National

The presidential primaries had a quiet week after several big days of contests. March 23 saw Democrats hold their primary in Missouri while both parties held their votes in Louisiana.

Both presumptive nominees Donald Trump (R-FL) and Joe Biden (D-DE) won their respective contests, as all major contenders have now suspended their campaigns and only nominal opposition remains in the race.

In Missouri, Biden won handily with 85.3% of the vote, with the “Uncommitted” option receiving 11.7%. The ballot option is one that started in Michigan ahead of Super Tuesday to rally a protest vote against Biden for his stance on the war in Gaza. The initiative aimed to receive 10,000 votes in Michigan, home to one of the largest Arab-American populations in the country. The effort earned 100,000 votes and has since spread to multiple states.

Biden 110 of Missouri’s 114 counties, with just four counties showing unreported results as of press time: Hickory, Holt, Putnam, and Sullivan. It is assumed these counties will go to Biden once results are tabulated.

Biden will win all sixty-four delegates from Missouri. Republicans held their Missouri Primary on March 2, which was won by Trump in a landslide.

In Louisiana, Biden won the contest with 86.1% of the vote and won all sixty-four parishes – county-equivalents in Louisiana. He fell below 75% of the vote in several low-population counties, the first type of result Biden has posted since the primaries started in January. He fell below 50% in Cameron Parish, where just sixty-one votes were cast.

Biden took all forty-eight delegates from the Pelican State.

By contrast, Trump won Louisiana with 89.8% of the vote. He carried all sixty-four parishes and fell below 90% of the vote in two parishes: Caddo, home to Shreveport, and St. Tammany, home to Covington.

Trump won all forty-seven delegates available.

Republicans have held primaries or caucuses in thirty-three states, four territories, and the District of Columbia, while Democrats have held contests in twenty-nine states, two territories, and the Democrats Abroad primary. Democrats canceled their primary in Florida.

With the nominating contests more than half over, both candidates have amassed enough delegates to be their parties’ presumptive nominees, with Trump collecting 1,686 delegates and Biden winning 2,600.

Democrats will hold a primary in North Dakota on March 30, followed by primaries in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin on April 2. Both parties have canceled their primaries in Delaware, originally scheduled for April 2.

In other political news, the GOP majority becomes even more threadbare as Congressman Mike Gallagher (R, WI-08) has announced an early resignation.

The move will leave Republicans with a barely-governable majority of 218, the minimum number of seats a party must capture in order to gain control of the lower chamber. Gallagher’s resignation, effective April 19, comes off the heels of the resignation of Ken Buck (R, CO-04), whose March 22 departure was predicated on frustration with a dysfunctional Congress and “widespread cynicism” bred by his party.

Gallagher has represented the Green Bay-based Eighth District in Wisconsin since 2017. The seat is firmly Republican and is not expected to be competitive in November, although a special election typically has more elasticity concerning seats generally regarded as “safe” for a party.

The resignations not only complicate Republicans’ attempts to govern after winning back the Speaker’s gavel in a lackluster 2022 midterm performance, but also complicates their marketing for the 2024 elections. With split-ticket voting at historically-low levels, the party who wins the White House will not only likely dictate control of the Senate vis-à-vis down ballot energy, but will also likely swing competitive districts in his direction. If Republicans had a larger buffer in the House, resignations of Gallagher, Buck, as well as recent resignations of Bill Johnson (R, OH-06) and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R, CA-20), would not have been nearly as consequential in convincing voters to re-entrust them with the gavel.

However, Republicans can find some security in their prospects of retaining the House in an unlikely venue for such energy: California.

With California’s laboriously slow vote-counting process finally completed, both parties have a much better idea of their prospects in over a dozen seats across the state.

California operates in a top-two primary system, wherein all candidates, regardless of party, appear on the same ballot. The top two vote-receivers advance to a general election runoff, regardless of party as well. Multiple urban House seats frequently see two Democrats vying for a control of a district. Democrats were unsurprisingly shut out of the special election to replace Kevin McCarthy in CA-20, one of the reddest districts in the state. Assemblyman Vince Fong (R) and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux (R) advanced from the primary, ensuring Republicans retain control of the seat.

However, Republicans can find solace in their stellar performances in swing districts they currently hold and blue districts they intend to flip. In CA-09, based around Stockton, Republicans collectively earned more of the primary vote than Congressman Josh Harder (D). Initially on the competitive radar, the seat now shifts to more contentious territory as the GOP scored a top recruit in Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln (R).

In the Central Valley, a rematch is brewing in CA-13, based around the San Joaquin Valley. Freshman Congressman John Duarte (R) defeated Adam Gray (D) in one of the tightest elections last year, but defeated Gray by ten points in the primary. The two will rematch in November.

In Orange County, Michelle Steel (R), first elected in 2020, cleared 50% in her Orange County-based CA-45, while Democrats fumbled early attempts at fielding candidates. The race is off to a sleepy start but Steel appears firmly in the driver’s seat.

In CA-47, based around Huntington Beach, 2022 challenger Scott Baugh (R) advanced from the primary and led the GOP candidates to capture about half of the collective primary vote. Baugh ran a close race against Congresswoman Katie Porter (D) in 2022. Porter forewent another term to pursue a failed bid for the U.S. Senate nomination, losing to Adam Schiff (D, CA-30) and former MLB star Steve Garvey (R). Republicans now have a half-rematch scenario in an ancestrally-red part of Southern California, improving their odds to net a seat this year.

Republicans also performed well in the primary to take on Congressman Mike Levin (D, CA-49) in this Orange County-San Diego-based seat.

Republican incumbents Kevin Kiley (R, CA-03), Mike Garcia (R, CA-27), Young Kim (R, CA-40), and Ken Calvert (R, CA-41) each earned impressive amounts of the vote in their primaries, while Democrats Jim Costa (D, CA-21), Raul Ruiz (D, CA-25), and Julia Brownley (D, CA-26) could possibly find themselves in close contests this year.

In other political news, Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., announced his running mate as thirty-eight-year-old Nicole Shanahan.

Shanahan is a Silicon Valley lawyer and entrepreneur who donated $4.5 million to Kennedy’s campaign for a Super Bowl ad. She is also a former member of the Democratic Party. She also gave the maximum-allowed $6,600 to Kennedy’s campaign when he was running in the Democratic primary. Shanahan has also donated to Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Marianna Williamson.

Finally, in non-political news, the nation was stunned by the early-Tuesday-morning collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland. A freight ship appears to have lost power while attempting to pass under the bridge, instead colliding with one of the support cars, instantly pulling the bridge into the Patapsco River. Seven vehicles are said to have fallen into the water. Two people have been recovered, with one in critical condition. At least six construction workers are said to be missing and one casualty has been confirmed.

State

Intraparty fighting continues in Albany as the budget deadline of April 1 looms in the peripheral. Governor Kathy Hochul (D) and Attorney General Letitia James (D) are sparring with legislative Democrats and Big Tech lobbyists over their proposal to ban certain social media feeds that they say are a danger to mental health of minors.

Their plan, looped into the state’s comprehensive budget, would seek to ban social media platforms from constructing algorithm-based feeds, which they say are addictive, to children under the age of 18 without parental consent.

“If we don’t have the guts to take action to protect our children from what has now been demonstrated to have a detrimental effect on mental health, then shame on us,” said Hochul.

The “Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation for Kids Act,” or SAFE for Kids Act, would require parental consent for social media companies to send notifications to devices used by minors between the hours of 12:00a.m. and 6:00a.m. The act would also require the platforms to give parents the ability to limit the amount of time their children spend on social media apps.

While the idea is generally supported by Albany Democrats, they believe the specifics of the plan should be deliberated in a separate plan and excluded from the budget due April 1.

Local

Congressman Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) has introduced a bipartisan bill with Congressman Mike Levin (D, CA-49) that would make it illegal for “political campaigns to use pre-checked boxes to solicit recurring contributions.”

“As the former Suffolk County Elections Commissioner, I’ve prioritized integrity, transparency, and accountability in our political system. Pre-checking the box for recurring contributions is deceptive and unethical and it undermines democratic principles,” said LaLota. “Americans should freely choose their contributions without coercion or trickery and ending automatic recurring contributions is vital to restoring trust in our politics. This bipartisan legislation is a step in the right direction.”

LaLota also cosponsored H.R. 6610, the Passport System Reform and Backlog Prevention Act, which passed the House with bipartisan support. The legislation would reduce passport processing times, address backlogs, and “bolster the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs’ processing capabilities to streamline the application and processing experience for American travelers.”

Finally, LaLota also secured $1 million for drinking water infrastructure for the Town of Riverhead. The funding comes from the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations, which was recently signed into law. The money will fund the “extension of 37,000 feet of public water main and the connection of 90 homes located south and east of the former Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant at Calverton.” Groundwater in Riverhead has been contaminated and residents currently do not have access to clean drinking water.

“The Town’s intent to fully address the important need to provide potable water to our residents has been repeatedly supported by our elected federal public officials at the behest of the entire Riverhead Town Board and with strong public support,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Tim Hubbard (R-Aquebogue).

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Matt Meduri serves as the Editor in Chief of the Messenger Papers and writer of America the Beautiful and This Week Today columns. As a graduate of St. Joseph's University, Matt has been working in the political journalism field for over 5 years. He is a multi-instrumentalist, enjoys cooking and writing his own recipes, and traveling throughout the United States including Guam.