The Political Report – March 1, 2023

Nathaniel Rakich: “It may be an odd year, but there are still elections happening — and the first notable election of 2023 took place last Tuesday, with contests in Virginia, Wisconsin and a couple of other states.”

“The results left Democrats and liberals cheering; their preferred candidates not only won, but by larger-than-expected margins. However, Democrats shouldn’t get too giddy about what that performance means for future elections.”

CHICAGO MAYOR. “Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago lost her bid for a second term on Tuesday,, a resounding defeat that reflected widespread dissatisfaction from voters over her handling of crime and policing in the nation’s third-largest city,” the New York Times reports.

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) raised over $1.2 million in a first day money bomb for her U.S. Senate campaign on Monday, the Detroit News reports.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson still is keeping the door open to a Senate bid even with her fellow Democrat, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, running, but she doesn’t sound excited about the idea. A Benson advisor said Monday, “Secretary Benson’s primary focus is on carrying out accessible, secure, and accurate elections this year and in 2024, but she continues to hear from people asking her to run, and she is considering all options.”

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. The Associated Press says that there’s talk of businessman Mike Gibbons seeking the Republican nod to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, though there’s no word from Gibbons about his interest in what would be a third Senate campaign.

Gibbons lost the 2018 primary to face Brown 47-32 to Rep. Jim Renacci, who went on to wage his own disastrous general election campaign.  Gibbons for a while last cycle looked like he had a chance to prevail in the crowded and chaotic contest to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman, but he took fourth with only 12%.

  “I run my own race, and my own brand. So, I’m not going to run from Biden. He’s also delivered more than any president in recent history.”— Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), quoted by Insider.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. The Associated Press’ Brian Slodysko reports that rich guy Dave McCormick has “been promised support” from the Senate Leadership Fund, a deep-pocketed super PAC run by allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, should he challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. NRSC chair Steve Daines also reportedly gushed over McCormick, who narrowly lost the 2022 primary to Mehmet Oz for the state’s other Senate seat, at a recent NRSC donor retreat.  

VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. Scott Parkinson, who is an official at the hard-right Club for Growth, tells The Dispatch that he’s considering seeking the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in what’s become a tough state for the GOP.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Activist Gary Chambers, a Democrat who took a distant second last year against Republican Sen. John Kennedy, says he wouldn’t run for governor against outgoing Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson. Wilson, whose resignation takes effect March 4, has not yet announced that he’ll compete in the October all-party primary, but The Advocate says his declaration “is expected within two weeks.”

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. Carolina Forward reports that the State Board of Elections is investigating former Rep. Mark Walker, who is a potential Republican candidate for governor or the House, for allegedly breaking campaign finance laws last year by coordinating with judicial candidates.

The story says that Walker ran an independent expenditure committee called Win the Courts that transported several contenders and organized an event for multiple candidates. Walker and Win the Courts allegedly also failed to disclose this “material campaign logistical support,” while Carolina Forward adds that the group’s “financial accounting that it does disclose does not add up.”

WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT. AdImpact reports that progressive Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s ad bookings for the April 4 election for Wisconsin’s open Supreme Court seat have now swollen to $5.4 million, far more than the $1.5 million the firm identified late last week. Even more remarkable is the fact that her conservative opponent, former Justice Dan Kelly, hasn’t spent or reserved anything on the airwaves yet, and his deep-pocketed allies at Fair Courts America (bankrolled by the Uihlein family) waited until Monday to book any ad time at all. As of Monday afternoon, the group had placed just $180,000 in reservations, set to start Wednesday.

With just a six-week sprint between the primary and the general election, even one week spent dark can have an outsized impact. That’s especially so given the tendency of the Wisconsin electorate to grow more liberal between the two elections when it comes to Supreme Court races. As FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich demonstrates in a new piece, four of the five races for the state’s top court from 2011 onward saw a larger proportion of the vote cast for liberal candidates in April than in February; only once, in 2016, did the trend go the other way.

As Rakich notes, the sample size is small, and the swings have tended to vary in size. But no matter what, Kelly is starting off in a hole, since progressives candidates won 54% of the vote last week versus 46% for the two conservatives.

Politico: “The contest is poised to be the most expensive state Supreme Court race ever, with major outside groups — particularly those focused on abortion — rushing in funds.”

“The Republican-backed candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court provided legal advice to one of the state’s leading anti-abortion groups, work that Wisconsin Right to Life and Dan Kelly have not detailed but that is being used against Kelly by his liberal opponent,” the AP reports.

“The high-stakes race, expected to shatter national spending records, will determine majority control of the court and likely the fate of abortion access in the state.”

“With the state Supreme Court likely to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s 1849 ban on abortions at any stage of pregnancy, the candidates’ positions have become a central focus of the race.”

ARIZONA 3RD DISTRICT. Phoenix City Council Member Betty Guardado has confirmed that she’s considering entering the Democratic primary to succeed Senate candidate Ruben Gallego in this safely blue seat.

TEXAS 20TH DISTRICT. Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro said Monday that he had a successful surgery earlier in the day to “remove gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors” that had been discovered the previous summer. “My prognosis is good,” Castro continued, adding, “I expect to be home recovering in Texas for several weeks before returning to Washington.”

Greg Craig writes in the New York Times that Democratic voters should pick President Biden’s running mate.

“There will be those who see a decision to let Democratic voters pick Mr. Biden’s running mate as being a betrayal of Ms. Harris. That would be a misreading of the situation. Certainly he would be free to express his views about various possible running mates — as did Roosevelt in 1944 — and there is every reason to think that she would win the nomination on her own. There is nothing disloyal about putting the vice president in a position in which she wins the slot and becomes a more and more proven and battle-tested political leader in the process. If she were to prevail in her effort to be renominated, she would certainly be a stronger candidate and a more powerful vice president.”

“Giving voters a chance to participate in selecting Mr. Biden’s running mate in 2024 would address the issue of age and succession. It would show him to be confident, engaged, unafraid, farsighted and even vital.”

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan says he will miss the Republican National Convention in 2024 if former President Donald Trump wins the party’s nomination, Fox News reports.

Said Ryan: “It depends on who the nominee is. I’ll be here if it’s somebody not named Trump.”

WILLIAMSON 2024. “So apparently only those who’ve had careers entrenched in the machine that drove us into the ditch should possibly be considered ‘qualified’ to lead us out of it. (They’re done such a bang up job and all.) Squirm, darlings. We see you.” — Marianne Williamson, on Twitter, taking a shot at critics of her Democratic primary challenge to President Biden.

MICHIGAN 7TH DISTRICT. Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s decision to run for Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Debbie Stabenow means that there will be an intense race to replace her in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, a constituency in the Lansing area and northwestern Detroit exurbs that supported Joe Biden by a tiny 49.4-48.9 margin. The 2022 contest attracted a combined $21.3 million from the top four House groups in the nation, putting it behind only California’s 22nd, and both parties are preparing for another expensive fight.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, who is a former state representative, was quick to express interest in campaigning to succeed her fellow Democrat. (Her mother, Dianne Byrum, lost to Republican Mike Rogers by all of 111 votes in a 2000 contest to replace none other than Stabenow in a previous version of this seat.) Byrum told the Lansing State Journal, “Over the coming weeks, I have many conversations to have.” Lansing Mayor Andy Schor also said he’d be mulling it over in what the paper characterized as “the coming days” while a third Democrat, state Rep. Julie Brixie, declared, “If I am needed, I would certainly consider it.”

On the Republican side, 2022 nominee Tom Barrett sounds likely to try again now that he won’t need to go up against Slotkin. Barrett, a former state senator who lost by a surprisingly wide 52-46 margin, told The Dispatch’s Audrey Fahlberg, “Senator Barrett has received very strong encouragement from throughout Michigan to run for the 7th District and is putting together plans to do so.” (Yes, he referred to himself in the third-person Bob Dole style.)

A Barrett advisor told the Journal later Monday that his man “plans to” try again and will announce sometime in the next few weeks. That’s not quite an ironclad yes, though, and national Republicans may prefer to have an alternative to a far-right former legislator who failed to meet his own campaign’s fundraising goals. Barrett, who wore a “naturally immunized” wristband and refused to say if he was vaccinated, infamously tried to make up for lost time by sending out a fundraising appeal by text message falsely telling recipients that “your child’s gender reassignment surgery has been booked,” complete with a phony time for the appointment.

The Republican, an ardent abortion rights foe who refused to say if he supported exemptions even to save the life of the mother, also proved to be a terrible choice in a year where Michigan voters decisively approved an amendment to enshrine reproductive rights into the state constitution.

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

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