With Mellark, Summerfield, Oppenheim, and Oswald, Liberty comes back from the brink

In November, the Liberty Party headquarters was buzzing with activity. It was election day, and not one person on staff had a clue of how that night would go; all they knew is that they were desperately attempting to avoid an embarrassing first-round result in the face of Panem’s first runoff elections that would be inevitably held in December. Katniss Everdeen, then chair of the Liberty National Committee while serving as wife to the President, closely watched the screen as the results from the districts poured in.

The final three districts were called around two o’clock in the morning. Peeta Mellark and Rebecca Tarson won District 14 to no one’s surprise, while Julie Roydon and Matthias Christian of the Centre Party scored wins in District 15 and the Capitol. Everdeen grimaced at the Centre Party wins, which further cemented the fact that the party had suffered massive electoral blows that day. The Liberty ticket would be heading to a runoff; these wins simply determined their opponents.

Everdeen called her staff together to discuss the next course of action. The LibNC was prepared for a runoff as it was considered a fairly likely scenario in the last few weeks due to the tightening polls. Everdeen promptly put that plan into action before the President and Vice President spoke that night, intending to preempt the Jones and Christian campaigns.

In December, the plan barely worked. While Mellark and Tarson were reelected to a second term, Mellark barely won in a squeaker, and Tarson won due to the popular vote percentage in the scenario of an unlikely electoral tie. The two were sworn in on January 1st along with Congress, bringing a prompt reminder that Liberty was at its lowest point in years. The party had lost a majority in the House and was forced to seek a governing coalition with the Conservatives, something that appeared easy but in actuality was quite difficult to negotiate. Upon the inauguration of Mellark and Tarson to a second term, Everdeen presented her husband with her resignation as chair of the LibNC. She personally felt responsible for the severe losses incurred during the election cycle, and she felt that it was time for a change.

Following Everdeen’s resignation, the gears began to turn in the Capitol. The Liberty Party began to move in a new direction, rejecting the party’s previous image and qualities and reshaping into a more modern and competitive party.

After Everdeen, Mellark chose his Secretary of State, Celine Oswald, to lead the party’s top committee. Oswald had already notified the President she would not return as the top diplomat, but Mellark’s offer to chair the party intrigued the political heavyweight. While never a perfect campaigner, Oswald is undoubtedly skilled with political strategy and diplomacy, making her an ideal fit. This move was the first major move to reshape the party, as Oswald immediately scrapped the plans of Everdeen’s administration of the committee in favor of newer plans to rebrand Liberty as a party that was forward-thinking and representative of the common man.

Then came the changes in the House of Representatives. Constantin Richelieu triggered what may have been a generational change in Panem politics with his resignation as Speaker, causing a leadership election between majority leader Miranda O’Neal and young upstart Wes Summerfield. Despite the entrenched O’Neal being considered essentially Speaker-in-waiting, Summerfield convinced the members of the Liberty caucus that the way forward for their party was not through a rehashing of the same type of politics. Summerfield insisted to his colleagues that Richelieu and O’Neal were exactly what caused a crisis of confidence with Liberty and swing voters in the past election cycle and pledged to set forth a new agenda to determine exactly how to regain the party’s lost majority. Until then, he informed the members, he would seek a governing majority with the Conservatives that was stronger and more solvent than Richelieu’s failed coalition was. He accomplished this through providing the majority whip position to the Conservative leader, Kari Lyles, and through higher committee assignments for the Conservative members of the coalition. While the deal was not what many wished for, it certainly has ensured a working majority; Richelieu never achieved such a majority, which was the cause of his resignation.

The Senate changes came last and were deeply planned between Stonehaven and the Senate leadership. Michael Debroff, the majority leader, had already been planning his retirement from politics due to an illustrious career that spanned decades. His retirement was destined to trigger a competitive open election during the midterms that could have resulted in a gain for the Centre or Conservative Parties if the conditions were right. Furthermore, it would have caused a major Senate leadership shakeup right after the midterm elections. Instead of postponing the inevitable Senate leadership battle and to ensure that Liberty had the upper hand in the election for Debroff’s seat, Mellark decided to move Debroff to his Cabinet to the open position at the Department of International Trade. Debroff’s Senate credentials would provide no issue on his confirmation, and it would be the pinnacle of the senator’s lengthy career. It also provided a chance to keep the seat; Oswald cheered when the decision was made as the incumbency of Debroff’s replacement was sure to help in keeping the seat in a special election and in the midterms.

However, the vacancy for majority leader in the Senate caused an internal rift, which was beginning to seem fairly common for the Liberty Party in this era. Wendy Oppenheim stepped up almost immediately to run for the position, but Wesley Benson made it clear that he had intentions of governing the Senate. The two had been whipping votes in preparation for Debroff’s expected retirement, but following his ascension to the Cabinet, the whipping only intensified. The rift grew wider, and allies of Oppenheim and Benson quickly recognized the damage that the two could cause by being at odds with each other. As such, the two sides brokered an agreement; the two would essentially co-govern the Senate with Oppenheim as the official leader, while Benson would select nearly all of the remaining leadership.

Oswald and Mellark felt a sense of accomplishment in the new leadership. It was no secret that Mellark’s relationship with Richelieu was always cordial at best and that the former was always discontent with the lack of energy and the complacency of the old guard. By reforming the leadership in the legislative branch, the pair of political pros essentially cleared the path for a pro-Mellark Congressional agenda. Oswald was particularly pleased with the response that she was seeing from the polls taken following the changes. Overwhelmingly the Liberty Party electorate was pleased with the new leadership and with the Mellark administration’s agenda. The President’s approval ratings rose from a paltry 43 percent on inauguration day to 58 percent following the passage and signing of the ethics legislation that he championed. The generic congressional ballots indicated that voters were trending towards Liberty in the midterms, rather than away, for the first time in four years. In addition to these short term successes, Oswald also saw a future for the party past Mellark. The ever-consistent talk of the next executive elections now featured names that were not simply old news; voters were becoming accustomed to Wes Summerfield, Jacqueline Warner, Jacob Ellsworth, and Celeste Armstrong. For once, the Liberty Party didn’t seem to be in decline.

Will the party remain that way? There’s certainly no way to predict the fortunes of a political party. Future missteps could endanger the Liberty Party further, but at the current moment, the party seems well positioned for the upcoming midterms. It’s clear to see that the rebranding of the party has worked masterfully; the voters believe the changes are real and palpable, and certainly a new leadership of the party has emerged at the behest of Mellark and Oswald. While the old guard was clearly successful in its day, that day has passed and the voters responded as such. With the new, young leadership of the party, voters seem to be willing to give Liberty a second chance- one that, if capitalized on correctly, will restore their majority in the House and ensure that the next election will be Liberty’s to lose, regardless of who runs.

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Sens. Oppenheim and Benson strike deal on leadership roles, averting contentious election

In the face of yet another contentious election for Congressional leadership (this time in the upper chamber, rather than the lower one), Senators Wendy Oppenheim (Liberty-D13) and Wesley Benson (Liberty-Capitol) have reached a deal to avert such a scenario.

Rather than Oppenheim and Benson face off and split the Liberty caucus, the two have reached a deal to avoid such a divide that could have possibly caused an ungovernable set of senators. Under this deal, Senator Oppenheim will run unopposed for the position of Senate Majority Leader to succeed the recently resigned Michael Debroff, who now serves as Secretary of International Trade. Senator Benson will run unopposed for the currently vacant position of Senate Majority Whip, which has been vacant since Peeta Mellark assumed the presidency but has been essentially filled by Oppenheim during her time as chair of the Liberty Senate Conference. The two also jointly decided the remainder of their leadership team, who will run with them as well.

The finalized Liberty leadership list is as follows:

  • Senate Majority Leader: Wendy Oppenheim (Senior Senator, D13)
  • Senate Majority Whip (Deputy Leader): Wesley Benson (Senior Senator, Capitol)
  • Chair, Liberty Senate Conference: Jacqueline Warner (Junior Senator, D7)
  • Vice Chair, Liberty Senate Conference: Antonio Wallace (Senior Senator, D4)
  • Chair, Liberty Senate Policy Committee: Jacob Ellsworth (Junior Senator, D3)
  • Chair, Liberty Senatorial Campaign Committee: Hanley Trent (Senior Senator, D12)

Clockwise from the top: Wendy Oppenheim (Senate Majority Leader, Liberty-D13), Wesley Benson (Senate Majority Whip, Liberty-Capitol), Jacqueline Warner (Chair of Liberty Senate Conference, Liberty-D7), Hanley Trent (Chair of the Liberty Senate Campaign Committee, Liberty-D12), Jacob Ellsworth (Chair of the Liberty Senate Policy Committee, Liberty-D3), and Antonio Wallace (Vice Chair of Liberty Senate Conference, Liberty-D4).

The finalized listing shows a definite impact by Benson on the selections for the leadership. While Oppenheim chose Hanley Trent, a longtime senator, prolific fundraiser, and personal friend to President Mellark, to serve as chair of the Liberty Senatorial Campaign Committee, Benson essentially chose the rest of the leadership. Senators Ellsworth and Wallace were both elected alongside Benson, and Senator Warner is yet another fresh face in the Senate after being selected to succeed now-Attorney General Calvin Wilkie.

In addition to the deal on the top two positions and the determination of the ticket, Oppenheim also offered Benson the same deal that Michael Debroff extended to Peeta Mellark when Mellark served in the Senate. As Majority Whip, Benson will also serve as Deputy Leader. However, according to sources close to the negotiations, Oppenheim is taking this a step further and expanding the role to essentially a co-leadership in order to ensure Benson took the deal.

The new leadership team along with Senate President pro tempore Sophia Delacruz is now set to meet with President Mellark, Vice President Tarson, Chief of Staff Melanie DeFrancis, Speaker Summerfield, House Majority Leader Brooklyn Howard, and House Majority Whip Kari Lyles at Stonehaven to discuss policy and to reorient themselves on the agenda of the administration.

D11 Gov. Vance Fletcher names Wesley North to Senate, also nominates new LG

Vance Fletcher, the Governor of District 11, has nominated Wesley North to serve as the next senator from the district, replacing Michael Debroff who is now serving as the Secretary of International Trade.

Wesley North previously served as Lieutenant Governor of District 11 for the past five years, having been recently reelected alongside Governor Fletcher. He previously served as the district’s secretary of agriculture for a single term, a very powerful position in District 11 that oversaw the district’s vast agricultural industry. Prior to this, he worked as a district senator and in the agricultural industry.

North has indicated that he will seek to run in the special election that Governor Fletcher has scheduled for January 1, only five months from now. Despite the district’s lean towards the Liberty Party, North could possibly face competition for the seat. Tanner Qualiski, the former Civic lieutenant governor of District 11, has already declared his candidacy for the seat, and the Labor Party has declined to field a candidate in response. The Centre Party announced that they will have a contested primary for their party nomination, and the Conservatives appear to be looking towards running former LG Carl Parsons for the seat in an attempt to gain their first seat in the Senate. Given that this is a special election with irregular timing, the increased attention to the election, and the fact that three former lieutenant governors are likely to face off against each other for the seat, we are calling this a Tilt Liberty election at the moment. North has the advantage of incumbency and favorable numbers, but District 11 has had strange political tides occur over the years. It wouldn’t be surprising if Carl Parsons made this competitive, considering that he was only swept out due to an anti-Conservative wave.

In addition, Fletcher nominated a new lieutenant governor to replace North. Grant Barrett, who currently serves as the district’s land commissioner, will replace North as lieutenant governor.

Perry confirmed for Commerce; Debroff confirmed for International Trade

The Senate confirmed the President’s two newest Cabinet picks today in relatively-uncontentious votes.

Allan Perry was sworn in by President Peeta Mellark as the new Secretary of the Department of Commerce, while Michael Debroff was sworn in as the new Secretary of International Trade. The two resigned their previous positions by letter that took effect upon their inauguration as members of the Cabinet.

The ascension of the two to the Cabinet may not have major ideological changes for their respective departments, but it will have a major ripple effect throughout Panem politics. Perry’s resignation as governor of District 13 makes Lieutenant Governor Callista Abbott the new governor of the district, the third such ascension since the last elections. However, Debroff’s resignation brings much more of an effect than that of Perry’s. Debroff’s resignation causes its first effects in District 11, where Governor Vance Fletcher will name Debroff’s replacement. Fletcher can name pretty much anyone he wants; that person, however, will either be a placeholder or run in the special election that will follow. Fletcher could even theoretically name himself to the position, causing yet another ascension to a governorship for D11’s lieutenant governor, Wesley North. Furthermore, Debroff’s resignation has triggered a leadership election in the Senate, which may be potentially contentious. Wendy Oppenheim, the senior senator from DIstrict 13, has made it clear to her colleagues that she plans to run for majority leader; nonetheless, Wesley Benson, the senior senator from the Capitol who was only elected three years ago, is also mulling his own run for the spot. It is uncertain what would happen in the upper chamber if the two duked it out as Debroff has served as majority leader for as long as political parties have existed in Panem, providing no precedent for a leadership election.

Secretaries Tyler Thompson and Cynthia Garth to retire, reports say

Despite previous reports that the shuffling of President Peeta Mellark’s Cabinet had concluded following the confirmation of Secretary of State Jonathan Madison, reports from the Commerce and International Trade Departments are saying that Secretaries Tyler Thompson and Cynthia Garth are retiring and that announcements for their retirements are forthcoming.

Tyler Thompson, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce, has served Panem in multiple capacities throughout his illustrious career. He began his career in public service as the independent governor of District 5. His time as governor is marked as successful, leading to massive popularity for his administration in the district. Thompson then was selected to serve as Panem’s second vice president following the resignation of Plutarch Heavensbee, where he declined to run for a full term. Thompson was then nominated during President Katniss Everdeen’s second term to serve as the Secretary of International Trade, which he served as through her second term and President Rick Canth’s single term. Thompson also made an unsuccessful run for the presidency after joining the Liberty Party. Thompson’s resignation will trigger a wide search for the next Secretary of Commerce; potential replacements could include Governor Allan Perry (D13), Representative Myron Ramsey (D9), or former Governor Festus Ashland (D6).

Cynthia Garth, the Secretary of the Department of International Trade, has been a relatively quiet figure in Panem’s government but has been a staple throughout. Garth first served as representative of District 5’s first Congressional district before she was selected to serve as Panem’s first head of the Department of Transportation. In President Everdeen’s second term, Garth became the first Secretary of Commerce; however, unlike many Cabinet members, Garth was not selected to remain in President Canth’s Cabinet and was replaced by Samuel Trenton. She made her return when President Mellark nominated her to her current post at the Department of International Trade, making her the second secretary of the department after Tyler Thompson. Garth’s resignation also will result in a wide search for a replacement; potential nominees could include Representative Laura Cruz (D7), Senator Michael Debroff (D11), or Governor Trenton Escavel (D9).

A New Generation of Panem Politicians Emerges

Over the last two years, Panem’s political landscape experienced a massive changing of the guard. The first phase began with the midterm elections during President Peeta Mellark’s first term. The second phase was the presidential and vice presidential elections a few months ago. Phase three, however, is still underway.

Voters for nearly fifteen years became accustomed to seeing the same faces over and over again. The first regularly held presidential election featured three of Panem’s political giants: then-President Cecelia Paylor; then-Governor of District 13 Celine Oswald; and of course, future President Katniss Everdeen, who would go on to win that election. These three women have been at the forefront of Panem’s political scene since Panem’s democratic journey began twenty-six years ago. Paylor served as President, Attorney General, Secretary of Intelligence, National Security Advisor, and the Civic Party’s nominee for president in three presidential elections. Oswald served many years as Secretary of State under three presidents, as Vice President under Everdeen, and was the Liberty Party’s nominee for president. She now will serve as the Chair of the Liberty National Committee. Everdeen also has a long resume as well; she was a war hero prior to the election, served two terms as Panem’s president, served as Secretary-General of the Council of Nations, was Chair of the Liberty National Committee, and now serves as First Lady of Panem.

Of these three, only two remain in the public eye. Even then, they are taking a backseat in electoral politics and governance of the nation. The same fate has occurred with many electoral and appointed staples of Panem’s government: Haymitch Abernathy, Rick Canth, Walter Delta, Felicia Ren, Samuel Trenton, Kurtis Pierce, Thomas Stemp, Ophelie Murray, Walter Singleton, and others. Instead, Panem is beginning to see the start of a new generation of leaders.

This started in all honesty during the midterm election of President Mellark’s first term. President Mellark and Vice President Tarson brought about the very beginning of this changing of the guard when they bested political giants like Jonathan Madison, Celine Oswald, and others for their party’s nominations for President and Vice President.

Their rise was unexpected, and despite Peeta Mellark being a well-known figure in Panem, his electoral status was brand-new, just like his running mate. The midterms built on this; it introduced new figures, some of which have gone on to revolutionize the political scene. The Liberty Party gained new faces, or at least propelled some to prominence, like Senator Jacob Ellsworth (D3), Senator Antonio Wallace (D4), Governor Serena Ross (D5), Governor Layla Folsom (D8), and Senator Wesley Benson (Capitol). In the Labor Party, Senators Cedric Wallace (D8) and Lindsey Richards (D10) emerged, and for the first time, Centre Party members were elected to the Senate with Senators Julie Roydon (Capitol), Joseph Garrett (D15), and Clarke Randall (D9).

This movement only escalated as the race to occupy Stonehaven accelerated. Clear choices were made by the electorate during the primary contests of each party, each time deciding to usher in a new era of politicians as the nominees of the three opposition parties that had previously contested elections. Instead of rehashing their losses, Felicia Ren and Cecelia Paylor stepped aside to allow the Labor and Civic Parties to choose new nominees. Rather than nominate a former VP nominee or former contenders in past elections, such as Samuel Trenton, Kurtis Pierce, Walter Delta, or Robert F. Maxwell, voters decided candidates like Kaitlyn Jones, Iris Canstrom, and Patrick Newsom were far more appealing. The same applied to the vice presidential elections; instead of selecting Thomas Stemp, Lynn Germaine, or Ophelie Murray, we saw the rise of candidates like Delia Sutherland or Teraton Wendle. (Wendle did not win his nomination, however, as we will note in the next paragraph.)

The conventions wrapped up the second phase, cementing the elevation of this newer generation. The Liberty National Convention specifically put their rising stars in the spotlight; Rosalie and Valère Descoteaux, Jacob Ellsworth, Wesley Benson, and Jacqueline Warner skyrocketed to the peak of national prominence due to their addresses at the convention. Labor’s convention chose a different route; specifically, the convention pushed Senator Jace Walters (D10) to the forefront of the political scene as the party’s VP nominee. Civic and Centre threw two new faces into the spotlight with their VP nominations: Senator Quentin Kennedy (D6) and Representative Matthias Christian (D10). 

The third phase began on election day this past November, and it encompasses the vast majority of what changes have occurred. First, the Conservative and Centre Parties received new leaders in Governors Cooper McPharlin (Conservative-D1), Donald Beck (Centre-D6), Glenn Beckham (Conservative-D7), and Dillan Christian (Centre-D10). The Centre and Conservative Parties expanded their ranks in the House, resulting in a House with no majority. Second, President Mellark and Vice President Tarson were reelected, and upon that note, key figures began retirement. The result of these retirements has been the elevation of fresh faces. Senator Valère Descoteaux became Secretary of Defense; Governor Lynnette Cortez became Secretary of Energy; Governor Mason Wallace was elevated to Secretary of Homeland Security; former D5 Lieutenant Governor Sextimus Dalton became the Secretary of Transportation. As such, these ascensions to the Cabinet have resulted in Governors Harriet Myers (D12), Marshall Risinger (D15), and Senator Nicolette Lémieux (D14). These sorts of changes have continued with the workings of the second Mellark government. With the rise of Panem’s space program, we have seen the prominence of Lucille Tallow, who previously was a backbench Conservative representative.

Most of all, we have seen such changes as when the leadership in the House of Representatives collapsed. Constantin Richelieu resigned as Speaker, resulting in a race for his position that was a clear choice between the old and the new. Majority Leader Miranda O’Neal faced off against firebrand backbencher Wes Summerfield for Richelieu’s spot, resulting in a choice of the new over the old, with Summerfield now one of the most prominent Liberty politicians in Panem. He is also flanked by the newly-minted Majority Leader Brooklyn Howard, who succeeded O’Neal after she declined to run after her defeat for the Speakership.

These new faces are the faces we will see for the next fifteen years, ladies and gentlemen. The era of Oswald and Paylor is effectively over. Undoubtedly that era’s impact will be felt for as long as this nation stands; however, Panem has entered what can only be construed as a brand-new era. Liberty is not solely dominating Panem politics any longer. The building of our new democracy and its traditions has been completed over the last quarter of a century. It’s now time to consider where this country will go from here, and who from this new generation will lead it after President Mellark leaves office. Will Wes Summerfield or Cooper McPharlin be the next President of Panem? Will Kaitlyn Jones and Patrick Newsom run again or find another way to impact Panem politics? These are the questions that we must ask now. It’s time to consider them.

Janet Wesson to be full-time Communications Director; Isadore Santillan named Press Secretary

Janet Wesson, the Communications Director and Press Secretary for the Mellark administration, will experience a change in title and duties as she will now become Communications Director full-time, according to sources within Stonehaven.

Wesson, who has served as Communications Director since President Mellark took office, will return to that role full-time effective immediately. According to the sources, the President had been seeking for some time to allow Wesson to return to her previous role without having the additional duties of the Press Secretary position. Wesson assumed the Press Secretary role in addition to her role as Communications Director upon the ascension of then-Press Secretary Melanie DeFrancis to the position of Chief of Staff to the President.

Wesson’s replacement at the most visible podium in Panem will be Isadore Santillan, who has previously served at the State Department as its press secretary. Santillan formerly worked for PanemNews as its Stonehaven correspondent before serving under Secretary of State Celine Oswald. He will also make history as the first male press secretary, with three women preceding him.