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Maryland and Missouri Vote to Legalize Marijuana

After this election, recreational marijuana use will soon be legal in 21 states and D.C.

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Maryland and Missouri have voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

In Maryland, voters passed a measure legalizing recreational use for adults age 21 and older and allowing the Maryland General Assembly to regulate and tax cannabis. Adults in Maryland will be allowed to smoke marijuana, grow up to two cannabis plants, and possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana beginning July 1, 2023.

The measure passed 65.54 percent to 34.46 percent, with 82 percent reporting.

Legislation paired with the passage modifies penalties for people under the age of 21 found to be using cannabis. The bill would also automatically expunge convictions for any conduct now legal under the new law—and people serving time for any offenses would be allowed to file for resentencing.

In Missouri, voters passed a similar measure, 53.14 percent to 46.86 percent, with 96 percent reporting. Adults over the age of 21 will be able to possess up to three ounces of marijuana, and grow up to six cannabis plants, come December.

The measure also enacts a six percent tax on the retail price of recreational marijuana and—unlike Maryland where this will be done automatically—allows people with marijuana-related offenses to petition to be released from incarceration and have their records expunged.

The results display the ever-increasing popularity of marijuana legalization. While Maryland is a reliably blue state, Missouri is not. Former President Donald Trump won Missouri by 15 points in 2020.

Even in states where marijuana legalization initiatives did not pass, the measures overperformed relative to Democratic results. In North Dakota, the measure failed by just under 10 points, while in South Dakota it fell short by about six. In Arkansas the measure failed by about 13 points. Trump had won by over 25 points in all three of those states in 2020.

With Maryland and Missouri’s passage of the measures, recreational marijuana use is now legal in 21 states and Washington, D.C.

All Five States With Abortion on the Ballot Voted to Increase Access

Voters in California, Michigan, Vermont, Kentucky, and Montana all showed up to protect abortion.

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Abortion rights protesters in Louisville, Kentucky.

Five states voted to increase abortion access on Election Day, in a massive victory for women and gender minorities.

California, Michigan, and Vermont all passed constitutional amendments codifying the right to abortion Tuesday, with 65.2 percent, 55.5 percent, and 77.4 percent of the vote in each state, respectively, according to The New York Times.

Kentucky and Montana both voted against anti-abortion ballot initiatives. In Kentucky, 52.6 percent of people voted against an amendment that would have said abortion is not a protected right in the state. In Montana, 52.6 percent of state residents voted to reject a measure that would have deemed any infant “born alive” a legal person, the Times reported.

Abortion became a hotly contested issue after the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to the procedure in June. States rushed after the ruling to either enshrine or scale back abortion access. Health experts warn that banning the procedure will result in a massive uptick in the national maternal mortality rate.

In August, residents of Kansas, a typically conservative state, voted to keep abortion protections in the state constitution, a major twist that had many activists hopeful for future reproductive rights referendums—and, it would seem, with good reason.

In California, people voted by 1,617,876 points Tuesday to add an amendment to the state constitution enshrining the right to “reproductive freedom,” which includes both abortions and contraception. The state had passed a law legalizing abortion after the Supreme Court ruling, but an amendment cannot be challenged in court and therefore holds more power.

Vermont also already has a law protecting abortion, but residents voted by 91,155 points to enshrine the right to “reproductive autonomy” in the constitution, as well.

In Michigan, the Supreme Court ruling triggered a 1931 law banning abortion, but a state court temporarily blocked that law going into effect. Michigan residents passed a constitutional amendment by 443,940 points protecting abortion rights. As a result, the old law can no longer be implemented.

In a surprise similar to Kansas, voters in conservative Kentucky rejected an amendment that would have specified their constitution does not protect abortion access. The decision to keep abortion access passed by 67,953 points.

Montana abortion rights are protected under a 1999 state Supreme Court ruling, but residents voted Tuesday on a measure about fetal personhood. The law, which people rejected by 20,581 points, would have required medical care be given to “infants born alive after an induced labor, cesarean section, attempted abortion, or another method.”

The measure said “born alive” meant anything that “breathes, has a beating heart, or has definite movement of voluntary muscles.”

However, fetuses are rarely “born alive” after an abortion, according to the CDC. Montana state health experts had slammed the measure, warning it could have negatively affected care for babies born prematurely or with fatal abnormalities by preventing doctors from helping relieve any pain those babies might be in, or punishing medical professionals that let families hold such newborns before they die.

Reports That Ron Klain May Soon Leave the White House Are Concerning

Please don’t go, Ron Klain!

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White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain

As if awaiting the midterm results weren’t enough to put Democrats on edge, Politico’s Eli Stokols and Alex Thompson reported Tuesday afternoon that White House chief of staff Ron Klain may soon depart the White House.

That would be very bad. Klain has been the Biden administration’s indispensable man. Indeed, some would argue he’s more indispensable than Joe Biden. Klain (whom I know slightly) is a decent, fiercely intelligent, highly experienced political operator whom Stokols and Thompson describe as:

... a chief of staff intent on managing the flow of information to the president and keeping a tight grip on power, advising everyone on everything and being involved in even the smallest policy and planning details. Whenever Biden is set to deliver a speech, one official explained, “Ron often has to see the [camera] shot beforehand.”

Inevitably, Klain has committed a few blunders, including, according to Politico, encouraging Biden to declare victory over Covid on July 4. Two months later, Biden said, “the pandemic is over.” One month after that your faithful correspondent flung his mask to the side, contracted Covid, and transmitted it to 13 other people, including two nonagenarians. (All recovered, but still, jeez.)

But easily more striking are Klain’s (and Biden’s) victories. As Klain himself said in August, Biden “has delivered the largest economic recovery plan since Roosevelt, the largest infrastructure plan since Eisenhower, the most judges confirmed since Kennedy, the second-largest healthcare bill since Johnson, and the largest climate change bill in history.” That doesn’t happen unless you have a highly competent chief of staff working alongside you. “He’s not just experienced, he’s strategic,” John Podesta, a former chief of staff for Bill Clinton, told my colleague Daniel Strauss in January. “He’s someone who can say ‘no’ to Biden.”

I know it’s a punishing job, but if Republicans take back the House (and, possibly the Senate), the boss’s job is going to get more difficult. Biden will need Klain more than ever, and there isn’t anyone else around who can do that job half so well.

Miracle Cures Not Enough As Fetterman Bests Oz in Pennsylvania Senate Race

The Pennsylvania win brings Democrats closer to keeping their hold of the Senate.

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Democrat John Fetterman has defeated television doctor Mehmet Oz and won the Pennsylvania Senate race, according to a projection from NBC.

Fetterman leads Oz 49.39 percent to 48.17 percent, with 99 percent reporting.

Fetterman’s victory flips the Senate seat previously held by Republican Pat Toomey to Democrat, bringing Democrats closer to keeping their hold of the Senate.

Fetterman’s gritty victory comes after a race that initially seemed secure for the Democrats. For months, Fetterman maintained a comfortable lead in the polls, even stretching into double digits. Concerns about Oz’ schemes as a television doctor, his appearance as out-of-touch with most Americans’ experiences (see: crudité at Wegner’s), and whether he even lived in the state of Pennsylvania all plagued his campaign.

But as Election Day approached, the race tightened—perhaps due in part to the media’s inane coverage of Fetterman’s stroke recovery.

Fetterman, however, proved resilient, both as a political operator and with regards to his health. In spite of speech and auditory processing difficulties, Fetterman still chose to debate Oz just weeks before the election. And instead of allowing the media coverage to hone in on debate aesthetics, the campaign persisted in highlighting the stakes of the race—for example, Oz’s belief that abortion is between a woman, her doctor, and “local political leaders.”

Ultimately, the voters have spoken, rejecting Oz’s  largely self-funded vanity campaign, electing instead a Democrat who has been just as outspoken on trans rights as he has been on eliminating price gouging and enacting a more fair tax code. Fetterman is proof that you don’t have to give up advocating for so-called “social issues” in order to win—or in order to flip a Republican-held seat.

Trump-Backed Starling Bo Hines Falls in Surprise Loss in North Carolina House Race

Bines was seen as a "young star"in the Republican Party. Then, he lost.

Bo Hines
Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a major loss, Trump-backed Republican Bo Hines has lost to Democrat Wiley Nickel in North Carolina’s 13th congressional district. FiveThirtyEight had predicted Hines to have a 77 percent chance of winning.

Nickel leads Hines 51.32 percent to 48.68 percent, with all precincts reporting.

Hines, whose campaign received over $775,000 from his family’s trust fund, enjoyed support from former President Donald Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and outgoing North Carolina Representative Madison Cawthorn.

Hines began running for Congress in North Carolina’s 5th district, but relocated to the 13th due in part to redistricting that changed seat maps.

The 27-year-old was advanced by Trump and other Republicans as a rising star in the party. The young Republican had adopted Trumpian classics, saying he was running because he did not want to “sit idly by on the sidelines and watch radical, Marxist leftists destroy our country for the next generation.” He said he would “not stand for cowardly, RINO Republicans that seek to dismantle the America First movement.”

Hines, an election denialist, has also called abortion murder and said exceptions should only be allowed for victims of rape and incest. Even then, in Hines’ worldview, those victims would only have access to abortion on a case-by-case basis after a “community-level review process” determined them eligible..

Nickel—a criminal defense attorney, former staffer in President Barack Obama’s White House, and member of the North Carolina state Senate—ran as an experienced moderate. While Nickel says the federal government is spending too much money, he also argues the state isn’t spending enough money on services like health care and public education.

Hines’ loss is yet another in a disappointing evening for Republicans, who were expecting a so-called “red wave.”

Brian Kemp Reelected Georgia Governor, Defeats Stacey Abrams

Kemp managed to hold onto his seat, despite a strong challenge from Abrams.

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Brian Kemp was reelected as governor of Georgia Tuesday, defeating Democrat Stacey Abrams, according to a projection from CNN.

While much of the media attention on Georgia has focused on the Senate race between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker, the outcome of the state’s governor race was also hotly anticipated.

Kemp, who has been a fixture of Georgia’s government since 2003, is a staunch conservative. But he has had a fraught relationship with former President Donald Trump because of his refusal to go along with Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Georgia narrowly went for Joe Biden in that cycle, and his unexpected victory there was crucial to securing the presidency.

Democrats have been gaining momentum in the formerly deep red state, a development attributed to the growing influence of voters of color, in particular Black voters.

Abrams has been credited with playing a key role in Joe Biden’s 2020 win, having spent the better part of a decade building up Georgia’s Democratic organizing infrastructure and mobilizing the state’s expanding Black middle class.

Kemp and Abrams had previously gone head to head in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race, with Kemp winning by just 54,723 votes, or about 1.4 percent. Abrams’s organization, Fair Fight Action, filed a lawsuit shortly thereafter alleging voter suppression, though a judge ruled against it this September.

Voting rights was a major point of contention in the leadup to the election. Last April, Kemp signed an egregious voter suppression law, sharply restricting access to absentee ballots and ballot drop boxes.

Abortion was another flashpoint in the race. Under Kemp’s governorship, Georgia passed one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws, prohibiting the procedure after six weeks—before many people know they are pregnant. During a televised debate, Kemp refused to say whether he would further restrict access. Abrams promised to veto any additional tightening of abortion laws and to work to repeal the six-week ban.

MAGA Candidate J.D. Vance Wins Ohio Senate Race, In Huge Blow to Democrats

Vance beat Tim Ryan and maintained Republican control of the seat.

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MAGA Republican J.D. Vance was elected Ohio senator Tuesday in a tight race against Democratic Representative Tim Ryan, according to a projection from NBC.

Vance leads Ryan 53.5 percent to 46.4 percent, with 87 percent reporting.

Ohio has long been viewed as a swing state, but it went solidly for former President Donald Trump in 2016 and has continued to shift farther right ever since.

But the competition between Ryan and Vance to replace outgoing Republican Senator Rob Portman was surprisingly tight, leaving many analysts unsure of which way it would go until the results came in.

Ryan had served for years as an Ohio representative. Although he is a registered Democrat, on the campaign trail, he sought to cast himself as more of an independent. He agreed with Trump on trade, but supported environmental policy, affordable health care, and legislation to codify abortion access and regulate gun ownership.

Vance, a former venture capitalist and writer, ran on an extreme right-wing platform. He was vague on his plans for issues such as inflation and energy production. But he was clear that he wanted to push back against gun control and to stop granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants.

He said he wanted to finish the expensive and ineffective U.S.-Mexico border wall started under Trump and ban all abortion.

Vance is also a 2020 election denier and wants to end mail-in voting.

His political leaning was a surprise to many, though. Vance rose to prominence with the publication of his memoir Hillbilly Elegy, an examination of the white working class, which quickly became a bestseller and was made into a movie. At the time of publication in 2016, Vance was a conservative Trump-skeptic living in San Francisco.

But when he moved back to Ohio, he made a stark and unexpected shift to the right, endorsing QAnon conspiracy theories and the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. He even traveled to Mar-a-Lago to secure Trump’s endorsement of his senatorial campaign.

This piece was updated.

Democrat Abigail Spanberger Secures Key Win in Virginia

Republicans were expected to take Spanberger's seat, but she held on to it.

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

In Virginia’s 7th congressional district, Democrat Abigail Spanberger was projected the winner in a tough and very closely watched race.

Her Republican opponent was Yesli Vega, who supported a nationwide abortion ban and other far-right positions. A Fredericksburg newspaper, in endorsing Spanberger, wrote of Vega: “Not only is Vega dangerously uninformed about rape and its consequences, she is making clear what other extremists are now pushing—a total nationwide ban on abortion in the U.S.”

Spanberger’s win is a huge emotional lift for Democrats. The GOP put a big target on her, gerrymandering her district to make it more Republican and even moving it around such that the house where she lives was no longer in the district. This was a seat the GOP fully expected to take.

Assuming this holds, Democratic incumbents end up holding two of the three seats Republicans were licking their chops about. Jennifer Wexton in northern Virginia also appears to have fought off a challenge from Hung Cao, who was advertising heavily on Washington DC TV in the campaign’s closing weeks. But it does appear that Elaine Luria of Virginia Beach will lose to GOP challenger Jen Kiggans (another extremist). Luria made her work on the January 6 committee defending democracy a centerpiece of her campaign. It would have been great to see Luria pull that out.

But Spanberger’s win is huge. And she ran in part on the infrastructure bill—that is, she didn’t run away from Joe Biden’s agenda. Two out of three in Virginia, especially when one of the two is a candidate the Republicans really thought they could take out, is a very big deal.

Arizona Judge Denies GOP Request to Extend Voting, Says There’s No Evidence People Couldn’t Vote

Conspiracy theorists are pointing to a problem with voting machines in Arizona's Maricopa County, but voters could still drop off their ballots.

John Moore/Getty Images
Kari Lake

There was a strange back and forth about voting in Arizona’s Maricopa County on Tuesday, which  resulted in a judge denying a request to extend voting in the county beyond normal hours.

It started with a problem with tabulator machines in the county that sparked worries (and some suspicion among conspiracy theorists) that voters in the country wouldn’t be able to cast their ballots. The Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, and Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters filed a joint lawsuit the same day seeking to extend voting by a few hours. In response, the campaign for Senator Mark Kelly, the incumbent and Masters’ Democratic opponent, filed a lawsuit arguing against extending voting in the county.

“At the eleventh hour of this election, Plaintiffs seek the drastic remedy of changing the rules of the election, while it is occurring, in the hopes of obtaining an electoral advantage,” the lawsuit wrote. “But there is no evidence that any voter who appeared to vote at Maricopa County polling places was turned away from the polls or that voting today in Maricopa County was substantially impeded.”

Indeed, the voting machine issue didn’t stop people at those polls from voting. Voters were simply told to instead drop their ballots off in a lockbox attached to the machines.

Late Tuesday night, a Superior Court judge for Maricopa County denied the Republicans’ request to extend voting by a few hours, saying there wasn’t strong enough evidence that voters were unable to vote within the original period of time.

The Maricopa voting machine problems garnered scrutiny from law enforcement and election officials, who moved throughout the day to quell fears that people weren’t able to cast their vote. Former President Donald Trump said, without evidence, “there’s a lot of bad things going on” in Maricopa County. But officials with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) stressed that despite some hiccups, voters were still able to vote.

“We have no indication of malfeasance or malicious activity,” a CISA official told reporters Tuesday afternoon. 

Colorado and North Carolina Offer Hope That There Won’t Be a “Red Wave” This Election

The so-called "red wave" might not really be a wave at all.

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Tonight might not be a blowout after all.

At about 9:35 p.m. ET, or a little more than half an hour after the Colorado polls closed, NBC projected incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet the winner over GOP challenger Joe O’Dea. That was a pretty fast call for a race that in September and October was labeled as one where a seemingly safe Democratic incumbent might be in trouble.

In other words, Bennet was exactly the kind of Democratic who would have tumbled in a major red wave. But the fact that he not only held on but is apparently winning pretty comfortably is a sign of hope.

Item two: About 10 minutes later, NBC shifted the North Carolina Senate race from “too early to call” to “too close to call.” “Too early” means, “Well, we can’t say it yet, but we all really know what’s going to happen”—in this case, that Republican Ted Budd was going to beat Democrat Cheri Beasley. I remember, still, the shudder of involuntary horror that consumed by body on Election Night 2016, at (I think) exactly 8:32 p.m., when NBC shifted that same North Carolina from “too early” (meaning, then, that Hillary Clinton was going to win, but they just couldn’t say yet) to “too close,” which meant that Donald Trump was going to win. And if he was going to win North Carolina, that meant he was going to win period. I still have nightmares.

But tonight, the shift to “too close” appears to bode well for Beasley. Maybe not to the extent that she wins, which would of course be great; but at least to the extent that she’s outperforming late polls, which tells us something interesting.

Things can still change. But right now, around 10 p.m. Eastern time? It’s not yet a red wave kind of night.