Democrats Favored to Retain Senate in 2014

2012 was supposed to be the year the Republicans regained the Senate.  Just a year ago, with the retirements of Democratic Senators in Hawaii, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin, and potentially vulnerable Democratic Senators in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, Republicans were seen as the favorites to gain the four seats they needed to win back control of the Senate. Some pundits were even suggesting, as far back as two years ago, that Republicans were a lock to win the Senate in 2012.

Then, things happened.

Olympia Snowe retired in Maine. Republicans failed to recruit  top-quality candidates against Senators Bob Casey, Debbie Stabenow, and Joe Manchin. Republican candidates underwhelmed in states like Hawaii. Democrats scored major recruitment victories in all of the open seats they had to defend, as well as in Indiana and Massachusetts. Oh, and Republicans nominated candidates who stuck their feet in their mouth (Todd Akin, Pete Hoekstra, Richard Mourdock, and who could forget George Allen?).

Now, instead of being in the minority and facing near-impossible odds of gaining back the majority,  Democrats will enter the 2014 campaign with an even bigger majority then they had in 2012. Instead of looking to expand a majority, Republicans now must face an even steeper climb en route to a majority in 2014. They need to gain six seats - a feat which is rare outside of wave elections. Only 8 of the last 35 elections saw a swing of 6+ seats in the Senate: 1946, 1948, 1958, 1980, 1994, 2006, 2008, and 2010.

No doubt, the Republicans have a chance. In the wave election that was 2008, Democrats gained eight seats; only a handful of vulnerable Republican-held seats stayed in Republican hands. Those Senators elected in 2008 will now have to face re-election in 2014. If Republicans win every Senate seat in every state that Romney won in 2012, they will win the six seats they need. Put another way, Democrats need to win two seats in states that Romney won. Plus, historical precedent tells us that midterm elections are, in general, bad for the party that holds the White House.

There are a number of other factors which could affect things. In 2014, all of the Affordable Care Act will be in effect, and support for it will likely grow. Also, will the economy continue to rebound? Will each party do what they need to do in terms of recruitment? To what degree will OFA be more involved in 2014 than they were in 2010? The effort and resources that are put into various states will also depend, in part, on competitive races for Governor and Congress in those states; as I will explain in a later post, states like Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, and New Mexico might have some hotter-than-Hades races for Governor. Oh, and how many Republicans will come down with Foot-in-Mouth Disease?

I have taken the seats each Party will defend in 2014, and I have divided them into two groups: "Safe" and "Maybe." I use the word "maybe" because it is too early to tell whether there will be any significant chance of these seats flipping to the other party. Some of them will end up as toss-ups by November 2014; others will turn out to be duds. Counting the seats I list here as "safe," Republicans can count on 42 seats in the 114th Congress, while Democrats can count on 40. That would leave 18 seats that could go either way - but don't expect all of those seats to actually be very competitive. As the next year unfolds, it will be clear which seats will be hotly contested, and which ones will be safe.

Republican "safe" seats:
Alabama - Jeff Sessions - 1997
Jeff Sessions has had a relatively easy time getting elected and re-elected. That won't change.

Georgia - Saxby Chambliss - 2003
The primary here could be interesting, as Karen Handel may challenge Chambliss, who has renounced Grover Norquist's tax pledge. Still, Democrats' best hope is for the Republican nominee to be caught in a major scandal. And even then, said nominee may fare as well as David Vitter in Louisiana.

Idaho - Jim Risch - 2009
There's a joke about Idaho: "There's only one thing in Idaho: potatoes!" Actually, there are two things: potatoes and Republicans.

Mississippi - Thad Cochran - 1979
Cochran is the most senior Republican whose seat is up in 2014. Even if he does retire, expect the real battle to be in the Republican primary

Nebraska - Mike Johanns - 2009
Johanns is a popular former Governor who served in the Bush Administration.

Oklahoma - Jim Inhofe - 1994
This is Oklahoma. Enough said.

South Carolina - Lindsey Graham - 2003
Graham has made a name for himself as a Senator.

Tennessee - Lamar Alexander - 2003
Alexander is very popular, as is the Republican Party in Tennessee.

Texas - John Cornyn - 2003
Republicans do well statewide in Texas. Perhaps by 2020, Democrats will make a play for this seat and/or for the state's 38 electoral votes. But we're not there yet.

Wyoming - Mike Enzi - 1997
Even if Enzi retires, Republicans shouldn't have any trouble with this seat. Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) could make things interesting, but it's doubtful he would run.

Republican "Maybe" seats:
Kansas - Pat Roberts - 1997
Expect Roberts to be a lock if he runs for re-election. Otherwise, Democrats have two candidates who could make things interesting: Former governors Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.

Kentucky - Mitch McConnell - 1985
McConnell, who squeaked into a fifth term in 2008, will be 72 in 2014, making it an uncertainty whether he will run again. Even if he does, Democrats may want to put up a serious challenge to him, if for no other reason than to avenge his actions during the Obama era. Word is that Ashlkey Judd is weighing a challenge to McConnell. Even if she doesn't, Rep. John Yarmuth, recently defeated Rep. Ben Chandler, and Gov. Steve Beshear would all be formidable contenders for Democrats in a state which, despite its Republican lean in presidential contests, has elected Democrats statewide.

Maine - Susan Collins - 1997
If Collins runs again - and if the Tea Party doesn't do to her what they did to Dick Lugar this year - she is a very good bet to win. Despite a wave election and a relatively strong challenge from Tom Allen, Democrats were unable to defeat Collins in 2008. If Collins follows Olympia Snowe into retirement, the Democrats have a golden opportunity here. Representatives Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree (the latter of whom ran against Collins in 2002 and succeeded Allen in 2008), along with former Governor John Baldacci, could have an excellent chance of winning this seat for Team Blue. They may also be interested in knocking off that state's conservative governor, Paul LePage (who himself could run for Senate, especially if Collins retires).

Democratic "safe" seats:
Delaware - Chris Coons - 2010
Coons was elected in 2010 to fill the remaining four years of Joe Biden's term. Expect Coons to cruise to re-election, just like Biden and Tom Carper.

Illinois - Dick Durbin - 1997
Senate Majority Whip Durbin was elected in 1996 and has yet to face a credible challenger in this Democratic-leaning state.

Minnesota - Al Franken - 2009
First-term Sen. Amy Klobuchar didn't garner significant opposition in 2012; there's little reason to think the better-known Franken will have a tougher race in 2014 than did Klobuchar in 2012.

Oregon - Jeff Merkley - 2009
Make no mistake: Oregon is a blue state. Obama won it handily twice, and Democrats have held the governorship since before I was born. Don't expect a high-profile challenge to Merkley; relative to other US Senate races, this certainly won't be low-hanging fruit for national Republicans. Moreover, the Republican bench here is thinner than a supermodel.

Rhode Island - Jack Reed - 1997
Jack Reed is a popular Senator who may be in line to succeed Carl Levin as Armed Services Chair if Levin retires. Reed was considered by some to be a potential running mate for Obama in 2008.

Democratic "maybe" seats:
Alaska - Mark Begich - 2009
Begich was elected in 2008 on the back of three things: A Democratic wave; Presidential turn-out; and discontent with incumbent Senator ted Stevens. Those latter two factors (and probably the third) won't benefit Begich this time. That makes him one of the incumbents most likely to face a tough challenge.

Arkansas - Mark Pryor - 2003
The son of another former Senator, Mark Pryor has been rather popular in Arkansas. In 2008, he didn't even garner a challenge. 2014 could be different for Pryor, now the only Democrat in the Arkansas congressional delegation. In 2010, Republicans knocked off Sen. Blanche Lincoln; they will hope to do the same with Pryor. Still, Pryor's popularity will give him better odds.

Colorado - Mark Udall - 2009
Udall is part of a very well known political family. The elections of Udall and his cousin, Tom, in 2008 were not foregone conclusions, especially since they were Republican-held seat. Still, Democrats have done rather well in Colorado in recent years. Not only did Obama win the state twice, but Democrats have won every Senate and gubernatorial race since 2004 - including hotly contested races for Governor and US Senate in 2010, of all years. Of the Democrats who could be vulnerable, the Udalls are probably most likely to hold on to their seats for another term.

Iowa - Tom Harkin - 1985
Both Harkin and the state's other Senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, have been fuxtures in Iowa politics since before I was born. Harkin won close races in 1984, 1990, 1996, and 2002, but he got more than 62% in 2008. If Harkin, then 75, runs again, he will be the prohibitive favorite. If he retires, however, expect a wide open race. Potential Democratic candidates include Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; US Representatives Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley, each of whom have often done better in their districts than other Democrats; and Leonard Boswell, whose 'lucky streak' of winning close-fought races came to an end this year. Republican contenders could include Representatives Tom Latham and Steve King. Expect a lot of visits from 2016 contenders to this state.

Louisiana - Mary Landrieu - 1997
The Landrieu family is quite popular. Still, Landrieu hasn't had an easy time of it in her previous races. Republicans have a deep bench from which they can draw a challenger to Landrieu.

Massachusetts - John Kerry - 1985
If Kerry is still in the Senate (he is named as a possible Secretary of State or Defense in Obama's second term), and if he runs for a sixth term in 2014, he should be a lock. If Kerry joins the Administration or retires, Republicans will be clamoring for Scott Brown to get back in. If he does, he will be quite formidable. Even so, the state's entire Congressional delegation is Democratic, as is Gov. Deval Patrick (who some mention as a possibility for President in 2016).

Michigan - Carl Levin - 1979
What can I say about Levin? He's funny, he's dedicated, and I look up to him. Unfortunately, he will be 80 in 2014, so he may retire. If he does, Democrats have some possibilities, most notably Rep. Gary Peters. Other contenders include former Rep. Mark Schauer, outgoing Rep. Hansen Clarke (who may run for Peters's House seat if Peters himself runs for Senate), Rep.-elect Dan Kildee, and state Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer. All of these individuals' names have also been bandied about as candidates for Governor in 2014. Furthermore, Democrats will hold a combined 24-8 majority of seats on statewide education boards (State Board of Ed, U-M Regent, etc). Of those individuals, Regent-elect Mark Bernstein is perhaps best known across the state. Republicans have a deeper bench, which might include Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Attorney General Bill Schuette (who ran for the same seat in 1990), and Reps. Dan Benishek, Bill Huizenga, Justin Amash, and Tim Walberg.

Montana - Max Baucus - 1979
Democrats are coming off a banner year here. Other than losses in the Presidential and US House races, Democrats swept the other statewide contests in Montana. If Baucus retires, expect a wide-open race that could go either way. Sen. Jon Tester won a hard-fought re-electon race in 2012; expect outgoing Rep. Denny Rehberg, who lost to Tester, to have another go at it. Other candidates may include former US Rep. Rick Hill, who lost the 2012 governor's race in a heartbreaker; Rep.-elect Steve Daines; and former Governors Marc Racicot and Judy Martz. Brian Schweitzer, the populist Democrat who is stepping aside, may run if Baucus retires. Other candidates may include Auditor Monica Lindeen; Superintendent Denise Juneau; and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.

New Hampshire - Jeanne Shaheen - 2009
New Hampshire is the only state whose entire Congressional delegation is female. Shaheen was the first Democrat to win a Senate race in New Hampshire since John Durkin's two-vote win in 1974. The state was won by Clinton twice, Bush in 2000, Kerry in 2004, and Obama twice. Democrats have won eight of the last nine governor's races in New Hampshire. In 2012, Democrats won both of New Hampshire's competitive congressional races. Either of the state's now-ousted members of Congress, Frank Guinta and Jeb Bradley, could make a run for Senate in 2014, though they may be interested in winning back their House seats. John Sununu, who beat Shaheen in 2002 and lost to her in 2008, might also want this seat back.

New Jersey - Frank Lautenberg - 2003
Lautenberg was first elected in 1982, retired in 2002, and came back in 2002 to replace scandal-plagued Robert Toricelli on the 2002 ballot. Don't be surprised if Lautenberg re-retires. Overall, New Jersey is a Democratic-leaning state; Democrats have won the state's Presidential electoral votes in each election since 1992, and not since 1972 have Republicans won a Senate race here. Still, this is the home of Chris Christie, and the state's House delegation in 2013-2014 will include six Democrats and six Republicans, any of who could run if Lautenberg retires.

New Mexico - Tom Udall - 2009
Udall is the other of the two Udall cousins who were elected in 2008. The state Tom Udall succeeded longtime Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, and just four years later, Democrats held the state's other US Senate seat, as Martin Heinrich easily won the right to succeed Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Given that Udall is now an incumbent, and given the state's growing Latino population, Republicans may not want to put too much effort into this race. Still, it is worth watching, since Bush won New Mexico in 2004 and Gov. Susana Martinez is a Republican.

North Carolina - Kay Hagan - 2009
Hagan won one of the most high-profile races in North Carolina in 2008, defeating Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Since the well-known Dole was unable to defeat a lesser-known Hagan in 2008, Hagan may be in good shape in 2014. Still, the state has a Republican lean. Romney won the state; the other Senator, Richard Burr, is a Republican; and they just elected their first Republican governor in 20 years.

South Dakota - Tim Johnson - 1997
Johnson famously survived a health scare in 2006 - a massive brain hemorrhage which left many Democrats on edge just weeks after Democrats won back control of the Senate in the 2006 elections. Johnson recovered and won 62% of the vote in 2008. Johnson will turn 68 just before his term expires, making it possible that he will decline a fourth term. Gov. Mike Rounds has already announced that he will run for this seat, but Johnson hasn't announced a decision. Regardless, this is poised to be one of the higher-profile races in 2014. Democrats' best hope may be Johnson, but if he retires, former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin could also make it a race.

Virginia - Mark Warner - 2009
Virginia has shifted Democratic in the past several years, starting with Warner's 2001 election as governor of Virginia and continuing with Tim Kaine's election as Governor in 2005; the elections of Jim Webb, Warner, and Kaine to the US Senate in 2006, 2008, and 2012, respectively; and Obama's wins in 2008 and 2012. Governor Bob McDonnell is known to have higher ambitions, many expected him to be on Romney's vice-presidential shortlist. Still, the popular Warner is in good shape in this state, and he would start the 2014 campaign as a favorite.

West Virginia - Jay Rockefeller - 1985
Rockefeller has enjoyed relatively easy wins in his races, winning more than 60% of the vote. With the entrance of Rep. Shelley Moore Capito on the Republican side, and with Rockefeller's retirement a distinct possibility, that might change. Capito could capitalize on anti-Obama sentiment in West Virginia. It is worth remembering, however, that even as Republicans have been doing better in Presidential elections here, Democrats have dominated statewide races. winning the governorship in six of the last seven elections. The last time a Republican represented West Virginia in the Senate was 1958. Given this, it is possible that Capito may be the Tom Allen of 2014, Allen having been a Congressman from a small state who, despite his popularity, couldn't make much of a race against the popular incumbent.


A status quo election

Electoral vote: 303-206; Florida's 29 votes still up in the air

Popular vote: Obama 50%, Romney 48%

Michigan: Obama 53%, Romney 46%; Networks called Michigan for Obama right at 9:00.

US Senate: Democrats will retain majority, as Elizabeth Warren and Joe Donnelly gain seats for the Democrats. Democrats had been expected to lose control of the Senate until just a couple months ago; instead, Dems didn't even suffer a net loss of seats. The only seat to go from blue to red was in Nebraska. Congratulations to Senators-elect Elizabeth Warren, Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy, Mazie Hirono, and America's first openly GLBT Senator, Tammy Baldwin! Here in Michigan, it's Stabenow in a landslid; she will be one of 19 (maybe 20) women in the US Senate - an all-time record.

US House: Republicans will stay in charge, but with a slimmer majority. Bentivolio and Amash win; Benishek had a narrow lead at 4:30 AM.

State Supreme Court: Republicans retain majority. Markman and Zahra win reelection. Bridget Mary McCormack wins the seat of retiring Justice Marilyn Kelly.

State House: Gongwer reports Republicans will retain a 59-51 majority. Tough to swallow, but Democrats had so many obstacles to overcome, including name recognition and money. Bolger narrowly won re-election.

Statewide ballot proposals: All six are defeated. The conservative cry of "hands off our Constitution" appears to have worked. Good news is that it took the "choice on the bridge" and 2/3 proposals down too. (The 2/3 proposal went down 69-31%, thank goodness.) Elsewhere in the country, two states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and three (possibly four) states have approved marriage equality.

Other races: Oakland County saw Democrats gain two countywide offices; State Rep. Lisa Brown (fanous for other reasons) defeated Republican County Clerk Bill Bullard (Ruth Johnson's successor to the same position), while Jim Nash beat an incumbent to be elected Water Resources Commissioner. Troy Mayor Janice Daniels, a Tea Party darling, has been recalled. Rep. Mark Schauer's wife, Christine, is Treasurer-elect of Calhoun County. And from the Every Vote Really Does Count Department, Union Township Supervisor John Barker appears to have been re-elected by three votes, while a Democrat running for County Commissioner here in Kentwood is ahead by five votes.

A great night for Democrats nationally, but not so much in Michigan. Expect a lot of hand-wringing in the aftermath of the defeats of props 2-4, and in light of the fact that in a year like this, Democrats couldn't take back the State House or Supreme Court.

Still, I am proud of our President for all he has done and for all he will do!


The end of the road... and the beginning of another

A few moments ago, Trevor R. Thomas offered his congratulations and support to Steve Pestka on his victory in the primary.

Trevor is an exceptional person, and I am proud to have worked with him these past few months. For this being his first run for office, he did an outstanding job. He has an outstanding future ahead of him.

I am grateful to Trevor for all he has done, as well as Clint Wallace and the rest of the Trevor for Congress team for giving me this opportunity. This job has meant so much to me, and I hold my head up high, knowing we did so much to engage people and to contribute to the discussion.

A dedicated public servant, Steve Pestka will make a great Congressman following in the footsteps of Gerald Ford, Dick VanderVeen, Paul Henry, and others. I look forward to helping him win in November!


McCotter resigns

From MIRS:

Citing a "nightmarish" past month and a half, U.S. Rep. Thad McCOTTER (R-Livonia) announced he is resigning today from Congress."After nearly 26 years in elected office, this past nightmarish month and a half have, for the first time, severed the necessary harmony between the needs of my constituency and of my family," he said. "As this harmony is required to serve, its absence requires I leave. "The recent event's totality of calumnies, indignities and deceits have weighed most heavily upon my family. Thus, acutely aware one cannot rebuild their hearth of home amongst the ruins of their U.S. House office, for the sake of my loved ones I must 'strike another match, go start anew' by embracing the promotion back from public servant to sovereign citizen."

What are we going to do now?(/sarcasm)


What is going on here in West Michigan?

State Rep. Roy Schmidt has become a Republican.

Schmidt made the announcement in a news release. It appears he will run unopposed as a Republican for the 76th District seat in November. Democrat Matt Mojzak will challenge him for the seat. The Republicans in Lansing confirmed that Schmidt is now a member of the House Republican caucus.
The district was redrawn to be roughly 50-50 between the parties. Despite that, no other Republican ran - until Schmidt. The well-known Schmidt - who filed as a Democrat before withdrawing and then re-filing as a Republican - could've beaten Mojzak in a primary, then gone on to win the general election unopposed. In a statement, Schmidt says he is a moderate and that he wants to put his job above his party. But he did have this to say:
I believe I was sent to Lansing to serve the people of Grand Rapids, not political bosses. The simple truth is, extreme Democrat party bosses like Mark Brewer are unwilling to listen to ideas or accept my positions on issues that matter to me and Grand Rapids.
I only have this to say about this matter: 1. I do not know who Matt Mojzak is. 2. Schmidt's son ran for office several years ago as a Republican. Still, this is surprising. 3. Time will tell if he really puts West Michigan above his new party, as he promises. If that's the case, then as a lawmaker he will have to vote as though he's still a Democrat - because voting with the Republicans is voting against the needs of the people of this area.


Tomorrow: Filing deadline for precinct delegates and candidates!

Would YOU like to help make the Democratic Party more responsive to your concerns? Here's your chance!

Many Democratic activists like myself are precinct delegates. What is a precinct delegate?

The role of a precinct delegate is one of the most important yet least understood of any elected office. It is the active precinct delegate who wins elections for the Democratic Party. Precinct delegates are elected directly by the voters of each precinct to serve as a bridge between voters and the Democratic Party in your neighborhood and you represent your neighborhood at Democratic Party meetings.

So basically you will appear on the August 7 primary ballot in your precinct. While each precinct has a certain number of precinct delegate spots, many of them go unfilled. Result? If you file to run for Precinct Delegate, you are almost certain to win.

It's easy to run for Precinct Delegate. Fill out this form, get it notarized, and turn it in to your city/township clerk's office by 4PM tomorrow.

But wait... there's more! The Democratic Party is also looking for nominees for various offices at the state and county level. We can't let the Republicans go unopposed! If you want to run for office (even if it's just to put your name on the ballot), fill out this form, get it notarized, and turn it in along with a $100 filing fee (you'll get the fee back after the August primary if you're nominated). You will also need to fill out this form regarding campaign committees, but note that if you don't expect to spend much on the campaign, you can file for what's called a reporting waiver.

To find out who has filed to run for certain offices, or to determine where to file for office (which varies depending on the office and whether the district crosses county lines), call your county clerk's office. 
As the Democratic nominee for an office, you get the same rights as a precinct delegate, but you also get to serve on your County Party's Executive Committee for the next two years. (Nominees for certain offices constitute 1/3 of the County Democratic Executive Committee; the other 2/3 are selected by precinct delegates in November.)



ABC News:

President Obama today announced that he now supports same-sex marriage, reversing his longstanding opposition amid growing pressure from the Democratic base and even his own vice president. In an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, the president described his thought process as an “evolution” that led him to this place, based on conversations with his own staff members, openly gay and lesbian service members, and conversations with his wife and own daughters. "I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told Roberts, in an interview to appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday. Excerpts of the interview will air tonight on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.” The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own. But he said he’s confident that more Americans will grow comfortable with gays and lesbians getting married, citing his own daughters’ comfort with the concept.
For him to do this right after a battleground state banned it? That shows courage on his part. He may well lose some votes over this come November, but I have a feeling he will get some votes because of this too. Either way, this was the right thing to do. And that is most important. And his willingness to do what is right - on this and many other issues - is why I am proud to support him. I am convinced that long after he is out of office, we will remember Barack Obama as a great President. Thank you, Mr. President!


I got a new job - and you can be a part of it!

I am pleased to announce that I have accepted a position as Deputy Political Director for Trevor for Congress!

Trevor Thomas is running for Congress in the new 3rd Congressional District, which now includes the counties of Barry, Calhoun, Ionia, and most of Kent. This is Gerald Ford's old seat, but Dick VanderVeen (D-East Grand Rapids) represented the district for nearly three years after Ford became Vice President. The seat has a tradition of electing Members of Congress who were well respected by Democrats and Republicans alike.

That is, until 2010.

Justin Amash has shown himself to be very ideological and ambitious. In 2008, the 28-year-old Amash was elected to the state House. Just two years later, he chose to run for Congress instead of running for another two terms in Lansing. That's despite the fact that his State House district is very Republican, and he certainly would've won re-election. In his votes in Washington (and before that in Lansing), he has ticked off a number of his fellow Republicans. He endorsed Ron Paul for President this year.

In short, Justin Amash needs to go. And Trevor Thomas is the man to make that happen.

Trevor has accomplished a lot in such a short time. Raised in the town of Marne, Trevor is the son of two GM retirees and has many relatives who have worn our country's uniform. Trevor graduated from Grand Valley State before working for WGVU, WOOD TV8, Granholm for Governor 2006, the Office of the Governor, and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. He played a key role in eliminating "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." His roots here are strong; his commitment to progressive values is even stronger.

He has also shown that he is able to build the string base of support he will need in order to win both the primary and the general. In the first quarter, 800 donors gave more than $100,000 - and 88% of those donations were $200 or less. He has been endorsed by progressives like John Cherry, centrists such as Jennifer Granholm, and even a few Republicans (Former Kent County Republican Party chair Bob Eleveld introduced Trevor at his announcement speech last month).

If you've wanted Democrats in Washington to do a better job and stand up for our values, Trevor Thomas is your answer. If you think we need more people young people in Congress with working-class roots, Trevor Thomas is your answer. If you want to see more and better Democrats in elected office, Trevor Thomas is your answer. If you want someone who will stand up for his beliefs but who also knows how to build coalitions, Trevor Thomas is your answer.

To say the least, I am honored to have this opportunity to work for him and to help send him to Washington.

If you are so inclined, feel free to chip in a few bucks to ensure we have what it takes to win this race!


This time, the path to the nomination was a little easier for Obama

Sounds like Vermin Supreme didn't pose much of a threat to Obama after all. ;-)


What's this, Mr. President?

So let me get this straight, Mr. President. I voted for you, I've supported you through thick and thin, I've been planning to support you for another term - and you show up at that school in Columbus????

Tsk, tsk, tsk!



The Party of Women (And Sensible Men) endorses its candidates

While I was bartending here in greater GR, other Democrats from across the state were gathered at Cobo Hall to endorse a slate of candidates for various offices in this year's election. The endorsees are:

  • Supreme Court (technically nonpartisan): Bridget Mary McCormack, Shelia Johnson, Connie Kelley
  • State Board of Education: Lupe Ramos-Montigny, Michelle Fecteau
  • U-M Regents: Mark Bernstein, Shauna Ryder-Diggs
  • MSU Trustees: Joel Ferguson, Brian Mosallam
  • WSU Governors: Sandra Hughes O'Brien, Kim Trent

They are set to be formally nominated at a separate convention in late August (state law provides a certain window during which they may actually be nominated). I don't yet know a whole lot about all of these candidates, but a few observations:

1. McCormack has been campaigning for this for quite some time now, going around and meeting with grassroots Democratic activists around the state. It's a strategy I call "the Jocelyn Benson," since Jocelyn did that for more than a year before she was nominated for Secretary of State.

2. Johnson also campaigned across the state in 2010, appearing at many Democratic gatherings. However, she ended up not being nominated in 2010. I'm glad she got a nod this time.

3. Lupe was one of our nominees in 2010, as you may recall. She was a teacher in Grand Rapids Public Schools for 36 years. Don't you think the Board of Ed could stand to use an educator's perspective?

4. Bernstein should win on name recognition alone. Let's face it: If you're a candidate for one of these offices, most of the votes you get will be from people who (a) recognized your name or (b) vote straight ticket or close to straight ticket. If he does win, Bernstein will be the second in his family to be elected to a statewide education board; his brother, Richard, was elected in 2002.

5. Ferguson is the only incumbent Democrat seeking re-election to any of these boards.

6. If our Supreme Court candidates all win this year, the Michigan Supreme Court will have five women. Five out of seven. And of the 11 candidates endorsed this weekend, eight are women.

Of course, I don't think that merely having women in public office is the end-all, be-all for equality. I'm glad we have Vice President Biden instead of Vice President Palin. But at a time like this, it highlights a difference between the two parties.

The Party of Palin has been declaring war on Palin's gender in the name of "religious freedom" or "conscience" - and now they are paying the price in the polls. Their nominees for various offices will likely include Mitt "What Will He Believe Next Month?" Romney, Stephen Markman, Brian Zahra, Pete "Cultural Sensitivity" Hoekstra, and probably several men (and a couple women) for education boards. (There will likely be a lot of pressure from Republicans to have their party nominate a woman for the other Supreme Court slot, and given their plummeting standing among women, don't be surprised if Romney picks a woman for VP.)

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party's nominees for various offices will include our first African-American President, the author of the Violence Against Women Act, Michigan's first female Senator, and the aforementioned women (and men).


Transparency, anyone?

Knowledge is power.

Cliches are a dime a dozen, but when you think about it, knowledge really is power. That's why I'm a big fan of transparency.

Now, I understand that there are times when government - and those who influence it – need to maintain some sort of confidentiality. People's identities need to be protected, and dangerous consequences may result if the CIA’s work is blown or a secret military operation is leaked (who knew about the raid on the bin Laden compound?)

But overall, transparency needs to be the rule, not the exception. That goes for those in government as well as those who seek to wield their massive resources to ensure that government does their bidding.

In the wake of that disastrous Supreme Court decision of 1/21/10 – the one whose name I will not mention – many of us wondered what we can do about it. There is growing support for an amendment to the United States Constitution, which would involve a massive undertaking if it is to be adopted.

But while we might not be able to stop corporations from spending their vast resources without, we can make them tell us when they’re doing it.

Enter the Corporate Accountability Amendment. It's a proposal to amend the state Constitution (much easier than amending the US Constitution!) to shed some light on the campaign finance system.According to their website, this amendment has two primary goals

1. Disclosure: Ensuring citizens know when CEOs and lobbyist are influencing elections and public policy by requiring instant disclosure of Corporate Funded Political Communications and Lobbying in Michigan.

2. Disclaimer: Ensuring large corporations and CEOs "Stand By Their Ad" by requiring them to identify who funded the political and lobbying communications on the ads themselves, just like candidates for office and unions have to do right now.

One thing I like about this is that when a political ad comes on TV, people will see right there who is behind it.

That Supreme Court case was one of the biggest affronts to democracy in a long time – right up there with the Emergency Manager law. If this amendment passes, starting in 2014, voters will see who is responsible for these ads that we have to put up with every election season.

And that knowledge will be power - power to make an informed decision and to know who's really responsible for that propaganda.

Being an amendment to the state Constitution, 322,000 signatures need to be collected to put it on the ballot. So be sure to sign up on their website to keep updated on how to help.


Pestka announces for Congress


America had just turned 200, West Michigan native Gerald Ford was President, disco was big, and most Republicans were decent.

That year, Congressman Dick VanderVeen - a Democrat who had won a 1974 special election to replace then-VP Ford in Congress - lost his bid for re-election. Ever since then, Greater Grand Rapids has been represented exclusively by Republicans.

Steve Pestka wants to change that.

Pestka, a longtime fixture on the West Michigan political scene, announced today that he is running for Congress in Michigan's 3rd Congressional District. Pestka has served as a assistant prosecutor, Kent County Commissioner, State Representative, and Circuit Court judge.

Pestka is the second Democratic candidate to enter this exciting race. Trevor Thomas, a rising star in our Party, has worked for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for the Granholm Administration; he jumped in the race three weeks ago. Either one will make a fine Congressman.

The new 3rd District includes all of Calhoun, Ionia, and Barry counties, a piece of Montcalm County, and most of Kent County. Grand Rapids and Battle Creek are the two big cities in the district.

Pestka has already earned the endorsements of former Congressman Mark Schauer; State Representatives Brandon Dillon, Roy Schmidt, and Kate Segal; and a host of local Party activists and elected officials and Democratic Party activists.

Thomas has landed two big endorsements in recent days: Both Granholm and her lieutenant governor, John Cherry, have endorsed Thomas. In addition, Thomas has already raised nearly $19,000 on his ActBlue page alone - not to mention much more offline.

A recent poll showed Amash leading Pestka in a hypothetical matchup 50-39, but after respondents were given positive statements about each candidate, Pestka pulled within two. When positives and negatives were added to the mix, Pestka actually led 47-43.

Combine that with Amash's 25% approval rating, and you'll see that Amash is in big trouble.

As long as we have a healthy primary contest, and as long as our nominee fights for progressive Democratic values, Amash will have a heck of a fight on his hands!


Primary postmortem

Turnout barely exceeds 2008: Looks like Republican turnout will surpass the 2008 total by only about 125,000 votes, give or take a few. In 2008, 869,169 votes were cast for Republican candidates. This year, two things appeared to contribute to increased turnout:

  • The Democratic race is uncontested this year, and some people who voted for Hillary or for Uncommitted in 2008 either did not vote this time or crossed over.
  • Republicans invested much more heavily in Michigan this time than in 2008. Last time, the focus of the national Republican race was on Super Tuesday, as Romney was more or less expected to win the Michigan primary (which was three weeks before Super Tuesday). This time, a very close race (and the possibility of Romney losing what he should've won in a cakewalk) meant more interest in the race - thus also contributing to higher turnout.

Despite that, Republicans only got around 1 million votes this time.

A lot of money to barely win your 'home' state: Romney and his super PAC spent $3,807,082 in Michigan, while Santorum and his super PAC spent $2,182,786. At the moment, with a few precincts left to report, it comes out to $9.33 per vote for Romney and $5.79 per vote for Santorum. And what did Romney get for that? A 3-point win in a state he should've won in a cakewalk. And as Dana points out, Romney's 41% just barely exceeds his 2008 performance of 39%.

Exit poll sheds light on primary electorate: CNN's exit poll has a load of fascinating info.
  • 9% of Republican primary voters were Democrats, and Santorum got a majority (not just a plurality) of Dems.
  • 39% called themselves moderate or liberal.
  • Santorum gets almost half the vote among those who dislike the other candidates more than they like their own candidates.
  • Nearly 3 in 8 Republican primary voters say abortion should be "always" or "mostly" legal.
  • 44% approved of the government bailing out the automakers.
  • Most fascinating of all (IMHO): Romney and Santorum tied among Tea Party supporters, with Santorum winning among those who do not support the Tea Party.

Republicans' irresponsibility comes back to bite them: Michigan republicans wasted $40 million of our tax dollars to hold this primary so they could anoint Romney as the nominee here in Michigan. Well, how's that turning out for you, Republicans? Your party is at war with itself, and now your frontrunner is trailing Obama by 16 points in Michigan.

State House races offer good signs for Democrats: The 29th and 51st State House districts had special elections to fill the remainders of the terms of Tim Melton (D-29th), who resigned, and Paul Scott (R-51st), who was recalled. Both were succeeded by members of their own parties, meaning there will be no change in the balance of power in the State House.

In November 2008 - a great election for Democrats - Paul Scott got 53% of the vote in the 51st House race. This time, with a much more Republican electorate, Joe Graves got a whopping 54%. One should be careful about reading too much into that, but with a much more Republican electorate voting yesterday (60% Republican statewide, according to CNN), do you not think Graves should've done much better than 54%?

Could it be that Michigan Republicans are in for a backlash for their anti-worker agenda?


Republicans prepare for caucuses, touting commitment to jobs, fiscal responsibility


LANSING - Republicans across the state are preparing for tonight's Presidential caucuses, which have brought the world's attention to this state with a Republican-dominated government.

Michigan Republicans decided last year to use a caucus to allocate the state's Republican National Convention delegates. Proposals for a statewide, taxpayer-funded primary were shot down.

"In 2010, we campaigned on more jobs, less government, and less spending," said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville. "By choosing a caucus system instead of a primary, we are fulfilling our promises by not spending your tax dollars."

US Senate candidate Gary Glenn said that Republican lawmakers have taken a route that is "consistent with Christian principles."

"Christ taught us to take care of the poor," said Glenn. "Rather than waste money doing something our Party could do by itself, our Party decided to forgo using tax dollars for a primary, instead using that money to allow things like the Earned Income Tax Credit to continue as they were before."

A Republican spokesman noted that by saving $10 million on a primary, many jobs have been saved, including those of police and firefighters.

"The Democrat Party has forgotten 9/11," said the spokesman, who wished to remain anonymous. "We haven't forgotten. We remember the bravery of our firefighters and police. In tribute to them, and in order to protect our communities, we have chosen to preserve their jobs here in Michigan."

Republican activist Sanctity O'Marriage, R-Roscommon,* said he is proud of his party for standing up to Democrats in Washington by showing how to cut spending in government.

"Instead of getting government involved in private matters, Republicans are committed to doing the responsible thing," said O'Marriage, who plans to caucus for Santorum.

"Debbie Spenditnow and Khalid Sheikh bin Hussein bin Soetoro bin Obumbum can't say that!"

Stay tuned to SNARX news for complete Michigan Republican caucus coverage


*Roscommon = Actual name of a village in Ireland, pop. 5,000. It's purported that the town in northern Michigan is named for the one in Ireland. Fun fact.


Santorum boasts of Limbaugh, Dobson, Bauer, Beck

Rick Santorum's super PAC is not good at targeting.

My parents and I are lifelong Democrats. Mom and I are Democratic precinct delegates. And yet we keep getting flyers from the Red, White and Blue Fund, telling us that Romney is evil and that Santorum is a true conservative. We got three full-page flyers yesterday, in fact. But today's flyer tells me that Santorum isn't even hiding who supports him.


Waltz drops out of 6th District Congressional race due to "life threatening illness"

Oh no.

Due to an unforeseen life threatening illness we regretfully have to announce that John Waltz will be ending his campaign to secure the Democratic Party nomination for Michigan’s Sixth District. At this time, John is unable to provide a statement, but the family will answer questions if needed.

After someone asked if John was okay, his wife, Jane, said this in a comment:

He is very ill at this point. Thanks for your kind words.

So every indication is that this has to do with John Waltz himself, not a family member.

Waltz is an Iraq veteran who moved to Michigan after running against Geoff Davis (R) in KY-04 in 2010.

Waltz is a brave man who has done so much for our country. While his campaign is over, here's hoping he can summon his courage once again and make it through this.

Let us extend our best wishes, prayers, vibes, and so forth to John and his family.


Republican tax hikes hit poor 1,000 times harder than rich

A new report from the Michigan League of Human Services shows just how much the Republican tax hikes are expected to hurt Michigan families.

Just a reminder in case you don't know what Michigan Republicans did:

  • 51% of families will pay higher taxes.
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit - which rewards people for work - was drastically reduced.
  • The child tax credit was also reduced.
  • The tax deduction for charities has been eliminated, costing you an extra $435 if you donate $10,000 per year to good causes.
  • Pensions are now being taxed.
State Rep. Jud Gilbert (R-$80,000 Per Year), second from left in the top picture, tried to explain it away.

State Rep. Jud Gilbert, R- Algonac, chair of the House Tax Committee, says the bills were part of a larger package aimed at streamlining the tax code. He says about $1.4 billion in tax credits, including tax credits to businesses, were eliminated. The package also reduced the Earned Income Tax Credit - another credit for the poor - from 20 percent to 6 percent of the federal credit.

“I think what we’ve done in the revamping of the tax code,” says Gilbert,” is people are paying the same rate on the same amount of income. “

"Streamlining the tax code." Boy, we've sure heard that quite a bit from conservatives. It's a line that ignores a simple truth: Life isn't black-and-white. Not everybody can afford to pay the same on everything.

For a Party that claims to be all about Christian values, they sure don't act like they take Matthew 25 to heart.


Tea partier: "Had there not been slavery in the South, the economy would've fallen"

Tea Party activists in Tennessee are urging lawmakers to change that state's school curriculum to require schools to teach differently on slavery.

"My biggest concern is that important information is being omitted, which creates a negative light on our Founding Fathers," said Tea Party activist Brian Rieck.

Many members of the group are asking Tennessee lawmakers to tweak textbooks so that doesn't happen. Notably, they're hoping to make changes in how slavery and encroachment on Native Americans are portrayed to students. "Slavery is of course portrayed in the textbooks nowadays I'm sure as a totally negative thing. Had there not been slavery in the South, the economy would've fallen," Rieck said.

Emphasis mine.

These people want us to gloss over the very real human toll of slavery. They want us to believe that if the slave in the picture above hadn't suffered through that, the economy of this country would have faltered.

It's bad enough that history courses gloss over discrimination against Catholics, Jews, immigrants, and other groups. Even worse, students hear little mention of the brutality faced by Native Americans as they were forcibly removed from their lands.

Now this.

You know what is said about how those who don't learn from history. These people want to condemn our kids to repeat history.


Amash ignores Constitution, backs big-government bill to infringe on DC women's lives

Think Justin Amash is all about getting government out of our lives? Wrong.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) lauded the introduction of a fetal pain bill, H.R. 3803. The bill, introduced to coincide with the National March for Life this week, outlaws abortions in the District of Columbia when the unborn child is at least 20 weeks old, the age at which babies can feel pain. Amash is an original cosponsor of the bill.

Well, in his defense, it IS an election year, so he better start pandering to the so-called "pro-life" crowd.

“The most fundamental right is the right to life,” said Amash. “Surely, aborting a baby late in a pregnancy—when the baby would have to suffer through the pain of being killed—should not be permitted in a civilized society.”

The "pain of being killed?" I didn't know you could feel anything while you are still in the womb. I don't remember feeling anything while I was still in Mom's womb.

Under the bill, D.C. abortion providers must make a determination of the probable age of the unborn child. If the child is at least 20 weeks old, the provider is barred from performing an abortion unless necessary to prevent the death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of the woman. The bill includes privacy protections for the women involved.

So this bill would infringe upon free enterprise by requiring that abortion providers make a guess as to how old an unborn baby is? That right there should sound alarm bells in the minds of conservatives, who usually think the government should not tell businesses how to behave.

The Constitution authorizes Congress to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever,” over the District of Columbia. Amash serves on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has jurisdiction over D.C.

Ah, the Constitution. That document Amash often likes to trot out in order to defend his out-in-right-field positions. Except that, first of all, I think we'd all agree that just because Congress can do something, doesn't mean Congress should do it. You'd think a guy like Amash would oppose wanting the federal government infringe on people's lives.

Second, while he quotes one section of the Constitution, his bill ignores another section: the Equal Protection Clause found in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment.

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

If we assume, therefore, that the unborn are people, then Amash is violating the Equal Protection Clause by introduce a bill that would restrict abortions in DC if the fetus is 20 weeks along. If the fetus is not 20 weeks along, an abortion would still be okay. Either the unborn are people, and Amash is violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, or the unborn are not people.

Look, I don't believe in abortion. I just don't. That's why I support Democrats, whose policies lead to a decrease in abortions (while so-called "pro-life" Republicans enact policies that increase abortions).

But like it or not, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. And whatever Justin Amash really believes about abortion, the point is, he's being quite hypocritical. He claims to oppose big-government intervention, yet he co-sponsors a bill to have the government infringe on what the Court itself has ruled is a right. And while he portrays himself as a defender of the Constitution, he backs legislation that, if the unborn are people, would violate the Constitution.

Congressman, do you or do you not oppose government intrusion on people's rights?

Congressman, do you or do you not support the Constitution?


First Class

This is an awesome story I saw on Facebook. I don't know if it's true or not, but it has a good lesson or two!

A 50-something year old white woman arrived at her seat and saw that the passenger next to her was a black man.

Visibly furious, she called the air hostess.

"What's the problem, ma?" the hostess asked her

"Can't you see?" the lady said - "I was given a seat next to a black man. I can't seat here next to him. You have to change my seat"

- "Please, calm down, ma" - said the hostess
"Unfortunately, all the seats are occupied, but I'm still going to check if we have any."

The hostess left and returned some minutes later.

"Madam, as I told you, there isn't any empty seat in this class- economy class.
But I spoke to the captain and he confirmed that there isn't any empty seats in the economy class. We only have seats in the first class."

And before the woman said anything, the hostess continued

"Look, it is unusual for our company to allow a passenger from the economy class change to the first class.
However, given the circumstances, the commandant thinks that it would be a scandal to make a passenger travel sat next to an unpleasant person."

And turning to the black man, the hostess said:

"Which means, Sir, if you would be so nice to pack your handbag, we have reserved you a seat in the first class..."

And all the passengers nearby, who were shocked to see the scene started applauding, some standing on their feet."


Yes! Obama announces major Pentagon cuts

Following Tuesday's near-unanimous win among Iowa Democrats and yesterday's recess appointment of Richard Cordray, our President has outdone himself today, announcing nearly half a trillion dollars in cuts to the Pentagon's bloated budget.

The new military strategy includes $487 billion in cuts over the next decade. An additional $500 billion in cuts could be coming if Congress follows through on plans for deeper reductions. The announcement comes weeks after the U.S. officially ended the Iraq War and after a decade of increased defense spending in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Obama said that the military will indeed be leaner, but the U.S. will maintain a budget that is roughly larger than the next 10 countries' military budgets combined.

"Some will no doubt say the spending reductions are too big; others will say they're too small," Obama said. "It will be easy to take issue with a particular change. But I would encourage all of us to remember what President Eisenhower once said — that 'each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.' "

The plan also features a large-scale shift away from the failed policies that defined Bush-era foreign policy.

Iraq and Afghanistan were large nation-building efforts requiring thousands of troops. The emphasis on the future will be to partner or advise foreign militaries in order to counter threats, Krepinevich said.

For all the conservative crowing about 'fiscal responsibility,' there seems to be little talk about the Department of Defense budget, which makes up 20% of our nation's budget. For Fiscal Year 2010, a majority of discretionary spending was on the Pentagon.

This announcement is sure to irritate those who claim that the only way to protect our country is to waste money at the Pentagon. And not a moment too soon. The President is putting deficit hawks on the defensive (pun intended!), helping to change the discussion on what should and shouldn't be cut.

Dwight Eisenhower - who himself knew a thing or two about the military - one famously said:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed.

I think Ike would be proud of his successor today. Thank you, Mr. President, for having the courage to make this shift in policy!


Kardashian Wins Iowa Republican Caucus


DES MOINES - Ms. Kim Kardashian, one of the most influential, inspirational, and important people in the world, won the Iowa Republican caucuses Tuesday, setting her up as the favorite to face President Barack Obama this fall.

With 99% of precincts reporting, Kardashian had 41% of the vote in the caucuses, with other Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney garnering 15% each and Ron Paul receiving roughly 14%.

Jon Huntsman, one of the last four somewhat-sane Republicans still alive, received negative-1 percent of the vote.

"I am so happy for my sis," said Mrs. Khloe Odom in a statement released early Wednesday.

Analysts credited a number of factors for Kardashian's win.

"She combines the marital fidelity of Newt Gingrich and the intelligence of Rick Perry with the wealth of Mitt Romney and the craziness of Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul," noted Kandy Krowley of KNN (Kardashian News Network).

Krowley noted that Kardashian also appeals to the Republican family-values crowd in a way that is reminiscent of Rick Santorum.

"While it's true I was married and divorced, at least I'm not a lesbian," noted Kardashian in a recent debate.

In an interview with KNN Wednesday morning, Perry attributed his disappointing performance to "three main factors: A weak ground game, stiff competition, and.... I can't remember the other one."