The Political Report – 3/13/22

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of court records and other public documents contradicts statements Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Hershel Walker (R) “has made about the number of people his companies employ, their size and the assets they own.”

“The review also revealed a string of defaults, settlements and lawsuits alleging that Walker and his businesses owed millions of dollars in unpaid loans.”

“And while Walker attributes his wealth to his business acumen, much of it seems to be derived from his celebrity status as a football legend through speaking engagements and brand ambassadorships.”

MINNESOTA 5TH CD. Former Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels has announced that he’ll challenge incumbent Ilhan Omar in the August Democratic primary for this safely blue seat centered around the city. Samuels, who previously considered running as an independent, argued that he and Omar are “both Democrats, but very often you wouldn’t know it. When you build an infrastructure of contrarian divisiveness, even when you have good ideas, you can’t get it passed because you don’t have friends.”

Samuels, who is originally from Jamaica, ran for mayor in the crowded 2013 instant-runoff election; he initially took third place with 11%, and he didn’t rise much beyond that before he was eliminated in the penultimate 32nd round of tabulations. He returned to elected office the next year when he won a seat on the school board, and he retired in 2018.

Samuels, though, was far from done with politics. In 2020 he supported Antone Melton-Meaux, who went on to lose an expensive primary to Omar 58-39. Samuels last year was also one of the most high-profile opponents of Question 2, a ballot measure that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new department of public safety, while Omar was one of its most prominent backers. City voters rejected Question 2 by a 56-44 margin, and Samuels is now arguing that the congresswoman’s stance demonstrates that “she’s out of touch” with her constituents.

MINNESOTA 1ST CD. Former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad announced Monday that he would compete in the May special primary to succeed his fellow Republican, the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn. Finstad was elected to the state House in 2002 and retired six years later, but he re-entered public life in 2017 when Donald Trump appointed him state director for USDA rural development.

The only other notable Republican who has announced so far is state Rep. Jeremy Munson, but that will likely change ahead of the March 15 filing deadline. Former Freeborn County party chair Matt Benda has set up a fundraising committee, while Morning Take reports that state Rep. Nels Pierson is considering getting in as well.

OREGON 4TH CD. Veteran Rep. Peter DeFazio is retiring, and eight fellow Democrats are campaigning to succeed him in a seat where legislative Democrats extended Joe Biden’s margin of victory from 51-47 to 55-42. The primary frontrunner in this constituency, which covers the southern Willamette Valley and Oregon’s south coast, appears to be state Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, who has endorsements from DeFazio, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and EMILY’s List.

Another contender to watch is former Airbnb executive Andrew Kalloch; Hoyle ended 2021 with a $205,000 to $148,000 cash-on-hand advantage over Kalloch, though candidates had just weeks to raise money following the congressman’s early December departure announcement. Corvallis school board Chair Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, who took 16% in a 2016 state House race as a third-party candidate, entered the Democratic primary in January, and he would be the state’s first Muslim member of Congress.

The only Republican in the running is 2020 nominee Alek Skarlatos, a National Guard veteran whose 52-46 loss last cycle was the closest re-election contest of DeFazio’s career. Skarlatos ended December with $348,000 to spend.

OREGON 5TH CD. Rep. Kurt Schrader, who has long been one of the loudest moderates in the Democratic caucus (last January, he had to apologize after comparing the idea of impeaching Donald Trump to a “lynching”) faces a primary challenge from the left in the form of attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner. There are no other Democrats running for this seat in the Portland southern suburbs and central Oregon, so she won’t need to worry about splitting the anti-incumbent vote with other challengers.

McLeod-Skinner, who was Team Blue’s 2018 nominee for the old and safely red 2nd District, would be Oregon’s first LGBTQ member of Congress, and she also sports an endorsement from the Oregon Education Association. Schrader, for his part, represents just under half of the new 5th District, but the well-funded incumbent ended December with a massive $3.6 million to $208,000 cash-on-hand edge.

Six Republicans are also running for this constituency, which would have backed Joe Biden 53-44. The two most prominent contenders appear to be former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who lost two competitive races for the state House in 2016 and 2018, and businessman Jimmy Crumpacker, who took fourth place in the 2020 primary for the old 2nd District. Chavez-DeRemer finished last year with a $226,000 to $186,000 cash-on-hand lead.

TENNESSEE 7TH and 5TH CD. Community activist Odessa Kelly, who’d been challenging Rep. Jim Cooper in the Democratic primary in Tennessee’s 5th District, has announced that she’ll instead run in the redrawn 7th against Republican Rep. Mark Green, following an extensive GOP gerrymander that cracked Nashville to make the 5th much redder and prompted Cooper to retire. Both seats now tilt heavily to the right, though the 7th is actually the tougher district: It would have voted 56-41 for Donald Trump, compared to a 55-43 Trump margin in the revamped 5th.

NEW YORK 4TH CD. Newsday writes that Keith Corbett, a Democrat who serves as mayor of the small village of Malverne, is “expected” to announce a bid this week to succeed retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice, but his deliberations have been overshadowed by a powerful and controversial ally.

Jay Jacobs, who chairs both the state and Nassau County parties, has been praising Corbett to the paper as someone with a history of performing well in red turf. But Jacobs didn’t mention the mayor on Friday when he emailed party donors and told them that they should “HOLD OFF on making ANY contributions to ANY of the candidates until we have had an opportunity to discuss the complexities of the race.” The chairman, who didn’t identify any current or potential contender by name, said that, while several “candidates currently indicating a desire to run are my friends,” he believed that “[n]ot every one of the contenders right now” could win. Rice, who has not taken sides in the June primary, responded by tweeting, “No wonder Democrats in Nassau county lose with this kind of leadership.”

OREGON GOVERNOR. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is termed-out of an office her party has held since the 1986 elections, and both parties have competitive races to succeed her. The eventual nominees will face an expensive general election against former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, a conservative Democrat-turned-independent who has the most money of anyone the race.

There are 17 people competing for the Democratic nod, but only former state House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read appear to be running serious efforts. Kotek, who would be the first lesbian elected governor anywhere (Massachusetts Democrat Maura Healey would also have that distinction if she won this year) has the backing of EMILY’s List and several unions, including the SEIU and Oregon Education Association. Reed, who is the only candidate in the entire race who has been elected statewide, meanwhile is running as more of a moderate.

The 19-person GOP field is similarly crowded, but considerably more contenders appear to have a shot at winning the plurality needed to secure the nod. Former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan has raised considerably more money from donors than anyone else, while former state Rep. Bob Tiernan, who served two terms in the 1990s, entered the race last month by self-funding $500,000 and receiving another $500,000 in donations from a California-based real estate company.

The field also includes two former nominees, Bill Sizemore and Bud Pierce. Sizemore, who lost in a 1998 landslide and performed poorly in the 2010 primary, still has not reported any fundraising, though. Pierce, for his part, challenged Brown in a 2016 special election and lost 51-43. Also in the running are consultant Bridget Barton; businesswoman Jessica Gomez; Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten; and Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, who made news last month when he acknowledged that he and his wife “explored mutual relationships with other couples.”

CALIFORNIA 3RD CD. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones has earned an endorsement from Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, who chose to campaign for the new 5th District rather than here, ahead of the June top-two primary. McClintock currently represents 58% of the 3rd (compared to 41% of the 5th), a constituency in the Sacramento eastern suburbs that Trump would have carried by a small 50-48 margin.

SOUTH CAROLINA 1ST CD. Former state Rep. Katie Arrington has publicized a Remington Research Group survey that shows her trailing freshman Rep. Nancy Mace 50-35 in the June Republican primary. Arrington, unsurprisingly, is releasing these unfavorable numbers so she can emphasize the subsequent informed ballot section of the poll that finds her completely turning things around and winning 51-33 once respondents are given a positive description of her, including that she’s Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate. This is the first survey we’ve seen of this contest.

On the Democratic side, Dorchester County Democratic Party chair Tim Lewis announced Monday that he was exiting the race. Team Blue’s frontrunner remains physician Annie Andrews, who is competing in a coastal South Carolina seat where GOP mapmakers extended Trump’s margin from 52-46 to 54-45.

CALIFORNIA 41ST CD. Republican state Sen. Melissa Melendez on Monday filed paperwork with the Riverside County Registrar of Voters for a potential intra-party bid against 15-term Rep. Ken Calvert in the June top-two primary. She told The Desert Sun the next day that she’d “have further comments once the filing deadline closes on Friday,” but she sounds very much like she plans to take him on. Melendez said, “I have immense respect for my opponent; however, when Ken Calvert was first elected to Congress, I was in the military serving my country during Operation Desert Storm. Since then, two of my five children have gone on to serve in the U.S. Navy, yet our representation in Washington has remained the same.”

Meanwhile on the Democratic side, former federal prosecutor Will Rollins earned an endorsement from former Sen. Barbara Boxer who, according to his campaign, lives in this suburban Riverside constituency. Donald Trump would have carried the new 41st by a narrow 50-49 margin, but it’s possible that two Republicans will advance to the general election and deny Team Blue a pickup opportunity.

NEBRASKA 1ST CD. Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry seemed to be on track for another easy win until he was indicted in October. The congressman was charged with allegedly lying to federal investigators as part of a probe into a foreign billionaire who used straw donors to illegally funnel $180,000 to four different GOP candidates, including $30,000 to his own campaign, and his trial is currently set to start March 15. Four candidates are competing against him in the primary, but the only notable contender is state Sen. Mike Flood, a former speaker of the state’s unicameral legislature who has endorsements from Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman.

Fortenberry began running commercials in late January attacking his rival on immigration, and he’s arguing his efforts have worked. The congressman recently publicized a Moore Information internal, which is the only poll we’ve seen here so far, showing him leading Flood 36-25; 36% of the vote, however, is still a dangerous place for any incumbent to find themselves. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks faces only one little-known opponent in an eastern Nebraska seat that would have favored Trump 54-43.

OKLAHOMA 2ND CD. Two more Republicans have announced that they’ll enter the June primary for this safely red seat in the eastern part of the state: Chris Schiller, who serves as CEO of the local Economy Pharmacy chain, and state party chair John Bennett.

Bennett is a former state representative who, among many other things, called Islam “a cancer that needs to be cut out” and wrote a Facebook post saying of Hilary Clinton, “2 words … firing squad” (he later said this was “sarcasm”). He took over as head of the state party last year, and he made national news a few months later when he endorsed pastor Jackson Lahmeyer’s longshot primary bid against Sen. James Lankford, explaining that the incumbent deserved to lose because he refused to object to certifying Joe Biden’s electoral college majority in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack.

Bennett, who has since rejected calls to apologize for comparing vaccine mandates to the Holocaust, kicked off his House campaign at a Friday rally for Lahmeyer in Oklahoma City, which is about 65 miles away from the 2nd District.

SOUTH CAROLINA 7TH CD. State Rep. Russell Fry’s first commercial for his campaign to deny incumbent Tom Rice renomination in the June Republican primary has an actor playing the congressman attending a touchy-feely “Villains Anonymous” meeting with the likes of the Joker, Lucifer, a pirate, Maleficent, and Delores Umbridge of the “Harry Potter” franchise. (To the eternal disappointment of “The Room” fanatic Jeff SingerChris R is absent.)

Even the Clown Prince of Crime, however, can’t stand being in the same room as faux Rice after he talks about his record in Congress, including how he “even voted to impeach President Trump,” though Lucifer is favorably impressed. It concludes with a fake Anthony Fauci, complete with a stereotypical New York accent, speaking up for Rice and telling the villains to wear their masks, which the pirate doesn’t appreciate.

NEBRASKA 2ND CD. Rep. Don Bacon, who is one of nine House Republicans who won election in 2020 in a district Joe Biden carried, is defending a redrawn Omaha-area seat that, just like his existing constituency, would have favored Biden 52-46. (It’s still very much a gerrymander, though, as the GOP mapmakers grafted on rural Saunders County, a piece of deep-red turf that has little in common with Omaha, to keep the seat from getting bluer.) His lone intra-party foe is roofer Steve Kuehl, who only jumped in on Friday.

It remains to be seen if Kuehl can run a serious campaign with just over two months to go before the primary, but one prominent Republican may end up rooting for him: Donald Trump responded to Bacon’s vote last year for the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill by not-tweeting, “Anyone want to run for Congress against Don Bacon in Nebraska?” Bacon concluded last year with $978,000 to spend to protect himself.

Two Democrats are also campaigning to take on the incumbent. State Sen. Tony Vargas ended 2021 with a $440,000 to $89,000 cash-on-hand lead over mental health counselor Alisha Shelton, who lost the 2020 Senate primary but now has EMILY’s List in her corner. Vargas would be the state’s first Latino member of Congress, while Shelton would be Nebraska’s first Black representative.

VIRGINIA 2ND CD. Far-right activist Jarome Bell got an endorsement for his second bid for Congress on Monday from 5th District Rep. Bob Good, a fellow election denier, in the GOP nomination battle to take on Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria. Bell, who earned last place with 23% in 2020’s three-way primary, tweeted in September, “Audit all 50 states. Arrest all involved. Try all involved. Convict all involved. Execute all involved. #MaricopaCountyFraud.” (Twitter eventually banned him.) More recently, he responded to a British intelligence official’s condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s persecution of LGBTQ Russians by writing that he “lets slip that the whole fake Russia war is about being gay.”

The House GOP leadership, including the well-funded Congressional Leadership Fund, is very much supporting state Sen. Jen Kiggans over Bell, though she’s also allied with one infamous conspiracy theorist. Kiggans last month was one of just three Republicans in the chamber to vote in favor of a proposal put forward by colleague Amanda Chase for a $70 million “audit” of the 2020 presidential results, though nearly half the caucus made sure to miss the vote.

FLORIDA 15TH CD. Republican state Rep. Jackie Toledo announced Monday that she’d run for Congress in the 15th District which, under the maps passed last week by the GOP legislature, would be an open seat in the Tampa area. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, though, has pledged to veto those new lines.

Toledo has a history of running ahead of the top of the ticket. In 2016, she won her first term 57-43 as Donald Trump was taking her constituency by a narrow 48-47, and she held on 52-48 during the 2018 blue wave. In 2020, the state representative prevailed 54-46 even as Joe Biden was carrying her seat by a very tight 49.44-49.36 margin.

NEW YORK 16TH CD. Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi has confirmed to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel that he’ll challenge freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the June Democratic primary for the safely blue 16th District, which includes part of Westchester County and the Bronx. Gashi took issue with Bowman for casting a vote on the left against the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill, saying, “I’ve been frustrated that the Democrats control the House, the Senate and the presidency, and we’re not able to get as much done as we can because of two senators and a handful of congresspeople who are furthering a more extremist agenda.”

Kassel also reports that pastor Michael Gerald, who is a deputy commissioner at the Westchester County Department of Correction, is gathering signatures to appear on the primary ballot.

MICHIGAN 10TH CD. Former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga announced Monday that he was joining the August Democratic primary for the new 10th District, an open seat in the Detroit suburbs that Donald Trump narrowly carried. Just before his launch, the local pollster Target Insyght released numbers showing him outpacing Sterling Heights Councilman Henry Yanez 38-18 in the primary, with attorney Huwaida Arraf and Warren City Councilwoman Angela Rogensues at 3% and 2%, respectively. The winner will almost certainly take on two-time Republican Senate nominee John James, who faces no serious primary opposition.

Marlinga has had a long career in Macomb County politics going back to 1984, when he was elected to the first of what would be five terms as county prosecutor, but he’s experienced some major setbacks over the decades. Marlinga competed in the 1994 primary for Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat but took last place in the six-way primary with just 8% of the vote, though he convincingly won re-election two years later. He was still serving as prosecutor in 2002 when he challenged Republican Rep. Candice Miller in an earlier and more conservative version of the 10th District, a campaign the Democrat lost 63-36.

Two years later, Marlinga was indicted for allegedly helping a convicted rapist earn a new trial in exchange for contributions for that congressional campaign, and he stepped down as county prosecutor afterwards. A jury, though, acquitted him in 2006, and Marlinga sought to return to public office soon after. After narrowly losing a 2010 primary for the state Senate, Marlinga was decisively elected to a local judgeship in 2012.

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

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