Virginia Governor 2017

Virginia is a weird state for gubernatorial elections. The Governor is prohibited from serving consecutive terms. So a Governor cannot for re-election at the end of her first term. If a former Governor would want to, he could run for a non-consecutive term later. Of course, that rarely happens. Making it more strange, the elections for Governor are held the year following a Presidential election. So the election for Governor is held in 2017. Because of that, the party that does not hold the White House tends to win the Virginia gubernatorial elections with some notable exceptions. Terry McAuliffe, who was the former Democratic Party chairman, was able to win election in 2013 over Ken Cuccinelli. In a lot of ways, this election was the best case for the 2016 Presidential election. But that is for another day. McAuliffe has governed toward my policy preferences and tackled issues near and dear to my heart so I have been a fan of his tenure. Again, that is worthy of a different post for a different day. All 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegtates are up for election, as well. Nobody really pays attention to those elections because people feel, wrongly, that they are not as important.

Governor

Democratic Party

The primary election on the Democratic side has devolved into a rematch of the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary for some reason, possibly because we’re all dead and we’re actually in hell. Even though both John Podesta and Bernie Sanders both support the same candidate. The real intraparty fight is between the Virginia Democratic establishment compared to the national Democratic Party. Ralph Northam is the choice of the establishment Virginian Democrats. Northam is the current lieutenant governor of the state. He previously voted for George W. Bush and somewhat flirted with becoming a Republican, although many people believe it was because he was trying to gain leverage in the State Senate. Northam has received the endorsements from Terry McAuliffe, Mark Warner, and Tim Kaine.  Tom Perriello is the challenger to Northam in this primary. Perriello was the only House candidate that Barack Obama campaigned for in 2010 for re-election. Perriello won a fairly conservative district and voted in favor of passage of the ACA. Although, he did vote for the Stupak amendment and was endorsed by the NRA in his re-election bid. He ultimately lost and gave a tremendous interview about it later. If Our Revolution had not given an explicit endorsement of Perriello, it seems likely to me he would have been attacked as not liberal enough.

Perriello has been somewhat critical of Northam on the basis of the votes for George W. Bush and has tried to nationalize the race by stating that he would make Virginia a bulwark against Trump. He does not seem certain that a Northam governorship would be able to win or be able to be this bulwark. While most Virginians and Perriello do believe that McAuliffe have done a great job as Governor, Perriello disagrees that he is satisfied with the current status quo. Northam while he represents the status quo has, in recent times, tried to stake out his liberal bonafides as the campaign has gone on. The real question is to what extent the loser of the primary will endorse the winner for the general election. Terry McAuliffe has recently said that while he thinks Northam would be the better option he would gladly support either of the two candidates in the general election saying that they were both better options than the Republican contenders.

The polling that I have seen shows Northam with a sizable lead. But there are still a number of undecided voters who could break and make a sizable contribution either way, depending on how they break.

Republican Party

The Republican Party primary for Governor also had an initial favorite (and still favorite from what I’ve seen) in Ed Gillespie. Gillespie very nearly pulled off an upset in the Virginia Senate race in 2014 which convinced me that the rest of the night was going to go red. He was a former White House counselor to George W. Bush. Upon leaving, he was the chairman of Bob McDonnell’s campaign for Governor of Virginia. He also was a senior advisor to Mitt Romney in 2012. Gillespie is by far the establishment choice in the Virginia Republican primary, such that a definition exists. Much to Northam’s or Perriello’s chagrin, he has not been a warrior in the culture wars like former Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli. Northam seems like a generic Republican which would typically be a good thing for Virginia as it is a purpleish state. But the problem right now for him is a Trump problem. With Trump in the White House, it is especially difficult to separate Trump from Republican politicians running for office. Based on the polling that I’ve seen, he should not have much difficulty in securing the nomination, even if he is running against a potential Trump clone.

Corey Stewart, a Minnesota transplant, who has become the At-Large Chairman of the Prince William County, Virginia. He was also the Virginia chairman of the Donald Trump for President campaign from December 2015 – October 2016. Stewart previously ran for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia but lost to fellow insane candidate E.W. Jackson. Stewart has been trafficking in controversy since his candidacy. Whether it is vigorously defending the Confederate flag and the state from non-Virginians, saying cuckservative in a Reddit AMA (that’s a phrase I just wrote), agreed Bill Clinton was a rapist, among numerous other issues. Peddling controversy and making himself a Trumplike figure seems to be a deliberate strategy. I’m not here to comment on the strategy or the marketing, both of which I think are in poor taste and poor in strategy. But one thing that we will be seeing in the next two years are imitators of Trump who are more interesting in peddling controversy than policy, more likely to say “cuck” than address real policy. Our political structure is all the more poor for it.

 

 

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Alabama Senate

Alabama Senate

Jeff Sessions was one of the first elected officials to throw his support behind Donald Trump. Sessions lent the future President his staff and policy making team which led to a number of issues where Trump towed the Sessions line throughout the campaign. After the election in November, it became apparent that Sessions would play a prominent role in a Trump administration, the real question was to which spot Sessions would be nominated and confirmed. After the confirmation of Sessions to the post of Attorney General, it fell to the Governor of Alabama to appoint a successor.

The only problem with that was Governor Robert Bentley was facing a sex scandal, a possible investigation, and an eventual resignation. Attorney General Luther Strange who would nominally be in charge of the investigation of Bentley failed to announce whether or not he was investigating the Governor. Bentley appointed Strange as the Senator. After Strange’s appointment to the Senate, it came out of the Attorney General’s office that there was an active investigation into Bentley. Bentley did eventually resign. To many people, there was an appearance of impropriety to the whole affair.

Kay Ivey, the former Lieutenant Governor, backtracked on Bentley’s decision to push out the special election to replace Sessions to the 2018 midterm elections. Since there is an appearance of impropriety to Strange’s appointment to the Senate, there was a few candidates who decided to challenge him in a special election. Two of the more notable challengers are Rep. Mo Brooks and former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore.

It seems unlikely to me that Strange would be defeated in a primary challenge but we should still provide information as best we can on this election.

Luther Strange

Strange was elected in 2010 defeating the incumbent Troy King for Attorney General. Strange was endorsed by both Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby. That may have had to with what seemed like improprieties between King and gambling in Alabama. King had apparently been on the wrong side of the issue of electronic bingo.

He was elected as Attorney General in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. Following the election of Donald Trump, it was pretty obvious that Jeff Sessions would play a prominent role in a Trump administration. Sessions was, of course, nominated to be Attorney General. The task of finding a new Senator for the state of Alabama went to the Governor, Robert Bentley. Bentley was facing his own problems. During the Robert Bentley scandal, Strange would not confirm nor deny that he was investigating Bentley. This may have been because Strange was on the shortlist to be appointed as Senator and did not want to appear as if he was acting inappropriately. After Strange’s appointment to the Senate, it came out that the Attorney General’s office was, in fact investigating Bentley.

Kay Ivey, who ascended to the gubernatorial mansion after the resignation of Bentley, scheduled a special election for 2017 after initially Bentley agreed to have the election coincide with the 2018 statewide election. Mitch McConnell has made it fairly clear that he would like Strange to win, to avoid the trouble of having sitting Senators primaries, I assume. But Strange will have to win in 2017. His first ad was more than a little misleading including a fake newspaper and fake headlines to help reintroduce himself to Alabama voters.

 

Tenure as Attorney General

Strange was the coordinating counsel for Louisiana and Alabama over the Deepwater Horizon spill. He also signed onto a lawsuit suing the Obama administration over the ordinance to allow transgender students to use the bathroom or locker rooms that match their gender identity.  Strange also argued in the Supreme Court in Lane v. Franks in which he argued that the government employee who was a whistleblower had protections under the First Amendment.

Roy Moore

Moore is probably best known for the Ten Commandments controversy.  He made plans to build a large monument to the Ten Commandments at the Alabama Supreme Court building. He was almost immediately sued for the monument. After his removal of the monument, he was suspended from the bench. He ran for governor in 2006 and 2010. He flirted with a 2012 Presidential run before deciding to run, again, for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He won election but was suspended from office for ethical violations. He resigned from his seat in order to run for the Senate seat.

Moore was targeted, in part, because he told state employees to refuse to marry same-sex couples. He is hoping to run an outsider campaign. This should be easy for him as he is typically seen as outside of the traditional Republican orthodoxy. For instance, he has defended his actions that led to his suspension invoking God’s will, saying “what I did, I did for the people of Alabama. I stood up for the Constitution. I stood up for God. The great majority of the people of this state believe in God.”

He announced his campaign with the idea that he is on board with Donald Trump to make America great, again, but that to do so we need to make America “good, again.” He has accused Strange and the Super PACs in Washington of trying to buy the Senate race.

Other candidates

Strange and Moore are the two most likely candidates to advance in the runoff. If there was another candidate that seemed likely to be able to advance, my bet would be on Mo Brooks. Brooks is a Congressman since 2011 in the Huntsville, AL area. He is a favorite of the TEA Party and has been fairly gaffe-ridden regarding a number of issues. Govtrack has him on the far right of their ideology score. In theory, this would help him in a special election with low turnout, if he has a motivated base. But unfortunately for him, Moore seems to be the one taking support away.

Typically in special elections like this, I tend to believe that the religious right candidate will outperform. The reasoning is that this candidate will have a high floor because he has a motivated and committed base. But, again, the problem is that Moore is the one who is able to pick up most of this support. His anti-establishment credentials also include a strong following within the religious right.  This bumps up Moore’s floor, in my opinion.

We will revisit this post once there are some debates or other noteworthy events that happen in Alabama.

The unicameral scorecard

One of the ways that we can keep our politicians accountable is to keep scrupulous notes on how they vote. Luckily, we live in the age of internet where such a thing is fairly easy to accomplish if you have the motivation and a strict sense of what is important to yourself as a voter. I like to keep track of the legislators in my community the best I can.

The problem is, if you are keeping track of such a thing, what you think is important may not be as important to another person trying to research the information. So while public scorecards are important, in my opinion, they may not be all together as helpful as those calculating the scorecards think. Beyond that, there is the inherent bias from those calculating the scorecard. For instance, when you see the scorecard that I put together, I have a bias in choosing what bills that I think are important and how I score those bills. It may not be of the most importance to you whether or not your state legislator supports E-Verify for all businesses in the state of Nebraska or you may think it’s very important and disagree with my grading. That’s fine. I’m hoping to be fairly transparent with what I am presenting to give you the best incomplete information out there.

A few notes. I provided a score of +3 if the legislator either sponsored, co-sponsored, voted in favor of legislation, or voted in favor of advancing the legislation for legislation that I think is favorable. If a legislator voted against the legislation or against advancing the legislation, the legislator received a score of -3.

If the legislation was unfavorable, I provided a score of -3 for sponsoring, co-sponsoring, voting in favor of advancing the legislation, or for voting in favor of the legislation.

I placed a premium of trying to override a governor’s veto. For legislation that I deemed favorable, if a legislator voted to override the veto, they received +5. They received -5 if they voted to sustain the veto.

For those who voted present or were excused from voting on legislation, they received a score of 0 regardless of how I feel about the legislation. But if they voted present on an override, they received a score of -2. They would receive this score, regardless of how I feel about the legislation.

I am going to try and write some more about a number of these bills at a later time but I thought I should provide this, first.

Scorecard can be found here

 

A redo of the 2014 Nebraska gubernatorial primary

One of the most exciting statewide races in Nebraska over the past 10 years was the 2014 Republican Gubernatorial primary. Our state simply does not have competitive elections. While the 2nd Congressional district in Nebraska has a competitive election every two years, the statewide elections have not been competitive. So we have to look toward the primaries for a competitive statewide election. The primary in 2014 is something that I’ve wanted to look at in more depth for some time.

There were four main candidates trying to be the Republican nominee and for such a conservative state (and a conservative year) would virtually guarantee their election as governor of Nebraska. The candidates were Jon Bruning, Mike Foley, Beau McCoy, and Pete Ricketts. Bruning had been the Attorney General of Nebraska since 2003. He had previously been defeated by Deb Fischer in 2012 in the Republican Senate primary. Mike Foley had previously been the State Auditor of Nebraska and prior to that was in the state legislature. McCoy was a state legislator from Omaha, NE. Ricketts had previously been the Republican nominee for Senate in 2006 before he lost by nearly 30 points to incumbent Ben Nelson.

Spoiler: Ricketts won the nomination in 2014 to be Governor and later won the general election. At some point, Ricketts went from unacceptable to the majority of voting Nebraskans to acceptable. This is interesting in its own right. What is more interesting is that he barely won the nomination in 2014. He won primarily because of a strong showing in Douglas and Sarpy counties allowing him to win two of the largest counties in the state and gain a lot of votes. He won the statewide primary by a little more than 2,000 votes. He won Douglas County by over 4,600 votes. Bruning came in second place.

So, let’s see what would have happened if we employed a county electoral college system similar to one that I proposed in my last post. 

Because Ricketts was able to win Douglas County and Sarpy County, he was able to post wide margins in our county electoral colleges. Mike Foley who won Lancaster County (Lincoln) among a few others so he outperforms in our electoral college system compared to the popular votes. Bruning goes from losing by 2,000 votes to not even garnering 20% of the electoral college system that we set up.

In the system that I created to establish to mirror the U.S.’s system that we currently have, we have the worst performance for Ricketts and Foley. This is not surprising as it was intended to try to decrease the importance of larger counties similar to lessening the amount of electoral votes of New York or California

  Carlson McCoy Bruning Foley Ricketts
% of electoral votes 0.48 9.53 18.26 20.84 50.89

I didn’t talk about Tom Carlson. Carlson was a state legislator who decided to run for Governor. He won the county of Phelps which accounts for his electoral votes in such a system. Foley who finished in 4th place in the popular vote is able to surge to 2nd place in our electoral college creations. He did so by doing well in relatively large counties and winning them, such as Lancaster.

In the modified US system and the other systems that I created, we have essentially the same results. The differences are mainly in rounding differences.

  Carlson McCoy Bruning Foley Ricketts
Modified US System (%) 0.48 9.01 16.75 21.33 52.43
Even split (%) 0.48 8.95 16.78 21.32 52.47
Direct proportional (%) 0.49 8.88 16.80 21.34 52.48

For greater explanations, please go to the previous post.

The largest issue is that since 3 counties in Nebraska contain the majority of the population in Nebraska, there is an outsized importance on those three counties, Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy. The other 90 counties in Nebraska account for 48% of the population, with only two other counties even accounting for more than 2% of the population. If we were to redo the primary or create a more fair system, we’d have to consolidate counties to limit the influence of Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy county.

Nebraska’s county electoral college

This is parroting off of the work of Xenocrypt. If you are not following Xenocrypt on Twitter, you are really missing out on a number of insightful things. Xenocrypt’s work includes a county electoral college system. The idea is that since there is not really an argument that can be made that the President should be elected with the electoral college but the states should not be decided the same way. I am rather sympathetic to the argument, in general, because most of the arguments that I am told for having an electoral college can be easily applied to having every state holding a county level electoral college system. It especially is true in Nebraska. For instance, you do not want candidates to be elected just because of Douglas and Lancaster county (Omaha and Lincoln), right? Just like you do not want a President elected solely because of California and New York.

But the electoral results really change based on how you create such a system. I created a few different electoral colleges for the state. What is important to remember is that Hillary Clinton only received 34% of the vote statewide in Nebraska and Donald Trump received 59.89%. Clinton was only able to win 2 of the 93 counties in the state (Douglas and Lancaster).

Somewhat mirroring the US

The first way that I decided to divide the votes was to try to mirror the electoral college system of the United States. It’s not entirely the same. But most of the small counties in Nebraska receive 1 electoral vote. Then it is based on population from 2,700 people until we reach 80,000 people, then it goes to 1 electoral vote for every 3,000 people until you reach 175,000 people where it is 1 electoral vote for every 4,000 people. This is intended to mirror the divide that we see in larger population states such as California or New York.  It’s not a perfect mirroring of the system, obviously, but it gives us a good approximation. So with this system, we have the following results with 621 electoral votes.

  Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
Electoral votes 373 248
% of electoral votes 60.1 40.0

In this situation, Douglas County which accounts for about 29% of the population of Nebraska makes up roughly 25% of the electoral votes in the state. Lancaster county makes up about 16% of the population of Nebraska and makes up about 15% of the electoral votes. Sarpy County which accounts for 9% of the population is able to account for about 10% of the electoral votes. Seward County which is about 0.9% of the population receives about 1% of the electoral votes awarded. But it is a fairly proportional system, all things considered. The biggest beneficiaries of such a system are smaller counties, just as smaller states are a bigger beneficiary of the US electoral system.

Modified US system

The next system that I looked at would be a modified US system. This system gives counties an electoral vote for every 1,000 people (rounding up). For instance, Dundy County with 1,886 people would receive 2 electoral votes compared to Rock county with 1,443 people would receive 1 electoral vote. All counties with less than 1,000 people receive 1 electoral vote. There is no crazy math to get there the rest of the way. So we have 1,882 electoral votes overall, with the following result.

  Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
Electoral votes 1037 845
% of electoral votes 55.1 44.9

In such a system, Douglas County accounts for 29% of the vote and 29% of the electoral votes, Lancaster receives 16% of the electoral votes for 16% of the population. Rural areas such as Arthur County with 0.02% of the population receive 0.05% of the electoral votes. This is a much more proportional system, overall. The counties are better represented in the electoral college. But the overall election is a lot closer than what the election with a statewide result seems to indicate. Is that a problem that we should be considering?

Even split

So this is a  little bit difficult to explain. The way I calculated the number of electoral votes per county is by taking the lowest population county and using that population number as the benchmark to calculate the total number of electoral votes. So, for instance, Lancaster which has a population of 301,795 would receive 666 electoral votes. Arthur County would receive 1 electoral vote. There is a total of 4,151 electoral votes in such a system. This is how the 2016 results would look.

  Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
Electoral votes 2286 1865
% of electoral votes 55.1 44.9

This is a very similar result to the modified US system. It is around the same concept so it is not surprising that this is roughly the same result. The counties have roughly the same amount of electoral votes as their population would dictate.

This is somewhat a modified version of a reform that is out there where you have a direct proportional based on how many people are in each congressional district and state.

Direct proportional

This one is probably the easiest to explain. It is just a set percentage of the population by county divided by a set number of electoral votes. I am guaranteeing each county to get at least 2 electoral votes in such a scenario. The final results with 9,864 electoral votes are as follows. Again, we see roughly the same result as we have been seeing

  Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
Electoral votes 5433 4431
% of electoral votes 55.1 44.9

 

The direct proportional system has the same end results as the even split and the modified US system.

I think if we are to move away from awarding states’ electoral votes away from the popular vote winners in each state either the direct proportional or the even split are probably the best ways to do it.

I’m not really advocating for such a system. I am doing a little bit more research and will do a few more posts with this framework but I did want to introduce it, here.