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The Political Report – November 14, 2022

New York Times: “How the midterms turned out so improbably was, in many ways, a function of forces beyond Democrats’ control. A Supreme Court decision that stripped away a half-century of abortion rights galvanized their base. A polarizing, unpopular and ever-present former president, Donald J. Trump, provided the type of ready-made foil whom White Houses rarely enjoy.”

“But interviews with more than 70 people — party strategists, lawmakers and current and former White House officials — also revealed crucial tactical decisions, strategic miscalculations, misreading of polls, infighting and behind-the-scenes maneuvering in both parties that led the G.O.P. to blow its chance at a blowout.”

New York Times: “Preliminary figures indicate that Democrats, particularly in swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan, benefited from a strong turnout of young voters, aged 18-29, the age group that regularly shows the strongest support for the party — and regularly votes the least.”

“But less certain and much debated after Tuesday’s vote was whether the turnout was particularly strong this year, or more a continuation of support seen in the last midterm election in 2018 — which restored the party’s control of both houses of Congress — or the 2020 vote that elected President Biden.”

The Hill: “Exit polls show 72 percent of women ages 18-29 voted for Democrats in House races nationwide. In a pivotal Pennsylvania Senate race, 77 percent of young women voted for embattled Democrat John Fetterman, helping to secure his victory.”

Wall Street Journal: “Independents favored Democrats by 4 points nationally… and by a far more substantial 18 points in Pennsylvania, 28 points in Georgia and more than 30 points in Arizona…”

David Wasserman notes the Democrat has been projected or is likely the winner in 213 races, while the Republican has been projected or is likely the winner in 217 races.

The are five true Toss Ups left: AZ-1, AZ-6, CA-13, CA-22 and CA-41.

Democrats must run the table on Toss Ups to get to 218 seats and the majority.

Politico on the latest House tally: “As of Saturday night, 21 congressional races remain unresolved. Of those, 10 are truly undecided, with neither party a significant favorite to win once all the votes are tallied.”

“Democrats have been narrowing the gap in many of those races over the past 24 hours.”

Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro (D) said that his Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano, has not called to concede the race after major media outlets projected his loss on Tuesday night, The Hill reports.

Said Shapiro: “I mean, who cares if he calls, right?”

He added: “He doesn’t get to pick the winner, the people pick the winner. And in a resounding way, they made clear that they wanted me to lead this commonwealth forward.”

AZ Ballot: Proposition 131, which would finally create a lieutenant governor’s post in Arizona, leads 55-45 with 82% of the Associated Press’ estimated vote tabulated, but the AP has not yet called the contest. If a majority supports Prop. 131, nominees for governor would choose a running mate after their primary starting in 2026. The secretary of state is next in line for the governorship under the current law.

CA Ballot: California voters overwhelmingly rejected three ballot measures after extremely expensive and contentious campaigns. Some margins may change as more votes are tabulated, but there’s no question about the fate of this trio.

Californians gave the thumbs down to Proposition 26, which would legalize sports betting at Native American tribal casinos and racetracks, 70-30. But they were even less enthusiastic about Prop. 27, a rival proposal to allow online sports betting, which crashed and burned 83-17. Altogether $450 million was spent in support or opposition to one of these measures, which made them the most expensive campaign of the year.

Voters also said no to Prop. 30, which turned into a pricey fight between Lyft and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, 59-41. This measure would have increased income taxes on those making about $2 million in order to fund “zero-emission vehicle purchases,” charging stations, and “wildfire-related activities.” The “yes” side had the support of the state Democratic Party and several environmental groups, as well as generous funding from Lyft. Newsom, though, starred in TV ads where he warned viewers, “Prop. 30 is a Trojan horse that puts corporate welfare above the fiscal welfare of our entire state.”

IL Ballot: Amendment 1, which would enshrine “the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively” into the state constitution, appears to have passed under Illinois’ unusual rules, though the AP has not yet called the race.

The state constitution says, “A proposed amendment shall become effective as the amendment provides if approved by either three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election.” Amendment 1 is ahead 58-42 with 96% in, so unless a large proportion of voters just skipped over this question, it’s likely it took the majority “of those voting in the election” it needs.

MA Ballot: Massachusetts voters narrowly approved Question 1, which is more commonly identified as the “millionaires tax” or “Fair Share Amendment,” 52-48 after a very expensive campaign from both sides, a margin much closer than the polls showed.

This state constitutional amendment adds an extra 4% to personal income taxes for incomes over $1 million in order to fund education and transportation projects. As WBUR explains, “For example, a taxpayer earning $2 million will pay the state’s current 5% tax rate on the first $1 million. The second million dollars will be taxed under a higher rate: 9%. That adds up to an extra $40,000 in state income taxes.”

MO Ballot: Voters delivered a 63-37 victory for Amendment 4 to allow the GOP-dominated legislature to “increase the minimum funding” for the police in Kansas City―and only Kansas City. The City of Fountains is the only city in Missouri, and possibly the whole country, that doesn’t have control over its own police force: Instead, four of the five members of its board of police commissioners are appointed by the governor, while the mayor holds the final slot.

That mayor, Democrat Quinton Lucas, has blasted Amendment 4 by arguing, “The question to me is just very simply about who can try to leverage that they have more power, who can make Kansas City continue to be more of a colony, who can better silence, in particular, the Black voices in this city.” Lucas also dubbed it “one of the worst, most offensive ballot measures to have ever been placed on the Missouri ballot.”

Legislative Republicans earlier this year passed a bill to require the city to devote 25% of its budget to the police, up from the 20% level currently in place, but existing laws would have prevented it from going into effect without Amendment 4. KCUR says that the constitutional amendment, which applies to any laws passed before the end of 2026, was “overwhelmingly rejected” by Kansas City voters, but that didn’t matter.  

SD Ballot: South Dakota voters approved Amendment D, which will expand eligibility to Medicaid, by a 56-44 margin. Republican legislative leaders previously tried to stop this from happening by placing a measure on the June primary ballot that would have required constitutional amendments like this one to earn at least 60% of the vote. Voters overwhelmingly rejected that plan, though, so Amendment D needed only a simple majority to pass on Tuesday.

State Supreme Courts: Five states held key elections for their supreme courts on Tuesday with major consequences expected on issues such as abortion rights, fair redistricting, and voting rights, and the results were a decidedly mixed bag. On the one hand, Democrats held onto their majorities in Illinois and Michigan, and a moderate justice defeated a conservative challenger in Montana. However, Republicans flipped control of the court in North Carolina and fended off Democratic efforts to flip the 4-3 GOP majority in Ohio, where Republicans simultaneously replaced a key GOP moderate with a hardliner. We’ll delve into each state below:

Illinois: Illinois is one of just four states that elects its Supreme Court using districts, but while Democrats last year passed a new court map to remedy six decades of malapportionment, the two districts most likely to determine which party controlled the court are still somewhat less Democratic than Illinois is as a whole. Consequently, the court’s 4-3 Democratic edge was vulnerable heading into election night, but Team Blue retained its majority after Democrat Elizabeth Rochford decisively defeated Republican Mark Curran in the open 2nd District in Chicago’s northern and western suburbs, where she led 54-46 with almost all of the vote counted.

Meanwhile, Democrat Mary O’Brien holds a 50.6-49.4 edge over GOP Justice Michael Burke in the 3rd District located in the Chicago area’s southern and western suburbs, and Burke has conceded. O’Brien’s win expanded the Democratic majority to 5-2, and the party could keep control for at least the next decade.

Michigan: Democrats here were also defending their 4-3 majority going into yesterday’s elections, and that balance of power will remain unchanged following Tuesday. Michigan’s court elections are nominally nonpartisan, but candidates are nominated by parties in summertime conventions, and voters were given two votes for the two seats on the ballot. As of Thursday, Democratic Justice Richard Bernstein holds a wide 34-24 edge over Republican Justice Brian Zahra, who narrowly won the second seat against Democratic challenger Kyra Bolden Harris, who was in a close third place with 22%. The final Republican, Paul Hudson, was in a distant fourth with 13%.

Montana: Unlike the other courts on this list, the Montana Supreme Court elects its members in officially nonpartisan elections and the court’s ideological balance heading into 2022 was somewhat tricky to pin down, but observers generally agree that three justices are liberal-leaning, two are conservatives, and two are often swing votes. That balance of power will also remain after Democratic-appointed swing Justice Ingrid Gustafson fended off Republican challenger James Brown by a 54-46 margin with 89% of the estimated vote counted according to the Associated Press.

North Carolina: While Illinois and Michigan were bright spots for Team Blue, North Carolina was a monumental blow to both Democrats and democracy itself. Democrats held a slim 4-3 edge going into the elections, but Republicans flipped both seats on the ballot Tuesday to gain a 5-2 majority, the GOP’s first since losing it in 2016. With nearly all votes counted, Republican Trey Allen beat Democratic Justice Sam Ervin 52-48, while Republican Richard Dietz defeated fellow Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman, a Democrat, by 53-47 (both margins round to 5 points).

The GOP’s newfound majority will almost certainly overturn a 4-3 party line ruling from the court’s prior Democratic majority earlier in 2022 that had struck down the GOP’s congressional gerrymander and replaced it with a much fairer map temporarily for this year’s elections; since Republicans held onto the legislature and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper can’t veto redistricting bills, the GOP is poised to pass another extreme congressional gerrymander for 2024.

Ohio: Much like North Carolina, Ohio’s court results were a major loss for Democrats and for fair elections after Republicans held onto all three seats up for election on Tuesday. In the open seat race for chief justice, Republican Sharon Kennedy beat fellow Associate Justice Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, by 56-44, though Brunner will retain her current seat on the bench. Additionally, GOP Justice Pat DeWine, who is the son of GOP Gov. Mike DeWine, prevailed 57-43 over Democrat Marilyn Zayas, while fellow Republican Justice Pat Fischer won by a similar 57-43 spread against Democrat Terri Jamison.

After Democrats had unexpectedly flipped three seats on the court between 2018 and 2020, moderate Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor had sided with her three Democratic colleagues to strike down Republican lawmakers’ gerrymanders twice for Congress and five times for the legislative maps heading into 2022. But the court was unable to adopt its own districts after Republicans ran out the clock while the litigation over those maps continues into 2023, and O’Connor was unable to run for re-election this year after reaching the mandatory retirement age.

Following their defeats in 2020 and 2018, GOP lawmakers had made Supreme Court elections partisan contests heading into 2022, and that may have made a pivotal difference, allowing them to both hold onto their court majority and in doing so replace O’Connor with a justice who will almost certainly uphold the GOP’s gerrymanders next year, since Gov. DeWine will now get to appoint Kennedy’s replacement as associate justice. Ohio’s court is also likely to eventually rule on the legality of a Republican-backed abortion ban law.

Chicago, IL Mayor: Rep. Chuy Garcia announced Thursday that he would challenge his fellow Democrat, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, in the busy Feb. 28 nonpartisan primary. Garcia, who would be the city’s first Latino leader, waged a high-profile 2015 bid to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but he lost the runoff 56-44. Garcia was elected to the House three years later, and he would only need to give up his safely blue 4th District if he defeated Lightfoot.

While Garcia himself endorsed Lightfoot in her 2019 campaign to succeed Emanuel, he explained this week, “I gave Lori Lightfoot a chance to deliver on promises she made as it relates to reform, and she has not delivered.” He continued, “She’s caused unnecessary conflict. She has called people out in public instead of having difficult conversations in her office or behind the scenes, where all of these things are not exposed.” Garcia himself got his start in elected office in the 1980s as an ally of the city’s first Black mayor, the late Harold Washington, and he launched his campaign on the 40th anniversary of Washington’s own kickoff.

Lightfoot’s team, meanwhile, quickly went on the offensive and tried to use his position in what will likely be a closely divided House against him. “Mr. Garcia spent months dithering on whether to get in this race, saying publicly he’d only run if Democrats lost the House,” her campaign said, adding, “Now, a mere 36 hours after voters reelected him to Congress, and as Republicans prepare to use their new slim majority to strip away our rights, Mr. Garcia is abandoning ship.”

While Garcia is Lightfoot’s most prominent foe, however, he very much doesn’t have the contest to himself. Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson entered the race last month weeks after receiving endorsements from Garcia’s old allies at the Chicago Teachers Union and United Working Families: UWF’s executive director said that, while the congressman had urged the organization to remain neutral while he made up his mind, “It’s just our experience in previous campaigns that you never get time back and we don’t have unlimited money to make that up.” Johnson on Wednesday also earned the backing of another prominent group, SEIU Local 73.

The field includes several other notable contenders. One familiar name is self-funding perennial candidate Willie Wilson, who took fourth place in the 2019 race with 10% one year before he waged a doomed independent campaign against Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin. The contest also includes Aldermen Sophia King, Raymond Lopez, and Roderick Sawyer; state Rep. Kam Buckner; and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who snagged ninth last time with just 5%.

Other politicians, including former Gov. Pat Quinn, have been collecting petitions ahead of the Nov. 28 filing deadline without committing to running. If no one earns a majority in the February primary, the two contenders with the most votes would advance to an April 4 general election.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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