Beto O’Rourke first acquired a national reputation when he gave Senator Ted Cruz (R – Texas) a scare in Cruz’ 2018 Senatorial reelection campaign. That near-miss challenge launched O’Rourke into Presidential politics. But O’Rourke announced last week that he has pulled out: that “My service to the country will not be as a candidate or the nominee,” of the Democratic Party after all.
O’Rourke has been campaigning for the nomination since March of this year. Yet despite some glowing press, including a cover story in Vanity Fair, he never caught on among the Democratic “base.”
In the final stages of his campaign he had sought to identify himself with the cause of gun control, perhaps in part as an effort to jazz up a failing fundraising effort, but certainly in some part as a personal reaction to the August 3 shooting spree at a Walmart in O’Rourke’s hometown, El Paso. The shooting, allegedly perpetrated by Patrick Crucius, and motivated by Crucius’ anti-Mexico hatred, killed 20 people.
The Thing to Known:
One of the most dramatic clips of the campaign, O’Rourke declaring to gun owners, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AR-47,” may now go down in history as a good example of how one does not become President of the United States.
Tim Ryan, the Congressman who represents the 17th district, Ohio, announced on Thursday, October 24, that he is ending his campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President. Going forward he will focus his energies instead on his race for re-election to that House seat.
Ryan sought to distinguish himself on the campaign trail as precisely the candidate who could win back the loyalty of those once-Democratic voters who supported Donald Trump in 2016. He sees that swing voting block as blue-collar and mid-western; and his district has both those characteristics.
In withdrawing, Ryan said that he is proud of the fight he waged, which gave a voice to “the forgotten communities that have been let behind by globalization and automation.” He said that he will continue to work for those communities.
But Ryan is ending his campaign because he has proven unable to raise the money necessary to support it. His campaign received donations of just $425,731 in the third quarter of 2019 (July through September). That is a big drop off, less than half the amount ($895,000) he had received in the second quarter.
The Thing to Know:
Money is often and aptly called the “mother’s milk of politics.”
Last week, Nita Lowey announced she would not run for re-election next year. This puts in play the seat in the US House of Representatives for the 18th district in New York. Within hours of that announcement, New York Democratic Party politicos were discussing the relative merits of several potential candidates for that seat, including at least one quite famous name, Chelsea Clinton.
Chelsea Clinton, who lived in the White House as the daughter (and only child) of President Bill Clinton (1993-2001), worked as a special correspondent for NBC News from 2011 to 2014, during the period when her mother, Hillary Rodham Clinton, was Secretary of State.
Clinton is married to investment banker Marc Mezvinsky. The couple live in New York City (the Flatiron District of Manhattan).
There are other important potential candidates for the Lowey seat: perhaps most formidably, Mondaire Jones, a former staffer in the Obama administration, who would be the first openly gay black man in Congress if elected.
The Thing to Know:
Although the 18th is a Democratic district, it is not a “slam dunk” for a Democratic candidate. It is a suburban district with a fair amount of conservative and moderate sentiment, and with the incumbent retiring, there will surely be Republican interest as well.
On July 31, during the second night of a two-night debate held in Detroit, Michigan among the Democratic Party’s candidates for President, Rep Tulsi Gabbard (HI) attracted a good deal of attention by launching a direct attack on the prosecutorial record of Sen. Kamala Harris (CA).
Senator Harris has long adopted a ‘tough cop’ persona as part of her political appeal. In 2004, Harris became the District Attorney of San Francisco. In 2010, she was elected California’s Attorney General. She went from that post into the US Senate in 2016. This history gives her a resume on which to run, but it has also given opponents a target.
In the debate in Detroit, Gabbard said of Harris’s record as prosecutor, “She put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.” What is more, Gabbard said that Harris “blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so,” and that she “kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the State of California.”
The Thing to Know:
Gabbard, who has been an almost peripheral figure in the campaign thus far, may now receive greater prominence. Meanwhile, Harris will have to come up with convincing answers to the Gabbard challenge in the months ahead.
Though the story of the Democratic primary contest for a Presidential nomination is still in its early chapters: Senator Elizabeth Warren has established herself as a first-tier contender. Yet recent publicity over some litigation in which she was involved as a consultant for Dow Chemical in the late 1990s may prove damaging.
Headline-making class actions on behalf of individuals who may have been injured by products manufactured by giant corporations have proven politically polarizing in the United States. The Democratic Party generally takes a favorable view of the plaintiffs in such class-action tort actions, and so an accepting view of the role of their lawyers. The Republican Party does not. Republican Party primary voters on the other hand would likely be accepting of the role of the attorneys for corporate defendants, whose job is to limit tort liability: Democratic Party primary voters less so.
Warren worked as a consultant for Dow Chemical, which was a major stockholder of Dow Corning, which in turn was the manufacturer of silicone breast implants. Many plaintiffs, throughout the period 1984-’98, alleged that the breast implants had caused grave health problem for them; including, in some cases, breast cancer.
The Thing to Know:
There isn’t a lot that might be considered ‘scandalous’ to say about Warren’s work for Dow Chemical in this connection. But the very fact that she was working for one of the corporate defendants in an effort to limit its tort liability may well be held against her by the Democratic Party’s base.
In four hours over two nights last week, twenty Democratic candidates for President and five moderators discussed a wide range of issues facing the US, foreign and domestic. They hardly mentioned Puerto Rico at all. And this week, that omission has received a fair amount of attention.
There are a lot of Puerto Rico related topics to which the candidates might have spoken. For example: the Commonwealth faces a huge debt crisis and a consequent need for financial restructuring. The island’s power grid needs a lot of rebuilding, and this might well provide a test case of both political parties’ professed commitment to infrastructure as an issue. And the island is regularly in the path of hurricanes, so it is an inkblot in which a candidate can see his/her own ideas about climate change.
The Thing to Know:
Although Puerto Rico is not a state and does not cast electoral votes in Presidential elections, that would a short-sighted rationale for ignoring its concerns. After all, transplanted Puerto Ricans are a significant voting bloc in several states, most of all in the paradigm of swing states, Florida.
Ever since Senator Susan Collins (R- ME) voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a Justice to the US Supreme Court, it has been clear that she would attract high profile and well-funded Democratic opponents to her reelection to the Senate in 2020. At least three potential opponents have now made that intention known.
Successful Republican politicians in New England often have an ideological center of gravity to the left of the national party. Indeed, one might say that the Bush family abandoned the region and moved its base to Texas precisely to signal that it was more in tune with the national Republican Party than its Connecticut roots or the family compound in Maine would suggest.
Although Collins has opposed Trump on some important matters, she has generally supported his judicial nominees, most controversially Judge Brett Kavanaugh, elevated to the US Supreme Court despite an accusation regarding a sexual assault. Kavanaugh won confirmation by a vote of 50 – 48 in October 2018.
The Thing to Know:
The single most prominent of the Democratic candidates who now profess a desire to run against Collins for the Senate seat is Sara Gideon, the state’s House Speaker. Gideon has said that she would seek to “elevate the voices of people who deserve and demand to be heard.”
Next year the people of New Mexico (a state that voted for Hillary Clinton for President) will elect a new US Senator to replace Tom Udall (D), who will finish up his second term and who is not running for a third. This means that the Republican Party has a chance to pick up a seat to defend or pad its existing narrow majority in the chamber.
A former Trump administration Interior Department official, Gavin Clarkson, is the only individual yet to have declared that he is running for the Republican Party’s nomination for this seat. Others are expected in due course to jump into the race.
On the Democratic side, there are three declared candidates: Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Ben Ray Lujan, and Giovanni Alexander Haqani. Oliver, New Mexico’s Secretary of State, successfully pressed for campaign finance reform in the state. She boasts that she “took on the Koch brothers and won” on that issue.
The Thing to Know:
Not only did New Mexico vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, it voted for Barack Obama twice before that. It is seen as a ‘blue’ state. Its retiring Senator, Udall, stands out for (distinctively “progressive”) views on both gun control and conservation.
Senator Michael Enzi (R – WY) announced over the weekend that he will not run for re-election next year. This means there will be a Senate campaign in Wyoming 2020 without an incumbent, which affects the arithmetic for the struggle to control the Senate as of January 2021.
Every Seat is Important:
Enzi was first elected to the Senate in 1996, when he successfully ran to replace Alan Simpson. Enzi’s victory in ’96 was not arithmetically overwhelming: he defeated Democratic candidate Kathy Karpan, getting 54% of the vote.
But Enzi’s three re-elections (2002, 2008, 2014) have been by much more impressive margins. He received more than 70% of the vote each time.
At present, the Republican Party controls 53 seats in the US Senate. Even if they retain the Presidency, and thus the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President, after the election of 2020, a net loss of four Senate seats will lose them control of the chamber.
The Thing to Know:
On the Democratic side, one of the more likely candidates for the open seat is David Freudenthal, who was the Governor of Wyoming for two terms (2003-2011). Freudenthal has a reputation as a moderate, having angered environmental groups during his tenure as Governor.
BURLINGTON — Back when Howard Dean was Vermont governor, he was a regular feature at youth hockey games, concerts, and other such gathering places. Many Vermonters saw him as a sharp-tongued but likeable everyman who could be buttonholed for a conversation while in line at the deli. It was a point of state pride that he had been turned away from Mad River Glen after showing up with a snowboard.
After he competed in and then left the presidential race in 2004, Dean became more of a national than state figure and faded from the Vermont landscape. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee between 2005 and 2009, leading Democrats during President George W. Bush’s second term.
In the years since, he’s worked for Denton’s, a Washington-based law firm that bills itself as the world’s largest. He did a regular spot on CNBC for a while. He taught at Hofstra University, and for 10 years, he’s co-taught a foreign policy course at Yale University, his alma mater. He and his wife Judy, who still works as a physician in Shelburne, launched two kids — a daughter, 34, who works as a public defender in the Bronx, and a son, 33, who works in charter schools in the Philadelphia area. Recently Dean took on a position on the advisory board at Tilray, a cannabis company in British Columbia where he is receiving stock options as compensation.
And Dean recently signed on for an ambitious new project for Democrats: a data exchange aimed at enabling the party to amass the kind of voter intelligence that he said the Republicans have been using to their advantage for years.
The youthful-seeming former governor, who is 70, is confident there are plenty of experts capable of handling the data itself. He said he’s going to serve as the diplomat who helps groups to work together on a collaborative project that will strengthen them all.
In an interview with VTDigger at Dobra Tea House in Burlington, Dean shared two pots of strong black tea as he reflected on his long career.
His training as a physician, he said, helped him learn how to act decisively instead of waffling.
“In politics there is a reward for not acting,” he said. “The tendency is to push decisions off.” But in medicine, he said, “If you have a problem you fix it now rather than later, because bad things happen when you wait.”
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He also feels he has a greater respect for factual evidence than some of his peers in politics because of his early training. Studies led him to change his mind about things like the efficacy of needle exchanges or the legalization of cannabis.
“Facts drive everything,” he said. “What I hate about today’s politics: They don’t care about what facts are. They don’t care about deficits. They’re the biggest deficit spenders in the history of the world. Facts matter. If you’re trained as a scientist, facts matter. You can’t wish someone’s illness away.”
Leveraging voter data
The data exchange, a for-profit entity that will be located, legally speaking, outside the DNC to comply with campaign finance laws, will allow organizations to share their voter lists and details. It’s modeled after the GOP’s Data Trust, an organization that Dean said has enabled the Republicans to leverage data much more skillfully than their Democrat peers.