The Political Report – February 24, 2023

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball finds the overall battle for House control in 2024 starts as a Toss-up.

“Relatively similar numbers of Democratic and Republican seats start in the most competitive Toss-up and Leans categories, although Republicans start with a few more targets in large part because of the likelihood that they will benefit from redistricting in North Carolina and Ohio.”

“Big blue states California and New York, where Republicans have made key gains over the past couple of cycles, loom large as Democrats plot a path back to the House majority.”

New York Times: “House Majority PAC, the main super PAC aligned with congressional Democrats, will unveil a first-of-its-kind, $45 million fund this week dedicated to winning back four seats Republicans flipped in New York, and targeting two other competitive districts. Republicans currently control the chamber by only a five-seat margin.”

“The planned Democratic infusion would dwarf outside spending in the state in recent election cycles, and reflects just how central traditionally blue New York has become to the national House battlefield for both parties. Of the 18 districts nationwide that President Biden won in 2020 that are now represented by Republicans, New York is home to six.”

Politico: “People in the president’s orbit say there is no hard deadline or formal process in place for arriving at a launch date decision. According to four people familiar with the president’s thinking, a final call has been pushed aside as real-world events intervene. His cloak-and-dagger trip to Kyiv over the holiday weekend took meticulous planning and the positive reaction to it was seen internally as providing him with more runway to turn back to domestic politics.”

“While the belief among nearly everyone in Biden’s orbit is that he’ll ultimately give the all-clear, the delay has resulted an awkward deep-freeze across the party — in which some potential presidential aspirants and scores of major donors are strategizing and even developing a Plan B while trying to remain respectful and publicly supportive of the 80-year-old president.”

Washington Post: “The records show how Brnovich used his office to further claims about voting in Maricopa County that his own staff considered inaccurate. They suggest that his administration privately disregarded fact-checks provided by state investigators while publicly promoting incomplete accounts of the office’s work. The innuendo and inaccuracies, circulated not just in the far reaches of the internet but with the imprimatur of the state’s attorney general, helped make Arizona an epicenter of distrust in the democratic process, eroding confidence not just in the 2020 vote but in subsequent elections.”

“The documents — two investigative summaries and a draft letter with edits, totaling 41 pages — are far from an exhaustive record of Brnovich’s investigation. But they fill in details about the sometimes-enigmatic actions of the state’s former top law enforcement officer.”

New York Times: “Few New Yorkers cared, until late 2022, that the statewide Democratic apparatus operated, for the most part, as a hollowed-out appendage of the governor, a second campaign account that did little, if any, work in terms of messaging and turnout.”

“New Hampshire, a state with roughly half the population of Queens, has a Democratic Party with 16 full-time paid staff members. New York’s has four, according to the state chairman, Jay Jacobs. One helps maintain social media accounts that update only sparingly. Most state committee members have no idea where the party keeps its headquarters, or if it even has one.”

Vice News profiles newly-elected Michigan GOP chair Kristina Karamo “who still refuses to concede her 14-point election loss last fall, has close ties to the QAnon conspiracy theory movement and thinks everyone and everything is satanic, from Jay-Z to Cardi B to yoga.”

“Karamo’s win is a problematic development for Republicans. Michigan is a key presidential battleground state that will be important in 2024. Her own double-digit loss in 2022 says a lot about her political organizing ability, and her win is the latest proof that hardline conspiracists have pushed out the establishment party regulars who helped Republicans win a number of hard-fought statewide races over the past decade.”

“Mike Pompeo’s political action committee shelled out $42,000 on books the day his memoir hit bookshelves,” Forbes reports.

“Pompeo’s memoir debuted at No. 3 on the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover nonfiction. Two weeks later, it remains on the rankings at No. 5. The Times notes that retailers reported bulk orders of Never Give An Inch.”

“Pompeo is not a candidate for federal office, so he is allowed to personally profit when his PAC buys his book with donors’ funds.”

Donald Trump — who proclaimed himself the “law and order” president — is pitching increasingly brutal methods for how he would somehow “end crime” in ways that he didn’t during his first term in office, Rolling Stone reports.

“He’s a proven loser. I think his unelectability is his Achilles’ heel, and that in and of itself is going to be a unifying argument to move on from Trump.”— Former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), in an interview with the Washington Post.

Just 30 of the 164 Republican candidates who Donald Trump successfully endorsed for Congress in last year’s midterm elections have backed his presidential campaign so far, the Washington Post reports.

OHIO 13TH DISTRICT. Via an email to supporters, Republican Madison Gesiotto Gilbert has announced she will seek a rematch against Democratic Rep. Emilia Sykes, who beat her 53-47 last year for a then-open seat in the Akron and Canton areas. Gesiotto Gilbert made her first campaign for elected office with Trump’s endorsement in 2022, when she staked out far-right positions and repeatedly refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of Biden’s 2020 victory.

The newly redrawn iteration of the 13th District supported the president 51-48, but Republican lawmakers have an opportunity to pass another gerrymander for 2024 after GOP hardliners gained a majority on the state Supreme Court last year.

CALIFORNIA 30TH DISTRICT. West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne announced Tuesday that she was joining the busy top-two primary to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Adam Schiff, in this safely blue seat.

Shyne, who identifies herself as “the first out LGBTQ Iranian elected anywhere globally,” tells the audience in her announcement video she was “an undocumented immigrant till I was 16.” The candidate, who also runs an “energy healing” business, won her seat on the West Hollywood city council in a 2020 election Los Angeles Magazine says “appeared to have ushered in a new era for the overwhelmingly white governing body.”

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. There’s a lot of uncertainty about how the upcoming special election will play out once Democratic Rep. David Cicilline resigns on June 1, especially since, as law professor Quinn Yeargain points out, Rhode Island hasn’t hosted such a contest for Congress since 1967. The state hasn’t made any major changes to its special election laws during the ensuing decades, which poses a big potential problem.

The issue is a federal law that requires officials to send mail ballots to overseas voters at least 45 days before an election. However, as Yeargain explains, state law instructs special election candidates to file after that deadline, on the 39th and 40th days prior to the primary. John Marion, who heads Common Cause Rhode Island, cited Yeargain’s analysis as he argued that state leaders need to change the law or risk the U.S. Department of Justice stepping in.

Secretary of State Gregg Amore says he’s discussed two different sets of dates with Gov. Dan McKee that would comply with federal law. One option would be to hold the primary Aug. 8, which he says is the earliest date possible, with the general on Oct. 3. The other schedule would see the primary take place Sept. 5 and the general on Nov. 7. The contest may take place another time, though, as an Amore spokesperson acknowledged, “These are only preliminary, possible dates. Later dates are possible. No dates have been set or confirmed.” It’s not clear how Amore’s plans would address the matter of the candidate filing deadline, however.

Meanwhile, former state official Nick Autiello and state Rep. Nathan Biah each say they’re considering joining the Democratic primary, whenever it may be. WPRI also adds energy consultant Joe Paolino, who is the son and namesake of a former Providence mayor, to the list of interested candidates, though there’s no direct quote from him. Newport Mayor Xay Khamsyvoravong, though, says he’ll stay out of the race.

NEW JERSEY 7TH DISTRICT. Former Democratic state Sen. Raymond Lesniak tells the New Jersey Globe that he isn’t ruling out taking on GOP freshman Rep. Tom Kean Jr. next year, citing among other things the incumbent’s failure to stand up to members of his party who oppose further Ukraine aid. Lesniak, who would be 78 on Election Day, previously served for four decades in the legislature before running for governor in 2017, but he failed to gain traction that year and finished with just 5% in the primary, far behind eventual winner and now-Gov. Phil Murphy.

No notable Democrat has formally joined the race against Kean so far in this 51-47 Biden district.

MICHIGAN 7TH DISTRICT. Former state Sen. Tom Barrett, who was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for the 7th District last year, says he’s considering another campaign this cycle following his 52-46 loss to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who is mulling her own bid for the open Senate seat next year. Barrett has also been mentioned as a potential Senate contender but has given no sign whether he’s interested in that race, too.

CALIFORNIA 27TH DISTRICT. Former Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides on Wednesday became the first notable Democrat to announce a campaign against Republican Rep. Mike Garcia in California’s 27th Congressional District, a seat in northern Los Angeles County where plenty of voters still favor the GOP downballot. Biden would have carried this constituency, which is home to the communities of Santa Clarita, Lancaster, and Palmdale, 55-43 in 2020, but Garcia has proven to be a difficult opponent for Democrats.

Whitesides, who was NASA’s chief of staff before he joined billionaire Richard Branson’s commercial spaceflight company, entered the top-two primary with endorsements from three-time nominee Christy Smith as well as local Assemblymembers Juan Carrillo and Pilar Schiavo. Politico’s Ally Mutnick adds that some Democrats attempted to recruit Whitesides for the 2020 special election to succeed freshman Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned after being victimized by revenge porn: Mutnick writes, “His aerospace credentials could play well in a big defense industry region.”  

Then-Assemblywoman Smith ran instead but went on to badly lose that special to Garcia, an Air Force veteran who was waging his first campaign, in what was at the time numbered the 25th District. Garcia months later held Smith off by 333 votes as Biden was carrying the 25th by a 54-44 margin, and he voted months later to overturn Biden’s win hours after the Jan. 6 attack. Smith hoped that this decision would doom him for 2022, especially after the new congressional map left him with a tougher seat, and she sought another try.

However, D.C. Democrats seemed to have little faith in Smith for her third bout despite her close call, and the DCCC and House Majority PAC barely spent anything here. That decision did not sit well with her, and she wrote after the election, “When it comes to paid comms on TV, digital, and mail, without DC help to define Garcia and elevate our positive agenda we didn’t stand a chance. Especially,  since Garcia largely hid from debates and mainstream media limiting our opportunity for earned media contrast.”  

Garcia ended up prevailing 53-47 as statewide Democrats were struggling in this area: According to Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux, Sen. Alex Padilla carried the 27th only 51.5-48.5, while Gov. Gavin Newsom actually lost it 51-49. Whitesides, though, is hoping that the political climate will look far more like it did in 2020 and Garcia will once again need win extensive crossover support to prevail.

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

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