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D.C. Memo: Not up for debate

RNC may opt out of debates; 2022 midterm congressional candidate news; and Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith wants more COVID-19 tests.

Former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question as President Donald Trump listens
Former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question as President Donald Trump listens during the second and final 2020 presidential debate at the Curb Event Center at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Morry Gash/Pool via REUTERS

Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me doing my best to avoid omicron. Yup, that’s it. I’m sorry there’s nothing else fun to report, but I am glad to say I have thus far avoided the newest variant of COVID-19. Hopefully putting this in writing is not hurting my odds. This week in the Memo: we may be looking at no presidential debates in 2024; lots of 2022 midterm congressional candidate news; and Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith pressures Biden for more available COVID-19 tests.

No more debating?

According to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, the Republican National Committee plans to soon change its rules to require that 2024 presidential hopefuls sign a pledge to not participate in any debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

If this plan goes forward, it would be one of the most substantial changes in how presidential and vice-presidential debates have been conducted in the last 30 years. Republicans have been complaining that the debate process has become too swayed in Democrats’ favor, rather than maintaining a nonpartisan stance as it was designed.

More from the Times:

One major concern for the R.N.C. was the timing of the first debate in the 2024 election cycle.

In 2020, more than one million ballots were cast before the first presidential debate on Sept. 29 that year, after some states changed their election rules because of the coronavirus pandemic and expanded both absentee and early voting. The party has been pushing the commission to host a debate before early voting begins in 2024.

Former President Donald J. Trump has criticized the commission since his first campaign, against Hillary Clinton in 2016, when he complained that one of its co-chairs, Mike McCurry, was a White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton. He also complained then that the debates were being held at the same time as N.F.L. games. Mr. McCurry later condemned Mr. Trump’s attacks on the media as president.

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He couldn’t beat Phillips, but he says he will beat Walz

Kendall Qualls, an Army veteran and former executive at medical device and pharmaceutical companies, announced that he is running for governor, hoping to unseat DFL Gov. Tim Walz. Qualls ran against Third District Rep. Dean Phillips in the 2020 election, but lost in the suburban district.

After that loss, Qualls went on to found a new organization called TakeCharge MN to “[counter] the prevailing narrative in popular culture that America is structured to undermine the lives of Black Americans.”

A GOP candidate hasn’t won statewide office in Minnesota since 2006, but some Republicans have argued that recent polling numbers for Walz and President Joe Biden highlight a chance to change that in the 2022 midterms.

“I’m running for governor of Minnesota because we are at a crossroads in our country. For over a decade the radical left has morphed the culture of the country where it is not recognizable,” Qualls said in a press release. “We are not going to be the generation that lost the America that we have known and loved.”

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He hasn’t run before, but he says he can beat Phillips

Mark Blaxill, former Treasurer of the Republican Party of Minnesota, hopes he can do better than Qualls did in 2020. Blaxill announced his campaign for Congress in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District this week, saying in a press release that he’s “never been more concerned about the direction so-called ‘progressive’ policy ideas are taking our country.”

Blaxill mentioned a desire to “tame runaway inflation” and return to “rational health policies.” He also said that “the American Dream can’t survive with more mandates.”

Blaxill grew up in New Jersey and got his bachelor’s degree in public policy and international affairs from Princeton University, followed by an MBA from Harvard Business School. He worked as a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group for 25 years, followed by founding two brokerage- and business-focused startups. In 2021, he served as the Treasurer of the Republican Party of Minnesota.

She’s running as a more liberal alternative to McCollum

So much midterm news this week. Amane Badhasso, a Democratic organizer and operative who arrived in Minnesota as a refugee from Kenya, announced her campaign against Fourth District Rep. Betty McCollum last year. This week, her campaign was featured by The Intercept, highlighting that she raised over $300,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021.

McCollum, who has spent 21 years as representative of the Fourth District, has been a reliable vote for progressive Democrats and a leader on the question of Palestinian rights. She declined to join the Progressive Caucus, of which Fifth District Rep. Ilhan Omar is the Whip, and has kept a relatively low profile as compared to other progressive lawmakers.

Badhasso told The Intercept she would raise “few if any substantive objections” to McCollum’s voting record, and that she has long applauded McCollum’s advocacy on behalf of Palestinians but that the representative hadn’t done enough broadly.

I’m not challenging her on the basis of that. There’s so much more that we need to do. We can’t just be a champion on one issue,” Badhasso said.

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Getting testy

Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith joined Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Tim Kaine of Virginia in writing a letter urging the Biden Administration to ensure easy access to rapid COVID-19 tests for Americans across the country. (I don’t know about you, but every drug store I have visited in D.C. in the last couple weeks has been completely sold out of rapid tests. Luckily, the libraries here have been handing out free tests, but they go quickly.)

In the letter, the senators pressed the Biden Administration to take steps to streamline access to at-home testing. The letter comes after the Biden Administration announced additional actions to combat COVID-19, including through rapid COVID-19 tests.

As you work to draft guidance to allow Americans with private health insurance to be reimbursed for rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests, we urge you to take steps to make this process as seamless as possible for individual patients,” the lawmakers said in the letter.

MyPillow Guy says he’ll send you to prison

In this week’s edition of unhinged things MyPillow CEO and Minnesota Native Mike Lindell is saying: Lindell said this week that he has enough evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election to send 300 million Americans to prison.

On a talk show called Real America’s Voice, Lindell said “Everything you’re going to see over these next seven months to get rid of the [voting] machines, you’re going to see the Supreme Court case coming out. All these great things, everybody.” Lindell said that he has the “pieces of the puzzle” to prove the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.

“And you talk about evidence,” Lindell added. “We have enough evidence to put everybody in prison for life, 300 and some million people. We have that all the way back to November and December.”

Unfortunately, with 300 million people making up the vast majority of the U.S. population, there may not be enough people left to buy pillows.

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What I’m reading

  • “The ethics of a second chance: Pig heart transplant recipient stabbed a man seven times years ago,” The Washington Post. I saw the original story that sparked this one earlier this week: the first successful pig heart transplant! So cool! But a woman whose brother was stabbed in 1988, paralyzing him, recognized the transplant recipient’s name when she read the story. Her brother spent 19 years in a wheelchair before having a stroke in 2005 and dying two years later, one week before his 41st birthday. She told the Post she wished “it had gone to a deserving recipient.” Not so much of a feel-good story anymore to some, but a key principle in medicine is to treat anyone who is sick, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done.
  • “Women are 32% more likely to die post-op if their surgeon is a man, study finds,” The Lily. We’ve heard about some disparities in health outcomes between men and women, and especially women of color. But a new study published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery found that patients of female surgeons have lower death rates, fewer health complications and lower rates of readmission than those of male surgeons, and that outcomes are more pronounced for female patients. Thirty-two percent is a huge gap, and definitely something to consider. However, as I read some of the comments on this article and discourse online, it seems that some people have pointed out that the data did not account for there being more older, experienced male doctors being assigned to risky surgeries than their female counterparts, just by the nature of there being decades of predominantly male surgeons in the past. If any doctors want to weigh in on this, I’m all ears.

That’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to send any questions, comments or what your plans are for prison life after MyPillow Guy gets us all locked up to, or find me on Twitter at @byashleyhackett.