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Ron Johnson, One of the Most Corrupt Republican Senators, Wins Wisconsin Senate Race

Johnson managed to survive a challenge from Democrat Mandela Barnes and hold onto his seat.

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Senator Ron Johnson has been reelected, besting Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes, NBC News projects.

Johnson leads Barnes 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent on Wednesday morning, with 100 percent reporting.

Johnson came to the Senate on the coattails of the Tea Party movement, positioning himself as a classic fiscal hawk. But as with many fiscal conservatives, for Johnson, belt tightening seemed to boil down to “rules for me and not for thee.”

Before being elected, Johnson evaded up to $3.5 million in federal taxes by loaning himself millions from his own company. He only had to pay interest on the loans, that was then paid back to his company—avoiding any taxes from the money he received from the company.

After Johnson had spent nearly $9 million of his own money to win his seat in 2010, his plastics company (inherited from his wife’s brother) paid him a curious $10 million in “deferred compensation” shortly before he was sworn into office. “It’s a private business,” Johnson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’ve complied with the disclosure laws, and I don’t have to explain it any further to someone like you.”

Once elected, Johnson’s trust fund (used to buy a million-dollar house) helped him avoid hundreds of thousands in taxes by exploiting the state’s “Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit.” Later, Johnson pushed to ensure Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act included a tax break that benefited him, and two of his biggest donors—garnering the pair $215 million in tax deductions just in 2018.

Johnson has metastasized into the kind of Republican who revels not only in rigging the system for his and his allies’ benefit, but also in fomenting conspiracy—perhaps to try distracting from his corrupt mal-governance, or simply to maintain appeal with the most extreme wing of his party. He helped spread misinformation about the coronavirus, pushed conspiracy surrounding the 2020 election’s integrity, and called climate change “bullshit.”

And now, Ron Johnson continues the mantle that he (and at one point Scott Walker) proudly owns: being a particularly vile Republican unfortunately representing the state of Wisconsin.

Warnock, Walker Officially Head to Runoff in Georgia Senate Race

The Georgia Senate race was too close to all, the secretary of state announced.

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Raphael Warnock, Georgia’s first Black senator, and ultra-conservative opponent Herschel Walker will head to a runoff vote on December 6 to determine who will be elected senator, the secretary of state announced Wednesday.

As of Wednesday morning, incumbent Warnock had 49.4 percent of the vote, while Walker stood at 49.5 percent, according to The New York Times. Neither candidate will win 50 percent of the state, the minimum requirement for avoiding a runoff.

The pair will now enter a four-week campaigning blitz ahead of the second vote.

Warnock was elected to Congress alongside fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff in January 2021 runoff elections, a major victory for Democrats in the historically red state. Georgia also went for President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

But despite the state’s recent history of leaning Democratic, Walker and Warnock were locked in a dead heat for almost the entire race.

A pastor, Warnock describes himself as “Christian progressive,” similar to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who presided at the same church in Atlanta where the senator now leads the congregation.

Warnock is pro-choice and campaigned on the belief that the United States can overcome its racist roots and enact social change.

Walker, meanwhile, ran on an ultra-right-wing platform, saying he is pro-life, supports traditional (heteronormative) family values, and would back another run by former President Donald Trump.

He complained about “wokeness” and says he does not believe racism exists.

He also lied about his academic record and was accused by two women of pressuring and paying for them to get abortions.

But Walker enjoyed the widespread support of the Republican Party, who insist that electing a Black senator proves their party is not racist.

But several reports, citing anonymous GOP sources, said that the party really hoped Walker would be both a puppet and a good buffer against accusations of racism. According to The Washington Post, “Many Republican operatives admit privately that Walker was backed by the party’s leaders at least in part because the GOP wanted a Black candidate to face Warnock.”

This piece has been updated.

Trump Is Having a Meltdown After So Many of His Candidates Lost the Election

The former president is reportedly “screaming at everyone” as the election results come in.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Donald Trump is not having a good morning.

Out of 37 candidates in competitive races that the former president endorsed ahead of Election Day, only 10 have won so far. Nine lost, and 20 of those races are still undecided. And the full list of Trump-endorsed candidates that lost is much, much longer.

Trump has tried to play it down, posting on Truth Social that Tuesday night was a “GREAT EVENING” with an “amazing job by some really fantastic candidates,” but multiple reports indicate that a very different scene is playing out behind closed doors.

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted that Trump was “furious” Wednesday morning.

CNN had a similar report, citing a Trump adviser as saying the original MAGA Republican has been “livid” and “screaming at everyone” as the results come out.

The Republican Party, however, seems ready to move on.

Fox News, once a stalwart of Trump support, published a story Wednesday morning announcing, “Ron DeSantis is the new Republican Party Leader.” The Florida governor was reelected Tuesday by nearly 20 points.

Trump and DeSantis have repeatedly butted heads as they vie for who will lead the GOP next. DeSantis has said that if Trump runs, he will stand aside, while Trump has threatened to “reveal things about [DeSantis] that won’t be very flattering” should the Florida governor oppose him for the presidency.

Meanwhile, former Trump communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin called her old boss a “loser” on Fox News during election commentary.

“If you want the Republican Party to thrive, we’ve got to just finally speak out and say, ‘This man is a loser. He lost 2020 … he’s losing us seats that were winnable this time,” she said.

Latino Voters Did Not Abandon Democrats This Election

Despite what the media narrative is saying, Latino voters still showed up for Democrats. (But their support is slipping.)

A sign says "Here VOTE Aqui." The "o" in Vote is a heart.
Mark Makela/Getty Images

Latino voters did not abandon the Democrats on Election Day, but the demographic’s unquestioned support is starting to wane.

Despite widespread analyst predictions that Latino voters would swing Republican during the midterms, network exit polls and the AP found Wednesday morning that about 60 percent of Hispanic and Latino voters went Democratic.

That is lower than the previous midterm cycle, though, when about 70 percent of Hispanic and Latino Americans voted Democratic.

In the weeks leading up to the election, multiple reports indicated that Democrats had taken the Latino community’s support for granted and had not done enough to address the group’s top issues.

Recent polls by the Pew Research Center, however, found that Latino Americans tend to have a generally positive view of the Democratic Party. About 63 percent of Latinos said in September that the party “really cares” about their community, and 60 percent said the party represents their interests.

Latino voters were also crucial in sending President Joe Biden to the White House in 2020, supporting the Democrat 2-1 over Donald Trump.

But Trump over-performed among Latinos in Florida and Texas during that presidential election, shaking the belief that the Hispanic vote is a solidly Democratic monolith.

Instead, Latino Americans are proving to be the new swing voter demographic. Democrats such as Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto sought to reach out to Latino small business owners, to ensure they did not feel forgotten by Washington lawmakers.

It remains to be seen whether that paid off for her.

Maryland and Missouri Vote to Legalize Marijuana

After this election, recreational marijuana use will soon be legal in 21 states and D.C.

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Maryland and Missouri have voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

In Maryland, voters passed a measure legalizing recreational use for adults age 21 and older and allowing the Maryland General Assembly to regulate and tax cannabis. Adults in Maryland will be allowed to smoke marijuana, grow up to two cannabis plants, and possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana beginning July 1, 2023.

The measure passed 65.54 percent to 34.46 percent, with 82 percent reporting.

Legislation paired with the passage modifies penalties for people under the age of 21 found to be using cannabis. The bill would also automatically expunge convictions for any conduct now legal under the new law—and people serving time for any offenses would be allowed to file for resentencing.

In Missouri, voters passed a similar measure, 53.14 percent to 46.86 percent, with 96 percent reporting. Adults over the age of 21 will be able to possess up to three ounces of marijuana, and grow up to six cannabis plants, come December.

The measure also enacts a six percent tax on the retail price of recreational marijuana and—unlike Maryland where this will be done automatically—allows people with marijuana-related offenses to petition to be released from incarceration and have their records expunged.

The results display the ever-increasing popularity of marijuana legalization. While Maryland is a reliably blue state, Missouri is not. Former President Donald Trump won Missouri by 15 points in 2020.

Even in states where marijuana legalization initiatives did not pass, the measures overperformed relative to Democratic results. In North Dakota, the measure failed by just under 10 points, while in South Dakota it fell short by about six. In Arkansas the measure failed by about 13 points. Trump had won by over 25 points in all three of those states in 2020.

With Maryland and Missouri’s passage of the measures, recreational marijuana use is now legal in 21 states and Washington, D.C.

All Five States With Abortion on the Ballot Voted to Increase Access

Voters in California, Michigan, Vermont, Kentucky, and Montana all showed up to protect abortion.

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Abortion rights protesters in Louisville, Kentucky.

Five states voted to increase abortion access on Election Day, in a massive victory for women and gender minorities.

California, Michigan, and Vermont all passed constitutional amendments codifying the right to abortion Tuesday, with 65.2 percent, 55.5 percent, and 77.4 percent of the vote in each state, respectively, according to The New York Times.

Kentucky and Montana both voted against anti-abortion ballot initiatives. In Kentucky, 52.6 percent of people voted against an amendment that would have said abortion is not a protected right in the state. In Montana, 52.6 percent of state residents voted to reject a measure that would have deemed any infant “born alive” a legal person, the Times reported.

Abortion became a hotly contested issue after the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to the procedure in June. States rushed after the ruling to either enshrine or scale back abortion access. Health experts warn that banning the procedure will result in a massive uptick in the national maternal mortality rate.

In August, residents of Kansas, a typically conservative state, voted to keep abortion protections in the state constitution, a major twist that had many activists hopeful for future reproductive rights referendums—and, it would seem, with good reason.

In California, people voted by 1,617,876 points Tuesday to add an amendment to the state constitution enshrining the right to “reproductive freedom,” which includes both abortions and contraception. The state had passed a law legalizing abortion after the Supreme Court ruling, but an amendment cannot be challenged in court and therefore holds more power.

Vermont also already has a law protecting abortion, but residents voted by 91,155 points to enshrine the right to “reproductive autonomy” in the constitution, as well.

In Michigan, the Supreme Court ruling triggered a 1931 law banning abortion, but a state court temporarily blocked that law going into effect. Michigan residents passed a constitutional amendment by 443,940 points protecting abortion rights. As a result, the old law can no longer be implemented.

In a surprise similar to Kansas, voters in conservative Kentucky rejected an amendment that would have specified their constitution does not protect abortion access. The decision to keep abortion access passed by 67,953 points.

Montana abortion rights are protected under a 1999 state Supreme Court ruling, but residents voted Tuesday on a measure about fetal personhood. The law, which people rejected by 20,581 points, would have required medical care be given to “infants born alive after an induced labor, cesarean section, attempted abortion, or another method.”

The measure said “born alive” meant anything that “breathes, has a beating heart, or has definite movement of voluntary muscles.”

However, fetuses are rarely “born alive” after an abortion, according to the CDC. Montana state health experts had slammed the measure, warning it could have negatively affected care for babies born prematurely or with fatal abnormalities by preventing doctors from helping relieve any pain those babies might be in, or punishing medical professionals that let families hold such newborns before they die.

Reports That Ron Klain May Soon Leave the White House Are Concerning

Please don’t go, Ron Klain!

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White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain

As if awaiting the midterm results weren’t enough to put Democrats on edge, Politico’s Eli Stokols and Alex Thompson reported Tuesday afternoon that White House chief of staff Ron Klain may soon depart the White House.

That would be very bad. Klain has been the Biden administration’s indispensable man. Indeed, some would argue he’s more indispensable than Joe Biden. Klain (whom I know slightly) is a decent, fiercely intelligent, highly experienced political operator whom Stokols and Thompson describe as:

... a chief of staff intent on managing the flow of information to the president and keeping a tight grip on power, advising everyone on everything and being involved in even the smallest policy and planning details. Whenever Biden is set to deliver a speech, one official explained, “Ron often has to see the [camera] shot beforehand.”

Inevitably, Klain has committed a few blunders, including, according to Politico, encouraging Biden to declare victory over Covid on July 4. Two months later, Biden said, “the pandemic is over.” One month after that your faithful correspondent flung his mask to the side, contracted Covid, and transmitted it to 13 other people, including two nonagenarians. (All recovered, but still, jeez.)

But easily more striking are Klain’s (and Biden’s) victories. As Klain himself said in August, Biden “has delivered the largest economic recovery plan since Roosevelt, the largest infrastructure plan since Eisenhower, the most judges confirmed since Kennedy, the second-largest healthcare bill since Johnson, and the largest climate change bill in history.” That doesn’t happen unless you have a highly competent chief of staff working alongside you. “He’s not just experienced, he’s strategic,” John Podesta, a former chief of staff for Bill Clinton, told my colleague Daniel Strauss in January. “He’s someone who can say ‘no’ to Biden.”

I know it’s a punishing job, but if Republicans take back the House (and, possibly the Senate), the boss’s job is going to get more difficult. Biden will need Klain more than ever, and there isn’t anyone else around who can do that job half so well.

Miracle Cures Not Enough As Fetterman Bests Oz in Pennsylvania Senate Race

The Pennsylvania win brings Democrats closer to keeping their hold of the Senate.

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Democrat John Fetterman has defeated television doctor Mehmet Oz and won the Pennsylvania Senate race, according to a projection from NBC.

Fetterman leads Oz 49.39 percent to 48.17 percent, with 99 percent reporting.

Fetterman’s victory flips the Senate seat previously held by Republican Pat Toomey to Democrat, bringing Democrats closer to keeping their hold of the Senate.

Fetterman’s gritty victory comes after a race that initially seemed secure for the Democrats. For months, Fetterman maintained a comfortable lead in the polls, even stretching into double digits. Concerns about Oz’ schemes as a television doctor, his appearance as out-of-touch with most Americans’ experiences (see: crudité at Wegner’s), and whether he even lived in the state of Pennsylvania all plagued his campaign.

But as Election Day approached, the race tightened—perhaps due in part to the media’s inane coverage of Fetterman’s stroke recovery.

Fetterman, however, proved resilient, both as a political operator and with regards to his health. In spite of speech and auditory processing difficulties, Fetterman still chose to debate Oz just weeks before the election. And instead of allowing the media coverage to hone in on debate aesthetics, the campaign persisted in highlighting the stakes of the race—for example, Oz’s belief that abortion is between a woman, her doctor, and “local political leaders.”

Ultimately, the voters have spoken, rejecting Oz’s  largely self-funded vanity campaign, electing instead a Democrat who has been just as outspoken on trans rights as he has been on eliminating price gouging and enacting a more fair tax code. Fetterman is proof that you don’t have to give up advocating for so-called “social issues” in order to win—or in order to flip a Republican-held seat.

Trump-Backed Starling Bo Hines Falls in Surprise Loss in North Carolina House Race

Bines was seen as a "young star"in the Republican Party. Then, he lost.

Bo Hines
Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a major loss, Trump-backed Republican Bo Hines has lost to Democrat Wiley Nickel in North Carolina’s 13th congressional district. FiveThirtyEight had predicted Hines to have a 77 percent chance of winning.

Nickel leads Hines 51.32 percent to 48.68 percent, with all precincts reporting.

Hines, whose campaign received over $775,000 from his family’s trust fund, enjoyed support from former President Donald Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and outgoing North Carolina Representative Madison Cawthorn.

Hines began running for Congress in North Carolina’s 5th district, but relocated to the 13th due in part to redistricting that changed seat maps.

The 27-year-old was advanced by Trump and other Republicans as a rising star in the party. The young Republican had adopted Trumpian classics, saying he was running because he did not want to “sit idly by on the sidelines and watch radical, Marxist leftists destroy our country for the next generation.” He said he would “not stand for cowardly, RINO Republicans that seek to dismantle the America First movement.”

Hines, an election denialist, has also called abortion murder and said exceptions should only be allowed for victims of rape and incest. Even then, in Hines’ worldview, those victims would only have access to abortion on a case-by-case basis after a “community-level review process” determined them eligible..

Nickel—a criminal defense attorney, former staffer in President Barack Obama’s White House, and member of the North Carolina state Senate—ran as an experienced moderate. While Nickel says the federal government is spending too much money, he also argues the state isn’t spending enough money on services like health care and public education.

Hines’ loss is yet another in a disappointing evening for Republicans, who were expecting a so-called “red wave.”

Brian Kemp Reelected Georgia Governor, Defeats Stacey Abrams

Kemp managed to hold onto his seat, despite a strong challenge from Abrams.

Megan Varner/Getty Images

Brian Kemp was reelected as governor of Georgia Tuesday, defeating Democrat Stacey Abrams, according to a projection from CNN.

While much of the media attention on Georgia has focused on the Senate race between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker, the outcome of the state’s governor race was also hotly anticipated.

Kemp, who has been a fixture of Georgia’s government since 2003, is a staunch conservative. But he has had a fraught relationship with former President Donald Trump because of his refusal to go along with Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Georgia narrowly went for Joe Biden in that cycle, and his unexpected victory there was crucial to securing the presidency.

Democrats have been gaining momentum in the formerly deep red state, a development attributed to the growing influence of voters of color, in particular Black voters.

Abrams has been credited with playing a key role in Joe Biden’s 2020 win, having spent the better part of a decade building up Georgia’s Democratic organizing infrastructure and mobilizing the state’s expanding Black middle class.

Kemp and Abrams had previously gone head to head in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race, with Kemp winning by just 54,723 votes, or about 1.4 percent. Abrams’s organization, Fair Fight Action, filed a lawsuit shortly thereafter alleging voter suppression, though a judge ruled against it this September.

Voting rights was a major point of contention in the leadup to the election. Last April, Kemp signed an egregious voter suppression law, sharply restricting access to absentee ballots and ballot drop boxes.

Abortion was another flashpoint in the race. Under Kemp’s governorship, Georgia passed one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws, prohibiting the procedure after six weeks—before many people know they are pregnant. During a televised debate, Kemp refused to say whether he would further restrict access. Abrams promised to veto any additional tightening of abortion laws and to work to repeal the six-week ban.