On Thursday, Green Party candidate Angela Green announced she was dropping out of the dead-heat Arizona Senate race between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally, both congresswomen. Green endorsed Sinema, explaining their views are more in line and "there is a lot of other reasons that I can't support the other candidate," McSally.
Early voting is already underway in Arizona, and it's unclear how Green quitting the race will affect its outcome. She was polling at an average of 2.5 percent, according to RealClearPolitics, and her inclusion in surveys shifted the polling average from a 0.7-percentage-point lead for Sinema to a 0.2-point lead for McSally. The Green Party candidate got 138,000 votes in 2016, or 5.5 percent of the Senate vote that year, The Arizona Republic reports. The race is rated a tossup; FiveThirtyEight gives Sinema a 4 in 7 chance of victory. Peter Weber
Axios has a new HBO show, and their first teaser is a doozy. In an interview Monday, President Trump told Jonathan Swan he plans to sign an executive order that would end birthright citizenship, or the right of citizenship to all children born in the United Sates. "It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment," Trump told Swan, who'd learned of Trump's plan from several sources, including one close to the White House Counsel's office. "Guess what? You don't." Most immigration and constitutional scholars disagree with this argument, put forward by a handful of conservatives.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." Axios found support for Trump's view that he can sidestep that amendment from John Eastman, director of Chapman University's Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, and former Trump national security official Michael Anton. (You can read columnist Daniel Drezner's rebuttal of Anton's "bad-faith argument" at The Washington Post.)
Eastman suggests that Trump is looking forward to a high-profile court battle on his signature issue, immigration, but Axios notes that at least one of Trump's own appellate court appointees has called the idea of changing how the 14th Amendment is applied "unconstitutional." Trump seems pretty convinced otherwise, telling Swan that "they're saying I can do it just with an executive order," and he plans to take them up on it. Watch below. Peter Weber
Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis held their second and final Florida gubernatorial debate on Wednesday night, and their hour-long face-off touched on a lot of policy issues — gun safety, minimum wage, immigration, and education. But the debate ultimately "boiled down to two issues: race and corruption," Politico reports.
On race, DeSantis appeared to get flustered when moderator Todd McDermott asked him about his associations with white supremacists and financial backers who used racist language. He interrupted McDermott to call his unfinished question "McCarthyist" and suggest incorrectly that McDermott was wrong about racist statements David Horowitz made at a conference DeSantis participated in. "How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement somebody makes?" DeSantis said when McDermott noted that Horowitz had indeed made the comments at the conference. "I am not going to bow down to the altar of political correctness."
Gillum, who is black, was ready. "My grandmother used to say, 'A hit dog will holler,' and it hollered through this room," he said. "I'm not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I'm simply saying the racists believe he's a racist." Gillum's campaign was evidently pleased with that line, as it posted the clip on Twitter.
Gillum was on the defensive, however, over newly released text messages showing he received a free Hamilton ticket from an undercover FBI agent investigating alleged corruption in Tallahassee, where Gillum is mayor. DeSantis accused him of lying about the ticket, but Gillum said he was handed it by his brother Marcus, believing Marcus had gotten them from friend and lobbyist Adam Corey in exchange for Jay Z-Beyonce tickets. "I should have asked more questions to make sure that everything that had transpired was above board," he said. But "we got 99 problems and Hamilton ain't one of them." Peter Weber
The Midwest is posing a challenge for Democrats' hopes of taking the Senate, but the party's prospects are a lot brighter in the gubernatorial races, according to projections from Politico on Thursday. Democratic candidates are expected to win in Illinois, Michigan, and New Mexico, all currently run by Republican governors. Races in GOP-held Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa are tossups, as are contests in Republican states Florida, Georgia, and Nevada. There are seven states that could tip either way, Politico reports, while Republicans are projected to win 17 races and Democrats are projected to win 12. Currently, Republicans hold the governorships in 33 states.
The Democrats' three best shots to flip Republican states are Illinois, where Democrat J.B. Pritzker is significantly ahead of incumbent GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner; New Mexico, where Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) leads Rep. Steve Pearce (R) to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Susana Martinez; and Michigan, where Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is term-limited and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is leading state Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) and just won endorsement from the Detroit Area Chamber of Commerce's PAC, the first Democrat to get the regional business group's backing since 1990.
In their one and probably only debate, Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) and Democratic challenger Abigail Spanberger clashed Monday night over health care, immigration, and taxes, but one person not onstage sure got a lot of mentions. And it wasn't President Trump, whose tenure has helped turn Virginia's reliably Republican 7th Congressional District into a tossup race.
"While Trump looms large over the race, the president was mentioned just once during the 90-minute forum," The Washington Post recounts. "The name on Brat's lips was that of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). ... Brat referred so often to 'the Nancy Pelosi liberal agenda' that the phrase started drawing laughs. At one point he acknowledged that he'd said it 'a million times.' (More conservative estimates put the mentions at around 25.)" HuffPost congressional reporter Matt Fuller placed the number at 21, and he said it sounded like this:
With each mention of Pelosi, the audience seemed to groan and laugh harder as Brat tried again ― and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again ― to tie Spanberger to Pelosi. On one instance, the groans from the audience were so loud that Brat asked for additional time to speak, and on another interjection, he had to restart his point, beginning once again with Pelosi's name. [HuffPost]
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is both the state's top election official and the Republican nominee for governor, and his aggressive "voter roll maintenance" has become an issue in his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams, who is black, says Kemp is suppressing minority votes. Kemp has canceled more than 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012, including about 670,000 in 2017 alone, The Associated Press reports, and his office is sitting on more than 53,000 voter registration forms that ran afoul of the "exact match" system he put in place.
The "exact match" system, codified by the state's Republican legislature last year, sidelines a voter application if it doesn't exactly match the information on an applicant's driver's license or Social Security data. "If even an accent or a hyphen is missing from a name, the application gets blocked," reports Cameron Joseph at Talking Points Memo. Voters don't always know that their registration is blocked, AP says, and an analysis of records obtained through a public records request "reveals racial disparity in the process. Georgia's population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations on hold with Kemp's office is nearly 70 percent black."
Kemp says he is fighting voter fraud and has made voting easier for all Georgians, pointing to an online registration system and expanded mail-in voting. He blames the "exact match" racial disparity on the voter-registration organization Abrams founded in 2014.
On MSNBC Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow noted that 53,000 votes could decide a neck-and-neck race like the Abrams-Kemp one. "Honestly, this is outrageous enough that it seems almost impossible that the courts will allow this to stand," she said.
Texas Republicans got a big boost on Tuesday as retired game warden Pete Flores beat former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D) in a special state Senate election in a San Antonio district that last elected a Republican in the 1870s. Flores will serve out the rest of the term of former state Sen. Carlos Uresti (D), until 2021, giving Texas Republicans 21 seats in the Senate and virtually ensuring a 19-seat supermajority in the next legislative session. Uresti resigned in June after being convicted of 11 felonies related to a business venture. Gallego conceded at 9 p.m., when unofficial results had him losing by 6 percentage points, 53 percent to 47 percent.
Flores was boosted by strong support from all top Texas GOP elected officials and Republican enthusiasm. Turnout was low, but not for a special election, the San Antonio Express-News reports. The last Republican to represent Texas' Senate District 19 was Andrew Phelps McCormick, who left office in 1879. Flores will be the first Hispanic Republican ever to serve in the state Senate. Peter Weber
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) brushed off a challenge from his left by actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in Thursday's New York Democratic primary, but progressives scored some big upsets in state Senate races. The highest profile of those was Julia Salazar's victory over 16-year incumbent state Sen. Martin Dilan in a northern Brooklyn district. Salazar, a 27-year-old democratic socialism running for office for the first time, doesn't face a Republican challenger in November.
Progressive challengers also unseated six of eight Democrats who formed a now-disbanded Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) that handed control of the state Senate to Republicans. Among those ousted was IDC leader Jeff Klein, who lost to Alessandra Biaggi, plus Jose Peralta, Jesse Hamilton, Marisol Alcantara, David Valesky, and Tony Avella. "In 2018, Democratic voters are in no mood for Democratic politicians who get too comfortable with Republicans," said Harry Enten at CNN. On the other hand, state Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who voted to keep the minority Republicans in control of the Senate, fended off a challenger, Blake Morris.
The more liberal wing of the Democratic Party fared poorly in statewide races, however. Along with Cuomo's victory, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul survived a challenge from New York City Council member Jumaane Williams, and Cuomo-endorsed New York City Public Advocate Letitia "Tish" James beat three other Democratic candidates for the attorney general nomination, including anticorruption advocate Zephyr Teachout and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. James will face Republican Keith Wofford in November. Either of them will be the first black New York attorney general, and James would also be the first female elected to the job. Peter Weber