The Political Report – April 7, 2023

A new Fox News poll finds President Biden’s job performance rating has mostly held steady for more than a year and currently stands at 44% to 56%.

“Approval of the president hovers at a low point among several key voting groups, including women (43% now vs. 42% low), voters ages 45+ (41% vs. 39% low), suburban voters (41% vs. 39% low), rural voters (31% vs. 30% low) and Democrats (81% vs. 78% low) – Democratic men in particular (79% vs. 78% low). He’s at a low mark of 41% approval among suburban women.”

WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT. Janet Protasiewicz’s win on Tuesday means that liberals will have a majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the first time since 2008, and progressive Justice Ann Walsh Bradley immediately celebrated the accomplishment by committing to seeking another 10-year term in 2025. “I’m absolutely going to run again,” the 28-year incumbent told PBS Wisconsin, adding, “After tonight’s performance and seeing the energy in this room, I’m not only going to run, I’m going to win.”

Conservatives would need to unseat Bradley to retake the court two years from now, while conservative Rebecca Bradley is set to go before the voters in 2026.

MORE WISCONSIN. While progressive Janet Protasiewicz’s victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race took center stage Tuesday, state liberals also scored a big judicial win further down the ballot in Milwaukee County when Sara Geenen ousted conservative incumbent William Brash in a 69-31 landslide for a seat on the 16-member state Court of Appeals.

Brash, who was serving as chief justice at the time of his defeat, was appointed in 2015 by none other than GOP Gov. Scott Walker, and he didn’t even face an opponent in his 2017 campaign for a six-year term. Things were very different in this officially nonpartisan race, though, as Geenen worked to tie her opponent to Daniel Kelly, the conservative Supreme Court candidate who lost Milwaukee County 73-27.

Badger State Democrats also successfully defended three prominent local leaders in more officially nonpartisan races. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson earned a fourth term by turning back former county board member Kevin Sturn 55-45 as Protasiewicz was winning his county by a small 51-49. Nelson badly lost the 2016 election for the 8th Congressional District to Republican Mike Gallagher and dropped out of last year’s Senate race before the primary, but neither race required him to give up his post as the head of the competitive county that’s home to Appleton.

Just to the north in Green Bay, Mayor Eric Genrich scored a 53-47 victory over Republican Chad Weininger, a former state representative who now serves as Brown County’s director of administration. Republicans targeted Genrich for defeat, but the incumbent held on after running a campaign highlighting Weininger’s anti-abortion stances. Racine Mayor Cory Mason adopted a similar strategy, as well, as he turned back Republican Alderman Henry Perez 57-43.

Statewide, though, about two-thirds of Wisconsin voters approved a pair of constitutional amendments to allow judges to consider additional factors for bail. Voters by an 80-20 margin also passed a nonbinding advisory referendum asking if “able-bodied, childless adults” should have to “look for work in order to receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits,” a measure legislative Republicans placed on the ballot in the vain hope that it would boost their prospects at holding the state Supreme Court seat.

WISCONSIN STATE SENATE. The Associated Press on Wednesday morning called the special election for Republican state Rep. Dan Knodl, a win that gives his party a two-thirds supermajority in the upper chamber. Knodl leads Democrat Jodi Habush Sinykin 51-49 in a 52-47 Trump constituency that’s home to longtime conservative bastions in the suburbs and exurbs north of Milwaukee, and she conceded the race later Wednesday. Knodl will succeed longtime legislator Alberta Darling, a fellow Republican who resigned late last year.

“The commanding victory on Tuesday by a liberal candidate in a pivotal race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court showed the enduring power of abortion rights and issues of democracy as motivators for Democratic voters, as well as a continuing struggle among conservatives to put forward candidates who can unite Republicans and win general elections,” the New York Times reports.

“The liberal candidate, Janet Protasiewicz, swept onto the bench by 11 percentage points, a staggering margin in an evenly divided battleground state that signaled just how much last summer’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has transformed American politics.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccine activist and scion of one of the country’s most famous political families, is running for president, the AP reports.

ARIZONA 1ST DISTRICT. Orthodontist Andrew Horne didn’t generate much press in early January when he entered the Democratic primary to take on Republican Rep. David Schweikert, but he attracted a bit more attention this week when he said he’d ended the first quarter with $780,000 in the bank. Horne tells us that he raised $150,000 from donors for his campaign to flip this seat in northeastern Phoenix and Scottsdale, while he self-funded another $650,000.

The only other declared Democratic candidate here is state Rep. Amish Shah, who launched his campaign Monday for a constituency that Biden carried 50-49.

Shah, a physician whose 2018 victory made him the legislature’s first Indian American member, will try to flip a seat in northeastern Phoenix and Scottsdale that Joe Biden carried 50-49 in 2020 and that favored the state’s two most prominent Democrats last year: According to Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux, Sen. Mark Kelly and Gov. Katie Hobbs prevailed 52-46 and 52-48 here, respectively.

Shah kicked off his bid for what will likely be a key contest for control of the House days after 2022 nominee Jevin Hodge, who lost to Schweikert 50.4-49.6 last time, revealed that he would not seek a rematch. The state representative may not have the primary to himself, though, as former TV anchor Marlene Galan Woods, a self-described moderate, said in mid-January she was giving herself 90 days to decide.

Inside Elections last month also mentioned two other Democrats who lost campaigns under the previous map: Hiral Tipirneni, who failed to unseat Schweikert 52-48 in the old 6th District in 2020, and Andrei Cherny, who lost his 2012 primary to none other than Kyrsten Sinema in what was then the 9th District. There is no word, however, if either Tipirneni or Cherny are interested in another bid for Congress.

Schweikert himself has proven to be a very tough opponent despite a potentially career-ending scandal in 2020. That year the incumbent admitted to 11 different violations of congressional rules and campaign finance laws, agreed to pay a $50,000 fine, and accepted a formal reprimand in a deal with the bipartisan House Ethics Committee to conclude its two-year-long investigation of the congressman. However, none of that was enough to stop him from prevailing over Tipirneni as Trump was also carrying the old 6th District.

Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission the following cycle left Schweikert with a more Democratic seat, now christened the 1st District, and he had to overcome serious opposition in both the primary and general elections from opponents who hoped his old scandal would still sink him. Wealthy businessman Elijah Norton aired ads against his fellow Republican featuring Schweikert’s former campaign treasurer telling the audience the incumbent “reported a fraudulent $100,000 loan, $279,000 in illegal contributions, and more than $500,000 missing. Then he blamed his staff.”

Schweikert responded by circulating mailers showing the challenger and a male friend with the caption, “Elijah Norton isn’t being straight with you.” An angry Norton filed a lawsuit against the congressman over what he called a “homophobic” messaging that falsely implied the challenger is gay and noted that Schweikert had utilized a similar tactic in his successful 2012 primary against fellow Rep. Ben Quayle, an effort that included a mailer saying Quayle “goes both ways.” Schweikert this time won renomination 44-33 after an underfunded third candidate took a crucial 23%, while Norton submitted a new defamation lawsuit in February.

Major outside groups from both parties initially acted like Schweikert was secure despite that ugly finish, but both Democrats and Republicans super PACs began spending here during the final two weeks of his general election against Hodge. The Democratic group House Majority PAC ultimately outspent its GOP counterpart, the Congressional Leadership Fund, $1.7 million to $910,000, and the late investment was almost enough to help Hodge pull off an upset. Schweikert ultimately edged out his foe by about 3,200 votes, but Democrats are hoping that his luck will finally come to an end in 2024.

ARIZONA 2ND DISTRICT. Coconino County District Attorney Bill Ring, who is retiring from his current post, last week did not rule out seeking the Democratic nod to take on far-right freshman Rep. Eli Crane. Any Democrat would face a tough job beating the new incumbent, though, in a sprawling Northeastern Arizona seat that backed Trump 53-45 and where Crane ousted Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran 54-46 last year.  

ARIZONA 3RD DISTRICT. State Sen. Raquel Terán, who is a former chair of the state Democratic Party and state Senate minority leader, on Wednesday  announced that she’d campaign to succeed Senate candidate Ruben Gallego in this safely blue Phoenix seat. Terán’s kickoff video extols her activism against the infamous 2010 anti-immigrant bill SB 1070 and touts her work organizing to defeat two prominent Arizona Republicans, state Senate President Russell Pierce and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Terán, who would be the state’s first Latina member of Congress, launched her bid one day after Phoenix City Councilmember Yassamin Ansari, who would also make history as Arizona’s first Iranian American representative. Plenty of others may join the Democratic primary as well, and the Arizona Republic says that among those considering are former state Rep. Cesar Chavez and state Sen. Catherine Miranda, who badly lost a 2018 primary to unseat Gallego.

Phoenix City Councilmember Laura Pastor, who is the daughter of the late Rep. Ed Pastor, also expressed interest back in January, though she has yet to commit to anything.

Phoenix City Councilmember Yassamin Ansari has announced she will run for Congress, becoming the first notable Democrat to launch a bid to succeed Senate candidate Ruben Gallego. Ansari first won election to the City Council in 2021, which made her the first Iranian American to win public office in Arizona, and she has served as vice mayor since January.

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. Businessman Don Carlson tells The Public’s Radio that he’s planning to enter the Democratic primary on April 16, though he adds that he hasn’t made a final decision yet. Carlson in 2008 aided his friend, Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes, in his successful bid to unseat Republican Rep. Chris Shays, but he has not run for office himself.

Former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg filed FEC paperwork on Saturday days before his fellow Democrat, Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera, announced that she would not enter the upcoming special election.

Regunberg says he hasn’t made a final decision yet, though he notably stepped down as a clerk at the U.S. District Court before he filled out paperwork. The former state representative was last on the ballot in 2018 when he lost the primary for lieutenant governor by a narrow 51-49 margin to then-incumbent Dan McKee, who is now governor.

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. Embattled Rep. George Santos has drawn his first Republican primary challenger after business executive Kellen Curry announced his campaign on Monday. Curry, an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan and until recently worked as a vice president at finance giant JPMorgan, appears to be making his first bid for public office.

A number of other Republican names have come up in the months since Santos’ many scandals first broke, but few have outright said whether they’re considering it.

MAINE 2ND DISTRICT. Republican Robert Cross, who ran for state Senate last year but lost in the primary, has filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential campaign against Democratic Rep. Jared Golden next year.

Cross is the grandson of the founder of the large company Cross Insurance, which was established in Bangor and has the naming rights to the city’s arena. Cross, who was a longtime official at the regional U.S. Department of Agriculture, ran for the state Senate last year but lost the primary 55-45 to state Rep. Peter Lyford.

CALIFORNIA 47TH DISTRICT. The far-right Club for Growth has endorsed former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh as he makes his third bid for Congress, just as it did during his unsuccessful run last cycle when it spent $2.3 million on his behalf. Baugh also issued a press release saying he’d raised $528,000 during the first quarter, emphasizing that the figure included no self-funding.

One Democrat in the race, former Rep. Harley Rouda, announced on Monday that he’d brought in $1.25 million during the quarter, but his campaign did not respond to an enquiry as to whether that figure included any of the candidate’s own money. Rouda self-funded almost $1 million in his first congressional run in 2018 when he unseated Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.

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