2016 Election News Roundup: Week of July 17th

Posted by Kristin McCarthy on July 17, 2015 in Blog

AAI compiles a weekly roundup of election news tracking key races across the country as well as legislation that will impact voting rights ahead of the 2016 elections. For AAI’s coverage of presidential candidates races, make sure to check out our profiles over at#YallaVote’s Election Central. And for more state specific information, head over to our election map and click on your state.

Ohio Debate Rankles the Rs

We’re a short 21 days away from the first Republican primary debate in Ohio, with no less than 15 Republican candidates struggling to claim their spot on stage. Fox News, who is the official host of the debate, has set the rules of play: only the top 10 candidates from the Republican field will be included in the debate – a ranking that will be determined by averaging the results of two national polls. As it stands, the Buckeye state's own Governor John Kasich wouldn’t make the cut, and he isn’t alone. While Donald Trump’s high polls have him safely in the top 10, big names like Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum are also on the outs. The top 10 model that Fox News has adopted has been widely criticized by the Republican candidates, but the debate must go on. More news from Ohio.

Maryland's 2016 Musical Chairs

For the first time in decades, Maryland votes will undoubtedly result in a significant change in Congressional delegation roster next November. Earlier this year five-term Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) announced that she would not be seeking a sixth term. Since this is such a rare opportunity (Sen. Mikulski has held the office since 1987), it has created a contentious Democratic free-for-all during the primary election not only for the seat Mikulski is vacating, but also the seats that are being abandoned by eager Senate-seekers. This includes the seats held by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD 8) and progressive darling Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD4) who have both announced bids for the Senate seat - along with more than a few other Democrats considering a run. So far, Rep. Van Hollen has raised $3.5 million compared to Rep. Edwards’ $924,000. While the dollar amounts might be lopsided, Edwards' appeal echoes the momentum Bernie Sanders has found playing the the liberal left of the party. Van Hollen, who was previously considered to be the leading candidate to replace Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi when she retires (date unknown), brings with him the backing of the Democratic establishment. The bottom line is that Maryland's 2017 delegation will look very different from 2015. More news from Maryland.

Philly Part of Obama’s Focus on Criminal Justice Reform

President Obama’s late term push on criminal justice reform made an important stop in Philadelphia this past week where he headlined the NAACP conference focusing on the topic. The NAACP speech was a continuation of a week in which the President commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders (a subtle challenge to the unpopular mandatory minimums started during the 1980’s so-called War on Drugs), and made a historic trip to a federal prison in Oklahoma. Joined by many additional esteemed speakers like Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton, President Obama’s 45 minute speech was a sweeping denouncement of the nation's criminal justice system and a clarion call for serious reforms ahead of his departure from the White House. So far not a part of the 2016 campaign trail, Obama’s push might draw candidates’ positions out early in the debate season. More news from Pennsylvania.

Texas Candidates Take On Trump's Immigration Rampage

Having more than survived backlash announcement speech, Donald Trump is now consistently polling at the top of the Republican field. But controversy is never far away, and Trump’s latest attack on former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s record on border security has set off another firestorm. Trump’s popularity, and unending stream of sensational quotes, is quickly coming to define the Republican struggle for ownership of the GOP identity and voting base. A quick comparison between two Texan candidates - Gov. Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz - shows how moderate Republicans like Perry, and firebrand Republicans like Cruz are splitting on key issues, and splitting the field for their party. While Gov. Rick Perry was willing to go blow–for–blow with the business billionaire over twitter, questioning Trump’s intelligence and egoism, Texas Senator Ted Cruz actually met with Trump in his New York penthouse and has come close to agreeing with Trump’s most cringeworthy comments on immigration. Texas is undoubtedly a key state in gauging the popularity of candidates’  policy positions on border security, which is just one facet of the immigration reform debate, but the vast distance between the rhetoric coming from different wings of the GOP will likely continue to divide the votes. More news from Texas.