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● LA Redistricting: Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Wednesday evening that he'd vetoed the new congressional map that Louisiana's Republican-controlled state legislature passed last month because it did not create a second majority-Black seat, though he said he'd allow new state House and Senate lines to take effect without his signature.
GOP leaders have already made it clear that they'll attempt what would be only the third veto override in at least a century―and possibly in state history―as they seek to implement their congressional gerrymander. The battle, as we'll discuss, will be in the lower chamber, where Republicans would need to appease a few angry members of their own caucus in order to obtain the necessary two-thirds supermajority.
The disputed map maintains the status quo, preserving a single Black district stretching from New Orleans to the capital of Baton Rouge alongside five predominantly white constituencies. Republicans have long ignored calls to create a second seat where Black voters could elect their preferred candidate, despite the fact that African Americans make up about a third of the state's population, because they know such a district would likely send a Democrat to Washington.
The map passed the Senate on a 27-10 vote, which is one more than the 26 needed to undo Edwards' veto. However, it cleared the House only 64-31—six votes below the 70 needed for an override in the 105-seat chamber. Five Democrats and four Republicans didn't vote (one safely blue Democratic-held seat is also vacant), so if all the absent members sided with their party's leadership, the GOP would still need to convince two opponents to switch their votes in order to implement the map over Edwards' objections.
Altogether three Republicans—Gabe Firment, Beryl Amedee, and caucus chair Blake Miguez—voted no on the congressional map, along with Roy Adams, who is one the chamber's three independents, while Francis Thompson was the lone Democrat to support the map. The three GOP naysayers were angry that the new congressional lines would divide their communities, though they didn't seem to have any problem with partisan or racial gerrymandering. Firment was particularly furious, saying right after the map passed that he hoped Edwards would issue a veto and that he'd "seriously consider" voting to sustain it.
We're waiting to see if Firment still feels that way, but Miguez now tells the Lafayette Daily Advertiser's Greg Hilburn that he's unsure if he'll support an override. The caucus chair, who functions as the chamber's majority leader, reiterated his unhappiness about how the 3rd District had been altered following Edwards' veto and argued that Rep. Clay Higgins was "treated poorly" by his own party. Miguez also threw some shade at his boss, Speaker Clay Schexnayder, saying, "The real question is whether the speaker can bring Democrats along. Last time we were in a veto override session he expressed confidence that he could but was unsuccessful." (That session last year was indeed a huge failure for the GOP—more on that in a bit.)
Amedee, the third Republican "nay," doesn't appear to have said anything about her thinking since last month. However, Thompson told Hilburn Thursday that he was a yes for override. The Democrat previously explained he was crossing party lines because he feared a second Black majority seat would endanger 5th District GOP Rep. Julia Letlow—who happens to be a constituent of his. Thompson previously defied the governor last year when he was the one Democrat to participate in the unsuccessful attempt to override Edwards' veto on a bill banning trans girls and women from participating in sports consistent with their identity; the governor responded afterwards by ejecting the representative from his seat on the Southern Regional Education Board.
Not only is the fate of Edwards' veto in doubt, it's not even clear when the override attempt will happen: Hilburn explains that lawmakers themselves are unsure whether they can try to hold an override vote during their regularly scheduled legislative session that is set to start Monday, or whether they'll need to do "a separate, but parallel session."
(The legislative maps also failed to clear two-thirds in either chamber, but the governor evidently decided they weren't worth the fight: He explained his decision not to veto them by saying, "I do not believe the Legislature has the ability to draw new state House and Senate maps during this upcoming legislative session without the process halting the important work of the state of Louisiana.")
Successful veto overrides are beyond rare in the Bayou State: Indeed, as far as anyone can tell, the only two that ever succeeded happened in 1991 and 1993. (The Times-Picayune wrote in 2015 that reliable records only go back to 1921, but it could find no evidence of any overrides before then.) One big reason why governors so rarely lose is that they have wide discretion over which projects do or don't get funded, which gives them a powerful tool for pressuring wavering lawmakers. As one former legislator told The Advocate recently, "A road project is a big deal, especially if there's a terrible traffic problem. The constituents might learn it could go away because of a vote on reapportionment, an issue they couldn't care less about."
Last year, though, the legislature tried to defy Edwards when it convened the first veto override session in state history in an attempt to enact several conservative bills, with that anti-trans bill attracting the most attention. Schexnayder said at the time he felt "comfortable 100%" that he had the votes to prevail, but as Miguez made sure to point out, he was very wrong: Lawmakers sustained all of Edwards' vetoes, with the governor saying afterwards he'd been "very, very light on threats" but "not so light on promises." None of that legislation concerned redistricting, but observers at the time saw the override session as an important test for whether the governor would be able to block GOP gerrymanders in 2022. Now his ultimate trial is here.
P.S. Those two occasions when an override did succeed back in the early 1990s both took place at a time when conservative Democrats dominated each chamber. In 1991, Republican Gov. Buddy Roemer, who only months before had defected from the Democratic Party, gave the thumbs down to what would have been the most extreme anti-abortion law in the nation. Legislators said at the time that the governor could have sustained his veto if he'd made use of his office's power to entice members, but he didn't make the attempt.
Courts prevented that bill from ever going into effect, but that veto alienated anti-abortion Republicans and almost certainly contributed to Roemer's third-place finish in the all-party primary a few months later; former Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards (no relation to the current governor) went on to win back the office in the notorious "Race from Hell" against former KKK leader David Duke.
The stakes were far lower two years later when Edwards rejected a bill that would have cost the attorney general's office $3 million in funding. The Times-Picayune explained, "Edwards' veto threw the Legislature's budget for the year out of whack by $3 million, which [was] one of the reasons the state lawmakers went through with the override." Few people, though, seemed to care much: Multiple lawmakers told the paper two decades later that they didn't even remember that override, despite its historic nature. Edwards, who died last year, was likewise blithe in his recollections, saying in 2015, "The attorney general had some kind of controversy with the Legislature. They weren't angry at me, but more angry at him."
● WI Redistricting: Wisconsin Republicans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling by the state Supreme Court adopting a new congressional map proposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. In their petition, Republicans claim that the Wisconsin court changed the criteria it said it would use to evaluate maps submitted by the parties mid-stream. They also say Evers' plan violates the doctrine of "one person, one vote" because its smallest and largest districts differ by two people, rather than the mathematical minimum of one person. Astonishingly, the GOP's brief cites Dr. Seuss's 1, 2, 3 in support of this argument, and we are not joking in the slightest.
● AR-Sen: Former NFL player Jake Bequette, who is challenging Sen. John Boozman in the May Republican primary, centers his new spot around "[b]abies, borders, bullets." The narrator doesn't mention the fourth B, Boozman.
● OK-Sen-B: Former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon announced Thursday that he would enter the special election to succeed departing Sen. Jim Inhofe, a campaign that will take place eight years after Shannon lost the Republican nomination for Oklahoma's other Senate seat to now-Sen. James Lankford. The primary may also add another candidate soon, as Rep. Kevin Hern has confirmed he's considering, though he acknowledged he would need to give up his coveted spot on the House Ways and Means Committee to run.
Shannon made history in 2013 when he became the first African American or Chickasaw Nation member to lead the state House, and he got the chance to mark another milestone when Sen. Tom Coburn resigned the following year. Shannon earned endorsements from anti-establishment groups, which spent $1.7 million on his behalf, but he faced a tough contest against then-Rep. Lankford. Shannon and his allies tried to portray his opponent as too close to D.C. leaders, while Lankford fought back by emphasizing his own conservative record. The congressman also made sure to broadcast a statement from Coburn, who was ostensibly neutral, condemning the ads against Lankford while praising him as "a man of absolute integrity."
Polls showed Lankford ahead but not close to the majority he needed to avoid a runoff, but he ended up prevailing by a surprisingly strong 57-34 margin, a showing fellow Sooner State politicians attributed to his extensive connections with the state's large Baptist community. Shannon also likely suffered because his allies, who incorrectly assumed there would be a second round of voting, focused their resources on an unsuccessful attempt that same day to deny renomination to Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran. Shannon went on to co-chair Black Voices for Trump and to lead Chickasaw Community Bank, but this is the first time he's sought office since that 2014 defeat.
● PA-Sen: Rep. Conor Lamb is spending at least $198,000 on his first TV ad for the May Democratic primary, a commercial that highlights his background in the Marines and as a federal prosecutor. After introducing Lamb, a narrator continues, "And when a mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Lamb stood up to the Republicans, calling out their lies." The voiceover concludes, "Our best chance to beat the Republicans this fall, Lamb has defeated the Trump machine three elections in a row."
● WI-Sen: Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who has up until now run ads showcasing him as a hardline conservative culture warrior, uses his newest spots (here and here) to depict him as a caring person. Both spots star Markeitha Smith, the widow of a late Milwaukee pastor. Smith in one commercial says of the senator, "When I lost my husband, he made sure he reached out to me. He made sure I had everything that I need."
● IA-Gov: Deidre DeJear, who is the only Democrat in the race with just over a week to go before the filing deadline, has earned an endorsement from 2018 nominee Fred Hubbell. The Des Moines Register writes that Hubbell's support could help encourage donors to contribute to DeJear, who has struggled to raise money.
● CA-03, CA-49: The California GOP issued endorsements on Thursday in two primaries contested by multiple credible Republicans. One went to Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who is running in the open 3rd District, while the other was bestowed on financial advisor Brian Maryott, who is waging another campaign against Democratic Rep. Mike Levin in the 49th. The rest of the party's congressional endorsements went to incumbents, candidates who face no serious intra-party opposition, and people seeking safely blue constituencies.
● CA-41: On Thursday, one day ahead of California's filing deadline, pastor Brandon Mosely announced that he was ending his campaign against Republican Rep. Ken Calvert and endorsing fellow Democrat Will Rollins, a former federal prosecutor.
● MN-01: Jeff Ettinger, who served as CEO of the food processing giant Hormel from 2005 through 2016, announced Thursday that he would run as a Democrat in the special election to succeed the late Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn. Ettinger, who has not been politically active before, is campaigning as a moderate, saying, "I think solutions that come from the middle stick, and are accepted by people more."
● NC-11: Local media reported Wednesday that the North Carolina State Highway Patrol had charged Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn days before with driving on a revoked license. The congressman had been similarly charged in a 2017 case that was later dismissed, though law enforcement, citing privacy laws, would not comment on what Cawthorn had done to get his license revoked in the first place.
● NY-04: Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett announced Wednesday that he was joining the June primary to succeed retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice, a fellow Democrat. Corbett, who leads a village with a population of about 8,500, is close to Jay Jacobs, who chairs both the state and Nassau County parties. Jacobs praised both the mayor and another contender, Nassau County Legislator Siela Bynoe, saying, "Between the two of them will come a candidate that'll win."
The chair himself made news last week when he emailed party donors and told them that they should "HOLD OFF on making ANY contributions to ANY of the candidates until we have had an opportunity to discuss the complexities of the race." Jacobs added that he believed that "[n]ot every one of the contenders right now" could win, and while he didn't elaborate at the time, he now tells Newsday that former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen "would have a very tough time winning in this congressional seat, given what I know about the voters and the opposition that she would have." He didn't elaborate on what he felt Gillen's drawbacks were, though Jacobs says that he'd also unsuccessfully encouraged her to seek an open state Senate seat.
● OK-02: State Rep. Dustin Roberts announced that he was entering the June primary to succeed Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a fellow Republican who is running for the Senate. Both Roberts and the congressman are citizens of Native American nations: Roberts is a member of the Choctaw Nation while Mullin is part of the Cherokee Nation.
● DCCC: On Thursday, the DCCC unveiled the first round of its "Red to Blue" program for the 2022 election cycle, highlighting candidates whom the committee thinks has the strongest chance of picking up GOP-held districts or defending competitive open seats. The full list of contenders making the DCCC's initial roster are below:
- CA-22: Assemblyman Rudy Salas
- CA-45: community college trustee Jay Chen
- CO-07: state Sen. Brittany Pettersen
- IA-01: state Rep. Christina Bohannan
- IA-02: state Sen. Liz Mathis
- IL-13: former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski
- MI-03: 2020 nominee Hillary Scholten
- NM-02: Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez
- NY-01: 2020 NY-02 nominee Jackie Gordon
- NY-11: former Rep. Max Rose
- OH-01: Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman
- OH-13: state Rep. Emilia Sykes
Most of these candidates don't face any serious intra-party opposition in their primaries. The most notable exception is Gordon, who faces two Suffolk County legislators, Bridget Fleming and Kara Hahn. Rose also has to get past Army veteran Brittany Ramos DeBarros in his own primary, but he looks like the favorite.
The DCCC's counterparts at the NRCC have a similar program called Young Guns, but there are some key differences between the two operations. When the DCCC adds a candidate to Red to Blue, it's declaring that this contender is the national party's choice in a key race. By contrast, the NRCC often will highlight multiple candidates running in the same race, as well as people running in safely red open seats.
● TX-AG: Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt on Thursday conceded last week's Democratic primary and endorsed former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza in the May runoff. Garza took first place with 43% while former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski, who is the grandson of Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski, edged out Merritt 20-19 for second. Republicans face their own runoff between incumbent Ken Paxton and state Land Commissioner George P. Bush.