Alex Burns: “In the most important elections of 2021, the center-left Democratic establishment has enjoyed an unbroken string of triumphs, besting the party’s activist wing from New York to New Orleans and from the Virginia coastline to the banks of the Cuyahoga River in Ohio.”
“It is a winning streak that has shown the institutional Democratic Party to be more united than at any other point since the end of the Obama administration — and bonded tightly with the bulk of its electoral base.”
A group of the Democratic Party’s most influential women met for dinner at a home in the nation’s capital last month to game out how to defend Vice President Kamala Harris and her chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, against a torrent of bad press, Axios reports.
CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR — SurveyUSA‘s first poll of the Sept. 14 recall election has a 51-40 majority in favor of the pro-recall yes side. Recent numbers from UC Berkeley and Core Decision Analytics showed the anti-recall side ahead 50-47 and 49-42, respectively―closer than Democrats might feel comfortable with, but nowhere near as bad as what these newest numbers show.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, SurveyUSA finds Democrat Kevin Paffrath, a financial analyst who is best known for his YouTube videos about personal finance, leading conservative radio host Larry Elder 27-23 in the race to replace Newsom. Both the aforementioned polls found Elder ahead of other Republicans, with Paffrath, who has no establishment support, taking a mere 3% of the vote.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and his allies have raised more than $51 million to fight the attempt to recall him, more than twice as much as every major Republican candidate and pro-recall committee combined, the Los Angeles Times reports.
GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR — CNN reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of the many prominent Republicans who is worried that former football star Herschel Walker will jeopardize the GOP’s chances against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock should he run, and that he’s hoping one prominent name will reconsider his plans to stay out of the race.
Former Sen. David Perdue took his name out of contention back in February, but CNN writes that McConnell “has suggested to allies” that he’d like for Perdue to switch course.Perdue met with McConnell last month in D.C., and while we don’t know exactly what was discussed, it’s a good bet this contest came up. Perdue himself ignored questions at the time inquiring if he’d run again, and CNN says he also attended a party donor dinner on that trip and “indicated he had nothing to say about whether he would launch another Senate campaign.”
The story also says that McConnell would like it if another former GOP senator, Kelly Loeffler, ran as well. Loeffler, unlike her ex-colleague, has shown some public interest, but it’s not clear if she’s willing to take on Walker if he gets in. An unnamed source did tell CNN that Loeffler would “likely” run should Walker, whom Donald Trump has been aggressively trying to recruit, ultimately stay out, though that would hardly solve McConnell’s immediate dilemma.
A trio of notable Peach State Republicans are already in, and McConnell reportedly will be meeting with at least some of them. The top fundraiser so far is banking executive Latham Saddler, who raised $1.4 million and ended June with $1.1 million to spend. State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, meanwhile, brought in just over $700,000 during his opening weeks and had $680,000 in the bank. Businessman Kelvin King, finally, took in $380,000 from donors, self-funded an additional $300,000, and had $570,000 on-hand.
So far, Black has been the only one to attack Walker, though he hasn’t yet brought up the allegations that his would-be rival threatened to kill his ex-wife in 2005. Instead, the commissioner released a digital ad this week making fun of a video where Walker, a longtime Texas resident, got out of a car sporting what appeared to be his new Georgia license plate. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that plate is suspended.) “For fun, my ride’s a tractor,” said Black, “And I’ve had Georgia plates all my life.”
Whoever emerges with the GOP nod will be in for an expensive race against Warnock, who remains a strong fundraiser months after his January special election win. The senator brought in $6.9 million during the second quarter, and he had $10.5 million on-hand.
TEXAS 28TH CD — Immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros announced Thursday that she would seek a rematch against Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, a conservative Democrat who defeated her 52-48 in a very expensive 2020 primary. The current version of the 28th District, which includes Laredo, has been reliably blue turf for some time, but like other heavily Latino seats in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, it lurched hard toward Trump last year: Joe Biden won 52-47 in a seat that Hillary Clinton had carried 58-38, though Cuellar won his general election 58-39 against an unheralded Republican foe.
Cuellar is a longtime force in local politics who has spent his decades in public life frustrating fellow Democrats, and his nine terms in Congress have been no different. In 2014, for instance, the congressman joined with Republicans on legislation to make it easier to deport child migrants. During the first two years of the Trump administration, FiveThirtyEight found that Cuellar voted with the administration nearly 70% of the time, more than any other Democrat in either chamber.
Cuellar, who is the extremely rare Democrat to have ever been endorsed by the radical anti-tax Club for Growth, is also no stranger to crossing party lines. In 2000, he supported George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, and in 2018 he came to the aid of a home state colleague, John Carter, during the Republican’s competitive re-election fight in the 31st District.
While Cuellar inflamed national Democrats, though, he went over a decade without attracting a serious primary foe until Cisneros decided to challenge him from the left last cycle, but she quickly proved she could raise a serious amount of money for what turned out to be a pricey and nasty race. Cisneros went after Cuellar for his conservative voting record, with one ad declaring, “Not only did Cuellar vote for Trump’s wall twice, but he’s taken over $100,000 from corporations that build facilities and cages to detain families.” EMILY’s List also spent $1 million to back her, while many labor groups were in Cisneros’ corner as well.
The congressman, meanwhile, ran a race that could have easily passed for a GOP campaign against the woman his team derided as “the Socialist Cisneros.” He argued that Cisneros’ support for environmental protection policies would destroy local oil industry jobs, and he aired a commercial arguing that she “supports allowing minors to have an abortion without parents’ knowledge.”
Cuellar and his allies also tried to portray Cisneros, who was born and raised in South Texas and returned home after briefly practicing law in New York, as an outsider; one particularly ugly mailer from a pro-Cuellar group charged that the challenger was “bringing New York flavor to Texas,” complete with pictures of “NYC Pizza” and “NYC Bagel.”
Cuellar benefited from spending from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and, remarkably, the Koch network, the first Democrat ever to do so. Republican voters also likely pushed him across the finish line in what turned out to be a tight race: Texas does not have party registration, which left GOP voters who didn’t participate in Donald Trump’s uncompetitive primary free to vote in the Democratic race.
Cisneros kicked off her new campaign Thursday arguing that not only did Cuellar remain too conservative, he’d also done a poor job aiding his constituents during the pandemic: She specifically took him to task for helping obtain coronavirus testing kits for the district last year that turned out to be defective.
Cisneros’ entry into the race attracted far more attention than her launch did two years ago, but that’s not the only way that the 2022 primary will be different from last cycle’s fight. Perhaps most importantly, no one knows what this constituency will look like after the GOP legislature finishes redistricting, much less whether map makers will try to make it more Republican. And even if the new 28th District doesn’t change much, Trump’s gains last year could leave some Democrats nervous about losing Cuellar as their nominee.
One other factor is that while the 2020 race was a duel between Cuellar and Cisneros, next year’s race could be more crowded. One other contender, educator Tannya Benavides, kicked off her own campaign in mid-June: While Benavides brought in just over $10,000 over the next few weeks, her presence on the ballot could make it tougher for anyone to win the majority of the vote they’d need to avoid a primary runoff.
Cuellar, for his part, raised $240,000 during the second quarter of 2021 and ended June with $1.7 million in the bank. That’s considerably less than the $3 million he had available at this point in the 2020 cycle, but it does give him a big head start ahead of his rematch with Cisneros.
Daily Beast: “The Gateway Pundit’s small role in Trump’s endeavor to weaponize the DOJ against the American electoral process underscores just how easily a discredited far-right media site established a pipeline to the decision-making of the then most powerful person on Earth.”
“It also shows how this one website… managed to play a part in fueling the efforts that brought the country to the brink of democratic rupture.”
“During the final weeks of his presidency, administration officials saw Trump on multiple occasions holding printed-out pages of Gateway Pundit articles in the White House, sometimes in the Oval Office. [A] former senior official recalled one instance when Trump handed them a page printed from the website, which nonsensically alleged massive pro-Biden fraud, and told the official to find out more and to do something about it.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney (R), is “deeply troubled” about the state of the Republican Party, The Hill reports. Said Cheney: “My dad is deeply troubled about where our party is, deeply troubled about where the country is.”
TEXAS 24TH CD — 2020 Democratic nominee Candace Valenzuela reiterated her interest this week in seeking a rematch with freshman GOP Rep. Beth Van Duyne, though she told Roll Call she needed to see the new map before deciding.
OHIO 15TH CD — Coal company lobbyist Mike Carey, a longtime political operative who had Donald Trump’s backing, won the GOP nomination by beating state Rep. Jeff LaRe 37-13 in this southern Columbus area constituency. That victory spares Trump more bad headlines following the defeat of his endorsed candidate in last week’s all-GOP runoff for Texas’ 6th Congressional District. Carey will be the favorite in the Nov. 2 special election against Democratic state Rep. Allison Russo in this heavily gerrymandered 56-42 Trump seat.
MISSOURI 7TH CD — Republican Rep. Billy Long’s decision to run to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt opens up his 7th Congressional District in the southwestern corner of the state, a constituency that backed Donald Trump by a massive 70-28 margin last year.
This district is home to Springfield, Joplin, and Branson, the resort community The Simpsons once declared was “like Vegas if it were run by Ned Flanders,” and most residents live in a county that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Long won his 2010 primary to succeed Blunt by beating six opponents, and we could be in for another crowded contest in this ancestrally red area.
State Sen. Mike Moon, former state Sen. Jay Wasson, and physician Sam Alexander all indicated they were considering getting in. State Sen. Lincoln Hough, whom the Missouri Independent mentioned as a possible candidate on Wednesday, also did not rule out a bid. State Rep. Cody Smith and former state Sen. Gary Nodler likewise did not rule out bids, but both sound unlikely to run.
State Sen. Bill White, former state House Speaker Elijah Haahr, Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon, and former state Sen. Ron Richard all said they would not enter the contest, while former U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison was mentioned as a possible candidate by St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum.
FLORIDA 27TH CD — Janelle Perez, a self-described “moderate Democrat” who co-owns her family’s Medicare managed care company, this week became the first notable candidate to enter the race against freshman Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar in this Miami-area seat. Perez, who grew up as a Republican, worked as a GOP staffer for the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee before she returned to Florida in 2014. If Perez, who is a first-time contender, prevails next year, she would be the state’s first LGBTQ member of Congress.
Perez told the Miami Herald she’d campaign against Salazar no matter what happens next with redistricting, though many other Democrats appear to be waiting to see what the new boundaries will look like. The only other notable politician who appears to have publicly expressed interest in running so far is former Rep. Donna Shalala, whom Salazar beat last year; Shalala told Politico last month that she’ll likely decide in October.
One name we hadn’t previously heard mentioned as a possibility was former state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, and almost certainly won’t again: While the Herald name-dropped him as a potential candidate, it notes that President Joe Biden nominated him for a position at the U.S. Department of Labor last month.
ALABAMA GOVERNOR — Gov. Kay Ivey raised $525,000 during July ahead of a potential Republican primary challenge from state Auditor Jim Zeigler, and she had $1.7 million on-hand. Zeigler, who says he’ll announce if he’ll run on Aug. 21, did set up a fundraising committee this week, though he says state law required him to do that because his GoFundMe campaign fundraiser brought in more than $1,000.
HAWAII GOVERNOR — Honolulu City Councilwoman Andria Tupola, a Republican, announced Wednesday that she would not run for governor next year. Tupola was the GOP’s 2018 nominee against Democratic Gov. David Ige, a contest she lost 63-34.
Tupola is the only Republican who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for this office so far, which Republicans have not won since 2006.
ILLINOIS GOVERNOR — Kirk Dillard, who heads the board of directors for the Regional Transportation Agency, said on Wednesday that he was considering seeking the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker next year. Dillard was the runner-up in the 2010 and 2014 Republican primaries for this seat, losing both races by narrow margins.