Voters in a number states cast ballots yesterday in off-year elections anticipated to be bellwethers for the 2020 cycle. In Kentucky, incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (R) fell to opponent Andy Beshear (D) in an extremely tight race, 49.2-48.8%. Though the state went for President Trump by 30 points in the 2016 election, Bevin, who has yet to concede, had become the second-most unpopular governor (see list) after high-profile clashes with the teachers union and legislators within his own party. Republicans held on to the governor's office in Mississippi, where Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) beat Attorney General Jim Hood (D) 52.3-46.5%, while Democrats took control of the state legislatures in Virginia for the first time in two decades. Voters across the country also decided on a slew of interesting ballot initiatives, including New York City which approved the use of ranked-choice voting - which allows voters to list their top five choices instead of picking a single candidate - for local elections.
Louisiana's gubernatorial race - nearly in a dead heat - is scheduled for Nov. 16.
Massacre in Mexico
Mexican security officials said yesterday at least nine people - three adults, six children - were murdered by drug cartels in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. Eight children survived the attack, with at least five treated for injuries. The attack was particularly gruesome, with at least one woman and two young children set ablaze in a burning car, and officials say their SUVs may have been mistaken for a rival gang's. The victims were reportedly part of the LeBaron family, missionaries from the Church of Latter-day Saints (or Mormons) with dual US-Mexico citizenship who reside in the Mexican settlement of La Mora. The shocking attack comes one week after a botched attempt by Mexican security officers to arrest the son of notorious drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, which ended with cartel members overwhelming federal forces. By early yesterday morning, President Trump had offered military support, saying the US was ready to "wage war" on the cartels.
In four new pages of sworn testimony, US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland claims he told Ukrainian officials the release of $400M in military aid was likely contingent on public support for corruption investigations sought by the White House. The revelation is a reversal of Sondland's earlier testimony in which he said he was not aware of any specific precondition to have the aid released. The aid holdup is central to the ongoing House impeachment probe, with critics arguing it was leveraged to push Ukraine to target White House political opponents, specifically Joe Biden (go deeper). The administration has maintained there was no explicit quid pro quo and that anti-corruption in Ukraine has been a priority for years. Also yesterday, House lawmakers requested testimony from White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, though he is unlikely to appear.
Sondland's new statement is appended to his initial testimony and begins on page 376 of this document.
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In The Know
Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Penn State make top four of first College Football Playoff rankings; undefeated defending national champion Clemson comes in at fifth (More) | NFL star QB Cam Newton out for season with foot injury (More)
> "Frozen 2" presales break record for animated films (More) | Colin Farrell in talks to play The Penguin in new "Batman" film (More)
> Emmy-winning actor Courtney B. Vance tapped as president of SAG-AFTRA Foundation, the charity arm of the screen actors' union (More)
Science & Technology
> Scientists find the smallest size possible for an ice particle to be about 90 molecules, after which the transition from ice to water becomes ambiguous (More)
> New theory proposes the shape of the universe is similar to the surface of a sphere, folding around on itself; contradicts prevailing theory of a flat, expanding universe (More)
> Excessive screen time in 3- to 5-year-olds linked to underdeveloped white matter in the brain, lower language and literacy skills (More)
Business & Markets
> FCC formally approves T-Mobile and Sprint $26B merger to combine nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers; deal still faces lawsuit from group of state attorneys general (More)
> Sources say Walgreens is exploring a take-private transaction with some of the world’s largest private equity funds, could be largest leveraged buyout ever (More)
> AT&T settles for $60M with Federal Trade Commission; company slowed speeds of unlimited data plans (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Russian fighters move into Libya, fighting against UN-backed Libyan government; bid to increase influence over Middle East comes after country mediated Turkish invasion in Syria (More, $$, WashPo)
> Chinese President Xi Jinping publicly backs embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam as protests grow in intensity (More)
> Trial of Trump associate Roger Stone begins today; Stone is accused of perjury and obstruction of justice related to the Muller investigation (More)
Historybook: Basketball inventor Dr. James Naismith born (1861); Teddy Roosevelt travels to Panama and becomes first president to make diplomatic tour outside US (1906); Bolshevik Revolution begins in Russia (1917); UN formally condemns apartheid in South Africa (1962); RIP Hollywood great Gene Tierney (1991).
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