Omaha And The Democrat Identity Crisis

A little mayoral race in Omaha, Nebraska got big attention this week. Mayor Jean Stothert won re-election to another four-year term, beating back former state Sen. Heath Mello. Both candidates originally hoped to focus on local issues affecting the city, but national headlines placed the campaign at the forefront of major political debate.

Former Democratic state Sen. Heath Mello, who had represented a district in the area, failed to unseat Republican Jean Stothert. The incumbent mayor won on Tuesday 53 to 46 percent. Stothert was able to capitalize off big wins in the western portion of the city – winning by a margin of 64 percent in the three most western districts. Mello was able to win the other four districts, however, his margins of victory were much smaller and voter turnout was lower.

The two candidates focused mostly on local issues during the campaign. Hotly debated topics regarded law enforcement and the use of annexation (although Mello did try to capitalize off anti-Trump momentum). Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning starred in an anti-Stothert ad, and the firefighters union spent thousands in an attempt to elect Mello.

However, it was the former state senator’s stance on abortion rights that catapulted the race into national airwaves.

Heath Mello, a Democrat and staunch Catholic, served as a pro-life lawmaker in the Nebraska legislature. Some prominent players on the left had issues with the Democratic Party supporting his candidacy.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, released a scathing statement criticizing the DNC’s support of Mello, calling the move “politically stupid.”  In response to the backlash, DNC Chair Tom Perez released a subsequent statement, essentially claiming the party should only back pro-choice candidates.

Immediately a philosophical debate engulfed party leaders as to whether a litmus test should be forced upon Democrats, even ones running in conservative districts.

The extra press did make for a more exciting race in Omaha. Bernie Sanders, an unapologetic supporter of abortion rights, campaigned on behalf of Mello. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did the same for Stothert.

Ultimately, Mello came up short. The race in Omaha is over, but debate still remains within liberal circles as to whether they should capitulate on partisan orthodoxy in parts of the country that haven’t been so friendly to them. More pragmatic Democrats think they should, leaders on the pro-choice front think they should not and DNC Chair Tom Perez is seemingly stuck in the middle trying to keep his camp together.

Perez will have to get his house in order sooner rather than later. The Democratic Party has a daunting senate map waiting in 2018 – the vast majority of seats up for grabs are held by their caucus. The only three Democrat senators left who identify as pro-life are among those up for re-election next year: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. All three of these states voted for Trump in 2016.

 

Photo by Pat Hawks via: freeforcommercialuse.org

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A White Mayor In Atlanta?

Forty-four years – the longest streak in any major American city. Atlanta voters have chosen African-American mayors to lead their city since 1973. However, recent demographic changes and a white candidate running a strong campaign may break this trend.

Local polling done by Channel 2 Action News shows City Council Mary Norwood, a white woman, with a dominant lead in the race to become the next leader of Atlanta. Out of eight major candidates polled, Norwood heads the pack by a landslide with 28.6 percent of the total vote. Her closest competition, state Sen. Vincent Fort, came at 9.3 percent. However, 28 percent of voters still consider themselves undecided.

Norwood has a long history in the city. She was first elected to City Council in 2001. In fact, she ran for mayor eight years ago and nearly defeated then-candidate Kasim Reed. Norwood had finished first the 2009 general election, but failed to win a majority. Her runoff with Reed ended in a razor thin loss of about 700 votes out of 84,000 cast.

Fast forward eight years and Councilwoman Norwood has her eyes on the mayoral seat once again. Besides already having experience campaigning for Atlanta’s top spot, Norwood has another thing going for her this time: White voters are making a comeback in the city. Forty-four percent of voting age residents in the city are white. Looking to escape long commutes to work, a huge of influx of these new white residents are millennials.

Would a Mary Norwood victory be symbolic for the city of Atlanta?

Interviews conducted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution show a majority of people claiming race is no issue when it comes to choosing the next leader of City Hall. In their minds, job creation and fiscal matters are of their utmost concern.

If elected, Norwood would be the first white mayor since Sam Massell was elected in 1969. Black candidate Maynard Jackson unseated Massell four years later and began the unbroken chain of African-American mayors.

While the mayoral election is nonpartisan, politics will still likely play a role in this election. In Norwood’s first run in 2009, the Georgia Democratic Party spent around $165,000 attacking her as a “closet” Republican during her runoff with Reed (Reed previously served in the state Senate as a Democrat). She has since tried to form better relations with the Democratic Party to avoid a repeat of this.

Nine major candidates are taking part in the election. Besides Norwood, state Sen. Vincent Fort, Councilwoman Keisha Bottoms, Councilman Kwanza Hall and City Council President Ceasar Mitchell are a few of the major players.

The election will be held on November 7.

 

Photo by PEDS via: freeforcommercialuse.org

The ‘Jon Ossoff Effect’ In Georgia’s State Senate Race

The “Jon Ossoff effect” is a phrase being thrown around recently in Georgia political circles.

Ossoff has captured the attention of the nation by running competitively in Georgia’s ruby red 6th Congressional District. The rookie Democrat was able to energize liberal voters to go to the polls in higher numbers, and Nate Cohn of The New York Times concluded that one in five Republicans in the election voted for him. He almost won the district altogether with a 48 percent win during the general election. A runoff between Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel will take place on June 20.

Local Republicans are also worried Ossoff’s influence may trickle down ballot. Georgia state Sen. Judson Hill vacated his seat during his unsuccessful bid for the 6th Congressional District. He occupied Senate District 32 – a reliably conservative area representing east Cobb County and Sandy Springs.

Altogether, five Republicans and three Democrats ran in the special state senate election to replace Hill. It took place the same day as voters went to the polls in the 6th District. And like the congressional election, no candidate was able to forgo a runoff by surpassing the 50 percent mark.

Democrat attorney Christine Triebsch earned roughly 24 percent of the vote and Republican Kay Kirkpatrick, an orthopedic surgeon, was not far behind with 21 percent – making the two finalists for a runoff election.

Common sense would dictate that this will be an easy campaign for Kirkpatrick. Republican voter turnout was much higher than that of Democrats. This state senate runoff will not be taking place during the congressional runoff on June 20, but will be held on May 16 – forgoing huge publicity. The lower turnout will likely be a boon to Republicans.

One prominent Republican in Georgia, however, is warning voters in Senate District 32 not to feel complacent. State Sen. John Kennedy had this to say about the upcoming local election: “While many think that this is a dark red Republican territory, the data from the election is disturbing considering the number of Democrats that came out and voted, partly because of the John Ossoff effect. However, there is concern in her [Kirkpatrick’s] camp that those same forces will reappear in the May 16 run-off as a prelude and run up to the John Ossoff run-off…”

It’s understandable for a Georgia Republican to stay cautious (especially given Ossoff’s surprising strength in the region), but a quick look at the results of the general election in Senate District 32 shows state Sen. Kennedy may be worrying just a little too much.

The combined Republican vote total on April 18 was about 60 percent. Total Democrat turnout stood roughly at 40 percent. Although former state Sen. Hill hasn’t been challenged in a general election since 2008, you can look at his performance that year to Democrat Chris Cameron – he defeated him 66 percent to 34 percent. These results can be somewhat comparable to the recent special election, especially when you consider that the 2008 contest was between a longtime incumbent and a no-name challenger and the election last month was between political equals.

The state senate runoff taking place well before the congressional runoff is too big a factor to ignore. The race between Ossoff and Handel has flooded the airwaves and drawn in millions of dollars – Senate District 32 will mostly avoid all the ruckus of that fight. This will avoid energizing liberals in the district.

There are roughly 178,000 people living in this local district. 58,635 voters participated in the general election. This is a voter participation rate lower than 34 percent. Assuming a drop in voter turnout for a primary, the participation rate will be unquestionably low.

There are too many factors in this race pointing to a regular, boring election come May 16.

Campaign Daily Rating: Safe Republican

 

Photo by Mark Goebel via: freeforcommercialuse.org

 

 

Republicans Lining Up For A Chance At Bill de Blasio

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis’ entrance into the New York City mayoral race makes for four serious Republican candidates looking for a chance to unseat incumbent Democrat Bill de Blasio. But with a Democratic voter registration advantage of 6-to-1 in the Big Apple and no Republican performing strongly in the polls, does the winner of the GOP primary even stand a chance?

Elected in 2013, Mayor de Blasio quickly became an unpopular figure in New York Democratic circles. His ongoing feud with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo may be the most infamous of political vendettas in recent history. Even the Clinton family has shown public disdain for the progressive mayor – relegating him to a trivial time slot during the 2016 Democratic National Convention as punishment for a late endorsement.

A challenge from the left seemed extremely plausible throughout his term. However, no real primary attempt has been orchestrated. Tony Avella, a state senator from Queens, and Sal Albanese, a former city councilman, are the only lawmakers giving it a shot. Polling currently shows neither of these Democrats having a shot at running a successful primary. In a hypothetical matchup, de Blasio would surpass the 40 percent mark to avoid a runoff.

From the right, former real estate sales executive Paul Massey appears best positioned to win the GOP primary. His campaign is by far the best organized – with very impressive fundraising numbers and a large operation of staff. Massey is running against Harlem pastor Michael Faulkner and assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. It is yet to be determined if former police detective and Fox News personality Bo Dietl will enter the race as a Republican or an Independent.

After the dust cleared in the 2013 Democratic primary, de Blasio went on to crush Republican Joe Lhota with 73 percent of the vote. This may have said something about Lhota’s poor skills on the campaign trail, but it also says everything about the difficulty of a Republican running in New York City.

Besides running in a very friendly Democratic environment and no serious challenges coming from the left, de Blasio has scored another victory in his bid for re-election: federal investigations into his fund-raising practices have concluded with no charges being brought forward. The prospect of a federal indictment now off the table, Mayor de Blasio can focus on his election without the weight on scandal on his shoulders.

Is re-election assured for de Blasio?

It may be too soon to make a conclusion. The same Quinnipiac Poll that shows Republican Massey getting steamrolled by the incumbent mayor 59 to 25 percent also reveals that the vast majority of voters do not know Massey or have yet to form an opinion on him – giving him a high ceiling for growth.

Despite an overwhelming voter registration advantage for the Democratic Party, the Big Apple has a history of bucking partisan norms. Before de Blasio’s entrance into City Hall, New York City had not voted for a Democrat mayor in almost twenty years. Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg stunned experts by winning as Republicans (Bloomberg later running as an Independent).

Recent history proves it is possible, but it would be no easy feat for a GOP candidate.

National politics have already come into play in this local race. Massey has attempted to create distance between President Trump and himself by pointing to the fact that his wife voted for Hillary Clinton. Bo Dietl would also be joining the fray with somewhat of a nationwide audience. Like the current president, Dietl has been described to have a larger-than-life personality. His frequent appearances on national T.V. may make him a dark horse candidate and someone to watch as the race moves forward.

de Blasio has somehow managed to appear too liberal for even the deep-blue city he manages. His push for universal pre-k for 3-year-olds and other government projects that are a drain on tax payers have managed to irk even the most liberal of Democrats. These issues with members of own party may explain why his campaign has struggled to attract donors like before. There are signs of cracks atop his leadership of New York City. However, they may not matter at the end of the day.

Despite his flaws, this mayoral election does appear to be de Blasio’s to lose.

Campaign Daily Rating: Safe Democrat

 

Photo by Kevin Case via: freeforcommercialuse.org