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Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 12:43 PM
Updated: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 12:43 PM
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Buoyed by a string of electoral victories during President Donald Trump's first year in office, Democrats will wage a renewed battle this year to wrest control of Congress from Republicans.
Yet the contests with the greatest long-term consequences could be listed elsewhere on the ballot —for governors and state lawmakers who will shape the boundaries of congressional districts for the decade to come.
Voters in two-thirds of the states will be electing governors to new four-year terms in 2018. Of those, 26 will be vested with the power to approve or reject congressional maps that will be redrawn after the 2020 Census.
Although most of the thousands of state lawmakers responsible for redistricting will be chosen in 2020, a total of 766 will be elected to four-year terms in nearly two dozen states where they will play a role in approving congressional maps.
Winning a governorship ensures a political party has at least some say in redistricting. Matching a governor with a legislature led by the same party — as Republicans have done in three times as many states as Democrats — gives a party the potential to draw favorable districts that could cement its power for a decade.
This year is "enormously consequential for redistricting," said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who tracks redistricting nationwide. "The 2018 elections will in some cases decide — and in the rest of the cases, tee up — who is actually in charge of drawing the lines in 2020."
During the last redistricting, Republicans who swept into control of numerous governorships and state legislatures in 2010 used their newfound power to draw lines that helped them win and retain majorities in the following years.
An AP analysis published earlier this year found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats in 2016 over what would have been expected based on their average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority — instead of a slim one — over Democrats.
While Democrats also have drawn congressional districts to their advantage, the AP's analysis found nearly three times as many states with Republican-tilted House districts among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress.
"There is an epidemic of gerrymandering," said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who recently took over as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, "and the best way to cure it is to elect some Democratic governors so at least there is a person at the seat of the table."
A total of 36 governor's races are on the ballot next year, though two of those are to fill out two-year terms.
The Democratic Governors Association is targeting races in eight states — Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that it believes could nearly wipe out the GOP congressional advantage if Democratic governors were able to forge favorable maps.
Republicans are targeting many of the same states while also hoping to flip Democratic governorships in Minnesota and elsewhere, and protect their turf in Arkansas, South Carolina and Texas.
"The majority of the House of Representatives is absolutely on the line," said Jon Thompson, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association. "If Republicans want to hold on to the House in this next decade, governors' races are immensely important."
The GOP will be defending 26 governorships in 2018, nearly half of which will be open because incumbents can't or chose not to run again. Democrats will have nine governorships on the ballot. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, also is up for re-election.
Republicans control two-thirds of all state legislative chambers and hold a trifecta of the governor's office and both legislative chambers in 25 states, compared with just eight for Democrats.
Their past success means Republicans will be on defense in 2018. Adding to their challenge is a century of history, which shows that the party of the president typically loses ground in midterm elections. A turbulent first year for Trump has heightened Democratic hopes that their victories in a small sampling of 2017 elections (Democrats gained a net of about 30 seats around the country) will carry over into the new year.
"Gerrymandering creates a structural barrier that under normal circumstances is very difficult to overcome," said Kelly Ward, executive director of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. But a "tsunami-type election is going to, I think, put more seats on the table than otherwise would be."
Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, acknowledges that Republicans are likely to lose some seats in 2018, particularly in places that had voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump. Yet Republicans still expect to retain their overall advantage in state capitols.
In places such as Illinois, Republicans will be hoping to re-elect a GOP governor who could counteract a Democratic-led Legislature during redistricting. Elsewhere, such as in Pennsylvania, it's Democrats who are hoping to re-elect a governor to offset a Republican-led Legislature.
Gains by the minority party in either of those states' legislatures also are important, because they could prevent the majority from overriding a gubernatorial veto of redistricting maps.
The stakes will be particularly high in Alabama and Maryland, the only two states where the governors and all lawmakers in both state legislative chambers will be up for election to four-year terms. In many other states, staggered Senate terms mean only half the members will be on the ballot, and House or Assembly members serve two-year terms.
Alabama has been a solid Republican state, but Democrats have new hope in state contests after Democrat Doug Jones narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore in a special U.S. Senate election in December.
Maryland, by contrast, has been traditionally dominated by Democrats, who used a governmental trifecta to draw pro-Democratic congressional districts after the 2010 Census. But it's now led by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who holds generally favorable public approval ratings heading into the 2018 elections.
Hogan declined to say whether redistricting makes his re-election more important for Republicans, noting instead that he will continue to push for creation of a non-partisan redistricting commission.
The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing challenges to Maryland's congressional map, as well as to a Wisconsin state Assembly map that favors Republicans.
If justices adopt a new standard for determining whether partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, it could affect districts in those states for the upcoming elections and force all states to rethink the way they draw lines after the 2020 Census.
Associated Press writer Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland, contributed to this report.
Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 11:19 AM
WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, will testify before the House Intelligence Committee next week in its probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to multiple reports.
An unidentified source told Reuters on Thursday that the interview will take place Tuesday behind closed doors. It will focus on Bannon’s time as Trump’s campaign chief and not on his time in the White House, according to Reuters.
In preparation for the interview, Bannon hired Washington attorney Bill Burck to represent him, NBC News reported Friday. Burck was previously hired to represent former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Donald McGhan in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and its possible ties to the Trump campaign, according to Law360.
Burck is representing Bannon only before the committee and not in Mueller’s probe, NBC News reported.
Trump named Bannon, the former chairman of the conservative news website Breitbart News, as his campaign chief in August 2016. After his inauguration, Trump appointed Bannon to fill the newly created position of White House chief strategist.
He left the Trump administration in August 2017, almost exactly one year after joining Trump’s presidential campaign.
Days before his exit, Bannon faced scrutiny for an interview he did with the liberal magazine The American Prospect, contradicting the president's warnings to North Korea of "fire and fury" in response to threats. Tension between the pair intensified last week after Bannon was quoted in journalist Michael Wolff’s controversial tell-all book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
Bannon told Wolff he thought a meeting set up by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others in June 2016 was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Trump slammed Bannon in a statement after the comments were made public, saying, “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Bannon later apologized for the comments.
Bannon announced Tuesday that he would be leaving Breitbart News for the second time in two years.
"You have not heard the last from me," he wrote in a Twitter post announcing his departure.
I am proud of what we have achieved with Breitbart News. As I now step down I leave at a world-class news platform that has come a long way but has really just begun it’s mission. And you have not heard the last from me, new announcements coming up soon!#MAGA— Steven Bannon (@SteveKBannon) January 9, 2018
Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 @ 5:55 AM
— A federal judge in California dealt a blow to the Trump administration’s attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – also known as DACA – on Tuesday by temporarily blocking their ability to do so.
In his ruling, Judge William Alsup said DACA must stay in place until litigation over the program is complete. He also said that the Department of Homeland Security’s “decision to rescind DACA was based on a flawed legal premise.”
The judge’s ruling will allow recipients who didn’t renew by last year’s deadline to submit renewal applications, but no new applications will be allowed to be submitted.
“Dreamers’ lives were thrown into chaos when the Trump administration tried to terminate the DACA program without obeying the law,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, according to The Hill. “Today’s ruling is a huge step in the right direction.”
“America is and has been home to Dreamers who courageously came forward, applied for DACA and did everything the federal government asked of them,” Becerra continued. “They followed DACA’s rules, they succeeded in school, at work and in business, and they have contributed in building a better America. We will fight at every turn for their rights and opportunities so they may continue to contribute to America.”
The Trump administration announced in September that it was ending the program; however, earlier on Tuesday, during a meeting with Republicans and Democrats to discuss immigration issues, Trump appeared willing to negotiate a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants – a move that stunned both Democrats and Republicans.
“My head is spinning with all the things that were said by the president and others in that room in the course of an hour and a half,” Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said, according to The New York Times.
During the meeting, Trump also appeared to support Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein’s call for a clean DACA bill, which would push off dealing with issues like border security until later.
In a tweet Tuesday evening, though, he did seem to harden his resolve on the border wall, saying that a southern border wall must be part of any “DACA approval.”
As I made very clear today, our country needs the security of the Wall on the Southern Border, which must be part of any DACA approval.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2018
Published: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 @ 12:35 PM
— Longtime pal Gayle King said Tuesday that Oprah Winfrey is “intrigued” by the idea of running for president, although she said it’s still unclear whether the media mogul is seriously considering a run.
“I don’t think at this point she is actually considering it,” King said on “CBS This Morning.”
“She loves this country and would like to be of service in some way, but I don’t think she’s actively considering it.”
"I'm thinking that she is not going to be running for president... she's very intrigued and I also say as I've heard many years on the @Oprah show, you always have the right to change your mind but that's certainly not something she's considering right now. " -- @GayleKing pic.twitter.com/cQuZeXRK2r— CBS This Morning ❄️ (@CBSThisMorning) January 9, 2018
Two of Winfrey’s friends, who were not identified, told CNN on Monday that she was “actively thinking” about running for president. Her long-time partner Stedman Graham told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday that Winfrey “would absolutely do it."
"It's up to the people," he added.
King said Tuesday that she thought Graham misunderstood the Times reporter’s question.
“He thought the reporter said to him, ‘Would she make a good president?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely she would,’” King said. “That's how he interpreted the question, because this is the thing. Stedman would never so cavalierly say absolutely she would do it. It's up to the people. He would never do that.”
Winfrey fueled speculation that she could look to mount a campaign in a rousing, nearly 10-minute speech at the Golden Globes on Sunday. Still, she denied having any presidential ambitions while speaking with a Bloomberg News reporter backstage at the awards show.
She was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her contributions to the entertainment industry and used her time onstage to address the “#MeToo” movement. The movement has encouraged more women to speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.
"I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon," Winfrey said. "And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say 'Me too' again.”
King, who was at the Golden Globes when Winfrey gave her speech, described being in the room as “electrifying.”
“It was the right person giving the right speech at the right time,” she said. “She wanted that moment to be more than women wearing black dresses of solidarity. She really did want to speak to young girls around the country. She really did want to say, ‘Enough already,’ and I think she delivered on all that in a very eloquent way. Will she run for president? I think it's a very, very intriguing idea myself."
"I on the other hand think, wow. Wow. A lot of people are thinking wow... so we'll see." -- @GayleKing on speculation of her best friend @Oprah running for president in 2020 pic.twitter.com/DAsVlRtfmR— CBS This Morning ❄️ (@CBSThisMorning) January 9, 2018
Published: Monday, January 08, 2018 @ 11:00 AM
— The book “Fire and Fury” offers reported behind-the-scenes stories about Donald Trump’s White House. But are the stories credible? A roundup of editorials Monday takes a look at the issue.
Opinions from the right:
From The Orange County Register: The author of ‘Fire and Fury’ has an ego just about as big as Trump’s. Who are we to believe?
From Townhall: Will CNN ever be able to get over the fact Trump became president?
Yesterday, Steve Bannon said his comments in Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury" where he called a meeting between Trump aides and a Russian lawyer "treasonous" were directed at Paul Manafort, not Donald Trump Jr.— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) January 8, 2018
Today, Wolff says that's not true https://t.co/SwbzK95brK pic.twitter.com/weoXXWhmzx