The Political Report – February 14, 2023

“For the first time since Economist/YouGov polls began asking — in July 2022 — if Americans want Biden to run again in 2024, more than half of Democrats say yes.”

“Now, just about the same share of Democrats favor a Biden run (53%) as the share of Republicans who support another run by Trump (54%). Trump has generally enjoyed more stable support for his 2024 campaign from Republicans than Biden has from Democrats.”

CHICAGO MAYOR. With the election less than three weeks away, three out of five voters disapprove of the job Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) has done in her first term and 71% think the city is on the wrong track, according to a Sun-Times/WBEZ/Telemundo Chicago/NBC5 poll of Chicago voters.

WTTW News reported Thursday evening that former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who is one of the frontrunners in this month’s nonpartisan primary for mayor, has long listed the suburb of Palos Heights as his primary residence rather than the city of Chicago. It’s too late for anyone to try to use this information to get Vallas, who called the report “malicious” and “untrue,” ejected from the Feb. 28 ballot, but his opponents are hoping the story will do him some damage at a crucial time.

Reporter Paris Schutz explains that Vallas, who is one of the eight candidates trying to unseat Mayor Lori Lightfoot, moved to an apartment in Chicago in 2017 two years before his first unsuccessful mayoral bid, and he relocated to another place in the city’s Bridgeport neighborhood last year. However, he continued to list the Palos Heights home, which he’s owned with his wife since 2009, as the location for his consulting business, and he also identified it as his address when he made a donation last year to now-Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias.

The Vallas campaign said that the location on the Giannoulias contribution was a mistake that would be fixed, and it defended his residency in Chicago. Vallas’ camp said his wife, Sharron Vallas, does live in Palos Heights to care for each of their parents, and that the candidate visits “when his schedule permits.” The Cook County Assessor’s Office said Friday that, in response to media inquiries, it had investigated whether the couple should have received their Palos Heights homestead exemption and concluded that they were eligible because Sharron Vallas “is a primary resident at the home.”

That’s unlikely to appease Paul Vallas’ critics, though. Indeed, Schutz on Friday retweeted a post arguing, “Every single family photo Vallas has posted on social media over the last year has been taken in what appears to be a large suburban home, not a 950 sq ft Bridgeport apartment.”

All of this comes as two polls from two opposing factions both show Vallas grabbing one of the two spots for the likely April 4 general election, though the surveys disagree on most other details. First up is a Lightfoot internal from GBAO, with its numbers from late January in parenthesis:

  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot: 24 (25)
  • former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas: 20 (22)
  • Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson: 15 (9)
  • Wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson: 14 (11)
  • Rep. Chuy García: 13 (18)

The survey shows 7% undecided, while the remaining four candidates split the balance.

Lightfoot made it clear last month she wanted to go up against Vallas, declaring, “[F]olks, I would love to have Paul Vallas as my runoff challenger.” The mayor has previewed what strategy she’d use if she gets her wish with digital ads showing Vallas in 2009 calling himself “more of a Republican than a Democrat now,” and she’s also hit him for accepting an endorsement from the pro-Trump head of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. Vallas, like all the candidates, identifies as a Democrat.

However, M3 Strategies’ new poll for Americans for a Safer and Better Tomorrow, a group that has run ads against Lightfoot but doesn’t appear to have endorsed anyone yet, has a different take on the race. The firm finds her in a tough fight to make it to round two in a contest where 11% are still uncommitted, though it shows her position improving since mid-January:

  • Vallas: 31 (26)
  • Lightfoot: 17 (10)
  • Johnson: 16 (12)
  • García: 13 (19)
  • Wilson: 7 (9)

While both GBAO and M3 offer different reads on the race, they’re in agreement that Johnson is making gains as García is losing altitude. A recent media poll from Mason-Dixon, though, had the congressman in front with 20% as Vallas edged out Lightfoot 18-17; Wilson and Johnson were at 12% and 11%, respectively.

García, for his part, has unveiled endorsements from fellow Rep. Mike Quigley and former Gov. Pat Quinn, who both considered running for mayor themselves last year. The congressman’s new ad, meanwhile, briefly goes after Lightfoot on crime while also reminding the audience that García was an ally of the late Mayor Harold Washington.

WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT. EMILY’s List made its first-ever judicial endorsement on Thursday when it backed Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz in what’s become a very expensive Feb. 21 nonpartisan primary. The offensive comes as WisPolitics reports that a pair of conservative groups, the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, have spent a combined $770,000 on a commercial portraying Protasiewicz as weak on crime.

The Brennan Center for Justice, meanwhile, says that Conservative Action for America is deploying $150,000 to promote Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow, though we do not yet have a copy of the spot. Former state Justice Daniel Kelly, who is the other conservative on the ballot, is in turn getting $1.7 million in aid on TV and radio from Fair Courts America, which is about twice what it previously reported spending. Neither Kelly nor the final candidate, liberal Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell, have aired ads themselves, and Mitchell hasn’t gotten any serious outside help on the airwaves yet.

“The Federal Election Commission sent a letter to GOP New York Rep. George Santos ordering him to officially declare that he is running for reelection in 2024, after he raised enough money following the midterm elections in November to trigger filing requirements,” CNN reports.

In the letter, the FEC asks Santos needs to “either disavow these activities by notifying the Commission in writing that you are not a candidate, or redesignate your principal campaign committee by filing a Statement of Candidacy.”

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Thursday that she was closing the investigation into her fellow Democrat, Attorney General Josh Stein, over a 2020 campaign ad that his defeated opponent argued was libel. Freeman’s announcement came one day after a federal appeals court issued a favorable ruling for Stein, who is the party’s frontrunner in next year’s race for governor.

Stein in 2020 ran an ad against Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill accusing the Republican of failing to test thousands of rape kits. Stein narrowly won re-election, and O’Neill later responded by filing a complaint that cited an obscure 1931 law that makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly run false election ads against an opponent. Stein, who says he stands by that commercial’s accuracy, also defended himself on free speech grounds, and a three-judge appeals panel unanimously agreed Wednesday that the 1931 law likely was unconstitutional.

NEW YORK 22ND DISTRICT. On Thursday, Manlius Town Councilor Katelyn Kriesel became the first Democrat to announce a campaign against Republican Rep. Brandon Williams, a freshman who will be defending a Syracuse-based seat that Biden took 53-45. The National Journal reported the following day that 2022 nominee Francis Conole, who lost to Williams 50-49 last year, had decided not to run, information that came from an unnamed “Democratic strategist close to the campaign.”

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. State Democratic Party chair Katie Bernhardt said Friday that she’d decided not to join this year’s race for governor, a declaration that came a few weeks after she starred in a super PAC ad that seemed to be aimed at increasing her name recognition ahead of a campaign. That appearance roiled several of her fellow Democrats, though, and the party’s vice chair resigned in protest.

FLORIDA 13TH DISTRICT. The Washington Post published a detailed new report on Friday cataloging the multiple ways in which Florida Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, a far-right freshman who opposed Kevin McCarthy for 11 speakership ballots, has apparently lied about her background.

The Post writes that Luna, who is the first Mexican American woman to represent her state, “described herself as alternately Middle Eastern, Jewish or Eastern European” when she was in the Air Force a little more than a decade ago. “She would really change who she was based on what fit the situation best at the time,” said her former roommate Brittany Brooks.

Luna, who identifies as a Christian, has used her supposed Jewish ancestry to shield allies like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from charges of antisemitism even though several relatives told the Post that, not only was the congresswoman raised Catholic, but her grandfather had served in Nazi Germany’s armed forces.

“MTG did endorse me, and I was raised as a Messianic Jew by my father,” Luna told Jewish Insider just before Election Day, adding, “I am also a small fraction Ashkenazi. If she were antisemitic, why did she endorse me.” Mainstream Jewish denominations do not recognize “Messianic Jews,” including organizations like “Jews for Jesus,” as Jewish, and the Post’s report did not confirm any Jewish heritage on Luna’s part.

Rather, Luna’s mother described the congresswoman’s late father, George Mayerhofer, as a “Christian that embraced the Messianic faith,” while extended family members said they believed he was a Catholic. Luna’s campaign biography says that Mayerhofer “spent time in and out of incarceration” while they lived in California through her teenage years, and she mostly communicated with him “through letters to jail and collect calls.” However, the paper couldn’t find any record of him being charged with any felony or serving any prison time in the state.

The article also digs into Luna’s 2019 assertion that she survived a 4 A.M. “home invasion” while in the military. Brooks, though, said the only relevant incident she could recall was a break-in that happened when neither of them were home.

Luna, who refused to speak to the paper, responded to the story by tweeting, “Holy shit the Washington post just tried to claim my dad was never incarcerated, left out comments from my mom, said I was a registered Democrat, and did not report a convo they had with a former roommate, and interviewed ‘family’ I don’t talk to.” (The paper initially reported she’d registered to vote as a Democrat in 2017 while living in Washington state, a detail it corrected Friday afternoon; the update explained, “Washington state only requires voters to declare their party affiliation when they cast a ballot in a presidential primary.”) She went on to share a tweet from an Air Force colleague claiming that Brooks was lying about the break-in.

Luna unsuccessfully campaigned against Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist in 2020, but she won the race to succeed him last year after the GOP’s new gerrymander transformed Florida’s 13th District from a 51-47 Biden constituency to one Trump would have taken 53-46. The DCCC, notably, felt so pessimistic about Democrat Eric Lynn’s prospects against her in 2022 that it did not release an opposition research document about Luna.

Lynn and his allies, including a super PAC funded by his cousin, attacked Luna’s ardent opposition to abortion rights, but they did not focus on her apparent lies about her past. Lynn could not overcome the difficult lean of the revamped district, as well as the GOP’s strong showing across the state, and Luna went on to win this St. Petersburg-area seat 53-45.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. John Fetterman’s office said Friday that he’d been discharged from the hospital after tests didn’t find any signs of a stroke or seizure, and that he’d be returning to work Monday.

CALIFORNIA 47TH DISTRICT. Activist and former attorney Joanna Weiss has entered the race for Southern California’s 47th Congressional District, joining three other notable Democrats and one Republican in the contest. Weiss hasn’t sought office before, but she runs an organization called Women for American Values and Ethics that supported several Orange County Democrats who ran for the House last year, including Rep. Katie Porter, whose decision to run for Senate has left this district open.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) “is taking steps to run for president, adding to the stable of Republicans looking to wrest the party mantle from former President Donald Trump,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mr. Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, is testing a message with GOP voters in key early states focused on unity and optimism as some Republicans say it is time to move on from the Trump era. Mr. Trump has announced a bid for president in the 2024 election.”

“Nikki Haley takes her place in the presidential spotlight this week. The former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador will head to New Hampshire for two days of campaigning, followed by more of the same in Iowa, after announcing her 2024 bid Wednesday with a late morning rally in Charleston, South Carolina,” The Dispatch reports.

“All three are key early states: The Iowa caucuses next February will kick off the Republican presidential nominating contest, followed by New Hampshire, host of the first traditional primary, then South Carolina, first in the heavily Republican South.”

“But so far, the soon-to-be-official Haley presidential campaign has no staff or advisers—paid or pro bono—in Iowa or New Hampshire. At least that’s the best The Dispatch could figure out after lobbing several calls into each state to ask dialed-in Republican insiders if they know who is helping Haley organize events.”

“Few have navigated the turbulent politics of the Trump era like Nikki Haley,” the AP reports. “In early 2016, the then-South Carolina governor said she was “embarrassed” by candidate Donald Trump and decried his reluctance to condemn white supremacists. Nine months later, she agreed to join his Cabinet, serving as a key validator as Trump sought to win over skeptical world leaders and voters at home.”

“And shortly after Trump left the White House, Haley, whose resume by then included an ambassadorship to the United Nations, vowed not to step in the way if he ran for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Yet on Wednesday, she is poised to become the first major Republican candidate to enter the race against him.”

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. The Washington Post reports that Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee plans to announce a Senate bid by the end of February. While Lee didn’t confirm she’d run, she said in a statement, “Currently, there are no Black Women in the U.S. Senate, and there have only been two in our almost 250-year history. Our voices are sorely missed in the Senate.”

Jonathan Last: “One of the clear trends of the last several years is that The Party Decides is no longer a maxim that’s universally true. It wasn’t true in the Republican primary of 2016 or the Democratic primary of 2020. It hasn’t been true in most of the Republican senatorial and gubernatorial races of the last six years.”

“Past performance is not indication of future gains, obviously. Maybe the pendulum has swung back and the unified Republican/conservative elites will be able to pull DeSantis across the line.”

“But that’s the central question for the Republican primary. And by coincidence, it gives Trump an obvious line of attack: Even though he’s the former president the party elites are still arrayed against him and trying to impose their will on Republican voters… You can’t be new twice, but you can be anti-establishment forever.”

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

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