The Political Report – 6/11/22

A new Politico/Morning Consult poll finds President Biden’s approval rate at 39% to 58%, the lowest recorded during his presidency.

Key takeaway: “Biden’s popularity, or lack thereof, mirrors Donald Trump’s standing in June 2020, when the nation was grappling with the twin crises of the pandemic and the response to the murder of George Floyd.”

Most Americans expect inflation to get worse in the next year and are adjusting their spending habits in response to rising prices, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll.

A new Siena poll finds just 29% of New York City adults think Mayor Eric Adams (D) is doing an excellent or good job as mayor, while 64% say he’s doing only a fair or poor job.

Key finding: “Seventy percent of New Yorkers say they feel less safe in the City today than before the pandemic, compared to 25% who feel about as safe as before the pandemic and only 3% who feel safer, and 76% said they are very (38%) or somewhat (38%) concerned that they will be a victim of violent crime.”

A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds a majority of U.S. adults say it’s more important to control gun violence than to protect gun rights, 59% to 35%.

Interestingly, 56% of gun owners also say it is more important to curb gun violence than protect gun rights.

ALASKA AT LARGE CD SPECIAL ELECTION. FiveThirtyEight: “This Saturday is technically election day for the first round of the special election, which is being held to replace legendary former Rep. Don Young, the longest-serving Republican in House history who passed away on March 18. But because the election is being conducted predominantly by mail and ballots don’t need to be received until June 21, we won’t know which candidates have advanced to the second round until later in the month.”

“And, of course, we won’t know who actually wins the seat until after the general election date of Aug. 16.”

Most of the 48 candidates running in Saturday’s special top-four primary to succeed the late GOP Rep. Don Young filed to seek the full two-year term, but a few notable contenders decided to only compete in the special.

Both former state Rep. Andrew Halcro, who is a Republican-turned-independent, and Emil Notti, a Democrat who narrowly lost to Young in 1973, pledged to only run for the remainder of Young’s term, and they kept that promise by not filing on June 1. North Pole City Council member Santa Claus, a self-described “independent, progressive, democratic socialist” who previously had his name changed from Thomas O’Connor, also will not be continuing on.

Altogether, 31 candidates are campaigning for a seat in the next Congress. The regular top-four primary will take place Aug. 16, which is the same day as the special general election for the final months of Young’s term.

Polling is scarce heading into Saturday’s special top-four primary, which will mark the first time that this system of voting has ever been used in an American election, but the outside spending has overwhelmingly benefited just one of the 48 candidates. Alaskans for TARA, a super PAC set up by the leaders of the ANCSA Regional Association to support former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney (the name officially stands for True Alaska Representation Alliance), has dropped a total of just over $430,000 here. The only other organization to hit the six-figure mark is Americans for Prosperity Action, which supports GOP businessman Nick Begich III.

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. The volatile Republican primary took another astounding turn on Thursday when the FBI arrested Allendale Township planning commissioner Ryan Kelley on misdemeanor charges related to his role in the Jan. 6 riot. Kelley, a previously obscure candidate who posted a lead in the only poll we’ve seen since state officials disqualified two major candidates last month, was released on bond hours later and posted on Facebook that he was a “political prisoner.” If convicted, the candidate faces up to a year in federal prison.

Kelley gained prominence organizing rallies protesting COVID-19 restrictions and calling for the arrest of Democratic officials such as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, rallies that regularly included far-right paramilitary groups in attendance with Kelley’s support. However, his true moment of infamy came on Jan. 6 when, according to the FBI’s criminal complaint, he “gesture[d] to the crowd, consistently indicating that they should move towards the stairs that led to the entrance of the U.S. Capitol interior spaces.” The person identified as Kelley, continues the FBI, later was recorded using “their thumb to motion towards the doors to the interior of the U.S. Capitol Building.”

Two of Kelley’s leading primary rivals responded to his arrest by defending him. “I respect Ryan Kelley and have met him out on the trail,” said wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke, adding, “My hope is that the FBI is acting appropriately, because the timing here raises serious questions.” Chiropractor Garrett Soldano also closed ranks, arguing, “It’s a sad day in America when the FBI has become an arm of the Democrat Party. Biden’s FBI is busy targeting parents and intimidating Republicans while crime runs rampant across America.” Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon, who is also seeking the GOP nod in August, did not comment on the news in the hours immediately following Kelley’s arrest.

Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson said Wednesday that, while he was “still hopeful” he’d succeed in his federal lawsuit to get on the August Republican primary ballot, he would “consider a write-in campaign” if he gets rejected in court. Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who was disqualified along with Johnson over fraudulent voter petition signatures, has also expressed interest in campaigning as a write-in.

NEW YORK 27TH CD. House candidate Carl Paladino (R-NY) had quite a bit of explaining to do this week after it was discovered that he’d posted a conspiracy theory about the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings on Facebook, and that he once described Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as “inspirational” and “kind of leader we need today.” But in Paladino’s defense, he did those things because he was just passing along things other people were saying and didn’t think super hard about the things he was passing along.

Paladino said on Thursday that the “context” of his Hitler shout-out was “in regards to something I heard on the radio from someone else and was repeating.” The candidate called it “a serious mistake,” and then accused the media of making an “implication that I support Hitler.”

As for the Facebook post, Paladino claimed on Wednesday that while he didn’t write it himself, he did “carelessly republish it without clearly reading it.” The candidate only owned up to publishing the post at all after media outlets found out that he hadn’t just put it on Facebook; he emailed it out, too. Before that, Paladino had insisted that he wasn’t the one who’d posted it on his page because he didn’t know how to use Facebook.

This whole thing’s put House Republican Conference chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who had endorsed Paladino, in an awkward spot. On Thursday, her spokesperson had to clarify that the congresswoman wasn’t pro-Hitler and in fact “has one of the strongest records in the US Congress condemning anti-Semitism.” No word yet on whether Stefanik’s sticking to her endorsement, but her spokesperson shared Paladino’s statement with the media.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. In a series of blog posts, Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters (R), who is running as an immigration hardliner, once suggested that “illegal immigration is an ethical contradiction in terms,” argued that “unrestricted immigration is the only choice,” Jewish Insider reports.

He also commended U.S. service members who had participated in a drug trafficking ring along the southwestern border as “heroes.”

Masters was asked by conservative activists if he would support investigating U.S. intelligence operations to uncover the federal government’s “nefarious activities,” CNN reports. Said Masters: “Absolutely.”

He then floated that the attack on the U.S. Capitol was a false-flag operation: “Don’t we suspect that like one-third of the people outside of the Capitol complex on January 6 were actual FBI agents hanging out. What did people know and when did they know it? We got to get to the bottom of this.”

The Republican firm Data Orbital, polling the August GOP primary on behalf of an unidentified client, finds wealthy businessman Jim Lamon edging out Attorney General Mark Brnovich 20-18, with former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters at 15%. Trump endorsed Masters on Thursday, which happened to be the second day that this three-day poll was in the field.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. Wednesday was also the deadline for Wisconsin’s Aug. 9 primary, and you can find a list of candidates here.

Democrats have a competitive nomination contest to take on Sen. Ron Johnson, a far-right Republican who represents one of the swingiest of swing states. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who would be Wisconsin’s first Black senator, has led in every primary poll that’s been released and recently picked up an endorsement from the prominent union AFSCME Council 32.

The field also includes Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, who recently released an internal showing him only narrowly behind Barnes, and state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and nonprofit head Steven Olikara are also in, but they’ve each struggled in the polls and with fundraising. Two others, Milwaukee Alderwoman Chantia Lewis and administrator of Wisconsin Emergency Management Darrell Williams, announced last year but never filed to run.

COLORADO U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. “Colorado isn’t viewed as a prime Republican Senate pickup opportunity this fall — not yet at least,” Politico reports.

“In the hopes of keeping it that way, Democrats are aggressively advancing the campaign of a hardline MAGA Senate candidate in a last-ditch effort to elevate him over a moderate Republican who is viewed as a more serious threat to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.”

Democratic super PACs are running ads in an effort to boost state Rep. Ron Hanks and businessman Greg Lopez in the June 28 GOP primaries for Senate and governor, respectively.

The Colorado Sun reports that a group called Democratic Colorado has dropped $780,000 on TV spots attacking Hanks for saying, in the words of the narrator, that “Joe Biden’s election was a fraud,” and for wanting to ban abortions, messaging that’s intended to help him appeal to conservatives. The intervention comes as Hanks’ intra-party foe, wealthy businessman Joe O’Dea, is preparing his own ad campaign against the state representative, who has not run any commercials himself; a super PAC called American Policy Fund has also spent $600,000 to help O’Dea win the nod to take on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

It’s a similar story in the contest for governor where the Sun says that Colorado Information Network has deployed $690,000 to help ensure that Lopez, who like Hanks has struggled with fundraising, is Team Red’s nominee against Democratic incumbent Jared Polis. The narrator tells the audience that Lopez “supports Trump and agrees with him that the 2020 election was stolen” before a clip plays of the candidate saying, “I have no exceptions when it comes to being a strong supporter of pro-life.” Lopez is going up against University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl, who is Colorado’s only statewide-elected Republican, later this month.

HAWAII GOVERNOR. Tuesday’s candidate filing deadline brought one unexpected blast-from-the-past when former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who was the 2010 and 2014 Republican nominee for governor of Hawaii, turned in paperwork for a bid to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. David Ige. We detail Aiona’s career, including his pair of losses during the last decade, in our post here.

Aiona, who did not initially do anything to publicize his newest attempt (though strange campaign rollouts are nothing new for him), is one of the more prominent Republicans in this overwhelmingly blue state, but he doesn’t quite have a clear path through the Aug. 13 primary. Nine other candidates are also in including Honolulu City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi and former Ultimate Fighting Championship champion B.J. Penn, though it’s too early to know how serious they are as contenders.

Democrats, meanwhile, had no unexpected developments before filing closed. Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who has a large war chest and the backing of several powerful unions, has long looked like the frontrunner in this seven-person field, though no one has released any polls since February. Green’s main opponents are businesswoman Vicky Cayetano, who served as first lady when her husband, Ben Cayetano, was governor two decades ago; and freshman Rep. Kai Kahele, who is relying on public financing.

ALASKA U.S. SENATOR. Candidate filing closed June 1 for Alaska’s Aug. 16 top-four primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. The four candidates who take the most votes, regardless of party, will face off in an instant-runoff general election on Nov. 8.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has long had an uneasy relationship with state and national conservatives, faces eight Republicans, three Democrats, and eight independent or third-party foes in August. The only opponent who has attracted much attention, though, is former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican hardliner who has Trump’s endorsement. The most prominent Democrat is arguably Pat Chesbro, a Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission member and former high school principal who badly lost a 2014 race for state Senate.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. One big question looming over next year’s race is whether former Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican who narrowly lost to Democrat Andy Beshear in 2019, will seek a rematch, and while he’s refused to answer questions about his plans, an old ally indicates he’s thinking about it. State Sen. Ralph Alvarado, who was Bevin’s running mate back then, said last month that he’d spoken to the former governor and came away thinking he’s “still contemplating” a comeback. Alvarado himself also said around that time that he was considering pursuing a campaign for the top job himself.

The Louisville Courier Journal’s Morgan Watkins also talked to a few other potential GOP contenders recently. Somerset Mayor Alan Keck expressed interest last year, and he’s reiterated that he’s still looking at this contest. And while Secretary of State Michael Adams appeared to take his name out of contention last month, he now says he’s still a “maybe.” But Watkins writes that Adams says he’s not “actively exploring a gubernatorial candidacy” so he still seems reluctant, especially since he’s also eyeing a bid to succeed gubernatorial candidate Daniel Cameron as attorney general.

OKLAHOMA GOVERNOR. Gov. Kevin Stitt’s campaign said Tuesday that they were pulling an ad for the June 28 Republican primary after Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater announced he was investigating whether the spot broke state law. The potential problem, as The Oklahoman explains, stems from portions of the commercial extolling ​​Attorney General John O’Connor, a Stitt appointee who is also seeking the GOP nod for that office this month.

The message begins ordinarily enough with a narrator touting Stitt’s record, but about halfway through he switches to lauding both Stitt and O’Connor for pushing back on the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate and for leading “the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade.” During most of that portion Stitt himself is not shown on-screen, while the audience is treated to about seven seconds of footage of just O’Connor. Critics argue all this violates state rules preventing one candidate from contributing more than $2,900 to another contender (the ad ran for $340,000) or from advertising for another candidate within 30 days of the primary.

O’Connor himself has denied he had any knowledge of the spot while state GOP chair A.J. Ferate insisted, “This is Governor Stitt doing an ad for himself, highlighting one of his accomplishments.”

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. “The Supreme Court said on Thursday that election officials in Pennsylvania may count mailed ballots accompanied by voters’ declarations that were signed but not dated,” the New York Times reports. “The court’s order came in a tight race for a seat on a state court, but it is likely to affect other contests in the state as well.”

The dissenters were Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

This would be great news for (now-ex) Pennsylvania Senate candidate David McCormick, who had tried to sue to make this possible, if he hadn’t already conceded the race to rival Dr. Mehmet Oz last week (and Oz still beat him in the hand recount anyway).

“Pennsylvania’s Senate GOP primary just ended. But Republicans here are already plotting out the Senate race in 2024,” Politico reports.

“GOP leaders, donors and strategists are urging David McCormick, the former hedge fund CEO who lost by fewer than 1,000 votes to Mehmet Oz in this year’s Republican Senate contest, to run again in two years against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.”

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Dan Jones & Associates’ new survey for the Deseret News and University of Utah finds Republican Sen. Mike Lee fending off conservative independent Evan McMullin only 41-37 in the very first general election poll we’ve seen since April, when state Democrats opted to support McMullin rather than field their own nominee. The pollster also finds McMullin leading one of Lee’s June 28 primary foes, nanotechnology firm executive Ally Isom, 34-23, while he trails former state Rep. Becky Edwards just 29-28. However, previously released numbers have shown Lee far ahead of both Isom and Edwards, so neither of these general election scenarios are very likely.

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. Please enjoy this legitimately entertaining ad from Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in which he gets tackled by a peewee football player.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) “will have a children’s book out this fall, a picture story based on his being one of 12 siblings,” the AP reports.

SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY. There’s been a good deal of confusion about how the now-vacant district attorney’s post in San Francisco will be filled following this week’s recall of Chesa Boudin, but fortunately, law professor Quinn Yeargain once again has the answers.

There’s no dispute that Mayor London Breed will get to pick an interim replacement, though so far, she’s been mum on who that person might be. But there’s been some disagreement about how a permanent successor will be chosen. As Yeargain explains, though, a special election for the final year of Boudin’s term will be held in November, with a regular election for a full four-year term in 2023.

That’s because San Francisco’s charter specifies that if the next election for a vacated office is set to take place more than a year after the vacancy arises, a special election for the unexpired term must happen first. That special election must be conducted at the next election that’s at least 120 days after the seat officially becomes vacant (which will happen in a month or so, when the results are certified), which in this case would be the Nov. 8 midterms. The special would be held using the city’s instant-runoff voting rules.

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his allies at the DGA are continuing to spend massive amounts of money to try to get Republicans to nominate far-right state Sen. Darren Bailey rather than Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin on June 28, and a new poll from Irvin’s intra-party detractors finds that the meddling may be having its desired effect.

People Who Play by the Rules PAC, which is funded by billionaire megadonor Dick Uihlein, has released numbers from Fabrizio, Lee & Associates that finds Bailey edging out Irvin 27-20, with venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan and businessman Gary Rabine just behind with 13% and 12%, respectively. That’s quite a bit different from the 31-25 Irvin lead from his late May internal from 1892 Polling, though both surveys agree that this race is far from settled.

The negative ads are also continuing against Irvin from all sides. Pritzker’s spot highlights a Chicago Tribune story from last month detailing how, according to Aurora police records, the mayor was overheard saying that charges against his then-girlfriend “would be taken care of” after she was arrested last year for allegedly striking a marijuana store security guard. Irvin himself told the paper in response, “When I told her that … things ‘would be taken care of,’ I meant that she would get a lawyer, which is what I helped her to do.” The mayor also denied he’d made any attempt to get the charges dropped.

Uihlein’s group is also running a commercial that tries to puncture Irvin’s law and order image. After detailing the 2020 unrest that took place in the community, the spot plays footage of the mayor saying, “I was conflicted … and I recognize that unless there’s some type of disruption in what we want here in our country, things won’t change.” The narrator is none too pleased with that, declaring, “Richard Irvin is ‘conflicted’ about rioting and looting? Irvin’s confusion about violence makes one thing clear: He’s unqualified to be the Republican nominee for governor.”

Irvin can expect more attack ads to come his way in the next three weeks, as NBC reports that the DGA has reserved an additional $3 million for June. According to Politico, the DGA has already dropped $15 million against him “and a few million more propping up Bailey.” Irvin, thanks to the $50 million he’s received to date from hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, very much has the ability to defend himself, but his resources may not quite be as limitless as they’ve seemed. Politico writes that the mayor has cut planned advertising in southern Illinois and has “reduced” his spots in the expensive and populous Chicago market, though his team insists his campaign isn’t running out of money.

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

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