The Political Report – December 1, 2022

“Former First Lady Michelle Obama is helping U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock energize voters in his Dec. 6 runoff contest against Republican Herschel Walker. It’s her first foray into Georgia politics this cycle and one of only a handful of endorsements she’s issued this year,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“It comes days before her husband, former President Barack Obama, headlines a rally for Warnock in Atlanta to boost turnout in the last election of the 2022 campaign.”

It was broadly known that Herschel Walker lived in Texas for years before moving back to Georgia for run for Senate. But new details reported by various outlets over the past week reveal that Walker continues to maintain Texas ties and that his re-established Georgia roots don’t run very deep. Take note:

The Georgia house owned by Walker’s wife that he has claimed has been his residence for years generated rental income for the Walkers as late as 2020-21, according to his financial disclosure forms reviewed by the Daily Beast.

Walker has been getting a tax break intended only for a primary residence on his home in the Dallas, Texas, area as recently as this year.

Walker’s Texas address was used to receive PPP loans in 2020 and 2021, according to the Daily Beast’s findings.

Walker described himself during a campaign speech in January as living in Texas and said he decided to run for Georgia’s Senate seat while at his Texas “home,” CNN reports.

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that Georgia authorities have been urged in a complaint to investigate Walker’s residency.

“Political attack ads often take one of two paths. They use an opposing candidate’s words against them or show ordinary people delivering an argument that’s a little too hot for a campaign to make on its own,” the New York Times reports.

“A new TV ad from Senator Raphael Warnock tries to do both at once.”

“The 60-second ad from Mr. Warnock, the Georgia Democrat, splices together footage of his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker, speaking about vampire movies, pregnant cows and how “our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air.”

The spot features several Georgians incredulously watching as Walker delivers a stemwinder that includes the line, “I was watching this movie I was watching this movie called ‘Fright Night,’ ‘Freak Night,’ or some kind of night, but it’s about vampires. I don’t know if you know, but vampires are some cool people.” After the embarrassed viewers wonder what Walker could be talking about, he continues, “A werewolf can kill a vampire. Did you know that? I never knew that. So, I don’t want to be a vampire any more. I want to be a werewolf.”

Another Warnock commercial features a mother contrasting the two men’s character, while a Walker offering utilizes footage of Gov. Brian Kemp praising his fellow Republican; vampires and werewolves go unmentioned in both pieces.

“As a surge of Georgia voters streamed to the polls this weekend, Sen. Raphael Warnock headlined a half-dozen rallies across metro Atlanta. Herschel Walker, his Republican opponent, was nearly invisible, without a public event for five days,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“The Republican’s campaign, once singularly focused on slamming Warnock’s ties to President Joe Biden, abruptly shifted to accuse Walker’s former football coach of not really being his former football coach after he endorsed Warnock.”

“And thanks to Warnock’s dominating fundraising advantage, the airwaves have been blanketed with Walker’s rambling stump speech gaffes, including a recent inexplicable analysis of horror movie villains: ‘A werewolf can kill a vampire, did you know that?’”

David Corn: Herschel Walker once said he was the target of racism. Now he claims it doesn’t exist.

Nate Cohn: “We won’t get conclusive numbers for months, but the evidence so far raises the distinct possibility that the Black share of the electorate sank to its lowest level since 2006. It certainly did in states like Georgia and North Carolina, where authoritative data is already available.”

“The relatively low turnout numbers aren’t necessarily a surprise. After all, this was not supposed to be a good year for Democrats. Perhaps this is one of the things that went about as expected, with no reason to think it portends catastrophe for Democrats in the years ahead.”

“Still, relatively low Black turnout is becoming an unmistakable trend in the post-Obama era, raising important — if yet unanswered — questions about how Democrats can revitalize the enthusiasm of their strongest group of supporters.”

The Bulwark: “The nonpartisan polling was actually pretty good in 2022. Most of the phantom Republican strength in pre-election statewide polling was a function of junk firms with poor data quality and low transparency spamming the polling averages with bad polls.”

“In reality, an aggregation of nonpartisan polls predicted the correct winner in every Senate battleground and would have predicted the margin substantially more accurately than the partisan GOP pollsters which flooded the averages in almost every major race.”

Indiana Governor. Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) is running for governor, according to paperwork filed with the secretary of state’s office Tuesday, Politico reports. “Braun’s decision could kick off a crowded GOP Senate primary to succeed him, with both Reps. Victoria Spartz and Rep. Jim Banks voicing interest in the seat.”

Chicago Mayor: Monday was the deadline for mayoral candidates in Chicago to submit the 12,500 signatures they need to make the officially nonpartisan ballot for the Feb. 28 primary, but it will be some time before we know exactly how many of the 11 contenders will actually be able to compete next year.

That’s because the period to challenge signatures began Tuesday and will last through Dec. 5, and in true Illinois tradition, many competitors and other individuals are already seizing on the chance to knock some foes, including the incumbent, off the ballot. The city Board of Elections says it hopes to have a final list of qualified candidates by the end of the year.

For now, the field consists of:

  • State Rep. Kam Buckner
  • Perennial candidate Frederick Collins
  • Rep. Chuy García
  • Activist Ja’Mal Green
  • Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson
  • Alderman Sophia King
  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot
  • Freelance counselor Johnny Logalbo
  • Alderman Roderick Sawyer
  • Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas
  • Wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson

Almost all of the hopefuls competing in this dark blue city identify as Democrats, though Wilson took 4% of the vote against Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin as the 2020 candidate of the “Willie Wilson Party.” If no one wins a majority, the top two vote-getters would advance to a second round on April 4.

But before this group can worry about February, much less April, they need to make sure they have enough valid signatures to proceed in a state where even seasoned politicians can struggle with petitioning. Perhaps most famously, Barack Obama himself won a state Senate seat in 1996 by getting all his primary foes—including incumbent Alice Palmer—thrown off the ballot for a lack of sufficient signatures.

Twenty years later Rep. Bobby Rush (coincidentally the only person to ever beat Obama in an election) made it on to the 2016 ballot once election officials determined he’d amassed just 90 signatures more than the minimum of 1,300 after a majority were disqualified, though he had no trouble winning renomination afterwards. The challenge period for the mayor’s race in 2019 also ended the candidacies of Green, Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown, and several minor contenders.

Most serious candidates will try to collect at least three times the minimum needed to give themselves a cushion, and several say they’ve done just that. Lightfoot, for example, turned in about 40,000 signatures on the final day of qualifying, though that wasn’t enough to deter her critics. Alderman Brian Hopkins, who is not running for mayor and hasn’t endorsed anyone, says he’s assembled a team to undertake a preliminary review of the incumbent’s petitions.

“The fact that she filed at the last minute indicates a possible deficiency in the petitions,” Hopkins asserted in comments to the Chicago Sun-Times, adding, “And there’s no other reason for filing on the last day that makes sense other than she needed that extra week to pad her numbers.”

However, the paper notes that it takes a great deal of time and money to sift through tens of thousands of petitions to try to spot problems, which can include signatures from people who aren’t Chicago voters, voters who’ve already signed a rival candidate’s papers, false names, and wrong addresses. (Obama got Palmer ejected more than a quarter century ago after his supporters noted that, among other things, she’d submitted obviously fake names like “Goo Goo” and “Pookie.”)

Hopkins says he’d only start raising money for what the Sun-Times called a “full-blown petition challenge” if he finds enough problems to convince him he could succeed in knocking Lightfoot off the ballot, but he’s likely the only one mulling such an effort. While Garcia bragged that his 48,000 signatures were enough to be “challenge-proof,” his team predicted that Johnson’s allies at the Chicago Teachers Union would try to disqualify the congressman and “as many African American candidates as possible” to make the path easier for Johnson, who is Black.

Politico’s Shia Kapos also writes that this year was a particularly tough one for petitions, saying that fewer election attorneys are available to make sure everything is in order (though it’s not clear why that might be). Kapos adds, “Voters are more hesitant to sign petitions presented by people they don’t know—a sign, maybe, of the post-Covid culture.”

Election lawyer Burt Odelson, who is helping both Sawyer and Vallas, agreed, and he also noted that things are especially complicated with so many open-seat races taking place for the 50-member City Council. He told Kapos, “I’ve been doing this for 50 years, and I think this may be one of the craziest just because of the nature of the mayor’s race and the nature of filling vacancies on City Council.”

Seattle Ballot: Seattle has narrowly voted to replace its municipal top-two primaries with a ranked choice system by 2027, though voters will still need to go to the polls in two different elections even after the switch takes place.

Candidates for mayor, city attorney, and the City Council will continue to compete on one nonpartisan primary ballot, but voters will be able to rank their preferred choices instead of selecting just one option. The two contenders who emerge with the most support after the ranked choice tabulations are completed will advance to the general election, where voters would select just one choice. This is different from several other American cities like MinneapolisOakland, and San Francisco where all the contenders compete in a single election decided through instant-runoff voting.

It’s not clear yet if the new ranked choice system will be in place in time for Seattle’s next mayoral race in 2025. A spokesperson for King County’s elections department explained that software and ballot updates, as well as tests and voter education, will be needed, saying, “It is possible that we may be able to roll it out before 2027, but until we’re able to dive into the details with the city and state, we won’t know.” Officials also will need to decide how many candidates a voter can rank.

Seattleites earlier this month were presented with a two-part ballot measure called Proposition 1. The first asked voters whether they wanted to replace the top-two primary for city offices, and voters answered in the affirmative by a 51-49 margin. They were then asked if they wanted to adopt ranked choice voting or approval voting if voters on part one favor changing the status quo, and ranked choice won 76-24.

This contest took place because backers of approval voting collected enough signatures for a referendum to bring it to the Emerald City: The approval voting system, which is used in St. Louis, allows voters to cast as many votes as there are candidates, with up to one vote per contender and each vote counting equally. The City Council, though, responded by also placing a ranked choice question on the ballot as a rival option.

The group supporting approval voting enjoyed a huge financial edge thanks to enormous contributions from the Center for Election Science, a pro-approval voting organization funded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, as well as now-former cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried: The dramatic failure of Bankman-Fried’s preferred option, though, turned out to be far from the worst news he got in mid-November.

Allegheny County, PA Executive: Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb announced Monday that he would compete in what could be a busy May 2023 Democratic primary to succeed incumbent Rich Fitzgerald, who cannot seek a fourth term as head of this populous and reliably blue county. Lamb, who is the uncle of outgoing Rep. Conor Lamb, carried Allegheny County 77-12 in his 2020 primary for state auditor general even as he was losing statewide 36-27 to Nina Ahmad. (Ahmad in turn lost to Republican Timothy DeFoor.)

WESA reporter Chris Potter describes the city comptroller as “the rare politician who travels easily in Democratic Party circles while also having been an outspoken government reformer,” noting that, while he’s “not necessarily a political firebrand,” Lamb “seems likely to incorporate some progressive concerns with county government, especially on matters of criminal justice.” Lamb previously won renomination in 2015 by beating back a Fitzgerald-endorsed foe, and Potter says the two have a “wary relationship.”

Lamb’s only announced intra-party opponent is Erin McClelland, who came nowhere close to unseating GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus in her 2014 and 2016 campaigns for the old and dark red 12th Congressional District. McClelland, who has worked as a project manager for the county’s social-services department, kicked off her bid in August by saying she expected to face both the “old-boys network” and opponents who “dive into performative propaganda on a social media post.”

Potter also relays that observers anticipate that former County Councilor David Fawcett and state Rep. Sara Innamorato will compete in the Democratic primary. Fawcett, whom Potter calls a “celebrated attorney,” served on the Council as a Republican from 2000 to 2007 before waging an aborted 2016 bid for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.

Innamorato, for her part, rose to prominence in 2018 when the Democratic Socialists of America member defeated incumbent Dom Costa for renomination; that victory came the same night that her ally Summer Lee, who was also backed by DSA, scored an upset of her own against another Costa brother, state Rep. Paul Costa. Innamorato went on to support now-Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Lee in her own successful 2022 campaign for the new 12th District.

We unsurprisingly haven’t seen any notable Republicans mentioned for the race to lead a county that Biden took 59-39 and where Team Blue did even better in this year’s Senate and governor races. Republican James Roddey actually did win the 1999 contest for what was a newly created office, but he badly lost re-election four years later to Democrat Dan Onorato. The GOP hasn’t come anywhere close to retaking the post since then, and Fitzgerald won his final term in 2019 in a 68-32 landslide.  

VA-04: Rep. Donald McEachin, a Democrat elected to represent Virginia’s 4th Congressional District in 2016, died Monday at the age of 61 just weeks after winning a fourth term. McEachin’s chief of staff said in her statement, “Valiantly, for years now, we have watched him fight and triumph over the secondary effects of his colorectal cancer from 2013. Tonight, he lost that battle.”

It will be up to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin to schedule a special election to succeed McEachin. The 4th District, which includes the state capital of Richmond as well as eastern Southside Virginia, supported Joe Biden 67-32 in 2020, and the Democratic nominee should have no trouble holding it. It remains to be seen just how that candidate will be picked, though, as Virginia allows parties to choose nominees through three different means.

Each side could opt for a traditional primary; a convention; or a so-called firehouse primary, which is a small-scale nominating contest run by the party rather than the state. The last special congressional election that took place in the Old Dominion was the 2007 contest to succeed the late Republican Rep. Jo Ann Davis in an old version of the 1st District, where both sides decided to hold conventions; the eventual winner was Republican Rob Wittman, who still holds the seat.

Whoever eventually takes McEachin’s place in Congress will be replacing a longtime Richmond politician: McEachin won a spot in the state House of Delegates on his second try in 1995, and in 2001 he was the first African American to be nominated for state attorney general.

The Democrat, though, faced a tough opponent in Republican Jerry Kilgore, who ran ads attacking McEachin for never working as a prosecutor and branded him as “dangerous for Virginia’s families.” McEachin, who didn’t have the resources to adequately respond, also struggled in the overwhelmingly white rural areas where his ticketmates, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, won significant crossover support in their respective campaigns for governor and lieutenant governor. McEachin ended up losing 60-40 even as Warner and Kaine prevailed, but he was hardly done with politics.

McEachin won back his old place in the state House in 2005 after beating his successor, Floyd Miles, by 48 votes in the primary. Two years later, he earned a promotion by denying renomination to state Sen. Benjamin Lambert, who had supported Republican Sen. George Allen over Democrat Jim Webb in 2006.

McEachin then got the chance to run for Congress in 2016 after a federal court ruled that Republicans had illegally packed too many Black voters into Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott’s 3rd District, which stretched from Scott’s Norfolk base west to Richmond, in order to strengthen GOP candidates elsewhere. The new court-approved map created a reliably blue Richmond-based 4th District, which turned into an open seat after Republican Rep. Randy Forbes decided to wage an unsuccessful campaign for the more competitive 2nd District instead.

Prominent Democratic officials quickly consolidated behind McEachin, who beat ​​Chesapeake Councilor Ella Ward 75-25 in the primary. McEachin then went on to decisively defeat the Republican nominee, Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade, a win that made him only the third African American to ever represent Virginia in Congress after Scott and the late 19th century Republican John Mercer Langston.

McEachin, who had no trouble holding his new seat, soon went on to serve as a DCCC vice chair ahead of the successful 2018 cycle. The next year, the congressman’s wife, Colette McEachin, was elected as Richmond’s top prosecutor.

Louisiana: Pelican State voters will go back to the polls Dec. 10 for runoffs in races where no candidate secured a majority in Nov. 8’s all-party primaries, and they’ll also decide the fate of a few proposed constitutional amendments.

The most notable match in this Saturday election is probably the all-Democratic runoff for a six-year term on the Public Service Commission, a five-member body that regulates utilities. The contest for District 3, which stretches from the Baton Rouge area east to New Orleans, pits longtime incumbent and current chair Lambert Boissiere III against Davante Lewis, an activist who has argued the incumbent hasn’t done enough to combat global warming.

Lewis predicted to the Washington Post that his victory would give clean energy advocates a majority on the Commission; Republicans control the body 3-2, but Lewis believes he can partner with Republican Craig Greene and Democrat Foster Campbell on some issues. Boissiere himself is defending his environmental credentials and has touted his support from Louisiana’s most prominent Democrat, Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Boissiere, who was first elected in 2004, took just 43% of the vote earlier this month after an Environmental Defense Fund affiliate spent heavily to stop him from winning outright. Lewis narrowly outpaced pastor Gregory Manning 18-17 for the second spot, and he earned Manning’s endorsement Monday.

Another race to watch is the runoff for mayor of Shreveport, a community in the northwest corner of the state that ousted its chief executive earlier in the month. The soon-to-be-former mayor of Louisiana’s third-largest city is one-term Democrat Adrian Perkins, who won this post in 2018 by beating incumbent Ollie Tyler but likely harmed his own promising career just two years later when he badly lost a Senate bid to Republican incumbent Bill Cassidy. Republican attorney Tom Arceneaux ended up in first place on Nov. 8 with 28% as Democratic state Sen. Greg Tarver edged out independent Mario Chavez 24-18; Perkins himself also finished with 18%, which landed him in fourth.

Altogether five Democrats outpaced Arceneaux and one minor Republican 52-29 in this Democratic-leaning city, but the partisan lines aren’t so clear here. Arceneaux has the backing of Perkins and the city’s last two mayors, Democrats Tyler and Cedric Glover, for round two. Tarver, meanwhile, has support from Edwards, GOP state Sen. Barrow Peacock, and former Mayor Keith Hightower, a Democrat who left office in 2006.

Finally, Louisianans have a trio of proposed constitutional amendments to decide. Amendment 1 would explicitly prohibit any non-U.S. citizens from voting in state elections while Amendments 2 and 3 would require state Senate confirmation for the governor’s nominees to the state civil service commission and state police commission, respectively.

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

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