The Political Report – 9/23/21

Politico: “Trump may have started the election-truther movement. But what was once the province of an aggrieved former president has spread far beyond him, infecting elections at every level with vague, unspecified claims that future races are already rigged.”

“It’s a fiction that’s poised to factor heavily in the midterm elections and in 2024 — providing Republican candidates with a rallying cry for the rank-and-file, and priming the electorate for future challenges to races the GOP may lose.”

TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL — State Rep. Matt Krause, who is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, announced Thursday that he would take on scandal-ridden incumbent Ken Paxton in the GOP primary. Krause was an early supporter of Paxton’s 2014 campaign, and he loudly stood up for the new attorney general after he was indicted for securities fraud the following year. (The case is still awaiting trial.) However, while Krause acknowledged that he had been close to Paxton, he argued, “I think Texas needs—and wants—an attorney general who can give his or her full focus to the job.”

Paxton, who has Donald Trump’s endorsement, also faces Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman for the nomination. A runoff would take place if no one secured a majority in the first round of the primary.

IOWA ATTORNEY GENERAL — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (D) announced that he has “unfinished business” and will seek an 11th term in office in 2022, the Des Moines Register reports.

“Miller is already the nation’s longest-serving attorney general, having held the job for nearly 40 years. He was first elected in 1978 and served until 1991, when he left the office after losing the Democratic gubernatorial primary. He was re-elected in 1994 and has been serving ever since.”

IOWA 3RD CD — State Sen. Zach Nunn has publicized a new internal poll of the Republican primary for this Des Moines-area seat. The poll, which was conducted by Moore Information, finds Nunn leading former state Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa 24-13, with businesswoman Nicole Hasso far behind the pair with 3%.

The survey also tested a hypothetical general election matchup of Nunn and Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne, with Axne leading 46-42. The Hawkeye State will be getting new congressional maps soon, though, and it’s unclear what the final bounds of this district will end up looking like (see our IA Redistricting item above for discussion of that process).

NEW YORK 19TH CD — Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who was the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee in 2018, filed FEC paperwork last week for a potential bid against Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado and is teasing an announcement set for Tuesday afternoon.

FLORIDA 10TH CD — Both the International Association of Fire Fighters and its Osceola County chapter have backed state Sen. Randolph Bracy in what Florida Politics says are the first union endorsements for next year’s Democratic primary for what is currently a safely blue Orlando seat.

MASSACHUSETTS 4TH CD — After an unreleased poll tested Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission chair Sam Hyun in a hypothetical Democratic primary against Rep. Jake Auchincloss, Politico spoke to Hyun and wrote that he “said he’s not running for the seat right now.”

CALIFORNIA 25TH CD — 2020 Democratic nominee Christy Smith has picked up an endorsement from the California Federation of Teachers in the top-two primary to take on Republican Rep. Mike Garcia.

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR — “Missouri’s legal ethics watchdog has asked the state Supreme Court to suspend U.S. Senate candidate Mark McCloskey’s (R) law license for six months after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault in a widely publicized gun-waving incident during a police brutality protest last summer,” the Kansas City Star reports.

MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL — The Michigan GOP establishment got some very bad news Thursday when Donald Trump endorsed Matthew DePerno, an attorney who has made a name for himself spreading lies about the 2020 election, in the campaign to take on Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel. The move came a week after Trump backed another election denier, Kristina Karamo, in her quest to face Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Both parties pick their nominees for both offices at party conventions rather than through traditional primaries, and the GOP’s event will take place in April.

Trump’s endorsement in the attorney general race came about a month after another Republican, state Rep. Ryan Berman, announced his bid. The politician the party establishment reportedly has its eye on, though, is former state House Speaker Tom Leonard, who lost to Nessel 49-46 in 2018. The Detroit News writes that plenty of Republicans anticipated that their last nominee would run again and enter the convention as the favorite; it remains to be seen, however, if Leonard will get cold feet now that Trump has endorsed DePerno.

Plenty of major state party figures are hoping the answer is no. The paper writes that several Republicans “have privately expressed doubts that DePerno would be a viable general election candidate,” and it’s not hard to see why. DeParno, who describes himself as liberals’ “worst nightmare,” first attracted attention well before the election when he served as the attorney for ex-state Rep. Todd Courser, a Republican whose career came to a brutal end in 2015 after the public learned that he and colleague Cindy Gamrat devised a fake gay sex scandal to try to hide their real straight sex scandal.

In 2017, when then-GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette was prosecuting Courser for perjury, a court hearing came to a dramatic end when the judge ejected DeParno from the courtroom for “offensive” statements. (Courser was eventually sentenced to 12 months of probation for a lesser offense after he reached a plea deal with the state.) The following year, DePerno​​ was Courser’s lawyer in his defamation suit against the Detroit News. In 2019, a state judge not only dismissed that lawsuit, he also ordered Courser and DeParno to pay ​$80,000 in sanctions; the parties eventually reached a settlement requiring the pair to pay just $20,000, which was wired to the paper in May.

Trump’s interest in DePerno, though, comes after he stepped into the far-right spotlight after last year’s election when he filed a lawsuit arguing that election fraud had taken place in Antrim County after vote totals initially showed Joe Biden leading Trump in this small conservative community. Those numbers were the result of a clerical error that was quickly corrected to reflect Trump’s actual 61-37 win in the community, and a hand-count audit confirmed that the Dominion Voting Systems machines had correctly tabulated the results.

None of that stopped Antrim County, though, from becoming a prominent part of the fake Trumpian narrative about Dominion stealing the election. Indeed, Trump used his not-tweet endorsement to claim, “Dana Nessel, the Radical Left, and the RINOs are targeting Matt because he gets results and has exposed so much Voter Fraud in Antrim County, and many more places, in the 2020 Election.”

But DeParno, who became a frequent conservative media guest, has had a tougher time winning over courts and even fellow Michigan Republicans. The attorney used his Antrim County lawsuit to argue there was a “strong presumption of ballot stuffing,” but a judge dismissed it in May.

The GOP-led state Senate Oversight Committee even singled DeParno out in its report on the 2020 election, saying, “The committee closely followed Mr. DePerno’s efforts and can confidently conclude they are demonstrably false and based on misleading information and illogical conclusions.” The committee further recommended that Nessel investigate people who circulated false claims about the election results “to raise money or publicity for their own ends,” an idea the incumbent said she’d act on.

DeParno himself has also been more than willing to pick fights with the GOP legislature. Last month, he told a party gathering, “What I’ve learned in the past six months is we elected people to Lansing who do not have courage. And that needs to stop.” He also volunteered that just three state representatives had met with him about his Antrim County conspiracy theories.

SOUTH DAKOTA U.S. SENATOR — While Politico said back in March that Republican Sen. John Thune’s colleagues were “certain” he’d seek a fourth term next year in this very red state, the incumbent sounded anything but sure about his own plans in an interview with CNN’s Manu Raju. The senator said he would be making up his mind this fall.

Thune, who is the chamber’s minority whip, acknowledged that retiring would cost him the chance to lead the caucus whenever Minority Leader Mitch McConnell eventually leaves. Still, the incumbent continued, “But there are lots of other (factors) too. … I’ve been doing it for 25 years. I think you gotta get into family considerations, personal considerations.” When Raju asked what was keeping Thune from making up his mind, the senator replied, “It’s a six-year commitment.”

COLORADO U.S. SENATOR / 8TH CD — Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell has endorsed Air Force veteran and former Olympian Eli Bremmer, the only notable Republican in the race so far. Campbell was the first Native American elected to the Senate since the 1920’s when he won his first term in 1992 as a Democrat. He switched to the GOP following the 1994 midterms before winning his second and final term in 1998.

Former state Rep. Joe Salazar said Thursday that he wouldn’t run for Congress next year, an announcement that takes him out of the running both for the not-yet-finalized 8th Congressional District and as a potential Democratic primary foe for Sen. Michael Bennet. And while state Rep. Brianna Titone hinted back in June that she was interested in seeking the 8th District, she’s endorsed fellow state Rep. Yadira Caraveo instead.

Caraveo, who would be the first Latina to represent Colorado in Congress, currently is the only major Democrat running for the 8th District, but other party members are eyeing the race. State Sen. Dominick Moreno acknowledged his interest to Colorado Politics‘ Ernest Luning. The legislator ran for the current 7th District in 2017 after Rep. Ed Perlmutter decided to campaign for governor, but Moreno dropped out with the rest of the field after the incumbent decided to seek re-election after all. Luning also says that Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco is thinking about running for the new seat as well, but there’s no quote from him.

On the GOP side, Luning writes that state Sens. Kevin Priola and John Cooke are “eyeing the seat,” but there’s also no direct word from either of them.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR — State Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s allies at Advancing Arizona Forward have released a GOP primary poll from OnMessage Inc. that shows him well ahead with 41%, while former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters is a distant second with 6%. The survey was conducted weeks after a pro-Masters PAC began a seven-figure buy reminding viewers that Brnovich had defied Donald Trump by recognizing Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR — State Sen. Matt Dolan, who is a co-owner of the Cleveland Guardians (get used to it), announced Monday that he would compete in the Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman. Dolan, who may have the resources to self-fund, joins a crowded field full of contenders who are each portraying themselves as the true Trump candidate, but the state senator went with a different approach by not mentioning Donald Trump at all in his launch video.

While the Columbus Dispatch writes that Dolan “played an integral role in passing a two-year spending plan dubbed the most conservative budget in legislative history,” he’s also been willing to stray from far-right orthodoxy. The paper says that Dolan voted against an anti-abortion bill, called for gun safety reforms after the 2019 mass shooting in Dayton, and came out against “legislation that would have required written consent for contact tracing during the pandemic.”

Dolan also responded to the Jan. 6 attack by calling it a “failure of leadership starting with @realdonaldtrump.” He continued, “Too many so called leaders perpetuated lies about the outcome of the November 2020 election. And the people who trust their leadership believes them.” Dolan may have a very hard time gaining traction in today’s GOP especially with that bow to reality, though packed primaries can be especially unpredictable.

It also remains to be seen whether Dolan’s baseball connections will be a help or hindrance in the nomination fight: As’s Andrew Tobias tweeted back in January of the potential electoral effects of Dolan’s status as a team co-owner, “[W]hether or not that’s an advantage depends on what the front office is doing, so that’s open to debate right now.” At the moment, the team has won and lost a roughly equal number of games this season.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR — Jobs for Our Future, a PAC supporting 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Jeff Bartos, has launched what Politico says is a six-figure TV and digital ad campaign based around the news that the ​​estranged wife of GOP primary rival and Army veteran Sean Parnell sought protective orders against Parnell in 2017 and 2018. The TV spot, which does not mention Bartos, aired during this weekend’s Penn State football game.

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

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