Seven Democrats flipped key governor seats

Elham Khatami

Elham Khatami Associate Editor, Think Progress

Democrats flipped at least seven gubernatorial seats Tuesday, a significant achievement that could help undo years of harmful Republican policy — particularly when it comes to the gerrymandering efforts that help keep GOP politicians in control.

Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Maine, Wisconsin, and Nevada will have Democratic governors come January 2019. When redistricting begins in 2021, Democratic governors can play an important role in reversing Republican gerrymandering, paving the way for a more fairer balance of power in Congress for years to come.

Here’s a rundown of the governors’ mansions that changed hands on Tuesday:

Michigan

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, the former minority leader of the state Senate, defeated Republican Bill Schuette by running on a campaign that prioritized clean water, improved infrastructure, and reproductive rights. Although many political pundits described her August primary win as a loss for progressive Democrats, Whitmer’s platform is far from moderate. She supports marijuana legalization, increasing the minimum wage, and universal preschool.

Schuette, on the other hand, has encouraged discrimination against LGBTQ people, opposes pollution limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, and has blocked efforts at increased government transparency in his role as Michigan’s attorney general.

Whitmer’s win coincides with the approval of a ballot initiative that would set up an independent redistricting commission. While such commissions could be at risk of being struck down by the Supreme Court, doing so would put redistricting in the hands of Whitmer and the state legislature, all but guaranteeing an end to Republican gerrymandering efforts.

Illinois

Billionaire and longtime Democratic donor J.B. Pritzker unseated Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, beating the incumbent by a 31 percent margin. Rauner was widely criticized for Illinois’ financial crisis, racking up billions of dollars in debt, failing to approve a budget in years, overseeing an ever-growing deficit, seeking to cut pensions, and allowing public education and social service agencies to suffer without proper funding.

Pritzker, who is heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, has vowed to undo the damage caused by the Rauner administration. He also supports marijuana legalization, increasing financial aid for higher education, and creating an independent commission to redraw legislative maps.

Kansas

Voters in Kansas elected Democrat Laura Kelly over the state’s Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a surprising defeat for a red state. Kobach was notorious for aiding the Trump administration in its creation of extreme immigration policies, like the Muslim ban, and for chairing the now defunct White House voter fraud commission, which failed to find any evidence of widespread voter fraud. That didn’t stop Kobach from continuing to lie about the prevalence of voter fraud in the United States.

Kelly, a Topeka legislator who campaigned on Medicaid expansion and public education funding, beat Kobach by 5 percentage points Tuesday, scoring even larger margins in counties that voted overwhelmingly in favor of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

New Mexico

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham became the first Democratic Latina woman to be elected as governor of New Mexico, beating the famously misogynist Republican Rep. Steve Pearce by double digits. Lujan Grisham campaigned on investment in public education, increasing renewable energy, and opposition to Trump’s immigration policy. She also supports marijuana legalization and increasing the minimum wage, and her victory could pave the way for a fairer redistricting process.

Hardline conservative Steve Pearce, meanwhile, voted with Trump 85 percent of the time.

Maine

Janet Mills became Maine’s first female governor Tuesday, beating Republican Shawn Moody by 7 percentage points. The former state attorney general will replace the anti-LGBTQ, anti-health care, anti-environment, and racist Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Moody campaigned on continuing LePage’s disastrous conservative agenda.

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Mills has vowed to address the state’s opioid crisis and increase Medicaid access (Maine was the first state to expand Medicaid, but LePage blocked the measure).

Wisconsin

Democrat Tony Evers unseated longtime Republican Gov. Scott Walker Tuesday, defeating him by just over 1 percentage point. Evers, the Wisconsin state schools superintendent, positioned himself as a remedy to Walker’s decade-long efforts to curtail labor rights, limit reproductive rights, undermine voting rights, and cut public school funding in favor of expanding the school voucher program. Walker was so unpopular among Wisconsin residents that nearly one million of them tried and failed to launch a recall election to kick him out of office.

As ThinkProgress reporter Casey Quinlan wrote, Evers, for his part, “has supported raising the minimum wage, cutting taxes for the middle class, and spending more on public education and infrastructure. He proposes an increase in school funding of $1.4 billion over two years. He has also vowed to ‘take immediate action’ to accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars and invest in preventive health programs.”

Nevada

Democrat Steve Sisolak won the Nevada gubernatorial race over Republican attorney general Adam Laxalt, becoming the first Democrat to hold the position since the early 1990s. Sisolak, who served as chairman of the Clark County Commission, ran a campaign focused on increased funding for public education, coverage for pre-existing conditions, and support of DACA recipients.

Laxalt’s family members wrote an op-ed in the Reno Gazette Journal last month, urging voters not to vote for him. They cited Laxalt’s phony claims of being a Nevada native, his anti-immigrant agenda, his harmful positions on health care and reproductive rights, and his ethical failures while serving as attorney general since 2015.

“All of these shortcomings come down to a lack of real, authentic connection to our state, and a failure to understand what is important to real Nevadans,” they wrote.

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Reposted from Think Progress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work