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October 16, 2018
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In their one and probably only debate, Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) and Democratic challenger Abigail Spanberger clashed Monday night over health care, immigration, and taxes, but one person not onstage sure got a lot of mentions. And it wasn't President Trump, whose tenure has helped turn Virginia's reliably Republican 7th Congressional District into a tossup race.

"While Trump looms large over the race, the president was mentioned just once during the 90-minute forum," The Washington Post recounts. "The name on Brat's lips was that of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). ... Brat referred so often to 'the Nancy Pelosi liberal agenda' that the phrase started drawing laughs. At one point he acknowledged that he'd said it 'a million times.' (More conservative estimates put the mentions at around 25.)" HuffPost congressional reporter Matt Fuller placed the number at 21, and he said it sounded like this:

With each mention of Pelosi, the audience seemed to groan and laugh harder as Brat tried again ― and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again ― to tie Spanberger to Pelosi. On one instance, the groans from the audience were so loud that Brat asked for additional time to speak, and on another interjection, he had to restart his point, beginning once again with Pelosi's name. [HuffPost]

Spanberger, a former CIA officer, didn't mention Trump at all, but she did remind Brat he is running against her, not Pelosi. And after Brat blamed her for a misleading ad run by another Democrat and misrepresented several of her positions, Spanberger said she wasn't sure Brat knew "which Democrat he's running against." Spanberger, who has said repeatedly she wouldn't support Pelosi for House speaker, raised nearly $3.6 million last quarter, three times Brat's haul and a 7th District record. Peter Weber

October 11, 2018

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is both the state's top election official and the Republican nominee for governor, and his aggressive "voter roll maintenance" has become an issue in his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams, who is black, says Kemp is suppressing minority votes. Kemp has canceled more than 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012, including about 670,000 in 2017 alone, The Associated Press reports, and his office is sitting on more than 53,000 voter registration forms that ran afoul of the "exact match" system he put in place.

The "exact match" system, codified by the state's Republican legislature last year, sidelines a voter application if it doesn't exactly match the information on an applicant's driver's license or Social Security data. "If even an accent or a hyphen is missing from a name, the application gets blocked," reports Cameron Joseph at Talking Points Memo. Voters don't always know that their registration is blocked, AP says, and an analysis of records obtained through a public records request "reveals racial disparity in the process. Georgia's population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations on hold with Kemp's office is nearly 70 percent black."

Kemp says he is fighting voter fraud and has made voting easier for all Georgians, pointing to an online registration system and expanded mail-in voting. He blames the "exact match" racial disparity on the voter-registration organization Abrams founded in 2014.

On MSNBC Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow noted that 53,000 votes could decide a neck-and-neck race like the Abrams-Kemp one. "Honestly, this is outrageous enough that it seems almost impossible that the courts will allow this to stand," she said.

Kemp and Abrams have been sparring for years over voting rights, and you can read more about their history — and the 214 polling places shuttered with Kemp's encouragement, disproportionately in rural and blacker counties, since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 — at Talking Points Memo. Peter Weber

September 18, 2018
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Texas Republicans got a big boost on Tuesday as retired game warden Pete Flores beat former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D) in a special state Senate election in a San Antonio district that last elected a Republican in the 1870s. Flores will serve out the rest of the term of former state Sen. Carlos Uresti (D), until 2021, giving Texas Republicans 21 seats in the Senate and virtually ensuring a 19-seat supermajority in the next legislative session. Uresti resigned in June after being convicted of 11 felonies related to a business venture. Gallego conceded at 9 p.m., when unofficial results had him losing by 6 percentage points, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Flores was boosted by strong support from all top Texas GOP elected officials and Republican enthusiasm. Turnout was low, but not for a special election, the San Antonio Express-News reports. The last Republican to represent Texas' Senate District 19 was Andrew Phelps McCormick, who left office in 1879. Flores will be the first Hispanic Republican ever to serve in the state Senate. Peter Weber

September 14, 2018
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) brushed off a challenge from his left by actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in Thursday's New York Democratic primary, but progressives scored some big upsets in state Senate races. The highest profile of those was Julia Salazar's victory over 16-year incumbent state Sen. Martin Dilan in a northern Brooklyn district. Salazar, a 27-year-old democratic socialism running for office for the first time, doesn't face a Republican challenger in November.

Progressive challengers also unseated six of eight Democrats who formed a now-disbanded Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) that handed control of the state Senate to Republicans. Among those ousted was IDC leader Jeff Klein, who lost to Alessandra Biaggi, plus Jose Peralta, Jesse Hamilton, Marisol Alcantara, David Valesky, and Tony Avella. "In 2018, Democratic voters are in no mood for Democratic politicians who get too comfortable with Republicans," said Harry Enten at CNN. On the other hand, state Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who voted to keep the minority Republicans in control of the Senate, fended off a challenger, Blake Morris.

The more liberal wing of the Democratic Party fared poorly in statewide races, however. Along with Cuomo's victory, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul survived a challenge from New York City Council member Jumaane Williams, and Cuomo-endorsed New York City Public Advocate Letitia "Tish" James beat three other Democratic candidates for the attorney general nomination, including anticorruption advocate Zephyr Teachout and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. James will face Republican Keith Wofford in November. Either of them will be the first black New York attorney general, and James would also be the first female elected to the job. Peter Weber

September 13, 2018
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The marquee race in New York's state primaries on Thursday is the Democratic gubernatorial contest between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon, the Sex and the City actress and education activist who is challenging Cuomo from the left. Cuomo holds a commanding lead in the polls, but Nixon is hoping for an upset like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez scored against a 10-term congressman in New York's federal-office primaries in June. Whoever wins the primary will face Republican Marc Molinaro, the Duchess County executive who won his party's nod at a May convention. Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and independent Stephanie Miner will also be on the November ballot. If Cuomo beats Nixon, he's favored to win a third term.

There's also a competitive Democratic race for state attorney general between Letitia James, Zephyr Teachout, Rep. Sean Maloney, and Leecia Eve; the winner will face Republican Keith Wofford. Wofford, James, and Eve are all African-American, Maloney is gay, and Teachout, James, and Eve are women — any of them will make history by being elected to the office. Polls show a tight Democratic race between Maloney, Lames, and Teachout.

Two state Senate races are also being watched closely, and not just because they're in Brooklyn. In one, lawyer Blake Morris is trying to win the Democratic nomination from rogue Democrat Simcha Felder, who will appear on the Republican, Conservative, and Independence party tickets even if he loses the Democratic primary. State Sen. Martin Malavé Dilan (D) is also facing a progressive primary challenge from community organizer Julia Salazar. You can read more about those races at Vox. Peter Weber

September 13, 2018
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In a rare Wednesday primary, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) won her nomination for a second term, fending off a challenge from former Secretary of State Matt Brown. Brown was one of several more progressive candidates trying to unseat more centrist Democrats, with mixed results. Raimondo bested him, 57 percent to 34 percent. She will face Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who won the Republican primary against state House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan. It will be a rematch.

Fung lost to Raimondo in the 2014 race by 4.5 percentage points. That election, like this one, was a three-way contest; this year, former GOP lawmaker Joe Trillo is expected to run as an independent. Some polls show a competitive race, but Raimondo is the early favorite in the heavily Democratic state. "While Democrats dominate the state and hold supermajorities in its legislature," The Washington Post notes, "socially conservative Democrats hold the balance of power." Progressive challengers unseated a few state lawmakers on Wednesday and failed to unseat others. Peter Weber

September 11, 2018
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Two Democrats are running to challenge Gov. Chris Sununu (R) in Tuesday's New Hampshire primaries, and a handful of Republicans are competing to take on Rep. Ann Kuster (D) in New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District. Sununu is favored to beat either former state Sen. Molly Kelly, the Democratic frontrunner, or Steve Marchand in November, and Kuster is expected to beat whichever Republican prevails on Tuesday; the top two GOP candidates are state Rep. Steve Negron and Stewart Levanson. The biggest race on Tuesday is for the battleground seat being vacated by Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) in New Hampshire's 1st District.

Eleven Democrats and two main Republicans are running in the district, which narrowly voted for President Trump in 2016. On the GOP side, state Sen. Andy Sanborn is competing against Eddie Edwards, a Navy veteran and former police chief. "At this point, the race may come down to which man has successfully convinced voters he is Trumpier," The New York Times says. The 11 Democrats include Levi Sanders, son to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), plus a retired lawyer, a labor leader, an environmental scientist, and Porter-Shea's former chief of staff. The Democratic frontrunners are Maura Sullivan, a Marine veteran and ex-Obama administration official backed by national Democrats, and Chris Pappas, a New Hampshire Executive Council member supported by local Democratic leaders. Peter Weber

September 11, 2018
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Democrats have nominated a record number of women for Congress this year — 180 candidates, versus the previous record, 120, according to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics — but that's just the beginning. When you add in the 133 people of color running for Congress as Democrats, "white men are in the minority in the House Democratic candidate pool," Politico reports. And, 158 Democratic candidates are running for office for the first time. Politico adds:

In the 125 districts where a Democratic incumbent is leaving office or a Republican seat is at risk of flipping, according to Politico's race ratings, more than half the nominees (65) are women. An overlapping group of 30 Democratic primary winners are people of color, and 73 of them have never run for elected office before, tapping into voter disdain for politics as usual. Their success in primaries could herald a major shift in Congress, which is majority-white, majority-male and still mostly made up of former state legislators who climbed the political ladder to Washington. [Politico]

Republicans are running female candidates, too — 52, by Politico's count, including a first-ever Korean-American woman in California and a Latina nominee in Arizona — but their number is "dwarfed by the Democrats' totals," Politico says. And that could spell trouble for Republicans, as female candidates attract votes from suburban women, a demographic that's "not trending toward us right now," says GOP consultant Mike Noble. "Those suburban women are a key bloc that we're tracking, and they're not big fans of Trump." Peter Weber

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