The Political Report – 5/6/21

A new Morning Consult/Politico poll finds that 58% of voters say they support President Biden’s $1.8 trillion economic spending plan that would reshape how the country thinks about a wide swath of domestic policies, from child care to free community college.

From a new Politico/Morning Consult poll: Support for Biden’s infrastructure plan was 1 point higher when the price tag was mentioned (57%) than when it wasn’t (56%).

A new SurveyUSA poll in California finds that 47% of voters say Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) should remain in office, while 36% say he should be recalled.

“The Ohio Republican Party’s governing body will discuss whether Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and nine other members of Congress should be censured for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump at a Friday meeting,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

“The public admonishment of a sitting Republican congressman would demonstrate how far the Ohio Republican Party is willing to go to support Trump.”

“With 18 months left before the midterms, a spate of Democratic departures from the House is threatening to erode the party’s slim majority in the House and imperil President Biden’s far-reaching policy agenda,” the New York Times reports.

“In the past two months, five House Democrats from competitive districts have announced they won’t seek re-election next year… Three other Democrats will leave seats vacant in districts likely to see significant change once they are redrawn using the data from the 2020 census, and several more are weighing bids for higher office.”

“An early trickle of retirements by House members in competitive districts is often the first sign of a coming political wave. In the 2018 cycle, 48 House Republicans didn’t seek re-election — and Democrats won 14 of those vacancies. Now Republicans are salivating over the prospect of reversing that dynamic and erasing the Democrats’ six-seat advantage.”

NEVADA 1ST CD — Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) denied reports that she is interested in leaving her House seat to become an ambassador in the Biden administration, calling them “rumors” and saying she is focusing on serving the needs of her constituents, the Nevada Independent reports.

NEW YORK CITY MAYOR — City Comptroller Scott Stringer has lost a number of high-profile endorsements in the days since a woman named Jane Kim accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2001. The Working Families Party, Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Adriano Espaillat, and several state legislators and members of the New York City Council have withdrawn their support from the Stringer, who has repeatedly denied Kim’s allegations and vowed to remain in the June 22 Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams received an endorsement on Monday from Donovan Richards, his counterpart in Queens. Adams also earned the support of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. last week.

TEXAS 15TH CD— The Washington Post reports that Democrats are imploring Rep. Vicente González “to stay in Congress” after Rep. Filemon Vela, who represents a neighboring district, announced his retirement in March. González, who was elected to what had long been a safely blue Rio Grande Valley seat in 2016, has not publicly expressed interest in leaving office, though there’s little question he’d be in for a much tougher campaign than he’s ever experienced before. González prevailed last year 51-48 as Joe Biden carried his district by a small 50-49 spread, and Republicans will once again control redistricting.

OHIO 15TH CD — State Sen. Stephanie Kunze and state Rep. Jeff LaRe have each announced that they’ll compete in the August Republican primary to succeed GOP Rep. Steve Stivers, who will officially resign from Congress later this month. They join a field that currently consists of state Sen. Bob Peterson, state Rep. Brian Stewart, and Fairfield County Commissioner Jeff Fix.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, who said last month he was considering running for the Democratic nomination in the special election to replace Republican Rep. Steve Stivers after he resigns, has opted against a bid. While the special will be run under existing lines, Patterson said that he decided to stay out in part because of uncertainty surrounding redistricting, particularly since Ohio will lose a seat thanks to reapportionment.

NEW HAMPSHIRE 1ST CD — 2020 Republican nominee Matt Mowers tells WMUR that he’ll decide whether to seek a rematch with Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas after his child is born in June. Last year, Pappas beat Mowers 51-46 as Joe Biden was carrying this swingy seat by a similar 52-46 margin. Republican map-makers, though, will have the opportunity to make this constituency more conservative.

ILLINOIS 17TH CD — Politico reports that Peoria City Councilwoman Beth Jensen is considering running to succeed Rep. Cheri Bustos, a fellow Democrat who unexpectedly announced her retirement on Friday. Jensen doesn’t appear to have said anything publicly yet, while Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara and state Rep. Maurice West each aren’t ruling anything out for themselves. Politico also name-drops two other Democrats, state Reps. Jehan Gordon-Booth and Mike Halpin, as possibilities.

Politico reports that conservative activist Terry Schilling is considering a bid for Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, a seat that his late father, Bobby Schilling, represented for one term before getting ousted by Democrat Cheri Bustos, who’s now retiring. Schilling runs an anti-trans group called the American Principles Project and was exposed for posting homophobic tweets while running his father’s unsuccessful comeback campaign last year in Iowa’s 2nd District.

Among other things, Schilling wrote in 2019, “I have zero problem explaining heterosexual sex to my kids if they ask — it’s how babies are made. Am I really a snowflake for not wanting to explain butt sex to my kids?” At the time, the Quad-City Times also reported that Schilling lives in northern Virginia.

MONTANA 1ST AND 2ND CDs — Former Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke announced on Friday that’d he run for Montana’s new congressional seat, a day after filing paperwork with the FEC. Zinke represented the state’s at-large district from 2015 to 2017 before serving as Donald Trump’s interior secretary, a position he was reportedly forced out of after less than two years. During his tenure, Zinke was the target of 18 different federal investigations—some of which were never publicly resolved—and aggressively sought to roll back environmental protections while promoting expanded fossil fuel extraction.

That record could haunt Zinke back home, where he long sought to cast himself as a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt concerned with protecting public lands and waterways while serving in the state legislature. Though Montana is a solidly red state, the rights of hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists are often issues of great concern in local politics, even among Republicans—as Zinke’s own attempted branding shows.

Meanwhile, some Democrats are also eyeing the opportunity that Montana’s new district will present. Businesswoman Whitney Williams, who unsuccessfully sought her party’s gubernatorial nomination last year, tells Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin she’s considering a bid for “the seat my Dad once proudly held.”

Williams’ father, Pat Williams, represented Montana’s 1st District from 1979 until it was eliminated in 1993, then held its at-large seat for two more terms after that, making him the last Democrat to represent the state in the House. The elder Williams’ old district covered the more liberal western slice of Montana and could be resuscitated under the next map.

Another Democrat who ran for office in 2020, public health expert Cora Neumann, is also reportedly considering a House bid. Neumann was a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for Senate last year but dropped out after former Gov. Steve Bullock was lured into the race at the filing deadline.

FLORIDA 13TH CD — Sunshine State political observers anticipate that Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist will announce Tuesday that he’s giving up his House seat to wage another campaign for governor, and several politicians from both parties have already expressed interest in running to succeed him. This St. Petersburg-based seat backed Joe Biden 51-47, but Republicans will be in a position to draw themselves more favorable lines.

On the Democratic side, the Tampa Bay Times’ William March writes that state Rep. Ben Diamond and former Department of Defense official Eric Lynn each “are considered almost certain to run,” though neither would commit to anything publicly. Diamond said he would “certainly re-evaluate my options” if Crist gave up this seat, while Lynn said he’d “take a serious look” at an open seat race. March also mentions St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who will be termed-out of office early next year, and state Rep. Michele Rayner as possibilities.

A Diamond-Lynn primary would also be a rematch between the two. Lynn campaigned for the 13th District in the 2016 cycle and remained in the race several months after Crist got in. He eventually dropped out and sought an open state House seat, but Diamond beat him 54-46. Lynn, though, still has $140,000 in his federal campaign account that he could use for a new congressional race.

On the Republican side, Anna Paulina Luna just kicked off a second campaign while Amanda Makki said that she, too, was thinking about another bid. Luna beat Makki, who had the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, 36-28 in last year’s primary, but she went on to lose the general election to Crist 53-47 in a contest that didn’t attract any serious outside spending.

March also name-drops former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, though he notes that he comes up “when any high-profile political office in Pinellas [County] comes open.” He’s not kidding: Baker turned down Republican attempts to recruit him for Congress in 20142016, and 2020, and he’s been talked about as a possible contender for the state Senate next year.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR AND 17TH CD — Neither Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb nor his 2020 Republican opponent, Sean Parnell, have announced Senate bids yet, but Politico reports that both men are “likely” to run. Lamb held off Parnell 51-49 last year as Joe Biden was carrying his suburban Pittsburgh seat 51-48.

On Friday, reporters Sarah Ferris and James Arkin wrote that Lamb “has begun telling some donors and supporters in recent days that he is likely to enter” the contest to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, though one unnamed source added that there were “no imminent plans” for him to kick off a campaign. Lamb’s team said in response that, while the congressman is indeed considering a bid, “no decision has been made.”

In a separate article published days later, Arkin relayed that Parnell “is expected” to launch a Senate bid of his own. The former candidate’s spokesperson also publicly confirmed that Parnell was interested in this race, though he also said that he was still making up his mind. The Washington Examiner said three months ago that Parnell was also thinking about another House campaign, but there’s no indication that he’s still contemplating another run for the lower chamber.

OREGON 4TH CD — Republican Alek Skarlatos announced Sunday that he’d seek a rematch against incumbent Peter DeFazio, a veteran Democrat who defeated him 52-46 last year after a surprisingly expensive and closer-than-anticipated race. Skarlatos made his declaration about two weeks after he learned that, even though Oregon Democrats control the governorship and both chambers of the legislature, the party will not be able to help DeFazio or anyone else during the next round of redistricting.

That’s because, as we explained in a recent edition of the Voting Rights Roundup, Democrats recently reached a deal with Republican lawmakers under which Democrats agreed to give up their majorities on the legislature’s redistricting committees. In exchange for granting GOP veto power over any new congressional maps, Democrats received assurances that Republicans would back off some of their unprecedented obstruction of routine legislative business. As a result, in the absence of a bipartisan compromise, it would be up to a court to craft a new map.

No one can say, of course, how this new arrangement might impact DeFazio’s 4th Congressional District, especially now that the Beaver State will be gaining a seat in the House, though the congressman has represented competitive turf under several previous maps. The current version of this constituency, which includes the southern Willamette Valley and Oregon’s southern coastsupported Joe Biden 51-47—a close showing, though a veritable landslide compared to Hilary Clinton’s 46.1-46.0 victory four years before.

DeFazio himself had prevailed by double digits in every single campaign following his first victory in 1986, but Skarlatos presented a much more prominent profile than any of his previous foes. The former Oregon National Guardsman made global headlines when he helped stop a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train in 2015, went on to place third on “Dancing With The Stars” later that year, and even played himself in a 2018 movie called “The 15:17 to Paris” that was directed by Clint Eastwood. Still, Skarlatos initially struggled to bring in cash, and he seemed destined to be on the wrong side of another DeFazio blowout.

That impression began to change over the summer, however, when the incumbent began running negative ads against his opponent. Skarlatos also dramatically ramped up his financial efforts, and while much of his haul was eaten up by fees paid to fundraising services, he still brought in more than enough to run a serious campaign.

Major national Republican groups, however, didn’t behave as though they had a serious opening, as they spent just $275,000 and went off the air weeks before Election Day. Their Democratic counterparts, though, sensed trouble and dropped close to $2.2 million to protect DeFazio. It was a fortunate outcome for the veteran lawmaker, whose 6-point victory was easily his closest showing in any of his 17 re-election campaigns.

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