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National Govt & Politics
Flipping more GOP seats, Democrats keep adding to House majority
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Flipping more GOP seats, Democrats keep adding to House majority

Flipping more GOP seats, Democrats keep adding to House majority
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Flipping more GOP seats, Democrats keep adding to House majority

With new victories in GOP House seats in the last 24 hours in New Mexico, Washington, and Georgia, and the possibility of others in New Jersey and California, House Democrats are slowly adding extra seats to their thin majority in the next Congress, as vote counting continues to play out in a number of states in the wake of Tuesday's mid-term elections.

The latest seat to flip from Republican to Democrat came on Thursday in the suburbs to the east of Seattle and Tacoma in Washington State, as Democrat Kim Schrier won an open seat long held by Republicans, which was vacated by the retiring Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA).

A few hours earlier in the suburbs of Atlanta, Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) - who only won the seat in an expensive special election in 2017 - conceded defeat to Democrat Lucy McBath, giving Democrats another new seat in the U.S. House.

"After carefully reviewing all of the election results, it is clear that I came up a bit short on Tuesday," Handel said in a statement.

Those races left the makeup of new House set to take office in January at 225 Democrats and 197 Republicans, leaving 13 races still undecided - Democrats lead in 5 of the remaining races, GOP candidates in the other eight.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

Democrats are also still hoping for a late miracle next door to Handel in Georgia's 7th Congressional District, where the lead of Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) has shrunk to 890 votes.

Here's the 13 U.S. House races where the winner is not yet official - all of them are seats currently held by Republicans:

Georgia 7 - Republican Rob Woodall had not run a campaign ad in eight years, but he did in the final days of this year's campaign. Final absentees and provisional ballots are still to be counted in this suburban Atlanta GOP district. Woodall's opponent says she wants all the votes to be counted.

Maine 2 - Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) leads by 888 votes. But under a new Maine law, since Poliquin did not get over 50 percent, there will be a new count under what's known as the "ranked-choice voting" process, where you 'rank' your choices. And now, the over 22,000 votes that went to two Independent candidates will be reallocated either to Poliquin, or his Democratic opponent Jared Golden. That new vote tally should come on Friday.

New York 22 - With 100 percent of the vote in, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) is losing by 1,422 votes to Democrat Anthony Brindisi. Unlike a lot of other states, New York waits to count absentee ballots - over 13,000 of those ballots have been returned and must be counted. That count won't start until next week.

New York 27 - With 100 percent reporting, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who was indicted for insider trading earlier this year, leads Democrat Nate McMurray by just under 3,000 votes. But there are about 10,000 absentee ballots still in play in this western New York district, which will delay a final official tally.

New Jersey 3 - Democrat Andy Kim leads Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) by about 2600 votes in this central New Jersey district, but as in other states, there are still provisional and absentee ballots to be counted. Kim declared victory on Wednesday evening, after a big chunk of ballots were counted, vaulting him into the lead. This one may also take some time to finish.

California 25 - Democrats should win this seat as Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) has already conceded defeat to Democrat Katie Hill, who leads by over 4,100 votes in a Republican district that stretches to the north of Los Angeles. News organizations have held off on an official call because so many extra ballots come in late in California.

California 10 - Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) leads by just under 1,300 votes in this district, which is to the east of San Jose and San Francisco. Like other California districts in this list, it could take some time for the votes to come in - those late votes often tend to favor Democrats, and some wonder if Denham could be in trouble.

California 39 - This result was a rare bright spot for Republicans in what many thought was a suburban seat that would flip to the Democrats. Republican Young Kim, who would be the Korean-American member of Congress, leads by just under 4,000 votes. Republicans hope that will be enough to withstand any late rush of Democratic mail-in ballots.

California 45 - This is another Orange County district, as Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) leads 51.7-to-48.3 percent, a margin of about 6,200 votes. There are still 419,000 ballots left to count in Orange County, according to elections officials, which could impact both this district, and the California 39 race.

California 48 - Democrats are hoping they can win this race, as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) trails by over 2,600 votes to Democrat Harley Rouda. This could also take a few days as officials go through mail-in ballots, provisionals and more.

North Carolina 9 - While this is listed as an undecided race, Democrat Dan McCready conceded defeat on Wednesday night, as he trails Republican Mark Harris by around 1,900 votes. Expect this one to go the GOP column unless elections officials discover a counting error along the way.

Utah 4 - Even as President Trump was ridiculing her on Wednesday from the White House, Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) was waiting for more votes to be counted in her district. She trails Democrat Ben McAdams by just over 5,000 votes with 70 percent of precincts reporting in a district that stretches into the Salt Lake City suburbs.

Texas 23 - Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) had been declared the winner on Election Night, when more votes came in and suddenly pushed him into second place. But extra ballots have given Hurd an edge of around 1,150 votes over Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who may request a recount. The final tally won't happen for several weeks as officials in various counties work through provisional ballots and more mail-in votes. For now, Hurd is ahead.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Orlando Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani is co-sponsoring a bill to allow illegal immigrants living in Florida to legally obtain a state driver’s license. “We can talk about the need to reform immigration as a whole, but this is one solution to make sure that our roads are safer,” Eskamani said over the phone on Thursday. Illegal immigrants would still have to take a driving test to get a license, and they’d be able to buy car insurance, which Eskamani said would generate additional revenue for the state.  She also believes the bill will encourage people to report accidents and crimes they see on the road. Eskamani agreed with the assessment that the bill (HB 969) does not attempt to change immigration policy but rather change policy dealing with Florida’s current immigrant situation. “On our roads, you have people who are undocumented who are driving their kids to daycare, who are going to work,” Eskamani said.  “They’re doing their best to live life to its fullest potential.” Under current Florida law, residents must prove U.S. citizenship or show a resident alien green card to get a state driver’s license.  This bill would allow people to use documents such as foreign passports, international birth certificates, or tax ID number to get one.   With the 2019 legislative session well underway in Tallahassee, neither the bill nor its Senate companion has seen a committee vote. The bill has gotten notable attention from Fox News, to which Eskamani mused on her Facebook page, “Wow, my first ever mention in Fox News!  This has to come with some sort of award right?”
  • The Florida man accused of sending pipe bombs last year to several high-profile critics of President Donald Trump pleaded guilty Thursday in a Manhattan federal court. >> Read more trending news Cesar Sayoc appeared Thursday for a change of plea hearing before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff.  Sayoc pleaded not guilty in November to a slew of charges after he was identified as the man suspected of mailing pipe bombs to targets including CNN, former President Barack Obama and actor Robert De Niro. >> Cesar Sayoc Jr.: What we know about the man arrested for sending package bombs Sayoc has been held without bail since his late-October arrest outside a South Florida auto parts store. He had been living in a van covered with stickers of Trump and showing images of some Trump opponents with crosshairs over their faces. Authorities launched an investigation in October after pipe bombs were mailed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and philanthropist George Soros. In the subsequent days, similar devices were mailed to several other prominent Trump critics, including U.S. Rep Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Democratic donor Tom Steyer. >> 2nd mail bomb to Tom Steyer recovered; suspect agrees to remain jailed, face charges in New York Authorities said Sayoc was linked to the packages after investigators found his fingerprints and DNA on some of them. Without a plea deal, Sayoc faced charges carrying a potential penalty of mandatory life in prison. A court filing last Friday didn't indicate which charge or charges the plea would involve. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Federal authorities and Butler Township police are investigating after an explosive device was placed inside a mailbox and detonated, according to police. >> Read more trending news  The explosive device, which police believe was a commercial-grade firework, was detonated and destroyed the mailbox sometime between 7 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday, Butler Township Police Chief John Porter said in a media release. Police did not say what road the incident occurred on but described the area as a rural part of the township.  “Since tampering with a mailbox is covered under federal law, federal authorities have been notified and are participating with us in a joint investigation,” Porter said. “Our initial investigation shows there is no indication of any type of hate or bias crime at this time.”  Authorities continue to investigate.
  • The sister of a Minnesota woman accused of killing a stranger to steal her identity in Florida last year is now facing criminal charges of her own after investigators say she grew angry at her intoxicated son and ran him over with her SUV.  Cynthia Lea Grund, 58, of Salem Township, was jailed on suspicion of second-degree assault and reckless driving. Olmstead County Jail records indicate she has since been released.  >> Read more trending news Olmstead County deputies were called Monday evening to Grund’s home, where they found her 37-year-old son, identified by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as Jason Finstad, suffering from significant lower body injuries, a Sheriff’s Office news release said. The man had been run over by a vehicle.  Investigators determined that Grund had run over her son with a 2004 Ford Explorer, the news release said.  According to detectives, Finstad was very intoxicated when he began walking down the rural driveway to go to a friend’s house. His mother and stepfather no longer wanted him staying at their home.  Grund drove down the driveway to pick Finstad up and drive him to the friend’s house, the news release said. Finstad refused to get in the SUV. “Why don’t you just run me over,” he allegedly said before lying in the driveway in front of Grund’s vehicle.  “Grund then backed the vehicle up and intentionally ran over the victim,” the news release said. “Grund admitted to her actions and at one point made a comment to the effect, ‘He didn't believe I would. He has been drinking all day. We gave him a chance.’” Grund was taken into custody at the scene. >> Related story: ‘Losing Streak Lois,’ killer grandma wanted in 2 slayings nabbed near U.S.-Mexico border Finstad underwent surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester to repair damage to his pelvis. He also suffered head injuries in the incident, investigators said.  He was in fair condition as of Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported. According to the newspaper, Grund is the sister of Lois Ann Riess, 57, of Blooming Prairie, who is being held in Florida on a charge of first-degree murder in the April 5 slaying of Pamela Hutchinson, 59, of Bradenton.  Riess was arrested April 19 on Texas’ South Padre Island after a multistate string of crimes that investigators allege began with the shooting death of her husband, David Riess, 54, at their worm farm. Saturday will mark a year since David Riess’ decomposing body was found. Authorities said David Riess had been dead for several days by the time his body was discovered. The Star Tribune reported last month that a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun found in Lois Riess’ Texas motel room matched shell casings found at the scene of her husband’s death. Dodge County investigators have turned their case over to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office for review.  Lois Riess, who authorities nicknamed “Losing Streak Lois” for her penchant for gambling, fled south to Florida -- stopping at a casino on the way. Riess’ abandoned Cadillac Escalade, which Minnesota investigators alleged she left the state in after gunning down her husband, was found in a park in Fort Myers, Florida.  Surveillance footage from a restaurant two blocks from Hutchinson’s borrowed timeshare condo showed the victim chatting with Riess at the bar on April 5, the day authorities believe she was shot to death. Hutchinson’s body was found four days later in the bathroom of the condo.  See the footage of Lois Riess chatting with Pamela Hutchinson below, courtesy of the Fort Myers News-Press.  Investigators believe Hutchinson was killed so Riess could assume her identity. They also believe Hutchinson was shot with the same gun that killed David Riess. According to Riess’ Florida indictment, Lois Riess stole credit cards, money, jewelry, sunglasses and other property from Hutchinson after she was killed. Surveillance footage from Hutchinson’s condo complex showed Riess walking into the parking lot, getting into Hutchinson’s Acura TL and driving away.  The indictment also alleged that Riess went to a Fort Myers bank and used Hutchinson’s identification to withdraw $5,000 from the dead woman’s account before leaving town. Riess was next spotted the following day at an Ocala Hilton hotel, where she used Hutchinson’s identification to check into a room, Lee County officials said. She stayed there the nights of April 6 and 7, according to investigators.  Surveillance footage from inside and outside the hotel showed both Riess and the stolen Acura. According to the News-Press, a white straw hat Riess wore in the footage belonged to Hutchinson.  While in Ocala, Riess is accused of withdrawing another $500 from Hutchinson’s bank account.  From there, Riess is accused of making her way west across the southeastern U.S., making several stops in Louisiana -- including at another casino -- before being seen driving the Acura around Corpus Christi, Texas. She attempted to get $200 from Hutchinson’s account at a gas station, but the effort failed, the News-Press reported.  Riess used her own ID to claim a $1,500 jackpot at a Louisiana casino, the newspaper reported.  Riess remained at large until April 19, when she was arrested on South Padre Island in Texas. Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose said a man recognized Riess when she walked into a restaurant on the island, located about 25 miles from the Mexican border, and looked at a menu. Riess did not stay to eat at the restaurant, identified as Dirty Al’s Seafood, but the man called police to report the sighting. A South Padre Island police officer and a federal marshal responded to the area and spotted the white Acura that had been stolen from Hutchinson at another nearby restaurant, the Sea Ranch.  Riess was taken into custody as she sat at the bar inside, eating a meal and chatting with fellow patrons. She was subsequently extradited back to Florida to face charges in Hutchinson’s homicide.   Riess was indicted June 6 in the case, according to court records. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in Hutchinson’s slaying. 

Washington Insider

  • Frustrated by opposition on some college campuses to conservative speakers, President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order which threatens to take away federal research grant money from colleges and universities, if those schools don't guarantee First Amendment protections for those who want to speak on campus. 'We're dealing with billions and billions and billions of dollars,' President Trump said in a White House ceremony on Thursday. Flanked by conservative activists who have run afoul of protests at college and university campuses, Mr. Trump made clear that he wants new opportunities for their voices to be heard. 'Universities that want taxpayer dollars should promote free speech,' the President added. 'This order is part of the Trump Administration’s administrative and legislative efforts to support a focus on student outcomes and improve transparency, accountability, and affordability in postsecondary education,' the White House said in a statement. The President had raised this matter earlier in the month, during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference just outside Washington, D.C. It was not immediately clear how the Thursday signing would change the current landscape governing money being sent to schools by the feds, as there are already requirements to uphold the First Amendment. In a morning conference call with reporters, a senior administration official refused to give any hints about how the requirement would be enforced differently going forward. 'I won't get into implementation details,' the official said, repeatedly deflecting questions in a Thursday conference call with reporters about how the plan would work.  'But schools are already supposed to be following these rules,' as the official said 'the goal of the order is to promote free speech more broadly across college campuses.' The plan drew immediate fire from the President's critics. 'President Trump’s concept of free speech is speech that he agrees with, which is, in fact, the antithesis of what the First Amendment seeks to protect,' said Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers union.