“Stricter voting rules enacted by Republican lawmakers last year continue to foil Texans trying to vote by mail in the upcoming primary, with hundreds of completed ballots being initially rejected for not meeting the state’s new identification requirements,” the Texas Tribune reports.
“The bulk of mail-in ballots have yet to arrive at elections offices, but local officials are already reporting that a significant number are coming in without the newly required ID information.”
Texas primaries are held on March 1.
“A new Texas law that keeps local election officials from encouraging voters to request mail-in ballots likely violates the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled late Friday,” the Texas Tribune reports.
“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday vowed not to sign a new congressional map unless lawmakers dismantle a North Florida district represented by a Black Democrat, setting up a showdown with his own party that threatens to upend the state’s delicate redistricting process,” CNN reports.
Washington Post: “The former president’s power within the party and his continued focus on personal grievances is increasingly questioned behind closed doors at Republican gatherings.”
“The growing split is rooted in diverging priorities: Trump has pursued a narrow effort to punish those who challenged his efforts to overturn the 2020 election result, while also working to put people in power who would be more sympathetic to him should he try the same thing again. Other Republicans are more focused on finding palatable candidates most able to win in November.”
“As a result, Trump and his endorsees now find themselves fighting against some elected GOP leaders, donors and party officers intent on navigating the party slowly away from him and his false election claims. Among voters, polls have shown Republican-leaning independents turning from Trump.”
New York Times: “As Mr. Trump works to retain his hold on the Republican Party, elevating a slate of friendly candidates in midterm elections, Mr. McConnell and his allies are quietly, desperately maneuvering to try to thwart him.”
“The loose alliance, which was once thought of as the G.O.P. establishment, for months has been engaged in a high-stakes candidate recruitment campaign, full of phone calls, meetings, polling memos and promises of millions of dollars. It’s all aimed at recapturing the Senate majority, but the election also represents what could be Republicans’ last chance to reverse the spread of Trumpism before it fully consumes their party.”
Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) has agreed to pay a $125,000 federal fine for misusing donor money and associated reporting violations, the Daily Beast reports.
A new ad in support of Ohio U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance (R) frames the candidate’s recent interview with Tucker Carlson as an endorsement of sorts.
Says Carlson: “You really, I think, understand what’s gone wrong with the country.”
Punchbowl News: “In the absence of a Donald Trump endorsement in the race, it’s instructive to view how Carlson is seen as a GOP kingmaker.”
“Republicans risk losing the U.S. Senate race if they nominate Herschel Walker (R), two of Walker’s rivals said, citing a report… about how police confiscated a gun from the former football great following a domestic dispute 20 years ago,” the AP reports.
A new CNN poll finds 24% of voters said they were extremely enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterms, identical to the enthusiasm levels in February 2018.
But in a reversal from four years ago, it’s the GOP that now leads in enthusiasm — 30% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters were already expressing extreme enthusiasm, compared with 22% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters.
Also interesting: Only 38% of voters say the pandemic will be extremely important to their vote.
Daily Beast: “According to four longtime Republican operatives working at senior levels on a variety of competitive GOP primaries across the nation, Greene’s endorsement in competitive 2022 Republican House and Senate primaries is not only considered as welcome, but also as one that should be actively courted—particularly in races where the nominee is likely to be decided by which candidate most animates the ultra-Trumpist grassroots.”
Said one GOP source: “Actually, it can be good for the candidate, and I don’t know if I would have predicted that a year ago.”
Bolts compiles the local offices responsible for administering elections. “Each state’s system is laid out in some detail—including officials’ power, and their method of selection or the timing of their elections—within the limits of what is possible to convey in one database. In many states, the internal inconsistency is so stark that a full accounting needs a specialized database specific to that state.”
WASHINGTON 4TH CD. Donald Trump took sides in the August top-two primary on Wednesday evening by backing 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp’s bid against Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is one of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment last year. Culp, by contrast, is very much the type of candidate Trump likes, as the far-right ex-cop responded to his wide 57-43 defeat against Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee by saying he’d “never concede.” While Trump’s endorsement likely will give Culp a lift, the top-two primary system complicates the effort to defeat Newhouse in a vast constituency based in the eastern part of Washington.
It would take a lot of bad fortune for Newhouse to take third place or worse, a result that would keep the incumbent off the November general election ballot. If Newhouse did advance, he’d be the heavy favorite against a Democrat in a sprawling eastern Washington seat that, according to Dave’s Redistricting App, would have backed Trump 57-40, which would have made it the reddest of the state’s 10 congressional districts. The dynamics would be different if Culp or another Republican got to face Newhouse in round two, but the congressman would have a good chance to survive if he overwhelmingly carried Democrats while still holding on to enough fellow Republicans.
Past elections in the old 4th, which is similarly red at 58-40 Trump, show that either a traditional Democrat vs. Republican general or an all-GOP general race are possible. Newhouse won his first two general elections in 2014 and 2016 against fellow Republican Clint Didier, but he had a Democratic foe in 2018 and 2020.
A few other Republicans are already running who could cost Culp some badly needed anti-Newhouse votes on the right, and one of them, businessman Jerrod Sessler, actually had far more money at the end of 2021 than Culp. Culp did narrowly outraise him $40,000 to $25,000 in the fourth quarter, but thanks to self-funding, Sessler finished December with a $200,000 to $30,000 cash-on-hand lead. Newhouse, meanwhile, took in $270,000 for the quarter and had $855,000 to defend himself. The only Democrat who appears to be in, businessman Doug White, raised $105,000 and had $85,000 on hand.
But while Culp’s fundraising has been extremely weak, he already had a base even before Trump chose him this week. He made a name for himself as police chief of Republic, a small community that remains in the neighboring 5th District following redistricting (he has since registered to vote in Moses Lake, which is in the 4th), in 2018 when he made news by announcing he wouldn’t enforce a statewide gun safety ballot measure that had just passed 59-41. His stance drew a very favorable response from far-right rocker Ted Nugent, who posted a typo-ridden “Chief Loren Culp is an Anerican freedom warrior. Godbless the freedom warriors” message to his Facebook page.
Culp, who spent his final years in Republic as chief of a one-person police department, soon decided to challenge Inslee, and he quickly made it clear he would continue to obsessively cultivate the Trump base rather than appeal to a broader group of voters in this blue state. That tactic helped Culp advance through the top-two primary, an occasion he celebrated by reaffirming his opposition to Inslee’s measures to stop the pandemic, including mask mandates. Unsurprisingly, though, it didn’t help him avoid an almost 14-point defeat months later. Culp refused to accept that loss, and he filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a fellow Republican, that made baseless allegations of “intolerable voting anomalies” for a contest “that was at all times fraudulent.”
But the state GOP did not enjoy seeing Culp, whose job in Republic disappeared shortly after the election because of budget cuts, refuse to leave the stage. Some Republicans also openly shared their complaints about Culp’s campaign spending, including what the Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner described as “large, unexplained payments to a Marysville data firm while spending a relatively meager sum on traditional voter contact.” Republicans also griped that Culp had spent only about a fifth of his $3.3 million budget on advertising, a far smaller amount than what serious candidates normally expend.
Culp’s attorney ultimately withdrew the suit after being threatened with sanction for making “factually baseless” claims. The defeated candidate himself responded to the news by saying that, while the cost of continuing the legal battle would have been prohibitive, “It doesn’t mean that the war’s over … It just means that we’re not going to engage in this particular battle through the courts.”
Culp, however, soon turned his attention towards challenging Newhouse, and Trump rewarded him Wednesday with an endorsement that promised he’d stand up for “Election Integrity.” That same day, writes Brunner, Culp emailed supporters “suggest[ing] people follow his lead by paying a Florida telehealth clinic to mail treatments including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, drugs hyped by vaccine skeptics that have not been authorized for use in treating COVID-19.”
CALIFORNIA 15TH CD. The first poll we’ve seen of the June top-two primary in this open seat comes from the Democratic firm Tulchin Research on behalf of San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, which gives him the lead with 19% of the vote. A second Democrat, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, holds a 17-13 edge over Republican businessman Gus Mattamal for the other general election spot, while Democratic Burlingame Councilwoman Emily Beach takes 7%. This constituency, which includes most of San Mateo County as well as a portion of San Francisco to the north, would have backed Joe Biden 78-20, so it’s very possible two Democrats will face off in November.
All the Democrats entered the race after Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier announced her retirement in mid-November, and Canepa outraised his rivals during their first quarter. Canepa outpaced Beach $420,000 to $275,000, and he held a $365,000 to $270,000 cash-on-hand lead. Mullin, who has Speier’s endorsement, raised $180,000, self-funded another $65,000, and ended December with $230,000 on-hand. Mattamal, meanwhile, had a mere $15,000 to spend.
MICHIGAN 11TH CD. Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence, whose current 14th Congressional District makes up 30% of the new 11th, on Thursday backed Haley Stevens in her August incumbent vs. incumbent primary against Andy Levin. Lawrence, who is not seeking re-election, actually represents more people here than Levin, whose existing 9th District includes 25% of the seat he’s campaigning to represent; a 45% plurality of residents live in Stevens’ constituency, which is also numbered the 11th.
NEBRASKA 1ST CD. Indicted Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s second TV ad for the May Republican primary once again portrays state Sen. Mike Flood as weak on immigration, and it makes use of the same “floods of illegal immigrants” pun from his opening spot. This time, though, the incumbent’s commercial uses 2012 audio of then-Gov. Dave Heineman telling Flood, “I am extraordinarily disappointed with your support of taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens.” Heineman last month endorsed Flood over Fortenberry, whom the former governor called “the only Nebraska congressman that has ever been indicted on felony criminal charges.”
OREGON 4TH CD. EMILY’s List has endorsed state Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle in the May Democratic primary for this open seat.
SOUTH CAROLINA 1ST CD. Donald Trump on Wednesday night gave his “complete and total” endorsement to former state Rep. Katie Arrington’s day-old campaign to deny freshman Rep. Nancy Mace renomination in the June Republican primary, and he characteristically used the occasion to spew bile at the incumbent. Trump not-tweeted, “Katie Arrington is running against an absolutely terrible candidate, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, whose remarks and attitude have been devastating for her community, and not at all representative of the Republican Party to which she has been very disloyal.”
Trump previously backed Arrington’s successful 2018 primary campaign against then-Rep. Mark Sanford about three hours before polls closed, and his statement continued by trying to justify her subsequent general election loss to Democrat Joe Cunningham. The GOP leader noted that Arrington had been injured in a car wreck 10 days after the primary, saying, “Her automobile accident a number of years ago was devastating, and made it very difficult for her to campaign after having won the primary against another terrible candidate, ‘Mr. Argentina.'” It won’t surprise you to learn, though, that a whole lot more went into why Cunningham, who suspended his campaign after his opponent was hospitalized, went on to defeat Arrington in one of the biggest upsets of the cycle.
Mace, as The State’s Caitlin Byrd notes, spent most of the last several years as a Trump loyalist, and she even began working for his campaign in September of 2015 back when few gave him a chance. But that was before the new congresswoman, who won in 2020 by unseating Cunningham, was forced to barricade in her office during the Jan. 6 attack. “I can’t condone the rhetoric from yesterday, where people died and all the violence,” she said the next day, adding, “These were not protests. This was anarchy.” She went even further in her very first floor speech days later, saying of Trump, “I hold him accountable for the events that transpired.”
Still, Mace, unlike home-state colleague Tom Rice, refused to join the small group of Republicans that supported impeachment, and she stopped trying to pick fights with Trump afterwards. In a July profile in The Atlantic titled, “How a Rising Trump Critic Lost Her Nerve,” the congresswoman said that intra-party attacks on him were an “enormous division” for the GOP. “I just want to be done with that,” said Mace. “I want to move forward.” Since then she has occasionally come into conflict with far-right party members like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but Mace has avoided messing with Trump directly.
Trump, though, very much isn’t done with her, and Mace seems to have decided that the best way to fight back is to emphasize Arrington’s loss. On Thursday, the incumbent posted a video shot across the street from Trump Tower where, after talking about her longtime Trump loyalty, she says, “If you want to lose this seat once again in a midterm election cycle to Democrats, then my opponent is more than qualified to do just that.” The GOP legislature did what it could to make sure that no one could lose this coastal South Carolina seat to Democrats by passing a map that extended Trump’s 2020 margin from 52-46 to 54-45, but that’s not going to stop Mace from arguing that Arrington is electoral kryptonite.
While Trump, who The State says is planning to hold a rally in South Carolina as early as this month, has plenty of power to make the next several months miserable for Mace, the incumbent has the resources to defend herself: Mace raised $605,000 during the fourth quarter and ended December with $1.5 million on hand. The congressman also earned a high-profile endorsement of her own earlier this week from Nikki Haley, who resigned as governor in 2017 to become Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations.
TEXAS 30TH CD. Protect our Future, a new super PAC co-funded by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, has announced that it will spend $1 million to boost state Rep. Jasmine Crockett in the March 1 Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. Web3 Forward, which the Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek also says is “linked to the crypto industry,” is reporting spending $235,000 on pro-Crockett media as well. Until now, there had been no serious outside spending in this safely blue Dallas seat.
GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE. Republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger’s refusal to participate in the Big Lie earned him a Trump-backed May primary challenge from Rep. Jody Hice, and the congressman ended January with more money despite heavy early spending. Hice outraised Raffensperger $1 million to $320,000 from July 1 to Jan. 31, and he had a $650,000 to $515,000 cash-on-hand lead. Former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who lost to Raffensperger in 2018, was far back with $210,000 raised, and he had $110,000 on hand.
On the Democratic side, state Rep. Bee Nguyen took in $690,000 during this time and had $945,000 to spend. Her nearest intra-party foe, former Milledgeville Mayor Floyd Griffin, was well back with only $65,000 raised and $20,000 on hand.