The Political Report – April 21, 2023

A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll finds Joe Biden leading the Democratic primary field with 67%, followed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at 14% and Marianne Williamson at 5%.

Another 13% are still undecided.

A new CNBC survey finds a record 69% of the public holds negative views about the economy both now and in the future. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s approval rating fell by two percentage points to 39%.

Top donors to President Biden have received a last-minute invitation to travel to Washington at the end of next week to see Mr. Biden as he gears up for a 2024 campaign,” the New York Times reports.

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. A new Morning Consult survey finds West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) has a higher approval rating among Democrats in the state than Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) a troubling sign for Senate Democrats as the governor appears headed toward a campaign for Manchin’s seat.

“The GOP push to knock out Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is on — 18 months before Election Day,” Politico reports.

“Republican group One Nation, which is aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is unloading more than $1 million on a campaign hitting Manchin for supporting Democrats’ marquee party-line bill last year… Simultaneously, a strategist close to GOP Gov. Jim Justice said that the governor has made up his mind and will likely launch his Senate campaign before the end of the month.”

An unnamed GOP strategist tells Politico that Gov. Jim Justice has indeed decided to run, and that his perennially imminent campaign announcement likely will occur sometime this month.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. “MAGA firebrand Doug Mastriano is inducing panic among GOP officials as he inches closer toward a 2024 bid for the Senate after a disastrous showing in his Pennsylvania governor run in 2022,” Politico reports.

“Among the concerned is none other than Donald Trump.”

“The former president has privately told Republicans he fears that Mastriano, a far-right state lawmaker in a critical battleground, would hurt him in a general election if they were on the top of the ticket together next year, according to three people familiar with the conversations.”

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. While GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale has played coy in public about his interest in seeking a rematch against Democratic incumbent Jon Tester, Politico writes he’s “told friends and allies that he plans to run for Senate.”

A committee in the GOP dominated state House on Wednesday tabled the bill to adopt a top-two primary system for the 2024 Senate race, a move the Associated Press’ Matthew Brown says likely means it won’t be taken up before the session ends May 10. However, Democratic state Rep. Kelly Kortum isn’t convinced that the proposal, which is aimed at weakening Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, won’t be revived before then.

Kortum instead warned, “I saw some shenanigans last session that just made my jaw drop to the floor.” Indeed, the Independent Record‘s Sam Wilson writes, “[T]he waning days of the session are often ripe for last-minute procedural maneuvers used to resurrect legislation or rewrite bills still working through the process.”

The bill passed the state Senate earlier this month, and the New York Times recently reported that Montana’s junior senator, NRSC chair Steve Daines, was pressuring legislators to support it. However, 11 of the 12 Republicans on the House State Administration Committee joined their six Democratic colleagues Wednesday in tabling the bill. The only one who spoke ahead of that vote was GOP state Rep. Greg Frazer, who said, “I have had a lot of my folks from back home reach out to me and ask me to vote no on this—a lot more than what I thought, it’s actually been pretty interesting.”

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. Republicans looking to beat Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin have a Wisconsin congressman who’s publicly interested, who party leadership wants to run, and who’s raising money―but they happen to be three different people.

The first congressman is Tom Tiffany, who confirmed Monday that his team had purchased “” and a related domain name as he considers what to do in 2024. But Tiffany isn’t even his own first choice to take on Baldwin: The second-term representative tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he wants his House colleague—congressman number two, Mike Gallagher—to run for Senate. Tiffany’s not alone, as GOP potentates have been urging Gallagher to make the jump even as he’s said little about his own thinking.

That brings us to congressman the third. Rep. Bryan Steil hasn’t gotten much attention as a potential Senate contender, but his fundraising suggests he’s more interested than he’s publicly let on. Steil hauled in $830,000 during the first three months of 2023 and finished March with $2.2 million on hand, money he could use either to seek re-election or to take on Baldwin. Gallagher, by contrast, raised a considerably smaller $480,000 during that time period, though he had $3.3 million available. Tiffany, meanwhile, hauled in a mere $40,000 and had just $340,000 banked.

But unlike his coworkers, Steil might have to use his war chest to defend his House seat should he run for a fourth term. That’s because, while Trump easily took Tiffany and Gallagher’s constituencies in 2020, he carried Steil’s 1st Congressional District in the southeastern part of the state just 50-48. Steil, who succeeded none other than Paul Ryan in 2018, won last year without any trouble against a little-known foe, but Democrats are hoping to put up a serious challenge this cycle.

Baldwin, who, unlike all of these Republicans, has made it clear she’s running for Senate, is preparing for an expensive bid no matter who eventually steps up to take her on; the incumbent raised $2.1 million for the opening quarter of 2023, and she finished it with $3.9 million to spend.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. While former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft and her allies have spent over a month attacking Attorney General Daniel Cameron ahead of their May 16 GOP primary, Cameron’s supporters are finally going up with the first anti-Craft spot of the race.

Bluegrass Freedom Action begins by reminding the audience that Donald Trump is supporting Cameron even though Craft served under him, and the narrator then goes on to hit Craft’s absenteeism as ambassador to Canada and her infamous “empty chair” opioid ad. The GOP firm Medium Buying says the PAC and Cameron have spent or reserved a total of $1.2 million so far, which is far behind the $5 million it’s tracked in support of Craft.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, new fundraising reports reveal that almost all of the money used to support former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft in next month’s GOP primary has come from her or her husband, coal billionaire Joe Craft. The Courier-Journal writes that candidate herself provided her campaign with $7 million from Jan. 3 to April 16, while Joe Craft threw down $1.5 million of the $1.8 million that’s gone to fund Commonwealth PAC.

Kelly Craft said Wednesday, “I have not been coordinating with Commonwealth PAC, so I couldn’t tell you who’s been funding it,” though the head of the state Registry of Election Finance said Joe Craft’s involvement “certainly raises concerns about potential coordination, and will be reviewed by the Registry.” The former ambassador, who raised little from donors, finished Sunday with only $440,000 on hand, though she likely can self-fund much more if she wants.

The same cannot be said for her main intra-party foe, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who raised only $400,000 during this period and had $590,000 banked. Cameron’s allies at Bluegrass Freedom Action, though, took in $1.7 million: Almost all of that came from The Concord Group, the dark money organization previously known as the Judicial Crisis Network. The PAC recently aired its first anti-Craft spot, while Cameron is out with a commercial touting his endorsements from Donald Trump and law enforcement groups.

While the battle between Cameron and Craft has dominated the airwaves, a few other Republicans are also competing in the May 16 primary. Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles raised only $270,000 during the opening months of the year, though his $900,000 war chest is actually larger than any of his intra-party foes. Somerset Mayor Alan Keck was well behind with $110,000 raised and $50,000 on hand, while Auditor Mike Harmon was all but bankrupt with just $14,000 available. And don’t expect the auditor to get a late surge of donors, as the Courier-Journal says he’s raised $85,000 total since he launched in July of 2021.

There’s also suspended attorney Eric Deters, who self-funded almost all of his $570,000 haul but had less than $10,000 left. Deters, whom Medium Buying says has spent $140,000 on ads, last month pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors related to allegations that he chased his nephew around with a truck and sent harassing messages to his sister-in-law, but he’s insisted this does “not affect, (in) any way, shape or form, my ability to be elected governor.”

The person all these Republicans are hoping to take on this fall, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, has been stocking up ahead of his uncompetitive primary. The governor took in $1.4 million during this period, and he had $5.9 million on hand as of Sunday.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR and LT. GOVERNOR. Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s re-election campaign has publicized a WPA Intelligence survey that also includes a look at the October all-party primary for governor, and it finds just two candidates taking any serious support right now. Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry grabs 35% as former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, who is the only notable Democrat in the contest, takes 25%, while no one else breaks 4%. Nungesser himself posts a 42-9 edge over his intra-party foe, former state Sen. Elbert Guillory.

Campaign finance reports are in covering the period from Jan. 1 through April 7, and far-right Attorney General Jeff Landry and his allies continue to hold a huge advantage over his opponents in the October all-party primary. We’ve rounded out the candidate numbers below:

  • Attorney General Jeff Landry (R): $2.1 million raised, $6.3 million cash on hand
  • former state Chamber of Commerce head Stephen Waguespack (R): $920,000 raised, $890,000 cash on hand
  • former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson (D): $580,000 raised, $550,000 cash on hand
  • Treasurer John Schroder (R): $430,000 raised, $2.4 million cash on hand
  • State Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R): $210,000 raised, $660,000 cash on hand
  • Attorney Hunter Lundy (I): $160,000 raised, additional $500,000 self-funded, $1.8 million cash on hand
  • State Rep. Richard Nelson (R): $130,000 raised, $280,000 cash on hand

Waguespack and Landry so far are also the only contenders who have well-funded super PACs on their side. Waguespack’s allies at Delta Good Hands and Reboot Louisiana together have about $2.2 million available, with a significant portion of that coming from national groups that don’t disclose their donors.

The pro-Landry Cajun PAC II, meanwhile, had $1.7 million to spend. (The original Cajun PAC was set up just after Landry was elected to his one term in the House in 2010 to aid federal candidates.) The state Republican Party, which is supporting the attorney general, also had over $1.5 million to spend, though it’s not clear how much it plans to deploy for him.

Landry himself is taking advantage of his resource advantage to air his first TV ad of the race, which AdImpact says is running for $98,000where he decries how the “criminal justice system is broken.” No one will mistake the Republican for a reformer, though, as he goes on, “When DA’s fail to prosecute, when judges fail to act, when police are handcuffed instead of the criminals, enough is enough.” The only other contender who has been on television is Schroder: The Louisiana Illuminator says that he’s spent $500,000 on media this year, with 85% of that going to TV.

MISSOURI GOVERNOR. While Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe has trailed Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft in the few polls we’ve seen of next year’s GOP primary, the lieutenant governor’s side finished March with a big financial edge. Kehoe, who announced his bid for governor two years ago, hauled in $290,000 for the quarter, while Ashcroft raised only a little more than $1,000 ahead of his April launch. Kehoe ended last month with a $820,000 to $460,000 cash on hand lead, while his allied super PAC also holds a $2.5 million to $1.3 million edge over Ashcroft’s backers.

State Sen. Bill Eigel, meanwhile, raised $50,000 for his exploratory committee and had $160,000 on hand; his super PAC also had just $150,000 banked.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Luxury car dealer Bernie Moreno on Tuesday declared that he’d seek the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio, an announcement that came days after Donald Trump fired off a not-tweet gushing over him.

While Trump didn’t quite endorse the wealthy candidate, who dropped out of last year’s primary for the state’s other Senate seat at Trump’s behest, he praised Moreno as “the highly respected businessman from the GREAT STATE of OHIO, and the father-in-law of fantastic young Congressman, Max Miller.” The son-in-law in question is a former White House aide who was so close to Trump that a source told Politico in 2021, “They had … kind of a unique ‘bro’ relationship.”

Miller is married to Moreno’s daughter, Emily Moreno Miller, who gives the candidate some coveted connections to the GOP’s master, as she worked on Trump’s failed 2020 reelection campaign and founded a dating app called Donald Daters. Moreno Miller and the now-congressman were married last year at Trump’s Bedminster lair, and no, they did not meet on Donald Daters. (The app, which was hacked hours after its 2018 launch, no longer appears to exist.)

Moreno joins a primary field that already includes state Sen. Matt Dolan, a fellow self-funder with whom he’s clashed before. The two initially were among the many Republicans who competed in last year’s primary to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman, but Moreno dropped out well ahead of the primary after throwing down almost $4 million of his own money. Moreno said he’d decided to quit after he and Trump agreed that the crowded contest “could cost the MAGA movement a conservative seat.” There was no question that the candidate they were worried about was Dolan, who stood out as the one major candidate to condemn the Big Lie.

Dolan, who is a part-owner of the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, ultimately spent almost $11 million of his fortune only to come in third with 23%, well behind Trump’s pick, J.D. Vance. Dolan quickly signaled he’d try again, but Moreno began attacking his once and future rival even before his own announcement, saying in February that the Trump-skeptical Dolan was “running in the wrong primary.” (Moreno himself called Trump a “maniac” before the 2016 primary.) Dolan is once again relying on his own money for this race: He self-funded $3 million during the opening quarter of 2023 while raising just $300,000 from donors, and he had $3.3 million to spend at the end of March.

Moreno and Dolan may not have this latest primary to themselves, though. Rep. Warren Davidson, whom the deep-pocketed Club for Growth has been encouraging to run, told Politico this week, “It’s safe to say I’m actually very actively looking at the race every day.” That may be news to his donors, though, as the hardline congressman raised only $170,000 during the first three months of the year and finished the quarter with $450,000 in the bank. Secretary of State Frank LaRose also has been eyeing this contest and says he’ll decide in the summer.

Brown, for his part, has been stockpiling money ahead of what will be a challenging race in a state that’s turned sharply against Democrats in recent years. The senator hauled in $3.5 million during the opening quarter of the year, and he ended March with $5.8 million in the bank.

ARIZONA 3RD DISTRICT. Democrat Raquel Terán announced Thursday she was resigning from the state Senate, a move that allows her to focus on her bid to succeed U.S. Senate candidate Ruben Gallego.

NEBRASKA 2ND DISTRICT. Unnamed Democrats tell the Nebraska Examiner that former state Sen. Tony Vargas is considering seeking a rematch against Republican incumbent Don Bacon, who fended him off 51-49 last year following an expensive bout. Vargas does not appear to have said anything publicly about a second try in an Omaha-based seat that favored Joe Biden 52-46 in 2020.

KANSAS 3RD DISTRICT. “In November, Rep. Sharice Davids, a Kansas Democrat, celebrated as she coasted to a 12-percentage point victory over Republican challenger Amanda Adkins. Less than a year later, she’s one of the most vulnerable Democratic members of Congress, according to her own political party,” the Kansas City Star reports.

“A Democratic analysis of the district obtained by The Star found that Davids’ margin of victory was misleading. While she outperformed President Joe Biden’s 2020 margin in the district, she underperformed in areas where the old district and new district overlapped.”

TEXAS 34TH DISTRICT. The Texas Tribune writes that self-funding perennial candidate Mauro Garza is already airing TV ads ahead of next year’s GOP primary to face Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, though there’s no word on the size of the buy.

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. Gabe Amo, who resigned earlier this month as a special assistant to President Joe Biden, on Tuesday became the 14th Democrat to join this special election.

Amo previously worked in the Biden White House and later as an aide for then-Gov. Gina Raimondo, and the Providence Journal writes that the first-time contender “has an extensive Rolodex and a potential campaign donor network beyond the reach of several, if not most of the other candidates.” Amo, whose parents are immigrants from Ghana and Liberia, would be the first person of color to represent Rhode Island in Congress, a distinction he’d share with several of his intra-party opponents.  

Businessman Don Carlson on Sunday became the 13th Democrat to announce a campaign to succeed outgoing Rep. David Cicilline, in a primary that’s tentatively set for September. The new contender, who is a renewable energy investor, previously said he’d be doing some self-funding to help his campaign reach his $1 million fundraising goal. While Carlson hasn’t run for office before, he aided his friend, Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes, in his successful 2008 bid to unseat Republican Rep. Chris Shays.

State Rep. Stephen Casey, a self-described conservative who opposes abortion rights and unsuccessfully tried to weaken a gun safety bill last year before voting against iton Thursday announced he’d seek the Democratic nomination in the upcoming special election. Casey, whom Primary School notes also opposed legalizing same-sex marriage in 2013 and last year voted against decriminalizing marijuana, told the Providence Journal’s Katherine Gregg, “I know who I am, I know what my values are, and I’m not going to compromise on that. I need to sleep at night knowing that I’m doing what I believe in.”

When Gregg asked the legislator if he thought he’d attract conservative independents, he responded, “I could see that. But again, the people in the race hasn’t all been determined…[and] it’s really not going to take a lot with a [possible] field of 20 to come up with 10 or 12% of the vote.” The field is indeed well into the double digits for a primary where it takes just a simple plurality to win, though state Sen. Dawn Euer also said Thursday she’d back colleague Sandra Cano rather than run herself.

INDIANA 3RD DISTRICT. Former Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who was a tea party favorite during his tenure from 2010 to 2017, announced Tuesday that he was running in the GOP primary to reclaim his old safely red seat around Fort Wayne. Stutzman launched his campaign to reintroduce himself to voters with a barebones website that initially had little content other than links to his social media accounts, including a Twitter profile that hasn’t been used since 2016, and the words “Need to add bio txt here.” That filler text was removed later in the day, though, in favor of just a blank space.

But luckily for Stutzman, who is campaigning to replace Senate contender Jim Banks for a seat that closely resembles Stutzman’s old constituency, we have some bio txt for him right here! The Republican emerged on the national scene in 2010 when, as a state senator, he campaigned for the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Evan Bayh and lost the primary to once and future Sen. Dan Coats by a respectable 39-29. Stutzman unexpectedly got to go to Congress anyway a few months later, though, after veteran Rep. Mark Souder resigned after revealing an affair with a staffer and party leaders chose the state senator as their nominee for the dark red 3rd District.

Stutzman had no trouble taking and holding the seat even after he earned the wrong type of attention during the 2013 government shutdown by saying, “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” The congressman tried to reach the upper chamber again in 2016 when his old foe Coats retired, but things began to go wrong well before the primary when his fundraising collapsed following a major staff shakeup.

Stutzman never recovered, and even his allies at the deep pocketed Club for Growth did little to aid his ailing campaign. Fellow Rep. Todd Young, who was far closer to the party leadership, ended up taking the nomination 67-33, while Banks went on to take the 3rd District in the fall. Stutzman hasn’t run for office since then, though his wife, Christy Stutzman, was elected to the state House in 2018.

The couple went on to purchase a tourist attraction previously called Amish Acres, and the state representatives announced after the 2020 elections she was resigning to focus on the business they’d renamed The Barns. (The Barns, which is home to several eateries, festivals, and “relaxing tours of Amish life,” is located in the 2nd District under both the current and previous congressional maps.) Christy Stutzman last year sought the nomination after 2nd District Rep. Jackie Walorski died in a traffic collision, but party leaders opted instead for businessman Rudy Yakym.

A few Republicans have announced bids for the 3rd District over the last several weeks including former Allen County Circuit Judge Wendy Davis; state Sen. Andy Zay; and Jon Kenworthy, a former aide to Sen. Mike Braun. State Sen. Tyler Johnson also says he’ll consider running after the legislative session finishes on April 27.

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

0 comments on “The Political Report – April 21, 2023

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: