Federal Court Orders New Election in 2017 for 28 North Carolina State Districts

There was an interesting development in North Carolina this afternoon that didn’t have anything to do with the recount in the governor’s race. From the Raleigh News & Observer:

A federal court on Tuesday ordered North Carolina to hold a special legislative election next year after 28 state House and Senate districts are redrawn to comply with a gerrymandering ruling.

U.S. District Court judges earlier this year threw out the current legislative district map, ruling that 28 of them were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. They allowed the 2016 election to continue under the old maps, but ordered legislators to draw new districts in 2017.

Tuesday’s order settled the question of whether the new districts would take effect for the regularly scheduled 2018 election cycle, or if a special election would be required.

“While special elections have costs, those costs pale in comparison to the injury caused by allowing citizens to continue to be represented by legislators elected pursuant to a racial gerrymander,” the three-judge panel wrote in the order.

“The court recognizes that special elections typically do not have the same level of voter turnout as regularly scheduled elections, but it appears that a special election here could be held at the same time as many municipal elections, which should increase turnout and reduce costs.”

The order gives legislators a March 15 deadline to draw new district maps. Every legislator whose district is altered will have their current term shortened.

A primary would be held in late August or early September – the legislature is responsible for setting the exact date – with the general election in November, the order says.

This is the latest in a series of court rulings on voting laws and practices in the state, going back to last summer when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state’s voter ID law. In its ruling, the court concluded, “the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” and called it, “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow.”
This means that there will be three states with statewide legislative races next year (the other two being New Jersey and Virginia, which are also having gubernatorial elections), though in the case of North Carolina it will only be the 28 gerrymandered districts affected by the ruling. According to the News & Observer, Republicans currently have a 74-seat supermajority in the House and a 35-seat supermajority in the Senate.
Here is the response to the ruling from the North Carolina General Assembly, relayed via the North Carolina Republican Party:

The North Carolina Democratic Party’s response:

UPDATE: I received this statement on Wednesday from DLCC executive director Jessica Post and DLCC board member Larry Hall:

“North Carolinians deserve fair representation in their state government, and Republicans’ illegal racial gerrymander made that impossible,” said Post. “We are thrilled for the voters of the Tarheel State that these maps are being redrawn. The GOP’s illegal redistricting was the first in a series of extreme right-wing overreaches that ultimately led to heinous policies like HB2 and the racially-motivated voter disenfranchisement law struck down by the courts earlier this year. The redrawing of the maps and subsequent elections will be the first steps in undoing the damage Republicans have spent the past six years inflicting on the state.

“We look forward to working with North Carolina legislators and leaders, including DLCC Board Member and Democratic House Leader Larry Hall, as this situation continues to evolve on the ground.”

Democrats Weigh In On Party’s Direction, Message and Future

Several Democrats – including a DNC chair candidate, an Obama cabinet secretary, and a potential 2020 presidential candidate – penned a collection of mini op-eds for the Washington Post outlining their vision for the party and its future. All of them are worth reading.

Democratic Senator Announces Opposition to Trump HHS Nominee

Senator Joe Donnelly – an Indiana Democrat up for reelection in 2018 – released a statement today announcing his opposition to Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, citing Price’s position on overhauling and privatizing Medicare in his capacity as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

The fact that a red state Democrat like Donnelly (who is from the same state as Vice President-elect Mike Pence) is willing to do this shows that he (presumably) thinks this is an issue he can run on two years from now. Whether other Senate Democrats do the same remains to be seen, but Price’s confirmation hearing should be interesting to watch for this issue as well as his views on repealing, dismantling, and/or replacing Obamacare.

Ray Buckley Makes It Official, Enters Race for DNC Chairman

New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman and DNC vice chair Ray Buckley has officially announced he is running to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The full text of his announcement (note that he is promising “radical reform of how the DNC operates”) has been posted on his Facebook page:

I’m in!

I am a candidate for Chair of the Democratic National Committee. I look forward to a robust discussion with you on the future of the Democratic Party and I ask for and hope to earn your support.

Make no mistake, if I am elected chair there will be radical reform of how the DNC operates. You and every member of the DNC will be called on to fully participate in the governance of our party. The DNC will be a team effort unlike what we have seen for many years. Every voice should be respected, every face reflected in the Democratic Party. The party cannot just be about winning the White House. We have thousands of other races, including state, county and local races, that we need to win as well.

To me, the Democratic Party’s message is simple: we firmly stand for the opportunity of every American to achieve the American dream. There should be no walls obstructing anyone’s success, both literally and figuratively. We are a dynamic, diverse party that represents the hopes and aspirations of millions of Americans. Our party must also continue to strive to include every voice and every idea from our grassroots.

I ask that you share with me your ideas – both big and small – for how the DNC can best do its job of helping to elect Democrats. Collectively we can be the change that is needed.

After we talk and you’ve had time to reflect, I hope you will decide to support me and together we can get to work reforming the DNC, strengthening our state parties, and rebuilding our grassroots nationwide.

I will be reaching out to you soon to discuss the future of our party, but please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Ray Buckley

According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, Buckley has already picked up a few endorsements:

  • Joanne Dowdell: DNC at-large member.
  • Martha Fuller Clark: First vice chair of NH Democratic Party, and state senator representing the 21st Senate district. She was also the first superdelegate to support Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention
  • Bill Shaheen: DNC committeeman from New Hampshire, husband of Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
  • Kathy Sullivan: DNC committeewoman from New Hampshire.

Keith Ellison Describes Fidel Castro’s Legacy as “A Mixed Bag”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) – the presumed frontrunner in the race to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee – was asked for his views about the legacy of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro during an interview on SiriuxXM Radio’s The Karen Hunter Show:

ELLISON: He [Castro] was a revolutionary leader who confronted a system of government that excluded everybody except the military and the monied rich. Because he took them on and defeated them, and set the country up in a way where, did he use harsh, dictatorial tactics? Yeah, probably he did. But did he also stand up for peace and freedom in Africa? Absolutely. His Cuban forces took on the South African apartheid military forces and defeated them. He deployed doctors everywhere from Chernobyl to all over Africa. Wherever people were sick, he sent those doctors there. He made medical education very available, made medicine available.
So if you look at his legacy, you have to say that he confronted people with a lot of power on behalf of people who didn’t have any. But he also did jail people who were political critics of his. He did also not allow total and free speech, and so I think it’s a mixed bag. But for anybody to say that he was all bad, that’s all wrong.

Listen to the audio of the comment here:

A Look Ahead at the Possible 2020 Democrats

Because it’s never too early to start speculating for the next presidential election, the Washington Post handicapped the Democrats’ possible field of presidential candidates for 2020.  One key observation:

Although this most stunning upset in modern presidential history has produced (and will produce) a thousand aftershocks, one of the most unlikely and important is that the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 is now open.

That opening is made all the more remarkable by the fact that there is simply no logical heir (or even heirs) to President Obama or Clinton — no obvious candidate waiting in the wings to step forward and rebuild the party. Vice President Biden appears to have decided that he is done running for office. As a two-time loser, Clinton is done, too. And after that, the bench is, well, pretty thin.

The outcome of the last election did two things: it postponed the Republican reconstruction most people thought would happen after a Donald Trump loss; and it accelerated the need and timetable for a Democratic reconstruction, which many thought wouldn’t happen until after a Hillary Clinton presidency. To elaborate on the latter point, most Democrats and political observers would probably have assumed that the party would have another four years (or eight) during a Clinton presidency to develop its bench in state and federal government. Needless to say, that plan changed and they’re scrambling to start the rebuilding process, particularly at the state level where the party has suffered many losses during the Obama years.

The good news for Democrats is they have a favorable map and calendar for statewide races for the next two years, not so much for congressional races, particularly the Senate. [Keep in mind, a lot can change in two years. This is the outlook as it stands right now.]  This gives them an opportunity to recruit candidates and test new messages and strategies and build up their bench in the run-up for the 2020 presidential election and redistricting. The bad news is they have a lot of catching up to do.

California Democrats Have Supermajorities in Both Houses of State Legislature

Nearly three weeks after Election Day, the Associated Press finally called the race for California’s 29th Senate District in favor of Democrat Josh Newman, giving state Democrats a 2/3 supermajority in both houses of the state legislature in Sacramento.

Why does this matter? According to the Los Angeles Times:

With a supermajority, a political party can raise taxes, place measures on the statewide ballot, enact laws immediately with an “urgency” clause and override a governor’s veto. In theory, it’s an enormous amount of power.

In short, one of the bluest and the most populated states in the country got even bluer for the final two years of Governor Jerry Brown’s term.