June 14, 2017
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Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, and Republican Ed Gillespie will face off in the Virginia gubernatorial election in November.

In the Tuesday primaries, Northam defeated his slightly more liberal challenger, former Rep. Tom Perriello, while Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, had a narrow victory over Corey Stewart, who served as President Trump's state campaign chairman. Stewart did not concede immediately, and said "there's one word you will never hear from me and that's 'unity.' Because look, folks, we've been backing down too long ... in defense of our culture, our heritage, and our country."

Northam said he would work to ensure that Democrats take control of the state's House of Delegates, adding it's "time for us to get back on offense and stop playing so much defense." Catherine Garcia

May 31, 2017
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Former Vice President Joe Biden is launching a new PAC, American Possibilities, on Thursday, "dedicated to electing people who believe that this country is about dreaming big, and supporting groups and causes that embody that spirit."

While the goal of the PAC is to get Democrats elected, it is fueling rumors that Biden is seriously considering running for president in 2020. In a message that will go live on Medium Thursday morning, Biden says that "thinking big is stamped into the DNA of the American soul. That's why the negativity, the pettiness, the small-mindedness of our politics today drives me crazy. It's not who we are." Greg Schultz, Biden's political director during his second term as vice president, has been hired as the PAC's executive director. Catherine Garcia

May 8, 2017
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Actor and model Antonio Sabato Jr. is running for Congress in California's 26th congressional district, and his team argues that he has a not-so-secret weapon that will guarantee a win: the support of President Trump.

Documents were filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday so Sabato, a Republican, can run against Rep. Julia Brownley (D), who has represented the district just northwest of Los Angeles since 2013. His fundraiser, Charles Moran, told the Los Angeles Times that Sabato has always been interested in public policy and politics and was inspired to run after speaking at the Republican National Convention last summer. "Being a Republican and with proximity to the White House and Republican leadership, he's going to be able to get more done — being in the majority, with his notoriety, for the residents of the 26th district," Moran said.

Sabato, 45, has appeared in Calvin Klein underwear ads and on General Hospital, Melrose Place, and multiple reality shows, including VH1's My Antonio, where he tried to find love. He said after the convention that Hollywood producers blacklisted him, but his IMDB page shows that since 2016, he has played Dario in the TV movie Dark Paradise and Miguel in Dance Night Obsession, and starred in Antonio: Down Under as himself. Catherine Garcia

February 7, 2017
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The Republican-led House Administration Committee voted Tuesday 6-3 to shutter the Election Assistance Commission, a bipartisan independent agency that assists states in improving their election systems.

Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), the committee's chairman, said the commission has "outlived" its usefulness, USA Today reports, and it is time for it to be "officially ended" because "we don't need fluff." The agency was set up after the Al Gore/George W. Bush debacle in 2000, and Republicans have argued for some time that it was only supposed to be around temporarily. Democrats like Rep. Robert Brady of Pennsylvania disagree, arguing that it helps states run elections that are fair and accurate. "This is the time when we should be focusing on strengthening" the commission, he told USA Today.

This is the fourth time Harper has introduced a bill to eliminate the agency, and it's not clear when or if the measure will be considered by the House. Catherine Garcia

February 7, 2017
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) may have made his campaign donor Betsy DeVos happy on Tuesday when he voted to confirm her as secretary of education, but he ticked off a lot of his constituents, who are calling him out for previously accepting nearly $100,000 in campaign donations from DeVos and her family, the Miami New Times reports.

The Senate voted 50-50 to confirm DeVos, a tie that was broken in DeVos' favor by Vice President Mike Pence. The Center for American Progress, citing Federal Election Commission reports, says Rubio has accepted $98,300 from DeVos and her family members, more than any other senator who voted in her favor on Tuesday.

Because DeVos, a billionaire proponent of taxpayer funded charter schools and private religious schools, has no experience in public education, there were massive protests against her confirmation. Before the vote, Floridians marched to Rubio's district offices and left so many messages against DeVos his Washington, D.C., inbox was full; now that she's been confirmed, they're threatening to oust Rubio when he's up for re-election — in response to a Twitter post made today, one Florida resident said the "100k from Betsy DeVos for a vote shows you don't care about the children of Florida," another accused him of being a "sell out," and a former supporter told Rubio they regret voting for him and will "actively work to get you unseated." Catherine Garcia

February 6, 2017
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A spokesman for Peter Thiel is quashing rumors that the billionaire PayPal co-founder is planning on entering the California gubernatorial race next year.

There was speculation that Thiel, who supported Donald Trump during his presidential campaign and was recently revealed to be a citizen of New Zealand, would throw his hat into the ring, but Jeremiah Hall tersely told the Los Angeles Times in an email that "Peter is not running for governor." While there are several high profile Democrats already in the race — Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Treasurer John Chiang, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin — there is just one well-known name on the Republican side: Rosey Grier, the 84-year-old Los Angeles Rams legend.

After Grier ended his football career, he became a minister and social activist. He told the Times last month he plans to run for governor because "I think we can do a lot of good. I've spent my life serving my fellow man. I thought I would continue doing that." Catherine Garcia

January 9, 2017

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's words are coming back to haunt him.

In 2009, McConnell wrote a letter to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, telling him the Republicans had a set of "standards" that President Obama's Cabinet nominees had to meet, and if they didn't complete background checks, ethics reviews, or financial disclosure statements, the GOP would not allow votes. On Monday, Democratic House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was going to send the letter back to McConnell, with McConnell's name replacing Reid's and Schumer's signature overriding McConnell's. "Our requests are eminently reasonable, shared by leaders of both parties," he tweeted. "I'll return this letter to [McConnell] with the same requests."

Confirmation hearings are set to start Tuesday, even though some of the nominees haven't even undergone ethics reviews yet. McConnell isn't letting that stop him from pushing the hearings through at breakneck speed; on Sunday, he said Democrats aren't worried over the lack of information from the nominees, but have "frustration" over having lost.

That's not true, Schumer said Monday from the Senate floor. "Bear in mind President-elect Trump's nominees pose particularly difficult ethics and conflict of interest challenges," he said. "They come from enormous wealth, many have vast holdings and stocks, and very few have experience in government, so they have not been appropriately vetted for something like a Cabinet post before. What had been standard practice for the vast majority of nominees — the completion of a preliminary ethics review before their nomination — was skipped over for the vast majority of President-elect Trump's nominees." Catherine Garcia

January 2, 2017
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On Monday, House Republicans voted behind closed doors, 119-74, to curb the power of an independent ethics office established nearly a decade ago in the aftermath of a lobbying scandal.

Should the House rules package be adopted on Tuesday, as expected, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) will be renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review, and it will be placed under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee, The Washington Post reports. Currently, if the Ethics Committee chooses to not take further action against a member, the OCE is still allowed to release public reports of its findings. The new regime will also end the OCE's power to investigate anonymous complaints and strips it of a spokesperson, but the amendment's sponsor, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), said it "builds upon and strengthens" the office and improves due process rights for House members under investigation. In 2008, when Democrats controlled the House, the OCE was created in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal to conduct ethics investigations without political influence; while the Ethics Committee is made up of members of Congress, the OCE is run by an independent six-member board.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opposed the amendment and spoke out against it during the conference meeting, two people in the room told the Post, and several other Republicans fear that reining in the office sends a bad message as the GOP assumes control of the White House as well as Congress. "Threatening its independence is a disservice to the American people who need a nonpartisan body to investigate the ethical failures of their representatives," Jordan Libowitz, spokesman for Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, told the Post. "The fact they do not want an office with 'Congressional Ethics' in the name is a pretty good metaphor for how ethics scandals will be dealt with if this rule passes." Catherine Garcia

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