Jaime Harrison Opposes Rex Tillerson Nomination

A few hours after the DNC Forum in Ohio, Democratic National Committee chairman candidate Jaime Harrison issued this statement:

“Putin and his henchmen helped Donald Trump win the election, and it appears that the nomination of Putin pal Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State is Trump’s way of saying ‘spasiba.’ The Senate must act in the U.S. national interest and say ‘nyet.’”

The subject of Tillerson or the Trump cabinet in general did not come up during the forum.

For those who skipped Russian in school, “spasiba” means “thank you,” and “nyet” means “no.”

Democratic Senator Won’t Run In New Mexico Gubernatorial Race

According to the New Mexico Political Report, Senator Tom Udall will not run for governor in 2018:

“While I firmly believe that I have the backing and the experience to properly address all these issues, I have determined, after consulting with my family, colleagues and constituents, that New Mexico will be better served by my remaining in the United States Senate,” Udall said.

In his statement, Udall outlined the problems he sees in the state, including falling “behind in education and jobs” and failing “to take full advantage of our abundant natural resources and our potential for developing a renewable energy industry.”

The incumbent Republican governor Susana Martinez is term-limited, meaning that New Mexico will have an open governor’s race in both parties. On the Democratic side, the New Mexico Political Report mentions Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Attorney General Hector Balderas, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, former magazine co-founder Alan Webber and former Univision executive Jeff Apodaca as possible candidates. For the Republicans, Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez, Rep. Steve Pearce and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry are mentioned.

Udall is up for re-election in the Senate in 2020.

New Hampshire Congressional Delegation Endorses Ray Buckley

The Granite State’s congressional delegation issued a joint statement endorsing New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The statement, posted on the Facebook page of the Ray Buckley for DNC Chairman group, reads in part:

We write to you as the first all-female, all-Democratic Congressional delegation in our country’s history to urge you to support Ray Buckley as the next chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Each of us survived Republican tides that swept across the country this year and in 2014 in no small part because of the strong state and local Democratic Party organizations in New Hampshire. As the chair of the NH Democratic Committee for the last ten years and vice-chair for the preceding eight years, Ray Buckley led the effort to build the state Democratic Party into the effective grassroots operation it is today.
Ray has the vision, energy and commitment to reform the DNC and utilize it to reinvigorate state and local parties across the country.
Beyond the state’s congressional delegation, Union Leader political reporter Dan Tuohy also noted, “DNC members from NH also cheering Buckley on.”

Ohio 2018 Senate Race Begins to Take Shape

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel announced he will be running to unseat Democratic senator Sherrod Brown in 2018, a potential rematch of their 2012 contest which Brown won by 5 points. Mandel has been using Trump rhetoric in public campaign events as well as his campaign announcement video. Also interested in a possible run is Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), a more moderate Republican more aligned with Governor John Kasich who refused to endorse Donald Trump during the presidential election.

Brown was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 and re-elected in 2012 – both very favorable cycles for Democrats. Donald Trump won Ohio by 8 points in the last election. Historically, the party that controls the White House tends to lose seats during midterm elections, though the Senate Republicans have a very favorable calendar for 2018. The question is what will the national and local dynamics be after two years of Trump as president. If times are good and he retains the popularity that got him elected, then odds are Sherrod Brown will be in for a tough race.  If the economy is bad or Trump is mired by unpopularity, having such a close association with him could be a negative for a candidate like Mandel.

Senate Democrats Urge Heitkamp and Manchin to Turn Down Trump Offers

Following up on this story from a few days ago, CNN’s Manu Raju and Ted Barrett are reporting Senate Democratic leaders Charles Schumer and Dick Durbin are urging their colleagues Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Manchin to not accept any positions in the Trump administration, at the risk of weakening the Democratic Party’s hand in the Senate.

Neither Heitkamp nor Manchin would say much about the nature of their discussions with the incoming administration, but when Manchin was asked about the possibility of the GOP picking up his Senate seat if he were to take a job with the administration, he said, “The people of West Virginia sent me here… I got to do what I can to make sure I’m helping my people.”

If Trump picks one or both of them to be in his cabinet, that would leave Democratic ranks in the Senate at 53-47 or 54-46 for at least the next two years. Depending on the political winds two years from now, the Republicans could potentially expand on that majority during the midterm elections, though the general historical trend has been that the party in power loses congressional seats during midterms.

DNC Chairman Candidates and Democratic Senator Respond to DAPL Decision

There was a big development over the weekend in the ongoing protests about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the easement for the DAPL to be built under Lake Oahe, a big win for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe which had opposed the project.

Here is how the declared candidates for the DNC chairmanship stand on the DAPL issue:

Rep. Keith Ellison:

South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison:

“I applaud the Army Corps for heeding the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and agreeing that an alternate route for the DAPL is needed to protect the safety and dignity of the nearby Reservation. While I was discouraged that the process proceeded as far as it did without necessary consultation, today’s announcement is a welcome indication that the Obama Administration has heard the voices of the Standing Rock Sioux and their many supporters. I hope the federal government builds on today’s decision to foster appropriate respect for Indigenous peoples in the future. And make no mistake: if the Trump Administration attempts to reverse today’s decision, or otherwise disregards the legitimate interests and concerns of Indigenous peoples, the Democratic Party will stand strongly with the first Americans.”

Because she is up for re-election in 2018, I’m also including Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp’s statement as well:

“It’s long past time that a decision is made on the easement going under Lake Oahe,” said Heitkamp. “This administration’s delay in taking action — after I’ve pushed the White House, Army Corps, and other federal agencies for months to make a decision — means that today’s move doesn’t actually bring finality to the project. The pipeline still remains in limbo. The incoming administration already stated its support for the project and the courts have already stated twice that it appeared the Corps followed the required process in considering the permit. For the next month and a half, nothing about this project will change. For the immediate future, the safety of residents, protesters, law enforcement, and workers remains my top priority as it should for everyone involved. As some of the protesters have become increasingly violent and unlawful, and as North Dakota’s winter has already arrived – with a blizzard raging last week through the area where protesters are located — I’m hoping now that protesters will act responsibly to avoid endangering their health and safety, and move off of the Corps land north of the Cannonball River.

“Additionally, our federal delegation and governor have been working together in a bipartisan effort to push for more federal resources for law enforcement who have worked day and night through weekends and holidays to support the safety of our communities. The administration needs to provide those funds – whether the protesters remain or not.”

There is no statement from New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley at this time. This post will be updated if that changes.

UPDATE: I received the following statement from Ray Buckley:

“I am pleased that the Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to explore alternate routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline. We need to ensure the protection of sacred and historic tribal sites as an integral part of American history and our larger culture.

“This victory belongs to the people of the Standing Rock Reservation and all the supporters and protestors who have passionately defended the land.”

Gillibrand Announces Opposition to Waiver for Mattis Nomination

New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand (a potential 2020 presidential candidate) announced that she would oppose a waiver in order for retired General James Mattis’s nomination as Secretary of Defense to proceed.

At issue: the National Security Act of 1947, a longstanding federal law saying nominees for Secretary of Defense must have been retired from active duty for at least seven years. Mattis retired as a four-star general in 2013, meaning that he couldn’t be eligible for the position until 2020 as the law currently stands. Getting around this law would require a congressional vote granting him a waiver, so he can be considered and the Senate can give him an up-or-down vote.

Mattis and the Trump administration have run into a possible snag: Democrats could require a 60-vote supermajority to grant Mattis the waiver, meaning they could unilaterally block his nomination if their expected 48-member caucus holds together with at least 41 votes.  Senate Democrats changed the rules in 2013 requiring only a simple majority to confirm executive branch nominees. Most Trump cabinet appointees could be confirmed on that rule change alone, but because the rule change did not apply to this potential vote on a waiver, the 60-vote threshold still stands. Gillibrand – who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee which would hold confirmation hearings for Mattis – will require a 60-vote threshold for the waiver, an aide told Politico.

Trump Transition Floats Red State Senate Democrats as Potential Cabinet Nominees

Two leaks coming out of New York today that have some Democrats worrying:

Manchin’s office has denied the Politico report. Heitkamp was invited to meet with Trump tomorrow and accepted the invitation. According to CNN’s Manu Raju, she did not rule out accepting a job in the new administration.

Some context to this: first, both Heitkamp and Manchin are Democrats up for re-election in 2018 in states that Trump won easily and have become more Republican in recent years. Second, if one or both of them accepted, that would weaken Democratic opposition in the Senate, from the current 52-48 majority to 53-47 or 54-46. Why? Because the sitting Republican governors in North Dakota and West Virginia would be able to appoint their replacements, who would most certainly be Republicans.

CORRECTION: Earl Ray Tomblin, the current governor of West Virginia, is a Democrat. If Manchin were to accept a position in the Trump administration, he would nominate a Democrat as a temporary replacement, but Republicans would have the opportunity to win that Senate seat during the next election cycle.

Becerra Chosen to be Next Attorney General of California

The Los Angeles Times just sent out a news alert announcing Governor Jerry Brown has appointed Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) to be the next attorney general of California, taking over for outgoing Attorney General Kamala Harris who was recently elected to the U.S. Senate.

More details:

Becerra, 58, has served 12 terms in Congress and was making a bid to become the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee when Brown called him unexpectedly to offer the job.

“It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” Becerra said. “It means I get to be home a lot more.”

Becerra, who is the highest-ranking Latino in Congress, would be the state’s first Latino attorney general.

He worked in the Civil Division of the attorney general’s office from 1987 to 1990 before entering Congress. Becerra earned a law degree from Stanford Law School and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University.

He said in an interview Thursday morning he had always wanted to return to the office.

Becerra, if confirmed, would be the first attorney general appointed by a governor since Thomas Lynch, who was tapped by former Gov. Pat Brown in 1964.

The choice will no doubt send political shock waves through California because Becerra was not on any of the widely circulated lists of picks. Before Nov. 8, the conventional wisdom had been that the governor would choose a caretaker, perhaps even a career staffer who would simply carry out the office’s functions through the 2018 elections.

Becerra must be confirmed by the state Senate and Assembly, both handily controlled by Democrats.

The office of attorney general is perhaps second only to the governor in power, with broad authority to file sweeping legal action and defend California law.

UPDATE: Here’s the statement from Becerra:

 

Mark Warner Won’t Run for President in 2020

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told the Wall Street Journal that he would not be running for president in four years, despite the fact that he flirted with a possible run back in 2008. “I think that window is probably shut,” he told a group of WSJ reporters and editors. He also said he would look for areas and issues where he could cooperate with Republicans and the Trump administration. Warner is up for re-election to the Senate in 2020.