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Georgia Runoff Candidates Paint Each Other as Out of Touch With Voters, Refuse To Answer Questions About SCOTUS and Election Results

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  • Candidates for two special elections in the Georgia Senate runoffs participated in separate televised debates on Sunday, though incumbent David Perdue (R) refused to attend his debate against challenger Jon Ossoff (D).
  • In the other debate, Senator Kelly Loeffler (R) and Democratic Reverend Raphael Warnock (D) attempted to cast each other as radical and out of touch with Georgian voters.
  • Notably, Loeffler refused multiple times to answer a question about whether or not she believed the election was rigged, a claim President Donald Trump has repeatedly made despite his arguments consistently being struck down in court.
  • Likewise, Warnock did not answer questions regarding how much he believes a second coronavirus stimulus package should total or if Democrats should add additional justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, should they win the Senate. 

Ossoff Debates Alone

One candidate debated alone onstage Sunday in a precursor to a special Senate election that will ultimately decide which political party controls the chamber for the next two years. Meanwhile, in another debate connected to that same election, two other Senate candidates tried to paint each other as radical and out of touch with voters.

The lone candidate onstage was Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is challenging incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue in Georgia. During that debate, Ossoff called Perdue a “coward” because last month, Perdue announced that he would not appear at Sunday’s debate. 

“My message for the people of our state, at this moment of crisis, is your senator feels entitled to your vote,” Ossoff said. “Your senator is refusing to answer questions and debate his opponent because he believes he shouldn’t have to.”

While Perdue’s staff has said he wants to focus on meeting with voters instead debating Ossoff, not showing up also means that Perdue wasn’t challenged on a number of topics — including the pandemic, his refusal to admit that President Donald Trump lost the Presidential Election, and a scandal involving accusations of insider trading.

Loeffler Won’t Say if Election Was Rigged

In the other debate, both candidates — Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and Democratic Reverend Raphael Warnock — appeared. Notably, they are campaigning for Georgia’s other Senate seat.

Easily one of the biggest takeaways from the night came with the first question when moderator Greg Bluestein asked Loeffler to explicitly state whether or not she believes, like President Donald Trump, that the 2202 Election was rigged. Additionally, Bluestein asked if she supports Trump’s demand that Governor Brian Kemp (R) call a special election to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state.

Notably, that win was democratically decided by the people of Georgia. It’s also a win that has already been confirmed twice and is in the process of being confirmed again, per a recount request from the Trump campaign. 

For the past month, the Trump campaign has filed dozens of lawsuits in multiple states alleging voter fraud. Despite this, those claims have been overwhelmingly dismissed by judges — even ones appointed by Trump himself — as baseless.

Instead of denying the claim that the election was rigged, when asked, Loeffler dodged the question.

“Look, it’s vitally important that Georgians trust our election process, and the president has every right to every legal recourse and that’s what’s taking place,” she said. “But I’ve called for investigations and now, there’s 250 investigations open here in Georgia.” 

“Senator, do you believe the election was rigged?” Bluestein followed up.

“It’s very clear that there were issues in this election,” Loeffler responded. “There are 250 investigations open, including an investigation into one of my opponent’s organizations for voter fraud. And we have to make sure that Georgians trust this process because of what’s at stake in this election. The promise that Chuck Schumer made was to fundamentally change America and I’m making sure that we don’t go down the road of socialism.”

Loeffler then went on to dodge the question three more times over the course of the debate. 

Last week, Attorney General Bill Barr, who had previously supported Trump’s calls for an investigation into voter fraud, told the Associated Press that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. 

On Sunday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said that while 250 investigations are underway in the state, his office has found no evidence of “systemic fraud” that could change the election results. In fact, Raffensperger has repeatedly denied such claims while also saying that, as a conservative Republican, he had wanted Trump to win. 

On Saturday, at a rally in Georgia, Trump continued to spurt baseless fraud claims and call on Kemp to overturn the results; however, on Sunday, Kemp affirmed that he would not call a special session and that Georgia’s election results will stand.

While it’s very striking that Loeffler won’t outright admit Trump’s loss, it’s not exactly shocking. Much of the Republican base is also the super-charged Trump base. Even ardent supporters of the president like Barr have faced criticism from conservative media, which blasted him as part of the “deep state” after he contradicted the president. 

Thus, how many votes could Loeffler have compromised had she said the opposite of Trump? How many votes from moderate Republicans would she have compromised if she openly went along with Trump?

Warnock Won’t Answer Questions on Stimulus Cost or SCOTUS

Among other unanswered questions, after moderators asked Warnock how much money Congress should siphon into a second stimulus package, Warnock refused to give a specific number. Instead, he answered more generally, stressing the need for that package to support small businesses, essential workers, and infrastructure and green energy. 

“Can you give me a number?” moderator Russ Spencer followed up. 

“Look, I think that we should at least make sure that whatever we do, workers are at the center of that relief,” Warnock said.

Bluestein later asked Warnock if he supports calls to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court. That idea has been pushed by some Democrats following Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation by Senate Republicans on Oct. 26 — a week before the 2020 Elections. In 2016, Senate Republicans argued against starting the confirmation process for Obama-appointed judge Merrick Garland because it was an election year.

“As I move all across the state, Greg, people aren’t asking me about the courts and whether we should expand the courts,” Warnock said. “I know that’s an interesting question for people inside the beltway to discuss, they’re wondering when in the world are they going to get some COVID-19 relief?” 

“But it will impact people on the ground, so I am wondering if you can answer the question, do you support expanding the Supreme Court?” Bluestein pressed.

“I’m really not focused on it,” Warnock said before shifting the subject back to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Other Key Highlights

Among other key highlights, both Loeffler and Warnock said they would take a coronavirus vaccine supported by health experts. Both also said they’ll encourage others to also take that vaccine.

The concern that a large number of Americans might be hesitant to take the vaccine has been around since the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s persisted, in part, because vaccine development has been so rapid. At the moment, top vaccine candidates, such as those from Pfizer and Moderna, appear to be safe; however, the FDA has not yet confirmed them for emergency-use.

Despite answering similarly to this one question, much of the debate was Loeffler and Warnock trying to paint the other as out of touch voters.

Several times throughout the night, Loeffler called Warnock a socialist and referred to him as a “radical liberal,” but Warnock affirmed that he believes in“our free enterprise system,” meaning capitalism.

Loeffler accused Warnock of wanting to defund the police, which Warnock denied.

“I don’t think we should defund the police but we certainly do need criminal justice reform,” he said.

“We need to make sure that we have an independent review process when civilians die at the hands of police. We need to make sure that police officers and departments that have a pattern of misconduct are held accountable. We can do that and celebrate police at the same time.” 

Warnock attacked Loeffler’s record by repeatedly accusing her of using a private coronavirus briefing in January to engage in insider trading in the stock market. While that investigation has been the subject of high-level scrutiny, a Senate Ethics Committee investigation found no evidence that she had violated rules. 

Like Loeffler, Warnock also trying to paint Loeffler as radical, saying she “welcomed the support of a QAnon conspiracy theorist,” that being Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R).

Last month, Loeffler denied attachment to the conspiracy theory, saying, “Look, I don’t know anything about QAnon.”

Voting Deadline 

The elections for both of these seats are going to take place on Jan. 5. Monday is the last day to register to vote both online and through mail. 

There is no Election Day registration in Georgia. 

From there, early voting will begin next Monday. It will continue until Jan. 1. That is the same day as the deadline to request an absentee ballot. That ballot must also be received, by mail or in person, no later than Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CBS News) (The Hill)

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Campaign Season Gets Rolling This Month With Primaries in 13 States

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Several of the contests taking place this month will serve as important tests for Trump-backed candidates and how much power the former president still has over the GOP.


May Primaries Start With Key Race in Ohio

The 2022 midterm season is officially heating up this month with 13 states heading to the polls.

Voters in Indiana and Ohio will kick off the busy month on Tuesday with several highly anticipated races, including one closely watched contest for the seat being vacated by long-time Senator Rob Portman (R-Oh.)

The fight for Portman’s seat has been a heated one: candidates have spent tens of millions of dollars, held numerous debates and forums, and at one point, two of them even got into a physical confrontation. 

The main reason there are so many eyes on this race is because it will prove to be a key test for former President Donald Trump and the influence he has over the party. While Portman has generally been moderate and, at times, more readily critical of Trump than many others in his party, the Republican primary campaign has basically been a fight to see who is the most in line with Trump.

According to FiveThirtyEight, all but one of the seven Republican senate candidates embraced the former president’s election fraud lies as they fought for his coveted endorsement in a state he won by eight points in both 2016 and 2020.

Trump, for his part, ultimately ended up endorsing Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance in a move that surprised many, because Vance had previously been vocally opposed to the former leader and his competitors had spent months running ads noting that fact.

However, the fight for Trump’s backing appears to have been worth it. Last week, a Fox News poll found that support for Vance has surged by double-digits since Trump’s endorsement, making him the front-runner.

Still, as FiveThirtyEight reports, “other factions of the party haven’t given up the fight either — which means the primary will be a direct test of how much clout Trump has when other Republican elites dare to defy him.” 

Meanwhile, there are also concerns regarding the ongoing legal battle over Ohio’s congressional map and the confusion that has caused for the state’s election calendar. For weeks, it was widely believed the state’s primaries would be pushed back after the Ohio Supreme Court ordered GOP lawmakers to redraw their map.

The map had been gerrymandered to give Republicans 12 out of the 15 congressional seats in the state even though they had only won around 55% of the popular vote. Ohio voters also previously passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.

The election, however, is still going forward anyway, even as early voting was down a whopping 40% from the last election, and the legislative races will not be on the ballot Tuesday, meaning there will have to be a second primary, which will likely drive down turnout even more.

Other Major Races This Month

There are also other notable contests scheduled for later this month. On May 17, there will be two additional races for seats vacated by Republican senators in North Carolina and Pennsylvania that will serve as important indicators of the former president’s sway over the party.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, the main Trump test focuses on two statewide races for the positions currently held by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R). The two infamously angered Trump after they refused to help him overturn the election, and as a result, many are watching to see if the former president’s full-fledged pressure campaign against them will work.

In Georgia and other battlegrounds voting this month, Democrats are also hoping they can make inroads — particularly in Pennsylvania. But recent polls have not painted a good picture for the party. Last week, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 47% of voters said they were more likely to vote for the Republican in their district, while just 44% said they would back Democrats. 

The poll marked the first time in eight years that a Marist survey found the GOP with an advantage for congressional ballot tests. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (FiveThirtyEight) (PennLive)

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New York’s Highest Court Strikes Down Democrat-Gerrymandered Map

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The move represents a major blow to Democrats, who stood to gain as many as three seats in Congress if their map had been accepted.


Appeals Court Ruling

The New York State Court of Appeals struck down a congressional map drawn by the state’s Democrats Wednesday, dealing the party a major blow.

In the decision, the state’s highest court agreed with Republicans who had argued that the map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Democrats. The justices called the map “substantively unconstitutional as drawn with impermissible partisan purpose.”

The court also condemned the Democrats for ignoring a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that aimed to limit political influence in redistricting, which included the creation of an independent entity to draw maps that the legislature would then vote on. However, the commission created to prevent partisan gerrymandering was unable to decide on a map because of its own partisan stalemate. As a result, Democrats in the legislature took it upon themselves to draw a final map.

But the version that the legislature passed and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed into law re-drew lines so that Democrats could have gained as many as three new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Such gains would be highly significant in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, where Republicans are expected to make substantial gains and may very well take back the House. Unsurprisingly, Republicans sued, and a lower court struck down the map.

In their order, the Appeals Court justices took away the legislature’s ability to make the map and instead delegated that power to a court-appointed “neutral expert.” 

While the judges did say there was enough time to finish the map before the primary elections in June, they also added that the Congressional contests would likely need to be moved to August. Races for governor and other statewide officials, however, would stay the same.

Broader Trends

The Appeals Court ruling is unique in that it targets Democrats, but it also comes as part of the broader trend of state courts cracking down on gerrymandering — though most other instances have stemmed from GOP-drawn maps.

In just the first four months of 2022, state courts in Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas, and Maryland have all struck down redistricting plans crafted by lawmakers.

Unlike the New York ruling, some of those other courts have implied that they will still allow those maps to be used in the 2022 elections. Such a decision would very likely disadvantage Democrats even more.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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McCarthy Warned Far-Right Lawmakers Could Incite Violence After Jan. 6 in New Audio of Leaked Call

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The conversations represent a marked difference from the public efforts of McCarthy and other Republican leaders to downplay their members actions.


Leaked Audio

Four days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) expressed concern about far-right Republicans inciting violence and openly voiced support for censoring them on Twitter, according to audio published by The New York Times on Tuesday.

The recordings, which come from a call among party leaders and aides on Jan. 10, are by far the clearest evidence top Republicans acknowledged that their members played a role in stoking violence before the insurrection and threatened to do so after.

They also emphasize the vast difference between what top Republicans, especially McCarthy, said behind closed doors, and how they downplayed and ignored the actions of their members in public. 

One of the most notable elements of these recordings is that McCarthy and the others explicitly identified several individuals by name. They focused mainly on Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) and Mo Brooks (R-Al.) as the primary offenders.

In the audio, McCarthy can be heard flagging Gaetz right off the bat.

“Tension is too high. The country is too crazy,” he added. “I do not want to look back and think we caused something or we missed something and someone got hurt. I don’t want to play politics with any of that.” 

Specifically, McCarthy and the others talked about how Gaetz had gone on TV to attack multiple Republicans for being unsupportive of former President Donald Trump after Jan. 6. They particularly expressed concern over his targeting of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), who was a member of the leadership team and had already been facing threats.

Others on the call also noted that Brooks had spoken at the rally before the insurrection, where he made incendiary remarks that many have viewed as direct calls to violence. McCarthy said the public comments from his members “have to stop,” adding he would call Gaetz and have others do the same to tell him that this “is serious shit” and “to cut this out.”

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the second-ranking House Republican, asserted at one point that Gaetz’s actions were “potentially illegal.” 

“Well, he’s putting people in jeopardy, and he doesn’t need to be doing this,” McCarthy responded. “We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.”

Republicans on the call also mentioned incendiary remarks from other members, including Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx.), Barry Moore (R-Al.), and Lauren Boebert (R-Co.). Cheney pointed to Boebert as a security risk, noting she had tweeted out incredibly sensitive information about the movements of top leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) during the attack on the Capitol.

“Our members have got to start paying attention to what they say, too, and you can’t put up with that shit,” McCarthy added later. “Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?”

McCarthy in Hot Water

The newly published recordings also come just days after The Times reported that McCarthy had told members on a call after the insurrection that he would urge Trump to resign.

McCarthy initially called the reporting “totally false and wrong,” but shortly after his denial, The Times received permission from their source to publish audio where he can be heard saying precisely that.

McCarthy, for his part, has tried to spin the situation, claiming that his remarks were still true because he never actually followed through on the plan to call Trump. 

Still, the situation prompted widespread backlash from the far-right faction of the Republican party. 

Multiple people expressed hesitancy about their support for McCarthy as Speaker of the House if Republicans take control of the chamber in the midterm elections. Some said they could not trust him.

Speaking on his show Tuesday, Foxs News host Tucker Carlson called McCarthy “a puppet of the Democratic Party.”

Gaetz also responded with ire, tweeting out a statement in which he referred to the call as “sniveling” and said of McCarthy and Scalise: “This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders.”

Other members mentioned in the call, however, appeared to brush it off. In a statement to Axios, Moore claimed that the story was engineered by “RINOS” (Republicans in Name Only), and that “Republicans will be more united than ever after taking back the House this November.”

It currently remains unclear whether these revelations with pose any long-term threat to McCarthy, but if Trump is any indication of the far-right party line, the House leader may be in the clear.

After The Times published the audio of McCarthy saying Trump should resign, the former president told The Wall Street Journal that the relationship between the two men was untroubled.

“I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly,” he added. “They realized they were wrong and supported me.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Axios) (The Washington Post)

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