Illustration by Dave Murray
Breaking News

The Ticker

Breaking news from Washington and beyond

Democrat Adrian Fontes Wins Arizona Secretary of State, Defeats MAGA Republican Mark Finchem

His victory means that a conspiracy theorist and election denier will not oversee voting rights in Arizona.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Mega-conspiracy theorist and MAGA Republican Mark Finchem lost the race for Arizona secretary of state, according to a projection from the Associated Press.

Democratic Adrian Fontes leads Finchem 52.8 percent to 47.2 percent, with 83 percent of votes counted. The former Maricopa County recorder and U.S. Marine will control the certification of election results in a crucial swing state.

Finchem ran an unusual campaign, with almost no paid advertising, public events, or media appearances, and with only one aide. Instead, he opted to ride the popularity of other more prominent right-wingers such as Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. The Republican, whose signature look includes a cowboy hat, campaigned under the slogan “Just Follow the Law”—but he seemed pretty intent on breaking it.

A 2020 election denier, Finchem was photographed in the mob outside the Capitol on January 6. He has denied going into the building but says he would not have certified the results that year and has hinted he might reject Democratic victories in the future. He had expressed deep distrust of vote-counting machines and could force counties to count the votes by hand, which experts say is slower and less accurate. He can also change rules on where to set up voting booths and work with the state government to restrict early and mail-in voting.

Finchem also expressed support for the groups of people who showed up, sometimes armed, at early voting stations in Arizona. They said they were watching for voter fraud, but many accused them of voter intimidation, as they would take photos of people dropping off their ballots and sometimes follow voters.

As if that weren’t dangerous enough, Finchem has embraced some conspiracy theories that even his fellow MAGA Republicans won’t touch. He has said he is a member of the Oath Keepers and has accused former Vice President Mike Pence of plotting both a coup to topple Trump and to steal the presidency in 2024.

Mark Kelly Defeats MAGA Candidate Blake Masters in Arizona Senate Race

With Arizona in the bag, Democrats need either a win in Nevada or the upcoming Georgia runoff to maintain control of the Senate.

Mark Kelly speaks to supporters at a podium that reads “Mark Kelly for U.S. Senate”
Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly has defeated Republican challenger Blake Masters in the hotly contested Arizona Senate race. The race was called late Friday night by the Associated Press; with 83 percent of votes in, Kelly was leading by a margin of 51.8 to 46.1 percent. At the time the race was called, Masters was running slightly behind his fellow Republican, Kari Lake, who is running for governor in the state. (When the Senate race was called, Lake trailed Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs by a 50.7 t0 49.3 margin.)  

Arizona was seen as one of the races crucial to Democrats maintaining their hair-thin hold on the Senate. By securing re-election, Kelly brings the Democrats within one seat of keeping control of the Senate (should Democrats notch 50 seats, Vice President Kamala Harris will cast the tie-breaking vote). 

Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords, supports codifying abortion access into law and overhauling the U.S. immigration system. He also backs increased gun regulation and runs a nonprofit dedicated to the issue with his wife, who retired from politics after surviving an assassination attempt.

Arizona went for President Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election, in a major upset.

But Republicans made steady inroads over the following two years, in part due to runaway inflation that they blamed on Biden.

Masters was seen as a long-shot candidate, but he gained steadily on Kelly in the last few weeks of the race. He was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and got a huge popularity boost through support from a MAGA PAC and his former boss, far-right billionaire Peter Thiel, who was a major donor to Masters’ campaign.

Masters initially supported a fetal personhood law but soon backed off that extreme stance in favor of a federal 15-week abortion ban. Both his initial abortion stance and his (false) claims that the 2020 election was rigged were scrubbed from his campaign website. He also supports finishing the expensive and ineffective U.S.-Mexico border wall started by Trump.

Attention now shifts to the Nevada Senate race, where Republican Adam Laxalt, at the time of this writing, had a 821 vote lead over incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. However, Nevada politics reporter John Ralston, who has forgotten more about the Silver State’s political scene than most of the rest of us will ever know, favors Cortez Masto based on where the remaining votes are. 

 Should Democrats manage to secure the Senate ahead of the Georgia run-off, it could scramble the conventional wisdom of how voters might turn out to vote in that contest. The New Republic’s Grace Segers has some timely analysis of how that contest might shake out should Democrats win in Nevada.    

Kevin McCarthy Is in Trouble

As the GOP’s margin of victory in the House dwindles in the direction of single digits, so too go his chances of becoming speaker.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It is said that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. For Kevin McCarthy, who had a lot riding on his party claiming a historic midterm victory that would restore a substantial Republican majority in the House, his most formidable adversary turns out to be the American electorate, who turned out in numbers sufficient to blunt the vaunted “red wave” and keep Democratic losses to a minimum. Many House races remain uncalled; it’s possible that when all is done and dusted, McCarthy might be left with a majority large enough to be spit-shined into respectability. But fresh reporting from NBC News suggests that the vultures are already circling.

NBC’s report—published Thursday, and authored by Scott Wong, Kyle Stewart, and Kate Santaliz—is worth a full read. But the long and the short of it is that McCarthy is going to likely need the support of the entire caucus to obtain the gavel, and his historic troubles keeping the House Freedom Caucus in his corner may prove to be his undoing. Per NBC News:

“No one currently has 218” votes, said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, as he emerged from a private Freedom Caucus meeting near the Capitol where members were discussing their strategy. Roy previously told NBC News he has not decided who he is backing for speaker.

“I have personally stated that Kevin McCarthy has not done anything to earn my vote,” added another Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Bob Good, R-Va.

Russ Vought, an influential conservative activist who went on to serve as Trump’s White House budget director, also warned against a McCarthy speakership in a statement Thursday.

“Kevin McCarthy’s speakership is in deep trouble. Members will have to go home and explain to constituents why they are voting for a leader who is not committed to waging war against a woke and weaponized government,” said Vought, now president of the conservative Center for Renewing America.

Back in August, The New Republic’s Grace Segers and Daniel Strauss published their magnum opus on McCarthy’s outsize ambitions, and even at a time when Republicans could still dream of a big midterm victory, there were signs that McCarthy’s hold on his caucus was incredibly fragile. Per Segers and Strauss:

But a few months before the November elections, some congressional Republicans are privately unsure if McCarthy even has the votes to become speaker. There’s almost always some last-minute alternative candidate who emerges in defiance of the front-runner. It’s likely a long shot will throw his or her hat in the ring, but congressional Republicans interviewed for this article also suggested that a more serious candidate like House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, McCarthy’s longtime deputy and occasional rival, would make a play for the speakership. Others have mentioned House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, who has spent the past year burnishing her credentials with the MAGA crowd.…

Some House Republicans have dismissed reporters’ questions about leadership as inside baseball, but even a sidestep can be telling. “I think we have a clear objective here as a conference: Go win seats and go create a majority to go stand up against Biden. And we need to have a conversation about what that’s going to look like, and then we’ll figure out our leadership structure,” said Representative Chip Roy of Texas. “Kevin’s a friend. I have a lot of friends in the conference. Let’s just keep marching forward and win in November.”

So far, Steve Scalise, who was thought to be the likeliest to challenge for the speakership, has publicly maintained his support for McCarthy, even as he prepares to launch a bid to become the majority leader in the House. Stefanik, meanwhile, rather pointedly endorsed former President Donald Trump on Friday. Her support, at a time when so many have plumped for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to seize the mantle, may serve her in good stead should Trump withdraw his own (tenuous) support for McCarthy.

Finally, if you need further indication that the red wave’s failure to materialize is going to be roiling Republicans on Capitol Hill, it appears that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is in a spot of bother as well: Florida Senator Marco Rubio took to Twitter on Friday to call for postponing the Senate leadership vote next week. (And yes, we took the time to be extra sure that this was, in fact, the real Marco Rubio, and not one of Elon Musk’s newly minted blue-check impersonators. What a world!)

Colorado Legalizes Magic Mushrooms

It becomes the second state after Oregon to give the OK to psychedelics.

James MacDonald/Getty Images

Proposition 122, the initiative seeking to legalize the use of “natural medicine,” has narrowly passed, with 52.3 percent in support and 47.7 percent against it, with 92 percent of votes reporting. The measure allows people 21 and older to grow and consume psychedelic mushrooms. It also allows the creation of state-regulated centers where people can make appointments to consume psilocybin, the compound derived from psychedelic mushrooms.

The passage of this measure comes more than four years after Denver became the first city in the United States to decriminalize psychedelics. Now the entire state becomes the second state after Oregon to fully legalize the use of “magic” mushrooms.

The measure specifically legalizes psilocybin and psilocin, two compounds found in psychedelic mushrooms. While the proposition does not include an option for retail sales, it further decriminalizes the personal growing and use of what the initiative defines as “natural medicine”—besides psilocybin and psilocin, this would include ibogaine, mescaline, and dimethyltryptamine, or DMT—for adults 21 or older.

As it eliminates penalties for psychedelic use, the proposition also lays out plans for establishing supervised administration of the “natural medicine” at licensed “healing centers.” By 2024, state agencies will be required to begin accepting applications for healing center licenses.

After June 1, 2026, these centers could be authorized to expand their services to include DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline, subject to an advisory board’s recommendation. Beyond the new “healing centers,” existing mental health and substance abuse centers could seek licenses to offer psychedelic treatments.

Additionally, anyone who completed a sentence for a conviction related to an act now legal under the initiative will be able to petition the courts to seal records related to that conviction.

Colorado’s passage follows an effort by certain members of Congress to open up research into psychedelic therapies. Three years ago, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced an amendment to expand research but was shut down by a majority of Democrats and nearly all Republicans.

Earlier this year, Ocasio-Cortez was joined by an unlikely ally in Representative Dan Crenshaw as they attached amendments to the annual military spending bill to increase access of psychedelic treatments to veterans and active service members, as well as expanding research into psychedelic substances. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs has, since June, been involved in a number of clinical trials involving psychedelic drugs, which have shown promise in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

We Have New Details About the U.S. Carbon Trading Plan (and It’s Still Confusing)

File under: Answers that only raise more questions.

Ahmad Gharabli/Getty Images

Earlier this week I wrote about a carbon trading scheme floated by international climate envoy John Kerry for financing renewable energy development in developing countries. As we learned on Wednesday, it’s going to be called the Energy Transition Accelerator, or ETA—not to be confused with the Energy Transition Accelerator Financing Platform, or ETAF, launched last year at COP26 by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the United Arab Emirates, and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.

Details are still very much being worked out, but new ones furnished on Wednesday haven’t added much more clarity. The ETA is to be a public-private partnership between the U.S. government, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Bezos Earth Fund, which intends “to catalyze private capital to accelerate the clean energy transition in developing countries” through at least 2030. Per an official announcement:

Chile and Nigeria are among the developing countries expressing early interest in exploring the ETA’s potential benefits. Bank of America, Microsoft, PepsiCo, and Standard Chartered Bank have also expressed interest in informing the ETA’s development, with decisions on whether to formally participate pending the completion of its design. The ETA will also be open to sovereign government investments and engagement.

National and subnational governments (regions, cities, etc.) can package their renewable energy and climate resilience plans into credits to be bought by major corporations. As in similar carbon trading schemes, the ETA would allow credit buyers to offset their own emissions by financing reductions elsewhere. Officials also argue it’ll help unlock even more private-sector financing. “By providing jurisdictions with fixed-price advance purchase commitments for verified emission reductions, the ETA will create a predictable finance stream that can unlock upfront private finance at more favorable rates,” the announcement continues. Participating jurisdictions “will include social safeguards and benefits to local economies, including support for job creation and training.”

There are more than a few well-documented problems with offsetting schemes: For one, they’re fertile ground for scams. The system for validating which credits actually correspond to real emissions reductions in the voluntary carbon market is still something of a regulatory Wild West, ruled by a small handful of private actors.

The ETA could also be courting its own unique set of challenges. Renewable energy projects are often developed by third-party companies that are contracted out by for-profit or public utilities. The result could be a kind of Rube Goldberg contraption for financing clean energy development: Big companies in wealthy countries will buy up credits for projects to count toward their climate goals developed by some third-party contractor abroad. Fossil fuel companies won’t be allowed to participate—at least for now.

Among the organizations to be consulted is the Science-Based Targets Initiative, a Bezos Earth Fund donation recipient that recently came under fire over governance and transparency issues, including its practice of collecting fees from companies to verify that their net-zero plans are legit.

Needless to say, climate justice advocates who’ve been asking the U.S. to put up actual money toward climate finance weren’t exactly thrilled by Kerry’s innovation/rehashing of a 40-year-old idea with a patchy (at best) track record. Even the U.N. secretary-general’s staff and some European nations were reportedly cool to the idea.

Can’t win ’em all!

Actually, Democrats Put Plenty of Focus on “Pocketbook Issues”

A new analysis shows how the party might have done so well on election night, and what it should keep in mind.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II and Governor Gretchen Whitmer celebrate big wins for Michigan Democrats on election night.

Apparently, Democrats actually focused more on so-called pocketbook issues than Republicans in the final months of campaign.

Analysis from the Winning Jobs Narrative Project shows that, across nine “pocketbook” topics—including health care, prescription drugs, and Social Security—Democrats aired 200,000 more advertisement spots than Republicans.

These figures contradict a media narrative that arose during the lead-up to election night, which held that Democrats’ messaging was substantially out of touch with voters’ economic concerns. This conventional wisdom contributed to the premature consensus that Democrats were set to drown in a red wave. The thinking went like this: Republicans were hitting the Democrats on inflation; Democrats were focused too much on democracy or “social issues;” the energy around abortion peaked too soon; student debt cancellation was a mistake.

And then the red wave fizzled into a red ripple.

Democrats held seats they were defending and won elections on which they’d pinned their hopes—from Pennsylvania’s Senate seat and governorship to Michigan’s governorship and state legislature—all while staving off a number of Republican challengers who were thought to be in the ascendance. While some elections, like Arizona’s Senate and governor’s races, are still undeclared, Democrats overperformed expectations in sum.

The analysis did show Republicans having an advantage over Democrats in focusing on taxes, the economy, and energy. But that might have been for naught: As the researchers behind the study reported, “The data suggest that Republicans’ generalized criticisms of the economy may have fallen short against Democrats’ communication advantage on key, specific pocketbook concerns.”

In other words, Republicans amorphously blithering about inflation (let alone about some nondescript necessity to cut taxes for the rich) may not have been enough to overcome Democratic messaging on items such as health care or drug prices or manufacturing—issues that tend to localize the “economy” to voters. This becomes all the more powerful when Democrats counter Republicans’ indiscriminate gripes about inflation with explanations that offer price gouging as an alternative.

This dynamic surely may not be universal, and is not the only factor that contributed to the election results. Massive turnout spurred by benefactors of student debt cancellation, as well as those concerned about losing the right to an abortion or the impending threat of climate change also factored into the exit polling—especially among young people and women. If Democrats want to replicate such success in the future, they ought to reflect on how speaking to “social issues” and “pocketbook issues” are not mutually exclusive—and that attention given to both issue categories is a winning combination.

Period-Havers Have the Last Laugh Over the “Red Wave”

As one jokester put it, “More like light spotting.”

Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Turns out there was a “red wave” on Election Day after all, just not the ones that Republicans hoped for. Women, particularly women of color, voted overwhelmingly Democratic during the 2022 midterms, exit polls found. Inevitably, some found the joke that was … just sitting there.

The midterm elections saw record-high voter turnout, both early and in person, and according to the exit polls, access to abortion was one of the top issues at the ballot box. Additionally, five states had abortion rights issues on the ballot, and all five states voted to either increase or maintain access to the procedure.

Republicans had been promising a tsunami-like sweep in the midterms but ended up stunned to see major losses across the board. Although many of the marquee national races remain tight, Democrats pulled off upset wins and flipped state legislatures. In Michigan, the state government went Democratic, and abortion was the primary driver.

Right-wing media outlets and commentators have freaked out, trying to explain why their red wave slowed to a trickle. They have tried to blame everything from Donald Trump to voters being too young. They can’t seem to grasp—or won’t admit—that people vote for issues that matter to them.

But Washington Post writer Monica Hesse explained, “Buddy, it was right in front of you. The red wave rolled in with Aunt Flo on a longboard.”

Many others have been quick to mock the so-called red wave, noting it both sounds like a euphemism for a period and symbolizes how period-havers turned out in droves to vote against the Republicans.

“So, contrary to all these major media outlets, the red wave coming is my period on Friday,” tweeted professor Uju Anya.

Podcaster Allison Gill joked that “the ‘red wave’ is more like light spotting.”

Writer Akilah Hughes sympathized: “I get it, sometimes I think it’s a red wave but then my period hasn’t actually shown up.” But, she hastened to add, “It’s just that I’m not on TV affecting anyone’s life with that miscalculation.”

Republicans Are So Mad at the Huge Youth Turnout They Want to Increase the Voting Age

Gen Z came out in huge numbers this election. Now Republicans are trying to decide what the new voting age should be.

Thomas Simonetti/Washington Post/Getty Images
A view inside the campaign headquarters of Maxwell Frost, who was recently elected to the House of Representative from Florida’s 10th congressional district.

Young voters turned out in record numbers for Election Day and overwhelmingly voted Democratic—sending Republicans into a moralistic panic over the voting age.

About a third of voters under age 30 participated in the midterm elections, according to a study by Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civil Learning and Engagement.

There was 27 percent turnout overall, and 31 percent turnout in battleground states. In fact, young voters—who favored Democrats by about a 2-to-1 margin—helped tip the scale left in several crucial races, including Pennsylvania and Michigan.

As a result, not only was there no much-promised “red wave” on election night, but many states swung in the opposite direction, although the national races remain tight. Democrats took control of state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota.

By Thursday morning, conservatives were clamoring to raise the voting age, although they couldn’t seem to agree on what the new age should be: There were arguments for 21, 25, 30, or simply until voters had gotten “a lil life experience.”

The demand is, of course, as ridiculous as it is hypocritical. There is no talk of also raising the age for military enlistment or, say, consent. Instead, it shows that the right is rushing to preserve its power over Gen Z rather than appealing to them through legislation.

But while it’s easy to poke fun at Republicans, a call to raise the voting age is still a call to violate voter rights.

“The fact that there are republicans calling to raise the voting age to 21 because Gen-Z showed up in HEAVY Democratic numbers last night is both laughable and terrifying,” tweeted Olivia Julianna, from the nonprofit Gen-Z for Change.

Fox News Is Having a Meltdown Over the Election Results

Right-wing media simply cannot understand the election results.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In the wake of Republicans falling short of their foretold “red wave,” right-wing media reactions have run the whole gamut.

But no other outlet has had a meltdown like Fox News:

These hosts are so unable to fathom the results that they have gone to great length introducing other convoluted theories for why Republicans lost. Fox News host Jesse Watters, for example, claimed that the Democrats are working to keep women single, and if single women just get married, things would look way different:

It’s not just Fox News, of course. On The Charlie Kirk Show, Benny Johnson yearned for a Republican who “utilizes and wields power over his enemies, and then destroys his enemies and makes them grovel, makes molten salty tears flow from their faces.” (Yes, this is an exact quote.) On Pray Vote Stand, Michelle Bachmann said the results simply don’t make sense given how much praying and repenting the right did.

These nonsensical right-wing media reactions substantiate one case for why Republicans lost. The Republican project to win majorities off of disinformation, or by desperately trying to frame Democrats as “out of touch,” can only go so far when your own project has nothing to offer.

Republicans and the media, and Fox News specifically, have for months framed Democrats as too focused on “social issues” instead of “kitchen table issues.” But voters just showed how these issues are one and the same—and that Democrats are the ones speaking to them.

Marijuana legalization, abortion access, a free and fair democracy are all ideas that have won this week, and all things—alongside items like student debt cancellation and climate and Medicaid expansion—that have buoyed Democratic success. Republicans simply do not have a plan to recoup young voters, or women voters (beyond begging for them to get married).

If Republicans remain saddled in their aimless meltdown, pointing fingers left and right and everywhere in between, we’ll keep seeing moments like these:

Can Democrats Still Win Congress? Here’s Where We Stand.

There wasn't a “red wave,” like expected.

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Although there was no feared “Red Wave” on Election Day, it’s still a tight race for Democrats to maintain control of Congress.

As of Thursday morning, The New York Times showed Democrats holding 189 seats in the House of Representatives, while Republicans had 207.

The Senate is still a tossup, with Arizona and Nevada not yet called and Georgia heading to a runoff in December. Arizona election officials said they may not finish counting until Friday, but since that is the Veterans’ Day holiday, it’s unclear if they’ll announce results then. We won’t know Nevada results until next week.

Some people are still optimistic that the Democrats can still pull off keeping the House, albeit by the thinnest of margins.

David Beard, who specializes in election coverage, said Wednesday night that it looked like the Democrats would win a House majority, when examining both races that had already been called and races that were not yet called but strongly favored Democrats.

Daniel Nichanian noted that Republicans were leading in the vote count for 220 seats, but only 207 had been called at the time, still leaving a lot of uncertainty.

Dozens of races still have yet to be called, as not all votes have been counted. A record-high number of people voted early, at least 44 million, and more record numbers turned out to vote in person.

It might take weeks before we know who won each state, so until then, it’s still anybody’s game.

This piece was updated to better reflect Beard and Nichanian’s tweets.