The Political Report – January 29, 2023

A new Mason-Dixon poll indicates Gov. Andy Beshear “still gets a thumbs-up from most Kentuckians for his work and also leads four notable Republican opponents as he seeks a second term in office, while Attorney General Daniel Cameron has a sizable edge over his competitors in the GOP’s upcoming gubernatorial primary.”

“Beshear’s job approval rating remains high, at 61%, while just 29% of respondents disapproved of his performance and 10% weren’t sure how they feel.”

The survey, which was done for several state media organizations, also finds Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, with an early lead ahead of the May GOP primary.

We’ll start with how Beshear fares against Cameron and three other potential Republican foes among registered voters:

  • 49-40 vs. Attorney General Daniel Cameron
  • 52-35 vs. Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles
  • 53-33 vs. Auditor Mike Harmon
  • 57-32 vs. former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft

The survey did not include general election matchups testing two other notable GOP contenders, Somerset Mayor Alan Keck or suspended attorney Eric Deters.

Mason-Dixon also gives us an early look at GOP nomination fight and has Cameron beating Craft 39-13 as Quarles takes third with 8%. The only other primary poll we’ve seen this year was a Cameron internal from Meeting Street that gave him an identical 39% as Craft and Quarles took 8% each. Craft, for her part, has spent $1.1 million on ads while none of her opponents have taken to the airwaves yet, but if she has polls showing that early offensive boosting her image, she has yet to release them.

“The Republican National Committee on Friday voted to reelect Ronna McDaniel to a fourth two-year term as party chair, opting not to punish her for the GOP’s recent string of electoral defeats,” the Washington Post reports.
“McDaniel fended off a challenge from Harmeet Dhillon, a California lawyer who has represented former president Donald Trump and the unsuccessful Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, seizing on grass-roots furor demanding new leadership. McDaniel positioned herself as a steady hand and honest broker who can hold together the party’s factions and continue building out the RNC’s financial and field resources. She prevailed on the first ballot, 111-51.”

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey tells the Washington Post that he’s focusing on his battle with prostate cancer before he makes a final decision about seeking re-election, saying, “I just want to get through this.” Casey told Politico back in October before his diagnosis that running again was “my goal,” adding, “We try not to talk about it ’til it starts.”

INDIANA U.S. SENATOR. Columnist Ken de la Bastide writes in The Herald Bulletin that Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz “plans to announce her decision by the end of February,” though there’s no quote from the congresswoman.  

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. In an interview with Insider, state GOP chair Carson Jorgensen names former Rep. Jason Chaffetz and state House Speaker Brad Wilson as potential Republican primary foes for Sen. Mitt Romney, though there’s no word if either man is considering. Attorney General Sean Reyes reportedly has spent the last year preparing to take on the incumbent, though he’s also yet to confirm that he’ll be seeking the GOP nod. Romney, for his part, says he hasn’t decided if he’ll run for re-election.

PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY. Republican state House members announced Thursday that they’d appeal a December Commonwealth Court decision that said they’d failed to demonstrate any of the legally required standards for “misbehavior in office” in their articles of impeachment against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. The state Senate responded to that ruling by indefinitely postponing Krasner’s planned Jan. 18 trial.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Yahoo News: “There’s no shortage of Democratic senators in danger of losing their seats in 2024. Joe Manchin in ruby-red West Virginia. Jon Tester in solidly Republican Montana. Sherrod Brown in ever-more-conservative Ohio. And their colleagues in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Michigan — four of the purplest places on the map.”

“But if the latest polls are to be believed, no Senate incumbent is in as much trouble as Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema.”

“Sinema […] is being courted by Senate Republicans, as the Democrat running to take her seat next year raked in $1 million the day after announcing his candidacy,” Bloomberg reports.

“Rep. Ruben Gallego has capitalized on Sinema’s unpopularity with Democrats in Arizona and nationwide, pulling in donations from 27,000 people after making his much-anticipated 2024 bid for the Senate seat official on Monday.”

Gallego, who would be the Grand Canyon State’s first Latino senator, uses his kickoff video to talk about how his single mother struggled to raise her four children. The congressman goes on to describe his experience serving with the Marines in Iraq, where his unit suffered heavy casualties.

“You never fully come back from the war,” says Gallego, “Fighting through PTSD. There were some very low moments in my life. But I still didn’t give up hope and pushed forward.” He finishes by going after Sinema and her extensive ties to special interests, declaring, “If you’re more likely to be meeting with the powerful than the powerless, you’re doing this job incorrectly.”

Sinema bolted the Democratic Party last month, and while some observers have speculated that she’d give Republicans a huge boost should she run again by siphoning off Democratic voters, it remains to be seen just how she’d impact the general election. The Democratic firm Civiqs released numbers the day she became an independent that showed that Democrats already gave her a horrific 5-82 score even before she jumped ship: Republicans and independents, by contrast, gave her 25-45 and 25-56 ratings.

Gallego himself also publicized an internal from Public Policy Polling soon afterward arguing that, while a Sinema campaign could make his task more difficult, she’d hardly ensure an automatic Republican pickup. The survey found Republican Kari Lake, an election conspiracy theorist who is still waging a court battle to overturn her defeat in last year’s race for governor, edging out Gallego 41-40 in a hypothetical contest, with Sinema grabbing 13%; when the incumbent was left out, however, Gallego led Lake 48-47.

The Democratic firm Blueprint Polling, which did not poll for a client, also found Lake leading Gallego 36-32 as Sinema took 14%, but it did not release numbers testing a matchup without the senator.

Gallego had been preparing to challenge Sinema for renomination before she became an independent, though it remains to be seen if he’ll have the field to himself now. An unnamed ally of Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone told NBC Monday that “a lot of people have approached him” about seeking the Democratic nod, though the source adds that Penzone right now is focused on his re-election bid in Arizona’s largest county.

No other notable names have shown an interest in running here so far, however. Fellow Rep. Greg Stanton announced last week that he’d stay out of the Senate race, and while some political observers have mentioned Tucson Mayor Regina Romero as a possible contender, she hasn’t said anything about taking on Sinema. Axios also writes that Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who used to be married to the congressman, says “she does not intend to run for the Arizona Senate seat or for Ruben’s House seat.”

Things are far more volatile on the Republican side, where Lake has so far attracted more attention than any other potential contender. Unnamed sources told CNN last week that Lake, who continues to pretend that she beat now-Gov. Katie Hobbs, won’t make up her mind about a Senate run “until after her court case is completed.” Gallego responded by sarcastically tweeting, “Arizona has a very strict resign to run law. It’s not possible for her to be Arizona’s shadow governor and a Senate candidate at the same time.”

One of Lake’s allies and fellow far-right politicians, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, has also been mulling over a Senate bid, and his team recently said he’d “make a decision in early 2023.” Another Republican who has expressed interest is Blake Masters, who last year waged a widely-panned campaign for Arizona’s other Senate seat that ended in a 51-45 defeat against Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly. Wealthy businessman Jim Lamon, who lost the primary to Masters, also has expressed interest in another try, though a person close to him said, in NBC’s words, he “has no intention, at this time, of running again for Senate.” 

Former state Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who narrowly lost her own primary to Lake last year despite having outgoing Gov. Doug Ducey’s endorsement, has not ruled out a Senate campaign, and a source tells NBC she’s indeed thinking about it. Ducey unequivocally said just before Christmas he was “not running for the United States Senate” and that “it’s not something I’m considering,” though Utah Sen. Mitt Romney didn’t give up on trying to persuade him otherwise. Last week, however, the Washington Post reported that Ducey “has not changed his mind on the matter.”

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Associated Press: “In what is quickly emerging as one of the most closely watched Senate races of the 2024 campaign, Slotkin is aggressively acting on Stabenow’s call for ‘the next generation of leadership.’ The 46-year-old former CIA intelligence officer is taking steps to prepare for a Senate run, including forming a national campaign team.”

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. The Republican firm Differentiator Data, surveying for the right-wing groups NC Values Coalition and NC Faith & Freedom Coalition, finds a 42-42 deadlock in a hypothetical general election between Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. Stein launched his campaign for governor last week, while North Carolina politicos have long anticipated that Robinson will also run.

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. Secretary of State Michael Watson announced Wednesday that he would seek re-election rather than challenge Gov. Tate Reeves in this year’s Republican primary. Mississippi’s Feb. 1 filing deadline is coming up fast, and it remains to be seen if the governor will face any serious intra-party opposition.

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Rick Scott confirmed Thursday that he’d seek re-election months after his chaotic tenure as NRSC chair badly wounded his 2024 presidential hopes, but Florida Politics writes that he could indeed face a notable Republican primary foe. A.G. Gancarski writes that Keith Gross, who unnamed sources describe as a “very wealthy businessman, worth millions,” is considering taking on the senator. There’s no word from Gross, who recently formed a conservative 501(c)(4), about his interest in what would be a challenging battle against the uber-rich incumbent.

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. “A Senate race pitting the man who spearheaded former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, Adam Schiff, against fundraising powerhouse and wonk superstar Katie Porter would guarantee fireworks and a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” NBC News reports.

“But add a candidate representing the Bernie Sanders wing of the party, Ro Khanna, and a living legend who got her start with the Black Panthers and would become the only Black woman in the Senate, Barbara Lee — now you’re talking about a California Senate race for the ages.”

“And Democrats are just getting started.”

California Rep. Adam Schiff, who became a national favorite among Democrats for his battles against the Trump administration, announced Thursday that he was running in next year’s top-two primary for the Senate seat held by Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat who has not confirmed she’ll retire in 2024.

Schiff, who previously said he’d only run if Feinstein didn’t, told KQED, “I wouldn’t be doing this without her blessing.” All the candidates will compete on the same ballot in the top-two primary, which is set for March 2024; the two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election.

Schiff joins a competitive contest that already includes Rep. Katie Porter, who has her own following among Democrats across the country. Another prominent progressive, Rep. Barbara Lee, has not yet revealed her own plans, though media outlets say she told the Congressional Black Caucus she would run earlier this month. Allies of the 76-year-old Lee reportedly have told donors that she’d serve just one term in the upper chamber. A fourth Democratic congressman, Ro Khanna, is also interested, though he’s said he’ll take Lee’s decision into account.

Other Golden State Democrats could take a look at this race as well, though anyone who wants to win in this expensive and populous state can’t afford to procrastinate. Indeed, while Feinstein herself had made it clear she’s in no hurry to announce a decision, Schiff’s decision shows that few politicos expect the 89-year-old incumbent to run again. Feinstein herself said days ago she’d make her decision in the “next couple months,” though she told Raw Story Wednesday, “I need a little bit of time, so it’s not this year.” However, California’s candidate filing deadline is scheduled for December of this year.

Schiff, for his part, was elected to a House seat around Pasadena back in 2000 by unseating two-term Republican Rep. James Rogan, and he wasn’t a particularly recognizable member of Congress during his first 16 years in D.C. His profile started to dramatically rise in 2017 when as the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, he was one of the most prominent figures to accuse Donald Trump’s campaign of colluding with Russia.

Schiff went on to chair the committee after his party flipped the House in 2018, and he was the lead impeachment manager during Trump’s first impeachment: On Tuesday, just two days before the Democrat launched his Senate bid, Speaker Kevin McCarthy ejected Schiff and fellow California Rep. Eric Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee, a move Schiff characterized as “trying to remove me from the intel committee for holding his boss at Mar-a-Lago accountable.”

Schiff’s national name recognition helped him accumulate a massive $20.6 million war chest through late November, money he can use on his Senate bid. Porter herself had a smaller though still substantial $7.7 million available weeks after winning a close reelection fight. Both members will certainly bring in far more as they seek to represent America’s most populous state.

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. Politico: “The first-term Republican’s home turf of the densely packed Long Island suburbs is seizing an unusual amount of early attention this campaign cycle as both parties brace for an epic brawl. The biggest question, of course, is whether voters will get to weigh in before the 2024 election, should Santos be forced to flee his seat.”

“Just months after Santos’ win helped seal a GOP majority, New York Democrats and Republicans are drafting contingency plans for a potential special election in the battleground district, despite the currently high likelihood that the incumbent stays put. No matter what Santos does, the freshman fabricator’s toxicity has forced House members and campaign hands to think about 2024 months before they otherwise would.”

PHILADELPHIA MAYOR. State Sen. Vincent Hughes said Wednesday he’d stay out of the May Democratic primary, an announcement that should relieve the author of the recent Philadelphia Magazine article, “Please, No More Philadelphia Mayor Candidates!” Nine prominent Democrats are currently campaigning to succeed termed-out incumbent Jim Kenney, while former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack appears to be the only notable person still considering joining in.

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

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