Political Roundup

In national headlines…

Around the country, early voting has begun, and Democrats are looking to promulgate a “blue wave” in the upcoming general elections by overtaking Republican incumbents while maintaining their candidates in areas where Donald Trump won in November 2016. Republicans, though largely on the defensive, seek to maintain their majority and possibly flip certain seats at the local, state and federal levels. Democrats expect to lose a North Dakota Senate seat, as incumbent Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) seeks reelection in a heavily red state weeks after having voted against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Arizona is poised to elect their first female senator, as both parties’ candidates are women; if elected, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema will make history as the first openly bisexual member of the Senate. In other locations, including the Congressional race in NY-D19, the race for the junior Senate seat in Texas and the gubernatorial races of Florida and Georgia, Democrats place their hopes in Black, Latinx and college-educated white women voters. In these areas, the efforts by figures like Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Michelle Obama to mobilize voters have increased tenfold following the exposure of minority vote erasure scandals in North Dakota and Georgia. However, some political analysts, such as Stu Rothenberg of Inside Elections, caution against definitively expecting Democrats to successfully retake the House or Senate (CNN, “Here’s what should excite and depress Democrats so far in 2018,” 10.16.2018).

Congress recently released documents that they claim prove Trump was directly involved in plans by the federal government to sell the FBI’s main headquarters. Democrats say that Trump wanted to prevent any commercial property from being built in its place that would compete with the Trump hotel located across the street. Should the Democrats earn a majority in the House in three weeks’ time, they intend to bring in FBI and General Services Administration (GSA) officials to testify and block the plan’s completion. The GSA originally intended to demolish the J. Edgar Hoover Building, but instead settled on plans to rebuild the headquarters. Former Trump Campaign Strategist David Urban stated on CNN, “This is something the White House and [incoming counsel] Pat Cipollone need to buckle in for … There’s gonna be a lot of this coming. A lot of it” (The Hill, “Dems zero in on Trump’s alleged conflicts of interest,” 10.21.2018).

In Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is contesting state abortion rights after a pharmacist denied a woman medication necessary to catalyze a miscarriage and avoid an invasive procedure. The pharmacist cited his Catholic beliefs and refused to have the medication sent elsewhere for pickup. That pharmacist is no longer employed by Meijer—the supermarket chain in which the pharmacy was located—but he told Rachel Peterson, age 35, that he did not believe her reasoning and that he could not support her decision. Michigan law does not prevent pharmacists from engaging in “conscientious objection,” as stated by CEO of the Michigan Pharmacists Association Larry Wagenknecht. Peterson has filed a lawsuit with the ACLU citing discrimination based on gender, as a man would not have been denied the same medication, which is used for stomach ulcers (The New York Times, “Michigan Pharmacist Refused to Dispense Miscarriage Medication, Citing Religious Beliefs.” 10.18.2018).

Around the world…

The Trump administration has confirmed the United States’ intent to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty. Russia denies violating the accord, which bans groundlaunch medium-range missiles between 300 and 3,400 miles. Trump also criticized Former President Barack Obama for not negotiating the treaty earlier in response to former violations. Former Soviet Mikhail Gorbachev denounced the move, calling it crude and clumsy (BBC, “President Trump to pull US from Russia missile treaty,” 10.21.2018). Following this announcement, Russia’s state-run news reported that Vladimir Putin will discuss the decision with U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton during the latter’s trip to Russia. The treaty was designed to offer protection to America’s European allies during the Cold War, and the sudden decision to pull out of the treaty comes after NATO confirmed Russia’s recent missile testing (CNN, “Trump says US is ending decades-old nuclear arms treaty with Russia,” 10.21.2018).

Lack of progress in Brexit talks are exasperating businesses in the UK, as talks with the EU are proving increasingly futile, and the official dissolution of the UK’s ties to the EU looms closer and closer. 80 percent of surveyed respondents felt that stalled Brexit negotiations were negatively impacting investment decisions, to which Prime Minister Theresa May responded with affirmations to high-ranking industry members of a deal in the near future. Many deals, such as a £50 million fashion investment, have been canceled in the past week. Northern Irish farmers, meanwhile, have been seeing setbacks in plans to create more competitive machinery. After last year’s vote and the reduction in strength of May’s coalition government, the British public is looking increasingly pessimistic with regard to its financial future (BBC, “UK firms ‘near point of no return,’” 10.21.2018).

In our backyard…

Actor Paul Rudd recently endorsed Democratic Candidate Antonio Delgado at a political rally in Kingston on Oct. 20. Rudd came to the area to visit his property, located in the 19th Congressional District of New York, where the House race between Republican incumbent John Faso and newcomer Antonio Delgado will come to a close in the Nov. 6 midterm elections. Rudd met Delgado over a year ago and encouraged the district residents to set aside political leanings and go vote (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Paul Rudd, Democratic candidates look to spur enthusiasm in Hudson Valley,” 10.21.2018). Another Kingston rally is scheduled for Friday, and both Former Vice President Joe Biden and Delgado are scheduled to attend. Biden previously came out in support of the Democratic candidate, saying, “We need people like Antonio in Congress…I know that he has what it takes to make a real difference for people in upstate New York.” Faso recently came under fire for his offensive radio ads against Delgado and for his indictment on charges of fraud; he was also one of the first House Republicans to endorse Donald Trump (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Ads critical of Antonio Delgado pulled by Radio Woodstock,” 09.21.2018).

New York republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro is gearing up for a race deemed tougher than the one faced four years ago by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who was outspent by incumbent Andrew Cuomo 9 to 1 and received little to no support from the State Senate. The legacy of the Trump administration has also rendered unpopular Molinaro’s anti-immigration stance and opposition to the expansion of abortion rights at a time when Cuomo is vulnerable, but not necessarily beatable. Astorino stated, “[T]he irony is the Republican donor base is not rallying around Marc as they should.” Republicans have been focusing more on conserving their seats in the House, Senate and gubernatorial positions in the South and Midwest, and so Molinaro’s campaign has not seen significant funding while Democrats may be at their weakest in New York State (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “NY governor’s race: Marc Molinaro faces a tougher battle than Astorino did 4 years ago,” 10.18.2018).

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