Arizona Could Flip for the First Time Since 1966

There are few states as politically charged right now as Arizona, which has been a hotbed of progressive organizing since teacher protests rocked the state back in 2018. Now, due to the incompetence of Trump acolyte Governor Doug Ducey, Arizona is one of the worst COVID-19 hotspots in the country, adding life-or-death stakes to what was already going to be a bruising election year.

While Ducey isn’t up for re-election, the state’s voters have a lot of decisions to make: Arizona will vote for a US Senate seat (things are looking good for Democrat Mark Kelly) as well as on a number of major ballot initiatives that could bring very significant changes to what was once known as solid-red territory. One of the initiatives would legalize recreational marijuana; another would make some big reforms to the state’s archaic criminal justice system.

The legislative elections there are huge, too. After making some big gains in 2018, Democrats need to win just three seats to flip the State Senate and two seats to flip the State House of Representatives. Democratic wins here would be historic — the GOP has controlled the State House every term since 1966, while the State Senate has been in Republican hands for all but eight years since that time.

If Democrats can sweep through Arizona, the path to the White House will be much, much easier for Vice President Joe Biden — forget Texas and Florida, if he can win Arizona and North Carolina, he’ll have the presidency. That makes these races absolutely essential to support.

Below the map, I’m diving into the most hotly contested (and most flippable seats) in the state legislature. One note: Unlike most states, Arizona has one set of legislative districts for both State House and State Senate. Each district elects two State House Representatives and one State Senator.

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District 28 

  • State Senate election decided by .3% in 2018 — 167 votes: In 2018, Arizona teachers joined the national #RedforEd national movement, walking out of their underfunded classrooms for over a week to demand that the state drastically increase education investment. Leading the way was Christine Marsh, the 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year, who earned something of a national spotlight with her fierce advocacy on behalf of students and teachers.

    Marsh ran for the State Senate that year, too, and came within just 167 votes of unseating Republican Kate Brophy McGee. Now, Marsh is running again to finish the job, while Brophy McGee deals with a bunch of Pizzagate-type conspiracy theorists over on the GOP side.

District 6

  • State Senate election decided by 1.8% in 2018: We’ve got a really fantastic contrast in this race that makes it even more flippable than the already enticing 2018 vote differential suggests. Democrats are running Felicia French, an Afghanistan War vet and nurse, while Republicans have nominated Wendy Rogers, a perennial right-wing fringe candidate who ousted the incumbent in this district last week. Rogers is one of those child sex trafficking-obsessed conspiracy theorists who is making life miserable for Brophy McGee.
  • State House election decided by .3% in 2018: This is another pickup opportunity that’s even better than the 2018 vote differential suggests. Democrats are running well-known Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans. The state’s coronavirus calamity will play heavily into this race, as Evans has taken a leading role in criticizing Gov. Doug Ducey’s terrible job dealing with COVID-19.

    Democrats only ran one candidate in the primary, which means that Republicans are guaranteed to win at least one of the two seats in the general election. That’s the case in every single election I’m highlighting, which is sort of a bummer. I suppose it makes sense to concentrate resources in some districts, but it feels like a real missed opportunity in this district, where the GOP is a total mess.

    One of the incumbent Republicans is retiring, while the other, Walter Blackman, is a far-right conspiracy-peddler who called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist organization.” The fact that he’s Black certainly complicates the politics of it, but he barely won in 2018 and seems even more vulnerable now.

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District 17

  • State Senate election decided by 1.8% in 2018: In a state where immigration and education are both massive issues, Democrats nominated Ajlan Kurdoglu, a first-generation American whose wife is a public school teacher. He’s running against JD Mesnard, the former Arizona Speaker of the House.

District 20

  • State Senate election decided by 3.9% in 2018: This is a rematch between the 2018 candidates. Democrats are again running Douglas Ervin against Paul Boyer, who is only in his first term. Ervin has long been a school volunteer and is focused on education and making the state’s finances more equitable.
  • State House election decided by 1.4% in 2018: Democrats have a great candidate in Judy Schwiebert, who spent 27 years as a teacher and is very focused on education funding. In the primary, she received 2500 more votes than either Republican incumbent, one of whom is a real anti-LGBTQ bigot and weirdo who talks a bit too much about porn.

District 23

  • State House election decided by 3% in 2018: The Democratic Party returns its 2018 nominee, Eric Kurland, who is — get this — a teacher! He got over 8,000 more votes in the primary than the second-place Republican thanks to a heated race between the QAnon-loving incumbent, Jay Lawrence, and the more moderate candidate who ultimately unseated him.

District 21

  • State House election decided by 5.2% in 2018: Here’s another race where the Democrat in the primary earned more votes (3,000 this time) than the top Republican. Name recognition in this case certainly helped nominee Kathy Knecht, a long-time school board official who ran for State Senate in 2018 as an independent. Now, she’s officially on Team Blue — what else do you expect from someone involved in public schools?

District 15

  • State House election decided by 6.1% in 2018: We’ve got another Democratic educator in the house! Kristin Dybvig-Pawelko actually works in higher education, having spent the last 20 years at Arizona State University. As such, she’s very concerned with the cost of public college in the state, which is mandated to be as low as possible. Dybvig-Pawelko had a nice showing primary, taking 5,500 more votes than the second and third place Republicans.

District 8

  • State House election decided by 7.2% in 2018: This should be a super-tight race, far closer than the 2018 margin leads you to believe. Democrats nominated Sharon Girard, a retired physician’s assistant who got more than 4,500 votes than the top Republican vote-getter and 6,000 more votes than the closely paired second and third GOP candidates. The top GOP vote-getter, the incumbent David Cook, is perhaps the most endangered — the guy loves lobbyists and bribing fellow political officials.

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Sharon Hirsch Is Going to Unseat a Texas Tea Party Fanatic

Politics can be complicated, issues can be nuanced, and choices in elections can be unclear… but none of those things are true about this uber-close Texas House race between incumbent Republican Matt Shaheen and his Democratic challenger Sharon Hirsch.

He: A devout member of the fringe-right Republican Freedom Caucus who takes gobs of corporate special interest money, posts endless “Blue Lives Matter” memes, trolls the libs on Facebook, votes against public schools and special needs children, and once said “I will die on this issue politically” about passing a grossly bigoted anti-LGBTQ bathroom bill.

She: A long-time Democratic Party activist and Executive Committee member and public school employee who relies on small-dollar donations, is focused on funding schools and expanding healthcare access, and lost to Shaheen by an excruciatingly small 391 vote margin in 2018.

The two candidates for State House District 66 are a microcosm of the kind of politicians who have dominated Texas for 25+ years and the new wave of activists and lawmakers who are entirely remaking the state’s political culture. Democrats are now just nine seats from flipping the State House and Hirsch can claim a fair amount of credit for this ongoing transformation — she’s been involved in both the Plano and state Democratic Party since 2007 and co-founded an organization called Women Organizing Women Democrats. For a while, it was an uphill struggle — then Trump came along and changed everything.

To illustrate the contrast, Hirsch notes that before late 2016, the volunteer intake system was “a process of sticky notes and notes that said, ‘Call John at this number’ and ‘Called Mary at this number’ and it was a mess,” Hirsch tells Progressives Everywhere. “And then Trump won and it was the most remarkable thing that ever happened. All of a sudden, it was standing room only in the office and people just coming in droves wanting to do something. Some ran for office, some became super-volunteers who knocked on thousands of doors. There was a rallying cry.”

Click HERE to donate to Sharon Hirsch!

Continue reading “Sharon Hirsch Is Going to Unseat a Texas Tea Party Fanatic”

North Carolina is the most flippable state in the country. Here are the best targets for Democrats.

Democrats need to win just five seats to flip the State Senate and six seats to do the same in the State House of Representatives

After Democrats flipped swing states like Colorado and Virginia all blue in 2018 and 2019, the biggest target for a wholesale flip in 2020 is North Carolina.

In fact, you could say North Carolina has already flipped blue — its representatives just need to reflect it. Democrats won a majority of votes statewide in 2018, but thanks to one of the most egregious gerrymanders in the country, Republicans were able to keep control of the state legislature and pass horrible anti-LGBTQ laws; only an end to their supermajority, earned in 2018, sustained a veto of a terrible anti-choice bill.

Last fall, the State Supreme Court ordered legislators to redraw the maps to even out the worst parts of the gerrymander, which gives Democrats a strong chance to win back both chambers in Raleigh this year as well as the state’s electoral votes in the presidential election. Democrats need to win just five seats to flip the State Senate and six seats to do the same in the State House of Representatives. Here’s a look at some of the best flip opportunities — hat tip to FlipNC for help with analyzing the redistricting.

If you’re excited about flipping North Carolina’s legislature and its electoral votes, CLICK HERE to donate to the great candidates below!

State Senate District 39: You never want to say an election is in the bag, but this one is about as close as it gets without a candidate running unopposed. This Charlotte-area seat had its lines redrawn in the redistricting, going from a GOP gerrymander to a district that favors Democrats by a whopping 25 points. Even better, Democrats nominated a rising star named DeAndrea Salvador, a 29-year-old who founded her own renewable energy nonprofit and was a TED fellow in 2018.

State Senate District 18: Though not quite as big a slam dunk as District 39, this Wake Forest-area district now leans Democratic by six points. Running for Team Blue is Sarah Crawford, who has made a career out of working for nonprofits focused on education, healthcare, and economic stability.

State Senate District 31: Another Wake Forest-area district, this one shifts from being gerrymandered for Republicans to running about even. In 2018 Terri LeGrand, a lawyer and financial aid administrator at Wake Forest University, came close to beating the district’s very anti-abortion senator anyway, and now she’s got an even better shot. We interviewed LeGrand a few months back — check it out!

State Senate District 1: After keeping a very red State House district within 10 points in 2016, Tess Judge is now running to flip a larger State Senate district that’s much closer to dead even. It’s pretty ridiculously gerrymandered, but it should still be a down-to-the-wire race.

State House District 63: In 2018, this central North Carolina district was decided by less than 300 votes. This time around, Democrats have a decisive advantage thanks to the redistricting tweaks and another great candidate, Ricky Hurtado. A first-generation American, Hurtado has also had a career in non-profits, largely focusing on expanding access to education to working people and immigrants.

State House District 9: The now-defunct gerrymander of this district was so egregious, Democrats are going from getting swamped by 20 points in 2018 to being favored to take the seat. The party’s candidate, Brian Farkas, grew up in the Eastern Carolina area and is just 33-years-old, making him another one of the young stars running this year.

State House District 45: Another district that’s going to see a big swing thanks to gerrymandering being straightened out. GOP Rep. John Szoka won by 17 points in 2018 but now will have to face a fair race against a great candidate: Frances Jackson, a long-time community leader, teacher, and county magistrate.

State House District 59: Similar story in this northwestern Carolina district, which voted Republican by 13 points in 2018 but is now much more competitive. Nicole Quick, an occupational therapist and advocate for children with autism, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

State House District 82: Democrat Aimy Steele ran a strong race in 2018 as a first-time candidate, losing by less than six points, and now she’s back to finish the job in this western North Carolina district. She is a former public school principal who is very focused on education policy, a hot-button issue in North Carolina.

State House District 74: Terri LeGrand ran in this district in 2018, while Dan Besse ran in the neighboring 75th House district, where he overperformed recent Democrats and lost by just seven points. The 74th district has been redrawn to be less gerrymandered, and those two factors combined make this a very good flip opportunity.

If you’re excited about flipping North Carolina’s legislature and its electoral votes, CLICK HERE to donate to the great candidates above!

Eviction Prevention Fundraisers: 28 Million Americans are at risk of eviction this summer. We’ve got to help now.

As new cases of COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket across the countries, many cities and states are beginning to roll back re-opening plans and re-issue stay-at-home orders. As if that wasn’t enough of a calamity, tens of millions of Americans (up to 28 million!) will soon be at risk of being evicted from their homes and not having anywhere to go in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Combined with a federal government unwilling to provide any further relief, we’re on the verge of a historic catastrophe.

Here’s where things stand right now:

While most cities and states issued eviction moratoriums at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, those orders have begun to expire and many more will be over by the end of July. While a federal government pause on kicking people out of Fannie and Freddie Mac-backed buildings doesn’t run out until August 31st, it only covers about 30 to 40% of renters, and as The Washington Post reported last week, it’s been largely up to residents to figure out if they’re qualified; only 15 states require landlords to verify it. Elsewhere, landlords have been caught pursuing evictions despite their residents being technically protected, and because they’re generally the ones with attorneys at these hearings, it often works.

For those who owe back rent, things are only going to get worse. The enhanced unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act expire at the end of the month, and as of now, neither Donald Trump nor Mitch McConnell seems willing to continue them in any significant way. Economists suggest that would be disastrous, especially with states starting to close up again and the economy at risk of a further major collapse (but as we know, they don’t care). With only a few states and cities having extended their eviction moratoriums, we’re barrelling toward a head-on collision. Already, 32% of Americans haven’t made their July housing payments. And as with everything else in the US, the looming crises will disproportionately impact Black and brown people.

This week at Progressives Everywhere, instead of asking you to donate to an (amazing) candidate or policy ballot initiative, I’m raising money for an even more urgent situation. We can’t wait until new lawmakers are sworn in next year to deal with the imminent eviction crisis, especially in the middle of this resurgent pandemic. Below are a number of non-profits working to keep people in their homes through legal aid, grants, and other tactics. Any help you can offer will make a huge difference.

Coalition for the Homeless (NYC)

Eviction filings began in New York City in June, with an estimated 50,000 or more already primed for submission and execution once the moratorium lifts. To assist in eviction protection, The Coalition for the Homeless provides one-time $1000 cash grants to people who are behind on rent and facing eviction, but with some help, would be able to recover and pay rent in the future. The organization also assists those in need by helping them access funds from other non-profits and government programs.

Donate to NYC Here!

Eviction Defense Network (LA)

The LA-based organization is a community non-profit made up of lawyers and advocates who provide advice and legal representation to anyone facing eviction in the downtown LA courthouse and counseling to anyone in LA County.

Donate to LA Here!

HomeStart (Boston)

Through expertise, mediation, legal services, and financial grants, HomeStart helps families who are at risk of losing their homes avoid eviction and being forced into shelters.

Donate to Boston Here!

Star-C (Atlanta)

This program works with landlords and tenants alike to provide matching-fund grants that help residents in less affluent communities catch up on rent and stay in their homes. The fund offers two payments of up to $750 each.

Donate to Atlanta Here!

Community Advocates (Milwaukee)

Community Advocates provides over 30 different programs and services for the neediest members of the community. This includes eviction prevention and rental assistance. Evictions have already started in Wisconsin, making this one of the most essential organizations to help right now.

Donate to Milwaukee Here!

Legal Services of Greater Miami (Miami, FL)

A non-profit collection of pro bono lawyers who offer free legal counsel and representation to low-income community members in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. Before 2020, they helped 20,000 clients a year; this year, demand for their work should rise exponentially.

Donate to Miami Here!

Pennsylvania’s COVID-bomb Republican has an inspiring opponent

On May 27th, Pennsylvania State Rep. Andrew Lewis (HD-105) publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19… on May 18th. While Lewis told his GOP colleagues about his illness, the press release was the first time Democrats who serve at the State House were informed that their colleague may have exposed them to the extremely contagious, extremely deadly virus.

That brazen display of deadly selfishness should tell you all you need to know about Lewis, who has spent most of the pandemic fighting to reopen Pennsylvania’s construction sites so that his family’s non-union construction business can resume work. Just about any Democrat would be better than Lewis, who won by just 500 votes in 2018, and his opponent in this November’s election, Brittney Rodas, is far more than just any run-of-the-mill Democrat.

Just 25-years-old, Rodas has a deep understanding of the government’s complex inner-workings. She worked as a policy analyst in the state legislature beginning in college, working with fellow Democrats to meet with constituents and draft new rules and laws that touched the everyday lives of people across the state. What inspired her to run in this very swingy Harrisburg-area district, however, was the death of her father, a former steelworker and Vietnam veteran. With his passing, Rodas experienced first-hand the very real consequences constituents face when the state falls short of its promises.

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

“My dad died in July last year after he struggled for a lot of his life with health care,” Rodas tells Progressives Everywhere. “And a lot of those struggles were because of his time in the service. He had COPD and all these other underlying issues. So I had been fighting for insurance for him through [government programs]. Ultimately, he made $7 over the Medicaid limit, which meant he couldn’t afford prescription drugs. When he died, I felt like the system had failed him and I had spent all of my time working for this system.”

Continue reading “Pennsylvania’s COVID-bomb Republican has an inspiring opponent”