The Political Report – April 16, 2023

Dan Balz: “Americans may be exhausted by the turmoil and chaos of the Trump years, but there seems no slackening or pulling back. Each event in the past week seemed to reinforce the overall stakes. There could be more such weeks ahead. Each iteration of this past dizzying week was a reminder of how much the coming election in 2024 matters and how unsettled things remain…”

“For Republicans, the past week’s news was almost uniformly bad, although some in the party probably do not see it that way. The damage inflicted by past and present actions continues to define a new Republican Party, one that has been consolidating power in many red states but vulnerable elsewhere — especially in states that could decide the next presidential election.”

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. While Rep. Ro Khanna called for incumbent Dianne Feinstein’s resignation Wednesday after both Politico and NBC reported that her fellow Senate Democrats feared she wouldn’t be returning from what’s been a nearly two-month medical leave, other members of the delegation aren’t joining him right now.

Speaker Emeritus Nancy Pelosi, who supports fellow Rep. Adam Schiff in the contest to succeed the retiring incumbent, notably responded instead, “I don’t know what political agendas are at work going after Sen. Feinstein in that way. I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate in that way.” Khanna, several observers noted, backs colleague Rep. Barbara Lee in the contest to succeed the retiring Feinstein, and Lee may have the most to gain from an vacant Senate seat. Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised to appoint a Black woman should a vacancy open up, and several observers have predicted he’d choose Lee.

Feinstein herself put out a statement Wednesday evening reading, “I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it’s safe for me to travel.” The senator also asked for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to temporarily replace her on the crucial Judiciary Committee, where her absence has allowed Republicans to delay Joe Biden’s judicial nominations. However, that sort of switch midway through the session would require significant Republican support, and the GOP minority doesn’t appear interested in going along.

Attorney Eric Early, who pledged to “fight the evil woke” during his failed campaign for attorney general last year, this week became the first notable Republican to enter the top-two primary, and he could have a real impact even though he has almost no chance to win.

There’s little question that at least one of the three Democratic House members in the race—Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff—will be in the general election, and the state could be in for an expensive second round should two of them advance. But the dynamics would be very different if the November 2024 contest in this dark blue state was instead a lopsided battle between one of these Democrats and Early or a different Republican.  

The Daily Mail has obtained divorce documents for Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), who is now running for U.S. Senate. “They tell the story of a messy and dramatic ending to the congresswoman’s marriage that left her one of Capitol Hill’s rare single moms raising school-age children.”

“On March 20, 2013, Porter and then-husband Matthew Hoffman filed for divorce but decided they would continue to live in the same home for the sake of their three children.”

“But from there, the relationship deteriorated – with Porter and Hoffman filing restraining orders against each other and alleging abuse. Old incidents came to light in divorce filings, with Hoffman alleging Porter dumped a bowl of steaming hot boiled potatoes on his head.”

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell confirmed Tuesday that she wouldn’t run for the Senate and would instead remain in the House.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno has filed FEC paperwork ahead of his planned “special announcement” for April 18. Meanwhile another Republican, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, said in late March he’d make up his own mind sometime in the summer.

NEW YORK COURT OF APPEALS. Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday that her new nominee to head New York’s highest court would be a current member of its liberal wing, associate Judge Rowan Wilson, a development that comes almost two months after the state Senate overwhelmingly rejected her first choice for chief judge of the Court of Appeals. Hochul also revealed that she’d be picking attorney Caitlin Halligan, who is a former state solicitor general, to take the associate seat Wilson would be vacating.

New York Focus’ Sam Mellins predicted that Halligan would be the swing vote on a body where liberals and conservatives have been evenly split since conservative Chief Judge Janet DiFiore unexpectedly resigned last year. DiFiore’s departure last time gave Hochul a chance to reshape the court―a chance she very much did not take at first.

In New York the governor is required to pick from a list of seven court nominees submitted by the Commission on Judicial Nominations, and The Daily Beast reported in January that the one name that labor groups objected to was the person Hochul opted for, Hector LaSalle. LaSalle needed a majority of the state Senate to vote his way, but the Democratic-led body ultimately delivered him a historic 39-20 rejection.  

Prominent liberals this time responded by praising Wilson, who would be the Court of Appeals’ first Black chief judge, while Halligan’s nomination hasn’t attracted anything like the backlash that greeted LaSalle. The Center for Community Alternatives, the progressive coalition that helped block LaSalle earlier this year, said that, while Halligan’s time representing “a prosecutor’s office and of major corporations in disputes against their employees and others raises concerns,” she would still be “a marked improvement” from DiFiore.

CCA, which also noted Halligan had represented progressives, called for the state Senate to “scrutinize her closely in its consideration of her nomination.” Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and other powerful Democrats who opposed LaSalle in turn issued statements supportive of both Wilson and Halligan.

PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT. Newly released fundraising reports for the May 16 primaries show that the two contenders who have the backing of their respective state party, Democrat Daniel McCaffery and Republican Carolyn Carluccio, hold a big edge over their intra-party foes. The post everyone wants to win on Nov. 7 became vacant last September when Chief Justice Max Baer died at the age of 74, just months before the Democrat was required to retire because of age limits.

McCaffery outraised fellow Superior Court Judge Deborah Kunselman $141,000 to $56,000 among donors during the first three months of 2023, with Kunselman throwing down another $11,000. Carluccio, who holds the title of president judge in Montgomery County, meanwhile raised $122,000 and threw down another $25,000.

Finally, Spotlight PA says that almost all of the $11,000 that Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough hauled in came from the campaign of state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the QAnon ally who was the GOP’s 2022 nominee for governor.

MINNESOTA 2ND DISTRICT. Former Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor last year, said Monday he’d challenge Democratic Rep. Angie Craig in a suburban Twin Cities seat where neither party has a big edge. Murphy, though, tells Axios’ Torey Van Oot he still lives in GOP Rep. Tom Emmer’s 6th District to the north, adding that he and his family are “in the beginning stages of considering our options” for whether to relocate.

Murphy played a crucial role in the race to take on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, though not in a way that aided his party. The mayor was one of the five Republicans competing for the important party endorsement, and he outlasted two of those rivals to reach the sixth round of convention balloting. Murphy, upon being eliminated from contention, threw his support behind second-place candidate Scott Jensen, who surged past healthcare executive Kendall Qualls and soon claimed the endorsement.

But while Jensen’s convention win deterred anyone from challenging him in the primary, he proved to be a terrible general election contender and badly lost to Walz. Last November also proved to be bad for Murphy as he lost re-election in Lexington to rival Gary Grote by 8 votes in a contest where just over 750 ballots were cast.

Murphy currently has the GOP nomination contrast to himself to take on Craig in the 2nd District, which Joe Biden took 53-45. Marine veteran Tyler Kistner, who was the Republican nominee here the last two cycles, last month said he wasn’t ruling out a third bout, though we haven’t heard anything new from him: Craig last time turned back Kistner 51-46 in a race that attracted heavy outside spending from both parties. 

NEW MEXICO 2ND DISTRICT. On Monday evening, former Rep. Yvette Herrell launched her long-anticipated rematch campaign against New Mexico Rep. Gabe Vazquez—the Democrat who last year unseated her 50.3-49.6 after an expensive race—at a rally featuring Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Herrell is so far the only notable Republican campaigning for the 2nd Congressional District, a constituency in the southern New Mexico and western Albuquerque area that Biden took 52-46. It will likely be another competitive general election battle.

Herrell, who is a former state representative, first ran for Congress under the old map in 2018, but she unexpectedly lost the campaign to represent the reliably red 2nd District to Democrat Xochitl Torres Small 51-49. Herrell, who reacted to that defeat by making evidence-free allegations of “voting irregularities,” quickly announced she’d try again, but she first had to get through what turned into a truly ugly primary against businesswoman Claire Chase.

Both Republicans spent that campaign accusing the other of trying to undermine Donald Trump in 2016, while Herrell’s commercial even employed a narrator who used what analyst Nathan Gonzalez described as a “ditzy tone” to impersonate Chase. Gonzalez, who titled his article, “The campaign attack ad no man could get away with,” also characterized the spot as “one of the most sexist campaign ads in recent memory.” The Associated Press reported that Herrell spread rumors about Chase’s first marriage, but none of that stopped her from convincingly winning the nomination again.

This time Herrell had far more luck against Torres Small, whom she unseated 54-46 as Trump was carrying the district by a larger 55-43 spread. She quickly joined most of her party in voting to overturn Joe Biden’s win hours after the Jan. 6 attack. However, Democratic map makers made defeating the new congresswoman a priority. They crafted new boundary lines that placed a portion of Albuquerque—including its most heavily Latino southwestern quadrant—into her district.

But no one was under any illusions that Herrell would be easy to beat, and what followed was a pricey battle between her and Vazquez, a former member of the Las Cruces City Council. Republicans aired ad after ad accusing Vazquez of wanting to defund the police and being hostile to the area’s oil and gas industry, allegations he pushed back on.

Meanwhile, Democrats went on the offensive by tying Herrell to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, with one ad blasting the incumbent for “voting to protect an extremist who supported executing other members of Congress and denied 9/11.” That same spot also emphasized how Herrell had co-sponsored a 2013 anti-abortion bill in the state legislature that read, “Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.”

Altogether the four largest House outside groups spent $9 million for what turned out to be a tight race. According to elections analyst Drew Savicki, Republican Mark Ronchetti beat Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham by a bare 49.7-49.4 margin as he was losing statewide 52-46, but Vazquez still pulled off a 1,350-vote win. Herrell signaled she would try again even before she left office when she opened a new campaign committee for 2024, though she didn’t announce her new effort until Monday.

NEW YORK 19TH DISTRICT. Democrat Josh Riley announced Tuesday that he’d seek a rematch against freshman Republican Marc Molinaro, who defeated him 51-49 last year in a competitive constituency in southeastern upstate New York. Riley, though, may not have the primary to himself, as state Sen. Michelle Hinchey tells the Daily Freeman she’s considering her own bid. Hinchey is the daughter of the late Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who served parts of this area from 1993 to 2013.

Whoever wins the Democratic nod will be in for a tough race in a seat that both parties will likely make a priority. Joe Biden took this district 51-47 in 2020, but Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux reports that Republican Lee Zeldin prevailed two years later 53-47 here against Gov. Kathy Hochul. The four largest House groups last cycle ended up deploying a combined $12 million, which was more than they spent in any other New York House contest, in the race that Molinaro narrowly won.

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. Former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) is considering running for his old seat, which embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY) now holds, CNBC reports.

VIRGINIA 10TH DISTRICT. Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton on Tuesday commemorated World Parkinson’s Day by releasing a video disclosing that she’d been diagnosed with the disease, writing she’s “doing well” and hopes to remain in office for “many years to come.”

The congresswoman said, “Over the past few months, it has primarily affected my speech and how my mouth moves,” adding, “You may notice I speak more quickly now. It also has affected how I walk and keep my balance.” Wexton also declared, “You are welcome to empathize, but don’t feel sorry for me.”

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) “quietly took the first step toward a reelection bid this week by filing a declaration of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

“While the move is not a definitive indicator that Romney plans to run for another U.S. Senate term in 2024, it’s the strongest hint yet about his intentions.”

Utah state House Speaker Brad Wilson revealed Thursday that he’d formed an exploratory committee for a potential primary bid against Sen. Mitt Romney, who has yet to announce if he’ll be seeking a second term after spending the first as Donald Trump’s favorite GOP chew toy. Wilson’s hardly the only big name who could run, though, as Rep. Chris Stewart’s team didn’t shoot down a report about his own interest.

Wilson did not commit to anything either, telling Fox 13, “I’m going to make a decision over the course of the next few months as I go around the state and listen to what people are looking for.” The speaker, who did not attack the incumbent, also presented himself as someone who could “get a lot of people with very differing opinions together,” which is not what we’d expect to hear from a member of Trump’s GOP. But Romney’s side, reports the Salt Lake Tribune, was not happy at all when they heard Wilson would be filling out paperwork for a potential challenge.

The Deseret News reports Stewart, who has been an ally of GOP extremists, is thinking about it, and the only comment his spokesman offered was that he had “no comment on the race at this time.” Local and national observers also continue to talk up Attorney General Sean Reyes as a possible hardline foe for Romney. The most recent thing we heard from his camp was in November when an advisor said the attorney general was “certainly set up to run, but it does not mean he’s considering it.”

The Tribune additionally relays that two more names are “said to be considering” a campaign: state Sen. Mike Kennedy, who lost to Romney in 2018, and former Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien. Fox 13 also name-drops real estate executive Thomas Wright, who took 8% in the 2020 nomination contest for governor, and former state Rep. Becky Edwards, who lost the 2022 Senate primary to incumbent Mike Lee 62-30.

Romney was actually Trump’s endorsed candidate when he first went up against then-state Rep. Kennedy, who is not related to the Kennedy who did beat Romney in a Senate race, the late Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy. Mike Kennedy narrowly won the party convention, an event that’s long been dominated by activists who are far more ideologically extreme than their party’s electorate at large, but Romney fended him off 71-29 in the primary two months later. Kennedy revived his career in late 2020 when party delegates picked him to fill a vacant state Senate seat, and he held it two years later without opposition.  

Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz also expressed interest in February, though the Fox talking head has since then also talked about a possible nomination battle against Gov. Spencer Cox. But the campaign manager for Chaffetz’s successor, Rep. John Curtis, played down speculation the congressman could challenge Romney on Thursday, declaring, “He’d like to stay where he can get the most done for Utah. He doesn’t think it makes sense to start all over by running for U.S. Senate.”

CALIFORNIA 27TH DISTRICT. Inside Elections reports that Los Angeles County Probation Oversight Commissioner Franky Carrillo, a Democrat who filed FEC paperwork in early March, will kick off his bid against Republican Rep. Mike Garcia later this month. Carrillo was featured in the Netflix series “The Innocence Files” detailing how he spent 22 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.

CALIFORNIA 31ST DISTRICT. California political analyst Rob Pyers reports that state Sen. Bob Archuleta has filed FEC paperwork for a potential campaign for the safely blue seat held by Rep. Grace Napolitano, who at 86 is the oldest member of the House and a perennial retirement possibility. Pyers notes that Archuleta himself is only about nine years younger than the incumbent, which would make him one of the oldest freshman members ever.

NEW YORK 17TH DISTRICT. Politico reports that not only is local school board trustee Liz Whitmer Gereghty, who is the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, considering seeking the Democratic nod to take on GOP Rep. Mike Lawler, but that she tentatively plans to announce a campaign for this Lower Hudson Valley district in mid-April.

Lawler himself flipped this 54-44 Biden constituency last year by scoring a 50.3-49.7 victory over Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the DCCC chair who pissed off plenty of fellow Democrats by running here rather than defending his more competitive 18th District, and he’ll be a major target this cycle. Politico reports that Maloney hasn’t ruled out another try here, though the story adds that party strategists doubt he’ll go for it.

There’s more ambiguity about whether we’ll see a comeback from former Rep. Mondaire Jones, whom Politico’s sources say is still making up his mind. Jones unsuccessfully ran in New York City last year in order to avoid a nomination battle against Maloney, but he said in December that any future campaign would take place back in his Hudson Valley. The Daily Beast reported in February that Jones was also mulling a primary bid against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand but we’ve heard nothing about that idea since then, and Politico did not mention this as a possibility in its new story.  

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

0 comments on “The Political Report – April 16, 2023

Leave a Reply