Updating The Democratic Scorecard

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 28, 2019 — The old saying, “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard” certainly applies to the formulating 2020 Democratic presidential field of candidates.

This week, former Virginia governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, who soon will likely take steps to formalize his own presidential campaign, said that regardless of the total number of people contemplating joining the race it is probable we could see as many as eight or nine candidates in serious competition for the party nomination. McAuliffe’s observation will likely prove correct.

The party rules involving delegate selection and apportionment, the fact that Democrats do not allow winner-take-all primaries or caucuses, the early voting schedule, and that Super Delegates no longer participate in the first convention roll call mean advancing to more than one ballot to determine the ultimate nominee becomes a distinct possibility. All of this adds to the uncertainty engulfing the early phase of this national campaign.

Right now, however, speculation is building around just who will advance into the credibility round, that is, those who have enough support to position themselves to actually win the nomination in July of 2020.

Let’s first look at the entire Democratic field, understanding that as many as 36 different individuals who at least at one time have publicly acknowledged consideration of forming, or expressed an overt desire to form, a presidential campaign. Some have already made public statements declining to run, while another segment appears unlikely to join the fray. Even disqualifying the persons from these categories would still leave us with at least 23 individuals who could well enter the race.
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Poll: Trump Behind All, But Skewed?

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 25, 2019 — A new Public Policy Polling company national survey (Jan. 19-21; 750 US registered voters) finds President Trump, who is likely at his lowest ebb in popularity during his two-year stewardship in office, trailing seven prospective Democratic opponents, but the study appears to be nothing short of a push poll.

Initially, the survey sample finds President Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by a net four points more than the actual 2016 national campaign result when the respondents are queried about who they supported in the last presidential election. This alone points to at least a slight sample skew.

The historical presidential vote tabulation is followed by a series of questions, all designed to place President Trump in a negative light.


Verbatim from the PPP study, the questions are:

  • Do you think that Donald Trump is honest, or not? Yes 35%; No 58%
  • Do you think that Donald Trump is a liar, or not? Yes 48%; No 44%
  • Do you think that Donald Trump has made America Great Again, or not? Yes 38%; No 55%
  • Do you think Donald Trump should release his tax returns, or not? Yes 55%; No 38%
  • Do you think that members of Donald Trump’s campaign team worked in association with Russia to help Trump win the election for President, or not? Yes 45%; No 43%
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Reflecting on the 2018 Numbers

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 24, 2019 — Now that all but one of the 470 House and Senate races from the election cycle just ended are final and recorded, it is time to better understand what the results portend.

As we know, the Democrats had a good election overall, and most particularly in the US House where they converted a net 40 seats — possibly 41 if NC-9 turns their way when the new election is finally scheduled — but Republicans did expand their majority in the Senate, thus largely disqualifying 2018 as an official wave election. Overall, there are 93 freshman House members and nine new senators when counting appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ).

Democrats came very near wave proportions, however – the Ballotpedia organization studied past wave elections and found that a swing of 48 House seats is necessary to constitute such a designation. While the effects from the 2018 election will certainly have long term reverberations, much more time is required to determine if the results are providing the foundation for transformational policy changes or are merely a blip that could just as quickly swing back to the Republicans.

What we do know is that women made significant gains in federal representation. In the Senate, the body now features a net three more female members (gaining Kyrsten Sinema and appointed Sen. McSally, both from Arizona, along with new Sens. Jacky Rosen (NV), and Marsha Blackburn (TN), but losing North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp), meaning that 25 women are now incumbent senators.

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The Early Senate Maneuvers

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2019 — Though it is only January of the off-year, already early moves are being made in anticipation of an active 2020 US Senate campaign cycle. With 34 in-cycle Senate races on the ballot, as many as 16, at this point, could become competitive in either the primary or general election.

Below is a quick synopsis of the latest happenings in several states:


OPEN SEATS

• Kansas: The open seat is Kansas is already active with backroom discussions. After first indicating that he would not leave his current position to run for the Senate, pressure is being put on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to re-consider his decision to stay out of the battle to succeed the retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R).

Facing a badly split Republican Party in the Sunflower State, many GOP leaders at the state and federal level believe that Pompeo would be the best candidate to unify the disparate factions, which would enable him to easily hold the seat in the general election. This, after the party just lost the governorship.

• Tennessee: Former Gov. Bill Haslam (R) left office on Saturday and says he will decide in the next few weeks whether to seek retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R) open seat. No one has yet come forward to announce his or her candidacy — the prospective field presumably frozen until Haslam makes public his political plans. Should the former governor decide to run, he would quickly become a prohibitive favorite in the Republican primary and general election.
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Pennsylvania Rep. Marino to Resign

By Jim Ellis

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (click on image to see full size)

Jan. 22, 2019 — Five-term Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) announced that he is leaving Congress next week to accept a professional position in the private sector. Marino was first elected to the House in 2010, after serving five years as the US Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and 11 years as District Attorney of Lycoming County.

In the Republican wave election of 2010, Marino ousted then-Rep. Chris Carney (D) by a 55-45 percent margin and has averaged 66.1 percent of the vote in his subsequent re-elections. The 2018 Pennsylvania court-ordered redistricting plan re-numbered his 10th Congressional District to 12 and created a seat where 68 percent of the constituency carried over from the previous district.

In 2017, President Trump nominated Rep. Marino as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly referred to as the nation’s “drug czar.” But the congressman withdrew his name when experiencing some negative reaction during the confirmation process.

The 12th District will now go into a special election cycle. After the seat becomes officially vacant on Jan. 23, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will have 10 days to issue a writ of election to fill the newly open seat. The various political parties will meet in special conventions to choose their nominees, with the winners proceeding to an election date that the governor will assign. It is most likely he will schedule the 12th District special to run concurrently with the Pennsylvania municipal primary, which is calendared for May 21.

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The Justice Democrats

By Jim Ellis

The Justice Democrats logo (click on image to go to their website)

Jan. 18, 2019 — Similar to the time when the Republicans controlled the House, it appears the most ideologically committed faction of the Democratic Party is already beginning to target the more centrist majority members for primary defeat.

The Justice Democrats organization spokespeople reiterated yesterday that they will be opposing certain incumbents in Democratic primaries beginning with Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo).

The group boasts of having newly-elected Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) as members after the pair defeated Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Queens) and Mike Capuano (D-Somerville) in their respective 2018 primaries. The Justice Democrats also list veteran Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ro Khanna (D-CA), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) as members along with newly elected freshmen Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

The Justice Democrats have a published issue agenda that includes “Medicare for All”, guaranteed living wages, federal guaranteed jobs, taxpayer financed higher education for anyone who wants to attend a university or college, their “Green New Deal” pertaining to environmental policy, and law enforcement reform, among other issues.

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Senate: Early Handicapping

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2019 — The 2020 Senate election cycle features 34 races instead of 33 because of the Arizona special, and this time it is the Republicans who must defend the preponderance of seats. In 2018, Democrats held 26 of the 35 seats up for election; in this cycle, Republicans must protect 22 of the 34 Senate positions.

Republicans are first risking two open seats, those of Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. At this point, both should remain in the GOP column. They also face a slew of competitive races in as many as eight incumbent states. Democrats, on the other hand, must defend in one highly competitive campaign, that of Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama, and a potentially viable contest in Minnesota.

But the most vulnerable Republican races will attract serious political attention. Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (AZ), Sen. Cory Gardner (CO), and North Carolina first term incumbent Thom Tillis are facing difficult election or re-election campaigns, in addition to Sen. Jones.

Martha McSally lost the 2018 Arizona Senate race to new Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) by 55,900 votes of more than 2.384 million ballots cast, or a margin of 2.4 percentage points. This, however, in the same election where Republican Gov. Doug Ducey scored a strong 56-42 percent re-election victory.

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The Presidential Scorecard

By Jim Ellis

Former vice president and ex-Delaware senator Joe Biden is expected to make his 2020 presidential plans known at some point in February

Jan. 16, 2019 — As predicted, a great deal of action on the presidential front has already occurred in January, and we’re likely to see more very soon.

So far this month, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and former Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro announced their presidential campaigns. Billionaire Tom Steyer, thought to be preparing a run, publicly stated that he would not do so.

There are so many potential political players, however, it is difficult to tell them without a scorecard, as the old saying goes.

Below is an updated list of the 31 Democrats who have taken action on the presidential front or are rumored to be doing so in the near future.

Most Likely to Run (listed alphabetically)

  1. Former Vice President Joe Biden – expected to make his plans known at some point in February
  2. Ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg – already reportedly exploring what he will must do to divest himself of his media empire before running
  3. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) – expected to soon announce an exploratory committee if not an actual campaign committee. The NJ legislature and governor changed New Jersey election law to allow individuals to run for offices simultaneously. Sen. Booker is up for re-election in the 2020 election cycle.
  4. Ex-Secretary Julian Castro – announced candidacy
  5. Ex-Congressman John Delaney (D-MD) – announced candidacy; been traveling in Iowa and New Hampshire for most of last year
  6. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) – stated in a CNN interview that she will run for president and will shortly make a formal announcement
  7. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) – expected to soon form exploratory committee
  8. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) – planning presidential campaign announcement for the Martin Luther King holiday in her birthplace of Oakland, CA
  9. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) – expected to soon announce presidential exploratory committee
  10. Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) – stated publicly that he will form an exploratory committee
  11. Ex-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) – making public moves to enter the presidential race
  12. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) – says he will run if he doesn’t believe any of the other candidates can defeat President Trump. Expected to again make the race.
  13. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) – has formed presidential exploratory committee, and is expected to become an official candidate

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NC-9: Vacant for the Year?

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 15, 2019 — The 9th District of North Carolina, still with uncertified electoral results from November, could conceivably remain vacant until the November municipal elections as the situation continues to unfold.

The NC State Board of Elections was supposed to have met on Friday, and at that point would likely have scheduled a new election, but the panel itself is a political football. A state judge acted to dissolve the membership by refusing to issue a stay of his previous ruling.

North Carolina Republican Mark Harris has filed a court challenge to the Board of Elections not certifying his win in NC-9 and claiming his 905-vote lead should stand.

The panel became a tug of war between Gov. Roy Cooper (D) and the Republican dominated state legislature even before the NC-9 controversy arose. During the transition between the time that Cooper unseated GOP Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in the 2016 statewide election and his taking office Republican legislators changed certain laws. One of those moves concerned the Board of Elections’ composition.

A judge eventually ruled that the legislature acted unconstitutionally regarding some of the changes including the legislation regarding the Board of Elections. The board was supposed to be dissolved after the election certification period, but the NC-9 problem earned the group a stay of the original ruling. The judge, however, did not see fit to allow them to continue in the new year.

At the end of the year, with Republican legislators desiring to change the special election law that would allow an open primary system instead of the general election rerun that would have been the previous board’s only option had they ordered a new vote, a new election law was enacted.

In a deal with the Democrats, the Republican leadership passed a bill that allows the open primary in exchange for giving Gov. Cooper what he wanted in terms of Board of Elections’ personnel. The bill passed overwhelmingly in both houses, but the governor vetoed. The legislature immediately overrode his action.

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Senate Approvals

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 14, 2019 — The Morning Consult firm just released their quarterly ranking of Senate job approval scores. All 100 senators are surveyed, and the numbers cover the fourth quarter of 2018. Several categories are of interest.

First, a number of ratings are similar for both senators in a particular state. Vermont respondents were particularly pleased with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) and Patrick Leahy (D). The duo placed first and second nationally, with approval ratings of 64:28 percent and 62:23 percent favorable to unfavorable, respectively.

They were closely followed by Republican senators John Barrasso (R-WY; 62:26 percent) and John Thune (R-SD; 59:27 percent). The two senators’ state mates, Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY; 56:27 percent) and Mike Rounds (R-SD; 56:29 percent), were also in the top 10.

Now-former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) recorded the worst rating in the body, with a 28:49 percent negative ratio. Two Senate leaders, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY; 38:47 percent) and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL; 36:39 percent) were also in the Bottom 10.

Since this is the fourth quarter 2018 report, the five senators who lost re-election along with those who won competitive races are included. Below are their favorability scores Continue reading

What 2018’s Closest Races Mean
While Looking Ahead to 2020

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 11, 2019 — Now that the various state elections’ offices have certified the Nov. 6 final voting totals, we can begin to reflect and better analyze the particulars of the 2018 campaigns, which will provide clues to future targeting and possible performance.

Below are the 29 US House winners who received a final vote total of 51 percent or less, and we can be assured that most, if not all, of these veteran and new members will be major targets in the 2020 elections.

Fifteen of the districts yielded Democratic victories with 14 going to or remaining Republican. All US House results are final with the exception of the NC-9 contest that remains uncertified and is likely to go to a new election. The North Carolina State Board of Elections is scheduled to meet this week, and it is probable that they will order a new election as part of the proceedings.

Listed in order by party from the winner with the lowest percentages:

  • IA-3: Cindy Axne (D) – 49.3% (Rep. David Young – 47.1%)
  • NJ-3: Andy Kim (D) – 50.0% (Rep. Tom MacArthur – 48.7%)
  • UT-4: Ben McAdams (D) – 50.1% (Rep. Mia Love – 49.9%)
  • NY-22: Anthony Brindisi (D) – 50.1% (Rep. Claudia Tenney – 48.3%)
  • VA-7: Abigail Spanberger (D) – 50.3% (Rep. Dave Brat – 48.4%)
  • CA-21: T.J. Cox (D) – 50.4% (Rep. David Valadao – 49.6%)
  • NY-19: Antonio Delgado (D) – 50.4% (Rep. John Faso – 45.3%)
  • GA-6: Lucy McBath (D) – 50.5% (Rep. Karen Handel – 49.5%)
  • ME-2: Jared Golden (D) – 50.5% (Rep. Bruce Poliquin – 49.5%)
  • MI-8: Elissa Slotkin (D) – 50.6% (Rep. Mike Bishop – 46.8%)
  • SC-1: Joe Cunningham (D) – 50.6% (Katie Arrington – 49.2%)
  • OK-5: Kendra Horn (D) – 50.7% (Rep. Steve Russell – 49.3%)
  • FL-26: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) – 50.9% (Rep. Carlos Curbelo – 49.1%)
  • NM-2: Xochitl Torres-Small (D) – 50.9% (Yvette Herrell – 49.1%)
  • IA-1: Abby Finkenauer (D) – 51.0% (Rep. Rod Blum – 45.9%)
  • KS-2: Steve Watkins (R) – 47.6% (Paul Davis – 46.8% – Rep. Lynn Jenkins retiring)
  • NY-27: Chris Collins (R) – 47.8% (Nate McMurray – 47.4%)
  • TX-23: Will Hurd (R) – 49.2% (Gina Ortiz Jones – 48.7%)
  • GA-7: Rob Woodall (R) – 50.1% (Carolyn Bourdeaux – 49.9%)
  • MN-1: Jim Hagedorn (R) – 50.1% (Dan Feehan – 49.7%)
  • MI-6: Fred Upton (R) – 50.2% (Matt Longjohn – 45.7%)
  • IA-4: Steve King (R) – 50.3% (JD Scholten – 47.0%)
  • IL-13: Rodney Davis (R) – 50.4% (Betsy Dirksen Londrigen – 49.6%)
  • TX-31: John Carter (R) – 50.6% (MJ Hegar – 47.7%)
  • MN-8: Pete Stauber (R) – 50.7% (Joe Radinovich – 45.2%)
  • NY-1: Lee Zeldin (R) – 50.7% (Perry Gershon – 46.6%)
  • MT-AL: Greg Gianforte (R) – 50.9% (Kathleen Williams – 46.2%)
  • KY-6: Andy Barr (R) – 51.0% (Amy McGrath – 47.8%)
  • NE-2: Don Bacon (R) – 51.0% (Kara Eastman – 49.0%)

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Potential Presidential Candidates:
The Moves They’re Making

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 10, 2019 — January promised to be an active month on the budding presidential campaign front, and we are already seeing movement in that regard. Below is a synopsis of the latest activity from major and not so major potential national candidates.

  • Billionaire Tom Steyer (D) scheduled a political announcement from Iowa yesterday, which yielded a statement that he is forming a presidential exploratory committee in addition to calling for President Trump’s outright impeachment and removal from office.
  • On Saturday, former Housing & Urban Development secretary Julian Castro (D) is expected to announce his candidacy after beginning the exploratory phase of his effort in early December. Should his presidential effort fizzle early, pivoting into a Senate race against three-term Texas incumbent John Cornyn (R) could become a viable political option.
  • Former US representative and Texas senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke (D) has asked staff members, according to the Wall Street Journal, to begin developing a meeting and events schedule in states other than his own.
  • California Sen. Kamala Harris (D) is beginning a book tour next Tuesday for her publication, “The Truths We Hold”, which appears to be a precursor to officially forming a presidential exploratory committee.
  • Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has changed his personal website to look like a campaign website, including a disclaimer that indicates he is paying for the site himself. The design and content makes transitioning into a presidential campaign website simple and efficient.
  • Former vice president, Joe Biden, is holding intense meetings with former staff members and campaign advisors to assess whether he will enter the 2020 nationwide contest. At this point, Biden has a substantial lead in national Democratic nomination polls, and in the key early state of Iowa, but is still nowhere close to securing majority support in any survey. It is likely that we will begin to obtain substantial clues to his ultimate intention sometime in February or early March.

Previously declaring their candidacies are former US Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), West Virginia state senator and 2018 congressional nominee Richard Ojeda (D), and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

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Kentucky Gubernatorial Race
Challengers Emerging

By Jim Ellis

Unpopular Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R)

Jan. 9, 2019 — Blue Grass State politics are beginning to boil, all centered around the 2019 governor’s race. With the candidate filing deadline fast approaching on Jan. 29 for the May 21 statewide primary, several individuals are announcing that they will challenge unpopular Gov. Matt Bevin (R), including a Republican state legislator who is expected to make his formal declaration today.

Though the governor has said he intends to seek a second term, and did so again a week before Christmas, the fact that he has yet to file a 2019 campaign committee has fueled speculation that he may decide to retire. Bevin was elected in 2015 with a relatively substantial 52.5 – 43.8 percent victory over then-Attorney General Jack Conway (D) after upsetting then-agriculture commissioner and now US congressman, James Comer (R-Tompkinsville), by just 83 votes in a May Republican primary that drew almost 215,000 voters.

Bevin’s popularity ratings, however, have largely been upside-down throughout his tenure in office. According to the Morning Consult quarterly national gubernatorial approval rankings that were released just before the November elections in mid-October, Gov. Bevin ranked 46th on the nationwide list, with a 30:55 percent positive to negative ratio.

None of those finishing below the Kentucky governor on that particular scale in October remains in office. The least popular, according to the survey, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), was ineligible to seek a third term last November. Republican Kevin Stitt replaced her. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) did not seek a third term and Democrat Ned Lamont held the office. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) was defeated for re-election, and Alaska Independent Gov. Bill Walker withdrew before the election because his political situation was hopeless.

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Kansas Sen. Roberts Announces
Retirement; Can Seat Stay With GOP?

By Jim Ellis

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R)

Jan. 8, 2018 — Veteran Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R), who will turn 84 years of age before the next election, announced last Friday that he will not seek re-election to a fifth term in 2020. He becomes the second Senate incumbent to announce his retirement effective 2021, following Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander (R) who made his decision public just before Christmas.

In 2014, Sen. Roberts faced a competitive election against Independent Greg Orman who appeared to coalesce the anti-Roberts vote when Democrat Chad Taylor withdrew from the race because the latter man knew that the senator was certain to win a three-way contest.

With early October polls finding Orman leading Sen. Roberts by as many as 10 percentage points, the veteran Kansas office holder pulled out all of the stops to rebound with a 53-43 percent win. The 2014 Republican wave helped Roberts sweep to victory, overcoming what proved to be largely inaccurate polling along the way.

Pat Roberts was originally elected to Congress in 1980, winning the western 1st District, a seat he would hold for eight terms before claiming an open Senate position in 1996. At the end of the current term he will conclude 40 years of congressional service.

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House: Opening with a Vacancy

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Republican Mark Harris

Jan. 7, 2019 — When the new House of Representatives convened last week, they did so with only 434 voting members, not 435, as the situation in North Carolina’s 9th District remains unresolved.

To recap, Republican Mark Harris scored an apparent 905-vote victory over Democrat Dan McCready on election night, but the results remain uncertified due to what a majority of Board of Elections panel members are citing as voting irregularities in one county. The panel is scheduled to next meet this Friday, Jan. 11th, and organizing a new election is the likely resolution.

Previously, the Board only had the power to order a rerun of the general election. Hence, the subsequent election would have included only Harris, McCready, and Libertarian Jeff Scott. Considering the media hit that Harris has received over the election irregularity controversy, his chances of winning the rerun are slim. (He hired the Red Dome Consulting firm, which contracted with the individual accused of orchestrating the ballot harvesting operation, McCrae Dowless, the vice chairman of the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation Board.)

Therefore, with Republicans controlling the legislature, they quickly constructed a legislative package that would give Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper largely what he wanted in naming a new Board of Elections panel, while changing the post-election law to allow open primaries. This would give the GOP the opportunity of replacing Harris in the general election.

The legislature quickly passed the reform package at the end of the year with an overwhelming margin, because most Democrats voted for the bill as it included their much-wanted Board of Elections changes. The legislation was sent to Gov. Cooper with veto-proof majorities in both houses.

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