From the Collins-Gideon contest in Maine this year, won by Senator Susan Collins.
Editor’s Note: A cautionary tale as the 2021 Virginia General Assembly prepares to debate another major carbon tax?
By Paul D. Craney
One of the most overlooked stories on Election Day was the defeat of pro-carbon tax politicians across the nation and here in New England.
The most notable carbon tax proponent to seek office in New England was Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House who was challenging moderate incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. As speaker, Gideon in 2019 supported the imposition of a carbon tax that’s end effect on fuel prices bore a striking similarity to the Transportation and Climate Initiative, or TCI, a regional effort to place a price on the carbon in vehicle fuels. The carbon tax proposal went nowhere in Maine and Gideon did not embrace it during her run for U.S. Senate.
Collins, however, continually highlighted Gideon’s previous support for the carbon tax proposal with TV and digital ads describing it as a 40 cent-per-gallon gas tax, which would add an “extra $10 for every fill up.” The ads closed by saying “higher fuel taxes hurt Maine workers, our farmers, and our families.” While most pundits felt Gideon was favored to prevail, Collins beat her 51-42, winning 14 of the 16 counties in Maine. Continue reading
by DJ Rippert
Marcel Marceau. Ralph “The COVID Mime” Northam dropped a bevy of increased Coronavirus restrictions on the state last Friday. Those new restrictions on Friday followed another rambling COVID press conference held by Northam the prior Tuesday. Anybody watching the Tuesday news conference could be forgiven for being shocked by The COVID Mime’s actions on Friday. Unlike governors such as Larry Hogan in Maryland Northam avoids any serious discussion of possible actions he might take to slow the spread of the resurgent virus in Virginia during his press conferences. Instead, Northam recites statistics about COVID-19 in Virginia and reminds people to wear masks, maintain social distance and wash their hands regularly. He also provides pithy commentary such as, “This is very concerning, especially because it is getting colder. The holidays are approaching and the temptation to gather with other people is high.” Then, as the news week winds to a close, Northam drops a COVID bomb. To say Jim Bacon was exasperated is putting it mildly. The virus has continued to spread internationally, nationally and in Virginia. So, we get to play the next installment of the Bacons Rebellion game show “What will The Mime do next?” Continue reading
Chesterfield Observer photo from a September interview, which you can read here.
by Steve Haner
Virginia’s 66th House District, basically Colonial Heights and part of Chesterfield County, was drawn by a federal court special master. The incumbent delegate, Republican Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, was not supposed to survive the 2019 election based on past partisan performance in those precincts.
But Cox ran nine points ahead of failed 2018 GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart’s result in those precincts, and five points ahead of failed 2017 Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie. He won another term in the House of Delegates with almost 52%. Unfortunately, so many of his colleagues fell to the new map that he was no longer to be Speaker.
Being Governor is better than being Speaker. The effort to gerrymander George Allen out of Congress led to his term as Governor two years later. If a play works, wait a while and run it again. Only a Republican who can get beyond the hard core base – as Cox did in 2019 — has a prayer. Just improving the outcomes in nearby Chesterfield and Henrico counties, his back yard, would set the stage.
Any Republican faces daunting numbers. Donald J. Trump just lost the state by 450,000 votes, a full 10-point spread. Gillespie lost to Democrat Ralph Northam by just under 9 points and 230,000 votes. If you-know-who is not in the White House next year, which is how it now stands, Democrats have lost their best “get out the vote” magnet. Continue reading
by DJ Rippert
Rolling stoned gathers no moss. Marijuana reform has been gaining momentum in the U.S. since California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Today 36 states have either enacted medical marijuana access laws or are in the process of implementing such laws. In 2012 Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults. Today, 15 states have enacted recreational use laws or are in the process of doing so.
The status of the National Popular Vote Compact, which goes into effect once enough states have signed on to let the national totals determine their electoral votes.
By Steve Haner
The battle is now rejoined to kill the Electoral College and elect a U.S. President in 2024 based purely on the national vote total. The stubborn refusal of President Donald J. Trump and many other Republicans to accept the November 3 outcome is likely to become a new talking point for Electoral College foes.
Trump and his legal team see a path to victory if they can reverse votes in a handful of states he narrowly lost, by challenging votes or forcing recounts. Without the Electoral College process, the effort would be futile in the face of President-elect Joe Biden’s huge popular vote margin of victory. If the public grows tired of or even angry over the dispute, scrapping the Electoral College entirely may become more attractive.
With House Bill 177, the Virginia House of Delegates voted earlier this year to have Virginia join a compact of other states which have agreed to award their votes in the Electoral College to the highest national vote recipient, without regard to the outcome among their own state’s voters.
That bill was carried over to next session in a State Senate committee, but under Senate rules could be revived if voted on by early December. The chair of that committee, Senator Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, told Bacon’s Rebellion today he will not be calling that meeting to look at carry-over bills. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
Nobody asked, me, but I offer my Wednesday morning initial assessment of the elections in Virginia. In no particular order, here they are.
Until there is a Republican Party of Virginia, not the current Republican Party of me, the party candidates will remain eclectic to the point of statewide incoherence. Not sure who has the juice to pull that together.
It looks at this point like Abigail Spanberger lost to Nick Freitas by about 3,000 votes with 100% counted. I suspect there will be a recount. The rest of the House races were pretty one-sided. Redistricting by the new commission established by the new constitutional amendment will be crucial.
Northern Virginia is the bedroom of the federal government. It has been a long time since there were a significant number of Republicans in the career bureaucracy. Dispersing the offices of those bureaucrats around the country, generically a good idea, may not help the Republicans in swing states.
One question with a potential huge impact on Virginia legislation: Will the Virginia Supreme court take cases that result in an assertive role for that court in assessing new laws for constitutionality?
2020 presidential election map. Source: Virginia Public Access Project
by James A. Bacon
So, where do yesterday’s elections leave us?
We don’t know who won the presidential election, and we probably won’t know for days, if not weeks. Still, we can draw some meaningful conclusions.
Virginia remains a solid blue state. The Democrats’ political dominance has jelled. With 98.44% of votes reported, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in the presidential election by 53.7% to 44.5% — a nine-point margin. Democratic Senator Mark Warner trounced his Republican opponent Daniel Gade by an eleven-point margin. And Democrats won, or were poised to win six of eleven House seats, with only the election between incumbent Abigail Spanberger and challenger Nick Freitas too lose to call.
Northern Virginia has transformed the demographic equation. Not only do a handful of Northern Virginia localities dominate Virginia’s electorate in the absolute number of voters, NoVa is lopsidedly blue. Biden’s margin of victory was 64.7% in Arlington County, 62.% in Alexandria, 41.9% in Fairfax County, 28.7% in Prince William County, and 24.7% in Loudoun County. Continue reading
Photo credit: Rawpixel
by James A. Bacon
I put little stock in the election prognostications of professional pundits, the vast majority of whom are guilty of wishful thinking and confirmation bias. But it is election day today, and the conventional wisdom is that the Virginians will vote handily for Joe Biden as president, Mark Warner will spank his Republican challenger for the U.S. Senate, and Democrats might even gain a House seat. So, when I see a contrary analysis, I take a look. I don’t necessarily give it any credence, but I like to chew it over.
The following analysis originates from Bob Marshall, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates known as the most conservative elected official in the legislature at the time. So, insofar as wishful thinking and confirmation bias factor into his thinking, they push Marshall toward favoring a Republican outcome. Take his observations with a grain of salt.
Based upon its analysis of early voters, Target Smart, a Democrat-leaning, Washington, D.C.-based election data firm, has concluded that President Trump can win Virginia, Marshall writes. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
Before voters go to the polls on Tuesday, I think it a useful exercise to consider the future of the Bill of Rights with a Supreme Court “expanded,” as promised by Democrats if they control the Presidency and the Senate, to provide a leftist majority.
To enable that reflection, it is useful to remember that the current Bill of Rights is composed of 10 amendments offered as constraints on the national government and, by extension of most of them, to state governments.
As a general observation, the left wing of the Democratic party opposes any restraints on federal power.
We will examine the controlling Supreme Court decisions that affect the enforcement of these freedoms and would be put in jeopardy by a court that embraced critical theory.
What follows are the musings of a citizen who is not an attorney, albeit a citizen who can and does read and recounts the common understandings of the Court decisions below.
Governor Northam loving those poll numbers. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch
By Peter Galuszka
He’s been through “coonman,” “blackface,” a muddled interview about late term abortion, and aggressive and controversial steps to stop the pandemic, but Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has sprinted through a recent statewide poll with flying colors.
According to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll, more than half of Virginia’s registered voters approve of the overall job performance of Gov. Ralph Northam, and an even larger majority support his handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Northam’s job approval rating of 56 percent is up from 49 percent about a year ago and from 43 percent in the wake of his blackface scandal in early 2019, “The Post said.
“His disapproval is also up, at 38 percent from 31 percent last year, with far fewer voters now expressing no opinion. But his ratings remain net positive by 18 percentage points.”
The Governor gets a drubbing on this blog, but not with people who really count, given their numbers. Continue reading
Dungeness School House Sequim Washington
by James C. Sherlock
It is no secret that many voters in the past have gone to the polls without any clear idea of who they will vote for in the school board contests.
This year, because of the unprecedented twin black swan events of COVID disruptions and the adoption of critical race theory policies and attacks on Asian students at the state level, the local school board contests are more important than ever.
Each school board candidate is on record somewhere, often in the local newspaper if you have one, as to their positions on key issues. I will suggest what to look for and what to ask if the answer is not apparent.
It starts with teacher retention and recruitment. We don’t pay them enough and ask them to do too much. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
Faulty Absentee Ballot Tracker Still Losing Track
Complaints continue about an absentee ballot tracking system on the Virginia Department of Elections website. Someone with a problem similar to what I encountered in September reached out to Richmond’s WTVR-TV 6 News, which reported that the problem lies with the United States Postal Service. The tracking system is provided by an outside vendor.
Jessenia Eliza, the Director of Government Initiatives at Democracy Works (the outside vendor), told CBS 6 the issue the Duszaks were facing was as a result of their ballot barcodes not being scanned by USPS.
“Ballot Scout relies entirely on USPS data in the state of Virginia. How it works is that as the intelligent mail barcode on ballots are scanned, that information is sent to our tool, and it updates the associated voter record,” explained Eliza. “We’re seeing this here and there with ballots that aren’t moving beyond that ‘in-transit’ status. That typically means just that the USPS didn’t scan it further, not necessarily that the ballot isn’t moving.”
The reporter then spoke with somebody at the state, who said: Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
November’s election is coming during one of the most dangerous and deeply divisive periods in American history. There are some clear warning signs that a contested election could lead to significant unrest and violence and perhaps worse.
Race-related demonstrations, the COVID-19 pandemic and the constantly polarizing rhetoric from Donald Trump have all contributed to a spike in domestic terrorism, white supremacy groups and direct threats against public officials.
This week, some 13 hard-right terrorists were charged in connection with the planned kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. According to the accusations filed by the FBI and state law enforcement, the group intended to take the captured governor to another state, hold a “trial” and perhaps execute her.
(Update: recent news reports say that six were charged in connection with Gov. Whitmer’s planned kidnapping and seven people were charged for planning violent acts, perhaps instigating a civil war).
In Virginia, meanwhile, gun sales have hit new records in the run up to the Nov. 3 election. Data from the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center, which has tracked mandatory background checks on buyers since 1990, shows estimated firearm sales have spiked in 2020, a year rocked by the global pandemic and protests across the country, WRIC-TV reported.
Tracking on my ballot as of September 30, eight days since the last update. Click for larger view.
Okay, so where is my absentee ballot? The Virginia Board of Elections tracking system is falling down. This does not inspire confidence and needs to be fixed.
I had the application in well in advance. The ballot was mailed on the first day, a Friday, and our local Postal Service delivery lady worked long hours on Saturday to get them delivered. I assume the absentee ballots were the reason mail was delivered at 8 p.m. that day. Thank you, Ma’am.
I had it back in the mail Monday morning and as you can see above, the tracking service had it on its way to the Henrico Board of Elections by Tuesday, September 22. But the tracking has not been updated since that time. I’ve given it a week.
UPDATE: It turns out there are two trackers, and the other one (here) does show my ballot as received by the county Sept. 23. That is the tracker I remember from before. So now the mystery is, why the second one? And why is it not updated when the other one is? The confusion this might create could be substantial. The person who sent me the link to the correct tracker reported a similar problem on the newer one for his own ballot.
The second process is being run by an outside vendor, Ballot Scout, and I don’t know when that started. Last June I cast a mail absentee (as a poll worker away from my home precinct I had that legitimate reason) and the tracking was prompt. It will need to be prompt this time if you want confidence in Virginia’s results. Another little wrinkle on this that should raise eyebrows — anybody can check the status of anybody else’s mail absentee on the second one, if you have their first and last name and the address. Huh? Anybody can see in real time if I’ve requested and mailed a ballot or not?
MONEY IN POLITICS
By Steve Haner
Welcome to the current state of politics, where an incumbent preens as being free from special interest funding and their sworn enemy, all while the special interests spend millions seeking to tear down the challenger.
House Bill 827, approved by the 2020 General Assembly, did not really provide additional employment protection for Virginia’s pregnant women. It created a new state-level bureaucratic shillelagh to use if they felt aggrieved, backed up by the threat of state lawsuits and punitive damages. Continue reading