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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit Area, MI
Home country: USA
Current location: San Francisco, CA
Member since: Wed Oct 29, 2008, 02:53 PM
Number of posts: 35,326

About Me

Partner, father and liberal Democrat. I am a native Michigander living in San Francisco who is a citizen of the world.

Journal Archives

Nearly quarter of state's early voters didn't cast ballots in NC in 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. — About 45 percent of North Carolina's registered voters have already cast ballots in this year's elections, and a sizable chunk of them weren't part of the process four years ago.

More than 3.3 million people have either voted early in person or mailed in an absentee ballot. Nearly a quarter of them didn't vote in 2016, according to State Board of Elections figures.

Of the 24 percent who are voting this time around after not voting in the last presidential election, most weren't even registered to vote in North Carolina back then.

achel McConnell just cast her first North Carolina ballot after recently moving from Texas – one of hundreds of thousands of people who’ve relocated to the Tar Heel State in recent years. She said she was thrilled to see the record high turnout so far.

"As a millennial, as somebody who’s kind of grown up with lots of people being disenchanted with the whole voting experience, I’m excited to see the high numbers. I feel like all generations are turning out," McConnell said. "I think people are tired of seeing all of the division and all of the anger. I think people really want to see a change in our nation."


Democrats have control of the Pa. state House within their reach

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Democrats are in striking distance of taking control of the state House, strategists in both parties say, as President Donald Trump’s unpopularity in the suburbs threatens down-ballot Republicans, and Democrats pummel GOP incumbents on the airwaves.

Democratic candidates and outside groups are outspending Republicans by a margin of more than three to one across the most competitive battleground districts, according to data from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. Democrats need a net gain of nine seats to win a majority.

Republicans have a tighter grip on control of the state Senate, though Democrats are also spending heavily in their bid to flip the four seats necessary for an effective majority.

A takeover of either chamber would boost Gov. Tom Wolf’s agenda during his final two years in office on issues like infrastructure spending, the minimum wage, and protections for the LGBTQ community. That would be a stark contrast from the first six years of his tenure when the legislature often brawled with Wolf, a Democrat, on taxes and spending. During Wolf’s early years in office, the state went months without passing a budget. More recently, the governor and GOP majority have clashed over the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the stakes are even higher this year: The next General Assembly will draw new congressional district boundaries that will shape Pennsylvania politics for years to come.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report last week switched its rating for control of the 203-member state House from Lean Republican to Toss Up. Cook kept the 50-member Senate at Lean Republican.


A Chance to Expand Medicaid Rallies Democrats in Crucial North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina, a crucial battleground for the presidential race and control of the United States Senate, has another coveted prize at stake in this election, one that is drawing serious out-of-state money, dominating television ads and driving get-out-the-vote efforts.

Democrats believe they have a chance of gaining control of the State Legislature for the first time in a decade, which would make it possible to expand Medicaid to cover half-a-million more low-income adults here after years of Republican resistance.

The health care issue is paramount up and down the ticket in North Carolina, with left-leaning national and in-state groups using it to motivate Democratic voters — especially those who stayed home in 2016. Many of them belong to the demographic who would become eligible for Medicaid, the free government health insurance program, if the legislature voted to expand it as the Affordable Care Act allows.

Rita Blalock, a cook at McDonald’s who has gone without health insurance for most of her life, is one of them. She said she hadn’t always voted in elections but this week she cast her ballot early for a straight Democratic ticket, in hopes of seeing her two biggest goals realized: getting a higher minimum wage and getting Medicaid.


CO-03: On Radio, Boebert Confirms That She Opposes All Vaccination Requirements

Colorado congressional candidate Lauren Boebert clarified over the weekend that she thinks vaccinations should always be a “personal choice,” regardless of the circumstances.

Colorado doesn’t mandate that residents get any type of vaccination, but Boebert’s stance would go further, stopping the state from requiring, for example, that most workers at licensed medical facilities get the flu vaccine, as Colorado law currently states.

Colorado also stops short of mandating that children get recommended vaccinations in order to attend public school

Instead, Colorado allows parents not to vaccinate their kids for medical or nonmedical reasons, as long as parents obtain a written medical exemption or take an online education module.

Boebert opposes such requirements, which passed into law this year.

“I believe that that is a personal choice,” Boebert, who also thinks mask-wearing should be optional, told KVOR radio host Jeff Crank on Saturday, referring to vaccinations. “And people should be able to talk with their doctors and make that decision, not having government come in and forcing that decision on people. So that should be between patients and doctors, not have more government intervention.”



CONGRESSMAN DON BACON, R-Neb., used his congressional expense account to pay his campaign strategist, a move that may raise ethics concerns over the use of taxpayer funds.

Bacon’s congressional office made two payments this year using government funds totaling $52,518 to “Double Bogey Strategies,” a limited liability company registered in Alexandria, Virginia, and owned by David Watts, the campaign strategist advising Bacon’s reelection effort.

The expense payments to Watts’s company included $20,371 for “printing & reproduction” and $32,147 for “advertisements.” Watts also owns Double Eagle Strategies, a campaign consulting firm retained by Bacon since 2017.

House ethics rules and federal law prohibit the use of congressional government funds on communication advisers and campaign advisers, as well as for any campaign-related purposes. While Watts may have been doing work for the congressional office, using the same consultant for the campaign and the congressional office is unusual.

Congressional advertising, mass email, and unsolicited postal mail funded by the government is allowed under extensive restrictions to prevent lawmakers from spending government funds on explicitly political endeavors. Such communications are generally used to announce town halls and other constituent services.


MO-02: Record-breaking money spent in hopes of winning Missouri Congressional seat

ST. LOUIS — It is estimated $11 billion will be spent nationwide on the 2020 election according to OpenSecrets.org - making this the most expensive election in U.S. history by a long shot.

One St. Louis area race that is also setting records for money raised is Missouri's 2nd Congressional District.

That's where Democratic State Senator Jill Schupp is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Congresswoman Ann Wagner. And, not all of the money is coming from Missouri.
More than $17 million will be spent on the race for Missouri's 2nd Congressional District. That's more than three times as much as 2018 and nearly six times as much as was spent in 2016.

There are a couple of reasons for this, said University of Missouri-St. Louis political scientist and 5 On Your Side Political Analyst Anita Manion.

First, both candidates have a history of successful fundraising.


IN-05: More Questions Raised About Spartz's Financial Holdings

New reporting from Importantville’s Adam Wren raises even more serious questions about Victoria Spartz’s financial holdings and potential self-dealing. Despite claiming to farm around 3,000 acres of land in the district, “a review of property records connected to Spartz and her in-laws reveals ownership of a far smaller agricultural footprint of about 570 acres” – 81 percent less acreage than she’s claimed. Yet Spartz, who claims between $1 million and $5 million from one of several farm properties on her PFD, cannot account for the missing acreage and “did not respond to follow-up questions” from the reporter.

This missing land is just the latest in a “string of curiosities” surrounding Spartz. Spartz repeatedly refused to answer questions about the source of a million dollar campaign loan and has now loaned her campaign more over the cycle than what she disclosed in available cash in her personal financial disclosure. Spartz has also used her political position to personally benefit, introducing legislation in the State Senate that would remove state oversight of lands like the ones her family had planned a multi-million-dollar development on. Spartz faced criticism from fellow Republicans who, earlier this year, warned that she couldn’t be trusted given her conflicts of interest.

Spartz’s missing farmland
Importantville // Adam Wren

Victoria Spartz has bet the farm on her bid for Indiana’s 5th Congressional District. The Republican’s record as a farmer—from her time growing up around farm animals in Soviet-controlled Ukraine to her soybean outfit in Hamilton County—has been a central element in her pitch to voters.

An array of profiles of the candidate are quick to mention her sprawling farm operation. In August, Indianapolis Business Journal reported that the Spartz “family—including her in-laws—collectively farm about 2,000 acres of soybeans and wheat, but it’s a mixture of rented land and owned property.” Farm World, an agricultural trade publication, noted in April that Spartz and her husband Jason had a “3,000-acre commercial farm where they primarily grow soybeans along with some wheat.” Spartz herself has made similar claims. At a Hamilton County Plan Commission in June 2018, Spartz claimed to farm almost 3,000 acres across the county.

But a review of property records connected to Spartz and her in-laws reveals ownership of a far smaller agricultural footprint of about 570 acres. Her main soybean farming operation, EcoAgro USA, comprises just 150.6 acres. Spartz Farms, a partnership, is a 70.93-acre parcel. Broadened out, a search of other Spartz family farmland includes only 348.82 acres.
In total, Spartz and her family appear to farm 81 percent less acreage than she has claimed. In a statement, a spokesman for Spartz admitted she no longer farmed 3,000 acres, but did not respond to follow-up questions about the exact acreage Spartz and her family now farmed.

Farming makes up a significant part of Spartz’s wealth. She valued her soybean concern, EcoAgro USA, as worth between $1 million and $5 million out of assets that total between $8 million and $30 million, according to her personal financial disclosure. She valued Spartz Farms, a partnership, between $1 and $1,000, and recently generated between $100,000 and $1 million in annual income from this business. Spartz has loaned herself more than $1 million during the campaign.


NJ-02: Congressman's pledge of 'undying support' for Trump hangs over close House race

The congressman who represents Atlantic City made a risky political gamble last year. Now he's waiting to see whether it will pay off -- or if he's going home broke.

In December, Rep. Jeff Van Drew shocked his colleagues in the Democratic Party when he announced he would become a Republican, citing his discomfort with impeaching President Donald Trump. Van Drew's detractors point to a more craven political calculation: that he might not have been able to survive his Democratic primary.

The decision culminated in an Oval Office photo-op, where Van Drew pledged his "undying support" to the President. Camera shutters clicked as the two men vigorously shook hands. Eleven months later, those images are at the center of one of the hottest congressional races in the country, with Van Drew seeking reelection for the first time — and, also for the first time, running as a Republican.

His GOP debut happens to coincide with a daunting year for his new party. But he says his transition is "going fine."


NY-02: King's retirement sets up fight for Long Island swing seat

Republican U.S. Rep. Peter King’s impending retirement after nearly three decades as the aggrieved voice of bridge and tunnel New Yorkers has set off a scramble for control of his suburban Long Island swing district, with outside groups pouring in millions of dollars.

King’s chosen successor, State Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino, faces Democrat Jackie Gordon, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who moved to the U.S. from the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica when she was 7. Green Party candidate Harry Berger could split the vote, which is expected to go to one of the two major party candidates.

Republicans are fighting mightily to keep the seat, situated in an increasingly diverse swath of the island’s South Shore. President Donald Trump narrowly took the district in 2016.

Democrats see a rare opportunity to pick up a seat that had been out of reach while King was on the ballot.

“This is a true suburban swing district that hasn’t been because of a Republican incumbent who drew support from across the aisle,” said Lawrence Levy, the Executive Dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. “Now that Pete King is gone, it reverts back to its true purple state.”

King, who thrived on popular issues for white suburbanites — like promises to investigate Islamic extremism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and a crackdown on MS-13 gang violence — has been out front in the effort to keep the seat in Republican hands.

He’s been campaigning door-to-door with Garbarino in the bedroom communities where the retiring lawmaker has long been a favorite of white, blue-collar voters — including police officers who embrace their “back the blue” message.


TX-24: Candace Valenzuela Is Ready To Make History as First Black Latina in Congress

In July 14, 36-year-old Candace Valenzuela was sitting at home, watching in slight disbelief as she inched closer and closer to making U.S. history. Valenzuela had been locked in a tight Democratic primary race for Texas’ open 24th Congressional District and, as results poured in, it was clear she was pulling ahead of her opponent, Kim Olson.

“At that point, people were calling me and screaming going, ‘You won, you won!’” Valenzuela remembers. But she wanted to wait until the results were official. “I was just like, ‘I need to hear the [Associated Press], guys. It’s not real until the AP says it’s real!’”

The AP published a breaking tweet announcing her victory ten minutes before midnight. Valenzuela, an educator and mother of two who got her start in politics as an at-large member of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, secured 60% of votes. Olson got 39%. The celebrations and excitement happened virtually due to the pandemic.

“My election night watch party was a series of Zoom rooms that I would pop into to see people. It wasn’t the same as being at tables and having all of their faces there, but it was great to see the little squares and the faces of my loved ones and neighbors and supporters from all over,” she tells Remezcla. “There’s a lot of devastating things about right now but I think one of the saddest things is that you can’t grieve or triumph as a physical community, even though I am so thrilled that I was able to see everyone over Zoom. I guess ‘poignant’ is probably an appropriate word for what the feeling was.”

Valenzuela and her campaign had a lot to be proud of: Her win in the primary runoff means she could be the first-ever Black Latina in Congress, potentially flipping a seat that’s been red since Kenny Marchant took it over 15 years ago. Now, her next challenge is facing off against the Trump-backed Republican Beth Van Duyne in the November elections, but Valenzuela says the primary results have energized her team: “We’re really, really excited about taking that momentum in order to win in November,” she says.


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