The Political Report – November 16, 2022

“Republicans were on the cusp of retaking control of the House late Monday, just one victory shy of the 218 seats the party needs to secure a majority, narrowing the path for Democrats to keep the chamber and raising the prospect of a divided government in Washington,” the AP reports.

Politico: How the GOP almost blew the House.

Insider finds that “16 out of the 22 top-spending candidates in the midterm elections lost their races.”

“Combined, the 16 also-rans spent over $223 million of their own money — just over half of the nearly $443 the top self-funding candidates spent this cycle.”

“This overall poor midterm showing illustrates a long-term trend in US politics: only a small fraction of candidates who fill their campaign coffers with their own money actually win office.”

New York Times: “In 2021, as Democratic strategists brainstormed ways to defend their threadbare control of the Senate, they began an aggressive communications strategy with the goal of choosing their adversaries.”

“Their best chance of hanging on, Senator Gary Peters of Michigan told staff members at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was to focus like a laser on the four seats they needed to keep: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire.”

“But Peters, the committee’s chairman, also authorized a bit of skulduggery. The emerging plan had two main components: deterring potentially strong Republicans from entering races against those ‘core four’ Democratic incumbents, and ‘maximizing the chaos’ within Republican primaries.”

“In this, Democrats had an unwitting ally in Donald Trump, who insisted on supporting only candidates who would back his stolen-election lies.”

ARIZONA GOVERNOR. Democrats enjoyed yet another welcome burst of news Monday when media outlets called the Arizona governor’s race for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who will be the first Democrat in 14 years to lead what’s become a crucial swing state. Hobbs leads her far-right opponent, former local TV anchor Kari Lake, 50.4-49.6 with 98% of the likely total vote reporting for the contest to succeed termed-out Gov. Doug Ducey. Republicans hoped that later-counted ballot would allow Lake to overcome the edge that Hobbs has enjoyed since election night, but those batches of votes weren’t quite red enough to deny Hobbs the win.

Lake, who began spreading conspiracy theories and cultivating ties with the extremist right well before she went off the air last year as a news anchor for Phoenix’s Fox 10, was part of Trump’s nationwide primary slate of Big Lie spreaders, and she rode that support to beat out a Ducey-backed foe for the nomination in August. Lake quickly became a national MAGA star, and some over-eager observers speculated that she could be Trump’s running mate―or even a future presidential nominee―even though she hadn’t even won her own race yet. Lake herself even recorded videos imploring voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania to elect like-minded Trumpists, Tudor Dixon and Doug Mastriano, to lead their respective states.

What Lake didn’t do in the general election, though, was abandon her conspiracy mongering. The Republican nominee spent the week before the election making light of the assassination attempt on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying, “Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in D.C.—apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection.” Lake also continued to push the Big Lie, saying of Trump’s 2020 loss in Arizona, “We had 740,000 ballots with no chain of custody. Those ballots shouldn’t have been counted.”

Hobbs, for her part, launched her campaign last year highlighting how she performed her job as the Grand Canyon State’s chief election administrator in the face of death threats. Hobbs ran a considerably more low-key campaign than Lake, who aired several ads hitting the Democrat for refusing to debate her. Hobbs and her allies, though, stuck with their strategy of highlighting Lake’s extremism, which included an ad hitting her for appearing to flirt with secession in response to the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago.

Hobbs’ victory will make her Arizona’s first Democratic governor since early 2009, when Janet Napolitano resigned to become Barack Obama’s first secretary of homeland security. Team Blue knew that Napolitano’s departure would hand the governor’s office to Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who was next in line for the top job in a state that lacks a lieutenant governor’s post, but they hoped the GOP would hand back control the next year.

That was a huge miscalculation. Brewer was in place to sign the infamous anti-immigrant bill SB 1070 into law months before she rode the 2010 red wave to a full term, and Ducey won the following two elections. Hobbs, though, finally returns this office to Democratic control over a decade after they forfeited it.

P.S. Arizona will, starting in 2026, elect a lieutenant governor for the first time, since voters have now passed a ballot measure to establish the post by a 55-45 margin. Hobbs would be able to name her own running mate, who would assume the governorship should Hobbs win a second term but be unable to complete it, ensuring that the debacle of 2009 can never be repeated. Until then, the person next in line to succeed her will be Secretary of State-elect Adrian Fontes, a fellow Democrat who won the race to succeed Hobbs by defeating election denier Mark Finchem.

David Graham: “To understand why Republicans are on course to barely capture control of the House of Representatives in precedent-defying midterm elections, a district all the way on the other side of the country from Washington, D.C., might be the best place to look.”

“In Washington State’s Third District, the Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez was projected over the weekend to defeat Joe Kent, capturing a district that Republicans have held since 2010. Democrats have sought for years to flip the Third, repeatedly spending piles of money to defeat Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler. But what they were unable to achieve, the GOP achieved for them this year: A Trump-backed primary challenge unseated Herrera Beutler and paved the way for a Democratic takeover.”

C0-03. “National Democratic and Republican groups have deployed to Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District to help find voters whose ballots need ‘curing’ as control of the U.S. House could potentially hinge on the outcome of the race between Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and Democrat Adam Frisch, a former Aspen city councilman,” the Colorado Sun reports.

“Boebert, who is seeking reelection to her second two-year term, was leading Frisch by about 1,100 votes, or less than 1 percentage point, on Monday morning. A smattering of votes will be counted through Friday and it’s unlikely the race will be called until the end of the week — at the earliest.”

AZ-01: Republican Rep. David Schweikert has overcome a late Democratic offensive highlighting his ethics violations and held his suburban Phoenix seat against Democrat Jevin Hodge. Schweikert leads 50.4-49.6 with 99% of the Associated Press’ estimated vote in for a constituency Biden carried 50-49.

AZ-04: Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton has fended off Republican Kelly Cooper, a far right extremist who won the nomination in August despite heavy spending from GOP outside groups that correctly saw him as a disastrous candidate. Stanton leads 57-43 with 94% of the estimated vote in; Biden won this constituency in the Phoenix area 54-44 two years ago.  

AZ-06: Republican Juan Ciscomani has flipped this open Tucson-based district that national Democrats triaged weeks ahead of Election Day. Ciscomani beat out Democrat Kirsten Engel 50.5-49.5 with 97% of the estimated vote in; Biden took this seat by a tiny 49.3-49.2 margin.

CA-26: Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley has turned back Republican Matt Jacobs in a race that attracted some late spending from her allies at EMILY’s List. The incumbent leads 54-46 with 60% of the estimated vote in; Biden took this seat, which is based in Ventura County north of Los Angeles, 59-39.

CA-41: Republican Rep. Ken Calvert has won his 16th term by turning back Democrat Will Rollins in a competitive race that attracted little outside spending. Calvert leads Rollins 52-48 with 80% of the estimated vote in for a 50-49 Trump district that spans from the southern Riverside suburbs to Palm Springs. This is Calvert’s first competitive race since 2008, when he almost lost in a shocker that few saw coming.  

CA-45: Republican Michelle Steel has turned back Democrat Jay Chen after a race where national GOP groups dumped about $5 million to protect her while Team Blue largely deployed its resources elsewhere. Steel holds a 54-46 advantage with 78% of the estimated vote in for a western Orange County seat Biden took 52-46. Steel and her allies ran ad after ad accusing Chen, whose family fled China after the Communist Party took power, of having “led efforts to bring Chinese communist propaganda to schools.”

OR-05: Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer has flipped this seat for her party by defeating Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner in a seat that became open in May after McLeod-Skinner denied renomination to Blue Dog Democratic incumbent Kurt Schrader. Chavez-DeRemer leads 51-49 with 94% of the estimated vote in for a 53-44 Biden seat located in the southern Portland suburbs and central Oregon. Chavez-DeRemer will be the first Latina to represent Oregon in Congress, a distinction she’d share with Andrea Salinas should the Democrat keep her lead in the 6th.

OR-06: Democrat Andrea Salinas has won this brand-new seat by defeating Republican Mike Erickson after an expensive fight. The Democrat holds a 50-48 edge with 93% of the estimated vote in for a constituency in the Salem area and southwestern Portland suburbs that Biden won 55-42. Salinas will be Oregon’s first Latina member of Congress, a distinction she’ll share with Republican Rep.-elect Lori Chavez-DeRemer of the neighboring 5th District.

Erickson last month threatened to sue to overturn the election should he lose, citing a state law that the Oregon Capitol Chronicle wrote “prohibits knowingly making false statements about a candidate, political committee or ballot measure.” It’s not clear whether this law has ever been successfully employed to reverse the results of an election, and Erickson’s attorney cited no such examples in her letter. It also remains to be seen if Erickson will make good on his threat now that he has lost.

Erickson took issue with a Salinas commercial highlighting his 2016 arrest and conviction for drunk driving where the narrator noted that in addition to the DUI, Erickson was “charged with illegal drug possession for illegal oxycodone.” The Republican’s legal team insisted that he “has never been charged with illegal possession of drug” because his lawyer six years ago said that she’d made a “mistake” by filing a plea agreement stating that the district attorney’s office had “agreed to dismiss felony possession of controlled substance upon tender of guilty plea.”

An attorney for Salinas, however, cited that very statement in support of the ad’s truthfulness in a letter and argued that “a charge is a charge, whether or not the DA files it.”

NY-22: Republican Brandon Williams has kept this Syracuse-based open seat red by turning back Democrat Francis Conole after another pricey battle. The Republican holds a 51-49 advantage with 97% of the estimated vote counted in this 53-45 Biden seat. Williams in August overcame close to $1 million in spending by the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund, which tried to get a different Republican nominated, but CLF dutifully turned around and deployed millions in the general for its unwanted standard bearer.

MD-06: Democratic Rep. David Trone took the lead Friday as more ballots were counted, and Republican Neil Parrott conceded shortly before media outlets called the race. Trone leads 52-48 with 98% of the estimated vote in for a seat in Western Maryland and the northwestern D.C. exurbs that Biden took 54-44.

WA-03: Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez scored one of the biggest upsets of the cycle by beating Republican Joe Kent, an election denier who had defeated GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in the August top-two primary, in a southwestern Washington seat that Trump took 51-47. Gluesenkamp Perez, who will be the second Latino to represent Washington in Congress after Herrera Beutler, leads 51-49 with 95% of the estimated vote in.

Herrera Beutler flipped a previous version of this seat during the 2010 GOP wave, and she fended off a serious Democratic offensive in 2020. The congresswoman, though, put herself in a different kind of political danger months later when she responded to the Jan. 6 attack by voting to impeach Trump. Trump himself went on to back Kent, who defended Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and called anyone arrested for Jan. 6 “political prisoners.” Kent also gave an interview to a Nazi sympathizer, though he insisted he thought his questioner was a local journalist after CNN broke this news in October.

Kent responded to his August win over Herrera Beutler by dubbing the district “deep red MAGA country,” and he seemed intent to do everything he could to test that out. The Seattle Times writes, “He called for all weapons available to the military, including machine guns, to be available to the public. He supported a national abortion ban, with no exceptions, and called for Dr. Anthony Fauci to be charged with murder.”  

Gluesenkamp Perez, who had lost a 2016 campaign for the Skamania County Board of Commissioners, in turn pitched herself as a moderate and ran ads where local Republicans condemned Kent as a dangerous extremist who would “defund the FBI” and looks up to Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene; Herrera Beutler, for her part, refused to say who she was backing. House Majority PAC also launched an ad buy against Kent in the final days of the race as major GOP groups remained on the sidelines, a gamble that may have made all the difference.

P.S. Gluesenkamp Perez’s victory puts House Democrats on track to represent every district that touches the Pacific Ocean, a feat they haven’t accomplished since before Washington became a state in 1889. Two Democratic incumbents on the California coast, 47th District Rep. Katie Porter and 49th District Rep. Mike Levin, have held the lead since election night, though their races haven’t been called yet.

Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola won’t know her fate until the state conducts instant-runoff tabulations on Nov. 23, but she also looks well positioned: Peltola is taking 47% of the vote with an estimated 80% in, so she’d only need to win a small number of second-choice votes to pull ahead.

CA-15: Assemblyman Kevin Mullin has defeated his fellow Democrat, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, in the contest to succeed retiring Rep. Jackie Speier. Mullin leads 56-44 with 58% of the estimated vote in for a dark blue Bay Area constituency that includes most of San Mateo County and a portion of San Francisco. The winner had the backing of both Speier and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who sought reelection one seat to the north, and he also benefited from spending by the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC.    

IL Ballot: KSDK has called a win for Amendment 1, which would enshrine “the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively” into the state constitution. The measure leads 58-42 with 97% of the estimated vote in.

Even though Amendment 1 has enjoyed a clear lead since election night, it wasn’t quite clear for days that it had won because of an unusual provision in the state constitution. Illinois’ governing document reads, “A proposed amendment shall become effective as the amendment provides if approved by either three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election.”

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. The first Democratic attack ads of the runoff have launched, hitting Herschel Walker for his many personal failings, including paying a girlfriend to have an abortion. That story earned enormous media attention the instant the Daily Beast broke it last month and led to upheaval inside Walker’s campaign, but it wasn’t the subject of many ads prior to the first round of voting.

This time around, it’s just one part of a new broadside from American Bridge, which Politico says is running a “seven-figure” paid media campaign “targeted to voters outside of the Atlanta media market.” The spot features several different women who all paint Walker as a liar and a danger:

“Herschel Walker lies. He lies about his businesses. He lies about the way he’s treated his family. His son says he’s afraid of him and doesn’t respect him. He’s dangerous. Herschel Walker allegedly held a gun to his girlfriend’s head. He lies about his beliefs about abortion. He paid for an abortion for his girlfriend and then he lied about it. Does he think the people of Georgia are stupid? Too many red flags. There’s too much at stake. He does not deserve to represent us.”

Republicans waded back into the fray a day earlier, with ads from the NRSC trying to tie Raphael Warnock to Joe Biden.

“Republican politicians and associated committees are sending out desperate fundraising emails begging the GOP faithful to help save America by getting behind Herschel Walker in his Dec. 6 runoff race against Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock,” NBC News reports.

“But what’s not immediately clear to recipients is how little of that money is going to Walker’s campaign: just a dime for every dollar given by small donors.”

“Walker’s campaign, which has trailed Warnock’s in fundraising throughout the election, is now asking fellow Republicans to stop their fundraising practices — or at least start sharing more with the candidate.”

Here’s a roundup of the new ads that are being aired in what will be an ultra-expensive Dec. 6 runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker:

Raphael Warnock: The narrator (The Wire’s John Doman, who previously voiced a spot in Missouri) argues that the senator will work across party lines and has “the competence and character to represent us.”

Herschel Walker: The spot tries to shore up Walker against the many attacks on his honesty and character with an unnamed man insisting, “The quality and the fabric of the man is top notch and his values have been formed in small-town Wrightsville, Georgia. And those are good values.”

Georgia Honor: The Senate Majority PAC affiliate launches one of those attacks on Walker’s honesty and character by saying that his own campaign aides “call him a ‘pathological liar’ who lies about the most basic facts of his life.” The narrator continues, “His own son describes Walker threatening to kill his ex-wife.” AdImpact says the group is spending $4.6 million on a buy spanning Nov. 12 to Nov. 18.

American Bridge: A Republican voter identified as Janis condemns Walker by declaring, “He lies about his businesses. He lies about the way he’s treated his family. He lies about his beliefs about abortion.” Janis then talks about the Daily Beast’s bombshell report from last month, saying, “He encouraged his partner to have an abortion. I’ll pray for Herschel Walker, but I will not vote for him.”

This spot, as well as a similar one we covered in our last Digest, are part of what AdImpact reports is a $1.2 million campaign from Nov. 12 to Nov. 21.

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

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