Posts tagged with "Pennsylvania"

Democrats test a midterm strategy: Meddling in G.O.P. governor’s races

May 11, 2022

Democrats are investing millions of dollars to meddle in Republican primaries for governor—either to elevate their preferred competitors in November or toweaken their biggest threats, reports NBC News.

Next week’s messy G.O.P. battle in Pennsylvania is the most blatant example. State Senator Doug Mastriano (R) is ahead in recent polls—and his would-be Democratic opponent wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way.

Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state attorney general running unopposed in his party’s primary for governor, is airing an ad that brandishes Mastriano’s conservative credentials, making sure to say a Mastriano victory is a win “for what Donald Trump stands for.” That’s all but an endorsement in a GOP primary, but it could hurt later in a race where even some Republicans have doubts about Mastriano’s electability.

That a Democrat is behind the ad underscores the lengths to which the party will go to engineer an easier general election in what’s expected to be a volatile environment this fall.

“Both public and private polling indicate that Doug Mastriano is poised to become the Republican nominee on May 17—and our campaign is prepared to start the general election now and make sure Pennsylvanians know his real record,” Shapiro spokesperson Will Simons said in a statement to NBC News.

Shapiro’s efforts mirror those by the Democratic Governors Association and affiliated groups that could hamstring Republicans in three other states currently led by Democrats.

As of Monday, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact, the DGA had already spent $4 million on advertising in Illinois, where the organization is attacking Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. Backed by hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, Irvin is seen by many as Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker’s toughest potential rival, but he must first win a crowded June 28 primary.

In Nevada, the group, A Stronger NV, which registered with the state using the DGA’s telephone number in Washington, D.C., already had spent $500,000 on ads, with at least another $111,000 reserved through the June 14 primary. There, Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak and allies of his re-election bid are focused hard on Joe Lombardo—the Clark County sheriff who has Trump’s endorsement and is leading a crowded GOP field that includes former Sen. Dean Heller and retired professional boxer Joey Gilbert, who has the state party’s endorsement.

“If he doesn’t make it through the primary, then we’ve knocked out what is seen as the front-runner,” a Democrat familiar with the DGA strategy said of Lombardo.

And although the strategy doesn’t involve a primary, an Oregon group backed by DGA donations is preparing a campaign that will brand nonaffiliated gubernatorial hopeful Betsy Johnson—until recently a Democratic state senator— as a conservative.

The early interference amounts to what Democrats see as a viable path to keeping their statehouses blue as they enter a tumultuous campaign season during which inflation and gas prices are on the rise and President Joe Biden’s favorability is stubbornly low.

Of the four states where the DGA is playing defense, Pennsylvania and Nevada are expected to be the most competitive this fall, with Illinois and Oregon being harder lifts for Republicans. But, buoyed by a bloc of deep red counties downstate Illinois, well-funded Republicans have managed to win statewide. Whether the Democrats are pushing the right buttons to be victorious in the general elections remains to be seen.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Senate GOP super PAC books $141 million in TV ads

April 19, 2022

The Republican super PAC tied to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell  has reserved $141 million in television advertising across seven states—offering an early hint at what GOP leaders see as their path back to a majority, reports The Hill.

The Senate Leadership Fund said on April 15 that it had reserved airtime in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, three states where Democratic incumbents are fighting for re-election.

The PAC will air advertising in Alaska and Wisconsin to defend Republican incumbents; as well as in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, two states where incumbent Republicans are retiring.

The largest investment is reserved for Georgia, where Senator Raphael Warnock (D) is seeking a full term after winning a special runoff election last January. The Senate Leadership Fund will drop $37.1 million there, likely to bolster former NFL running back Herschel Walker (R), who still faces a Republican primary later this year.

The PAC plans to spend $14.4 million against Senator Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) and $15.1 million against Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada). It has reserved $27.6 million to defend retiring Senator Richard Burr’s (R) seat in North Carolina, and $24.6 million to secure retiring Senator Pat Toomey’s (R) seat in Pennsylvania.

The group has reserved $7.4 million for Alaska, where Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) faces a challenge from a candidate who has the backing of former President Donald Trump. That money will come after the August 16 all-party primary; the top four contenders in that primary advance to the November general election.

Senator Ron Johnson (R) will get a boost from the $15.2 million the PAC plans to spend in Wisconsin. Johnson will face the winner of the August 9 Democratic primary.

“It will be a battle for every inch, but we are putting everything we have into delivering a Republican Senate majority that will put a stop to Joe Biden’s worst policies,” the group’s communications director Jack Pandol said.

The group’s one notable omission is in New Hampshire, where Senator Maggie Hassan (D) is seeking re-election. Several Republicans are vying for the nomination to face Hassan in a primary that takes place September 13.

According to The Hill, the nine-figure ad buy is the largest initial purchase the Senate Leadership Fund has made. Two years ago, the PAC’s first round of television advertising amounted to $67 million; it raised and spent nearly half a billion dollars in 2020.

Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission show the group has raised nearly $75 million already this year and ended April with $72 million in the bank.

Political groups can reserve advertising time even before they have the money to pay for it; they do not have to send money to the television stations that will air the ads until shortly before those ads run.

The Senate Majority PAC, the Democratic counterpart to the Senate Leadership Fund, had $36 million in the bank at the end of February.

Research contact: @thehill

Meet Willow, America’s new ‘First Cat’

Janaury 31, 2022

Americans have a new “First Cat.” Dr. Jill Biden has welcomed a two-year-old, green-eyed, gray-and-white tabby named Willow to the White House, reports The Sun.

Dr. Biden tweeted Friday, “Meet Willow,” as she shared several snaps of the  adopted pet by a White House window and on the carpet.

The First Lady met the short-haired feline during a 2020 campaign stop, according to her press secretary, Michael LaRosa—who says that Willow is the same cat that seized the spotlight on a 2020 campaign stop when she she strutted out on stage during Biden’s remarks.

“A farm cat from Pennsylvania, Willow made quite an impression on Dr. Biden in 2020 when he jumped up on the stage and interrupted her remarks during a campaign stop. Seeing their immediate bond, the owner of the farm knew that Willow belonged with Dr. Biden,” LaRosa said.

The cat’s name is inspired by Dr. Biden’s hometown of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, CNN reports.

LaRosa said: “Willow is settling into the White House with her favorite toys, treats, and plenty of room to smell and explore.”

And Twitter users are gushing over the White House’s new arrival. One said: “I love their names.” Aanother commented: “Willow is so cute! I want a kitty so bad.” A third posted: “Your cat is so cute and I’m not usually a cat person.”

 Research contact: @TheSun

Supreme Court spurns bid to overturn Biden’s win in Pennsylvania

December 10, 2020

The Supreme Court has declined a bid by a Republican member of Congress and other GOP activists to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, Politico reports.

In a one-sentence order on Tuesday afternoon, December 8, the justices rebuffed the emergency request from Representative Mike Kelly (R-Pennyslvania) and two other House candidates to decertify the results of last month’s election in the Keystone State.

According to the New York Post, the suit argued that a 2019 Pennsylvania state law authorizing mail-in ballots was unconstitutional—meaning that Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million postal votes should be tossed.

In a one-sentence order, the High Court responded: “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Critics said the request for the Supreme Court to take up the case was ill-founded because the justices do not typically step in to enforce state law provisions. They also faulted Kelly for waiting more than a year—and until after the hard-fought election was complete—to raise the legal challenge.

“Granting an injunction would sow chaos and confusion across the Nation while inflaming baseless concerns about electoral impropriety and ensnaring the Judiciary in partisan strife,” lawyers representing Pennsylvania wrote in a brief early Tuesday opposing Kelly’s request. “This case reaches the Court against the backdrop of unfounded claims—which have been repeatedly rejected by state and federal courts—that wrongly impugn the integrity of the democratic process and aim to cast doubt on the legitimacy of its outcome.”

Kelly’s last-ditch maneuver at the high court drew little attention until Sunday, when Justice Samuel Alito unexpectedly accelerated the state’s deadline to respond to the emergency application from Wednesday to 9 a.m. (ET) on Tuesday. That prompted speculation among some conservatives that Alito or other Republican-appointed justices were planning to grant Kelly relief before Tuesday’s milestone Safe Harbor day to name presidential electors.

Not so. However, media attention to the Safe-Harbor milestone prompted the Trump campaign to issue a public statement earlier Tuesday arguing that the date is of little consequence.

“The ‘Safe Harbor Deadline’ is a statutory timeline that generally denotes the last day for states to certify election results,” Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said. “However, it is not unprecedented for election contests to last well beyond December 8.”

Research contact: @politico

The morning after: Biden captures slim lead—but races too close to call

November 5, 2020

With the presidential election too close to call—and not all mail-in ballots yet counted nationwide—all eyes were focused on Wednesday morning, November 4, on Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the three northern industrial states that likely will prove crucial in determining who wins the White House, The Chicago Tribune reported.

Indeed, by early Wednesday, neither candidate had the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the Oval Office. And as votes continued to trickle in, it’s possible the American people could be hours or even days away from knowing who will lead their nation.

Michigan and Wisconsin turned the lightest shade of blue on results maps later Wednesday morning, with outstanding vote still to count in those states. The same is true of Nevada. Georgia and North Carolina—states in which Trump is narrowly leading, which also have outstanding votes.

It could be several days before Pennsylvania, where Trump currently leads, finishes counting mail ballots—which are thought to significantly favor Biden.

The Biden campaign is signaling confidence that they will meet the 270 mark in the coming days, but there is simply too much uncertainty at the moment to clearly predict a winner, and the cloud of litigation hangs over the entire proceeding.

Four years after Trump became the first Republican in a generation to capture that trio of “Rust Belt” states, they again are positioned to make or break a presidential election. Trump kept several states he won in 2016 that had seemed wobbly in the final days of the campaign—including Texas, Iowa and Ohio—where the Biden camp made a play.

Trump cried foul over the election results, falsely calling the process “a major fraud on our nation.” But, the Tribune notes, there’s no evidence of foul play in the cliffhanger.

The president had vowed to take the election to the Supreme Court, and received criticism from conservative pundits after making his comments. The Biden campaign said it would fight any such efforts to stop the counting of votes.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Supreme Court declines to diminish extended ballot deadlines in North Carolina, Pennsylvania

October30, 2020

New Justice Amy Coney Barrett, still getting up to speed, didn’t participate in either case—but, on October 28, the Supreme Court “declined to disturb” extended ballot deadlines in the battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania—leaving the states more time to receive mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In the North Carolina litigation, the justices denied Republican requests to block a decision by state elections officials to extend the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots until November 12, a six-day extension of the date set by the legislature.

North Carolina elections officials said they extended their deadline “to keep voters from having their votes thrown out because of mail delays that the Postal Service had explicitly warned the state about.”

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, the GOP state lawmakers, and others challenged the deadline extension and other changes—saying those officials improperly rewrote unambiguous rules set COVID -19 pandemic.

The high court didn’t explain its reasons for rejecting the requests, the Journal notes. Three of the court’s conservatives, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, registered objections and said they would have granted the challengers’ request to roll back the deadline. Justice Gorsuch wrote that the pandemic wasn’t the kind of natural disaster that gave the state board of elections a license to change voting rules.

The Supreme Court in the Pennsylvania matter refused to expedite a Republican challenge to a state court order providing three extra days for the state to accept absentee ballots mailed by Election Day.

The court’s order in that case included no noted dissents, although the same three conservative justices issued a statement indicating they were open to considering the case after Election Day.

On Friday, October 23, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, backed by the Trump campaign, asked the Supreme Court to hear and decide its challenge before Election Day, November 3. The motion was unusual in that, only days earlier, the Supreme Court, by a 4-4 vote, had refused to block the three-day extension.

In September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended to 5 p.m., November 6, the deadline to accept absentee ballots, from 8 p.m., November 3. The court credited guidance from the Pennsylvania secretary of state that the three-day extension would adequately account for processing backlogs in elections offices and postal delivery delays related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats, who sued for public-health accommodations in accepting ballots, had asked for a weeklong extension, equivalent to the deadline federal law sets for accepting ballots mailed by military families and Americans overseas.

Although it leaves intact, for now, the Pennsylvania court order, Wednesday’s decision indicated that at least four justices are skeptical that state courts can alter election regulations adopted by state legislatures for presidential and congressional elections.

In its 4-3 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had likened the coronavirus pandemic to a natural disaster, which allows state courts to alter voting procedures should it occur on Election Day. The state justices invoked their power under the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Free and Equal Elections Clause, which the state high court has found more protective of voting rights than corresponding provisions in the federal Constitution.

In last week’s decision, Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh voted to block the Pennsylvania court’s three-day extension. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s three liberal members, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, to leave the Pennsylvania order in

Justice Alito issued a statement saying “there is a strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution,” but the proximity of Election Day made it impractical to decide the issue now. Justices Thomas and Gorsuch joined the statement; in a separate case from Wisconsin on Monday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued an opinion expressing similar views.

The court indicated that the justices may issue additional opinions in the case. The Supreme Court could still decide to hear the case after the election, particularly if the outcome depends on Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.i

Research contact: @WSJ

Proud Boys deny sending threatening emails to Democratic voters in multiple states

October 22, 2020

Law enforcement officials have been notified that voters in multiple states have received personalized emails purporting to be from the Proud Boys—a far-right, neo-fascist white supremacist group. The messaging is filled with intimidating threats aimed at Democrats, if they do not change their vote to Republican, The Hill reports.

CNN and The Washington Post first reported that voters in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Alaska, and Florida all said they received threatening emails warning them to vote for President Donald Trump in the upcoming election, adding that the mysterious sender claimed to have access to voter history and “will come after you” should they fail to vote for the president.

“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” reads one email obtained by the Post,. Dozens were reportedly sent, including more than 180 to students, faculty and staff of the University of Florida, a school spokesperson told CNN.

Chris Krebs, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency tweeted that the agency was “aware of threatening emails with misleading info about the secrecy of your vote.”

“This is what we mean by not falling for sensational and unverified claims. The last line of defense in election security is you—the American voter. So be prepared, be a smart consumer and sharer of information. Vote with confidence,” added Chris Krebs.

Elections officials in Alaska and Florida confirmed to CNN that they were aware of the emails, with Alaska’s Division of Elections telling the network that federal authorities had been alerted. Representatives with elections boards in Pennsylvania and Arizona did not immediately return The Hill’s requests for comment. A spokesperson for the FBI’s field office in Anchorage also did not immediately return a request for comment from the Post.

The leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, told USA Today and CNN in a statement that his group was not responsible for the emails, which appeared to have been sent from an email address affiliated with the group but may have been the result of spoofing software, one expert told CNN.

“No, it wasn’t us. The people [who sent the emails] used a spoofing email that pretended to be us,” Tarrio said. “Whoever did this should be in prison for a long time.”

“We have spoken to the FBI and are working with them. I hope whoever did this is arrested for voter intimidation and for maliciously impersonating our group,” he added.

Trump recently faced criticism after he demurred follow his prompting by Fox News’s Chris Wallace to disavow the group during the first presidential debate between him and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“Stand back and stand by,” Trump said during the contentious debate.

Research contact: @thehil

Editor’s note: According to multiple sources, U.S. officials on Wednesday night accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned that both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election.

 

Trump Administration cuts off funding to 13 drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in five states

June 25, 2020

The Trump Administration is doing its level best to close—or at the very least, slow down—coronavirus testing nationwide by cutting off support to 13 drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites on June 30; and leaving operation and funding of those sites to the states—even as cases spike in several parts of the country, Politico reports.

This is not the first time that the Administration has tried to offload control of the drive-thru sites to the states—but the last effort was suspended in April when governors in the states affected objected strongly.

The 13 sites—in Illinois, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Texas—are the last federally run sites out of 41 originally established across the country. Seven sites are in hard-hit Texas, where cases are climbing.

Taking the offensive on Thursday, June 24, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir told Roll Call that the sites were always meant to be a temporary solution as the country worked to ramp up testing capacity in traditional health care settings.

What he didn’t mention was that, with a looming election challenge, Trump has seen the pandemic as a drag on the economy that he simply wants to go away.

Indeed, in early March, the president transferred responsibility for flattening the line on the coronavirus pandemic to the states—and, specifically, to the governors. He will neither wear a mask nor recommend one; and he has been unwilling to release nearly $14B in Congressional funding for testing and tracing efforts to combat COVID-19. However, he continues to brag that his pandemic effort is the best ever executed.

Already protesters are piling on: Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, tells Politico that it’s not the right time to shift responsibility for the sites to the states—especially those near emerging hot spots in Texas

“The federally supported testing sites remain critically needed, and in some place like Houston and Harris County, TX and in other hotspots, are needed now more than ever,” Becker said in an email. “This is not the time for the federal government to walk back prior commitments on testing.”

Even Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) is critical of the plan, noting,. “It’s pretty clear to me, and I think it’s clear to all of us, that with the uptick of cases, now is not the time to retreat from our vigilance in testing,” he said. “I believe that they need to extend that federal support in Texas, at least until we get this most recent uptick in cases addressed.”

So what will be the outcome? HHS says there is no going back: Gigroir recommends that the state governors can use CARES Act funding to maintain operations at the current federally supported testing sites.

Research contact: @politico

One ‘bad egg’: Woman deliberately coughs on $35,000 worth of food at market

March 20, 2020

One woman has proven herself to be “at the very bottom of the U.S. food chain” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her so-called prank at a Gerrity’s Supermarket in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, has cost the grocery store $35,000 in discarded stock, The New York Daily News reports.

On Wednesday, March 25,  the shopper deliberately coughed all over the store’s produce and on parts of the bakery and meat cases—forcing management to throw all of the contaminated merchandise away so that other customers would not be exposed to possibly contaminated food.

“Today was a very challenging day,” Gerrity’s Supermarket co-owner Joe Fasula wrote on Facebook.

According to Fasula, the woman responsible was known by police to be “a chronic problem in the community.” Although they do not believe that she actually was infected with the novel coronavirus, out of an abundance of caution they worked with the local health inspector to get rid of everything she coughed on.

After getting her out of the store and contacting authorities, more than 15 employees worked to clean and disinfect the areas she had  visited.

One thing is for sure, we will have the cleanest display and freshest produce anywhere in northeast[ern] PA,” Fasula wrote.

Research contact: @NYDailyNews

Pundits shift nine House races toward Democrats

November 6, 2018

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted nine House races toward Democrats in a new forecast published on November 5—the day before the midterm elections—The Hill reported.

The changes predicted by Cook are as follows:

Three races — in Texas’s 6th and 10th Congressional Districts and in West Virginia’s 2nd — moved from solid Republican to likely Republican. Two other races—Florida’s 25th and 6th districts, went from likely Republican to leaning Republican.

The movement is the latest indication that Democrats still have the upper-hand in the House prior to Tuesday’s midterms, when Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to regain control of the lower chamber. 

Research contact: @thehill