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David Nir

We need to smash the GOP pipeline that produces sycophantic senators. Here's how to do it

Thom Tillis is one of the worst of the worst. The Republican senator from North Carolina has always been a mindless zealot for the conservative cause, but while he's now fighting for his political life as he seeks reelection in a race that could decide control of the Senate, it's critical we remember that craven cowards like him don't just spring forth from nowhere.

Rather, they're cultivated and groomed by the dark architects of the GOP agenda—and the favorite petri dish for the Kochs and their ilk are our state legislatures. That's exactly where Tillis was incubated: For many years before he joined the Senate in 2015, he was a member of the North Carolina state House and was ultimately rewarded for his fealty by getting elevated to speaker.

While he ruled the roost, Tillis did every awful thing imaginable: He blocked Medicaid expansion. He endorsed "personhood" legislation, passed a law requiring women seeking abortions to undergo invasive ultrasounds, and argued states had the right to ban certain types of birth control. He pushed to open up North Carolina's coasts to offshore drilling, said climate change isn't real, and passed a law preventing the state from considering climate science on sea-level rise when making policy. And most notoriously, he enacted a massive voter suppression package that a federal court later struck down, saying it had sought to "target African Americans with almost surgical precision."

With a record like this, it's no wonder he was perfect fodder when Republicans were looking for a Senate candidate six years ago, and it's likewise no surprise that he's performed his duties as a willing Trump sycophant so ably.

But here's the worst part: Thom Tillis never faced a single Democratic opponent in each of his four elections to the legislature. He was unopposed in the general election every single time. And this isn't an isolated story. Far, far too many Republican lawmakers get off with little or no opposition year in and year out. It's why the GOP has been so successful in developing its farm system, producing an endless string of zealots eager to wreck democracy and bow down before Trump.

It's also precisely why we have to crush this pipeline—half of all members of the Senate got their start in state legislatures. The good news is that North Carolina Democrats have put up a fantastic array of candidates for both the state House and Senate this year, and it offers us a three-fer: We can stop the next generation of Thom Tillises, we can develop our own bench, and we can flip both legislative chambers in this crucial swing state right before redistricting starts.

New polling shows Democrats poised to flip the Texas state House — yes, Texas

Reform Austin, a local news site, has released a giant batch of polls testing 22 different races for the Texas state House, and the numbers are eye-popping: Democrats need to flip nine GOP seats to take a majority next month … and they have the lead in 11 Republican-held seats. What's more, five potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbents are also comfortably ahead of their opponents.

That means Democrats are on track to generate the biggest political earthquake in the Lone Star State in a generation. Take a look at the poll results from those 11 Republican districts:

And several more seats are also very close. This really is possible, folks: We could break the GOP's iron lock on the largest red state in the country and bring their entire agenda to a crashing halt.

But it's also extremely possible that it won't happen. Republicans still have a cash advantage over Democrats, and their dark money allies are spending heavily to protect this all-important bastion of far-right conservatism. It's up to us to make sure our team has the resources it needs to fight back over the final weeks of the campaign.

Turning Texas blue has long been a progressive dream. We stand at the threshold of making that dream a reality. Let's do it.

This race could have a major impact on climate change — and give Texas Democrats a statewide win

As Lone Star Democrats seek their first statewide victory in more than a quarter century, their best hope may be Chrysta Castañeda, who's running for a spot on an agency many people haven't heard of: the Texas Railroad Commission.

Despite the name, the commission doesn't actually oversee trains, but it does have jurisdiction over something even more important in Texas: the state's energy industry (oversight of the rails was handed to the state's Department of Transportation in 2005). The panel, often known as the "RRC," is made up of three members, each elected statewide for six-year terms.

The last time a Democrat won a seat on the board was in 1990, when former Rep. Bob Krueger beat a Republican opponent by 56-40 margin. Krueger wound up resigning to accept an appointment to the U.S. Senate when Lloyd Bentsen became Bill Clinton's Treasury secretary, and Republicans comfortably beat his appointed successor in 1994.

Ever since, the GOP has held all three seats, but Republicans were already preparing for a serious battle this year—which, ironically, might have made their situation even worse. Republican Ryan Sitton, who first won a slot on the RRC in 2014, had stockpiled $2 million in his war chest for the general election, but in March, he lost his primary in an absolute shocker to an unknown named Jim Wright, the owner of an oilfield waste disposal company who had raised less than $13,000.

The 55-45 loss was so inexplicable that some political observers wondered if Wright benefited from sharing a name with the one-time speaker of the House who hailed from Fort Worth, the late Democrat Jim Wright, who died in 2015. It's not such a crazy theory: Perennial candidate Gene Kelly won multiple Texas primaries in the previous decade because voters had him confused with the beloved dancer.

Whatever the explanation, though, Wright's victory has left Republicans with a suddenly open seat and a badly flawed candidate. The RRC—the very body that Wright wants to join—fined him $182,000 for improper storage of hazardous waste in 2017, and he's been sued by his former business partners for fraud stemming from the mess.

Castañeda, an oil and gas attorney, took aim at Wright for his record in her first ad of the race, which went up last month, but the main topic she's focusing on is the issue of "flaring." That refers to the practice of oil producers burning off unwanted natural gas from their wells rather than capturing it for later use, a process that is both environmentally harmful and economically wasteful.

It's also against the law—unless a driller is granted a special permit, of which 7,000 were handed out last year. As Castañeda notes, such permits can only be granted if all three members of the commission agree, meaning she could single-handedly put an end to flaring even if Republicans still hold a nominal 2-1 majority on the board next year.

With this backdrop, The New Republic recently called this race "this year's most important election for American climate policy." It could also finally put an end to the longest statewide losing streak for Democrats anywhere in the nation.

Trump campaign is plotting to steal Pennsylvania's electoral votes — here's how we can stop him cold

It was one of the most chilling stories in a campaign that's already been one of the most disturbing of all time: Just last week, The Atlantic reported that Donald Trump's campaign is preparing to ask Republican lawmakers in swing states they control to ignore the popular vote and appoint members to the Electoral College who will vote for Trump—a power explicitly reserved to state legislatures under the Constitution.

Making this nascent effort to slaughter democracy even more alarming, the chair of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania—one of the most critical states up for grabs in the 2020 elections—openly admitted that he'd talked to the Trump campaign about this very possibility. "I hope they're thinking about it," Lawrence Tabas said. "It is one of the available legal options set forth in the Constitution." And state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, one of the men who'd be responsible for implementing such a scheme, refused to rule the idea out.

But we can stop this despicable plot dead in its tracks by flipping just one chamber of the Pennsylvania legislature, making it impossible for the GOP to defy the will of the people. That's because new legislators in the Keystone State assume office on Dec. 1 every even-numbered year under the state constitution—a much earlier date than in most other states, which typically defer the changing of the guard until January.

Crucially, election results in Pennsylvania typically are not certified until later in December: In 2016, for instance, the Department of State finalized that year's results—and with them the state's slate of electors—on Dec. 12. No matter how dastardly they're feeling, Republicans will have a hell of a time if they try to put forth their own set of electors before election officials even have a chance to finish counting the votes.

That, relatively speaking, is the simple part. The hard part is actually beating Republicans, because they've gerrymandered the district lines to within an inch of their lives. But despite the rigged maps, Democrats made big gains in Pennsylvania two years ago, and they're fielding a fantastic slate of candidates this fall. To capitalize on this energy, Daily Kos has endorsed 11 fierce progressives running for the state House, where we need to win nine GOP-held seats in order to take the chamber:

Emily Skopov
Marlene Katz
Lissa Shulman
Michele Knoll

Brittney Rodas
Lindsay Drew
Nancy Guenst

Anton Andrew
Deb Ciamacca
Claudette Williams
Ann Marie Mitchell

Pennsylvania Republicans know that for Trump to cling to power, they have to cling to power, too, and they'll use every nasty trick they can come up with—and then some. But together, we can make sure our candidates have the resources they need to fight back against the GOP dirty money machine by countering corporate cash with people power. Nothing less than the fate of our democracy depends on it.

How a mask mandate might hurt the re-election chances of Indiana's Republican governor

The Associated Press recently reported that Indiana conservatives who are furious with Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb over his statewide mask mandate are cottoning to Libertarian Donald Rainwater as an alternative, which could make this fall's otherwise snoozy race for governor unexpectedly competitive.

Normally, we'd be skeptical of a largely anecdotal report like this one, but a few pieces of evidence are tugging us the other way. One is a poll earlier this month from Change Research on behalf of the local news site Indy Politics that found Holcomb leading Democrat Woody Myers just 36-30, with Rainwater taking 24%. That's an almost impossibly high figure for a third-party candidate, so the numbers should be viewed with great caution, but it does suggest that there could be a real outflow of support to Rainwater.

More concretely, the AP says that Rainwater has enjoyed unexpectedly strong fundraising and will start advertising on cable and radio this week—something Indiana Libertarians haven't done in "many years," according to his campaign manager. Rainwater had just $6,000 in hand as of Aug. 5, but he's reported some major donations in the last few days, capped off by a $100,000 check from hedge fund manager and poker player Bill Perkins. (Perkins' father, also named Bill, was a Democratic assemblyman in New Jersey in the 1970s, though the younger Perkins has mostly given to Libertarian causes.)

Holcomb also seems to be reacting to this rebellion on his right flank, in the worst possible way: Even though coronavirus case counts in the state remain near record highs, the governor just announced the suspension of nearly all restrictions aimed at stemming the pandemic, including allowing restaurants, bars, and gyms to operate at full capacity. Public health experts, unsurprisingly, expressed deep concern over the move.

Holcomb did, however, renew his mask order, which is likely to perpetuate right-wing furor. As Paul Krugman recently put it, opposition to masks has become "a declaration of political allegiance" to Donald Trump, and if there's one thing we know hardcore Republican voters won't tolerate, it's disloyalty to Trump. We'll still want to see further polling from other outfits before concluding there's real movement in the Hoosier State, but this race bears watching.

An obscure Minnesota law just bumped a key House race from November to February

Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon announced on Thursday that the race for Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District would not be decided until a Feb. 9 special election because the recent death of Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Adam Weeks triggered a state law requiring the election to be delayed. As a result, the outcome of Democratic Rep. Angie Craig's bid for a second term against Republican Tyler Kistner will not be known until after the 117th Congress convenes, barring a legal challenge.

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This vulnerable GOP senator was a top recipient of postmaster general's alleged illegal donation scheme

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis was a top beneficiary of a straw donor scheme orchestrated by Donald Trump's postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, according to a lengthy and detailed article published over the holiday weekend by The Washington Post.

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New race ratings show just how tough is life getting for Republicans

Donald Trump continues to drag his party down across the ballot nationwide, especially in suburban districts that were friendly to the GOP just a few years ago, which is why Daily Kos Elections is moving our race ratings for nine more contests in the Democrats’ direction. You can find all our Senategubernatorial, and House ratings at each link.

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GOP congressman reprimanded for 11 ethics violations — including fake loan he made to his campaign

Republican Rep. David Schweikert agreed to pay a $50,000 fine, accept a formal reprimand, and admit to 11 different violations of congressional rules and campaign finance laws in a deal with the bipartisan House Ethics Committee to conclude its two-year-long investigation of the congressman. But while the matter may now officially be closed, Schweikert's already uncertain political future is now only more endangered.

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Democrats are fielding candidates in almost every House race this year

The last filing deadline for major-party candidates anywhere in the country passed on Friday when Louisiana, which always bring up the caboose, closed its books.

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