Special Election Voter Registration Deadlines Approaching

There are five special elections to fill vacant congressional seats over the course of the next three months.

  • Kansas: (21 days before the election: March 21, 2017). Election Day: April 11
  • Georgia: March 20. Election Day: April 18, June 20 (if necessary)
  • Montana: (30 days before the election: April 25, 2017) Election Day: May 25
  • South Carolina: April 2 for primary, May 21 for general) Election Day: June 20
  • California: (March 20 for primary, May 21 for runoff) Election Day: April 4, June 5 (if necessary).

Millions of Americans Could Lose Health Insurance Under Republican Health Care Proposal

Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration had 24 million reasons to be unhappy on Monday: that’s the number of Americans who would lose their health insurance under the Republican-crafted American Health Care Act by 2026, according to a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.  The major findings of the CBO estimate:

  • The AHCA would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion from 2017-2026.
  • The biggest savings would come from reductions in Medicaid and the elimination of subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act.
  • The biggest costs would come from repealing changes to the Internal Revenue Code caused by the ACA.
  • In 2018, there would be 14 million more uninsured people than under the current ACA law.
  • This figure will continue to increase by 21 million in 2020 and 24 million in 2026.
  • By 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be without health insurance, compared to 28 million people for current projections under the ACA.
  • The reduction in insurance coverage between 2018-2026 would be in large part from states discontinuing the Medicaid expansion program offered under the ACA.
  • In 2018 and 2019, average premiums for single policyholders would be 15-20 percent higher than under the current law. Average premiums would start to decrease in 2020.
  • By 2026, average premiums for single policy holders would be 10 percent lower than under the current law.
  • However, the savings on premiums (or lack thereof) vary by age:
    • For a 21-year-old: 20-25 percent less
    • For a 40-year-old: 8-10 percent less
    • For a 64-year-old: 20-25 percent higher
  • Medicaid spending would decrease by $880 billion from 2017-2026.
  • By 2026, Medicaid spending would be 25 percent less than what the CBO estimates currently under the ACA.

Republicans – who had previously cited CBO estimates as evidence to attack the ACA – had been preemptively attacking or trying to question the credibility of the agency in the days leading up to the estimate’s release. Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, told Fox News, “We will see what the score is, in fact in the past, the CBO score has really been meaningless.” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters, “We disagree strenuously,” with the CBO’s findings.

Not all Republicans were optimistic about the proposed law, even before the CBO estimate was released. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) warned House Republicans that they would be risking their majority if they voted for the AHCA, and told them, “Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote.”

Opposition to the bill is not limited to Democrats. A variety of organizations ranging from the left, right and center have all publicly come out against the AHCA. They include the AARP, the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth, Moveon.org, and the Center for American Progress.

Democrats attacked the AHCA almost immediately after its unveiling last week, because it finally gave them a concrete Republican policy proposal to target after nearly seven years of a vague and undefined “repeal and replace” pledge Republicans offered as an alternative to the ACA.  The CBO estimate will provide them with quantifiable data for campaign ads and talking points to target Republicans running for election or reelection in the 2017 and 2018 cycles.

In a statement, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said, “Donald Trump’s ‘insurance for everybody’ pledge was a big fat lie.”

“The CBO, which is headed by a Republican-appointed director, just made it clear that Trump’s health care plan will cause up to 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance. At the same time, the plan slashes Medicaid, drives up the cost of care for older Americans, and defunds life-saving services provided by Planned Parenthood. The only winners here are Trump, and the corporations and rich people who get to pocket new tax breaks.”

“Of course, instead of admitting that the bill would leave millions without health insurance, Republicans are desperately trying to discredit the CBO with more ‘alternative facts.’ The American people are smarter than that.”

Tyler Law, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, issued a statement saying, “Every single House Republican owns this catastrophic bill and should be prepared for backlash at the ballot box, particularly given the anticipated loss of coverage for 14 million people as early as next year.”

UPDATE: Politico viewed a White House assessment of the AHCA which estimated 26 million Americans would lose their health insurance by 2026 – two million more than the CBO estimate. The explanation for the document from White House Communications Director Michael Dubke was, “This is OMB trying to project what CBO’s score will be using CBO’s methodology.”

Virginia House Delegate Won’t Run for Reelection in 2017

Virginia House Delegate Rick Morris, who represents the 64th District, announced he will not be running for reelection this fall, according to the Tidewater News. The reason for his decision is to spend more time with his family. According to Richmond Times-Dispatch political columnist Jeff Schapiro, “Morris was ensnared in domestic abuse scandal and long resisted demands by fellow Republicans, including @SpeakerHowell, that he quit.”

The Democratic Party of Virginia plans to challenge 45 Republican incumbents in the House of Delegates this coming fall, 17 of which represent districts that voted for Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election – the third consecutive cycle the Commonwealth has gone to the Democratic candidate. According to Ballotpedia, Morris was first elected in 2011 after ousting incumbent Democrat Bill Barlow 55-44, and was reelected unopposed in 2013 and 2015.

Rex Alphin and Emily Brewer have entered the race for the Republican nomination. Three candidates – Rebecca Colaw, John Wandling, and Jerry Cantrell – are running for the Democratic nomination. Primary day in Virginia is scheduled for June 13.

Democrats Win Two Out of Three Connecticut Special Elections

While most journalists and political junkies had their eyes on Washington for President Trump’s address to Congress, Democrats were having a pretty good night in Connecticut, winning two out of three legislative special elections held that day:

In three special elections Tuesday night, Connecticut voters did nothing to shift the balance of power in the evenly split Senate or closely divided House, despite furious efforts to make one race a referendum on President Trump and another on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Democrat Dorinda Borer easily defeated Republican Edward R. Granfield in the 115th House District of West Haven to succeed Stephen D. Dargan, a Democrat who resigned to accept a post on the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Borer’s victory only briefly restored Democrats to the 79-72 House majority they won on Nov. 8, since Rep. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, and Rep. Eric Berthel, R-Watertown, now will resign after winning Senate seats in the 2nd District of greater Hartford and 32nd District outside Waterbury.

With the ability of Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman to break tie votes in the 18-18 Senate, Connecticut remains one of just a half-dozen states with a Democratic governor and state legislature.

In the 32nd Senate District, Berthel won comfortably over Democrat Greg Cava of Roxbury in a race that Democratic activists worked with some success to nationalize as a referendum on Trump: In the most Republican Senate district in the state, Cava lost by 10 percentage points, which Democrats say is their best showing there in decades.

After losing three Senate seats and eight House seats in November, despite Hillary Clinton’s carrying the state over Trump, Democrats were ready to celebrate the results of the special elections Tuesday as harbingers of better things to come in 2018.

These are the latest in a series of state legislative victories for Democrats since last November’s elections, having won (or defended) seats in special elections in Iowa, Virginia and Delaware. Reaction from Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Director Jessica Post:

“Congratulations to Rep.-elect Borer and Sen.-elect McCrory on their successes in today’s elections,” said Post. “These talented candidates with strong commitments to public service have brought the list of Democratic electoral victories to five in the scant six weeks Trump has been in the White House. DLCC is thrilled by these latest victories, which are just the latest expression of Democrats’ level of energy and engagement as voters reject Trump’s GOP and fight Republicans’ extreme and bigoted agenda on all fronts.”

Virginia House Democrats Candidate Recruiting Update

Virginia House Democrats announced they have recruited 43 Democratic challengers as  of today, and that they are on track to meeting their recruitment goals before the June 13 filing deadline. Potentially more important (and promising) from their perspective is the fact that 17 of those 43 candidates are in districts won by Hillary Clinton but currently held by Republicans.

Democrats in the Twilight of the Obama Era

Check out this story from the Associated Press looking at the diverging political successes of President Obama and down ballot congressional and state Democrats. This is the dynamic of the past eight years that Democrats are trying to reverse, starting with the election of the next Democratic National Committee chair in February, followed by a series of congressional special elections and state legislative and gubernatorial races later on in 2017.

Donald Trump Picks a 2018 Senate Candidate to Join His Cabinet

The DSCC should send Donald Trump a thank-you card. From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The courtship of Ryan Zinke began months before the end of the presidential race. A Republican congressman from Montana and a former Navy SEAL commander, Mr. Zinke was approached over the summer by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, about running for the Senate in 2018.

To Mr. McConnell, Mr. Zinke (pronounced ZIN-kee) was an ideal candidate to defeat Senator Jon Tester, a two-term Democrat, and bolster the Republicans’ slender majority.

Then President-elect Donald J. Trump intervened.

Mr. McConnell learned early this week that Mr. Trump had grown interested in Mr. Zinke to be secretary of the interior. Mr. McConnell quickly contacted both Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, in an effort to head off the appointment, according to multiple Republican officials familiar with the calls.

Mr. Trump’s defiant selection of Mr. Zinke, 55, dismayed Republicans in the capital and raised suspicions about how reliable an ally he will be for the party. Even as Mr. Trump has installed party stalwarts in a few cabinet departments, he has repeatedly shrugged off the requests of Republicans who have asked for help reinforcing their power in Congress.

And having flouted the party establishment throughout the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump now appears determined to go his own way in office, guided by personal chemistry and the opinions of his family members.

Based on these political dynamics, Zinke will probably sail through his confirmation hearing without breaking a sweat. If he is confirmed, that means that Montana governor Steve Bullock will have to call a special election to fill the seat, which represents the entire state in the House of Representatives.

Zinke was just re-elected to his seat 56-40, in a state that Donald Trump won by 21 points but also re-elected Democrat Steve Bullock by 4. Democrats have won in state and federal races in Montana, so this House race should be seen as winnable by the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Montana Democratic Party.  This race gives Democrats an opportunity to test message and strategy ahead of Jon Tester’s re-election run in 2018, and will likely be their first attempt at winning a congressional race since the November election.

The Montana Democratic Party flagged a story about Whitefish resident and white nationalist leader Richard Spencer saying he was “very seriously” considering running for the Republican nomination. In a separate story by The Missoulian, Montana Democratic Party executive director Nancy Keenan issued a statement saying, “To be clear, Richard Spencer’s views are not Montanans’ views. We’ve called on the Montana GOP to denounce this kind of racism in their party this year and we will continue to hold Republicans accountable for this fear-mongering behavior as we move toward a special election to fill this U.S. House seat.” Montana Republican Party chairman Jeff Essmann is quoted in the same story saying, “In most corners of Montana, a Spencer candidacy would be viewed skeptically.”

The candidates who will run in the special election will be chosen by their respective state parties rather than through a normal primary process. Because of this, Republicans can probably breathe a sigh of relief in that this scenario virtually guarantees Spencer will not get the nomination.  After the experience of 2012 where Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock cost the Senate GOP two races it should have won because they said outrageous and controversial comments which torpedoed their campaigns, Republicans have learned their lesson. On the other hand, Donald Trump just got elected president in spite of the many outrageous and controversial comments he made before and during the campaign.  Perhaps some Republican candidates will try emulating that tactic to win an election in the future.