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The Political Report – 6/29/2022

Politico breaks down the primaries today in Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, New York non-federal races, a special election in the Nebraska 1st CD, Oklahoma and Utah. “Democrats have a lot riding on Tuesday’s primaries. The Republican primaries, that is.

“Facing hurricane-force electoral headwinds in November, Democrats have launched an unprecedented effort to meddle in GOP nominating contests across the country, elevating extreme candidates and attacking Republican hopefuls they view as greater threats in the general election.”

At least two House members are guaranteed to lose renomination in Illinois: Marie Newman and Sean Casten are competing in an incumbent vs. incumbent contest for the 6th District, while Reps. Rodney Davis and Mary Miller are facing off in the safely red 15th District well to the south. Two other Democratic incumbents, 7th District Rep. Danny Davis and 8th District Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, also face well-funded intra-party opposition.

Even more House Republicans are in danger on Tuesday, though. The most vulnerable incumbent is arguably Rep. Steven Palazzo, who only outpaced Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell 31-25 on June 7 in the first round of voting for Mississippi’s 4th District. Neighboring Rep. Michael Guest, who was one of the 35 House Republicans who voted last year for a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, also is trying to claw his way back after trailing Navy veteran Michael Cassidy 47.5-46.9 three weeks ago in the 3rd.

Additionally, Oklahoma Rep. Stephanie Bice and Utah Reps. Blake Moore and John Curtis will find out if that Jan. 6 commission vote will cost them against underfunded primary foes. Finally, Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn, who has struggled in past cycles, is hoping an ongoing ethics investigation into allegations that he misused official congressional resources won’t doom his primary prospects.

Another new Post-Roe Repeal Poll from NPR/Marist. It’s broadly in line with the other polls we’ve seen, with a large majority opposing the Dobbs decision. But there is another interesting nugget in this poll. Democrats have regained the favor of voters to control Congress, with 48% saying they are more likely to vote for a Democratic candidate in the fall and 41% more likely to vote for a Republican. In April, Republicans led on that question in the poll 47% to 44%, which was within the margin of error. In Polling, that’s a big move.

In the days and weeks prior to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, we began to see an influx in campaign ads focused on protecting the right to an abortion, and now that the court’s far-right majority has stripped that right away, Democrats have continued to focus on the topic at all levels of the ballot.

The issue may be most salient at the state level, where Democrats have the chance to strengthen abortion rights or block Republican attempts to eliminate them. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, for instance, touts legislation he recently signed into law as Roe’s demise loomed ever nearer. The ad begins with news clips announcing the ruling, followed by Lamont’s own narration. “Women deserve the right to make their own decisions about their health care, and about when they want to start a family,” says Lamont. “That’s why we enacted the strongest protections for a woman’s right to choose in the country.”

Lamont’s claim is in fact well-supported: Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern said the bill “would transform Connecticut into a sanctuary for legal abortion” (in an article very much worth reading) and called it “the gold standard for pro-choice legislation in the post-Roe era.” The governor’s likely Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski, has refused to publicly say whether he supports or opposes the measure, even though his own running mate voted for it.

Democrats running for Congress are of course stressing abortion as well. Washington Sen. Patty Murray’s newest ad features an OB-GYN who warns, “You think women’s reproductive health care is safe here in Washington? Not with Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate in the U.S. Senate, Tiffany Smiley.” Listeners then hear a clip of Smiley saying, “I am 100% pro-life,” after which the physician accurately says Smiley’s “first vote will be to make Mitch McConnell majority leader, and they will work to ban abortions nationwide.” (In a separate direct-to-camera spot, Murray blasts the Supreme Court ruling and says, “I won’t stop fighting until we guarantee reproductive freedom for every American.”)

Similarly, Rep. Susie Lee, who represents Nevada’s 3rd District, is reportedly spending $500,000 on a new ad attacking her Republican challenger, April Becker. Again noting the Supreme Court’s decision, Lee’s narrator slams Becker for being endorsed by Nevada Right to Life, which she says “wants to make all abortion illegal—no exceptions.” By contrast, the voiceover concludes, Lee is backed by Planned Parenthood and “will protect our right to choose, always.”

Notably, in all three of these cases, these ads are targeted toward the general election. And though Connecticut and New York are both blue states, Lamont beat Stefanowski by just 3 points during their first matchup in 2018—despite the blue wave—while Murray survived a scare the last time she faced re-election during a strong GOP year, winning by just 5 points in 2010. Lee, meanwhile, represents swingy turf in the Las Vegas area that would have backed Joe Biden by a close 52-46 margin.

The question now, though, is whether Democrats will continue to press hard on abortion rights for the remaining four-and-a-half months between now and Election Day.

Yesli Vega (R) — the GOP nominee in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District vying to unseat Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) — drew outrage after audio published by Axios Richmond appeared to capture her theorizing inaccurately about why rape might not lead to pregnancy in a conversation about abortion and exceptions to abortion bans, the Washington Post reports.

ALASKA AT LARGE CD. On Saturday, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that kept former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney off the ballot for the Aug. 16 special after three voters unsuccessfully sued to include her. Sweeney will still be competing that day in the top-four primary for the full two-year term, and the Republican responded to the high court’s decision by saying, “Alaska politics has a history of comeback stories, and I look forward to writing the next chapter by fighting to represent Alaska.”

The special election will be a three-way instant-runoff contest between two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich, and former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola. Independent Al Gross, who took third place in the June 11 top-four primary, dropped out last week and endorsed Peltola and Sweeney, who finished fifth: However, elections authorities soon said that state law only allows the fifth-place finisher to replace a candidate who drops out if there are at least 64 days until the general election, and Gross departed with 56 days left.

CALIFORNIA 22ND CD. Late on Friday night, the AP called the second slot in the top-two primary for California’s 22nd District for Republican Rep. David Valadao, two-and-a-half weeks after election night. By a slim 26-23 margin, Valadao edged out former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, whom Democrats had sought to boost past the incumbent by running ads calling him “100% pro-Trump and proud.” The effort might have succeeded, too, had another Trumpist candidate, King County School Board member Adam Medeiros, not also taken 6% of the vote.

Valadao will now face Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas, who finished first in the primary with 45% of the vote, for a heavily Latino seat in the Central Valley that would have supported Joe Biden 55-42. This largely rural agricultural region, though, has traditionally seen much weaker turnout among Democratic-leaning voters in midterm years.

CALIFORNIA 37TH CD. Former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry just barely edged out Culver City Vice Mayor Daniel Lee for the second spot in the top-two primary for California’s safely blue 37th Congressional District, according to the Associated Press, which called the race late on Friday. Perry beat Lee 18.4 to 17.9, but that still left her far behind the frontrunner, state Sen. Sydney Kamlager, a fellow Democrat who took 44% of the vote. Kamlager has the endorsement of the current incumbent, Rep. Karen Bass, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles.

FLORIDA 4TH CD. Sen. Marco Rubio has backed state Sen. Aaron Bean in the August Republican primary for this open seat.

ILLINOIS 1ST CD. Forward Progress, which supports former Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin Norington-Reaves in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, has thrown down about $600,000 more here, which brings its total investment to $760,000. Two crypto-aligned groups previously dropped about $1 million last week to help construction contracting firm owner Jonathan Jackson, while there hasn’t been any serious outside spending for any of the other 15 candidates.  

ILLINOIS 7TH CD. President Joe Biden endorsed Democratic Rep. Danny Davis on Sunday just ahead of the 13-term congressman’s unexpectedly expensive primary rematch against anti-gun violence activist Kina Collins. Davis beat her 60-14 in a 2020 contest that attracted little attention, but NBC Chicago notes that Collins not only has run TV commercials this time, but she’s the first Davis opponent to ever advertise on television. The congressman himself began airing a spot about a week out from Election Day, which Primary School writes appears to be his first TV spot of the campaign.

Outside groups on both sides also have increased their ad buys in the final days. Collins’ allies, which have faulted Davis for missing votes, have now deployed a total of $390,000. The pro-Davis Opportunity for All Action Fund, meanwhile, has spent another $300,000, which takes its total investment to around $430,000: The PAC echoes Davis in extolling his work on voting rights and gun safety, though its commercial is considerably better produced than his.

ILLINOIS 15TH CD. On Saturday, Republican Rep. Mary Miller used her rally with Donald Trump to tell him, “I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday,” a declaration she immediately followed up with by clapping as the crowd cheered behind her. The congresswoman’s spokesperson quickly insisted, “You can clearly see she is reading off a piece of paper, she meant to say ‘right to life.'” Fellow GOP Rep. Rodney Davis, whom Miller faces on Tuesday, wasn’t at all convinced, though, saying, “Mary Miller’s comments yesterday are just another part in a disturbing pattern of behavior she’s displayed since coming to Congress.”

Miller, for her part, quickly put together a commercial featuring footage from the Trump rally, though it unsurprisingly left out her “white life” quote. The viewer instead sees a montage of Trump extolling her as “a warrior for our movement and our values … pro-life … pro-gun … pro-MAGA all the way.” Miller then declares, “I’m running against a RINO named Rodney Davis who betrayed conservatives,” including by “voting for the disgraceful Jan. 6 witch hunt commission.”

MARYLAND 4TH CD. The hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC has now spent $1.9 million opposing former Rep. Donna Edwards in the July 19 Democratic primary, which is up significantly from the $600,000 expenditure the Washington Post reported earlier this month. Edwards’ allies at the League of Conservation Voters, though, have announced a $550,000 digital and mail ad campaign to aid her, while Hillary Clinton has also endorsed her comeback bid.

PENNSYLVANIA 1ST CD and WISCONSIN 3RD CD. Two Democrats in challenging House races, Pennsylvania’s Ashley Ehasz and Wisconsin’s Deb McGrath, have each released internals from Public Policy Polling that show them trailing in their general elections, though their memos argue they’ll do substantially better once voters learn about their Republican rivals’ opposition to abortion rights. Republican incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick starts out with a 45-38 advantage over Ehasz, while 2020 GOP nominee Derrick Van Orden outpaces McGrath 47-38; this is the first survey we’ve seen of either contest.

While Ehasz won the Democratic nod in May, McGrath has to get past state Sen. Brad Pfaff and businesswoman Rebecca Cooke in the August primary before she can focus on Van Orden, who has no intra-party opposition. McGrath’s memo does not mention either of the other Democrats.

RHODE ISLAND 2ND CD. A new Suffolk University poll for the Boston Globe finds former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, the likely GOP nominee for Rhode Island’s open 2nd Congressional District, beating all of his potential Democratic opponents. In the closest matchup, Fung leads state Treasurer Seth Magaziner 45-39 while other Democrats take 32-35% of the vote. The undecideds, however, should favor Democratic hopefuls, since this district would have backed Joe Biden by a 56-42 margin.

Suffolk also tested both primaries, but the sample size in each case was well below the 300 minimum we require to report on a poll in the Digest. Magaziner appears to be the frontrunner for the Democratic nod, though: Not only has he raised by fair the most money, he just earned the endorsement of the state party by a wide margin at its convention over the weekend.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) wouldn’t tell the New York Times whether he’d back Joe Biden for President in 2024 — or consider a third-party run of his own.

“A political shift is beginning to take hold across the U.S. as tens of thousands of suburban swing voters who helped fuel the Democratic Party’s gains in recent years are becoming Republicans,” the AP reports.  “More than 1 million voters across 43 states have switched to the Republican Party  over the last year… The previously unreported number reflects a phenomenon that is playing out in virtually every region of the country — Democratic and Republican states along with cities and small towns — in the period since President Joe Biden replaced former President Donald Trump.”

“But nowhere is the shift more pronounced — and dangerous for Democrats — than in the suburbs, where well-educated swing voters who turned against Trump’s Republican Party in recent years appear to be swinging back. Over the last year, far more people are switching to the GOP across suburban counties from Denver to Atlanta and Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Republicans also gained ground in counties around medium-size cities such as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Raleigh, North Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Des Moines, Iowa.”

KANSAS ABORTION REFERENDUM. Kansans will soon vote on a proposed amendment that would remove the right to abortion from the state constitution, a measure that has attracted national attention in the days since the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. The referendum, which needs a simple majority to pass, will take place on the same day as the regularly scheduled statewide primary on Aug. 2.

Republicans in the legislature placed the amendment on the ballot last year in response to a 2019 state Supreme Court decision that concluded that the “substantive rights” described in Kansas’ governing document include “allow[ing] a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life — decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.”

This ruling has barred Republicans from using their legislative supermajorities to pass anti-abortion bills over Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto, so instead they referred this measure to the ballot. The full text of the amendment, which Republicans wrote themselves and is anything but neutral, will appear on the ballot, beginning with the claim, “Because Kansans value both women and children, the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion.”

The referendum will almost certainly be Kansas’ most high-profile contest this summer. Kelly, who has no opponent for renomination, is supporting the “no” side while Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who has no serious opposition in the GOP primary to face her, wants the amendment passed. The “yes” campaign took in $1.2 million in 2021, with more than half coming from churches, while its opponents raised $460,000; new fundraising reports won’t be available until late July.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR. New York gubernatorial candidate Harry Wilson (R) called rival Lee Zeldin (R) and an aide “scumbags” in a group text that he accidentally sent to Zeldin.

SOUTH DAKOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL, SECRETARY OF STATE, LT. GOVERNOR. Former Attorney General Marty Jackley won the Republican nomination for his old job at Saturday’s party convention by fending off David Natvig, an ally of ousted Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, 53-47. (In South Dakota the nominees for several statewide posts, including attorney general, secretary of state, and lieutenant governor, are chosen by party delegates rather than primary voters.) Democrats will choose Jackley’s opponent at their own convention next month, but South Dakota’s dark-red hue makes him the favorite in the fall to retake the post he held from 2009 to 2019.

Delegates went with a less-familiar name in the contest for secretary of state, however, as they voted 61-39 to oust incumbent Steve Barnett in favor of Monae Johnson, who used her victory speech to proclaim, “Election integrity is all on our hearts and minds.” Johnson, who is a former official at the secretary of state’s office, focused on her opposition to allowing voters to register online, and she called for post-election reviews; she also falsely accused Barnett of wanting to implement online voting.

There was also some drama in the contest for lieutenant governor when incumbent Larry Rhoden fended off a late challenge from state Rep. Steve Haugaard 56-44. Haugaard challenged Rhoden’s boss, Gov. Kristi Noem, in the June 7 primary and lost in a 76-24 landslide, and he surprised observers right before the filing deadline Friday by launching a bid against Rhoden. Noem successfully convinced enough delegates to stick with her number two, but the Argus Leader characterized the result as “something of a slap in the face to” the governor. Noem and Rhoden will campaign as a ticket in the fall against state House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, a Democrat who will learn the identity of his running mate next month.

Johnson’s win comes the week after Republican delegates in Indiana, which employs a similar convention system, also threw their secretary of state overboard. Diego Morales, a former Mike Pence aide who took a distant third in the 2018 primary for Indiana’s 4th Congressional District, called the 2020 presidential election a “​​scam” and pledged to “secure our elections” ahead of his 52-35 victory over incumbent Holli Sullivan. Democrats are fielding attorney ​​Destiny Wells for an office the GOP has controlled since 1994.

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

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