governor.” Last month, the PAC released a poll it had sponsored which included a question asking voters who they would support in a hypothetical Parson-Greitens matchup.

Candidates for governor of Missouri have until March 31 to file. Parson’s only currently declared Republican challenger is state Rep. Jim Neely (R). The Aug. 4 primary is open to all registered voters.

Tim Eyman to run for governor of Washington as a Republican

Washington gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman announced Feb. 12 that he would run for governor as a Republican. Eyman entered the race in November as an independent.

Although this is Eyman’s first run for elected office, he has previously been active in state politics as a ballot measure sponsor. Since 1998, 17 Eyman-sponsored measures have made the state ballot. Voters have approved 11 of them.

Under Washington’s top-two primary system, all candidates for governor will appear on the Aug. 4 primary ballot. The top two finishers, regardless of partisan affiliation, will advance to the general election. Each of the three gubernatorial elections Washington has held since switching to top-two primaries resulted in a Democrat and a Republican advancing.

Thirteen candidates are currently running for governor, including incumbent Jay Inslee (D), two other Democrats, seven Republicans, and three third party or independent candidates. The filing deadline is May 15.

Legislatures

MN senator in swing district announces retirement

Minnesota Sen. Paul Anderson (R) announced he would not seek re-election in 2020. Anderson represents District 44, which Hillary Clinton (D) carried with 60 percent of the vote in 2016. Anderson said he was retiring to focus on his personal and professional goals. 

Anderson’s district is one of two in the state represented by Republicans but won by Clinton in 2016. There are six districts in which the opposite is true—Trump won a district currently represented by a Democrat. According to the StarTribune, Democrats flipped a state House seat that overlaps with District 44 in 2018.

All 67 Senate seats are up for election in 2020. Republicans currently have a 35-32 majority. Minnesota has a divided government, with Democrats controlling the state House and the governorship. The candidate filing period runs through June 2.

Three challengers file in Alaska over dividend fund issue

In Alaska, three Republicans filed challenges to incumbent legislators over the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). As we reported earlier, the PFD issue has divided Alaska Republicans and led to the removal of three senators from committee assignments. 

The PFD is a payment to all residents of Alaska who lived there for the last full calendar year, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s (R) proposal to pay a larger divided has divided Republicans. Dunleavy has called for a payment of a full PFD according to a 1982 law and cutting spending elsewhere to balance the state’s budget, while lawmakers have proposed lowering the PFD instead.

Jesse Sumner filed to run against Rep. David Eastman in District 10. Sumner supports paying the full dividend and placing a constitutional cap on spending. John Cox filed to run against Sen. Gary Stevens in District P, and Michael Sheldon filed to run against Sen. Bert Stedman in District R. Both challengers say they support a full PFD payment.

Republicans currently hold a 13-7 majority in the Senate. While Republicans have a 22-15 numerical majority in the House, a coalition government of Democrats and Republicans control the chamber. The governor of Alaska is a Republican, so the state has divided government.

TX gov announces tour to campaign for incumbents

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced a pre-primary tour of the state to campaign on behalf of 10 incumbents with primary challengers and candidates for open seats or in Democratic districts. 

Abbott will campaign for Reps. Geanie Morrison (District 30), J.D. Sheffield (District 59), Jared Patterson (District 106), and Briscoe Cain (District 128), each of whom faces at least one primary challenger on March 3.

Ballotpedia has rated 10 of the 27 GOP primaries for Texas state house as battleground primaries. This is the second primary cycle to take place following the retirement of the House Speaker. Dennis Bonnen (R) announced his retirement in October 2019.

Special update: North Dakota presidential nominating process

We are passionate about politics. We’re dedicated to making it easier for you to understand the political process. 

The mechanics at the heart of the primary and caucus system can be particularly complex. We work to simplify the complexity—without compromising accuracy. Sometimes, we get it wrong. We sincerely regret those errors. But we also strive to correct them as soon as possible, giving you the right information in a timely manner.

In previous reporting on the North Dakota GOP’s presidential nominating process on Ballotpedia, we missed some key developments that distinguish the 2016 and 2020 cycles. Here’s what we’ve learned…

In 2016 (and in previous presidential election cycles), the North Dakota GOP did not hold primaries or caucuses. Instead, the party conducted a straw poll in the spring. At its state-level convention, the party then selected delegates to the national nominating convention. The results of the straw poll were non-binding, meaning the delegates to the national nominating convention were not required to vote in accordance with the poll’s results. This made the state convention the deciding event in the state party’s presidential nominating process.

This year, North Dakota’s Republican Party will conduct caucuses as part of its presidential nominating process. These caucuses are scheduled for March 10. 

Rule No. 21 of the State Endorsing Convention Rules states that delegates will be allocated proportionally to any candidate receiving at least 20 percent of votes cast in the caucuses. If a candidate receives at least 60 percent of votes cast, that candidate will be awarded all of the state’s delegates. According to The Bismarck Tribune, President Donald Trump will be the only candidate on the caucus ballot in North Dakota. 

Individual delegates will be elected at the state party convention, scheduled for March 27 through March 28. Delegate election, and all other party business, will take place on March 28. Twenty-six of the state’s total 29 delegates will be elected by secret ballot (the remaining three delegates are the party chairman, the national committeeman, and the national committeewoman). 

We are working to learn more about the terms of caucus participation, the location of caucus sites, and the form of voting. We will update this article with additional information as it becomes available.  

For more on the North Dakota GOP’s presidential nominating process, click here

Power players

“With Honor Action is a cross-partisan movement dedicated to promoting and advancing principled veteran leadership in elected public service. … As a part of our overall effort to highlight the importance of veterans and veteran issues, we support principled military veterans in Congress and help amplify their cross-partisan agenda that finds solutions for the American people. We also work with veteran candidates on the nuts and bolts of running for Congress, helping them organize their own campaigns and build a winning strategy.” – With Honor Action website

Founded in 2017, With Honor Action is a D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization associated with the With Honor PAC and the With Honor Fund super PAC. The group’s mission is to “promote and advance principled, veteran leadership in public service through education/advocacy programs, grants, and charitable contributions.” The With Honor Action website describes the group’s work as follows: 

 

  • Support organizations that promote cross-partisanship
  • Support organizations that help veterans
  • Enact substantial cross-partisan policies
  • Work with veteran candidates

 

 

 

 

So far, the group’s largest donation has come from Jeff Bezos, who gave $10 million to the With Honor Fund in 2018. In the 2018 cycle, the group spent around $4 million supporting Democratic candidates and around $5 million supporting Republican candidates. 



Heart of the Primaries 2020, Democrats-Issue 6 (February 19, 2020)

This week: Working Families Party breaks with Engel, endorses Bowman in NY-16; LIBRE Initiative backs Cuellar, groups spend for Cisneros in TX-28; and former IDC member gets primary challenger.

On the news

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

“Abortion rights are in theory one of the party’s basic principles, a standard it will not compromise. Except that it does, with disastrous results. Consider Dan Lipinski and Henry Cuellar, two conservative Democrats who oppose abortion: The party didn’t just welcome them into the fold, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is defending them against challenges from pro-choice women to their left. Abortion matters, until suddenly it doesn’t. Women have a sacrosanct right to the control of their own bodies, until a conservative Democrat faces a primary challenge.”

Sarah Jones, Intelligencer, Feb. 8, 2020

“Until recently, I spent much of my time working hard to elect Democrats to public office — but the early presidential campaigning pushed me away from the party, as well prompting my resignation from the board of Democrats for Life, where I had served since 2014.

For someone who is progressive on most issues, this decision doesn’t come easy. … 

But the party gave me no choice. Yes, ours was a small group, but as many as a third of Democrats identify as pro-life. Even when party leadership finally met with us, they didn’t take us seriously.

When we showed them that pro-life Democrats would beat Republicans in certain districts, it didn’t matter. …

Anything even hinting that abortion is less than good now violates party orthodoxy.”

Charles Camosy, New York Post, Feb. 6, 2020

U.S. Congress

McGrath airs first TV ad since November, picks up DSCC endorsement in KY

Amy McGrath released her first TV ad since November in the Democratic primary for Senate in Kentucky. She says: 

“We need a senator who fights for things like affordable healthcare, college, and technical school, not tax cuts for wealthy donors. That doesn’t mean free college or Medicare for All. I’m against that. Instead, we can improve the Affordable Care Act with no one getting kicked off their health plan. And I believe in national service as a way to pay for college.”

Also last week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) endorsed McGrath.

Candidate and state Rep. Charles Booker said the DSCC is wrong in thinking that “running to the soft center” is the way to beat incumbent Mitch McConnell (R). Booker supports Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. Ten candidates are running in the May 19 primary.

McConnell was first elected in 1984 and has served as Senate majority leader since 2015. He faces seven challengers in the Republican primary

Three ratings outlets call the general election either Likely or Solid Republican.

Working Families Party breaks with Engel, endorses Bowman in NY-16

The Working Families Party endorsed middle school principal Jamaal Bowman’s primary challenge to Rep. Eliot Engel in New York’s 16th Congressional District. The party supported Engel in past elections.

New York Working Families Party State Director Sochie Nnaemeka praised Bowman’s work with children and said, “New Yorkers need elected leaders who aren’t afraid to take on big money and who will fight for strong public schools, Medicare for All and a transformational criminal justice system.”

Engel was first elected to the House in 1988. He chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee and in 2018 was a founding member of the Congressional Medicare for All Caucus.

Bowman is running to Engel’s left, criticizing his votes for the Iraq War and the 1994 crime bill and saying he has taken money from corporate PACs. Bowman’s campaign website reads, “It’s time for a Democrat who will fight for schools and education, not bombs and incarceration.” 

Engel’s campaign said he has a progressive record and that special interests are “trying to divide the Democratic Party and distract us from the real mission, ousting Trump, flipping the U.S. Senate and holding the House.” His campaign website emphasizes his efforts to curb President Donald Trump’s war powers.

Bowman was also endorsed by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who said, “Unlike too many Democrats in Congress, Jamaal won’t just say he supports the right solutions – he’ll be a leader in fighting to get them passed.” 

Six candidates are currently running in the June 23 primary. The filing deadline is April 2. 

LIBRE Initiative backs Cuellar, groups spend for Cisneros in TX-28

LIBRE Initiative Action endorsed Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas’ 28th Congressional District race. According to The Texas Tribune, it’s the first time the group has endorsed a Democrat in a federal race.

A memo from LIBRE’s senior advisor Daniel Garza read, “On issues ranging from immigration to trade to jobs and the economy, our congressman has been a consensus builder. He has sought out and found allies on both sides of the aisle to push real solutions to real problems.” 

LIBRE’s website says it “advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community.” 

The Tribune wrote, “The LIBRE Initiative is one of several groups that engages in politics within the network built by conservative megadonors Charles and David Koch.” 

Cuellar, in office since 2005, faces a primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros on March 3. 

Cisneros is an immigration attorney. She says her progressive platform is more in touch with the district. She says Cuellar has voted with the president 70% of the time and highlights Cuellar’s A rating from the National Rifle Association.  

Cuellar says the district is more moderate and has criticized Cisneros’ positions on abortion and energy policy, along with saying she moved to the area six months ago.

The Working Families Party, the Communication Workers of America, the Service Employees International Union, and the Texas Organizing Project announced Monday they’d team up to spend at least $350,000 supporting Cisneros ahead of the election.

As we reported last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $200,000 on an ad supporting Cuellar, marking its highest spending for a Democrat since 2014.

State executives

Williamson ends campaign for Oregon Secretary of State

Former Oregon House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson dropped out of the race for secretary of state Feb. 10.

Williamson resigned her House seat late last year in order to focus on her secretary of state campaign. 

In her announcement, Williamson said that she was withdrawing due to a soon-to-be-published story about her campaign finance practices. Local media sources reported that the story in question is a Willamette Week investigation into her campaign’s spending. The story did not accuse Williamson of breaking campaign finance laws.

Williamson’s withdrawal leaves three Democrats still in the running: Mark Hass, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and Cameron Smith.

Unlike in most states, Oregon’s secretary of state is first in line to the governorship. There is no lieutenant governor of Oregon. Four governors, including incumbent Kate Brown (D), were originally secretaries of state who succeeded to the office after a governor left office early.

The current secretary of state is Republican Bev Clarno, meaning that if Brown were to leave office, Republicans would gain Oregon’s governorship and break the state’s Democratic trifecta. Clarno, who was appointed to the office following the death of Dennis Richardson (R) in February 2019, will not seek a full term in 2020. 

The May 19 primary is open to registered Democrats only. Additional candidates have until March 10 to file.

Williams, Cooney meet for first debate

The Democratic candidates for governor of Montana met for their first debate Feb. 12 in Billings. Mike Cooney and Whitney Williams discussed healthcare, education, and the economy.

Cooney, the current lieutenant governor, and Williams, a consultant, are the only candidates currently in the running for the Democratic nomination. As of the end of 2019, Cooney had raised $450,000 and Williams had raised $440,000. Cooney’s endorsers include incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who is term-limited, and Sen. Jon Tester (D). Williams’ include EMILY’s List and Missoula Mayor John Engen.

The filing deadline for the Democratic primary is March 9. The June 2 primary is open to all registered voters. The winner will face the Republican nominee in the November general election. No Republican candidate has won election as governor of Montana since Judy Martz (R) in 2000.

Legislatures

Pritzker endorses challenger in IL House race

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) endorsed Margaret Croke in the Democratic primary for Illinois House District 12. This puts him at odds with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who last week endorsed Rep. Jonathan Pizer in the same race. Pizer was appointed on Feb. 9, 2020, to replace former Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D).

Kimberly Walz announced her withdrawal from the race following the endorsements. In a statement, Walz said, “This race is unfortunately no longer about issues or experiences. It’s about powerful allies and their money. It’s not a reality that I’m happy about. However, it’s a reality.”

The primary is March 3. Pizer, Croke, James Garfield, Marty Malone, and Ryan Podges are competing for the nomination. No Republican candidate filed to run, so the winner of the primary election will be unopposed in the November general election.

Libre Initiative also endorses in Texas Senate primary

LIBRE Initiative Action (the same group that endorsed Cuellar in TX-28) and an affiliated group, Americans for Prosperity Action, also endorsed Texas Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-27) in his primary campaign against Ruben Cortez Jr. and Sara Stapleton-Barrera. The Dallas Morning News said that Lucio is often the chamber’s lone Democrat to vote with Republicans on social issues.

Several progressive groups responded to the endorsement. Progress Texas, Planned Parenthood, and the Texas Freedom Network each issued calls for district residents to vote against Lucio in the March 3 primary election. Lucio faced one primary challenger last cycle and won that race 84% to 16%.

Former IDC member gets primary challenger

Brandon Stradford (D) announced he would challenge New York Sen. Diane Savino (D-23) in the Democratic primary on June 23. Stradford told the New York Post he would make Savino’s membership in the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) a key issue in the campaign. The IDC was a group of eight Democrats that caucused with Republicans to give them a majority in the New York State Senate. The IDC dissolved in 2018 and Savino rejoined the Democratic caucus.

Savino faced a primary in 2018 over her membership in the IDC. In that race, she received 67.5% of the vote, defeating Jasmine Robinson (20.4%) and Stradford (12.0%). Stradford said he feels he has a better chance of defeating Savino in a one-on-one primary.

Power players

“We’re building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people.” – Sunrise Movement website

Founded in 2017, Sunrise Movement is a D.C.-based nonprofit organization that describes itself as “a movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” 

The group promotes the Green New Deal and has scorecard evaluating 2020 Democratic presidential candidates on the following categories related to the Green New Deal: “How they talk about it,” “How much they talk about it,” “Plan to win,” and “Green New Deal vision.” 

Sunrise Movement has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. 

HuffPost reported on Feb. 13 that the group was transitioning its focus from the presidential election to on three March 3 Texas primaries, supporting Heidi Sloan (TX-25), Jessica Cisneros (TX-28), and Mike Siegel (TX-10).  

To view a full list of the group’s endorsements, click here.

We are highlighting the cross-partisan With Honor Fund in the Republican version of today’s newsletter. Click here to read and here to subscribe.