The Political Report – March 9, 2023

“Voters in Oklahoma on Tuesday rejected a measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, a defeat that marks a significant setback for the marijuana legalization movement,” the Washington Post reports.

Playbook: “A prominent Democratic think tank is raising alarms about a third-party ticket spoiling 2024 for Democrats and landing Donald Trump back in the White House.”

“A new two-page memo from Third Way takes aim at the potential ‘unity ticket’ being promoted by the centrist group No Labels. With tens of millions of dollars in financial backing, No Labels’ stated intention is to nominate a moderate alternative to potential extreme major-party nominees as an ‘insurance policy.’”

“A No Labels ticket would not have to be especially successful to spoil a Democratic win, the memo points out: Biden won six of the seven most competitive states by three points or fewer. As such, it argues, ‘even a paltry third-party performance would put 79 Biden electoral votes at risk.’”

“A centrist political party that has some Democrats concerned about the potential for it to play a spoiler role has made the ballot in Arizona in 2024,” The Hill reports.

Related? ABC News reports former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declined on Tuesday to close the door on a third-party presidential bid in 2024 after he said Sunday that he would not seek the Republican nomination.

A new Morning Consult poll finds 77% of potential Democratic primary voters said they would support President Biden if the party’s 2024 presidential nominating contest were held in their state today, compared with 4% who would back Marianne Williamson.

“Just not tracking that. I mean, if I had a… crystal ball, then I can tell you… If I can feel her aura.”— White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, when asked if President Biden is annoyed by Marianne Williamson (D) announcing her 2024 presidential bid.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said he’s thinking about running for president, WMUR reports.  Said Kennedy: “I am thinking about it. I’ve passed the biggest hurdle, which is my wife has green-lighted it.”

The Daily Beast looks at how Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-NC) has become a TikTok sensation.  “Since that first viral post, Jackson has attracted nearly 500,000 followers on TikTok, and his plainspoken, no-frills videos careen through the app’s algorithm before plopping into the feeds of somewhere between 1 and 3 million people on any given day.”

“But on Capitol Hill, Jackson is a rare breed: he’s just one of roughly 30 members with TikTok accounts, and part of an increasingly small cohort of politicians more broadly who use one.”

CALIFORNIA 30TH DISTRICT. Actor Ben Savage, who is best known as the lead on “Boy Meets World,” announced Monday that he was joining the busy top-two primary field to replace Rep. Adam Schiff, who is leaving this safely blue seat behind to run for the Senate.

Savage, who like Schiff and all the major candidates is a Democrat, ran for the West Hollywood City Council last year in a race where he needed to take one of the top three spots to earn a seat, but he finished seventh. Savage soon began raising money for a House campaign in January, but he only confirmed he was in this week.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Rep. Garret Graves finally confirmed Tuesday that he wouldn’t run in this October’s all-party primary to succeed Louisiana’s termed-out governor, Democrat John Bel Edwards, but another Republican acknowledged he was considering joining what’s still a fluid race. Stephen Waguespack, who serves as president and CEO of the powerful Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said later in the day that he “hope[s] to have a decision pretty soon.”

The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue reported the previous evening, though, that Waguespack told his board members he’d already made that decision and would announce his campaign Thursday. Graves, who is close to Waguespack, didn’t mention him in his statement, but he hinted his campaign was coming by writing that “in the coming days, the field will brighten.” Another Republican, state House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, also said last week he’d consider a run if Graves passed.

Waguespack, writes O’Donoghue, could appeal to the same set of GOP donors who’d originally wanted Graves to run in order to stop Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry. The far-right Landry is the frontrunner, but O’Donoghue says the “Anybody but Jeff” group badly wants an alternative to a person they view as “too much of a hothead and too concerned about partisan issues to be an effective governor.”

The GOP side also includes Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, and state Rep. Richard Nelson, but none of them have emerged yet as Landry’s main intra-party rival. Indeed, O’Donoghue says that all four announced Republicans last week appeared at a LABI event hosted by Waguespack himself, but “some politically-active business folks came away disheartened by the performances.” The LABI head, by contrast, didn’t show any obvious interest in joining the race until this week.

Waguespack would bring plenty of connections to the race from his decade leading the state’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce chapter, which could help him quickly raise the type of money he’d need to go up against the well-funded Landry. However, O’Donoghue notes that the attorney general already has the support of some major LABI donors including Eddie Rispone, who narrowly lost the 2019 race to Edwards. Rispone, though, said Tuesday he wanted to speak to both men, declaring, “They both have their strong suits” and “I just hope they go at it from a policy standpoint.”

Waguespack, who does not appear to have sought office before, also has one big connection that could be a serious liability if he ran. He previously served as chief of staff to then-Gov. Bobby Jindal, a one-time Republican rising star who left office seven years ago with disastrous approval numbers, and Waguespack’s foes would likely tie him to the huge Jindal-era budget cuts.

Former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, by contrast, earned an endorsement from Edwards Tuesday, a move aimed at ensuring that he remains the only major Democrat in the contest. The field also includes independent Hunter Lundy, a self-funding attorney who is a member of the governing board of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a Christian nationalist group.

CALIFORNIA 11TH DISTRICT. State Sen. Scott Wiener announced Friday that he was forming an exploratory committee to prepare for a future campaign to succeed incumbent Nancy Pelosi “in the event she decides to step down,” though it’s anyone’s guess when the former speaker will retire from this safely blue seat. Pelosi’s team didn’t provide any clues in its statement, saying instead, “Speaker Emerita Pelosi plans to serve her entire term in Congress, representing the people of San Francisco. And in order to help win back the House for the Democrats, she has filed for re-election.”

TEXAS 23RD DISTRICT. Medina County GOP chair Julie Clark on Monday kicked off a primary bid against Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales, an announcement that came days after the state Republican Party censured the incumbent for defying the party line on multiple occasions. Clark brought up Gonzales’ apostasies in a launch video where her narrator accuses the congressman of “trying to take away our guns,” a reference to the gun safety legislation he supported last year after the Robb Elementary School shooting happened in his 23rd Congressional District.

The video, after claiming Gonzales “voted for taxpayer-funded abortions and even voted against securing our border with a wall,” attacks him for confirming Joe Biden’s victory in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack, though this is framed as him having “voted to put Joe Biden into office, and for the sham Jan. 6 committee.” After showing footage of Clark aiming her gun, the narrator ominously says, “It’s time we take out the RINO, and replace them with real American patriots.”

Gonzales himself remained defiant after the party censured him, a move that bars him from receiving party help until any runoffs take place in late May of next year. Indeed, he responded in Spanish with what the Houston Chronicle calls “some words for the group that are probably too coarse for a family newspaper.”

Gonzales’ vast constituency, which stretches from the San Antonio suburbs west to the El Paso area, used to be competitive turf, and the Republican unexpectedly won the last version of the district in 2020 as it was flipping from 50-46 Clinton to a narrow 50-48 victory for Trump. The GOP legislature did what it could to make sure it remained reliably red by stretching Trump’s 2020 margin to 53-46, and Gonzales went on to take his second term 56-39 in a campaign that attracted little outside attention.

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. State House Speaker Joe Shekarchi told WPRI over the weekend that he’d spend “a week or two” considering if he’d run in the upcoming special election to succeed his fellow Democrat, outgoing Rep. David Cicilline.

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. Democrat Jon Kaiman announced this week that he would try to regain his old post as North Hempstead town supervisor this year rather than challenge serial liar George Santos in 2024. Kaiman will instead take on Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, who caucuses with the GOP even though she remains a registered Democrat, to lead a Long Island community of 237,000 people.

CHICAGO MAYOR. The pollster 1983 Labs is out with the first numbers we’ve seen from anyone since last week’s nonpartisan primary, and it shows former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas beating Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson 44-32 in the April 4 general election. The firm, which says is not affiliated with any candidate, found Vallas up 44-31 days before the primary in what was at the time a hypothetical matchup.

Johnson, meanwhile, this week publicized an endorsement from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is also chair of the county Democratic Party. Preckwinkle lost the 2019 race for mayor in a 74-26 romp to Lori Lightfoot, but she bounced back last year by convincingly winning both the Democratic primary and general election for her current post. Lightfoot, by contrast, took third last week against Vallas and Johnson.

Vallas, for his part, is airing a commercial starring former Secretary of State Jesse White, who is arguably his most prominent African American supporter. (Vallas is white while Johnson is Black.) White, who retired this year after a 24-year career in statewide office, tells the audience, “Paul has the know-how and experience to fix what’s broken. He’ll focus on crime and the safety of every neighborhood.”

BOLTON 2024. Former national security adviser John Bolton told CNN that he’s still weighing a presidential bid, and was “very disappointed” that former Gov. Larry Hogan opted out. Said Bolton: “The focus here has got to be on eliminating Trump from the nomination process as early as possible.”

TRUMP BOTS ARE BACK. Associated Press: “As Republican voters size up their candidates for 2024, whoever created the bot network is seeking to put a thumb on the scale, using online manipulation techniques pioneered by the Kremlin to sway the digital platform conversation about candidates while exploiting Twitter’s algorithms to maximize their reach.”

“As a follower of Florida Gov. and likely presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis’ (R) varying moral crimes against queer kids, marginalized people, and even books that dare to mention LGBTQ+ issues, I feel obligated to direct your attention now to the irony of him continually wearing high heels,” Jezebel reports.

Associated Press: “There’s a risk of a disconnect between rank-and-file Democrats and the party’s establishment. While voters are signaling unease about the prospect of another Biden campaign, Democratic governors, senators and congressional representatives are virtually unanimous in supporting Biden’s reelection.”

“Interviews with angry New Hampshire Democrats across state government and local Democratic committees suggest there is some appetite for a serious primary challenger in 2024. But top-tier prospects don’t seem to be interested.”

“A new class of political donors is funneling millions of dollars to far-right Republicans, as growing dissatisfaction with the party establishment fuels support for hard line causes such as resistance to raising the US borrowing limit,” the Financial Times reports.

“Unlike previous generations of conservative megadonors — often Wall Street types who poured money into major fundraising vehicles — the new, more geographically diverse cohort is making targeted donations to far-right candidates and the groups supporting them.”

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

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