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The Political Report – 5/6/22

Sixteen months after the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Capitol, a slight majority of Americans, 52% to 42%, say former president Donald Trump should be charged with a crime for urging his supporters to march to the building on Jan. 6, 2021.

The attack came after Trump spoke at the Ellipse, where he urged supporters to “fight like hell” and march to the Capitol.

A new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll in Massachusetts finds President Biden’s approval rate at just 46% — even though he won the state in the 2020 presidential election by 33 percentage points.

“Biden’s troubles run across several demographics. He struggled the most with voters 35 or younger, with just 37% of them approving of him. And while nearly all Republicans, unsurprisingly, say they disapprove of his job performance, more than half of unenrolled voters — Massachusetts’ largest voting bloc — said they also hold a dim view: Just 39% say they approve, compared to 52% who don’t.”

2024. “President Biden has said he intends to run for reelection in 2024,” Politico  reports. “If he doesn’t, however, Vice President Kamala Harris is best positioned to take the party’s mantle.”

“That’s not just because she’s currently first in line for the presidency. It’s because — despite a first year with bad headlines and some unforced errors — she has amassed a significant early lead among Black voters who have been the decisive constituency in the 2008, 2016, and 2020 Democratic nomination fights.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) told Axios that he envisions a 2024 presidential primary field with 15 or more Republicans — not necessarily including former President Trump — scrambling for Trump’s base, while “I want to go in a completely different direction, and I think that lane is wide open.”

Wall Street Journal: Hogan says backing Trump again would be the “definition of insanity.”

Politico: “The best case for a Republican presidential candidate not attached at the hip to Trump in 2024 is that Trump doesn’t run, and that a massive field of Trumps-in-waiting cannibalize one another, leaving a lane open for a more traditionalist Republican.”

“That scenario got its first real test in Ohio on Tuesday, and for the establishment, the results weren’t promising.”

Former DNC chairman Howard Dean told MSNBC that he hopes Donald Trump is the Republican nominee in the 2024 presidential election.  Said Dean: “He is incredibly divisive, he exhausts people, he’s in deep criminal trouble and it’s going to take a long time apparently before that gets sorted out.”  He added: “I also think his brand is wrecked.”

“I don’t delude myself into thinking I have a big swath of the Republican Party. It’s hard to imagine anything that would derail his support. So if he wants to become the nominee in ‘24, I think he’s very likely to achieve that.”  — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), quoted by Politico, on Donald Trump running for president again.

Politico: “The current president has had repeated conversations with allies that he would need to run again to prevent Trump from reclaiming the Oval Office. Like he did in 2020, Biden views Trump as an existential threat to American democracy. And like he did in 2020, Biden thinks he’s the only one who can beat him. He plans to more aggressively target Trump as the midterm season approaches — both as a means of turning around his party’s standing for the midterms but also to set up a contrast for the future…”

Said Democratic strategist Paul Begala: “Everything is frozen until after the midterms. I expect Biden to run, I hope he runs. And I think if there is a credible primary challenger against Biden there is almost a certain Trump victory.”

Associated Press: “As the most competitive phase of the midterm primary season unfolds this week, many candidates for leading offices — often Republicans — are abandoning the time-honored tradition of debating their rivals before Election Day.”

“For some gaffe-prone candidates such as Walker, avoiding the debate stage reduces the chance of an embarrassing moment. For others, it’s an opportunity to snub a media ecosystem they find elitist and cast themselves in the mold of former President Donald Trump, who made a show of missing some debates during the 2016 campaign.”

Idaho Secretary of State candidate Mary Souza (R) said she would not support increasing voter turnout if elected to the state’s top elections role, the Idaho Press reports.

Said Souza: “I have a different look at that. I do not think that it is the secretary of state’s or even the county clerk’s role to increase turnout for any one party or even turnout in general. That is the role of the partisan groups, the special interest groups, people who are very supportive of a candidate or a ballot measure. That’s what they are supposed to be doing.”

NORTH CAROLINA 11TH CD. It’s impossible to fit every article of freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s dirty laundry into one 30-second commercial, but Sen. Thom Tillis’ allies at Results for NC do the best they can in their newest spot for the May 17 GOP primary. The ad features footage of Cawthorn being pulled over by the cops; shows a senior staffer placing his hand on the congressman’s crotch; and displays the incumbent posing in women’s lingerie as the narrator says, “Always in the limelight. Now, Madison Cawthorn’s starring in Putin’s state-owned TV.”

After hitting the incumbent for allowing himself to be “used to defend Putin’s war crimes” and voting “against banning the Russian oil funding Putin’s terror,” the narrator accuses Cawthorn of wanting to cut “veterans’ benefits by $80 billion.” The group has spent almost $950,000 with less than two weeks to go.

A poll commissioned by a national Republican organization shows Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s (R-NC) lead in the eight-way GOP primary “has dropped markedly following coverage of his controversies and missteps,” the Asheville Citizen Times reports. Nonetheless, Cawthorn still leads his nearest challenger, Chuck Edwards (R), 38% to 21%. Cawthorn led 49% to 14% in the March poll.

OREGON 5TH CD. Center Forward, a super PAC that’s funded by the pharmaceutical industry, has deployed another $650,000 opposing attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner ahead of her May 17 Democratic primary against incumbent Kurt Schrader, which brings its total spending here to just over $1 million.

Journalists at Sludge report that Mainstream Democrats PAC, a new group with the stated purpose of thwarting “far-left organizations” that want to take over the Democratic Party, will spend $800,000 in ads to help moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader fend off attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the May 17 primary.

The first spot from the super PAC, which is funded in part by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, uses footage of the Jan. 6 attack and warnings about Team Blue’s prospects in the midterms to argue, “We need proven leaders who can beat Trump Republicans.” The narrator goes on to declare that McLeod-Skinner, who lost both the 2018 general election for the safely red 2nd District and 2020 primary for secretary of state, “just can’t do it,” while Schrader “beats every Republican every time.” The commercial continues by arguing that the incumbent shares “our Democratic values” and reminding the audience that he’s President Joe Biden’s endorsed candidate.

Texas Democratic House candidate Jessica Cisneros (D) is demanding her party’s congressional leaders drop their support of her primary opponent, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D), over his opposition to abortion, NBC News reports.

OHIO 9TH CD. Tuesday’s night’s biggest surprise came in Ohio’s newly gerrymandered 9th Congressional District, when J.R. Majewski, a QAnon-aligned activist who attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, defeated two Republican state legislators to win the nod to take on 20-term Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Majewski edged out state Rep. Craig Riedel 36-31, with state Sen. Theresa Gavarone taking third with 29%, and will now face Kaptur in a Toledo area constituency that would have supported Trump 51-48—a massive shift from Biden’s 59-40 victory in her current district.

Majewski, who previously served in the Air Force, made news in 2020 when he used paint to transform his yard into a giant “Trump 2020” banner, a move that Trump himself praised on Twitter. Majewski soon appeared decked out in a QAnon shirt in an interview with Fox News, and he also showed up on a QAnon livestream sporting related garb. In that appearance, writes the Daily Beast’s Will Sommer, Majewski identified himself as a supporter of the conspiracy cult and said, “I wear this shirt with pride.”

Following Trump’s defeat, Majewski bragged that he was helping bring people to the Jan. 6 rally. That day, he also appeared with a QAnon promoter named Zak Paine, who posted a video with Majewski in which Paine says they’d made it “all the way to the base of the Capitol building” after violence broke out.

When he launched his bid for Congress in the spring of last year, Majewski told the Toledo Blade that he hadn’t fully understood what QAnon was. However, Sommer reports, Majewski has continued to associate with Paine: In February, Majewski told Paine that he was willing to fight Democrats in a “civil war” (as Sommer put it) and even invited Paine to host a November victory party for him less than two weeks ago.

Until Tuesday night, though, Majewski’s prospects of even making it to the general election seemed remote. Riedel and Gavarone each enjoyed considerably deeper networks as sitting elected officials, and they made use of them. Riedel ran commercials touting his support from Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, including one in which he pledged to join Jordan’s Freedom Caucus. Gavarone, who is closer to GOP leadership, sported a notable endorsement of her own from 5th District Rep. Bob Latta, who currently represents just over half the revamped 9th.

However, Majewski proved to be a tougher opponent than either official likely realized. The candidate ultimately raised and self-funded just over $250,000 through late April, which was actually slightly more than the amount Gavarone brought in. (Riedel took in a little more than $435,000, with a large portion of that self-funded.) And while Majewski, unlike his two foes, doesn’t appear to have run TV commercials, he did still generate attention with an online video in which he told his audience he’d “do whatever it takes to return this country back to its former glory” just before cocking a rifle. (After his win, another video surfaced of him in a “Let’s Go Brandon” rap video. We’ve warned you.)

Majewski also benefited from outside support from Drain the DC Swamp, a PAC that spent close to $400,000, mostly on mail and radio ads promoting him and bashing the two state lawmakers. Trump himself gave Majewski a shoutout at a late April rally for Senate candidate J.D. Vance, saying, “We love you, J.R.” (Given Trump’s difficulty in remembering the initials of Ohio Republicans, though, it’s always possible this was just a happy accident.)

Majewski will now go up against Kaptur, who is the longest-serving woman in the history of the House, for a seat that Republicans engineered to try to win for themselves. The congresswoman, though, is hoping that her deep ties to the Toledo area will help her win over enough conservatives to hold on. Even Majewski, when he launched his campaign, acknowledged, “My grandparents supported Marcy Kaptur. My grandmother adored Marcy Kaptur and so did my great-grandmother. They adored her.”

“The Iowa Democratic Party is promising to rework its caucuses as party leaders begin a formal application process that will determine whether it can continue holding an early presidential nominating contest,” the Des Moines Register reports.

INDIANA 1ST CD. Air Force veteran Jennifer-Ruth Green earned the Republican nomination to face freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan by beating former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo 47-23. Milo looked like the clear frontrunner when she entered the race in January but Green, who would be the first African American Republican to represent Indiana in Congress, ran to her right and portrayed the former mayor as a “never Trump liberal.” Biden would have carried this northwestern Indiana seat, which only changed minimally in redistricting, 53-45.

INDIANA 9TH CD. Former state Sen. Erin Houchin defeated former Rep. Mike Sodrel 37-26 in the primary to succeed their fellow Republican, retiring incumbent Trey Hollingsworth, in this dark-red constituency in south-central Indiana. Houchin lost to Hollingsworth six years ago, while Sodrel was waging his third campaign to return to Congress (and his sixth overall) following his 2006 defeat after just one term.

OHIO 13TH CD. Attorney Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, who has Donald Trump’s endorsement, earned the Republican nod for this open seat by defeating  underfunded opponent Gregory Wheeler by a 29-23 margin. Gilbert will be going up against Democratic state Rep. Emilia Sykes, who had no primary opposition, in what will likely be one of the fall’s most competitive House races: This seat in the southern suburbs of Akron and Cleveland, which is a radically reconfigured mashup of five old districts, would have supported Biden by a close 51-48.

FLORIDA 14TH and 15TH CD. Jay Collins, who lost a leg as a combat medic in Afghanistan, announced Tuesday that he would seek the Republican nomination for the new and open 15th District. Collins had been running against Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor in the neighboring 14th District, which remains safely blue turf under the GOP’s new gerrymander, and he ended March with $339,000 on hand that he can use for his new campaign.

On the Democratic side, Alan Cohn, who was the party’s 2020 nominee against now-Rep. Scott Franklin in the old 15th, says he’s also “seriously considering” running for the open seat. (Franklin himself is running for the renumbered 18th District.)

NEW YORK LT. GOVERNOR and 19TH CD. Gov. Kathy Hochul named Rep. Antonio Delgado as her new lieutenant governor on Tuesday, the day after state legislators passed a new law at Hochul’s behest allowing former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin’s name to be removed from the ballot following his resignation last month.

The legislation also allowed a seven-member committee of Democratic leaders to swap Delgado in for Benjamin, who prior to the new law’s enactment could only have been taken off the ballot had he died, moved to another state, or been nominated for another office; now, anyone charged with a crime can be removed as well.

Delgado, a moderate representing the swingy 19th District in Upstate’s Hudson Valley, was facing a difficult re-election campaign that was likely about to get more so: While his fellow Democrats had sought to make his seat bluer in redistricting, that map was recently thrown out by the state’s highest court, so the next iteration of the 19th—which will be drawn by an independent expert—could well be tougher.

But Delgado’s new path is still fraught. In New York, candidates run in separate primaries for governor and lieutenant governor, with the winners merged onto a single ticket on the November ballot. That system typically prompts pairs of candidates to forge alliances in the hopes of avoiding an unwelcome “shotgun wedding” for the general election, but even if Hochul defeats her two opponents on June 28 (as all polls have indicated she will), there’s no guarantee Delgado will do the same.

In fact, after Benjamin’s arrest on bribery charges, a number of progressive leaders had rallied around activist Ana Maria Archila, who’s allied with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. (The only other alternative, former New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna, is running alongside Rep. Tom Suozzi, who’s positioned himself well to Hochul’s right.)

Delgado will benefit from Hochul’s powerful perch and massive war chest, but he may be hurt by accusations that the governor sought to change the rules mid-stream in order to benefit herself—a concern that led a sizable number of Democratic senators to oppose the bill in a rare show of dissent.

And no one knows better that being linked with a powerful, deep-pocketed governor is no guarantee of victory than Hochul herself. In 2018, on the same day that then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo romped to an easy 66-34 victory over actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, Hochul only narrowly defeated the little-known Williams, at the time a member of the City Council, by just a 53-47 margin.

Once Delgado is sworn in to his new post—no legislative confirmation is required—Hochul will have 10 days to call a special election under a law passed last year requiring such elections be held in a much timelier manner than they had been in the past. (Cuomo had been notorious for repeatedly dragging his feet on calling specials when it didn’t suit him to do so, thanks to a huge gap in state law that gave him wide discretion.) The election must then be held within 70 to 80 days.

While redistricting is still up in the air, the special will take place under the old lines. Recent trends had been favorable for Democrats in the 19th: Joe Biden flipped the district in 2020, carrying it by a slender 50-48 margin four years after Donald Trump won it 51-44; Delgado, meanwhile, unseated one-term Republican Rep. John Faso 51-46 in 2018 and then defeated an unheralded GOP foe 54-43 two years later.

In New York, local party committees, rather than primary voters, pick nominees for special elections, but there isn’t much suspense as to whom Republicans will choose. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has been running for the 19th since September without any serious intra-party opposition, and he quickly confirmed he would campaign in this summer’s contest.

Things are far more uncertain on the Democratic side, though a couple of names have already surfaced. Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, who took second place to Delgado in the 2018 primary, said he was considering, while an unnamed source told the New York Times that state Sen. Michelle Hinchey is looking at the contest as well. Hinchey is the daughter of the late Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who represented a sizable portion of this district from 1993 to 2013.

SOUTH CAROLINA 1ST CD. Republican Rep. Nancy Mace’s newest commercial stars former Gov. Nikki Haley, who is arguably her most prominent supporter, praising the congresswoman’s conservative credentials and taking a not very subtle shot at primary rival Katie Arrington. “She won this seat from a liberal Democrat,” Haley tells the audience of Mace, “and she’ll keep it Republican.”

TEXAS 28TH CD. AIPAC’s United Democracy Project is spending another $416,000 against attorney Jessica Cisneros ahead of her May 24 Democratic primary runoff against conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar, which brings its total to nearly $750,000.

TENNESSEE 5TH CD. Music video producer Robby Starbuck has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state GOP’s decision to keep him off the August primary ballot for failing to meet the party’s definition of a “bona fide” Republican. Starbuck, who moved to the state three years ago, was rejected because he had not voted in three of the last four statewide primaries, which his suit dubbed an unconstitutional “camouflaged residency requirement.”

Former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, who was Trump’s endorsed candidate, also failed to pass the bona fide test for the same reasons, but she says she will not challenge the decision. Businessman Baxter Lee, the third candidate kicked off the ballot, does not appear to have said what he’ll do. It may not matter, though, as NBC notes that “courts, including those in Tennessee, have given broad deference to political parties in such disputes” as this one.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR 2024. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to be “primaried” next cycle.  Said Ocasio-Cortez: “We could protect Roe tomorrow, but Sinema refuses to act on the filibuster. Until that changes she can take a seat talking about ‘women’s access to health care…’ She should be primaried.”

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

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