The Political Report – March 15, 2023

USA Today: “Most Americans won’t have a ballot this year, but the handful of upcoming state elections still hold national implications.”

“The statewide ‘off-year’ contests in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi could hold valuable lessons for both parties ahead of the presidential election in 2024, experts say.”

“And Democrats also face a brutal Senate map in 2024 with incumbents facing reelection in Montana, West Virginia and Ohio, all of which former President Donald Trump easily won in 2020.”

BIDEN 2024. Walter Shapiro: “Neither Clinton (who merely sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission) nor Obama (who released a video) gained any political points from the lackluster kickoffs of their reelection campaigns. There is no legal obligation to jump in so early: Ronald Reagan waited until late January 1984 to ask the voters in a five-minute Oval Office speech (paid for by his reelection campaign) for ‘your continued support and cooperation in completing what we began three years ago.’”

“It would be one thing if there were serious doubts about Biden’s intentions. Whatever the political wisdom of Biden pushing the boundaries of the appropriate age to be president, most Democrats accept it as an inevitability…”

“The strongest argument for Biden’s reelection is his competence and comfort level in the White House. The longer that Biden delays making his 2024 plans official, the longer he can continue to serve as president without every event being seen only through the narrow prism of reelection. Being free of political demands also allows Biden to revel in foreign travel, which underscores both his energy and his resolute support of Ukraine.”

DESANTIS 2024. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will head to New Hampshire next month for the state GOP’s biggest fundraising gala of the year, Fox News reports.

New York Times: “The interaction underscored both the promise and the potential pitfall of a presidential bid for Mr. DeSantis. His preference for policy over personality can make him seem awkward and arrogant or otherwise astonishing in person, depending on the voter and the success or failure of his one-on-one exchanges.”

“As Mr. DeSantis decides whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, one of the biggest questions facing the 44-year-old Floridian is his ability to connect with voters who have had little exposure to him outside his home state.”

TRUMP 2024. “Taking aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Monday, former President Donald Trump told the crowd at a jampacked rally here that he will ‘protect Iowa ethanol from anyone who wishes to destroy it,’” NBC News reports.

“DeSantis, who made his first visit to the state as a prospective presidential candidate Friday, often voted as a member of Congress to restructure or slash subsidies for agricultural products, including ethanol.”

Politico: “Former President Donald Trump is intensifying his attacks on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, calling him disloyal and saying that his political career would have been over had he not endorsed his ultimately successful 2018 campaign.”

Wall Street Journal: “A major unspoken problem for the president, according to political strategists, is that trying to force an outright ban on TikTok—as many Republicans are seeking—would sacrifice what is emerging as a vital campaign asset for Democrats with the 2024 election season looming.”

“TikTok’s audience is predominantly younger people, who typically favor Democrats by wide margins.”

“Turnout among younger voters surged in 2018, 2020 and 2022, helping the party deliver Republicans political setbacks. Unusually high turnout among younger voters in the 2022 midterm elections was credited with helping the party maintain control of the Senate and also limit its losses in the House.”

“For Democrats, a key to reaching those younger voters has been TikTok, according to consultants in both parties. That advantage has been sharpened by many Republicans’ refusal to use the platform because of its perceived security risks, Democratic strategists say.”

CHENEY 2024. Liz Cheney is working on a new book as she continues to mull a potential 2024 presidential run, Semafor reports.

SOUTH CAROLINA 1ST DISTRICT. Businessman Michael B. Moore, who is the great-great grandson of the legendary Civil War figure and Reconstruction-era Rep. Robert Smallshas announced that he’s seeking the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Nancy Mace. The current version of South Carolina’s 1st District along the state’s coast backed Donald Trump 53-45, which would make it a tough lift for any Democrat.

The constituency may be different next year, though, as a federal court in January struck down the current 1st after ruling that Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against Black voters when they redrew it. However, it’s likely Republicans will find a way to keep it sufficiently red even if they address the court’s concerns about racial gerrymandering.

Moore, who filed a fundraising committee last month, previously served as the founding president and CEO of the International African American Museum, a Charleston-based institution that’s set to open this year. The Democrat is a first-time candidate, but he comes from a distinguished family: Moore’s ancestor, Smalls, famously escaped slavery in 1862 when he and his compatriots stole a well-armed cotton steamer with 17 enslaved people and steered it past rebel ships to Union lines.

Smalls went on to provide vital military intelligence to the United States and helped convince Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to enlist Black soldiers. Smalls, who served in combat throughout the duration of the Civil War, went on to become a Republican state legislator after the conflict as well as a congressman during three stints that spanned from 1875 to 1887. Another Moore ancestor, great-grandfather Samuel Jones Bampfield, also served in the state House during Reconstruction.

HOUSTON MAYOR. Bond investor Gilbert Garcia, who is the former head of the local public transit authority METRO, announced Friday that he was joining the busy November nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Garcia is a first-time candidate, though he has some notable connections. The Houston Chronicle’s Dylan McGuinness writes that he chaired Annise Parker’s 2009 campaign, which ended with her making history as the first gay person elected to lead America’s fourth-largest city, and Parker went on to appoint him to run METRO. Garcia a decade later served as treasurer to self-funder Tony Buzbee’s bid to unseat Turner, but that effort ended in a double-digit defeat.

Garcia would be the first Latino elected mayor, a distinction that City Councilman Robert Gallegos would also achieve. The field also includes state Sen. John Whitmire, who has long looked like the frontrunner, former City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, former Harris County interim clerk Chris Hollins, and attorney Lee Kaplan.

Political writer Charles Kuffner also reported back in January that longtime Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee paid for a poll testing her out as a contender. There have been no new public developments since then, though McGuinness says that “[r]umors have intensified in recent months” about a possible Jackson Lee bid.

CALIFORNIA 12TH DISTRICT. Alameda Vice Mayor Tony Daysog has set up a campaign account for a potential bid to succeed his fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Barbara Lee, in this dark blue East Bay seat.

ILLINOIS 17TH DISTRICT. Politico reports that Esther Joy King, who was the Republican nominee in both 2020 and 2022, has decided not to run again, though there’s no quote from her. King in November lost an open seat race to Democrat Eric Sorensen 52-48 in a western Illinois constituency Biden took 53-45 two years before.

CHICAGO MAYOR. The Republican firm Victory Research shows former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas beating Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson 45-39 in the April 4 nonpartisan primary for mayor of Chicago, which falls right between what two other recent surveys have found. 1983 Labs had Vallas ahead by a wide 44-32 margin last week, while a Lake Research Partners internal for Johnson had its sponsor up 45-40.

Both candidates are also airing their first negative TV ad of the general election, and the spot takes aim at their rival’s most obvious weaknessJohnson’s spot begins by accusing Vallas of having “wrecked Chicago’s schools finances, leaving us with billions in higher property taxes,” a statement that’s followed up with the narrator saying he “was just caught spreading racist and homophobic tweets.” It follows up with 2009 footage of Vallas saying, “I’m more of a Republican than a Democrat.” Vallas has repeatedly maintained he’s a “lifelong Democrat” and that that clip was taken out of context.

Vallas’ Twitter account, the local media reported just before the Feb. 28 nonpartisan primary, has a history of liking offensive tweets, including a message from that month arguing a senior police official was leaving because he “sees the writing on the wall, as a white male his ascension on CPD is limited. Identity over competency.” The page also did the same for several homophobic blasts against Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is the city’s first lesbian leader.

Vallas’ team responded by saying that the candidate doesn’t manage his account, and that “[t]he campaign is working to identify who is responsible for liking these tweets as many volunteers have had access to the account in recent years, including some who are no longer with the campaign.” They issued a similar statement last week when the Chicago Tribune reported that Vallas’ Facebook page had also liked comments that called Chicago a “hell hole” and dubbed Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker “the king of full term abortion.”

Vallas’ ad, meanwhile, utilizes a clip of a reporter declaring that Johnson “said he would cut the Chicago police budget by at least $150 million.” The narrator goes on to declare, “Chicago can’t afford Brandon Johnson’s risky proposals to raise taxes and defund the police.” Johnson himself insisted Monday, “I never said ‘defund the police.'”

Vallas, meanwhile, earned an endorsement that same day from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, which said it was sending his campaign $1 million. The labor group previously supported Rep. Chuy Garcia, who took fourth in the nonpartisan primary.

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos on Monday became the first notable Democrat to enter the upcoming special election to succeed David Cicilline, who will resign June 1 to become head of nonprofit, in Rhode Island’s safely blue 1st Congressional District. Matos, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic, would make history as both the first person of color and the first Democratic woman to represent the Ocean State in Congress. (Republican Claudine Schneider was elected to a previous version of the 2nd District in 1980, and she gave it up a decade later to wage an unsuccessful Senate campaign.)

Matos rose from president of the Providence City Council to the lieutenant governor’s office in 2021 after Gov. Dan McKee, who himself had just ascended to the governor’s office, appointed her to his old post. Matos soon had to get through a competitive primary to keep her new job, but she turned back state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero 47-33 before winning her general election 51-43.

Matos will likely need to get through another eventful nomination battle this year. State politicos are closely watching to see if two other prominent Democrats will run: former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, who only narrowly lost her own primary to McKee last year, and state House Speaker Joe Shekarchi. Numerous other people are also thinking about getting in, and one of them, state Sen. Sandra Cano, said Friday she was “getting very close” to making her choice.  

Joe Biden carried this constituency, which includes eastern Rhode Island as well as eastern and southern Providence, 64-35, so the Democratic nominee should have no trouble in the general. No one knows when the primary or general will be, though, because state election officials can’t set the dates until Cicilline’s resignation takes effect two-and-a-half months from now.

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

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