Iowa’s governor tries to steal a legislature seat, PA schedules three special elections

It’s getting to the point that cheap tricks and voter suppression are the only tools that Republicans have to consistently win elections. Take the upcoming special election for the Iowa State Senate, for example. Democratic State Sen. Jeff Danielson resigned in mid-February, triggering a special election in the state’s 30th State Senate district. Newly elected Gov. Kim Reynolds decided to schedule it on March 19th, which just so happens to coincide with the University of Northern Iowa’s spring break.

Here’s a breakdown of just why she did that, via Bleeding Heartland:

Normally, governors are required to give at least 45 days’ notice of a special election to fill a seat in the Iowa House or Senate. But because this vacancy arose during the legislative session, state law says “the governor shall order such special election at the earliest practical time, giving at least eighteen days’ notice.” Reynolds could have set the vote for March 12, but she picked the following Tuesday.

UNI is a huge presence in the district, and Reynolds’ decision to schedule the election earlier than necessary will effectively stop many students from voting. That’s a huge blow to Democratic nominee Eric Giddens, who is a member of the Cedar Falls School Board and has made supporting public education one of his main campaign priorities.

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Fighting back against GOP control in Louisiana, one seat at a time

Like most other southern states, Louisiana has gone from a longtime Democratic stronghold to majority Republican at both the local and national level. But the Bayou has never been a straightforward traditional Dixie state, instead existing as a unique multicultural marshland, so its political transformation has not entirely traveled the path laid out by the Nixon Southern Strategy.

Sure, Louisiana’s own shift was in part reflective of the national political realignment political, but that only set conditions for potential changes; it took several distinct events to actually put the forces in motion. Lamar Jackson, the progressive journalist and publisher of the Bayou Brief, outlined those events in a recent conversation with Progressives Everywhere, and first pointed to the Jungle Primary system put in place by Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards.

Edwards’s goal was to cut off opposition in partisan primaries, protecting what was then a Democratic majority. The then-governor did not see the political winds starting to change around him and he certainly did not see two decades into the future, when Republicans would push for constitutional changes that would further weaponize the new primary system.

Before he became infamous for his particular tastes in DC, David Vitter was a crusading state senator who successfully pushed for term limits in the legislature. After a three-term limit was enacted in 1997, the clock began ticking on long-time Democratic incumbents. By the mid-aughts, as some Democrats were seeing their careers expire, Vitter teamed with deep-pocketed donors to pick off others who still had some time left in office. He formed Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority, a big-money PAC devoted to buying Baton Rouge, and threw his weight around.

“They poured millions of dollars into this and they went to vulnerable, incumbent Democrats who were not yet term-limited, and they said to them, ‘If you switch parties, we will gladly not interfere with your reelection campaign. And if you don’t, we’re gonna spend $100,000 running a candidate against you,’” Jackson explained. “And so they peeled off a number of people in the State House and the State Senate that way.”

Republicans took over the legislature in 2011 and with the help of Gov. Bobby Jindal (remember him?) they gerrymandered the hell out of the state. It has largely been a decade and a half of disastrous Republican control, save for some positives that have come out of the first term of current Gov. John Bel Edwards, like Medicaid expansion. The state is ranked dead last or damn near that in just about every traditional measure of income inequality, with 20% of its people living at or beneath the poverty line, 49th in the nation in food insecurity, and dead last in gender income inequality.

The Louisiana Democratic Party has been in a bit of disarray, but given the national climate and Edwards’ popularity, they’re hoping for an upswing in this November’s elections. While Vitter’s old PAC (now known as Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority) is run by Attorney General Jeff Landry and just as brutal as ever, there’s finally some energy on the Democratic side there, as well. They’ve identified at least two dozen flippable seats and it could grow from there.

Democrats have a shot at getting an early start on the blue wave on February 23rd, when a special election is being held for a number of legislative districts in each chamber. Most of the seats are solidly controlled by one party of the other, but the Baton Rouge-area 62nd, up for grabs after the exit of longtime Rep. Kenny Havard, is a swing district.

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Iowa county elects a black woman, GOP again floats changes to the whole electoral system

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Republicans lose an election, then decide they want to change the rules.

Earlier this month, voters in Johnson County, Iowa elected Democrat Royceann Porterto the Board of Supervisors, making her the first African-American supervisor in the county’s history. Now, Republicans are making noise about wanting to remake the entire system, changing from at-large elections (which is how nearly every Iowa county does it) to district-based contests.

Republican Phil Hemingway, who got thumped 56-43%, thinks that geography is why he lost. Via local KCRG TV:

Following his recent defeat, Hemingway is analyzing what went wrong during that special election. At least playing a factor, he says, electing supervisors to county-wide positions. It could be benefiting Democrats as the large metro population tends to vote left, overshadowing right-leaning rural votes.

“I think can’t look at the results of this past special election and draw any other conclusion but that.”

Democrats dominate the Board of Supervisors in Johnson County, but that’s not due to any flaw in the government structure; Johnson County is home to Iowa City and is the most liberal county in the state, which makes Democratic dominance of local politics no strange coincidence or irregularity. It’s in the state’s second congressional district, represented by Dave Loebsack. Trying to get more Republicans in office isn’t ameliorating a problem, it’s creating an unnatural imbalance.

Ironically, the at-large representation system has been used to disenfranchise black voters in the South, as it negates the power of geographically concentrated minorities. In the case of Iowa City, some Democrats say that Republicans are actually spread out enough that changing the system may not even make a difference.

Rod Sullivan, Democrat, and longtime supervisor felt the switch to districts wouldn’t really change much. He explained the law requires equally proportion populations in each of what would be five divisions of about 31,000 people. Metro zones, he said, would still likely be a big influence on each of them.

“Now you’ve got a North Liberty district, a Coralville district,” said Sullivan. “There would be two district’s completely contained in Iowa City. Plus another 15/20,000 Iowa City residents who would be combined with rural residents. There is just no way you can divide it up and get a district that is all rural.”

This is a broader Republican goal, as earlier this year, the party proposed messing with the way larger counties select representatives across all of Iowa, so as to dilute Democratic power in those counties. Right now, counties can choose to break things up into districts, but the GOP wants to FORCE them to do so.

We have to remain vigilant, because Republicans are like vampires that live on fresh democracy — they do their most bloodily efficient work under cover of the night. After all, in just the last month, the GOP has gutted voter-approved initiatives in Michigan (while considering doing so elsewhere) and launched attacks against fair redistricting in states across the country.

Previewing special elections in January and early February: A rising Democratic star, wingnut Republicans

Thought election season was over? Sorry, to paraphrase Jimmy Buffet and people who enjoy life more than me, it’s always election season somewhere.

January 8th

Virginia: Special election for State Senate, District 33

Democrat Jennifer Wexton won her race for Congress this fall, necessitating a special election to fill her northern Virginia State Senate. Wexton was first elected to the seat in a 2014 special election and won a full term in 2015. She won that race by 13% and the seat has been in Democratic hands since the 2005 election, making it a pretty safe blue seat.

Still, given the tight margins of the Virginia State Senate —- Republicans hold a two-seat majority — it’s important to not take anything for granted.

The Democratic nominee for this special election is Jennifer Boysko, who represents the 86th district in the House of Delegates. She has a long history in Democratic and progressive activism, having gotten involved with the Dean campaign early on in the 2004 election cycle. She wound up chairing Howard Dean’s campaign in Virginia, then ran for office herself for the first time in 2012. After losing by 32 votes, Boysko ran again and won her rematch for the House of Delegates in 2014.

During this very shortened campaign, Boysko has focused mostly on economic opportunity, pushing for independent redistricting to break the GOP’s gross gerrymander in Virginia, and reducing gun violence.

CLICK HERE to donate to Boysko’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

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Special elections down south could make a huge difference

You thought there would be time to rest after Election Day? C’mon. There are some big special elections coming down the pike already!

In Virginia, Democrats could take the State House of Delegates and win a state government trifecta if they can pull off an upset in the special election for HD-24. It’s a historically very red seat, but remember that Democrats flipped a ton of red seats in the Virginia legislature in 2017 and won big in congressional elections there this year, so the party is motivated and firing on all cylinders.

The Democratic nominee, chosen yesterday, is Christian Worth. The Republican nomination is a bit cloudy right now, as two candidates are separated by a single vote and there’s been no concession. Perhaps Democrats can take advantage of the division and grab the seat. The election is December 18th.

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