Our presidential elections are held in the Leap Year. The elections for Congress between presidential elections are usually called the “off-year” elections. That would make 2011′s elections the off-off-year elections.
There are no Senators or Congressmen being chosen tomorrow. Those seats that needed to be filled for one reason or another have already been taken care of. Tomorrow is about local and state issues, sort of. There are a couple of elections that have national implications.
In Arizona, Republican State Senate President Russell Pearce has been recalled and the new election is tomorrow. Pearce was the author and driving force behind SB1070, the “papers please” law. It se off multiple conflicts between states and the Federal government which according to the Constitution has sole and complete jurisdiction over immigration.
Pearce and Governor Jan Brewer sold the law by muddying up the difference between illegal immigrants who come her to work and drug dealers. Several sheriffs opposed the law because it would take their deputies away from hunting and arresting drug dealers and have them checking green cards.
The recall is limited to Pearce’s district, so it is not the referendum on SB 1070 that some have claimed it to be. Much will depend on how the law impacted the economy of his district, which includes most of the city of Mesa, east of Phoenix. Many legal hispanics fled Arizona after the passage of the law, taking their tax dollars, businesses and jobs with them. If Mesa suffered as much as some other communities, or if the people of Mesa have had a belly-full of Pearce’s prejudices and Tea Party ideas, he can be unseated. Pearce’s opponent in the race is Republican Jerry Lewis, a charter school executive. The amount of dirty politics in this race rivals Wisconsin’s recalls. Pearce managed to get a third candidate on the ballot, though votes for that candidate will not count, Pearce’s people hope it will siphon votes off Lewis. Most of Pearce’s financial support has come from outside his district, with a fifth of it from outside Arizona. Lewis has fewer donors, but almost all are residents of the district.
Next up is Mississippi, where a “personhood” amendment is on the ballot. A “personhood” amendment would define human life as beginning the moment the sperm penetrates the egg. It would bar any abortions for any reason. A “personhood” amendment is a death sentence for women. It says they cannot terminate a life-threatening pregnancy. “Personhood” proponents have sold it to the gullible as the ultimate way to ban abortions without having to face a legal challenge about abortions. The leave out the part where it kills living women to protect an embryo that will die while it kills the mother.
Women and their doctors face the choice of terminating a pregnancy for medical reasons every day. The complication can be an ectopic pregnancy, a virulent infection, a separation of placenta and uterus – any number of complications can place a woman’s life in danger. “Personhood” would say the fetus’ life is as valid as the mother’s and forbid terminating the pregnancy to save her life. It would also bar some types of birth control, those which prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the wall of the uterus, and halt in-vitro fertilization programs where excess embryos are frozen for future use.
“Personhood” amendments are on the ballot for 2012 in Ohio, Nevada and California, and there is petition activity in every state. “Personhood” opponents are arguing the it is a back-door way to ban abortions instead of arguing its real danger to the lives of women. It’s the wrong approach. The people who are pushing these amendments are doing so in states where anti-abortion sentiment is high. Trying to defend abortion instead of defending women’s lives is a useless argument in those states. An attempt to stop the referendum in the Mississippi courts failed because they cannot rule on a law that doesn’t exist yet.
Mississippians are also selecting a new governor tomorrow. The primary races this spring and summer left them with Phil Bryant as the Republican candidate, Johnny DuPree as the Democrat, Bobby Kearan for Blue-Collar Businessman, Shawn O’Hara and Will Oatis, both unaffiliated independents.
The biggie is Ohio, where voters are poised to overturn Governor John Kasich’s union busting law. They are also voting on a referendum to bar the state from forcing anyone to buy health insurance. It is supposed to be a referendum on the Affordable Care Act, but it is worthless at stopping a Federal law. Ohio’s conservatives need to read the Constitution.
MSNBC’s Ed Schultz will be in Ohio tomorrow night and Wednesday for the election results, just as he was in Wisconsin for the recall elections this summer and has been around the region wherever anti-union legislation is being fought. His show airs at 8 p.m. Eastern now, but he will be providing live updates all evening and be back live at 11 p.m.
In San Francisco, interim Mayor Ed Lee is about to become the city’s first elected Chinese-American mayor. About bloody damned time. San Francisco was the port of entry for Chinese immigrants, many of whom continued east to build the railroads, all of whom faced persecution and prejudice. Between 1852 and 1891, California passed 6 laws to inhibit or prohibit Chinese immigration. San Francisco, between 1870 and 1900 passed nine ordinances covering everything from “no gongs at plays” to immediately cutting the ponytails known as queues if a Chinese man were taken to a city jail. From 1790 to 1896, the status of non-white immigrants was fought out in Washington. Still, the Chinese of San Francisco turned what the white Californians perceived as a slum to contain the “yellow peril” into a thriving community that is today considered a cultural treasure.
Ed Lee was chosen to replace Mayor Gavin Newsom when the later became lieutenant governor in January. Originally, Lee said he wasn’t going to run for a full term, but he changed his mind in August at the urging of San Francisco business leaders who saw only City Hall insiders lining up for the office. Fifteen of them are still on the ballot for tomorrow.
San Francisco’s mayorship is considered non-partisan, so no party affiliation is listed on the ballots, though the city, like most of the state, is heavily Democratic. Also on the ballot is an agreement Lee reached with the city’s public unions for pension reform. There will be an opposing pension plan, which is harder on the unions than Lee’s compromise will be on the ballot as well. San Francisco elects its mayor with a system that does not allow for a simple plurality to win the seat. One candidate must have a clear majority, and that is unlikely with 16 candidates. But the voting system, known as “ranked choice voting” calls for voters to choose a second and third choice on the ballot. In ranked-choice (also known as instant run-off) the candidate with the least first-choice votes is eliminated. Those votes will go to their second-choice candidate and all votes are recounted. The process goes on until someone comes up with 50% plus one vote. There is a lot of debate over the merits of the system. It prevents drawn-out run-offs with ever decreasing voter turn-out, but the system can result in strange election choices, with a less popular candidate winning.
In Kentucky, Democratic Governor Steve Beshear is running for a second term against Republican David L. Williams and Independent Gatewood Balbraith.
Oregon’s 1st Congressional District will have a primary for the seat vacated by David Wu. The special general election will be January 31, 2012.
And in Maine, voters will decide on allowing slot machines in their state, which isn’t really as important as deciding if they should keep same day voter registration, but it’s a lot more fun.
Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Washington all have ballot initiatives to decide tomorrow, most highly local, a few of national interest. Just your typical off-off-year election.