As Donald Trump continues to trail in polls across the country, Ohio Democrats are optimistic the “Trump Effect” will hinder down-ballot Republican candidates, allowing Democrats to chip away at GOP legislative supermajorities. With Trump trailing Hillary Clinton in the Buckeye State, many Democrats, such as Senate Democratic Caucus executive director Zac Kramer, are seeing an opportunity. Kramer noted, “We are very excited about an opportunity to pick up a couple seats. The top of the ticket is trending very well in our direction.” While Republicans currently hold supermajorities – 65-34 in the House, 23-10 in the Senate, Democrats believe gains can be made.
As the book closes on another California legislative session, the Democratic-majority legislature achieved progress on a host of issues from bolstering gun control and passing favorable labor laws and repealing the "welfare queen" law to enacting a historic minimum wage increase, an array of proactive legislation to combat climate change, and expanding funding for early childhood education. While not everything on the progressive wish list was passed, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon commented, “This has really been a spectacular year,” and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon believes, “What we’ve accomplished collectively will go up there with any other legislative period in the history of California.”
Maine Gov. Paul LePage is once again at the center of another scandal, this time for his racially charged comments regarding drug dealers in the state, coupled with a truly horrific voicemail he left for a Democratic state representative. With lawmakers and constituents alike calling for repercussions, Maine Republicans may have to start worrying about a “LePage Effect” in addition to the anticipated “Trump Effect” dragging down GOP candidates this November. These controversial top-of-the-ticket Republicans may cost the GOP seats in the state legislature as the party attempts to hold onto their five-seat majority in the Senate and decrease their deficit in the House. Current Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R) is already acknowledging this concern: “The reality is, this is going to be a campaign issue. There is no question that they will use this and, well, the governor has Republicans in a really terrible position…We are very concerned. This is not what you want going on 70 days before an election. It is not something you want going on anytime, so there’s no question it’s going to have an impact.” Outgoing Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, a frequent LePage adversary, noted “[Republicans] clearly understand that there are electoral consequences to it. I think they need to be nervous about an outcome in November that leads to the removal of the governor (and replacement) with a Democratic governor.”
In Wisconsin, Republican state Senator Steve Nass has equated the University of Wisconsin’s decision to establish a new diversity outreach program to a “sinister” act. The university recently released a series of plans that aim to improve the experience of minority students through student discussions on social differences, a new cultural center for black students, and increased opportunities to take ethnic studies courses. After hearing about the proposal, Senator Ness commented that university leaders “constantly complain about lacking money” but “they never lack money for advancing new and more sinister ways of liberal indoctrination of students.” University Chancellor Rebecca Blank stated that encouraging a diverse community is central to the university’s educational mission.
Last month in North Carolina, a three-judge federal appeals panel struck down the majority of North Carolina’s voter ID law, calling it “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow.” Now, emails sent between Republican lawmakers and to the North Carolina election board have come to light that expose North Carolina Republicans’ nefarious and coordinated operation to systematically disenfranchise minority voters in an effort to pad GOP vote returns. As soon as the “legal headache” otherwise known as Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was out of the way, Republican state legislators pounced on the opportunity to restrict the voting rights of black voters. Republican lawmakers solicited demographic data and statistics detailing voter behavior broken down by race. Using this information, Republicans pushed a “monster” bill restricting ballot access through the legislature, silencing public testimony and relying on only white Republican votes to pass the bill in the state House. The bill eliminated out-of-precinct voting and same-day registration, instated an unconstitutional voter ID law, cut early voting periods in half, repealed the ability for 16- and 17-year olds to pre-register to vote, and limited local autonomy by taking away counties’ ability to extend poll hours during extraordinary circumstances. When the final vote was cast, Democratic representatives stood, held hands, and bowed their heads in prayer as they witnessed a racially-motivated strike against voting rights. Thankfully, courts intervened, striking down multiple provisions that targeted minority voters "with almost surgical precision" and purposefully disenfranchised swaths of voters. The Supreme Court of the United States denied Governor McCrory's request to stay the lower court’s ruling, which would have allowed the “monster bill” to take effect before the November election. However, in recent weeks Republican appointees of county election boards are attempting to carry out the bill’s intentions, cutting early voting and eliminating numerous polling sites in heavily African American areas. Democrats and voters are staying vigilant this election season, protesting attacks on ballot access and raising awareness.