The Political Report – November 12, 2022

President Biden’s first midterm performance for president is one of the best in modern history: Only in 1934 (FDR), 1962 (JFK), 2002 (Bush) did the president’s party not lose Senate seats and fewer than 10 House seats.

As votes are still being counted, John King explains the path for Democrats to keep control of the House of Representatives.

Politico: “There are a bunch of uncalled races where the results are expected to go one way or the other. But it all comes down to about 11 true toss-ups where forecasters really aren’t sure what will happen — and of those, Dems would need to win nine to maintain power.”

Key takeaway: Even in the best case scenario for them, Republicans should have no more than 226 seats.

Looking at the NY Times House Results page this morning, the current count is 211 Republicans and 201 Democrats. 218 is needed for a bare majority. Democrats lead in another 15 races that have yet to be called, bringing us to 216. The are 4 races in which the Republican candidate is currently leading but by less than one percent with lots of vote out. So a Democratic House is very possible.

Inside Elections: “The fight for the House is emerging as the biggest surprise of the cycle. Republicans are unlikely to reach our range of a gain of 13-30 seats, if they win the majority at all.”

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. The Cook Political Report has projected that Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) will defeat challenger Blake Masters (R) in the U.S, Senate race.

Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters (R) slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Friday night, saying that the top Republican should have directed more campaign spending his way to take on Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) in the 2022 midterms, The Hill reports.

Said Masters: “Had he chosen to spend money in Arizona, this race would be over we’d be celebrating a Senate Majority right now.”

ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE. Adrian Fontes (D) won the election for Arizona Secretary of State, defeating election denier Mark Finchem (R), NBC News projects.

Finchem, an ally of Donald Trump, claimed President Biden was not elected in 2020.

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Adam Laxalt (R) are essentially tied in the closely watched U.S. Senate race that could determine party control of the Senate, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports. Laxalt leads by onlly 862 votes as of this morning.

Laxalt is preparing to ask for a statewide recount as his race against incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) goes down to the wire, the Daily Mail reports.

“With razor-thin margins separating candidates in Nevada’s top races, a growing number of advocacy groups are focusing on thousands of challenged ballots still requiring signature cures that could become the difference between victory and defeat for candidates across the state,” the Nevada Independent reports.

“Mail ballots submitted to county election officials that have signatures that do not match those on file require ‘cures,’ a process by which county election workers verify the identity of the voter in question before having their ballot counted.”

The Hill: Nevada Senate race on knife’s edge as majority hangs in the balance.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) went so far as to suggest fraud in Nevada if Adam Laxalt (R) isn’t declared the winner of the U.S. Senate race, Politico reports. Said Graham: “There is no mathematical way Laxalt loses. If he does, then it’s a lie.”

“No evidence of election fraud has emerged and independent analysts have been expecting Cortez Masto to take the lead for days based on the number of outstanding mail votes in the most Democratic part of the state.” Graham is apparently not very good at math — or he’s lying.

NEVADA GOVERNOR. Joe Lombardo (R) will become Nevada’s next governor, making the unconventional leap from county sheriff to the state’s top executive office after unseating first-term Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) by a razor-thin margin, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. “Mitch McConnell is tapping Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to help Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker over the finish line in his December runoff election — a contest that could decide control of the chamber next year,” Politico reports.

“Kemp is loaning his get-out-the-vote machine to the Senate GOP’s voter turnout efforts, giving the party entrée to a political team that is increasingly viewed as one of the GOP’s most formidable state operations.”

The DSCC has announced that it will spend $7 million on get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, an overtime contest that’s guaranteed to attract massive amounts of money from both sides. Indeed, the NRSC is already airing its first runoff ad tying Warnock to the Biden administration, a tactic Republicans used immensely during the first round of voting.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced he will stump for Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker on Thursday as the campaign shifts to next month’s runoff election, The Hill reports.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Washington Post: “It was a rare and very public failure for a man whose life has been marked by success in many arenas. Oz had left a lucrative television career, renowned medical practice and his North Jersey manse, and invested $27 million of his own wealth in the campaign, only to be relentlessly mocked online as an interloper with a dubious recipe for crudites — and, in Pennsylvania, for using that word.”

Nate Cohn: “The results by state only add to the uncommon picture. In our era of increasingly nationalized elections, trends in one part of the country tend to play out in others as well. Instead, this year we saw a split: Republicans fared exceptionally well in some states, including Florida and New York. In others, like Michigan or Pennsylvania, Democrats excelled.”

“How can we make sense of it? The results seem unusual because of two unusual issues: democracy and abortion.”

“Unlike in the typical midterm election, these issues were driven by the actions of the party out of power. Indeed, the party out of power achieved the most important policy success of the last two years: the overturning of Roe v. Wade. It’s nothing like the typical midterm, which might be dominated by a backlash over a first-term president’s effort to reform the health system, as with Obamacare in 2010 or Mr. Clinton’s health care initiative in 1994.”

“These issues were unusual in another respect: Their importance diverged by state or by candidate. Abortion rights might not be seen as under immediate threat in many blue states. The possibility that a Republican governor might overturn a Democratic presidential victory in New York might not seem especially realistic, either.”

ALASKA U.S. SENATOR. “In the days following Tuesday’s election, U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka (R) joined other Trump-endorsed Republican candidates casting unfounded doubt on election results, despite the fact that Alaska election officials are still counting thousands of absentee ballots and have not reported widespread problems in voting,” the Anchorage Daily News reports.

Said Tshibaka, in an interview with Steve Bannon: “Our war is not over yet. This might come down to things like recounts and lawsuits.”

She added: “So we’re anticipating a whole bunch of shenanigans here in these next couple months between now and January.”

OREGON GOVERNOR. Tina Kotek has won a competitive three-way contest to succeed her fellow Democrat, termed-out incumbent Kate Brown, in a state where Team Blue has controlled the governor’s office since 1987. Kotek is the first lesbian elected governor of any state, a distinction she shares with Massachusetts Democrat Maura Healey. 

Kotek leads Republican Christine Drazan 47-43 as of Friday morning with 85% of the Associated Press’ estimated vote in, with conservative Democrat-turned-independent Betsy Johnson taking 9%. Johnson performed better than any nonaligned candidate running for this post since 1990, but she very much seems to have lost altitude during the final weeks of the campaign. Johnson’s decline was probably very good news for Kotek, as limited polling showed the independent drawing more support from Democrats than Republicans.

NEVADA ATTORNEY GENERAL. The Nevada Independent has projected that Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford has defeated far-right extremist Sigal Chattah. The incumbent enjoys a 50-44 edge with 90% of the AP’s estimated vote in, which is the strongest margin by far for any statewide Democrat.

Chattah made a name for herself before this campaign by suing to undermine the state’s pandemic response measures and complaining that the attorney general has done a poor job investigating (baseless, of course) voter fraud allegations. Months before the primary a former Chattah friend named Sarah Ashton-Cirillo also shared an old text where the candidate said that Ford, who is the first African American to hold statewide office, “should be hanging from a (expletive) crane.” 

Chattah responded that she used that term all the time, insisting, “When I say to my friends, ‘I’m going to hang you from a crane,’ I don’t literally mean I’m going to hang you from a crane.” Ashton-Cirillo agreed that Chattah wasn’t being racist but said, “I ran it because I believe that she’s unfit from an emotional standpoint, to understand how to interact in a position of that magnitude of being attorney general.” 

Democrats very much wanted her as Ford’s opponent, though, as a Democratic group ran radio ads slamming her primary foe, Tisha Black, over her 2015 donation to now-Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak while calling Chattah a “MAGA conservative.” Primary voters responded by nominating Chattah, but she proved to be too much for even some prominent Republicans. Former state GOP chair Amy Tarkanian crossed party lines over the summer to endorse Ford over Chattah, whom she called “an unprepared, dangerous candidate who lacks the experience, foresight and temperament to be able to do right by Nevadans.”

WASHINGTON SECRETARY OF STATE. Appointed Secretary of State Steve Hobbs has become the first Democrat to win this office since 1964 now that his opponent, independent Julie Anderson, has conceded their special election. Hobbs leads Anderson 49-47 with 70% of the estimated vote in, while write-ins make up the balance. Extremist state Rep. Brad Klippert launched a write-in campaign weeks before Election Day (no Republicans advanced out of the August top-two primary for this post), and it’s possible this belated effort made all the difference.

Hobbs last year became the first Democrat to hold this post since the LBJ era when Gov. Jay Inslee picked him to succeed Republican Kim Wyman, who resigned to join the Biden administration to oversee election security. He will be up for a full four-year term in 2024.

New York Times: “How does a politician who a few years ago was described as a once-in-a-generation star, and has become a record-breaking fund-raiser and liberal darling, keep coming up short in her home state?”

MICHIGAN LEGISLATURE. “The Michigan Republican Party suffered historic losses on Tuesday because of poor candidates with close ties to former President Donald Trump, who turned off major donors,” the party’s chief of staff said in a scathing post-election memo obtained by the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan Democrats capped off an extraordinary night by seizing control of both the state House and Senate, wins that give the party its strongest influence in state government since the early 1980s. These flips, along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s re-election victory, put Democrats in control of the governing trifecta needed to pass legislation, while Team Blue also kept the state Supreme Court majority it won in 2020.

Observers have speculated that Democrats could use their newfound power to change anti-labor “Right to Work” laws and implement gun-safety legislation. However, Team Blue will have no room for error, as the party appears set to hold a tiny 20-18 majority in the Senate and a 56-54 edge in the House. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who was re-elected on Whitmer’s ticket, would be able to break ties in the upper chamber, but not in the House.

Republicans took control of the state Senate, which is only up in midterm cycles, all the way back in 1984 when they won the races to replace two Democratic incumbents that voters had just recalled at the end of the prior year (which tied the chamber). Those flips deprived Democrats of the trifecta they’d only gained less than a year before and wouldn’t get back until now. Republicans had complete control of the redistricting process following the next three cycles, and they used it to make sure they never lost control of the upper chamber.

The state House, which is on the ballot every two years, was more volatile for much of this time, but Democrats have been locked out of the speaker’s chair since the 2010 red wave and subsequent gerrymander. Indeed, while Democratic House candidates won more votes than GOP candidates in almost every cycle during the 2010s, the GOP never surrendered power.

However, while Whitmer’s decisive 2018 victory wasn’t enough to cost the GOP power in either the House or Senate, that year also saw voters approve the creation of an independent redistricting commission to draw new lines in place of the state legislature. The new maps by no means assured Team Blue victories in either chamber, but it gave the party openings it hadn’t had in a very long time―openings the party very much seized on in 2022 as Whitmer was defeating Republican Tudor Dixon and voters were approving the pro-choice Proposal 3.

As grim as a post-Roe reality is, reproductive rights advocates got some big wins to soften the blow in the midterms, where California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont all had abortion rights on the ballot.

California, Michigan (!), and Vermont all voted to enshrine the right to an abortion in their state constitutions.

Kentucky (!!) rejected a constitutional amendment that would say explicitly that Kentuckians don’t have a right to abortion care.

Montana rejected a legislative measure that would create criminal penalties for health care providers who don’t take actions that are “medically appropriate and reasonable” to save an infant who is born alive, including if the infant was born after an attempted abortion.

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. “As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer waited to speak at a campaign event Saturday night in Detroit, the 51-year-old mother of two joined her junior staffers in turning a cartwheel backstage,” the Washington Post reports.

Sen. Sen. Debbie Stabenow: “Like physically doing cartwheels. They were good! I was impressed.”

“Just three days later, Whitmer impressed the political establishment, as well, vaulting into the national spotlight with a double-digit reelection win Tuesday night. The Michigan governor soundly defeated her Donald Trump-endorsed rival while helping usher in Democratic control of both the state House and Senate for the first time in 40 years.”

IOWA AUDITOR. It appears that Democratic state Auditor Rob Sand has prevented Republicans from taking every statewide office by narrowly turning back challenger Todd Halbur, though Halbur is asking for a recount.

Iowa Starting Line’s Pat Rynard says that Sand holds a 2,614-vote edge with all counties reporting―a margin of 50.1-49.9―which Rynard writes “ought to be enough to withstand any additions from provisional ballots or other issues.” Rynard adds that “barring some unknown issue, Iowa recounts typically do not change vote totals enough to change a statewide lead of that number.”

A Sand win would almost certainly leave him as his party’s most prominent member after a tough night for Hawkeye State Democrats. Republicans won close races against a pair of 10-term incumbents, Attorney General Tom Miller and Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, while Zach Nunn’s victory against Rep. Cindy Axne means that Iowa will send an all-GOP delegation to Congress.

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. State House Speaker Philip Gunn announced Wednesday that he would not seek re-election to the legislature next year, but he once again did not rule out a GOP primary bid against Gov. Tate Reeves. “Well, I’m flattered you would ask,” Gunn told reporters when they brought up the topic, “Right now, I’m the speaker. I’ll always look, see if there’s another area of service that might open up, but right now that’s where I’m at.”

Several other notable Republicans have publicly or privately shown some interest in challenging Reeves, though no one has jumped in yet ahead of the Feb. 1 candidate filing deadline. The primary will take place Aug. 8, with a runoff three weeks later for any races where no one earned a majority of the vote.

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

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