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Feb. 26 | This Week in Government: $2B Senate Supplemental Passes Following Contentious Floor Debate; Low Percentage of Black Michiganders Vaccinated

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. $2B Senate Supplemental Passes Following Contentious Floor Debate
  2. Low Percentage of Black Michigan Residents Have Received COVID Vax
  3. MDE to Talk With Feds on Waiving Standardized Testing Requirements
  4. Whitmer Hints at Loosening Restrictions, Addresses Extension
  5. New Districts and a Grassroots Effort: How Dems Hope to Win in ’22

$2B Senate Supplemental Passes Following Contentious Floor Debate

A bitterly divided Senate Thursday debated and, along party lines, passed two supplemental appropriations bills meant to address the coronavirus pandemic while further exposing the gulf between Republicans and Democrats over the policy and fiscal approach to addressing the ongoing public health and economic crises.

The debate over the nearly $2 billion approved in the bills saw disagreement on removing the social vulnerability index that Michigan uses to distribute the coronavirus vaccine and over the level of federal funding. It then included some personal attacks on past comments about the Legislature being “neutered” and “emasculated” by the governor and her administration during the pandemic response.

The two supplementals, SB 29 and SB 114, passed 20-15 along party lines. Democrats proposed 10 amendments to SB 114, each of which were rejected, largely along party lines.

As passed by the Senate, SB 114 contains gross spending of about $727.8 million ($55 million General Fund).

The bill contains $445.2 million ($55 million General Fund) for the Department of Health and Human Services, with the rest being federal funding for purposes including epidemiology and laboratory capacity as well as COVID-19 vaccine grants.

The bill also includes a pay increase for direct care workers of $2.25 per hour from March 1 through September 30.

A total of $282.6 million federal funds is included for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, of which $220.3 million is for emergency rental assistance, and another $62.3 million for administrative costs of disbursing the rental assistance.

There is about $1.246 billion gross spending contained in SB 29, of which $807.3 million is federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, $125.2 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funds and $313.5 million from the School Aid Fund.

The proposed federal ESSER funding is for Title I distributions while a portion designated as discretionary and offers more flexibility would be used for providing equity to districts where the per-pupil allocation otherwise is less than $450.

Additional School Aid Fund appropriations would be split between several priorities under SB 29 including various summer school and credit recovery programs as well as school mental health services.

Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), sponsor of both supplementals, called the proposal before the chamber the latest in a multi-billion-dollar pandemic response to date that targets immediate needs.

“It helps meet the dire needs that face the state and our people while also being smart in how we spend federal assisted dollars instead of issuing a blank check to the governor to use without detailed plans,” Mr. Stamas said. “Our plan funds our state’s most pressing needs and saves additional resources so we can continue to assess the situation and have the ability to respond to problems as they arrive.”

Democrats have noted the federal funding comes with its own set of strings and accountability, and cannot be spent on whatever the administration chooses.

Mr. Stamas said the plan provides $20 million more for testing, provides education funding, increases pay for direct care workers, provides emergency rental assistance and addresses several other key priorities.

In a phone interview later Thursday, Mr. Stamas said the House and Senate are “very close” on finding agreement on a supplemental package and his hope is to get the legislation to Governor Gretchen Whitmer as early as next week.

Particularly heated debate erupted over an amendment in SB 114 that would strip the social vulnerability index from the process the state has been using for the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine to state residents. Proponents contended that removing the index would get the vaccine to the older vulnerable population. Democrats rejected the notion, saying communities of color and the poor are among those most impacted by the pandemic.

Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), one of the sponsors of the amendment to eliminate the index, reiterated his stance that getting the vaccine to those over age 65 is the priority, not race, gender or socioeconomic status. He referenced moves by the city of Detroit offering vaccines to lower priority individuals including those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“Meanwhile, the vaccines are short in Oakland County. Seniors in my district have been screaming for this vaccine,” Mr. Runestad said. “When seniors are most at risk to COVID and are struggling to get the vaccine, the state of Michigan is failing them with their social engineering policies. … This is what happens when politicians or bureaucrats start making decisions on politics and not science and common sense.”

The comments drew rebukes from Democrats, including Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), who noted that the concept of social vulnerability is not new.

“We’ve already been doing a lot of social engineering in our country, because we haven’t dealt with systemic racism or systemic sexism, or any of these things,” Ms. Chang said. “I feel like you really, really need to sort of repeat some history lessons here if we’re going to talk about social engineering.”

Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), who was the other proponent of the amendment to strip the index, said his interest in the issue came after the recent dispute between the mayor of Detroit and the Macomb County executive over vaccine allocations levels. He said it was ridiculous that there was the large number of vaccine doses being distributed to Detroit while not far from the city elderly individuals have been clamoring for vaccine access.

“The language we have included in this bill is sound and it is simple,” Mr. Barrett said. “It requires the department to use the estimated number of people in each priority group to distribute the vaccine.”

He rejected arguments that he was being racist with the move, pointing to the 2006 vote changing the state Constitution eliminating race-based preference in hiring and university admissions.

Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) took aim at Mr. Barrett in response, saying the index is specifically intended to help impacted communities like those of color in Detroit that were ravaged by the virus, especially early in the pandemic. She pointed to people outside of Detroit in places like Mr. Barrett described thinking that the virus was a hoax early on before it hit the entire state.

“And now you want to jump to the front of the line? It’s absolutely unconscionable,” Ms. Geiss said.

During the debate there were calls by Republicans to lift the remaining restrictions on sectors of the economy and schools.

Sen. Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Township) did not say much directly to the bills before the chamber in brief remarks but instead directly issued a plea to the governor to lift the remaining restrictions in the state.

“Free our state,” Ms. LaSata said. “Please, open up our businesses completely. Allow those business owners, allow the people of Michigan, to do what they know best. Treat them like adults. We are adults. Please let us make our own decisions.”

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) was among Democrats who bashed the Republicans for not including all of the federal funding up front.

“I hear your frustration when you say things like you want to open Michigan and all that. Nobody likes this,” Mr. Hertel said. “But under what principal idea do you think that withholding money for vaccines and testing will actually get us to the end of this pandemic quicker?”

Mr. Hertel then took aim at comments made by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) during past floor debates in which he had said the Legislature is being “neutered” and “emasculated” by the governor in the pandemic response process. This prompted one of the most unexpected remarks of the debate.

“I mean, I went online last night and if it will make people feel better and we can get the help we need for people I am more than happy to purchase neuticles for anyone who feels like they have lost something in the process,” Mr. Hertel said. “But we can’t keep fiddling while Rome burns.”

Neuticles are prosthetic testicular implants that can be purchased for neutered dogs or other domestic animals.

Later Mr. McBroom during a fiery floor speech pushed back at Democrats over calls to spend all the federal funding. He said he supported using oversight in doling out the federal funds and making sure it is being used appropriately.

“Spend money, demand more money, as if money were some magic bullet that’s been missing and when it comes to solving our pandemic. And what’s more, it’s all about giving the money without caution,” Mr. McBroom said.

He then unloaded on Mr. Hertel over his earlier comments.

“This is the neutering that I’ve been talking about. This is the emasculation that I’m talking about, the willingness of my fellow senator, to not stand up for this institution, our corporate willingness as an institution to allow another to take our job, take our duty, take our responsibility, take our power from us,” Mr. McBroom said. “Far from me needing to find what I’ve lost, I ask the one who misrepresented my remarks, mischaracterized them, to take his own offer and find it for himself.”

Democrats during floor speeches pushing for failed amendments urged the use of all of the federal funding provided to the state.

Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) said she could not vote for legislation that she believed fundamentally flawed in that it does not provide all the available federal funding for schools. An amendment she proposed to allocate all of the federal funding for schools failed.

“It’s not our money to hold on to,” Ms. Bayer said. “It’s not ours to be dribbling it out, to distribute it as if we were the parents handing out allowance. Our schools are not children.”

Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) proposed an amendment that failed to provide all federal funding for emergency evictions. He said thousands have been evicted in the time the Legislature has spent waiting to put forward supplemental proposals.

“This Legislature needs to wake up and treat this emergency like an emergency,” Mr. Irwin said. “Congress has given us these tools to address this emergency with our renters and now it is our time to do our part and simply help our people. The emergency is now, not months from now.”

Ms. Geiss, before session took one last shot at Republicans.

“Let today, February 25, 2021, go down in history as the date when, in the wake of a public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of this chamber said to the people of Michigan: ‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,’ or rather ‘let them eat cake,'” Ms. Geiss said, referencing an infamous phrase attributed to late 1700s French Queen Marie Antoinette, a remark in response to the starving of the people, in the period before the French Revolution.

HOW HOUSE PACKAGE COMPARES: The supplemental package (HB 4019, HB 4047, HB 4048 and HB 4049) that recently passed the House includes a requirement that funding would be provided with the condition that only local health departments – and not the state – can close schools to in-person learning and halting sports events. The Senate package does not contain the requirement.

Under HB 4049, local health departments would have specific metrics that would have to be reached for schools to close in-person instruction or stop sporting events. They are:

  • Confirmed local COVID-19 cases were above 55 per 100,000 within a 14-day period;
  • The positivity rate for COVID-19 in the area was above 10 percent within a 14-day period;
  • Surge capacity for each local health facility was at 20 percent; and
  • Hospitalizations increased by 25 percent during a 14-day period.

The statistics would not be able to include those in jails, prisons or congregate care facilities and for multi-county health departments, the criteria would need to be met in all counties under its jurisdiction.

Numerous other differences are included in the House package.

Under HB 4019, $868.6 million in federal funding was included. Among the funding was $510.7 million for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, $143.7 million for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, $165.2 million for emergency rental and utility assistance, $22.6 million for vaccine distribution, $13.1 million in federal block grants for substance abuse treatment and $13.1 million for federal block grants for mental health.

One bill, HB 4047, was substituted by the Senate Appropriations Committee Trackand contains about $593.29 million gross ($576.95 million General Fund). It did not come up for a floor vote Thursday.

The bill would eliminate 63.8 full-time staff positions. One removed staff member would be from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, 39.4 staff from the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and 23.4 staff from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

The Senate also increased spending for the Department of Health and Human Services by $26.7 million federal funding. This includes $17.4 million for community substance use disorder prevention, education and treatment as well as $8 million in mental health block grants and $1.3 million for congregate and home-delivered meals, or Meals on Wheels.

A $150 million General Fund deposit into the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund that was included in the House version remained in the bill, as did $393.5 million got tax and fee relief for businesses impacted by the pandemic.

For HB 4048, a total of $1.78 billion is included for school funding, of which $363 million in School Aid Fund was included for the per-pupil increase for schools that went back to in-person instruction February 15. The House proposed $1.5 billion in federal Title I be provided.

A total of $86.8 million for nonpublic schools is provided, as does the Senate. The House also proposes using $157.4 million for virus remediation services including summer programs as well as $21.3 million for teacher and school staff incentive payments. The remediation funding and incentives are similar in size to the Senate proposal.


Low Percentage of Black Michigan Residents Have Received COVID Vax

New racial demographic data added to the state’s online coronavirus vaccine dashboard shows that less than 4% among more than half of all residents who have received the vaccine and provided information about their race identify as Black.

The data, announced Tuesday in a news release from the Department of Health and Human Services, also shows that aside from the 3.7% who identified as Black, at least 41.7% of those who provided demographic data identified as being white.

As of Monday, a total of 1.25 million Michigan residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Of that population, 547,163 did not record any demographic information on associated paperwork.

But 56% among the 1.25 million – or a little less than 701,400 – did provide some sort of demographic data, which is a number DHHS said Tuesday that it was actively working to improve.

The dashboard shows that 9.5% listed their race as other, 1.1% identified as Asian or Pacific Islander, and 0.3% listed their racial makeup as being Native American or Alaskan Native. Another 43.7% were listed as belonging to an unknown race, the data shows.

In a statement, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, DHHS’s chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, said ensuring those who are most vulnerable or those belonging to minority populations remains a priority in the department’s vaccine strategy.

“Black and brown communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus and improving the race and ethnicity data being collected for vaccinations is critical for ensuring the equitable administration of the vaccine,” Khaldun said. “We will use this data to continue to drive our strategy towards making sure everyone has equitable access to the vaccines.”

Khaldun added that she urges all recipients to fill out race data portions of vaccine paperwork so the state can better track which demographic is receiving the vaccine and in what frequency.

The dashboard also notes that white Michiganders have the highest vaccine initiation and completion rates (7.9% and 4.7%, respectively), followed by Native Americans or Alaskan Natives (5.4% and 2.8%) Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islanders (5% and 3.6%) and then Black residents at 4.1% initiation and 1.6% completion.

Overall coverage rates have also been added to the dashboard by county, which shows that 15.1% of residents are in the initiation process and 8 percent have completed both doses.

A direct entry tool is also now live on the dashboard, allowing information to be entered into the Michigan Care Improvement Registry. Immunization providers across the state are also being asked to submit race data for all administered vaccines.

PILOT PROGRAM TO INFORM COVID-19 VACCINE EQUITY STRATEGY: DHHS on Tuesday also announced the launch of a new program aimed at enhancing equity in Michigan’s coronavirus vaccine strategy by reducing barriers to doses for vulnerable adults ages 60 years old and up.

Medical providers who are federally enrolled to administer COVID-19 vaccines can apply for inclusion in the community outreach pilot which would make each accepted provider able to request 2,500 doses. The application deadline is March 1.

“We want to make sure all Michiganders have access to the safe and effective vaccines as we work toward our goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders age 16 and up as quickly as possible,” Khaldun said in a statement. “We are working hard to eliminate any barriers to vaccine access. Your ability to get a vaccine should not be impacted by whether you are in a rural or urban part of the state, are lower-income, or don’t have access to a car, a computer, the Internet, or don’t speak English. This is what equity means.”


MDE to Talk With Feds on Waiving Standardized Testing Requirements

Officials with the Department of Education say the agency will be “initiating discussions” with the U.S. Department of Education to allow Michigan the ability to waive the federal requirement for statewide summative assessments this school year altogether, despite the federal agency communications this week on the importance of the testing.

The USDE Monday explicitly emphasized that states will not be able to request blanket waivers of assessments, but that certain flexibilities will be offered to states such as how and where an exam is administered, among other things.

On Wednesday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Rice said in a statement that most of Michigan’s students have received inconsistent to no instruction in an in-person format for the current school year and that when children return to the classroom “the focus should be on teaching and learning …rather than on preparing for and taking state summative assessments.”

“With a majority of our kids at home, with the challenges of getting kids back in school, and with the need for more instructional time to maximize academic and social and emotional focus and growth, this is not the time to engage in state summative assessments,” Rice said. “We are able to discern where kids are academically for parents and for educators with our benchmark assessments, and we can use the assessments to target resources, interventions, and supports for our kids in our districts.”

MDE also said that Monday’s guidance was not a blanket acceptance or rejection of anything, “but instead an opportunity to submit state-specific waiver considerations.”

The department had previously requested a waiver from the federal government regarding the requirement to administer statewide summative assessments to Michigan students this spring, and from school accountability measures resulting from those tests. A response to the request, sent in January, is still pending. Until that flexibility is granted, however, MDE indicated it will continue to prepare for the administration of the state’s M-STEP assessments.

The federal memo did indicate that schools would be able to request a waiver for the 2020-21 school year regarding accountability and school identification requirements in the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

“We also recognize that individual states may need additional assessment flexibility based on the specific circumstances across or within the state, and we will work with states to address their individual needs and conditions while ensuring the maximum available statewide data to inform the targeting of resources and supports,” U.S. Department of Education Acting Assistant Secretary Ian Rosenblum wrote in Monday’s guidance.

Officials with MDE noted that as the department has only reached out to USDE this week, it is “the beginning of a new part of a process that could take some time.”

“The letter says there’s going to be no cookie-cutter approach like there was at the beginning of the pandemic last year,” Rice said. “What USDE basically said was that it is open to considerations on the accountability side and a little less open on the assessment side.”


Whitmer Hints at Loosening Restrictions, Addresses Extension

As the state’s coronavirus metrics continue to improve, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday she might loosen more of the restrictions her administration has implemented to slow the spread of the virus.

But she offered no detail as to what might be coming.

The Governor, at a news briefing, was asked about raising limits for restaurants (now capped at 25% of capacity), easing nursing home visitation restrictions, and allowing larger gatherings (indoor gatherings have long been capped at no more than 10 people). She declined to say other than to signal actions are likely forthcoming.

“You probably would conclude justifiably that in the coming days we will be assessing and making more determinations on a number of fronts,” she said.

Gov. Whitmer also addressed criticism she and her administration received about extending the restrictions through March 29 without an announcement.

The latest epidemic order keeps the limitations in place until March 29, far longer than the Feb. 21 expiration date announced in the Jan. 22 order. A new order was issued Feb. 4 when it was announced contact sports could resume earlier this month that included the extension of restaurant restrictions through March 29. In general, the epidemic orders have lasted two to three weeks before being revisited and it is unclear why the current limitations are set to go for so long.

“I was a little surprised by the reaction to tell you the truth,” Gov. Whitmer said.

However, the Governor’s explanation seemed at odds with the nature of the order. She said during the pandemic, her administration has usually waited three weeks after loosening or strengthening a restriction to observe the impact on the coronavirus.

“That’s no different in this case, so frankly I was a little bit surprised by the kind of characterization of it,” he said. “We’ve been very open. We’ve been sharing data every step of the way.”

Except only 13 days had passed – not three weeks – from the January 22 order’s setting of a February 21 expiration date when the Department of Health and Human Services then extended the duration of the order by five weeks.

Nonetheless, with Michigan now at a positivity rate of 3.5%, the Governor said the state is moving into a stronger position and should be able to announce loosening of some restrictions.


New Districts and a Grassroots Effort: How Dems Hope to Win in ’22

The dismantling of gerrymandering through the new independent redistricting commission and keeping momentum among its grassroots voting base are two of the key components Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes sees as ways the party can win big in 2022.

Barnes, who was reelected Saturday to her second term as MDP chair, said her focus at every level of the party will be to capitalize on the momentum of the 2020 presidential election and apply that to the midterm. Come November 2022, she said she hopes to keep the trifecta of state offices – the governorship, attorney general, and secretary of state – while making significant gains in the state House, aided in part by whatever future redistricting holds for Michigan Democrats.

Whether that will be possible remains to be seen, but in an interview with Gongwer News Service Monday, Barnes said she is not writing off a single possibility as of now.

“I have faith that the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, they will draw fair districts,” she said. “I’m excited that drawing the districts has come out of the hands of politicians who represent those districts … We’re not giving up on any district. We are not. We believe that we will have a chance to win in each and every fairly drawn district.”

In 2018, Democrats swept the top state offices, electing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. They also flipped the historically red 8th U.S. House District in favor of U.S Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly). The 11th U.S. House District, too, was a major win for Democrats during this time, as it had also been predominantly held by Republicans.

That momentum stalled somewhat in 2020 as voting turnout skyrocketed, following the passage of no-reason absentee voting in 2018. Areas of the state that had traditionally leaned more conservative – the 3rd and 8th districts – saw the gap shrink between Democrats and Republicans in the November election, with more individuals going blue on the presidential ticket than in years prior. The 11th District, which backed former President Donald Trump in 2016, went Democratic in 2020.

However, the environment was not as favorable for Democrats as 2018 with U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township) narrowly surviving a fierce battle and Democrats failing to narrow the gap in the Michigan House. The parties also split races for the statewide education boards.

Barnes credited gains to a heavy emphasis on grassroots support, which she hopes to double down on in 2022. The key, she added, is for the party to continue person-to-party interaction, so that the average voter is aware of what Democrats are doing in the Legislature, what Republicans are not, and who the party is supporting to oust that member of the GOP.

A portion of these results are due to the expansion of absentee voting in Michigan, but another portion too is due to the backlash against Trump, which allowed top-of-the-ticket Democrats to benefit from anti-Trump sentiments. Voters turned out in record numbers for the 2020 presidential election, but some were solely there to vote Trump out of office – regardless of their typical political affiliation – and it’s apparent, considering the lack of expected success Democrats had at the state level in 2020.

Grassroots efforts expected to yield gains for Democrats during that election cycle did not pan out as the MDP would have hoped. While the party flipped the 38th and 61st House Districts, Republicans flipped the 48th and 96th Districts, knocking out two Democratic incumbents, and held onto other key seats to maintain majority for the sixth election in a row.

Gov. Whitmer will be the first governor to seek reelection with a president of the same party in the White House since 1974. On the one hand, the president’s party historically fares poorly in midterm elections in Michigan. On the other hand, the Governor’s party typically does well when the Governor is seeking re-election, making for a mixed outlook on what the 2022 environment holds. At minimum, it appears highly unlikely to be as favorable to Democrats as 2018 was.

Asked why she’s confident this time around the results will be different, Barnes said there were a few variables at play, in addition to redistricting, including a number of disenfranchised Republicans who may not be thrilled at the direction the state (and national) GOP is heading.

Capitalizing on that availability, especially if these voters live in red areas of the state, would help bolster the Democratic base and bode well for redistricted jurisdictions if the MDP could continue to keep those voters blue.

“The folks who are best to court those voters are our candidates …they will be the ones to reach across and bring those folks over to vote for Democrats. There’s absolutely possibility there,” Barnes said. “I’m certain that there are many, many Republicans who are watching what’s happening to their party and not recognizing it anymore. …I think that there will continue to be members of that party or folks who would be members of that party start to turn away from that and turn towards Democrats. Absolutely.”

As to how the MDP could court these voters while not alienating the further left progressives, Barnes said the party has “a big tent” and that while “it’s always a challenge for us to make sure all voices are heard, we do it.”

It’s the same idea that Republicans have had in recent months – that the movable middle, or a person who votes not necessarily by party affiliation but based on the candidate themselves, is the key to winning Michigan in 2022.

She also defended Democrats’ inability to take back the state House by saying that gerrymandering throughout Michigan made it difficult to break conservative strongholds. Redistricting, Barnes said, will adjust that.

“We ran in the gerrymandered districts all over the state and these districts are about to change,” she said. “The mechanisms of grassroots organizing and conversations with voters will remain the same. …The big difference between 2020 and 2022 will be what the districts look like, and these fairly drawn districts will make such a difference in our ability to move.”

One reason for caution about what redistricting could mean, however, is the outcome in the 39th and 45th House Districts in Oakland County. President Joe Biden carried both districts, but the Democratic House candidates down the ticket ran well behind him, and Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Township) and Rep. Mark Tisdel (R-Rochester Hills) ran well above Trump to win those seats.

But Barnes’s emphasis on redistricting being a net positive for Democrats doesn’t mean they won’t lose anything in the process. Future maps will more than likely entail the party losing a U.S. House seat. There are four Democratic U.S. House members living in Oakland County, and one of them almost certainly will have to move, run in a district where they do not live, or face off against another member in a primary.

For state lawmakers, effectively anything north of Clare – at least 15 state House seats – will all but certainly remain in Republican hands even with new maps. Even the Marquette seat, the last Democratic enclave in that region, could be at risk with Rep. Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) unable to run again because of term limits.

To that, Barnes cautioned counting anyone out due to the region of the state in which they live, adding that she saw several areas of the state – at the U.S. House level, especially, in the 3rd and 6th U.S. House Districts – that the party could win following redistricting.

“The mistake that some people make is assuming that parts of the state can be and should be written off by the Democratic Party – but they will not be, and they cannot be,” Barnes said. “It is our goal to find each Democrat, wherever they are in the state … There are enough, and we will find them and help them understand the importance of voting in the 2022 election and voting in local elections.”