The Political Report – 1/11/22

“An overwhelming majority of Americans believe the U.S. is in the grips of a full-blown mental health crisis,” according to a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll.

“Nearly two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought a rise in depression, anxiety, stress, addiction and other challenges, almost nine in ten registered voters believe there’s a ‘mental health crisis’ in the nation.”

A new AP-NORC poll finds just 37% of Americans name the coronavirus as one of their top five priorities for the government to work on in 2022, compared with 53% who said it was a leading priority at the same time a year ago.

The economy outpaced the pandemic in the open-ended question, with 68% of respondents mentioning it in some way as a top 2022 concern.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson on Sunday published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal​ titled, “Why I’m Seeking a Third Senate Term.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) “released a pair of television ads Monday attempting to frame his reelection campaign he announced the day before as being about fixing a broken country, even as Democrats hit him for breaking his pledge not to serve more than two terms and tried to paint him as an out-of-touch millionaire,” the AP reports.

“The early salvos come in a race in a nearly evenly divided Wisconsin that’s expected to be one of the most expensive and hotly contested in the country with control of the U.S. Senate at play.”

Meanwhile on the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has publicized a mid-December ALG Research survey that gives him a 40-11 lead over Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry in the August primary.

USA Today: “Led by President Joe Biden’s searing speech on Thursday – in which he pinned blame for the Jan. 6 attack squarely on Trump – Democrats head into the new year with a reinvigorated message warning that the fate of democracy is at stake as Trump and his Republican allies continue to push false allegations that the 2020 election was fraudulent.”

“But Democrats face a risk if they make saving democracy their campaign mantra in the 2022 midterms. Polling suggests their warnings haven’t resonated with voters in their uphill bid to keep control of Congress. And with rising inflation and soaring COVID-19 cases, Democrats could appear tone deaf to pocketbook issues if they pin their political hopes on the more abstract issue of preserving democracy.”

CALIFORNIA 22ND CD SPECIAL ELECTION and the NEW CALIFORNIA 5TH CD. The special election for former Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) vacant seat will be held April 5, with a runoff set for June 7 if no one receives 50% of the vote, the Sacramento Bee reports.

While GOP Rep. Tom McClintock still hasn’t said anything publicly about his midterm plans, multiple media outlets have reported that he’ll seek re-election in California’s new 5th Congressional District, prompting Republican state Sen. Andreas Borgeas to announce that he won’t run for the House.

Borgeas had filed paperwork with the FEC for a possible bid in the special election to fill Devin Nunes’ vacant 22nd District, and he was also reportedly eyeing a bid for the redrawn 5th, but now it appears that Borgeas won’t participate in either race. Even if he were to succeed Nunes, though, there’d be no plausible district where he could try for a full term if McClintock does indeed run in the 5th—a conundrum for every Republican considering the special.

It’s also a problem for every Democrat, too. While the old 22nd, which went for Donald Trump 52-46, isn’t necessarily the most appetizing target, the 5th, which would have backed Trump 55-43, is considerably less so. Three other districts share some DNA with the old 22nd, but they’re no better: The new 20th, where House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is sure to run for another term, is wildly conservative at 61-36 Trump, while Democratic Rep. Jim Costa has said he’ll run in the new 21st, which would have gone for Joe Biden 59-39. (For inverse reasons, Republicans wouldn’t want to run in these districts either.)

The last option would be the new 22nd, which is in fact winnable for Democrats. GOP Rep. David Valadao is likely to seek re-election here, and while he infuriated the national party base by voting to impeach Trump, his presence could still deter most other strong Republicans from running. Biden, however, would have carried the 22nd 55-42—though Democrats tend to underperform here downballot, especially during non-presidential years.

That’s not the real issue for a would-be Nunes successor, though. Rather, a big-name Democrat, Assemblyman Rudy Salas, was already running against Valadao, and he’d be difficult to beat in a primary: The old 22nd makes up just 10% of the new 22nd, whereas Salas already represents 51% of the new 22nd in the legislature, according to our calculations.

We could therefore find ourselves with an essentially orphaned special election, featuring candidates who would either be unlikely to win in November or would simply not appear on the midterm ballot altogether. It’s an unusual situation without much in the way of recent precedent, and it could lead to diminished interest in the contest to fill the last few months of Nunes’ term.

Those potential contenders will have until the Feb. 10 filing deadline to decide if they’ll run in the special. All the candidates will compete on one ballot on April 5; if no one earns a majority, the top-two vote-getters, regardless of party, would compete in the June 7 general election that would take place the same day as the regular statewide primary.

COLORADO 7TH CD. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) “announced Monday that he won’t seek reelection in 2022, a decision that is sure to upend Colorado’s political landscape heading into the midterm elections in Nocember,” the Colorado Sun reports.

Politico: “His decision surprises many in his party because he emerged from his state’s redistricting process largely unscathed. His new district would’ve backed President Joe Biden by about 14.5 percentage points in 2020.”

ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. “Alabama Republicans are heading for a dogfight in the state’s Senate primary, with GOP voters in the reddest of states set to forecast which of the party’s disparate wings could be ascendant in the November midterms,” The Hill reports.

“The nominating contest is largely a contest among Rep. Mo Brooks (R) and Katie Boyd Britt, the former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R), whose seat they are running to fill. Also in the fight is Mike Durant, a former Black Hawk pilot who was shot down in Somalia in 1993.”

“It is no great secret that the Republican party is winning more and more support from working people. It’s not because the Republican party has anything to say to them. It’s because in too many ways the Democratic party has turned its back on the working class.”  — Sen. Bernie Sanders, in an interview with The Guardian.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Jim Lamon (R) invoked the anti-Biden phrase “let’s go Brandon” in a campaign ad released on Monday, The Hill reports.

Said Lamon, in the new ad: “Let’s take the fight to Joe Biden and show him We The People put America first. The time is now. Let’s go, Brandon. Are you with me?” 

“More than a year after the 2020 presidential election, the GOP is still covering numerous legal bills for the benefit of former President Donald Trump — and the price tag is ruffling the feathers of some longtime GOP donors who are now critical of Trump,” ABC News reports.

“In October and November alone, the Republican National Committee spent nearly $720,000 of its donor money on paying law firms representing Trump in various legal challenges, including criminal investigations into his businesses in New York.”

Mona Charen: “Acts like New York City’s cheapen the meaning of citizenship. Voting is not just a transaction. It isn’t just a matter of deciding which candidate will better handle snow removal or trash collection. Voting is an act of affiliation, a statement of solidarity with the nation you’ve adopted as your own…”

“It’s a lead-pipe cinch that this will become a major campaign talking point for Republicans. They will depict this as proof that Democrats only favor immigration because they want to pad the number of Democratic voters (leaving aside that Hispanic voters have been trending toward the Republicans in recent elections). And they will likely find that most Americans agree… This is an own goal for Democrats.”

NORTH CAROLINA 5TH CD. “Former American Idol star Clay Aiken announced that he is making a second bid for a congressional seat from North Carolina, this time seeking the Democratic nod in a more liberal district than eight years ago,” the Washington Post reports.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) on Sunday said the Democratic Party has to be “radically practical” if it wants to win November’s midterm elections, The Hill reports.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) made it clear that he didn’t subscribe to Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 election being stolen from him, Politico reports.

Said Rounds: “As a part of our due diligence, we looked at over 60 different accusations made in multiple states. While there were some irregularities, there were none of the irregularities which would have risen to the point where they would have changed the vote outcome in a single state.”

Former President Donald Trump tore into Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) after the South Dakota Republican rejected Trump’s baseless claims about the 2020 presidential election, The Hill reports.

Said Trump, in a lengthy statement: “Is he crazy or just stupid? The numbers are conclusive, and the fraudulent and irregular votes are massive. The only reason he did this is because he got my endorsement and easily won his state in 2020, so now he thinks he has time, and those are the only ones, the weak, who will break away.”

He added: “Even though his election will not be coming up for 5 years, I will never endorse this jerk again.” 

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. State Sen. Doug Mastriano, an ardent election denier who was filmed on Jan. 6 apparently passing breached barricades at the Capitol, has at last announced that he’s running in the extremely packed May Republican primary for governor. While Democrats long ago consolidated behind Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Mastriano joins a GOP field that currently consists of:

  • 2018 Senate nominee Lou Barletta
  • Former Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry President Guy Ciarrocchi
  • State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman
  • Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale
  • GOP strategist Charlie Gerow
  • Former Rep. Melissa Hart
  • State Sen. Scott Martin
  • Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain
  • Businessman Dave White
  • Surgeon Nche Zama

Pennsylvania’s filing deadline is about two months away, so this lineup could still expand or contract.

Mastriano’s full-throated embrace of the Big Lie, though, could help him stand out amongst the crowd. Mastriano, who is an Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, won a 2019 special election for his current post one year after he took a close fourth place against now-Rep. John Joyce in the primary for the 13th Congressional District. Mastriano has spent the pandemic holding anti-mask and anti-vaccine mandate events aimed at undermining Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s public health measures, but he only truly rose to national infamy just after that year’s election.

Mastriano quickly emerged as one of the leading proponents of an effort to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania, which earned him a trip to the White House. The state senator, though, made news in ways he didn’t intend to after he had to bolt from an Oval Office meeting with Trump after learning he’d tested positive for the coronavirus. (Mastriano, naturally, had traveled to D.C. just after he attended a four-hour maskless gathering with fellow Republican election deniers.)

Mastriano hardly let that setback deter him, however, and he soon turned his efforts towards busing people to the Jan. 6 rally that took place just before the attack on Congress. He claims he left the Capitol before the violence began, but videos released in May appear to show him and his wife passing through breached barricades. The U.S. Senate Judiciary went on to issue a report in October recommending that he be further probed for his alleged role in the attempt to steal the election after finding that Mastriano, along with Rep. Scott Perry, pressured the Justice Department to investigate the state’s results.

Mastriano, of course, has ignored Democratic calls for his resignation, though his antics have caused him some damage with Republicans at home. In August, after his calls for Pennsylvania to emulate Arizona’s infamous “forensic investigation” of the 2020 results went nowhere, he appeared on the far-right One America News to trash state Senate leader Jake Corman. Corman, who later launched his own campaign for governor, responded by having Mastriano booted as chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Committee. Mastriano was later denied admittance to closed-door GOP caucus gatherings, with fellow Republicans accusing him of sharing information from meetings with outsiders.

And while the state senator spent all of 2021 talking about running to succeed the termed-out Wolf, his attempts to win Trump’s support does not appear to have played out the way he expected. In May, Mastriano said in a radio interview that he met with Trump regarding an endorsement and even said Trump encouraged him to run. At first, an unnamed Trump aide declined to comment on Mastriano’s claims to the Associated Press, though another Trump staffer (or possibly the same one) later confirmed to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tamari that a meeting between the two men had occurred. However, this aide made clear that Trump has not issued an endorsement.

It remains to be seen if Trump will end up backing Mastriano after all, but it’s clear the new gubernatorial candidate is going to run a Trumpy campaign to secure the GOP nod. In late December, he put out a Facebook video where he warned that his intra-party rivals will “lie, cheat and steal” to defeat a “people’s governor.” Mastriano also argued that none of his opponents were popular enough to hold announcement rallies.

SOUTH DAKOTA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) announced on Saturday that he planned to seek re-election in 2022, boosting chances this his party would retain the South Dakota seat in the fall, Reuters reports.

Washington Post: “Thune’s decision has been closely watched because he is considered a candidate for Republican leader whenever McConnell steps aside and because has been on the receiving end of harsh criticism from former president Donald Trump, a situation that has caused other Republicans to leave Congress.”

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

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