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The Political Report – December 4, 2022

A new CNN poll in Georgia finds Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) leading challenger Herschel Walker (R) in the Senate runoff, 52% to 48%.

Cook Political Report: “Limited polling during the runoff has continued to show a margin of error contest, but has Warnock still leading considerably among independents. The race is close enough that we are still keeping it in our Toss Up column, and we don’t think a possible Warnock victory is probable enough to shift it to Lean Democrat.”

“But we might put a pinky on the scale for the Democratic incumbent, whose victory would cap off an astounding turn for Senate Democrats despite economic headwinds and history going against them. It would once again underscore that Republicans clearly have a candidate quality problem – and likely will until the party turns away from Trump.”

Aaron Blake: Herschel Walker is a very bad candidate. Could he still win? 

“Election officials on Friday reported heavy turnout in Georgia on the last day of early voting ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff election that will determine whether Democrats can add to their razor-thin majority in the U.S. Senate,” Reuters reports.

“Some people don’t want some people to vote.”— Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), quoted by Politico, pushing his supporters to vote early.

Associated Press: “Days before polls close on Tuesday, Biden still has no plans to visit Georgia. Instead he’ll aim to help Sen. Raphael Warnock’s reelection campaign from afar with appearances Friday at a Boston phone bank and fundraiser.”

“They mark the culmination of Biden’s support-from-a-distance strategy that he employed throughout the midterms and that his aides credit with helping his party beat expectations in key races.”

“Outgunned financially as Democrats dominate early voting, Herschel Walker’s Georgia Senate campaign Thursday begged donors to pony up more money because of Sen. Raphael Warnock’s growing sense of momentum,” NBC News reports.

Said Walker campaign manager Scott Paradise, in a memo: “Simply put, we’re being outspent 3 to 1 by Warnock, and we’re being outspent nearly 2 to 1 by outside groups. We need help.”

“The memo calculates that Warnock and the Democratic groups backing him have spent and committed a combined $92 million since the November election, compared with $45 million that Walker and his Republican allies have ponied up.”

USA Today: Super PACs spending $16M more on Raphael Warnock than Herschel Walker in Georgia runoff.

New York Times: “For weeks during the general election, Herschel Walker was joined on the campaign trail by top Republican senators, party leaders and conservative activists eager to help the former football star’s Senate bid in Georgia. Now, with certain exceptions, he’s often been the only draw at his events.”

“The shift reflects fresh doubts at the top of the Republican Party, where disappointing midterm election results last month have triggered an identity crisis among conservatives reeling from losses in a third consecutive campaign cycle.”

Washington Post: “Republicans have grown increasingly nervous about the final U.S. Senate election of the midterms, a runoff in Georgia that reflects larger concerns over candidate quality, infighting and ties to Donald Trump that loom over the party’s future.”

“Democrats moved Friday toward the most significant changes in their presidential nominating process in nearly two decades after a key committee backed a plan put forward by President Biden to allow South Carolina to host the first 2024 primary, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire on the same day, Georgia and then Michigan,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The change would dramatically decrease the influence of Iowa, which has hosted the first nominating contest for five decades, while elevating the role of several states that are typically battlegrounds in general elections. It would also reduce the importance of New Hampshire, the traditional host of the nation’s first presidential primary.”

“When President Joe Biden proposed making South Carolina the first to vote in the 2024 Democratic presidential primaries Thursday, Democrats in the state were caught completely off-guard,” NBC News reports. “It wasn’t something they had asked for.”

“During the monthslong process to rewrite the primary calendar, South Carolina was focused on keeping its spot among the early states, or maybe moving up its date a bit — but did not push to be first.”

USA Today: Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats vow to rebel to remain first in presidential primaries.

“Democrats on Friday faced a rebellion from their own leaders in New Hampshire, Nevada and Iowa as party officials in these states said publicly that they were not prepared to accept President Biden’s push for a new presidential nominating calendar in 2024,” the Washington Post reports.

“Biden shocked many in his party on Thursday evening by asking for a complete remaking of the early nominating calendar, with South Carolina going first, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire on a joint date, then a primary in Georgia and one in Michigan. The plan, which is likely to be ratified soon by a key party panel, would eliminate Iowa’s historical role of kicking off the nation’s presidential nomination season by holding its caucuses.”

“Given the president’s strong interest in the design of the 2024 primaries, and the dates for them, I think it’s clear that he’s running.” — James Roosevelt Jr., co-chairman of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, quoted by the New York Times.

“New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan said he’s not concerned about losing first-in-the-nation status,” WMUR reports.  Said Scanlan: “We’ve been through this before in the past with other states challenging our first-in-the-nation status. And we know we’ve always been able to maintain our position and this time around will be no different.”

“Scanlan said he’s confident thanks to a state law that requires New Hampshire to hold its primary a week before any similar election.”  He added: “New Hampshire will hold the first-in-the-nation primary, no matter what sanctions may be out there.”

IN-Gov, IN-Sen: There are numerous Hoosier State Republicans who are considering running in 2024 either to succeed Republican Sen. Mike Braun, who has filed to run for governor, or to compete against Braun in the contest to replace termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb, and we’ll be taking a look at the names below. Braun himself has yet to announce his gubernatorial campaign, though Howey Politics’ Brian Howey relays that the kickoff will be Dec. 12.

We’ll start with the race for governor, where former Indiana Economic Development Corporation president Eric Doden, who announced back in May of 2021, has a little while left to enjoy his status as the only declared candidate. One long-awaited contender is Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, whom Howey says “is expected to officially declare her candidacy in mid-December.” Crouch, who would be the first woman to lead the state, acknowledged that she can’t self-fund unlike at least two of her would-be rivals, Braun and Doden, but said she expected to finish 2022 with $3 million on-hand.

A few other GOP notables could be eying both the governorship and Braun’s Senate seat, though they each seem to be strongly leaning in one direction or the other. Retiring Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, who has self-funded his past bids, told CNN this week that there are “several” jobs that appeal to him. Hollingsworth didn’t specify what offices he was considering, but Howey writes that he’s been contacting county GOP chairs about a run for governor and has told them he could put $10 million into the effort.

Another prospective contender is Attorney General Todd Rokita, a former congressman who lost the 2018 Senate primary to Braun. Unnamed insiders predicted to the Indianapolis Star that Rokita would just seek re-election rather than go through another tough statewide primary for either Senate or governor, but Howey says that his sources predict the attorney general is interested in trying to replace Braun. There has been no word from Rokita himself, though, about what he’s thinking.

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who will step down as president of Perdue University on New Year’s Day, seems to be going in the opposite direction. While he didn’t rule out a bid for his old job over the summer after two former aides formed a PAC in August to encourage him to run for governor, Howey says that Daniels has privately said no to that race. Unnamed Daniels allies, though, say they’re now hoping he’ll run for Senate, an idea they once dismissed as “unthinkable.”

But that prospect may not be quite so impossible to fathom now, as one source says, “At first glance, the idea is sort of interesting to him.” The same cannot be said for Holcomb himself, though, with local Republicans saying they think he’s looking to do other things once he leaves office.

Two U.S. House members, as we’ve previously written, have also made it known they’re eyeing the race to replace Braun. Rep. Jim Banks has publicly expressed interest, while colleague Victoria Spartz has reportedly told people privately that she plans to run.

The list for potential Democratic candidates for governor is far shorter, though one familiar name may be considering it. Joe Donnelly became ambassador to the Vatican a few years after Braun unseated him 51-45, and one of his allies responded to Howey’s inquiries about the gubernatorial race by saying he’s “keeping all of his options open.”

Former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick also recently opened up an exploratory committee for governor; Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, who lost to GOP Sen. Todd Young 59-38 last month, also has expressed interest, while 2020 House nominee Christina Hale didn’t rule it out. No notable Democrats, though, have said anything about a Senate bid.

WI Supreme Court: With the conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court on the line in 2023—and with it the outcomes of future battles over fair elections and abortion rights—the contest to succeed retiring conservative Justice Patience Roggensack will likely be one of the most consequential elections in any state next year.

Wednesday was the campaign launch date for conservative Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow, who recently finished presiding over the high-profile trial where Darrell Brooks was sentenced to life in prison for killing six people at last year’s Waukesha Christmas parade. Dorow joins a field that includes former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, who is also a conservative, and two liberal-aligned candidates, Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell and Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz.

All candidates will compete on the same nonpartisan primary ballot on Feb. 21, and the top two contenders will advance to an April 4 general election alongside local elections throughout much of the state that day. Petitioning to get on the ballot starts on Dec. 1, and the filing deadline is Jan. 4.

Although Supreme Court candidates in Wisconsin don’t have partisan labels on the ballot, the ideological fault lines have been clear in recent elections, which have looked very similar to partisan contests. One key difference this time, though, is that each side is fielding two candidates apiece, meaning either progressives or conservatives could snag both spots in the second round of voting.

To avoid such a lockout, both factions may try to consolidate around a single standard-bearer before the primary. One far-right billionaire is already signaling that he’ll make his influence felt: Dick Uihlein, who along with his wife Elizabeth was the biggest GOP megadonor nationally in 2022, has indicated he’ll spend millions backing Kelly.

The election will be pivotal, and abortion rights tops the list of reasons why. Most notably, the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade earlier this year resurrected an 1849 Wisconsin law that makes it a felony to perform an abortion in almost all cases. Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who narrowly won re-election in November, has filed a suit seeking to have that 19th century law ruled unenforceable, a case that will likely wind up before the state Supreme Court.

The court has also been central in the battle against GOP voter suppression efforts. In 2020, Kelly was ousted by liberal Judge Jill Karofsky in an election at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that was plagued by exceptionally long voting lines due to the closure of most polling places. The court’s conservative majority exacerbated the problem by blocking an executive order by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to delay the election, but Kelly nonetheless lost by a wide 55-45 margin. More recently, the conservative majority ruled in favor of a ban on absentee ballot drop boxes following their widespread adoption in the 2020 elections due to the pandemic.

In addition to restrictions on voting, the court is also critical to the fate of Republican gerrymandering efforts. Heading into the current round of redistricting, Wisconsin’s state government was divided, with Evers facing a legislature that Republicans dominated in large part thanks to their previous gerrymanders. When the two parties predictably deadlocked over drawing new congressional and legislative maps, the courts stepped in and took over the process, ostensibly with the aim of drawing neutral lines.

However, in another ruling along ideological lines, the court’s conservative majority made up its own requirement that any new maps make only the minimum changes possible when compared to the previous maps, solely to restore population equality. Justice Brian Hagedorn, the lone conservative who is occasionally a swing vote, later sided with his three liberal colleagues to adopt new districts proposed by Evers because they moved fewer residents than GOP proposals did. However, the least-change requirement meant that even the maps proposed by the Democratic governor still heavily favored Republicans compared to their statewide vote share, effectively locking in much of the impact of the prior decade’s GOP gerrymanders in all but name.

Wisconsin once again saw the dramatic effects of this rigged redistricting in action this year: Although Evers beat his GOP foe 51-48 and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson turned back his Democratic challenger 50-49, Republicans gained a two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate and fell just two seats shy of one in the Assembly. While Democrats have next to no hope of winning majorities so long as these districts stand, a more independent-minded court could overturn these maps for violating state constitutional protections and order the adoption of fairer maps that more accurately reflect Wisconsin’s status as a longtime swing state.

NJ-07: NJ Spotlight News this week asked outgoing incumbent Tom Malinowski if he planned to seek another bout against Republican Rep.-elect Tom Kean Jr., to which the Democrat responded, “I’m going to stay very very interested in the fate of our district, New Jersey, and the fight for democracy in America. I haven’t decided how I’m gonna do that, but I’m certainly not going anywhere.” Kean unseated Malinowski 52-48 in a constituency that Biden won 51-47.  

LA-Gov: State Treasurer John Schroder said Thursday that he would only run for governor if his fellow Republican, Sen. John Kennedy, stays out of next year’s all-party primary. Schroder added that if Kennedy doesn’t make the race, “I plan to announce and pursue the title of Governor in 2023.” It’s hard to be governor of Louisiana without the title of governor of Louisiana, though Huey Long pulled it off after he nominally left to join the Senate.

OR-06: Republican Mike Erickson has made good on his pre-election threat to sue to overturn a defeat against Democratic Rep.-elect Andrea Salinas, and a local judge heard arguments Thursday. Erickson is relying on a state law the Oregon Capitol Chronicle says “prohibits knowingly making false statements about a candidate, political committee or ballot measure,” though it’s not clear if it’s ever successfully been employed to reverse the results of an election.

Erickson, as we’ve written before, 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.”

VA-04: Former Del. Lashrecse Aird has not ruled out running to succeed her fellow Democrat, the late Rep. Donald McEachin, instead telling Axios she’ll “address any potential candidacy in due course.” Aird is currently waging an intra-party battle to unseat state Sen. Joe Morrissey, who is one of the most unreliable Democrats in the legislature. Morrissey himself hasn’t closed the door on competing for McEachin’s seat, though he sounded likely to remain put.

Del. Jeff Bourne, meanwhile, has disclosed to Axios he’ll be sitting out the upcoming special election. Reporter Ned Oliver also mentions Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin, who is the congressman’s widow, as a possible contender.

NY Redistricting: New York’s bipartisan redistricting commission has advanced a draft map of new Assembly districts for the 2024 elections to replace the invalidated map that was used in 2022. (The map can be viewed on the commission’s site as well as in Dave’s Redistricting App.) Political scientist Chris Warshaw, using data from Plan Score, notes that the proposed map “appears to have a large pro-Republican bias in the translation of votes to seats,” and reporter Jeff Coltin from City & State New York points out that the proposal is “nearly identical to the ‘Plan B’ map that the Legislature voted down in January.” (The “Plan B” maps were those that had the support solely of the Republican members of the commission.)

However, there’s still a long way to go before the proposed districts can become law. The commission will next hold a series of public hearings, and it has a deadline of April 28 to pass a final map next year and send it to the Democratic-run legislature, which can either approve or reject it. If lawmakers reject the map, a court would likely once again step in to draw one instead.

New York is in this situation because the equally divided commission deadlocked earlier this year and failed to produce a new map. Democratic legislators subsequently took over the redistricting process and passed their own maps only to see state courts rule that the legislature lacked the authority to do so. However, those successful legal challenges only attacked the maps for Congress and the state Senate. An appeals court allowed the Assembly map to remain in place for 2022 because Republican plaintiffs had waited too long to bring their lawsuit.

But the commission’s authority to redraw the Assembly lines is disputed. The plaintiffs in the Assembly redistricting case had asked the trial court to appoint a special master to redraw the districts, while Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders wanted the commission to do so. The court denied the request to appoint a special master, instead ordering the redistricting commission to reconvene and prepare new maps. The plaintiffs have appealed that ruling.

Philadelphia Mayor: Former Philadelphia Councilmember Helen Gym, who is one of the city’s more prominent progressives, announced Wednesday she was entering the May Democratic primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Jim Kenney. Gym joins a busy field that already included:

  • businessman Jeff Brown
  • former Judge Jimmy DeLeon
  • former Councilmember Allan Domb
  • former Councilmember Derek Green
  • former Councilmember Cherelle Parker
  • former Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez
  • former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart

It only takes a simple plurality to win the Democratic nomination in a loyally blue city where the November general election is almost always an afterthought.

Gym, Parker, Quiñones Sánchez, and Rhynhart would each be the first woman elected to lead Philadelphia. A victory for Gym would additionally make the City of Brotherly Love the largest city to ever elect an Asian American mayor, while Quiñones Sánchez would be Philadelphia’s first Latino chief executive. Parker would also have the distinction of being the first Black woman to lead the city.

Gym first drew attention for her activism in local education issues and as a board member for Asian Americans United, where she led successful protests to stop planned developments in Chinatown. In 2015 Gym, whom Philadelphia Magazine had dubbed “Philadelphia’s preeminent public agitator” two years before, ran for a citywide Council seat and narrowly advanced by securing the fifth and final spot on the general election ballot, finishing behind both Green and Domb. (Philadelphia has seven at-large seats, but each party can only nominate up to five candidates.)

Gym quickly established herself as a full-throated progressive, with Billy Penn explaining that she’s stood out “on issues like housing, education, youth issues, and worker’s rights.” Primary voters rewarded her in 2019 when she took first place as she was winning more votes than any Council candidate since 1987; the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote afterwards, “Political observers credit Gym’s popularity to a good narrative and a lot of media exposure … She is involved in almost every major battle in Philadelphia.”

Gym is entering a crowded contest without a dominant frontrunner, though the Inquirer’s Sean Collins Walsh wrote just before Thanksgiving that “the conventional wisdom around City Hall” favors Parker at this early point. Parker, Walsh explained, is the party’s leader in Northwest Philadelphia’s 50th Ward, an area full of high-turnout voters. Parker also is close to several prominent unions, though they haven’t endorsed her yet, as well as allies of outgoing Gov. Tom Wolf. However, Walsh notes that the perceived frontrunner went on to fare poorly in both the 2007 and 2015 open seat races, which may explain why Parker herself is rejecting that title.

The other contenders also have their own profiles that could help them stand out in this busy race. Green, who shares a similar geographic base as Parker, made an early effort to run to Gym’s right, saying his former colleague “pushes a socialist agenda to raise taxes, and opposes more funding for the police.” (Both Green and Gym were part of the majority that voted against a planned budget increase for the police in 2020.)

The field may not be set yet, as state Rep. Amen Brown, who has an uneasy relationship with many fellow Democrats, hasn’t ruled out his own campaign. However, while the filing deadline isn’t until March, potential candidates have a strong incentive to declare within the next month. That’s because campaign donation limits reset at the start of each calendar year, so late arrivals would miss out on the chance to take in contributions in 2022.

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may need some help from the state Legislature if he proceeds with a highly anticipated bid for the Republican presidential nomination,” the AP reports.

“A ‘resign to run’ law requires state officeholders to commit to leave their positions if they run for federal office. The measure, which has been on and off the books over the past several decades, was reinstated in 2018. But Republican leaders in the GOP-dominated Legislature have expressed openness to changing or rescinding the law when they gather again in March.”

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

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