Delaware

The Political Report – September 15, 2022

“MAGA-aligned candidates appeared to sweep the Republican congressional primaries in New Hampshire last night, defeating better-financed candidates backed by Gov. Chris Sununu and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy,” Axios reports.

“All three of the GOP congressional candidates seen as more electable went down to defeat.”

New York Magazine: Republicans shudder as extremist Don Bolduc wins Senate primary.

“New Hampshire state Senate President Chuck Morse (R) conceded the Republican Senate primary Wednesday morning to Don Bolduc (R), a retired Army brigadier general and election denier who has embraced former President Donald Trump’s approach to politics — a letdown for the GOP establishment in the race to take on Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH),” CNN reports.

“Bolduc joins a list of candidates national Republicans worry won’t be able to appeal to the broader November electorate.”

John Avlon: What does this race tell us about the state of the GOP?

POLLING.

  • TEXAS GOVERNOR–University of Texas/Texas Politics Project–Gov. Greg Abbott (R) 45–Beto O’Rourke (D) 40.
  • PENNSYLVANIA U.S SENATOR–Monmouth–John Fetterman (D) 49–Mehmet Oz (R) 39. Key finding: Fetterman has a positive personal rating of 47% favorable to 42% unfavorable. Oz has a net negative personal rating of 36% favorable to 52% unfavorable. 
  • PENNSYLVANIA U.S SENATOR–CBS News–Fetterman 52–Oz 47
  • PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR–CBS News–Josh Shapiro (D) 55–Doug Mastriano (R) 44
  • GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR–Quinnipiac–Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) 52, Herschel Walker (R) 46.
  • GEORGIA GOVERNOR–Quinnipiac–Gov. Brian Kemp (R) 50–Stacey Abrams (D) 48. Said pollster Tim Malloy: “No cushion and no comfort zone for either candidate as the Georgia governor’s race roars to a finish and with the vast majority of voters saying they’ve already made their choice, there’s little wiggle room for either candidate.”
  • OHIO U.S. SENATOR–Suffolk University/USA Today–Tim Ryan (D) 47–J.D. Vance (R) 46.
  • OHIO GOVERNOR–Suffolk University/USA Today–Gov. Mike DeWine (R) 54–Nan Whaley (D) 39
  • NEW YORK GOVERNOR–co/efficient (R)–Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) 49–Lee Zeldin (R) 43
  • NEW YORK GOVERNOR–PPP–Hochul 54–Zeldin 39

The Republican firm Echelon Insights has polled 14 different states for NetChoice, a trade association whose members include tech giants like Amazon, Google, Lyft, and Meta. Most of the questions are related to internet regulation, but each survey first quizzed respondents about any Senate and governor contests happening in their state.

  • AR-Sen: John Boozman (R-inc): 56, Natalie James (D): 32
  • AZ-Sen: Mark Kelly (D-inc): 52, Blake Masters (R): 37
  • FL-Sen: Marco Rubio (R-inc): 50, Val Demings (D): 41
  • GA-Sen: Raphael Warnock (D-inc): 50, Herschel Walker (R): 40
  • KS-Sen: Jerry Moran (R-inc): 54, Mark Holland (D): 35
  • LA-Sen: John Kennedy (R-inc): 51, Gary Chambers (D): 16, Luke Mixon, (D): 8, Syrita Steib (D): 6
  • OH-Sen: Tim Ryan (D): 45, J.D. Vance (R): 39
  • OK-Sen-A: James Lankford (R-inc): 59, Madison Horn (D): 29
  • OK-Sen-B: Markwayne Mullin (R): 58, Kendra Horn (D): 28
  • PA-Sen: John Fetterman (D): 57, Mehmet Oz (R): 36
  • SC-Sen: Tim Scott (R-inc): 54, Krystle Matthews (D): 37
  • AR-Gov: Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R): 62, Chris Jones (D): 32
  • AZ-Gov: Katie Hobbs (D): 50, Kari Lake (R): 40
  • FL-Gov: Ron DeSantis (R-inc): 52, Charlie Crist (D): 42
  • GA-Gov: Stacey Abrams (D): 48, Brian Kemp (R-inc): 47
  • KS-Gov: Laura Kelly (D-inc): 53, Derek Schmidt (R): 41
  • OH-Gov: Mike DeWine (R-inc): 54, Nan Whaley (D): 35
  • OK-Gov: Kevin Stitt (R-inc): 55, Joy Hofmeister (D): 36
  • PA-Gov: Josh Shapiro (D): 55, Doug Mastriano (R): 36
  • RI-Gov: Dan McKee (D-inc): 51, Ashley Kalus (R): 28
  • SC-Gov: Henry McMaster (R-inc): 50, Joe Cunningham (D): 44
  • TX-Gov: Greg Abbott (R-inc): 48, Beto O’Rourke (D): 46

Overall these are some of the very best numbers for Democrats compared to what any pollster has released even though Echelon is a GOP company. In Georgia, for instance, this is the first survey we’ve seen since April to show Abrams with any sort of lead in her rematch with Kemp.

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR, 1ST and 2ND CD. New Hampshire’s Republican voters closed out the 2022 primary season on Tuesday by defying D.C. and state GOP leaders and nominating a trio of far-right congressional candidates. In the race to face Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, retired Army Brig. General Donald Bolduc holds a 37-36 edge over state Senate President Chuck Morse as of Wednesday morning with 127,000 ballots counted, which the Associated Press estimates represents 87% of the total vote; the AP has not yet called the race, but Morse has conceded.

Over in the 1st District in the eastern part of the state, Karoline Leavitt overcame heavy spending directed against her to beat her fellow Trump administration alum, 2020 nominee Matt Mowers, 35-25. Leavitt will go up against Democratic incumbent Chris Pappas, who defeated Mowers last time, in a 52-46 Biden constituency that has long been one of the swingiest seats in America.

Finally in the 2nd District in western and northern New Hampshire, former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns leads Keene Mayor George Hansel 33-31 in the contest to face Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster; the AP estimates only 77% of the estimated vote is in, but Hansel has also conceded. Biden would have prevailed 54-45 here.

The most prominent member of this bunch is Bolduc, who is now the GOP’s standard bearer in a crucial Senate race whether party leaders like it or not. The retired general, who lost the 2020 primary for New Hampshire’s other Senate seat 50-42, quickly began running against Hassan even while national Republicans were unsuccessfully trying to recruit Gov. Chris Sununu.

Bolduc spent his second effort embracing the Big Lie, saying at one debate, “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn it, I stand by [it].” Bolduc also has refused to apologize for his 2021 comments accusing Sununu of being a “Chinese communist sympathizer” with a family business that “supports terrorism.” Sununu, unsurprisingly, backed Morse in the last week of the race. But while Bolduc raised less than $500,000 total through Aug. 24, he posted double digit leads in two polls heading into Labor Day thanks in part to name recognition from his earlier race.

Deep-pocketed Republicans responded in the final two weeks by setting up a new group called White Mountain PAC that launched a multi-million-dollar effort to promote Morse and attack Bolduc as a surefire loser with “crazy ideas.” It remains to be seen who exactly was behind the PAC, though national observers noticed it showed up on the scene just days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell bemoaned that “candidate quality” could keep the GOP from seizing the majority. The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC, in turn, waged its own expensive ad campaign tying Morse to lobbyists, a move aimed at weakening him for the general election if he couldn’t be stopped in the primary.

However, while Team Blue ultimately got the opponent it wanted, everyone acknowledges that even a terrible candidate like Bolduc could still pull off a win in a state that’s prone to wild swings. Indeed, his intra-party critics signaled before the primary that they’ll work to beat Hassan even if they have to deal with him. McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund has been preparing for an expensive general election no matter what, and last week it booked $23 million in ads. And while Sununu last month denounced Bolduc as “conspiracy-theory extremist” who is “not a serious candidate,” he acknowledged Monday he’d support him if he took the nomination.

Meanwhile in the 1st District, Mowers looked like the frontrunner for his second try until results came in. Prominent House Republicans agreed that Mowers, who lost to Pappas 51-46 last time, would be able to finish the job in 2022, and he earned endorsements from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise. Leavitt, by contrast, had the support of New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is her old boss and the number-three Republican in the leadership, as well as prominent hardliners like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan.

Mowers’ allies spent close to $3 million to boost Mowers and bash Leavitt: One memorable spot called Leavitt, who is 25, a “woke Gen-Zer,” a statement followed with a SnapChat clip of the candidate laughingly exclaiming, “Listen up, ho bags.” But while Leavitt’s side had access to far less money, she made sure to run as far to Mowers’ right as possible. Notably, while Mowers refused to say whether he agreed with the Big Lie, Leavitt said her opponent sided “with Joe Biden and the Democrats by refusing to stand for election integrity and support audits.”

Leavitt also made sure to inform primary voters that Mowers once worked for Dr. Deborah Birx, albeit before she became the Trump White House’s coronavirus coordinator and one of the far right’s favorite foils. Additionally, Leavitt went after Mowers for casting ballots in the 2016 presidential primary in both New Hampshire and later in his home state of New Jersey.

Finally in the 2nd District, Sununu endorsed Hansel, a self-described “pro-choice” candidate, over Burns, who took fourth in the 2018 primary. National Democrats, though, saw a chance to meddle in the primary, and they spent over $500,000 on ads promoting Burns as an ardent Trump ally.

Hansel also benefited from outside help from a new super PAC, which Burns, who spent little himself, was none too happy about. “This is coming from McCarthy,” the soon-to-be-nominee argued, continuing, “He’s dead to me at this point. I’m not going to support him.” Burns added, “And quite frankly if it boils down to it, I may run against him.”

RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR.: Incumbent Dan McKee, who was elevated from the office of lieutenant governor to the top job in March of last year, held off former CVS executive Helena Foulkes 33-30, with another 26% going to Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

Gorbea looked like McKee’s main rival for almost the entire campaign, but Foulkes gained traction as the race closed. However, her surge came just a little too late: WPRI relays that, while Foulkes narrowly won ballots that were cast in person on Election Day, she took third place among early and mail voters.

The first spot from DGA’s Alliance for a Better Rhode Island affiliate hits Kalus, who only moved to the Ocean State last year after casting a ballot in Florida in 2020, as an outsider who doesn’t understand the state she wants to lead. It goes on to play a clip of Kalus being asked by a reporter, “So you say you’re personally pro-life, but policywise, would you have signed” the state’s Reproductive Privacy Act, to which the candidate responds, “No, I’m pro-life.”

RHODE ISLAND 2ND CD.: State Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who had the support of retiring Rep. Jim Langevin, defeated former state Rep. David Segal 54-16. Magaziner will go up against former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who was the 2014 and 2018 Republican nominee for governor. Biden would have carried this western Rhode Island constituency, which is also home to western Providence, 56-42, but Republicans are hoping that Fung can put it into play.

“Who knows? You don’t run for an office — well, maybe some people do — because you always wanted to. But I think you run for an office because you notice something about the office, and something about yourself, and something about the moment that adds up. So who knows what the future is going to call me.” — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, quoted by The Hill, when asked if he would run for president again.

Cook Political Report: “If there were any doubt as to where the base of the GOP resides, the results of the New Hampshire primary made it very clear that it is with Trump. In states like Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, and now New Hampshire, GOP voters have chosen the more Trump-ified candidate over the candidate that has either been endorsed by, or run in the mold of those states’ popular, centrist and more establishment GOP governors.”

Aaron Blake: “That’s been the story of the primary season. While Trump’s endorsement failed in some of highest-profile, most competitive races, his vision for the party won resoundingly. Even Republicans who beat Trump-backed candidates were often aligned with the MAGA movement or at least had baselessly expressed skepticism about the 2020 election results.”

“A recent study from the Brookings Institution, released before Tuesday’s primaries, found that Trump-aligned candidates had a significantly higher win rate than more mainstream conservatives.”

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and challenger Herschel Walker (R) will officially meet for a televised debate in Georgia next month, just weeks before November’s midterm elections, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

The announcement ended weeks of wrangling, taunting and name-calling by agreeing to a nationally watched showdown.

Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman (D) released a new ad attacking challenger Dr. Mehmet Oz’s long history of promoting unproven medical treatments.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Politico reports that Sentinel Action Fund, which is aligned with the conservative Heritage Foundation, has booked $3.5 million in TV time to aid Republican Blake Masters and will spend another $1.5 million on get-out-the-vote-efforts. The move comes days after Saving Arizona PAC launched its own $1.5 million buy to help Masters: These new arrivals, though, are still well short of making up for the $11.5 million worth of reservations that the NRSC and Senate Leadership Fund canceled last month.  

MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL. The Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council has appointed Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson, a Democrat, to serve as a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into whether attorney Matthew DePerno, who is the Republican nominee for attorney general, should face charges over his alleged involvement in a scheme to illegally acquire and tamper with voting machines early last year. The council was responding to a request to appoint a special prosecutor by DePerno’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Dana Nessel, who herself was acting in response to a petition by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for an investigation.

DePerno, who staunchly denies Joe Biden’s 2020 victory and has vowed to prosecute Nessel if elected, has been accused along with several other Republicans of illegally accessing voting machines as part of his post-election lawsuit seeking to cast doubt on Biden’s win. Nessel’s office contends that subpoenas submitted by DePerno’s team in that lawsuit cited information that could not have otherwise been obtained without illegally accessing voting machines in a northern Michigan county.

WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT. Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, a conservative who lost re-election in 2020, announced on Thursday that he’d seek to return to the bench next year, when a seat held by another conservative justice will come open. That election could shift the balance of power on the court, where conservatives currently hold a 4-3 majority.

Kelly will face two liberal candidates in an ostensibly nonpartisan primary in late February: Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell and Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz. The top two vote-getters will then go head-to-head six weeks later in early April to fill the post held by retiring Justice Patience Roggensack, who announced late last year that she would not seek a third 10-year term.

Two years ago, Kelly was ousted by liberal Judge Jill Karofsky in an election at the start of the pandemic plagued by exceptionally long lines due to the closure of most polling places. The state Supreme Court’s conservative majority exacerbated the problem by blocking an executive order by Gov. Tony Evers to delay the election until June, but Kelly nonetheless lost by a wide 55-45 margin.

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. “More than 150 Michigan Republicans banded together to launch a group supporting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s reelection bid,” the Detroit Metro Times reports.

OREGON GOVERNOR. Both Republican Christine Drazan and independent Betsy Johnson have been arguing that Tina Kotek has done a poor job on public safety and homelessness, and the Democrat is responding with a spot where a health care and housing leader named Ed Blackburn touts her as the candidate “with a plan to help get people off the streets so everyone is safe.” Blackburn argues Kotek supports “expanding treatment programs for addiction and mental health to putting new outreach workers on the ground, plus more shelters and affordable housing.”

Johnson, meanwhile, is airing another commercial in this three-way race attacking Kotek on public safety. A separate Johnson ad goes after Drazan on abortion, with a nurse declaring the Republican is “backed by a radical group that wants to make all abortion illegal.”

MAINE GOVERNOR. While Republican Paul LePage spends most of his new commercial attacking Democratic incumbent Janet Mills as a well-connected insider, the Bangor Daily News notes that he devotes a very small portion of it to elevating the third candidate on the ballot, underfunded independent Sam Hunkler.

However, the viewer actually needs to be paying close attention to notice because Hunkler, whom the narrator doesn’t even mention, is in and out of the ad in the space of about a second. The spot begins with pictures of all three candidates and text describing them, with Hunkler’s brief moment on screen reading “doctor” and “Peace Corp [volunteer].” The rest of the ad goes on to talk about LePage’s difficult upbringing and go after Mills, while the independent is not seen or heard from again.

LePage won his 2010 and 2014 races with a plurality of the vote while candidates to his left split the majority, and the former governor likely is hoping that he can do it again by helping Hunkler pry some votes away from Mills. Election reformers once held out hope that the state’s instant-runoff law, which passed via ballot initiative in 2016, would end the days when a governor could prevail without a majority. However, the state Supreme Court soon issued a non-binding advisory opinion saying that the state constitution forbade ranked choice from being implemented in general elections for state-level office.

The legislature passed a law later in 2017 making it clear that instant-runoff voting couldn’t be used in general elections for governor or the legislature, though it still is the law for all primaries and for general elections to Congress. While ranked choice supporters responded to these developments by calling for a state constitutional amendment that would allow instant-runoff voting for all races, it would require two-thirds support in both legislative chambers to even put this on the ballot. Voters, however, rejected a 2018 referendum that would have scraped instant-runoff voting altogether, so it seems like the new status quo will be in place for a while.

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

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