The Political Report – 7/25/22

A new Marquette Law School Poll finds approval of the U.S. Supreme Court has fallen to 38%, while 61% disapprove of how the Court is handling its job. By contrast, approval of the Court stood at 66% in September 2020, with 33% disapproval then.

A new CNN poll finds about half of Americans, 48%, say they think it is at least somewhat likely that in the next few years, some elected officials will successfully overturn the results of a US election because their party did not win.

NEW YORK 18TH and 19th CDs. Republican Marc Molinaro maintains a big cash-on-hand lead over Democrat Pat Ryan ahead of their Aug. 23 special election showdown for the existing 19th District, but a strong opening quarter helped Ryan make up ground.

Ryan, who serves as Ulster County executive, took in $1.1 million during the opening months of the contest to succeed Antonio Delgado, a fellow Democrat who resigned in May to become lieutenant governor, and he ended June with $580,000 on hand. Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive who began running in September of last year, hauled in a smaller $470,000, but he had $1 million available. Biden carried this constituency 50-48.

No matter what happens, though, both Ryan and Molinaro will be competing for separate seats in the fall. Ryan faces just one unheralded intra-party opponent in the primary for the new 18th District, a 53-45 Biden constituency in the upper Hudson Valley that’s currently open because Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney decided to run for the more Democratic 17th District. The one Republican campaigning here is Colin Schmitt, an assemblyman who had been challenging Maloney; Schmitt raised $340,000 during the most recent quarter, and he had $600,000 in his war chest.

Over in the redrawn 19th, finally, Molinaro also has no primary opposition in a southeastern upstate New York seat that would have supported Biden 51-47. The Democratic contest, however, is a duel between attorney Josh Riley, who had been running for the 22nd District in the Syracuse area until May, and businesswoman Jamie Cheney. Riley outraised Cheney $430,000 to $420,000, while Cheney self-funded $100,000 more; Riley finished June with a $790,000 to $440,000 cash-on-hand lead.

NEW YORK 22ND CD. Navy veteran Francis Conole finished June with a huge cash advantage over the other three Democrats campaigning to succeed retiring GOP Rep. John Katko in this Syracuse-area seat. Conole, who lost the 2020 primary to face Katko in the old 24th, took in $270,000 for the quarter and had $400,000 in the bank, while former Assemblyman Sam Roberts was far behind with only $70,000 on hand.

The Republican contest pits wealthy businessman Steve Wells against Navy veteran Brandon Williams. Wells, who lost the 2016 primary to now-Rep. Claudia Tenney in the old 22nd, raised $250,000 for his new effort and self-funded another $350,000, while Williams brought in only around $60,000; Wells finished June with a $600,000 to $110,000 cash-on-hand edge. Biden would have carried the new 22nd 53-45, while he took Katko’s existing 24th by a similar 53-44.

NEW YORK 4TH CD. Five Democrats are running to succeed retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice in this southern Nassau County district, and this is another contest where two of the candidates have considerably more money than everyone else.

Former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen outpaced Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett $300,000 to $160,000, but Corbett self-funded an additional $90,000; Gillen, who has Rice’s endorsement, finished June with $390,000 while Corbett, who is an ally of state and county party chair Jay Jacobs, had $310,000 on hand. Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages was far back with only $80,000 to spend.

The new map increased Biden’s showing slightly from 56-43 to 57-42, but this is another Long Island seat where Republicans are hoping a well-funded candidate will be able to pull off an upset. Team Red’s one contender is Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, who raised $540,000 and finished June with $550,000 in the bank.

NEW YORK 3RD CD. Five Democrats are competing in a pricey battle to succeed Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, who gave up this northern Nassau County seat in order to wage a disastrous bid for governor, though two contenders have considerably more resources than the rest of the field. Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who earned Suozzi’s endorsement earlier this month, outraised DNC member Robert Zimmerman $500,000 to $320,000 for the quarter, and he finished June with a $890,000 to $760,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Jon Kaiman, a deputy Suffolk County executive who lost the 2016 primary to Suozzi, was well behind with $200,000 raised and $350,000 available. Melanie D’Arrigo, who lost the 2020 primary to Suozzi 66-26, had only $60,000 to spend for her latest bid, while marketing consultant Reema Rasool had even less.

The GOP is fielding just one contender for this Long Island constituency, where Biden’s margin dropped from 55-44 to 53-45. 2020 nominee George Santos, who was defeated 56-43 last time, took in $300,000 for his new campaign and ended last month with $910,000 on hand.

LOUISIANA 3RD CD. Prosecutor Holden Hoggatt announced Tuesday that he would challenge his fellow Republican, three-term Rep. Clay Higgins, in the November all-party primary for this safely red southwest Louisiana seat, a declaration that came days before Friday’s filing deadline. (Louisiana is the last state in the nation where qualifying remains open for major party candidates.)

Hoggatt declared, “Higgins’ candidacy is weakened because he hasn’t delivered for our people on storm recovery, or infrastructure.” The challenger also pointed to Higgins’ $260,000 war chest to argue, “He’s had pitiful fundraising.” While Hoggatt only has a few months to raise cash himself, LA Politics writes that the new candidate “knows his way around the business lobby” in the state capital.

Higgins, a former local police officer who became famous for a series of “Crime Stoppers” videos that featured him melodramatically calling out criminals, has since made a name for himself as a proud spreader of the Big Lie. Indeed, he posted a video mere days after the 2020 election, “I have inside data that this election is compromised. Our president won this election. Feel my spirit.”

Higgins has also attracted attention for more bizarre social media activities, including a February tweet reading, “You millennial leftists who never lived one day under nuclear threat can now reflect upon your woke sky. You made quite a non-binary fuss to save the world from intercontinental ballistic tweets.” However, while the congressman’s antics aren’t likely to do him much harm in a seat that Trump would have carried 68-30, Hoggatt is hoping to capitalize on anger over his response to hurricane recovery efforts.

While southwest Louisiana has struggled for years to obtain disaster relief money, Higgins was far away from both his constituents and D.C. in the weeks ahead of the March congressional budget deadline: He instead posted a video saying he was in an unnamed Middle Eastern nation “trying to get Americans and American families back home who were abandoned in the shameful retreat from Afghanistan.” Ultimately, Congress passed a bill that did not include additional hurricane funds for Louisiana.

Redistricting, though, is not going to be an issue for Higgins. The 3rd Congressional District ended up losing about 10,000 residents to neighboring seats but did not pick up any new areas, so the congressman already represents the entirety of the redrawn constituency.

SAN FRANCISCO REFERENDUM. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to place a referendum on the November ballot that would move the city’s next set of local elections from 2023 to 2024 and keep them in presidential cycles going forward. Mayor London Breed, who would be up for re-election next year under the current law, has ardently opposed such a shift, arguing that “a group of democratic socialists” are seeking to “have more control and power of being able to get more of their people elected.”

KANSAS REFERENDUM. With two weeks to go before the Aug. 2 vote, the Republican pollster co/efficient finds a small 47-43 plurality in support of the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the GOP-dominated legislature to ban abortion in Kansas. This survey, which the firm says it paid for itself, is the first we’ve seen of what’s become a closely watched and very expensive referendum campaign.

FiveThirtyEight, in its detailed look at the contest, lays out the messaging strategies both sides are using in this conservative state. Value Them Both, which is the group supporting the anti-abortion “yes” side, has highlighted how abortions have increased in Kansas since 2019, when the state Supreme Court ruled that the procedure is protected by the state constitution. (FiveThirtyEight notes that this is “due largely to Texas and Oklahoma residents who can no longer get abortions in their home states.”)

The campaign has also tried to frame the vote as something other than a straight up question about whether to ban abortion. Instead, Value Them Both says a “yes” win would just let the legislature impose “common-sense abortion limits” like parental notification―something that is already state law. The group, though, has also seized on partisan talking points about “unelected liberal judges” and told voters that under the status quo, Kansas has abortion laws similar to blue states like California.

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which is the vehicle of the “no” side, has tried to appeal to conservatives in a different way. As we wrote earlier this month, the campaign recently ran a spot in the very red Wichita media market that didn’t mention abortion at all; instead, it framed the ballot measure as “a strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions,” a statement followed by images reminding viewers of pandemic face mask requirements and the cancellation of in-person religious services.

In the Democratic-leaning Kansas City media market, by contrast, one ad featured a mother describing how she needed an abortion in order to remain alive for her husband and three-year-old son, and that the ballot measure “could ban any abortion with no exceptions, even in cases like mine.” Kansans for Constitutional Freedom has also aired commercials informing viewers that “abortion is highly regulated” already, but the amendment “could lead to a full ban of any abortion in Kansas, with no exceptions for rape, incest or a mother’s life.”

The “yes” side decisively outraised its opponents last year, but there’s been a big shift since 2022 began. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom outpaced Value Them Both $6.5 million to $4.7 million from January 1 to July 18, and it enjoyed a smaller $5.8 million to $5.4 million spending advantage.

WASHINGTON 8TH CD. The Washington Observer reports that a new group called Lead The Way PAC is spending $250,000 to boost 2020 Republican nominee Jesse Jensen while attacking one of his intra-party rivals, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, ahead of next month’s top-two primary to face Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier. The TV commercial declares that Dunn “voted to cut law enforcement by nearly $100 million” and touts Jensen’s time as an Army Ranger.

The PAC’s mailers go much further and sum up Dunn with the words, “DUI. Binge Drinking. Relapses. Empty Promises.” The mail pieces also say, “The Dunn’s marriage councilor also reported Dunn had acknowledged grabbing his wife by the shoulders and pushing her against a wall multiple times.” The candidate was the subject of a detailed March profile in the Seattle Times about his struggles with alcoholism, including his relapse after swearing off drinking following a 2014 DUI. Dunn told the paper that he’s been sober for over four years, and he produced regular lab reports to confirm he’s stayed away from alcohol.

ARIZONA 4TH CD and WASHINGTON 3RD CD. Winning For Women Action Fund, a Republican group funded in part by the Congressional Leadership Fund, is getting involved in two very different Aug. 2 contests.

The PAC has deployed $450,000 in Arizona’s 4th District to support Republican Tanya Wheeless, a onetime aide to former Sen. Martha McSally, in her bid to take on Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton in a seat Biden would have taken 54-44. Wheeless faces an expensive intra-party battle against restaurant owner Kelly Cooper, a self-funder who ended June with a wide $1.2 million to $500,000 lead. CLF endorsed Wheeless back in April before it was clear that Cooper, a first-time candidate who only registered to vote as a Republican last year, would have the resources to run a serious campaign.

Over in the top-two primary for Washington’s 3rd, meanwhile, Winning For Women is dropping $800,000 against Trump-endorsed Army veteran Joe Kent. The super PAC does not appear to have endorsed incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler, who is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump.

SOUTH CAROLINA 1ST CD. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) “has become a focus of an anti-abortion group, as well as a fellow Republican lawmaker, following a speech where she advocated for rape and incest exemptions to a proposed abortion ban making its way through the state legislature,” Newsweek reports.

Said Mace, referring to her own rape at age 16: “Rape is not a partisan issue. A rapist is not a father. And I hope and pray any women or teenager who is raped or assaulted or a victim of incest would choose life. But I’m not going to take that decision away from anybody else. You have no idea what a woman or child goes through who is a victim of rape or incest.”

MISSOURI 1ST CD. Democratic Rep. Cori Bush opens her new commercial for the Aug. 2 primary by telling the viewer, “At 17, I was raped and became pregnant. That’s the start of my abortion story.” The congresswoman, who first discussed her story publicly last year, continues, “Let me be clear: Forced pregnancy is a crime against humanity. When an extremist court dictates what we can do with our bodies, that’s violence.”

IOWA 3RD CD. Moore Information Group, surveying on behalf of Republican Zach Nunn and the NRCC, shows Nunn deadlocked 43-43 with Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne. This is the first poll we’ve seen all year of the contest for this seat, a Des Moines-based constituency that would have favored Trump by a tight 49.2-48.8 margin.

MICHIGAN 11TH CD. The local firm Target Insyght, which does not have a client here, finds Haley Stevens beating fellow Rep. Andy Levin by a wide 58-31 margin in their Aug. 2 Democratic primary showdown, which is a huge shift from the 41-41 tie the same outfit showed in early February. The only poll we’ve seen in the intervening time was an early March Levin internal that likewise saw a 36-36 deadlock. In the second quarter, however, Stevens outspent Levin by more than a 2-to-1 margin, $1.96 million to $860,000. Outside groups, led by AIPAC, have also poured it on for Stevens, spending more than $6 million on her behalf while Levin’s allies have only deployed around $750,000.

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

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