The Political Report – March 25, 2023

“The Trump campaign has sent a warning shot to the Republican Party’s House campaign arm and some of its most prominent digital consultants: Stop using the former president’s image and likeness in your fundraising pitches or you will pay,” Politico reports.

“In a letter sent on Thursday afternoon to the National Republican Campaign Committee and ten GOP consulting firms, Trump’s top two campaign officials, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, said the former president may not endorse candidates who used firms that were fundraising off of Trump without his consent.”

“She’s the biggest egomaniac in the Senate.”— An anonymous Senate Democrat, describing Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to Politico.

The Arizona Supreme Court has left the tiniest gasp of life in Kari Lake’s neverending election lawsuit, in which she’s trying to get her 2022 gubernatorial loss overturned. The court dismissed six of her seven claims, saying they’d been appropriately examined and dismissed by lower courts. But they resurrected the remaining claim, based on Lake’s allegations that Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, who’s become a primary antagonist in her stolen election narrative, accepted “a material number” of ballot envelopes bearing signatures that didn’t match those in the voters’ files. 

They sent that back down to the county judge, who first heard Lake’s case last December. This has been cause for massive celebration on Lake’s Twitter page, where the big lie carousel goes ‘round and ‘round. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has yet to formally announce whether he will run for president in 2024, said he would decline to serve as Donald Trump’s running mate if he were asked, the Daily Beast reports.  Desantis said he believes he is “probably more of an executive guy.”

 “He hasn’t declared his candidacy yet — but some Republicans fear that their non-Trump savior is showing signs of faltering,” Politico reports.  “DeSantis was compelled to reverse course on his public skepticism about the war in Ukraine following criticism from mainstay Republicans. His poll numbers have dipped. And he was dragged into the very thing he’d been trying to avoid: a public brawl with his chief rival, Donald Trump, whose attack dogs smelled blood.”

“Even Republicans eager to see DeSantis succeed agree that he has been put in a bind.”

Reuters: “Democratic sources say Biden has frustrations about some of her work. He is also convinced that neither Harris nor any other Democratic hopefuls would be able to beat former President Donald Trump if he is the Republican nominee, a factor that has influenced Biden’s inclination to run again, one former White House official said.”

“Some Democrats, including people who have worked in Biden’s West Wing, expressed disappointment that Harris has not stepped up more on critical issues, taking advantage of her platform and inoculating herself — and her running mate — against the criticism that could overshadow their next campaign.”

A defiant New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said he will not allow a change in his state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, telling Democrats and President Joe Biden to “pound sand,” the Washington Examiner reports.

CHICAGO MAYOR. Republican pollster Victory Research finds a tightening race in the battle to serve as Chicago’s next mayor, with former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas edging out Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson by just a 46-44 margin. In early March, Victory (which did not identify a client for either survey) had Vallas ahead by a wider 45-39 spread. The only other recent poll, from a progressive firm called IZQ Strategies, had Johnson in front 46-44. The runoff is April 4.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. Politico’s Meredith Lee Hill reports that both local and national Republicans—including NRSC chair Steve Daines—are eager to see Rep. Mike Gallagher take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin next year, but unnamed “people close to him” say the congressman is “‘not inclined” to do so and is more likely to run for governor in 2026 or for Senate in 2028 if GOP incumbent Ron Johnson retires. Gallagher himself previously did not rule out a bid, and as Hill notes, his repeated statements that Donald Trump “lost my support” would pose a serious obstacle for him in any primary.

In the event that Gallagher doesn’t go for it, quite a few other Republicans have been poking around the race, and Hill adds a couple of new possibilities. One is former state Sen. Roger Roth, who defeated a large field of opponents in last year’s GOP primary for lieutenant governor but lost as part of the ticket with Tim Michels to Gov. Tony Evers and his running mate, Sara Rodriguez. Another is former RNC chair (and, briefly, Trump chief of staff) Reince Priebus, but he’s eschewed bids both for the House and for governor in recent years.

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is teasing a “special announcement” on April 22, at which he’ll reportedly announce a bid for governor. So far, the only notable candidate in the race is Attorney General Josh Stein, who will likely have the Democratic field to himself, while at least a couple of other Republicans are still considering campaigns of their own. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is barred by term limits from seeking re-election, so the governorship will be open next year.

NEW JERSEY 9TH DISTRICT. Even though veteran Rep. Bill Pascrell said last week that he’d seek another term, a fellow Democrat, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, wouldn’t rule out a congressional bid of his own when local reporters asked about his intentions after a previously unknown political organization hosted a high-dollar fundraiser for him. Joe Malinconico of the Paterson Press says that unnamed “[p]olitical insiders privately offered conflicting opinions” as to whether Sayegh would actually run against the 86-year-old congressman, though he describes Pascrell as a “mentor” of the mayor. The 9th District, which includes urban areas of North Jersey and the western New York City suburbs, is solidly blue turf that voted 59-40 for Joe Biden.

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. The Democratic primary for the expected special election to succeed Rep. David Cicilline keeps getting more crowded, with state Rep. Nathan Biah joining the fray on Thursday. Biah, like two of the other notable contenders so far, is also an immigrant, having fled the civil war in Liberia when he was 20. In 2020, Biah, a high school principal, ousted incumbent Democrat Moira Walsh with the backing of then-Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who had repeatedly clashed with Walsh. (Mattiello, however, went on to lose to a Republican that November.)

Meanwhile, state Rep. Marvin Abney, who chairs the House Finance Committee, has added his name to the very long list of Democrats who are considering the race, though he says he’s focused on completing the state’s next budget. That’s typically not until June, which wouldn’t leave him much time since the special primary is likely to take place in August or September.

Separately, Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera says she’s still thinking about a bid, though in new remarks, she said, “I’m proud to see women, particularly women of color, recognizing this opportunity and working to elevate our representation,” which may be a hint that she’ll stay out since two other Latinas, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos and state Sen. Sandra Cano, are already running.

JACKSONVILLE MAYOR. The race to lead Jacksonville, which at nearly 1 million residents is both Florida’s biggest city and the largest in the country with a Republican mayor, will head to a May 16 runoff between Democrat Donna Deegan and Republican Daniel Davis after no candidate secured a majority of the vote on Tuesday night.

Deegan, a former local TV news anchor, finished first with 39%, while Davis, the CEO of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, took the second slot with 25% after a nasty and expensive intra-party battle with City Councilmember LeAnne Cumber, who ended up in fifth place with just 8%. Overall, the four Republican candidates collectively accounted for 51% of the vote while Deegan and another Democrat combined for 48% (an independent took 1%), which was by far the best showing for Democrats in a first-round election since 1995.

Republicans, however, have largely controlled city politics since they ended a century of Democratic dominance in Jacksonville three decades ago, when Mayor Ed Austin switched parties while in office in 1993. Since that time, they’ve only lost one mayoral contest. That defeat came in 2011, when Democrat Alvin Brown scored a major upset in an open seat contest, a win that also made him the city’s first Black chief executive. Four years later, however, Brown narrowly lost to Republican Lenny Curry, who is now term-limited.

One recent positive development for Democrats, though, came in 2020, when Joe Biden became the party’s first presidential candidate to carry Duval County (whose residents can all vote in Jacksonville elections) since Jimmy Carter, beating Donald Trump by a 51-47 margin. The electorate in presidential years, however, differs considerably from those in local elections, and turnout was unusually low on Tuesday.

And despite their stronger showing at the top of the ticket, Democrats fared poorly in elections for the City Council, where Republicans currently hold a 14-5 majority. That bottom line won’t change, since the GOP is assured of winning 12 seats and Democrats just two, with another five headed to a runoff with one candidate from each party. That desultory outcome came despite the fact that a coalition of civil rights groups successfully challenged the city’s most recent redistricting plan as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander that harmed Black voters and persuaded a judge to adopt one of their own maps instead.

The GOP’s grasp on the council could prove a significant obstacle to Deegan should she prevail in May, since it only takes a simple majority of all members elected (or two-thirds of members present) to override a mayor’s vetoes. But before she can even think about that problem, she’ll will first have to get past Davis, a former councilmember himself who to date has outraised Deegan by a wide $6 million to $1.2 million margin.

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

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