Tag Archives: Mississippi

Senate Match-Ups Forming

By Jim Ellis

April 2, 2018
— Only two primaries are in the books, but already we appear to have clear Senate match-ups forming in as many as 14 statewide races.

2018-elections-open-seatsBelow are the races that look set as general election campaigns. Those headed for serious primary battles are not included on this list.

In alphabetical order, the following are the impending general election contests:

Arizona: Assuming Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) repels her primary challenge from the right, the Grand Canyon State general election will feature McSally and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in what will be one of the premier Senate contests in the country this year.

California: It appears we are again headed for a double-Democratic general election in the Golden State. Sen. Dianne Feinstein should have little trouble dispensing with state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

Florida: With Gov. Rick Scott (R) scheduling an announcement for April 9, it looks like the long-anticipated contest between the two-term governor and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will come to fruition.

Minnesota: Appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) will be running to fill the remaining two years of resigned Sen. Al Franken’s (D) term. State Sen. Karen Housley (R-St. Mary’s County) immediately declared her candidacy and, so far, she appears headed for the Republican nomination. Neither woman has run statewide before, so this campaign has the prospect of turning highly competitive especially with Minnesota moving rightward in the past few elections.

Mississippi: Developments within the past two weeks are yielding a second Mississippi Senate race for the 2018 election cycle. With Agriculture & Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) already being designated to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R) when he leaves office in April, she will draw serious opposition from state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville). If no candidate obtains majority support in the Nov. 6th vote, the top two finishers will run-off three weeks later.

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Mississippi Senator Appointed;
Controversy Arises

By Jim Ellis

Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith | Photo Courtesy Cindy Hyde-Smith Campaign

Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith | Photo Courtesy Cindy Hyde-Smith Campaign

March 23, 2018 — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) at an event in the new Senator-designee’s home community of Brookhaven, a town of 12,000-plus people located due south of Jackson on Interstate 55, announced that Agriculture & Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) will officially replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R). The move had been expected since Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) took his name out of consideration for the appointment. As has been known for just over two weeks, the 40-year veteran senator will resign on or around April 1 because of health problems.

Late last week, Gov. Bryant said he would make the appointment before Sen. Cochran officially departs to give his choice more time to prepare for an election campaign that will occur during the regular cycle. All candidates will be listed on the Nov. 6 ballot, and the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to a Nov. 27 run-off election if no one secures majority support.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), who came within 1,800 votes of denying Sen. Cochran re-nomination in 2014, has already announced that he will run for the seat and wasted no time in attacking Hyde-Smith. Former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi Democratic Congressman Mike Espy declared his candidacy upon Sen. Cochran making public his plans to retire.

McDaniel was originally challenging Sen. Roger Wicker (R), whose seat is in-cycle this year, but quickly transitioned into the special election once Sen. Cochran decided to resign. McDaniel has already reportedly written President Trump a letter asking him not to support Hyde-Smith because she is a former Democrat.

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Wicker Dodges McDaniel in Mississippi

By Jim Ellis

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

March 16, 2018 — Just before the Mississippi candidate deadline approached on March 1, state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), who came within 1,719 votes of denying Sen. Thad Cochran (R) re-nomination in the 2014 Republican primary, filed to challenge Sen. Roger Wicker (R) in this year’s June primary.

The move appeared dubious since McDaniel was just beginning a campaign in early March and Sen. Wicker, whose campaign committee has well over $4 million in the bank, was well prepared for a serious challenge coming from his Tea Party opponent.

Once again, it appears Sen. Cochran has factored into McDaniel’s political future. With the senator announcing that he will end his 40-year senatorial career next month — the tenth longest Senate tenure in American history — the southeastern Mississippi conservative state legislator announced Wednesday that he will already abandon his challenge against Wicker, and instead enter the special election to replace Sen. Cochran.

Under Mississippi succession law, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) will appoint an interim replacement after Cochran officially leaves office. The interim senator will be eligible to stand for election when the people have a chance to vote in the special election to be held concurrently with the regular election calendar.

Unlike in many states, there will be no nomination cycle for the Mississippi special election. All candidates, presumably including the interim senator, will be placed on the general election ballot. Should no one receive an absolute majority, the top two finishers will advance to a secondary run-off election three weeks after the regular general election. This date, according to the 2018 calendar, would be Nov. 27, or two days before Thanksgiving.

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McDaniel Joins Mississippi Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

March 2, 2018 — Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) announced at a rally this week that he will challenge Sen. Roger Wicker (R) in the June 5 Republican primary. McDaniel’s declaration, which had been speculated upon for months, came just before the state’s candidate filing deadline, which was yesterday.

In 2014, McDaniel came within an eyelash of denying Sen. Thad Cochran (R) re-nomination, as the incumbent was saved ironically through a reported deal made with African American leaders to deliver black votes for the senator in the Republican run-off.

In his original primary against Sen. Cochran, McDaniel actually placed first, but was denied winning the party nomination because he finished 1,719 votes away from attracting majority support. This forced the secondary run-off election. The presence of a third candidate in that primary race, the little-known Thomas Carey, who received 4,854 votes, created the dynamic for the run-off. Had Carey not been a candidate, McDaniel would have successfully won the GOP nomination, and would very likely be serving in the Senate today.

But a race against Sen. Wicker will be much different. Though McDaniel did very well in his challenge to Sen. Cochran, he still failed to win. Therefore, some of the luster his grassroots supporters had for him as a candidate may have faded at least to a degree.

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Senate Candidates 2018 – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2018 — As we continue setting the stage for the 2018 midterms now that we are in the actual election year, in a two-part series, we review the announced candidate status in each state, since much has changed in the past few weeks.

Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R) – Retiring – Open Seat
Candidate Filing Deadline: May 30, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 28, 2018
• Joe Arpaio (R) – former Sheriff, Maricopa County
• Martha McSally (R) – US Representative; 2nd District
• Kelli Ward (R) – former state Senator; 2016 US Senate candidate
• Kyrsten Sinema (D) – US Representative; 9th District
3 Minor Republican candidates
5 Minor Democratic candidates
1 Libertarian candidate
1 Green candidate

California: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 9, 2018
State Primary: June 5, 2018
Jungle Primary: Top two candidates advance to general election
• Kevin de Leon (D) – State Senate President
• Erin Cruz (R) – Radio Talk Show host
5 Minor Democratic candidates
6 Minor Republican candidates
6 Independent candidates

Connecticut: Sen. Christopher Murphy (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 8, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
• Ann-Marie Adams (D) – Journalist
• Tony Hwang (R) – State Senator – possible candidate
2 Minor Republican candidates

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New Year House Preview

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-January-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 8, 2018 — Continuing our federal race outlook to set the political stage in this first week of the actual midterm election year, we now turn to the House races.

Republicans have a 24-seat margin (counting their three vacant seats that will go to special election in the early part of this year: PA-18, AZ-8, and OH-12), and though Democrats and most in the media claim that a new majority is just around the corner, a race-by-race House analysis shows that the road to converting the majority remains difficult to attain. This is so for several key reasons, not the least of which is the typical House incumbent retention factor. In 2016 the rate hit 97 percent (377 victories for the 389 House members who ran for re-election).

Additionally, even though President Trump’s job approval rating is historically low, we must remember that he won the 2016 national election with a personal approval index no higher than his present positive to negative ratios. And, even though congressional approval was well below 20 percent for the entire 2016 election year, Republicans lost only six House seats from their previous modern era record majority of 247 that was attained in the 2014 election.

When we have seen major seat changes occur in past elections, the winning party has done well in converting open seats. For the fourth election cycle in a row, the 2018 House cycle features an above average quantity of incumbent-less US House campaigns – the current number is 45, counting the two latest announced retirees, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS).

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New Year Senate Preview – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 4, 2018 — Now that we are officially in election year 2018, it is a good time to set the stage for the coming campaign season. With Democrat Doug Jones converting the Alabama special election last month, and new Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) standing for a concurrent special election this November, a different picture exists for the coming Senate election campaigns.

THE REPUBLICANS

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Before Alabama, it was a virtual mathematical certainty that the Republicans would retain Senate control after the 2018 vote because the Democrats had too few viable conversion targets. The Jones’ special election victory to permanently replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate in order to accept his Trump Administration position, now gives the Democrats a path to attaining the majority but they still must overcome the GOP’s strong defensive wall.

Only forced to defend eight of the now 34 in-cycle seats, the Republicans are most at risk in Nevada and Arizona.

In the Silver State, first-term Sen. Dean Heller (R) currently defends his statewide position against two known opponents, only one of which is a Democrat.

Perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, who has lost campaigns for five different offices (state Senate, Secretary of State, US Senate, Congressional District 4, and Congressional District 3), is nevertheless 4-1 in Republican primaries. Therefore, Sen. Heller’s first task is to secure the GOP nomination in June. Already we have seen erratic polling, with the Tarkanian camp and some national pollsters posting him ahead of Heller, but the senator and other independent research firms countering with the opposite result.

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Southern Polls

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 22, 2017 — If the Democrats are going to make a concerted run at the Senate majority, they must protect all 10, and possibly 11, of their vulnerable states, and then convert both the Arizona and Nevada Republican seats. Or, they must score at least one major upset in what should be a safe Republican domain if they don’t succeed in achieving all of the aforementioned.

democrat-conversion-opportunities-mississippi-tennesseeAlabama Senator-Elect Doug Jones’ (D) victory earlier this month makes attaining a Democratic majority mathematically possible even though the party must now defend 26 of 34 in-cycle seats next year when adding the new Minnesota special election to the calendar.

Wednesday, two polls were reported in 2018 southern Republican states: Tennessee and Mississippi.

The Democrats’ chances in the Volunteer State, though still in the long-shot sphere, have improved since former Gov. Phil Bredesen agreed to run for the Senate.

WPA Intelligence, polling for the Super PAC, Defend the President, a group supporting Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) in her battle for the open Senate seat (Dec. 13,14,17; 500 likely Tennessee general election voters) found the congresswoman leading former Gov. Bredesen by a healthy 43-34 percent margin. If ex-Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) were the Republican nominee, however, the race flips. Here, Bredesen would hold a 42-30 percent advantage.

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The Senate Picture – Re-cap

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 28, 2017 — During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we previewed all 34 current Senate races. Today, we wrap-up with the often-described 30,000-foot national overview perspective.

The Alabama special Senate election scheduled for Dec. 12 will tell us a great deal about the coming regular cycle. While the Roy Moore-Doug Jones race is not likely to provide a voting trend preview since the contest has been tainted with scandal, it will signal whether or not the Democrats own a path to the Senate majority.

If Democrat Jones wins the Alabama special, it would give his party 49 seats, thus making their two primary Republican conversion targets in Arizona and Nevada enough to claim majority status, assuming all 25 of their defense seats are held, which, of course, is no easy task. If Republican Moore can hold Alabama, despite being jettisoned by the national GOP leadership, that would secure the Republican majority because such an outcome relegates Democrats’ chances of netting the three GOP seats they need within the regular cycle as highly unlikely.

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The Senate Picture – Part II (of III)

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats-2-of-3-Recovered

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 24, 2017 — Continuing our holiday recap of the Senate races (Happy Thanksgiving all — hope you had a great day), today we cover Michigan through North Dakota.

• Michigan: The major event occurring this past week was Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), who had been seriously considering launching his own Senate campaign, announcing that he will instead run for a 17th term in the House. On the heels of Rep. Upton’s decision, wealthy venture capitalist Sandy Pensler (R) declared his own candidacy. Already in the Republican field are manufacturing company owner and retired Army Ranger John James, and retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) is running for a fourth term.
Rating: Likely D

• Minnesota: Months ago, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) announced for re-election after flirting with a gubernatorial campaign. She will face little competition in her quest for a third term.
Rating: Safe D

• Mississippi: Sen. Roger Wicker (R) could face primary and general election competition. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellis County) says he will shortly decide whether to challenge Sen. Wicker or run for lieutenant governor in 2019. He came within half-percent of denying Sen. Thad Cochran (R) re-nomination in 2014, proving he can run a viable race. McDaniel would attack Sen. Wicker from the right if he chooses to run. In the general election, Brandon Presley, chairman of the state Public Service Commission and cousin of rock legend Elvis Presley, is a potential Democratic candidate but has so far stopped short of launching any formal political effort. Sen. Wicker will be running for a second full term.
Rating: Safe/Likely R

• Missouri: The Show Me State Senate race is basically set, as first-term Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) is challenging incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Four polls were taken during the summer, and all show Hawley claiming a small lead. The most recent survey, from Remington Research (Oct. 11-12; 956 likely Missouri voters), sees Republican Hawley leading the two-term Democratic senator, 48-45 percent. This race has the potential of becoming the nation’s premier Senate campaign.
Rating: Toss-Up

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Turbulent Senate Politics

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Leeann Tweeden

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Leeann Tweeden

Nov. 20, 2017 — Currently, the near-term and long-range Senate outlook seems to fluctuate by the hour. Last week we repeatedly detailed the Republicans’ problem with Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore and the effect the Dec. 12 special election will have upon the 2018 Senate cycle. But, yesterday became a day for the Democrats’ to receive similar bad news, albeit along with some good news.

While the Republicans languish in Alabama, Democrats were becoming increasingly concerned about Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) corruption trial when a verdict appeared imminent, and what might happen should he be convicted. Last week, seeing the trial judge declare a mistrial, may mean that the senator’s legal hurdles have been cleared since it seems unlikely that the government would again pursue the case when prosecutors obviously had too little evidence to completely convince a jury that any crime had been committed.

But the positive Menendez result for the Dems was negated by the unfolding sexual harassment debacle involving Sen. Al Franken. Interestingly, though seemingly unrelated to the Alabama situation, both of these Democratic developments could influence the campaign’s course and help determine whether Judge Moore will be allowed to serve in the Senate if he rebounds to win the special election.

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The Alabama Debacle

By Jim Ellis

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

Nov. 14, 2017 — Senate Republicans have a major advantage in the current election cycle, but may be on the precipice of giving it away.

Looking at the 2018 Senate map, Republicans have only to defend eight of the 33 in-cycle seats. Considering that six of the eight are the safe Republican states of Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming and the Democrats need a net gain of three conversion seats to claim the majority, it appears unattainable even if the latter party converts legitimate targets in politically marginal Nevada and now open Arizona.

But the mathematics change if Democrats score an unlikely upset in the Alabama special election on Dec. 12, and the latest unfolding events there suggest that such an outcome is far more likely to happen.

As we know, Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, the twice removed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice, has been accused of sexual impropriety with at least one teenage girl when he was 32 years old in 1979. Washington, DC Republicans, who appear to be taking the Washington Post story and the woman’s allegations at face value, are urging Moore to remove himself from the race. Alabama Republicans are still standing firm for Moore, refusing to accept the story without proof. For his part, Judge Moore denies the incident happened.

Three polls have already surfaced telling us that Moore has suffered a major hit. Earlier surveys found him leading in low double-digits, but Opinion Savvy, Gravis Marketing, and JMC Analytics & Polling immediately went into the field to test the Alabama electorate’s reaction.

Opinion Savvy (Nov. 10; 515 likely Alabama special election voters) conducted their survey just hours after the Moore story broke. Their results find that Moore’s lead has evaporated into a 46-46 percent tie with Democratic nominee Doug Jones, a former US Attorney.

Gravis Marketing launched their poll just as quickly (Nov. 10; 478 likely Alabama voters) and finds a similar ballot test tally: 48-46 percent in Moore’s favor.

JMC Analytics (Nov. 9-11; 575 registered Alabama voters) sees Jones pulling into a 46-42 percent lead (48-44 percent when leaners to both candidates are added), but an over-sampling of female voters could account for the Democratic advantage. Fifty-six percent of the survey respondents were female and they break for Jones, 46-40 percent. Men favor the Democrat 46-45 percent.

Considering these polls were taken immediately as the story was breaking and the questionnaires included an explanation of what was being said about him, the results for Moore are not devastating. For the most part, Republican voters are taking Moore’s side while Democrats believe the accuser. The fact that the division is roughly even suggests that Moore has a chance to rebound if he can effectively tell his story.

While Republican leaders may be calling upon Judge Moore to remove himself from the ticket, realistically and legally, he cannot. Under Alabama election law, the ballot cannot be changed within 76 days of the election. That period began Sept. 28. Now comes talk that Gov. Kay Ivey (R) could be approached to postpone the election, or call a special session of the legislature to pass a new emergency election statute. The governor says she is not inclined to even think about such an option.

Additionally, some absentee packets containing Moore’s name have already mailed, thus making it logistically difficult, if not illegal, to inject a new ballot into the campaign. Therefore, the outlook is virtually certain that the election will proceed as scheduled on Dec. 12.

Another idea suggests that the Senate refuse to seat Moore if he wins the election. Should all Democrats vote against Moore, only three Republicans would need to break ranks to keep the seat in abeyance. Presumably, the state could then call a new election, but there would be nothing preventing Moore from running again. Should that be the case, Gov. Ivey then could appoint another interim senator or even keep Sen. Luther Strange (R) in the position. Also, a new election would allow him to run again, too.

For their part, Democrats are remaining publicly quiet. They are likely doing so for two reasons. First, they are adopting the old axiom, “if one’s political opponents are in process of destroying themselves don’t stop them.” Second, they may soon be faced with another vote to eject a senator. Should New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez be found guilty in his corruption trial, there will likely be a move to expel him. Democrats would find themselves in a bind if they make a public spectacle of denying entry to Moore, and then quickly pivot to do the opposite in order to save Menendez.

The Roy Moore saga is far from over but at the outset, the situation appears perilous for Republicans. Since losing this seat would endanger their majority standing in 2018, the stakes for how the majority leadership chooses to handle the Alabama situation becomes even more challenging.

Could Bannon Cost the GOP?

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 13 2017 — Several articles have surfaced this week speculating that former presidential advisor Steve Bannon wanting to find and support challengers to Republican Senate incumbents could cost the GOP its majority. It appears individuals making such a claim have forgotten how to count.

Keeping in mind that the Democrats must protect 25 of 33 in-cycle Senate seats, there are simply not enough legitimate targets available for the minority to change their status within the chamber, even though they need a net gain of only three seats. Yes, the Dems are forcing Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) into toss-up situations, but the remaining six GOP incumbents are some of the safest in the Senate. So, even if Bannon or other conservative insurgents recruit opposition to incumbents, the chances of the eventual Republican nominee losing the general election in these particular states are extremely low.

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Bannon: How Much a Factor?

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 5, 2017 — Several articles have appeared in the past few days contemplating former presidential advisor Steve Bannon’s perceived political strength, most specifically regarding his actions involving recruiting Republican primary challengers against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) loyalists.

While Bannon appears in good stead vis-à-vis financial backers — with the billionaire Mercer family serving as his monetary base — those running the McConnell-aligned outside political operation downplay just how strong the insurgents might be opposite 2018 Senate GOP incumbents standing for re-election.

Valid points resonate with both sides. Buoyed by Alabama former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s victory over appointed Sen. Luther Strange in last week’s special Republican run-off election, the Bannon forces, who heaped attack ads on the interim incumbent, were naturally taking a great deal of credit for the victory. And, without doubt, anyone thinking of challenging a sitting senator is greatly encouraged after seeing the Alabama outcome.

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The Primary Fallout

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 29, 2017 — Former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s victory in Tuesday’s special Senate run-off election has created a media narrative suggesting that statewide GOP primary challenges will soon be sweeping the political scene, but such simply won’t happen.

While Judge Moore’s win may give legs to one adjacent budding Senate primary challenge, the number isn’t going expand due to the 2018 electoral set-up. That is, few Republicans, eight to be exact, are in-cycle for the coming election and the two most vulnerable situations already feature incumbents engaged with primary opponents.

Additionally, the Moore-Sen. Luther Strange contest had unique characteristics that made a primary victory over this particular incumbent more likely, if not probable. Strange, then Alabama’s attorney general, receiving the vacancy appointment in “swamp-like” fashion from a governor trying to avoid impeachment, and using the Senate appointment process to game the system so that he could later choose the person who would continue the legal investigation of himself, cast Strange in a negative light from his very first day in Washington.

Furthermore, the new senator attracted only 32 percent in his first election, meaning that two-thirds of his own party’s Aug. 15 primary voters turned away from him at their first opportunity, was a clear signal that Strange’s appointment was met with widespread dissatisfaction and that the former AG wouldn’t last long in his new job.

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