Scandals Ensnare New York and Virginia House Republicans

Two scandals involving different members of the House Republican caucus erupted in the span of 12 hours.

While most political observers were waiting for results to come in from Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio last night, Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.) announced that he was severing ties with a campaign consultant less than three months before Election Day. This decision came amid allegations that Taylor’s campaign staff had collected petitions with forged signatures to get former Democratic candidate Shaun Brown on the November general election ballot, with the intention of having Brown siphon votes in the general election from Taylor’s Democratic challenger Elaine Luria.  The Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney asked Circuit Judge Glenn Croshaw to appoint a special prosecutor. Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Caldwell was picked for the job.

Reaction from the Democratic Party of Virginia:

“Democrats and Republicans agree that the integrity of our election process is paramount. VA-02 voters deserve to know if Congressman Taylor’s paid staff violated the law and if all candidates received the required number of signatures to make the ballot this November. We look forward to seeing the results of Commonwealth’s Attorney Caldwell’s investigation into this matter.”

Reaction from the Luria campaign (Caveat: this statement is dated August 1, before Caldwell’s appointment was announced):

“Dirty and deceptive politics like this are exactly why Washington is broken and people are losing faith in their government. Clearly, Scott Taylor is terrified and willing to do anything to avoid going head to head with Commander Luria,” said Kathryn Sorenson, Elaine Luria’s Campaign Manager.

This morning, the Department of Justice announced an indictment against Rep. Charles Collins (R-N.Y.), his son, and his son’s fiancee’s father on allegations of insider trading.  (You can read the document here, or watch the press conference here) Speaker Paul Ryan announced he was stripping Collins of his membership on the House Energy and Commerce Committee until the allegations were resolved.  Collins has said he will fight the charges and continue his reelection campaign in November.

Both districts are usually reliably Republican, but both incumbents are now under a legal cloud that may or may not dissipate before the election. What political effect, if any, these legal developments will have on Taylor and Collins is not known. The Collins indictment virtually assures that ethics will become a major issue in this cycle, though most of the ethics scandals of the past two years have involved Trump cabinet officials like Scott Pruitt, Tom Price and Ryan Zinke, not to mention the President himself. Democrats used the “culture of corruption” message to devastating effect in flipping the House of Representatives in 2006, so it’s likely they will use an updated version of that playbook for the next three months.

August 7 Primary and Special Election Results

All times are PST.

4:58 p.m. The last of the early vote counts from the Ohio 12th Congressional District are in, and Democrat Danny O’Connor is up by a landslide. He can’t pop the champagne yet, because Election Day ballots are still being counted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:00 p.m. Polls close in Kansas and Missouri. Ballot counting begins.

5:06 p.m. Absentee vote numbers from Ohio:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:13 p.m. Update from Columbus Dispatch public affairs editor Darrel Rowland:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:19 p.m. From Ohio governor John Kasich’s political strategist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:32 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:35 p.m. Interesting observation on the urban/rural political divide pointed out by respected political journalist/pundit Ron Brownstein:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:48 p.m. The Cook Political Report announces its projections for both primaries in the Michigan governor’s race. No call from the AP or any other news organizations yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:56 p.m. Finished numbers are in from Marion County, Ohio:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5:58 p.m. Reaction to the Marion County numbers from Danny O’Connor’s pollster:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:00 p.m. 32 percent of precincts reporting in Ohio’s 12th congressional district. Per MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, the question of the night in this race will be if Troy Balderson can chip away at Danny O’Connor’s lead from early voting and come out ahead on the basis of Election Day votes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:05 p.m. Outside group American Bridge just dropped its first general election ad against Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:07 p.m. Updated take on the Ohio numbers from The Economist’s G. Elliott Morris:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:10 p.m. Half of the votes are in in Ohio, Balderson keeps chipping away at O’Connor’s lead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:14 p.m. 59 percent of the Ohio 12th district vote in and Balderson has cut O’Connor’s lead down to almost 2,400 votes, according to the Ohio Secretary of State.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:17 p.m. All of the votes from Morrow County, Ohio are in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:19 p.m. Balderson takes the lead for the first time with 66 percent of the vote in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6:26 p.m. In the Kansas GOP gubernatorial primary, with 310 out of 3539 precincts reporting, Jeff Colyer has a 41-38 lead over Kris Kobach, but the night is still young.

6:29 p.m. With 75 percent of precincts reporting in Ohio, O’Connor has taken a razor-thin 593-vote lead.

6:38 p.m. Quick take from Columbus Dispatch political reporter Jim Siegel:

 

6:39 p.m. With 84 percent of precincts reporting, O’Connor has expanded his lead to 1,338 votes. According to the Secretary of State’s office, 90 precincts are still outstanding.

6:46 p.m. 84 percent of precincts reporting and O’Connor’s lead has shrunk to 155 votes.

7:00 p.m. 90 percent of precincts reporting and O’Connor has retaken the lead by 201 votes.  55 precincts are still outstanding.

7:17 p.m. 98 percent of precincts reporting and Balderson has taken a 1,685 vote lead. Barring any dramatic surprises in the final two precincts and provisional ballots, it looks like Balderson has it in the bag. Keep in mind, this battle is not over. Balderson and O’Connor will face off AGAIN in the November general election for a full two-year term.

7:25 p.m. Per CNN, GOP outside groups outspent their Democratic counterparts in this race by a 5:1 margin.

7:42 p.m. CNN still lists the Ohio 12th district race as too close to call.  Per Danny O’Connor’s pollster, it looks like they’re going to a recount (i.e. call the lawyers):

7:46 p.m. In Missouri, Proposition A (Right to Work) is losing badly, 62-37.

8:01 p.m. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Proposition A is losing 63-37 with 50 percent of precincts reporting.  Votes are still being counted, but the Missouri Democratic Party has already declared victory.

Special Election Preview in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District

Today is the last special election of 2018 before the general election. Being an R+7 district, it should be a safely Republican seat, but as has been the case nationwide in other elections, Democrats are more enthusiastic and Democratic candidates are overperforming in districts and states where they haven’t, historically.  This district, which includes many of the state capital’s suburbs, hasn’t elected a Democrat to the House of Representatives since 1980. Donald Trump came to campaign on behalf of Republican Troy Balderson, though Ohio governor John Kasich – a longtime foil and critic – raised questions as to whether the President was invited or if he invited himself.

The final poll of the race before Election Day had Democrat Danny O’Connor up by one point, with seven percent undecided. One finding from this poll to keep an eye on: independents support O’Connor 56-28, a 2-to-1 margin.  O’Connor also leads among voters who are more excited and paying more attention to the election.  If these poll numbers are correct, it means he is surging at just the right time as the race is winding down. However, one caveat worth noting that was first pointed out by NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: this poll does not include Green Party candidate Joe Manchik, who got 3.6 percent of the vote in 2016.

Democrat heavy hitters are coming into the district for a last-minute push on O’Connor’s behalf.  Former vice president Joe Biden recorded a robocall, while Alabama senator Doug Jones sent out an email to his supporters urging them to make last-minute donations to the O’Connor campaign.

The  early vote numbers for Democratic-heavy Franklin County are in. Without making any formal conclusions yet until other ballots are counted, the numbers are looking good for O’Connor:

And as if all that isn’t enough to make Election Day interesting, Balderson made what can only be described as a last-minute gaffe that Democrats are aggressively pushing:

Ohio Dems email

Why does this matter? The district, which is mostly rural, includes a geographically small part of Franklin County – home of the state capital and Ohio State University – within its boundaries, which is the suburbs north of Columbus. According to the Washington Post, “a bit less than a third of the vote” in today’s election is expected to come from Franklin County.

No political strategist in his or her right mind would tell a candidate that writing off or dismissing any part of the district the candidate is seeking to represent, let alone one that could account for as much as one third of potential voters, is a winning message.

Conventional wisdom on this race is that it is unnecessarily close for a historically safe Republican district in congressional and presidential races. If O’Connor wins tonight, it will be considered another sign of a potential blue tsunami on Election Day, in addition to cutting by one the number of seats needed to flip the House of Representatives. If Balderson manages a narrow single-digit victory, Republicans will breathe a sigh of relief while Democrats will feel pretty good for coming close, but it will be another moral victory in a string of special election losses since 2017. (For the record, Democrats have won two out of ten special elections in that period – the two victories being Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race and Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district)

Polls close at 7:30 EST/6:30 CST.

Hillary Clinton Endorses Michigan Congressional Candidate

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed and recorded a robocall on behalf of Haley Stevens, who is running for the Democratic nomination in Michigan’s 11th congressional district.  Stevens, the former chief of staff for President Barack Obama’s Auto Task Force in the Treasury Department and a veteran of Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, is one of six Democrats vying for the party’s nomination in tomorrow’s primary. The winner will face off against the Republican nominee in November to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Dave Trott.

The transcript of the robocall:

            “Hello, this is Hillary Clinton and I’m calling to encourage you to cast your vote on Tuesday for a fresh, new Michigan leader, Haley Stevens. Haley served as the chief of staff to the Auto Rescue, she helped save 200,000 Michigan jobs, and she knows how to support Michigan’s advanced manufacturing economy, especially through training opportunities. I’ve seen Haley in action. We can count on her to protect the gains we’ve made with Obamacare. So please, vote for Haley Stevens, on Tuesday. Thank you, very much.”

This is Clinton’s first primary endorsement of a candidate in the runup to the midterms, who has generally kept a low profile since the 2016 election. Larry Sabato and the Cook Political Report both rank the race as a toss-up.

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.

 

October Surprise Watch: Robert Mueller, Michael Cohen and Allen Weisselberg

The most significant scoop in the past few days broke on CNN on Thursday night: according to sources, Michael Cohen is alleging that then-candidate Donald Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which Russians were offering damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, authorized the meeting, and Cohen is willing to tell this to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The significance of this bit of information is that, if it can be verified by other witnesses, documents, or other methods, might not be the smoking gun for collusion but would be a hugely consequential piece of evidence that contradicts much of the existing defense that has been offered by President Trump and others close to him. Why? Look at this tweet from House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff:

Schiff’s timeline leaves out a lot of events (there’s only so much you can do with 280 characters), but the basic implication of his sequence of events is correct: Donald Trump’s alleged advance knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting changes everything we thought we knew at the time, as well as everything he said and did after the meeting: every time he said “No collusion,” every time he tried to float another suspect for the DNC hacks, the time he called for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, his decision to fire Jim Comey, Donald Jr’s testimony to the congressional committees investigating Russian election interference…  all of those events and comments become suspicious with the benefit of hindsight. If prosecutors can prove this advance knowledge, it could also have a significant impact on Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation into the president.

Curiously, the Trump legal team’s defense hasn’t been to deny the allegation, but to attack Michael Cohen’s credibility as a potential witness for the government. (President Trump denied the story in a Friday morning tweetstorm.) Of course, what Giuliani does not address in that barb is the fact that Donald Trump hired Michael Cohen to work for him, and to take care of sensitive and unsavory matters like paying off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to effectively buy their silence during the 2016 election.

Besides the president, the person who is possibly most at risk from this revelation is Donald Trump Jr. based on the released transcript of his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September of 2017.  Note this exchange on page 29, which he said to the committee under oath that would directly contradict what Cohen is alleging:

Don Jr Transcript

Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell have both alleged that witnesses lied during their testimony to the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee, though it is not clear if either of them have spoken of the president’s son in this context. If the Democrats win control of the House in November, this explosive issue could be revisited in the new year, culminating in possible prosecutions. In the meantime, the controversy could wind up sidelining Donald Trump Jr. as a surrogate campaigning and fundraising for Republicans for midterms.

As far as the other people who were present for the Trump Tower meeting, we don’t know what – if anything – Jared Kushner may have said about it.  Paul Manafort’s criminal trial in Virginia begins next week, so there may be a chance of this subject coming up.

This is coming up in the context of the special master allowing access to more evidence seized by federal agents during the raids on Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room last April, although it is not clear in what context this allegation surfaced. Now that prosecutors have access to at least some of the evidence, it would be fair to assume that they are that much closer to getting an indictment against Cohen.

If this information about the Trump Tower meeting surfaced as part of the evidence collected for the investigation handled by the Southern District of New York, then it becomes highly relevant to Robert Mueller’s separate and more expansive investigation. In other words, the two legal storylines are beginning to converge over this one hugely explosive issue.  Lanny Davis – who provided CNN the audio recording of the Trump-Cohen phone call – denied that the leak came from Cohen’s end.

Perhaps the most consequential and ultimately dangerous revelation of the Trump-Cohen recording is Cohen’s mentioning of Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer.  The Wall Street Journal reported that Weisselberg has been called to testify as a witness before the grand jury that is hearing the Southern District of New York’s criminal case against Cohen. According to experts, Weisselberg, who was first hired as an accountant by Donald Trump’s father in the 1970s, has intimate knowledge of the family and organization’s finances, including the president ’s net worth.  To paraphrase a cliché being used by Trumpologists on television networks, Weisselberg is a man who knows where the bodies are buried. And now, he will have to answer questions about the president and the company’s finances under oath.