Gubernatorial Primary Recap: Arkansas, Georgia, Texas

Georgia

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State Rep. Stacy Abrams

Democrat Stacey Abrams clinched her party’s nomination for the Georgia gubernatorial seat Tuesday night, making her the first African-American woman to win a major party nomination for governor. Abrams defeated fellow state legislator Stacey Evans by more than 50 points. Although Abrams and Evans shared nearly identical policies, the former Georgia House Minority Leader received a host of national democratic endorsements, including nods from Hillary Clinton, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Corey Booker (D-NY).

As Abrams turns her attention to the general election, GOP gubernatorial nominees Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp will head into a July run-off after neither candidate took a majority of votes in a crowded Republican Primary. Cagle, who had 39 percent of the vote, significantly outspent Kemp, who had 26 percent. Both candidates have attacked each other from the right, while simultaneously pulling each other away from moderate positions. As a result, Abrams could pull-of an unprecedented win in November if Cagle and Kemp spend resources and goodwill before the general election. However, Abrams will need a large voter turnout to flip the Peach State from red to blue. The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections have categorized the race as “likely Republican” and “solid Republican,” respectively.

Arkansas

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Governor Asa Hutchinson (R-AR)

Governor Asa Hutchinson fended off a primary challenge from Jan Morgan on Tuesday night by capturing 72 percent of the GOP vote in Arkansas. Hutchinson is seeking a second term, but previously served as a U.S. Attorney, a member of Congress and Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator under President George W. Bush. Although he remains relatively popular, Morgan attacked Hutchinson from the right, claiming he “campaigns like a conservative Republican but governs like a liberal Democrat.” Hutchinson will face Jared Henderson, the former executive director of Teach for America in Arkansas, who defeated Leticia Sanders, 63-37. With strong approval ratings in a deep-red state, Hutchinson will likely remain governor for another four years.

Texas

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Lupe Valdez

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez won the Democratic nomination after defeating former investment banker Andrew White by roughly 7 points in the Texas runoff. The victory makes Valdez the first open lesbian and Latina nominee to win a major party gubernatorial nomination in the state. While White targeted suburban white voters, Valdez catered her message to Hispanic voters in rural southwestern portions of the state. The former sheriff will face-off against incumbent Governor Gregg Abbott, who has raised more than $40 million for his 2018 campaign. Moreover, Inside Elections and the Cook Political Report have labeled the race as “solid Republican.”

Election Recap: Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Oregon, and Idaho Primaries

Pennsylvania

Republican State Senator Scott Wagner will face Governor Tom Wolf in the 2018 Pennsylvania gubernatorial election after clinching the GOP nomination Tuesday night. Wagner took more than 44 percent of the state’s GOP vote, while Paul Mango had 37 percent and Laura Ellsworth had 19 percent.

Wagner, a successful waste management entrepreneur from York County, spent more than $12 million—including $3 million of his own money—in a campaign that featured harsh television advertisements attacking Mango. Wagner said his advertisements were in response to Mango’s, which painted Wagner as a “slumlord” and a “dead-beat Dad.” Wagner has pledged to cut state spending and reduce taxes, but also said he wants to increase the state’s minimum wage slightly.

Wolf did not face an opponent in the Democratic primary and has amassed a $14 million war chest to fend off Wagner’s challenge. Like Wagner, Wolf is a former York County Businessman. Although Wolf has pushed for a tax on natural gas, while expanding education, workforce training and opioid treatment programs. However, his attempt to increase taxes lead to a budget impasse in Harrisburg in 2017, which Wagner will likely seize upon.

After conceding defeat, both Mango and Ellsworth urged their supporters to rally around Wagner in the general election.

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Mayor John Fetterman

In the Democratic Primary for Lieutenant Governor, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman defeated incumbent Mike Stack and two other contenders. Stack is the first lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania to lose reelection since the law was changed to allow them to run for a second term. Stack never received an endorsement from Wolf, who did not endorse for Lt. Governor this year, while Fetterman received endorsements from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and other progressives.

In the Republican primary for Lt. Governor, Jeff Bartos, who dropped out of the GOP Senate race to run for lieutenant governor, defeated three other candidates and took more than 46 percent of the vote. As a former real estate and contract company founder from Berks County, the Lieutenant Governor’s race marks Bartos’ first campaign for public office. Although the Pennsylvania lieutenant governor’s race runs separately from the gubernatorial race, Wagner and Bartos plan to team up during the campaign.

In the Republican primary for Senate, Congressman Lou Barletta easily defeated State Rep. Jim Christiana to secure the Republican nomination for US Senate and will look to challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Casey. While Casey ran unopposed in the primary, his seat is viewed as vulnerable in the 2018 general election.

Nebraska

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Governor Pete Ricketts (R- NE)

Republican Governor Pete Ricketts defeated primary challenger Krystal Gabel, with 80 percent of the vote. He will face Democrat Bob Krist in the fall, who beat Vanessa Ward and Tyler Davis for the nomination. Krist is a state Senator and retired Air Force Veteran while Ricketts was the former Chief Operating Officer of his family’s company, TD Ameritrade. In the Senate Deb Fischer, the incumbent Republican Senator from Nebraska, faced primary opposition from 4 candidates, but won with over 75 percent of the vote. Her Democratic challenger will be Lincoln City Councilwoman, Jane Raybould, who also easily won her nomination with more than 64 percent of the vote. However, most polling suggests the Fischer and Ricketts will retain their respective offices in the 2018 general election.

Oregon

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Governor Kate Brown (D-OR)

Oregon Governor Kate Brown easily defeated her two primary challengers on Tuesday, with neither cracking 10 percent in yesterday’s election. In the Republican primary, State Rep. Knute Buehler defeated nine other opponents. With more than 46 percent of the vote and most of the western counties, while businessman Sam Carpenter carried nearly 30 percent of the vote along with the eastern part of the state. Most polling and analysis shows Brown cruising to reelection in the 2018 general election.

No US Senate seats are up for election in Oregon this year.

Idaho

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Lt Gov Brad Little (R- ID)

In Idaho, Lt. Governor Brad Little won a tight race against U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, developer Tommy Ahlquist, and 4 other candidates. Little received 37.3 percent of the vote, Labrador received 32.6 percent and Ahlquist received 26 percent. On the Democratic side, former State Rep. Paulette Jordan received the nomination over businessman and former gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff by winning 58 percent. Idaho remains a Republican with Little expected to in in November.

 

 

Peter Brath contributed to this report

Colorado State Legislature Approves and Rejects Virtual Currency Legislation

38688311185_6ca94bc4ec_bAs the federal government debates the regulatory framework for blockchain technology and other cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, the Colorado state legislature recently debated two pieces of legislation that would make the Rocky Mountain State a leader in both.

On May 9, the Colorado State legislature passed Senate Bill 86, which directs the Colorado Department of State to study various coding techniques, including blockchain technology, and provide guidelines for their use. Advocates say the law would allow state officials to use blockchain technology to help reduce costs by eliminating redundancies and preventing fraud, all while making Colorado a leader in this cutting-edge technology.

However, after SB 86 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, House Bill 1426 was narrowly defeated in the State Senate after passing with vast support in the house. The bill would have made virtual currency a classified security.

Lawmakers initially passed the measure by one vote, but when the senate took a final vote, some senators switched sides and the bill failed 18-17. The two Democrats, who previously voted for the legislation, cited push back from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Affairs and the Colorado Attorney General’s office.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman issued a statement shortly after.

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Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman

“The language in HB 1426 that would have carved out open blockchain tokens from the definition of a security under the Colorado Securities Act was overly broad and vague. The language would have created immunity from criminal liability for someone who commits securities fraud in that context, putting Colorado consumers at risk. That is why my office opposed the bill.”

The rise of cryptocurrencies has stemmed largely from blockchain technology, which provides a decentralized online platform to help facilitate transactions while maintaining anonymity for both parties. Whereas traditional transactions often involve a bank or financial exchange to verify and validate, blockchain technology allows users to account for all transactions. Using a number of complicated mathematical permutations and algorithms, a shared group of servers helps verify and validate transactions in a process called mining.

Essentially, Colorado’s law is good for supporters of blockchain technology, while bad for virtual currencies. Meanwhile, in lieu of little federal guidance on virtual currency, the Wyoming legislature passed a set of a bills in March allowing businesses in the Cowboy State to transact in virtual currency without penalty. A couple weeks later, the Tennessee state legislature approved a bill making contracts based on cryptocurrencies enforceable by law.

All three states are the first to begin establishing a regulatory framework, with many more expected to follow suit.

 

Iowa Lawmakers Pass $2.2 Billion Tax Cut

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Governor Reynolds (R- IA)

In an effort to jump start the state’s economy, Iowa lawmakers recently approved an historic tax cut that slashes revenue by more than $2 billion over the next six years. The Republican-dominated legislature pushed the bill through on May 5, which awaits the signature of Governor Kim Reynolds.

“Republicans led on tax reform in 2018,” Reynolds said in a release after the bill was passed. “As a result, hardworking, middle class Iowa families, farmers, small business owners and workers get meaningful relief, all while Iowa’s budget priorities in future years are protected.”

For the first four years, the $2.2 billion bill will focus on reducing income taxes, in addition to tax cuts for businesses. Republicans say the tax cut is crisis proof, and the cuts have built-in safety measures that protect Iowa from budget meltdowns seen in other GOP-led states.

Senator Jim Carlin said the multi-year plan eases into the cuts instead of introducing them immediately. While states like Kansas, which passed a large tax reform bill in 2012, face budgetary ramifications, these tax cuts are tentative. If state revenue does not meet projections, the cuts will not go into effect.

In 2019, the plan will reduce taxes in all income brackets, while dropping the number of brackets from nine to four by 2023. Meanwhile, the top tax bracket percentage will drop from 8.53 to 6.5 percent. The Iowa Department of Revenue estimates that Iowans will save an average of $300 a year, while lower-income residents may only see an annual savings of $18. Those earning more than $1 million annually could approach $25,000.

The bill raises taxes on digital services like Netflix and Uber, and is expected to bring more than $66 million in revenue during the first year.

Democrats strongly opposed the bill, saying cutting taxes on the wealthy will only help large corporationx, while cuts to education and other necessary programs will become inevitable in the future.

Alena Ricci contributed to this report

Election Recap: Ohio Primary

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Rich Cordray (D)

Democrat Rich Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine will face off for the Ohio Governor’s seat in November after both candidates clinched their party’s respective nomination Tuesday evening. The 2018 gubernatorial race is a rematch of the 2010 Ohio attorneys general race when DeWine edged Cordray by a 1-point margin.

In the Republican primary, DeWine defeated Lt. Governor Mary Taylor by more than 20 points, while Cordray took 62 percent of the Ohio Democratic vote against five other candidates. Former Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich grabbed 23 percent, State Sen. Joe Schiavoni had nine percent, while former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill took three percent.

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Mike DeWine (R)

Cordray and DeWine both received support from the party establishment, while spending a hefty sum fending off insurgent attacks from their political flanks. DeWine doled out more than $4.9 million, including a $1 million loan, while Cordray spent $1.7 million during the primary race. Both will now have to shore up funds ahead of a tight gubernatorial race in a bellwether state.

As the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Cordray has a close relationship with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. His campaign has focused on kitchen table issues like jobs, consumer protection and wages. As a former Senator, Congressman, Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor and State Senator, DeWine has served in Ohio state politics for more than 40 years.

The Cook Political Report and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal ball have labeled the race as leaning Republican.

In the Republican Senate primary, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci defeated four other GOP candidates. While he only took 47 percent of the vote, he’s earned the right to challenge Democratic Sherrod Brown, who ran unopposed in the primary. Most polls have the Ohio senate race leaning Democratic.

Legislative Update: Utah

Gov. Herbert divided on voter initiatives

 

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Governor Gary Herbert (R-UT)

Governor Herbert has come out strongly opposing voter initiatives that will legalize medical marijuana use and the expansion of Medicaid for low-income Utahns.  Additionally, during his monthly press conference, the Governor endorsed Senate candidate Mitt Romney and US Representative John Curtis who were selected during the GOP state convention, but face primary election opponents who will appear on the ballot as a result of collecting signatures.

 

The Governor’s opposition to medical marijuana includes issues relating to which medical providers will be authorized to prescribe the medical marijuana.  The initiative expands the authorization from medical doctors to include physician assistants and nurse practitioners, optometrists and podiatrists.  He also points out that federal law still lists marijuana as an illegal substance.  The Governor calls for more research about the benefits of medical marijuana and how to appropriately use it.

grhghsknonhmdne4fbo2a7o7paThe Governor sees Medicaid expansion as unnecessary and expensive.  His concern is rising costs that are not addressed in the bill that will become a “budget buster.”  The organization Utah Decides Healthcare, pushing the initiative, is proposing a sales tax on nonfood items from 4.7% to 4.85%.  Medicaid expansion is projected to add an additional 150,000 people to the program.

Chris Balzano contributed to this report 

Legislative Update: New Mexico

Governor’s Vetoes Ruled Invalid by NM Supreme Court

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Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM)

The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld a judge’s ruling that vetoes issued by Governor Martinez in 2017 were invalid, and ordered the laws to go into effect.

The bills in question were mostly noncontroversial including authorization for research of industrial hemp production and the awarding of scholarships to medical students who agree to working in underserved areas.  The Supreme Court ruling, however, clarifies that the Governor must provide some reasoning at the time of a veto before the last three days of a legislative session.  The timing and reasoning of a veto provides an opportunity for the legislature to review a bill and determine whether to pursue amendments, or to attempt an override.

The Legislature took the position that the Governor’s vetoes were a political response during a contentious period during the 2017 session when it had not approved a budget or approved some of the Governor’s appointees.

Chris Balzano contributed to this report