So I heard you needed a little break from reading about impeachment. Or maybe not. Maybe you clicked on this accidentally, and right now you’re thinking Oh crap what have I done someone get me out of here this is the end tell my family I love them etc.
Or maybe—just MAYBE—you’re thinking to yourself, Hey, this impeachment stuff is super important, because while Trump definitely exploited the office of the presidency and undermined national security for purely personal gain, state legislative politics and elections are also extremely important and remain so despite whatever’s happening in D.C.
Truly, statehouse action cares little for what transpires in the U.S. Capitol. And with 32 of 50 state legislatures in session right now, there’s plenty of that action to be had all across the nation. But even more pressing than sessions at the moment is one very special special election in Texas.
Out in the Cold: You see, the runoff in Texas House District 28 is this Tuesday, Jan. 28, and Democrat (and Daily Kos endorsee) Eliz Markowitz is facing Republican Gary Gates as she tries to turn this historically red seat a nice, frosty blue.
Yup, you read that right: Texas.
It’s by no means assured, but Democrats have a shot at picking up this seat.
Texas HD-28 is definitely trending toward Democrats: Ted Cruz won it in 2012 by a giant 64-34 margin. But in 2018, his win narrowed to 51-48.
Special elections are odd creatures, and anything could happen, but a Democratic win in this seat wouldn’t just be a satisfying flip; it would also make Democrats’ path to a majority in the Texas state House just a little easier.
Because yes, that majority is very much on the menu this fall.
In 2018, both parties were stunned when Democrats picked up 12 House seats from the GOP.
That put Democrats within nine seats of flipping the 150-seat chamber.
Republicans are understandably nervous about this prospect—as evidenced by the fact that the Republican State Leadership Committee announced its endorsement of Gates this week.
I mean, of course the RSLC endorsed Gates. He’s the Republican in the race. Who else, exactly, was up for that endorsement?
The endorsement didn’t come with an express commitment of funds or other resources, but it’s likely that not only is the RSLC spending money to keep a GOP seat in Texas, but also that this release served as a call for conservative donors to step up and invest in holding onto HD-28.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has spent about $200,000 in the race, and other progressive groups have also directed resources to it.
Additionally, a number of current and former presidential candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Beto O’Rourke, and Julián Castro have gotten involved in this contest in support of Markowitz.
A Markowitz win would helpfully reduce the number of seats Democrats need to pick up to flip the House from nine to eight, which would be great, of course.
But even if Republicans manage to hold on to this seat on Tuesday, Democrats still very much have a path to a Texas majority in November:
In 2018, then-Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke carried nine state House districts still held by Republicans.
Needless to say, those nine seats are Democrats’ top targets this fall.
She’s So Cold: When the #MeToo movement got under way, women in statehouses across the country—everyone from staffers to lobbyists to lawmakers themselves—began shining harsh light on the male legislators they worked with/for who made unwanted advances, said demeaning things, or otherwise engaged in sexual misconduct.
According to a study by the AP, these efforts to hold state elected officials accountable for this kind of behavior has, in fact, produced results.
Since January 2017,
At least 101 state legislators have been publicly accused of sexual harassment or misconduct.
At least 39 lawmakers resigned or were expelled from office.
Another 37 faced other repercussions, such as the loss leadership positions or committee chairs.
A few were cleared.
Investigations are ongoing against others.
In addition to penalties, the fight against sexual misconduct has resulted in structural changes.
At least 43 state Senate chambers and 45 House or Assembly chambers now require sexual harassment training.
That 88 chambers is a big jump up from the mere two-thirds that required such trainings two years ago.
Additionally, states have enacted more than 75 new laws and resolutions targeting sexual harassment, abuse, and assault within government or the private sector.
But not everyone’s getting the message.
Just last week, Michigan GOP state Sen. Peter Lucido told a reporter that a group of teenage boys visiting the capitol “could have a lot of fun with [her].”
After the reporter came forward, Democratic state Sen. Mallory McMorrow filed a sexual harassment complaint against Lucido.
McMorrow revealed that, just two days after they’d both won their 2018 elections, they met at legislator orientation, where Lucido placed his hand on the small of her back after they exchanged a handshake and said he “could see why” she’d defeated her opponent after giving her the ol’ up-and-down. [[shudder]]
I HATE THE UP-AND-DOWN. WE ALL HATE THE UP-AND-DOWN.
Lucido is accusing McMorrow of making “politically motivated” claims against him, but another lawmaker observed Lucido’s behavior at the time, and McMorrow immediately told her husband about the incident.
Lucido chairs two powerful committees in the GOP-controlled chamber and is openly considering a run for governor in 2022.
Chamber leadership has called for a Senate Business Office investigation and plans to have outside attorneys assist.
Winter Winds: … are blowing a key member of Pennsylvania Republican leadership right out of the legislature.
In a stunning move in an election year where his party is at real risk of losing its House majority, Speaker Mike Turzai announced this week that he won’t seek reelection.
Further, he wouldn’t even commit to serving out the remainder of his term, instead saying that he’s “going to take a look at [private sector] opportunities as they arise” (which is retiring lawmaker-speak for WHO WANTS TO PAY ME ALL THE MONEYS BECAUSE I’M READY TO MAKE ALL THE MONEYS NOW PLEASE).
While Turzai’s HD-28 is a pretty solidly Republican district, it’s been trending slowly toward Democrats over the past few election cycles.
In 2012, it went for Romney 63-37.
In 2014, it went for Republican Tom Corbett over Democrat Tom Wolf 62-38.
In 2016, it went for Trump 53-44.
This district won’t be a top target among the nine seats Democrats need to flip (out of 203) to win a majority in the chamber in November, but Democrat Emily Skopov is running again after being Turzai’s first challenger to get within 10 points of him when she took him on in 2018 (she lost 46-54).
Stone Cold Crazy: Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has a fever, and the only prescription is … intense surveillance of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ government.
The GOP leader has embarked on a crusade to use taxpayer resources to effectively conduct ongoing opposition research on the Evers administration.
This work began in early 2019, when Vos hired a number of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s staffers and set his team to work compiling weekly “oversight” reports on executive branch agencies—something not specifically in the Assembly speaker’s purview.
When contacted for comment, no former speakers were willing to normalize Vos’ endeavor by saying they’d engaged in it themselves when they held his position.
Not one would discuss the Vosopticon, either declining to comment or just straight up ignoring the reporter’s request.
Similarly, the Assembly chief clerk's office refused to respond to questions about whether past speakers implemented monitoring systems similar to Vos’.
Refusing to trust the information coming out of state agencies, Vos has instead set his staff to independently compiling regular status reports on everything from grants to lawsuits to vacancies to staff members’ personal Twitter accounts, claiming he wants to “double check” the executive branch.
Not that he has any misconduct to base his lack of trust on.
… unless you count having the temerity to be a Democrat and get elected governor as misconduct.
It’s just so weird that Vos didn’t feel the need to do any of this when a Republican was governor.
And speaking of surveillance …
Freeze Frame: I get asked quite a lot what I think the hot state legislative issues of any given year will be.
My answers tend to have a lot in common year after year, depending on who’s newly in power where and what’s not moving on the federal level that can go places in the states: Abortion policy, health care generally, voting rights, gun safety, environmental regulations, LGBTQ rights are all perennial favorites.
But I think the new hotness is going to be in the realm of data and technological privacy.
California, as it often does as a ginormous state with term-limited legislators who only have a few years to put their stamp on things, has led the way with 2018’s California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and Maine dipped its toe in those waters in 2019 with its own broadband privacy law, which prohibits internet service providers from selling customers’ data with third parties without consent.
Last year actually saw a dramatic increase in bills related to various aspects of data privacy.
Few passed, but many more are still under consideration (many states have two-year session cycles, allowing last year’s bills to survive for consideration this year).
And in most states, this is an election year.
You know what sounds good in a TV ad or on a mail piece? Talking about your vote to protect the data and privacy of the good people of [state X].
So yes, all those other issues—abortion, health care, guns, environment, LGBTQ rights—are extremely important, too, but since Virginia was the only state with a dramatic change in partisan power last year, it’s the only state that’s going to see a ton of action in those areas (not that other states aren’t also doing things—it’s just that most of the things already got done when the party in charge took power).
Welp, that’s a wrap for this week. Back to impeachment! And other important things! Like that new Star Trek show! Regardless, you should knock off early. I don’t care that it was a four-day week to begin with. Just print this out and show it to your boss, I’m sure she won’t mind.
Read more: feeds.dailykosmedia.com