Philip Blumel: Pledgers Set Sail.
Philip Blumel: Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement, for the week of January 13th, 2022.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Across the country, seven states held primaries on Tuesday, June 7th, and then an armada of US Term Limits pledge signers are now advancing to the general elections. What does this mean for the congressional term limits project in November and next year’s legislative sessions?
Philip Blumel: Let’s talk to Nick Tomboulides, Executive Director of US Term Limits, for more detail.
Philip Blumel: Hey, Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Hey, Phil. Welcome back.
Philip Blumel: Okay, so this last week, on Tuesday, we had election day, seven states had primaries and special elections, and of course, as always, we were involved in some of those. What’s the big picture? What’s the headline out of Tuesday for us?
Nick Tomboulides: Well, several of these states were heavy-hitter states for US Term Limits, places where we’re focusing heavily, we’ve got a strong pro-term limits presence that’s been built in these states. And I would say the two biggest ones there were South Dakota and Montana. Overall, it was a successful week. 88 signers of the US Term Limits state pledge, and an additional 16 signers of the Congressional pledge advanced to either a runoff or the general election.
Philip Blumel: Oh, it’s great. Okay, let’s talk about the states first. And let’s be clear too, the pledges we’re talking about are pledges that politician sign. At the state level, they say basically that, “If I’m elected or re-elected, that I will co-sponsor, vote for, and defend the resolution in the state legislature to call for a Article Five, Amendment Writing Convention, limited to the subject of term limits?”
Nick Tomboulides: That’s right, yep. Those are term limit convention pledges for state legislators, and then there were a smaller number of those who had signed the Congressional pledge, who moved forward in their primary.
Philip Blumel: Okay, great. So what’s the best state? Let’s start with that.
Nick Tomboulides: Well, it’s pretty close between South Dakota and Montana, but I think we should start with South Dakota because there you saw 33 signers of the term limit convention pledge who are headed to the general election. And in districts where US Term Limits conducted citizen education, where we sent mail out to people who live in these districts, the pro-term limit candidate went eight in three.
Philip Blumel: Oh, great.
Nick Tomboulides: So, good winning percentage, right? Not a bad record.
Philip Blumel: Right.
Nick Tomboulides: If the Marlins had a winning percentage that good, they wouldn’t have to sell off the team every year, right?
Philip Blumel: Oh, come on. [laughter] Not again. [laughter] All right.
Nick Tomboulides: I always have to slip in a little dig at the Marlins.
Nick Tomboulides: But it was very good. It was very good. Yeah, 33 signers advancing to the general election in South Dakota.
Philip Blumel: Okay, that’s great, Nick. Now, of course, we lost some too. Any stories?
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, it wasn’t all positive. We don’t sugarcoat anything here. There was one big race featuring an incumbent Senator, Lee Schoenbeck, who is probably… I would generously describe him as one of the worst legislators in America.
Nick Tomboulides: This guy… He hates term limits, he hates the convention.
Philip Blumel: I know he does. Oh, Lord.
Nick Tomboulides: When he was first elected back in 1995, you could get a gallon of gas for a buck, so this is the prototypical career politician who has gamed the system, who has found a way to circumvent the South Dakota term limits law, and he ceased being effective decades ago, but he keeps getting re-elected because people know the brand name, and he was re-elected in the primary by around 500 votes, so it was very close. I know convention of states project was telling voters how bad this guy is, US Term Limits was telling them, but Lee Schoenbeck is like the Pac-Man. He just gobbled up those lobbyist dollars, like the arcade game, and he was re-elected, and he’s gonna be a little bit of a thorn in everyone’s side for the next two years. But look, that’s one setback. On the whole, it was a good night for US Term Limits in South Dakota. The pledge signers won several dozen races, so it was a good night across the board.
Philip Blumel: Sure, it was. What about Montana?
Nick Tomboulides: Montana was good. We had same number, actually. 33 pledge signers advanced to the general election there, and that’s not counting one Congressman there, Matt Rosendale and Ryan Zinke, who’s a former congressman, who won his primary. So, successful on the congressional front, successful on the state legislative level moving forward. We did do some citizen education in Montana, and in those districts where we sent mail, the pledge signers went eight in two. That’s an 800 winning percentage. We will take that.
Philip Blumel: Sure, we will. All right. When you say education or voter education, what exactly are we telling them? What are we sending out there?
Nick Tomboulides: So if you are in a district where we have decided to send some citizen education mail pieces, you will get several postcards sent to your house that tell you which candidates have signed the US Term Limits pledge and which ones have refused to sign the pledge, and typically, there’ll be like a comedic message on there, like, “Diapers and politicians need to be changed often for the same reason,” and it just helps voters make a more informed decision and helps them know who are the good guys on term limits, and who are the bad guys.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, okay. Now, we collect these pledges, and that, of course, will inform our choice of targets for trying to get the term limits convention resolutions passed next year. So, I guess with these successes, it looks like that Montana and South Dakota might be on the shortlist for targeting next year. Am I right?
Speaker 2: Yes, exactly. What we’re seeing with this is constant growth, and when you get more pledges, that means more term limit champions are gonna get elected to state houses. You have to remember, in places like Montana and South Dakota, these are pretty much Republican-dominated states, which means if you win a Republican primary in most of these cases, that means you’re gonna win the general election, because it’s gonna be a Republican district. And so in this wave election, that’s gonna mean more term limits champions who are getting elected in these state houses, getting sworn in, and they’re gonna do the good work of helping pass term limits convention in the next session.
Philip Blumel: Okay. I know we had two big successes this year in Wisconsin and in Missouri, we both passed the term limits convention… Resolutions, and what kind of role did these pledgers play? I guess what I’m trying to get at is, trying to demonstrate to our listeners the value of getting these politicians in office, that have made this pledge.
Nick Tomboulides: They were the leaders in those states. The pledge signers were the tip of the spear, they were the lead sponsors on term limits convention in those states, they were the prime co-sponsors, they were the committee chairs and committee members who voted to advance the bill. And then ultimately, they were the people who spoke out in favor of it on the floor and helped carry it to the finish line. So, yeah, the pledge signers in every single state are indispensable. It goes back to when we founded this whole thing with term limits convention. You remember in the Florida legislature, we had that core group of people, the pledge signers, that we could always rely on to support the bill, that we could always call on to twist some arms with their colleagues whenever it was needed. Larry Metz was one of them, our sponsor in the House, Aaron Bean in the Senate. John Wood in the House. There were so many good guys, these are like term limits Hall of Famers, and they started out by just signing the pledge and then they became true champions shortly after that. So, we’re hoping to see that same effect duplicated in places like Montana and South Dakota.
S?: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: In 2019, hearings were held on the congressional term limits amendment before the US Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution. Testifying in favor of the resolution was a former US Senator, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who retired from the Senate in 2012 after eight years. At the time, DeMint explained that he thought he would be more effective as an advocate outside the US Senate. “I never intended to be a career politician,” he told Politico at the time. In a Senate testimony, DeMint shares some personal experiences that informed his support for congressional term limits.
Jim DeMint: The most resistance we had from balancing the budget over a 10-year period, it was from all the senior members, particularly the appropriators in the Senate, including and especially the Republican leadership. It was such a good example of a wave of new people who came in, were fresh from the campaign trail where they made all these promises and commitments to people, and they came with vision and just love for the country, but everyone told them immediately that their expectations were too high. And that’s what this place does to you. It dumbs down your expectation within weeks of getting here. And the nexus of power and reward is all from seniority, the fundraising gets more, the special interest get behind you, and then you have more control of the communications. And if you are trying to cut spending, like if I had to give you one thing, it would be, “We’ve gotta balance the budget. We cannot keep spending more than we’re bringing in.”
Jim DeMint: But cutting anything in Washington has so much punishment associated with it, by every constituent of every program, that no reasonable person is gonna keep doing that. You’re either gonna go home or you’re gonna get un-elected. And so we’ve got all the incentives in place here to destroy our country. I think one of the only ways to change those incentives is to bring new people up here who know they’re gonna be here for a short period, and they’re gonna give it everything they’ve got for their country, and one way or another, they’re gonna go home. But if they’re fighting for a lifetime career, they’re gonna do what all of you have suggested right away, the calculus of, “What do I have to do to stay here?” And it’s to do something up here and pretend to be something else back home. That’s the game.
Philip Blumel: Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about the US Congress, because there were also primaries held on Tuesday for candidates for US Congress. And we always ask every incumbent and challenger across the country to sign a congressional term limits pledge at the federal level, basically saying that if I’m elected or reelected, then I will co-sponsor and vote for the US term limits amendment. And so what’s the headline there? How did we do with the congressional level?
Nick Tomboulides: Congressional level did very well. We’ve got 16 congressional pledge signers who were advancing, and we saw congressional signers advancing in states where there were no state legislative elections, like in Mississippi, for example. We had four congressional pledge signers advance to the general election, because Mississippi did have Congressional elections this year but they didn’t have state legislative elections, so we saw progress there. We’ve got three signers in California, of the Congressional pledge. We’ve got the two in Montana that I mentioned. We’ve even got a few in New Jersey, which you don’t exactly think of as a hot bed of term limits, but we’ve got a few big name signers in New Jersey as well. So the Congressional strategy, getting Congressional pledges remains super important, because there may come a time as we inch closer and closer to the term limits convention, that Congress gets the itch to preempt what the states are doing, and when that moment arrives, we need to be ready with a solid core group of term limits supporters in Congress. And so, we’re seeing progress on both fronts. Congress took a big step forward this week and the state legislative process took a step forward.
Philip Blumel: How many pledges do we have in the US Congress right now? Do you know the exact number, or at least roughly?
Nick Tomboulides: I believe it’s 100.
Philip Blumel: Okay, that’s good.
Nick Tomboulides: I believe it’s… It changes all the time…
Philip Blumel: Sure.
Nick Tomboulides: ‘Cause we’re constantly adding new people, there’s special elections in Congress and so on. I think the number is at 100. That doesn’t mean every pledge signer is sponsoring the bill, we’ve still got a few scoff laws, we’ve still got a few hold-outs, but they are a minority, obviously, of all the pledge signers. I think we’ve got about 100 in Congress, and I think we’ve got 750 people who have signed the state legislative pledge incumbents.
Philip Blumel: Okay, that’s great. One race that we have commented on during our podcasts that I find really interesting is down in Texas with incumbent Henry Cuellar and the challenger, the progressive Jessica Cisneros. And in that case, Cisneros, the Challenger, is a pledge signer, and Henry Cuellar, the incumbent, is not. And that one is, last I heard, it was about 300 votes separating the two, and she’s calling for a recount, which she can, and… To make sure that it’s right. And boy, that’s a nail-biter.
Nick Tomboulides: It is, and we’re gonna have to monitor that recount and see what happens. But you have to think, if not for Jessica Cisneros being the pro-term limits candidate, and if not for groups like US Term Limits doing so much to make the primary voters aware of that, I don’t think the race would be this close. Because on paper, look at Henry Cuellar, he’s an incumbent, I think he’s been in Congress for at least 12 years. Those guys are usually invincible. They’re bulletproof. They’re like Iron Man. They don’t lose. They don’t have closed primaries. This is definitely an anomaly. And I think Cisneros kind of brandishing her outsider credentials or anti-establishment, anti-Washington credentials by signing the USTL pledge and being outspoken on term limits, I think it played a big role in this race.
Philip Blumel: That’s awesome. Polling suggested that as well. The voters that knew that she was voting for or had signed the pledge were more likely to vote for her. So, alright, it’s exciting stuff. I guess we will know the answer to that one by next week’s podcast. But it looks like it was a good week for the Term Limits movement.
Nick Tomboulides: We will, and I’ll say this too, if Henry Cuellar manages to hold on in that election, the general election is not a lay-up anymore in that part of Texas. That is going to be a competitive general election. So, Henry Cuellar is not out of the woods yet, and his Republican opponent has also signed the US Term Limits pledge. So, even if he’s able to survive the challenge from Cisneros, he might still lose to a term limits advocate in November.
Philip Blumel: We’ll see. Okay.
Nick Tomboulides: Just real quick thing I wanted to say, let’s just give credit where credit is due. This is all a product of our pledge team. They’re doing the hard work. They’re contacting these candidates every single day, making the phone calls, sending emails, sending Facebook messages to track down these pledges…
Philip Blumel: And showing up at public events. I’ve seen a lot of the messages back and forth. Some of these candidates or politicians will be speaking at a public event, and our team members will show up and raise their hands and show up afterwards with copies of the pledge and really…
Nick Tomboulides: Shoutout to US Term Limits Hall of Famer, John Holman, who just a couple of weeks ago, stood up at a meeting in Central Florida and got a congressional pledge from Cory Mills, who’s one of the top candidates in the Florida seventh district congressional primary. We don’t have primaries in Florida until August, but it’s still great to see activists stepping up and doing that. It’s great to see volunteers like your dad, George Blumel.
Philip Blumel: I was just about to say, he came home with two pledges. He went to go see a candidate debate recently in his congressional district and came home with two signed pledges. So yeah, absolutely. Thanks, dad.
Nick Tomboulides: George Blumel probably holds the all-time record for most pledges brought in. He’s like the Hank Aaron of term limits pledges. I think his record will stand forever.
Philip Blumel: We’ll see, yeah. That’s great, yeah. Thank you, everybody and see you next week. Bye-bye.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another episode of No Uncertain Terms. The term limits convention bills are moving through the state legislatures. This could be a breakthrough year for the Term Limits movement. To check on the status of the term limits convention resolution in your state, go to termlimits.com/takeaction. There, you will see if it has been introduced and where it stands in the committee process on its way to the floor vote. If there’s action to take, you’ll see a Take Action button by your state; click it. This will give you the opportunity to send a message to the most relevant legislators, urging them to support the legislation. They have to know you’re watching. That’s, termlimits.com/takeaction. If your state has already passed the term limits convention resolution, or the bill has not been introduced in your state, you can still help. Please consider making a contribution to US Term Limits. It is our aim to hit the reset button on the US Congress, and you can help. Go to termlimits.com/donate, termlimits.com/donate. Thanks, we’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms podcast.