Our team pulled together a snapshot of the week that was from resources including the New York Times, The Financial Times of London, Defense One, Bloomberg, Politico, the University of Virginia's Crystal Ball, and other leading thinkers.
We wish all a Happy and joyous Thanksgiving and look forward to our ongoing curation projects throughout our properties in December as we gear up for 2023.
I’m Aggy Hall, and I lead 350.org’s global campaigns team. Here at the UN climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, I coordinate the team’s work and make sure we stick to our campaigning priorities — COPs can be hectic, so it’s important to stay focused!
I organize and lead our daily early morning briefing and daily evening debrief. So my day starts early and ends well after dinner — but I don’t mind, because I get really energized by being among my amazing team. It’s so rare for all of us from across the world to meet in person.
Here I am on the right, alongside Cansın (on the left) who is part of my team and heading up our COP27 delegation!
Usually, my day at COP starts when I enter the conference center and grab my daily ECO, a newspaper printed each day of COP by the Climate Action Network. I love ECO — it’s like reading Lady Whistledown write about climate negotiations!
Here's a copy from last week!
So far I have taken part in actions alongside our colleagues from 350.org South Africa who are organizing to demand transparency in how public money is used to fund fossil energy projects. I also joined their panel event, during which my colleagues spoke about the need for local communities to be consulted and involved in planning their energy future. The right to decide one’s future is a human right — too often trampled by coal, oil, and gas development projects.
Here I am in the middle between two of my colleagues at an action outside of COP27
My hope for this COP — the hope that keeps me going, that keeps me focused and determined — is that rich global north countries will finally step up their game and offer real support, and real money, to save what can still be saved from the worst impacts of the climate crisis — including people’s rights, livelihoods, and traditions — and to invest in renewables.
I feel grateful that today, and each day of this UN climate conference, that I can be part of the civil society that keeps raising our voices in defense of human rights. I hear that call for justice in my Pacific Islander colleagues’ demand for Loss & Damage finance, and in my African colleagues’ fight against neocolonial oil and gas extraction projects. In the demand to free political prisoners of conscience, and in our continued fight to keep global heating under 1.5ºC.
Thanks for following along!
Global Campaigns Director
By John Ainger, Salma El Wardany and Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Countries negotiating at the climate summit in Egypt are on track to reject calls for phasing down the use of all fossil fuels, snuffing efforts by India and key developed nations to target oil and gas as well as coal in an overarching deal at COP27.
The Egyptian presidency published the first draft of its so-called “cover decision” and largely kept last year’s pledge made at Glasgow to “accelerate measures towards the phase down of unabated coal power” and phase out fossil fuel subsidies. It also stuck with a commitment to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It highlighted that countries are currently falling well short on meeting the climate finance needs of developing countries.
The draft, which is still subject to revisions during the week, will likely come as a disappointment for countries who were pushing for a phase down of all fossil fuels, not just coal. India led the push, but received backing from the US, European Union and the UK, though the latter countries wanted to make sure that phasing down coal in particular was still highlighted.
There was also likely to be widespread opposition to such a move. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, said in an interview last week that the kingdom would be very unlikely to support an agreement that included the phase down of oil. Read more on the reaction to the draft document here.
Jeremy Hunt unveils £55bn fiscal squeeze as UK economic outlook darkens
Chancellor pushes back many measures until after expected general election in 2024
NOVEMBER 17, 2022 by George Parker and Chris Giles
Nov. 18-19, 2022
By Marc Cooper
I don’t know about you, but I have sorta had it with that fastidious former federal judge now turned Biden Attorney General. Merrick Garland seems definitively more interested in appearing fair and neutral to Republicans who frankly wish him harm than he wants to bring the high level criminals and coup plotters directly attached to the Trump Crime Family to justice.
How many times now have we heard him give the same speech about how nobody is above the law, that politics should be kept out of prosecutorial decisions and that he intends to see all guilty prosecuted to the full extent of the law no matter where it leads?
Just after Trump locked his supporters in a ballroom so he could declare his 2024 candidacy a full two years before the election, Garland once again assured reporters that nobody gets special treatment from the DOJ and he clearly implied that Trump being a candidate would have no bearing on a possible indictment.
Yet, here we are merely three days after that statement with Garland making an additiional surprise pronunciation Friday afternoon, that he was turning over all Trump related investigations to a Special Counsel who would have charging capacity.
Here’s how Garland justified his move:
Huh? This seems a direct contradiction of every indication till now given by Garland that it did not matter what delaying tactics Trump might use, he would be given NO special consideration whatsoever.
Well, there was that issue of the Special Master on the Mar-a-Lago documents case. That’s pretty special. And Garland himself says he’s going with the Special Counsel based it seems wholly on “the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president.” Yeah. Special treatment because Trump is running. Exactly what Trump intended with his ridiculous announcement last Tuesday. Whatsa matter with Garland?
Now, this Special Counsel, Jack Smith, seems like a very serious guy and I would not be sleeping well if he somehow was on my case. And I do not think that Garland is necessarily trying to boot the case and let Trump off as it would seem rather excessive to go through the whole procedure of starting Smith up if Garland intended to not indict,
However, we do note for the record that for whatever reason that might not seems apparent today, Garland will have the Special Counsel as a buffer and an excuse if no indictment Is brought.
Neal Katyal, the former acting Solicitor General of the U.S, authored the special counsel act and is quite upset over its use in this case. Appearing on several cable news shows Friday he said the Special Counsel should be used only when someone related or connected to a sitting president is under investigation – the special counsel would prevent a conflict of interest.
Indeed, by the standard set today by Garland, any investigation of Hunter Biden would then require a Special Counsel.
As soon as Garland made the appointment of the Special Counsel public Friday afternoon, he was immediately attacked by a bevy of elected Republicans who accused him of “weaponizing the Justice Department.” They did not seem to care a lick that Garland was being so fastidious. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted he should be impeached. ++
The price of crude oil this morning was $78.47 a barrel, down from $92.61 a barrel on November 4, falling by at least 18% over the past two weeks. This should help to relieve high costs of gas for consumers, although when the price falls to around $70 a barrel, the administration will begin to refill the strategic petroleum reserve, the release of which has helped to bring down gas prices. Diesel prices, though, are going up because of shortages caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a shortage of refinery capabilities after a 2019 fire shut down a refinery in Pennsylvania.
Shipping prices are also coming down, getting back to a normal range after crazy heights after the pandemic that fed inflation. The dislocations of the coronavirus pandemic sent shipping costs as much as 547% over the usual range by last January, driving up the prices of consumer goods. The return of more normal costs for transportation should help bring those prices down.
As Americans head out of town for the holidays, President Biden reminded them today that his administration is taking on the hidden “junk fees” on airline tickets and hotel rooms.
In other economic news, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has already spurred dramatic investment in American manufacturing of battery equipment. Previously, China was dominating that industry, but now America is developing its own battery sector to help the nation move toward electrical vehicles and other climate-friendly technologies.
Biden pushed for the IRA to combat climate change, provide jobs, and compete with China. By passing the IRA and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden administration “has basically seized the bull by the horns,” Sanjiv Malhotra, the chief executive of a company building a battery plant in rural West Virginia told Harry Dempsey and Myles McCormick of the Financial Times. Malhotra’s new plant will hire out-of-work coal miners.
Meanwhile, the two parties continue to try to organize themselves into new patterns after the midterms. The far-right, pro-gun “Second Amendment Caucus” today hosted Kyle Rittenhouse, the 19-year-old who shot three men, killing two of them, in summer 2020 during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and who was later acquitted of homicide.
Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO), whose Democratic opponent, Adam Frisch, conceded today rather than force a hand recount of their close election, told Emily Brooks of The Hill: “It was an honor to have Kyle join the Second Amendment Caucus. He is a powerful example of why we must never give an inch on our Second Amendment rights, and his perseverance and love for our country was an inspiration to the caucus.” Rittenhouse tweeted a photograph of himself at the Capitol with the caption: “T-minus 5 years until I call this place my office?”
Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is facing opposition from the far-right MAGA Republicans in his quest to be speaker of the House, and welcoming Rittenhouse signals to the base that they will have a strong voice in the new Congress.
New candidates for Democratic leadership in the House are stepping up now that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she is stepping down. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) today launched a bid to become the Democratic leader. Emphasizing continuity from Pelosi, with whom he is close, Jeffries called for working with Republicans “where possible…to deliver results for the American people,” but noted that “the opposing party appears to have no plan to accomplish anything meaningful. If the Republican Conference continues to major in demagoguery and minor in disinformation, their bankruptcy of ideas must be aggressively exposed on an ongoing basis.”
Jeffries called for Democrats to “unify around an agenda designed to make life better for everyday Americans from all walks of life,” and to center Democratic “communication strategy around the messaging principle that values unite, issues divide. House Democrats are actually the party that defends freedom, promotes economic opportunity and values families by uplifting them. We must make sure that the perception of the Democratic brand matches up with the reality that we do in fact authentically share values that unite the Heartland, Urban America, Rural America, Suburban America and Small Town America.”
Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark is running for the number two position in the party leadership—the place Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has held since 2003—and California Representative Peter Aguilar is running for the number 3 position. Both Clark and Aguilar are close to Jeffries, and the three are seen as a team.
The coming Republican control of the House means shifting of the investigation into former president Trump. Trump was subpoenaed on November 14 to testify before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol but didn’t acknowledge the subpoena. The committee said it would “evaluate next steps.”
Yesterday, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said he established a subcommittee about a month ago to look at "all outstanding issues" and to consider criminal and civil referrals to the Department of Justice. The members of the subcommittee are all lawyers: Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).
Today, days after Trump announced he would seek reelection in 2024, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he had appointed a special counsel to assume control over the investigations of the former president. One is the investigation into Trump’s theft of United States documents, including some that were classified at the highest levels, when he left office. The other is Trump’s role in the events leading up to the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol in an attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election for Trump.
The Department of Justice has been investigating both of these issues since they came to light, but with Trump now in the political ring for 2024—in part because he hoped an announcement would stop his prosecution—and with Biden likely to announce later, Garland said he thought it was important to demonstrate that the investigations were independent. It is also of note that a special counsel can be removed only for misconduct, insulating the investigations from the new Republican majority in the House. The White House was not given advance notice of Garland’s action.
Garland appointed to the position Jack Smith, a graduate of Harvard Law School who served as a prosecutor for government corruption cases and since 2018 has been a war crimes prosecutor in The Hague. A former colleague said of him: “I have no idea what his political beliefs are because he’s completely apolitical. He’s committed to doing what is right.”
The appointment frustrated those who saw no reason to treat Trump differently than any other U.S. citizen and thought it would significantly slow the investigation; others saw it as a sign the Justice Department would indict the former president. Tonight, referring to the issue of the stolen documents, Trump’s attorney general William Barr told CNN, “I personally think they probably have the basis for legitimately indicting [Trump].... They have the case.”
White House press briefing, November 18, 2022, 4:03 pm EST.
State-level election recap
By now, everyone knows that the Democrats held the Senate, and may even be able to expand their holdings by a seat, depending on the outcome of the Georgia runoff. And while the precise breakdown in the House awaits continued ballot counting, the Republicans won only a narrow majority.
Both outcomes flew in the face of historical patterns, which hold that the party controlling the White House loses a sizable number of seats in both chambers. Before Election Day, that seemed especially likely for President Joe Biden, whose approval ratings were significantly under water.
But the surprises did not end with the Senate and House results. Republicans also fared poorly in key gubernatorial races, state legislative control, secretary of state and attorney general races, and ballot measures. The only bright spot for Republicans -- and it was not an undiluted one -- was in state supreme court races.
Let’s look at each of these contests to see what kinds of conclusions we can draw.
In general, this was mostly a status quo election for gubernatorial contests, although Democrats made up some ground, netting 2 governorships overall. The Democrats now hold 24 governorships, while the Republicans hold 26.
The Democrats flipped the open Massachusetts and Maryland governorships, a result that had been expected ever since GOP primary voters in each state nominated candidates who were too far to the right to have any chance of winning in such solidly blue states.
Other than that, only 2 other governorships are set to flip, each in opposite directions: Nevada, where Republican Joe Lombardo defeated incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak; and Arizona, where Democrat Katie Hobbs defeated Republican Kari Lake in a seat held by outgoing GOP Gov. Doug Ducey. (Officially, Alaska’s gubernatorial race isn’t called, but the incumbent Republican, Mike Dunleavy, is expected to win.)
In general, though, incumbent governors fared well, certainly when running in friendly territory, and even in more challenging states. Wisconsin’s Tony Evers and Kansas’s Laura Kelly won new terms even though they were running as Democrats in purple and red states, respectively. In Oregon, the Democrat, Tina Kotek, won a 3-candidate free-for-all, keeping Democratic control of the governorship in a vulnerable blue state.
The pro-incumbent tide may stem in part from a tendency we noted in June -- that at a time when Americans are sour on the current president, the previous president, Congress, and the general direction of the nation, they seem pretty copacetic about their governors, regardless of whether they live in a blue or a red state. The relatively flush finances for most states right now, thanks in part to generous federal aid under President Biden, may be helping by staving off unpopular budget cuts.
Whatever the reason, when governors are right-side-up in approval ratings, voters have a harder time throwing them out of office. And the 2022 midterms seem to have demonstrated that.
On the state legislative level, the pro-Democratic surprise of 2022 followed the pro-Republican surprise of 2020.
Two years ago, Democrats were playing aggressive offense on state legislative chambers, hoping to ride Biden’s coattails to chamber flips in Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Yet in the end, not a single GOP chamber flipped control -- and the Democrats actually ended up losing a couple of chambers, both in New Hampshire.
In 2022, the roles were reversed. The overall playing field was smaller, and the vulnerable chambers were more evenly divided between the 2 parties. With the historical patterns hampering the president’s party in place, it did not seem like a promising election for the Democrats to flip GOP state legislative chambers.
But lo and behold, the Democrats ended up flipping both chambers of the Michigan legislature as well as the Minnesota Senate. With gubernatorial victories in both states, the Democrats were able to turn both Michigan and Minnesota into trifecta states, in which one party controls the governorship as well as both houses of the legislature.
In addition, the Democrats are tantalizingly close to seizing majorities in both the Pennsylvania House and the New Hampshire House, although neither have been called. New Hampshire is in the midst of recounts, including in one key race where the result is now a tie, while Democrats appear to have won a majority by a single seat in Pennsylvania, but there are a lot of moving pieces, as noted by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
And as was the case in 2020, the party that had been expected to do poorly in the election didn’t lose control of any of their vulnerable chambers.
Secretary of state races
Secretary of state races have been attracting an unusual degree of public attention this election cycle, owing to concerns that some Republican nominees, if elected, would work to overturn election results unfavorable to their party.
From the beginning of this cycle, we have been focusing on one straightforward question: Would Republican voters and Republican-leaning independents ratify some of the more conspiracy-minded nominees the GOP anointed in primaries earlier this year? Or would they pick and choose, voting for mainstream Republicans for most offices but crossing over to support Democrats instead of election deniers?
Until Election Day, we honestly had no idea which path those voters would take.
Now that the ballots have mostly been counted, we have a pretty good idea what happened: Enough Republicans and Republican-leaning independents rejected blind party loyalty and crossed over to vote for Democrats, apparently making a difference in most of these races. A few controversial secretary of state candidates did win uncompetitive contests in solidly red states, but none won in a battleground state.
For instance, in Arizona, GOP secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem ran more than 2 points behind GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who herself is an election denier. In Nevada, Jim Marchant ran about 2 points behind Lombardo, a mainstream Republican. In New Mexico, Audrey Trujillo ran nearly 3 points behind GOP gubernatorial nominee Mark Ronchetti, another mainstream Republican. And in Michigan, Kristina Karamo ran about 2 points behind GOP gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon, who also came from the Trump-aligned wing of the party.
By contrast, mainstream Republicans running for secretary of state had no problem winning, including Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger and Iowa’s Paul Pate.
One race that isn’t officially called yet is in Wisconsin, where long-serving Secretary of State Doug La Follette (D) leads Amy Loudenbeck (R) by just a few tenths of a point. (Wisconsin’s secretary of state, unlike many of those elsewhere, does not oversee elections.)
Attorney general races
This year’s attorney general races saw two upsets. Arguably the most surprising was the narrow victory by Kris Kobach, who has occupied the GOP’s rightward edge on immigration and voting policy for years. Four years ago, Kobach was so controversial that he managed to lose the governorship in the ordinarily red state of Kansas. But this year, Kobach won the AG race -- on the same night that Kelly, the Democrat he lost the governorship to in 2018, secured a second term from voters. (Who’s in that tiny slice of the electorate who voted for both Kelly and Kobach? Beats us, although there were conservative third-party alternatives in the gubernatorial race while the AG contest just had major-party nominees.)
The other surprise, somewhat milder, came in Iowa, where long-serving Democratic AG Tom Miller lost to Republican Brenna Bird, 51%-49%. Miller’s loss tracks with Iowa’s rightward shift in recent election cycles, a drift that Miller had been able to handle up until now. We had seen Miller as a modest favorite in our final look at the AG races, based on his 49%-33% lead in the authoritative Des Moines Register poll in mid-October. However, the Register’s subsequent poll in early November found Miller leading by only 47%-45%; sadly, it was released several days after we published our final attorney general handicapping, so it didn’t factor into our rankings. (The only remaining Democratic statewide elected official in Iowa, state Auditor Rob Sand, was leading his uncalled race narrowly.)
Meanwhile, voters in Texas chose to keep Republican Ken Paxton as their attorney general, despite a series of ongoing legal troubles. He fared just a little bit more than a point worse than Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, and both won comfortably. In another solidly red state, Idaho, Republican Raúl Labrador easily defeated Democrat Tom Arkoosh, who had received the backing of some establishment Republicans in the state who felt that Labrador was too far to the right even for his red state.
In Minnesota, vulnerable Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison narrowly fended off Republican Jim Schultz. Schultz, a mainstream Republican, ran 5 points ahead of GOP gubernatorial nominee Scott Jensen, a vaccine skeptic. In Wisconsin, Josh Kaul ran just a little bit behind Evers at the top of the Democratic ticket; both earned narrow victories.
In Michigan, incumbent Democratic AG Dana Nessel defeated Republican election denier Matthew DePerno by a comfortable 9-point margin.
As for the close, late-counting states of Nevada and Arizona, Democrats won one race against a controversial GOP attorney general nominee, and they barely lead in the other. In Nevada, Democrat Aaron Ford defeated Republican Sigal Chattah by 8 points, a virtual landslide by the state’s standards this year (and many years). In Arizona, Democrat Kris Mayes had a very slim lead on Republican Abraham Hamadeh in a race that appears headed to a recount. If Mayes wins, this would be a Democratic flip of an open seat.
Ultimately, Arizona and Nevada could continue to see a mix of Republicans and Democrats holding various statewide offices, bucking a trend we’ve noted previously of unified partisan control of statewide elected offices. Wisconsin will have a mixed slate as well, given the election of Republican John Leiber as state treasurer.
It was a pretty good night for liberals on ballot measures. Voters approved a Medicaid expansion in South Dakota, a collective bargaining guarantee in Illinois, and minimum wage hikes in Nebraska, Nevada, and Washington D.C. Measures that would expand rights for immigrants passed in Massachusetts and Arizona.
Voters also legalized marijuana in Maryland and Missouri, and they approved legalization of some psychedelic drugs in Colorado. But in 3 red states -- Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota -- voters rejected efforts to legalize recreational marijuana.
Perhaps the most important victories for liberals were those on 5 abortion-related measures. Voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont approved pro-abortion rights measures, while those in Kentucky and Montana rejected anti-abortion measures.
Combined with exit polls showing a surprisingly high salience for abortion among Democratic voters, these abortion rights victories on ballot measures are noteworthy. However, it’s worth playing devil’s advocate, as well.
In several red states, voters reelected a governor who oversaw a tightening of abortion laws following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
And these gubernatorial reelections were not narrow, either; each came by a wide margin. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine improved upon Trump’s share of the 2020 vote by 10 points. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis improved by 8 points. Reelected governors in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee improved on Trump’s 2020 benchmark by between 3 and 5 points. One reelected red state governor who fared worse than Trump was Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt, but his reelection challenges stemmed more from disagreements with Native American tribes and other factors than abortion politics.
It’s possible to reconcile these parallel trends. In purple states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, the electorate clearly favored abortion rights. In red states where the abortion question was asked explicitly on the ballot, voters did indicate a preference for abortion rights. But in red states, incumbent Republican governors had enough going for them with the voters that abortion restrictions seemed to give voters little pause, if any.
One notable trend on ballot measures involved voters seeking to block changes to the ballot measure process. As seen in the results above on Medicaid, marijuana, and the minimum wage, ballot measures are often the only way for liberals to enact policies in states dominated by Republicans. In response, some GOP-heavy states have sought to make it harder to qualify or approve ballot measures.
In one solidly red state, Arkansas, voters soundly rejected a measure that would have raised the threshold for passing ballot measures to three-fifths, rather than a simple majority.
In another increasingly red state, Florida, a measure to abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Commission failed to meet the required 60% needed for enactment. This panel, which is next set to meet in 2037, proposes new state constitutional amendments that voters consider for possible passage as ballot measures.
In Arizona, the results were more mixed. Voters easily rejected a measure that would have allowed the legislature to amend or repeal ballot measures after approval if they contained provisions ruled invalid by state or federal courts. However, voters backed a separate measure that would require measures to stick to a single topic. Voters also narrowly approved a measure that would raise the threshold for passing ballot measures that raise taxes from a simple majority to three-fifths.
State supreme courts
Supreme court races were a relative bright spot for Republicans on Election Night.
In North Carolina, Republicans swept both contested seats on the court, flipping it to 5-2 GOP control, a near reversal of the 6-1 edge the Democrats held just before the 2020 election. This is a crucial shift, not only for resolving myriad policy questions in a state with a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature, but also because of redistricting.
The midterm election produced a 7-7 Democratic split in the U.S. House for North Carolina, not far from the 50%-49% Trump-Biden breakdown in the state in 2020. But with help from a Republican-friendly court, the GOP might be able to squeeze Democrats out of several congressional seats they just won -- which would be a big deal in what promises to be a closely divided House chamber.
The other big Republican supreme court victories came in Ohio, where Republicans prevailed in all 3 seats that were being contested this year. The GOP came into the election with a 4-3 edge on the court, but their fourth vote, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, often sided with Democrats on redistricting. The makeup of the court remains 4-3 Republican, but O’Connor will not be on the court anymore.
As a practical matter, O’Connor’s views didn’t carry the day, because the state’s GOP-dominated officials essentially ignored the court’s rulings. Now that she is gone, the expectation is that Ohio Republicans will have a freer hand on redistricting. In the midterms, the Democrats were able to win 5 of the state’s 15 seats, but 2 of those victories were within 5 points and the third was assisted by a controversial GOP candidate. A GOP-leaning court could sign off on an eventual remap that allows the Republicans to get a bigger edge in the state’s U.S. House delegation.
That said, Democrats fared better in supreme court races outside of North Carolina and Ohio.
In Illinois, the Democrats swept the 2 seats that were up for grabs, following the first redistricting of the state’s supreme court districts in more than 50 years. With a stronger top-of-the-ticket lineup, the Republicans would have had a shot at flipping the court. But the GOP’s up-ballot nominees were weak, which dragged down the otherwise credible supreme court candidates. With their twin victories, the Democrats now have a 5-2 majority that could last a decade.
In Montana, where the justices are officially nonpartisan, one conservative incumbent won reelection as expected, but the Democrats prevailed in a wide-open race in which the challenger had strong backing from the state GOP. Incumbent Ingrid Gustafson, who was appointed by then-Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, defeated James Brown, a Republican public service commissioner, by 8 points. While observers say that abortion policy did not drive the supreme court contest, Gustafson has indicated support for a 1999 decision upholding abortion access.
In Michigan, where justices are nominated by the parties but are put on the general election ballot without any listed party affiliation, the election was a status quo affair. One Republican incumbent and one Democratic incumbent were reelected, preserving the Democrats’ 4-3 majority.
Kentucky held 4 supreme court races, the most notable of which was the defeat of state Rep. Joe Fischer, an opponent of abortion who ran as a staunch conservative in what was officially a nonpartisan contest. Fischer failed to unseat incumbent Justice Michelle Keller.
And in Arkansas, another state where the justices are nonpartisan, incumbent Robin Wynne won a comfortable victory over Chris Carnahan, a former executive director of the state GOP. Carnahan lost despite receiving the backing of the state’s dominant GOP. Wynne had served in the state House as a Democrat in the mid-to-late 1980s, at a time when Democrats dominated the state.
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