7 Races in 7 Days: Florida Governor

Today in 7 Races in 7 Days, we head to Florida for the Governor’s race.

The State

The political narrative of Florida is nearly a tale of two states.  Famously a key presidential battleground, at the state level, the Sunshine State looks more like a traditional southern Republican stronghold.  With GOP majorities in the State House, State Senate and Congressional Delegation, Democrats winning statewide office should be an uphill climb.

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In fact, no Democrat has been elected as Florida’s chief executive in more than 24 years, making this year’s neck and neck contest great political theater.

The Candidates

Ron DeSantis (R) – An attorney and former JAG officer with the Navy, DeSantis represented Florida’s 6th District in Congress until his resignation in September of this year.  First elected in 2012, the 6th District is rated by the Cook Political Report as R+7; a relatively safe district that makes its way south from Jacksonville, including Daytona Beach.DeSantis

A steadfast supporter of the President and his America First agenda, DeSantis was endorsed by Trump in the Republican Primary.  He has embraced his support wholeheartedly, including producing a television ad in which he is walking his children through a lesson on the Trump policies that will Make America Great Again.

Andrew Gillum (D) – The former Mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum, 39, is the first African American Democratic candidate for Governor in Florida.  Young, and unapologetically liberal, Gillum was the Bernie Sanders-endorsed candidate in a crowded Democratic Primary.Gillum

An insurgent campaign, powered by energy on the left, propelled Gillum to a victory over front runner Gwen Graham, a former Member of Congress and daughter of former Senator and Governor Bob Graham.

Gillum, if elected, would be the first African American Governor of Florida.

State of the Race

With incumbent Rick Scott term-limited and running for the U.S. Senate, Florida’s open-seat Governor’s race was always going to be a marquee contest in the 2018 midterm elections.

Even so, few would have predicted at the beginning of the year that this race could turn into a proxy fight between Trump allies and the Bernie Sanders camp.

Gillum has run his campaign on an unabashedly liberal policy platform, including a $15 per hour minimum wage, hiking state corporate tax rates to pay for expanded education funding, and calling for a federal-level Medicare-for-all healthcare plan.

DeSantis, a self-described “Conservative warrior,” is running in lock-step with President Trump and his policy platform, including opposing sanctuary cities, fighting for tax cuts, and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Beyond the issues, each campaign has had its share of stumbling blocks.  The morning after the primaries, DeSantis came under fire for what some claimed was a racist dog whistle he used during an interview.  In discussing Gillum and his campaign, DeSantis said that Florida is headed in the right direction economically, and that we cannot afford to “monkey this up.”

As for Gillum, he and his campaign have come under scrutiny due to a corruption scandal targeting his administration in Tallahassee. While the FBI investigation has not specifically implicated Gillum, the cloud hanging over his potential involvement has been a distraction form his message on the campaign trail.

Each of the major ratings organizations has this race listed as a Toss-Up, with the exception of Nate Gonzalez at Inside Elections who is calling the race as Lean Democratic and FiveThirtyEight who is projecting a Likely Democratic victory on Election Night.

Polls in recent weeks have shown Gillum taking a slight lead, but with a race firmly within the margin of error, this will be an important race to watch.  Beyond who will reside in the Governor’s mansion in Tallahassee, the Florida Gubernatorial race could tell us a lot about what to expect in 2020.

 

7 Races in 7 Days: Tennessee Senate

In today’s edition of 7 Races in 7 Days, we review the United States Senate race in Tennessee.

The State

Tennessee is a state that appears to be clearly on a march to the right.  Just ten years ago, there was a Democrat in the Governor’s mansion, an evenly split State Senate, and a State House with a slim Democratic majority.  Today, Republican Bill Haslam is Governor, the State Senate is solidly Republican by a 26-5 majority and the Democrats in the State House have seen their majority shattered, with Republicans taking control by a 74-25 majority.

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At the federal level, the story has largely been the same.  In 2008, Tennessee was represented in the US House by 5 Democrats and 4 Republicans.  Today, there are 7 Republican Members of Congress and just 2 Democrats.

In an era of traditionally red states taking on shades of purple, Tennessee appears to be bucking that trend.

The Candidates

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R) – Elected to Congress in 2004, Marsha Blackburn represents the Tennessee 7th Congressional District, rated by Cook Political Report as R+18, one of the most solidly Republican districts in the country.Blackburn.jpg

In Congress, she has been a solid supporter of President Trump and his policies, going so far as to joining a letter written in support of his nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize, citing his work on the Korean Peninsula.

Proudly labeling herself a Tea Party Conservative Republican, Blackburn has taken the hard right position on each of the hot-button issues of the day.

Phil Bredesen (D) – Having served both as Mayor of Nashville and two-term governor, Phil Bredesen is a household name in Tennessee. Bredesen

Bredesen governed largely as a fiscal conservative, working with the General Assembly to pass across-the-board spending cuts, government reforms, and a campaign against drug abuse, easily winning a second term.

State of the Race

In September 2017, incumbent Senator Bob Corker announced he would not seek re-election.  Corker had been a frequent critic of President Trump, saying at one point that any Senator who is not conflicted about Trump is “either comatose or is pretty useless in their blindness.”

Corker also vowed to stay out of the race for his old Senate seat, saying that Bredesen was “a very good mayor, a very good governor, a very good businessperson” and that he has “cross-over appeal.”

Blackburn’s campaign has slammed Bredesen as someone who will go to the Senate and vote with Senator Chuck Schumer and the so-called Washington Liberal Elites.  In a rare campaign ad in this era, she features President Trump at a rally railing against Bredesen and declaring that he would be bad for Tennessee.  Blackburn’s embrace of Trump is a bet being made on the fact that the President won her home state by 26 points in 2016.

Conversely, Bredesen has run a campaign focused on his history as a coalition-builder, and as someone who has worked across the aisle to achieve a common goal.  He does not like to identify himself as a Democrat, but as someone who will do what is right for the people of Tennessee.

With combined spending from both campaigns and outside groups nearing $70M, this has shaped up to be the most expensive Senate race in the state’s history, and a key battleground in the fight for the Senate majority.

Polls have wavered back and forth within the margin of error since the beginning of the campaign, but Blackburn appears to have gained some momentum in the final weeks leading up to Election Day (despite a key endorsement of Bredesen from Taylor Swift).

All the major ratings organizations, with the exception of the Cook Political Report, currently have the race as Lean or Likely Republican.  That said, this is exactly the type of contest that could flip the other way given the right political environment on Election Day.

7 Races in 7 Days: PA 1st Congressional District

Over the next seven days, as campaigns across the country gear up for the final push to Election Day, we will be bringing you an update on key elections to watch.  We will be reviewing a mix of US Congress, US Senate, and Gubernatorial races that capture the larger political moment in which we find ourselves.

Stay tuned!

In today’s edition, we take a look at the contest in the Pennsylvania 1st Congressional District:

The District

Following a redistricting ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in February, the new 1st District consists of all of Bucks County and parts of Democratic-leaning central Montgomery County.PA1

Under the previous lines, the district represented by incumbent Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick went narrowly for Donald Trump in 2016.  The newly-drawn 1st District would have seen an approximately 2-point victory for Hillary Clinton.

Despite the unexpected redistricting, this seat remains a solidly swing district, rated by the Cook Political Report as an R +1 District, and it has the distinction of being one of just 26 seats nationwide won by Hillary Clinton that is currently represented by a Republican member of Congress.

The Candidates

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R) – Incumbent Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick was elected by a comfortable margin in 2016, succeeding his brother, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.BKF

Fitzpatrick grew up in the Levittown section of Lower Bucks County, going on to serve as a Special Assistant United States Attorney and with the FBI as national supervisor of the Public Corruption Unit.  His time with the FBI also took him overseas during operation Iraqi Freedom, where he was embedded with U.S. Special Forces.

 

Scott Wallace (D) – Scott Wallace, a wealthy philanthropist and grandson of one of FDR’s Vice Presidents,  entered Bucks County politics in January of 2018, declaring his intention to run for Congress.Wallace

Wallace was raised in Central Bucks County, and has worked in various capacities both domestically and abroad.  His work includes serving as general counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, working with various non-profit organizations, and running his family’s foundation, the Wallace Global Fund.

 

State of the Race

The Pennsylvania 1st Congressional District is exactly the type of moderate, suburban, well-educated district upon which Democrats are hoping to build a House majority.

Congressman Fitzpatrick has run his campaign has a true moderate, voting with his party on the tax plan, but against them on issues such as climate change and, most notably, against the Republican healthcare repeal bill.  He has earned the endorsements of several traditionally Democratic-leaning groups and organizations, including the Human Society Legislative Fund, the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

Fitzpatrick has also been a vocal critic of the President at times, speaking out against his travel ban and the separation of families at the Mexican border.  He has even gone as far to say that he did not vote for President Trump in 2016, instead writing in Mike Pence as his choice.

His campaign has attempted to paint Scott Wallace as an out-of-touch elitist, with values outside the mainstream of Bucks County politics.  Wallace’s move back to the district from Maryland at the end of 2017 has been the basis of attacks calling Wallace a “carpetbagger.”  Ads against Wallace also cite his work with  the Wallace Global Fund and causes it has supported that have been deemed too extreme for the average Bucks County voter.

In turn, the Wallace campaign has done its best to tie Fitzpatrick to the President, citing a Five Thirty Eight study which shows the Congressman has voted with President Trump over 80% of the time.  Hoping to ride a blue wave, Wallace has made it clear that, to vote for Fitzpatrick, or any Republican, is to give Donald Trump another ally in Washington.

Wallace has also largely self-funded his own campaign, a fact that he says inoculates him from undue influence from wealthy donors.

In order to see that this is a key race in the battle for the House majority, you need to look no further than the money that has been spent on both sides.  According to recent reporting, when taking into account both candidate spending, and money dropped in from outside groups, the battle for Congress in this district has been more expensive than the entire United States Senate race in Pennsylvania.

There is no doubt that this race will be a close one.  Each major ratings organization has this contest as a pure toss-up.  What happens in PA-1 just one week from today could be indicative of a larger trend nationwide, and it is certainly one to keep an eye on.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells & the Future of Clean Energy

On October 8, states around the country celebrated “National Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Day.”  Given that the standard atomic weight of hydrogen is 1.008, the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and several state legislative bodies, on 10/08, passed resolutions in support of this rapidly developing technology.

Fuel cells are playing an increasingly important role as many states, municipalities, and corporations aim to reduce their emissions and increase their use of clean energy technology.

The United States federal government has provided important support to research and development efforts in the form of grants to, and partnerships with, universities and start-ups in dozens of states.

As a public policy issue, the regulation and implementation of a hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure has the potential to move quickly to the forefront in states and municipalities across the nation.

The deployment of fuel cells has varied significantly from state to state according to a recent report ordered by the US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

For example, California has seen significant investment in fuel cell infrastructure, with the construction of more than 29 retail hydrogen fuel stations to date, and continued funding until 100 are operational.  These investments have helped lead to 1,500 Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV’s) being sold or leased in the state between January 2016-2017.

Conversely, in a state like Indiana, there has been relatively little use of fuel cell technology to date, with stationary units providing backup power to 19 AT&T cell towers and undisclosed government facilities.

States continue to lay the groundwork for new rules and regulations to take advantage of the potential promised by fuel cell technology.

On October 11, in recognition of National Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Day, the New Jersey State Assembly Science, Innovation & Technology and the Assembly Commerce & Economic Development Committees held a joint hearing on the future of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology in New Jersey.

Following the hearing, Commerce & Economic Development Chair Assemblyman Gordon Johnson noted that “hydrogen and fuel cell technology is a nearly untapped alternative energy resource with both environmental and economic benefits for the state of New Jersey… New Jersey needs to be prepared to take full advantage of this technology as we act to reduce pollution and greenhouse emissions.”

Science, Innovation & Technology Chair Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker echoed these sentiments, saying that “it’s now up to us to come up with legislation that makes sense for the people of New Jersey.”

Hawaii Gubernatorial Primary Recap

By Peter Brath

Incumbent Governor David Ige defeated U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa in Hawaii’s Democratic primary for governor on Saturday. Ige will now face Republican state House Minority Leader Andria Tupola, a race he’ll likely win.

Ige received 51.4 percent of the vote and won Oahu, the archipelago’s most populous island and home of Honolulu. Hanabusa, who resigned from her congressional seat to run for governor, received 44.4 percent of the vote and won the island of Hawaii, the largest in the archipelago. Ige suffered in earlier polls due to his mishandling of the false ballistic missile alarm earlier this year. The governor claimed he was unable to relay the information that it was a false alarm because he forgot his Twitter password. However, more recent polls had him ahead by margins similar to what he won with on Saturday. Some have credited his quick response to the Kilauea volcano eruption that occurred in May as a catalyst for his resurgence.

Under Ige, the state approved a policy that would transition all electricity produced in Hawaii to renewable energy sources and a commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. Ige has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, especially in regards to the travel ban and his repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). He also made early moves to tackle the homeless crisis by building and renovating state housing facilities.

Tupola won the GOP primary with a much larger margin, defeating former State Rep. and Senator John Carroll 55.5 to 35.2 percent. She will face steep odds in her attempt to become the second Republican governor in state history and break up the Democratic trifecta that’s held for eight years. Throughout the primary, Tupola stressed her community involvement and criticized Ige as being unresponsive to systemic problems, such as high living costs, a bad business environment and the homeless epidemic, among others.

Ige brought in over 124,000 votes, four times the 31,000 total votes cast for all three Republican candidates, and should have no problem winning in the general election. Both The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections have labeled this race as “Solid Democrat.”

Tennessee Gubernatorial Primary Recap

Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean won their respective party nominations for governor Thursday night and will face off in November’s general election.

Lee, a Nashville-area businessman, was a dark horse candidate when the first polls emerged earlier this year. However, with nearly 37 percent of the vote, he defeated fellow businessman Randy Boyd and Rep. Diane Black, a central Tennessee congresswoman who had received endorsements from Vice President Mike Pence and the National Rifle Association. Meanwhile, Boyd had support from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and every major Republican mayor in the state. While Lee lacked the high profile endorsements, he embarked on a statewide campaign that saw him visit 95 counties in 95 days where he spoke at 100 town halls.

On the Democratic side, Dean, the former mayor of Nashville, took more than 75 percent of the party vote, defeating Tennessee House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, who had nearly 20 percent. Dean out-raised Fitzhugh 15-to-1 and spent four times as much throughout the race.

In the primary for U.S. Senate, former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen and Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn will square off for the open seat vacated by Republican Bob Corker. Both Blackburn and Bredesen easily clinched their party’s nomination Thursday night.

Tennessee, which went heavily for Donald Trump in 2016, has not had more than two consecutive terms of one party’s control of the governorship since Republican Winfield Dunn broke a Democratic streak that had lasted from 1923 until 1971.

The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections have both given this race a “Likely Republican” rating. Meanwhile, both publications have categorized the senate race as “Lean Republican.”

 

Legislative Update: Delaware Signs New Blockchain Laws

By Peter Brath

On July 23, Delaware Governor John Carney (D) signed a trio of bills aimed at keeping Delaware in step with blockchain technology. Each bill passed through both chambers without a single no vote. The initiative is part of an effort to ensure Delaware maintains its business-friendly reputation where more than half of all Fortune 500 companies are incorporated.

Blockchain is the technology that supports digital currencies, like Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum, allowing transactions and records to get distributed without being copied.

Senate Bill 182 deals with limited partnerships in the state, while SB 183 deals with limited liability companies. Both bills allow LP’s and LLC’s to secure records using the blockchain. The third bill, SB 194, updates the Delaware Statutory Trust Act to include language on blockchain technology and allows trustees to have votes recorded through blockchain.

Before these bills were passed, courts had no obligation to consider records or contracts stored on a blockchain legally binding. Now, corporations in Delaware will be able to use digitally signed contracts and other documents created and stored in the blockchain without violating the law.

This legislation comes after Delaware awarded IBM with a $738,000 deal in July to design a blockchain filing system for the state.

Critics argue that holes will need filled with future legislation. Others worry the statute’s definition of “trustworthy” in reference to the blockchains used to store data is too loose. In the meantime, any conflicts that arise will likely have to be dealt with by the courts before more legislation is passed.

The law went into effect on August 1.