Patrick Caldwell


Patrick Caldwell is a reporter in Mother Jones’ DC bureau. Previously, he covered domestic politics for The American Prospect and elections for The American Independent. His work has also appeared in The NationThe New Republic, and The Washington Independent. E-mail any and all tips to pcaldwell [at] motherjones [dot] com. Follow his tweets at @patcaldwell.

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Patrick Caldwell is a reporter in Mother Jones’ DC bureau. Previously, he covered all things domestic politics for The American Prospect and elections for The American Independent. His work has also appeared in The NationThe New Republic, and The Washington Independent. E-mail any and all tips to pcaldwell [at] motherjones [dot] com. Follow him on Twitter at @patcaldwell.

Liz Cheney Heartlessly Disowns Her Sister on National TV

| Mon Nov. 18, 2013 9:41 AM EST

It's become a tired but true trope for the LGBT rights movement: As more people come out of the closet, the country increasingly tolerates different sexual orientations and identities. It's easy to casually gay bash when you've never met someone who isn't straight. It's much harder—and socially unacceptable—when you have to sit across from your niece and her girlfriend at Thanksgiving dinner.

This has certainly been true in politics. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) wrote an op-ed endorsing same-sex marriage after his college-aged son came out as gay. President Barack Obama cited LGBT members of his staff when he explained his decision to back gay marriage last year. Even former Vice President Dick Cheney began to break GOP orthodoxy during the 2004 campaign. His acceptance can be attributed to his daughter Mary Cheney, a lesbian who married her longtime partner Heather Poe last year. The elder Cheney began to publicly support same-sex unions after he left the White House, pushing Maryland legislators to pass marriage equality in 2012.

But some members of the Cheney family don't seem so tolerant. Mary's older sister Liz is challenging Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) in next year's Republican primary, running on a socially conservative platform. Liz's early poll numbers are dismal, thanks in part to a barrage of outside attack ads that claim she's "wrong for Wyoming" because she "supports government benefits for gay couples." (The fact Liz is a novice candidate who just moved back to the state earlier this year hasn't helped matters either.)

Liz, who's trailing by more than 50 points, couldn't let an attack like that stand pat, so she went on Fox News on Sunday to correct the record, clarifying that she's still dislikes same-sex marriage and doesn't approve of her sister's lifestyle. "Listen, I love Mary very much. I love her family very much," Liz said. "This is just an issue on which we disagree."

That prompted Mary to go public with her objections to Liz's outdated views. "Liz—this isn't just an issue on which we disagree—you're just wrong—and on the wrong side of history," Mary wrote on Facebook.

Poe also critiqued her sister-in-law. "Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children," Poe wrote on Facebook, "and when Mary and I got married in 2012—she didn't hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us. To have her now say she doesn't support our right to marry is offensive to say the least."

Wyoming is behind the national curve when it comes to same-sex marriage. As of July, only 32 percent of voters in the state support it. But Liz Cheney's opposition to full LGBT equality might not play so well; it's hard to campaign on "family values" when you're publicly criticizing your sister's marriage. The two sisters are no longer on speaking terms, with Mary telling the New York Times on Sunday that it is "impossible" unless Liz recants her statements. The Cheney family is scheduled to gather in Wyoming for the most awkward Christmas imaginable. "I will not be seeing her," Mary said.

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Virginia Republicans Change Vote-Counting Rules While Counting Votes

| Mon Nov. 11, 2013 11:52 AM EST

The race to become Virginia's next attorney general remains in flux nearly a week after Election Day. Republican Mark Obenshain led Democrat Mark Herring by a little over 1,000 votes the day after the election, but that advantage whittled away to a toss-up as more exact results came in over the following days. Obenshain leads Herring by a scant 17 votes—out of over 2 million total—as of Monday morning, according to results posted on Virginia's Board of Elections website. A recount is a certainty.

Legal wrangling is a given during any recount, but Virginia Republicans got off to an early start over the weekend, potentially exploiting the state's new voter ID law to cast aside likely Democratic votes.

The vast majority of Virginia's votes had already been tabulated by the end of last week, but a swath remains outstanding in parts of Fairfax County, a string of DC suburbs in Northern Virginia. Fairfax is still tallying provisional ballots—disputed votes that were set aside on Election Day. Virginia introduced a new strict photo ID requirement for the 2014 election; voters who lacked proper identification on Election Day could cast a provisional ballot to be assessed later. Fairfax County had previously allowed a lawyer or authorized representative to advocate on behalf of counting a provisional ballot during hearings to assess those votes. But on Friday, the Republican-controlled state Board of Elections sent a memo to the county ordering an end to this practice, shifting the rules after the election and midway through counting the votes.

As local radio station WTOP put it:

The state Electoral Board decided Friday to change the rules that had been followed in Fairfax County and ban legal representatives from stepping in to help get the ballot counted, unless the voter him or herself is there.

County Electoral Board Secretary Brian Shoeneman says he and board chairman Seth Stark disagree with the ruling, but they have to comply. The board is voting on some provisional ballots later Saturday.

"The office of the Attorney General advised us that this was the correct reading of the statute," State Board of Elections Secretary Don Palmer says.

That attorney general is Ken Cuccinelli, the conservative who lost Virginia's gubernatorial election last week. As AG, Cuccinelli filed one of the first legal challenges to Obamacare and asked the Supreme Court to uphold Virginia's anti-sodomy law. Now he's telling Fairfax to change its election rules mid-count.

Election expert Rick Hasen questioned the motivations of this new order in a blog post on Sunday: "It appears the directive came out after most of the provisional ballots (outside of Democratic Fairfax and Arlington counties) have already been counted—and it is not clear if the other counties used uniform standards in counting provisional ballots," he wrote. "Further, it seems that the rule goes against both Fairfax County practice (which allowed legal representatives to argue for the counting of ballots rather than the voter in person), as well as Virginia's Board of Elections posted rules."

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