The Political Report – April 26, 2023

“President Biden formally announced on Tuesday that he would seek a second term, arguing that American democracy still faces a profound threat from former President Donald Trump as he set up the possibility of a climactic rematch between the two next year,” the New York Times reports.

In a video flashing images of a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the president said that the ‘fight for our democracy’ has ‘been the work of my first term’ but is incomplete while his predecessor mounts a comeback campaign for his old office that Mr. Biden suggested would endanger fundamental rights.”

Politico: Democrats relish a Biden-Trump rematch.

President Biden will buy television ad time later this week to push his reelection message after announcing his campaign Tuesday morning in an online video, the Washington Post reports.

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. Far-right Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson used his Saturday kickoff announcement to showcase endorsements from Sen. Ted Budd, Rep. Dan Bishop, and longtime state Senate leader Phil Berger. Former Rep. Mark Walker, whom Budd decisively beat in last year’s GOP primary, meanwhile said that same day “there should be more information next week” about his own plans, though one of his advisors recently said Walker would announce in May.

Robinson’s entry, however, had been anticipated for years, so much so that Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein preemptively attacked his likely opponent during his own campaign kickoff in January, warning in a video, “Robinson wants to tell you who you can marry, when you’ll be pregnant, and who you should hate.”

But while Stein has no intra-party opposition in his quest to succeed termed-out Gov. Roy Cooper, a fellow Democrat, Robinson will have some company in his primary. State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced a bid last month, while an advisor for former Rep. Mark Walker tells the News & Observer that he’ll also join the race in May. Folwell, who has trailed Robinson by 50 points or more in the few polls we’ve seen, acknowledged he’s the “underdog” while still arguing, “What I am going to talk about is how do we talk about problems without attacking people.” Walker also seems undeterred, despite his own weak third-place finish in last year’s Senate primary.

Robinson, who would be the Tar Heel State’s first Black chief executive, was a political unknown until 2018, when he became a conservative celebrity after giving a speech protesting the cancellation of a gun show in Greensboro. The former furniture factory worker went on to take the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor in his first bid for office two years later. He beat state Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley 52-48 in the general election despite standing by his past litany of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and transphobic screeds.

Robinson went on to make news over the following years with more bigoted comments. His most infamous remarks may have been those he offered in a 2021 address to a Baptist church. “There is no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality—any of that filth,” he said. “And yes, I called it filth.” Robinson refused to apologize and has continued to spout hateful rhetoric in the years since. “We are called to be led by men,” he told congregants at another church just last year. “God sent women out … when they had to do their thing, but when it was time to face down Goliath, [He] sent David. Not Davita, David.”

The Republican frontrunner showed absolutely no interest in changing in the lead-up to his new campaign, declaring in January that “abortion is not compatible with this nation, the same way slavery was not compatible with this nation.” This statement came just months after Robinson confirmed that his wife had an abortion in 1989, just prior to their marriage, saying, “It’s because of this experience and our spiritual journey that we are so adamantly pro-life.”

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. The latest GOP primary ad from former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft bashes Attorney General Daniel Cameron over a planned consent decree between the Louisville Police Department and U.S. Department of Justice meant to address years of civil rights violations against Black residents, including the 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor, though Craft offers a very different framing. “Biden and his woke DOJ asked to take over the Louisville Police Department,” insists her narrator, continuing, “And Daniel Cameron let ’em. Letting big government push their diversity agenda while crime skyrocketed.”

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, meanwhile, is hoping to take advantage of the ongoing battle between Craft and Cameron in his opening ad for the May 16 primary, though he may not have the ability to air it far and wide. The spot begins with snippets of his two main opponents’ negative ads against one another before Keck appears and asks, “Are you tired of the same ol’ politics?” The mayor, who had just $50,000 on hand on April 16, goes on to portray himself as a conservative problem solver.

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. Politico reports that GOP Gov. Jim Justice will launch his long-anticipated bid against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on Thursday … probably. While the governor has a “Special Announcement” publicized for that day to coincide with his 72nd birthday, the article notes he’s “known to change plans suddenly” and “could still punt a decision to later.”

Rep. Alex Mooney, who still has the primary to himself, isn’t waiting to find out what Justice will do, saying Monday that the onetime Democrat is really a “RINO.” The congressman also highlighted his endorsements from 28 state legislators, arguing, “That should say something—that the people who’ve worked the closest with Jim Justice are endorsing me.” Justice last week bashed his would-be-rival’s past as a Maryland legislator, saying, “I mean, the truth of the matter is, Alex Mooney is from Maryland and absolutely, teetotally in every way connected to Maryland.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic group Duty and Honor PAC is spending $1 million on an ad campaign praising Manchin for “standing up to anyone to reduce spending and strengthen our local economy,” which comes the week after the conservative group One Nation began its own offensive portraying the senator as a party loyalist. Manchin himself has said he won’t be deciding on his re-election plans until December.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. A committee in the Montana state Senate on Monday rejected a renewed attempt to conduct the 2024 U.S. Senate race under top-two primary rules one day after a Republican legislator tried to resurrect the idea. The top-two primary proposal appeared to be dead last week when a state House committee tabled the bill promoting it, though Democratic state Rep. Kelly Kortum warned at the time that it could abruptly come back before the session ends May 10. “I saw some shenanigans last session that just made my jaw drop to the floor,” he said.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. An internal by Public Policy Polling for Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego shows him leading three potential GOP foes in matchups that also include independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema:

  • Gallego (D): 42, 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake (R): 35, Sinema (I-inc): 14
  • Gallego (D): 43, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb (R): 33, Sinema (I-inc): 15
  • Gallego (D): 43, 2022 Senate candidate Jim Lamon (R): 27, Sinema (I-inc): 16

PPP showed Gallego edging Lake just 41-40 in a December poll that put Sinema at 13%, while this is the first time we’ve seen numbers from the firm testing Lamb or Lamon. Gallego and Lamb are the only notable contenders who have so far announced Senate bids.

The survey results show that just 27% of voters in the state view Sinema favorably and want her to run again, compared to 50% of Arizonans who view her unfavorably and 54% who say she shouldn’t run again.

CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR. California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis declared Monday that she’d run to succeed termed-out Gov. Gavin Newsom, a fellow Democrat, in a top-two primary that won’t take place until 2026. That might feel like a way-too-early kickoff at a time when the Golden State’s 2024 election cycle, including the battle to succeed retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein, is still in its early stages. But Kounalakis likened her effort to become the first woman to lead America’s largest state to running a marathon, saying of her preparations, “You really have to start early.”

Kounalakis is also hoping to emulate the strategy Newsom himself utilized in February of 2015 when Newsom, who was himself lieutenant governor at the time, launched his successful 2018 bid for the top job. Newsom made good use of his head start, establishing a lead in the polls he never relinquished and racking up a decisive fundraising advantage in a state where it costs a fortune for candidates to get their names out.

“You can’t do it in 15 minutes,” former Sen. Barbara Boxer says of waging a statewide bid, and she would know: Then-Rep. Boxer announced her pioneering campaign for the Senate just one day after Democratic incumbent Alan Cranston announced he wouldn’t run again—fully two years before the 1992 elections.

Kounalakis herself is the daughter of billionaire Angelo Tsakopoulos, an influential political donor who has spent decades supporting fellow Greek American Democrats, including 1988 presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis. Kounalakis, who rose to become president of her family’s real estate firm, similarly made a name for herself as a prominent party fundraiser, and Barack Obama appointed her ambassador to Hungary early in his administration.

Kounalakis sought elected office for the first time in 2018 when she campaigned for the lieutenant governor’s office that Newsom was leaving behind, and she quickly picked up the backing of then-Sen. Kamala Harris. The former ambassador also self-funded $3.3 million for the primary, while her father donated another $5 million to a super PAC supporting her.

Kounalakis ended up taking first with 24% in an 11-person field; state Sen. Ed Hernandez, a fellow Democrat who enjoyed extensive labor support, finished a close second with 21%. In the second round, Kounalakis secured an endorsement from Obama and continued to enjoy a big financial edge that she rode to a 57-43 victory, which made her the first woman to ever hold the post. The new lieutenant governor was immediately talked about as a future candidate for higher office, and the chatter only intensified following her easy 60-40 victory against a Republican last year.  

NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR. A consultant for former state Senate President Chuck Morse relays to the Boston Globe’s Steven Porter that his client would “absolutely” run for governor should his fellow Republican, incumbent Chris Sununu, not pursue another term. Morse campaigned last year to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan only to narrowly lose the primary to retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, who proved to be just as terrible a nominee as D.C. Republicans feared he’d be. But Morse’s successor as state Senate leader, Jeb Bradley, says he’ll stay put himself rather than run statewide.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Chris Pappas didn’t dismiss a gubernatorial bid for himself last month, though he didn’t sound excited about the idea. “It’s my intention to run for re-election, to the job that I currently hold, in 2024,” said Pappas, who holds a competitive House seat. Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, meanwhile, said in March she was concentrating on her duties, though she’s reportedly been considering seeking the top job.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. State Sen. Doug Mastriano, to the frustration of numerous fellow Republicanssaid Friday he was “still working on an announcement or two in the near future and we have some exciting news that we’re looking forward to sharing with you guys, hopefully soon.” Mastriano, who has a long track record of citing dubious or even outright fake surveys, declared the previous day he’d already reached a decision and that “[t]he polls do have me walking away with it, hands-down.”

Politico: “New York Democrats are rebuilding at every level — and plagued by state party infighting. Republicans fear being lumped in with the more extreme members of their caucus and abortion politics may destroy the gains they’ve made… For both parties, the journey to victory in New York will be long, tough and expensive.”

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

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