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The Political Report – November 30, 2022

 “The list of states with the biggest say in Democratic presidential contests could get a big shake-up this week,” Politico reports.

“A flurry of public and private lobbying to reformat the longtime early-state lineup of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina kicked off again after the midterms, with the Democratic National Committee’s group reviewing the order set to meet later this week…”

“The behind-the-scenes jockeying has intensified, but the most important player in the drama — the White House — has remained tight-lipped about how the schedule should shake out, according to several Democratic operatives involved in the process.”

ARIZONA. Monday was the deadline for Arizona counties to certify election results. Several GOP-controlled counties dillydallied until the last minute, but only Cochise County blew the deadline. Democratic super lawyer Marc Elias immediately filed a lawsuit against the county, and so did Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (the Democratic governor-elect).

Refusing to certify the election results is what the NYT calls a “new frontier in the politicization of elections”

“I don’t think we’ve seen this in modern times before the 2020 election. It all goes back to Trump and election denialism,” UCLA law professor Richard L. Hasen told the Times.

“Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs sued a Republican-controlled county Monday after it refused to certify its election results by the state’s statutory deadline,” NBC News reports.

“The lawsuit, filed in Arizona Superior Court, aims to compel the Cochise County Board of Supervisors to certify the county’s results from the Nov. 8 election. The deadline for county certification is Monday.”

GA-SEN: Records show U.S. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker (R) — who’s facing fresh questions about his Georgia residency — rented out his Atlanta home just before launching his campaign, the Daily Beast reports.

“Georgia voters set a single-day early turnout record Monday as 301,500 people stormed to the polls on the first day they were open in most counties ahead of the U.S. Senate runoff,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R) “had nothing to say about the dinner date between his political patron, former president Donald Trump, and an avowed white supremacist and anti-Semite,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, “Walker hasn’t taken a question since early October from the reporters covering his campaign in Georgia and Monday was no exception.”

AdImpact tells Politico that Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and his outside group allies have outspent Republican Herschel Walker’s side by a lopsided $31 million to $12 million from Nov. 9 to Nov. 28 on TV, radio, and digital ads. The GOP has a $7 million to $5 million advantage in ad time for the remaining week of the contest, though this number can change if new spots are purchased.

Warnock’s campaign alone has outpaced Walker $15 million to $5 million through Monday, an important advantage since FCC regulations give candidates—but not outside groups—discounted rates on TV and radio. The senator was able to amass this sort of spending lead because he’s also continued to overwhelm Walker in the fundraising department: Warnock outraised his foe $51 million to $20 million from Oct. 20 to Nov. 16 and concluded that period with a $30 million to $10 million cash-on-hand lead.

Warnock’s supporters at the Senate Majority PAC affiliate Georgia Honor also outspent their GOP counterparts at the Senate Leadership Fund $13 million to $5 million, though SLF is hoping one prominent surrogate will help them overcome that disadvantage. Just before Thanksgiving the group debuted a spot starring Gov. Brian Kemp, who won re-election outright 53-46 on Nov. 8 as Walker lagged Warnock 49.4-48.5: While Kemp didn’t campaign with the Senate nominee during the first round, he now pledges to the audience, “Herschel Walker will vote for Georgia, not be another rubber stamp for Joe Biden.”

Walker also has benefited from a $1.5 million ad buy from the NRA that began shortly ahead of Thanksgiving. The candidate additionally is running his own ad attacking Warnock’s character.

VA-04: Democratic Rep. Don McEachin, who has represented Virginia’s 4th Congressional District since 2017, died on Monday night at the age of 61 due to colorectal cancer. We will have a detailed look at his career in the next Digest.

NM-02: Outgoing GOP incumbent Yvette Herrell last week filed FEC paperwork for a potential 2024 rematch against Democratic Rep.-elect Gabe Vasquez, who unseated her 50.3-49.7. These super-early filings from defeated candidates, as we recently noted, often have more to do with resolving financial matters from their last campaign than they do about the future, though the Republican hasn’t said anything publicly over the last week about her plans.

Herrell may also be hoping for a favorable ruling from the state Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments in January in a case brought by Republicans alleging that the congressional map violates the state constitution as a partisan gerrymander. Herrell lost this month’s contest to Vasquez in a constituency that favored Biden 52-46.

“The Republican National Committee is launching a review of the party’s performance in the midterm election and bringing on a team of outside advisers to help guide strategy, as the GOP reckons with its disappointing performance in the election,” Politico reports.

The fact that Blake Masters is on the panel conducting the review — and not a subject of it — seems like a problem.

ALASKA. Alaska conducted instant-runoff tabulations one day before Thanksgiving, and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola each won re-election after their respective opponents failed to consolidate enough support to pull ahead. Hardline GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy, meanwhile, claimed a bare majority of the first-choice preferences, so election officials did not do the ranked choice process for his race.

Murkowski held a tiny 43.4-42.6 edge over intra-party rival Kelly Tshibaka, a former state cabinet official backed by Donald Trump, with Democrat Pat Chesbro and Republican Buzz Kelley taking 10% and 3%, respectively. But Murkowski, who has crossed party lines on some high-profile votes, always looked likely to take the bulk of Chesbro’s support, and she emerged with a clear 54-46 win when tabulations were complete.

Tshibaka responded to her defeat by blasting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s allies at the Senate Leadership Fund for deploying “millions of dollars in this race on deceptive ads to secure what he wanted—a Senate minority that he can control, as opposed to a majority he could not.” Trump weeks before the election also ranted that “[t]he Old Broken Crow, Mitchell McConnell, is authorizing $9 Million Dollars to be spent in order to beat a great Republican” rather than target Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona, though SLF itself only ended up spending $6.1 million in Alaska.

Peltola, meanwhile, began Wednesday with 49% of the vote while two Republican rivals, former reality TV star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich III, clocked in at 26% and 23%; the balance went to Libertarian Chris Bye. While Palin had announced her chief of staff the day after the election, reality made his services unnecessary: Peltola ended up beating Palin by a staggering 55-45 after the instant-runoff process was finished, a big shift from her 51.5-48.5 upset win in their August special election contest. Peltola will be one of five House Democrats in a Trump seat in the 118th Congress, and hers will be the reddest of the bunch.

Dunleavy, finally, claimed an outright win with 50.3%. His two main rivals, former Democratic state Rep. Les Gara and former independent Gov. Bill Walker, took 24% and 21%, respectively, while the remainder went to Republican Charlie Pierce, who was challenging the already staunchly conservative Dunleavy from the right. Gara and Walker both said they’d be ranking the other as their second choice, but we don’t know how many of their respective supporters followed their lead.

MORE ALASKA. Following Wednesday’s tabulation of ranked-choice votes in races where no candidate won a majority on Nov. 8, nine Democrats and eight Republicans in Alaska’s state Senate announced the formation of a bipartisan majority coalition, similar to one that held sway in the chamber from 2007 to 2012. The situation in the House, however, remains uncertain.

The alliance ends a decade of Republican control over the Senate, though GOP Sen. Gary Stevens will hold the top role of president, a position he served in during the last bipartisan coalition. That leaves just three far-right Republicans out in the cold; Stevens said they’ve been “difficult to work with” and specifically cited the fact that they’ve voted against state budgets their own party had crafted. (Members of the majority are required to vote for the budget, a system known as a “binding caucus” whose enforcement is evidently now being given effect.)

The House has likewise been governed by a shifting consortium of Democrats, independents, and Republicans since 2017, but it’s not clear whether such an arrangement will continue. While Republicans lost two seats in the Senate, they retained nominal control of 21 seats in the House—theoretically enough for a bare majority. One of those, however, belongs to House Speaker Louise Stutes, a member of the current coalition, while another is represented by David Eastman, a member of the far-right Oath Keepers who is disliked by many fellow Republicans for his obstructionism.

There are many possible permutations that could result in either side winding up in charge. One big question mark is state Rep. Josiah Patkotak, a conservative independent and coalition member who could potentially join forces with the GOP. Another is the 15th District, where Republican Rep. Tom McKay leads Democrat Denny Wells by just four votes after ranked-choice tabulations; Wells says he will likely seek a recount after results are certified on Tuesday.

Whatever happens, we could be in for a long wait: Following both the 2018 and 2020 elections, alliances in the House weren’t finalized until February, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a similar delay this time.

NH State House: Control of the New Hampshire state House remains up in the air after a wild election night and even wilder post-election period that saw Democrats make big gains and left Republicans with just a 201-198 advantage—plus one tied race that could get resolved in a special election.

Even though the GOP will hold a bare majority no matter what happens, that may not be enough to elect a Republican speaker when the chamber—the largest state legislative body in the nation—is sworn in on Dec. 7. Absences are frequent in this part-time legislature, where lawmakers are paid just $100 a year and receive no per diem. Given that reality, a different majority could show up every time the House convenes, a truly chaotic situation that could result in a new speaker every time unless the parties hammer out a power-sharing agreement.

Members will also have to decide what to do in Strafford District 8 (known locally as Rochester Ward 4), which ended in a tie following a recount after election night results put Republican challenger David Walker up just a single vote on Democratic state Rep. Chuck Grassie. The House could simply vote to seat whichever candidate it likes in a raw display of partisan power, or it could order a special election, as was done on at least three prior occasions. In one bizarre case in 1964, however, legislators opted to seat both candidates in a tied race—and gave them half a vote each.

In the event of a special election, though, expect both sides to go all out, especially given the swingy nature of this district, which would’ve voted 51-47 for Joe Biden. And expect more specials in the near future either way, as resignations are also a regular occurrence in the New Hampshire House.

Evangelical celebrity and far-right activist Pat Boone told the Daily Beast that Donald Trump shouldn’t run for president again.

Said Boone: “I don’t think there are enough Republicans who would vote for him so he could be elected. But he was his own worst enemy in his manner and his speech. And he made so many enemies that, while he could be a great president again if he muted his speech and all of that—which I’m not sure he’s capable of—I would advise him, ‘Please don’t run. I think you will divide the Republican Party even more.’”

He added: “Sure, there are a few million people that will support him no matter what. But I think—because of the implacable, unmovable enemies he’s created, even in the Republican Party—that he would not be elected.”

Philadelphia Mayor: Former Municipal Court Judge Jimmy DeLeon, who recently retired after 34 years on the bench, announced shortly before Thanksgiving that he was joining the May 2023 Democratic primary, promising to be a “no-shenanigans-let’s-follow-the-law-there-will-be-order-in-the-courtroom” mayor. Billy Penn says that there was little chatter about DeLeon running until he jumped in last week.  

DeLeon, who unsuccessfully ran for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and state Superior Court during the 2000s, was sanctioned by the Court of Judicial Discipline in 2008 for issuing “a bogus ‘stay away order’ on behalf of a social acquaintance.” DeLeon says of that incident, “I made a mistake, and I was given a second chance … That’s why I believe in second chances.”

WI State Senate: Though Wisconsin Republicans just captured a supermajority in the state Senate earlier this month, they could soon give it back: Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, longtime GOP state Sen. Alberta Darling announced she’d resign effective Dec. 1, a move that will require Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to call a special election.
Republicans made Darling’s 8th District a few points redder under the tilted map they convinced the conservative-dominated state Supreme Court to adopt in April: Under the old lines, Donald Trump carried the 8th by a hair, 49.4 to 49.3, but the current iteration would have backed Trump 52-47, according to Dave’s Redistricting App. In the just-concluded midterms, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson won the district 54-46, according to our calculations, while GOP gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels prevailed by a smaller 52-48 spread.

Darling won re-election for a four-year term in 2020 in the old district, but since the new map is now in effect, state constitutional law expert Quinn Yeargain concludes that the new lines will likely be used. But despite the seat’s GOP lean, Democrats will contest this seat to the utmost.

Republicans were able to take a two-thirds majority this year by flipping the open 25th District in the northwestern part of the state—another seat they gerrymandered—giving them 22 seats in the 33-member Senate. As a result, if Republicans in the Assembly impeach any state officials, their counterparts in the upper chamber can now remove them from office without a single Democratic vote. And if they were to impeach Evers, he’d be suspended from office until the end of a trial in the Senate, which Republicans could try to drag out even if they lack the votes to convict.

Rolling back this supermajority will therefore be critical for Democrats. One thing working in the party’s favor is the fact that the suburbs and exurbs north of Milwaukee where Darling’s district is based have been moving to the left in recent years—a key reason Republicans tried to gerrymander this seat further. One potentially strong option, however, has already said no: state Rep. Deb Andraca, who represents a third of the district, took herself out of the running on Monday.

Since Wisconsin “nests” three Assembly districts in each Senate district, there are two other seats that make up the 8th, both held by Republicans. One, Dan Knodl, says he’s “seriously considering” a campaign; the other, Janel Brandtjen, doesn’t appear to have said anything yet. (Brandtjen, an election denier, was recently barred from private meetings of the Assembly GOP caucus after supporting a primary challenge to Speaker Robin Vos.)

It’s not clear when exactly the special will be held, but in her statement declining a bid, Andraca suggested it would take place “this spring.” Wisconsin is set to hold its annual “spring election” for state and local offices on April 4, so this race could potentially be consolidated with those contests.

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

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