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National Govt & Politics
Pace quickens with just two weeks left to Election Day
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Pace quickens with just two weeks left to Election Day

Pace quickens with just two weeks left to Election Day
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Pace quickens with just two weeks left to Election Day

In a pitched battle for control of the Congress, President Donald Trump on Monday night again implored GOP voters to get out to vote across the nation to help Republicans keep control of both the House and Senate, even as Democrats expressed more confidence that they will win enough seats to at least take back the House in 2019 - as there are now only 14 days to Election Day.

"The Democrats must be voted out of office, we need more Republican votes," the President said to cheers in Houston, Texas.

"I think the Republicans are going to do very nicely," the President told reporters at the White House.

But that note of optimism was also being repeated by Democrats; earlier on Monday at an event with CNN in New York, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said at this point, she definitely believes her party has the advantage, and will win more than the 23 seat gain needed to take back the House.

"If the election were held today, the Democrats would handily win the House,” Pelosi said.

While Election Day is two weeks off, a number of states are already conducting early voting and absentee balloting, as more evidence surfaced Monday of the keen interest in the 2018 mid-term elections.

What do we know two weeks out?

1. President Trump remains the Election Wild Card. While the President has certainly reined in his Twitter habit, no one else on the political scene right now can command the attention that President Trump is able to gain on a moment's notice. With Republicans trying all they can to save their majorities in the House and Senate, can this President find an issue - or issues - to help focus the GOP and their voters? Remember - he won an election in 2016 that few said he would win. He won a nomination in 2016 that few said he could win. Why can't he carry the GOP to victory in 2018? The President has three more rallies this week in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Illinois.

2. Experts see an edge for Democrats in the House. The political know-it-alls in Washington, D.C. don't agree on everything, but the conventional wisdom right now is that Democrats have a much better chance at capturing control of the House than Republicans do in holding on to power. While there was certainly a polling boost for the GOP after the explosive confirmation process for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, that seems to have receded a little for Republicans on the House side, leaving a playing field that many feel is still tilted in favor of the Democrats, with Republicans a long shot to keep the House.

3. Those same experts see a GOP edge in the Senate. Republicans believe - and political experts concur - that the GOP is much firmer ground in the race for control of the U.S. Senate. Part of it is because the battlefield is much more favorable for Republicans this year. But there are definitely some close races which could break either way - for, or against the GOP. Florida is perfect example. Tennessee is another. Let's just put it this way - if the Democrats are winning the seat of Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, then it's going to be a very big night for them in the Senate. Right now, that doesn't seem to be where things are headed.

4. A growing gender and education gap in the polls. Whether it's a statewide Senate race, or a local House race, one thing is obvious from the polling data of recent months - men are much more likely to support President Trump and the GOP candidate, while women skew to the Democrats by a large amount. There's also an obvious difference when it comes to whether voters have a college degree, as those with more education are more likely to back the Democrats. It's these more highly education women voters that Democrats hope can win them a series of more suburban House districts.

5. What will the 2018 electorate look like? This is an important question as you try to figure out what's going to happen on Election Day. In 2010, white men turned out at the polls in larger numbers, spurring the big Tea Party revolt that knocked Democrats from power in the House. In 2014, the electorate was slightly different, but still better for the GOP, as they won more seats in the House and took charge of the Senate. So far, the 2018 electorate is not looking like 2010 or 2014 in terms of its composition. That has many experts thinking there is an edge in there for Democrats.

6. TV ads offer some hints about the state of some races. On opposite ends the country, two Republican members of the House who are facing strong challenges are running very pointed ads. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) - more of a moderate GOP lawmaker - said his Democratic opponent promoted a 'convicted cop killer and domestic terrorist.' In the San Diego area, indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) - a Trump loyalist - says his opponent, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar has 'family ties to terrorism,' and that he is 'working to infiltrate Congress.' Will those type of ads help save GOP seats in November?

7. As the two parties make last minute TV decisions. One of the more entertaining things to watch at this point in the election cycle is which party is giving up on certain candidates, and which party is suddenly pouring money into a specific race, either because they are playing defense, or maybe going on offense. This is what's known as "triage" for candidates, as national parties abandon certain lawmakers, figuring that they are a lost cause. One piece of news that came Monday is that the GOP is now advertising on behalf of Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) in the Atlanta suburbs on both cable and broadcast TV. That money wouldn't be spent by Republicans if they felt like the seat was a lock. It's one of many late decisions the two parties have to make on election resources.

8. What kind of hints from early voting data? About the only thing sure to prompt a more partisan food fight than poll numbers is how people are interpreting early voting numbers. But the evidence seems to be clear from around the country, that people are very engaged for this mid-term election, and in some areas, the early vote numbers are approaching - or even surpassing - what usually happens in a Presidential election year, which has larger turnout than a mid-term, like 2018. Who does that benefit? I'll let others duke it out on that - but the numbers do seem to show that there are a lot of votes being cast early this year. Does it predict anything? Stay tuned.

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.