The Political Report – March 20, 2023

“Leading antiabortion groups, fresh off their historic victory with the demise of Roe v. Wade, are drawing up plans for a new goal in the 2024 presidential election: Ensuring the Republican nominee promises to back nationwide restrictions on abortion,” the Washington Post reports.

“One of the most influential groups, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, is likely to ask candidates to sign a pledge supporting a federal minimum limit on abortion at no later than 15 weeks of pregnancy.”

TENNESSEE 5TH DISTRICT. WTVF’s Phil Williams reported Wednesday that Republican Rep. Andy Ogles in 2014 raised close to $25,000 for a children’s burial garden that was never constructed, but the Tennessee congressman won’t say what the funds were actually used for. Ogles and his wife took in that money from their GoFundMe campaign following the death of their infant son, but he told The Tennessean the next year that regulations had prevented the garden from getting built. Williams, though, now writes, “In fact, there is no evidence that any government regulation would have prevented the purchase of several cemetery plots for burying children.”

Ogles, after initially refusing to answer Williams’ questions, put out a statement saying, “What we raised wasn’t enough for our original goal of a more significant memorial, so the purpose evolved from a memorial to direct financial support for families covering the cost of funeral expenses and other needs for their children as opportunities to help arose.” His team, however, did not respond when The Tennessean when it asked if it would be providing documentation showing that the money was used to help these families.

On Thursday, Williams followed up by reporting that Ogles, who’d also said nine years ago that he’d be “purchasing 20 burial sites and donating them to families who lose their children,” would have been able to come close to hitting that target with the money he’d brought in. The congressman’s statement this week claims, “What we raised wasn’t enough for our original goal,” but a local funeral director tells Williams that “there is absolutely no cemetery, given space available, that would not have worked with him.” She added, “Back at that time, we could have helped them do something, but they never came back to us.”

The story came about a month after Williams first reported that Ogles appears to have fabricated large portions of his life. One of his GoFundMe donors from nearly a decade ago told the reporter that, while she wanted “to believe that that money went for something good,” the subsequent revelations about Ogles left her with “gnawing questions about what happened to these funds.” Ogles represents Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District, a newly gerrymandered Middle Tennessee district that Donald Trump carried 54-43.

OHIO ABORTION REFERENDUM. Protect Women Ohio, a group that was created last month by a trio of conservative organizations, announced Wednesday it was launching a $5 million TV and digital ad buy aimed at sinking a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee abortion rights in the state before it can even get off the ground. This four-week offensive comes immediately after the amendment’s backers were given the official go-ahead to begin gathering signatures to qualify for November’s ballot.

The new group’s opening spot avoids directly attacking the idea of abortion rights, which has proven to be an unpopular position even in conservative states. Instead, a narrator resorts to fear-mongering by claiming that young women are being “pushed to change her sex or to get an abortion,” and goes on to insist that the amendment measure would somehow endanger parental rights.

But as NBC notes, the measure “does not actually reference a person’s decision to medically transition. Meanwhile, the head of Ohio Physicians For Reproductive Rights, a group backing the amendment, called the ad “intentionally deceptive” and noted, “There is absolutely nothing in the amendment that mentions or supersedes Ohio’s parental consent laws.”

PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE. Speaker Joanna McClinton’s team says she’ll schedule the special election to succeed outgoing state Rep. Mike Zabel, a fellow Democrat who announced his resignation last week after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, to coincide with the May 16 statewide primary.

NEW JERSEY 9TH DISTRICT. Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell dispelled any retirement speculation Monday evening when the 86-year-old responded to a question if he’d run again by saying, “No question about it.”

OHIO 9TH DISTRICT. Politico mentions state Rep. Derek Merrin as a possible GOP opponent for Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur in a seat that Republicans will have the chance to gerrymander all over again. The hardline Merrin was slated to become speaker this January, but fellow Republican Jason Stephens unexpectedly took the gavel by uniting the chamber’s Democratic minority and a faction of GOP members.

PHILADELPHIA MAYOR. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that the city’s Board of Ethics is “investigating campaign finance activities related” to grocer Jeff Brown’s bid for the Democratic nomination, though the paper added that “[i]t is so far unclear whether the board is looking into Brown’s campaign, independent groups backing or connected to him, or both.”

Meanwhile another candidate competing in the May primary, former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, has earned an endorsement from former Mayor Michael Nutter. Nutter, who served from 2008 through 2016, made his move weeks after his immediate predecessor, John Street, also backed Rhynhart. Neither termed-out incumbent Jim Kenney nor any of the city’s other living former mayors have taken sides yet.

Former City Councilmember Cherelle Parker launched her first TV ad on Thursday ahead of the May Democratic primary, though the Philadelphia Inquirer puts the size of the buy at just $57,000. The spot, which touts her local roots, comes weeks after two of her wealthy opponents, former colleague Allan Domb and grocer Jeff Brown, launched their own spots: The paper says that those two contenders, as well as a pro-Brown super PAC, have together spent $5.5 million.

INDIANA 3RD DISTRICT. Republican Wendy Davis (no, not that Wendy Davis) announced Tuesday that she was stepping down as an Allen County Circuit Court judge to join the race to succeed Senate candidate Jim Banks in this safely red seat. Davis’ only major intra-party foe so far is state Sen. Andy Zay, though several other Republicans are also eyeing this contest.

TEXAS 28TH DISTRICT. A former spokesperson for Jessica Cisneros did not rule out the possibility that she could seek a third bout with conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar after narrowly losing their 2020 and 2022 primaries in this Larado-based seat. “She’s been busy working as an immigration attorney again, so that’s been her focus now,” Alejandro Garcia told the Texas Tribune, adding of Cisneros, “I think she’ll let people know if/when she’s ready.”

It also remains to be seen if the GOP will again seriously target this constituency, which backed Joe Biden 53-46, after a disappointing 2022. Both parties believed Cuellar, who had a long history of easily turning back unheralded GOP opponents, was in for a tough fight against Republican Cassy Garcia last cycle, and the four largest outside groups on the House side dropped $15.9 million here. But Cuellar prevailed by a convincing 57-43, running well ahead of what the Texas Tribune says was a 5-point win here for fellow Democrat Beto O’Rourke in the race for governor.

Ron Brownstein: “Control of the House of Representatives could teeter precariously for years as each party consolidates its dominance over mirror-image demographic strongholds.”

New York Times: “Without the visceral urgency of a dangerous virus — or a sitting president who tweets erratically late into the night — America’s news obsessives may simply feel more comfortable changing the channel in the evenings rather than waiting on tenterhooks for the latest development. At the same time, prime-time stars like Rachel Maddow have moved on from their regular time slots.”

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

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