Top Notes – This Week in Presidential Politics (May 3 – 10, 2019)

Each week I curate a set of “Top Notes” of media coverage on the 2020 presidential elections. Read it to keep up to date on latest developments.
– Sarah Lyons, Director of Communications, Independent Voting

May 3 – May 10, 2019


What 2020 DP presidential candidates are doing and saying (Summary compiled by FiveThirtyEight, 5/10/19)

Independent Voter Rights

Pennsylvania – Pressure Grows for PA to do Away with Closed Primaries Pennsylvania: Land of Disenfranchisement? It’s not the state slogan, but Pennsylvania is in the minority of states with closed primary elections as the number of independent voters grows, sparking debate in the Legislature about opening up party primaries…Jen Bullock, a Montgomery County psychotherapist and registered independent, said this is the most traction she’s seen 15 years after founding the group Independent Pennsylvanians. An open primary system can erode the outsized influence of political parties over a system of elected government that doesn’t address issues of concern to ordinary citizens anymore, Bullock said. “I don’t think the parties should be gatekeepers to our voting rights,” Bullock said. Party officials are keeping a low-profile on the issue. Democratic Party chairwoman Nan (AP, 5/4/19)


  • Letter to Editor. D. 211, “An Act to Open Maine’s Primaries,” is a common-sense proposal that would improve our electoral process by boosting civic engagement and increasing voter turnout, especially among young voters and veterans, many of whom have not enrolled in any political party. I encourage all voters to support this reform. I strongly believe that democracy works best when more people are encouraged to participate. Maine’s closed primary law expressly prohibits 35 percentof registered voters from participating in primary elections because they have not chosen to become part of a political party. This is particularly discouraging for young voters. Fifty percent of millennials “describe themselves as political independents,” according to Pew Research, and, as such, are disenfranchised by our closed-primary law. Maine is one of only 11 states with “member-only” elections that limit participation in primary elections to voters who register with a political party. Voters who have lived in other states are even more likely to be stymied by our “closed primaries” system. This inconsistency disproportionately impacts those voters, such as veterans, who move states frequently. Similar to millennials, 49 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans aren’t enrolled in either major party and so are disenfranchised by Maine’s current closed primary law. I urge you to contact your elected officials and ask for their support of L.D. 211. Open primaries would encourage greater participation in our electoral process by allowing unenrolled voters to have their voices heard in all elections. Betts J. Gorsky(PressHerald, 5/6/19)
  • Letter to Editor – I am a lifelong Republican, and I agree with Dutson that open primaries would strengthen the Maine GOP. Unenrolled voters comprise the largest voting blockin Maine. If the Republican party wants to earn the support of these voters, they should allow them to participate in primary elections…I urge you to contact your representatives and ask them to support open primaries as well. Clifton Eames (Bangor Daily News, 5/6/19)
  • Letter to Editor – I have been enrolled as a Republican in Maine for 40 years. I served for 12 years as an elected official in Holden and ran as a Republican in a contested primary for the Legislature. I am deeply committed to citizen participation in the election process. I do not believe it is enough to talk about politics, but rather we must go to the polls and vote. For the most part, Maine encourages participation by reducing barriers to voting. But when it comes to primaries, we close the door on a third of our voters because they are not enrolled in a party. I believe that we should encourage all voters to participate in the primary process regardless of party affiliation. Fortunately, the Legislature is considering a bill that opens our primaries to unenrolled voters. A healthy political process requires citizens who exercise their right to vote, and LD 211can help. In my own bid for the Legislature, I would have welcomed the opportunity to have all my friends and neighbors vote for me in June. I urge you to contact your legislators and ask for their support of LD 211. Clare Hudson Payne Holden (Bangor Daily News, 5/7/19)
  • Opinion Guest Contributor – I haven’t always supported open primaries, but times have changed. Over the past decade, when campaigning for election to the Maine Senate, I came across an increasing number of voters who felt that their voices were not being heard. Today, nearly four in 10 Maine votershave unenrolled from the political parties or were never enrolled to begin with. Maine’s closed primary law prohibits these voters from participating in the June elections that serve to narrow down the field of candidates in some elections, and that effectively decide the outcome of elections in districts with strong partisan leanings. It is understandable that these voters, as well as many Democrats and Republicans, would feel like the political system is broken and express their frustration over laws that deny unincarcerated, of-age citizens access to the ballot box. I strongly support LD 211, An Act to Open Maine’s Primaries and Permit Unenrolled Voters to Cast Ballots in Primary Elections, and urge lawmakers to vote in favor of this important legislation. Opening Maine’s primaries to unenrolled voters would give greater legitimacy to the political parties as institutions and could help to aid their cause. Those of us within the parties would have the opportunity to welcome unenrolled voters into the process earlier on, educate them about our platform and priorities, and engage them in a widening coalition to win elections and govern more collaboratively. Over time, some of these voters might even come to register with the party. Whether they do or not, those who participate in primaries will be more likely to support the nominees who they helped to select. That’s good both for voters and parties. (Bangor Daily News, 5/7/19)

Missouri – Letter to Editor: “HB 26 is not right for Missouri. Missouri currently has an open primary. Voters decide which party ballot they want each election. We are not locked in and independent voters like me have the same rights as anyone else. HB 26 restricts voter freedom and choice by requiring everyone to join a party when registering and being locked in to that parties primary. Independent voters, like me, would not be able to vote in primaries at all. And if anyone wants to switch, they are required to do so six months before the primary. Sponsors of HB 26 claim the primaries are “private” elections. They are not. But if enacted, it means that independents would not be eligible to vote in elections they pay for. 40 percent of Missouri elections are decided in the primaries. Shutting people out means many voters would have zero say in who represents them. Please join me in contacting our legislators to let them know this is not the will of the people of Missouri. Thank you, Mary Butt”

Voting Rights – 2020 Presidential Primary Process

The Massachusetts Republican Party is aiming to protect President Donald Trump from primary challengers such as former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld by approving a new winner-takes-all delegate plan. The Mass GOP approved the 2020 plan last week and will now award all of the party’s delegates to the Republican candidate who clears more than 50 percent of the vote in the state presidential primary. The strategy is a departure from the 2016 primary, when the state party used a proportional method to award delegates to the 17 Republicans running for president…  if the rule change is replicated in state parties across the country, it could prevent Weld from making any sort of dent at the Republican National Convention next summer. Weld campaign adviser Stuart Stevens said the rule change looks like a sign of weakness on Trump’s part. “Parties can change these rules when they want to change them. All you can do is just go forward and offer an alternative.”


“Michigan is emblematic of the debate within the (Democratic) party: Should presidential candidates devote most of their time, resources and campaign pitch to working-class white voters who sided with Trump or the diverse, urban-dwelling Democrats who sat out the last contest altogether? The debate has sharpened with former Vice President Joe Biden entering the fray, as he overtly premises his bid on his appeal to blue-collar union workers. Sen. Kamala Harris, seeking to differentiate herself from Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, two white, 70-something men leading the Democratic polls, emphatically laid out a competing vision of how to win back Michigan. Harris, visiting the state this week for the first time as a White House hopeful, challenged the stereotype of a Midwestern voter as a working-class white male who’d prefer a candidate with a similar profile. Too often their definition of the Midwest leaves people out,” Harris said on Sunday. “It leaves out people in this room who helped build cities like Detroit. It leaves out working women who are on their feet all day — many of them working without equal pay. “And the conversation too often suggests certain voters will only vote for certain candidates regardless of whether their ideas will lift up all our families,” she said, adding a warning against being “dragged into simplistic narratives or yesterday’s politics.” (Los Angeles Times, 5/7/19)

Schultz – in the past two weeks, Schultz has largely disappeared, leaving the impression that the presidential campaign he was flirting with won’t actually come to fruition.Erin McPike, a spokesperson for Schultz, said there was a simple reason for these canceled events: he was “taking a break while he is recovering from back surgery.” But Schultz has also dialed down the elements of his campaign prep that don’t actually require public appearances… There has been one major development that happened in the 2020 election since Schultz’s trip to Arizona: the formal entrance of former Vice President Joe Bideninto the Democratic primary. Biden is an establishment figure with a lengthy record that places him a fair distance away from his party’s ideological left. In short, he’s the very type of candidate that Schultz has said would convince him to ultimately not enter the presidential race. But Burton stressed that the former VP’s presence was not a factor—at least yet—in Schultz’s thinking. (Daily Beast, 5/9/19)

Buttigieg – The 37-year-old Indiana mayor has pushed back against the notion that conservatives and the Republican party own issues like freedom and faith in America, saying Tuesday he felt it was “important that we stop seeing religion used as a kind of cudgel, as if God belonged to a political party.” (The Independent, 5/6/19)

Warren – (Call for impeachment) “Our Constitution is built on the separation of powers, precisely to prevent a dictator from taking control… If any other human had done what’s documented in Mueller report, they’d be arrested. [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] doesn’t want to consider the mountain of evidence. That’s wrong…We are a govt that works by separation of powers. We are not a government that circles the wagon around a leader… the Mueller report clearly constitutes adequate information to begin impeachment proceedings in the House…no matters how many times Republicans wish that away…I’m here to say one more time in public. This is not a fight I wanted to take on, but this is the fight in front of us now. This is not about politics. This is about the Constitution of the United States of America. We took an oath — not to try to protect Donald Trump. We took an oath to protect and serve the Constitution of the United States of America. And the way we do that is we begin impeachment proceedings now against this President.”

# # #