The Political Report – February 1, 2023

A new Siena poll finds that by a margin of 78% to 13%, voters in New York’s 3rd congressional district overwhelmingly say freshman Rep. George Santos (R-NY) should resign.

Said pollster Don Levy: “Whether you look it at by party, gender, race, age, religion, income, or which county the voters live in, the answer is the same: resign. Similarly, voters of every party and every demographic breakdown know who Santos is, are following the news about Santos, and view Santos unfavorably.”

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) expressed a keen interest in running for the state’s Senate seat now held by moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bloomberg reports.

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens said Monday she’d decided to pass on a Senate run.

INDIANA U.S. SENATOR. “Mitch Daniels is passing on a potential bid for an open Indiana Senate seat, forgoing what would have been one of the most hotly contested primaries in the 2024 cycle,” Politico reports.

Said Daniels: “After what I hope was adequate reflection, I’ve decided not to become a candidate for the U.S. Senate. With full credit and respect for the institution and those serving in it, I conclude that it’s just not the job for me, not the town for me, and not the life I want to live at this point.”

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Ruben Gallego on Friday publicized an endorsement from former Sen. Dennis DeConcini, whose 1988 re-election victory marked the last time that Arizona Democrats won a Senate seat until Kyrsten Sinema won this same seat in 2018. Gallego’s announcement notes that, because Sinema bolted the party in December to become an independent, DeConcini is “the last Democrat to serve a full term in the seat.”

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Rep. Garret Graves tells the Louisiana Illuminator that he’s still considering joining this year’s all-party primary for governor even though House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week named him to a GOP leadership position. “No! No,” Graves said when asked if this appointment ensured he’d stay in D.C., adding, “That wasn’t my release. That was theirs.”

While Democratic state Sen. Gary Smith hasn’t been discussed much in recent months as a possible candidate for governor, he said Thursday that he’s still considering running.

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. While Democratic incumbent Dianne Feinstein recently told Raw Story she’d wait until 2024 to decide if she’d retire, her office now says the senator was actually “speaking about the timing of the election, not her announcement,” and that “she still intends to announce her decision in the coming months.” California politicos, though, had long assumed she’d call it a career even before Rep. Adam Schiff announced his campaign to succeed her Thursday after previously saying he’d only run if she didn’t: Schiff explained, “I wouldn’t be doing this without her blessing.”

NEW YORK U.S. SENATOR. The Times Union’s Joshua Solomon writes that unnamed sources close to Republican Lee Zeldin say that “there are discussions ongoing within the party about a potential Senate run” against Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand, a story that comes days after the New York Times said that the former congressman’s associates “discounted the chances he would run.” Zeldin, who was the 2022 nominee for governor, is also getting talked about as a potential candidate this year for Suffolk County executive, though he’s also yet to say if he’s interested.

CHICAGO MAYOR. Rep. Chuy Garcia has publicized an endorsement from colleague Jan Schakowsky, whose 9th District based in the northern part of the city includes about 10% of Chicago’s residents.

Victory Research, a Republican firm that often releases polls of Illinois contests, takes a look at the Feb. 28 nonpartisan primary and finds five different candidates within striking distance of advancing to the likely April 4 general election.

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas takes first with 20%, while Mayor Lori Lightfoot edges out Rep. Chuy Garcia 19-17 for second. Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson and wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson, who have struggled in the few polls we’ve seen this year, take 16% and 12%, respectively.

PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE. The Pennsylvania state House on Tuesday adjourned without voting to place any of the GOP’s proposed constitutional amendments on this May’s primary ballot, and the chamber isn’t set to reconvene until well after Friday’s deadline to act. It’s still possible for these measures, as well as an amendment to help survivors or childhood sexual abuse, to go before voters this November or next year, though Democrats would be in a stronger position to block the conservative proposals as long as they win a trio of special elections for Democratic-leaning seats on Feb. 7.

State law requires both chambers to pass a potential constitutional amendment during two successive sessions of the legislature with an election in between before it can get on the ballot, and the governor does not get a veto. Earlier this month former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called a special session weeks before his term expired on Jan. 17 to take up an amendment that would give childhood abuse survivors a two-year window to sue over claims that had otherwise expired; this measure was supposed to be on the 2021 ballot, but a clerical error by the Department of State derailed everything and forced the process to start again.

The Republican-controlled state Senate, though, went on to pass a single bill containing this amendment as well as two far more partisan proposals. One would require voter ID, while CNHI says the other would have removed “the governor’s veto from the legislative process to disapprove of executive agency regulations.” This bill did not include another measure that passed in the last session that would have amended the state’s governing document to say, “This constitution does not grant the right to taxpayer-funded abortion or any other right relating to abortion.”

State House Speaker Mark Rozzi, a Democrat who vowed to serve as an independent after he was elected to his post with the support of every Democrat and some Republicans, had pledged that his chamber wouldn’t consider any other matters until the abuse claims amendment passed. Rozzi, who himself is a childhood abuse survivor, ultimately recessed the chamber after determining that this wouldn’t happen.

GOP leaders recently circulated a petition to call members back so they could vote on the amendments, but it failed after state Rep. Tom Mehaffie refused to join the 100 Republicans in backing it; it’s not clear, though, if the petition would have had the force of law even if Mehaffie hadn’t objected.

All of this comes at a time when the closely divided state House hasn’t been able to agree on operating rules that, among other things, would determine how many members from each party would sit on committees. Democrats, including Rozzi, flipped the chamber last year by winning a 102-101 majority, but three of those Democratic seats are presently vacant and won’t be filled until the Feb. 7 elections. Republicans currently hold a 101-98 edge; the final seat is held by Rozzi, who remains a registered Democrat even though he said he would become an independent and who Spotlight PA says has remained close to the party.

WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT. Supreme Court candidate Jennifer Dorow, and her husband Brian, are developing an indoor gun range that would not only host weddings and other events, but would also serve alcohol, Yahoo News reports.

The couple requested a Class B liquor license to sell beer and wine to members and guests in the ‘clubhouse.’ The range would also sell firearms and accessories on-site.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz recently announced that she’d spent $700,000 on TV ads during the final three weeks leading up to the Feb. 21 nonpartisan primary, which is considerably more than any of her rivals hauled in during the second half of 2022, and her first two spots tout her support for abortion rights. Protasiewicz tells the audience in one ad, “I’ll protect public safety. I believe in a woman’s freedom to make her own decision on abortion.” The other features women warning, “Extremists want to ban abortion. Even in cases of rape and health of the mother.”

Protasiewicz appears to be the only one of the four candidates who is on TV, though conservative Dan Kelly is getting some help on the radio from Fair Courts America, a group funded by megadonors Dick and Liz Uihlein. The PAC, which pledged in November to spend millions to aid the former justice, said Thursday it was launching a $240,000 buy and that “[a]dditional ads will be rolled out soon.” The field also includes progressive Dane County Circuit Court Judge Everett Mitchell and another conservative, Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow.

OHIO STATE HOUSE. It’s been almost a month since the Democrats in the Ohio House of Representatives joined with a minority of GOP members to elect Jason Stephens as speaker over Derek Merrin, a fellow Republican who was his caucus’ official choice to lead the chamber, and the GOP’s civil war has only escalated since then. The latest battle is over which man gets to control the caucus’ campaign arm, as both Stephens and Merrin have appointed one of their allies to head the Ohio House Republican Alliance.

However,’s Jeremy Pelzer writes that only the speaker and his pick, state Rep. Jeff LaRe, have official corporate debit cards that allow them to spend the OHRA’s money, and Stephens plans to use some of it on a caucus retreat. (Why anyone would want to attend what will likely be a horribly awkward event remains unanswered.) Stephens’ side insists he has this power because the speaker has traditionally also been the leader of the majority caucus, and Republicans enjoy a 67-32 edge.

Merrin and his choice to head the OHRA, state Rep. Phil Plummer, unsurprisingly see things very differently. Merrin, who has accused Stephens’ side of “ramp[ing] up their efforts” to win the speakership when they learned their rival was busy caring for his dying father, has retained the loyalty of a majority of the GOP’s members, and they elected him caucus chair on Tuesday. Stephens and the 21 Republicans who backed him for speaker, all of whom were censured by the state party’s central committee weeks ago, were invited to attend this gathering but didn’t show.

Plummer cited Ohio law that says, “Each legislative campaign fund shall be administered and controlled in a manner designated by the caucus,” arguing, “(Stephens) needs to read the law and follow it.” He added, “If he wants a court battle over this, he will get one.” Legal experts also tell the Associated Press that there’s no law to “expressly require the speaker and caucus leader to be the same individual.” The OHRA’s website hasn’t picked a side, though, as it’s had a blank page under “members” since at least Friday; its donation section, however, seems to be working just fine.

The GOP factionalism is also continuing to play out on the House floor. The chamber voted 63-35 last week to approve the rules package Stephens wanted despite intense opposition from Merrin’s forces: Stephens’ side got the support of all the Democrats and 31 Republicans, including eight who’d opposed him for speaker, while 35 Republicans stuck with Merrin.

Among other things, the rules give Democrats more representation on committees and let Minority Leader Allison Russo choose members for special committees: They also empower the speaker and minority leader to fill vacant seats held by their respective parties (there are no special legislative elections in Ohio), a duty previously held by the caucuses. Merrin’s people, by contrast, unsuccessfully pushed proposals to limit the speaker’s power, let members bring guns onto the floor, and start the day with a “Christian prayer.”

What all of this chaos may not do, though, is stop Ohio Republicans from passing a new congressional gerrymander for 2024 especially now that, unlike last year, they have a friendly state Supreme Court to rubber stamp whatever they agree to. Though the state court ordered the legislature to adopt a new map within 30 days after striking down the second set of lines last summer, Republican lawmakers appear to have taken no steps to do so. Instead, Republicans filed an appeal months later with the U.S. Supreme Court, which has yet to decide whether or not to hear the case.

Should lawmakers eventually be compelled to draw a new map or decide to do so on their own, it’s possible that the two House GOP factions will reach an agreement with each other, the state Senate’s Republican supermajority, and Gov. Mike DeWine. If they don’t during the allotted time, the new maps would be drawn up by a seven-member commission consisting of DeWine, Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, GOP state Auditor Keith Faber, and one appointee each by the four legislative majority and minority party leaders.

Bolts Magazine’s Daniel Nichanian notes that, even if Stephens’ choice doesn’t go along with the rest of the party, the GOP would still have enough members to pass their preferred boundaries. At least one fair redistricting advocate told Nichanian she was “guardedly optimistic” Stephens could at least make the process more transparent, but there was little hope that he’d dramatically change things. “It really is the ultimate political Groundhog Day,” political scientist David Niven said to the Ohio Capital Journal, “without the redeeming learning that Bill Murray had.”

“President Biden is weeks, perhaps even months, away from a formal announcement on his 2024 campaign. But the building blocks of his pursuit of a second-term bid are coming into fuller view,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mr. Biden’s speech in Springfield, Va., on Thursday offered the latest preview of how he intends to point to the nation’s re-emergence from Covid-19, a resilient economy and his role as a check against the agenda of Republicans who hold a majority in the House. Key donors are preparing a fundraising blitz later this spring.”

“Top aides, meanwhile, are assembling a campaign staff, with decisions expected to be made after the Feb. 7 State of the Union address, according to people familiar with the process. A formal announcement is expected between early March and early April, aides say.”

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

0 comments on “The Political Report – February 1, 2023

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: