No, Jeb! Bush isn’t back. But the Democrats are. Sorta.
In case you haven’t heard, November 7th, 2017, was a pretty great night for the Democratic Party. In the first real general election since the inauguration of Donald Trump, the Democrats took back the governorship of New Jersey, held on to the governorship of Virginia, made gains in the New Jersey and Virginia state legislatures, secured complete control of the government of Washington state, and elected Democrat mayors all over the country. There’s still a Senate election left in Alabama, but we can get to that later. For now, let’s just go over Tuesday night’s results:
1. VA Gubernatorial Election (WIN)
Back in February, I wrote a post showing how worried I was about the closeness of Tuesday’s gubernatorial election, knowing that the Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie, had run strong campaigns before. In 2014, Gillespie nearly beat incumbent Mark Warner for the latter’s U.S. Senate seat, barely losing with 48.3% of the vote to Warner’s 49.1%, or approximately 20,000 votes. My worry was that Gillespie would be able to eke out a close victory this time around by grabbing undecided voters. That worry only magnified when a pro-Northam group cut this god-awful ad that used a broad brush to paint all of Gillespie’s supporters as violent racists and another group publicly un-endorsed Northam for not supporting sanctuary cities.
Luckily for Democrats, Northam won. Not by a 0.8% margin, like the one Mark Warner had in 2014, but by a staggering 9.0%. Northam got about 234,000 more votes than Gillespie did, and the major news networks were able to call the race for Northam less than ninety minutes after the polls closed. Northam lost most of Virginia’s counties by fairly wide margins, but pulled ahead to trounce Gillespie because of his big leads in the more densely populated areas of the state, like Northern Virginia and Norfolk. Northam shared the statewide ballot with two other victorious Democrats, namely Lieutenant Governor-elect Justin Fairfax and state Attorney General Mark Herring.
Ed Gillespie’s campaign wanted to secure votes from his traditional base of small-government conservatives, and did so early in the campaign. However, towards the end of the race, Gillespie got desperate and started pouring millions of dollars into “culture war” ads that talked about kneeling football players, Confederate statues, and Ralph Northam’s (nonexistent) connection to the MS-13 gang, all in the hopes to rev up some of the state’s Trump/Bannon-aligned voters. He didn’t need to do any of that in his close 2014 race, because that came in the middle of a large Republican wave, and his base of small-government conservatives were out in force. 2017 was a different story – Gillespie was down, Democrat turnout was poised to hit record levels, and he needed something big to change that. He thought he had a chance with the statues and national anthem protests. Swing and a miss. A very big miss.
By winning the gubernatorial elections, Democrats didn’t really make any gains, rather they manged to hold on to a tightly contested seat.
2. VA House of Delegates Election (GOOD ENOUGH)
Virginia’s legislature is split into two sections – the Senate, and the House of Delegates. The State Senate is split between 21 Republicans and 19 Democrats, but nobody cares about that right now since it holds its elections every four years, and the next one isn’t until 2019. The House of Delegates, on the other hand, elects its members every two years, including this year. Before the election, the Virginia House of Delegates was split between 66 Republicans and 34 Democrats, giving the Republicans an incredible majority that could pass just about any piece of Republican-sponsored legislation without a problem. This November, Democrats fielded dozens of candidates across the state in order to take back as many seats as they could, including a transgender woman in one district and the boyfriend of a murdered journalist in another. Out of the 66 Republican-held districts in Virginia, seventeen were won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election, making those seventeen districts the top targets for the aforementioned Democrats.
The Democrats were expecting to win some of those districts, to whittle away at the Republican majority just a little bit. Instead, they blew past expectations to grab at least fifteen House seats, and there are tallies in progress to determine the fates of three more districts. Even if all three remaining districts go for the Republicans, that leaves the State Democratic Party with 49 out of 100 House seats. In that scenario, the Virginia House of Delegates will have gone from a Republican-dominated institution to a near-completely-split chamber overnight. There is still a chance that Democrats manage to pull off a victory in some or all of those remaining districts, which means there is a chance that the Virginia House will flip to Democrat control after this election, or be split evenly. If the House gets split evenly, the two parties will have to come to a power-sharing agreement to determine committee chairmanships and whatnot. Not as glamorous as having control over the chamber, but I doubt any Democrats will complain.
Either way, it was a wave election for Virginia Democrats, which means the Democrats will be better positioned to do something about gerrymandering after the 2020 Census. Right now, the Republican Party has control over Virginia’s congressional delegation because it, to use the scientific term, gerrymandered the shit out of the state’s Congressional districts. In 2016, Virginia Democrats received 49.17% of the statewide Congressional vote in other words, 49.17% of the ballots cast for U.S House members in Virginia went to Democrats, and Virginia Republicans only got 48.74%. Under normal circumstances, that would give Democrats 6 seats and Republicans 5 seats (or something like that). Instead, Democrats only hold 4 seats whereas the Republicans hold 7.
And people wonder why the Republicans have 240 House seats and the Democrats only have 194. Aaanyways…
3. NJ Gubernatorial Election (WIN)
Okay, I don’t think anyone was surprised here. Phil Murphy, a former U.S. Ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive, beat Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno to become the next Governor of New Jersey with a 13.3% margin, marking yet another win for the Dems. As a result of this election, Democrats gained complete control over New Jersey’s government with majorities in both houses and at least four years of Democratic leadership.
Unlike the highly competitive race in Virginia, Guadagno was pretty much stuck in traffic from the beginning, running to succeed one of the least popular governors in New Jersey’s history. In a poll taken October 30th, just eight days before the election, incumbent Chris Christie had an approval rating of 14% and a disapproval rating of 77%, and Phil Murphy had a 16 point lead over Kim Guadagno. If she ever had a lane to victory, Phil Murphy was able to close it well before the election, and Guadagno just couldn’t bridge that gap with New Jersey voters.
As I noted in my post back in February, this election has added importance because of the corruption trial of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. As a Democrat, Senator Menendez’s vote is critical in protecting the Affordable Care Act from Mitch McConnell’s repeated repeal-and-replace efforts and all that fun stuff. Unfortunately, he has a 28% approval rating in the state of New Jersey, and even though his corruption trial might end up with a hung jury on a number of counts, he’s becoming increasingly toxic within the Democratic Senate Caucus. After all, it’s a public relations nightmare to work with a U.S. Senator indicted for accepting lavish gifts and campaign contributions from a man convicted of 76 counts of Medicare fraud and making false statements. Previously, Senator Menendez was refusing to resign because he knew that Governor Chris Christie would be likely to appoint a Republican to fill his seat until the next Senate election, giving the Republicans 53 senators at a critical time. Now that Phil Murphy has been elected Governor, Senator Menendez is free to resign his seat as early as January 16th, when Governor-elect Murphy takes office (and I really hope that he chooses to resign – it’s getting embarrassing to have him around).
A few weeks before the election, the Princeton Editorial Board published this piece in support of Lt. Gov. Guadagno. I suggest you all give it a read, even though the election has already passed. I don’t agree with their general conservative slant, but they are much better at writing than I am (and in at least one case, much smarter and more hard-working (hey, how u doin’?)), and I appreciate their continued dedication to editorial board independence and ideological diversity in the face of hardened opposition. For those of you who don’t know the full story, the Editorial Board used to be part of the Daily Princetonian student newspaper until the paper’s Editor-in-Chief suddenly and unilaterally dissolved them for reasons that were totally unrelated to the Editor-in-Chief’s personal political disagreements with the Editorial Board. Anyways, moving right along…
4. NJ General Assembly and NJ Senate (WIN)
Before Tuesday’s election, Democrats controlled both houses of the New Jersey legislature. Still, they took advantage of the anti-Republican wave and ran the scoreboard in the State General Assembly and the State Senate.
Before the election, the General Assembly was composed of 52 Democrats and 28 Republicans to make up 80 total seats. Now, Democrats hold 55 seats and Republicans have 25. In the Senate, Democrats held 24 seats and Republicans held 16 to make up 40 total seats. Now, Democrats have 25 seats and Republicans have 15. For those of you counting along at home, that’s a gain of three seats in the General Assembly and one seat in the State Senate.
Look, they won’t all be exciting races, okay?
5. WA State Senate District 45 (WIN)
Yes, I am totally covering the election result in just one State Senate district. Why? Because a Dem win in this one State Senate district just gave control of the Washington State Senate to the Democrats, who already hold the governor’s mansion and the State House.
I didn’t even learn about this election’s existence until Election Night, so I don’t fault any of you for not recognizing the importance of this district off the bat. The basic summary is that a Republican legislator in the Washington State Senate died from an untimely recurrence of lung cancer, and a special election was held to fill his seat. After a competitive and awfully expensive election, Democrat Manka Dhingra won with 55.42% of the vote. After the incumbent’s death, the State Senate was divided between 25 Republicans (technically a coalition of 24 Republicans and 1 turncoat Democrat) and 24 Democrats, the State Senate had a very slight lean that favored the Republican Party. Now that Ms. Dhingra has won the 45th District, the State Senate is evenly split between the 25 members of the Republican coalition and 25 Democrats.
So that makes a tie, right? Wrong. In the case of tied votes in the State Senate, the Lieutenant Governor of Washington has the authority to break the tie. In this case, the Lieutenant Governor is a Democrat. Therefore, the Democrats have control of the Washington State Senate, albeit only by the skin of their teeth. Added on to their existing 50-48 majority in the Washington State House and their control of the Governor’s mansion and we have what is known as a trifecta – unified control of a state’s government. Good stuff. The win in New Jersey’s gubernatorial election means that the Democrats have a trifecta in New Jersey too.
6. U.S. House Races (NO CHANGE)
There were six U.S. House races held this year: one was held to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah (R), who retired this summer, another to replace Rep. Xavier Becerra of California (D), who was appointed Attorney General of California, and another four to replace various Representatives who had accepted posts within President Donald Trump’s cabinet (R). In all six cases, the incumbent party won.
The media only really cared about four of them, because only four – the races to replace Ryan Zinke, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, and Tom Price – were competitive. In all four cases, the Republican replacement candidate won, although by scarily close margins in some cases.
- Ryan Zinke resigned from the House to become the Interior Secretary. His replacement, Greg Gianforte, won his race in Montana with a 5.6% margin (note: the state went to Donald Trump with a 20.5% margin in 2016, and to Zinke by 15.8%). The margin was close in part because he assaulted a reporter for asking a question and claimed it was in self-defense.
- Mick Mulvaney resigned from the House to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. His replacement won his election, but by a margin of 3.1% in deep-red South Carolina, even though his opponent received basically zero media attention. Mulvaney himself had won the seat in 2016 with a 20.48% margin.
- Mike Pompeo resigned from the House to become the Director of the CIA. His replacement won his election by a 6.2% margin. In 2016, Pompeo won reelection by a margin of 31.06%.
- Tom Price resigned from the House to become the Secretary of Health and Human Services, which went about as well as could be expected. His replacement, Karen Handel, almost lost to former Congressional staffer Jon Ossoff in the first and second rounds of the election. Ossoff needed 50.0% of the vote in the first round to win outright, or 96,285 votes, but only got 92,673. In the second round, Handel consolidated support from other Republican candidates and beat Ossoff with a 3.6% margin. Price won reelection in 2016 with a 23.36% margin, although the district barely went for Donald Trump that same year.
The other two races were barely even contested – Chaffetz’s and Becerra’s seats were both in safe districts for their respective parties.
7. Mayoral Races (NET WIN)
Yeah, no one cares. Long story short, Democrats won some mayoral elections. Yippee.
8. U.S. Senate Election in Alabama (???)
On December 12th, voters in Alabama will select a new United States Senator to replace Jeff Sessions, who resigned his seat to become the U.S. Attorney General. The two main candidates are Doug Jones (D), a lawyer who sent two members of the KKK to prison after the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and Judge Roy Moore (R), a man known for his violent hatred of everything except fourteen-year-old girls.
Jones is a good man, and frankly he would make a good Senator based on his background as an attorney alone, but he doesn’t really have much more of a background than that. He was appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney in Birmingham in the 80’s, and in 1997 was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama by President Bill Clinton, the post he had when he prosecuted the Klansmen. That’s about it. Here’s his full bio, in case you’re interested.
Roy Moore, on the other hand, is quite colorful. In 2001, when he was the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he placed a 5,280 pound granite monument with the Ten Commandments written on it. The monument used taxpayer money (!) and as a result, Moore was expelled from the State Supreme Court. In 2012, he ran to win back his old seat on the bench and won, but was expelled again in 2015 after he claimed that a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage was illegal and unconstitutional (spoiler alert: he was wrong). He is also a veteran of the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam, but was so reviled by his subordinates that he had to sleep in a bed surrounded by sandbags in case someone decided to lob a grenade in his tent in the night. Here’s some more fun (rather, not directly policy-based) stuff about Roy Moore:
- He believes that the United States is the focus of evil in the world, and promotes a lot of bad things… like the acceptance of same-sex marriage.
- He believes that President Barack Obama is a Muslim and was born in Kenya, an assertion that even Donald Trump has stopped trying to make.
- He believes that preschools are Nazi indoctrination institutions meant to brainwash kids into becoming liberal totalitarians, because of course he does.
- He believes that evolution is a lie, and that “man did not come from a snake,” although that’s not even what evolutionary biologists say. It’s like saying “math is a lie because 7 + 7 is not 25.”
- He believes that NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem are criminals and that they can/should be prosecuted. He happens to be wrong on this, because of course he is.
- He believes that Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide, was worse than Dred Scott v. Sandford, which ruled that black people were property, and also believes that homosexuality is comparable to bestiality.
- He believes that transgender people do not have rights and are not entitled to use public bathrooms corresponding to their “new” gender.
- One justification for such a belief is that he is very concerned with the protection of young girls, because Roy Moore would never break the law when it comes to dealing with young girls, right?
- He believes that there are places in Illinois and Indiana that currently practice shariah law, that Islam itself is a “false religion,” and that U.S. Representative and practicing Muslim Keith Ellison should resign because of his faith.
- He believes that it was God, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 Presidential Election.
- He believes that the 9/11 Attacks were divine punishment from God because America was becoming too atheist.
That’s some weird shit. He said all of this before the allegations of statutory rape and sexual assault came out, and it’s pretty much all public record at this point.
If you’re not familiar with the allegations against Roy Moore, here’s a brief breakdown:
- When he was 32, Roy Moore (allegedly) undressed and groped a fourteen-year-old girl until she told him to stop. These allegations, backed up by four other women with similar accounts and nineteen other sources, were published on November 9th in the Washington Post. Fourteen is below the age of consent in Alabama, and as such Moore’s alleged actions would be a misdemeanor punishable with up to one year in prison. Repeat offenses are felonies punishable with up to ten years in prison. The relevant law can be viewed here.
- He missed the cutoff on statutory stuff, to say the least.
- EDIT: On November 13th, another woman came forward with allegations that Roy Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 15. In response, Senators McConnell and Cruz withdrew their endorsements and said Moore must drop out. No conditions attached. Also, Senator Jeff Flake said he would rather vote for Doug Jones than Roy Moore.
- Around the same time, Roy Moore also hung out with girls ranging between sixteen and eighteen years old at a local high school, and mild shenanigans ensued, including a time when he supplied alcohol to an underage girl.
- Colleagues of Moore corroborated the story, saying they generally knew he was hanging around high schools trying to date high schoolers.
- All publicly-known events occurred between the time Moore returned to Alabama and his marriage to his wife in 1985, fourteen years his junior (he was 38, she was 24 – this is not a “problem” in of itself, though).
- Moore has categorically denied all the allegations levied against him, calling the Washington Post’s account “fake news” and “bull,” and that his accusers are all politically motivated, despite the fact that the chief accuser (who was 14 at the time) is a registered Republican and supporter of Donald Trump. None of the other accusers have had anything to do with the Doug Jones campaign, the Luther Strange campaign, or the Democratic Party.
- Political allies of Moore’s have defended Moore by comparing his conduct to that of Joseph and Mary in the New Testament (did they forget that Mary was a virgin?). Others have defended him by saying that the women accusing him of improper conduct should be prosecuted because they did not come forward forty years earlier.
Despite all this crazy shit, Moore still has the endorsements of major government officials like President Trump, Vice President Pence, HUD Secretary Ben Carson,
Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator John Cornyn, Senator Rand Paul, and dozens of elected U.S. Representatives. Some, like Senator Bill Cassidy and Senator Mike Lee, have withdrawn their endorsements in the wake of the allegations. Others have even started to call for Roy Moore’s expulsion from the Senate, just in case he still manages to win.
Most of the officials who are still endorsing Moore have said some variation of “[Moore] should step down if the allegations are true.” This extends to almost everyone on the above list. However, such statements abdicate responsibility from the endorsers to Moore, allowing Moore to stay in the race with the support of the above elected officials by repeatedly issuing denials of any improper action.
Is it possible that Roy Moore never engaged in weird shenanigans (yes, I’m using that term now) with fourteen- and sixteen-year-old girls? Yes. But with four (Republican-aligned) public accusers, corroborations from family members, friends, and Moore’s own colleagues, Moore’s cries of “politically-motivated fake news” really runs thin.
Anyways, the polls between Doug Jones and Roy Moore have narrowed since the revelation of these allegations. Moore previously held leads over Jones ranging between 5 and 22 points. Since then, Moore’s mega-lead has all but vanished; one poll showed him leading by less than 2 points, and another even showed Jones leading Moore by four points. That same poll noted that 37 percent of Alabaman evangelical Christians feel they are more likely to vote for Moore in the wake of the allegations, compared to 34 percent who don’t believe the allegations make a difference in their vote, and 28 percent who say they are less likely to vote for Moore. So… yeah.
If there’s anything you can learn from the elections held so far, it’s this: Democrats are starting to pick up steam, and they’re coming for as many seats as they can possibly get. They’ve recaptured New Jersey and Washington, and they’ve made gains in Virginia. I’ll have more information on this when the 2018 elections get a little nearer, but for now I’ll just say that the Republican Party should be very afraid of the oncoming Democrat wave. Earlier this year, when the Republicans were holding onto red-leaning House seats, I might have bought their claims that their party was strong and their majority was unassailable. Now, Democrats are flipping states and winning contests, and a previously deep-red seat in Alabama has the potential to go for a Democrat. Granted, the Democrats have only flipped two states and haven’t made gains at the national level, but it’s something.
So yeah. We’re back. Sorta.
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