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This week in politics: 11/6-11/12

Virginia+Governor-elect+Ralph+Northam.+%28Image+courtesy+of+cool+revolution+via+Flickr%29.
Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam. (Image courtesy of cool revolution via Flickr).

Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam. (Image courtesy of cool revolution via Flickr).

Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam. (Image courtesy of cool revolution via Flickr).

John Coakley, Politics/Op-Ed/Voices Editor

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A week after #IndictmentMonday, Democrats are celebrating victory on #ElectionTuesday. In the first electoral races since Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton last November, Democrats were able to regain some momentum ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

Elsewhere, among a slew of sexual harassment allegations this week, U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore (R-AL) faces damning accusations of sexual misconduct against teenage girls while he was in his 30s.

Finally, President Trump says he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that his country did not interfere in the 2016 election.

1. Democrats win big on Tuesday night

After suffering defeat at the hands of Donald Trump and the GOP across the board in 2016, the Democratic party finally gained some positive traction. Perhaps the biggest wins of the night came in Virginia, where Democrats retained control of the governorship, as well as the lieutenant governor and attorney general positions. Current Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam defeated Republican challenger Ed Gillespie in an embittered race that wound up being a landslide, with Northam receiving 53.9% of the vote to Gillespie’s 44.9% (per CNN). While Virginia already had a Democratic governor in Terry McAuliffe, the win is significant because of the issues Gillespie ran on. The challenger embraced what many pundits are dubbing “Trumpism.” That is to say, Gillespie adopted radical stances on issues such as immigration, aggressively attacked Northam ad-hominem in his advertising campaign and embraced the“alt-right.” Virginia is an increasingly liberal state, so the win may not be altogether surprising. But the defeat of extreme conservative values and “Trumpist” politics will give Democrats renewed vigor heading into the 2018 midterms.

Elsewhere in Virginia, Democrats Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring won the lieutenant governor and attorney general positions, respectively.

The other major results from Tuesday night were in New Jersey. Democrat Phil Murphy defeated current New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno in yet another landslide. Murphy earned 55.6% of the vote, while Guadagno won only 42.3%. The implications of this race are again significant. In this case, Democrats won the position away from Republicans, as Democrat Phil Murphy will succeed Republican Chris Christie as New Jersey’s governor.

While many on the right — namely Sean Hannity — were quick to point out that Donald Trump did not win either New Jersey or Virginia in the 2016 election, these victories are nonetheless significant as a symbolic rejection of President Trump’s ideology and political strategies. Time will tell, however, if these results are merely a blip on the GOP radar, or a sign of things to come in 2018 and beyond.

2. Roy Moore accused of sexual assault

Roy Moore, the Republican judge running for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, has been accused of making sexual advances towards young women “when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s” (via New York Times). Moore, an evangelical Christian and president of the Foundation for Moral Law, has denied the accusations, calling them an attack by “The Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs,” on Twitter.

The accusations, which first broke in a Washington Post article on Nov. 9, allege that Moore pursued sexual or romantic encounters with four teenagers while he was in his early 30s. The youngest of these at the time of the alleged encounter was Leigh Corfman. According to the Washington Post article, Moore made multiple sexual advances in 1979 when Corfman was 14 years old. Corfman says that in one encounter, Moore drove her out to his home in the woods and kissed her. She also says that in a second encounter, he “took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes.” Corfman’s account continues, saying Moore “touched her over her bra and underpants,” per the Washington Post.

While Moore initially took a ferociously defensive stance against the allegations, his position seems to have weakened significantly. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Moore was pressed about whether or not he dated teenage girls during his 30s. Moore responded by saying, “not generally, no” (per Vox). Moore went on to say, “If I did, I’m not going to dispute anything, but I don’t remember anything like that.” Despite Moore’s vague response and inability to completely refute the question, he still insists that the Washington Post article is “completely false and misleading,” (per Vox).

According to NBC News, 13 Republicans have called for Moore to halt his Senate campaign, and two more – Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Steve Daines (R-MT) have rescinded their endorsement of Moore.

Not included in these 13 Republicans, however, is President Donald Trump, who has attempted to carefully sidestep a direct answer on the issue. The Washington Post reports that a White House spokeswoman said publicly that the president believes Moore should end his campaign only “if these allegations are true.”

3. President Trump backs Putin over election interference

Per CNN, the president has said that he “believes” Putin’s denials of interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and that he will no longer be confronting Putin on the issue. The CNN article states that although U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian meddling did occur, Trump seems to be content to take the Russian president at his word.

CNN reports that Trump told reporters on Air Force One that, “He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times.”

These comments come on the heels of the first indictments related to Russian collusion last Monday, when special counsel Robert Mueller and his team issued indictments against three Trump campaign staffers, including former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Email John at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @JohnDCoakley.

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The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department
This week in politics: 11/6-11/12