The Political Report – 5/15/22

A new FDU Poll finds just 38% of Americans approve of the job Joe Biden is doing as President, which is largely due to the belief that presidents have a lot of influence over things that they actually have very little control over. 

“Political scientists refer to the belief that presidents could do more if they just tried as ‘Green Lanternism,’ referring to the DC Comics superhero whose power is limited only by his willpower, and it has become a major obstacle for Biden and Democrats going toward the 2022 midterm elections.”  

Said pollster Dan Cassino: “Americans want someone to fix things. The president is someone, so they want him to fix things. The problem is that there just isn’t a lot that any president can actually do about most of these issues.”

COLORADO 8TH CD and NEBRASKA 2ND CD. The DCCC has added Colorado state Rep. Yadira Caraveo and Nebraska state Sen. Tony Vargas to its Red to Blue program, which is the DCCC’s top-tier list of races where it plans to be heavily involved this cycle. Caraveo is the sole Democrat running for Colorado’s new and open 8th District north of Denver, while Vargas just won the nomination to take on GOP Rep. Don Bacon in the Omaha-based 2nd District; both districts backed Biden by modest margins.

FLORIDA 13TH CD. Democratic state Rep. Ben Diamond has ended his campaign for the 13th District, citing the gerrymander that Republicans recently enacted as making it prohibitively difficult to win by turning this Democratic-held open seat from one that Biden won by 51-47 into a district that Trump would have carried 53-46. Diamond indicated that he “fully intend[s]” to run again, should ongoing litigation block the map and lead to fairer districts once more for 2024, though that outcome is by no means guaranteed.

FLORIDA 15TH CD. Republican Laurel Lee has resigned her position as secretary of state just as Florida Politics reports that she could kick off a campaign as soon as Friday for the new 15th District, an open seat in the northeastern Tampa area that Trump won by 51-48, though there’s no direct word from Lee herself yet. Florida Politics notes that Lee’s husband, state Sen. Tom Lee, has been rumored to be looking at running but obviously won’t if his wife runs instead. The site also relayed that state Sen. Kelli Stargel is reportedly considering joining the crowded GOP primary, which already includes several notable contenders.

FLORIDA 27TH CD and FLORIDA GOVERNOR. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins has reversed course and dropped out of the Democratic primary roughly a week after she launched her campaign. Higgins said she reached her decision after hearing from an unnamed source that state Sen. Annette Taddeo intended to switch from running for governor, where she has lagged in distant third in the polls and in fundraising for the Democratic nomination, to running for the House. Higgins indicated she would instead support Taddeo and remain on the county commission rather than resign her seat to run for Congress as would eventually be required under state law.

However, Taddeo’s spokesperson rejected the notion that his boss was poised to switch races, though it won’t be too long before we know for sure if there’s any truth to the rumor, since Florida’s filing deadline is just over a month away on June 17. For now, though, Higgins’ departure leaves Miami Commissioner Ken Russell as the sole notable Democrat running to challenge GOP Rep. María Elvira Salazar.

NORTH CAROLINA 11TH CD. Sen. Thom Tillis’ allies at Results for NC are, for the first time, running a commercial promoting state Sen. Chuck Edwards, though they also get in some requisite digs at freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn ahead of next week’s GOP primary. Edwards is the only one of the seven challengers who has benefited from outside support and major endorsements, though he’ll still have a tough task consolidating enough of the anti-Cawthorn vote to pull ahead on Tuesday. (A runoff would only take place if no one takes at least 30% of the vote.)

The PAC also is airing an all-negative commercial that labels the incumbent a “playboy politician.”

Results for NC has thrown down an additional $526,000 against freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn ahead of Tuesday’s Republican primary, which brings its total investment up to $1.45 million.

NEW YORK 23RD CD SPECIAL ELECTION. We know a few things about the as-yet-unscheduled special election in the works for New York’s 23rd Congressional District thanks to Republican Rep. Tom Reed’s resignation earlier this week: It’ll take place under the old district lines, under which Donald Trump prevailed by a 55-43 margin, and, as per state law, party leaders, not primary voters, will pick nominees. What we don’t know, however, is what the state’s new congressional map will look like. As a result, would-be candidates can’t know whether they’d have a plausible district to run in for a full term in the regular November elections, or if they’d end up running to serve just a few months in an “orphaned” district—which is what happened in California’s vacant 22nd District.

We do have a few names of potential candidates, though, courtesy of the Buffalo News’ Robert McCarthy. For Republicans, the list includes former state Sen. Cathy Young, who is reportedly considering a bid, as well as Steuben County GOP chair Joe Sempolinski and state Sen. George Borrello. All had weighed running for the version of the 23rd that was struck down by the state courts (along with the entire map) last month but chose to defer to Rep. Claudia Tenney, who’d planned to switch districts. Meanwhile, McCarthy says that Air Force veteran Max Della Pia is “expected” to be the Democrats’ nominee.

TEXAS 15TH CD. With just over two weeks to go before the Democratic runoff in Texas’ 15th Congressional District, Democratic Majority for Israel has now spent another $192,000 to boost Army veteran Ruben Ramirez over businesswoman Michelle Vallejo, on top of the $300,000 it had previously shelled out as of last week. Ramirez has portrayed himself as the more moderate option in the primary for this heavily Latino district in South Texas, which Republicans gerrymandered into a 51-48 Trump seat as compared to the 50-49 margin it gave Biden in its prior configuration.

TEXAS 28TH CD. Mainstream Democrats, a new super PAC founded by Democratic megadonor Reid Hoffman, is airing a deceptive new TV ad that tries to portray Rep. Henry Cuellar as a supporter of abortion rights when he’s anything but. As a narrator declares, “[W]ith women’s rights under attack from extremists, Democrat Henry Cuellar has made it clear that he opposes a ban on abortion,” the spot cites a recent U.S. News article on the screen.

It’s very much worth digging into that citation, which offers the full context for Cuellar’s claims. In a statement he issued after the leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, Cuellar said, “As a lifelong Catholic, I have always been pro-life. As a Catholic, I do not support abortion, however, we cannot have an outright ban. There must be exceptions in the case of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.”

Cuellar has in fact long supported abortion bans. In 2017, he voted in favor of a Republican bill called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would have banned abortion nationwide after 20 weeks—which he also voted for in 2015In 2012 and again in 2013, he voted for the same sort of ban as well, except this time he sought to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks solely in the District of Columbia—an abuse of Congress’ power to regulate the city frequently deployed in the service of the GOP’s pet projects.

And as a practical matter, Cuellar does support banning abortion altogether, even without any exceptions, because he was the lone House Democrat to vote against codifying Roe into law last year. By opposing such protections, Cuellar and his fellow travelers will ensure that many states, including his home state of Texas, are able to implement total bans on abortion the moment the Supreme Court issues its final ruling.

It’s not yet clear how much Cuellar’s allies are putting behind this ad, but Mainstream Democrats recently reported spending $178,000 on direct mail to help the congressman.

ALASKA AT LARGE CD. Alaska Survey Research, which is run by former Democratic consultant Ivan Moore, has released a survey of the 48-way top-four primary on June 11, which will determine which four contenders will compete in the August instant-runoff general election:

  • Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R): 19
  • Businessman Nick Begich III (R): 16
  • Physician Al Gross (I): 13
  • North Pole City Council member Santa Claus (I): 6
  • former state Rep. Mary Peltola (D): 5
  • Anchorage Assembly member Chris Constant (D): 5
  • former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney (R): 4
  • state Sen. Josh Revak (R): 4
  • former oil executive Jeff Lowenfels (I): 3
  • state Rep. Adam Wool (D): 2
  • former state Rep. Andrew Halcro (I): 2
  • former state Sen. John Coghill (R): 2
  • Others: 4
  • Undecided: 16

Claus, who is narrowly taking that crucial fourth place spot, is a self-described “independent, progressive, democratic socialist” who previously had his name changed from Thomas O’Connor.

The firm also tested several August scenarios, but it did not provide undecided as an option.

Businessman Nick Begich III has released his first TV ad ahead of the all-party special election primary on June 11, which features Begich criticizing Joe Biden and bemoaning how “so many politicians quit when we need them,” the latter line being a thinly veiled attack on former Gov. Sarah Palin, who like Begich is also a Republican.

FLORIDA 20TH CD. Former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, a Democrat who finished in third with 18% in last November’s special election primary for the current version of this safely blue seat, has endorsed Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick ahead of the August primary for the newly redrawn version of the district. Cherfilus-McCormick faces a rematch with another former Broward County commissioner, Dale Holness, who lost by just five votes to the now-congresswoman in last fall’s special election primary.

MARYLAND 4TH CD. SEIU Local 500 and 1199SEIU, which the Washington Post calls “two significant Maryland labor unions made up of health-care workers and educators,” have endorsed former Rep. Donna Edwards ahead of the July Democratic primary, where Edwards faces former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey and former state Del. Angela Angel. The Post also notes that 1199SEIU had previously opposed Edwards in her 2016 Senate primary and 2018 race for Prince George’s County executive.

NORTH CAROLINA 1ST CD. The Congressional Leadership Fund has launched a commercial against 2020 nominee Sandy Smith ahead of Tuesday’s GOP primary, which makes this the very first time that the group has gone negative on a fellow Republican. Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin puts the size of the buy at $584,000.

CLF, which has close ties to GOP leaders in the House, hasn’t said why it’s taking such extraordinary action to end Smith’s newest campaign for this Democratic-held seat. However, Rubashkin notes that its offensive comes after another Republican, Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson, “dropped a massive oppo file very publicly that alleged all sorts of impropriety, including domestic violence and financial malfeasance.” CLF hasn’t expressed a preference for Roberson or for any of Smith’s other six foes.

As for the ad, CLF’s narrator begins by demonizing undocumented immigrants before saying, “But politicians like Sandy Smith would reward them with amnesty. Maybe because Sandy Smith repeatedly breaks rules herself.” The spot goes on to claim Smith “won’t follow ethics rules by disclosing her financial interests … And Sandy Smith went bankrupt, owing creditors thousands, then failed to pay her taxes on time.”

A new poll of Tuesday’s Democratic primary for North Carolina’s open 1st District conducted by GQR for state Sen. Don Davis finds him leading former state Sen. Erica Smith 44-31, with 22% of voters undecided and 3% expressing support for another candidate (though none were named in the questionnaire).

Davis also continues to be the beneficiary of heavy outside spending by his allies: The United Democracy Project, a super PAC run by AIPAC, just poured in another $650,000 on advertising, bringing its total expenditures to $2.3 million. The Democratic Majority for Israel, meanwhile, has spent $467,000 on Davis’ behalf. Smith, by contrast, has gotten $387,000 in aid from two groups, J Street and the Working Families Party. In addition, according to pre-primary FEC reports, Davis’ campaign outspent Smith’s during the month of April $251,000 to $52,000.

ILLINOIS 15TH CD. GOP Rep. Rodney Davis has unveiled what appears to be the first negative ad ahead of the June 28 member-on-member primary against fellow Rep. Mary Miller. Davis’ spot features an Army veteran berating Miller for having “voted with the squad to defund our military,” referencing Miller’s vote last December against the National Defense Authorization Act for 2022, and he goes on to praise Davis for supporting the military and veterans.

NEBRASKA 2ND CD. Democrat Tony Vargas’ allies at 314 Action are out with a Change Research survey conducted in the days leading up to his primary win, and it shows Vargas edging out Republican incumbent Don Bacon 42-39.

OREGON 6TH CD. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ CHC BOLD PAC is spending an additional $501,000 to promote state Rep. Andrea Salinas in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, which brings its total to $1.47 million. That’s far below the more than $12 million that economic development adviser Carrick Flynn has received in outside support, but it still helps Salinas’ side get their message out in the crowded contest.  

LOS ANGELES MAYOR. City Councilman Joe Buscaino announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the June 7 nonpartisan primary and endorsing billionaire developer Rick Caruso.

GEORGIA ATTORNEY GENERAL. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a new dark money group called Georgians for Honesty in Government is spending $460,000 promoting Trump-backed Big Lie proponent John Gordon’s campaign to beat Attorney General Chris Carr in the May 24 GOP primary, with most of this money going to ads. The offensive comes a few weeks after an affiliate of the Republican Attorneys General Association launched a $400,000 TV and radio campaign to support Carr.  

TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL. State attorney General Ken Paxton is using his first ad for the May 24 Republican runoff to bash opponent George P. Bush over his attempts to renovate the Alamo, an effort that stirred up a right-wing nativist backlash. “Even in Texas, liberal Land Commissioner George P. Bush proposed a woke plan to ‘reimagine the Alamo,'” warns the narrator. He continues by claiming Bush “demanded that the monument honoring the Texas heroes that died there be moved” and imploring the viewer to reject him in order to “protect our Texas heritage.”

Defend Liberty, a group that supports Attorney General Ken Paxton, has publicized a poll from CWS Research that shows him beating Land Commissioner George P. Bush 58-31 in the May 24 Republican runoff.

Bush, for his part, is running a commercial where he tries to turn the focus onto the many scandals dogging the incumbent. The land commissioner, who is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the nephew of George W. Bush, tells the audience, “I’m George P. Bush and I’m proud of my family’s contributions to Texas and America. But this race isn’t about my last name. It’s about Ken Paxton’s crimes.”

COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE. A state judge on Tuesday forbade Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, a far-right favorite who is seeking the Republican nomination to face Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, from administering her county’s 2022 elections.

Griswold successfully prevented Peters from overseeing last year’s contests, and she sought the same sanction even before the Republican was indicted in March on felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly breaching the county’s election systems during her attempt to demonstrate fraud in 2020. The judge ruled this week that the secretary of state convincingly demonstrated that Peters and a top aide “have committed a neglect of duty and are unable to perform the duties of the Mesa County Designated Election Official.”

While GOP leaders called for Peters to drop out two months ago, the clerk not only remained in the contest, she even decisively won the April GOP convention. Peters still faces former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson and economic development specialist Mike O’Donnell in the June 28 primary: Anderson is the only member of this trio who acknowledges that Biden won the 2020 election.

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

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