The Weekender (2/5/21)


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

Let’s get started.

Virginia: Former VA GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman suggested during an interview that he might run as a third party candidate in the governor’s race because the candidate pool is weak and the nasty primary has been “difficult to sit and watch.” The “frontrunner” at the moment is self-described “Trump in heels” state Sen. Amanda Chase, who was censured by members of her own party for praising the “patriots” who attacked the U.S. Capitol, has rejected science and mask-wearing, and called on Donald Trump to declare martial law to hold on to power. Riggleman described the Trumpism taking over the VA GOP perfectly – it’s “a rot.”

New Jersey: GOP candidate Jack Ciattarelli indicated at a recent public event that he would support discriminatory voter suppression laws if elected. He said, “Under Governor Ciattarelli, we will use IDs at the time of voting” – a practice which disproportionately affects communities of color and is used to disenfranchise Black voters. It looks like Ciattarelli is continuing his strategy of embracing Trump and his unconstitutional attempts to undermine our elections.

The Michigan GOP Has An Extremism Problem

Allendale Township official Ryan Kelley filed to run for Michigan governor as a Republican this week. Kelley is facing calls for removal from his position after he was spotted at the U.S. Capitol insurrection.

This isn’t the first time Michiganders have called for Kelley’s removal from office – in October 2020, several groups called on Kelley to resign after it was revealed that Kelley had close ties to the militia members who plotted to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Kelley organized a “Well-Regulated Militia” rally at the Michigan capitol in June, where the FBI alleges militia groups hatched the plan to kidnap Gov. Whitmer and attempted to recruit more members.

Kelley’s entrance to the race is a growing sign that the Michigan GOP is going to have an extremism problem on their hands, as more and more of their members are caught cozying up to far-right militia groups.

One of the more prominent faces of the MI GOP, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, held a meeting with militia groups in his office last summer during the armed protests at the Michigan statehouse, which are now being seen as a “dress rehearsal” for the deadly attack at the U.S. Capitol. Shirkey said he gave the extremist groups advice on “how they could improve their message.” And like Kelley, Shirkey also has ties to the group that plotted to kidnap the governor, appearing on stage with one of the militia members at a rally.

Austin Chenge, another GOP gubernatorial candidate, was with Kelley in supporting the violent mob at the Capitol. Chenge said the deadly insurrection was “all for the love of their country.”

Gov. Laura Kelly Announces Bill to Expand Medicaid and Aid Kansas’ COVID-19 Recovery

This week, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced a renewed push for Medicaid expansion, introducing a proposal that includes legalizing marijuana for medical purposes to cover the state’s share of the cost.

Despite pushback from Republicans in the legislature, Gov. Kelly has never stopped fighting for affordable, accessible health care. Last year, she reached a bipartisan deal with Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, but the proposal was stalled by other Republican lawmakers.

Time and again, Kansas Republicans have blocked 165,000 Kansans from receiving access to health care and have cost the state millions of dollars in economic activity and federal funds. Kansas has lost over $4.5 billion dollars to surrounding states who have already expanded Medicaid. If Kansas doesn’t expand Medicaid, the state will forgo over $10 billion in economic output in the next five years.

The pandemic has only exacerbated the need for Medicaid expansion in Kansas. Rural hospitals are in crisis – 72 percent of the state’s rural hospitals are at immediate risk of financial closure, largely due to the failure to expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion would also create more than 13,000 new jobs, aiding the state’s economic recovery.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on CNN Newsroom with Pamela Brown, talking about how Kentucky is leading the country in vaccinating teachers.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on CNN’s New Day, explaining how Michigan’s strategic COVID-19 “pause” slowed the spread of the virus and now makes it possible for restaurants to reopen. 

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on MSNBC Live with Katy Tur, discussing the urgent need for federal aid to states and the American people.

“Know this: You are smart. You are capable. You are strong. You can be whatever you want to be. And the world needs your voice and your talent, and it’ll be a better place if you say yes.”

“We also got through it better than virtually every other state.”

Who said it? Send your answer to and we’ll reveal the answer in the next Weekender!

If you guessed Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey last week, you were right! Militia Advisor Shirkey made a sexist comment after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State address, saying the Governor “looked delightful.” Add this to Shirkey’s long list of bigoted and disrespectful comments.