TIME 2014 Election

Hawaii Democratic Senate Primary Finally Ends As Rep. Colleen Hanabusa Concedes

Colleen Hanabusa
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, left, and a group of supporters do some last minute campaigning near the polling place on Aug. 15, 2014, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Marco Garcia—AP

Hanabusa announced Tuesday she will not challenge the results of the Senate primary in court

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa will not challenge the results of the close primary election between her and Sen. Brian Schatz, a race that came to an end an entire week after the originally scheduled primary.

In a statement published by several media outlets in Hawaii, Hanabusa said ,”though I will not be challenging the results of this election, I remain very concerned about the public’s confidence and trust in our election process.”

“I ask former colleagues and friends in the Hawaii State Legislature to explore what is necessary to ensure the people that their vote truly counts,” the statement continues. “I heard from many who feel strongly that they were disenfranchised from the voting process this election and I stand ready to support any collaborative effort to have those voices heard,” Hanabusa says.

Late last Friday the Associated Press called the race for Schatz, who beat Hanabusa by 1,769 votes following a rare one-day vote in two precincts in the rural Puna district of the Big Island of Hawaii. The district was ravaged by Tropical Storm Iselle, which downed trees and caused widespread power outages that kept voters from making it to the polls on Aug. 9.

Before last week’s election, Hanabusa filed a legal request to delay the election by a week so residents of Puna could focus on recovering from the storm, but a Hawaii judge denied the request. In interviews following the election, Hanabusa hinted that she might challenge the election in court.

On Tuesday, Schatz issued a statement congratulating Rep. Hanabusa for “waging a tough and spirited battle.”

“This election has been extraordinary from beginning to end. It took heart, teamwork and a belief that together we are making a real difference for our state and our country,” Schatz’s statement reads. “Now it is time for us to unite as we move forward to the general election.”

The election has been one of the toughest Democratic primaries this election season, but Schatz is expected to win the general election come November. A Republican hasn’t won a Senate election in Hawaii since 1970. Schatz and many Democrats believe his progressive stance, particularly his support for expanding Social Security, have and will carry him to victory in the general election.

TIME 2014 Election

Kentucky Democrat Got Discounted Bus Rental from Dad, Report Says

A Politico report suggests Alison Lundergan Grimes' bus may be being rented at a rate below market value

Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic Senate candidate who hopes to unseat incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, came under fire on Tuesday after a report in Politico suggested her father may be renting out a 45-foot campaign bus to the candidate at a discounted price.

If true, the rented bus could spell trouble for Grimes with the Federal Election Commission. If the contribution was found to be in violation of federal law that prohibits accepting goods and services at prices below market value, her campaign would have to pay a hefty fine.

Politico’s analysis found that Grimes’s campaign paid about $456 a day for a bus used between last August and June owned by a company belonging to Jerry Lundergan, Grimes’ well-connected dad. Politico found four bus companies that typically charge between $1,500 and $2,000 a day to rent similar buses, and reported Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign paid about $2,200 a day to rent a similar bus earlier this summer.

In a statement sent to TIME on Tuesday, Grimes’ campaign lawyer Marc Elias denied the campaign had received a sweetheart deal for the bus. “The campaign obtained quotes for the rental cost of a comparable vehicle from other providers in the Kentucky and regional market, and arrived at a reasonable reimbursement cost. We have reviewed the campaign’s methodology and agree that it complies with the applicable rules.”

The McConnell campaign jumped at the opportunity to criticize Grimes over Politico‘s allegations. “The revelation that Alison Lundergan Grimes has potentially accepted large, illegal gifts and services from her father, Jerry Lundergan’s corporate interests is shocking and should set off warning bells for all Kentuckians concerned about ethics in public office,” McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton said.

A Real Clear Politics analysis considers the Kentucky senate race a toss-up, with McConnell currently leading Grimes by 3 points.

TIME Election 2014

Democrats Out Fundraise Republicans in July

The DCCC and DSCC boast high fundraising totals for July

Both the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees say they had their best July ever, out-raising Republicans by millions with only a couple weeks left before the election. Democrats have a rocky road ahead of them this election, with tough races in at least nine states that could swing either way this November.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $11.5 million in July, $3.5 million more than the National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) $8 million. The DCCC has $56.7 million on hand, while the NRCC has a reported $48 million on hand as of Monday.

The main driver of the DCCC’s success has been those alarming DCCC fundraising emails, which brought in $7 million in online donations in July. Democratic leaders including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have also been on a fundraising blitz, hosting and attending events around the country. President Obama set to attend his tenth DCCC event in Rhode Island later in August.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) also boasts similar fundraising results, raising $7.7 million this July. The DSCC has a reported $32 million on hand for the ongoing battle to maintain control of the Senate. The National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $5.5 million in July and has a reported $26.6 million on hand. With 46 seats likely to stay Republican next cycle and toss up elections in a handful of consistently red states, regardless of the end-of-summer fundraising boost, Democrats face a tough road ahead of November’s election.

TIME Election 2014

Sen. Brian Schatz Secures Primary Win in Hawaii

US Sen. Brian Schatz celebrates after defeating fellow Democrat Colleen Hanabusa to retain his senate seat on Aug. 15, 2014 in Hilo, Hawaii.
US Sen. Brian Schatz celebrates after defeating fellow Democrat Colleen Hanabusa to retain his senate seat on Aug. 15, 2014 in Hilo, Hawaii. Marco Garcia—AP

The incumbent won the Democratic primary by a little over 1,700 votes

Sen. Brian Schatz won the Hawaii Senate primary on Friday, following a rare one-day vote in a rural district.

The Associated Press declared a winner at 2:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, which was about 8:30 p.m. local time; polls closed at 7p.m. The Hawaii office of elections reported a close race, with Schatz beating Hanabusa by only 1,769 votes. Schatz outspent Hanabusa by $1.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and secured the support of both President Obama and the Democrats’ progressive faction, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

“This was obviously an extremely hard-fought race. But we’re gratified that the voters heard our message and recognized that I’ve been working hard for the people of Hawaii,” Schatz told the Associated Press on Friday.

Schatz’s win brings one of the nation’s most tense Senate primary races to a close nearly one week after the official primary election was held. Voters in the district of Puna on Hawaii’s Big Island who were prevented from casting ballots due to damage from a tropical storm were the deciding factor in the Senate race and both candidates focused their attention on the residents throughout the week.

In an interview with a local news station following the election, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said she thought the influence of mainland groups had a huge impact on this election.

“When you have a lot of mainland interest coming in and they can pour in a lot of money—I think that did make a difference in this election,” Hanabusa told KHON2 News. But, she added, “the people still voted they way they wanted to vote.”

Hanabusa did not say whether she would challenge the results, which she said has been requested due to the election’s low turnout. Residents of Puna are still reeling from Tropical Storm Iselle—according to Hawaii Electric Light, some 3,800 customers are still without power.

The win also essentially secures the incumbent’s seat in Senate—a Republican hasn’t been elected to the Senate from Hawaii since 1970.

TIME Election 2014

Storm-Struck Hawaiians to Decide Senate Primary

Hawaii Primary
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa waves at drivers while campaigning for U.S. Senate in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 2014. Audrey McAvoy—AP

A special one-day election will decide whether Sen. Brian Schatz or Rep. Colleen Hanabusa secure the primary win in Hawaii

A pocket of voters in a remote area of Hawaii will cast the deciding ballots in one the country’s most tense Senate primary races during a one-day election on Friday.

About 6,800 eligible voters in the former hippie enclave Puna, a rural district in the easternmost area of the Big Island that is still reeling from Tropical Storm Iselle, essentially hold the fate of Democrats Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Sen. Brian Schatz in their hands. Due to power outages and blocked roads, voters set to cast ballots at Keonepoko Elementary School and Hawaiian Paradise Community Center found their polling stations closed during last Saturday’s primary. About 1,500 voters from the area already sent in absentee ballots and will not be able to vote on Friday, according to Hawaii News Now.

Polls will only open at the two locations, Keonepoko Elementary School and Hawaiian Paradise Community Center, Friday from 7 a.m. until 6p.m. It’s a rare move, offering a handful of voters a lot of power and focusing an inordinate amount attention on the often-forgotten district, as many residents said in interviews with the New York Times.

As of Sunday’s count, Sen. Schatz was 1,635 votes ahead of Hanabussa and the election will likely swing his way following Friday’s vote, though neither camp had given up on trying to sway this handful of voters as it came down the wire. Both candidates traveled to the Puna district this week, distributing water, ice and food to affected residents. More than 6,000 people are still without power, the Hawaii Electric Light company said Thursday.

State lawmakers have called the decision to hold elections amid the recovery insensitive and Rep. Hanabusa filed a lawsuit earlier this week to have the election delayed. On Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura denied the motion and the election resumed as planned on Friday morning.

In a statement following the judge’s decision, Schatz’s campaign manager Clay Schroers said Schatz “continues to focus his energies on helping the people of Puna to recover.”

Hanabusa’s camp noted that while their recovery efforts would continue, the focus on Friday would be on the election. “We will continue to distribute food, water, fruit and ice to those in need. But we need people to be aware that there is an election tomorrow,” said campaign spokesman Peter Boylan, according to the Associated Press. “This campaign is not over, and we will continue to work very hard to earn every vote.”

Outside progressive groups poured money into helping Schatz, appointed by now-ousted Gov. Neil Abercrombie following the death of longtime Sen. Daniel Inoyue, to help him keep the seat. On the other hand, Inoyue loyalists have bolstered support for Hanabussa, who the late Senator requested to succeed him on his deathbed. Regardless of who wins on Friday, a Democrat is projected to secure the seat in the Senate—the last time a Republican was elected to the Senate from Hawaii was Sen. Hiram Fong in 1970.

TIME 2014 Election

Senate Democrats Launch $9-Million Ad Buy in North Carolina

Largest ad campaign so far for Democrats in key Senate race

Democrats started a large advertising buy in North Carolina’s contested Senate race on Wednesday with a new ad criticizing Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis’ record in the legislature.

The $9-million buy from the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee is the group’s largest so far this year. Tillis is challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan in a race that could help decide which party controls the Senate next year.

The new 30-second titled in “Black and White” says Tillis cut funds from the state’s public schools while giving tax breaks to “yacht and jet owners.” The Republican-led North Carolina state legislature in 2013 cut education spending over the next two years by nearly $500 million dollars.

“North Carolina deserves better than Speaker Tillis and over the next three months the DSCC will continue to highlight just how wrong Speaker Tillis is for North Carolina,” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The ad comes one day after Hagan’s campaign attacked Tillis’ education agenda, calling it “irresponsible” and “destructive” in large part due to Tillis’ proposal to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education.

“After doing so much damage in Raleigh, promising to eliminate the Department of Education as his first action is just one more reason Speaker Tillis has the wrong priorities,” Hagan said.

Tillis has called for the elimination of the Department of Education, but the Tillis camp, McClatchy reports, said he would preserve financial aid and assistance to schools and thinks there is room for the department to work better with states and be more efficient. Tillis has also been critical of Hagan’s record in Congress, saying she has introduced “zero bills that have become law.”

“Kay Hagan is one of the most ineffective senators in North Carolina’s history, having failed to sponsor a single bill that became law during her six years in Washington,” said Tillis’ communications director Daniel Keylin in a statement last week. “Instead of working across the aisle to pass laws benefitting North Carolina families, Hagan has put her liberal special interest allies first, rubber-stamping President Obama’s failed partisan agenda 95 percent of the time.”

The North Carolina Senate race is one of seven races deemed toss-ups by the Cook Political Report.

 

TIME Election 2014

Republican Group Rolls Out Fake News Websites

The NRCC has released a line of websites to attack Democrats with the look and feel of local news sites

The National Republican Congressional Committee is getting into the local news business — at least until the midterm elections are over.

The NRCC has released a line of websites to attack Democratic candidates that have the look and feel of local news websites. The sites have names like “Central Valley Update” and “Augusta Update.” A box at the bottom of the page indicates the website is paid for by the NRCC. Some two dozen of the sites are now live.

“This is a new and effective way to disseminate information to voters who are interested in learning the truth about these Democratic candidates,” NRCC spokesperson Andrea Bozek said of the new line of sites. “While Democrats would rather hide their candidates and their reckless agenda, we believe voters deserve to know the facts.” Bozek added that the websites are not illegal.

The group drew criticism earlier this year over websites, including fundraising portals that confused some voters, which spoofed the websites of Democratic candidates.

The new websites are being paid for and coordinated by the NRCC’s independent expenditure arm, which can raise unlimited sums of money but is not permitted to coordinate with candidates’ campaigns.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the NRCC’s Democratic counterpart, called the websites deceptive.

“House Republicans’ campaign strategy to overcome their own historic unpopularity is to resort to deception—again,” DCCC spokesperson Josh Schwerin told TIME.

TIME Election 2014

Congresswoman Waters Urges Blacks to Vote in This Year’s Midterms

Maxine Waters
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) marches in the 29th annual Kingdom Day Parade on January 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. David McNew—Getty Images

Speaking at the 20th anniversary Essence Music Festival in New Orleans

Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters urged African Americans on Saturday to get out to the polls in November for the sake of President Barack Obama’s legacy. The representative from California also stressed the historic significance of voting in the African American community during a year when the nation is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Midterm elections are just as important as presidential elections,” Waters said during a speech at the Essence Music Festival. “Think about your ancestors; think about their sacrifice. Think about all of those who gave their lives. Get to the polls.”

African American voters turned out at the polls in record numbers in 2008 and 2012. In 2012, 66.2% of eligible black Americans voted, outnumbering white voters for the first time in history. And black women, who are the target audience of the Essence festival, were primarily responsible for that surge. Essence is owned by TIME parent company Time Inc.

But 2014 is a midterm year, during which non-white voters often turn out in lower rates. And without a big name like Barack Obama up for election, many Democrats worry black turnout will revert back to their typically low levels this November, hurting their chances at the polls.

Waters also said the African American community’s legislative goals are at risk of dying in Congress if Republicans gain control of the Senate on top of the House of Representatives. Fighting for issues like the Voting Rights Act, raising the minimum wage, and improving health care, Waters said, should drive African American voters to the polls.

“We’ve got a lot at stake,” Waters said. “You have got to realize you don’t just vote in a presidential election. We cannot get a bill through. We cannot get anything done as long as [Republicans] are in the majority.”

TIME Congress

Democrats Prod GOP on Change to Voting Rights Law

A push to respond to a Supreme Court ruling

Congress finally debated an amendment to the Voting Rights Act on Wednesday, six months after it was introduced and exactly one year after the Supreme Court knocked down a key provision of the landmark civil rights law.

“I was hopeful that Senate Republicans would join me in supporting this important bill,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said during a committee hearing Wednesday. “Despite repeated efforts, I am troubled to report that as of this hearing, not a single Senate Republican has stepped up to the plate.”

The Voting Rights Act Amendment of 2014 was introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision striking down a section of the VRA that required certain states and localities to get permission from the Department of Justice before changing voting rules because of their history of voter discrimination. While the landmark law had been renewed with bipartisan support for years, Democrats are struggling to bring Republicans on board to give the law new strength after the Supreme Court ruling—something that became abundantly clear minutes into Wednesday’s hearing.

While Leahy recalled how he felt when the Supreme Court “gutted” the Voting Rights Act, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee’s ranking GOP member, said the court’s decision was justified.

“All it did,” Grassley said Wednesday, “was strike down a formula, some 50 years old.”

Grassley, and other Republicans on the committee noted that other sections of the Voting Rights Act still stand and are currently being enforced in several states—including in Texas, where the Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the state under Section 2, which bans voting practices that impact people based on their race, color, or language.

Senators from southern states mocked the idea of continuing to require some states to get permission from the Justice Department, known as “pre-clearance,” just because of voting discrimination that took place in the past.

“What justifies singling out a select number of states for some sort of special treatment?” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked, noting that in his home state, black voter turnout was higher than white turnout during the 2012 election. Cruz said the turnout was proof that Texas, along with many other southern states with a history of racial discrimination, has evolved.

But Democrats say discrimination still exists and that voters still need the protection provided by the pre-clearance provision, known as Section 5. Ten of the 15 states that were covered by the now-defunct section have introduced restrictive voting legislation since the ruling, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Some states moved to put previously rejected laws in place shortly after the Supreme Court decision.

Under the proposed Voting Rights Amendment Act, any state that has committed five or more voting violations in the past 15 years would be subject to pre-clearance. Texas and Louisiana are among the states that would be subjected to pre-clearance if the bill passed in its current form.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, sought to drive home the fact that under the bill any state—from Vermont to California—could be subject to pre-clearance. She said 2012 minority voter turnout should push Congress to act, not convince members that America has overcome its troubled racial history.

“It shows the determination of minority voters to turn out and participate despite the obstacles,” Ifill said. “It should inspire Congress to pass this bill.”

Despite Wednesday’s hearing, the fate of the legislation is bleak. No Republican Senators have signed on to sponsor the bill. But civil rights organizations have not lost hope. And Democrats in the House and Senate plan to continue pressuring their Republican colleagues on the issue.

“I don’t understand the difference today other than partisan politics rearing its head,” Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who attended the Senate hearing, told TIME. “I think we should follow in tradition of our predecessors, Republicans and Democrats, and pass this legislation that speaks to right of people to vote.”

TIME elections

Before Cantor: Seven Other Tea Party Upsets

The defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a little-known Tea Partier isn't the first upset in recent election cycles

It all started four years B.C. Four years before Cantor that is.

Since the Tea Party had its first member elected to public office in 2010 (Dean Murray to the New York State Assembly), the feisty political movement has rocked the GOP with challengers to elected positions long-held by establishment Republicans.

In the latest upset, House Majority Leader and No. 2 House Republican Eric Cantor, lost to the Tea Party-backed economics professor, Dave Brat in the Virginia Republican primary on Tuesday.

It’s a result which many are calling one of the most stunning primary election results in congressional history. Cantor was considered a top contender to replace John Boehner as the next House Speaker. What’s more, Cantor was a vocal supporter of child immigration rights, which many thought might help change the debate on immigration.

But Cantor isn’t the only establishment Republican to face a surprising defeat to a Tea Party challenger. See seven of the biggest Tea Party election upsets (in four years of history) below.

1. Ted Yoho

Yoho—whom the Tampa Bay Times retroactively dubbed “The Eric Cantor of Florida”—caused a major upset in 2012, defeating longtime incumbent Congressman Cliff Stearns, who served 12 terms in the house beginning in 1988, in the Republican primary.

Yoho then easily defeated Democrat candidate J.R. Gaillot in the general election, walking away with 64.8 % of the votes.

2. Ted Cruz

In the 2012 Republican primary runoff for senate, Ted Cruz faced off against the establishment GOP candidate and Lieutenant Governor of Texas, David Dewhurst. Dewhurst had the backing of Governor Rick Perry and many other members of the state’s Republican leadership, but in the end this support meant little—Cruz defeated Dewhurst by more than 150,000 votes out of the 1.1 million cast.

Cruz then defeated Democratic challenger Paul Sadler in the general election, becoming the first Hispanic to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate.

3. Mike Lee

Senator Robert F. Bennett lost his bid for a fourth term during the 2010 primaries when he received only 27% of the vote by Utah’s delegates and missed a runoff. During the critical Utah GOP convention, Bennett told delegates in a speech, “Don’t take a chance on a newcomer,” but that’s exactly what they did. Taking his place was Mike Lee, an attorney with no prior political experience.

Lee also beat Democratic challenger Sam Granato in the general election, with 62%t of the votes compared to Granato’s 33%.

4. Marco Rubio

The race for the open seat on Florida’s Senate in 2010 was a three-way battle. With the sitting Governor Charlie Crist running as an Independent, facing off against Democrat Kendrick Meek and Republican Marco Rubio.

Rubio, a Tea Party favorite, won the race with 49% of the vote. Talk of him running for president in 2012 began immediately, and although he expressed no intention to run back then, he’s said it’s something he’ll consider in 2016.

5. Brad Wenstrup

Like Mike Lee, Brad Wenstrup was a political newbie when he won Ohio’s 2nd congressional district in 2012, first defeating Republican incumbent Jean Schmidt in the primaries, and then Democratic challenger William R. Smith in the November general election.

6. Rand Paul

Rand Paul, with his unconventional views on foreign policy and social issues, is a hard pill for the GOP to swallow. But the pill become a lot more cumbersome in 2010, when he beat out establishment favorite Trey Grayson in the Republican primary.

He faced off against Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (a Democrat) in the general election, walking away victorious with 56% of the vote.

7. Tim Scott

In 2010, South Carolina held a 9-candidate Republican primary, including two candidates with fathers who were also involved in Republican politics—Paul Thurmond, son of former South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, and Carroll Campbell, son of former South Carolina Governor Carroll A. Campbell. Scott came in first, with 32% of the vote.

After a second vote to secure more than 50% of the vote, Scott went on to defeat Democrat Ben Frasier in the general election, becoming the first African American to be elected to congress from South Carolina in more than 100 years. He was later appointed to the U.S. Senate seat from South Carolina, replacing Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who retired.

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