The Democrats just lost one seat in their newly minted 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced in an Arizona Republic column that she is leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an independent.

“Arizonans – including many registered as Democrats or Republicans – are eager for leaders who focus on common-sense solutions rather than party doctrine,” Sinema wrote. “But if the loudest, most extreme voices continue to drive each party toward the fringes – and if party leaders stay more focused on energizing their bases than delivering for all Americans – these kinds of lasting legislative successes will become rarer.”

Sinema insisted that Americans were more united than increasingly polarized political parties would have them believe, and she said that becoming an independent would allow her to better represent Arizona voters.

“Americans are told that we have only two choices – Democrat or Republican – and that we must subscribe wholesale to policy views the parties hold, views that have been pulled further and further toward the extremes,” she wrote. :Most Arizonans believe this is a false choice, and when I ran for the U.S. House and the Senate, I promised Arizonans something different. I pledged to be independent and work with anyone to achieve lasting results. I committed I would not demonize people I disagreed with, engage in name-calling, or get distracted by political drama.”

Beyond developing their camping skills, participating in a food drive to aid the hungry and donating pajamas for seniors, Girl Scouts across America this year were offered a new way to earn a special uniform patch: learning about the wonders of 5G cellphone technology and, in some cases, promoting it.

The opportunity came courtesy of Ericsson, the Swedish telecommunications giant, which sponsored the “Ericsson Limited Edition 5G & IoT” (Internet of Things) patch program. The program, still available on at least one Girl Scout website, targets all age levels, from Daisies (kindergarten-age Scouts) to Ambassadors (those in high school), with an array of activities intended to “introduce Girl Scouts to 5G and the Internet of Things.”

These include watching “Explaining 5G to Kids,” a five-minute video featuring Mats, a bearded Ericsson employee, as he chats with Siofra, Freya and two other squirming but charming children, who speak English with what sound like hints of Swedish accents. Mats explains that 5G is a “new technology for the mobile phone. So everything will be much better.” He explains that the technology could allow the kids’ toys to connect. “Wouldn’t that be cool?” he asks. “This is what Ericsson is doing,” Mats explains. “This is what 5G can do.”

Other recommended activities sound more like do-it-yourself advertising. High school-age members on one Girl Scout site are encouraged to “Find a cell tower and make a video explaining how 5G would change the world for you. Share the video you made with a friend or fellow Girl Scout. Or, with an adult’s permission, post your video on social media and tag @gsheartofnj, @ericsson, #girlscoutstalk5G.”

And Scouts of all ages are invited to “discuss with your troop or an adult how mmWave spectrum is safe and does not cause harm to our health.”

Some health experts, who are concerned that wireless radiation poses a health risk to children, criticize the Ericsson program as an improper and inaccurate form of industry marketing. “Anytime corporations advertise directly to children, I’m very suspicious,” Dr. Jerome Paulson, a pediatrician and emeritus professor in George Washington University’s department of environmental and occupational health, told ProPublica. “It would be like Exxon Mobil sponsoring a patch on climate change.” Paulson previously chaired the Council on Environmental Health at the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has criticized the Federal Communications Commission’s wireless-radiation standards for failing to protect children.

The Environmental Health Trust, an activist nonprofit which first spotted the Ericsson program, recently sent a letter of protest to the Girl Scouts’ national office, saying the patch materials “misleadingly state that 5G networks and cellphones are safe,” and urging their removal from all Girl Scout websites. The ten signers included “former Girl Scouts and parents of Scouts,” the chair of the obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences department at Yale’s medical school, the former president of Microsoft Canada and a Swedish scientist who has conducted influential epidemiological studies on cellphone radiation.

In an emailed statement, Vidya Krishnan, global chief learning officer for Ericsson, who sits on the Girl Scouts National Board, defended the program: “The Ericsson Girl Scouts 5G patch has the sole purpose of educating our next generation about the latest wireless technologies that are shaping their lives and their future. Educational awareness is the only intention and impact.” (In October, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas honored Krishnan as a “Woman of Distinction” at its annual fundraising luncheon, where a “presenting sponsorship” went for $100,000 and individual tickets sold for $300.)

The Girl Scouts, of course, are hardly strangers to the world of commerce. They have long been renowned for their annual cookie sales — the Scouts call it “the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world” — which raise about $800 million annually for local activities. Girls are eligible for special “Cookie Business” badges by honing their sales pitches and tapping into market research.

And the Girl Scouts have offered other patches sponsored by corporations. Among them: Fidelity Investments, which sponsors a “girls’ guide to managing money.” One Texas chapter offered a patch for “Fluor Engineering Month.”

The Ericsson 5G patch was first made available in March 2021 through the website of the Northeast Texas council of the Girl Scouts. Ericsson’s U.S. headquarters is in Plano, Texas, and the company, which boasts of being “the leading provider of 5G network equipment in the U.S.,” has been involved with the area’s Girl Scouts program for several years. Ericsson has focused on promoting interest in science, technology, engineering and math careers, known as STEM, where girls are historically underrepresented. (The company’s Facebook page includes photos of hardhat-wearing Girl Scouts on a 2018 field trip to an Ericsson training center with mock cell towers and transmitters.) A second Ericsson executive serves on the local Girl Scouts board, and, according to public disclosures, Ericsson has donated more than $100,000 annually to the northeast Texas council for the past three years.

Ashley Crowe, chief program officer for the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, said 697 Girl Scouts have obtained the Ericsson 5G patch. Crowe praised Ericsson’s support for the Girl Scouts, saying, “I for one would never feel exploited by Ericsson,” but she added that she was unaware of health concerns about children’s exposure to cellphone radiation. “I had never even heard about that,” she said. “This has not been brought to our attention at all.”

After ProPublica’s inquiries about the matter, the patch program was removed from the Texas council’s website. (A spokesperson for the council asserted that “the patch program was removed from our site at the beginning of October,” explaining that “the Ericsson 5G IoT patch program was funded by Ericsson as a one-year optional program for local Girl Scouts and concluded September 30, 2022.” However, a ProPublica reporter saw the patch on the Texas site as late as Nov. 21.) It remains available on the website of a New Jersey Girls Scouts council.

A spokesperson for Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey submitted a statement on behalf of its CEO, Natasha Hemmings, asserting that “the safety and well-being of our Girl Scouts is and always has been our top priority.” The statement continued: “In line with our mission, we partner with numerous organizations and corporations, including Ericsson, to expand access to education and to empower girls to become leaders of tomorrow.”

The national office for Girl Scouts of the USA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Scientific concern about whether cellphone radiation poses a human health hazard, including increased risk of cancer, fertility issues or other problems, has been rising in recent years. (ProPublica recently explored this issue in detail.) The research includes a massive U.S. government study that in 2018 found “clear evidence” that cellphone radiation caused cancer in lab animals. Some researchers have also warned of special risk to children, citing studies showing that their developing brains absorb more radiation because of their thinner, smaller skulls. The American Academy of Pediatrics has echoed this concern, urging the FCC to revise its exposure standards, saying they don’t adequately protect children.

More than 20 foreign governments have adopted protective measures or recommended precautions regarding wireless radiation, with many of them focused on limiting exposure to children. The European Environment Agency offers similar guidance, noting: “There is sufficient evidence of risk to advise people, especially children, not to place the handset against their heads.”

The wireless industry and U.S. regulators, including the FCC and Food and Drug Administration, deny that there is any proven health risk for anyone. They dispute that the technology poses any special hazard to children and don’t advocate any precautions. The FCC’s “Wireless Devices and Health Concerns” page, for example, notes that “some parties” recommend safety measures, “even though no scientific evidence currently establishes a definitive link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses.” It then states, in bold: “The FCC does not endorse the need for these practices.”

The term-limited Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), in his farewell to the Michigan Senate Wednesday night, closed out his years in office by stunning the chamber with a long speech that ventured into outlandish conspiracies, biblically ominous predictions of the future, critiques of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and an attention-grabbing story about testing the Binsfeld Office Building’s toilet water temperature with his hand.

Speaking on the challenges posed by COVID-19 since early 2020, Shirkey soon launched into remarks blasting Whitmer’s administration for past efforts it deployed to prevent further spread of the virus. The Republican said that her leadership during the pandemic was “based on a core message of fear,” which “fog[ged] the thinking of everybody.”

A whirlwind of COVID-19 disinformation and QAnon-esque conspiracy theories, Shirkey’s speech was filled with the talking points that have dominated much of the far-right landscape throughout the pandemic.

COVID-19 was a “surprise foreign attack” that was “most certainly planned,” Shirkey claimed without evidence. He alleged baselessly that scientists have ignored COVID-19 data that is not consistent with their “preferred narrative,” while repeating arguments he has previously pushed regarding “natural immunity.”

Shirkey also falsely claimed that COVID-19 vaccines have been proven ineffective and are likely unsafe. He spoke out against “unscientific and unnecessary” social restrictions that Whitmer’s administration put in place during the height of the pandemic, including school shutdowns.

In reality, research has shown that vaccines are both safe and effective. University of Michigan researchers also found in January 2021 that Whitmer’s strict public health measures during the 2020 holiday season likely prevented more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases and thousands of deaths in Michigan.

Shirkey then invoked the Bible while laying out what he sees for the future.

“I carry a burden. … I can see things that are about to happen or going to happen that other people sometimes can’t see,” Shirkey said.

“… We are witnessing 2 Timothy Chapter 3 before our very eyes. COVID was a test. These next challenges will be much more than a test.”

The portion of the King James Bible referenced by Shirkey alludes to “terrible times in the last days.”

Shirkey said that in the “spiritual battle” to come, all elements of life will be under attack as humans worship “little ‘g’ gods.”

“These are the next threats that will make COVID-19 an elementary memory. Little ‘g’ gods like ESG, climate change, gun control, child sacrifice, trans-whatever-we-can-concoct, central bank digital currencies, artificial intelligence, agricultural demonization, Critical Race Theory, and the list goes on,” Shirkey said.

“The intent behind these little ‘g’ gods is to achieve one world governance. One world religion, one world healthcare, one world currency, one world control and the elimination of sovereignty.”

The primary element driving these efforts is the World Economic Forum (WEF), Shirkey claimed, invoking an online conspiracy that claims the global elite — which antisemitic conspirators claim is controlled by Jews — is using COVID-19 to enact a new world order and set up a “one world government.”

GOP former secretary of state nominee Kristina Karamo, whose campaign was built on QAnon-adjacent conspiracies, agreed with the sentiment via Twitter.

“It is to our peril for any of us to ignore their agenda,” Shirkey said. “… The threats you will face in the next four years are real and more dangerous than what we’ve endured these last three years.”

After speaking about the WEF’s “objectives” for some time and the perceived dangers of everything from digital currencies to artificial intelligence, Shirkey then launched into the format of a more familiar farewell speech with thank yous, shoutouts and personal anecdotes.

One of those anecdotes caught the attention of many listening and was fodder for a number of tweets Wednesday night.

Uh.
— Mallory McMorrow (@MalloryMcMorrow) December 7, 2022

Having just moved into the Binsfeld Office Building in 2018, Shirkey said he visited the restroom and thought the temperature of the facilities were unusual. After using the restroom twice more — “I figured it out,” Shirkey said.

“It was the toilet that was warm. And so I put my hand in it. And it was hot water.”

Shirkey said he then called maintenance staff to ask them “why taxpayers are paying for hot water in our toilets.”

me: it’s a lame duck session, so nothing wacky will happen
Mike Shirkey: I stuck my hand in the toilet to see how warm it was https://t.co/o1f8ubsKue
— Seasonal Affective Hard Seltzer 🫒 (@VernorsHerzog) December 7, 2022

During his time as Senate Majority Leader, Shirkey also stirred up controversy with sexist remarks directed toward Whitmer, comparing slavery to abortion, pushing election misinformation, admitting that he advised Michigan militias on messaging while insisting they get a “bad rap,” and more.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

Protecting elections and a backlash to the failed January 6 insurrection drove Republican and independent voters to split their tickets, giving Democrats in top races the support they needed to pull off unexpected victories, according to new polling data.

The data, compiled by Citizen Data and Protect Democracy, polled voters in five swing states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Across those states, 60% of respondents said that protecting democracy was “very important” in determining their voting decision.

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Voters were also asked to rank their top three most important issues when voting in the midterm, and “protecting elections” ranked third and fourth across the states. In Arizona, it was listed as the fourth-most important issue, with 36% of respondents saying it was their primary focus. Inflation, abortion and immigration took the top three spots in Arizona.

Approximately 20% of voters in the five battleground states said preventing another January 6-style incident was one of their main priorities. The January 6 Committee hearings also played a role in voter decisions, the data showed.

Over 90% of people who had heard about the committee’s work said that the hearings were either somewhat or very important to their midterm vote, with only 7% saying it wasn’t important at all. Among those who had heard about the hearings, 45.5% said it factored into their voting decisions.

In Arizona, registered Republicans and independents who split their votes among GOP and Democratic candidates ranked January 6 as a higher issue than voters who voted only for a single political party. Arizona also had the highest percentage of ticket-splitters who ranked January 6 as an issue, with 20.9% calling it a top issue. That was more than three points greater than the 17.5% of voters who said the same in Wisconsin, the next-highest state.

Those who chose to split their ticket often listed support of January 6 as a major reason for doing so, though spreading of conspiracy theories, support of former President Donald Trump and extremist views ranked higher.

“It is easy to imagine if there was no January 6 committee, that the events of that day would have faded,” Kristy Parker, an attorney at Protect Democracy and a former federal civil rights prosecutor said during a presentation of the data. Parker added that the committee helped people understand what happened that day and start to create layers of accountability.

Mindy Finn, CEO of Citizen Data, which conducted the polling, said that this is the fourth poll the firm has conducted related to January 6 to see how it has impacted voter opinions over time.

“The more voters hear and learn from the committee, the more likely they are to penalize politicians connected to January 6,” Finn said. “The data is pretty clear that not only January 6 was very important, but so was the committee itself for voters.”

Finn added that the data also dispels a belief that democracy itself isn’t a “kitchen table issue” and it is one that voters are really paying attention to now.

“This data really sends a different message,” Finn said. “Just knowing that these issues do matter and they do resonate.”

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Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Three Black Waukee high school students were told to ride home from a 2021 band trip in the back of a school bus after a white parent chaperone allegedly instigated an altercation with them that turned physical, according to a recently filed lawsuit and other documents.

The incident with the Northwest High School students followed a September 2021 marching band competition in Omaha, Nebraska, according to a letter penned by the attorney of one student who is suing the school district.

The letter — sent to the district’s superintendent in December 2021 — alleges the parent volunteer was perturbed that the students had gone to the bus before the competition’s awards ceremony had concluded because it was “disgraceful to their teammates.”

However, the students had gathered with two white students on the bus with the permission of the school’s band director and instrumental music teacher, the letter said. The students were members of the band’s color guard.

The parent volunteer told the students to get off the bus, dismissed the white students from the conversation, and, along with another white parent who joined a bit later, confronted the remaining Black students.

When one of the students attempted to leave the conversation to find the band director, one of the parents allegedly grabbed him by the arm to prevent his departure. That led to a heated exchange between the now-former student who filed the lawsuit — Bailey Hilson, then a high school senior — and the parent who had allegedly grabbed the other student.

The parent “responded by ‘getting in the face’ of Bailey, shouting at her, and thumping her in the forehead with her finger,” wrote Jerry Foxhoven, the Des Moines attorney who represents Hilson.

The parent could not be reached to comment for this article, but an investigative report produced by the school district said the woman denied touching the students.

The woman admitted to waving a finger in Hilson’s face, the report said. She alleged Hilson was using profanity and saying hateful things.

The band instructor and instrumental music teacher intervened a short time later, and the Black students asked to be moved from the bus for the ride back to Waukee because the parent volunteers would be on it.

“This mature and reasonable request was denied, and the three Black students were instructed to ‘sit in the back of the bus’ and not interact with the adults on the way home,” Foxhoven wrote. “This direction … created a pathetic scene reminiscent of our nation’s history of segregation in public transportation. The students, left with no other choice, followed instructions.”

A ‘sham’ investigation

The lawsuit alleges that a school district investigation into the incident was too focused on the students’ conduct and that the district’s actions thereafter did not adequately address — and perhaps exacerbated — the emotional distress of Hilson.

Assistant Principal Christie Pitts conducted the investigation and concluded that the parent volunteer had grabbed or touched two students, and someone at the district notified the Waukee Police Department of the alleged physical contact.

The woman was barred from volunteering at the high school and from attending at least one home football game, according to Foxhoven’s letter. The district further pledged to have a “restorative conversation” with the students and to reevaluate the requirements for its parent volunteers. It sent a message to band students and their families that said “the students involved were not at fault.”

“We regret the breakdown in the system that led to this event,” said the message, which was signed by the school’s two band directors. “You can be assured that we are taking proactive steps with administration to help ensure that such an incident does not happen again.”

Amy Varcoe, a spokesperson for the school district, declined to comment specifically on the allegations contained in the lawsuit but said the district “strongly denies” them.

“Waukee Community School District maintains a strong commitment to a safe and collaborative environment for all students,” she said.

It’s unclear whether the police department investigated the incident. The department did not immediately respond to a request for information about a potential investigation, nor does it have jurisdiction over an alleged assault that might have been committed in another state.

The school district investigation’s findings largely align with the timeline of events that are detailed in Foxhoven’s letter. A video surveillance recording from the bus showed that one of the white students who was allowed to leave at the start of the altercation had only been briefly on the bus. The other white student who was dismissed from the altercation had been with the Black students for the duration of their time on the bus, the investigative report said.

That white student called the parent volunteers “racist bigots” on the bus ride back to Waukee, the report said.

The lawsuit called the school district investigation a sham, in part, because it ignored the potential racial aspects of the incident. It further claimed that the district gave improper support to the parent volunteers by investigating a bullying complaint one of them subsequently made against Hilson.

A school investigation into that complaint found that there was an ongoing “substantial student conflict” between the volunteer’s child and Hilson as a result of the band trip, Foxhoven’s letter said.

The lawsuit was filed last month after Hilson lodged a complaint against the district with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in July.

The commission issued Hilson a right-to-sue letter in September, which is required for lawsuits in state district court that allege violations of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit names the school district, Superintendent Brad Buck and former Principal Fairouz Bishara-Rantisi as defendants, but not the parent volunteers. It seeks an unspecified amount of money to compensate Hilson for her suffering that resulted from the district’s alleged racial discrimination and a reimbursement for attorneys’ fees.

The lawsuit says Hilson “suffered severe emotional distress, causing her to miss school, struggle with depression and feel isolated and unsupported at school, causing her to miss the true joy normally experienced by a student in their senior year of high school.”

The school district has yet to file a response to the lawsuit in district court. There are no other pending lawsuits from the other students against the district, according to state and federal court records.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: info@iowacapitaldispatch.com. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

After a poor performance in the midterm elections, Republicans are backtracking on their stance against early voting and mail-in ballots despite supporting previous conspiracy theories pushed by former President Donald Trump.

But restoring voters’ faith in mail-in voting may take years, if the GOP effort is effective at all. Trump and his allies have repeatedly echoed falsehoods about voter fraud and stoked fears around absentee ballots.

The former president has promoted the widely discredited film “2000 Mules”, which alleged widespread voter fraud in the last presidential election.

“Republican states are rightly taking steps to ensure elections are safe and secure,” a Republican strategist who worked on the Georgia midterm election told Politico. “Our problem now is a messaging and operational one. We start by throwing out the Trump B.S. lies and telling people the truth about their votes and the power of their vote. Who would have imagined telling people, ‘the election is rigged’ and then asking them to vote wouldn’t work?”

Now, some Republicans are hoping to undo his mess and tout a different message around mail-in voting to restore voters’ trust.

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., won early voters by about 16 percentage points, entering Election Day with a 300,000 vote lead, CBS News reported. He also earned 64% of the absentee mail vote and almost 58 percent of the early vote, according to the secretary of state’s office.

“Our voters need to vote early,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said on Fox News. “There were many in 2020 saying, ‘don’t vote by mail, don’t vote early’, and we have to stop that, and understand that if Democrats are getting ballots in for a month, we can’t expect to get it all done in one day.”

Republicans had predicted a “red wave” for months before the midterms. But once it failed to materialize, several allies of Trump turned against him and blamed him for candidates underperforming.

Trump as recently as last week disparaged early voting and voting by mail, posting on Truth Social: “you can never have fair & free elections with mail-in ballots–never, never, never. Won’t and can’t happen!!!”

Herschel Walker’s failure in the pivotal Georgia Senate race came as the last blow, finally convincing Republican operatives and lawmakers to issue a wake-up call to their party persuading them to take early voting seriously.

“[P]eople are awakening to it, even the Trumpistas,” GOP strategist Karl Rove, who runs RITE, told Politico. “It’s a sad commentary that we have to do that and there is resistance. He’s creating a class of people who may for a long time believe the elections are stolen as long as there’s a presence of mail-in ballots, and that causes people to say my vote doesn’t count, I don’t need to bother to vote.”

Even Fox News hosts, who have repeatedly echoed Trump’s claims about mail-in and early voting, are shifting their stance.

When the Georgia runoff elections showed Walker was likely going to lose, Fox News host Sean Hannity asked House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., about the “reluctance some Republicans” have “about voting early and voting by mail,” adding it was “too big of a margin for Republicans to always have to make up”. McCarthy agreed: “You’re exactly right.”

Fellow Fox host Laura Ingraham grew frustrated while interviewing Kellyanne Conway, former counselor to Trump, who said if Republicans don’t “bank ballots early, we’re going to keep losing.”

“How come we didn’t?” Ingraham asked. “We didn’t do it in 2020, because everyone said, ‘Don’t vote early, because that’s corrupt.'” She went on to say that “a lot of people at the top of the Republican Party” echoed this sentiment, which ultimately impacted Republican candidates.

While Trump has been under fire for casting doubt on mail-in voting, others are also blaming him for making poor choices when it came to candidates.

“Every Republican in this country ought to hold Donald Trump accountable for this,” Geoff Duncan, Georgia’s Republican lieutenant governor, said in an interview with CNN. “The only way to explain this is candidate quality.”

Regardless of the reasons, several of Trump’s allies are abandoning him and his conspiracy theories. Republican operative Scott Jennings warned on Twitter that “Georgia may be remembered as the state that broke Trump once and for all.”

After it was announced on Thursday that the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, protecting the rights of same-sex and interracial marriages, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) made a tearful plea to her colleagues to help her in pushing back against it.

In a statement made on the House floor, Hartzler squared off against the Speaker saying “I’ll tell you my priority; protect religious liberty, protect people of faith, and protect Americans who believe in the true meaning of marriage.”

As highlighted in Insider‘s coverage of Hartzler’s breakdown, this is not the first time she’s taken a firm stance against same-sex marriage. Before entering into Congress, the Republican “pushed for an amendment to be added to Missouri’s constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.”

Although the Respect for Marriage Act is better than nothing, it is an imperfect bill in that individual states are not legally required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but they must honor the rights of couples who were legally married elsewhere.

In a November interview with Tony Perkins, Family Research Council President, Hartzler expressed her views towards gay marriage in regards to the bill that was passed today saying “They act like they’re being so magnanimous in this bill to protect our pastors, to not force them to carry out same-sex marriage ceremonies, and yet they trample on the freedom of everyone else in this country . . . It’s a very sad situation and it’s deceiving.”

The 258-169 vote in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act on Thursday sends the issue over to President Biden’s desk. Biden has expressed support of the bill and, once approved, will sign it into law.

“I am shocked that conservatives that have a libertarian bent believe that somehow we ought to get involved in this,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. according to NBC. “It’s not the government’s business.”

“Your love is your choice,” said Hoyer. “The pursuit of happiness means you can love whom you choose.”

On Thursday, Axios reported that former NFL star and Trump-backed Georgia Senate nominee Herschel Walker tried to pursue an unusual campaign strategy during the summer: attacking a dog prominently featured in his opponent’s ads.

“Walker’s scandal-plagued Georgia Senate campaign was as chaotic and troubled behind the scenes as it seemed from the outside, according to conversations with nearly a dozen campaign officials,” reported Emma Hurt. “‘Alvin the Beagle’ was a star of Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign ads, and Walker and his wife, Julie Blanchard Walker, wanted the world to know that Alvin wasn’t Warnock’s dog. Incredulous staff ultimately complied with crafting a digital ad on the subject to appease them.”

Specifically, the ad accused Warnock, who ran ads featuring himself walking Alvin in his original election campaign in 2020, of abandoning the dog after the campaign, complete with a mock “missing” notice for the dog.

“Staffers allege Blanchard Walker — aided by unpaid campaign co-chair Michele Braddock-Beagle — ran a ‘shadow campaign’ and refused to cede control of key strategy decisions to experienced, paid staff,” said the report. “‘I don’t think any of us has been OK,’ one campaign official told Axios. ‘It was just an effing roller coaster all the way through.’ Staffers said they had incomplete or no warning on the scandals that plagued Walker. Most still don’t know what to believe of his many denials.”

READ MORE: ‘Has there ever been a more awful start?’ New Yorker’s Susan Glasser pans Trump’s 2024 bid

Walker’s campaign self-destructed in the months immediately before the first round of voting with revelations he had paid for abortions for women he impregnated, often coercing them against their wishes; had multiple secret children and was largely absent from their lives; and the resurfacing of allegations that he was physically violent toward former romantic partners. His own son took to social media to condemn him as a liar.

Ultimately, the race advanced to a runoff, which was held this week. Warnock defeated Walker by close to 3 points.

The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser this week recapped the launch of former President Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, and declared that it might just be the worst political rollout she’s ever seen.

Noting that she has never seen a presidential hopeful host two admirers of Adolf Hitler at their house for dinner before, Glasser asked whether there has “ever been a more awful start to a campaign?”

What makes the fiasco even more remarkable, Glasser argues, is that he is so far the only Republican candidate to officially jumped into the 2024 race.

“Donald Trump is running against himself—and losing,” she writes. “From his low-energy announcement speech at Mar-a-Lago to his dinner with the Hitler-praising Kanye West and the white supremacist Nick Fuentes, Trump has courted more controversy than votes since launching his bid in November. He has held no campaign rallies and hired no campaign manager. He has hosted a QAnon conspiracy theorist and helped raise money for the indicted insurrectionists of January 6th.”

READ MORE: ‘Beyond nuts’: MSNBC panel stunned as Trump lawyers scramble to avoid paying price for his lies

Of course, there have been multiple times when Trump’s political career has been deemed dead — from the time he insulted John McCain’s military service, to the time he was caught on video boasting about sexually assaulting women by grabbing their genitals, to inciting a deadly riot at the United States Capitol building.

And in each one of those cases, the Republican Party base made clear that they were sticking with Trump no matter what he did.

“It’s also hard not to forget that, for all the breathless coverage, Trump retains the support of more than forty per cent of the G.O.P. electorate in recent surveys—more than enough to win the Republican nomination in a crowded field,” notes Glasser.

Read the full column here.