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The Political Report – 3/20/22

“Texas threw out mail votes at an abnormally high rate during the nation’s first primary of 2022, rejecting nearly 23,000 ballots outright under tougher voting rules that are part of a broad campaign by Republicans to reshape American elections,” the AP reports.

“Roughly 13% of mail ballots returned in the March 1 primary were discarded and uncounted across 187 counties in Texas.”

Charles C.W. Cooke: “Donald Trump? In 2024? Why on earth would conservatives choose that guy?”

“I’m serious: Why? Why would we do that when we have a choice? The idea should be absurd, risible, farcical, outré. It should be a punchline, a mania, the preserve of the demented fringe. Politics matters. And because politics matters, it is a bad idea to allow politics to be held hostage by someone who, in his heart of hearts, doesn’t really care. Donald Trump is an extraordinarily selfish man, and he is only too happy to subordinate your interests to his own. Why let him? It is one thing to say, ‘Well, he may have been a fickle boor, but I liked some of what he did once he was in office’; it’s quite another to put yourself through four more years of the man when you don’t have to.”

“Whatever justification there may have been for picking the “lesser of two evils” in the 2016 or 2020 general election — a justification that was a great deal stronger before Trump refused to accept, and then tried to overturn, the results of the latter — it cannot obtain in 2022… The man lost. He’s a loser. It’s time we picked a winner for a change.”

Former Montana governor and RNC Chair Marc Racicot slammed former President Trump in the Helena Independent Record over his comments on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, writing that the ex-commander in chief is “not fit to lead this nation.”

“A Republican group is running an ad on Fox News that calls out members of the GOP who recognize the danger of Donald Trump but plan to vote for him if he’s the party’s nominee in 2024,” the HuffPost reports.

IDAHO 2ND CD. Longtime Republican Rep. Mike Simpson faces a primary rematch against attorney Bryan Smith, whom he beat 62-38 in 2014, while three others are also running in this dark-red eastern Idaho constituency. A group called Idaho Second Amendment Alliance recently began airing an ad accusing Simpson of supporting “[r]ed flag gun confiscation, a federal gun registry, [and] universal background checks,” though there’s no word on the size of the buy. Simpson, meanwhile, has been running commercials arguing that Smith “got rich targeting veterans who can’t pay medical bills.”

ILLINOIS 1ST CD. Rep. Bobby Rush is retiring after 15 terms, and a massive field of 20 fellow Democrats have filed to succeed him in a safely blue seat based in the South Side of Chicago and the city’s southwestern suburbs. Rush himself is supporting Karin Norington-Reaves, who is a former CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. Another well-connected contender is construction contracting firm owner Jonathan Jackson, who is the son of two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and the brother of former 2nd District Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

The race also includes two sitting elected officials, state Sen. Jacqueline Collins and Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell. Another notable name is former Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority official Charise Williams, who lost a 2018 primary for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Also in the mix is businessman Jonathan Swain, real estate executive Nykea Pippion McGriff, and activist Jahmal Cole, who was running a long-shot campaign against Rush before the incumbent retired; it’s possible one of the other 12 candidates could also attract attention in the two-and-a-half weeks ahead of the primary.  

ILLINOIS 3RD CD. Legislative Democrats created a new seat based in heavily Latino areas in southwestern Chicago and the western suburbs, and four Democrats are competing for this safely blue constituency. The two frontrunners appear to be Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas, a Marine veteran backed by VoteVets, and state Rep. Delia Ramirez, who has EMILY’s List in her corner. Ramirez has earned the backing of several progressive groups while Villegas, who has emphasized public safety, is campaigning more as a moderate.

Villegas ended 2021 with a wide cash-on-hand lead, while Ramirez has since picked up the support of 4th District Rep. Chuy Garcia, who currently represents 43% of the new 3rd. The only poll we’ve seen was a recent Lake Research Partners survey for the pro-Ramirez Working Families Party that showed her leading Villegas 19-11; a mere 1% went to Iymen Chehade, a history professor at the center of an ethics probe involving Rep. Marie Newman (who is seeking re-election in the 6th District). A fourth candidate, Juan Aguirre, has attracted little attention.

ILLINOIS 6TH CD. Redistricting has led to an incumbent vs. incumbent Democratic primary between Marie Newman and Sean Casten in a seat in Chicago’s western inner suburbs that would have favored Joe Biden 55-44.

Newman’s existing 3rd District makes up 41% of this new seat while Casten’s current 6th District forms just 23%. However, Newman also faces an ethics investigation into charges she sought to keep a potential primary opponent out of the race when she ran in 2020 by offering him a job as a top aide if she won. The only poll we’ve seen was a mid-February Newman internal from Victoria Research that showed a 37-37 deadlock.

Six Republicans are also campaigning here including two mayors of small communities: Keith Pekau of Orland Park and Gary Grasso of Burr Ridge, who has the support of state House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and DuPage County Board Chair Dan Cronin.

ILLINOIS 7TH CD. Longtime Rep. Danny Davis faces a rematch against anti-gun-violence activist Kina Collins, whom he beat 60-14 in the 2020 Democratic primary for this reliably blue seat. Two other Democrats have also filed for this district, which includes Chicago’s West Side and downtown.

ILLINOIS 13TH CD. Republican Rep. Rodney Davis decided to run in the 15th District after Democratic mapmakers transformed the 13th into a seat that now stretches from East St. Louis northeast through Springfield to the college towns of Champaign and Urbana and would have backed Biden 54-43.

Three Democrats are campaigning here, but former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski quickly emerged as the clear frontrunner after raising a serious amount of money and consolidating support from Sen. Dick Durbin, much of the state’s House delegation, and several unions. The field also includes financial planner David Palmer and progressive activist Ellis Taylor, but neither of them have picked up any major endorsements yet.

Four Republicans are campaigning here with the hope that the new 13th isn’t as blue as it looks. The two main contenders seem to be former federal prosecutor Jesse Reising and activist Regan Deering, whose family ran the agribusiness giant Archer-Daniels-Midland for more than 40 years.

ILLINOIS 14TH CD. Democratic mapmakers sought to protect Rep. Lauren Underwood in this seat in Chicago’s western exurbs by augmenting Biden’s margin of victory from 50-48 to 55-43, but six Republicans are still betting she’s vulnerable. Team Red’s field includes Kendall County Board Chair Scott Gryder, former Kane County Board member Susan Starrett, and conservative radio host Michael Koolidge.  

ILLINOIS 15TH CD. Republican Reps. Rodney Davis and Mary Miller are facing off in a safely red seat in rural central Illinois, and both have powerful allies.

Donald Trump and the anti-tax Club for Growth are pulling for Miller, a far-right extremist who declared last year during her first days in office, “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.'” Davis, who has to present himself as a moderate in order to win under the previous map, has the Illinois Farm Bureau on his side, and he also ended 2021 with a huge financial edge. Miller’s current 15th District makes up 31% of this constituency, while Davis’ existing 13th forms 28%.

ILLINOIS 17TH CD. Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos announced her retirement months before her party transformed this constituency in the state’s northwest corner from a 50-48 Trump seat to one that would have favored Biden 53-45, and seven fellow Democrats are campaigning to succeed her.

Team Blue’s field consists of Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann; Rockford Alderwoman Linda McNeely; Rock Island County Board member Angie Normoyle; former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen; former state Rep. Litesa Wallace; and two others. A January survey from Public Policy Polling for 314 Action, which has since endorsed Sorensen, gave him a 13-11 edge over Wallace in a race where most respondents were undecided. Things are far clearer on the Republican side where 2020 nominee Esther Joy King, who lost to Bustos 52-48, faces just one unheralded opponent.

MICHIGAN 4TH CD. In a painful blow to state Rep. Steve Carra, Donald Trump just snatched back his rose and instead awarded it to Rep. Bill Huizenga in the multi-way GOP battle for Michigan’s revamped 4th Congressional District.In September, Trump pledged his support for Carra at a time when the legislator was challenging Rep. Fred Upton—who had voted for impeachment—in the Republican primary for what was then the 6th District. But as a result of redistricting, Upton and Huizenga got tossed together in the new 4th, though Upton still hasn’t confirmed his re-election plans. Carra, meanwhile, found himself drawn into the 5th but decided to test just how “Complete and Total” Trump’s endorsement was by running in the 4th District anyway. The answer: not very.

Carra on Tuesday ended his August Republican primary campaign against Reps. Bill Huizenga and Fred Upton, and joined Trump in supporting Huizenga’s intra-party bid against Upton, who voted to impeach Trump and still hasn’t confirmed if he’ll even be running for a 14th term.

Upton, for his part, began a $213,000 ad campaign last month that seemed to confirm he’d be running again, but his camp insisted at the time that he still hadn’t made a decision. We don’t know if Upton was just being cute or really is still making up his mind, though prolonged public deliberations from him are nothing new. Last cycle the longtime congressman kept everyone guessing about his plans even after he handed out “Upton 2020!” buttons at a September 2019 party gathering; it was only the following February that he finally said he’d be running again.

We’ll finally have our answer for 2022 before too long, though. Michigan’s filing deadline is April 19, and since House candidates need to turn in at least 1,000 valid signatures to make the primary ballot, Upton would need to get moving before then if he’s to go up against Huizenga. How long it would take for “Upton 2022!” buttons to roll off the printer, though, we can’t say.

MAINE 2ND CD. Rep. Jared Golden faces a rematch against Republican Bruce Poliquin, whom the Democrat narrowly unseated during the 2018 blue wave (Poliquin still refuses to acknowledge his defeat in that ranked-choice general election), in a northern Maine seat that Trump would have carried 52-45. The only other Republican in the primary is Liz Caruso, a longtime opponent of the Central Maine Power hydropower corridor project, but she had a mere $16,000 to spend at the end of last year; another Republican, state Rep. Mike Perkins, decided to drop out and run for the state Senate instead.

MINNESOTA 1ST CD. Filing also closed Tuesday for the special election to succeed Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died last month, in southern Minnesota’s 1st District, and a total of 10 Republicans, eight Democrats, and two third-party candidates (Haroun McClellan of the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party and Richard Reisdorf of the similarly named Legal Marijuana Now Party) are in.

The special primary will take place May 24 using the district lines that have been in place for a decade, while the general election will be Aug. 9. The filing deadline for the new two-year term will be May 31, while the statewide primary will also be on Aug. 9. Trump carried the existing 1st 54-44, while he would have taken the new version of the seat by a similar 53-44 spread.

The Republican who has attracted the most outside attention so far is Hagedorn’s widow, former state party chair Jennifer Carnahan, though she has more than her share of detractors. A wide array of figures called on Carnahan to resign as GOP chair last August after Tony Lazzaro, a close friend and party donor, was arrested on sex-trafficking charges. While she proclaimed her ignorance of the allegations, a group of former staffers quickly came forward to charge that Carnahan had “presided over a toxic workplace culture and unchecked sexual harassment”; a day later, under severe pressure, she resigned—after casting the deciding vote to give herself a $38,000 severance check. Carnahan herself was later heard saying of her husband, “I don’t care. Jim, he’s going to die of cancer in two years.”

The only two sitting elected officials on the GOP side, meanwhile, are state Reps. Jeremy Munson and Nels Pierson. Munson in 2019 was one of a group of hard-right Republicans who formed a new caucus called “New Republicans” out of their unhappiness with the party’s leadership, and he’s since made a name for himself by trying to undermine Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s public health policies; Munson has only gotten worse as the pandemic continued, and his website now calls for jailing Anthony Fauci. By contrast, Pierson has called for a “collaborative way to pass the priorities of southern Minnesota.”

Another contender to watch is former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad, who left the state House in 2009. There’s also former Freeborn County party chair Matt Benda; sales executive Ken Navitsky, who previously played football as a kicker for Minnesota State University in Mankato; Marine veteran Kevin Kocina; and biofuels plant general manager J.R. Ewing. The GOP will not hold an endorsement convention for the special election, though this sort of gathering will take place next month for the contest for the regular two-year term.

On the Democratic side, the two most prominent contenders look like Jeff Ettinger, the former CEO of the food processing giant Hormel, and Richard Painter, who served as the White House’s ethics lawyer under George W. Bush. Painter previously ran for the Senate in 2018 shortly after leaving the GOP and lost the primary to appointed incumbent Tina Smith 76-14.

MONTANA 1ST and 2ND CDs. Filing also closed Monday for Montana’s June 7 primary, and the state has its list of candidates here. Big Sky Country has regained the second congressional district it lost after the 1990 Census, and all the action this year will almost certainly be in the new 1st District, a seat in the western part of the state that would have supported Trump 52-45.

The frontrunner among the five Republicans very much looks like Ryan Zinke, who resigned as the state’s only House member in 2017 to serve as secretary of the interior. Trump endorsed Zinke’s return to Congress last summer, a development that came about two and a half years after Trump reportedly pressured him to leave the cabinet in the face of 18 federal investigations.

Zinke since then has earned bad headlines over how much more time he’s spent in Santa Barbara, California compared to his home state. Last month, federal investigators also released a report concluding that he violated federal ethics rules while in the cabinet by taking part in talks with developers about a project involving land owned by his foundation and then lying about his involvement in the negotiations. And while most of the probes into Zinke ended after investigators concluded he hadn’t committed wrongdoing or because Interior Department staffers didn’t cooperate, one matter looking into whether he lied about why he denied two tribes permission to operate a casino in Connecticut is still unresolved.

However, it remains to be seen if any of Zinke’s four intra-party foes are strong enough to take advantage of his problems. The most notable of the group appears to be former state Sen. Al Olszewski, but he finished last in both the four-way primary for Senate in 2018 and the three-way nomination fight for governor two years later.

Meanwhile, three Democrats are campaigning here, all of whom also unsuccessfully sought office in 2020. Public health expert Cora Neumann left the Senate primary when then-Gov. Steve Bullock launched his bid, while attorney Monica Tranel, who rowed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, lost a close general election for a seat on the Public Service Commission. The third contender is former state Rep. Tom Winter, who ran for the at-large U.S. House seat that year but lost the primary to 2018 nominee Kathleen Williams in a 89-11 landslide; Williams went on to lose to Republican Matt Rosendale.

Rosendale, for his part, is running in the new 2nd, a 62-35 Trump seat in the eastern portion of the state, and there’s no indication that any of his three intra-party foes are ready to give him a serious fight.

NORTH CAROLINA 13TH CD. Donald Trump has joined his one-time enemies at the Club for Growth in endorsing Bo Hines, a 26-year-old law student who previously played as a wide receiver at North Carolina State in 2014 before transferring to Yale, in the packed May primary for this competitive open seat in Raleigh’s southern suburbs.

NEW MEXICO 2ND CD. Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez earned the support of 80.4% of delegates to the New Mexico Democratic Party’s recently concluded statewide convention, earning him automatic placement on the June 7 primary ballot. A question remains, however, about the fate of the only other Democrat in the race, physician Darshan Patel, who took 19.6%—seemingly just shy of the 20% necessary for securing a ballot spot without having to collect further signatures. Patel contends that his total should be rounded up, but a party spokesperson says they’ll leave the matter up to state election officials.

NEW YORK 3RD CD. DNC member Robert Zimmerman has earned endorsements from Democratic Party chairs from two of the five counties that form the new 3rd District: Richard Schaffer, whose Suffolk County makes up about 30% of the seat, and 5th District Rep. Gregory Meeks, whose Queens County is home to another 10% of the constituency. (Meeks took over as party chair after fellow Rep. Joe Crowley stepped aside several months after his 2018 primary defeat to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.)

NEW YORK 22ND CD. The Working Families Party has endorsed attorney Josh Riley in the multi-way Democratic primary for New York’s revamped 22nd District, an open seat that Democrats made considerably bluer in redistricting.

OHIO 13TH CD. Donald Trump has endorsed attorney Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, who is running for the open 13th District that was created by the second congressional map drawn up by the GOP-dominated redistricting commission. Gilbert entered the race to take on 9th district Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur last year before the state Supreme Court threw out that first map; the state’s highest court has yet to say if these newest boundaries can be used.

OREGON 5TH CD. Moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader is spending a reported $200,000 on his first TV ad for the May Democratic primary, which features the seven-term incumbent talking about his veterinary career while surrounded by cute animals. “In Congress, I’m making a real difference for their owners too,” he says, before he talks about working to lower insulin costs and drug prices.

PENNSYLVANIA 1ST CD. Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick is defending a 52-47 Biden seat dominated by Bucks County in the Philly suburbs against Army veteran Ashley Ehasz, who was the one Democrat to file. Ehasz got some good news earlier in the week when her one intra-party foe, Navy veteran Paul Fermo, dropped out, but she’ll be in for a difficult race against an incumbent who has always run well ahead of the top of the ticket.  

PENNSYLVANIA 6TH CD. Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan very much looks like the favorite to hold a 57-42 Biden seat centered around Chester County west of Philadelphia, but the GOP is hoping to gain ground in suburban areas like this that swung hard to the left during the Trump era. Four Republicans have filed, and the most notable looks like Guy Ciarrocchi, a former Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry president who took his long-ass title out of the governor race to run here. Also in the mix is Regina Mauro, who lost a close race last year for Chester County comptroller.

PENNSYLVANIA 7TH CD. Democratic Rep. Susan Wild faces a rematch against 2020 Republican nominee Lisa Scheller, a former Lehigh County commissioner and wealthy businessman who held her to a surprisingly small 52-48 victory as Biden was taking the old 7th by a similar 52-47 margin. National Republicans quickly consolidated around Scheller’s second bid, and they got welcome news last month when the new map dropped Biden’s margin in this Lehigh Valley seat to just 50-49. Scheller’s only intra-party foe is technology consulting company owner Kevin Dellicker, who hasn’t made much of an impression so far.

PENNSYLVANIA 8TH CD. Rep. Matt Cartwright, who was the one Democrat in the state’s delegation to prevail last cycle in a Trump seat, faces a second bout against Republican Jim Bognet. The incumbent held off Bognet, who served in the Trump administration as a senior vice president for communications for the Export-Import Bank, 52-48 as Trump was winning the old 8th 52-47; the new version of this seat in the Scranton area is a little less red at 51-48 Trump. The only other Republican is Mike Marsicano, a former Hazleton mayor and ex-Democrat who took a distant fourth in Team Red’s 2020 primary.

PENNSYLVANIA 10TH CD. Republican Rep. Scott Perry, who heads the far-right Freedom Caucus, faces two Democrats in a Harrisburg-based seat that would have favored Trump 51-47. Carlisle School Board member Rick Coplen launched his bid about two weeks ago, while Harrisburg City Council member Shamaine Daniels entered the race last week. Daniels, who is originally from Venezuela, would be the first Latina to represent Pennsylvania in Congress.

PENNSYLVANIA 12TH CD. Five Democrats are competing to succeed Rep. Mike Doyle, who is retiring after 14 terms representing Pittsburgh, in a seat that would have gone for Biden 59-39.

The only elected official in the contest is state Rep. Summer Lee, a progressive who would be the first Black woman to represent the Keystone State in Congress and who also has endorsements from Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and the influential SEIU Pennsylvania State Council. Another well-connected contender is attorney Steve Irwin, a former Pennsylvania Securities Commission head who ended 2021 with the most cash-on-hand.

There’s also law professor Jerry Dickinson, who challenged Doyle in the 2020 primary and lost 67-33. Doyle, like Lee, is a Black progressive, and it’s possible the two will be competing for the same groups of voters. Two other Democrats are in as well, but they haven’t generated much attention yet. The winner will take on Mike Doyle―that is, the Republican president of the Plum Borough Council who shares a name with the departing Democratic incumbent. 

Edgewood Borough Council member Bhavini Patel has abandoned her campaign for the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania’s 12th District, a safely blue seat in the Pittsburgh area that’s the successor to the old 18th. Several other Democrats are still running for this district, which is open because longtime Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle is retiring.

PENNSYLVANIA 17TH CD. Tuesday’s filing deadline in Pennsylvania finally brought clarity to both parties’ May 17 primaries to succeed Democratic Senate candidate Conor Lamb in the 17th District, a constituency in Pittsburgh’s western and northern suburbs that Joe Biden would have carried 52-46. Lamb captured a far more conservative version of this seat in a 2018 special election, and he benefited when the state Supreme Court implemented a new map that cycle to replace the earlier GOP gerrymander.

Altogether two Democrats and three Republicans are competing ahead of what will likely be a fiercely contested general election. This race was slow to develop in part because politicos suspected that Lamb’s existing seat could be eliminated, or at least radically transformed, when redistricting was complete, but the state Supreme Court last month chose a map that made only small changes to the 17th.

The Democratic side is a duel between Navy veteran Chris Deluzio, who works as policy director at the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, and Sean Meloy, a party operative and official at the LGBTQ Victory Fund who would be the first gay person to represent the state in Congress. Both candidates began running last year well before anyone knew what this seat would look like, and Deluzio finished 2021 with a $166,000 to $113,000 cash-on-hand lead. Meloy on Wednesday, though, unveiled an endorsement from 18th District Rep. Mike Doyle, who is retiring after 28 years representing the city of Pittsburgh.

The Republican contest, meanwhile, is a battle between Jason Killmeyer, a national security analyst who often appears in conservative media; former Ross Township Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer; and business owner Kathleen Coder. Another Republican, businesswoman Tricia Staible, had announced in October but didn’t end up filing, while Allegheny County Council member Sam DeMarco ended his campaign just prior to the deadline after only a week in the race. None of the three Republicans who ultimately filed were campaigning before 2021.

Both Shaffer and Coder have run for office before, though their last bids did not go well. In 2018, Shaffer unseated state Sen. Randy Vulakovich in the GOP primary but cost his party dearly when he narrowly lost the general election to Democrat Lindsey Williams. Coder, for her part, unsuccessfully challenged Democratic state Rep. Robert Matzie in 2012 and lost 56-44. She then campaigned for lieutenant governor in 2018, but Jeff Bartos lapped her 47-22 in the primary.

Further down below we’ll be taking a look at Pennsylvania’s other notable statewide and U.S. House races now that filing has closed. Note that Tuesday’s deadline did not apply to candidates for the legislature because of litigation over the new maps. On Wednesday, though, the state Supreme Court affirmed that those boundaries were constitutional and set the legislative filing deadline for March 28.

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

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