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Democrats in many parts of the country are facing a potentially grim political year, but in California no one is talking about the liberal stronghold changing direction.

California’s largely irrelevant Republican Party could field only little-known candidates for governor and U.S. Senate, and the GOP appears to have only isolated chances for upsets even under what should be favorable conditions for the party.

Mail ballots are already going out for the June 7 primary election that will set the stage for November runoffs. The election is taking place within a cauldron of dicey political issues: the possible repeal of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, widespread frustration with a homelessness crisis and with residents suffering pocketbook stress from galloping inflation and soaring home costs — the state’s median price hit a record $849,080 in March.

President Joe Biden’s popularity has sagged — even among some of his fellow Democrats — and the party in the White House typically loses congressional seats in midterm elections. California Democrats showed up in historic numbers in 2020 to defeat then-President Donald Trump in landslide, but turnout next month is expected to tumble with little drama at the top of the ticket: Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, both Democrats, face only token opposition.

But none of that adds up to a threat to the state’s Democratic supremacy. Republicans haven’t won a statewide election in California since 2006, and Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-to-1 statewide. Democrats are expected to maintain their supermajorities in the Legislature.

The GOP picked up four U.S. House seats in 2020 but Democrats still dominate the congressional delegation, holding all but 10 of the 53 House seats, with one vacancy.

At a state Republican Party convention last month, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield said he’d be holding the chamber’s gavel in January, not Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. He predicted more House upsets in California would tip the balance of power in the chamber, but the GOP faces tough races to hold its ground.

Recent history isn’t encouraging for the GOP. Last year, Newsom appeared vulnerable but then easily defeated a recall effort driven by critics of his handling of the pandemic.

“We don’t have a real race for governor. We don’t have a real race for senator,” said Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney, who cited the lopsided recall election as evidence of faded GOP prospects, even as Democrats are on the defensive nationally.


The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday adopted Republican-drawn maps for the state Legislature, handing the GOP a victory just weeks after initially approving maps drawn by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

The court reversed itself after the U.S. Supreme Court in March said Evers’ maps were incorrectly adopted, and came just as candidates were about to begin circulating nominating papers to appear on this year’s ballot without being sure of district boundaries.

Democrats would have made some marginal gains under Evers’ plan, but Republicans were projected to maintain their majorities in the Assembly and Senate, according to an analysis from the governor’s office.

Evers’ map created seven majority-Black state Assembly districts in Milwaukee, up from the current six. The map from the Republican-controlled Legislature had just five. The Wisconsin Supreme Court had adopted Evers’ map on March 3, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it on March 23. The high court ruled that Evers’ map failed to consider whether a “race-neutral alternative that did not add a seventh majority-black district would deny black voters equal political opportunity.”

Evers told the state Supreme Court it could still adopt his map with some additional analysis, or an alternative with six majority-Black districts. The Republican-controlled Legislature argued that its map should be implemented.


The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected a third set of Ohio Statehouse district maps that Republicans insisted reflect the state’s partisan breakdown — and sent them back for a fourth try even as final ballots were being prepared for the May 3 primary.

In yet another 4-3 ruling late Wednesday, the court found the Republican-dominated Ohio Redistricting Commission’s latest maps again failed to pass constitutional muster. No Democrats have supported any of the three plans, and commission member Republican Auditor Keith Faber joined Democrats in opposing the third plan.

It ordered the panel to reconvene and to submit a set of legal maps to Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the state’s elections chief and a member of the commission, by March 28. The plan must be filed with the court by March 29. The plan, outlining Ohio House and Ohio Senate districts, remains subject to objections and another court review.

As circumstances became more urgent, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a moderate Republican who has repeatedly joined court Democrats to invalidate the maps, chose to write the majority opinion herself.

“Substantial and compelling evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the main goal of the individuals who drafted the second revised plan was to favor the Republican Party and disfavor the Democratic Party,” she wrote for the court.

Of particular concern was the fact that Republicans have all three times drafted the plan approved by the commission without input from Democratic members of the bipartisan commission.


Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson began courting senators on Capitol Hill Wednesday, making her case for confirmation in private meetings as Democrats worked to move her through the Senate within weeks.

Senate Democrats concerned about their narrow 50-50 majority — Vice President Kamala Harris breaks the tie — announced Wednesday that Jackson’s hearings will begin March 21, just three weeks after President Joe Biden nominated her to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. With a goal of an April confirmation, they are using Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s quick confirmation ahead of the 2020 presidential election as a model for Jackson, who would be the first Black woman to serve as a justice in the court’s 200-plus year history.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin called the quick confirmation process “a contemporary standard” on Wednesday after he met with Jackson in his office, while acknowledging that part of the reason for the rapid timeline was because of his party’s tenuous hold on the Senate.

“There’s no reason to wait,” Durbin said, even though Breyer has said he won’t leave the bench until summer. He noted that the committee is also familiar with Jackson, who was just confirmed as an appeals court judge last year and had been confirmed by the Senate two times before that.

The sped-up timeline is just one byproduct of increased partisanship, and a decade of gradual rules changes, in the once-collegial Senate. The majority party knows it can win confirmation with a simple majority, and bipartisan outreach is more symbolic than necessary. While the Senate once took up to two months to review cases and credentials before questioning a nominee, Republicans held hearings just two weeks after Barrett’s nomination to replace the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the presidential election loomed.


A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday allowed absentee ballot boxes to remain in place for the Feb. 15 statewide spring primary election for local offices, but said it will decide later about their legality going forward.

The court agreed to take the case, as requested by a conservative group, but did not lift a stay on a lower court ruling declaring that no ballot boxes could be in place beyond those at municipal clerk’s offices. A state appeals court put the stay in place.

“Vacating the stay would also likely cause substantial harm to the defendants and the public interest,” the court said in its decision issued Friday evening. “The February 2022 election process is already underway.”

The fight is being closely watched in battleground Wisconsin as Republicans there push to limit access to absentee ballots following President Joe Biden’s narrow win over Donald Trump in 2020. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson are on the ballot in November.

Justice Brian Hagedorn, a conservative who sometimes sides with liberal justices, again proved himself to be the deciding vote in the 4-3 ruling. Three conservative justices dissented and argued that the stay should have been lifted to disallow absentee ballot boxes immediately.


Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Sunday named a former foreign minister as his party’s candidate for a special gubernatorial election in the home state of his mentor, Hugo Chávez, that was scheduled after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified.

Maduro declared Jorge Arreaza as the ruling party’s candidate via a livestream connected to a gymnasium in the rural state of Barinas packed with supporters who erupted in cheers as their new candidate promised them a comprehensive review of their communities’ needs.

The announcement came less than a week after the country’s highest court disqualified Freddy Superlano as he was leading the vote count, a move that has become emblematic of what the opposition says are unfair election conditions. The state in northwest Venezuela has long been considered a bastion of Chávismo., which made Superlano’s potential win particularly hard to swallow for the ruling party.

Superlano was ahead by less than 1 percentage point in the Nov. 21 race against incumbent Argenis Chávez, one of Hugo Chávez’s brothers, when he was disqualified. Argenis along with Adán Chávez and father Hugo de los Reyes Chávez have served as governors of the state of Barinas since 1998.

The opposition announced Saturday that Aurora Silva, Superlano’s wife, would take his place in the election. But Superlano’s campaign late Sunday said Silva appeared to have been disqualified but did not immediately provide details.

Leaders of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela convened in Barinas this week to decide on a new candidate after Argenis Chávez announced his decision to resign as governor and not enter the race again. They needed a unifying candidate after many blamed the election’s results on an internal rift.


Barely 24 hours after their passage, North Carolina’s newly drawn maps are facing another legal complaint that will likely determine how much Republicans can expand their political clout over the coming decade in a state that is slowly becoming more blue.

An organization formed by Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic lawyer, announced Friday that a group of voters who successfully challenged previous North Carolina maps will now make a similar appeal in state court contesting the latest congressional maps. They will argue that the boundaries approved by Republicans on Thursday were drawn for political gain in a way that violates several provisions of the North Carolina Constitution.

The stakes are high, as Republicans currently hold an 8-5 edge over Democrats in the U.S. House and would likely expand their advantages substantially if the maps prevail.

During a virtual event on Twitter, Elias, founder of Democracy Docket, called North Carolina’s maps “a grotesque partisan gerrymander” and “indefensible.”

“The Republican Party has lost all shame,” Elias said. “I mean, in the 2010 (redistricting process and) after 2010, they were still pretending that they cared about democracy and about voting rights, and now they no longer pretend.”

Last week, voters and advocacy groups sued in Wake County court to block the timetable for passing state legislative maps, accusing Republicans of breaking rules aimed at ensuring Black voters can elect their desired candidates.

The new legal challenge announced on Friday focuses on partisan gerrymandering.

“Expert analysis confirms that the 2021 Plan is an intentional, extreme partisan gerrymander that dilutes Democratic votes and prevents Democratic voters from electing candidates of their choice,” the complaint says.

If the maps hold up in court, Republicans would likely win 10 or 11 of the 14 available congressional seats for the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. Because of sizable population growth in the state over the past decade, North Carolina was awarded an additional district. Just one of the 14 districts is considered highly competitive.

Voting rights groups and Democrats argue the maps are unfair, given that the state has become bluer in recent years, though former President Donald Trump won North Carolina in 2016 and 2020. They also accuse Republicans of diminishing the voting power of racial minorities, including Black and Hispanic residents.

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