Michigan Supreme Court Approves Redistricting Ballot Measure

Michigan voters will determine whether or not to create an independent redistricting commission this November, after a 4-3 state supreme court ruling allowed the measure to appear on the ballot.  The majority ruling, by Democrat-nominated justices Richard Bernstein and Bridget McCormack joined by Republican-nominated justices David Viviano and Elizabeth Clement, allowed the measure under the condition that “if it proposes changes that do not significantly alter or abolish the form or structure of the government in a manner equivalent to creating a new constitution.”

According to MLive, “The court’s majority decision concurred with a unanimous decision from the state Court of Appeals, which compelled the Michigan Board of State Canvassers to place the Voters not Politicians measure on the ballot after determining the initiative passed constitutional muster.”

If approved, Proposal 2 would amend Michigan’s constitution to create a 13-member Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission made up of five independents, four Republicans and four Democrats, with conditions on who can serve on the commission in order to separate it from the political process.  The commission would be in place in time for the next redistricting following the 2020 census.

The anti-gerrymandering proposal was created by Voters Not Politicians, a statewide organization that collected more than 427,000 signatures from Michigan voters. Redistricting has been controlled by Republicans since the last census in 2011. The proposal had been opposed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Republican Party, and Attorney General and likely Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Schuette.

“The court’s decision upholds our right as citizens to petition our government for positive change,” VNP founder and executive director Katie Fahey said in a statement. “Michigan voters are ready for a transparent redistricting process, where election district lines represent the people – not special interests. It’s time voters choose their politicians, not the other way around.”

National Democratic Redistricting Committee chairman Eric Holder tweeted, “This is a big win. Citizens will choose their representatives, politicians will not pick their voters – if the ballot measure is passed.”

There may be some political fallout for Justice Clement, who is on the ballot for re-election this year and could lose funding or support from the state’s Republican Party, according to the Detroit Free Press.  According to the paper, Clement – who had previously served as Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief legal counsel – had no prior judicial experience or judicial record prior to her appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Obama, Clinton Enter Election Season with Endorsements and Donations

Former President Barack Obama released a list of 81 congressional, state and legislative candidates in what his office calls a “first wave” of endorsements in the runup to the November elections.  Here is the full list:

California
Gavin Newsom (Governor)
Eleni Kounalakis (Lt. Governor)
Josh Harder (U.S. House, CA-10)
TJ Cox (U.S. House, CA-21)
Katie Hill (U.S. House, CA-25)
Katie Porter (U.S. House, CA-45)
Harley Rouda (U.S. House, CA-48)
Mike Levin (U.S. House, CA-49)
Ammar Campa-Najjar (U.S. House, CA-50)
Buffy Wicks (State Assembly, District 15)

Colorado
Jared Polis (Governor)
Dianne Primavera (Lt. Governor)
Phil Weiser (Attorney General)
Jena Griswold (Secretary of State)
Tammy Story (State Senate, District 16)
Jessie Danielson (State Senate, District 20)
Brittany Pettersen (State Senate, District 22)
Faith Winter (State Senate, District 24)
Dylan Roberts (State House, District 26)
Dafna Michaelson Jenet (State House, District 30)
Shannon Bird (State House, District 35)
Rochelle Galindo (State House, District 50)
Julie McCluskie (State House, District 61)

Georgia
Stacey Abrams (Governor)
Sarah Riggs Amico (Lt. Governor)
Matthew Wilson (State House, District 80)
Shelly Hutchinson (State House, District 107)

Illinois
J.B. Pritzker (Governor)
Juliana Stratton (Lt. Governor)
Kwame Raoul (Attorney General)
Sean Casten (U.S. House, IL-6)
Brendan Kelly (U.S. House, IL-12)
Lauren Underwood (U.S. House, IL-14)

Iowa
Deidre DeJear (Secretary of State)
Tim Gannon (Secretary of Agriculture)
Kristin Sunde (State House, District 42)
Jennifer Konfrst (State House, District 43)
Eric Gjerde (State House, District 67)
Laura Liegois (State House, District 91)

Maine
Louis Luchini (State Senate, District 7)
Laura Fortman (State Senate, District 13)
Linda Sanborn (State Senate, District 30)

Nevada
Jacky Rosen (U.S. Senate)
Susie Lee (U.S. House, NV-3)
Steven Horsford (U.S. House, NV-4)

New Jersey
Andy Kim (U.S. House, NJ-3)
Tom Malinowski (U.S. House, NJ-7)

New Mexico
Debra Haaland (U.S. House, NM-1)
Daymon Ely (State House, District 23)
Natalie Figueroa (State House, District 30)

New York
Antonio Delgado (U.S. House, NY-19)
Anna Kaplan (State Senate, District 7)

North Carolina
Wiley Nickel (State Senate, District 16)
Ron Wesson (State House, District 1)
Terence Everitt (State House, District 35)
Julie Von Haefen (State House, District 36)
Sydney Batch (State House, District 37)
Rachel Hunt (State House, District 103)

Ohio
Richard Cordray (Governor)
Betty Sutton (Lt. Governor)
Steve Dettelbach (Attorney General)
Kathleen Clyde (Secretary of State)
Zack Space (Auditor)
Aftab Pureval (U.S. House, OH-1)
Jill Schiller (U.S. House, OH-2)
Phil Robinson (State House, District 6)
Stephanie Howse (State House, District 11)
Mary Lightbody (State House, District 19)
Beth Liston (State House, District 21)
Allison Russo (State House, District 24)
Erica Crawley (State House, District 26)
Tavia Galonski (State House, District 35)
Casey Weinstein (State House, District 37)
Taylor Sappington (State House, District 94)

Pennsylvania
Madeleine Dean (U.S. House, PA-4)
Susan Wild (U.S. House, PA-7)
Tina Davis (State Senate, District 6)
Liz Hanbidge (State House, District 61)
Carolyn Comitta (State House, District 156)

Texas
Adrienne Bell (U.S. House, TX-14)
Colin Allred (U.S. House, TX-32)

How the endorsements break down by numbers:

OFFICE

Governor – 5

Lieutenant Governor – 5

Attorney General – 3

Secretary of State – 3

Secretary of Agriculture – 1

Auditor – 1

U.S. Senate – 1

U.S. House of Representatives – 22

State Legislatures – 40

Half of the endorsements are for state legislative candidates.  The significance of this is presumably twofold: to rebuild the Democratic bench that was decimated during his presidency, and to set the stage for the next census and redistricting after 2020. Curiously, he only endorsed three candidates for Secretary of State, who are the top elections official in each state and will be responsible for overseeing the 2020 primaries and presidential election.  President Obama also endorsed 22 candidates for the House of Representatives, three short of the number House Democrats need to win to flip control of the chamber.

STATE

California – 10

Colorado – 13

Georgia – 4

Illinois – 6

Iowa – 6

Maine – 3

Nevada – 3

New Jersey – 2

New Mexico – 3

New York – 2

North Carolina – 6

Ohio – 16

Pennsylvania – 5

Texas – 2

Almost half of his endorsements come from three states – California, Colorado and the perennially important swing state of Ohio. Also worth noting only one endorsement for U.S. Senate – Jacky Rosen. Claire McCaskill was an enthusiastic and early backer of his in the 2008 primary, but given that Missouri has become a more conservative state during the past decade, it is likely that being endorsed by Obama would be used against her by Missouri Republicans.

Onward Together, the political organization started by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, made 26 donations to Democratic candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of State, as well as congressional PACs, according to a review of the organization’s most recent campaign finance filing.  The donations, each worth $5,000 – the maximum amount permissible by federal law, totaled $130,000.

Here is the list:

  • Nelson Araujo (Nevada Secretary of State)
  • Jocelyn Benson (Michigan Secretary of State)
  • Sean Casten (IL-06)
  • Kathleen Clyde (Ohio Secretary of State)
  • TJ Cox (CA-21)
  • Jason Crow (CO-06)
  • Deidre DeJear (Iowa Secretary of State)
  • Deb Haaland (NM-01)
  • Josh Harder (CA-10)
  • Katie Hill (CA-25)
  • Steven Horsford (NV-04)
  • Mike Levin (CA-49)
  • Lucy McBath (GA-06)
  • Gina Ortiz Jones (TX-23)
  • Katie Porter (CA-45)
  • Aftab Pureval (OH-01)
  • Harley Rouda (CA-48)
  • Talley Sargent (WV-02)
  • Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05)
  • Lauren Underwood (IL-14)
  • Scott Wallace (PA-01)
  • Susan Wild (PA-07)
  • Jennifer Wexton (VA-10)
  • ASPIRE (Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus)
  • Bold PAC (Congressional Hispanic Caucus)
  • Congressional Black Caucus PAC

How the donations break down by numbers:

House of Representatives – 19

Secretary of State – 4

Congressional PACs – 3

The story was first reported by CNN.

 

Koch Organization Declines to Endorse Republican Candidate in Key Senate Race

Heidi Heitkamp caught a lucky break.

The incumbent Democrat running for re-election in the solidly Republican state of North Dakota has been considered a top pickup opportunity for Senate Republicans in a state Donald Trump won by 36 points in 2016.

With all these underlying dynamics working against Heitkamp, her challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer, the state’s at-large member of the House of Representatives, failed to secure the endorsement of Americans for Prosperity, the political and policy arm of the conservative Koch network which has been a major player in Republican politics for more than a decade.

According to CNN’s Rebecca Berg, reporting from the Koch network’s meeting in Colorado Springs:

Top officials at Americans For Prosperity, the political and policy arm of the Koch network, said the group is not currently supporting Cramer because he is not leading on central policy priorities for the Koch network.

“If this were 2016, we likely would have gone ahead and endorsed” Cramer, said AFP President Tim Phillips. “But we’re raising the bar.”

The move to withhold support for Cramer comes as part of a wider rethinking of the network’s support for Republican candidates. Charles Koch expressed regret for his namesake network’s support for past candidates that didn’t necessarily adhere to the conservative and libertarian principles he espouses.  The Koch network is also not happy about the administration’s trade wars and the divisiveness of the White House.  Because of this, the network is openly considering working with and supporting Democrats.  The network launched a digital ad campaign earlier this year praising Heitkamp’s support for rolling back bank regulations.

President Trump responded to the latest developments via Twitter:

As NBC’s Carrie Dann pointed out on the Meet the Press: The Lid podcast earlier this week, this does not automatically mean they are going to start bankrolling Democrats, nor will Democrats start embracing them.  For all the Kochs’ past disagreements with Donald Trump and the Republican Party, they are presumably happy about the Trump administration’s tax cuts and judicial nominees, something which no Democrat would ever tout. However, the fact that they are willing to sit out a key race that could potentially determine control of an evenly divided Senate is good news for Heitkamp.

The most recent poll of the race from last June gave Cramer a four-point lead over Heitkamp, within the poll’s margin of error. Most observers consider the race a toss-up.