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National Govt & Politics
Amid Senate split, Dems gain in House, as vote count rolls on
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Amid Senate split, Dems gain in House, as vote count rolls on

Amid Senate split, Dems gain in House, as vote count rolls on
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Amid Senate split, Dems gain in House, as vote count rolls on

It was not a quiet weekend for elections officials around the country, as vote counting gave Democrats the edge in a Senate race in Arizona, while Republicans kept their leads in key races as a recount began for Senate and Governor in Florida. Meanwhile in the House, Democrats continued to slowly pick off more GOP seats, increasing the size of their new majority for 2019, as a small group of races for Congress could remain undecided for days, if not weeks.

Most of the political battling was taking place over the recounts in Florida, where top Republicans repeatedly made charges of vote fraud, but state law enforcement officials made clear their investigations had not found anything to investigate, which led state GOP officials to all but demand an election probe.

Here's a rundown of where the 2018 mid-term elections stand:

1. Florida - Advantage Republicans As the races for Senate and Governor went into a recount on Sunday, it seemed like the only chance left for Democrats to win those races was the discovery of some kind of major tabulation error. Gov. Rick Scott (R) led Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) by around 12,500 votes, a margin that dwindled from almost 60,000 after the elections, amid outcries from Republicans. The margin in the Governor's race was over 43,000 votes for the GOP. It is rare for a recount to overturn a result, especially one that involves a lead of thousands of votes. Unless there is a major mistake in how the votes were added up, a change seems difficult to envision. For now, Florida is Advantage GOP.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

2. Florida GOP cries fraud, but no investigations. Despite being ahead, Republicans of all stripes in Florida spent the weekend accusing Democrats of trying to "steal" the election in Florida, but that message was undercut a bit by investigators in two Florida state agencies. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement made clear it had no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing, and the Florida Department of State - which had monitors in Broward County's elections offices - told reporters they found "no evidence of criminal activity." That didn't sit well with Gov. Scott, who on Sunday accused Nelson of trying to 'steal' the election, and state Attorney General Pam Bondi - a favorite of President Trump - all but demanded that the FDLE and the Department of State publicly say that they did know of possible election wrongdoing. Democrats said it was all political hyperbole. "Governor Scott and President Trump are spewing baseless claims of voter fraud in Florida," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

3. Democrats have edge in Arizona Senate race. While Republicans seem to have the advantage in Florida, Democrats were gaining ground through the weekend in the race for Senate in Arizona, as Rep. Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ) took the lead on Friday, and then built that into an over 32,000 vote edge by Sunday evening, with over 160,000 ballots still to count - mainly from the Phoenix area. While Republicans claimed vote fraud repeatedly in Florida, the GOP Secretary of State rejected allegations about any vote troubles in Arizona, saying there was nothing amiss with the methodical vote count in the Grand Canyon State. "One of the major reasons it takes time to count ballots is that there are hundreds of thousands of early ballots dropped off at the polls on election day," said Michele Reagan, the Arizona Secretary of State. Other Republicans echoed that assessment, rejecting President Trump's talk of a new election, as there were reports that national Republicans were not pleased - as they wanted a tougher message about possible vote fraud.

4. Georgia Governor - GOP edge, but more votes to count. The other state that is still making vote counting headlines is Georgia. On Saturday, the new Secretary of State said no new vote totals would be posted until the next week. A few hours later, there were new vote totals posted by Georgia elections officials, as Democrats threatened legal action, complaining that there were thousands of votes going uncounted, and that state officials were not revealing how many votes remained to be counted. Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp declared victory, and said it was time for Democrat Stacey Abrams to concede. The Abrams camp refused, as they pointed to a break down of the new votes released on Saturday, which clearly showed a large majority of them going to the Democrat, as Abrams still hopes to force a runoff. As of Sunday evening, Kemp was at 50.28 percent.

5. Mississippi race roiled by "public hanging" remark. Most of you probably don't know that there is a runoff for U.S. Senate in Mississippi coming up in a few weeks, between appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and former Democratic Congressman Mike Espy. On Sunday, video surfaced of Hyde-Smith speaking with supporters on November 2, saying that one supporter who had endorsed her was such a good person, that if he 'invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row.' In a statement, Hyde-Smith said she "used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous." It should be pointed out that her opponent, Espy, is black. It should also be pointed out that public hangings don't have much of a positive connotation, especially in Mississippi.

6. Senate remains +2 for GOP. With an edge to Democrats in Arizona, and an edge for Republicans in Florida, right now it seems like the two parties will split those races. If that happens, Democrats would grab a GOP seat in Arizona, and Republicans would take a Democratic seat in Florida. In other words, it would be a wash overall, and would leave the GOP gains at two seats. A loss in Arizona would mean that Republicans lost GOP seats in both Arizona and Nevada, which probably was a surprise for many Republicans on Capitol Hill. There was a time late on Election Night when I thought the Republicans had a chance to win a 6 seat gain - but the Democrats won in Nevada, protected a seat in Montana, and now seem to be on the way to victory in Arizona's Senate race.

7. 10 Undecided races left in the House. Democrats continue to slowly pick up more GOP seats in the House, as they are now at a gain of 32 seats, heading for their largest gain since the 1974 elections, right after Watergate. There are 10 House races still undecided - four of those are being led by Democrats, and the other six by the GOP. The biggest problem for Republicans is in California, where there is an outside chance that Democrats would take six seats away from the GOP. Veteran Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's race was called for the Democrats on Saturday, and the seats of Republican Rep. Jeff Denham (he's behind) and Rep. Mimi Walters (she's still slightly ahead) are in danger. Also, an open seat in CA39 is still in play, though the lead has shrunk for Republican Young Kim, who would be the first Korean-American woman to be elected to Congress. But it's not clear if she can hang on.

8. This extended vote count is normal. I really want to stress this point. It is normal for various states to still be counting votes at this point. The elections don't get wrapped up with a neat bow around midnight on Election night. The vote counting often goes on for days - sometimes weeks in the case of a close race. This is what happens every two years. I pay attention to it, because I'm always watching close races for Congress - especially in California, where they take weeks to count all the votes. States like Arizona and California have hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots come in after Election Day - they just have to be postmarked by that day, and can still arrive until Friday. Then all the signatures have to be matched - this takes time. And it's normal. But for most people, the idea that it is still going is an outrage. I'm sorry, but that's the system that we have. And it's normal.

9. Undecided races for the House. Here's your thumbnail of the ten races still not officially called in the U.S. House:

+ CA10 - Rep. Jeff Denham R-CA may be on his way out of Congress, as the California Republican trails. The late arriving mail-in ballots tend to trend for the Democrats in the Golden State.

+ CA39 - Republican Young Kim's lead continues to shrink, but she may have a chance to hang on, as her lead is about 2,400 votes over Democrat Gil Cisneros.

+ CA45 - Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) has seen her lead drop from 6,000 to 2,000 votes in recent days in her Orange County district. This was once the bastion of conservatism - now there is an outside chance that Democrats could sweep every Congressional seat in this county.

+ GA7 - While his colleague Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) lost next door in GA6, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) still has a lead of about 900 votes. It's unclear how many votes are still to be counted from absentees, overseas military votes, and/or provisionals.

+ Maine 2 - Elections officials will continue this week to use the "ranked choice voting" process to determine the winner. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) led in the initial vote, but did not get a majority. Now the votes of those who finished in third and fourth will be reallocated to the top two finishers, as voters had to indicate their second and third choices in the race. Some experts believe the Democrats will win this seat.

+ NJ3 - Democrats seem to have the edge in this final seat in New Jersey, where their candidate has a 4,000 vote edge over Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ). Provisional ballots were counted through the weekend. One county won't count provisionals until Wednesday. A MacArthur loss would leave the Republicans with only one seat out of 12 in the New Jersey delegation, a loss of four seats in the 2018 election.

+ NY22 - Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) is behind by over 1,300 votes, with absentees and provisionals still to be counted in coming days. For everyone who tells me that Republicans never do better after Election Day, she benefited from a tabulation error, which helped her close the lead by over 200 votes.

+ NY27 - Indicted GOP Rep. Chris Collins leads with a number of absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted. He would seem to have the edge, but you never know what might happen with those who sent their votes in early.

+ TX23 - Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) continues to lead by 1,150 votes, with provisionals and absentee ballots still to be counted. Hurd was declared the winner on Election Night, then lost his lead, and grabbed it back late that evening.

+ UT4 - Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) still trails in her race, but did gain some votes in the counts done on Friday. She has already had to endure the ridicule of President Trump last week, who blasted her and other Republicans representing more suburban districts who had spurned his public support during the campaign.

All ten of those undecided races are for GOP seats.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • They reportedly claimed their 3-month-old was born with a heart condition when deputies were called to the family’s Paulding County, Georgia, home about a year ago. The newborn was unconscious when deputies arrived, and later died at the hospital.  But an autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found a different cause of death, according to Sgt. Ashley Henson with the Paulding Sheriff’s Office. The baby girl, whose name was not released, died from blunt force trauma to the head, the autopsy concluded. Now the child’s parents, Tanya Atkinson, 26, and Jason Andrew Gromer, 37, have been arrested and charged with murder and aggravated battery. They were being held without bond late Monday, jail records indicated. >> Read more trending news  Deputies were called to their Hiram home shortly after 7 a.m. May 10, 2018, Henson said. The baby was taken to WellStar Paulding Hospital but did not survive.  “Initially, it was believed that the heart issue was the cause of death,” Henson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The investigation continued, though, concluding with the the autopsy determining the death was a homicide.  In September, Gromer created a GoFundMe page to raise money for an attorney, saying that their other children were removed from his home after the baby’s death. A photo showed a small baby in a pink sleeper.  “I am broken and my family is broken too,” Gromer wrote. “There is no police report or an autopsy. But yet they continue to hold my family in custody. I am never one to ask for help but here I am ... with a broken heart a broken family asking for help.”  Gromer last posted on the page in September. Late Monday, the page had been removed.
  • Brenda Jackson, the mother of Dale Earnhardt Jr. has died at the age of 65. Jackson was the daughter of NASCAR fabricator Robert Gee, who built cars for several drivers including the late Dale Earnhardt.  Jackson married Earnhardt in 1972, had two children. Dale Jr. and his sister Kelley remained with their mother when the couple separated and  Earnhardt chased a career in NASCAR.  Jackson was a staunch supporter of her son's decision to retire from full-time racing because of concussions, and was a  tireless supporter of The Dale Jr. Foundation and other charitable efforts.  She is survived by her husband, two children, a stepdaughter, six grandchildren and two brothers.
  • The wife of a Missouri Ku Klux Klan leader was sentenced to life in prison Friday after admitting she fatally shot her husband two years ago, cleaned up the crime scene with her son’s help and then disposed of the body. Malissa Ann Ancona, 46, of Leadwood, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, tampering with evidence and abandonment of a corpse in the death of 51-year-old Frank Ancona Jr., according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Frank Ancona was the imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the newspaper reported.  Her son, Paul Jinkerson Jr., 26, of Belgrade, faces the same charges as his mother, the newspaper reported.  “I fired both shots that killed my husband,” Malissa Ancona told the judge, according to the Post-Dispatch.  Eric Barnhart, the attorney representing Jinkerson, told the newspaper he expects Malissa Ancona’s admission to help his client at his trial, set to begin May 6.  >> Read more trending news St. Francois County prosecutor Melissa Gilliam asked Malissa Ancona to clarify her role in her husband’s death, the Post-Dispatch said. She told Gilliam her son was involved in the aftermath -- cleaning blood from the bedroom walls, getting rid of bloody bedding and dumping Frank Ancona’s body about 20 miles away near Belgrade -- but that she acted alone in the shooting.  Malissa Ancona initially reported her husband missing, but later told police her son fatally shot her husband while he slept on Feb. 9, 2017. According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Frank Ancona’s car was found abandoned in a remote part of the county by a U.S. Forest Service employee.   The Riverfront Times reported that a pile of burned clothes was found nearby.  Frank Ancona’s body was found two days after the slaying on the bank of the Big River, the Sheriff’s Office reported. He had been shot twice in the head, once with a 9 mm handgun and once with a shotgun, according to The New York Times.  A family who went to the river on a fishing trip made the gruesome discovery.  Frank Ancona’s father, Frank Ancona Sr., told the judge Friday that he had to identify the body of his only son, who he said had “no face left” after the murder. According to the Post-Dispatch, the defendant’s former father-in-law described her as a “terrible wife” and a “piece of (expletive).” He often asked his son, “Why, why do you stay with her?” the grieving father told the judge. According to Malissa Ancona’s Facebook page, the couple was married since 2010.  Ancona Jr. had decided to leave the marriage prior to his death, authorities said. Malissa Ancona told investigators upon her arrest that her son killed his stepfather after he requested a divorce.  The Riverfront Times reported that investigators found bloody clothes at Jinkerson’s home, as well as blood in his car. Surveillance footage from a gas station near the river and the wooded road where Frank Ancona’s car was found showed mother and son driving by, one driving Frank Ancona’s Ford Fusion and the other, Jinkerson’s Chevy Impala. The camera showed them passing by again a short time later. That time, both were in the Impala, the newspaper reported.  When a search warrant was executed at the Ancona home, investigators found blood on the bedroom ceiling and soaked into the couple’s mattress, the Riverfront Times said.  The guns used in the attack were found in the river near Frank Ancona’s body and in a pond in St. Francois County -- where Malissa Ancona said they would be.  Malissa Ancona maintained that Jinkerson pulled the trigger -- and agreed to testify against her son -- until last September, when she wrote a letter to Judge Wendy Wexler Horn in which she confessed to the slaying. According to the Post-Dispatch, Malissa Ancona wrote that she wanted to “let the court know now that he did not pull the trigger, (I DiD).” She wrote that she was “under the influence” when she spoke to detectives following her husband’s death. The Riverfront Times reported that Malissa Ancona was addicted to prescription pain pills.  Frank Ancona’s ex-wife, Kellie Ancona, described him as “very, very kindhearted” and a good father and grandfather. His daughter, Carolyn Ancona, wept when talking about her father.  “He didn’t deserve this. No one deserves this,” she said, according to the Post-Dispatch.  Before his death, Frank Ancona led a branch of the Ku Klux Klan that the Southern Poverty Law Center has defined as a hate group. As of last year, the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan still had chapters in Florida and South Dakota, the SPLC website says.  The Post-Dispatch reported that a since-suspended Twitter account in Malissa Ancona’s name contained links to the Klan group and described her as a member.  According to a 2014 federal court filing, Frank Ancona described the group as “comprised of white Christian patriots, people who care about their nation and their race.” He and his group had sued the small city of Desloge, Missouri, after city officials tried to keep the group members from handing out leaflets to drivers stopped at intersections. The Klan group was represented by the ACLU of Missouri.  “We do not commit acts of violence, and we believe in perpetuating our race,” Frank Ancona said in his description. “We believe in having children and grandchildren, white ones․ We believe in the Constitution as it was originally written by our forefathers that founded this nation.” Frank Ancona told the New York Times in an interview published a week before he was slain that he had been a Klan member for more than 30 years. He said he formed the Traditionalist American Knights in 2009.  He and his group made news in the days before his death because of fliers the group distributed overnight in neighborhoods in Maine. He told the New York Times he did not understand why anyone was afraid of the Klan.  “If you follow the doctrine of the Klan, it is a positive Christian organization that brings benefits to people,” Frank Ancona told the newspaper. “I don’t focus on the negative history.” During the 2014 protests following the fatal police shooting of Ferguson teen Michael Brown, however, Frank Ancona and his group passed out leaflets in which they vowed to use lethal force against protesters. The fliers, one of which was obtained by MSNBC, read, “Attention: To the terrorists masquerading as ‘peaceful protesters! You have awakened a sleeping giant.” As Missouri awaited a grand jury decision on whether the officer who killed Brown, Darren Wilson, would be criminally charged, Frank Ancona told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that the Klan would not tolerate violence during the protests.  “It’s a bit ironic for you to talk about how bad violence is when you’re telling people that you’re going to arm yourself and shoot,” Hayes responded. “You’re advising people of what the law is for being able to shoot someone. That seems, I think, to everyone seeing this like incitement. It seems like you are attempting to bring about the exact same thing you’re saying that you are against.” Frank Ancona disagreed, saying it was aimed at people making “terroristic threats” and informing them that the people of Missouri have the legal right to protect themselves from attackers.  “It’s basically educating them on that law and letting them know what their options are,” he said. “You know, you don’t have to sit back and let somebody throw a Molotov cocktail at you and just sit there and take it. There’s remedies under the law.” Around that same time frame, Frank Ancona sat down for an interview with a member of the hacker group Anonymous, which later claimed to have hacked Ancona’s Klan group’s files and released what it said was his personal information.  In his New York Times interview the week before he was killed, Frank Ancona said the only part of the Klan doctrine he believed people might see as a negative was the group’s policy against the mixing of races.  “We need to preserve the white race because we are the ones who keep civilization civilized,” he said. 
  • Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn on Monday, The Associated Press and other media outlets reported. >> Read more trending news  The move was an effort by the Democratic-led House to bring in a key member of Donald Trump’s staff who had direct knowledge of President Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine the Russia probe, CNN reported, citing an anonymous source. Nadler authorized subpoenas earlier this month for McGahn and four other White House officials as part of a probe into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power charges, according to CNN.  The House Judiciary Chair issued a statement on the subpoena on Twitter Monday evening. “Following the scheduled testimony of Attorney General William Barr on May 2, 2019, and the expected testimony of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which we have requested, the Committee has now asked for documents from Mr. McGahn by May 7, and to hear from him in public on May 21,” the statement said. “Mr. McGahn is a critical witness to many of the alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described int he Mueller report. His testimony will help shed further light on the President’s attacks on the rule of law, and his attempts to cover up those actions by lying to the American people and requesting others to do the same.” The subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee can be read below:
  • Sanford Police arrested a carjacking suspect who tried “hiding” in a lake early Monday morning. On Facebook, the department said at around 1:45 a.m., officers were called about a carjacking near the intersection of Country Club Drive and Jefferson Boulevard. The suspect, later identified as Monterrious Burton, jumped into a truck and tried to drive away.  The owner had been working on the truck and was still inside when Burton jumped in.  Police said Burton tried pulling the owner out the truck.  The two of them started fighting when the owner’s wife tried to help him.  Burton hit her and then ran away. When officers arrived, Burton ran to a lake where the K9 unit tracked him.  His shoes were found in the water.  The K9 Athos then located Burton, who was “hiding” under the water.  He surrendered and was taken into custody without incident. Sanford Police released a video of the K9 tracking Burton to the lake and giving himself up: (Facebook post) (Tweet)

Washington Insider

  • Monday brought yet another annual warning from the trustees in charge of America's major government retirement programs that action is needed by Congress to alter the financial trajectory of Social Security and Medicare, otherwise those programs will face a financial shortfall which could require dramatic cuts in benefits in the future. 'Medicare still faces a substantial financial shortfall that will need to be addressed with further legislation,' the Medicare trustees wrote in their annual report. 'The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes,' the Social Security report states. The bottom line is not new - neither Medicare nor Social Security has enough money to indefinitely keep paying current benefits to the millions of Americans who use those two programs. 'Social Security will pay out more than it takes in next year and every year going forward,' said Michael Peterson, head of the Peterson Foundation, a federal budget watchdog group. 'That’s the definition of unsustainable.' 'Medicare will go insolvent in 2026, Social Security in 2035,' said Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). 'Refusing to address this will cause automatic cuts to these programs.' If Social Security were to reach that point of insolvency - and Congress did nothing about it - then the latest estimate is that benefits would be paid out at only 77 percent, a 23 percent reduction. Medicare and Social Security are not dealt with on a yearly basis by the Congress in terms of the budget - as they are on automatic pilot, unless lawmakers proactively take action to change the amount paid out in benefits, or brought in from revenues. 'Implementing changes sooner rather than later would allow more generations to share in the needed revenue increases or reductions in scheduled benefits,' the Social Security report noted. Like many fiscal situations within the federal budget, there are three fairly basic ways to deal with Medicare and Social Security: 1) Reduce the amount spent by the programs in terms of benefits. 2) Increase the amount of tax revenues brought in for the programs. 3) A combination of 1) and 2). One option which has drawn some attention in recent years on the Social Security side is forcing more wealthy income earners to pay a larger share of payroll taxes into the system, in order to help bring in more revenues. Currently, the Social Security payroll tax ends once an individual earns $132,9000 in 2019 - that amount is indexed, and creeps up each year. One plan would have it phase out at the current level, and then kick back in at a higher level of income, like $500,000 or $1 million, in order to bring in more revenues.. But votes on matters like expanding the payroll tax to bring in more resources to pay benefits - or raising the retirement age, slowing the yearly increase in Social Security benefits, or making some Medicare recipients pay more for health care - those type of proposals are considered politically toxic by many, too easily demagogued by both parties. “This report highlights the need for serious-minded legislators to partner with the Administration on commonsense, bipartisan reforms that will lower costs and eliminate fraud and abuse, preserving the program for future generations,” the White House said in a statement. But while politicians on all sides say the right things, there has not been a serious legislative effort on the matter in years. 'Why wait to until drastic changes are needed to avert insolvency in these programs?' asked Shai Akabas of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. 'The time for action is now.