Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Cruising the Web

Ron Fournier is still very disappointed with Hillary Clinton. He writes that her appearance before the Benghazi Committee might have helped her quiet some of the public's concerns about Benghazi, but she still has a lot to worry about.
People don’t trust her.
The NBC/WSJ poll re­veals that 53 per­cent of re­gistered voters give her poor marks for “be­ing hon­est and straight­for­ward,” while just 27 per­cent give her high marks....

The cake is baked on Clin­ton’s in­teg­rity. She must now pray for a flaky GOP nom­in­ee.

This headline is not going to help Bush's image.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush lightheartedly apologized to the people of France on Tuesday for making fun of their work week during last week’s Republican debate.

Speaking to reporters aboard his campaign bus on the first leg of a three-day swing through New Hampshire, Bush once again criticized congressional lawmakers for working a three-day week, saying lawmakers have over-promised and under-delivered to the American people in successive elections. But the GOP presidential hopeful acknowledged he was wrong to criticize the French when he was trying to highlight rival Marco Rubio’s poor voting record in the Senate.

“I made the mistake of saying that the Congress operates on a French work week,” he deadpanned. “I really did a disservice to the French,” Bush added with a chuckle Tuesday.
He might be joking, but no Republican should want there to be a storyline out there with the words "apologize to the French" in it.

Here's a recommendation for Jeb Bush: drop out of the presidential race and run to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate.
hat goal has many advantages. It allows Jeb to concentrate on a single state, and a state that knows him better than Iowa or New Hampshire. He has higher name recognition in Florida than any of the potential Republican or Democratic candidates, even though he has not stood for election in Florida since 2002.

Campaigning for the U.S. Senate would allow Jeb to sort of stick it to current Sen. Marco Rubio. Jeb could campaign as a senator who would actually show up to vote. Jeb could even use a variation of that attack against Carlos Lopez-Cantera, one of the more prominent Republicans who is running for the Senate seat Rubio will vacate. Lopez-Cantera is – as almost nobody knows – Florida’s lieutenant governor. And he does … pretty much nothing. Like Rubio, he’s another politician running for higher office while doing close to zip in lower office.

A successful Bush campaign would allow the GOP to retain a Florida senator, an outcome far from certain as the Democrats choose between major candidates Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson.

A successful campaign also would allow Jeb to retain some dignity. Rather than simply washing out as a presidential candidate, he could – like his grandfather Prescott before him – belong to an elite club of just 100 politicians. Jeb’s father, George Herbert Walker Bush, served two terms in the House of Representatives (along with many other posts) before becoming a one-term president.

Finally, a Sen. Jeb Bush would be well-positioned in four or even eight years – when he would be 70 – to take another shot at the presidency. At that time, Jeb would have experience not only as a governor but also as a senator from a key swing state.
Sure it's a risk, but he'd have a better chance to win in Florida for the Senate than he has now in the presidential contest. Though I can't see Jeb enjoying the Senate any more than Rubio has. Jeb liked being in charge and he loved being governor of Florida. I can't see him enjoying being one of a 100 in a dysfunctional Senate. I like the idea.

It would help him avoid the sort of ridicule that he's facing as he tries to "fix" his campaign. Jim Geraghty writes, that a lot of the problems in his campaign are his own fault.
The first test of Jeb’s ability to “fix it” will be seeing whether he can fix his campaign.

Besides his fundamental misreading of the GOP primary electorate -- a considerable strategic, big-picture obstacle to overcome -- Bush makes tactical mistakes as well. If you’re going to go after Donald Trump for saying something nasty about your wife, you’ve got to look tough, chivalrous, and no-nonsense. (Does anybody fear crossing Jeb Bush?)

Who told him that hitting Marco Rubio on missed votes would be the silver bullet to knock out this former protégé and rival? As noted on the home page, this is a pretty stupid argument. Do you think there’s a single voter outside of Florida who cares about Rubio’s missing these votes? And do you think there’s a single voter who will pick Bush over Rubio because Rubio has missed Senate votes out on the campaign trail?

If anybody in the GOP field wants to go after Rubio, there’s a glaring, obvious opportunity: the Gang of Eight bill. Of course, Jeb doesn’t have that option, because he supported that legislation, supports a path to citizenship in general, and in fact hit Rubio for backing off of his support of the Gang of Eight bill.

I suppose Jeb Bush could try to run a version of his brother’s, “You may not always agree with me, but you always know where I stand” direct, principled approach. But I just don’t see an outspoken pro-path-to-citizenship candidate winning the GOP primary. A lot of voters will ask: If we have a choice between a pro-amnesty Republican and a pro-amnesty Democrat, why vote? Secondly, is there anybody who can make the case for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants -- in this 62.6 percent workforce-participation-rate economy -- who doesn’t imply or outright call the other side xenophobic and racist? The only issue where you see even more smug condescension and refusal to seriously listen to the opposition is . . . Common Core, which is Bush’s other big crusade....

Jeb Bush wants to fix something? The first thing he can set out to fix is a governing class that feels contempt for the public they govern. Our government’s cultural disdain for the mere plebes who don’t work for it has set up a murder’s row of incompetence, scandal, cover-ups, and unaccountability -- the $2 billion spent on; 307,000 veterans dying while waiting for care from the VA; the Office of Personnel Management letting hackers get 22 million personnel records and 5.6 million fingerprint records; an EPA “cleanup” turning a river puke-yellow by spilling 3 million gallons of toxic mine sludge; Benghazi.

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Usually experts think that senators have a disadvantage running for the presidency, but perhaps his experience in the Senate has actually helped Marco Rubio. He has learned to stick to his basic mention. He'll give his stump speech over and over and, when asked questions in the debates, he most often reverts to part of his basic speech and talking points.
That message discipline, in fact, is one of the things that has helped him navigate the roiling waters of his first presidential bid with nary an “oops” moment. Unlike former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who he will face off against in the third presidential debate Wednesday, Rubio came of age during an era that has flipped the traditional political script on its head and left U.S. senators in some ways better prepared for the rigors of a modern presidential campaign than today’s governors are.

Life in the Washington fishbowl schools senators in what it’s like to live under the intense spotlight of the national press in the social media age, while governors — especially those from conservative states — increasingly face off only against attenuated regional press corps with limited budgets, in an environment lacking in powerful local partisan opposition research groups.

Senators learn quickly that their every utterance can be amplified by outside groups and the tightly networked national press on Twitter and online video networks — that they live in a world where any stray comment, regardless of intention, can be weaponized against them by opponents to drive negative media. And senators do it all under the watch of a D.C.-based cottage industry of groups that exist largely to highlight the foibles of whatever side they consider the other side.

This difference in training grounds could help explain some of the missteps of the Bush campaign, helmed by a former governor so used to speaking frankly in his pre-Twitter, pre-YouTube years in office that he began his presidential campaign by emailing reporters directly himself — and still does so occasionally.

His favorite type of campaign event is a town hall setting where he can talk at length and engage in a give-and-take with voters without worrying about how to package his thoughts into sound bites. But what seemed like a charmingly anachronistic level of accessibility at the start of the campaign has increasingly left Bush out of step in the gotcha-watch heat of the national presidential campaign, where every utterance is shrunk into 140-character tweets and 10-second video clips.

THis administration sees racism in places you never would have imagined. Now they consider it racist for employers to ask potential employees if they have ever been convicted of a felony. So President Obama has signed an executive order banning that question for people applying for federal jobs. I guess an alternate headline would be that "Obama facilitates felons working for the federal government." There are reasons why employers should want to know if someone has been convicted of a felony. IBD editorializes,
Besides determining suitability for employment, it helps protect both employees and customers against theft, embezzlement, fraud and workplace violence. Proper screening procedures also help protect employers from legal liability.

Preventing agencies from conducting such criminal background checks on workers in the era of terrorism and hacking will make the government even more vulnerable to such threats.

More than ever, such checks are necessary for maintaining the safety and security of not only personnel but also sensitive data.

But as with every issue, our racemonger-in-chief sees only a racial component and charges discrimination, discrimination, discrimination.

"The federal government should not use criminal history to screen out applicants ... simply because of a mistake that they made in the past," Obama intoned. A mistake? Felonies are serious warning flags.
Tell it to Sue Weaver, an Orlando housewife who was raped, murdered and set on fire by an AC repairman who got into her home because his employer failed to do a background check on the two-time convicted rapist. Or Carrie Smith and Beth Morgan of Detroit, who were stalked by an unvetted Sears contractor with six criminal convictions, including aggravated stalking.

Obama has at the same time issued a directive to firms contracting with the government that the consideration of criminal records in hiring or other personnel decisions may have a "disparate impact" on racial and ethnic minorities in violation of civil rights laws.

His EEOC chief, a former NAACP activist, has cited the law in suing Dollar General, BMW, Kaplan Higher Education and other firms for denying jobs to black applicants with drug convictions and other felonies.
A federal judge last year threw out the EEOC's case against Freeman Cos., arguing that such background checks are a "rational" part of the hiring process, while blasting the administration for trying to racialize and criminalize "the use of common sense."

Still, Obama wants to make all private employers blind to potential drug addicts, thieves, larcenists, sex offenders and con artists in the workplace.

It's clear that in his final days in office, the president is making it a priority to give leniency to criminals.

He announced other hug-a-thug policies Monday at his "criminal justice reform" speech in Newark, N.J., where Democratic Sen. Cory Booker joined him on the stage. He's pushing bills not only to permanently prohibit the government and its contractors from asking job applicants about criminal histories in questionnaires but also to further slash sentences for crack dealers. They include:

• Removing criminal background checks on Section 8 housing.
• Giving Pell grants to incarcerated inmates.
• Granting SBA loans to parolees.

• Capping all in-state and interstate prison phone rates for inmates and their contacts on the outside.
While ex-cons deserve a second chance after serving their time, employers deserve the right to screen job applicants for criminal histories to protect themselves and their workers. And the government has no business stopping them.

Another claim of supposedly racist white police stopping an African Americans is exposed as a fraud. It certainly demonstrates how having a dashcam can help the police.

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Eitan Hersh at 538, not a conservative site, describes how the Democrats suppress the vote. Indeed, few people will vote today. Many elections are taking place, but almost all are for local offices. School boards, for example, are up for election in Houston; Fairfax County, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina and in hundreds of other communities that oversee the education of millions of schoolchildren. But only a small number of highly engaged voters will participate in the elections for these offices.

Scheduling elections at odd times appears to be a deliberate strategy aimed at keeping turnout low, which gives more influence to groups like teachers unions that have a direct stake in the election’s outcome. ....

One way they do this is how they schedule votes for local positions.
The election calendar in the United States is an insane mess. Exhibit A is New Jersey. New Jersey holds federal elections with the rest of the country on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of even-numbered years. But elections for state office in New Jersey are held in November of odd-numbered years. School district elections are held on the third Tuesday in April or else in November. And fire district commissioner elections are held on the third Saturday in February.

It isn’t just New Jersey. Most states — 44 out of 50 — hold some state and local elections off the federal cycle.


Political scientist Sarah Anzia, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, gives a compelling explanation in an outstanding book published last year. The first point that Anzia makes is that the off-cycle election calendar is not a response to voter preferences; voters do not like taking multiple trips to the voting booth. Anzia asked a nationally representative sample of Americans if they prefer elections held at different times for different offices “because it allows voters to focus on a shorter list of candidates and issues during each election” or all at the same time “because combining the elections boosts voter turnout for local elections.” Voters of all political stripes prefer consolidated elections, and by wide margins. But that’s especially true for people who identify as Democrats, who prefer consolidated elections 73 percent to 27 percent.

Consolidation is popular, and during the decade-long period between 2001 and 2011 that Anzia studied, state legislatures across the country considered over 200 bills aimed at consolidating elections. About half, 102 bills, were focused specifically on moving school board election dates so that they would coincide with other elections. Only 25 became law.

The consolidation bills, which were generally sponsored by Republicans, typically failed because of Democratic opposition, according to Anzia. By her account, Democrats opposed the bills at the urging of Democratic-aligned interest groups, namely teachers unions and municipal employee organizations....

Why do Democrats and Democratic-aligned groups prefer off-cycle elections? When school boards and other municipal offices are up for election at odd times, few run-of-the-mill voters show up at the polls, but voters with a particular interest in these elections — like city workers themselves — show up in full force. The low-turnout election allows their policy goals to dominate.

Anzia shows that off-cycle elections lead to higher salaries and better health and retirement benefits for teachers and public employees. Anzia studies these effects in many different ways. The simplest way is by looking at eight states that allow local governments to set their own election dates. She compares school districts that hold school board elections on-cycle and off-cycle within the same state. Controlling for factors that might make districts different from one another — like their population size, income, racial composition, partisan leanings and how urban or rural they are — Anzia found that the maximum base teacher salary is over 4 percent higher in districts with off-cycle elections.

Higher salaries and better benefits for municipal employees can be a good outcome. What is interesting is that this outcome is the result of a deliberate move to hold municipal elections at times when few voters are participating.
We've noticed that here in Raleigh many times when there is a bond issue for money for schools. They schedule it on some off week when very few people are going to turn out. But teachers will turn out because it concerns their livelihood. So such bond issues always pass.

It's just ironic that the Democrats who like to make a big deal about increasing voter turnout and accusing Republicans of trying to decrease turnout are actually doing the same thing when it's in their supporters' interests to do so.
Proponents of the off-cycle strategy argue that local issues get drowned out when local elections are held concurrent with presidential or congressional elections. People who show up to vote in those big elections may not be equipped to weigh in on the local issues. Anzia quotes a Texas school official who defends off-cycle elections because they bring out “an educated voter … people who really care about the issues and who are passionate about their district.” In off-cycle elections, proponents claim, the electorate is a concentrated set of voters who are engaged in the local issues, which yields better results for the community.

For readers who are sympathetic to the perspective of the off-cycle election proponents (typically Democrats), it is worth noting that these are very much the same arguments that Republicans might make in favor of voting restrictions that make voting a little bit harder for the average American. Just like voter ID or voter-registration requirements, off-cycle elections impose a cost on political participation. The cost is evidently high, since very few people participate in local elections when they are held in odd-numbered years. Maybe the cost leads to a more enlightened electorate. Or maybe it is Democratic-sponsored voter suppression.

Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton made a speech about voting rights in which she said, “Republicans are systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting. What part of democracy are they afraid of?” For Democrats like Clinton who are apparently aghast at Republican efforts at voter suppression, today is a good day to take a look in the mirror.

JiIm Geraghty explains why Rubio's missed votes won't hurt him.
Yes, Rubio has missed a lot of votes this year — 99 out of 294, to be exact. But running for president requires an intense travel schedule, and there’s no indication that Rubio regularly missed votes before launching his campaign. Prior to this year, Rubio had missed only 77 of 1143 votes — 6 percent of them — as a senator. Even with this year’s spotty attendance record, Rubio’s overall attendance rate remains high — he’s only missed 176 of 1,437 votes in almost five years in the Senate....

In 2007 and 2008, Barack Obama missed 303 of 655 votes — 46 percent. From January 2007 until she suspended her campaign in June 2008, Hillary Clinton missed 201 of 604 votes — 33 percent.

From January to September of 1987, immediately before and during his first run for president, Joe Biden missed 144 of 293 Senate votes, or just over 49 percent. During Biden’s more recent presidential campaign, in 2007, he missed 173 of 442 votes, or about 39 percent.

From July 2003 to December 2004, John Kerry missed 362 of 413 votes — 87 percent. He missed all 42 Senate votes from July to September of 2004, in the stretch run of the general election....

In a perfect world, presidential candidates would not attempt to balance the duties of their current office with the enormously time-consuming act of running for president. If your governor or senator runs for president, they’re going to be spending a lot less time in the office and a lot more time shaking hands in Iowa diners and New Hampshire town halls. That’s a basic fact of political life. It seems extraordinarily selective to attack Rubio for missing votes when plenty of other national candidates have done the same.

John HInderaker argues that the discussion today about gun control really is about confiscation. That's why they have started talking about Australia.
In effect, it was confiscation of all privately-owned firearms. That is what liberals want, and politicians like Obama and Clinton–and most Democrats–dog-whistle their supporters with talk about Australia and other countries that make private ownership difficult or impossible. At the same time, with a broad wink to their base, liberals ridicule those who “think we are coming to take their guns away”–“black helicopter” stuff, according to Hillary.
However, as long as the Second Amendment is in the Constitution, the sort of confiscation done in Australia is impossible here. So why mention it?
Liberals yearn for confiscation, but they aren’t serious about it. They know that in any remotely foreseeable time frame, it won’t happen. They also know that the proposals they offer to deal with gun violence–the tired litany of “universal background checks,” small magazine requirements, banning of scary-looking rifles, and so on–will do nothing about the problem they say they want to solve....

It also strikes me that the unprofitable faux-debate over gun control is not so different from much of our political discourse. Liberals and conservatives alike stake out positions on firearms not because they seriously expect any impact in the realm of public policy, but rather because they want to signal to their cohort of voters: I am one of you. But isn’t that often the case?

Left and right spar over abortion, but no one seriously thinks the law is going to change. It can’t, given rogue Supreme Court rulings. Defunding Planned Parenthood would seem to be an easily achievable goal, but even that appears unattainable. Conservative politicians vow to cut federal spending, when they know perfectly well that federal spending isn’t going to decline no matter who commands the majority in Washington. Liberal politicians vow to protect the poor and the helpless, when they know that their policies mostly hurt the poor and, in any event, there is only one direction in which government benefits will move, until the crash comes: up.

All of this, and much more, is mostly signaling: telling voters that I, the politician, am the same sort of person as you, the voter. Few people seriously expect major policy differences to result from an election. Rather, they hope that an election will show that “we” are on top, and “you” are on the outs. That in itself is cause for celebration; it has little to do with any impact in the real world of public policy. The sterile debate over gun rights is maybe an extreme case, but in my opinion, it is not very different from much of what passes for political discourse in our debased era.
I agree with HInderaker that this is all posturing and the Republicans do the same thing. However, there is a downside. Many people don't realize that the politicians aren't serious and then they're angry when the people they elect don't accomplish what they talked about leading up to the election. Republicans talked over and over about repealing Obamacare when they must have known that was not possible. It's the same thing when they talk about what they want to do on immigration. It's all very discouraging.

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Thomas Sowell makes the argument that regular public schools should be allowed to kick out disruptive students.
Critics of charter schools have often pointed to those schools' ability to expel uncooperative and disruptive students, far more readily than regular public schools can, as a reason for some charter schools' far better educational outcomes, as shown on many tests.

The message of these critics is that it is "unfair" to compare regular public schools' results with those of charter schools serving the same neighborhoods -- and often in the same buildings. This criticism ignores the fact that schools do not exist to provide jobs for teachers or "fairness" to institutions, but to provide education for students.

"Fairness" is for human beings, not for institutions. Institutions that are not serving the needs of people should either be changed or phased out and replaced, when they persistently fail.

Despite the painfully bad educational outcomes in many public schools in ghettos across the country, there are also cases where charter schools in the very same ghettos turn out students whose test scores are not only far higher than those in other ghetto schools, but sometimes are comparable to the test scores in schools in upscale suburban communities, where children come from intact families with highly educated parents.

Charter schools with such achievements should be celebrated and imitated, not attacked by critics because of their "unfair" exemptions from some of the counterproductive rules of the education establishment. Maybe such rules should be changed for all.

If the critics are right, and getting rid of the influence of uncooperative or disruptive students contributes to better educational results, then the answer is not to prevent charter schools from expelling such students, but to allow other public schools to remove such students, when other students can benefit from getting a better education without them around.

This is especially important in low-income minority schools, where education is for many their only chance for a better life.

Back in the supposedly bad old days, before so many people became so politically correct, there were schools and other institutions that were basically dumping grounds for students who endangered the education -- and often even the safety -- of other children.

Yet a front-page story in the New York Times last week dealt with how Success Academy, a high-performing charter school network in New York City's low-income and minority neighborhoods, has been accused of "weeding out weak or difficult students."

The Times' own story opens with an account of a child who was "not following directions," who "threw tantrums," was screaming, threw pencils and refused to go to another classroom for a timeout. Yet the headline declared that charter schools "Single Out Difficult Students."

"Singled out" usually means treating someone differently from the way others are treated for doing the same things. Are convicted criminals "singled out" when they are sent to jail?

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Obamacare continues to fail.
Enrollment is falling short. The Obama administration projects that it will have roughly ten million people on the state and federal exchanges by the end of next year, a staggering climbdown from prior expectations. The Congressional Budget Office had predicted that there would be roughly 20 million enrollees. If the administration is to be believed, enrollment will only increase about another million next year from its current nine million and only sign up about a quarter of the eligible uninsured.

Premiums are rising. Not everywhere, but steeply in some states. Indiana is down 12 percent, but Minnesota is up 50 percent. Health-care expert Robert Laszewski points out that it is the insurers with the most enrollment and therefore the best information about actual enrollees who have tended to request the biggest increases — a sign that they don’t like what they’re seeing in their data.

Relatedly, the economics are shaky. According to a McKinsey & Co. analysis, last year health insurers lost $2.5 billion in the individual market that Obamacare remade. Obamacare co-ops that were supposed to enhance choice and lower costs have been failing, and almost all of them are losing money, a victim of the absurd rules (no industry executives on their boards, no raising capital in public markets, etc.) imposed on them by the law.

#share#The problem with Obamacare in a nutshell is that on one hand, by imposing motley regulations and mandates, it increases the price of health insurance, and on the other hand, by providing subsidies, it tries to hide the cost — but not enough.

According to an analysis of the health consultancy Avalere, the poor or near-poor have been signing up, but enrollment steeply drops off further up the income scale as the subsidies fall away. It found that three-fourths of uninsured people earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level got coverage through Medicaid or the exchanges, while a small fraction of the uninsured making more than 250 percent of the federal poverty level have enrolled.

For them, it’s just not a good deal. A study of the Obamacare exchanges by researchers at the Wharton School concluded that “even under the most optimistic assumptions, close to half of the formerly uninsured (especially those with higher incomes) experience both higher financial burden and lower estimated welfare.”

Even the success that Obamacare has had enrolling people should come with an asterisk. The Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this year that nearly 11 million people have signed up for public health insurance — Medicaid or the children’s health program, CHIP — since 2013. If Medicaid is better than nothing (although this is harder to prove than you might think), it is substandard coverage that locks the poor into second-class care with limited access to doctors.

If the goal was to expand this deeply flawed program, it could have been achieved without the expense, disruption, and economic irrationality of the rest of Obamacare.

As Robert Laszewski points out, on the individual market, Obamacare is essentially a monopoly. It gives money to people to buy its product and through the individual mandate punishes those who don’t. And yet it is still having trouble making the sale.

So all this is why Kentucky Democrats couldn't run on Obamacare and "pound the Republicans into dust."
Defying the polls, Republican businessman Matt Bevin was elected governor of Kentucky Tuesday night.

Bevin was winning 52 percent of the vote to Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway's 44 percent, with independent Drew Curtis taking the rest. Bevin lost a GOP primary challenge to Sen. Mitch McConnell, now the majority leader, in 2014. Conway was the 2010 Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate but lost to Rand Paul.

The last Bluegrass Poll before the election showed Conway with a 5-point edge over Bevin, who only won the Republican primary for governor by 83 votes.

Bevin's win comes the same day outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear predicted Democrats will run on Obamacare in 2016 and "pound the Republicans into dust."

"You can tell there's a pent-up demand and a craving for access to health care," Beshear was quoted as saying. "People came out of the woodwork in droves wanting to find about this… This is a winner for our people, and because it's a winner for our people, it's going to be a winner politically."

The centerpiece of Bevin's campaign for Senate in 2014 was defunding Obamacare and as a gubernatorial candidate this year he pledged to roll back Beshear's acceptance of the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion. Democrats argued throughout the campaign that his election would place thousands of Kentuckians' health insurance in jeopardy....Now Bevin becomes only the second Republican governor of Kentucky in four decades. His running mate Jenean Hampton will not only be the state's first African-American lieutenant govenor but also its first black statewide elected official.

There were GOP successes in other down-ballot races as well, depleting the bench of Democrats available to challenge Paul for re-election next year.