“Ni de droite ni de gauche”: A Primer on the French Legislative Election

By: Emily Beiser (Posted 6/21/17)

La République En Marche, the party of the newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron, won 306 of 577 seats in the National Assembly (lower house) on Sunday, June 18th, 2017, giving it a majority of 53%. En Marche, or On the Move, in English, was only founded as a social-movement-cum-election-campaign last April and officially declared a party upon the election of President Macron (who shares his initials—E.M.—with that of the party) this May. En Marche’s win in this election has come at the downfall of the parties which historically held the majority: Le Parti Socialiste on the left, and Les Républicains, on the right. An estimate by the French Newspaper Le Monde suggests just 148 of the representatives (called deputies) elected in 2012 were reelected this year, making this not only an assembly of a new party, but also an assembly of freshmen deputies – three quarters of the assembly.

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What do the results of this legislative election mean for France?

First, we must understand how French elections work. The French term, called the quinquennat, lasts five years. The presidential and legislative terms overlap nearly perfectly, save the six weeks between the presidential election and the legislative election.  Each election is two rounds; the first round requires a majority to win. If no candidate has the majority, which is generally the case, the two candidates with the most votes face off a week later in a second vote. This presidential election cycle was divisive: with each of the top four presidential candidates getting between 19% and 25% of the vote in the first round, though Macron won with a hefty 66% in the second round against the far-right Marine Le Pen. The legislative elections which followed six weeks later showed En Marche’s prominence yet also had the lowest turnout of any legislative elections in the history of the 5th Republic, with just 42% of registered voters voting. By contrast, the previous election, in 2012, saw a 57% turnout rate. The low turnout, unusual for France, means many deputies won with approval from less than 30% of the registered voters.

President Macron claims that his party is “ni de droite, ni de gauche,” or “neither left nor right, but firmly centrist”.

Though a former head of economy for the socialist and deeply unpopular President Hollande, Macron’s economic policy is seen as leaning to the right due to his past work at an investment bank and his support of what he calls the “uberization” of the economy – namely, a flexible workforce which receives fewer protections. En Marche and Macron claim centrism due to leftist standings on social issues including “the family”, refugees, and gender equality. This support of gender equality is reflected in Macron’s choice of gender parity within the cabinet and in En Marche’s selection of legislative candidates, of which over 50% were women. While En Marche lost just 17 of the seats where they ran candidates, the French legislative assembly is at a record of 38% women, up from the previous assembly’s 26%.

The French left has seen a sharp reduction in deputies and a new leftist party, La France Insoumise (or Rebellious France), has proposed a new political system via a 6th Republic. Yet La France Insoumise only won 17 seats. The Parti Socialiste, the established left wing party of former President Hollande, won just 29 seats, making the election a devastating loss compared to the 258 won in 2012. This loss may be due in part to the extreme unpopularity of former President Hollande. Near the end of his time in office, a poll by Le Monde found just 4% of respondents were satisfied with his actions. A former member of cabinet for Hollande—though never a member of Le Parti Socialiste—President Macron retains support for parts of the fading party, endorsing another former Hollande cabinet member, Myriam El Khomri, in a legislative race in which En Marche had no candidate. En Marche’s majority suggests neither collaboration nor cohabitation will be necessary, but it remains to be seen how Macron will lead his new party.

On the right, Les Républicains, formerly known as L’Union pour un Mouvement Populaire in the 2012 election, won 113 seats, a decrease of 72 seats from 2012, despite scandal surrounding party leader François Fillon’s use of public money while Prime Minister. As the party with the second most seats in the Assembly, it remains a significant stronghold of the right. The far-right Front National has a high profile and power to move debate towards the right, especially after Marine Le Pen, the party leader, was in the second round of the presidential elections against Macron. It won just eight seats, but saw an increase compared to winning two seats in 2012.

En Marche’s majority in the National Assembly may not be paralleled by the Senate; just half of the Senate is up for election in September, and it is elected indirectly by officials, with a disproportionately strong rural vote. However, as the National Assembly is the more powerful of the houses in practice, a majority in the assembly solidifies President Macron’s power after a divisive Presidential election. Moreover, it concretes En Marche’s own viability. As the figurehead, father, and namesake for the party, Macron’s performance as president and party leader will be key in the future of the party during and after his tenure as leader.

Emily Beiser is a summer intern in DMGS’s Philadelphia office. She currently in a dual BA program at Sciences Po in France and Columbia University in NYC. 

Election Recap: GA-06 and SC-05 Special Elections, and the British Parliamentary Election

Over the past month there have been several high profile and very hotly contested special elections in the United States, including in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District and in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District. Each one of these races filled a void left by a Trump cabinet appointee and saw record amounts of money being spent. In addition, earlier in June, the British Parliament held a snap Parliamentary election, that could be the sign of more political instability in the UK following last summer’s Brexit vote. We have compiled a breakdown and analysis of each of these races below.

Georgia’s 6th Congressional District 

Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff to win Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District during the culmination of a hotly contested special election on Tuesday June 20th. Billed as a referendum on President Donald J. Trump, the highly visible race became the most expensive congressional election in United States history, attracting approximately $60 million, according to Issue One, a nonpartisan advocacy group. That money includes funding for the April 18 special election, as well as the June 20 runoff. Outside groups spent more than $27 million on the election, with pro-Handel organizations spending roughly 2.5 times more than pro-Ossoff groups.

With 52 percent of the vote, Handel fills a seat vacated by former Rep. Tom Price, who now serves as the Health and Human Services Secretary in the Trump administration. Handel’s win makes her the first Republican congresswoman in Georgia history. Similarly, she was the first Republican Secretary of State elected in Georgia after a victory in 2006. In 2010, she narrowly lost the GOP gubernatorial nomination before becoming the Senior Vice President of Public Policy at the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. However, she resigned in 2012 after the organization reversed a plan to cut ties with Planned Parenthood. After a failed senate bid in 2014, Handel announced her candidacy for the sixth district’s seat in February 2017. Before Tuesday’s runoff, Handel and Ossoff competed in a special election on April 18. Both failed to grab a majority of the vote. Ossoff, who was one of five Democrats received 48 percent, while Handel was one of eleven Republicans and only garnered 18 percent.

Their respective performances set the stage for a heavily funded race that attracted an intense level of national media.

With $23.9 million spent on both the special election and the runoff, Ossoff came within 10,000 votes of claiming a reliably Republican district located in the Northern Atlanta suburbs. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich held the seat from 1979 to 1999, while Price consistently won the district with more than 60 percent of the vote since his initial victory in 2004. However, Trump only won the district by two points in November–the same margin of victory for Handel. GOP ads attacking Ossoff hammered the former congressional aide and documentary filmmaker for a lack of experience and living outside the district. The ads also focused on funding he received from west coast donors.

Handel will likely face another intense challenge during the 2018 midterm elections.

South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District

Republican Ralph Norman defeated Democrat Archie Parnell in another special election Tuesday night. Norman fills a seat vacated by current White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. While Northam won the reliable conservative district 52 to 48 percent, it pales compared to Mulvaney’s 21-point victory in November. Moreover, Trump won the district by 18 points.

Norman has served as a hardline conservative in the state legislature since 2009, and has already promised to join the House Freedom Caucus. Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs and Exxon Mobil employee, saw the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pour $300,000 into his race, while the Georgia contest received $5 million. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent less than DCCC in South Carolina, while pouring more than $6.7 million into Handel’s race.

The British Election of June 2017

On June 8th, 2017, each of the United Kingdom’s 650 Parliamentary constituencies elected new Members of Parliament (MPs) to the British House of Commons.  Under the terms of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011, an election was not scheduled to be called until at May 7th, 2020, however on April 19th, 2017, Prime Miniser Theresa May called for snap elections in the wake of growing discontent.

Although Prime Minister May’s Conservative party had been approximately 20 points ahead in the polls of the Labour party, what had occurred was anything but, and resulted in what has been described as one of the most dramatic collapses in British political history. In a surprising result, the Conservatives received a net loss of 13 seats, with 42.4% of the vote, while Labour received a net gain of 30 seats, with a 40.0% of the vote.

UK election 2017.PNGThis was the closest result between the two main parties since February 1974, and the highest percentage of the vote for an opposition party since 1970. Although the Prime Minister May was invited by the Queen to form a Government, it is currently unclear how long she will retain power, given the overwhelming numbers the Labour opposition government has seen. With rising unrest over social issues, international issues, and of course, the backlash over last year’s Brexit vote, Theresa May’s time as prime minister may in fact be short lived.

Danny Restivo and Brett Goldman Contributed to This Report. Posted 6/21/17

Virginia Primary Recap

By Danny Restivo (Posted 6/14/17)

Former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam clinched their respective party’s nominations for Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial race:

  • Northam defeated his challenger from the left, former Congressman Tom Perriello with 57 percent of the vote, while Perriello grabbed 44 percent (303,846 to 239,505).
  • Gillespie narrowly defeated Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart. He had 43.7 percent compared to Stewart’s 42.5 percent, while state Senator Jack Wagner came in a distant third with just under 14 percent.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Stewart did not concede defeat on election night. His performance shocked many pollsters who predicted a 20-point Gillespie victory. However, a low turnout among Republican voters—540,000 Democrats compared to 360,000 Republican—and a solid turnout among a galvanized base gave Stewart a much-needed boost.

In the Lieutenant governor’s race:

  • Former assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Fairfax defeated Gene Rossi, a retired federal prosecutor and Susan Platt, a former Democratic operative and lobbyist to win the Democratic nomination. Fairfax grabbed nearly 58 percent of the vote while Platt and Rossi each had 30 and 12 percent, respectively.
  • On the Republican side, State Senator Jill Vogel earned 43 percent of Virginia GOP voters, while her closest competition, State Senator Bryan Reeves, garnered 40 percent.

In Virginia, the Lieutenant governor is a part-time position that includes presides over the state senate and breaking tied votes.

General Election- Preview

The 2017 Virginia general election will be held on November 7 and following this very contested primary, Democrats appear to be starting out with the advantage. A Northam-vs.-Gillespie general election may look surprisingly similar to other states. Early analysis of turnout suggests that the Virginia primary looked similar to the NJ primary held last week; Democrats had turnout and enthusiasm on their side with approximately 540,000 votes to the GOP’s 366,000 votes.

Analysts are not on yet betting on Gillespie and are convinced that Virginia may no longer be a “purple” state. Republicans have gone 1-9 in major VA statewide races since 2004, and if turnout in this primary shows anything, the Democrats may out perform once again. It is also worth noting that while Gillespie eked out a a win, his win was not without a major fight between the establishment and outsider wings of the republican party.  With five months to go until the general election, both Gillespie and Northam have their work cut out for them in what will no doubt be an indicator of things to come in 2018.

For a complete breakdown of the Virginia gubernatorial candidates, please read our Primary Preview published on June 2.

Democratic Primary- Recap

Ralph Northam– As Lieutenant Governor to Governor Terry McAuliffe, Northam usurped the role of heir apparent until Perriello announced his candidacy in January. Many of dubbed the race as an extension of the Clinton-Sanders fight in Virginian. Northam has received endorsements from state party leaders like McAuliffe, and Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.  Additionally, every Democrat in the state legislature has backed Northam and every Democratic congressman except one has supported him. While his opponent rides a wave of anti-Trump sentiment, Northam remains a centrist Democrat who admitted supporting George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. However, the former U.S. Army doctor has shuffled further to the left since becoming state senator in a rural district in 2007. As a Virginia legislator and a lieutenant governor, he helped ban smoking in restaurants, worked with victim’s families of the Virginia Tech shooting to curb gun control and helped legalize cannabis oils. As Governor, Northam said he wants to offer tax credits to businesses with paid family leave. He also wants to revise the state’s grocery tax, which he says would cost $67 million. He’s also suggested decriminalizing possession of marijuana. During a debate with Perriello, Northam touted his relationship with Republican legislator saying “I look forward to the relationships I already have in Richmond and continuing that process in the upcoming four years.” As of March 31, Northam had $3.3 million in campaign funds.

Tom Perriello- The former congressman was elected to represent Virginia’s fifth congressional district in 2008. However, his support for the Affordable Care Act cost him his seat two years later. Following his term, he worked for a progressive nonprofit before heading to the State Department in 2014. After announcing his candidacy in January, he quickly aligned himself with the party’s liberal messaging. Perriello has positioned himself as a policy-oriented progressive who supports free community college, paid family leave and universal pre-kindergarten. He’s also railed against a gas pipeline through Virginia. Meanwhile, Perriello has received outside support from Senator Elizabeth Warren (Mass-D), Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt-I) and several Obama aides. Their support comes in a state where Hillary Clinton won nearly two-thirds of the Democratic electorate against Sanders in 2016. Furthermore, more than half of Perriello’s $2.2 million in campaign funding has come from massive donors outside the state, including contributions from George Soros. While Perriello has championed progressive causes, his voting record on abortion issues and gun rights while in congress has come under fire.

Republican Primary- Recap

Ed Gillespie– The former counselor to George W. Bush and Chairman of the Republican National Committee ran against Senator Mark Warner in 2014. Gillespie’s performance surprised many (he lost by less than one percentage point). Prior to his run, he was a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and provide government affairs service for Tyson Foods. His critics from the right have said he helped push legislation friendly to illegal immigrants. As part of his platform, Gillespie aims to cut income taxes by 10 percent over three years, improve government efficiency and ethics oversight, ban personal use of campaign funds, while strengthening second amendment rights and abortion restrictions. According to a May poll by Washington Post-Schar School, Gillespie has strong support among all registered Republicans. With $3.3 million in campaign funding, the former RNC chair has 38 percent support while a quarter remain undecided.

Corey Stewart- Known more for his pro-Confederate antics rather than his policy chops, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors promises to crack down on illegal immigration while protecting Virginia’s Confederate symbols. As Chair of President Trump’s Campaign in Virginia, Stewart was fired for staging a protest at the State’s GOP headquarters. The anti-establishment Stewart wants to phase out the income tax, outlaw abortion without exception and slash state spending. The firebrand Stewart has attacked Gillespie repeatedly for receiving more than $1 million to lobby for Tyson Foods when allegations of smuggling illegal immigrants to arose. With slightly more than $400,000 in campaign funding, Stewart has 18 percent support among Virginia Republicans.

Jack Wagner- Originally elected to the Virginia House in 1992, then to the State Senate in 2000, Wagner has a significant level of experience in Virginia politics. As a Virginia Beach resident representing the 7th district, he sits on the Commerce and Labor, General Laws and Technology, Rehabilitation and Social Services, and Transportation committees. While Stewart and Gillespie want to cut state spending, Wagner maintains the budget is lean enough—citing a $1.2 billion shortfall in 2016. Wagner wants to increase the gasoline tax to subsidize infrastructure projects. He also wants to create accredited vocational programs in high schools that will support technical training for new jobs. Similar to his opponents, he opposes abortion in all instances except in the case of rape or if the mother’s life is endangered. With $178,000 in campaign funds, Wagner has 15 percent support among registered Republican voters.

 

 

2017 New Jersey Primary Election Recap

On June 6, 2017 New Jersey held its statewide primary.

While there were several legislative districts with contested seats, the most watched race both in NJ and the larger region was the Gubernatorial primary. The outcome of this race would decide which candidate would receive their respective party’s nomination to square off in November to succeed outgoing Governor Chris Christie. In addition to the Gubernatorial primary, several legislative seats were challenged. It has been referred to as one of the largest fields the state has seen in a dozen years, with far more contested seats than two years ago.

Gubernatorial Primary

Four Democrats and two Republicans sought their respective party’s nomination for 2016_lg_officialgovernor. A Quinnipiac University poll released in May 2017 showed Democrat Phil Murphy, former ambassador to Germany, and Republican Kim Guadagno, lieutenant governor, as clear favorites to succeed Chris Christie.philip_d-_murphy

Indeed, the election played out just as anticipated, with Ambassador Murphy (48.3%) and Lt. Governor Guadagno (46.8%) receiving their party’s nominations:

Republican Primary       Democratic Primary    
CANDIDATE VOTE PERCENT   CANDIDATE VOTE PERCENT
Kim Guadagno 112,899 46.80% Philip Murphy 240,279 48.30%
Jack Ciattarelli 75,018 31.1 Jim Johnson 109,086 21.9
Hirsh Singh 23,634 9.8 John Wisniewski 107,661 21.6
Joseph Rullo 15,714 6.5 Raymond Lesniak 24,092 4.8
Steven Rogers 14,085 5.8 William Brennan 11,122 2.2
Mark Zinna 5,127 1

Contested Legislative (Assembly and Senate) Races

In addition to the gubernatorial primary, nine Legislative Districts had contested Senate elections: the 7th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 17th, 24th, 35th, 37th and 40th; and fifteen Legislative Districts had contested Assembly races: the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 11th, 12th, 15th, 17th, 22nd, 24th, 26th, 31st, 37th and 40th.

All told, a total of 278 candidates were on the ballot for state Senate and Assembly seats, resulting in over 20 contested primaries in New Jersey’s 40 legislative districts. It has been referred to as one of the largest fields the state has seen in a dozen years, with far more contested seats than two years ago.

We have compiled a breakdown of select races as follows:

Senate:

LD-7: Assemblyman Troy Singleton ran uncontested in the Democratic primary for the district’s Senate seat, which is being vacated by retiring Republican Diane Allen. Singleton will face Riverside Committeeman Rob Prisco, who ran uncontested in the GOP primary.

LD-12: In the Republican primary for Senate in LD-12 incumbent Samuel Thompson with 60% of the vote defeated his long time rival and challenger, Art Haney, chairman of the Old Bridge Republican organization.

LD-13: In the Democratic primary for Senate in LD-12, Sean Byrnes defeated Joshua Leinsdorf with 93% of the vote. Byrnes will face Republican Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon in the race to replace retiring Senator Joe Kryillos.

LD-14: In the Republican primary for Senate in LD-14, Ilena Schirmer defeated Bruce MacDonald with 81% of the vote.

LD-17: In the Democratic primary in LD-14, incumbent Senator Bob Smith defeated challenger William Irwin with 72% of the vote. Irwin, the President of the Piscataway school board and a progressive activist, unsuccessfully attempted to capitalize on momentum seen by other “outsider” candidates.

LD-24: In the Republican primary in LD-24, incumbent Senator Steven Oroho
successfully defended his seat against challenger William Haveden, receiving 75% of the vote. The district–among North Jersey’s most Conservative–saw the Gas Tax as a major issue in the race by the challenger. Fortunately for incumbent Oroho, this did not resonate with voters.

LD-35: In the Democratic primary for LD-35, Senator Nellie Pou handily defeated her challenger, Haytham Younes, with 95% of the vote. Senator Pou is currently the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee and serves on the Senate Higher Education and Judiciary committees.

LD-37: In the Republican primary for LD-37, Modesto Romero defeated Eric Fisher with 53% of the vote. Romero will go on to face Senator Loretta Weinberg in the General Election. Weinberg is incredibly popular in this heavily Democratic district.

LD-40: Both the Assembly and Senate primaries in LD 40 are considered some of the most interesting in the state. For the GOP senate primary, Kristin Corrado (62%) defeated Paul DiGaetano (30%) and Edward Buttimore (38%) to succeed retiring Senator Kevin O’Toole.

Assembly:

LD-1: The race for LD-1’s Assembly seats saw James Sauro and Robert Campbell defeat Brian McDowell in the GOP Primary. The race, which includes parts of Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland counties, including the city of Cape May, received statewide attention because of a cellphone video of a drunken McDowell making inappropriate comments towards a woman at a bar.

LD-2: In the Democratic Primary for LD-2, incumbent Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo, and John Armato defeated a large field of four other candidates to receive their party’s nomination. Republican Assemblyman Chris A. Brown is running for retiring Senator Jim Whelan’s seat.

LD-3: The Democratic incumbents in LD-3, Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Adam Taliaferro both retained their seats with 46% of the vote against challenger John Kalnas.

LD-6: In South Jersey’s 6th Legislative District, incumbents Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt and Assemblyman Lou Greenwald retained their seats with 44% and 43% of the vote, respectively. Both Lampitt and Greenwald defeated challenger Frederick Dande and will not face opposition in the fall.

LD-7: In the 7th Legislative District, incumbent Assemblyman Herb Conaway retained his seat, while Carol Murphy defeated Jennifer Chuang for the seat being vacated by Assemblyman Troy Singleton, who ran for Senate.

LD-11: In the 11th Legislative District, both Assemblywoman Joann Downey and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling retained their seats.

LD-12: In the 12th Legislative District GOP primary, incumbent Assemblymen Ronald Dancer and Robert Clifton retained their seats against 3 challengers including Debbie Walker, Alex Robotin, and John Sheard.

LD-15: In the Democratic Primary in LD-15, Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora retained their seats.

LD-17: In the Democratic Primary in LD-17 incumbent Assemblymen Joseph Egan and Joseph Danielsen both fended off progressive challengers Heather Fenyk and Ralph Johnson.

LD-22: In the Democratic Primary in LD-22, incumbent Assemblymen James Kennedy and Jerry Green both retained their seats.

LD-24: In the Democratic Primary in LD-24, Kate Matteson and Gina Trish received the party’s nomination. Matteson and Trish will face off against Republicans Assemblyman Parker Space, and newcomer Harold Wirths in the fall.

LD-26: In the Republican primary in LD-26, incumbents Assemblyman Jay Webber and Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce retained their nominations and will face off against Democratic challengers William Edge and Joseph Raich. In the GOP primary, Assemblywoman fought off challengers Hank Lyon and John Cesaro, both Morris County Freeholders, who criticized her for her support of the Gas Tax.

LD-31: In the Democratic primary for LD-31, incumbents Assemblywoman Angela McKnight and Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti retained their seats.

LD-37: For the Republican primary in LD-37, Gina Tessaro and Angela Hendricks received their party’s nomination for Assembly. They will face off against Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle. 

LD-40: The Assembly primary for LD-40 was just as heated as the Senate primary. For the GOP, incumbent Assemblyman Kevin Rooney held on to his seat, along with former Wykoff mayor Christopher DePhillips. Rooney and DePhillips ran as a slate with Kristin Corrado, defeating former State Senator Norman Robertson and Joseph Bubba.

Brett Goldman, DMGS Manager of Special Projects, contributed to this report.

Capitol Commentary: The Week Ahead in Washington 6/5/17

Days after President Donald Trump postponed fulfilling a campaign promise to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the Senate plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Israel’s control of a city that is holy to three religions. Today’s scheduled vote to celebrate Jerusalem’s reunification during the 1967 Six-Day War kicks off a busy Senate week that is also slated to include the first public testimony by ex-FBI Director James Comey since Trump fired him on May 9. As lawmakers return from a week-long recess, the House has set votes on legislation to repeal the 2010 Dodd-Frank bank-regulation law that Congress enacted in response to the 2008 financial crisis.

Russia Probe

The congressional investigations of Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election and the Kremlin’s possible collusion with Trump’s campaign are accelerating with a new round of subpoenas and Comey’s scheduled testimony Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Lawmakers want to learn more about whether Trump pushed Comey to drop the FBI’s probe of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s financial ties to Russia and Turkey. Look to see if a White House legal review results in the president invoking executive privilege to prevent Comey from testifying about his conversations with Trump. Comey’s dismissal led to former FBI Director Robert Mueller III’s appointment as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation.

Swipe Fees

Intense lobbying by retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. against a provision in the Dodd-Frank rollback that would lift the cap on fees that banks charge merchants for debit-card purchases prompted updated language that preserves the status quo. The change, made in updated bill text released last week, will enable Republicans to avoid a politically charged vote on legislation that has a dim future in the Senate, where Democrats have the votes to block it.

Surveillance Law

The terrorist attacks in London lend new urgency to a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing set for Wednesday on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which authorizes the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspected spies and terrorists. A key provision authorizing the bulk electronic surveillance of foreign persons overseas without a warrant expires at year’s end and supporters are bracing for a legislative fight.

NSA Director Mike Rogers and Dan Coats, the former Indiana senator who Trump appointed director of national intelligence, are expected to press lawmakers to renew the provision, known as Section 702, without changes.

Unified Jerusalem

Today’s scheduled vote on the Jerusalem resolution, S. Res. 176, perpetuates debates over moving the U.S. Embassy and the status of the holy city. Israel’s complete control of Jerusalem is not recognized by other nations because Jerusalem was envisioned as an international city under the 1947 United Nations resolution that partitioned Palestine and set the borders of the new Jewish nation that was founded in 1948. Before 1967, Israel held West Jerusalem, and Jordan controlled the Old City. Jews were barred from visiting the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, sacred ground known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Christians venerate the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the location of Christ’s tomb.

The Senate vote comes days after Trump, like his predecessors, signed a six-month waiver to continue delaying the requirement of a 1995 law mandating the embassy move. The White House said in a statement that Trump still planned to move the embassy but wanted to preserve the status quo to facilitate a possible settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.

ACA Repeal

Senate Republicans renew their efforts to find consensus on repealing Obamacare. House-passed legislation, H.R. 1628, has little support in the Senate, where Republicans are divided over how to proceed. Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina told a home-state television station that a deal this year is “unlikely.” Watch for Democrats to question Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about his administration of the Affordable Care Act when he appears Thursday before the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means committees to explain his agency’s spending priorities for the 2018 fiscal year. Price leads a parade of Cabinet secretaries making trips to Capitol Hill to discuss Trump’s proposed budget.

Special Election

Voters in California’s 34th District go to the polls tomorrow to pick a successor to former Representative Xavier Becerra, who was appointed state attorney general in January. State assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, preferred by House Democratic leaders to win the Los Angeles seat, faces lawyer Robert Lee Ahn, a former city planning commissioner. It is the only vacant seat being defended by Democrats after Trump appointed Price, a former Georgia representative, and three other House members to top positions in his administration.

John Zang Contributed to This Report

Primary Preview: New Jersey and Virginia Gubernatorial Elections

By- Danny Restivo (Posted 6/2/17)

New Jersey- June 6th, 2017

On June 6, New Jersey Democrats and Republicans will cast a vote for their respective party’s gubernatorial nominee in the 2017 election. In May, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Democrat Phil Murphy, former ambassador to Germany, and Republican Kim Guadagno, lieutenant governor, as clear favorites to succeed Chris Christie. While Guadagno and Murphy have taken the lead, 57 percent of Garden State voters remain undecided, according to Quinnipiac. A Stockton University survey released on May 25 showed 34 percent of Democratic voters remain undecided, while 31 percent of Republican voters had not supported a candidate. Here are the top candidates seeking their party’s nomination.

Democrats

philip_d-_murphy Phil Murphy is the former ambassador to Germany under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013. Prior to his ambassadorship, the Boston-born and Harvard-educated Murphy worked at Goldman Sachs and headed the Frankfurt office from 1993 to 1997. In 2014 he served as a principal of Murphy Endeavors, a business management consulting company located in Red Bank. Meanwhile, he started his own progressive nonprofit advocacy group. Murphy has $15 million of his own funds to help fuel statewide campaign efforts, tripling his competitor’s. His progressive campaign message includes the establishment of a public bank of New Jersey to help spur investment in small business and infrastructure. As the favorite to win the party nominee, Murphy has 21 county endorsements, near unanimous support from Unions, and a campaign staff that includes a number of high level political operatives. According to Quinnipiac, Murphy has drawn 26 percent of Democratic voters, while Stockton has placed his total at 34 percent.

Jim Johnson- Although he’s polled at 7 percent, according to Quinnipiac (10 percent jimjohnsonaccording to Stockton), Johnson may serve as the biggest threat to Murphy’s candidacy. He’s centered his campaign rhetoric on ethics reform, while promoting himself as an outsider in New Jersey’s political system. Johnson served as a Treasury Department Official in Bill Clinton’s Presidential administration, before practicing corporate law in New York City. During that time, he also served as Chairman of the Brennan Center of Justice at New York University, where he worked on Civil Rights, law enforcement and gun control issues. Johnson has pledged to maintain benefits and pension plans for government employees and retirees. Additionally, he’s also pushing a $15 minimum wage hike (Murphy has also signaled support for a $15 minimum wage), while vowing to reduce residential property taxes and increasing affordable housing. Johnson also advocates free community college tuition for students who come from families with incomes under $90,000. Under Johnson, tuition assistance grants for college would expand.

John Wisniewski As a 19-year assemblyman from Middlesex County, and Chairman of wisniewskithe Bernie Sanders Campaign in New Jersey, Wisniewski is the most progressive candidate in the 2017 Democratic primary. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton won New Jersey Democrats by a 2-to-1 ratio.  Like Sanders, he’s advocated for tuition free college, as well as a single-payer healthcare system. Wisniewski was also a driving force behind the investigation of the Bridgegate Scandal. As the Chair of the Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee since 2002, Wisniewski has championed funding for a number of statewide transportation projects, sponsored legislation for minimum wage increases, property tax relief and helped to pass the Garden State Manufacturing Act. According to Quinnipiac, Wisniewski has received 5 percent support among Democratic supporters.

raymond_j-_lesniakRaymond Lesniak- . Senator Lesniak is one of the longest-serving politicians in New Jersey history with 39 years of experience. Lesniak has been a fierce advocate of progressive causes like the abolition of the death penalty, animal rights, marriage equality, environmental initiatives and the expansion of drug treatment centers. His path to the Governor’s seat remains the most difficult with small funding and a miniscule staff. Moreover, his announcement to run came after he said he wasn’t running.  The Elizabeth native currently has 4 percent support among Democrats, according to Quinnipiac.

Republicans

Kim Guadagno- Governor Chris Christie’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno remains 2016_lg_officialthe favorite to win the Republican nomination with 23 percent of Republican support, while Stockton’s survey places her party support at 34 percent. However, with support for Governor Chris Christie at an all-time low, Guadagno has made attempts to distance herself from the current Governor. She rejected his support for Trump, and said she’d reverse Christie’s decision to take New Jersey out of a regional compact to combat air pollution. When Governor Christie signed a legislation increasing the gas tax, she opposed the move. In a debate with her opponent, Jack Ciattarelli, she received repeated criticism for working with Christie. Guadagno has pledged to audit the state government in attempt to eliminate waste while addressing property taxes. She’s also stated plans to increase funding for transportation projects as well as repairs for the State House. Guadagno has a significant level of State level executive experience which her competitors lack. While Christie stumped for himself and Donald Trump on the campaign, Guadagno served as the state’s active Governor for more than 500 days. New Jersey law stipulates that anytime the governor is out of state, the Lieutenant will serve as the acting executive.

Jack Ciattarelli— The six-year assemblyman represents residents in Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Mercer counties. Additionally, Ciattarelli owns and operates Galen Publishing, a medical publishing company. Like Guadagno, Ciattarelli aims to ciattarelli2jpg-2a48ab720635c81ecorrect the price of property taxes in New Jersey, but unlike Guadagno, he wants to alter the way public schools are funded. Ciattarelli has long-chided Christie and continues to tie Guadagno to her old boss. He’s received seven county line endorsements, but his support remains in rural areas with a comparatively small number of registered Republicans. To defeat Guadagno, Ciattarelli will have to chip in to her support base, which consists of a number of Christie supporters.

Virginia- June 13th, 2017

Along with New Jersey, residents of the Old Dominion will cast their vote for a new Governor in November 2017. Five candidates—two Democrats and three Republicans—are vying for their respective party’s nomination on June 13. Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor, will square off with former congressman Tom Perriello for the Democratic nomination. According to a recent Washington Post-Schar School Poll, 40 percent of Democrats support Perriello while 38 percent support Northam. The two-point difference is well within the poll’s 10-point margin of error. On the Republican side, former National GOP Chair Ed Gillespie has clear path to the nomination with double digit leads over his opponents, State Senator Frank Wagner and Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. However, even if Gillespie clinches the nomination, his path to the Governor’s seat remains challenging. According to the Washington Post-Schar School Poll, Gillespie significantly trails both Perriello and Northam in a head to head match (Tom Perriello by 50 percent to 37 percent, and Ralph Northam by 49 percent to 38 percent). Trump’s low approval rating may give the Democratic nominee a boost, but the new Governor will most likely inherit and state legislature dominated by the GOP. In any event, Virginia remains a state with strong bi-partisan streak when it comes to the state’s top executive.

Democratic Primary

xirzugki_400x400Ralph Northam- As Lieutenant Governor to Governor Terry McAuliffe, Northam usurped the role of heir apparent until Perriello announced his candidacy in January. Many of dubbed the race as an extension of the Clinton-Sanders fight in Virginian. Northam has received endorsements from state party leaders like McAuliffe, and Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.  Additionally, every Democrat in the state legislature has backed Northam and every Democratic congressman except one has supported him. While his opponent rides a wave of anti-Trump sentiment, Northam remains a centrist Democrat who admitted supporting George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. However, the former U.S. Army doctor has shuffled further to the left since becoming state senator in a rural district in 2007. As a Virginia legislator and a lieutenant governor, he helped ban smoking in restaurants, worked with victim’s families of the Virginia Tech shooting to curb gun control and helped legalize cannabis oils. As Governor, Northam said he wants to offer tax credits to businesses with paid family leave. He also wants to revise the state’s grocery tax, which he says would cost $67 million. He’s also suggested decriminalizing possession of marijuana. During a debate with Perriello, Northam touted his relationship with Republican legislator saying “I look forward to the relationships I already have in Richmond and continuing that process in the upcoming four years.” As of March 31, Northam had $3.3 million in campaign funds.

Tom Perriello- The former congressman was elected to represent Virginia’s fifth 220px-perriello_official_portrait_28cropped29congressional district in 2008. However, his support for the Affordable Care Act cost him his seat two years later. Following his term, he worked for a progressive nonprofit before heading to the State Department in 2014. After announcing his candidacy in January, he quickly aligned himself with the party’s liberal messaging. Perriello has positioned himself as a policy-oriented progressive who supports free community college, paid family leave and universal pre-kindergarten. He’s also railed against a gas pipeline through Virginia. Meanwhile, Perriello has received outside support from Senator Elizabeth Warren (Mass-D), Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt-I) and several Obama aides. Their support comes in a state where Hillary Clinton won nearly two-thirds of the Democratic electorate against Sanders in 2016. Furthermore, more than half of Perriello’s $2.2 million in campaign funding has come from massive donors outside the state, including contributions from George Soros. While Perriello has championed progressive causes, his voting record on abortion issues and gun rights while in congress has come under fire.

Northam has outspent Perriello on television advertisements in Northern Virginia by $720,000 to $410,000. While 40 percent of the electorate lives in this area, support is split with 36 percent undecided. While Perriello leads Northam among Democratic voters ages 18 to 39 by 20 percent, the Lieutenant Governor leads by 16 points among those ages 65 and older. They run evenly among voters in between, but the older crowd fits the profile of likely voters, giving Northam a qualitative advantage on primary day.

Republican Primary

Ed GillespieEd Gillespie- The former counselor to George W. Bush and Chairman of the Republican National Committee ran against Senator Mark Warner in 2014. Gillespie’s performance surprised many (he lost by less than one percentage point). Prior to his run, he was a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and provide government affairs service for Tyson Foods. His critics from the right have said he helped push legislation friendly to illegal immigrants. As part of his platform, Gillespie aims to cut income taxes by 10 percent over three years, improve government efficiency and ethics oversight, ban personal use of campaign funds, while strengthening second amendment rights and abortion restrictions. According to a May poll by Washington Post-Schar School, Gillespie has strong support among all registered Republicans. With $3.3 million in campaign funding, the former RNC chair has 38 percent support while a quarter remain undecided.

2012 Official Portrait Chairman StewartCorey Stewart- Known more for his pro-Confederate antics rather than his policy chops, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors promises to crack down on illegal immigration while protecting Virginia’s Confederate symbols. As Chair of President Trump’s Campaign in Virginia, Stewart was fired for staging a protest at the State’s GOP headquarters. The anti-establishment Stewart wants to phase out the income tax, outlaw abortion without exception and slash state spending. The firebrand Stewart has attacked Gillespie repeatedly for receiving more than $1 million to lobby for Tyson Foods when allegations of smuggling illegal immigrants to arose. With slightly more than $400,000 in campaign funding, Stewart has 18 percent support among Virginia Republicans.

Jack Wagner – Originally elected to the Virginia House in 1992, then to the State Senate in 2000, Wagner has a significant level of experience in Virginia politics. As a Virginia Beach resident representing the 7th district, he sits on the Commerce and Labor, General Laws and Technology, Rehabilitation and Social Services, and Transportation committees. While Stewart and Gillespie want to cut state spending, Wagner maintains the budget is lean enough—citing a $1.2 billion shortfall in 2016. Wagner wants to increase the gasoline tax to subsidize infrastructure projects. He also wants to create accredited vocational programs in high schools that will support technical training for new jobs. Similar to his opponents, he opposes abortion in all instances except in the case of rape or if the mother’s life is endangered. With $178,000 in campaign funds, Wagner has 15 percent support among registered Republican voters.

Capitol Commentary: The Month Ahead in Washington, DC

(Posted 5/30/17)

With Congress in recess this week, we look ahead to June.

Next month promises to push to the forefront tensions between military spending and deficit cutting, between defense priorities and domestic needs, and between congressional leaders and the Trump White House. Hard choices will be negotiated as the House and Senate Armed Services committees start writing the 2018 defense authorization bills. Senate Armed Services Chair John McCain wants to undo the military spending caps that have constrained the Pentagon since enactment in 2011 of the Budget Control Act. The Arizona Republican has warned that he is willing to force a floor vote on the caps during consideration of any bill — any bill at all — that makes it to the Senate floor. McCain and House Armed Services Chair Mac Thornberry both wanted the administration to ask for more fiscal 2018 military spending than made it into the budget request. They want $640 billion, excluding war funds. The Trump administration’s request came in at $603 billion. So far, the two chairs say they have not made a final decision on whether to write their authorization bills at the level they prefer. House subcommittees are planning to debate portions of the fiscal 2018 authorization the week of June 19, with the marathon full-committee markup tentatively planned for the following week. Senators are preparing to start marking up their version of the bill the week of June 26.

The Senate has schedule a June 6 vote on the nomination of Courtney Elwood to become general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Lisa Murkowski has said she wants an early June committee vote on two Federal Energy Regulatory Commission picks and deputy secretary nominees at the Energy and Interior departments.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he plans to bring to the floor after the recess S. 1094, legislation that would empower Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to fire employees as he tries to improve medical care of veterans and reduce wait times for VA hospital admissions.

Another bill that could be in line for Senate floor action would let the administration impose more economic sanctions against Iran, as well as companies and individuals that assist Tehran in ballistic missile tests or fomenting terrorism in the region. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the bill, S. 722, on May 25.

The House plans to take up legislation to overhaul the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. After a behind-the-scenes fight, H.R. 10 will go to the floor with a managers’ amendment that would keep in place the law’s cap on “swipe fees” that go to banks when customers use debit cards to buy merchandise or a meal. Score that as a victory for retailers, as Elizabeth Dexheimer explains: Wal-Mart Beats JPMorgan Again as GOP Keeps Cap on Swipe Fees.

Look for committees in both chambers to begin drafting legislation to renew the Federal Aviation Administration’s power to collect ticket and fuel taxes to fund its operations. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Bill Shuster favors privatizing the FAA-run air traffic control system — a position that has little support in the Senate. Highway Subcommittee Chair Sam Graves of Missouri said there could be a markup as early as June.

Before the Senate can debate a Republican-crafted replacement for the previous administration’s health-care law, the leaders and enough of the rank-and-file must agree on what the main pillars of their plan should be, and that is still a work in progress. The No. 2 Republican leader, John Cornyn, told reporters May 25 that the “general tone” of discussions in their 13-member working group is encouraging because of “a willingness of people to make small concessions to build consensus.”

“With 50 senators needing to agree on this bill, everybody is in a strong position so we cannot roll anybody, so we are going to have to continue to talk about that issue,” he told reporters.

South Carolina Republican Tim Scott predicted that senators will not leave for the August recess “without having a vote on health care.” After the June work period, there are three more weeks of session before the August break.’

John Zang Contributed to this Report