The Political Report – April 3, 2023

A new Marquette Law School national poll finds Joe Biden and Donald Trump tied in a 2024 presidential match up, 38% to 38% with 20% saying that they would vote for someone else and 4% that they would not vote.

In a matchup between Biden and Ron DeSantis, DeSantis holds a slight lead, 42% to 41%, with 13% saying they would vote for someone else and 4% saying they would not vote.

Important caveat: “In both matchups, the relatively high percentages saying they would vote for ‘someone else’ or would not vote indicates the potential for volatility in coming months as candidate choices become clarified.”

A new Harvard Institute of Politics poll found that 63% of young Americans support stricter gun laws.

Gallup: “Americans are more likely now than at any time over the past five decades to say there is more crime in their local area than there was a year ago.”

“The 56% of U.S. adults who report an increase in crime where they live marks a five-percentage-point uptick since last year and is the highest by two points in Gallup’s trend dating back to 1972.”

A new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll finds 56% of Americans don’t think a college degree is worth the cost, a new low in confidence in what has long been a hallmark of the American dream.

Interesting, but not surprising: “Skepticism is strongest among people ages 18-34, and people with college degrees are among those whose opinions have soured the most, portending a profound shift for higher education in the years ahead.”

MAINE 2ND DISTRICT. The Bangor Daily News’ Michael Shepherd takes a look at the Republicans who could challenge Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, a Marine veteran who last year turned back an expensive GOP effort to deny him a third term in a northern Maine seat that Trump took 52-46.

The potential candidates who have publicly expressed interest in running are 2022 primary candidate Liz Caruso and Robert Cross, who lost a state Senate primary last year, while state Rep. Laurel Libby did not rule it out. State Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, who ran an aborted primary campaign here last cycle, meanwhile didn’t comment when asked, though Shepherd relays he’s “being watched by Republicans here and in Washington.” Both the party primaries and general election will be conducted using instant-runoff voting.

Caruso, who is a member of the Board of Selectman for the tiny community of Caratunk, says she’s not close to deciding on a second try. Last time she raised less than $50,000 before losing the nomination to former Rep. Bruce Poliquin only 60-40, which was a surprisingly underwhelming performance for someone as well known as Poliquin. That showing turned out to be a grim omen for Poliquin, who went on to lose the general to Golden 53-47 even as former GOP Gov. Paul LePage was carrying the 2nd 50-47.

However, Caruso herself may have also benefited from some important connections. Most notably, she was the spokesperson for the high-profile 2021 ballot initiative that succeeded in blocking the Central Maine Power hydropower corridor project. Caruso also spent the evening before the primary on the Fox News show hosted by Tucker Carlson, a part-time Maine resident and a fellow corridor foe. Carlson is hardly the only far-right figure Caruso wants to be associated with; she said just before the primary that one of the politicians she’d align with is Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Cross, for his part, says he’ll make up his mind in June. Cross, who is the grandson of the founder of the large company Cross Insurance, ran for the state Senate last year but lost the primary 55-45 to state Rep. Peter Lyford.

Libby, finally, made a name for herself in 2019 before she won office when she threatened to leave Maine if Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill to end religious and personal vaccination exemptions for school children. But Libby did not make good on that threat even after voters rejected a statewide ballot measure to repeal the law in a 73-27 landslide, and she instead concentrated on a successful 2020 campaign to unseat a Democratic incumbent. The new state representative went on to attack Mills’ requirement that healthcare workers get vaccinated for COVID, telling a rally, “To be clear, this is war!”

Libby’s extremism has helped her make some useful connections, as the $62,000 she raised last cycle was nearly twice as much as what any other candidate for Maine’s lower chamber took in. She also co-founded a PAC that attacked the state House GOP’s main campaign arm as “pathetic,” something party leaders did not appreciate. Shepherd writes that Libby is now “the nominal leader of a strident faction of House Republicans opposed to key items” in the legislature, including a successful home heating bill.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY. Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has been a favorite target of conservatives ever since he was elected the top prosecutor for America’s most populous county in 2020. He now faces a trio of his deputies in next year’s race to keep his job, all of whom are running to his right.

The first to announce back in January was Maria Ramirez, who is one of about a dozen people who’ve filed lawsuits alleging that Gascón retaliated against them for opposing his criminal justice reforms; a judge this month awarded $1.5 million to a plaintiff in another suit, though Ramirez’s has not yet been resolved. A colleague of hers, John McKinney, went on to enter the race earlier this month by declaring, “It’s just chaos on our streets and chaos in the district attorney’s office.” Finally, Jonathan Hatami, who just successfully concluded a high-profile murder trial, also accused the incumbent of being anti-cop just ahead of his own Wednesday launch.

Gascón, who spent years serving as the chief prosecutor in San Francisco, returned to his hometown of L.A. just ahead of the 2020 election, in which he campaigned as a reformer and unseated two-term District Attorney Jackie Lacey by a 54-46 margin. The new incumbent, though, took over at a time when crime was on the rise nationally. Opponents of his reforms didn’t hesitate to blame him for the spike and even tried to recall him from office early.

All three of Gascón’s declared foes have spent the last few years as some of his most vocal critics, and Hatami even raised money to support one of those recall efforts last year. That $8 million campaign, however, ultimately fell about 47,000 signatures short of the 567,000 it needed to make the ballot. (Last week, local officials asked the state attorney general to investigate why more than 300 petitions ostensibly came from dead people.)

California’s filing deadline isn’t until December of this year, so there’s still time for even more critics to enter the race, though a large field won’t necessarily help Gascon, since winning with a plurality isn’t possible. Rather, Los Angeles County will hold an officially nonpartisan primary that coincides with the state’s March presidential primary, and unless one contender wins a majority of the vote, the top-two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.

Last week, Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin quietly revived a Jim Crow-era voting restriction by reversing his Democratic predecessor’s policy of automatically restoring voting rights to people with felony convictions once they had served their prison sentences.

Virginia now has the most restrictive felony disenfranchisement policy in the country. Everyone newly convicted of a felony or currently in prison will be banned from voting for life by default, and Youngkin will personally get to decide who, if anyone, has their rights restored in the future.

And it’s led to massive racial disparities. Before Youngkin’s predecessors had greatly limited the scope of disenfranchisement over the past decade, Virginia’s lifetime ban had stripped one in five Black citizens of their voting rights, four times the rate of whites.

Straight out of Jim Crow: Virginia’s current felony voter ban was put in place as part of a 1902 constitution whose framers explicitly promised that its voting restrictions would disenfranchise the vast majority of Black voters.

ALLEGHENY COUNTY (PA) EXECUTIVE. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Adam Smeltz, citing data from AdImpact, reports that county Treasurer John Weinstein has had the airwaves almost to himself ahead of the six-way Democratic primary on May 16. Weinstein, relays Smeltz, deployed $385,000 on TV and radio through Monday, while he has $407,000 booked for the remainder of the race. His monopoly ended this week, though, when attorney Dave Fawcett, who is a former Republican member of the County Council, launched a $70,000 buy.

Weinstein has only run positive spots so far, but he’s faced some tough scrutiny in the media. WESA’s Chris Potter writes that his station and other local outlets “have raised questions about Weinstein’s conduct, including alleged secret deals to be returned to the board of the county’s sewer authority, and whether his support of a local judge produced jobs for people tied to Weinstein personally.”

Both Fawcett and another primary rival, Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb, have held press conferences bashing Weinstein, while state Rep. Sara Innamorato has avoided explicitly going after the treasurer. Two other contenders are also running, though none of them have gotten much traction so far: A seventh, County Councilmember Liv Bennett, ended up withdrawing from the primary just ahead of the early March filing deadline.

Donald Trump has surged ahead in a head-to-head matchup against Ron DeSantis in a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, beating the Sunshine State politician by 26 percentage points among registered Republican voters and Independents who lean Republican, 57% to 31%.

Donald Trump “has raised more than $5 million since news of his indictment broke late Thursday — over $4 million in the first 24 hours and over $1 million in the second 24 hours,” Axios reports.

“The donation gusher validates the view of most top Republicans that the expected indictment from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, at least in the short term, will help Trump’s effort to build a formidable lead for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.”

“Eric Genrich is running a full-throated campaign in support of abortion rights, reminding voters of his position at every turn and hammering his anti-abortion opponent in television ads. At a recent event, he featured an obstetrician who now commutes to a state where abortion is legal to treat patients and a local woman who traveled to Colorado to terminate a nonviable pregnancy,” the New York Times reports.

“There’s just one inconvenient reality: Mr. Genrich is running for re-election as mayor of Green Bay, Wis., an office that has nothing to do with abortion policy.”

Mr. Genrich is one of several candidates for municipal offices on the ballot this spring in races in Wisconsin, Chicago, St. Louis, Lincoln, Neb., and elsewhere who are making their support for abortion rights — and often their opponent’s past opposition — a centerpiece of their campaigns, even though abortion policy in all of these places is decided at the state level.”

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