The Week in Politics: Dems' Voting Guy Gets Busy, Mayors Ousted and More

The most important election news and political dynamics at the state and local levels.
by | May 27, 2016
Marc Elias, center, walking out of the U.S. Supreme Court building. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Democrats' Go-To Attorney Gets Busy

Just how much demand there can be for a good campaign lawyer was on dramatic display this week. Marc Elias has been the go-to attorney for high-profile Democrats for years. But he's had a particularly eventful few days.

On Monday, he beat back congressional Republicans' attempt to throw out Virginia's court-drawn redistricting maps with a unanimous ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. The next day, Elias scored another big win when a federal judge ruled in favor of his challenge against an Ohio law that rolled back early voting. The changes "will disproportionately burden African-Americans" and violate the federal Voting Rights Act, ruled Judge Michael H. Watson. Then on Wednesday, Elias filed an appeal in a Virginia voter ID case. He was also one of the lawyers who challenged Wisconsin's voter ID law, which went on trial this week in federal court.

"Before Marc, most voting-rights lawsuits were brought or led by voting-rights groups," said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine. "Marc has come in to bring a Democratic Party perspective to voting-rights suits, thanks in part to funding from George Soros. He has had some good success so far, though it is too soon to tell where things will end up with some of the suits until they work their way through the appellate process."

But it hasn't all been good news for Elias this week.

On Monday, CNN reported that federal investigators are looking into donations by a Chinese-born industrialist made to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's 2013 campaign and to the Clinton Foundation.

As counsel to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Elias has also been busy dealing with legal fires on that front, such as Bernie Sanders' demand on Tuesday that Kentucky recanvass its primary vote.

"Marc knows more than anyone in any room he stands in, which is an immensely comforting quality in a lawyer," said Jess McIntosh, vice president of EMILY's List, which works to elect Democratic, pro-abortion women.

Mayors Lose Their Jobs

Two mayors were removed from office on Tuesday.

Voters in Meigs, Ga., recalled Mayor Linda Harris, who had been arrested four times since taking office. Harris has been charged with theft, misspending funds, stalking a former mayor and violating the oath of office.

And in Jennings, Mo., which is next door to Ferguson, the city council voted to impeach Mayor Yolonda Fountain-Henderson. The council had investigated 19 instances of alleged misconduct, including using city funds on private property, accessing private personnel records and filing suit against the city. Fountain-Henderson was the city's first African-American and female mayor.

A Win for Tax-Raising Republicans

When Georgia held its primaries on Tuesday, anti-tax activists were hoping voters would say goodbye to Republican lawmakers who helped pass a transportation package last year that raised taxes. But their efforts fell far short.

Despite challenges, a number of incumbents received heavy cover from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Coalition for Job Creation. Most ended up winning their primaries handily. "Tuesday's news: Republican support for transit no longer equates to suicide," read a headline in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The primary didn't produce all good news for incumbents, however.

Having failed to win a majority of the vote, three representatives -- Democrat Darryl Jordan and Republicans Tom Dickson and John Yates -- were forced into July runoffs. At the age of 94, Yates is the last World War II veteran left in the Georgia General Assembly.

Two other incumbents were defeated. Democratic state Rep. Rahn Mayo lost to Renitta Shannon, who enjoyed the support of unions and other progressive groups. Democratic Rep. Earnest Smith -- who has violated campaign finance laws 88 times, according to the state ethics board -- lost to Sheila Nelson, a community activist and retired postal worker who had the backing of some local officials.

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