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Wake Up To Politics - November 5, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, November 5, 2019. 90 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 364 days until Election Day 2020. Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com with any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips!

Happy Election Day! California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington all have elections statewide today, plus many localities have races as well. If you live in one of them, please don't forget to vote! 🗳️

Key races to watch: Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia

Here's a look at three marquee races on the ballot today...

Kentucky governor (polls close 6 p.m. ET)

Gov. Matt Bevin (R-KY) faces Attorney General Andy Beshear (D-KY) in his campaign for a second term. Although President Donald Trump — who campaigned for Bevin in a last-minute rally on Monday — won the state by nearly 30 percentage points in 2016, Bevin's low approval rating is seen as making him vulnerable against Beshear, who is the son of a popular, former two-term governor. According to Morning Consult, Bevin has a 34% approval rating, making him the second-least popular governor in the country, after being forced to apologize in April 2018 for accusing striking teachers of leaving children in danger of being sexually assaulted.

Bevin has sought to nationalize the race, playing up his loyalty to President Trump throughout the campaign. As a result, he likely received a lift from Trump's election-eve rally; in his remarks, the president tied the Kentucky race to the 2020 presidential election, warning that the country would "go back to hell" if Democrats are victorious. Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have campaigned for Bevin; according to Politico, White House officials fear "that an embarrassing loss in a deep-red state would stoke doubts about the president’s own ability to win another term."

With Bevin closely aligning himself with the president, the race is seen as an early barometer of public reaction to the Democratic impeachment inquiry against President Trump — whether harnessing red-state anger about the investigation can lift an unpopular governor to a second term or whether Democrats can successfully mobilize voters again based on anti-Trump energy. Few polls have been conducted of the race, and they paint a mixed picture.

Mississippi governor (polls close 8 p.m. ET)

In Mississippi, the only other state holding a gubernatorial election today, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R-MS) faces Attorney General Jim Hood (D-MS) in an open race. Polls have shown a closer race than one might expect based on Mississippi's strong Republican bent: although the state hasn't elected a Democratic governor since 1999, Hood has held the attorney general's office since 2004 and has yet to lose in the four consecutive statewide elections he has competed in. He is now the only Democratic statewide elected official in Mississippi.

Reeves is also likely to benefit from Trump's presence at a campaign rally on Friday; the president spent much of his speech railing against the ongoing impeachment inquiry he faces in the House, a sign of how much Republicans hope to benefit in red states from anger about Trump's treatment at the hands of congressional Democrats. Hood has sought to stake out his own brand independent of the national Democratic Party, opposing gun control and abortion and refusing to offer a position on impeachment.

Hood also faces a unique roadblock for a gubernatorial candidate: a mini Electoral College of sorts. Due to a Jim Crow-era law still in effect in Mississippi, candidates must receive a majority of votes and a majority of state legislative districts to win the governorship. If no candidates meet both criteria, the GOP-controlled state legislature decides the race. Even if Hood does finish first in the statewide balloting, there are doubts as to whether he could win a majority of the legislative districts.

Virginia legislative elections (polls clsoe 7 p.m. ET)

Even as Virginia has been trending Democratic in recent years, the statehouse majority (which they haven't boasted in nearly 25 years) has remained elusive: Republicans currently hold slim advantages in both the House of Delegates (a 51-48 majority) and the state Senate (a 20-19 majority). Two years ago, the race for control of the House of Delegates was so close that it came down to drawing a name out of a bowl after the deciding race was tied.

In another referendum on the Trump administration, Democrats are hoping to channel progressive opposition to the president into a statehouse majority. Their success rate will be closely watched as a pre-2020 test of the suburban anti-Trump energy that boosted Democrats in the 2017 state legislative races and 2018 midterms. Democrats are also primed to benefit from new district lines that were drawn by a court-appointed expert earlier this year.

However, Virginia Democrats could be hurt by the political turmoil of the past year: this will be the first election in the state since each of Virginia's three Democratic statewide elected officials were mired in scandal, with Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) and Attorney General Mark Herring (D-VA) admitting to wearing blackface in college and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D-VA) facing allegations of sexual assault. None of the officials resigned; whether Democrats on the ballot today will be punished for their misdeeds remains an open question.

Impeachment: The latest

House investigators on Monday released the first transcripts from their closed-door impeachment depositions, the 317-page testimony of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and the 156-page testimony of former State Department adviser Michael McKinley. Both described the shadow foreign policy channel in Ukraine being directed by Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, which led to Yovanovitch's ouster in May.

Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she was "very concerned" when she saw the record of President Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump called her "bad news" and said she was "going to go through some things." Asked if she felt "threatened" by Trump's comments, Yoovanovitch responded: "Yes."

The ex-ambassador also described the advice given to her by Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, another leading character in the Ukraine saga. According to Yovanovitch's testimony, he urged her to "go big or go home" by "tweet[ing] out there that you support the president," in order to gain Trump's favor in the face of attacks from Giuliani and others. "It was advice that I did not see how I could implement in my role as an Ambassador, and as a Foreign Service officer," she testified.

McKinley, who resigned in protest last month, testified that the record of Trump's call with Zelensky "raised alarm bells" for him when he saw the president "impugning" Yovanovitch, whom he described as a "serious, committed colleague." McKinley also contradicted his former boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, telling lawmakers that he repeatedly proposed Pompeo release a statement of support for Yovanovitch. Pompeo told ABC News last month that McKinley never raised such an idea with him.

--- Happening today: Transcripts of Sondland and former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker's depositions are expected to be released. The Energy Department's Wells Griffith and the Office of Management and Budget's Michael Duffey are scheduled to be deposed today, but it is unclear if either will appear. Four White House officials whose testimonies were requested on Monday declined to appear for House investigators.

--- Developing story: Lev Parnas, one of Rudy Giuliani's two Ukrainian-American associates who was indicted for campaign finance charges last month, has now reportedly opened the door to cooperating with congressional impeachment investigators. Parnas previously refused to cooperate with the impeachment probe when he was being represented by former Trump attorney John Dowd; he has since replaced Dowd with a new legal team and is now "willing to comply with the subpoena to the extent that it does not violate any appropriate privilege that Mr. Parnas may properly invoke," according to his new lawyer, Joseph Bondy. The lawyer told the New York Times that Parnas's reversal came after Trump distanced himself from Parnas when the businessman was arrested. "Mr. Parnas was very upset by President Trump's plainly false statement that he did not know him," Bondy said. Parnas, along with his associate Igor Fruman, played a key role in Giuliani's Ukraine-based efforts to dig up dirt on Trump's rivals, which have reportedly continued since the impeachment inquiry began.

The Rundown

Trump formalizes Paris accord withdrawal process: "The Trump administration formally notified the United Nations on Monday that it would withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, leaving global climate diplomats to plot a way forward without the cooperation of the world’s largest economy."

"The action, which came on the first day possible under the accord’s complex rules on withdrawal, begins a yearlong countdown to the United States exit and a concerted effort to preserve the Paris Agreement, under which nearly 200 nations have pledged to cut greenhouse emissions and to help poor countries cope with the worst effects of an already warming planet." (New York Times)

Appeals court rejects Trump's attempt to withhold tax returns from local prosecutors: "President Trump has lost another legal fight in his efforts to keep his tax returns private. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Trump's accounting firm must turn over the returns to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr."

"The president will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, said Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's outside attorneys."

..."Vance has sought the records as part of an investigation into whether two women who said they had affairs with Trump were paid for their silence before the 2016 election. The appellate court's order upholds a U.S. District Court order from last month requiring Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, to turn over Trump's personal and business tax returns starting from 2011." (NPR)

2020 Roundup: "Sanders, Warren seek to clarify their differences as the fight for Democratic left intensifies" (Washington Post)

--- "Pete Buttigieg Is an Iowa Front-Runner. Will That Help Him Anywhere Else?" (New York Times)

--- "Poll: Biden holds significant lead over Warren, Sanders in Nevada; top issue is electing someone who can beat Trump" (Nevada Independent)

--- "Julián Castro to lay off New Hampshire, South Carolina teams" (Politico)

--- "Kamala Harris lays off staff, shuts offices in New Hampshire" (Fox News)

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Today at the White House

--- President Trump has no public events scheduled.

--- At 1 p.m., Vice President Pence participates in the weekly Senate Republican Conference policy lunch.

Today in Congress

--- At 10 a.m., the Senate convenes. The chamber will recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus lunches. At 2:15 p.m., the chamber will hold a procedural vote advancing the nomination of David Tapp to be a Judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. At about 5:30 p.m., the Senate will hold a confirmation vote on Tapp's nomination, followed by a procedural vote advancing the nomination of Danielle Hunsaker to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.

--- The House is on recess this week.

Today at the Supreme Court

--- At 10 a.m., the justices will hear oral arguments in CITGO Asphalt Refining Company v. Frescati Shipping Company. (The question in the case: "Whether under federal maritime law a safe-berth clause in a voyage charter contract is a guarantee of a ship's safety, as the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 2nd and 3rd Circuits have held, or a duty of due diligence, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has held.")

At 11 a.m., the justices will hear oral arguments in Allen v. Cooper. (The question in the case: "Whether Congress validly abrogated state sovereign immunity via the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act in providing remedies for authors of original expression whose federal copyrights are infringed by states.")

Today on the trail

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden attends a fundraiser in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

--- Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) travels to Washington, D.C. "for meetings, fundraising events, and national press."

--- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-NH) files for the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary at the Secretary of State's office in Concord. According to her campaign, Gabbard "will be accompanied by relatives of 9/11 victims from New Hampshire who will join her in calling for Congress to pass HRS 662, requiring the Trump administration to declassify all information regarding Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the attacks."

--- No other candidates have public events scheduled.

*All times Eastern