(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To This Post)
Being our semi-regular weekly survey of what's goin' down in the several states where, as we know, the real work of governmentin' gets done and where nobody's seen Claudette since January.
We've spent most of the weeks talking about the ways, big and small, that Republicans in the various states have determined that their control over political institutions should not be inconvenienced by such trivial matters as losing elections. It's happening in Pennsylvania, too. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
In the weeks before the November election, Republicans backed an unsuccessful legal effort to get her kicked off the ballot on the grounds that she did not meet the residency requirements outlined in the state constitution, which says that lawmakers must live in the state four years. Ms. Williams, who has repeatedly said she does meet the requirements, prevailed and won election in the 38th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Pittsburgh and its northern suburbs.
In a letter dated Thursday, Mr. Scarnati said he questions “your qualification to be sworn in to serve in accordance with the Constitutional requirements.” He gave her seven days to provide copies of her driver’s licenses, employment history, tax withholdings, home purchase or rental agreements and any other information she deems relevant. He said she may request a hearing before a panel of senators. He said she may receive pay, hire employees and do other administrative duties during the month of December, but if the Senate decides not to seat her in January, she will need to repay her salary.
She wins in court, and that's not enough. She wins at the polls, and that's not enough. An angel could descend on her from a winged chariot and these guys would ask for the angel's papers and write him up for parking in a loading zone. There is nothing on heaven and earth they wouldn't ratfck.
Meanwhile, in our continuing series, what's the latest from that capital of American democracy, Bladen County, North Carolina? It's got worse since last we checked. But the local Republicans seem to be feeling things hotting up around them. From NBC News:
North Carolina GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse said Thursday that the party supports the state investigation. "If they can show with certainty that the outcome could not have been changed, they need to certify Mr. Harris and continue to support all state and federal criminal investigations," he said. "If they can show a substantial likelihood it could have changed the race, then we fully would support a new election" Woodhouse added.
Meanwhile, some voters in the district are now speaking out, with personal accounts about how their absentee ballots were unlawfully collected. Datesha Montgomery told NBC News that a blonde woman came to her door on Oct. 12 and asked if she could collect her absentee ballot. "I told her, ‘Sure.’ I had broke the seal in front of her to show it was never opened," Montgomery said. "I’m telling her who I was voting for, and she was like - she didn’t wanna hear it, so I just like, didn’t say nothing else. I just filled out two blocks, and I gave it to her." Montgomery, 27, lives with her 4-year old daughter in a neatly manicured public housing complex named Twisted Hickory just outside of Elizabethtown in Bladen County. She said she gave her unsealed absentee ballot to the woman, believing her to be an election official who would turn the ballot in.
But she said two investigators later showed up at her house and told her it had never been submitted. So she went to a polling place on Election Day to cast her vote in person. Emma Shipman, 87, of Tar Heel, had a similar story. A blonde woman showed up at her door to encourage her to turn in her absentee ballot, she told NBC News. But Shipman said she wouldn’t give it to the woman, even after the woman said she would provide a stamp to mail the ballot for her. “I have plenty of stamps,” Shipman said she responded.
Again, angel. Winged chariot. It lands in Bladen County and somebody walks up and offers to collect the angel's absentee ballot. Angel declines. Six weeks later, the angel discovers he voted for the Republican.
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Moving on to Colorado, we find a Democratic legislator caught up in one of the worst #MeToo scandals of the era. From the Denver Post:
“It’s been a great honor to serve the people of Colorado for just short of a decade,” Kagan said in a statement. “An important obligation of leaders, I believe, is to be open to acknowledging that it’s time to pass the torch to new leadership and, for me, that time is now.” He had served most of four terms in the House before he won election to the Senate District 26 seat in 2016. Kagan was one of a handful of lawmakers to be accused of misconduct this year.
A 21-page report made public by his accuser, Republican state Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, said Kagan had been seen in the women’s restroom by multiple women on three occasions since January 2017. But he contended that he’d entered the restroom - which was unlabeled at the time - just once, and by mistake. A sign was added this year designating the restroom as being for women, which had been the custom. On Wednesday, Martinez Humenik said through a Senate Republicans spokesman: “I asked for a public apology to all involved, not a resignation. We are all still waiting on his apology.” Colorado GOP spokesman Daniel Cole echoed her call for a public apology, adding: “Kagan wronged her and others, and he should acknowledge their experience instead of just resigning to avoid having to look at them.”
There's something weirdly intense about this reaction, not least because the Republicans seem to want to back the bus up over Kagan and run him over again. This ferocity is not evident in similar situations involving Republican politicians.
And we conclude, as is our custom, in the great state of Oklahoma, where Blog Official Jaybird couturier Friedman Of The Plains brings us the tale of people who are still suffering from the arms race. From the Enid News and Eagle:
Simpson is one of 195,000 to 300,000 U.S. troops who were subjected to atomic testing between 1945 and 1962, according to the National Association of Atomic Veterans (NAAV). Since participating in an atomic bomb test in 1953, Simpson has had more than 30 cancerous lesions removed from his body. For more on Simpson, read the accompanying story “Decades later, Atomic Veterans still fighting for recognition.” Simpson now has access to VA benefits and a small monthly pension. But, it took more than six decades to get there, and he worries many other atomic veterans aren’t receiving the help they need. When Simpson was discharged from the Marines in 1954, he said the Navy doctor who out-processed him “said the VA would take care of us.”
And, lo and behold, and only thanks to the determination of a woman in the local VA office, six decades later, the federal government finally got around to it. Sort of.
In 1979, 25 years after Simpson was discharged, he said the VA called him to come in for an evaluation. But, that visit yielded only a familiar response: “They said they would call me.” It was 2016 - another 37 years - before the VA followed up on his request for medical help. “I called them back and asked them why it took them 63 years to follow up on my request,” Simpson said. Simpson said his luck with the VA changed when he enlisted the help of Linda Turner, a veteran herself and veterans service representative with the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. Turner helps local veterans navigate the paperwork of disability claims and appeals.
With her help, Simpson was scheduled a new review with a VA-contracted doctor in Oklahoma City. “He looked at my head, arms and face,” Simpson said. “He didn’t want to look at my groin or back where cancers had been cut out.” Simpson said he’s grateful for Turner’s help, the medical coverage and small pension that comes with it. But, that doesn’t undo having to wait almost 65 years for answers, he said. “If I’ve been that way for 65 years, why did it take them that long to figure it out,” he said, “and why should I not get back-paid until 1953 when it happened?”
Why not, indeed. These are the people who need the angel.
This is your democracy, America. Cherish it.