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National Govt & Politics
Amid Senate split, Dems gain in House, as vote count rolls on
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Amid Senate split, Dems gain in House, as vote count rolls on

Amid Senate split, Dems gain in House, as vote count rolls on
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Amid Senate split, Dems gain in House, as vote count rolls on

It was not a quiet weekend for elections officials around the country, as vote counting gave Democrats the edge in a Senate race in Arizona, while Republicans kept their leads in key races as a recount began for Senate and Governor in Florida. Meanwhile in the House, Democrats continued to slowly pick off more GOP seats, increasing the size of their new majority for 2019, as a small group of races for Congress could remain undecided for days, if not weeks.

Most of the political battling was taking place over the recounts in Florida, where top Republicans repeatedly made charges of vote fraud, but state law enforcement officials made clear their investigations had not found anything to investigate, which led state GOP officials to all but demand an election probe.

Here's a rundown of where the 2018 mid-term elections stand:

1. Florida - Advantage Republicans As the races for Senate and Governor went into a recount on Sunday, it seemed like the only chance left for Democrats to win those races was the discovery of some kind of major tabulation error. Gov. Rick Scott (R) led Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) by around 12,500 votes, a margin that dwindled from almost 60,000 after the elections, amid outcries from Republicans. The margin in the Governor's race was over 43,000 votes for the GOP. It is rare for a recount to overturn a result, especially one that involves a lead of thousands of votes. Unless there is a major mistake in how the votes were added up, a change seems difficult to envision. For now, Florida is Advantage GOP.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

2. Florida GOP cries fraud, but no investigations. Despite being ahead, Republicans of all stripes in Florida spent the weekend accusing Democrats of trying to "steal" the election in Florida, but that message was undercut a bit by investigators in two Florida state agencies. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement made clear it had no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing, and the Florida Department of State - which had monitors in Broward County's elections offices - told reporters they found "no evidence of criminal activity." That didn't sit well with Gov. Scott, who on Sunday accused Nelson of trying to 'steal' the election, and state Attorney General Pam Bondi - a favorite of President Trump - all but demanded that the FDLE and the Department of State publicly say that they did know of possible election wrongdoing. Democrats said it was all political hyperbole. "Governor Scott and President Trump are spewing baseless claims of voter fraud in Florida," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

3. Democrats have edge in Arizona Senate race. While Republicans seem to have the advantage in Florida, Democrats were gaining ground through the weekend in the race for Senate in Arizona, as Rep. Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ) took the lead on Friday, and then built that into an over 32,000 vote edge by Sunday evening, with over 160,000 ballots still to count - mainly from the Phoenix area. While Republicans claimed vote fraud repeatedly in Florida, the GOP Secretary of State rejected allegations about any vote troubles in Arizona, saying there was nothing amiss with the methodical vote count in the Grand Canyon State. "One of the major reasons it takes time to count ballots is that there are hundreds of thousands of early ballots dropped off at the polls on election day," said Michele Reagan, the Arizona Secretary of State. Other Republicans echoed that assessment, rejecting President Trump's talk of a new election, as there were reports that national Republicans were not pleased - as they wanted a tougher message about possible vote fraud.

4. Georgia Governor - GOP edge, but more votes to count. The other state that is still making vote counting headlines is Georgia. On Saturday, the new Secretary of State said no new vote totals would be posted until the next week. A few hours later, there were new vote totals posted by Georgia elections officials, as Democrats threatened legal action, complaining that there were thousands of votes going uncounted, and that state officials were not revealing how many votes remained to be counted. Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp declared victory, and said it was time for Democrat Stacey Abrams to concede. The Abrams camp refused, as they pointed to a break down of the new votes released on Saturday, which clearly showed a large majority of them going to the Democrat, as Abrams still hopes to force a runoff. As of Sunday evening, Kemp was at 50.28 percent.

5. Mississippi race roiled by "public hanging" remark. Most of you probably don't know that there is a runoff for U.S. Senate in Mississippi coming up in a few weeks, between appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and former Democratic Congressman Mike Espy. On Sunday, video surfaced of Hyde-Smith speaking with supporters on November 2, saying that one supporter who had endorsed her was such a good person, that if he 'invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row.' In a statement, Hyde-Smith said she "used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous." It should be pointed out that her opponent, Espy, is black. It should also be pointed out that public hangings don't have much of a positive connotation, especially in Mississippi.

6. Senate remains +2 for GOP. With an edge to Democrats in Arizona, and an edge for Republicans in Florida, right now it seems like the two parties will split those races. If that happens, Democrats would grab a GOP seat in Arizona, and Republicans would take a Democratic seat in Florida. In other words, it would be a wash overall, and would leave the GOP gains at two seats. A loss in Arizona would mean that Republicans lost GOP seats in both Arizona and Nevada, which probably was a surprise for many Republicans on Capitol Hill. There was a time late on Election Night when I thought the Republicans had a chance to win a 6 seat gain - but the Democrats won in Nevada, protected a seat in Montana, and now seem to be on the way to victory in Arizona's Senate race.

7. 10 Undecided races left in the House. Democrats continue to slowly pick up more GOP seats in the House, as they are now at a gain of 32 seats, heading for their largest gain since the 1974 elections, right after Watergate. There are 10 House races still undecided - four of those are being led by Democrats, and the other six by the GOP. The biggest problem for Republicans is in California, where there is an outside chance that Democrats would take six seats away from the GOP. Veteran Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's race was called for the Democrats on Saturday, and the seats of Republican Rep. Jeff Denham (he's behind) and Rep. Mimi Walters (she's still slightly ahead) are in danger. Also, an open seat in CA39 is still in play, though the lead has shrunk for Republican Young Kim, who would be the first Korean-American woman to be elected to Congress. But it's not clear if she can hang on.

8. This extended vote count is normal. I really want to stress this point. It is normal for various states to still be counting votes at this point. The elections don't get wrapped up with a neat bow around midnight on Election night. The vote counting often goes on for days - sometimes weeks in the case of a close race. This is what happens every two years. I pay attention to it, because I'm always watching close races for Congress - especially in California, where they take weeks to count all the votes. States like Arizona and California have hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots come in after Election Day - they just have to be postmarked by that day, and can still arrive until Friday. Then all the signatures have to be matched - this takes time. And it's normal. But for most people, the idea that it is still going is an outrage. I'm sorry, but that's the system that we have. And it's normal.

9. Undecided races for the House. Here's your thumbnail of the ten races still not officially called in the U.S. House:

+ CA10 - Rep. Jeff Denham R-CA may be on his way out of Congress, as the California Republican trails. The late arriving mail-in ballots tend to trend for the Democrats in the Golden State.

+ CA39 - Republican Young Kim's lead continues to shrink, but she may have a chance to hang on, as her lead is about 2,400 votes over Democrat Gil Cisneros.

+ CA45 - Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) has seen her lead drop from 6,000 to 2,000 votes in recent days in her Orange County district. This was once the bastion of conservatism - now there is an outside chance that Democrats could sweep every Congressional seat in this county.

+ GA7 - While his colleague Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) lost next door in GA6, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) still has a lead of about 900 votes. It's unclear how many votes are still to be counted from absentees, overseas military votes, and/or provisionals.

+ Maine 2 - Elections officials will continue this week to use the "ranked choice voting" process to determine the winner. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) led in the initial vote, but did not get a majority. Now the votes of those who finished in third and fourth will be reallocated to the top two finishers, as voters had to indicate their second and third choices in the race. Some experts believe the Democrats will win this seat.

+ NJ3 - Democrats seem to have the edge in this final seat in New Jersey, where their candidate has a 4,000 vote edge over Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ). Provisional ballots were counted through the weekend. One county won't count provisionals until Wednesday. A MacArthur loss would leave the Republicans with only one seat out of 12 in the New Jersey delegation, a loss of four seats in the 2018 election.

+ NY22 - Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) is behind by over 1,300 votes, with absentees and provisionals still to be counted in coming days. For everyone who tells me that Republicans never do better after Election Day, she benefited from a tabulation error, which helped her close the lead by over 200 votes.

+ NY27 - Indicted GOP Rep. Chris Collins leads with a number of absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted. He would seem to have the edge, but you never know what might happen with those who sent their votes in early.

+ TX23 - Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) continues to lead by 1,150 votes, with provisionals and absentee ballots still to be counted. Hurd was declared the winner on Election Night, then lost his lead, and grabbed it back late that evening.

+ UT4 - Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) still trails in her race, but did gain some votes in the counts done on Friday. She has already had to endure the ridicule of President Trump last week, who blasted her and other Republicans representing more suburban districts who had spurned his public support during the campaign.

All ten of those undecided races are for GOP seats.

Read More

News

  • A Carolina Panthers football legend wants to make sure anyone facing a mental struggle knows they're not broken. >> Read more trending news  On Tuesday morning, former wide receiver Steve Smith shared some inspiration, based on his own battle with depression. Smith, whose 16-year National Football League career included 13 seasons with the Panthers, spoke to hundreds of people at the Charlotte Convention Center for the Mental Health America Central Carolinas breakfast. He said that despite all the love from his wife, children and fans, he still felt alone. 'When the stadium goes dark and the cheers stop, you're still looking for that pat on the back,' Smith told the crowd. “I started to realize, ‘Man something is wrong.’” Smith caught 80 touchdown passes during his career, including 67 with Carolina. But behind the glory, depression lurked. The condition, Smith wrote in 2018, is “too often taboo” and “shut behind closed doors.” Smith also wrote it was tough to open up about depression, particularly in “a tough-guy sport like football, with a social media environment that glorifies successes and status.” Smith said he first began receiving counseling in 2002, his second season in the NFL.
  • The daughter of a Tennessee man executed for murder in 2006 is asking that DNA evidence in the case be tested to determine once and for all if her father raped and killed a U.S. Marine more than 30 years ago. Sedley Alley was put to death in the July 11, 1985, murder of Lance Cpl. Suzanne Marie Collins, who was stationed at the Naval Air Station Millington, as was Alley’s wife. Collins, 19, was abducted as she went on a run on the base, where she had just completed a nine-month course in avionics.  Her body was found the next day in nearby Edmund Orgill Park, according to The Daily Memphian. The Virginia native, who was set to graduate from the training school the day she was found, was severely beaten, with an autopsy showing she had been struck about 100 times, authorities said.  Collins was also strangled and sexually violated with a tree branch. The New York Times reported that her killer stripped the branch of its leaves and twigs, sharpened one end to a point and drove it repeatedly into her body with enough force that it pierced her lung. Alley, then 29, was arrested the following day and charged with Collins’ murder, the Memphian reported. He confessed but later recanted the confession, saying it had been coerced.  Alley said he could not remember what happened the night Collins was killed because he had been drinking heavily. He was convicted in 1987 and sentenced to death.  April Alley, who, along with her brother, witnessed her father’s execution, filed a petition May 1 in Shelby County Criminal Court seeking DNA testing on evidence found at the scene, including a pair of red men’s underwear investigators believe were worn by Collins’ killer. According to the Memphian, the petition seeks the post-conviction DNA testing that was denied Sedley Alley prior to his death. >> Read more trending news It also asks that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee use his executive authority to order the testing on the evidence, which a legal team from the Innocence Project verified is still intact and housed in storage. That evidence includes the victim’s underwear, the 31-inch branch used to penetrate her and a sample of Sedley Alley’s DNA, which the Times reported was collected and stored before his death.  The case marks the first attempt to use DNA evidence to clear someone who has been executed for a crime, Stephen Ross Johnson, a Tennessee attorney working on the case alongside the Innocence Project, told the Memphian. “There have been other cases where certainly people have been exonerated and come off death row,” Johnson told the newspaper. “There have also been situations where DNA testing (was done) after someone died in prison, but this will the first one where someone was subjected to capital punishment and then their DNA tested.” The Innocence Project, which represented Sedley Alley in his appeals, sought to have the evidence tested for DNA before his execution. The Tennessee parole board recommended that then-Gov. Phil Bredesen order the testing, but Bredesen instead told Alley’s lawyers to seek relief through the court system. The courts denied Alley’s request. “The Tennessee courts incorrectly ruled that Mr. Alley was not entitled to DNA testing, even if the testing could produce a match to a third party with a history of committing similar offenses,” Innocence Project officials said earlier this month.  Watch April Alley and her lawyers announce their bid to have the evidence in Suzanne Collins’ murder tested. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the lower court’s denial was incorrect in 2011, five years after Sedley was put to death. The high court ruled in State v. Powers that Tennessee’s post-conviction DNA law intended to allow defendants to prove their innocence by comparing their DNA to that from other possible suspects, including suspects whose genetic profiles are in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS. “The courts got it wrong in 2006 when they allowed Mr. Alley to be executed before testing the DNA,” said Barry Scheck, a co-founder of the Innocence Project. “If Mr. Alley were alive today, he would be entitled to DNA testing under the Powers ruling and the plain language of the post-conviction DNA analysis statute. We now have a chance to learn the truth in this case.” A recent tip has also raised the possibility that another man accused in a rape and murder in another state might be the true killer in Collins’ case, the Memphian reported. The court petition filed by April Alley identifies the potential alternate suspect as Thomas Bruce, who, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is accused of sexually assaulting two women and killing a third at a Missouri Catholic supply store in November.  Bruce was taking courses at the same avionics training school as Collins in 1985, the petition states.   “I just want the truth,” April Alley wrote in an email to the Memphian. “The DNA evidence should have been tested before my father was executed. It’s too late for my father, but it’s not too late to find the truth. The court or governor should order DNA testing.” The case against Sedley Alley The night she was attacked, Collins left the barracks for her daily 10-mile run, the Times reported. Around 11 p.m., two other Marines passed her, jogging in the opposite direction. The Marines moments later dodged a station wagon swerving in the road, headed in the same direction as Collins, the Times said.  A few seconds later, the men heard a woman screaming, “Don’t touch me! Leave me alone!” They ran toward the screams and saw what they believed to be the same station wagon stopped alongside the road, the Times reported. It sped off as they approached. The men ran to the barracks gate, where a guard sounded an alarm for a possible abduction. Sedley Alley was stopped about an hour later near the base, driving a 1972 station wagon, the newspaper said. He did not have any visible injuries, according to a Navy investigator.  After talking to Alley’s wife, investigators concluded the two Marines had heard the couple arguing and, not knowing that Collins was then missing, canceled the alert for the station wagon, according to the Times. The Alleys were sent home and a guard was put on their home.  Collins’ body was found the next morning, and Alley was arrested. Read April Alley’s petition to have the evidence against her father tested for DNA. Investigators said Alley told them he had hit Collins with his station wagon while driving drunk and then accidentally stabbed her in the head with a screwdriver. The petition filed by his daughter states that the medical examiner determined neither of those claims was accurate. Alley later said investigators only turned on their tape recorder after he told them what they wanted to hear.  Physical evidence used to tie Alley to the crime included Type O blood on the driver’s side door of the station wagon. That type matched Collins, but it also matched Alley’s blood type, the Times said.  Paper napkins from a local restaurant were also found in the car and on the ground near Collins’ body, and an air conditioner pump found in the station wagon had reportedly been installed at a home near where Collins was jogging, the paper said.  No physical evidence from Collins was found inside the car or on Alley, the Times said. The petition for DNA testing also indicates that a witness on the base reported seeing a second station wagon carrying a couple -- potentially Alley and his wife -- around the time of Collins’ abduction. Despite the lack of direct physical evidence, Alley was for decades after his conviction assumed to be the killer. An investigator in 2003 found a handwritten note, however, in which the medical examiner in Collins’ case estimated she had died after Alley and his wife were sent home that night -- and while military police were watching the family’s home. Read the letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee from lawyers for Sedley Alley’s estate. The investigator also learned that a boyfriend of Collins’ drove a station wagon and matched the approximate height of a man seen near the site of her abduction, while Alley was about 8 inches taller, the Times said. Alley’s complexion and hair color also failed to match the description from a witness. Alley told his daughter a few weeks before his death that if he committed the heinous acts Collins was forced to suffer, he deserved to be executed, the court petition says. He told her he did not remember committing the crime, however, and did not believe he had.   Scheck said if the killer’s DNA can be pulled from the evidence, it can not only be tested against the known sample from Alley but can also be compared to profiles uploaded to public genealogy databases.  Dozens of cold cases have been solved over the past year using genetic genealogy, including murder cases decades old.  “The public’s interest in having the right defendant brought to justice extends beyond the life of a single defendant,” Scheck said. “If Tennessee executed the wrong person in 2006, the actual perpetrator may still be free to harm other people. This is a matter of public safety.”
  • Police are looking for a man they say defrauded an Alpharetta, Georgia, woman out of more than $80,000 after meeting her on a dating website, telling her he was a millionaire and convincing her they were in love. Police have a warrant for the arrest of John Martin Hill, who is charged with theft by deception. The 35-year-old is also accused of defrauding women in the same way in four other states, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  The woman told police she met Hill on Match.com. The two messaged on the dating site March 27, then met in person later that day, police said.  “During their short romance, he convinced her that they were in love and wanted to buy a house together,” Gwinnett County Police Department spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera said in a news release. “They went house hunting and selected a home they were interested in.” Within a week of knowing one another, Hill and the woman agreed to get married, Pihera said.  The woman gave Hill more than $80,000 to put toward the purchase of the house and to buy furniture. “Following the exchange of money, the suspect ceased all contact,” Pihera said. Investigators learned that Hill lives in an apartment in Duluth with another woman and a child. They said Hill has changed his name more than five times in the past 2 1/2 years and is accused of committing similar acts in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. Anyone with information on Hill’s whereabouts is asked to contact detectives at 770-513-5300. Tipsters can remain anonymous and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000 by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website. 
  • An off-duty New York City firefighter was attacked Saturday morning as he tried to defend an elderly couple from a group of teenagers, WABC reported. >> Read more trending news  The 38-year-old firefighter intervened at 9:25 a.m., when police said the teens were harassing the couple in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, WPIX reported.  According to police, one of the teens punched the firefighter, striking him throughout his body, the television station reported. The man suffered a concussion and had five broken teeth, WABC reported. He also needed 25 stitches for his wounds, the television station reported. Police released surveillance video that shows the teens, believed to be between 15 and 17 years old, smiling as they skipped down the sidewalk, WNBC reported.
  • A Massachusetts high school student is getting high praise from NASA after he created a piece of hardware so good that it will be used in space. >> Read more trending news  The hardware Franklin High School senior Dom Parrella made is called an actuator. The piece itself is around an inch in length, but for astronauts at the International Space Station who use dozens of storage lockers, the actuator is essential – and has to be perfect. It helps prevent the lockers from opening. More than 2,000 students from across the country are a part of NASA's Hunch Program, meant to empower them by giving design and manufacturing projects. NASA's Hunch Program works with thousands of students at over 200 schools nationwide, four of them in Massachusetts. A NASA engineer said few produce pieces that are just right. 'It's not always going to be picture-perfect, their ranges are really tight,' Parrella said. How tight? Parrella's teacher, Jeff McCall, said it could be three-thousandths of an inch. 'Three-thousandths of an inch is the width of your hair, for the record,' McCall said.  Tri-County Regional High School in Franklin has been in the Hunch Program for five years. While it was the first time a student from the school made a part for NASA, it was not Parrella's first attempt at it. As a junior, Parrella ran into trouble as he neared the finish line. 'Right before one of the reviews, right before we were going to present to one of the astronauts, we had to scrap our entire project and then find something new,' he said. This year, Parrella, using an advanced mill, produced work that was stellar. 'I was very proud, very proud of Dom that he was able to get 11 of these done,' McCall said. 'They all came out flawlessly.' Each one met NASA’s standards. NASA says he's the only student from Massachusetts to produce a NASA-quality part this year. 'This is a very hard part to make,' NASA engineering specialist Bill Gibson said. 'They got it right their very first try.' 'We actually get to sign them, which is really nice,' Parrella said. 'We get our names to go up into space.' With Parrella graduating, another student will be making another 20 of the actuators. The hope is they'll be able to continue to be able to make pieces that will be used up in space. Parrella is set to attend the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in the fall. 
  • It was supposed to be a fun ride on a roller coaster, but it ended with a fire department rescue. About a dozen children were stuck atop the roller coaster at Wonderland Amusement Park in Amarillo, Texas, KVII reported. They were at the park for an end-of-the-school-year party when the Mouse Trap got stuck mid-ride. >> Read more trending news  Park officials said they think the ride had an issue because of wind and temperatures at the park, but the 35-year-old ride worked as expected, and stopped when magnetism was indicated on the rails, KVII reported. The children were removed from the ride either via fire department cherry picker or by manually pushing the cars down the track, according to KVII.