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The Political Report – 3/3/22

A new CNN poll finds that 71% of Americans who watched President Biden’s State of the Union address had a positive reaction to the speech.

Dan Pfeiffer: “In the end, the State of the Union is just a speech. The impact is often overstated and the politics over-analyzed. But the speech given by the President last night tells me he and his team understand the cause of their political problems and have a plan to address them.”

TEXAS 28TH CD DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY ELECTION RESULTS. The hotly anticipated rematch between Rep. Henry Cuellar, one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, and immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, who is challenging the incumbent from the left, appears headed headed to a May 24 runoff. With 49,000 votes counted, Cuellar held a tiny 48-47 lead on Cisneros―a margin of about 800 ballots―following Tuesday’s primary, while a third candidate, community organizer Tannya Benavides, took 5%—enough to keep either of the two leaders from winning an outright majority and avoiding a second round.

TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL REPUBLICAN PRIMARY RESULTS. Texas’ scandal-plagued attorney general, Republican Ken Paxton, was also forced into a runoff after falling well short of a majority in Tuesday’s primary, a battle that will pit him against state Land Commissioner George P. Bush. With most votes tallied, Paxton led Bush, who is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, by a 43-23 margin, with former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman taking 17% and missing out on the second slot in the May 24 runoff. The results also terminated Rep. Louie Gohmert’s political career, as the notoriously addled congressman finished fourth with 17% as well.

TEXAS GOVERNOR REPUBLICAN PRIMARY RESULTS. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) “won his Republican primary outright, capping a year during which he faced vocal challengers from his right,” the Texas Tribune reports.  “While largely expected, the decisive victory allows Abbott to fully focus on the general election, where he will face Democrat Beto O’Rourke.”

The former president racked up more than $1.3 million in hotel and travel expenses with the Secret Service while traveling between South Florida and New Jersey last year, according to the Daily Beast.

TENNESSEE 5TH CD. Morgan Ortagus, who previously served as the spokesperson for the State Department under Trump, is now running for Congress in Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District–an area she doesn’t actually seem to know much about, if her painful radio interview with the Tennessee Star Report on Monday is anything to go by.

Ortagus, who’s been endorsed by Trump, couldn’t answer any of the questions the radio host asked about the district. Not one.

The ex-Trump administration official is a Florida native who didn’t start living in Tennessee until she moved to Nashville last year. The Tennessean notes that her address isn’t in the 5th District and that this is the first time she’s running for office.

Sidenote: Trump’s endorsement of Ortagus, which came before she even announced her decision to run, actually pissed off his foot soldiers.

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, the guy who was appointed by Wisconsin Republicans to run their state’s sham election audittold a state Assembly committee on Tuesday that the Wisconsin legislature should take “a very hard look” at decertifying the 2020 presidential election results.

That’s legally impossible. And Gableman’s own “interim report” that he gave to state lawmakers on Tuesday not only says that the purpose of his report is “not to challenge certification,” but admits that magically decertifying the results “would not, on its own, have any other legal consequence under state or federal law.”

Gableman, who’s admitted that he doesn’t know how elections work, still isn’t finished with his taxpayer-funded “investigation,” even though he was supposed to be done by 2021.

Again: This guy has fully acknowledged that he doesn’t know how elections work. And he went to MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s whacky “Cyber Symposium.”

Philip Bump: “This Wisconsin ‘fraud’ report is so mindbogglingly stupid that I’m honestly amazed the man responsible for it sat on the state supreme court.”

SOUTH CAROLINA 1ST CD. Wall Street Journal: “Ms. Mace narrowly won this coastal district from a Democrat in 2020 with promises to back Mr. Trump’s agenda, but she also pledged to break with Republicans when it made sense for her constituents. Just days into office, the first female graduate of the Citadel military academy voted to certify President Biden’s presidential win and said Mr. Trump was to blame when a mob of his supporters overran the Capitol.”

“In the year since, Ms. Mace has voted consistently with her party and has praised the former president’s policies. Still, to hang onto her seat, she must overcome a primary challenge from several candidates including Katie Arrington, the GOP nominee from 2018 who is running again. Ms. Arrington, who was endorsed by Mr. Trump, argues that Ms. Mace has miscalculated what the district wants and it is time to install someone who is more closely aligned with the former president.”

“Mitch McConnell and Senate Republican leaders are warning Rick Scott that his agenda for the GOP could expose the party to unnecessary attacks this fall, a significant intraparty rebuke for the Floridian,” Politico reports.

“The Senate minority leader, who has declined thus far to release a party agenda, advised Scott at a GOP leadership meeting on Monday afternoon that his 11-point proposal gave Democrats ammunition for millions of dollars of ads in the midterms.”

Punchbowl News: “McConnell has expressed his displeasure with Scott privately, but this public airing of grievances is rare in the close-knit Senate GOP leadership circle. McConnell is asserting his dominance over Scott, who is widely seen as having ambitions outside of the Senate. And McConnell is reflecting the anger of his rank-and-file Republicans over Scott’s action.”

ALABAMA 2ND CD. It appears that Republican businessman Jeff Coleman’s bid for Congress is over after a federal court rejected a request that he be allowed to intervene in an ongoing case challenging Alabama’s congressional map for the purposes of clarifying whether candidate filing concluded on Feb. 7 or Feb. 11. The court determined that, among other factors, Coleman’s “dispute is with the Alabama Republican Party, which is not a party to these lawsuits,” thereby preventing the court from granting the requested relief.

The confusion over the deadline arose after a panel of three federal judges moved the filing deadline for House hopefuls from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11 when it struck down the GOP’s new congressional map for violating the Voting Rights Act in January. On Feb. 7, however, the Supreme Court stayed that ruling, allowing elections to go forward this year using the new map. Republican Secretary of State John Merrill said he’d allow each party to decide which deadline to honor, but the state GOP declined to forward Coleman’s filing along to Merrill.

Coleman, who is seeking to challenge Rep. Barry Moore in the May 24 primary, responded by asking Merrill to seek clarification from the Supreme Court, though there’s no reason to think Merrill has any interest in doing so.

CALIFORNIA 40TH CD. Physician Asif Mahmood just picked up an endorsement from Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who in 2019 appointed him to the state’s medical board. Mahmood, who says he raised $1 million in his first month on the campaign trail since launching his campaign in mid-January, is so far the only notable Democrat taking on Republican Rep. Young Kim in the redrawn 40th District in eastern Orange County. Kim reported raising $1.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2021 and had $2.6 million on hand.

FLORIDA 22ND CD. Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch announced Monday that he would not seek re-election and would instead take over as CEO of the advocacy group the American Jewish Committee. CBSMiami, which first broke the news, says that the Florida congressman will resign at some point before the end of the 117th Congress; Deutch did not directly address that possibility in his statement, though he said he would “fulfill my obligations in Washington until Congress recesses for the next election.”

The current version of the 22nd District, a South Florida seat that includes Boca Raton and northeast Broward County, supported Joe Biden 57-42. Redistricting is still in progress in Florida, but it’s very likely that this will remain a reliably blue constituency.

It took very little time for several local Democrats to start expressing interest. Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz strongly hinted he would run, saying, “There are decisions that have to be made and I’ll be making my announcement in coming days.” Moskowitz left the state House in 2018 to join Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration as director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, and the governor later appointed him to his current post to succeed Barbara Sharief, a fellow Democrat who resigned to unsuccessfully seek the 20th District last year.

State Sen. Gary Farmer, Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen, and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis also each told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that they were considering, with Trantalis saying that “I will soon make a decision.” Florida Politics also relays that state Rep. David Silvers is considering, while Politico mentioned state Sen. Tina Polsky and Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg as possibilities. State Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, though, quickly took her name out of contention.

MINNESOTA 1ST CD. Former Defense Department official Dan Feehan, who lost back-to-back close races for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District in 2018 and 2020, says that he will not compete in the Aug. 9 special election. On the Republican side, state Rep. Jeremy Munson has now entered the race, while Austin City Councilman Jason Baskin has said no.

Then there’s former state GOP chair Jennifer Carnahan, whose husband, Rep. Jim Hagedorn, died last month and created this vacancy. Asked if she might run, Carnahan did not rule out the possibility, saying only, “I’m focused right now on planning the funerals and doing everything I can to memorialize my husband and that’s where my head’s at.” In a recording of a phone call released last year, Carnahan was heard saying, “I don’t care. Jim, he’s going to die of cancer in two years.”

NORTH CAROLINA 11TH CD. Far-right Rep. Madison Cawthorn announced Monday he’d run for re-election in the new 11th District, a seat in the western North Carolina mountains that includes most of the constituents he tried to leave behind after the Republicans passed their now-defunct congressional map in November.

Cawthorn won’t have a clear path through the May primary, though, as state Sen. Chuck Edwards and Michele Woodhouse, who leads the GOP in the old 11th District (which is barely any different from this new seat) each made it clear they’re staying in. Edwards tweeted, “I welcome all candidates — old and new — to the NC-11 race. I stand firm in my unwavering commitment to this district. I would never place the people of Charlotte over the people of [western North Carolina].” Woodhouse’s husband went the pithy route: He texted WLOS reporter Caitlyn Penter that the candidate had “this simple statement: ‘UNDETERRED!'” If no one takes at least 30% of the vote, the runner-up would be able to seek a July runoff; the GOP nominee will be favored to hold a seat Trump would have carried 54-44.

In the first version of the GOP’s map, which was struck down by the state Supreme Court, Cawthorn surprised North Carolina politicos when he announced he’d hop over to the new and safely red 13th District in the Charlotte area even though he represented just 12% of it, a move that seemed mostly about bullying state House Speaker Tim Moore out of his planned campaign there; Woodhouse and Edwards responded by kicking off bids for the 14th, which made up the vast majority of Cawthorn’s existing seat.

However, the map implemented by the court last week didn’t give Cawthorn a dark red open seat to run for this time. He could have instead attempted to beat a fellow incumbent in a primary on their own turf or tried to win a swing seat, but he ultimately decided that staying home was his best option. The good news for the congressman is that, because he represents all but 28 people in the new 11th, he’ll have a geographic advantage … assuming he hasn’t pissed off too many of the primary voters he now needs, that is.

PENNSYLVANIA 10TH CD. Former state Auditor Eugene DePasquale said Monday that he wouldn’t seek a rematch against Republican Rep. Scott Perry, the Freedom Caucus head who beat him 53-47 in 2020. The announcement comes a little more than two weeks ahead of the March 15 candidate filing deadline.

DePasquale said, “While I had hoped for a fairer, more competitive district in which to run, the recent redistricting process has resulted in a district that, in my opinion, will continue to reward candidates who peddle in extremism and division.” The new version of this Harrisburg-based seat, though, would have favored Trump 51-47, which makes it only a hair redder than his 51-48 score in the old 10th.

PENNSYLVANIA 9TH CD. Republican Rep. Fred Keller declared Monday that he would not seek re-election after all, an abrupt development that came just days after he announced that he’d run against fellow Rep. Dan Meuser in the primary for this safely red seat in the rural northeastern part of the state.

Keller explained his about-face by saying, “With control of Congress—and the direction of our nation—at stake, this election is bigger than any one person,” though he more likely decided the primary was just too big for him. Meuser currently represents 66% of the new 9th compared to just 34% for Keller, and while Keller ended December with a big financial edge, the wealthy Meuser may have been able to erase that deficit. Still, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tamari tweets that “a lot of Republicans were actually looking forward to Keller vs Meuser. Some bad blood out there toward Meuser.”

Keller’s decision ends a short career in national politics that began in 2019 when the then-state representative entered the race to succeed Tom Marino, a fellow Republican who resigned after two weeks in the minority, in the old 10th District. In Pennsylvania special elections, the parties, rather than primary voters, pick their nominees, and there was some late drama when the radical anti-tax Club for Growth spent $16,000 on mailers and an opposition research packet targeting another candidate, state Rep. Jeff Wheeland: PoliticsPA added at the time that an email was sent to delegates on Friday night that “contained a message, purportedly from someone in Wheeland’s family, opposing his bid.”

Wheeland dropped out right before the party assembly began, and delegates awarded Keller the nomination on the fourth round of balloting. There was no question he’d prevail in a seat Trump had carried 66-30 in 2016, though of course Trump insisted afterwards that the nominee “was a 50-50 shot, but won in a landslide” thanks to his rally. That ludicrous but unsurprising claim gave Keller the most national attention he’d ever experience until he surprised pundits with his Monday retirement announcement.

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

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