The Florida Mystery (And How To Compensate)
Baffling updates from the ultimate swing state
|Jordan Zakarin||Sep 10|| 2|
Welcome to the big Wednesday evening edition of Progressives Everywhere!
The big national headline today is the new Bob Woodward “bombshell” that Donald Trump knew that COVID-19 was super-deadly all the way back in February and purposely downplayed it. The most horrifying thing about this is that it is in no way surprising, though I suppose it’s nice to have the receipts in the form of direct audio files. It’s too bad Woodward saved this for eight months later, but I guess selling books is more important than saving lives.
Relatedly: The next big project we’re undertaking here at Progressives Everywhere, following AbsenteeBallots.info, is a comprehensive website that spotlights the politicians who knowingly lied about COVID-19 and put millions of lives at risk: The lawmakers who called it a hoax. Who refused to issue mask mandates. Who pushed to reopen cities and schools far too early. Who encouraged people to march with guns at state capitals. Who manipulated statistics. Who still use ethnic slurs when discussing it. You know, all those monsters.
We need your help: We have the national names and awful governors, but we’re on the lookout for the local officials — mayors, state legislators, etc — who also pushed these deadly lies. It’s one thing to have made a mistake early on during an unprecedented pandemic, but quite another to do it on purpose. So if you know of a local official who acted so irresponsibly and perniciously that you think they deserve to get called out, please email me! Jordan@ProgressivesEverywhere.org.
Rescue Mission In The Ultimate Swing State
Florida has served as perhaps the most crucial state in the electoral college over the last two and a half decades, with its votes going to the ultimate winner of every presidential election since Bill Clinton earned a second term in 1996. It’s generally decided by just a few points, making it a quadrennial battleground for national campaigns.
And yet, for however much Democrats profess to finally understand the importance of down-ballot races, they seem to continuously drop the ball when it comes to Florida. Republicans have controlled the state legislature since 1997 and have had a trifecta every year since 2000. The GOP’s control of every lever of power allowed them to pass the Jim Crow poll tax that re-disenfranchised about 750,000 voters just a year after a whopping 2/3rds of Floridians voted to restore their rights.
You’d think that Democrats would be going all-in on flipping the Florida legislature in 2020, if for no other reason than the fact that helping down-ballot candidates will also help get out the vote for Joe Biden, too — the state is now all tied up! And yet, according to one new report, the money and attention just isn’t there. Here’s a choice quote from an urgent email sent by one of the party’s top strategists, referring to State House races:
“Unless [House Victory] quickly embarks on the greatest surge in financial support of House Dems over the next four weeks, the Dem field is on a trajectory for the lowest amount of resources in targeted races in the modern political era.”
At that point, the House Victory account had sent just $250,000 to non-incumbents. That is a pitiful amount, especially in a state with several expensive media districts. So it falls to us to help out. Democrats need to flip 14 seats to flip the House, which is doable in a legislature with 120 districts, especially in a wave year. And even if they just get closer and help GOTV for the national ticket, those are huge wins. The first step is to get Democrats in power. The second step is to force them to use that power for good. Let’s get the first part done, or at least nearly so.
We’ve already raised a fair amount of money for several candidates in Florida, all of whom I’ve interviewed and featured in previous newsletters. Below, you’ll find those good progressive candidates and several others that haven’t gotten much (or any!) money and need help.
State House District 89: Long-time foreclosure defense lawyer Jim Bonfiglio lost his bid for this office in 2018 by just 32 votes. He was one of the first candidates that I interviewed and endorsed this cycle. Bonfiglio has devoted his life to helping people avoid losing their homes, and his victory would be even sweeter because he would represent the district where Mar-a-Lago is located. Ideally, he’ll be Trump’s new state representative when Trump is back in Florida, throwing tantrums about his humiliating loss in November and the images they use of him on Fox News.
State House District 105: Democrats lost this seat in 2018 by just over 400 votes, which works out to less than 1% of the vote total. This time around, Democrats have nominated an impressive young Latinx lawyer named Mauren Porras, who handily defeated the party’s 2018 nominee. Perhaps that created some bad blood, because the House Victory committee hasn’t given her a single cent despite the GOP incumbent’s retirement. Porras is focused on education, criminal justice reform, and the environment.
State House District 29: Democrat Tracey Kagan lost by just 2% to the veteran Republican Scott Plakon in 2018 and is back for a rematch that is starting to get very heated. Kagen is not afraid to go for the jugular, as she did last week when she ripped Plakon’s lack of response to the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging Florida:
“My opponent has been absolutely silent,” she said. “He has not exhibited himself at all. I call him a UFO sighting. He has not made one statement with regard to masks. He has not made one statement with regard to whether the schools should open. He has not made himself available. The people calling me are the people that are not getting any responses from his office or from him. His Facebook posts are totally silent to what is happening here.”
Damn! I like it!
State House District 64: This one is a doozy. Democratic nominee Jessica Harrington is one of my favorite candidates this cycle (we’ve done multiple interviews, here’s our first!). She’s a fiery teacher who has been very outspoken about the danger of reopening schools too early and the travesty of the Jim Crow poll tax. In fact, she was initially running against Rep. James Grant, the lead sponsor of the poll tax, until he pulled a last-minute switcheroo and took a job with the state.
Harrington is now running against his hand-picked replacement, but that doesn’t change her priorities at all. She has been out on the front lines every single day fighting for education funding, gun control, healthcare, and voting rights.
State House District 21: Here’s another great Democratic returnee who I’ve interviewed multiple times! I actually reconnected just last week with Kayser Enneking once we were able to align our schedules — in addition to being busy campaigning, she’s a surgeon at the University of Florida’s medical center, so she’s pretty swamped, as you might imagine.
Kayser lost by less than 3% in 2018 as a first-time candidate and now that Florida Republicans have so screwed up the response to COVID-19, she’s more motivated than ever to flip this district. I’ll have more from my interview with her later this week!
You can also donate to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which is working to win back the voting rights of the people who had them stolen away again last year. They’re buying up court fees and debt while also fighting the state of Florida’s racist law!
Can You Pitch In?
Together, we’ve raised nearly $1.5 million now for progressive candidates and causes, as well as another $1.5 million for bail funds and civil rights organizations. That’s $3 million raised!
To make this sustainable, I need your help. I don’t get paid by any politician for this work. In fact, it costs me money to do this. So, I’m offering a premium subscription. If you become a member of Progressives Everywhere, you’ll get:
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Elections and Voting Rights
New Hampshire: Though it hosts the first presidential primary, New Hampshire’s initial round of state elections is among the last in the country. Last night, Democrats chose their nominee to take on New England’s version of George W. Bush, the environment-poisoning, comically corrupt Gov. Chris Sununu.
It was a tight race between State Sen. Majority Leader Dan Feltes and Executive Council member Andru Volinsky. Progressives Everywhere supported the more progressive, Bernie Sanders-endorsed Volinsky (read our interview here), who ran an underdog campaign against Feltes, who was very much the establishment candidate.
In the end, Feltes won by just 5% — less than 7,000 votes. Volinsky endorsed Feltes once he conceded this afternoon.
While it’s a bummer that Volinsky fell short, he did far better than anyone could have anticipated when he got into the race. I’m proud that we stood with him and know that he’ll continue to fight to turn the state blue (isn’t it crazy that the GOP has controlled the governor’s mansion there for so long?). It’s always worth running a progressive candidate in the primary.
Texas: There were two big legal decisions over voting rights in the state, where voting rights are always in jeopardy.
A federal judge ruled against plaintiffs on Monday in a lawsuit that would reform and improve in-person voting in the state where absentee and mail-in voting is still seriously discouraged.
The NAACP, Mi Familia Vota and other organizations were asking the court to force the state to implement a mask mandate, curbside voting, and expand early voting.
And while the judge said they would be easy to implement, his court didn’t have the jurisdiction. Lame.
Early voting will start a week earlier this year (as you’ll see at AbsenteeBallots.info), but these groups wanted it started even earlier to reduce long lines and the risk of contracting COVID-19.
On the bright side, a federal judge ruled that Texas must give absentee voters a chance to correct signatures that seem suspect before their ballots are thrown away.
This is big because there has been no uniform law protecting voter across the state from being disenfranchised in this way.
Missouri: In 2018, voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative that would ditch the crooked redistricting system that created extreme gerrymanders for a non-partisan process.
Now, the GOP is trying to sneak through a ballot initiative that would entirely undo the very popular reforms — and not only that, make things even worse than they were.
I mean, check this out:
In fact, that undersells their intention: The ballot initiative, if passed, would only count American citizens over the age of 18 in the demographics considered for redistricting.
That was famously the strategy of the late GOP demographer Thomas Hoeffler, a racist who helped chart the course of the Republicans’ redistricting strategy.
His notes were so overtly racist, in fact, that his daughter found them after he died and blew the whistle on him. Imagine being so racist and malicious that your daughter throws your corpse under the bus because it’s the right thing to do.
Kentucky: Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order that returned the right to vote to 170,000 rehabilitated ex-felons last winter, but there’s been little-to-no outreach to those newly eligible voters encouraging them to register. That’s in part due to COVID-19, which made community organizing quite difficult, but it’s a big problem regardless.
Unfortunately, the voter registration deadline in the state is October 5th, so there’s less than a month to make it happen.
Still, good on them for putting in the effort — especially in a year when Mitch McConnell is on the ballot!
Other News You Should Know
California: Things are pretty volatile across the Golden State right now, where the forests are burning, the sky is Blade Runner 2049 orange, and Silicon Valley is in an all-out war with its working-class employees.
On Sunday, I detailed the fight over Prop 22, the ballot initiative that would not only undo the law that guarantees fair pay and other rights to rideshare and gig economy workers, but would wipe out government oversight of those sectors altogether.
Today, Lyft and Uber drivers organized a rally against the companies, which have dropped over $100 million on the Prop 22 campaign. They protested beneath Uber’s controversial antiracism billboard, which they say is laughably hypocritical. Organizers of the rally and anti-Prop 22 campaign said they planned to highlight the “incongruence between Uber's anti-racist public statements and the horrendous working conditions that the companies' majority nonwhite drivers experience.” Which, you know, is a very fair criticism!
Another high-tech automotive company that treats its workers terribly also got called out today. Kristin Hull, who runs Nia Impact Capital, a socially conscious investment fund, is a major investor in Tesla and wants to end its forced arbitration with employees.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk was incredibly aggressive about reopening his plant during the early days of COVID-19 and broke the law to do so. As this story I published over at Observer.com details, his factory in Fremont put workers in all kinds of danger, and with forced arbitration and no union, there wasn’t much they could do about it.
It’s also noteworthy that before a big stock sell-off over the past week, Musk had increased his net worth by $88 billion during the pandemic. He is now the 5th richest person in the world.
Virginia: Freshman State Sen. Jennifer McClellan has been a leader in securing rights for domestic workers, and yesterday, she published this piece about the progress the state has made in just the last eight months. It’s an industry rife with abuse, low wages, and racism, so change is long overdue.
In January, McClellan and several colleagues introduced a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in Virginia. It has yet to pass, but it’s a start.
More progress came in July, when McClellan and fellow lawmakers were able to close the minimum wage loophole for domestic workers.
That minimum wage rose to $9 an hour on July 1st and it’ll go up to $11 an hour in 2021, $13 an hour in 2022, and $15 an hour in 2023.
Ohio: Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Mike Turner has been busy shoving his face full of expensive food on the dime of his political donors.
This is illegal.
At the same time, if you donate to a grifter, what do you expect to happen?
National: As if you need any more motivation to work against Republicans this fall, Trump just suggested that Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Josh Hawley, the Ghidorah of Faux-Populism, could all be potential Supreme Court picks in a second term.
I’ll obviously do everything I can to defeat Trump in November, but I do think it’d be really funny to see him float Ted Cruz’s name for the Supreme Court and then give the nomination to somebody else.
Especially if he said publicly that he just couldn’t nominate the Zodiac Killer to the Supreme Court.
The Future: Ugh, Blade Runner 2049 is so good.
Figured I’d give it one more shot: Please subscribe and join the team!
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