Dems Have Awesome Special Election Night. Please, Republicans, Talk More About Hunter Biden’s Peenerwanger.

There were a bunch of special elections yesterday (that’s what we in the business call a real “grabber” of a lede), and a bunch of Democratic candidates won by larger margins than Joe Biden’s presidential results in 2020. Also, yesterday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court primary set up the chance to flip that court to Democratic control for the first time in forever. So huzzay!

Let’s hop right in!

Virginia: Meet Rep.-Elect Jennifer McClellan!

State Sen. Jennifer McClellan will be headed to Congress after winning the special election for Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District. She’ll take the seat previously held by Rep. Donald McEachin, who won re-election to the House last November but died of cancer later that month.


McClellan was expected to win, what with the Fourth being a safe Democratic district by registration. But she didn’t just win against her Republican opponent, Leon Benjamin, she stomped him. With 95 percent of the vote in, McClellan won with 74.1 percent of the vote to Benjamin’s 25.9 percent. (The margin was 68-32 when the AP called the race last night.)

Benjamin also lost to McEachin in November, although by a slightly closer 30-point margin, 64.9 percent to 34.9 percent.

With her win, McClellan becomes Virginia’s first Black woman in Congress, which seems like a first that should no longer be remarkable until I remember that I live in friggin’ Idaho, which will likely elect its first Black member of Congress sometime around the time Idaho also has state-run socialized medicine. McClellan also becomes the 150th woman in the House, and the 28th Black woman, both of which are also records. And for you stats nerds, once she’s sworn in, she’ll finally bring the House to its full 435 members, at least until June 1, when David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) resigns to lead the Rhode Island Foundation.

McClellan is a veteran state lawmaker, having served 10 years in the House of Delegates (Virginia is so cute) before succeeding McEachin in the state Senate in 2016, when he was elected to Congress. She raised far more money than Benjamin did, and campaigned on her record of support for abortion rights, voting rights, and addressing climate change.

Benjamin, on the other hand, seems not to have benefited in either of his recent elections from a September fundamentalist event in Idaho where he blew a shofar to cast out all the demons in the Pacific Northwest and North America:

There’s about to be an anointing, there’s about to be a breakthrough, there’s going to be a binding of demons, a binding of witches and warlocks. You’re about to see the power of God released through the trumpet. […]

Your shout is going to shift America into winning elections that they thought they could steal. They’re trying to steal [it] again, but the trumpet is going to confuse the electoral process, it’s going to confuse the thieves, it’s going to confuse the Dominion machines; they’re gonna break up, fire is going to hit them, and people who they thought were gonna lose are going to win!

Either God is actually pretty bad at confounding election thieves, or there weren’t any to confound in the first place. OK, maybe there’s no God either, but let’s not get carried away here.

After winning the primary in December, McClellan said she didn’t mind that if she won, she’d be coming to Congress as part of the minority party:

I spent 14 years in the minority party in the Virginia Legislature and still was able to get over 300 bills passed. […] I think it’s a natural progression of the work that I have been doing already.”

And in fact at her victory party last night, McClellan pointed out that she had passed another two bills in the state Senate on Election Day. We like the cut of her jib!

Kentucky: Is A Dem Winning 77 Percent Of The Vote Good?

In Kentucky, Democrat Cassie Chambers Armstrong won a seat in the state Senate, with 77 percent of the vote, filling a seat that had previously been held by Democrat Morgan McGarvey, who won election to Congress in November. McGarvey had served for a decade in the state Senate.

Armstong was a member of the Louisville Metro Council before running for the state Senate. She beat Republican Misty Glin, who also lost a November bid for a seat on the Jefferson County School Board. Armstrong’s election won’t affect the balance of power in Kentucky’s Senate, where Republicans will still hold a 30 seat to 7 seat majority once she’s sworn in.

Armstrong promised in a statement to do all she could to rein in GOP shenanigans in the state Lege:

Every day we see headlines about the majority in the General Assembly attacking LGBTQ youth, continuing to starve our public schools and the children that rely on them, and writing laws that put women’s lives at risk. There is an urgent need for change in Frankfort, and I’m grateful that the voters of the 19th Senate District have given me the chance to fight for them.

Armstrong, who is a law prof at University of Louisville, will represent a heavily Democratic district. Her victory margin yesterday was actually higher than its 60 percent voter registration, and than the district’s 66 percent vote for Joe Biden in 2020. Her victory is not expected to help at all in my chronic habit of confusing Kentucky and Tennessee.

New Hampshire: Chuck Grassie Re-elected To State House, Will Not Tweet Inscrutable Nonsense

In a run-off special election, incumbent Democratic New Hampshire state Rep. Chuck Grassie, with an i-e,won re-election in a rematch with Republican David Walker. The re-do election was necessary because the two had actually tied with 970 votes each in November’s general election. New Hampshire is the one with the crazy 400 House members, and during the early counting in November, it looked as if the Grassie-Walker race might decide control of the state House. But now that things have settled down, Republicans will still hold a narrow majority of 201 seats to Democrats’ 199, including Grassie.

“My first priority tonight is to relax,” Grassie said at the end of a campaign that was extended three months after the tie in November. “I will be going to Concord tomorrow morning to meet with my fellow Democrats that I will be working with. Then, I plan on getting to work, getting caught up on what I have missed and looking forward.”

Despite the similarity of his name to the Republican US Senator from Iowa, there’s no evidence that Rep. Grassie has ever hit a deer with his car and assumed it was dead.

[Politico / CNN / Joe.My.God / Foster’s Daily Democrat / Courier Journal]

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The Stupid, It Burns … Books!

The far Right’s war on students’ right to read a goddamn book if they want to read a goddamn book — as well as grownups reading grownup books, as if that’s somehow allowed either — continues across the country, with ever-more surreal battles being pursued in the name of protecting kids from things kids want to read. Put on your helmet and body armor, because the anti-book crazies are still going ballistic.

LAST WEEK! North Dakota GOP To Jail Librarians For Disgusting Sex Books, Including Images Of ‘Gender Identity’

Kentucky: Librarian Wins Small Claims Case Over LGBTQ Book

In a fairly open-and-shut (you know, like a book!) case in Jefferson County District Court last week in Louisville, Kentucky, a small claims court judge tossed a case brought by a local bigot who had sued a high school librarian over her decision to include books on LGBTQ+ topics in the library. The man, Kurt Wallace, had sought “damages” of $2,300 because Waggener High School librarian Kristen Heckel had kept the award-winning memoir/essay collectionAll Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson in the library despite Wallace’s attempts to make it and other LGBTQ books go away.


Heckel still had to take the day off from school to attend the hearing, a situation for which Judge Jennifer Leibson was apologetic. As Louisville Public Media explains, court records showed that Johnson

began sending letters to Heckel in the spring of 2022 objecting to the library’s purchase of “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and other titles Wallace claimed were “obscene” or “pornographic.” He also claimed the books were intended for “grooming” minors for sexual exploitation, a common unfounded and homophobic talking point among some right-wing activists.

We have to say that LPM reporter Jess Clark appears to have relished the chance to describe the courtroom drama, such as it was, noting that Judge Leibson began by explaining the purpose of small claims court, and what kinds of cases are and aren’t allowed there.

Then she called up Wallace. The middle-aged man in dress slacks made his way to the stand dragging a carry-on-sized suitcase behind him, presumably filled with evidence he intended to present. He also carried a large leather-bound Bible and a posterboard scrawled with red marker but illegible from a distance.

He never had a chance to read it. Leibson dismissed the case.

“Mr. Wallace, your case is one of those cases,” Leibson said. “You cannot recover in small claims on this kind of judgment.” She had explained earlier that small claims court is only meant to decide cases in which a plaintiff had incurred actual costs as the result of a defendant’s action.

Wallace tried to argue with Leibson, demanding that she identify the statute that gave her the authority to dismiss his very valid claim, but she asked him to leave the courtroom, possibly before he insisted that her ruling was invalid because there was gold fringe on her flag. He returned a bit later and “sat in the public viewing area with his Bible in his lap.”

Leibson apologized to Heckel for having to put up with the nonsense, and added “I admire your courage. … I wish you had been my librarian when I was a kid.”

Honestly, we were hoping maybe Heckel would have sued Wallace for making her miss work, but she probably got paid for being there, since school district attorneys went along to defend her if that had been needed. [Louisville Public Media]

Pennsylvania: First They Came For The Inspirational Poster Featuring Elie Wiesel

In the Central Bucks School District in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a librarian at Central Bucks South High School says the school’s principal told him to remove posters featuring a quote by Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, because the posters supposedly violated a new policy banning educators from “advocacy activities.”

Librarian Matt Pecic said Wednesday he’d been told to remove the posters because they featured a quote from Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Well sure, we can see why speaking up for the oppressed would be a terrible thing. The truly neutral action, as mandated by district policy, would be to allow the tormentors to do as they like, because who are you to decide they’re wrong?

Pecic told public station WHYY that if the posters weren’t removed, there would be “consequences” from the district’s Human Resources office. He said he felt “powerless” to refuse.

“If I didn’t take it down, I knew there would be consequences that could impact me,” he said.

“It’s a horrible feeling. And you feel like you have to do something that you don’t agree with,” Pecic added.

Pecic added that his daugher, a ninth-grader in the district, had emailed him the quote.

“This is where I get choked up … She said that ‘this quote reminds me of you,’” Pecic said. He describes himself as someone who often speaks up, “if I disagree with something, especially if I think it’s not for the benefit of students, I will say something.”

Or at least that’s how things may have worked before fascists started terrorizing teachers and librarians.

The Central Bucks District has been the center of a discrimination lawsuit brought by the ACLU, which argues rightwing members of the school board have created a “hostile environment” for LGBTQ+ students in the district. The district is currently considering whether to remove as many as five books from district libraries, four of which have LGBTQ+ themes, under a new policy that makes books easier to ban. Parents are upset that the books will turn their kids gay, like teachers and librarians are always trying to do.

There’s a semi-happy ending to the Wiesel quote story, at least: After the story blew up on social media, the principal reversed the decision and Pecic will be putting the posters back up.

So happy International Holocaust Remembrance Day, everyone. [WHYY, tip of the Wonkette Cat Ears to alert reader “MVario”]

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