Maine’s governor is just vetoing everything now

The Portland Press Herald reports the latest on the escalating state of siege in the Maine government right now as controversial Gov. Paul LePage blocks just about every piece of legislation coming out of the state legislature, even when they had strong bipartisan support:

LePage initially said he would veto all bills sponsored by Democrats because they refused to support a constitutional amendment to eliminate the income tax. Democrats said the governor has failed to come up with a plan to replace the revenue that would be lost.

Then the governor said he would veto all bills sent to his desk, regardless of the party of the sponsor, because lawmakers “wasted” time coming up with a budget the governor didn’t like. In retaliation, he said, he would waste their time.
Lawmakers are returning Tuesday to consider whether to override more of LePage’s vetoes. He has vetoed well over 100 bills so far this session, and the Legislature has overridden dozens of vetoes.

LePage also issued 79 line-item vetoes in the state’s two-year budget and a separate transportation budget. Those line-item vetoes were all overridden by the Legislature last week, but the governor is expected to veto the entire budget.

I suppose vetoing all bills is, in some ways, an improvement from just vetoing bills co-sponsored by Democrats. Ultimately, I think his plan is still to eliminate all Democrats for daring to not be right-wing Republicans.

Graphic by Bill Humphrey for Arsenal For Democracy.

Graphic by Bill Humphrey for Arsenal For Democracy.

That’s not terribly likely to succeed in Maine. But we’re not talking about a particularly rational political actor, considering he’s friends with people who believe government should not exist at all beyond the county sheriff level.

Oregon governor resigns in widening ethics scandal

In the interest of fairness (since I write about Republican governor scandals regularly), and because Federal subpoenas have been issued, I should acknowledge that Oregon’s Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber has resigned from office in a fairly bizarre ethics scandal that has been growing since just before he was elected last November to a fourth four-year term (his second and third terms were non-consecutive).

In early October 2014, the initial revelation was that his fiancée — whom he had been dating for about a decade before getting engaged — had once had an illegal Green-Card Marriage to an immigrant in the 1990s, which he claimed not to know about. The crime was past its statute of limitations by the time she was forced to admit it. At first I wondered why this fact was relevant enough for a journalist to investigate, because as violations of the law go, it’s not an egregious or dangerous one, so it just seemed sort of trashy (there was a lot of troubling emphasis on how many marriages she had had and when they had begun dating). But the hints of the bigger problem were starting to emerge, and they seem to have been what motivated reporters to look into her background in the first place.

That problem, which is now at the center of the state and Federal investigations, is that Kitzhaber’s fiancée had been drawing a lot of attention to herself and her romantic relationship, not just by claiming State First Lady status (with a desk in the governor’s offices) but by using that for influence-peddling. In other words, they probably only found the illegal sham marriage because she was making a lot of noise about being the First Lady (before marrying him) and having “access” to the governor, which she (allegedly) has been using to win consulting contracts. That’s a clear ethics law violation.

At the moment, it tentatively looks like Kitzhaber himself might have just shown extremely poor judgment (or turned a blind eye) on multiple fronts, but it’s starting to look pretty hard to see how these actions weren’t on some level visible and acceptable to him. In all likelihood, he was aware of some or all of the transgressions by his partner and failed to stop them or do anything.

After waffling back and forth for several days over the past week, Gov. Kitzhaber resigned on Friday, just a month into his fourth term, handing over the governorship to second-in-line Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, a Democrat, who will serve at least until a November 2016 Special Election is held, whether or not she runs for the job in her own right. She is relatively well known in some select national circles, particularly national LGBT political organizations, (and was probably already slated to seek higher office at some point) because she is openly bisexual, and there are very few out bi politicians in American offices. She is now the nation’s first out bi governor.

Here are all the races I’m watching closely tonight

The Senate has officially fallen to the Republicans.
At 1:25 AM ET, I’m calling it quits on the updates, since I can’t wait for Alaska or the final Virginia call.

I’ll be updating with notes and observations here as I go tonight. Some won’t be called tonight or will go to runoffs later. Ordered alphabetically (italics = old update) and moved to lower section when called:

Alaska Senate: This won’t close until very, very late eastern time. Expect delays in counting.
– Added: Virginia Senate: Update 5: With 99.9% counted, Warner is currently squeaking to re-election by about 12,462 votes. || Update 4: Sen. Warner (D) finally edges ahead by a few thousand at 98.6% counted. || Update 3: This is basically coming down to how many more votes Warner can extract from populous Fairfax County, where he leads heavily with almost 40% still to be counted. || Update 2: Looking a little better with Gillespie (R) now under 50% at 90% counted, and I’m told by my DC sources that Warner will squeak by, but it’s going to be incredibly tight. || Update 1: It’s looking a bit more dire to me, overall and at the county level, than it ought to with 75% counted and the Republican leading over Sen. Warner (which was never expected in any polling or projections I saw). The Virginia 2006 Senate results by county, which narrowly delivered a Democratic win by very narrow margins, already don’t match the map tonight, even with Democratic northeastern Virginia still to come.

There are other important and very close races, obviously, all over the place. So these are just my particular picks to watch. If you want to nominate any additions, drop that in the comments! (My night-before predictions on the US Senate side is here.)

I’m using Politico/AP for my data.

Key Senate races already called

New Hampshire Senate: Sen. Shaheen (D) holds.
Michigan Senate: Open seat. Democratic hold.
Kentucky: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) re-elected. Much ado about nothing.
Kansas Senate: Update 2: It’s called for Sen. Roberts; Republican hold. Much ado about nothing after all. Update 1: Sen. Roberts (R) picking up steam in the lead, after very early Orman leads.
Georgia Senate: Update 2: This is called for Perdue (R) and will not go to a runoff, in a bit of a twist; the seat remains in GOP hands… another much ado about nothing race. || Perdue (R) is crushing Nunn (D) in this open R seat race with 71% counted. Expected to go to post-November runoff.
Iowa Senate: It’s called for Ernst (R); flips to Republicans. Update 2: Ernst (R) edges into the lead and toward the 50% mark in this open D seat after 46.4% counted. || Update 1: Braley (D) off to a good start.
North Carolina Senate: Tillis wins; Sen. Hagan (D) loses the seat. It’s officially all over for Democrats in the Senate. Update 3: Tillis (R) leading by 47,500ish votes over Sen. Hagan at 95.3% counted. || Update 2: Tillis (R) opens a narrow lead of 30,000ish votes over Sen. Hagan (D) at 79% counted. || Update 1: I predict this is resolved between 12 and 1 AM with less than a half a percentage point separating them, but right now Sen. Hagan (D) has a solid lead at 28% counted.
Colorado Senate: Update 3: It’s called for Gardner (R) over Sen. Udall (D); flips to Republicans. Update 2: Gardner (R) opening a hefty lead over Sen. Udall (D). || Update 1: Looks incredibly close so far…
Montana: Open seat. Flips to Republicans.
West Virginia: Open seat. Flips to Republicans.
Arkansas: Sen. Pryor defeated, flips to Republicans
South Dakota Senate: Open seat. Flips to Republicans. Much ado about nothing as Rounds cruises to 51% in a 3 way race.
Louisiana Senate: This will go to a post-November runoff. D incumbent, unresolved.

GOP gain 7 so far, with no losses of Republican-held seats now possible. Need 6 net wins to capture majority.


Other called races

Florida Governor: Update 3: It’s called for Gov. Scott (R). Bummer. Update 2: Rick Scott looking like he’s going to hold on for another term with 95% counted but the margin is about 86,000 votes statewide. Update 1: Incumbent Rick Scott (R) leading by over a hundred thousand votes with 81% counted.
Wisconsin Governor: It’s been called for Gov. Scott Walker (R), his third gubernatorial win in competitive statewide battles.
Michigan Governor: Gov. Snyder (R) re-elected. Update 1: This is probably going to incumbent Rick Snyder (R).
Kansas Governor: Update 3: It’s called for Gov. Brownback (R) in a huge and disappointing comeback for his radical agenda. || Update 2: Gov. Brownback (R) now taking a lead with 70.3% counted. || Update 1: Davis off to a good start against toxic incumbent Brownback (R).
Massachusetts Governor: Update 5: It’s called for Baker (R) by about 26,000ish votes. || Update 4: Baker now back in the lead by about 11,000 at 87.7% counted. || Update 3: 100 vote margin while the United Independent Party guy has over 52,000 votes. Good work, spiteful Democrats and Greens. || Update 2: Coakley surprisingly edging ahead of Baker. Might not be enough to win but this is good news. || Update 1: Baker (R) in the lead by what looks like a narrow but sustainable margin.
Maine Governor: The Boston Globe has called it for Gov. LePage (R) so I’m going with that, sadly. Update 3: 59.1% counted, LePage (R) leading by 17,650 votes and a few percentage points in this 3-way race. || Update 2: LePage (R) leading by about 14,000 votes at 45.8% counted. || Update 1: Gov LePage (R) up by a few thousand votes at 39.5% counted.


Jessica Williams heads to Kansas for The Daily Show

In September, I noted that the situation in Kansas was becoming quite dire for some of the Republican statewide incumbents on the ballot. A lot of that is due to the state’s unmitigated disaster of a fiscal experiment headed by hardline-Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Here’s what I said in September:

Closer to home, in Kansas itself, creating a second competitive statewide race in Kansas could further help boost left and moderate voter turnout against the now-near-universally-loathed Governor Sam Brownback.

Brownback very plausibly might be about to lose re-election to the governorship of Kansas for cutting taxes — because his magical-thinking-based plan cut them so far that there’s a budget catastrophe unfolding. A former Republican state party chair suggested the state may be bankrupt (or at least deeply in debt) within 2 years … and the bond outlook to finance that is not great.

According to PPP in February, Brownback had a lower approval rating in Kansas than Obama has in Kansas. And even Republican-leaning Rasmussen polling [in August] put the Democratic challenger, Paul Davis, ahead of Brownback by an impressive 10 points, pulling above 50%, and with a very low undecided block — which adds up to almost certain doom at the ballot box. (It was unclear, last I checked, what the Democratic challenger would do instead regarding the budget, but I’m guessing Kansas will have to elect first and ask questions later, while hoping it’s better than the monstrosity Brownback enacted.)

The Daily Show sent its brilliant and incredibly talented correspondent Jessica Williams into the field in Kansas this week to bring the story to wider attention.

Wendy Davis team attacks opponent’s wheelchair

There have been a lot of things to criticize the campaign team of Texas Democratic governor nominee Wendy Davis for. It hasn’t been well run. But perhaps the most egregious so far was the recent decision to run an attack ad against her Republican opponent that focuses on his disability (wheelchair-bound partial paralysis from an accident).

Don’t get me wrong: Attorney General Greg Abbott is awful. And he is indeed probably justifiably labeled a hypocrite (see below). But calling politicians hypocrites isn’t that effective in general, because most people kind of assume it anyway, and this is bound to make her look far worse than it does him.

The ad argues that Abbott successfully sued for his 1984 injury, but later as a Texas Supreme Court justice and state attorney general opposed similar efforts from other people suing hospitals and corporations.

“Abbott argued a woman whose leg was amputated was not disabled because she had an artificial limb,” the narrator says. “He ruled against a rape victim who sued a corporation for failing to do a background check on a sexual predator. He sided with a hospital that failed to stop a dangerous surgeon who paralyzed patients.”

Here’s the the thing: Those actions are terrible, but emphasizing his own disability and criticizing him explicitly for being a heartless hypocrite wasn’t necessary to make that point. He’s been campaigning all year with ads talking about and featuring his disability. Given that many of Abbott’s own ads mentioned or showed his wheelchair, she could just have pointed out his shameful positions without also explicitly bringing up the wheelchair and suggesting he’s a hypocrite. People could figure that out on their own because they already know the other half, without it being brought up explicitly, and without empty wheelchair images.

Therefore, this seems like a really bad move, even if the criticisms raised are warranted. Instead of the focus being on how horrible his record is, the focus is on how nasty the Davis campaign’s TV ads are. Already, most of the past long weekend was taken up debating whether or not it was out of bounds, and she keeps defending it. I don’t really see the point.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s special friends (i.e. possible domestic terrorists)

Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage is continuing his crusade to dismantle the state’s reputation for moderate, reasonable, centrist politicians.

People often don’t believe it when someone says Maine’s Gov. Paul LePage is a political loon, but he’s almost indescribably far outside the mainstream, especially when one considers that that he occupies a governorship. Even deeply off-color jokes, vindictive mural attacks, and a strange belief that wind turbines are actually turned by motors because wind power couldn’t possibly work … all of those things are just the tip of the iceberg.

In a “revelation” (via in-depth investigative reporting) that surprises essentially no one who has been following his tenure as governor, except perhaps in its depth, Maine journalist and author Mike Tipping uncovered that in 2013 the governor met 8 times (almost monthly for a while) for 16 hours total with members of a super ultra fringe movement associated with small acts of domestic terrorism, various cop-killings, and the Oklahoma City Bombing.

Gov. LePage’s buddies this time are the very dangerous “sovereign citizen” wingnuts (the same people who don’t believe the government — state let alone Federal! — can issue license plates or passports or enforce traffic laws … or exist). They’re the king of unhinged American conspiracy theories but are also on various FBI watchlists for specific plots.

Here is an excerpt from the condensed summary Maine journalist Colin Woodard — whose incredible book, incidentally, I’ll be posting a review of soon — contributed to Politico on the stunning findings by Tipping:

he had met with an obscure circle of particularly nutty conspiracy theorists at least eight times for a total of 16 hours last year, despite the objections of his staff.

Some of the members of the circle have previously identified themselves as “Sovereign Citizens,” [skip to 17:00], a movement the FBI considers a domestic terrorist threat, though at least some of them now deny any such association. Members have espoused the belief that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the Sandy Hook school shootings were perpetrated by the U.S. government, which engages in “mind control” and is preparing a “holocaust” against America’s Christians. They think the government is illegitimate and that top state officials are guilty of treason.

And last February, one recounted on his pirate radio broadcast [19:00] a meeting he had just attended with Governor LePage in which he said the execution of the top leaders of the Democrat-controlled state legislature was discussed. “They’re talking about hanging them,’” Jack McCarthy, host of the Aroostook Watchman radio show, recalled LePage saying in the meeting with McCarthy and his colleagues. McCarthy shared his response to LePage with his listeners: “Praise the Lord, let’s hang a few. We’ll be done with this crap.”

Although he admits these meetings took place, LePage has denied the conversations turned to eliminating his political opponents. “It never happened,” he said in a spontaneous call to the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News, whose paper he also threatened to sue. “We did not discuss execution, arrest or hanging.”

Hanging the Democratic leadership or no, the governor’s sustained interest in the conspiracy theorists’ ideas has stunned Maine’s political class, especially as LePage had famously refused for months to meet with the very legislative leaders the extremists accused of treason.
The conspiracy theorists, variously organized as the Maine Constitutional Coalition and We The People of Maine, warned the governor and the small number of other people who would listen that all lawyers are “foreign citizens” and associated with the Communist Party, that Maine’s government was unlawful on account of using paper currency and associating with the United Nations to deprive Mainers of their property rights, and that legislators and other officials were guilty of treason, a crime punishable by death.
Eventually, LePage’s legal counsel—apparently concerned about the governor’s credulity regarding the extremists’ constitutional theories—took the time to prepare a five-page legal memo for him […] reminding him that “the power of the executive [doesn’t] extend to providing a mechanism for private citizens to declare laws to be unconstitutional.”

If you follow through to Tipping’s report, the governor also claimed to them that he feared for his life if he did not accept Federal funding for something. He only stopped the meetings, apparently, after Tipping’s Freedom of Information Act request began ringing enough alarm bells.

Governor LePage faces re-election this November. Our analysis from May remains essentially unchanged up to this scandal:

Maine: Paul LePage (R) is also a terrible and very unpopular governor, who is also (ideologically) a crazy person. He was only elected in a 3-way race in 2010, where the sane people made the mistake of splitting their votes between the other two candidates. Maine isn’t planning to repeat that mistake this year. Haha, just kidding: It’ll be a 3-way race again and probably a nail-biter to the end, between LePage and Congressman Mike Michaud (D). LePage is doing better (somehow) in polls more recently than he was for most of last year.

We’ll see how things develop from here.


Tom Tancredo is baaaaaaack, y’all

flag-of-coloradoThe New York Times has published a comprehensive State-of-The-Race report on former 5-term Congressman and 2008 presidential also-ran Tom Tancredo’s latest explosive bid for office, this time as a Republican candidate for Governor of Colorado, ahead of the primary tomorrow. [Update: Tancredo finished second.]

Tancredo last campaigned as the American Constitution Party nominee for the same office four years ago. The ACP is notable mostly as an openly theocratic, right-wing party, with close ties to George Wallace’s segregationist movement.

So far, this latest race can (as is always true with him) best be summarized as Tommy T on the mic dropping racist hot 16s once a minute. But don’t call him racist because he’ll sue your “ass from here to Omaha” (an actual quote from him in the article). [Side note: Can public figures sue average people for making assertions about them?]

Let’s wind back to his amazingly insightful, I mean wildly racist, 2006 comment about one of our country’s fine metropolises of lesser Anglo-ness.

“Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you’re in the United States of America. You would certainly say you’re in a Third World country…”

So as you can see, he’s not a racist. He just never says anything but racist stuff and has only racist policies.

Fifteen years after he built a national reputation as an inflammatory foe of illegal immigration, Tom Tancredo, 68, is still campaigning, without apology, as Tom Tancredo. […] He says President Obama should be impeached, but notes that “you can’t criticize him because he’s black and if you do, you’re a racist.”

As with the 2010 cycle, Republicans are split very hard in the state right now between “We need more conservative candidates” and “Our candidates are unelectable loons.”

And Tommy T is King of Loon Lake. As the oft-embattled and semi-immortal former state Republican Party chair Dick Wadhams said of Tancredo to the Times: “He has said so many inflammatory things — the list is unbelievable.”

But in a hilarious turn of events, an organization literally calling itself “Republicans Who Want to Win” has been running ads saying that primary voters shouldn’t choose Tancredo because he’s unelectable. Whom should the voters choose instead to be more electable?

The Colorado-based group is supporting Bob Beauprez, a former congressman who lost his 2006 bid for governor by double digits.


In the GOP primary polling earlier this year and late last year, Tancredo was the top candidate but Bob Beauprez was giving him a run for his money. So we’ll see how this turns out tomorrow night. I’m hoping for a Tancredo nominee. He’s got virtually no chance of beating the reasonably popular and inoffensive Democratic incumbent governor, but he could blow up the chances of a lot of other Republicans on the ballot, for Senate especially, as well as for Congress. (Or at least add to the problems, if the nearly as horrid Ken Buck also ends up on the ballot for the U.S. House after dropping his 2014 Senate bid and losing a 2010 Senate bid spectacularly.)

And if Tancredo doesn’t win the primary? Something something we the people.