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Wake Up To Politics - August 3, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Pair of Ohio elections showcases divisions in both parties
Wake Up To Politics - August 3, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, August 3, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 462 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,190 days away.

How a pair of Ohio special elections showcases the divisions in both parties

For most of his administration, President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have been operating in lockstep.

But that same spirit of cooperation doesn’t seem to have traveled down to their close allies, who been duking it out on a smaller stage: the special primary election in Ohio’s 11th congressional district, which will be held today after weeks of fierce campaigning.

On one side of the Democratic primary battle is former state Sen. Nina Turner, who was a top surrogate for both of Sanders’ presidential campaigns and national co-chair of his 2020 bid. She has also led Our Revolution, the political group spun out of his 2016 campaign organization, since 2017.

The other top candidate in the race is Shontel Brown, a member of the Cuyahoga County Council and the chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.

While Turner has been endorsed by Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and other top progressive names, Brown’s backers include former Secretary of State (and onetime Sanders rival) Hillary Clinton and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), whose endorsement of Biden over Sanders in 2020 catapulted the former VP to the top of the Democratic presidential field.

Nina Turner campaigns with Bernie Sanders. (Justin Lane/EPA)

These competing sets of endorsements have made the primary race into something of a proxy battle between the progressive and establishment wings of the Democratic Party, led by Sanders and Biden, respectively. (Biden has not made an endorsement in the race, although Clyburn and other allies of his have endorsed Brown.)

Campaigning has turned negative in the final days of the race, as national surrogates and outside money have descended on the Cleveland area to paint Brown as a corrupt establishment toady and Turner as an anti-Biden radical. More than $6 million has been raised in the race, making it the most expensive special election of 2021 so far.

It is unwise to draw too vast of conclusions from a single special primary election. But is undeniable that a Turner win would double as the installation of one of the longtime leaders of Sanders’ progressive movement in Congress, while a Brown victory would be widely regarded as a setback for progressives and a notable success for efforts by Clyburn and others to crowd Sanders out of the party’s upper echelons.

Shontel Brown speaks to a voter. (Mike Cardew/Imagn)

Meanwhile, Republicans have their own Ohio primary battle in their hands. A few districts over, in Ohio’s 15th, another hotly contested primary race will be held today.

In this one, 11 candidates are seeking the favor of Columbus-area Republicans. Unsurprisingly, the key player is none other than former President Donald Trump.

Trump’s favored candidate is first-time candidate Mike Carey, a coal lobbyist who has was largely unknown until receiving Trump’s endorsement in early June. The race will provide a key test of the value of a nod from the former president, whose pick in a Texas special election was defeated last week.

After that setback, many Republicans will be watching to see if Trump’s endorsement is still as golden in GOP circles as it once was. Other contenders in the race include state Sens. Bob Peterson and Stephanie Kunze, state Rep. Jeff LaRe, former state Rep. Ron Hood, and church leader Ruth Edmonds.

LaRe has the support of former Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), who vacated the seat, while Hood is backed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Edmonds has the support of Debbie Meadows, wife of Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Donald Trump shakes hands with Mike Carey. (Jabin Botsford/Washington Post)

These are only the primary elections so the winners of today’s races won’t be seated until November, but the 11th and 15th districts are solidly blue and red, respectively, so today’s primaries are the most important battle in each contest.

The 11th district race was ignited by the resignation of former Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), who joined Biden’s Cabinet as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The 15th district race was sparked by Stivers’ resignation to become president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

The Rundown

More top stories to know.

EVICTIONS: “Two days after a federal moratorium on evictions expired, President Joe Biden's administration scrambled Monday to find a solution, urging landlords to hold off on evictions and calling on states and cities to pursue their own policies to keep renters in their homes.” USA Today

  • “CDC rebuffs Biden bid to reinstate COVID-19 eviction moratorium” Reuters
  • “Liberals erupt in fury at White House over end of eviction moratorium” Washington Post

CORONAVIRUS: “Seventy percent of U.S. adults have had at least one shot of a Covid vaccine, according to data published Monday by the CDC, about a month behind President Joe Biden’s Fourth of July goal.” CNBC

  • “Sen. Lindsey Graham tests positive for COVID-19” Axios

CAPITOL RIOT: “Two DC police officers who responded to the US Capitol insurrection have died by suicide, authorities announced on Monday, bringing the total to four officers who have taken their own lives in the aftermath of the January 6 riot.” CNN

Lindsey Graham. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Policy Roundup: Education

On Tuesdays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Kirsten Shaw Mettler offers a briefing on the week’s top education news:

The CDC is back to recommending mask use in schools. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) joined the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in advising universal masking in classes from pre-K to 12th grade, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC had previously said that vaccinated students and adults would not need masks in schools, but changed their guidance in response to the contagious Delta variant.

Delta has fueled a new round of fears about children and COVID-19. Doctors across the country say that ICUs are seeing more children with COVID-19 and an additional respiratory virus; however, there is no evidence that the Delta variant leads to more severe Covid cases in children, who generally have mild cases of the virus.

Covid vaccines are currently only available to children 12 and older, but clinical trials are underway for children between the ages of 5 and 11.

Local responses to the new CDC guidance vary widely. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is working to block school mask mandates, while Los Angeles schools are now requiring weekly Covid testing for all students. Throughout the country, coronavirus prevention efforts in schools have become deeply political.

Florida parents protest masks in schools. (Marta Lavandier/AP)

More education headlines, via Kirsten:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that President Biden cannot cancel student debt on his own, putting her at odds with many key Democrat advocates.
  • The Education Department announced an expansion of the Second Chance Pell program, which allows incarcerated individuals to receive federal funding for their education.
  • The number of colleges is continuing to shrink as institutions close or merge.

Ask Gabe

Your questions, answered.

Q: Could you explain what happens if the bipartisan infrastructure package falls through? Can the Democrats consolidate the two packages into one and use reconciliation with one package? Or can they use reconciliation twice, passing the two packages the same way? — Judy F.

A: The bipartisan package seems to be on track to advance (at least for now), but Democratic leaders still face a treacherous path forward in passing their two-track spending plans, so it’s worth considering what might happen if the bipartisan bill falls through.

As Judy mentioned, if the bipartisan plan faces hang-ups in either the House or Senate, Democrats are likely to try to combine it with the $3.5 trillion spending plan they hope to pass through the reconciliation process. Axios referred to this last month as Democrats’ “$4.1 trillion Plan B,” noting the massive price tag that such a combination package would carry.

However, $3.5 trillion is already pushing it for some moderate Democrats, so it would be far from guaranteed that they would be able to get an even larger bill across the finish line. And the fact that at least one of the spending plans is being passed on a bipartisan basis is important for those Democrats: “If the bipartisan infrastructure bill falls apart, everything could fall apart,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) recently told reporters. “When one falls apart, then how do you do the other one?”

Joe Manchin. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

As for the question of whether Democrats could use reconciliation again, they actually obtained permission from the Senate parliamentarian in April to use the one-party process multiple times in one year. But the parliamentarian revised her guidance in June to say that reconciliation could only be used multiple times as an emergency lever, not just to repeatedly avoid the filibuster.

Either way, the reconciliation process requires several rounds of drafting and voting that usually take months, which makes it unlikely that Democrats would have enough time for a third go-around this year (they already used it to pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus package in March).

Do you have a question about American politics? Send it to gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com and I’ll try to answer it in an upcoming newsletter!


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
Executive Branch
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will receive their daily intelligence briefing at 10:15 a.m. Later, at 1 p.m., they will meet with Latino community leaders to discuss his economic agenda, immigration reform, voting rights, and the second anniversary of the 2019 shooting in El Paso. At 3:45 p.m., Biden will deliver remarks to give an update on the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccination campaign.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 1:30 p.m.

Legislative Branch

The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. and resume consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure package, formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. At around 11:45 a.m., the chamber will vote on an amendment by Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) to commission a study on changes in highway use. The amendment will require 60 votes to be added to the bill; roll call votes on additional amendments are possible throughout the day.

The House will convene at 10 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court is on recess until October.


Special primary elections will be held in Ohio’s 11th and 15th congressional districts to fill a pair of vacated House seats. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in both races.

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