Democrats Made Gains in Kansas Legislature

The New York Times has an interesting story about Kansas Democrats and moderate Republicans making gains in the state legislature during the last election, in a state which Donald Trump won by 20 points:

It is interesting to see how voters responded to one-party rule in state government in one of the reddest states in the country that has not voted for a Democratic president since 1964. The question Democrats will probably be asking themselves in the weeks and months ahead is what – if anything – can they learn from what happened in Kansas and if they can capitalize on that in future statewide and congressional races.

Florida Democratic Party Official: “We Failed to See, or Simply Refused to See, the Voters”

Check out this interesting quasi-postmortem by Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux. Some excerpts worth pointing out:

In any election, victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is the Party’s fault. Or so they say.

The Democratic Party has begun the time-honored tradition of self-examination and self-immolation that comes with electoral defeat. As well it should. While believing in the righteousness of our cause, and the wrongness of our opponent, we failed to see, or simply refused to see, the voters.

Voters lived in a different world and understandably, saw this country and the candidates differently than the national Democratic Party and its leadership. They lived in large swaths of the country where we never went. We missed the mark and we missed it badly.

Voters believe it is their constitutional right to be heard by their elected officials and not the other way around. Voters want to hear their concerns addressed rather than what we wished got them out to vote. The best political leaders have always acknowledged the voter’s fear and anger, recognized their daily struggle to provide their families with the best opportunity possible, and projected confidence in their ability to lead the entire nation.

Democrats, perhaps by the nature of our heterogeneous coalition, have been a classic all trees, no forest party when it has come to strategic vision. We seem always focused on the next election like it was the most important election of our lifetimes. Democrats have essentially depended on two political superstars, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, for the last 35 years to lead our Party. But depending on a Cam Newton to come along every other year is not a plan.

CIA Concludes Russia Wanted to Help Trump Get Elected, Will Congress Investigate?

The Washington Post dropped a bombshell yesterday revealing the existence of a secret CIA assessment that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was done with the intended purpose of helping him get elected, as opposed to the previous theory, which was that it was about creating chaos and mistrust in the American political process:

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

The article also notes that the intelligence was challenged by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Donald Trump himself repeatedly questioned the accusation that the Russians were behind the hacked DNC and John Podesta emails being published by WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign, and the Trump Transition put out the following statement last night in response to the story:

Setting aside the inaccuracy of their claim of “one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history,” the Post’s reporting was subsequently confirmed by the New York Times, which added another detail to the story: Russians hacked Republican National Committee computer systems, but did not publish any of the information they obtained.

Democrats and some congressional Republicans are asking (and in some cases, promising) investigations into various angles of the Russian hacking.

From the Trump transition team’s perspective, this Russia hacking assessment would put another asterisk on their election victory, the first being that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes. The fact that Trump himself and Republicans in general gleefully cited the emails being dumped daily by WikiLeaks during the campaign, as well as the fact Trump himself called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email, does not help their case either.  The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote a good article about the political dilemma Republicans find themselves in regarding how to handle this. As national security columnist John Schindler pointed out on Twitter:

Watching this story play out from the perspective of international leaders who will have to deal with President Trump for the next four years, those leaders can draw two conclusions: first, the President-elect only receives an intelligence briefing once a week, according to Reuters; second, that the president will not believe or openly dispute the findings of his own intelligence agency. The latter may wind up undermining Trump himself later on. If he has to rally international support for diplomatic action against a country or organization, and he cites U.S. intelligence findings as his evidence, who is to say that a skeptical country such as China or Russia or Venezuela won’t come back with a response along the lines of “Why should we believe your intelligence when you don’t even believe in it yourself?”

It will be interesting to see to what extent the Republican Congress is willing to investigate this in the months ahead, and if they do, how deep the rabbit hole goes.

UPDATE: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell is reporting that Donald Trump has chosen Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State, according to two sources. According to the Wall Street Journal, Tillerson has ties to Putin and Russia:

Among those considered for the post, Mr. Tillerson has perhaps the closest ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, having negotiated a 2011 energy partnership deal with Russia that Mr. Putin said could eventually be worth as much as $500 billion. In 2012, the Kremlin bestowed the country’s Order of Friendship decoration on Mr. Tillerson.

This pre-existing relationship with Mr. Putin complements Mr. Trump’s push to improve U.S.-Russia ties. A number of Republicans have urged him to be wary of working closely with Russia, warning that it is trying to expand its influence in a way that runs counter to U.S. interests in places such as Ukraine and Syria.

Exxon has a large global presence, and this could introduce sticky conflicts of interest if Mr. Tillerson is selected. The company explores for oil and gas on six of the world’s continents and has operations in more than 50 countries.

Mr. Tillerson, who is slated to retire next year, has retirement funds worth tens of millions of dollars, a value that could potentially be affected by State Department activities. For example, he could benefit from such potential department actions as the lifting of sanctions on Russia.

In light of the CIA assessment on Russia’s role in the election, this confirmation hearing will be a lot more interesting than if Trump had chosen a more conventional nominee like Mitt Romney or Bob Corker.

UPDATE II: Mitchell also reporting that former Undersecretary for Arms Control and UN Ambassador John Bolton is Trump’s choice for Deputy Secretary of State. Democrats wouldn’t allow a confirmation vote on Bolton for the UN ambassador nomination during the Bush years, so he was a recess appointment.

Pat McCrory Concedes

North Carolina governor Pat McCrory just released this video statement through the official North Carolina governor’s office account announcing his concession:

Here are the reactions:

Democratic National Committee:

North Carolina Democratic Party:

Roy Cooper:

There are no statements yet from the Republican National Committee, the Republican Party of North Carolina, or the Republican Governors Association. This post will be updated if they make any public statements later.

 

 

Durham County Recount Update

According to most recent figures published last night as part of the Durham County recount ordered by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, of the 52,833 ballots counted, Roy Cooper picked up 3 votes, Pat McCrory lost 1 vote and the overvote tally dropped by 2. The recount continues on Monday morning.

Here are the two most recent tweets about it from Durham County Government:

Numbers should be coming in later, but based on these tweets, it’s not looking good for Pat McCrory.

North Carolina State Board of Elections Orders Recount in Durham County

The North Carolina State Board of Elections ordered a machine recount of 90,000 votes in heavily Democratic Durham County, a request backed by Pat McCrory’s campaign and the state Republican Party. The board’s decision came down to a 3-2 vote on party lines.

More details on the 90,000 votes in question, from the Raleigh News & Observer:

The roughly 90,000 votes under scrutiny in Durham were added to the statewide tally around 11:30 p.m. on election night. McCrory, who is seeking a second term, appeared to be leading statewide until those votes were added to the total; Democrat Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s attorney general, has been leading in the count ever since.

Baker said the late shift could have reminded voters of fraudulent elections in which corrupt officials added to the vote count if their candidate was behind. He said that practice was once common in Madison County, a rural county near Asheville where he lives.

“I’m not saying that’s what happened here,” Baker said. “I personally don’t have any reason to doubt that any information entered was correct.”

Another Republican board member, Rhonda Amoroso of Wilmington, cited past election problems and staffing changes in Durham County as one reason to hold a recount. “I think right now we have a taint,” she said.

McCrory’s campaign said he won’t seek a statewide recount if the Durham votes are recounted. Election officials there said the recount would take about eight hours, so it’s possible the governor’s race could be settled by the end of the week.

In the latest numbers on Wednesday, Cooper’s lead was above 10,000 votes for the first time as the final counties were finishing counting absentee and provisional ballots. Several more counties are expected to finish their tallies by the end of the week; McCrory isn’t eligible for a statewide recount unless the margin is less than 10,000.

Reaction from the Cooper campaign:

Reaction from the McCrory campaign:

What’s the end game in all this? According to News & Observer political reporter Colin Campbell:

Cooper Lead in NC Exceeds 10K Votes, Democrats Call on McCrory to Concede

Democratic candidate Roy Cooper’s lead in the North Carolina governor’s race has passed the critical 10,000-vote threshold. Why is this important? Because under state law, once the margin of victory exceeds that number, the losing candidate can’t ask for a recount. Democrats are now calling on Gov. Pat McCrory to concede.

Cooper campaign manager Trey Nix:

“Roy Cooper’s lead has now grown to over 10,000 votes. Game over. It’s time for Governor McCrory to concede. It’s clear there is no path to victory for Governor McCrory. It’s time for Governor McCrory to accept the election results and respect the will of the voters.”

Democratic Governors Association executive director Elisabeth Pearson:

“Congratulations to Gov.-elect Roy Cooper on his clear victory in North Carolina. North Carolina was 2016’s marquee gubernatorial race, and we are thrilled to claim it as a Democratic pick-up. Gov.-elect Cooper’s lead has now grown beyond a 10,000-vote margin, eliminating Gov. Pat McCrory’s path forward. North Carolina voters have spoken, and it is time for Gov. McCrory to concede this election.”

There is no statement yet from the North Carolina Republican Party and the McCrory campaign, but in a series of tweets, they are urging citizens to call the State Board of Elections to request a recount in Durham County:

There is no statement yet from the Republican Governors Association, either.