Headlines Archives - Florida Politics

New poll finds Democrats’ 6-point advantage in generic governor’s race

Without naming a specific candidate, a new poll finds Democrats have a six-point advantage in the 2018 Florida governor’s race.

Conducted by SEA Polling & Strategic Design, a Tampa-based firm known for Democratic polling, the poll was taken Aug. 13-17 with live callers, 30 percent cellphones, and bilingual interviewers.

“With big names lining up to run for governor on both sides, we decided to take a more legislative approach to see how the race for governor is setting up by asking which party candidate for governor was the respondent more likely to support,” SEA pollster Thomas Eldon stated in a memo announcing some of the results.

“Despite a conservative midterm model giving Republicans a plus-two turnout advantage (41 percent Republican/39 percent Democrat/20 percent no party affiliation), the results favored the Democrat by six with peak intensity separation also at six.”

The poll found the Democratic strength lays with women and Hispanics, in Central Florida and South Florida; Republicans continue to hold solid advantages among white voters and in the Florida Panhandle.

Democrats also held a five-point advantage over Republicans among independents. However, independent voters were much less likely than partisans to make a pick. Almost 45 percent did not choose a party candidate, Eldon noted.

Women voters gave the generic Democratic gubernatorial candidate a 15-point advantage over the Republican, and among working women, the lead rose to 19 points. Hispanic voters gave a Democratic choice a 16-point advantage.

“With Democrats holding a significant margin among Hispanics, Hispanic turnout in 2018 is pivotal to secure a clear path to victory,” Eldon wrote.

The poll was released through Christian Ulvert‘s Edge Communications, which is working with  Philip Levine, the Miami Beach Mayor who is posturing as a Democratic candidate for governor, though he has neither announced nor filed for candidacy. Without disclosing whom, Ulvert said the poll was commissioned by an individual, but said it was not Levine nor anyone associated with his campaign.

Leading candidates for governor include Democrats Gwen Graham, Chris King, and Andrew Gillum, and Republicans Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala. Democrat John Morgan and Republicans Richard Corcoran and Ron DeSantis also are positioning for possible runs.

Bill Galvano brings policy skills to top Senate post

Sen. Bill Galvano, a 51-year-old lawyer from Bradenton, will be designated Tuesday by Senate Republicans as the next president of the Florida Senate.

The Republican lawmaker will lead the 40-member Senate for the two years after the November 2018 general elections, assuming the Republicans hold their majority — now at a 24-16 margin — in the chamber.

Over the course of his 13-year legislative career in the House and Senate, Galvano has handled complex issues, including the investigation of a House speaker, a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe and, most recently, a major higher-education initiative.

“It’s not accidental that I entrusted one of my top legislative priorities to him,” said Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, referring to Galvano’s handling of the Senate’s higher-education legislation.

Negron met Galvano when he was assigned to help the Manatee County lawmaker in his first campaign for the House in 2002. They had a common background as lawyers from medium-sized communities.

“He approaches legislative issues like you prepare for a trial,” said Negron, who has been Galvano’s Tallahassee roommate for about nine years.

Negron said Galvano is also strong in building long-term relationships in Tallahassee, which is important in passing legislation as well as rising in the legislative leadership.

“Bill is unique in that he is equally adept in the policy part of the political process as well as the social component,” Negron said.

Earlier in his legislative career, Galvano focused on health care, chairing a House committee. He later became the chamber’s Rules Committee chairman and then led a special committee investigating the conduct of House Speaker Ray Sansom, who resigned.

In his last year in the House, Galvano was one of the key architects of a major gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe in 2010.

After brief hiatus from the Legislature, Galvano won election to the Senate, where President Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, tapped him to oversee the $20-billion-plus public-school budget. It was Galvano’s first foray as a budget leader.

In 2015, Galvano led the Senate effort to resolve a redistricting challenge to the 40 Senate seats, after a court ruled the 2012 redistricting map had violated the state Constitution.

During Negron’s presidency, Galvano has led the chamber’s higher-education budget panel and is the sponsor of a Senate bill (SB 4) this year that seeks to expand and make permanent changes to Florida’s Bright Futures merit scholarship program.

“It’s made my career more interesting to be able to focus on these areas,” Galvano said in an interview. “And I think it will help give me some depth going forward.”

Major influences in Galvano’s life were his parents, Phil and Betty Galvano.

Galvano’s father, the son of Sicilian immigrants, was a self-made man who became one of the nation’s top golf professionals, claiming a list of clients that included celebrities like Johnny Carson and Perry Como.

Galvano said his father was also a strong believer in self-learning and education. In his honor, Galvano hosts an annual golf tournament each spring and has raised more than $3 million for Manatee County schools.

But Galvano said it was his 82-year-old mother, Betty, who helped guide him into a career of law and politics. He said she has always had an active civic life, evidenced recently when Galvano called her to ask how she was doing during Hurricane Irma and found out she was on her way to Moore Haven as a Red Cross volunteer.

“I really got involved in a lot of different issues through her and it piqued my interest in politics at a young age,” Galvano said.

Galvano’s wife, Julie, is an administrator at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton. The couple are parents of two sons and a 13-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, who is a budding actress and singer. Jacqueline, who keeps up with classes through the Florida Virtual School, recently completed a national tour in the musical “Annie.”

Asked about his legislative priorities as the next Senate leader, Galvano said he is looking to the Senate membership to develop ideas reflecting the scope and diversity of the nation’s third-largest state.

“I want to make sure my message is one of recognizing that everyone can contribute to the process, the empowerment of the members,” Galvano said about his agenda. “And most of all to be a facilitator of their ideas and their opportunities.”

Galvano said he knows the state will face budget challenges in the next few years, including dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

He also said he wants to help the state’s citrus industry, which lost crops in the hurricane and has a long-term challenge from citrus greening disease.

Galvano said he would also like to encourage more international trade and continue efforts to diversify the state’s economy, with the aim of creating more homegrown businesses rather than trying to attract businesses from outside the state.

Miami Lakes Republican Rep. Jose Oliva, who was recently designated by the House Republicans as their next speaker, and Galvano will preside over the Legislature in the 2019 and 2020 regular sessions.

Galvano said while he and Oliva may not always agree, they have already established a solid working relationship.

“I think whether it’s known or not, we have been able to resolve and work together on issues far more often than not,” Galvano said. “I don’t perceive that his and mine relationship will be one steeped in gamesmanship, but more based on how we as one team get things accomplished.”

Galvano also said since he began working with Oliva, whose family owns a cigar company, they have found another area of agreement.

“I have to say his cigars are the best I’ve had,” Galvano said.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Personnel note: Ruth Herrle becomes Ledetree CEO

Ruth Herrle, who parted ways with the News Service of Florida in April, is now CEO of Ledetree, a news aggregation site.

Herrle posted the new position on her LinkedIn profile over the weekend.

The new job teams her up with former News Service co-worker Dave Royse. The two are the only names now listed on Ledetree’s online masthead.

“Ledetree combines original content and curated aggregation in order to give you intelligent information,” its ‘about’ page says.

The site’s ownership is hidden; a search for information on the website leads to an Arizona-based proxy registration company.

“From Ledetree original reporting to newspapers, to social media to law makers, to direct communication through Ledetree, we have a place for you to speak your mind, be heard and responded to by those who are of influence, and let our editors get to the truth behind the stories.”

Herrle had been publisher of the Capital-based news provider from 2008-17. It’s owned by the same company that runs State House News Service in Boston.

“Her leaving was a Boston-thing,” said one insider earlier this year, in reference to the holding company, Affiliated News Services.

The company soon announced it had hired Will Galloway, founder of The Capital Steps tracking system, “to supervise further growth.” Galloway now serves as News Service’s vice president of operations.

Herrle had ruffled feathers in the Capitol Press Corps, who had grumbled she had “hijacked” the annual Press Skits.

Some Press Corps members were flustered with the sale of high-priced tables to lobbying firms — the same firms the press criticizes for lavishly contributing to state politicians.

‘Bad Boys’ no more: Juvenile arrests decrease, report says

Advocates supporting issuing civil citations to youth instead of arrests hailed a report issued Monday showing there were 3,000 fewer arrests for “common youth” misbehavior in 2016.

And while approximately one-quarter of those arrests came from just three counties — Orange, Hillsborough and Duval — all three have seen a leadership change that could diminish numbers next year.

The report was issued by The Caruthers Institute, a St. Petersburg-based nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank.

Topping the list of the rate of youth arrests was Orange County with 43 percent, followed by Hillsborough at 37 percent and Duval at 23 percent.

Three counties with the fewest arrests were Miami-Dade, Monroe and Pinellas. The report says that Miami-Dade and Pinellas achieved 94 percent utilization rate of civil citations last year, and Pinellas had a 97 percent utilization in the school board.

Juvenile civil citations are an alternative to an arrest for “common use misbehavior,” which are misdemeanor offenses. Underage drinking, fighting without injury, petty theft and disrupting school functions are some of those activities. When juveniles get a citation, they are usually diverted to give community service instead of being locked up.

The report, “Stepping Up: Florida’s Top Juvenile Civil Citation Efforts 2017,” is the third annual study produced by the Caruthers Institute, led by Dewey Caruthers, who authored the report. He said previous studies showed that juvenile civil citations have three key benefits for communities. They increase public safety, because the youths who go to programs have lower recidivism rates; They improve youth outcomes, as those given a citation don’t have a criminal arrest record which can hurt their employment and housing opportunities; and they save taxpayer money, because citations are less expensive and less time consuming than arrests.

“The data shows that the state is moving in the right direction,” said Caruthers.

“Arresting youth for minor misbehavior, is the least effective approach to dealing with a juvenile and is counterproductive in terms of outcome and cause,” said Howard Simon, executive director of ACLU of Florida. Simon said he’s optimistic that the numbers of juvenile civil citations should increase in Hillsborough and Duval counties next year, because both state attorneys in those counties — Andrew Warren and Melissa Nelson, respectively — have signed memorandums of understanding to increase the use of citations.

The report says that the savings are anywhere from $1,400 to $4,600 for a citation issued as opposed to an arrest.

Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy of James Madison Institute, says that extrapolating that figure over the past three and a half years shows the state was able to save anywhere from $46 to $143 million by issuing citations instead of arrests.

Sponsoring the report were the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida State University’s Project on Accountable Justice, James Madison Institute, Florida PTA., Florida League of Women Voters and Human Impact Partners.

Last spring, the Florida Legislature passed a bill requiring law enforcement officers to issue civil citations to qualifying nonviolent juvenile offenders. The Florida Sheriffs Association opposed the legislation, raising concerns that the measure circumvented officers’ discretion in making real-time decisions in the field.

Department of Juvenile Justice data from 2016 indicated 60 of Florida’s 67 counties already had civil citation programs in place. Two counties were in the process of creating programs, and five did not have a program.

Gambling amendment crosses 300K signatures

A proposed ballot initiative that would give Florida voters the final say in gambling expansion now has more than 300,000 valid signatures according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Voter Control of Gambling in Florida now has 301,370 valid signatures and has surpassed its quota in one of Florida’s 27 congressional districts, Pinellas County-based Congressional District 13 held by former Gov. Charlie Crist.

The amendment would alter the Florida Constitution to give voters the “exclusive right” to authorize any casino gambling expansion by putting all future expansion measures up for ballot approval. The measure would not affect games offered by the Seminole Tribe of Florida or other American Indian tribes.

Amendments need to collect 766,200 valid signatures to make the 2018 ballot, a number pegged to 8 percent of turnout in the most recent presidential election. If amendments make the ballot, they need at least 60 percent of the vote to pass.

The committee backing the anti-gaming initiative, Voters in Charge, said earlier this month that it has collected more than 600,000 signatures and estimated it will need to gather about 1.1 million signatures in total before it exceeds the verified signature requirement.

The biggest backer of the amendment is Disney, which has almost single-handedly funded the signature gathering and verification efforts with $2.33 million in contributions since March, including $575,000 last month.

The only other backer of note is No Casinos, an anti-gambling group headed by John Sowinski, who also serves as chair for Voters in Charge. No Casino’s $195,000 check to jumpstart the committee accounts for nearly every penny of non-Disney money raised for Voters in Charge.

Official Florida House photo

Ralph Massullo backs Frank White’s GOP AG bid

Republican State Rep. Frank White picked up another endorsement in his bid for attorney general Monday morning — and like his previous two endorsements, this one also speaks to White’s “statewide coalition” in the making.

State Rep. Ralph Massullo, a medical doctor representing Citrus and Hernando Counties in the Florida House, announced his backing for White in the 2018 AG race.

“I proudly endorse Frank White to be our next attorney general of Florida. I’ve known Frank to be a man of faith, family, and always upholding the principles enshrined in our Constitution while serving the people of Florida. I’m looking forward to supporting principled conservative Frank White in the campaign ahead,” Massullo said.

White described Massullo as a “great ally in our effort to protect Florida’s conservative values,” adding that “expanding our team to Florida’s Nature Coast and Tampa Bay region is the important next step for building our statewide coalition.”

Indeed, the timing of the endorsements White has released since entering the race last week speaks to just that type of “statewide coalition.”

Massullo’s endorsement was timed to let the current cash frontrunner, retired Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody, know that the Tampa Bay region is in play.

Likewise, two endorsements rolled out last week — House Republicans Cyndi Stevenson of St. Johns and Cord Byrd of Neptune Beach — were intended to be shots across the bow of Northeast Florida’s homegrown candidate in the race: State Rep. Jay Fant.

Through September, Moody was winning the race with donors, having raised over $864,000 in hard money, and another $200,000 in political committee money. Fant has brought in $208,000, and has fronted himself a $750,000 loan.

However, what’s clear is that Moody’s fundraising and endorsements, and Fant’s willingness to self-finance, have not warded White off from this race.

Expect strong fundraising in October from White and more endorsements to come — specifically the kind that speak to a “statewide coalition” of support.

Sources: Ron DeSantis nears entering Governor’s race

The race for the 2018 Republican gubernatorial nomination could soon pick up even more star power, this time with Congressman Ron DeSantis.

Though there was some discussion the Palm Coast Republican may enter the race for attorney general, our sources debunk that theory, saying DeSantis spent the summer meeting with conservative donors discussing the governor’s race.

There has also been a shift in online presence. DeSantis2016.com is now being redirected to RonDeSantis.com.

Likewise, the tagline on the new website speaks to a new emphasis: “Ron DeSantis for Florida.” As does a change in imagery, with lifeguard towers replacing Capitol Hill-style graphics.

And a noticeable uptick in online activity on Twitter: @RonDeSantisFl.

All of this points to a pivot in focus — perhaps to a statewide run many anticipated back in the 2016 cycle, when DeSantis dominated fundraising in the U.S. Senate race until Marco Rubio reconsidered his presidential bid and ran for re-election.

Time is of the essence for DeSantis’ launch, which looks likely to be in November; on the GOP side of the ledger, fundraising is already fast and furious.

Per the Tampa Bay Times, state Sen. Jack Latvala raised over $800,000 in his first month in the race — with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam still the clubhouse leader at $19.19 million raised thus far between committee cash and campaign money.

Meanwhile,  House Speaker Richard Corcoran raised $4.4 million — with $3.9 million on hand (and he’s not officially announcing anything in this race until after the Legislative Session).

DeSantis does have what seems to be a unique value-add, says POLITICO’s Marc Caputo — shoutouts from President Donald Trump and his namesake son.

At a Heritage Foundation confab, the elder Trump called DeSantis “incredible” (per Caputo), while Donald Trump Jr. is tweeting out news stories citing DeSantis’ pressure on the “Uranium One” deal — a hot-button issue for activists on the right.

Though a lot of money is on the GOP side of the race, in a field crowded with smart politicians, the Trump factor could prove dispositive.

DeSantis’ entry could prove most damaging to Putnam, who is attempting to stake out the right flank in the primary. With a few months’ head start, the DeSantis factor could occlude Corcoran’s prospects as well.

Bill Nelson has $6.3 million on hand after Q3 report

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson added nearly $1.8 million in the third quarter according to a new report filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

The new numbers also show Nelson’s principal campaign committee spent about $600,000 between the first of July and the end of September, leaving the longtime Democratic lawmaker with a little over $6.31 million in the bank heading into Q4.

That amounts to a net gain of about $1.17 million for the campaign, which had about $5.14 million in the bank at the end of Q2.

The FEC had not finished processing all the contributions and expenditures in the quarterly report as of Sunday, though the big-picture numbers show $1.43 million of the Q3 money came in from individuals, while $243,550 came from political committees.

The campaign also brought in another $78,450 worth of funds transfers from other authorized committees and received $2,000 from political party committees, with rebates, refunds, dividends, interest and other miscellany making up the rest of the balance.

Nelson has been in the U.S. Senate since 2001, winning handily in each of his three campaigns, but in 2018 he is likely to face a major roadblock for a fourth term due to Gov. Rick Scott, who is widely expected to enter the race.

Scott has never had a problem pulling in money – or dipping into his personal fortune – during his two successful bids for governor. His political committee, Let’s Get to Work, currently has about $2.8 million on hand even without him officially announcing his plans post-governor’s mansion.

That number will likely balloon once Scott makes a formal announcement due to his strong support among state businesses and the loaded political committees that back pro-business policies and politicians.

How to counter Donald Trump? Democrats still searching

Nine months into the Donald Trump era, Democrats are still searching for a standard-bearer and a crisp message to corral widespread opposition to an unpopular president and a Republican-led Congress.

The minority party has put that struggle on vivid display this week in Nevada, site of Democrats’ first national party gathering since a contentious chairman’s election in February. The party’s congressional leaders and potential presidential candidates mostly stayed away, with the exception of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose name has surfaced among possible 2020 hopefuls.

The activists and party leaders who did attend expressed optimism over their rebuilding efforts, but also lingering resentments from the 2016 presidential primary, confirming that the battle between liberals and establishment Democrats continues long after Hillary Clinton dispatched Bernie Sanders but lost to Trump.

The months since the election have brought plenty of frank public assessments about how far the Democratic National Committee has to go to catch up to Republicans on fundraising and technology — twin pillars of how a national party helps its candidates win elections across the country.

The lingering debate was enough for party Chairman Tom Perez, still putting his stamp on the party, to warn that the discord distracts from laying the groundwork for the 2018 midterm elections and 2020 presidential contest.

“This is a Rome-is-burning moment,” he said Friday, his summation of Trump’s presidency so far. “We may be playing different instruments, but we are all in the same orchestra. We need more people in that orchestra.”

Democrats need to flip at least 24 GOP-held seats next November to reclaim the House. Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 Senate advantage, but Democrats must defend 10 incumbents in states Trump won. In statehouses, Democrats have just 15 governors, and Republicans control about two-thirds of legislatures.

Democrats hope to hold the Virginia governorship and pick up New Jersey’s next month. The party is tantalized by an Alabama Senate race pitting the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, against former jurist Roy Moore, a controversial figure who wasn’t the GOP establishment’s first choice.

Perez is selling confidence. “We’ve got game,” he roared to an exuberant audience at one reception.

Behind that hope, there are plenty of reasons for caution, mostly rooted in an uncomfortable reality: No Democrat has emerged as a leader and top rival to Trump in 2020, with a line-up of previous candidates like Joe Biden and Sanders and little-known House and Senate lawmakers.

Rep. Keith Ellison, Perez’s deputy who hails from the party’s left flank, pushed back against any notion that the Democrats don’t have a clear leader.

“We are not a leaderless party. We are a leader-full party. We have Tom Perez. We have Keith Ellison. We have Leader Pelosi. We have Leader Schumer,” he said.

Still, that reliance on Capitol Hill means the party is touting a leadership core much older than the electorate. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is 77. Sanders is 76. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is 66. Other national figures, Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are in the same generation.

“You will see a new generation out there — good messengers with the right message,” said Henry Munoz, the party’s finance chairman, though he declined to speculate about individual names.

A prominent DNC member who backed Clinton in 2016 tried to convince Democrats on Friday to call on Sanders to join the party. “The first word in DNC is ’Democratic,’” quipped Bob Mulholland. But the party’s Resolution Committee, led by Sanders backer James Zobgy, jettisoned the idea. Zogby said taking a shot at Sanders would “feed a Twitter debate that will not be helpful in bringing together” voters on the left.

Trump’s approval ratings are mired in the 30s, levels that history says should spell scores of lost Republican House seats next year. Yet Trump has never had consistent majority public support. Democrats also face an uphill path because Republican state lawmakers drew a majority of congressional districts to the GOP’s advantage.

Trump’s election has sparked an outpouring of volunteer energy and cash on the political left, but the money hasn’t flowed to the national party. Munoz, who helped former President Barack Obama haul in record-setting sums, says the DNC has taken in $51.5 million this year, compared with $93.3 million for Republicans.

Party treasurer Bill Derrough acknowledged that he’s found frustrated Democratic boosters asking about “a damaged brand, what are we doing, what do we stand for.”

The party’s “Better Deal” rollout earlier this year — a package of proposals intended to serve as the economic message to counter Trump’s populist nationalism — hasn’t been an obvious feature at Democrats’ national meeting at all.

Perez is seeking to inject younger blood into the party leadership structure with his 75 at-large appointments to the DNC. But his appointments meant ousting some older DNC members, including Babs Siperstein. The New York at-large member whom Perez did not reappoint warned her fellow Democrats not to underestimate the fellow New Yorker in the White House — Trump.

“He may be weird. He may be narcissistic. But he’s not stupid,” Siperstein said. “He’s smart enough to get elected. He’s smart enough to get away with everything. … So we have to stay united.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Democratic chairman: Donald Trump ‘most dangerous’ president ever

Trying to quell accusations that he is ousting activists from the party’s left flank, Democratic Chairman Tom Perez told fellow Democrats on Saturday that unity is crucial in the fight against President Donald Trump, whom he lambasted as an “existential threat” to the nation.

“We have the most dangerous president in American history and one of the most reactionary Congresses in American history,” Perez said as he addressed the first Democratic National Committee gathering since his February election.

The former Obama Cabinet official blistered “a culture of corruption” that he said extends to Trump’s Cabinet, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but he warned that internal ruckuses over party priorities and leadership would distract from the goal of winning more elections to upend Republicans’ domination in Washington.

The chairman’s plea comes amid a rift over his appointments to little-known but influential party committees and the 75 at-large members of the national party committee. Perez and his aides plug his choices as a way to make the DNC younger and more diverse, but the moves also mean demotions for several prominent Democrats who backed Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primaries and then supported Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison over Perez in the postelection race for party chairman.

Perez spent time during this week’s proceedings meeting privately with frustrated DNC members, including some he did not reappoint. He apologized publicly Saturday for not reaching all of those members before he announced his appointments, but he defended his overall aim.

“If someone ever asks you which wing of the party you belong to, tell ’em you belong to the accomplishment wing of the Democratic Party,” he said, “because you’re trying to get s— done. That’s what we’re trying to do here, folks. We’re trying to move the ball forward.”

Republicans, meanwhile, have exalted in the internal wrangle, painting the DNC as incompetently discordant.

“The Democratic Party’s message of doom and gloom has left them leaderless and nearly extinct in most of the country,” Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens said. “If Tom Perez wants his party to stick with that same failed strategy, Republicans will gladly keep working to help the middle class by cutting their taxes and fixing our broken health care system.”

To some extent, the Democrats’ developments reflect routine party politics after an unusually contentious chairman’s race, but they also fit into the ongoing philosophical tussle on the left.

Sanders’ backers accused the DNC in 2016 of stacking the nominating process in Clinton’s favor and shutting out the Vermont independent who still seeks to pull the party toward his ideology. Those frustrations carried over into the DNC chair race between Perez, the former labor secretary, and Ellison.

Now, Perez’s appointees will hold sway over setting the primary calendar in 2020 and, perhaps most importantly, whether the party’s superdelegates, including the 75 at-large members, will continue to cast presidential nominating votes at Democratic conventions without being bound to any state primary or caucus results.

Democrats are looking next month to hold the Virginia governor’s seat and wrest the New Jersey governor’s seat from Republican control. Next year, Democrats need to flip at least 24 Republican congressional seats to regain control of the House. They face an uphill battle in gaining control of the Senate, because they must defend 10 incumbents in states Trump won last November. Democrats also want to increase their gubernatorial roster from the current 15 state executives.

Separately, former Attorney General Eric Holder urged the party to play the long game necessary to overcome Republican advantages scored when GOP-run legislatures drew congressional and legislative districts around the country after the 2010 census.

Holder leads a political action group, with fundraising support for former President Barack Obama, to back candidates in states where gerrymandering gives Democrats an uphill path to majorities. He singled out Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, among other states, where Republicans “picked their voters” with districts that “are impressive in their geographic creativity but they are destructive to representative democracy.”

The Supreme Court earlier this month heard oral arguments in a case challenging the Wisconsin districts. Legal analysts expect Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the court’s swing vote, will decide whether the court for the first time declares partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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