This Week in Statehouse Action: Dark and Stormy edition

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Riders On The Storm: More Republican groupies are making pilgrimages to fraudulent farce they insist on calling an “election audit” in Arizona’s Maricopa County.

Campaign Action

  • Last week in this space, I wrote about how Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano—who was present at the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol and led his state’s effort to overturn its 2020 presidential election results in favor of Trump—was joined by two of his colleagues for a visit to the arena that’s housing this farce.
  • Making the trip to the site of this so-called “audit” quickly became the cool thing to do among pro-Trump lawmakers.
    • Since my last missive, three more GOP state lawmakers have paid homage to this fraudulent fiasco.
    • Specifically, 
      • Alaska Rep. David Eastman
      • Colorado Rep. Ron Hanks
      • Virginia Sen. Amanda Chase
    • These three Republican legislators have something else in common with Mastriano, too:
  • Lawmakers from Georgia, Nevada, and Wisconsin also have or plan to make this pitiful pilgrimage.

Why?

  • Because all of these Republicans want to replicate the Arizona GOP’s effort in their home states to undermine faith in those elections, then use the exercise as a means to
    • Bolster their Trump cred among the party faithful
    • Use the confusion these shenanigans sow to justify passing more voter suppression laws
    • Or both.

Fire and Rain: Speaking of GOP lawmakers’ “Stop the Steal” movement, a Democrat in Michigan has become a target of repeated death threats for her vocal criticism of a nonsense “hearing” late last year at which Rudy Giuliani was among supposed “witnesses” making baseless allegations of election fraud.

So yes, Republicans, tell us again how your efforts furthering Trump’s Big Lie are totally about “election integrity.”

The Thunder Rolls: It didn’t get nearly as much attention as the Jan. 6 riots in D.C., but Oregon had its own capitol insurrection back in December. 

But unlike its East Coast counterpart, the incident in Oregon is actually being investigated.

  • And that investigation uncovered a chilling video in which a Republican member of the legislature explicitly coached right-wing agitators on how to invade the state’s capitol.
    • The lawmaker at issue, Rep. Mike Nearman, is now under pressure from his own caucus to resign.
  • Information had already come to light that he had opened the door for rioters in December, giving them access to the seat of state government (which was closed to the public at the time because of the raging coronavirus pandemic) and endangering the lives of capitol staff and his colleagues in the legislature.
    • But in the video that surfaced late last week, Nearman is seen coaching supporters through a step-by-step process of where to go, how to text him, and what assistance he’d provide on-site to help them gain access to the capitol building.
    • The video was made just days before this capitol invasion, and in it Nearman intersperses his instructions with ostensible disclaimers, like saying he wasn’t giving out a real cell phone number (he was, and it was definitely his) and that he knew nothing about this “Operation Hall Pass.”
  • In fact, pretty much exactly what he described in his coaching session came to pass:
    • On Dec. 21, protesters gathered outside the building’s west entrance, Nearman left his fellow lawmakers in the House chamber, and he walked out of an entrance, leaving the door hanging open long enough for that angry mob to grab it and gain entry.
      • Nearman now faces possible expulsion from the Oregon House, where 37 of his colleagues are Democrats and 40 votes are needed to boot him.

Umbrella: Okay, because not literally everything is terrible, let’s take a quick peek at some recent moves by Democratic-majority legislatures that will actually make voting easier and more accessible.

  • In Vermont, the (yes, somehow GOP) governor signed a new law that requires all registered voters to receive mail-in ballots.
  • In Colorado, the legislature passed HB21-1071, a measure that paves a smooth way for local governments to conduct ranked-choice (sometimes referred to as “instant runoff”) elections.
    • It’s a concept alien to many voters, but RCV (ranked-choice voting) is extremely popular among election reform advocates and basically just means that, instead of just voting for one candidate for a given office, voters rank those candidates on their ballot by order of preference.
      • If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated, and the votes for that eliminated candidate go to the candidate ranked second on each of those ballots, and the vote tallies for each candidate are adjusted accordingly.
        • This process is repeated, if necessary, until a candidate wins a majority of those adjusted votes.
  • In Maine, a measure allowing online voter registration is nearing final passage.

Rock You Like A Hurricane: Tuesday brought us some (… mildly, at least) interesting primary and special elections.

  • In New Hampshire, Democrat Muriel Hall defeated Republican Christopher Lins 58-42 to hold HD-Merrimack 23 for her party. Hall improved on Joe Biden’s 55-44 win in this suburban Concord district.
  • In Virginia, you’ve probably heard that former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe won the primary and is one step closer to possibly becoming just the second governor in Virginia’s history to win statewide election to a second term (the commonwealth’s constitution prohibits governors from serving consecutive terms).
  • But! You may not have heard about some surprising primary results further down the ballot.
    • By the by, all the Dem races listed below are in Northern Virginia, except HD-79, which is in Hampton Roads (some folks call this area Tidewater, and those folks are wrong).
      • In HD-45, incumbent Del. Mark Levine lost to Elizabeth Bennett-Parker while simultaneously losing his bid for the lieutenant governor nomination.
      • In HD-50, self-described socialist Del. Lee Carter lost to Michelle Maldonado.
        • Carter also lost his bid to become the gubernatorial nominee rather spectacularly, coming in dead last in the five-person field.
      • In HD-79, Nadarius Clark ousted “centrist” Del. Steve Heretick, who had become an occasional thorn in the side of his caucus and angered progressives in recent sessions by voting against bills banning assault weapons, ending qualified immunity for police officers, and empowering localities to make decisions about removing Confederate statues.
        • A thing about the Clark-Heretick contest that’s interesting to me and almost no one else is that Heretick himself won the seat in the 2015 primary by ousting conservative Del. Johnny Joannou, who had been in the legislature for more than three decades and was notorious for selling out his fellow Democrats to House Republicans.
        • In that primary, Heretick attacked Joannou’s conservative record as out of touch with the district … an attack successfully echoed against him by Clark this year.
      • In HD-86, Irene Shin defeated Del. Ibraheem Samirah after out-fundraising him and earning endorsements from several of his fellow lawmakers.

Taken collectively, these primary upsets will make the Virginia Democratic Caucus more diverse and a little more progressive.

The big primary upset on the Republican side, however, definitely moves the GOP caucus to the right and demonstrates Donald Trump’s firm hold on the party’s base.

  • In conservative, rural Southwest Virginia, Wren Williams savagely beat seven-term incumbent Del. Charles Poindexter by painting him as insufficiently supportive of Trump and his bogus claims of a “stolen” election.

Oof.

Welp, that’s a wrap for this week. Thanks for tuning in! Try to stay dry out there during the season’s gully-washers and frog-stranglers, and don’t forget your umbrella—the weather this time of year is as unpredictable as some of those Virginia primary results.

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Roberto Walker
He is an associate editor and works at the political desk. He covers a wide range of news from world politics to local politics.
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