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Friday, July 12, 2024

National, State and Local Temperature Checks

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National

Perhaps the largest news in the national political sphere is that of Senator Joe Manchin’s (I-WV) abandonment of the Democratic Party.


The lifelong Democrat has built a meteoric career in West Virginia politics. He first served in the House of Delegates in the 1980s before moving to the State Senate from 1986 to 1996. After serving as West Virginia’s Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005, Manchin won a landslide victory to the governor’s office in 2004. He carried every county and nearly 70% of the vote in his 2008 re-election.


Manchin then resigned the governorship after winning a special election to the U.S. Senate after the passing of the longest-served U.S. Senator in history Robert Byrd (D-WV). Manchin won the Senate race by ten points, securing a full term with 60% of the vote in 2012.
Since Manchin is no stranger to landslide victories, his thin three-point margin in the 2018 midterms came as something of a surprise.

Manchin hails from a bygone political era of the Mountain State, in which fiscally conservative, working-class Democrats backed the Party of Jackson in droves. A border state during the Civil War, West Virginia always had an identity in the face of national politics. West Virginia would only back nine GOP presidential nominees in the Twentieth Century. No Democrat has carried West Virginia since Bill Clinton (D-AR) in 1996. However, West Virginia’s ancestral Democratic lean permeated significantly into the Twenty-First Century.


Democrats held both of West Virginia’s U.S. Senate seats from 1959 until Shelley Moore Capito (R) flipped one of the seats in 2014.


Manchin underperformed the 2018 national environment, one which favored Democrats by about nine points, mainly by Republicans running Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, whose relatively recent arrival to West Virginia made conservatives comfortable with supporting a familiar face like Manchin’s.


After the Senate fell under 50-50 control following the 2020 elections, with Vice President Kamala Harris (D-CA) casting tie-breaking votes when necessary, Manchin quickly earned the title “the most powerful Joe in America,” as his steadfastly moderate and intrinsically blue-dog voting profile made him a thorn in the side of progressive legislation, but not necessarily a savior of the conservative right either.


Manchin was initially seen as a massive underdog in this year’s Senate race, so much so that he chose not to seek re-election, all but guaranteeing Republicans flip the other Senate seat from West Virginia.


Speculation has long insisted that Manchin was considering a moderate primary run against Joe Biden (D-DE) for president. After that failed to materialize, Manchin was considered a possible “No Labels” contender or third-party vice presidential running mate, after his frequent fraternization with the think tank left Capitol Hill Democrats terrified of a party schism that could cost Biden a second term.


However, Manchin decided to make a somewhat unexpected move. After much goading from moderate politicians and voters, Manchin has officially left the Democratic Party.


His decision came in the immediate wake of the guilty verdicts announced against former President Donald Trump (R-FL). In his statement, Manchin criticized both parties for prioritizing “partisan extremism” and “jeopardizing our democracy.”


“Today, our national politics are broken and neither party is willing to compromise to find common ground,” said Manchin in a statement. “To stay true to myself and remain committed to put country before party, I have decided to register as an Independent with no party affiliation and continue to fight for America’s sensible majority.”


Manchin now joins the ranks of three other Independents who still caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (I-ME), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Krysten Sinema (I-AZ). Sinema, like Manchin, came under regular fire for bucking progressive legislation. She registered as an Independent before opting not to run for a second term.


Manchin, however, can leverage his newfound political identity into a third-party run for his current Senate seat or for the open governorship in West Virginia. State Democrats are urging Manchin to jump into the race, as confidence in any generic Democrat flipping the solid-red state’s governor’s mansion seems slim, and Manchin’s 2018 opponent, Patrick Morrisey, recently earned the Republican nomination.


In immediate election news, the primary contests officially wrapped up Saturday night with Democratic caucuses in Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Biden won all fourteen delegates from Guam and all seven delegates at stake in the Virgin Islands.


Tuesday night, however, featured primaries in several high-stakes contests in 2024.


In one of the most competitive House districts in the country, a freshman Maine state representative and professional stock car racer has earned the GOP nomination to take on one of the House’s most moderate Democrats.


Austin Theriault will face Jared Golden (D) in Maine’s Second Congressional District. Rural, industrial, and heavily Republican, Golden flipped the seat in 2018 and has warded off two spirited challenges since then. A blue dog who regularly bets his particular brand of iconoclastic politics against national headwinds, Golden will likely have his toughest race yet, as Trump appears likely to not only win ME-02 by a convincing margin, but also appears likely to put the state overall in play.


In Nevada, businessman Sam Brown (R) earned the right to take on freshman Senator Jacky Rosen (D). Rosen flipped the seat in 2018 and is one of this year’s most vulnerable incumbents.


Despite this, Rosen has polled well ahead of Biden, who trails Trump by more than five points on average in the Silver State. In an era of decreased split-ticket voting, this race may come down to sheer turnout between the parties. All eyes turn to Rosen’s polling lead, which may or may not evaporate now that Republicans have selected a nominee.


In North Dakota, 61% of voters approved a constitutional amendment that would prevent individuals from being elected or appointed to Congress if he/she should reach eighty-one years of age by the end of his/her term.


The passage is likely to be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, who in 1995 ruled that states cannot set qualifications for Congress.
Finally, Republicans underperformed in a special Ohio election to fill the term of Bill Johnson (R). Michael Rulli (R) defeated Michael Kripchak (D) by just under ten points – 54.7%-45.3% – in a safely Republican district that re-elected Johnson with 68% of the vote in 2022.


OH-06 spans nearly the entire eastern border of the state. It takes in rural and working-class communities along the West Virginia border up to the Pennsylvania border just outside of Pittsburgh. The district includes all of Mahoning County, home to Youngstown, once a Democratic bastion that delivered Trump the first GOP win in this district since 1972.


Rulli and Kripchak split Mahoning County’s votes directly down the middle Tuesday night.


Once Rulli is seated, the GOP will have 219 seats in the House, which will slightly grow their razor-thin majority just five months before Election Day.

State

On Monday, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) announced the launch of New York Mobile ID, an app that allows New York State residents to possess a digital form of their ID in lieu of physical forms of identification at airports.


The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will now accept Mobile IDs at security checkpoints at JFK and LaGuardia airports, a move that officials say will speed up checkpoint lines and make traveling more convenient.


“Not only will New Yorkers be able to quickly display their IDs, but they will have control over the personal information they share,” said Hochul on X, formerly known as Twitter.


Users can download the Mobile ID app for free on any smartphone device. Account setup can begin with registering a phone number, followed by uploading pictures of the front and back of a physical form of ID, such as a driver’s license or passport. A user can then upload an image of him/herself onto the app that will be verified with DMV.


Once at the airport, a traveler can scan his/her app at the checkpoint without handing over the phone to a TSA agent. The information is encrypted and shared digitally with TSA.


Users are recommended to still keep their physical ID with them when traveling in case the digital ID cannot be verified.


For now, usage of Mobile ID is voluntary; however, it is likely to fall in line with federal requirements of a “RealID” by next May for domestic air travel.

Local

Congressman Nick LaLota (R, NY-01), along with Congressman Lou Correa (D, CA-46) introduced the Detection Equipment and Technology Evaluation to Counter the Threat of (DETECT) Fentanyl and Xylazine Act. The bill would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to research, develop, test, and evaluate equipment that would help law enforcement better detect fentanyl, xylazine, and other drugs.


The bill would create a new statutory responsibility for the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) at DHS to evaluate the effectiveness and conduct a cost-benefit analysis of drug-detecting equipment used by federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. It would also prioritize three areas of focus with the potential to include other areas of focus in the future: portable detection equipment; equipment that can separate complex drug cocktails to enable detection; and technologies that use AI and machine learning to predict which substances are detected or detect a new substance not yet included in the drug reference library.


“Illicit narcotics such as fentanyl and xylazine have hurt communities across this country, including at home on Long Island. We must give law enforcement every tool needed to keep our communities safe while enhancing public awareness about these substances’ effects,” said LaLota. “I am proud to partner with Congressman Correa on the bipartisan DETECT Fentanyl and Xylazine Act to help our law enforcement agencies better combat these substances that have claimed too many lives and left countless families in despair. I am committed to ending this public health pandemic and fighting to make sure every ounce of these narcotics are off our streets and out of our communities.”


The House’s companion legislation in the Senate (S.4419) was sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ).

Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Messenger Papers since August 2023. He is the author of the America the Beautiful, Civics 101, and This Week Today columns. Matt graduated from St. Joseph's University, Patchogue, in 2022, with a degree in Human Resources and worked for his family's IT business for three years. He's also a musician and composer with his sights set on the film industry. Matt has traveled all around the U.S. and enjoys cooking, photography, and a good cup of coffee.