The Political Report – February 19, 2023

If you dig into the new Arizona poll of the 2024 Senate race, it’s hard not to conclude that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) is in deep trouble if she decides to seek re-election.

Despite being the incumbent, Sinema doesn’t get more than a third of the vote in any of the three-way match ups tested.

Sinema does better among Republicans than with Democrats, but Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) — who has already announced his bid — does better with independents.

Worse for Sinema, the Democratic party is consolidated around Gallego. Her best hope is if Republicans put up a controversial challenger, like failed the 2022 candidates Blake Masters or Kari Lake.

It’s true that there’s a lot of time before the election. But it’s very hard to see how she puts together a winning coalition.

INDIANA U.S. SENATOR. NRSC chief Steve Daines has gone beyond just putting out a supportive statement for Rep. Jim Banks, and he’ll host a fundraiser for the sole GOP candidate at NRSC headquarters next month.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR. Politico: “Several colleagues and those in Florida Republican circles anticipate Gaetz could run for governor of the Sunshine State in 2026 after Gov. Ron DeSantis leaves office. DeSantis is expected to run for the White House in 2024.”

PHILADELPHIA MAYOR. Former City Councilmember Helen Gym this week earned the endorsement of Unite Here Philly, a union that the Philadelphia Inquirer says leads “one of the city’s most visible ground operations,” ahead of the May Democratic primary. The only other candidate who has received major union support so far is grocer Jeff Brown.

NEVADA 1st and 4th DISTRICTs. Two Republicans who unsuccessfully ran for the state Assembly last year are moving to take on a pair of Democratic House members next year in Las Vegas area seats that Biden carried by identical 53-45 margins. Restaurateur Flemming Larsen has filed FEC paperwork to face Democratic Rep. Dina Titus in the 1st District, while Air Force veteran David Flippo has announced that he’ll go up against 4th District Rep. Steven Horsford. No other notable Republicans have entered either race yet.

Larsen last year was the GOP nominee for the open 12th Assembly District, and he held Democrat Max Carter to a 51-49 win in a 54-44 Biden constituency. Flippo, meanwhile, ran for the 37th District and took last in the three-way primary with 25%: Jacob Deaville, who won the nod with 49%, went on to lose a close general election to former Assemblywoman Shea Backus. Flippo now says, “I hadn’t run before; it was my first time running, so there’s a lot to learn and all that. And that’s one of the reasons I got in so early this time. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.”

ARIZONA 3RD DISTRICT. Héctor Jaramillo, a Democrat who is a member of the Glendale Elementary School Board, has filed FEC paperwork for a potential campaign for the safely blue seat that Rep. Ruben Gallego is giving up to run for the Senate, and he tweeted Monday, “Big announcement coming soon.” Primary School notes that Jaramillo won his seat last year with the backing of a group opposed to school vouchers.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Wednesday was the deadline for Louisiana candidates to report how much money they had at the end of 2022, and unsurprisingly, Attorney General Jeff Landry posted a huge financial edge. Landry, who was the only notable Republican who kicked off his campaign last year, had $5 million available, while his allied PAC had another $1.5 million. Independent Hunter Lundy, who also jumped in during 2022, had $1.6 million to spend, with most of it coming from his $1.4 million campaign loan.

A trio of Republicans also had money stockpiled before they launched their campaigns last month. State Treasurer John Schroder had $2.4 million on-hand, while state Sen. Sharon Hewitt’s war chest stood at $620,000. State Rep. Richard Nelson, finally, was far back with just shy of $200,000 at his disposal.

Shawn Wilson said Wednesday that he would step down as state transportation secretary on March 4, and he added that he’d be announcing soon if he’d run for governor.

Local politicos have anticipated for months that Wilson, who would be the first African American elected statewide since Reconstruction, will try to replace termed-out Gov. John Bel Edwards, and his would-be predecessor offered him some encouraging words. “He’s absolutely capable, eminently qualified and would do great job,” said Edwards, continuing, “We would be very well served to have Shawn Wilson as our next governor.”

TEXAS U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro generated some buzz recently when he put out a fundraising email lacerating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for seeking a third term even as he pushes a bill limiting senators to just two, with the congressman writing, “Senator Cruz should stick to his own rules and back out of the 2024 Senate race. Pitch in here if you agree!” The Dallas Morning News, though, notes that it’s not clear if Castro, who flirted with Senate bids in 2017 and 2019, is interested in taking on Cruz this time.

Indeed, Politico recently reported that the congressman’s identical twin brother, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, was considering a Senate bid. Neither Castro has said anything publicly about their 2024 plans.

FLORIDA 1ST DISTRICT. Attorneys for far-right Rep. Matt Gaetz said Wednesday, “We have just spoken with the DOJ and have been informed that they have concluded their investigation into Congressman Gaetz and allegations related to sex trafficking and obstruction of justice and they have determined not to bring any charges against him.”

News broke in 2021 that the Florida Republican was under federal investigation for sex trafficking of a minor and other alleged offenses, and he earned a Republican primary challenge the following year from self-funder Mark Lombardo. Lombardo ran several ads focused on the allegations against Gaetz, as well as a spot that even speculated, without evidence, that Gaetz might be the government informant who prompted the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago.

GOP voters in this safely red seat responded by renominating the incumbent 70-24. One month later, the Washington Post reported that the prosecutors working the case recommended against indicting the congressman because they believed that there were too many credibility issues with a pair of key witnesses for them to secure an indictment.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Associated Press: “After four years in Washington, Republican Mitt Romney has established himself as a rare senator willing to publicly rebuke members of his own party.”

“But the Utah senator’s outspoken stances, along with his willingness to work with Democrats, have angered some Republicans in the deep-red state he represents and led them to cast about for someone to try to dethrone him a primary race next year.”

“The 75-year-old said that he hasn’t made a decision on whether to run for reelection in 2024 and doesn’t expect to until the start of summer.”

CALIFORNIA 12TH DISTRICT. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee earlier this week filed FEC paperwork for Senate ahead of what the Washington Post says will be an announcement later this month, but political observers had already spent the last month talking about who might run in the top-two primary to succeed her in this dark blue bastion in the East Bay.

BART board member Lateefah Simon told the San Francisco Chronicle in January that she was interested, while the paper said that Assemblywoman Mia Bonta was considering. State Sen. Nancy Skinner and former Oakland City Councilmember Loren Taylor, who lost a tight race for mayor last year, didn’t rule it out themselves, while the paper also mentioned Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks and former Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf as possibilities.  

Lee’s 12th District, which includes Oakland and Berkeley, is the bluest House seat in the state at 89-9 Biden, so it would be a surprise if two Democrats didn’t advance to the general election. Indeed, there are just two congressional districts in the entire nation where Biden did better: Maryland’s 4th, which is held by Rep. Glenn Ivey, and Pennsylvania’s Rep. Dwight Evans’ 3rd District.

INDIANA 3RD DISTRICT. Inside Elections’ Erin Covey reports that Allen County Circuit Judge Wendy Davis (no, not that Wendy Davis) is considering seeking the Republican nod to succeed Senate candidate Jim Banks in this dark red seat. Covey also lists state Sen. Justin Busch and state Rep. Bob Morris as possibilities: Morris, she notes, made news in 2012 when he blasted the Girl Scouts as a group that’s “been subverted in the name of liberal progressive politics and the destruction of traditional American family values.”

Army veteran Mike Felker currently has the field to himself, though Covey relays that GOP leaders doubt he’ll run a credible effort.

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. Surprise, surprise: While George Santos reportedly told Republican Party leaders he wouldn’t run again before he was even sworn in, CNN says that the serial liar is telling people he’s considering seeking re-election. The article also notes that, while D.C. Republicans “are reassuring members of their party in New York that there’s no way they’ll let him be their nominee,” they hope he’ll complete his term to avoid a special election in this 54-45 Biden constituency.

MISSOURI GOVERNOR. The political tip-sheet Missouri Scout is out with a survey of the 2024 Republican primary from its usual pollster, the GOP firm Remington Research Group, that gives Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft a 28-9 edge over Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe as state Sen. Bill Eigel clocks in at 4%. This is quite a plunge for Ashcroft from the 44% he posted in Remington’s November poll even though nothing appears to have happened between the two surveys to explain this sort of a shift; Kehoe and Eigel, respectively, grabbed 10% and 4% back then.

The only member of this trio who has actually announced a bid to succeed termed-out Gov. Mike Parson is Kehoe, who launched his campaign all the way back in March of 2021. Eigel went on to form an exploratory committee back in September, though he hasn’t committed to anything. Ashcroft himself has not said he’s in either, though local political observers have long expected him to run: The secretary of state is the son of John Ashcroft, a former governor and senator who was George W. Bush’s first attorney general.

CALIFORNIA 13TH DISTRICT. Democrat Adam Gray has filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential rematch against freshman Rep. John Duarte, the Republican who beat him 50.2-49.8 last year. Joe Biden took this Central Valley constituency 54-43, and Democrats are hoping they’ll have a better shot with presidential turnout here. Financial adviser Phil Arballo, a fellow Democrat who lost the top-two primary to Gray, last week announced his own campaign to take on Duarte.  

CALIFORNIA 30TH DISTRICT. Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian’s former chief of staff tells the Los Angeles Times that Krekorian is considering running to succeed his fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Adam Schiff. Krekorian’s current spokesperson merely told the paper that he is “extremely focused on the business at hand.”

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

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