The Political Report – 8/19/21

A new Economist/YouGov poll asked Americans whether they would support vaccine mandates for a number of groups — such as police, college students, teachers, federal employees and medical staff.

In every case the survey asked about, there was majority — and often 2-to-1 — support.

Aaron Blake: The GOP is losing the P.R. battle on coronavirus mandates.

The FiveThirtyEight polling average in California shows Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) barely surviving the recall effort, 48.8% to 47.6%.

A new Co/Efficient poll in New York finds that incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) would hold a small lead over Attorney General Letitia James (D) in a Democratic gubernatorial primary, 28% to 24% with 29% of voters undecided.

A new Monmouth poll in New Jersey finds Gov. Phil Murphy (D) with a big lead over challenger Jack Ciattarelli (R), 52% to 36%.

A new BUSR/Susquehanna Polling and Research poll in Florida finds Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) with a 46% to 43% lead over former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) in a 2022 gubernatorial match up. DeSantis leads Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D), 50% to 40%. Crist leads Fried by 11 points in the Democratic primary.

A new poll from St. Pete Polls  in the Florida U.S. Senate race gives Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) a lead of 48% to 46% over Rep. Val Demings (D) for his Senate seat.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds President Biden’s approval rate sank to 46% — down from 53% on Friday — in the aftermath of the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsing over the weekend.

FiveThirtyEight shows President Biden’s approval rate has dropped below 50% for the first time in his presidency.

Playbook: “The dip has been driven by a slow erosion among independents that seems tied to the Delta surge and predates the problems in Afghanistan.”

John Cox (R), who is challenging California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in the upcoming state recall election, was served with a subpoena while onstage during a debate Tuesday, CNN reports.

“Federal grand jury subpoenas have been issued for records in the investigation into the campaign finances of Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore (R),” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

“The FBI said Wednesday that its agents are joining a criminal investigation into an alleged security breach of a rural Colorado county’s voting equipment,” the Associated Press reports.

“The federal probe comes after Colorado’s Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) alerted federal cyber security officials within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of the suspected breach.”

“The federal inquiry adds yet another layer to the political brawl between Griswold and Republican Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters. The feud came to a head last week when Griswold accused Peters of assisting in the security breach by directing staff to turn off video surveillance of its voting equipment before a May 25 software update and allowing a non-employee into the elections office at that time.”

MINNEAPOLIS MAYOR — Filing closed last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota’s largest city, which is hosting a race for mayor on Nov. 2 using instant-runoff rules. Voters will also be presented with two ballot measures that would replace the city police department with a new “Department of Public Safety” and greatly strengthen the mayor’s power in city government.

Democratic incumbent Jacob Frey is seeking a second term in office after defeating Mayor Betsy Hodges and several other rivals in 2017 following five rounds of ranked-choice tabulations. Frey, like every mayor, has had to contend with the coronavirus pandemic during the last year, but he’s also had to deal with the direct fallout of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

While Melvin Carter, Frey’s counterpart in neighboring St. Paul, has no serious opposition this fall, the situation is quite different just across the Mississippi River. Several notable Democrats in deep blue Minneapolis have qualified for the ballot including activist Sheila Nezhad, former state Rep. Kate Knuth, Marine veteran Phillp Sturm, and nonprofit director A.J. Awed. And though Frey ended July with a huge cash-on-hand lead over his rivals, Nezhad and Knuth have brought in credible sums.

All of these candidates, along with Frey, sought the endorsement of the Minneapolis Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, a boost in a city that hasn’t elected a Republican mayor in decades. The DFL’s endorsement has been hard to come by, though, as no candidate has managed to reach the necessary 60% threshold among party delegates since 2009. This year was no exception, as Nezhad fell short of winning the endorsement over Frey 53-40. That’s better than the 28% Frey earned during a crowded race four years ago, but his second-place showing indicates an openness to an alternative among the DFL faithful, 4,800 of whom participated in the balloting.

Issues around policing and government accountability have become an important topic in this race, which is unsurprising given that this is the first local election in the city since Floyd’s murder last May. The city endured a tumultuous year of protests and calls to improve relations between law enforcement and residents, particularly those of color. Recently, Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo agreed to reduce the level of police interactions with the community by ending traffic stops for minor violations. However, Frey’s opponents have attacked him over other moves, including restoring funding for the city’s police department to pre-Floyd levels.

Notably, there’s also a ballot measure that will be voted on concurrently with this contest that would dramatically overhaul policing in Minneapolis: The measure would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a “Department of Public Safety” and shift more control of the department to the city council. Frey is opposed to the referendum, taking the position that police accountability can coexist with traditional policing, while Nezhad and Knuth have publicly supported the measure.

Another measure going before voters, which advocates say will increase government accountability, also has large implications for the power of the city’s mayor. This second referendum would transition Minneapolis away from its current system of government towards a “strong-mayor” format.

Currently, Minneapolis operates under a so-called “weak-mayor” system, where the mayor acts in concert with the city council to legislate. However, the true power of the mayoralty is derived from the visibility that goes along with the title.

A vivid example of this type of system in action came in 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida, where former Mayor Andrew Gillum served as the face of the city’s response to Hurricane Michael while he was running for governor. In reality, though, all Gillum could do was act as the spokesperson for the city’s response, as real responsibility rested with the city council. A few major cities across the country operate similarly, such as PhoenixFort Worth, and San Jose.

In a strong-mayor system, by contrast, the mayor acts as a genuine chief executive while the city council serves more as a traditional legislative body. Frey has not outright endorsed the shift to a strong-mayor system, but he’s expressed a desire for more clarity between the city council and mayor, saying, “Our system does not provide for a clear line of accountability—not for constituents, not for our partners, and not for departments.” Some candidates, such as Nezhad, have expressed concern that such a shift would have a marginalizing effect on underrepresented communities whose main source of power in local government comes from their city council members.

FLORIDA 20TH CD — Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness earned an endorsement this week from the state branch of the SEIU ahead of the November special Democratic primary. Holness is one of the five soon-to-be-former elected officials competing in the 11-way nomination contest to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings in this safely blue seat.

We say “soon-to-be-former” because of an unusual element in Florida’s so-called “resign-to-run” law. The state requires any state-level elected officials who are seeking federal office to submit an irrevocable letter of resignation at least 10 business days before they file to run if the two positions’ terms overlap. However, while each resignation needs to take effect on or before the general election, which is Jan. 11 in this case, the office-holders are allowed to continue at their current posts until then.

Indeed, as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote last month, Holness specified that his departure would take effect at 7 PM ET on Jan. 11, which is the precise moment the polls are to close. State Rep. Bobby DuBose, meanwhile, set his resignation for 11:59 PM that day, which allows him to stay in office until the last possible minute. Two other candidates, state Sen. Perry Thurston and state Rep. Omari Hardy, will leave exactly 24 hours earlier; only Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief didn’t specify when she would relinquish her post.

None of these resignations can be revoked, so all five of these people will be out of their current jobs on Jan. 12 even though at least four of them will lose the November Democratic primary. The field also includes former Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor and self-funding businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who were not impacted by this state law.

ILLINOIS 13TH CD — Financial planner David Palmer, a first-time candidate who played basketball in college and later overseas, said Thursday that he’d run for the Democratic nomination to face Republican Rep. Rodney Davis. Palmer speculated that the seat could become more Democratic after redistricting is complete, though he said he’d keep running no matter how the new maps turned out.

SOUTH DAKOTA AT LARGE CD — State Rep. Taffy Howard filed FEC paperwork earlier this month for a possible GOP primary bid against incumbent Dusty Johnson, though she hasn’t committed to running yet. Howard confirmed her interest in the race in an interview with the Rapid City Journal last week but added she was still thinking about it and there was “nothing official” about her would-be campaign.

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR — National Republicans got their preferred candidate for Nevada Senate race on Tuesday when former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red’s 2018 nominee for governor, announced that he would take on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto. Laxalt is unlikely to face any serious intra-party opposition ahead of what will be a closely-watched contest for a state that Joe Biden took 50-48 last year.

Laxalt is the grandson of the late Paul Laxalt, who served as the Silver State’s governor and senator decades ago, but the younger Laxalt spent most of his life in the D.C. area before relocating to Las Vegas in the early 2010s. (Laxalt is also the son of the late New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, who was married to another woman when Laxalt was conceived and had little presence in his life.)

The Republican sought elected office for the first time in 2014 when he campaigned for attorney general, and he originally looked like a longshot against Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller, the son of former Gov. Bob Miller and a rising star in his own right; one unnamed GOP figure even snarked about his nominee, “If his name were Adam Smith, this race would be a total joke.”

However, the race turned out to be anything but a total joke. The state GOP ticket, which was led by popular Gov. Brian Sandoval, was heading into its best political cycle in recent memory, while Democrats struggled to turn out their base.

Laxalt’s own campaign was a trainwreck of negative headlines that literally included some of his own family members arguing he was unqualified and endorsing Miller, but even this wasn’t enough to sink him in 2014. Laxalt ended up edging out Miller 46-45, a victory that made him the first modern statewide candidate to win a general election while losing populous Clark and Washoe counties. (Miller revitalized his political career in 2020 by winning a race for Clark County commissioner by 15 votes.)

Laxalt spent his time in office burnishing his extremist credentials, including his proud refusal to enforce a universal gun background check law in a state that witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history in 2017. One Republican who was not enamored with the attorney general, though, was Sandoval, who declared that year that Laxalt’s plan to repeal the governor’s tax on businesses would “irreversibly and permanently harm” the state’s children and business climate.

Laxalt ran in 2018 to succeed the termed-out Sandoval, but while he had no trouble winning the GOP primary, the incumbent refused to back him in the general election. That gave Democratic nominee Steve Sisolak and his allies plenty of material as they ran commercials using the outgoing governor’s words against Laxalt; Sandoval seemed to have no problem with this, as his office merely responded, “For Governor Sandoval, it’s not about Republican or Democrat, it’s about education.”

And just like in 2014, members of the Laxalt family came out against their kinsman. A Reno Gazette Journal op-ed written by 12 family members castigated the attorney general, saying, “Aside from the occasional short visit, Adam never knew the state or its people. Perhaps if he had, he would stand for Nevada’s values rather than for those of his out-of-state donors.” They also argued, “Most concerning are the ethical shortcomings that have come to light while Adam has been attorney general, and his willingness to ignore the law for self-serving political purposes.”

The 2018 cycle turned out to be an ugly year for Silver State Republicans, and Sisolak’s 49-45 victory made him the state’s first Democratic chief executive since Bob Miller left office in early 1999. Laxalt, now out of office, was an enthusiastic Trump surrogate in 2020, and he went on to unsuccessfully sue to overturn Biden’s victory in the state.

There was early speculation that Laxalt could seek a rematch with Sisolak, but prominent Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell soon made it known they wanted him to take on Cortez Masto. Laxalt obliged them with his Tuesday kickoff, which did nothing to distance himself from his far-right image. “The radical left, rich elites, woke corporations, academia and the media—they’re taking over America,” Laxalt proclaimed in a Star Wars-themed video where the candidate, who miscounted the number of movies currently in the franchise, compared Republicans to the Rebel Alliance and the Democrats to the Empire.

Cortez Masto, for her part, has been preparing for what will be an expensive battle. The incumbent hauled in $2.7 million during the second quarter of 2021, and she ended June with $6.6 million in the bank.

VIRGINIA REDISTRICTINGRichmond Times-Dispatch: “A new redistricting commission made up of citizens and legislators was meant to end decades of partisan gerrymandering and produce fair maps for Virginia’s political districts. Early in the process, partisan tensions are already dividing the commission and threatening to derail its work amid a fast-approaching deadline.”

OHIO U.S. SENATOR — “While Republicans are running a hotly competitive primary race for Ohio’s open Senate seat next year, the Democratic side had been owned by a single candidate: Rep. Tim Ryan from the Youngstown area,” the New York Times reports.

“But that equation changed on Wednesday with the entry into the race of a second viable Democrat, Morgan Harper, who ran a high-profile primary challenge last year for a congressional seat with the backing of national progressive groups.”

“A Republican investment analyst on Tuesday won a special election to fill a vacant seat in the Connecticut state Senate, the first state legislative seat to flip parties in the seven months since President Biden took office,” The Hill reports.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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