The Political Report – February 12, 2023

Pew Research: “With a new era of divided government beginning in Washington, the public’s top policy priority has not changed: Strengthening the economy tops Americans’ agenda, as it did a year ago.”

“However, there have been some notable changes in Americans’ priorities for the president and Congress to address this year. Reducing the budget deficit is now a higher priority for the public than in recent years (now 57% vs. 45% a year ago). The change has come among members of both parties, though Republicans and those who lean to the Republican Party (71%) are far more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners (44%) to view cutting the deficit as a leading priority.”

“And dealing with the coronavirus outbreak is now one of the lowest priorities for Americans – just 26% now say it should be a top priority for the president and Congress, but it was among the top priorities in both 2021 and 2022.”

INDIANA 5TH DISTRICT. Politico reports that Megan Savage, who served as chief of staff to then-Rep. Susan Brooks before she retired two years ago, is considering seeking the Republican nod to succeed Brooks’ successor, departing Rep. Victoria Spartz. Savage’s husband in turn tweeted out his support for the idea, writing Friday, “The boys and I voted, were 4-0 in favor.”  

Hamilton County GOP chair Mario Massillamany tells Howey Politics he’s considering running to succeed retiring Rep. Spartz, and Brian Howey reports that several other Republicans are thinking about seeking this gerrymandered constituency:

  • State Sen. Sen. Scott Baldwin
  • former state Sen. Mike Delph
  • State Rep. Chuck Goodrich
  • Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen
  • State Rep. Chris Jeter

Baldwin made news in 2021 when his name appeared on the insurrectionist Oath Keeper’s list of annual members. The legislator said in response that he’d donated $30 in 2010, saying “the organization described it to me as a 2nd Amendment rights group,” and that he’d not “had any interaction or communication since.”

Baldwin generated national attention months later when he suggested that schools should offer “impartial” lessons on fascism and Nazism. He soon said, “Nazism, Marxism and fascism are a stain on our world history and should be regarded as such, and I failed to adequately articulate that in my comments during the meeting.”

Howey also mentions 2020 primary losers Micah Beckwith and Beth Henderson as possible candidates along with Boone County Council President Elise Nieshalla. There’s no word, though, if any of them are interested.

NEBRASKA U.S. SENATOR. Former Gov. Pete Ricketts had little trouble getting appointed to the Senate earlier this year, but a longtime adversary confirms he’s thinking about trying to beat him in next year’s Republican primary.

Charles Herbster and Ricketts have feuded for ages. While they’ve never opposed one another on the same ballot, Herbster financed a campaign to boost a Ricketts rival in the 2014 primary for governor. Ricketts won anyway, so eight years later, he did everything he could to stop Herbster from replacing him—and succeeded.

Herbster is a vocal Trump ally. The agribusinessman attended the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, and Trump stuck with Herbster in 2022 even after eight women accused the candidate of sexual assault.

He’s also very rich and very angry. Herbster self-funded most of his gubernatorial campaign’s $13 million budget, so he has money to burn. He also reacted with fury after his victorious rival, Jim Pillen, appointed Ricketts to the upper chamber last month after Ricketts spent seven figures to boost Pillen past Herbster in the governor’s race.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. While Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale pissed off party leaders last month by refusing to ever support Kevin McCarthy for speaker, the deep-pocketed Club for Growth is making it clear they’ll back him if he decides to challenge Democratic Sen. Jon Tester again. “If he decides to run, we’d want to support him again,” said Club president David McIntosh, who also declared, “We like what he did in terms of the speaker’s selection process.”

Tester has not yet announced if he’ll be seeking a fourth term, but if he does, he may be quite pleased if the Club helps ensure that he gets a rematch with Rosendale. The organization was the Republican’s main ally during the 2018 primary when he beat an unimpressive field of opponents, but he proved to be a weak nominee himself. Tester and his allies delighted in reminding voters that Rosendale had only moved to Montana from Maryland in 2002 and still sported a distinct Maryland accent, and they didn’t hesitate to exploit a Talking Points Memo report about how the self-described “rancher” didn’t own any cattle or actually ranch on his property.

Rosendale didn’t get requisite air support to push back, though: While the Senate Leadership Fund spent huge amounts for other Republican Senate candidates, it only went on the air in Montana during the final two weeks of the race. That delay may have made the difference: While other Senate Democrats struggled that year in dark red states, Tester beat Rosendale 50-47.

The Club, however, still very much wanted to see Rosendale in a chamber of Congress. The group, along with its then-ally Donald Trump, supported him in his successful 2020 run for what was at the time Big Sky Country’s only House seat. Two years later when Montana regained a second district, Rosendale later claimed the new and safely red 2nd in the eastern part of the state as former Rep. Ryan Zinke returned to D.C. by winning the more competitive 1st, and both men immediately made it clear they could challenge Tester.

But even though Montana had two House members for the first time in three decades, Zinke and Rosendale immediately parted ways on the marathon speakership votes. Zinke, who served a chaotic stint as Trump’s first secretary of the interior, loyally sided with McCarthy on each and every one of the 15 votes, while Rosendale kept supporting alternate candidates. Rosendale explained his disgust with McCarthy by arguing his leader “squandered every opportunity to protect Americans from woke policies,” while Zinke called the spectacle “embarrassing.”

While Zinke avoided directly trashing his home-state colleague, he told Politico, “A lot of the members you see—before they couldn’t buy an interview … And now look at them, some of these members walk around, they got a mob around them and they’re fundraising off it.” Unnamed Republicans also speculated that Rosendale’s obstinacy was all about getting ready for another Senate bid. The 2018 nominee never came around to McCarthy, though he did him a small favor on the very last ballot by voting “present” instead of for an alternate speaker pick.

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) “is planning to formally launch her campaign for U.S. Senate in California by the end of February, according to a person with knowledge of the plans who said Lee is timing her announcement to coincide with Black History Month,” the Washington Post reports.

MINNESOTA 2ND DISTRICT.  Democratic Rep. Angie Craig’s office said Thursday that she was attacked that morning in her apartment elevator where she “suffered bruising, but is otherwise physically okay.” The U.S. Capitol Police said later that they were investigating the incident, but “there is no indication that the congresswoman was targeted because of her position.”

Craig told the police she’d thrown hot coffee to fend off her assailant, who had been “acting erratic as if he was under the influence of an unknown substance.” The D.C. Police Department announced that evening that they’d apprehended a suspect​.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. John Fetterman checked into the hospital Wednesday for observation after he felt lightheaded, and he remained there Thursday for another overnight stay. His office released a statement Thursday saying, “[T]he results of the MRI, along with the results of all of the other tests the doctors ran, rule out a new stroke.” They added, “He is being monitored with an EEG for signs of seizure – so far there are no signs of seizure, but he is still being monitored.”

OHIO 13TH DISTRICT. Republican Madison Gesiotto Gilbert has filed FEC paperwork for a potential rematch against freshman Rep. Emilia Sykes, the Democrat who defeated her 53-47 last year. Biden carried the current version of this district, which is based in the Akron and Canton areas, 51-48, but Republicans have the chance to pass a new gerrymander for 2024.

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson said a few weeks ago that he was considering seeking the Republican nod for Senate or president, and he made it clear Thursday he was moving towards door number two. Johnson, whose primary bid for governor ended last year after he fell victim to a fraudulent petition signature scandal, announced he’d formed a White House campaign committee with a “formal announcement for President of the United States in the months ahead.” Johnson also is spending $190,000 on Super Bowl ads in Iowa, a state where it’s usually harder to get ejected from the ballot.

INDIANA 3RD DISTRICT. Howey Politics mentions state Sen. Liz Brown and farmer Kip Tom, who each lost the 2016 Republican primary to now-Rep. Jim Banks, as possible candidates to succeed their former rival now that he’s running for Senate. The story also name-drops Matt Kelty and Tim Smith, who each badly lost the race for mayor of Fort Wayne to Democrat Tom Henry in 2007 and 2019, respectively.

But former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke, who lost a 2002 primary for an old version of this seat to incumbent Mark Souder, says it’s “unlikely” he’ll try again 22 years later.

Former Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) may jump into the race for his old seat as incumbent Jim Banks (R-IN) runs for the Senate, Punchbowl News reports.

INDIANA U.S. SENATOR. While Republican Rep. Greg Pence retracted his support for colleague Jim Banks last month over what his allies told Politico was “unwarranted attacks” against former Gov. Mitch Daniels from both Donald Trump Jr. and the Club for Growth,” Pence is now emulating George Costanza and endorsing Banks again like nothing ever happened. Pence, who is the older brother of Mike Pence, made his new announcement about a week after Daniels decided not to run for Senate after all.

PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE. State House Speaker Mark Rozzi said Wednesday he’d “reassess” whether he’d try to continue to lead the chamber after his colleagues pass measures to help survivors of sexual abuse. The speaker, who remains a Democrat despite initially saying he’d serve as an independent, announced that his colleagues will convene Feb. 21-23 to work on this issue right after Democrats won the trio of Tuesday special elections that ensured they’d control the state House.

“Being the speaker of the House means nothing,” Rozzi, who is himself an abuse survivor, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The only thing that’s important to me is getting this legislation for the retroactive two-year window. So when I look back on my career, if I don’t get this done, it has been a failure to me.” Rozzi also said of House Majority Leader Joanna McClinton, who would be the first woman to serve as speaker, “Joanna McClinton is a great leader, and she has done amazingly great things for the Democratic Party.”

Tara Pameri: “There’s a consensual delusion playing out within part of the left these days that Kyrsten Sinema—the subject of endless Washingtonian curiosity on account of her tacky yellow-winged frocks, wigs, go-go boots, oenophile bisexual ironman lifestyle, date nights with Kevin McCarthy, and, yes, Democrat-to-independent conversion—might somehow decide not to run for re-election in 2024.”

“Of course, that would make things easier for the Democrats—easier for Rep. Ruben Gallego, her pesky Democratic challenger, who has been aiming his fire at Sinema for years; for majority leader Chuck Schumer, who presumably prefers to stay neutral rather than antagonize Sinema, who votes with his caucus the vast majority of the time; and for caucus more generally, which is sick of her complicating their priorities as a mini-Manchin. Perhaps, the wistful fantasy goes, Sinema will just decide she’d rather ride things out writing bestsellers in the desert and sitting on the board of companies like Pfizer.”

“Alas, this is all nonsense: Sinema, a fundraising machine and darling of Wall Street and Big Pharma, alike, will run for Senate in Arizona as an independent, even if that means she’s a spoiler for Democrats.”

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

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