February 26, 2021

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Latest News, Weekender

The Weekender (2/26/21)

Welcome to the Democratic Governors Association’s Friday newsletter, The Weekender.

Let’s get started.

Virginia: The Virginia Republican Party confirmed they will hold an in-person convention, not a primary, to choose their gubernatorial nominee. This caps months of nasty GOP infighting, with party leaders expressing their frustration and saying when Republicans are divided, “they have no shot of winning.” Frontrunner Amanda Chase may now follow through on her threat to run as an independent, which she has vowed to do if the Virginia GOP holds a “rigged” convention. Adding to the chaos, the VA GOP’s convention site isn’t fully on board yet with their plans.

Georgia: The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported former GOP Rep. Doug Collins is seriously considering a primary run against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. This is troubling news for Kemp, who was rated the most vulnerable incumbent by Cook Political Report just a few weeks ago. It’s been rumored Collins may be running for governor ever since Donald Trump suggested it at a rally in Georgia: “Doug, you want to run for governor in two years? He’d be a good-looking governor.” Trump blames Kemp for his loss in Georgia and has been going after him with a vengeance, suggesting Kemp should be “jailed,” encouraging Georgians to “vote him out of office” and actively recruiting primary challengers like Collins and football player Herschel Walker. 

As Lee Chatfield Resigns In Controversy From New Job, Michigan GOP Still Stumbles On Finding Candidate to Take on Whitmer

Since Michigan Republicans lost their top recruit for governor in 2022, Candice Miller, prominent Republicans continue to stumble and the party has been struggling to find someone to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Potential GOP candidates are dropping like flies, and the members of the MI GOP left standing are allying themselves with out-of-touch extremists.

Most recently, former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, who was floated as a potential GOP candidate in 2022, resigned as CEO of Southwest Michigan First following backlash over his discriminatory positions on LGBTQ equality in the workplace, housing and more. City leaders and nonprofits severed ties with the company over Chatfield’s hiring, saying his extremist views would hinder local job growth. That doesn’t bode well for a potential run for governor – or any candidate who takes on the mantle of the Michigan GOP’s extreme and unpopular positions.

The MI GOP has a bleak crop of gubernatorial contenders. So far, the announced candidates are Allendale Township official Ryan Kelley, who is facing calls for removal from his position after he was spotted at the U.S. Capitol insurrection, and Austin Chenge, who was with Kelley in supporting the violent mob at the Capitol. And one of the more prominent faces of the MI GOP, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, has been under fire for cozying up to militia groups and spreading debunked conspiracy theories, like the capitol riot was a “hoax.”

Also looming over the MI GOP – Cook Political Report has rated Michigan as “lean Democrat” and warned Gov. Whitmer “won’t be as easy to knock off as some Republicans had initially hoped,” as demonstrated by her consistently high approval ratings.

Democratic Governors Urge Congress to Fund Improvements to Unemployment Systems

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers urged Congressional leadership to fast track funding for IT modernization. Increased federal funding would assist states in responding to the COVID-19 crisis and help them be prepared for future economic downturns. 

The governors’ request to Congress includes creating a state-led commission to prevent fraud and inefficiency, and additional investment in the interstate unemployment system, which has been overwhelmed by the pandemic.

The technology used by many states to administer the nation’s unemployment systems is old and outdated. Previous efforts to modernize these legacy systems have often failed due to failed Republican policies

In Kansas, Gov. Kelly recently approved a $1.4 million upgrade to the state’s unemployment system. The upgrade has helped fend off nearly five million fraudulent/bot claims and allowed staff to focus on legitimate claims. Despite Gov. Kelly’s leadership on the issue, Republicans in the Kansas legislature are falling back on their same old tricks and trying to undermine her.

Democratic governors are leading the charge to modernize state systems and protect taxpayer dollars. Federal funding will help ensure state aid is going to those who need it and strengthen the nation’s workforce in the years to come. 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, explaining how the Biden administration inherited an “empty cupboard” from Donald Trump and is slowly but surely fixing the issues with the vaccine rollout.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on CNBC’s The News with Shepard Smith, discussing his state’s vaccine distribution plan and how he plans to improve efforts to vaccinate underserved communities.

“This legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice. All of this was fueled by the experiences of those who have lived with police brutality and discrimination in this terrible year in the middle of a brutal viral pandemic that hurt Black people and brown people disproportionately.”

  • Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on signing landmark new criminal justice reforms, making Illinois the first state to completely eliminate cash bail.

“We’re going to make sure … that every single precinct has a lawyer, and people know who to call immediately when they spot something foul going on, and that we are reporting what’s happening, and making sure that I’m going to be getting NFL-style scouting reports on every single registrar in Virginia.”

Who said it? Send your answer to press@dga.net and we’ll reveal the answer in the next Weekender!

If you guessed former Texas Gov. Rick Perry last week, you were right! In the middle of winter storms that left millions of Texans without electricity or running water, Perry wrote Texans should be willing to endure blackouts if it keeps the federal government “out of their business.” We’re thankful Perry is no longer the U.S. Energy Secretary and the Senate confirmed former Michigan Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lead the Energy Department — someone who actually believes in climate change.