The Political Report – 6/16/22

A new USA Today Network/Suffolk University poll in Pennsylvania finds John Fetterman (D) leading Mehmet Oz (R) by nine points in the U.S. Senate race, 46% to 37%. In the race for governor, Josh Shapiro (D) has a 4-point advantage over Doug Mastriano (R), 44% to 40%.

A new Quinnipiac poll in Texas finds Gov. Greg Abbott (R) leading challenger Beto O’Rourke (D) by just five points, 48% to 43%.  Abbott held a 15-point lead in December.

A new ECU poll in Georgia finds Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and challenger Herschel Walker (R) deadlocked in the U.S. Senate race at 46% each among registered voters.  In the race for governor, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) leads Stacey Abrams (D), 50% to 45%.

A new Gallup poll finds a record-high 50% of Americans rate the overall state of moral values in the U.S. as “poor,” and another 37% say it is “only fair.”  Just 1% think the state of moral values is “excellent” and 12% “good.”

“New Mexico’s secretary of state asked the state Supreme Court to order the Republican-led commission of rural Otero County to certify primary election results after it refused to do so over distrust of Dominion vote-tallying machines,” the AP reports.

The commission “voted unanimously against certifying the results of the June 7 primary without raising specific concerns about discrepancies.”

NEVADA SECRETARY OF STATE. Jim Marchant (R), who has spread the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and said he would not have certified the results, won the Republican secretary of state primary in Nevada, putting an election denier one step away from overseeing elections in the key swing state, the HuffPost reports.

As CNN notes, Marchant has gone beyond lies about 2020, saying during his primary campaign: “Your vote hasn’t counted for decades. You haven’t elected anybody. The people that are in office have been selected.”

Joe Biden won Nevada by 33,500 votes, but Marchant says he wouldn’t have certified the election.

TEXAS 34TH CD SPECIAL ELECTION. “Republican Mayra Flores flipped a Democratic-held south Texas seat on Tuesday evening, apparently making further inroads among Latino voters in that region of the state. Both parties have been known to take special elections like this to seize upon their electoral narratives, so we’d caution against reading too much into these results,” Politico reports.

“For one thing, fewer than 30,000 people voted in this race. Secondly, the district — once held by Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX), who did his party no favors in stepping down early — changed during redistricting. Another member, Rep. Vicente González (D-TX), will attempt to take it in November. However, the race does seem to indicate the GOP’s gains among Latino voters, seen during the 2020 presidential election, are real.”

New York Times: “Republicans have directed enormous sums of money and attention to the race in recent weeks.”

Flores was already the GOP nominee for the new version of the 34th District, where Republican mapmakers extended Joe Biden’s margin of victory from just 52-48 to 57-42 in order to strengthen their position in nearby seats. Her opponent will be Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who decided to run here because that very GOP gerrymander made his own 15th District more conservative: This will almost certainly be the only incumbent vs. incumbent general election of the cycle other than the race for Florida’s 2nd District between Democratic Rep. Al Lawson and Republican colleague Neal Dunn.

While Flores will be in for a difficult fight in November on more Democratic terrain, though, Republicans are hoping that her win Tuesday proves that the GOP can still secure further gains in heavily Latino areas. Flores also will have a geographic advantage, as she’ll spend the next several months representing 75% of the new 34th District; Gonzalez, by contrast, currently serves the remaining quarter.

FiveThirtyEight: “As has been true for decades, this national congressional map is biased toward Republicans. Assuming Louisiana’s congressional map is reinstated upon appeal, the 2022 House map will feature 208 congressional districts with a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean of R+5 or redder, compared with 187 districts that have a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean of D+5 or bluer. Throw in the highly competitive seats, and 225 districts would be more Republican than the country as a whole, while 210 would be more Democratic.”

“In other words, if the national House popular vote were perfectly tied, Republicans would theoretically win 225 seats and Democrats would win 210 (ignoring, for now, other factors like candidate quality).”

“By this measure, however, Democrats are actually in a slightly better position than they were before, having added a handful of Democratic-leaning seats.”

Elon Musk suggested he might vote for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) if he were to run in the 2024 presidential election, The Guardian reports.

Musk also claimed to back the successful congressional candidate Mayra Flores (R) during yesterday’s special election: “I voted for Mayra Flores – first time I ever voted Republican. Massive red wave in 2022.”

“I welcome support from African-Americans, what can I say.”  — Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), responding to the hint of support from the South Africa-born billionaire Elon Musk.

“He’s purging. He’s purging. He’s trying to set the Republican Party up as a bunch of yes-men loyalists. Think about that. That’s scary.”  — Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC), who lost his GOP primary last night to a Donald Trump-backed challenger, quoted by Politico.

SOUTH CAROLINA 1ST and 7TH CDs. Two members of South Carolina’s U.S. House delegation went up against Trump-backed Republican primary opponents on Tuesday, but while 1st District Rep. Nancy Mace secured renomination, voters in the neighboring 7th District ejected pro-impeachment Rep. Tom Rice in favor of state Rep. Russell Fry. Mace turned back former state Rep. Katie Arrington, who was Team Red’s unsuccessful 2018 nominee, 53-45, which was just above the majority she needed to avoid a June 28 runoff. Fry also averted a second round in his six-way race by lapping Rice 51-25.

Mace, who was the first woman to graduate from the state’s famed military academy the Citadel, became one of the GOP’s most promising rising stars in 2020 when she unseated Democratic incumbent Joe Cunningham in a very expensive race. Mace, however, broke with Trump in the days after she was forced to barricade in her office during the Jan. 6 attack, saying, “I hold him accountable for the events that transpired.” She never backed impeachment and soon stopped trying to pick fights with Trump, but the GOP master still decided to repay her by endorsing Arrington, who had denied renomination in 2018 to then-Rep. Mark Sanford, in February.

Arrington, who launched her new campaign by blasting the incumbent as a “sellout” who “sold out the Lowcountry” and “sold out President Trump,” released a poll in early March arguing that her all-Trump all the time strategy would carry her to victory. Those Remington Research Group numbers showed Mace’s 50-35 lead transforming into a 51-33 Arrington advantage after respondents were informed she was the “Trump Endorsed America First Candidate,” which led the pollster to conclude that “there is no path to victory” for Mace.  

The congresswoman, though, worked to frame the primary as anything other than a fight between her and Trump. Shortly after Arrington’s kickoff, Mace posted a video shot across the street from Trump Tower where, after talking about her longtime Trump loyalty, she says, “If you want to lose this seat once again in a midterm election cycle to Democrats, then my opponent is more than qualified to do just that.” The GOP legislature did what it could to make sure that no one could lose this coastal South Carolina seat to Democrats by passing a map that extended Trump’s 2020 margin from 52-46 to 54-45, but that didn’t stop Mace from convincingly arguing that Arrington would be electoral Kryptonite against the Democrats’ well-funded candidate, pediatrician Annie Andrews.   

Rice, by contrast, went far further than Mace by actually voting for impeachment last year, a move so shocking that his own consultant initially assumed the five-term congressman had simply hit the wrong button. That vote instantly ensured that Rice, who had been easily renominated every cycle since he’d first won this safely red Myrtle Beach-area constituency in a competitive 2012 primary, would be in for an extremely difficult campaign, and several Republicans soon began challenging him.

Fry, though, cemented his status as the frontrunner after Trump backed him in February, and he soon earned national attention of his own with a truly strange ad depicting the apostate incumbent 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. Rice and his remaining allies fought back by arguing that the congressman was too influential to fire and that Fry wasn’t actually the conservative he presented himself as, but it was far from enough.

Rice himself argued to the end that he’d made the right decision by voting to impeach Trump over Jan. 6, saying, “He sat there and watched the Capitol get sacked and took pleasure in that … That’s what a dictator would do.” That didn’t prove to be a very compelling argument, though, and GOP primary voters responded by decisively nominating Fry in his place.

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt turned back an unexpectedly well-funded campaign from Army veteran Sam Brown by a 56-34 margin. Laxalt, who was the 2018 nominee for governor, will go up against Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto in what will be one of the most competitive Senate races of the cycle.

NEVADA GOVERNOR. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who like Laxalt had Trump’s endorsement, defeated attorney Joey Gilbert 38-28 for the right to take on Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Former Sen. Dean Heller, who lost re-election to Democrat Jacky Rosen in 2018, took a distant third with 14%; Heller never lost a race in his long career in Nevada politics until Rosen unseated him four years ago.

NEVADA 1ST CD. Rep. Dina Titus turned back progressive challenger Amy Vilela in an 82-18 landslide.

The Associated Press has not yet called this contest but with 89% of the estimated vote in, Army veteran Mark Robertson holds a 30-17 lead over conservative activist David Brog; former 4th District Rep. Crescent Hardy, who raised almost no money for his latest comeback, lags in fourth with just 12%. Democrats in the legislature, much to Titus’ frustration, made this seat in the eastern Las Vegas area considerably more competitive in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer, and Biden would have carried the new 1st 53-45.

NEVADA 2ND CD. Republican Rep. Mark Amodei secured renomination in this safely red northern Nevada seat by beating Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian 54-33. Tarkanian, who was a longtime resident of the Las Vegas area well to the south, finally ended his legendary losing streak in 2020 after moving to Douglas County, but he very much returned to form on Tuesday by failing to win a seat in Congress for the fifth time.

NEVADA 3RD CD. Attorney April Becker, who was the favored candidate of the GOP establishment, easily defeated self-funder John Kovacs 65-11. Becker will go up against Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in a southern Las Vegas area seat where Democrats extended Biden’s winning margin from just 49.1-48.9 to 52-46.

NEVADA 4TH CD. The AP hasn’t called this GOP primary yet but with 68% of the estimated vote in, Air Force veteran Sam Peters leads Assemblywoman Annie Black 48-41. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford, whose constituency in the northern Las Vegas area supported Biden 53-45 under the new map.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano (R), who was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, compared the riot that day “to historical events staged by the Nazis, saying that he saw ‘parallels’ between the criticism of the Jan. 6 attack and the 1933 Reichstag fire, which Hitler used to seize more power,” NBC News reports.

“Jenna Ellis, who was among the most high-profile attorneys involved in the Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, has joined Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano’s gubernatorial campaign as a senior legal adviser,” Reuters reports.

GEORGIA GOVERNOR. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) “has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the CEO of Daniel Defense, a gun manufacturing company that made the rifle used by the shooter in the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24,” the American Independent reports.

WASHINGTON U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. Patty Murray has launched an early ad campaign hoping to define her only serious Republican opponent, motivational speaker Tiffany Smiley, as an ardent Trumpist before the challenger can adequately respond.

The audience sees a photo of Smiley eagerly posing with Trump in the Oval Office as audio plays of her saying, “I met with President Trump, and I was so impressed.” The narrator, following footage of the Jan. 6 rioters, jumps in and highlights how Smiley “still has serious questions about the 2020 elections.” Smiley is later heard saying, “I am 100% pro-life.”

NBC reports that the Democratic group Future Majority PAC has booked $860,000 for an ad campaign that will start in early July, which will make this the first major outside spending of the contest. Early this month the Northwest Progressive Institute released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling giving Democratic incumbent Patty Murray a 51-40 lead over her likely Republican opponent, motivational speaker Tiffany Smiley.

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR. The Republican firm Ogden & Fry’s new look at the June 28 GOP primary finds state Sen. Darren Bailey leading Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin 31-17, with venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan at 11%. This is the third poll in a row we’ve seen showing Bailey defeating Irvin, an outcome that would greatly please Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his allies.  

OKLAHOMA GOVERNOR. Amber Integrated (R): Kevin Stitt (R-inc): 47, Joy Hofmeister (D): 29 (March: 44-30 Stitt)

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. While former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters’ allies have largely focused on targeting Attorney General Mark Brnovich ahead of their crowded August Republican primary, the Club for Growth has launched a new $665,000 buy attacking a different Masters rival, wealthy businessman Jim Lamon. “His company sued for stiffing contractors out of $1 million pay,” the narrator says of Lamon, “Penalized six times for delinquent taxes.” He continues, “But not everyone got stiffed: A group linked to Lamon gave Pelosi and the Democrats over $75,000.”

COLORADO U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Colorado’s spending ahead of the June 28 Democratic primary has increased to $1.3 million, which is considerably more than the $780,000 the Colorado Sun initially reported that the super PAC was spending in an unsubtle attempt to help underfunded far-right state Rep. Ron Hanks pass wealthy businessman Joe O’Dea.

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Rep. Val Demings’ campaign says it’s spending eight-figures on an opening TV buy designed to insulate the former Orlando police chief from GOP attempts to caricature the congresswoman as soft on crime. After several voices extol her record reducing violent crime Demings tells the audience, “In the Senate I’ll protect Florida from bad ideas, like defunding the police. That’s just crazy.”

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson got some more bad news Monday when a federal judge refused to halt the printing of the August Republican primary ballots that lack Johnson’s name.

OKLAHOMA U.S. SENATOR A and B and GOVERNOR. The GOP pollster Amber Integrated’s newest look at the June 28 special Republican Senate primary shows Rep. Markwayne Mullin in the lead with 39%, which is below the majority he’d need to avoid an August runoff, with former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon enjoying a 19-6 edge over former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for second. The survey also shows Gov. Kevin Stitt winning renomination with 61% despite the expensive efforts of dark money groups to bring him crashing down, while an unheralded challenger Mark Sherwood lags in second with 8%.

SOUTH DAKOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL. Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for striking and killing a man with his car in September of 2020 but avoided jail time, on Friday finally confirmed reports that he would not seek re-election this year. Ravnsborg made his announcement two months after the Republican-run state House voted to impeach him, and the Senate will hold its trial later in June.

In South Dakota nominees for attorney general and several other statewide offices are chosen at party conventions rather than in primaries, and the GOP’s gathering is set for June 23-25. Ravnsborg was already facing serious intra-party opposition from predecessor Marty Jackley, who left office due to term limits in 2018 and unsuccessfully ran for governor that year. In addition, Dave Natvig, a top Ravnsborg deputy described by Goss as a “long-time political ally” of the incumbent, also kicked off a campaign last month, a move that foreshadowed Ravnsborg’s departure.

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

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