The Political Report – 11/17/21

“A year before the polls open in the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans are already poised to flip at least five seats in the closely divided House thanks to redrawn district maps that are more distorted, more disjointed and more gerrymandered than any since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965,” the New York Times reports.

“The rapidly forming congressional map, a quarter of which has taken shape as districts are redrawn this year, represents an even more extreme warping of American political architecture, with state legislators in many places moving aggressively to cement their partisan dominance.”

“The flood of gerrymandering, carried out by both parties but predominantly by Republicans, is likely to leave the country ever more divided by further eroding competitive elections and making representatives more beholden to their party’s base.”

Wall Street Journal: “Alarm bells are ringing in the Democratic Party as it prepares to defend its narrow House majority in the 2022 midterm elections.”

Stu Rothenberg: “State races are more competitive, as they are in most states, even in those where one party has a solid advantage in federal contests. You wouldn’t say that Kansas was ‘purple‘ just because Democrats have won the governorship in three in the last five elections, would you? And you wouldn’t call Massachusetts ‘red‘ because Republicans have won six of the last eight elections for governor there.”

“National dynamics have impacted Virginia’s gubernatorial contests, even though Virginia’s fundamental partisanship is clear.”

VERMONT U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) is indicating to colleagues he’s preparing to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Axios reports.

Leahy, a Democrat who is the chamber’s longest-serving sitting member from either party, announced Monday that he would not seek a ninth term in 2022. While Leahy is, famously, the only Democrat ever elected to represent the Green Mountain State in the Senate (Bernie Sanders campaigned as an independent in all three of his successful campaigns), there’s little question that the Dem’s eventual nominee will prevail in this 66-31 Biden state.

Welch has represented the entire state in the lower chamber since 2007. Welch may be able to deter most would-be foes should he run, though one could decide to take her chances. The day before Leahy announced his departure, The Intercept published an interview with state Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky where she said she was interested in taking on Welch in an open seat Senate race. Vyhovsky, however, said she’d stay out if Sanders backed the congressman, declaring, “That is a big piece of this—if Bernie is going to endorse Peter there’s not much point doing it.”

VT Digger also mentioned Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, state Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, and state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale as potential candidates, though the story noted that they’d each “suggested” they wouldn’t go up against Welch. They could, though, campaign for an open House seat if there is one. Each member of the trio declined to comment about any potential campaigns on Monday. Vermont is the only remaining state that has never elected a woman to Congress, so a win by any of those potential candidates for either Senate or House would finally break that streak.

On the Republican side, a spokesperson for Gov. Phil Scott immediately said there was “No chance!” of a Senate run. Scott himself has not yet committed to seeking re-election to his current post.

NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. While Democratic state Rep. Rachel Hunt, daughter of former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt, didn’t rule out a statewide campaign back in February, she announced this week that she would run for the state Senate instead.

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. The New Hampshire Union Leader name-drops former Trump administration official Rich Ashooh, who narrowly lost the 2016 primary to then-Rep. Frank Guinta, and businessman Tom Moulton as possible Republican candidates.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR. Politico reports that New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will announce this week that he’s entering the Democratic gubernatorial primary against incumbent Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Tish James. One person who will not be running, though, is state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who earlier this month told City & State that he had decided to sit the race out.

WAMC asked Westchester County Executive George Latimer on Thursday about his interest in entering the Democratic primary, to which he replied, “I think it’s pretty unlikely at this stage of the game.” Latimer added, “Never say never. But, you know, I think it’s pretty clear to me that the candidacies of Governor [Kathy] Hochul and Attorney General [Tish] James are the major candidacies.”

He may be about to say never, though, as News 12 reported the following day that James was strongly considering selecting Latimer as her candidate for lieutenant governor, an idea he seemed to like when asked. Latimer said, “If I can offer a viable team to New York and voters just like we did in Westchester County twice, I would seriously look at it going forward.”

Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor of New York compete in separate nomination contests before running as a ticket in the general election, but they can choose to campaign together in the primary. Primary voters, however, are under no obligation to pick both the gubernatorial candidate and their informal running mate.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. The Democratic Governors Association has released a survey from Public Policy Polling that shows state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a vocal Big Lie proponent who was filmed on Jan. 6 apparently passing breached barricades at the Capitol, ahead in the Republican primary. PPP finds Mastriano edging out 2018 Senate nominee Lou Barletta 18-14, with state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman in third with 4%.

The only member of this trio who has announced a bid so far is Barletta, though Mastriano has formed an exploratory committee while Corman reportedly has decided to run.

Corman’s eventual candidacy could also entice one of his colleagues to drop out of the primary. State Sen. Dan Laughlin tells the Erie Times-News that, if Corman decides to step down from his role as the chamber’s leader in order to concentrate on a gubernatorial bid, “I would certainly consider running for pro tem instead.” Laughlin adds that he would only quit the governor’s race if he won the leadership race.

CALIFORNIA FOURTEENTH CD. “Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) announced on Tuesday that she will not run for reelection in 2022, becoming the latest House Democrat to bow out of Congress ahead of what is expected to be a difficult election year for the party,” The Hill reports.

Speier’s video announcement that she wouldn’t run for re-election begins by retelling how she got her start in politics at the Jonestown massacre.

Said Speier: “Forty-three years ago this week, I was lying on an airstrip in the jungles of Guyana with five bullet holes in my body. I vowed that if I survived, I would dedicate my life to public service. I lived, and I served.”

ALASKA U.S. SENATOR. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced Friday morning that she would seek re-election in a contest that, thanks to Alaska’s new top-four primary system, will be unlike any other in American history. Murkowski’s main foe so far is former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka, a fellow Republican who has the enthusiastic backing of Donald Trump, but other candidates have plenty of time to get in before the June 1 filing deadline.

Sarah Palin, who won the 2006 gubernatorial primary by decisively unseating none other than the senator’s father, Frank Murkowski, said in early August that she’d run for Senate “[i]f God wants me to do it.” We haven’t heard any updates, divinely inspired or otherwise, from the former reality TV star over the last three months, though. Another potential opponent is Democratic state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, who also expressed interest over the summer.

Murkowski ended September with a massive $3.2 million to $295,000 cash-on-hand lead over Tshibaka, and she may benefit from some of the unfavorable headlines that have been dogging her opponent. Last month, the Alaska Department of Public Safety fined the challenger $270 for “commercial fishing without a commercial fishing crew license,” following the release of a July campaign video that showed her retrieving fish from a net and selling them to a tender boat.

Officials declined to charge Tshibaka over a separate 2019 incident in which she obtained a sport fishing license reserved only for those who’ve lived in the state for 12 months, at a time when Tshibaka had only recently returned from living in Maryland.

All of this may help Murkowski define Tshibaka as an outsider, but that may not matter much to an ultra-conservative base that distrusted Murkowski long before her repeated clashes with the Trump administration. Back in 2010, tea partier Joe Miller pulled off one of the biggest upsets in American political history when he defeated the senator 51-49 in the Republican primary. But Murkowski managed to keep her seat that fall by convincing enough Republicans, Democrats, and independents to pick her as a write-in candidate: Murkowski ended up turning back Miller 39-35, with Democrat Scott McAdams taking 23%.

The top four vote-getters will advance to the general election, where voters will be able to rank their choices using instant-runoff voting. All of that means that Murkowski can very well secure another term next November even if a majority of voters initially prefer someone else as long as she can convince enough of them to list her as their second or third choice.

COLORADO U.S. SENATOR. Former El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn ended whatever speculation there was about another Senate campaign on Thursday when he announced that he’d compete in the 2023 race to succeed termed-out Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a fellow Republican.

Glenn lost the 2016 Senate contest to Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet by a 50-44 margin. Glenn then campaigned for 5th Congressional District two years later, but Rep. Doug Lamborn held him off in the primary 52-20.

NORTH CAROLINA FOURTEENTH CD. Republicans in North Carolina’s mountainous western region, for the second cycle in a row, have an open seat congressional primary ahead of them thanks to Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s decision to run for re-election in the new 13th District, which he barely represents, instead of in the 14th District. The new seat backed Donald Trump by a 53-45 margin last year while Cawthorn’s current 11th supported Trump 55-43, a shift to the left that still likely puts the 14th out of reach for Democrats outside of an unusually strong Democratic year.

The field will need to come together before long because the filing deadline is Dec. 17, which comes before any state but Texas. The primary will take place in early March, and if no one secures at least 30% of the vote, a runoff would be held in May―though only if the runner-up candidate requests a second round.

While Cawthorn’s district switch surprised most people, he did give potential candidates considerably more time to decide whether to run than his predecessor did. Then-Rep. Mark Meadows announced his departure a mere day before the filing deadline in 2019 when it was too late for anyone who had already filed to seek a different office to switch races.

Dallas Woodhouse, a former executive director of the state GOP notorious for his voter suppression efforts but who these days serves up political commentary, relays that a trio of Republican state senators are interested: Deanna Ballard, Chuck Edwards, and Ralph Hise. Hise, interestingly, co-authored this new gerrymandered congressional map, though he may not have known he’d have an opportunity to run here anytime soon. Business North Carolina’s Colin Campbell also writes that the legislative map paired Ballard and Hise together, so it may make sense for one to run for Congress.

Edwards, for his part, has been one of Cawthorn’s loudest intra-party critics. Notably, he put out a statement days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol taking Cawthorn to task for trying to delegitimize the 2020 election, declaring, “Congressman Cawthorn’s inflammatory approach of encouraging people to ‘lightly threaten’ legislators not only fails to solve the core problem of a lack of confidence in the integrity of our elections system. It exacerbates the divisions in our country and has the potential to needlessly place well-meaning citizens, law enforcement officers, and elected officials in harm’s way.” The Mountaineer said back in March that Edwards was even interested in challenging Cawthorn, though there were no new public developments since then.

Local GOP official Michele Woodhouse, meanwhile, didn’t rule out her own campaign in the hours before Cawthorn announced his move. The Smoky Mountain News writes that she’s “related to Dallas Woodhouse through her husband.”

Three Republicans were also already running long-shot campaigns against Cawthorn here. The only one who had a serious amount of money at the end of September was inn owner Bruce O’Connell, though almost all of his $245,000 war chest was the result of self-funding.

A few Democrats were also already in the race back when they assumed they’d be running against Cawthorn. The best-funded of the group was Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who had $345,000 on-hand. Pastor Eric Gash, by contrast, had $100,000 to spend. Republican state Sen. Kevin Corbin said Monday that he was thinking about running as well.

“He’s a joke, and unfortunately as a resident of the 13th District I don’t want the joke to be on us. A lot of folks in the Republican Party recognize that, frankly, if Madison Cawthorn is the future of the Republican Party then the Republican Party doesn’t have a future.”  — Former North Carolina state Rep. Charles Jeter (R), quoted by the Charlotte Observer.

A new Politico/Morning Consult poll finds that just 40% of voters surveyed agreed with the statement that President Biden “is in good health,” while 50% disagreed.  That 10-percentage-point gap — outside the poll’s margin of error — represents a massive 29-point shift since October 2020.

MICHIGAN SIXTH CD. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, revealed that he has not yet decided if he will run for reelection in 2022, The Hill reports.

CALIFORNIA TENTH CD. Former Trump administration official Ricky Gill announced Friday that he was running for Congress again in a state where redistricting is far from complete.Gill was on the ballot almost a decade ago at the age of 25 when he challenged another Democratic congressman, Jerry McNerney, in the neighboring 9th District. Gill raised $3 million for a campaign that attracted national attention, but McNerney beat him 56-44 as Barack Obama was carrying that constituency by a 58-40 spread. Gill went on to serve in the Trump administration in the State Department and at the White House National Security Council.

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR. State Sen. Dave Schatz acknowledged this week that he was still considering entering the Republican primary for this open seat, though he didn’t give a timeline for when he expected to decide. Schatz also said he could run for local office instead but added, “I’m going to say it’s more than likely going to be on the federal level as opposed to the state level.”

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

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