National Roundup 05-01: Freshman Democrat Giving Up Hope Working with Trump’s WH; Pro-Israel, Admired Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen to Retire from Congress
The following is a round-up of national news from several major states across the country that will be featured on our site on a daily basis:
A Sluggish Start to New Jersey’s Race for Governor: The candidates for governor in the New Jersey Democratic primary pack impressive résumés: There is a former ambassador to Germany, a former under secretary of the Treasury, a state assemblyman with two decades of experience and a state senator with nearly four decades in Trenton. Voters, however, have so far been underwhelmed, so the contest is off to a decidedly sleepy start.
Philip D. Murphy, the former ambassador, has emerged as the clear party favorite, having announced his candidacy nearly a year ago and locked up every county line and nearly every union endorsement in the state. Yet the most recent poll from Quinnipiac University, released in mid-March, shows him with the support of 23 percent of registered Democrats, trailing “don’t know,” which was chosen by 57 percent of those surveyed.
The lack of enthusiasm among voters, even though New Jersey is only one of two states to hold statewide elections this year, is a curious conundrum facing the candidates jockeying to replace Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. The candidates are trying to inspire an electorate seemingly angry and desperate for change after the 2016 election, while also battling exhaustion and an extended hangover from the outcome.
“It’s unusual,” John Weingart, the associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, said, referring to voter apathy. Voter fatigue is one possibility, but Mr. Weingart added, “The other reason is I think, whether or not it’s justified, there’s been a sense of inevitability of Phil.” [NYTimes]
Freshman Democrat Giving Up Hope Working with Trump’s WH: Democrats couldn’t be less interested in the whole Jared Kushner versus Steve Bannon drama, and they have given up on the idea that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law will push him to work across the aisle on tax reform or anything else.
Evidence of how quickly Democrats are shifting into full no mode against Trump: Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), a freshman Democrat who beat a Republican last year and is already a top 2018 target. Gottheimer’s is the co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, and just a few weeks ago was speaking optimistically about working with the White House on a tax overhaul package. He got so far as meetings with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House legislative director Marc Short.
Now Gottheimer says there’s still an opportunity to work together, but only if the White House radically changes its approach. He’s not interested in just giving a bipartisan sheen for a tax deal that parallels what Trump and GOP leaders did in their attempt to repeal Obamacare, which was a Republican-crafted plan that they complained Democrats wouldn’t support.
“There’s a very big difference between jamming you at the last minute with a piece of legislation and saying, ‘Let’s be bipartisan now,’ versus bringing you into the process so the solution is not an ideologically extreme or rigid document,” Gottheimer said. [Politico]
Massachusetts Democrats Table Controversial Resolution on Israeli Settlements: Massachusetts Democrats voted Saturday to table a provocative proposal for the state committee to declare opposition to Israeli settlements in the West Bank without mentioning Palestinian violence. “I’m not real surprised at the result,” said Carol Coakley of Millis, an 18-year member of the Democratic State Committee who offered the resolution. “But when you see what you think is an injustice going on, it’s important to keep fighting.”
Called the Resolution on peace and security for Israelis And Palestinians, it would have put the state party on record “that Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank are obstacles to peace.” It had drawn blowback from top party leaders, including former state and national party chairman Steve Grossman, who said the resolution unfairly blamed Israel for a complex problem, and could damage the party.
“I think the state committee made a wise decision,” Grossman, who is also the former state treasurer, said of Saturday’s vote. He was not at the meeting, which was held in Bourne. “Anything we do that is going to be divisive, that impedes our ability to be unified when confronting the harmful implications of the Trump administration’s policies, is something we should avoid.” [Boston Globe]
Rauner Tells Small Business ‘Stay Strong’ During Budget Impasse: Gov. Bruce Rauner started a multi-city tour of small businesses in Springfield Monday, saying long-term changes in the state’s business and political climate are needed.
Asked at Custom Cup, a coffee shop in the capital city, about what businesses should do in the short term if the nearly two-year state budget impasse is causing them cash-flow problems, Rauner reiterated his themes about needed structural changes. “I say to them the exact same thing they say to me: stay strong, stay persistent,” Rauner said. “We’re in difficult times, but we’re in difficult times to get to a better day and a better future.”
He said the changes he’s recommended including worker’s compensation reform, regulatory relief, a property tax freeze and government consolidation will “make businesses have more confidence in our state.” “Term limits and fair maps also restore confidence,” he said.
Rauner read part of a proclamation declaring this small business week in Illinois. “From storefront shops that anchor Main Street to the high tech startups that keep American on the cutting edge, small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstone or our nation’s promise,” he read. [SJR]
Ros-Lehtinen to Retire from Congress: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the dean of the Florida legislative delegation and the first Cuban American elected to Congress, is retiring at the end of her term next year, saying it’s time to move on after 38 years in elected office.
“It’s been such a delight and a high honor to serve our community for so many years and help constituents every day of the week,” the Miami Republican told the Miami Herald in an exclusive telephone interview Sunday. “We just said, ‘It’s time to take a new step.’”
Her unexpected retirement marks the end of a storied career in which Ros-Lehtinen repeatedly broke political ground as a Cuban-American woman — and gives Democrats an opportunity to pick up a South Florida congressional seat in 2018.
“There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I would not only win in this election, but I would win by a greater percentage,” Ros-Lehtinen said, adding that she would have been able to raise at least $2.5 million and win in a midterm election without a Democratic presidential candidate leading the ballot. But she said the prospect of another two or four or more years in Congress just didn’t appeal to her anymore. “There was no epiphany. There was no moment, nothing that has happened that I’ve said, “I’ve got to move on,’” Ros-Lehtinen said. “It was just a realization that I could keep getting elected — but it’s not about getting elected.” [Miami Herald]
FL House Will Not Vote on Fracking Investment Bill: A push by Florida’s largest power company to charge customers for out-of-state fracking appears dead for this session.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Monday he has “too many reservations” about Senate Bill 1238 and the potential consequences it would have on state ratepayers and the environment. He added the House would not vote on it if the Senate passes it.
Republican Sen. Aaron Bean, the bill’s sponsor, said his proposal would have helped keep electricity costs down in the long run, but without a House vote the bill is as good as dead.
The bill would have reversed a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that said companies are overstepping their authority in charging customers for these investments. [AP]