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What's Happening With Those Crazy Congressional Races Today?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 15:18
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(Before It's News)

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Let me start by saying it's not a conspiracy. It's just that all the Beltway types live in the same bubble. So when, for example, Cook does their House ratings, they don't look further than the districts the DCCC and NRCC have identified as battlegrounds. Media follows along happily and a kind of a prophecy starts becoming self-fulfilling. Today, Cook showed 3 Republican seats likely to fall to the Democrats– FL-13 (from Jolly to Crist), NV-04 (from Hardy to Kihuen) and NH-01 (from Guinta to Shea-Porter) and one Democratic seat likely to fall to the GOP, Murphy's red-leaning FL-18 where the self-funding conservaDem, Randy Perkins is feeling about now that he just wasted $7,827,029 of his own money, just to see Brian Mast beat him. And they identify 18 toss-ups– 2 blue ones (Nolan's MN-08 and Blue Dog Brad Ashford's NE-02)– and 16 red ones.

CA-10- Denham vs Eggman
CA-25- Knight vs Caforio
CA-49- Issa vs Applegate
CO-06- Coffman vs Carroll
FL-07- Mica vs Murphy
FL-26- Curbelo vs Garcia
IL-10- Dold vs Schneider
IA-01- Blum vs Vernon
ME-02- Poliquin vs Cain
MN-02 (open)- Lewis vs Craig
NV-03 (open)- Tarkanian vs Rosen
NJ-05- Garrett vs Gottheimer
NY-19 (open)- Faso vs Teachout
PA-08 (open)- Fitzpatrick vs Santarsiero
TX-23- Hurd vs Gallego
VA-10- Comstock vs Bennett

That's the playing field. It's certainly where the bulk of the money is being spent, although there are 14 other Republican-held seats (+ the red Florida Panhandle seat Blue Dog Gwen Graham abandoned in fear) where there is an acknowledgement of a contest– and where the DCCC and NRCC are spending some money. But when you look at districts that the DCCC (or, presumably, the NRCC) lets it be known that “nothing's happening”– like in PA-07, NY-02, TX-21, NJ-07 as examples– operations like Cook as well as Beltway media, doesn't even look.

The DCCC, for example, signaled that Anna Throne-Holst, a Steve Israel recruit (in more ways than one) had a hot race against Lee Zeldin on the eastern end of Long Island. She's not even a Democrat– switched parties a few days before the deadline– but had a thing with Israel so he pushed her. She's losing by a ridiculous landslide– although Pelosi's House Majority PAC wasted $1,069,507 on the race (and EMILY's List threw in another $881,886). Next door, in NY-02, the South Shore district represented by Israel crony Peter King, which includes a chunk of Nassau and a bigger, bluer chunk of Suffolk, Israel was determined to keep the DCCC away. (The Democratic candidate, DuWayne Gregory, the progressive Presiding Officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, is the best shot the Democrats have ever had to win the seat, but Israel is adamantly opposed to black people representing majority-white districts and he blackballed Gregory.) Today Gregory is likely to fair better than Throne Holst and a case can be made that if even half the nearly two million dollars wasted on her hopeless, silly race was spent in NY-02, Peter King would be looking for a job on K Street tomorrow.

We've talked about how the DCCC, infuriated that Mary Ellen Balchunis beat their piss-poor conservative primary candidate– 74-26%– and withdrew from one of the best Democratic take-over districts in the whole country… partially out of spite and partially out of pique. Yes, yes, this is Pelsoi's corrupt, vile, money-wasting DCCC. Hillary will probably win PA-07 by 20 points today. She, Bernie and Elizabeth Warren all campaigned with Mary Ellen, but the DCCC wouldn't spend a dime, told institutional donors not to waste their money and warned the media off the district. Cook doesn't even mention it, even though by their own ratings, it's far closer to being able to be flipped than other districts the DCCC is pushing for their Blue Dog and New Dem candidates.

More of a stretch is TX-21, Austin to San Antonio, plus the Hill Country. When Berniecrat Tom Wakely beat his conservative opponent, the DCCC literally refused it even take any of his calls. That's what a bunch of muthafuckers they are. The incumbent, clueless, venal and doddering reactionary Lamar Smith is a powerful committee chair, which, instead of inspiring the DCCC, makes them shy away. With Hillary looking like she could win the district– up in Travis, Bexar and Hays counties– the DCCC should be going to bat for Wakely. Instead, all their Texas money is going to a grotesquely corrupt Blue Dog, Pete Gallego, who was in Congress from 2013 to 2015, voting consistently with the GOP to the point where Democrats didn't even bother coming out to vote for him in 2014. That's how a 70.8% Latino district came to be represented by a non-Latino right-wing Republican kook.



Blue America has been working to help Wakely with a revolutionary phone-banking system and with the mobile billboard above. Now if we had just been able to spend the $3,092,425 the DCCC and the $2,209,274 the House Majority PAC wasted on the Gallego race…

Meanwhile, the only acknowledgement that there's even a race at all in TX-21, came from Lisa Rein at the Washington Post yesterday morning,in a piece about climate change: House science chairman gets heat in Texas race for being a global warming skeptic. “In the race for the White House,” she wrote, “the climate change debate has been more or less missing in action. In the race for a central Texas House seat, the Democrat hoping to topple 30-year incumbent Republican Lamar Smith has made global warming his top campaign issue. Democrat Tom Wakely is campaigning as a champion of climate science in a year when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump– and most other candidates for Congress, for that matter– have barely touched on the issue, in what is shaping up to be the hottest year on record.”

Wakely has seized on a theme that has defined Smith’s run in Washington as chairman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology: He’s a climate change skeptic.

Smith, 68, an attorney from San Antonio who’s represented the area northwest of the city since 1987, rejects the scientific consensus that man-made pollution is behind global warming. He’s used his perch as committee chairman to subpoena federal climate scientists to discredit their research, issuing a record number of legal summonses this Congress and turning a panel that was once a sleepy backwater into an aggressive attack dog.

This has made Smith a polarizing figure in Washington, beloved by oil and gas interests who give generously to his campaigns and vilified by those fighting to reduce global warming pollution.

Now his attacks on scientists are percolating back home in a district buffeted in recent years by drought and water shortages. And while Smith does not often highlight his views on climate change on the campaign trail, Wakely, a little-known Democratic activist, saw an opening this year to pounce.

“Lamar Smith is the major impediment to anything being done on climate change in Congress and absolutely nobody is talking about it,” said the 63-year-old Air Force veteran and former union organizer who supported Bernie Sanders. “People in this district are slowly getting the message that climate change is not a far left wing conspiracy.”

Wakely has little shot at unseating Smith, who is running for a 16th term in a safely red district.

But his campaign isn’t the only sign that Smith’s stance on global warming is raising some eyebrows back home.

Smith has long won the support of local newspapers. But this year, his hometown paper, the San Antonio Express-News, refused to endorse him for reelection, citing his “bullying tactics” on climate change.

“We’ve argued that Smith’s undeniably conservative credentials have been a good fit for the 21st congressional District,” the editorial board wrote on Oct. 17. “However, Smith’s actions have developed more transparently this term into an issue that goes beyond the boundaries of his district. A particular issue is his abuse of his position as chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Specifically, it is his bullying on the issue of climate change that should concern all Americans.” The Express-News is one of Texas’s largest newspapers.

…Smith was one of the first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump and has stood by the nominee, who is favored to win central Texas. Like Trump, he says the U.S. has not done enough to secure the border with Mexico and is co-sponsoring legislation to keep out Syrian refugees.

This Congress, Smith has shown a willingness to go beyond the boundaries of the science committee’s traditional jurisdiction, subpoenaing attorneys general and environmental groups investigating whether oil giant ExxonMobil covered up what it knew of the dangers of climate change and launching an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. He has also demanded records from the Environmental Protection Agency to undermine President Obama’s regulations to reduce emissions from power plants.

“As Chairman, I have an obligation to conduct vigorous oversight of agencies and programs within my jurisdiction,” Smith said in a statement to the Post. “Under that umbrella, I work to ensure that federal agencies base their regulations and policy decisions on the best available science and not on partisan politics.”

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Wakely runs a private hospice care home for veterans and other patients. He served early in his career on a school board in southern Wisconsin. He says he was motivated to make climate change a core issue because his granddaughter has asthma and he worries about pollution. He argues that global warming is keenly felt by voters in the district, who have been faced in recent years with long droughts and severe water shortages.

“We’re talking about water,” Wakely said. “That resonates with everybody. It’s part of the changing climate.”

In a district with a large military presence, Wakely also says he will fight for faster benefits and better health care for veterans.

Smith did not face a Democratic opponent two years ago. He has always won reelection with at least 60 percent of the vote. While the district is now 28 percent Latino, a demographic trend that could favor a Democrat, a smaller percentage of these residents are registered to vote.

While the economy of the Lone Star state is heavily reliant on the fossil fuel industry, energy companies are not a huge presence in the 21st district. Still, Smith calls climate science an economic threat to his constituents.

“The Obama administration along with climate alarmists have long pursued climate policies that would cost Americans billions of dollars and put hard working people in my district out of a job,” he said.

Smith has raised $1.4 million this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, while Wakely has brought in $64,400, much of it in small contributions. ClimateHawksVote, a political action committee that endorses candidates who fight global warming, has identified Wakely as its top “message” candidate this year.

A 2014 estimate by the nonprofit Yale Program on Climate Change Communication of attitudes toward the issue found that 65 percent of people in Texas’s 21st district believe global warming is happening, similar to 63 percent nationwide. The estimate, based on a statistical model using national surveys, also said 49 percent believe that global warming is caused mostly by human activities, while 33 percent think it is caused by natural environmental changes. Those numbers roughly mirror national data.

Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said he doubts climate change is a top voter concern in the district. “I think it’s driven from within for Smith, more by his personal beliefs,” Jones said.

Texas is one of ten states that allow straight ticket voting, where general election voters can choose every candidate in a political party who is on the ballot. With Trump favored to win the 21st district, this makes Wakely’s challenge tougher.

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“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis

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