What Happens When the Democratic Base Doesn’t Vote?— Welcome GOP Gridlock Champ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, More “Red” Governors, and Extra-Zany GOP Congressmen November 7, 2014
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” is a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein. You don’t have to be a Nobel Laureate to understand the definition of political insanity as practiced by Democratic voters in midterm elections. In 1994, Democrats stayed home whining about Bill Clinton’s failure to pass health care reform and to immediately right the economy. The result? Angry GOP voters took back the U.S. House and Senate. House Speaker Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Dole then shut down the government for failing to repeal Medicare. It took the Democrats 12 years to recapture both congressional chambers and the majority of governorships. In 2008, Democratic voters came out in droves to elect Obama and keep the House and Senate “Blue.” In the 2010 midterm, just two years later, the party base, women, young voters, blacks, and Hispanics stayed home. They were upset with all the legislative “sausage making” and GOP bickering involved in passing health care, Wall Street reform, and the economic stimulus package. They blamed Obama for not getting us out at once from a humungous GOP-caused recession. The result? The GOP and its Tea Party extremists took back the House in an electoral tsunami. They made gains in the Senate but failed to recapture that body because of several outright wackadoodle anti-feminists and a candidate into the occult (“I am not a witch,” Christine O’ Donnell). With the Democratic base coming out in force in 2012, Obama won re-election and the Democrats gained Senate seats, once more because of GOP anti-women cracks about rape and abortion (Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock).
In Campaign 2014, despite a herculean effort by Democrats to increase turnout in states with hot Senatorial races, the Democratic base fell off the political radar. The result? The GOP won at least 7 seats, more than the 6 needed to capture control. Obstructionist gridlock king Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will become Senate Majority Leader. GOPers increased the number of seats they have in the House, giving them the largest “Red” majority since at least 1946 (Hook, Wall Street Journal, 11/06/14). Republicans surprisingly continued to hold a majority of the governorships, even increasing their margin. They won more than 68 state legislative chambers, the largest number since 1920 (Hook, J. Wall Street Journal 11/06/14). In state legislatures, not as gridlocked as Congress, many laws get passed. In those houses, Republicans continue to enact radical budget cuts, voting rights restrictions, and draconian abortion laws. These chambers, with GOP governors, block Medicaid expansion under Obamacare for many people. Let’s look at the abysmal results of Campaign 2014 and what Democrats can do.
Again, again, again, I will repeat this till the proverbial “cows come home.” The majority of Democratic voters have to understand that EVERY election counts, midterms as well as presidential. National Public Radio’s 11/05/2014 “All Things Considered” program discussed the grim turn out statistics. In the 2012 presidential election, 130 million Americans voted. In the 2010 Tea Party-dominated midterm election, 91 million voted, about 42% of all eligible voters. Preliminary numbers suggest that only 83 million Americans voted in Campaign 2014. This total amounts to just 36.6 % of the electorate. Get it? Two-thirds of American voters stayed home. NPR added that if the final tally doesn’t raise the turnout to 38.1%, the 2014 midterm would become the record disaster in terms of voter participation. The 38.1% figure is currently the lowest modern midterm turnout and it occurred in 1942, during WWII.
True, Democrats were dealt a bad political Senatorial hand in Campaign 2014. GOPers went into the 2014 midterms favored to make significant gains. The president’s party is on the defensive in most midterm contests. “Team Blue” knew it had to defend 21 Senate seats. Six of them were in conservative states Romney carried in 2012. The GOP also went on offense, expanding its playing field in three swing states which Obama carried in 2012. In those states, Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire, Obama’s ratings had plummeted since his 2012 victories. Democrats faced very challenging races there. In Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire, Joni Ernst, Cory Gardner, and Scott Brown put on happy/ non-threatening faces “pretending” to be moderates. They received tons of positive media and key endorsements. Witness the Denver Post’s ridiculous endorsement of Cory Gardner. Dem. Bruce Braley ultimately threw away the Iowa race by demeaning farmers before a gathering of trial lawyers. Iowa voters then went for Michele Bachmann clone Joni Ernst.
However, Democratic no shows were the main element in defeating Mark Udall, Bruce Braley, and Kay Hagan in Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina respectively. Without these losses, McConnell still would not be Majority Leader. (The race in Alaska between Dem. Mark Begich and GOPer Dan Sullivan has yet to be called, and Dem. Mary Landrieu faces a December run off in Louisiana). The base voters in the modern Democratic coalition consists of what columnist Ronald Brownstein calls the “coalition of the ascendant,” the young, single women, African Americans, and Latinos. Despite strong Get Out the Vote Democratic efforts, the 2014 “coalition of the ascendant,” morphed into the “coalition of the descending or the disappearing.” After the 11/04/2014 vote, the Democratic base posted numbers very similar to 2010, the year of the Democratic “shellacking.” Democrats, in 2010, lost a combined 69 House and Senate seats. Virginia 2014 “Blue” turn out was so poor that Dem. Mark Warner, considered a re-election shoo-in, nearly lost his seat (LA Times, Reston, 11/06/14).
The 18-29 year olds—This group was only 13% of the 2014 electorate, comparable to its 12% 2010 total. In 2012, when Obama won re-election, the 18-29 year olds were nearly 20% of the electorate. The 18-29 voters showed up at even lower rates in key 2014 Senate contests (North Carolina, 12%, Georgia, 10%, Arkansas, 12%, and Louisiana, 12%). Democrats can not win Senate, House, or gubernatorial races with such numbers and they didn’t (NBC News, Ververs, 11/05/14).
Single women— This group was just over 20% of the electorate in 2014 and went Democratic by 32 points. In 2012, this group was close to 25% and went for Obama over Romney by 36 points. Democrats can not win the Senate, House, and governorships with such decreasing numbers and they didn’t (Ververs, NBC).
African Americans—In 2014, they made up 12% of the national electorate, similar to their 11% showing in 2010. In 2012, when Obama won, blacks were 13%. In southern states like Ga. and N. Carolina, Democrats need high black turnout to offset many racially polarized whites. In N. Carolina, where Kay Hagan lost a 1.7% race to GOPer Thom Tillis, black voters made up 21% of the electorate. In 2012, the figure was 23% (NBC). Democrats can not win with such decreasing numbers and they didn’t (“Politico,” Ververs NBC).
Latinos—Latinos only made up 8% of the 2014 electorate v. 10% in 2012. They chose Obama over Romney by 44%. This time, they picked Democrats by only 28%, almost halving the margin. These results probably hurt Coloradan Mark Udall who lost by 2.9 points (“Politico”). Democrats can not win with such decreasing numbers and they didn’t (Ververs, NBC).
While the young don’t vote during midterm elections, the senior citizens GOP- leaning crowd does. In Campaign 2014, 37% of the voters were over age 60, but only 12% under 30. This 25 point difference is larger than the 16-20 point age gap seen in the last three midterms (NBC News). Democrats can not win with such a huge old-young gap and they didn’t.
Yes, the Democrats won a majority of women voters in the Senate battlegrounds of Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, and N. Carolina. However, it was not enough, because male voters overwhelmingly supported the GOP. According to a Pew Poll, women in general favored Democrats by just 4%, while men went GOP by 16%, similar to 2010. Democrats held on to union households and gays similar to 2010. Democrats won Asians, city dwellers, and Jewish voters. However, again, too few “Blues” showed up. Too many Democrats stay home because of apathy or because their candidate did not vote a pure 100% for their particular issues. The GOP base of white males, evangelical Protestants, Southerners, older residents, and rural dwellers held their noses over Ga. corporate outsourcer David Perdue but voted for him in droves. They were not happy with out -of -touch Kansas GOP Senator Pat Roberts but dutifully flocked to the polls for him. They realize, unlike Democrats, that politics is a pragmatic business. The Democratic or Republican winner backs their party’s agenda 90+% of the time. Democrats, unlike GOPers, erroneously think that they have to “fall in love” with a candidate. Too many Democrats blame Obama for not righting the economy at once. They forgot or didn’t know that conditions are greatly improving, (a 5.9% pre-election unemployment rate, now 5.8%). Voters did not understand that the failure to pass more jobs legislation was caused by GOP obstructionism led by incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Democrats and their candidates stand for health care reform, women’s rights, minimum wage increases, and environmental protection. Republicans, no matter how nicely presented, believe in laissez-faire dog-eat dog economics for the top 1%ers. Again, too many people fail to remember these basic facts.
Democrats, so far, have won one contested race. We will not have Mass. carpetbagger Scott Brown back in the Senate representing New Hampshire. New Hampshire residents defeated Wall Street’s champion and re-elected Dem. Jeanne Shaheen. And GOPers failed to defeat Oregon’s Jeff Merkley with wacky Monica Wehby. Minn.’s Al Franken easily won and so did Michigan’s Gary Peters against Koch-backed Terri Lynn Land. The GOP coached their candidates not to talk about rape or abortion. They made them look wholesome and non-threatening. When they flipped flopped on abortion, like Cory Gardner, too many voters and too many members of the media gave them a free pass. In 2016, Democrats must get stronger candidates and call out GOP hypocrites better. In 2016, Republicans will have to defend many seats they won in 2010. Hillary, hopefully, will then be running for President.
Sure, the Democrats had a tough field to defend in the Senate in 2014. However, most analysts believed the GOP would lose a majority of governorships. They were defending 22 seats and many of them were in areas that Obama carried twice. It didn’t work out that way. Poor “Blue” turnout destroyed Democratic hopes of defeating Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. Fla. Democrat Charlie Crist surprisingly lost to right wing Rick Scott by 1.1% of the vote. Latino voters only made up 13% of the electorate, compared to 17% of the state when Obama took Fla. in 2012 (NBC Ververs, “Politico”). In racially polarized Ga., unpopular Governor Nathan Deal defeated Jason Carter, former Pres. Carter’s grandson, with a poor showing of young Democratic voters. Poor turn out in Michigan allowed GOP Rick Snyder to win. And in Kansas where GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s extreme budget cuts made him a risky bet to win a second term, GOPers still came out strongly to re-elect him by nearly 4 points (“Politico”). In Maine, Independent Eliot “Ralph Nader” Cutler took 8.4% of the vote allowing buffoonish Tea Partier Paul LePage to defeat Dem. Mike Michaud by nearly 5 points (“Politico”). Democrats lost the governorship in Illinois where millionaire outsourcer Bruce Rauner beat Pat Quinn. Inept Martha Coakley, who gave us Scott Brown, lost another Mass. election, this time for the governorship to GOPer Charlie Baker (“Politico”). Another GOP pickup was in “Blue” Maryland, where Dem. Anthony Brown lost to GOPer Larry Hogan (CNN, 11/05/14). Brown was a poor candidate, but turnout did not help the “Blue Team.” On the plus side, Calif.’s Jerry Brown coasted to victory. Colorado’s Dem. Gov. John Hickenlooper, unlike Sen. Mark Udall, won his race and so did Conn. Dem. Gov. Dan Malloy (“Politico,” CNN). The brightest spot was Pennsylvania where Democrat Tom Wolf defeated Tom Corbett by nearly 20 points (“Politico”). The GOP now has gone from 29 to 31 governorships (Wall Street Journal, Hook, 11/06/14). Again, it’s the “T” word, “Turnout,” stupid.
Few people expected the Democrats to retake the House because after 2010, the GOP governors and state legislatures creatively gerrymandered congressional districts to make them safe for the GOP majority. Democrats, in 2014, were, however, hoping to cut into the GOP margin of 17 seats. Again, it didn’t work that way. Poor Democratic turnouts destroyed not only Senate and governors’ races, but were disastrous in the House. Although several races have not been decided, the GOP has added at least about 9 seats and will probably end up with mid-double digit gains (Wash. Post, “The Fix,” A. Blake, 11/05/14). Poor Illinois turnout caused the loss of 2 Democratic seats, Brad Schneider and Bill Eynart. A Republican took Bruce Braley’s Iowa congressional seat. In New Hampshire, Carol Shea Porter lost a rematch to Frank Guinta. In low turnout Fla., Dem. Joe Garcia lost his race. He had replaced the corrupt GOPer David Rivera. However, in one bright spot, Dem. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Senator Bob Graham, defeated zany undertaker Steve Southerland in the Tallahassee area. Southerland forgot the GOP “playbook” about not making fun of women. He spoke about women “liking lingerie showers (Kos, Clawson, 11/05/14).” One of the Democrats’ brightest stars, Andrew Romanoff was clobbered by Mike Coffman in the Aurora, Col. 6th District. Romanoff made the mistake of not running in 2012 against Coffman, who barely won then against an unknown Democrat. Romanoff chose, instead, to challenge Coffman, a former anti-immigration fellow who dabbled in anti-Obama “birther” talk in poor turnout 2014. Coffman “flipped” on immigration and started learning Spanish to calm his new Hispanic constituents (Denver Post, 11/04/14). In the Md. 6th, which includes Democratic Washington suburbs, John Delaney had a close race because of poor turnout. And Staten Island voters re-elected indicted Cong. Mike Grimm in the NY 11th . Grimm had threatened to throw a reporter off the Capitol Hill balcony. And many of the newly elected Republican Congressmen will give Tex. wacko Rep. Louie Gohmert a run for the “House Loony King” crown. These include Wisconsin’s Glenn Grothmann who brags about stopping the “gay agenda in our nation’s classrooms.” Ga. Cong. Jody Hice is anti-gay and believes women should only enter politics “with the authority of her husband.” Unfortunately, Mark Walker, won his race in the N. Carolina 6th . In this fairly swing district, he said he’d vote to “impeach Obama.” He also proposed to “laser or blitz” Mexico over immigrants crossing our borders (Kos, Hunter, 11/05/14). You get the idea.
Democrats must understand that the public agrees with them on almost everything including raising the minimum wage, making the super rich pay more taxes, and letting many illegal immigrants stay in the U.S. The public supports legalizing same sex marriage, keeping health care reform, and stemming global warming. The lame duck Senate must push through as many as possible of the hundreds of judicial and other Obama appointees waiting approval. Obama must soon issue deportation relief to millions of undocumented immigrants by executive order, and let the GOP howl. Too many Hispanics and some progressives may not have voted because Obama did not act on this before the midterms (See CNN, Jones, 11/07/14). Obama must not try to compromise with any GOP draconian budget proposals or attempts to gut health care. He must act strongly in the face of the GOP congressional majorities. Too many Democrats felt he was less than a strong leader in the run up to the midterms.
Democrats must work night and day to explain to their base that EVERY election counts. Democrats must constantly speak to school groups, their own volunteers, and other associations about why voting in every election is key. This issue must be repeatedly talked about way before any campaigns start. Contacting lists of voters just before election time will not do the job. Democrats must also hone their economic and social messages into clear sound bites. GOP voter intensity must not trump voter propensity in any national election. We only look like a center-right nation because the majority of our base does not show up. S. Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham knows this. In his words, “When a diverse electorate shows up, Republicans struggle to win (NY Times, Martin, 11/05/14).” Or again, as Bill Clinton said it, “When Democrats vote, we win.” Just vote in every election.
On a personal note, today is the tenth anniversary of my starting this blog. I began this blog after W edged out Kerry in the 2004 election with the hope of encouraging Democrats to take back the Presidency and Congress. Since then, I have written over 520 blog posts about national political issues. I have analyzed various races, candidates, and legislators. I hope to continue discussing these matters. I will keep emphasizing that all elections count and that turn out is everything.
“Democrats, It’s Time for You to Go and Vote,” (Apologies to Dr. Seuss and Art Buchwald) October 15, 2014
Folks, the main reason I have been writing this blog since 11/2004 is to show how Democrats can maintain or regain power in the White House, Senate, House, governor’s mansions, and state legislative chambers. One theme I keep repeating, repeating, and repeating is that ALL elections count, not just presidential ones. In non-presidential year midterms, the entire 435 member House, one-third of the 100 Senators, and many statewide offices are in play. The second related theme I constantly emphasize is that it’s “the ‘T’-word, stupid.” Translation: elections are won by “T urnout, T urnout, T urnout.” Unlike the GOP base, which understands the importance of every election and strongly votes in midterm contests, too many Democrats drop out of the electoral universe during mid-term years. They, therefore, allow Republicans to capture the House, Senate, and dominate state races. GOPers then get to block progressive legislation overwhelmingly favored by the public and enact reactionary social programs.
Demography backs the Democrats. We have a far larger and growing base including women, 18-29 year olds, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, gays, and professionals. In “Big Dog” Bill Clinton’s words, “If Democrats vote, we win. If they don’t, we are committing political malpractice on their own future.” In 1994, Democrats stayed home. As a result, GOPers Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole took over the House and Senate, shut down the government, and tried to repeal Medicare. The GOP state legislatures gerrymandered state and federal House districts. It took the Democrats 12 years to recapture both federal chambers as well as most state offices. After taking back the House and Senate in 2006 and putting Obama in the White House in 2008, too many Democrats declared their “mission accomplished.” Other Democrats whined about Obama, despite his historical achievements, (stimulus bill, health care, Wall Street reform), and also stayed home. They forgot the lessons of 1994. They failed to understand that political gains are not static and must always be defended. Campaign 2010 was “deja vu all over again.” About 22 million fewer unmarried women, a core Democratic group, were no-shows in non-presidential year 2010 (LA Times, Jean Merl, 9/28/14). Overall 2010 turnout was down by about 1/3 or more, from nearly 130 million to about 82.5 million. Had at least 25 million of these non-voters, the bulk of them women, liberals, the young, blacks, and Latinos, shown up, Nancy Pelosi, one of the most effective House Speakers of all time, would still hold the gavel (NY Times, Daily Kos, 11/03/10, See K. Hunter, CQ-Roll Call).
If Obama had Pelosi in the House in addition to the present Democratic Senate, immigration reform, more jobs legislation, minimum wage increases, and unemployment insurance benefits would probably have passed. We would not have been fighting about cutting Planned Parenthood and draconian abortion restrictions. We would not have faced a second GOP-led government shut down, this time, over health care reform. We would not have had numerous sham investigations of the 2012 Benghazi, Libya terrorist attack. Not raising the debt ceiling unless radical budget cuts were enacted would never have been considered. In 2012, when Obama decisively defeated Romney, women gave him 55% of the vote, similar to his 2008 total. Women were mainstays in his 2012 victory and there was an 11% gender gap favoring Democrats. In 2010, when millions of Democratic women did not vote, the GOP won females by a 49%-48% margin (LA Times, 11/09/10, M. Gold, J. Steffen, AP, Edison Research, LA Times, West, 11/08/12).
As I have repeatedly discussed, Democrats need to have a net gain of 17 House seats to make Pelosi Speaker. After the 2010 elections, as in the 1990’s, GOP state majorities creatively gerrymandered many congressional districts, making it hard for Democrats to take back numerous House seats. However, several House seats still remain in play. Democrats can cut the GOP margin with strong turnout. With strong turnout, Democrats can also win a majority of governorships and state legislatures which will allow more states to create more favorable redistricting boundaries. Finally, Democrats must come out in droves to keep the Senate “Blue” to enact Obama’s progressive legislation and push through good judicial nominees. Democrats currently have a working 55-45 Senate majority. In order to hold the Senate, “Team Blue” has to defend 21 seats. Six of them remain toss ups in states Romney carried in 2012. Six is also the “magic number” Republicans need to crown obstructionist Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader (NY Times, 2/07/14, Healy, Time Mag., 2012 Election Special, Politico, Raju & Sherman). And in two “Purple” states, Iowa and Colorado, which Obama won in 2012, Democrats are in very tight races. They face extremist right wing candidates who “pretend” they’ll be moderate. Too many Democratic voters must realize that the way to fix the “mess in Washington” and in the states is not to boo or demonstrate, but vote in every election.
The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) leaders have put over $60 million in the “Bannock Street Project,” aimed at expanding the midterm Democratic electorate to make it more like presidential turnout. This name comes from the Denver, Colorado field headquarters of Dem. Sen. Michael Bennet who won in 2010 by increasing turn out (Wash. Monthly, Kilgore, 2/06/14). Democrats are pushing the ground game or GOTV, Get Out the Vote. They are emphasizing early voting and aiming to push the infrequent voters who often ignore midterms to cast ballots. So far, early voting in Iowa and N. Carolina, states with two hot Senate races, give the Democrats leads. This early Democratic balloting and voting on Election Day itself must continue “big time” everywhere (Huffington Post, 9/26/14). In Iowa, a strong grass roots Democratic ground game of closely knit organizers that use Obama’s 2012 turnout techniques is “keeping the GOP awake at night (“Obamadale,” CNN, 2014 Midterm Elections, Hamby, 9/22/14).” In California, there is no Senate race. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is coasting to re-election. Democratic organizers with the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Committee) are using a computer model ROSIE (Re-engaging Our Sisters in Elections) to identify unmarried sporadic female voters and get them to vote in closely contested Calif. congressional races. They are targeting this group with issues concerning women (Merl, LA Times, 9/28/14). In Colorado, the Democratic legislature, despite GOP opposition, passed a law requiring every voter to get a mailed ballot by mid-October (Lee, 9/27/14, LA Times). Democrats have invested way more than GOPers in most of the hotly contested Senate races, especially, Iowa, N. Carolina, and Alaska and in voter turnout efforts. In Colorado alone, Democrats have spent $4.4 million on its “Get Out the Vote” ground game to the GOP’s $556,100. Democrats have doubled the number of offices and volunteers from its original successful 2010 Bannock Street project (Newsweek Levy, P. 10/02/14). Democrats bought early cheaper air-time ads nationwide (Willis, “The Upshot,” NY Times, 9/30/14, National Journal, Roarty, 9/25/14).
Of course, it all boils down to rank and file Democrats doing their part, voting, voting, voting! Democrats, according to Professor Ken Goldstein, “are getting very good at finding which voters to talk to and sending the right messages. But there is only so much you can do to get people who don’t feel like voting to vote (LA Times, Merl).” Prove him wrong. Listen to what Pres. Obama said at a 10/09/14 Calif. fundraiser. “I hope that in these midterms you feel a sense of urgency. And I’m talking to you Democrats. Because Democrats have many good qualities, but a congenital disease is: a) we get depressed too easily, and b) we’re terrible at paying attention to midterm elections. When there’s not a president on the ballot, we tend to get complacent. We can’t afford to get complacent right now (Mehta, S., LA Times, 10/10/14).”
Instead of reeling off more statistics, I will try my hand at rhyming to encourage voter turn out, especially, in the key Senate contests. I was inspired by Dr. Seuss’ (Theodore Seuss Geisel’s) ditty, “Marvin K. Mooney will you please go now!” In 1974, at the height of the Watergate scandal, Seuss sent political satirist Art Buchwald, a friend of his, a copy of that poem. Seuss’ copy replaced the name “Marvin K. Mooney” with “Richard Nixon” and urged him to resign. Buchwald asked Seuss if he could reprint it. Seuss agreed. On 7/30/1974, Buchwald reprinted the changed poem in his syndicated column and told people to read it aloud (Washington Post). Read mine aloud too and get yourselves and neighbors to act on it.
Democrats, It’s Time for You to Go and Vote
Democrats, it’s time for you to go and vote.
Vote by boat and vote by car.
Vote if you’re near or vote if you’re far.
Vote early by mail and vote at the polls.
Keep Senate “Team Blue” on a roll.
Alaskans vote on skates and skis.
Re-elect Mark Begich, please, please, please.
In Bluegrass Kentucky, say “No” to Mitch McConnell this time.
Cast your vote for Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Outsourcer David Perdue’s not the one.
Georgians vote for Michelle Nunn.
Coloradan Cory Gardner must fall.
Re-elect pro-choice/pro-environment Mark Udall.
In New Orleans and the bayou,
Go all out for Mary Landrieu.
In Arkansas, catch the fire.
Vote for Senator Mark Pryor.
Iowans, march through all your corn.
Vote Bruce Braley, not Joni Ernst, whom you must scorn.
New Hampshire folks come around.
Say farewell to carpetbagger Scott Brown.
Tar Heel Democrats win your “November Madness.”
Crown Kay Hagan, not Thom Tillis, with gladness.
In Michigan, don’t put your heads in the sand.
It’s Gary Peters, not Terri Lynn Land.
Pat “Out of Touch” Roberts, “Please go.”
Kansans vote for Greg Orman, come twisters, rain, or snow.
“This land is your land. This land is my land.”
In South Dakota, vote Democrat Rick Weiland.
Democrats, I do not care how.
The time to vote is now, now, now.
Fly to vote like a honey bee.
Reject the GOP Tea Party.
Vote if you have to climb a tree.
Vote, show no complacency.
Do not let the GOP gloat.
We have the numbers, just get out and vote.
SO... Democrats VOTED on November 4, 2014 and kept the Senate, made House gains, and took a majority of governors’ races.
You want this ending in Campaign 2014? Vote, Vote, Vote!!!
Senator Mark Begich v. GOPer Dan Sullivan—The “LastFrontierState’s” Political “Iditarod” Part I September 12, 2014
Alaska, the 49th State, admitted in 1959. Alaska, ridiculed as Secretary of State William’s Seward’s “icebox,” when purchased from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million. Alaska, site of the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush and the Iditarod dog sled race. The Iditarod contest, started in 1973, commemorates a sled run of diphtheria serum to icebound Nome in 1925. Alaska, home of former GOP Governor and polarizing McCain running mate Sarah Palin. Alaska contains .23% of the nation’s population, (722,000), but 16% of its land area. If superimposed on the “Lower 48,” Alaska would stretch from Florida to California. Alaska remains so vast that many residents have no access to state roads and can be reached only by boat or airplane (Barone 14 Political Almanac). Alaska, nicknamed the “LastFrontierState,” could become the “Last Political Frontier” in Campaign 2014. Control of the U.S. Senate could hinge on this fairly unknown northern land mass. Let’s review electoral arithmetic. Democrats currently hold a working 55-45 majority. In order to keep the Senate, Democrats will have to defend 21 seats. Six of them remain toss ups in states Romney won in 2012. Six is also the “magic number” Republicans need to crown obstructionist Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader (J. Healy, NY Times, 2/07/14, “Politico,” Raju & Sherman, Time Mag., 2012 Election Special). One of those toss up contests will take place in Alaska. In 11/2014, Democrat Mark Begich will be running for a second term against GOPer Dan Sullivan.
Anchorage-born Senator Mark Begich (52), comes from a distinguished Democratic family. Begich’s parents moved to Alaska when it was still a territory. Mark’s father, Nick, was elected to the Alaska State Senate and in 1970 to Congress as Alaska’s at-large Representative. Nick was killed in a 1972 Alaskan plane crash along with then House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-Louisiana), the father of pundit Cokie Boggs Roberts. Because of his father’s death, Mark, then 10, initially disliked politics. Mark had an interest in business and at 16 opened up a teenage nightclub. Mark helped his widowed mother in her real estate business. He gave up the chance to obtain higher education in order to aid several of his brothers and sisters with college expenses. Begich is one of only two U.S. Senators without an undergraduate diploma and, therefore, places a high value on education. Education is one of the main reasons he says he’s a Democrat in conservative Alaska (Barone 14, Anchorage Daily News, 4/30/06, Begich, Tom, White, D., About.com).
Despite Begich’s prior distaste for politics, he inherited his Dad’s knack for it and entered government. At 20, Begich was hired as a personal assistant to then Democratic Anchorage Mayor Tony Knowles. A few years later, Begich, frustrated by his neighborhood’s unpaved roads, ran for the Anchorage Assembly. He served 10 years, becoming Assembly chairman. In the 1990’s, Gov. Knowles appointed Begich to the Student Loan Corporation. Begich lowered interest rates for borrowers and raised that agency’s bond rating. In 2003, Begich won election as Anchorage’s mayor, the first Democrat elected to that post since Knowles. Begich was easily re-elected in 2006, after hiring more police officers, holding down property taxes, and getting voters to twice pass bond issues (Barone 14).
In 2007, national Democratic leaders encouraged Begich to run against 6-term GOP Senator Ted Stevens. Stevens was considered vulnerable because of a federal corruption investigation into his relationship with the head of oil services company VECO. Stevens was convicted in 10/2008 for failing to report on his disclosure forms thousands of dollars in renovation work VECO did on his home. Begich campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and emphasized local issues. These included rural health care for Alaska Natives and loans for energy efficient businesses. In “Red” Alaska, where oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay in 1967 and accounts for 85% of the state’s revenues, Begich stood for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Begich was a good fundraiser and raised nearly as much as incumbent Stevens. Still, in 2008 “Red” Alaska, when Palin was McCain’s running mate, Begich’s race was bitingly close. Begich was behind on Election Night. He was declared the winner in mid-November, 48%-47%, by less than 4,000 votes (Barone14). Begich was the first Democratic Senator Alaska had elected since 1974. In 4/2009, the Justice Department dismissed Stevens’ conviction because of prosecutorial misconduct. Gov. Palin asked for a special Senate election. Begich replied, “I got into the Senate race long before Sen. Stevens’ legal troubles began because Alaskans were looking for a change and a senator as independent as Alaska.” No special election took place (Barone 14).
On Capitol Hill, Begich focuses intensely on local issues. He moved quickly to put his stamp on energy legislation and Alaskan economic issues. With Louisiana Dem. Senator Mary Landrieu, Begich co-sponsored a bill that defined oil companies’ liability in the wake of the BP 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill. Adapted from the nuclear industry, Begich’s bill insured that sky-high insurance costs would not exclude small and mid-sized oil company drilling. The BP escrow account Obama announced in 6/2010, was an idea Begich discussed with the Democratic Caucus after the BP blowout (Barone 14). In 2009, Begich introduced several bills to improve Arctic life, including one coordinating numerous scientific projects. He pushed to include revenue sharing in the Senate’s energy bill. Begich often works on issues with fellow Alaskan GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski (Barone 14). Begich advocates infrastructure investment. In the Senate’s surface transportation bill, he was able to streamline regulatory provisions by outreaching to contractors. Begich currently sits on Alaska-friendly committees, including Appropriations, Indian Affairs, Veterans, and Homeland Security. He had previously served on the powerhouse Armed Services and Budget Committees. Begich worked to keep a number of military bases in the state, especially the Joint Base Elmendorf –Richardson, host to the Air Force’s Red Flag Alaska training exercises (CQ 14 Almanac).
Senate Democrats noticed Begich’s energy and talents. In 2010, they named him Chair the Democratic 15-member Steering and Outreach Committee, part of the leadership team. He continues to head this post. Begich is considered an effective messenger to moderate Democrats. Begich makes no bones about being an Alaska-style Democrat, “pro-guns, pro-oil and gas, pro-business, small business.” Begich believes the Democratic leadership must appeal to NRA and oil and gas supporters and is blunt about that. He brags about being in Obama’s “face about oil and gas issues (CQ 14).” In Alaska, he has to be.
Begich, however, promotes the development of renewable energy as much as fossil fuels. He supported the creation of cap-and-trade for controlling greenhouse gases. Catholic Begich is pro-choice, for access to contraception, for equal pay, and supports same sex marriage (thehill.com, msnbc, Carmon, 8/19/14). He supports Obamacare and voted for its passage. He has been instrumental in improving health care for Alaskan Native Americans. Begich played a key role in making the Indian Health Service pay millions to improve health care for Alaska Natives (Alaska Dispatch, 4/25/14). Even with his centrist record, Begich has voted for most Obama legislative goals, including the 2009 stimulus bill. He has high ratings from labor and progressive groups (Barone & CQ 14).
Meet Begich’s GOP opponent, Dan Sullivan. Sullivan (49), as opposed to Alaskan-born Begich, is a “Danny Come Lately” to the state. In the “Last Frontier,” many residents put a premium on “somebody who is Alaskan” and want proof that a candidate “understands and relates to how real Alaska works (See NY Times, Johnson, K., 8/20/14).” Sullivan, a Fairview Park, Ohio native, received his undergraduate degree from Harvard in 1987 and a law degree from D.C.’s GeorgetownUniversity in 1993 (community.adn.com/alaska/node). As a Marine, Sullivan was based in Anchorage for several years and moved to Anchorage in 1997. From 1997-2002, Sullivan clerked for Alaskan federal and state judges and practiced law (community.adn.). In 2002, Sullivan moved to the D.C. area where he worked for W. Bush on the National Economic Council and the National Security Council staffs. In 2006, W appointed Sullivan to the post of U.S. Assistant Sec. of State for Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs where he served until 1/2009. While working in Washington, Sullivan lived in Bethesda, Maryland. Sullivan benefited from a Maryland tax credit, while voting absentee in Alaska and keeping an Anchorage residence. Maryland officials are currently investigating Sullivan’s acceptance of this Maryland homestead tax exemption, undermining his claims to be an actual Alaskan. In 2009, Sullivan purchased a non-residential Alaskan fishing license (See National Journal, 3/24/14, adn.com, Kos, Elections, Nir, 8/08/14).
In 6/2009, Gov. Palin named Sullivan Alaska Attorney General. After GOP Gov. Sean Parnell won election in 11/2010, he appointed Sullivan Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources (adn.com/news, classic.alaskajournal.com/stories). On 10/15/2013, Sullivan announced he was running in the 2014 election against Sen. Mark Begich (Anchorage Daily News). Sullivan was endorsed by the right wing anti-tax Club for Growth (Real Clear Politics, 3/12/14). The GOP-leaning Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s Crossroads group also financed him in the primary. Crossroads cut an ad for him with former W. Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice. Rice called Sullivan’s D.C. jobs, “serving our country that required some time in our capital.” Koch Industries aired anti-Begich ads during the GOP primary. In the 8/19/2014 GOP primary, “establishment” Sullivan, in a fairly weak performance, defeated Tea Partier Joe Miller 40%-32%, with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell getting nearly 25% of the vote (NY Times, Johnson, 8/20/14, National Journal, 3/24/14, “The Hill,” Wash. Post, Sullivan, S., 8/20/14).
Catholic GOPer Sullivan, unlike co-religionist Begich, is anti-choice. Sullivan struggles with whether he would even allow abortions in cases of rape or incest (Roll Call, Carmon, 8/18/14). He is against Obamacare and bragged of being one of the state attorney generals that sued in court to try to stop its implementation (sullivan2014.com). Native Americans make up nearly 20% of Alaska’s population and Sullivan is married to a member of a prominent tribe who often campaigns with him (See Peters, NY Times, 6/28/2014). However, Sullivan’s record on Native issues, unlike Begich’s, is poor. Sullivan, as Alaska Atty. General and at the Natural Resources Department, staunchly opposed Native rights on subsistence, tribal sovereignty, Indian women and child welfare, and voting rights. In the issue most important to Alaska Natives, the right to hunt and fish according to tradition, or passing on subsistence rights to future generations, Sullivan aggressively opposed subsistence interests through litigation and legislative initiatives. He tried to exclude vast stretches of Alaska waters from subsistence fishing in favor of sports and commercial fishing, overturning prior federal protections. The Federal Ninth Circuit Appellate Court and U.S. Supreme Court rejected his actions. Sullivan supports the mining company’s lawsuit to stop the EPA from protecting Bristol Bay from the mega-Pebble mine.
Sullivan unsuccessfully argued that tribal courts had no jurisdiction to protect Indian children. He opposes fixing a Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) provision that excludes Alaska tribes from its provisions, which the Indian Law and Order Commission called “unconscionable.” Sullivan refused to answer whether he would have reauthorized VAWA in the first place. Sullivan’s administration is being sued in federal court by Alaska Natives for violation of the Voting Rights Act (Alaska Dispatch News, H. & L. Miller, 8/31/2014). Sullivan favors the awful Citizens United Supreme Court opinion that allows “independent” outside groups to pour in millions of dollars into election contests (See National Journal, 6/10/14). This November, Alaskans must vote in droves to re-elect Alaskan-rooted pragmatic Mark Begich. Begich understands how “real Alaska works,” not outsider right-wing ideologue Dan Sullivan.
Alaska’s Mark Begich v. Dan Sullivan “Iditarod” Part II—Yes, Democrat Begich Can Win 2014’s “Last Political Frontier” September 12, 2014
In our previous post, we discussed Senator Mark Begich and his GOP rival Dan Sullivan. Let’s tackle the bottom line. Can freshman Democratic Senator Mark Begich get re-elected in normally “ultra-Red” Alaska?
Since Alaska’s 1959 admission as the nation’s 49th State, it has voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate once, LBJ in 1964 (“How Obama Won,” Todd, C. & Gawiser, 2008). In 2008, with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on McCain’s ticket, Obama lost by 21 points. In 20012, the Romney-Ryan duo won by 14 (Barone 14 Political Almanac). Begich is the first Democratic Senator elected in Alaska since 1974 and he won a nail-biting victory by less than 4,000 votes. Begich was helped by the Obama organization’s early voting and absentee ballot efforts, presidential year turnout, and incumbent GOP Senator Steven’s then ethical troubles (Barone 14). Political analysts knew that GOPers would target Begich in 2014.
GOPer Sullivan has federal and Alaskan government experience. He served under W dealing with economic and national security matters. Since 1993, Sullivan has been in the Marines. He has been on active duty and in the reserves, including a 7/2013 six- week tour in Afghanistan (commuity.adn.com/alaska/node). In 6/2009, Gov. Palin appointed him Attorney General. In 11/2010, GOP Gov. Parnell made him Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources (adn.com/news). Sullivan decided to run against Begich in 10/2013 and won the 8/19/2014 GOP primary (FoxNews.com, 8/20/14). Registered Alaska Democrats trail GOPers by 13 points, 27% -14%, with 58% labeled Independents. Many Independents have a libertarian pro-business/fiscal conservative streak, often landing them in the GOP column (See Barone & CQ 14 Political Almanacs,msnbc, Carmom, I., 8/19/14).
Senator Begich has several advantages. As previously discussed, he comes from a well-connected political family, with his late father having served Alaska in both the state and Congress. Senator Begich’s wife formerly chaired the Alaska Democratic Party (CQ & Barone 14, Anchorage Daily News, 4/30/06). Many Alaskan residents put a premium on “somebody who is Alaskan” and want proof that a candidate “understands and relates to how real Alaska works (See NY Times, Johnson, K., 8/20/14).” In contrast to Sullivan’s brief time in Alaskan government service, Begich spent 10 years in the Anchorage Assembly and was its chairman, dealing with many major local issues. Begich was elected Anchorage’s mayor twice, and served for five years until his Senate election (Barone 14). More than 60% of Alaska’s 722,000 residents live in Anchorage and nearby areas. Anchorage, along with Fairbanks, is the fastest growing part of the state with a dynamic private sector (Barone14). Begich has an extensive background in founding and helping to run businesses (Anchorage Daily News, Barone 14).
About 20% of Alaska’s population is Native American (Barone 14). Alaska Natives do not vote for one party. Until his legal troubles, GOP Senator Stevens was a towering figure among Alaskan Natives, nicknamed “Uncle Ted.” However, in 2008, Begich persuaded the tribes to vote for him and their support made the difference. He won the Native rural vote by 5%. In Campaign 2014, Begich and his fellow Democrats are redoubling their efforts at Alaska Native outreach. Begich has gone out of his way to visit tiny villages, some of them located in the Alaskan tundra 60 miles upriver from the Bearing Sea (NY Times, Peters, J., 6/28/14). He is working with local chiefs and community leaders, doing face-to-face campaigning, encouraging voter registration, and emphasizing early mail voting. When opening up a new rural Democratic field office, Begich told the people present that Native turnout, 26 points below Alaska’s 2012 general 60% state average, was “unacceptable (Peters, NY Times).” Language problems hurt Native turnout. For Native voters who speak little or no English, election materials are often poorly, if ever, translated into languages like Yup’ik. Begich’s campaign is trying to remedy this problem. For the first time in Alaska, Begich is sending out automated phone calls about early voting in two Native languages, Yup’ik and Inupiaq. These calls, which Democrats plan to continue, are going out to the Y-K Delta, the Bering Strait region, and the North Slope (Alaska Public Media, 8/26/14, Enoch, C.).
Republican Sullivan, unlike GOPer Stevens, will never be called “Uncle Dan.” Sullivan’s record on Native rights is beyond abysmal. In his brief stints as Alaska Atty. General and at the Natural Resources Department, he opposed, through litigation and legislative initiatives, the major Native priority of subsistence rights, the right to hunt and fish according to tradition. Sullivan’s attempts to curtail subsistence rights, as discussed in the previous post, were rebuked by the Federal Ninth Circuit Appeals Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Sullivan unsuccessfully argued that tribal courts had no jurisdiction to protect Native children. Sullivan opposes fixing the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) provision excluding Alaskan tribes from its provisions, which the Indian Law and Order Commission called “unconsionable.” Begich stands for extending the VAWA provision to the tribes and for subsistence rights. Natives have sued Sullivan’s administration in federal court for violation of the Voting Rights Act. Begich, who defends his stand on Obamacare, is proud of helping Alaskan Natives get millions for health care improvement in a legal settlement. Although Sullivan is married to a member of a prominent tribe, he remains tone deaf to Native problems (NY Times, Peters, Alaska Dispatch News, H. & L. Miller, 8/31/14).
As in many Senate races with reactionary GOP candidates, reproductive choice for women is at stake. Begich is adamantly pro-choice and has Planned Parenthood working for him. Begich is pushing to increase women’s turn out. He has condemned the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, allowing private companies to refuse birth control coverage to employees on religious grounds. Begich calls himself “pro-choice” with “no deviation.” Sullivan? He is anti-choice and struggles with whether he would allow abortions even in cases of rape and incest (RollCall, Carmon, 8/8/14, msnbc, 8/19/14, Carmon). Begich aptly calls GOPers members of the “1950’s club,” against reproductive rights, anti-equal pay, and against protecting women from violence (msnbc). Begich stated that “people have a misunderstanding—that since we are a red state, we must be socially conservative. That’s not the case. We’re very libertarian (msnbc).” Alaskans are fiscally pro-business, especially on oil-and-gas drilling, and Begich backs them. In hunting/frontier Alaska, Begich, like many libertarians, opposes gun control. However, libertarians reject telling women how to make private decisions about their health and sex lives.
Can Begich hold this Senate seat for “Team Blue?” “Yes he can,” with massive turnout. A PPP poll taken before the GOP primary had him leading Sullivan by 6 points. However, GOPers and their Karl Rove, Koch, and other allies will spend millions to keep attacking Begich as an “inauthentic liberal Alaskan,” as opposed to “Danny Come Lately” Sullivan. A new online YouGov Poll flipped from a 12 point pre-primary Begich lead to a 6 point post-primary Sullivan advantage (NY Times, “The Upshot,” Cohn 9/07/14). Alaskan polls will be all over the place and are often unreliable. This new post-primary Sullivan poll had less than 500 respondents, despite recruitment efforts and there should be low confidence in the exact finding (“The Upshot”). As we all know, the “T” word, “turnout,” is everything. If the Alaskan Democratic base, women, Natives, and the young vote heavily, along with moderates, Democrat Begich wins. Urban areas, like Anchorage, where Begich is well-known, could help tip this contest (NY Times, 8/20/14).
There are three initiatives on the Alaska November ballot-- legalizing marijuana, keeping salmon fisheries in Bristol Bay safe from GOP attempts to mine them, and raising the minimum wage. Nicknamed “Pot, Pebble (Pebble Mine controversy), and Pay,” these initiatives are currently leading in polling. These initiatives were originally planned for the 8/2014 primary, but were delayed by the GOP legislative chambers’ inability to finish business on time. Alaska GOPers also feared that putting these proposals on the primary ballot might hurt an attempt to repeal a tax break for the oil industry (The oil repeal initiative narrowly lost.). The “Pot, Pebble, and Pay” initiatives on the 11/04/2014 ballot should bring out lower income voters, environmentalists, and the young, groups Begich needs (See Kos, 4/22/14).
The Alaska Governor’s race can further aid Begich turnout. Former Gov. Palin, whom Begich attacks as Sullivan’s friend and mentor, is no longer popular. Her successor, uncharismatic Sean Parnell, may be in trouble. Originally facing a three-way-race, with Democrat Byron Mallott and Independent Bill Walker, Parnell would probably win. On 9/02/2014, Democrat Mallott withdrew. Mallott teamed up to run on a unity ticket as Lt. Govenor with Walker, a former GOP Valdez mayor. Mallott is Native American, of southeast Alaskan Tinglit ancestry. His electoral presence can boost Native turnout, which Begich is courting (NY Times, 6/28/14, Peters, NY Times, 9/02/14, Johnson). Independent Walker, who is anti-big oil tax cuts, pro-union, and pro-expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, has both Democratic and GOP crossover support (See Kos, Nir, 9/03/14). No Democrat in usually “Red” Alaska can be totally confident in any election. However, centrist yet strong Democrat Mark Begich, with these trends and his abilities, can hold his Senate seat in this fluid race. On 11/04/2014, “Last Frontier” residents must come out in droves to re-elect Begich in his political “Iditarod” with Sullivan. Alaska and the nation must race forward, not backward, in the 21st Century.
Governor Paul LePage Must Exit “Stage Right”— It’s Congressman Mike Michaud’s Turn July 17, 2014
Campaign 2014 is not only about control of the U.S. Senate and House. Gubernatorial seats will also be up for grabs. Because many “Blue” voters stayed home in 2010, Democrats not only lost the House, but also the majority of U.S. governors. GOPers presently have 29 governorships, the Democrats 21. Holding the majority of governorships is not just about bragging rights. After the 2010 elections, GOP Governors worked in tandem with Republican majority-controlled state legislatures. As constitutionally required every 10 years, these governors/legislatures redrew state and federal seats. These seats were lopsidedly reconfigured/ gerrymandered, for Republican candidates, (See Barone 14 Political Almanac). Governors set the agenda for spending, budgeting, and social issues. Many GOP Governors have encouraged their legislatures to pass abortion restrictions and laws that suppress voting in poor and minority communities (Charlotte Observer, 5/30/14, Winston Salem Journal, 5/06/13, Charlotte Magazine, 11/2013). Twenty-four states, a majority of them with GOP Governors, have refused to accept Medicaid expansion as part of Obamacare, leaving 5.7 million people uninsured by 2016 (White House Council of Economic Advisers, 7/02/14 report, “Think Progress,” McCarter, Kos, 7/02/14).
Voters are now having “buyer’s remorse” against many of the GOP governors they elected in 2010. Meet Maine’s GOP Governor Paul LePage.
Maine’s GOP first-term Governor Paul LePage (65) had a rough start. A native of Lewiston, Maine’s “Little Canada,” LePage grew up speaking French. The oldest son of 18 children, he came from a poverty-stricken and dysfunctional family. When he was 11, LePage left home, after his father severely beat him. LePage spent two years living on Lewiston’s streets where he supported himself shining shoes and cleaning horse stables. He slept in cars, hallways, and a strip joint. At 13, two families jointly adopted him. He put himself through high school hauling boxes and washing dishes. State legislator Peter Snowe, who later married future GOP Maine U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe, befriended LePage. Snowe helped LePage get into Bangor’s HussonUniversity. Le Page went on to obtain his B.S. in Business Administration. He received an M.B.A. from the University of Maine (Barone14, votesmart.org/bio). He worked in forestry and founded his own consulting firm. Since1996, he has been general manager of Marden’s Surplus and Salvage, Maine’s largest retail chain (Barone 14, Ballotpedia).
In 1998, LePage successfully ran for Waterville’s City Council. He served two terms. In 2003, he ran and won the race for Waterville Mayor. In the 2010 seven-person GOP gubernatorial primary, LePage proclaimed himself a solid fiscal and social conservative who agreed with the then influential Tea Party. LePage promised to cut every dollar of wasteful state spending. He used his “hard knocks life” story to show how he could succeed. He won a 37% primary victory (Barone 14).
In the general election, he faced Democratic candidate state Senate president Libby Mitchell and Independent Eliot Cutler, a former associate director of President Jimmy Carter’s Office of Management and Budget. LePage started out with a lead but his controversial statements and blunt “take-no-prisoners” manner nearly defeated him. He proposed a five-year limit on welfare benefits, adding: “At the end of five years, if you still need welfare, I will personally buy (you) a ticket to Massachusetts so (you) can start over.” LePage stormed out of the room when reporters questioned him about his wife claiming a Florida homestead exemption. He was rightly criticized when he told a 9/2010 forum that, “As your governor, you’re going to be seeing a lot of me on the front page saying, ‘Governor LePage tells Obama to go to hell.”’ Cutler picked up several newspaper endorsements and narrowed LePage’s lead. In the end, third-party Cutler and Democrat Mitchell split the vote, 36% and 19% respectively and LePage squeaked to a 38%. The 55% anti-LePage vote was fractured by third-party Cutler eating into Democratic Mitchell’s tally (Barone 14). In Tea Party/GOP tsunami year, 2010, the GOP also won majorities in both legislative houses (Barone, 14).
In 4/2013, NY Times analyst Nate Silver ranked LePage as the country’s 13th most conservative governor. With his GOP legislatures, LePage passed a two-year budget containing a record $150 million tax cut. He lowered the top Maine income tax rate from 8.5% to 7.95% (Barone 14, “Politico,”C.Woodard, 1/08/14). LePage rolled back state environmental laws. He made national headlines by stopping a state agency ban on bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor, in baby bottles. Le Page defended restoring BPA. He said the worst that could happen was that “some women may have little beards (Huffington Post, 2/23/11, Bangor Daily News, 2/22/11).”After nearly unanimous votes in then both Maine GOP houses to ban BPA in baby bottles, LePage let the bill become law without his signature (good-chemistry.org, Portland Press Herald). LePage imposed a five-year limit on welfare benefits, to keep Maine from being a “welfare destination state (“Politico,” Woodard).”Gov. LePage vetoed a record 182 bills. Most of those vetoes came after 2013 when Democrats retook both legislative chambers. Democrats overrode 20 of those vetoes, including his 2013-2014 state budget (Bangor Daily News, 1/11/14 & 5/01/14, Kennebec Journal, 1/21/13).
LePage successfully vetoed three times expanding Medicaid coverage to more than 60,000 low-income Mainers under Obamacare. The proposed expansion was backed by Maine hospitals that are expected to lose $730 million by 2022 because of his vetoes. By rejecting Medicaid expansion, Maine loses $1 million a day in federal money. LePage calls these Medicaid savings a “mirage (Mistler, Portland Press Herald, 4/09/14).” LePage is joining GOP Southern governors by refusing to take federal money to help poor and lower middle class residents.
In addition to his right wing record, LePage is a buffoonish embarrassment to a state that prides itself on consensus-minded civil lawmakers. Witness Republicans Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Democrats Ed Muskie and George Mitchell (“Politico,” Woodard). When criticized for not participating in Martin Luther King Day events, Le Page told the NAACP to “kiss my butt (Barone 14).” He likened the IRS to the “Gestapo.” When condemned for that remark, he claimed that agency’s enforcement of Obamacare would “cause a slaughter comparable to the Holocaust.” He told schoolchildren that Maine’s newspapers are full of lies and joked about “bombing the largest of them, the Portland Press Herald (“Politico,” Woodard, 1/08/14).” He threatened to move his office out of the statehouse. He refused for months to allow his commissioners to testify before state committees (Woodard). He again drew national attention by ordering a mural taken down from the State Labor Department because an anonymous letter likened it to N. Korean “brainwashing of the masses (Barone 14, Woodard).” In 6/2013, LePage was ranked 43 out of 50 by the Business Journals in job creation.
Mainers are tired of crude reactionary LePage. The Democratic takeover of both Maine legislative chambers in 2012 was aided by his antics (See Barone 14). In a recent poll, LePage had a 54% disapproval rating. In 2014, six-term Democratic Congressman, Mike Michaud (mee-SHOO), also a French-Canadian American, is running against LePage. Michaud (59) represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, CD. The PineTreeState 2nd includes the cities of Lewiston, Bangor, and Auburn. Logging, agriculture, fishing, and tourism dominate the 2nd‘s economy. Maine’s 16,000 square-mile North Woods lies in this CD. This CD leans Democratic, but has just a D+2 Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI). The 2nd is not permanently tied to either party and was eccentric Ross Perot’s strongest CD in 1992 and 1996 (CQ 14 and Barone 14 Almanacs).
Born and raised in the North Woods’ Millinocket, Michaud came from a blue collar family. He is one of the few Congressmen who did not attend college. He was a mill worker and union member for 29 years, still pays his union dues, and holds his union card (Barone 14, msnbc.com, E. Margolin, 6/27/14). He was elected to the Me. House in 1980, the Me. Senate in 1994, and became Senate President. In 2002, Michaud won election to Congress. His union ties helped him in rural areas (Barone 14). In the House, although a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, he has voted with his party in the 92% range in the most recent 113th and 112th Congresses (Barone 14, Wash. Post U.S. Cong. Votes Database). The most senior (ranking) Democratic House member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he passed a bill to increase reimbursement rates for veterans homes that treat the severely disabled and elderly. Michaud has been pushing for reform of benefits claims backlogs and technology upgrades even before the recent VA problems surfaced (CQ 14). He voted for Obamacare and tried to push LePage not to veto Medicaid expansion. Michaud was initially anti-choice. However, after hearing in Congress about the personal problems women have faced, he now believes government should not tell a woman “whether she can or can not have an abortion.” Planned Parenthood endorsed Michaud and NARAL Pro-Choice America gave him a 100% rating. Contrary to most Maine voters, Le Page opposes abortion. Michaud promised to veto any attempt to alter Maine’s Reproductive Privacy Act, which incorporates Roe v. Wade provisions into state law (msnbc.com, Margolin, Kos, 4/01/14, AP 6/16/14).
Michaud decided to run for Governor to make Maine “a better place to live.” He wants to improve the environment, including decreasing pollution (CQ 14). Michaud has a chance to become the first openly gay elected governor in the U.S. Gov. LePage opposes same-sex marriage, although Maine voters in 2012 became the first in the nation to approve it (msnbc.com, Bangor Daily News, 5/25/12). Equality Maine, the state’s leading gay rights group, endorsed Michaud (Margolin, msnbc.com).
Maine handily voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 (CQ 14). LePage’s high unpopularity has damaged the GOP brand. Republicans have the lowest registration in the state, 28%, as opposed to 32% Democrats and 37% Independents (“Politico,” Woodard). With his campaign abilities and endorsements, Michaud should have an easy time winning in 2014. However, the GOP has a “secret/not-so secret” weapon, Eliot Cutler. With “independent” Cutler in the race, GOPers are hoping he once more splits the Democratic vote so LePage wins. (“Politico,” Woodard). With Cutler in the race, a recent poll by the University of New Hampshire has Michaud leading by just 4 points, 40%-36%. Cutler siphons off 15%, far too close for comfort (msnbc.com, 6/27/14). Some Democratic donors who once supported Cutler are switching to Michaud. Vermont Dem. Gov. Peter Shumlin is rightly warning that “a vote for Cutler is a vote for LePage (Woodward, “Politico,” msnbc, Peoples, AP ).” Maine Democrats and Independents must not replay 2010. They must come out in droves behind Michaud. Like Ralph Nader in 2000, Cutler must not be allowed to play spoiler. It’s Mike Michaud’s turn.
GOP Hog Farmer Joni Ernst—She Wants to Neuter Iowa in the United States Senate June 18, 2014
School may be out for summer, but the “math war” for control of the U.S. Senate is heating up. Minority Leader Mitch “obstructionist” McConnell (R-KY) becomes Senate Majority Leader if the GOP flips just 6 seats. Senate Democrats currently have a working majority of 55-45. However, in Campaign 2014, “Team Blue” must defend 21 seats. Six of them are toss ups, including North Carolina, Arkansas, and Alaska. The GOP is attempting to grab even more Senate seats, including Iowa. In Iowa, 5th term popular progressive Democrat Tom Harkin declined to run in 2014 (National Journal, Kraushaar, 1/26/13, Time Mag. Election Special, Daily Kos, dpinzow, 11/20/12). GOPers believe they have the “perfect” nominee. In the 6/03/2014 Hawkeye State Republican primary, Joni Ernst clobbered her opposition winning 56% of the vote. Ernst can now train her gun sights on Congressman Bruce Braley who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary (J. Jacobs, desmoinesregister.com, 6/04/14, “Politico,” Hohmann, 6/04/14). Let’s look at Ernst and this critical race.
Red Oak, Iowa native Joni Ernst (43) is the present GOP State Senator in that chamber’s 12th District, which serves Iowa’s southwestern area (legis.iowa.gov). A graduate of IowaState, she received a Master’s from Georgia’s ColumbusStateUniversity (ABOUT JONI, joniforiowa.com/bio). Ernst won a special election to the State Senate in 2011 and re-election in 2012 (ABOUT JONI, joniforiowa.com/bio). Ernst served in the U.S. Army Reserves and the Iowa National Guard. In the Iraq War, she did an overseas tour of Kuwait from 2003-2004. Her unit ran logistical convoys. Ernst is currently a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard (whotv.com, 4/07/14).
Ernst was an obscure state senator when she decided to enter the U.S. Senate race. She faced competition from stock broker executive and energy CEO Mark Jacobs who put $3.1 million of his own money into the race. On March 24, 2014, Ernst released her first ad on cable in the Des Moines media market and shook up the race. The ad had Ernst speaking along with pictures of pigs in pens. Ernst stated: “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm so when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.” A smiling Ernst promised to “make ‘em squeal in Washington (“Politico,” Hohmann, 6/04/14, “The Hill,”3/25/14).” Consultants praised this ad as a textbook case on getting free media. This provocative spot received “buzz,” on morning and late night shows and was heavily covered by local news. More than half a million people saw the spot on YouTube (Hohmann).
Ernst went on to grab the backing of both the GOP “establishment,” and the Tea Party Express. One of her top consultants ran Romney’s 2012 Iowa campaign. Her ad maker is a strategist for Fla. GOP Senator /Tea Party idol Marco Rubio. Rubio campaigned for Ernst. The Des Moines Register endorsed her. Mitt Romney backed her. The Senate Conservative Fund gave Ernst $112,000. The GOP-leaning Chamber of Commerce joined Ernst’s camp. Sarah Palin campaigned for Ernst in the days before the primary and stood with Ernst in a TV ad (“Politico,” Hohmann, 5/29/14, 6/04/14). After Ernst’s primary win, GOP pundits bragged about how Ernst received the endorsements and votes of both Tea Partiers and the “establishment,” avoiding a civil war. Get real! LA Times reporter Lisa Mascaro correctly noted, “establishment” is a “relative” term these days. The whole GOP, in Mascaro’s words, has been “pushed to the right (5/07/14).”
In the final 5/29/2014 pre-primary debate, Ernst could not have been clearer. In agricultural Iowa, farmer’s daughter/ hog castrator Ernst declared she would have voted against the farm bill, legislation even radical Iowa GOP Cong. Steve King voted for. She is for abolishing the Dept. of Education, which Steve King opposes. She came out against raising the federal minimum wage, which Iowans favor. Ernst recently voted against a minimum wage increase in the State Senate. Ernst embraced private accounts for young workers paying into Social Security which would gut this New Deal safety net. Ernst named the Clean Water Act as one of the most damaging laws for business. She’s on the side of big agricultural interests who pollute Iowa’s waterways with crop fertilizer and pig manure (“Politico,”Hohmann, 5/29/14 & 6/04/14, NY Times, Firestone, 6/04/14, PPP Poll on Iowans and Minimum Wage, Kos Elections, Nir, 5/30/14, Kos, 6/04/14). She volunteered she would vote for a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and that she had co-sponsored a bill in the Iowa Senate to amend the state constitution to bar gay marriage. Ernst spoke out against “amnesty” in immigration reform. Ernst denied global warming is causing climate change. An abortion opponent, Ernst had previously endorsed an anti-abortion “personhood” amendment that failed in Mississippi. Ernst told the Des Moines Register that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s. In her debate, Ernst named the Senators she hoped to follow, Tea Party extremist Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Cruz disciples, Nebraska GOPer Deb Fischer and Utah’s Republican zealot Mike Lee (Erickson, “Red State,” 5/21/14).
Ernst is an Obamacare opponent. A month after her hog castration ad, Ernst was at it again. In a new TV ad, Ernst rolls up in a Harley, pulls her purse from a saddlebag, and loads up a handgun for some target practice, pointing the weapon straight at viewers. A male voice intones: “She’s not your typical candidate. Conservative Joni Ernst: mom, farm girl and a lieutenant colonel who carries more than just lipstick in her purse. Joni Ernst will take aim at wasteful spending. And when she sets her sights on Obamacare, Joni’s going to unload.” A “blam, blam, blam” of gunshot sounds follow (Des Moines Register, 5/15/14). The debate moderator asked Ernst if she would change this ad or its timing after the UC Santa Barbara shootings. Ernst declared the UCSB shootings an “unfortunate accident,” but defended the commercial by calling it an attempt to “highlight” her belief in “repealing and replacing Bruce Braley’s Obamacare.” Ernst stated that this ad shows she is a “strong supporter of the Second Amendment. That is a fundamental right (TPM, 5/30/14).” The NRA has given Ernst an “A” rating (Des Moines Register, 3/26/14). Cong. Braley’s campaign rightly took offense at Ernst calling the UCSB massacre “an accident.” The Braley campaign told the Des Moines Register,“this was a rampage against women with knives and guns.” The dead killer’s writings, videos, and actions clearly constituted premeditation.
Fourth-term Cong. Bruce Braley (55) is heir to Sen. Harkin’s progressivism. Braley represents the Iowa 1st Cong. District (CD) where agriculture and farm machinery constitute economic mainstays. The 1st contains Waterloo, Dubuque, and Cedar Rapids (CQ 14 & Barone 14 Almanacs). Braley was given “F” grades by the NRA because he wanted to pursue “reasonable common ground on gun regulation (See Des Moines Register, 12/19/12, Noble).” At Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, Braley gave his guest ticket to former Az. Cong. Gabby Giffords, a gunshot victim (whot.com 2/12/13). Braley is pro-choice and received perfect scores from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-choice America. He voted to reduce gas emissions and for the cap-and-trade bill to limit greenhouse gases that died in the Senate. Braley, like pro-environmental Harkin, will not fight for water polluters. Braley has pushed for more federal funding of “clean energy.” Braley voted for Obamacare. In GOP-tsunami year 2010, Braley stood by his health care votes and won a close re-election (Barone 14, CQ 14). Even before the VA hospital problems made headlines, Braley fought for veterans’ rights including better medical treatment and housing. Two of his veterans’ bills became law (CQ 14). Raising the federal minimum wage is a cornerstone of Braley’s Senate campaign (See “Politico,” 5/29/14, Hohmann).
Braley, who was initially considered the heavy favorite, had a rough primary season. In a 1/2014 fundraising event before trial lawyers, a video showed Braley criticizing fellow Iowa GOP Senator Chuck Grassley. Braley stated that should the GOP take the Senate, Grassley, “a farmer from Iowa, who never went to law school,” would chair the Judiciary Committee. These remarks created a firestorm and Braley was accused of attacking farmers. Braley was deemed “out-of-touch” by many Iowans (Des Moines Register, Jacobs, 6/04/14). Attorney Braley apologized to Sen. Grassley and to all Iowans. Braley, although not a farmer, stressed his farming roots and his strong support for agricultural issues (votesmart.org, govtrack.us). Braley’s great-great-grandfather walked from Vermont and staked out an Iowa farm 150 years ago. Braley’s farmer father died of injuries sustained in a fall down a grain elevator. To support his family, Braley did farm work, including bailing hay, removing corn tassels, and working at a grain elevator (Barone 12 & 14 Almanacs, CQ 12 &14). At the time of the primary, Braley, despite this gaffe, seemed to have recovered and was leading Ernst (Kos, 6/04/14).
Braley knows that he can not “misunderestimate” Ernst. Some post-primary polls (Rasmussen, Loras, and Vox Populi), show Ernst in the lead. In the more reliable Quinnipiac (“Q”) Poll, taken between 6/12/-6/16/2014, Braley leads Ernst by just 4 points, 44%-40%. In the 3/13/2014 “Q” Poll, then unknown Ernst trailed Braley by 13 points (J. Jacobs, Des Moines Register, 6/18/14). Ernst keeps repeating that she is a “mother, soldier, and conservative,” to bring out the GOP base in an off- year election. Sarah Palin and fellow Republicans believe that Ernst’s sex will keep Democrats from effectively calling her anti-women. “There the GOP goes again,” using a woman to claim it is not reactionary, despite Ernst’s anti-choice/anti-middle class record. Braley has much more money than Ernst, but bet on Koch Industries, Karl Rove, Romney, and others to flood Ernst’s coffers.
Braley has already attacked Ernst with an ad showing a baby chicken making peeping sounds. The ad, “Peep,” criticized Ernst for not curbing state spending. It says: “We’ve heard the one about pigs squealing. But when Joni Ernst had the chance to do something in Iowa (about cutting pork and spending) we didn’t hear a peep.” The GOP reaction? Fake outrage that Braley was calling Ernst a “chick” (Wash. Post, Sullivan, 6/05/14). IMHO, pure Republican hog manure! And talk about sexism. Gail Ernst, Joni’s husband, has a Facebook page which rallies supporters to her campaign. In a 1/2013 Facebook posting, Mr. Ernst called Hillary Clinton a “Lying hag” on Benghazi. In a 5/2013 posting, Mr. Ernst called Hillary Clinton, “Truly more of a ‘hag’ now than when she was 1st Lady.” In a 4/19/2013 posting, Mr. Ernst called then Homeland Security Secretary Jane Napolitano a “Traitorous skank!” One year later, during a Senate campaign, Joni Ernst has “finally” decided to criticize her husband’s comments as “uncalled for and clearly inappropriate (Huffington Post, 6/10/14).”
Ernst’s record is way out of Iowa’s mainstream. Forty percent of Iowa voters are independents. Her record should not appeal to them (See Jacobs, Des Moines Register). Braley must hit Ernst hard, especially on her opposition to the farm bill, the minimum wage, and women’s issues. Ernst is the candidate truly out of touch, representing the 1% elite. This November, Iowa Democrats, independents, and women must come out in droves to elect Harkin heir Braley and keep the Senate “Blue.” Iowa’s concerns must not be neutered in the Senate.
It’s Tar Heel State 2014 “November Madness”— Extremist GOPer Thom Tillis v. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan May 22, 2014
North Carolina is known for its college basketball teams including Duke, University of North Carolina, North Carolina State, and WakeForest. One or more of them often end up in the NCAA’s “March Madness” basketball tournaments and have frequently won it all. The Tar Heel State is currently heading toward a 2014 political “November Madness” match. The stakes remain more important than winning office betting pools. It’s control of the United States Senate. All the GOP needs to make obstructionist Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader are 6 seats. Currently, Democrats hold a 55-45 Senate working majority, but are defending 21 of 36 seats. Many of these races are not “slam dunks.” Six of those 2014 contests remain “toss ups” in states Romney carried in 2012. Many analysts consider Senate “toss up” North Carolina political “Ground Zero.” GOPer Thom Tillis and Democratic Senator Kay Hagan are facing off in what could become the most politically brutal and costly Senate race (LA Times, L. Mascaro, 5/07/14).
Although considered vulnerable by many GOPers and pundits, first-term Senator Kay Hagan (60) knows a “thing or two” about politics. As a child, Shelby, N. Carolina native Hagan moved to Lakeland, Florida. Hagan’s father, Joe Ruthven, became Lakeland’s mayor. Hagan’s uncle, Democrat Lawton Chiles, a 1960’s Lakeland State Senator, won election to the U.S. Senate in 1970 and became Fla.’s Governor in 1990. As a youngster, Hagan placed Chiles bumper stickers on cars and while growing up, continued to help with her uncle’s campaigns. After getting her 1975 degree from Fla. State, Hagan interned for her uncle while operating a Senators-only elevator (Barone 14 &CQ 14 Political Almanacs, U.S. News and World Report, 11/04/08). She returned to N. Carolina to attend WakeForestLawSchool, where she graduated in 1978 and met her husband Chip Hagan. Hagan settled in her husband’s hometown of Greensboro where she worked as a trust attorney at NationsBank, now Bank of America. After the birth of her third child, Hagan became involved in politics. Democratic Governor James Hunt selected Hagan to lead his GuilfordCounty organizations in his 1992 and 1996 campaigns. In 1998, Hunt persuaded her to run for the State Senate. Hagan defeated a GOP incumbent and went on to serve five State Senate terms (CQ & Barone 14).
In the State Senate, Hagan received important committee posts. She voted for a state lottery, for corporate financial incentives to create jobs, for funding a civil rights museum, and for a two-year moratorium on executions. In 2008, Hagan challenged GOP N. Carolina Senator Elizabeth (Liddy) Dole, wife of former Senator and GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole. Liddy Dole heavily outraised Hagan. “Conventional wisdom” favored Dole. Hagan called Dole a D.C. insider often absent from N. Carolina. Dole attacked Hagan, a Presbyterian Sunday School teacher and elder, as an “atheist,” which backfired. Obama won the state by .3% and Hagan by over 8 points (Barone & CQ 14).
Hagan sits on the Senate Armed Services, Banking, Health, and Small Business Committees (CQ 14). North Carolina contains many military bases, including the 82nd Airborne’s FortBragg and the Marine Corps’ CampLejeune. Hagan’s father-in-law was a two-star Marine general, her brother and father Navy veterans, and her husband a Vietnam veteran. N. Carolina is home to the Research Triangle, between Durham and Raleigh that generates business innovations. Charlotte, the state’s largest city, is No. 2 in financial assets, behind New York (CQ & Barone 14). From 2009-2012, Hagan voted with her party 89% of the time. In the current 113th Congress and the previous 112th , she voted with Democrats 92% of the time. From 2009-2012, she had a 92% rating from labor’s AFL-CIO. Hagan joined a working group of fiscal conservative Senators in search of a middle political ground and has a 38% Chamber of Commerce score (2009-2012). Representing N. Carolina, Hagan does not support most gun control measures. However, she voted for the unsuccessful 4/2013 proposal to expand federal background checks. In a state having many social conservatives, Hagan stood firmly for gay rights. She voted to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” anti-gay military standard and supports same-sex marriage. She voted for health care reform and strongly supports it. At a Senate hearing, Hagan attacked the N. Carolina GOP Governor and the Republican State Legislature for barring expansion of health care reform for 500,000 Tar Heel residents through Medicaid (Barone & CQ 14, Wash. Post, U.S. Cong. Votes Database, Kos, 5/08/14, talkingpointsmemo.com). Hagan votes as a pragmatic progressive-leaning Democrat within her state’s mainstream.
Meet Hagan’s GOP opponent, Thom Tillis. The GOP “establishment” hyped Tillis as a “mainstream” candidate. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and the Republican-leaning Chamber of Commerce poured millions of dollars into the North Carolina 5/06/2014 GOP primary to make sure Tillis won more than 40% of the vote. Tillis, therefore, avoided a damaging July run off against the libertarian, Tea Party-backed candidate Greg Brannon (NY Times, J. Martin, 5/06/14). However, as the Los Angeles Times aptly stated, “establishment” is a “relative term these days (LA Times, L. Mascaro, 5/07/14).” LA Times reporter Lisa Mascaro correctly noted that the whole GOP has been “pushed to the right,” and Tillis is “hardly a bipartisan pragmatist in the old-school GOP style (5/07/14).”
Jacksonville, Florida native Thom Tillis (53) worked in the Price Waterhouse accounting firm in systems and operational management jobs. In 1996, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, the same year he became a Price Waterhouse partner. In 1998, Tillis moved to N. Carolina with his family. He joined IBM in 2002. Tillis, a resident in a GOP section of the Charlotte metro area, won election in 2006 to the North Carolina House. Tillis defeated the GOP incumbent in the primary and ran unopposed in the general election. Tillis was easily re-elected in 2008, 2010, and 2012. In 2010, the GOP won a majority of the N. Carolina House for the first time in 20 years. Tillis was instrumental in this “Red” takeover. He targeted districts and recruited candidates, and in 2011 was rewarded with election as House Speaker. After the 2012 elections, in which the GOP widened its legislative majorities and won the governorship, Tillis was unanimously re-elected Speaker (Lacour, Charlotte Magazine, 11/2013, Barone 14, WRAL/AP, 2012 General Election Results Summary, wral.com/news).
Tillis, acting as a business “moderate,” was always a reactionary extremist. He wants to “shrink” government, and calls Obamacare a “cancer” that needs to be repealed. (LA Times, Mascaro, 5/07/14). For his work as N. Carolina Speaker, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) named Tillis its 2011 Legislator of the Year (Lacour, Charlotte Magazine). Since 2013, Tillis has been a member of ALEC’s Board of Directors. He had previously been a member of ALEC for several years. He called ALEC “a great organization (N. Carolina Dem. Party).” ALEC is composed of conservative state legislators, think-tanks, and business representatives that collaborate on drafting state bills. About 200 of these bills become law each year. ALEC bills that have passed include reducing corporate regulation and taxes. ALEC helped pass strict voter identification rules, which suppress minority and elderly turnout, and the controversial “Stand Your Ground” legislation, involved in the Trayvon Martin, Fla. shooting case (alec.org, Greeley, “Businessweek,” TPMMuckraker, Barnes, Wash. Post, 6/25/12). Tillis is proud of the role he had in rejecting health care reform under Medicaid, passing a strict voter ID law, and private school vouchers, all ALEC priorities (Charlotte Observer, 5/30/14, Winston- Salem Journal, 5/06/13). Tillis led his legislature in cutting taxes by more than $2 billion without giving teachers a penny in raises (Kos, Clawson, 5/07/14). Most House Speakers rarely vote on legislation. Tillis went out of his way to vote on a bill that would close abortion clinics if they didn’t make expensive improvements. Anti-choice Tillis told reporters he voted on this bill that passed 74-41 because he “needed to demonstrate ‘courage (Lacour, Charlotte Magazine).’”
Tillis said that climate change “was not a fact” and that the Department of Education should be abolished (Charlotte Observer, 5/06/14). Tillis stated that raising the minimum wage is “a dangerous idea,” and that the minimum wage itself is an “artificial threshold (Huffington Post, Lachman, 2/27/14).” Mitt Romney backed Tillis in the 2014 primary (NY Times, Martin, 5/06/14) Mitt, “I don’t care about the 47%,” Romney has a kindred soul in Tillis. In a 2011 video circulated by the Hagan campaign, Tillis stated to a GOP group: “What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance. We need to get those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government and say, ‘At some point, you’re on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies, but we’re not going to take care of you (LA Times, Mascaro, 5/07/14).’”
Tillis, with his corporate systems operating background, does his homework. He focuses on the end game, always “three, four, steps ahead.” He is a great fund raiser, able to tap into a roster of N. Carolina’s prominent corporate executives (Lacour, Charlotte Magazine). Tillis has the Koch Brothers in his camp. The Koch Brothers saw N. Carolina as a “model state,” a place where they had an opportunity to work their economic changes, according to Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity (AFP) president Tim Phillips. In 2012, Romney barely carried N. Carolina. Koch, however, poured in money to help the GOP win the governor’s race and expand its state legislative numbers, catching Democrats by surprise (Kos, 5/17/13). Koch put 130,000 activists into N. Carolina to help Tillis defeat Medicaid expansion for half a million residents. Koch is singularly focused on defeating Hagan. Even before Tillis won the primary, Koch’s AFP poured $8.2 million into TV, radio, and digital ads attacking Hagan. If AFP keeps up this pace, it will spend more than $27 million by Election Day in the Tar Heel State alone (“Politico,” Raju & Palmer, 2/12/14, Mascaro, LA Times, 5/07/14).
Hagan has labeled Tillis’ stands “fringe positions” and says “special interests are dragging him across the finish line (LA Times, Mascaro).” Planned Parenthood plans a $3 million get-out-the vote effort. The “Moral Monday” movement, a group of progressives protesting Tillis and the GOP- controlled state legislature, must back her strongly. However, many in the Democratic base are not “enthused” about Hagan. They wrongly grouse about her making compromises in this “purplish” swing state. Too many Democratic voters know little about Hagan, while GOPers loathe her over Obamacare (Buzzfeed.com, 5/07/14). Hagan barely leads Tillis in the latest PPP Poll, 38%-36%. If a third-party candidate’s voters are re-allocated based on which party they lean towards, the race becomes a 41%-41% tie. The undecideds are Democrats who went 55%-37% for Obama (Kos Elections, 5/14/14, Nir). In 2012, unlike 2008, Romney was able to carry N. Carolina by 2 points because Obama’s percentage declined among the young, those with graduate degrees, and among people in the big metro areas (Barone, 14). Again, turnout is everything. In order to keep the Senate “Blue,” Democrats must come out in droves both in N. Carolina and nationally. On 11/04/2014, Hagan must win the “November Madness” political contest.
Michigan Senate GOP Candidate Terri Lynn Land—Against Equal Pay or Anything Else for Women April 24, 2014
The GOP’s war on women is like the political Energizer Bunny. It just keeps on “going, and going, and going.” Witness failed 2012 Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock’s absurd comments about pregnancy-caused rapes. Add former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. “Huck,” looking at another Oval Office run in 2016, plunged into deep horse manure with his misogynistic comments. A few months ago, he said Democrats believe women can “not control their libido or reproductive system without Uncle Sugar (Sam) providing them with birth control prescriptions each month (Kos, DownstateDemocrat, 4/09/14).” “Huck” recently tweeted that “men like to go hunt/fish with other men. Women like to go to the restroom with other women (#iapolitics #iacaucus, Obradovich, Des Moines Register).” Then there’s Va.’s GOP State Senator Steve Martin. Martin likened pregnant women to mere “hosts” of children, who should be barred from ending unwanted pregnancies (Huffington Post, 2/24/14).
On GOP/FOX News, where “Huck” has a show, two other hosts stated that because a woman makes “a little less pay (than a man) she is better able to keep her job.” Senate GOPers successfully blocked ending a filibuster to prevent passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, or equal pay for women. These FOX hosts saw this action as “no big deal (See Kos Labor Clawson, 4/09/14, NY Times, Joachim, 4/09/14).” Since controlling the House after 2011, the GOP has spent more time trying to investigate and defund Planned Parenthood than helping women or men get jobs. The GOP has voted 50+ times to repeal Obamacare, legislation that enables women to get mammograms and contraceptives. The GOP budget plans authored by Paul Ryan, that Republicans overwhelmingly support, disproportionately cut funds benefiting women (See National Women’s Law Center, Wash. Post, D. Milbank, 4/13/14). Colorado’s GOP/Tea Party 2014 Senate candidate Cory Gardner can not untangle himself from his extreme anti-abortion record (Majority PAC ad, Kos Elections, Lewison, 3/25/14). GOP 2014 New Hampshire Senate candidate, defeated Mass. Senator Scott Brown, has a poor record on birth control, choice, and women’s rights (DSCC Blog, 1/13/10, Wash. Post, 1/10/10, “Politico,” 3/30/14, Hohmann). In Michigan, the leading Republican Senate candidate, Terri Lynn Land, is no friend of equal pay or other matters affecting women. As early as 2010, Land stated, “the reality is that women have a different lifestyle. They have kids, they have to take them to get, you know, dentist appointments, doctors appointments, all those kinds of things and they’re more interested in ‘flexibility in a job than pay (Kos Labor, Clawson, 4/08/10 & 4/09/10).’” Meet Terri Land.
Grand Rapids, Michigan native Terri Lynn Land (55) has been politically active since President Gerry Ford’s 1976 campaign. She received her undergraduate degree from HollandMichigan’s HopeCollege. During high school and after college, she worked in her family’s motel business (terrynnland.com/about-terri). From 1992-2000, Land served as Clerk of Kent County (Mich. Dept. of State, ourcampaigns.com). In 2002, Land successfully ran for Secretary of State. In 2006, she won re-election (ourcampaigns.com RaceID=1637, RaceID=247280).
As Secretary of State, Land touted expanding online options, creating shorter customer lines, and employing more reliable election equipment (terrynnland.com/about-terri). Land also purged thousands of voters from voting rolls. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took Michigan to court. A judge ruled this purge illegal and directed Land to reinstate the affected voters (11/13/08, “The Michigan Messenger,” Melzer, aclu.org/voting-rights). Term-limited under Michigan’s constitution, Land could not run for re-election in 2010. On 6/03/2013, Land announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat to replace retiring Democrat Carl Levin (Benen, msnbc.com).
Land was a 2012 National Committeewoman for the Republican Party. Land, like Paul Ryan, advocated turning Medicare into a voucher program. She is for banning abortion, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or saving a woman’s life. She supports privatizing Social Security, banning same sex marriage, and barring women from combat. She has no problems with the GOP trying to determine whether the U.S. dollar should go back to the pre-FDR gold standard, extremist ideology (“On the Issues,” DSCC press release). In 2/2014, Land called for the total repeal of Obamacare, while endorsing Medicaid’s expansion, part of Obamacare (Benen, The MaddowBlog, 3/26/14). Land and her staff seem confused about Obamacare. Land believes that “Obamacare does not work.” Obamacare has already enrolled over 8 million on the federal health exchanges and at least 20 million more, including people on their parents’ plans and on Medicaid (Kos, McCarter, 4/10/14, Cowley, MSNBC, 4/17/14). A Rand Corp. study has found a 4.7% decline in the uninsured from 20.5 % to 15.8%. A Gallup Poll found the rate of insured dropped from 18% in the fall of 2013 to 12.5% in the first half of 4/2014, the lowest since 2008. A Land staffer, speaking for her boss, wrongly stated that Obamacare “allowed people to wait until they’re very sick to purchase insurance.” “Earth to Land,” unless you get sick during an open enrollment period, you can’t just wait to become ill to enroll (Beutler, salon.com, 3/25/14, Benen,The MaddowBlog, 3/26/14). Either Land has very poor knowledge of this key legislation, or she is not telling the truth to deliberately mislead voters.
Land will be facing Michigan Congressman Gary Peters in the general election. Third-term Cong. Peters (55) currently represents the socially and economically diverse Michigan 14th Congressional District (CD). The 14th includes majority-African American Pontiac, Polish-American Hamtramck, and the wealthy white executive Grosse Pointe areas. The redistricted 14th includes southern OaklandCounty with Southfield, home of black professionals. This CD has LathrupVillage and Oak Park and parts of Detroit. The auto industry is the 14th‘s mainstay and GM plans to expand here. The 14th combines OaklandCounty, the richest in the state with blighted Wayne County Detroit neighborhoods. The 14th has a D+29 Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI), and in 2012 gave Obama his second highest statewide percentage (CQ 14 and Barone 14 Almanacs).
Congressman Peters was born and grew up in Pontiac. His father was a WWII veteran who taught public school, his mother a nurse’s aid. Peters has a political science degree as well as M.B.A. and law degrees. In college, Peters interned for a union organizer. He worked at Merrill Lynch and Paine Webber. At 34, Peters became a Naval Reserve lieutenant commander and spent a dozen years in the reserves (CQ & Barone14).
Peters won election to the Rochester Hills City Council where he served from 1991-1993, and helped save that city $400,000. In 1994, he won election to the Michigan State Senate where he served for eight years. Peters pushed legislation to cut taxes for the middle class, improve children’s health insurance, and led an effort to ban oil drilling in the Great Lakes. In 2003, Peters became Michigan’s lottery commissioner where he served till 2007. In 2008, Peters defeated the eight-term GOP 9th District congressman. In GOP tsunami year 2010, Peters beat another opponent. When re-districting abolished the old suburban 9th, Peters successfully ran in the new 14th (CQ & Barone 14).
Peters is a loyal House Democrat. He has voted for health care reform, the economic stimulus, energy reform, and equal pay for women. He helped write the Wall Street reform bill and sat on the conference committee that ironed out House and Senate differences before its final passage (Press Release, Democratic Leader, Barone14). He emphasizes housing and manufacturing, key Michigan concerns. He defends the auto industry and has fought to make union organizing easier. He displays a pen Obama used to sign a bill providing loan incentives and tax cuts for small businesses. Peters has high 90%-100% scores from labor and progressive groups (CQ14). Peters sits on the Financial Services Committee. In the current 113th Congress, the Democratic leadership made Peters a senior whip and appointed him as a recruiting vice chair for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, DCCC (Barone 14). Peters has a stellar pro-choice record, with 100% ratings from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. Dem. Senator Carl Levin and fellow Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow endorsed Peters in his Senate race. Peters’ entrance cleared the Democratic primary field (Klug, F. 5/23/13, mlive.com/news).
Michigan voted strongly for Obama in 2008 and 2012. However, the GOP holds the governorship, the majority in both state chambers, and in the congressional delegation. There are strong “Red” areas in rural Michigan and the Grand Rapids area. Macomb and Oakland County Democrats swing between the parties over economic and cultural issues (Barone 14, “How Obama Won,” Todd & Gawiser). GOPerLand holds a state office, giving her greater name recognition than Cong. Peters. In a recent ad, she sips from a mug, checks her watch, and says “because she is a woman, she might know a little bit more about women than Gary Peters (LOL!).” Land ducks taking detailed positions on issues in this ad or elsewhere and is running a disciplined campaign attacking Obama and Obamacare (“Politico,”3/6/14, Bresnahan & Hohmann, Kos, Clawson, 4/22/14). The GOP wants voters to avoid looking at her strong right wing/ anti-women record.
Land, like Scott Brown and other GOP Senate candidates, is “addicted to Koch (COKE),” right wing Koch Brothers money. In the Michigan race, the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity (AFP) front has already poured millions of dollars into falsely attacking Peters for “hurting Michigan families under Obamacare (Huffington Post, 1/14/14).” Although Peters is known as a good fund-raiser and reported raising $1.3 million in the first three months of 2014 (Kos Elections, 4/17/14), Land raised $1.5 during that period, including a $100,000 personal contribution (Detroit News, Livengood, 4/08/14). GOP outside groups, among them Koch, have spent $3.6 million for the Michigan contest, about 3 times the Democrats’ spending. This outside spending has made Land a political threat (Huffington Post, 1/14/2014, Confessore, NY Times, 4/11/14).
Peters recently started to air his first statewide television ads (Livengood, 4/08/14).With photos of the Koch brothers, the SIEU union is running an ad referring to “billionaire special interests ganging up with Land” to charge women more for health care and to make it hard to get equal pay. Peters’ campaign manager, Paul Tencher, ran Indiana Dem. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s winning 2012 campaign against anti-choice Richard Mourdock (“Politico,” 3/16/14). A 4/03-06 PPP poll of registered voters had Peters ahead 41%-36%, with a plus or minus 3.4% margin of error. Land had previously led Peters in a PPP survey and in other polls. This race remains too close to call (timeshearld.com, Spangler, 4/08/14). Democratic donors must start giving Peters more money to level the playing field against the GOP’s “Kochtopus.” Peters must ceaselessly hammer Land for her stands against equal pay for women and against abortion rights. Cook Political Reporter Jennifer Duffy calls income equity, or equal pay for women, “a big umbrella, and you can talk about a lot of things under it. They (Democrats) need something to hang their turnout efforts on, and this is it (Weisman, NY Times, 4/08/14).”
When Democrats and women vote, we win. We must not repeat 2010, when only 46.2% of women voted, a 19.5 % decrease from 2008 (U.S. Census Bureau, infoplease.com, LA Times, 11/09/10 Gold & Steffen). A similar poor 2014 showing will give Terri Land and fellow anti-equal pay/ anti-choice GOPers control of the Senate.
Koch Brothers Lackey Scott Brown—He Wants to Take His Failed Massachusetts Senate Act to New Hampshire April 2, 2014
The GOP shark gang smells blood in the 2014 midterm political waters. Democrats face an uphill climb to win a net 17 seats in the Republican House and make Nancy Pelosi Speaker. The next GOP move? Recapture the Democratically-controlled Senate to totally checkmate President Obama’s legislative program for his final two years. Currently, Democrats hold a 55-45 Senate majority, but are defending 21 of 36 seats this November. Half of those seats are in “Red” or purple states, with at least 6 of them toss ups. “Team Red” has to gain 6 states to make obstructionist GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Majority Leader (NY Times, Healey, 2/07/14, CNN Political Unit, Steinhauser & Davidsen, 3/18/14). Democrats are attempting to flip a Republican seat in Georgia and McConnell’s in Kentucky, tough fights. In addition to contesting 6 Senate toss up seats, the GOP is on offense in Iowa, Michigan, and Colorado. Add New Hampshire to this mix. After recruiting “affable” Tea Party Colorado Cong. Cory Gardner to challenge Senator Mark Udall, Republicans have landed a “heavyweight” to oppose Democratic Sen. Jean Shaheen, former Mass. Senator Scott Brown (McManus, LA Times, 3/16/14, NY Times, 3/14/14).
Remember Scott Brown? Brown (54) created a political earthquake by winning a special election in 1/2010. Brown captured the seat of the late Democrat Ted Kennedy, defeating inept Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley by a 5.4% margin. Brown played the usual GOP “lying and hiding” game. He labeled himself a “moderate/independent,” a “Scott Brown Republican,” an average “pickup truck guy.” He stressed his ties to Mass. where he grew up. Analysts ignored Brown’s statement that he was a “Reagan Republican (Boston Globe, 11/2009, Mooney, B. 11/20/09, Boston Globe).” Brown downplayed his Tea Party appearances. He didn’t emphasize that the Tea Party Express group endorsed him, broadcasted an ad for him, or that Tea Partiers from across the U.S. volunteered for him (Salon.com, M. Madden, Daily Kos, 1/13/10, Huffington Post, Stein1/14/10).
Scott Brown has been bought and paid for by Koch (Coke) Industries. Before Brown’s 2010 election, Koch gave him $5,000. Brown stated that Koch’s aid “made a ton, a difference, and I could certainly use it again (video).” Koch Industries is the country’s second-largest privately run company, a conglomerate of refining, pipeline, chemical, and paper businesses. It was founded by Fred Koch, a charter member of the extremist/conspiratorial John Birch Society. In 2010, Forbes Magazine listed Fred’s sons, Charles and David, who now run this company, as the nation’s fifth-richest people, each worth $21.5 billion (Hamburger et al, LA Times, 2/06/11, Source Watch). Politically, the Koch brothers follow “Dear Old Dad.” Reagan and W were not “conservative” enough for them. After Obama’s first election, the Kochs decided to get openly into politics. The Kochs used their Americans for Prosperity (AFP) group to disrupt Obama’s presidency. AFP was in the forefront of many of the violent Tea Party protests against health care reform. AFP opposed Obama’s stimulus bill and cap-and-trade legislation to make companies pay for the air pollution they create. Koch is a major oil and air polluter (Mayer, “The New Yorker, 8/30/10, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Frank, Source Watch, Media Matters, 8/05/09). In the 2010 midterm elections, in which the GOP took over the House and made Senate gains, Koch’s AFP spent $40 million to organize rallies and get out the vote in over 100 national races (LA Times, Hamburger, et al, 2/06/11).”
In the run up to the 2014 midterms, Koch has already spent 10 times as much as any major outside Democratic group, at least more than $30 million. Koch is running ads attacking Obamacare in the toss up Senate races. Koch’s AFP used the 3/2014 Fla. 13th district congressional special election as its laboratory. In Fla., Koch fine-tuned get-out-the-vote tools and messaging for the Nov. 2014 races. Koch volunteers ran phone banks, knocked on doors, and used social media to help GOPer Jolly win. Koch is the dominating force in the 2014 midterms. Koch is not merely campaigning against Obamacare, but trying to make the case for limited government and deregulation. Koch wants to eliminate clean air and water protection and stop funding to protect against unsafe products (Eggen, Wash. Post, 3/20/11). In 2013, Koch was involved in the Va.’s governor’s race, keeping the contest close for unsuccessful GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli. Koch uses actors to attack Obamacare and repeats lies the media has constantly debunked (NY Times, Hulse & Parker, Politifact).
Once in the Senate, Scott “Koch” Brown removed his “independent/moderate” mask. His record was more in tune with Southern and Western GOP voters (CQ12 Almanac). He voted with his hard right party 80% of the time (Wash. Post.com). Brown voted against the Clean Air Act. Koch then gave him the maximum amount allowed under campaign finance laws (M. Haigh, 7/21/11, 350.org). He voted against Obamacare, although he previously supported then Mass. Gov. Romney’s health plan on which Obama’s legislation was based (ABC News, 1/21/10). Brown campaigned as “pro-choice,” but stated he would vote for a Supreme Court Justice opposed to Roe v. Wade. Brown had low scores from the Mass. National Organization for Women (DSCC Blog, NEWS, 1/13/10, Parker, Wash. Post, 1/10/10). He voted for allowing employers to deny birth control coverage. After introducing her to the Senate and saying he was satisfied with her answers, “independent” Brown voted against former Harvard Law Dean/Solicitor General Elena Kagan to burnish his conservative credentials (Atlantic Wire, 8/05/10, “Politico,”3/30/14, Hohmann). Brown was dubbed by Forbes Magazine “Wall Street’s favorite Senator.” He was against raising taxes on the top 1% (B. Johnson, “Think Progress,” 8/09/11). Brown voted for Obama’s Wall Street financial reform bill, only after weakening it to help Mass. and out of state banking firms, who promptly gave him campaign cash (Slack, Boston Globe, 12/12/10). “Koch Boy” Brown had a 25% rating from labor’s AFL-CIO but high scores from business and anti-tax groups (CQ 12). Scott “Koch” Brown claimed oil companies “didn’t get subsidies,” but voted several times to continue to give oil over $7 billion in yearly subsidies. He was against closing this tax loophole (“Think Progress,” S. Benen, maddowblog.msnbc, 7/12/12).
Mass. voters soured on Scott Brown’s Koch agenda. Running for a full term in 11/2012, he lost to Democratic consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren by nearly 8 points (CQ 14). Brown decided against running for Dem. Sen. John Kerry’s seat when Kerry became Sec. of State. Brown declined to run for Mass. Governor in 2014. Brown then became a “commentator-in-exile” for GOP Fox News (MassLive, 2/06/13, nydailynews.com).
Soon after his Mass. Senate loss, Brown started “making noises” about a New Hampshire Senate run (4/2013). He talked about his “strong” GraniteState roots. Brown had falsely declared he was a “confidante of kings and queens as well as Hillary Clinton (Boston Globe, 7/13/12).” Brown now wrongly stated he was a New Hampshire native and that this state is “a second home to him.” Brown claimed he was “born in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.” Despite its name, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is in Kittery, Maine (Kos Elections, 4/13/14). “Truth” and Brown don’t mix. Brown owns a vacation house in New Hampshire, a weak tie. Late in 2013, Brown sold his Mass. home claiming it was for “personal” not political reasons. Super-size ego Brown had been toying with running for President in 2016. After a year of media flirting, Brown cancelled a visit to presidential caucus state Iowa. On 3/14/2014, Fox News cancelled his contract when he told them of his plans to run in New Hampshire. Brown cut $30,000 in checks to NH GOP committees, spent several weeks in that state with Republicans, and started putting together a campaign team (NY Times, Seeyle, 3/14/14, Nir, Kos Elections, 3/17/14, CNN 3/14/14 Steinhauser). He plans to challenge first-term Dem. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and to attack her for supporting Obamacare (3/14/14, Seeyle, NY Times).
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (67) is the first woman in U.S. history to be elected both governor and senator. Missouri native Shaheen moved to New Hampshire, her husband’s home state in 1973. Shaheen ran a small family jewelry business. Shaheen worked as a staffer in Jimmy Carter’s New Hampshire 1976 and 1980 presidential primary wins and managed Gary Hart’s upset 1984 NH primary victory. In 1990, she won a seat in the NH State Senate. In 1996, Shaheen won the governorship. She ran on a platform of affordable health care and access to education. In 2002, she lost a race for the U.S. Senate to Cong. John E. Sununu, the son of H.W.’s chief-of-staff (CQ 14, Barone 14 Almanac). In a 2008 rematch, Shaheen defeated Sununu (Barone and CQ 14).
In the Senate, Shaheen is considered a polished Democrat. She sits on the Armed Services, Appropriations, Foreign Relations, and Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committees. From 2009-2012, she voted with her party about 95% of the time and has high ratings from progressive groups (CQ 14). In the present 113th Congress, Shaheen voted with her party 97% of the time (Wash. Post, U.S. Cong. Votes Database). Despite representing a state with more GOP registered voters than Dems (CQ14), Shaheen co-sponsored a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and to allow the federal government to provide benefits to same-sex married couples. Shaheen is a supporter of Planned Parenthood, a GOP bugbear. She voted for health care reform and has a personal interest in it. Her granddaughter has Type 1 diabetes (Barone 14).
Before Scott Brown entered this race, Shaheen was NH’s most popularly statewide elected official (Barone 14, WMUR Poll—2/13). Her 2014 GOP opposition was going nowhere. The best known of them was wacky former GOP Senator Bob Smith, who once went Independent. He sneered at Brown for not being conservative enough and an establishment “tool.” However, we do not know if Smith and the other candidates will remain in the Sept. GOP NH primary to challenge Brown (NY Times, Seelye 3/14/14). Brown, from neighboring Mass., is well known and can easily raise money. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, which previously worked with Koch, is planning a $600,000 ad buy against Shaheen (Seelye). Bet on Koch to also dive into this race. Present polls have Shaheen leading Brown anywhere from 8 points (PPP) to double digits (Suffolk, ARG, WMUR—10%-17%), but that margin can plummet with a Koch/Rove barrage of false anti-Obamacare ads (CNN Steinhauser).
Some GOPers consider Brown nothing but an ambitious carpetbagger. Others, as they did in the Fla. special House election race, will vote for any candidate sporting the “R” label. In his Mass. contest with Warren, Brown pledged not to take outside money. When Shaheen similarly challenged Brown, he refused. Brown desperately needs his Koch, Rove, and other GOP “sugar daddy ‘fixes (Kos, 3/17/2014).’” Sen. Warren has jumped into this contest, urging Democrats to send money to fight Brown. Sen. Shaheen has pushed fundraisers to help her stop Brown. Sen. Majority Harry Reid and fellow Democrats have stated, “We can’t let the Koch Brothers buy the U.S. Senate.” In the end, the only way to stop the 1% reactionary Koch Brothers is for Democrats and moderates to come out in droves in 11/2014 to keep the Senate “Blue.” We must say “No” to Scott Brown and his GOP Koch Senate lackeys.
GOP Senate “Dream Candidate” Cory Gardner—Just Another Tea Party Nightmare March 21, 2014
For GOPers, the Campaign 2014 mantra boils down to one phrase, “It’s rebranding, stupid.” Translation: outwardly rebranding as a “kinder, gentler, mainstream” looking party, but still holding the same far out views of its unpopular Tea Party base. The GOP “establishment” wants to re-paint extremist candidates voting the Tea Party line as pragmatic “moderates,” deceiving voters in the 11/2014 congressional midterms. In order for the GOP to make obstructionist Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader, “Team Red,” has to win 6 seats. Democrats, with a current working majority of 55-45, are defending 21 seats. Six of those remain toss ups in states Romney won in 2012 (J. Healey, NY Times, 2/07/14, “Politico,” Raju & Sherman, Time Mag., Election Special). Democrats are attempting to go on the offensive in Georgia and Ky. to try to pick up “Red” Senate seats. GOPers, however, in addition to fighting for the 6 toss up seats, believe they can go on offense in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Iowa. Add Colorado to the GOP “offense” mix. In a coup paralleling the machinations practiced by Cong. Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in NETFLIX’S “House of Cards” drama, the GOP recruited Cong. Cory Gardner to oppose freshman Democrat Mark Udall. Gardner had originally declined to run. When Gardner entered the Col. GOP Senate primary race at the end of 2/2014, District Attorney Ken Buck, the Tea Party zany who lost to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010, dropped out and endorsed Gardner. Buck decided to run for Gardner’s congressional seat. Another GOP candidate, also left the race (Wash. Post., Cillizza, 2/28/14, Peters, NY Times, 2/26/14). The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza described Udall as going from a safe incumbent into one of the “most endangered” Senators within 48 hours (Post Opinions, 2/28/14). Let’s look at Sen. Mark Udall, challenger Cory Gardner, and this RockyMountain brawl.
Colorado first-term Senator Mark Udall (53) comes from a political family dubbed the “Kennedys of the West.” Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Mark is the son of the late former Ariz. Congressman “Mo” Udall, who unsuccessfully sought the presidency in 1976. Mark’s uncle, the late former Ariz. Cong. Stewart Udall, served as Interior Secretary under JFK and LBJ. Mark is the first cousin of current freshman U.S. New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, Stewart’s son. Cousins Mark and Tom share progressive views. Mark’s mother, who served 5 years in Nepal in the Peace Corps in her late 50’s, also inspired him to go into public service (Barone and CQ Almanacs 14). After graduating WilliamsCollege in 1972, Mark moved to Boulder, Colorado where he worked 20 years for the ColoradoOutwardBoundSchool. He was that school’s executive director for 10 years. An accomplished mountaineer, Mark climbed the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere and scaled Mt.Everest’s north face (CQ and Barone 14).
Mark won election to the Col. House of Representatives in 1996. When the Dem. Congressman representing Boulder retired in 1998, Mark took that seat. He defeated the GOP Mayor of Boulder by 5,500 votes, going door to door while raising lots of money. He emphasized environmental protection, growth management, and education. Mark served in the U.S. House for 5 terms and won re-election by increasing margins (CQ & Barone 14). In the House, Mark had a mostly liberal voting record, going with his party over 90% of the time (CQ14). He opposed allowing states to designate roads in wilderness areas. He persuaded the U.S. House to pass renewable energy standards in 2007. Mark, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted against W’s 2002 Iraq War resolution. He spoke of his father’s regret over voting in 1964 for the Vietnam Gulf of Tonkin resolution which led to escalation. Mark called one of his “proudest moments” witnessing his father becoming the first prominent Democrat to vote against the 1967 Vietnam troop buildup (CQ 14, Barone 14). In 2008, when Colorado GOP’s Senator retired, Mark defeated his opponent by over 10 points, while Cousin Tom won a New Mexico Senate seat (Barone 14, CQ 14).
In the Senate, Mark serves on the Armed Services, Energy & Natural Resources, and Select Intelligence Committees (CQ14, Barone 14). He voted with his party 93% in the current 113th and previous 112th Congresses (Wash. Post, U.S. Cong. Votes Database). He voted for the budget and spending bills that removed many of the harsh automatic sequester cuts. He supports filibuster reform (CQ14, coloradoforethics.org, 11/21/13).He generally advocates environmental legislation, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Mark gets high 90 plus marks from progressive groups. He voted for the failed background check proposal for gun buyers in 4/2013 (LA Times, 4/18/13).
Mark has always opposed the Patriot Act. He is very skeptical of expanded surveillance powers. He is against unchecked CIA power and cover ups, especially in the areas of detentions and interrogations. Mark wants to know just how many Americans have had emails and phone conversations monitored (Barone 14, NY Times, Mazzetti, 3/04/14). He was for repeal of the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and for same-sex marriage (Barone 14, Think Progress, 8/22/11, Volsky). He has a stellar pro-choice record and stands up for issues affecting women, including equal pay (Col. Independent, 3/05/15, Tomasic). He voted for and supports Obamacare. He advocates comprehensive immigration reform (markudall.senate.gov).
Meet GOP Senate wannabe Cory Gardner. Two-term Cong. Gardner (39) presently represents Colorado’s 4th Congressional District (CD). The 4th looks more like the Kansas prairies than part of Rocky MountainColorado. The 4th, in Colorado’s eastern part, borders five states including Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Agriculture and food processing are economic mainstays. Most of the 4th’s population lives in the Denver suburbs of Weld and fast growing DouglasCounty. The 4th contains the cities of Greeley, Longmont, and Castle Rock. In 2011, DouglasCounty was the 9th wealthiest in the nation. The 4th Col. CD follows the voting patterns of its neighboring “Red” states. DouglasCounty voters are cultural conservatives and gave Romney 62% of their vote. The 4th CD has a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of R+11 (Barone 14, CQ14).
While growing up, Gardner worked on his family’s farm implement dealership. At the University of Col. Law School, he joined the conservative Federalist Society. After receiving his law degree in 2001, Gardner became the communications director for the National Corn Growers Association. In 2002, he became an aide to conservative Col. GOP Senator Wayne Allard, whose seat Mark Udall later won. In 2005, Gardner was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Colorado House. He won a full term in 2006, and won re-election unopposed in 2008 (CQ 14, Barone 14, ourcampaigns.com). In 2010, Gardner ran against Dem. rookie Betsy Markey and handily defeated her (Barone 14).
In the House, Cong. Gardner has been one of the more faithful followers of the GOP leadership. He voted with his hard-right party 93% of the time in both the 112th and 113th Congresses (Wash. Post, U.S. Cong. Votes Database). Gardner was a close friend of House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and joined him on the 2012 vice-presidential campaign trail. Gardner repeatedly voted for repealing Obamacare. He added an amendment to the 2011 GOP House-passed spending bill that denied startup funds for Obama’s health care exchanges (Barone 14, Huffington Post Seay, 3/03/14). At a 2013 hearing, Gardner lost his cool when he badgered Health and Human Services Sec. Sibelius over Obamacare (Col. Independent, Tomasic, 2/27/14).
Fiscal conservative Gardner “deviated” a few times from the GOP leadership. He voted against supporting spending bills for 2011 and 2012. He voted against the budget agreement Ryan and Democrats later worked out to remove some sequester cuts. He joined most GOPers in opposing the successful fiscal cliff compromise that prevented economic disaster (U.S. Cong. Votes Database, CQ 14). Gardner was in favor of the GOP government 10/2013 shut down and against raising the debt ceiling. He even encouraged talk that Obama was not a U.S. born citizen, pandering to the loony “birther” fringe (Col. Indep. 2/27/14).
Despite these views, House GOP leadership trusted Gardner, rewarding him as a freshman with the Energy and Commerce Committee assignment. GOPers saw Gardner as “youthful and tactful,” a fellow they needed to “tweak their ‘branding (CQ14, See Col. Independent, Tomasic, 3/05/14).’”
Gardner is an heir to wacky Ken Buck, hard right beer baron Pete Coors, and anti-immigrant Tom Tancredo, people Coloradans have rejected at the ballot box (Tomasic, Col. Independent, 2/27/14). Gardner has a Tea Party voting record. In both the 2010 and 2012 cycle, extremist/anti-regulatory Koch Industries directly gave Gardner $10,000. By 2011, Koch, through additional committees and lobbyists it funded, gave Gardner about $300,000-$450,000 (OpenSecrets.org, DCCC, gardnerpath.com). Gardner repaid Koch. Environmentalists labeled Gardner, “the most anti-environmental Congressman in Colorado history (Barone 14).”
Gardner is a member of the GOP’s “war on women caucus.” While in the Col. Legislature, Gardner sponsored a bill to outlaw abortion, including in cases of rape and incest. In Congress, he gained notoriety for sponsoring a bill to redefine rape to include only “forcible” instances of the crime. Gardner supported numerous failed attempts to pass a so-called personhood constitutional amendment that would grant fertilized eggs legal recognition, outlaw abortion in all cases, and threaten fertility research and treatment. A YouTube video of Gardner campaigning in 2010 has him saying he supported this measure and passed around personhood petitions in his church. Pro-choice Colorado defeated the personhood amendments in 2008 and 2010. In 2012, personhood supporters failed to win enough signatures to get on the ballot. Ken Buck lost his 2010 Senate race to Michael Bennet because he supported similar positions, losing the women’s vote by 16 points (Tomasic, Col. Independent, Tomasic, 2/27 & 3/05/14). Gardner just endorsed Buck to take over Gardner’s congressional seat (Denver Post, Bartels, 3/201/4).
The Human Rights Campaign gave Cong. Gardner a Zero grade on gay rights. In the Colorado legislature, Gardner voted against allowing gays to become adoptive parents and giving them health care benefits. Gardner supports the hard right stance on immigration. He favored Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law (Col. Indep. 2/27/14).
After Gardner declared his Senate candidacy, Sen. Mark Udall and his fellow Democrats immediately started attacking him for his anti-women state and federal record to define him early as outside Colorado’s mainstream (Tomasic, Col. Indep. 3/05/14). Udall’s spokesman correctly argued that “We’ve swapped one Tea Partier (Buck) for another (Gardner).” He added that “unlike radical Cong. Tancredo, who never cracked the top 50, Gardner’s record made him the 10th most conservative House member (National Journal, KDVR, 3/04/14).” Udall’s camp has stated that the Koch Brothers have poured at least $970,000 of “tainted money” in ads into this Colorado contest (Scripps Media & AP 3/18/14).
The officially Tea Party-endorsed candidate, State Senator Owen Hill, initially refused to leave the race and called the Gardner-Buck switch “corruption.” On 3/17/2014, Hill dropped out and endorsed Gardner. He stated the GOP needed a “united front.” State Senator Randy Baumgartner remains in the GOP primary, but is not very popular. Who knows if he will stay. Koch and other GOP groups will keep on shoveling money to Gardner. Democrats and Democratic-leaning groups must answer ASAP. They are starting to bolster Udall and attack Koch, but must keep it up. (NY Times, Parker, 3/21/14). The latest PPP poll has Udall leading Gardner by just 2 points. One year ago, PPP had Udall leading Gardner by 10 (Nir, Kos Elections, 3/18/14). Democrats, women, gays, Hispanics, and moderates must come out in droves to re-elect Mark Udall, not “rebranded” Cory Gardner, Ken Buck’s political twin.
The Old Dominion’s Message for 2014— The Democratic “Coalition of the Ascendant” Trumps All November 15, 2013
The GOP and their media allies are yammering about how Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the Virginia Governorship on 11/05/2013 by less than 3% of the vote, despite previous polling indicating he would coast to victory (“Politico,” J. Hohmann, 11/06/13). Ignore them. For the first time in 36 years, the party holding the White House won a governor’s race in the Old Dominion and Democrats scored a “Blue” pickup in this “Purplish” state (Kos, 11/06/13). Virginia Democrats handily won the race for Lt. Governor and, probably, a 164 vote nail-biter for Attorney General (USA Today, 11/13/11). To quote basketball wizard Phil Jackson, “A ‘W’ (a win) is a ‘W.’” Call GOP ace Karl Rove a Jackson disciple. He didn’t care whether client-in-chief George W. Bush won by 1 vote in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 or by 2.9% in 2004. Rove trumpeted these victories as “mandates” and had George W. govern accordingly. After W’s 2000 victory, Rove determined that to win in 2004 with a divided “Red/Blue” State nation, the presidential race must be a GOP “base” election. In 2004, the Rove/W team concentrated on bringing out all the conservatives who had voted in 2000, plus millions more with similar beliefs (See “One Party Country,” Hamburger & Wallsten).
In 2008, Obama ran as being above party lines and received many GOP and independent votes. Campaign 2012, however, required a Democratic base election. In 2012, few GOP voters were willing to aid Obama. Republicans had spent 2009-2012 blocking everything Obama did trying to make him, in GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell’s words, “a one-term President.” With changing national demographics favoring “Team Blue,” Obama handily defeated Romney with what columnist Ron Brownstein labeled the “coalition of the ascendant.” This group consists of African Americans, Hispanics, and women. Add young voters, Asian Americans, gays, and people with advanced degrees to this bloc (Alter, “The Center Holds”). When much of this Democratic base stayed home in the 2010 midterms, the GOP took back the House, gained Senate seats, and captured the majority of governorships. Let’s look at Governor- elect Terry McAuliffe, how he won Virginia, and the lessons of this race.
Terry McAuliffe (56) is no stranger to Democratic politics. McAuliffe’s father was treasurer of a NY Democratic organization (M. Dowd, NY Times, 7/07/87). A 1979 graduate of D.C.’s Catholic University, son Terry took a job in Pres. Carter’s 1980 re-election campaign and became the national finance director. In 1984, McAuliffe received a law degree from Georgetown University (“Leaders Magazine,” 7/03/07). McAuliffe made millions in banking and business (“What a Party!” Kettman & McAuliffe).
McAuliffe remains best known for his political and personal relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as his Democratic Party fundraising (“This Town,” Leibovich). With Bill Clinton in office, McAuliffe raised $275 million for him. McAuliffe stated his many business and political ties were “interrelated (Gerth, NY Times, 12/12/09).” He became Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2001, serving until 2005. During that period, the DNC raised $578 million and became debt-free for the first time (LA Times, 6/09/00, Wash. Post, 10/21/05). Before his DNC term ended, McAuliffe gave $5 million to Tim Kaine for his successful Va. gubernatorial race. Kaine became DNC Chair and was elected Senator from Va. in 2012 (Garver, 3/23/05, “American Prospect,” CQ 14 Almanac). McAuliffe served as one of Hillary’s campaign chairmen in her 2008 presidential race and was a 2008 Democratic Convention super-delegate (Baltimore Sun, 3/16/08).
In 2009, McAuliffe ran in the Democratic primary for Governor of Virginia. He came in second to Creigh Deeds, who was clobbered by Republican Bob McDonnell (Barone 14 Almanac). Deeds hesitated to adopt progressive economic and social stands that might turn off rural whites but bring out the Democratic base in a non-presidential election. In 2013, McAuliffe took the opposite tack (Barone 14, R. Brownstein, National Journal, 10/17/13). He gambled that in a non-presidential year, he could get out “the coalition of the ascendant” Democratic base by adopting national Democratic views. McAuliffe endorsed gay marriage, universal background checks for gun purchases, and Obamacare, including free contraceptive coverage. He stood for reversing tight restrictions on abortion clinics, a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, and limits on carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants (Brownstein, National Journal, 10/17/13).
McAuliffe was counting on Va.’s demographic trends, a state Obama carried twice. No Democrat presidential candidate had won Va. since 1964. Socially liberal Northern Virginia, part of the D.C. suburbs, now makes up 33% of that state’s population. It has many tech and government workers. Hampton Roads, a Democratic area, contains at least another 21% of the population, and metropolitan Richmond 16%. The GOP areas, rural Southside Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, and the Southwest’s coal area, have shrunk (Brownstein, Barone 14). Blacks are 19% of the state, Hispanics 8%, and Asians 6%. Northern Va., which accounted for 55% of the 2000-2010 population increase, has large Hispanic and Asian populations. In 2010, Fairfax County was 17% Asian and 16% Hispanic. Fast-growing Loudoun County is 15% Asian and 12% Hispanic (Barone 14).
Under Virginia law, GOP Governor Bob McDonnell could not run for a second term. McAuliffe’s GOP opponent was Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. A third party Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis was in the race. Cuccinelli, a former Va. State Senator (2002-2009), won election as Attorney General in the 2009. Cuccinelli is a true-believer social conservative. He has spent his career battling abortion and trying to limit divorce (Hohmann, “Politico,”11/06/13). Cuccinelli opposed abortion for rape, incest, and the mother’s health. His “ultimate goal” is “to make abortion disappear in America and make people want it that way.” He compares his opposition to abortion to the “fight against slavery (Planned Parenthood Action Fund).” Cuccinelli is a Tea Party favorite (LA Times, Halper, 11/05/13). He is anti- gay marriage, and has stated that “homosexuality is against natural law (“Cuccinelli.com,” Wash. Post, 6/29/03).” He opposes gun control and received the backing of the National Rifle Association. In the State Senate, Cuccinelli sponsored a 2009 resolution urging Congress to amend the Constitution to deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. In a radio interview, he equated immigration policy with “rat control (NY Times, J. Preston, 11/06/13).” Cuccinelli is best known for his opposition to Obamacare. He was one of the key state attorneys general filing lawsuits to challenge Obamacare’s constitutionality. Cuccinelli unsuccessfully tried to leapfrog directly to the Supreme Court before all the federal appeals courts had ruled on Obamacare. Cuccinelli and Company ultimately lost in the High Court (M. Coyle, “The Roberts Court,” 2013).
Cuccinelli’s right wing record gave McAuliffe the opportunity to hammer him non-stop about his being out of Virginia’s mainstream. McAuliffe ran a disciplined campaign pushing job creation. His numerous ads pounded Cuccinelli with being anti-abortion, anti-contraception, and for being only one of three attorneys general in the nation to oppose the Violence Against Women Act (T. Gabriel, NY Times, 11/05/13). Sixty-three percent of Va. voters believe abortion should remain legal in at least some or all cases (Planned Parenthood Action Fund). McAuliffe raised more than $35 million, nearly double Cuccinelli (Wash. Post, B. Pershing, Wash. Post, 11/06/13). Although Cuccinelli was the early favorite, many business-oriented GOPers, including the mayor of Va. Beach, the state’s largest city, endorsed McAuliffe. Cuccinelli’s stances against abortion, gays, and climate science rattled them (Gabriel, NY Times, CQ 14).
Pundits were “shocked, shocked,” that McAuliffe only won by 2.5%. The final polling averages had him ahead by an average of 7 and the Wash. Post Poll had him up by 12 (Wash. Post, “The Fix,” Craighill & Clement, 11/06/2013). “Conventional wisdom” attributed his narrow win to the techno-botched roll-out of the Obamacare federal website. As the race ended, Cuccinelli emphasized his hostility to Obamacare (See Hohmann, “Politico,” 11/06/13). Most pollsters had been “carried away” by the temporary pro-McAuliffe “bump” that occurred during the GOP/Tea Party shutdown which ended in mid-October. Many GOPers backing third-party candidate Sarvis also “came home” after appearances by GOP/ Tea Party icons Ted Cruz and Ron Paul (See Gabriel, NY Times).
McAuliffe’s financial edge enabled him to hire the Blue Labs firm. Blue Labs was a group of about 20 people who were veterans of Obama’s 2012 analytics operation. They figured out, with mathematical accuracy and extensive data research, the percentages McAuliffe needed of women, Hispanics, African Americans, and others to win on 11/05/2013. They had McAuliffe advertise starting in the summer on shows such as “Judge Judy” and “Dr. Oz.” to get out women. They made sure Bill Clinton campaigned to pull a strong African American turnout (See Pershing, Wash. Post, Gabriel, NY Times). McAuliffe’s group achieved strong Hispanic turn out by running ads attacking Cuccinelli for his “rat control” immigration remarks(Preston, NY Times, 11/05/13). In 2013, as in 2012, 20% of Va. African Americans voted and 4% of Latinos did, just a 1% drop-off from 2012 (CNN & Fox Exit Polls).These numbers put McAuliffe over the top. And despite the GOP and general “spin,” Obmacare was not a chain around McAuliffe’s neck that nearly defeated him. After the election, McAuliffe’s Democratic pollster Geoff Garin told reporters that their final 10/31/2013 internal poll had McAuliffe up on Cuccinelli by 3% (45%-42% with 5% for Sarvis). The Blue Labs firm had modeled this contest as a 2-point race. This lead remained a stable 2%-4% from mid-summer on, except for a big McAuliffe bump during the shutdown. There was no last minute tightening of the race. Garin noted that Cuccinelli’s bragging about being the first attorney general to sue over Obamacare made voters polled less likely to support him. The structure of the Va. electorate would have always made this race close (Ward, Huffington Post, 11/06/13, @geoffgarin, G. Sargent, “The Plum Line,” Wash. Post, 11/06/13). In 2012, Obama won Va. by just 4% (CQ 14, Barone14).
What are Virginia’s lessons for the 2014 midterm and beyond? Obamacare techno glitches must be fixed ASAP. Millions must be enrolled to get better healthcare. However, Democratic turnout, especially its “coalition of the ascendant,” trumps all. McAuliffe’s Va. win was way too close because groups other than blacks and Hispanics, especially women, liberals, and the 18-29 set, decreased their turnout from 2012 by 4-6 points (See Fox & CNN Exit Polls, kos, 11/06/13). In order for Democrats to take back the House, keep the Senate, and gain governorships, the “coalition of the ascendant” must live up to its name. It can’t become the “coalition of the descending or the disappearing.”