The Political Report – April 30, 2023

Inside Elections: “Four states rated as Toss-up are at the epicenter of the fight for the White House: Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden won all four of them by 1 percentage point or less each in 2020, and either party’s nominee will likely need to win three out of the four states in 2024 in order to win.”

“According to Inside Elections’ Baseline metric, Republicans have the advantage in two of the Toss-up states, Arizona (R +1.8 points) and Georgia (R +2.5 points); while Democrats have the advantage in the other two, Pennsylvania (D +4.1 points) and Wisconsin (D +1 point). Baseline takes the trimmed mean of all statewide and congressional results in the previous four cycles.”

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. Senate Republicans at last landed their preferred recruit to run against West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin on Thursday when Gov. Jim Justice launched his long-awaited campaign. Opening for Justice at his announcement was the state’s other senator, Shelley Moore Capito, while National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Steve Daines issued a simultaneous statement just short of a formal endorsement that called the governor a “proven winner.”

Manchin, for his part, maintains he’ll wait until December to decide whether he’ll seek reelection in what’s become an otherwise implacably red state, but the Democrat predicted Justice would be in for “a real donnybrook” of a primary against Rep. Alex Mooney in a race where both Republicans are already previewing the attacks they’ll use on one another.

Mooney, who kicked off his own bid just a week after the 2022 elections, greeted his rival’s entrance with a TV ad in which the narrator accuses Justice of “trying to hide his liberal record” as footage shows him awkwardly placing a face mask over his eyes. And while the spot does not mention that the governor was elected in 2016 as a Democrat before switching parties the following year, it does tear into his public health measures during the pandemic and accuses Justice of having “pushed the largest tax hike in West Virginia history.” The narrator continues by saying the governor also “backed Joe Biden’s trillion-dollar spending bill and tried to stop adults from buying sporting rifles.”

NBC says Mooney is spending just $11,000 to air the spot, which is the type of small buy candidates run when they’re aiming to make sure their message gets written about by the media rather than seen by many voters. (Nathan Gonzales once characterized these sorts of commercials as “essentially a video press release.”) However, Mooney’s side will have plenty of resources to make its case ahead of next year’s primary. The congressman finished March with $1.4 million in the bank, while his allies at the far-right Club for Growth have pledged to spend $10 million to help him win the nod over “Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate.”

Justice himself has not hidden how little he thinks of Mooney, a former Maryland state senator who only moved to the Mountain State in 2013 ahead of his first congressional bid. Last year, Mooney competed in a primary with fellow Rep. David McKinley to represent the northern half of the state after West Virginia lost one of its three House seats following the 2020 census; both Justice and Manchin converged behind McKinley while the Club and Donald Trump pulled for Mooney. Justice said he ​​had “serious concerns” about Mooney’s “ability to represent West Virginians well, after spending the majority of his time and life representing Maryland,” but that didn’t stop Mooney from prevailing by a comfortable 54-36 margin.

Justice, though, has continued to portray his rival as an outsider. Just months after last year’s primary, the two were on opposite sides in a fight over a constitutional amendment that, among other things, would have let the legislature exempt vehicles from personal property taxes. Justice, in his successful campaign to derail the amendment, mocked Mooney by asking, “Really and truly, does Congressman Mooney even know West Virginia exists?”

A March survey from National Public Affairs, a group Politico says has “some ties” to Trump, showed Justice with a punishing 55-24 lead for the nomination, though Mooney unsurprisingly is arguing things will change “once my name recognition gets up, especially down south and in my new district.” Justice characteristically retorted, “He’s in the U.S. Congress and at the end of the day, I’ll promise you from Clarksburg south, nobody’s hardly seen him.” (Mooney’s 2nd District contains a wide swath of the state south of Clarksburg, a small city that had previously been represented by McKinley.)

But Justice does start out behind in the money race, despite his immense personal wealth: He’s indicated he won’t throw down any of his own cash for this new effort. “Without any question, that person’s not going to fund his own campaign, and I would not advise doing that,” he told MetroNews this week, referring to himself in the third person. “This needs to be an all-in approach,” he insisted. “Everybody should be all in.”

Justice, who made his fortune in the coal industry, may be able to self-fund if he changes his mind, though he’s not quite as loaded as he used to be: Forbes, which labeled him “The Deadbeat Billionaire” in 2019, reported two years later that Justice is no longer a member of the 10-figure club following several chaotic years for his businesses.

NEW YORK 17TH DISTRICT. Politico: “Mondaire Jones is gearing up for a potential run for his old House seat, which could tee up a ugly primary with the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in must-win territory for Democrats.”

“While the ex-congressman is publicly saying he’s undecided, four people familiar with his plans say he’s prepping a run for his former New York seat. That’ll likely pit him against Liz Whitmer Gereghty, who has filed federal campaign paperwork and is slated to officially launch her bid soon.”

“Democrats are bracing for the showdown — in one of several New York districts they need to claw back their House majority — to get nasty.”

PENNSYLVANIA 10TH DISTRICT. Harrisburg City Council member Shamaine Daniels said Thursday she’d seek a rematch with far-right Rep. Scott Perry months after the Democrat lost to him 54-46. This constituency, which is based in the Harrisburg and York areas, favored Donald Trump 51-47 and has been moving left in recent years.

Daniels, who launched her last campaign after 2020 nominee Eugene DePasquale decided to pass on another try, only took in $410,000 for her campaign against the infamous incumbent, and she says her fundraising efforts were hurt because donors “were just very skeptical that someone could win with such a close window.” She adds that after the election, “I did receive a lot of apologies from people, especially from the donor community.”

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Former Attorney General Bill Schuette, who was the GOP’s 2018 nominee for governor, has said nothing publicly about his interest in another Senate bid decades after his 1990 loss to the late Democratic incumbent Carl Levin, but one of his former consultants is keeping his name in circulation.

“I think the desire for him to run is there all the time,” John Sellek told WLNS’ Tim Skubick, adding, “Maybe he needs to be recruited a little bit more and what the outside forces are willing to do to back him up.” Sellek, though, did not indicate who might want Schuette on the ballot again following his 53-44 defeat to now-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Skubick adds that other people close to Schuette “suggest that right now, the U.S. Senate race is not his top priority.”

NORTH CAROLINA 13TH DISTRICT. Army veteran Josh McConkey has announced he’ll seek the GOP nod to take on Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel in a constituency the GOP will have the chance to gerrymander when it draws up new maps this summer.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. State Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has launched his very first ad with just three weeks to go before the May 16 Republican primary, which comes after former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft and her allies have devoted millions to attacking ​​Attorney General Daniel Cameron while ignoring the rest of the field. Quarles talks himself up as an ardent conservative with local roots while avoiding mentioning any of his intra-party foes or Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear, declaring, “If you’re ready for a governor that thinks like you, because they were raised like you, I’d be honored to have your vote.”

Quarles is likely hoping that, by waiting until the final weeks to go on the air, he’ll be able to pitch himself as a viable alternative to Republicans who have soured on both Craft and Cameron. The agriculture commissioner’s late start may indeed give him the resources to get his message out at crunch time, as the $900,000 he had to spend on April 16 left him with a larger war chest than any of his primary foes. But Quarles, unlike his two main rivals, has no super PAC running TV ads to help him, nor does he share Craft’s ability to self-fund.

PHILADELPHIA MAYOR. Former City Councilmember Cherelle Parker earned the backing of Rep. Brendan Boyle on Friday, news that comes about a month after she secured the backing of fellow Rep. Dwight Evans for the May 16 Democratic primary. Boyle and Evans are both longtime Philadelphia political figures who together represent almost all of the city: The remaining 5% is served by Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, who has not taken sides.

Former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart days later unveiled an endorsement from former Gov. Ed Rendell, who previously served as mayor from 1992-2000. Rhynhart also has Rendell’s two immediate successors as Philadelphia’s chief executive, John Street and Michael Nutter, in her corner, and the Philadelphia Inquirer says this is the first time in “recent memory” that three former mayors have lined up behind the same contender.

Termed-out incumbent Jim Kenney hasn’t thrown his support behind anyone, though it’s not clear if any of his would-be replacements would want his backing. The candidates were asked to grade Kenney’s time in office at a debate earlier this month, and the C from Parker was the most positive score anyone would offer.

COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced Tuesday that she would not seek re-election next year as the top prosecutor for America’s second-most populous county, which is home to Chicago and many of its suburbs. The departure of Foxx, a prominent criminal justice reformer whose 2016 win made her the first Black woman to hold this post, is likely to set off a wide-open Democratic primary to replace her. Whoever wins that contest, which is scheduled to coincide with Illinois’ March presidential primary, should be the favorite in next year’s general election for an office Republicans haven’t won since 1992.

Foxx was chief of staff to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in 2015 when she decided to challenge the incumbent state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, whom she’d previously worked for. Foxx faulted Alvarez as someone who “was very much needing to prove that she would be tough on crime, as opposed to thoughtful or smart on crime,” and the challenger received a boost early in her campaign when the county Democratic Party declined to take sides.

Alvarez’s standing took a huge hit later that year for her long delay in indicting a white Chicago police officer named Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager. Alvarez had waited until 13 months after McDonald’s death to bring those charges and only did so just hours before the court-ordered release of dashcam video depicting the crime. While Alvarez claimed she’d already decided to indict Van Dyke weeks earlier and denied she’d been involved in covering up the footage, the story became Foxx’s central argument for why a change was needed. (Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2019 and was freed halfway through his seven-year prison sentence.)

Alvarez spent the rest of the campaign rejecting calls for her resignation and dealing with protesters at her events, while Foxx earned the endorsement of the previously neutral county party. The challenger won the primary in a 58-29 landslide and declared on election night, “We are turning the page on a chapter in our history where we can begin to look forward and transform our criminal justice system.” Foxx easily prevailed in the general election in an early and high-profile win for criminal justice reformers.

The new state’s attorney pleased supporters by focusing on alternatives to jail, supporting an end to cash bail, and expunging thousands of low-level marijuana convictions. However, while Foxx and her allies pointed to data showing that violent crime had decreased during her first term, national Republicans and critics at home still insisted she was to blame for Chicago’s ongoing crime problems. She also attracted widespread attention in 2019 when a grand jury initially indicted actor Jussie Smollett after he was accused of faking a racist and homophobic attack on himself, only for Foxx’s office to drop the charges. (Foxx said she had recused herself from the case.)

Former prosecutor Bill Conway, who was heavily financed by his billionaire father, sought to challenge Foxx in 2020 and tried to utilize the Smollett story against her, especially after a grand jury indicted the actor again. Conway heavily outspent Foxx, but she still was able to win endorsements from prominent Illinois Democrats like Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot; billionaire philanthropist George Soros also contributed $2 million to a pro-Foxx group.

The incumbent, who focused her campaign on her work reforming the state’s attorney office, won renomination 50-31, but the Chicago police union still tried to beat her in the general election by supporting Republican Pat O’Brien. Foxx, this time, prevailed 54-39, though she ran far behind Joe Biden’s 74-24 margin in Cook County. Her second term saw a repeat of many of the conflicts that defined her first: Foxx’s performance was even an issue in Chicago’s recently concluded race for mayor, with progressive Brandon Johnson praising her for being “part of the type of reform that’s needed” as centrist Paul Vallas attacked her tenure.

Foxx told the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday that she was keeping her promise to her family to serve just two terms, though she expressed her fear that her replacement might have very different priorities. “I could well imagine that there will be people who will want to play on the fears of communities that are least impacted by crime or less impacted by crime to sell a narrative, around, you know, more prosecution, more police, more punitiveness,” she said, though she also pointed to Johnson’s win earlier this month as a sign that such an effort might not succeed.

A few fellow Democrats have already started to express interest in running to succeed Foxx, including at least one who has made it clear he wants to change course. Dan Kirk, who previously served as Alvarez’s chief of staff, tells the Chicago Sun-Times, “What’s obviously clear to me is that Cook County is in desperate need of a new state’s attorney that will do the job with integrity, enforce the law, hold criminals accountable and make public safety their No. 1 priority.”

Kirk added that if he doesn’t run, it’s “imperative that it’s somebody else who believes in the direction that I just articulated.” He named former Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson and former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin as possible alternatives. Both Ferguson, whom the paper says “is widely regarded as the best inspector general Chicago has had,” and Boykin, who lost renomination in 2018 to Johnson, confirmed they were thinking about the races.

The Sun-Times also relays that Preckwinkle has been “vetting” Risa Lanier, who is Foxx’s first assistant. Foxx used her retirement speech to praise her deputy as “my rock,” though Lanier hasn’t yet said if she’s mulling a bid.

“Tucker is one of the very small number of political celebrities in this country who has the name ID, the personal wealth, the stature to actually declare and run for president and in a Republican primary run in the same track Donald Trump did: the transgressive, bad boy candidate, the one who lets you say what you want to say, think what you want to think, act how you want to act, no matter how grotesque it is… Among Republicans, he’s a beloved figure. He’s right now in the Republican universe a martyr – and there ain’t nothing they want more than a martyr.”— Former GOP strategist Rick Wilson, quoted by The Guardian.

Nikki Haley said that President Biden, 80, will likely die within five years and that his supporters would have to count on Vice President Kamala Harris if he were to win re-election next year, CNBC reports.

Said Haley: “He announced that he’s running again in 2024, and I think that we can all be very clear and say with a matter of fact that if you vote for Joe Biden you really are counting on a President Harris, because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely.”

Jonathan Martin: “Standing before a room filled with lightly interested college students, self-described ‘political tourists’ and even some honest-to-God undecided New Hampshire voters, Chris Christie used a town hall here last week to sketch out the political indictment against the defendant, Donald J. Trump, he thinks Republicans must prosecute to deny the former president his party’s nomination.”

“Yet near the end of his remarks, Christie articulated something more revealing: The sense of fatalism that’s fast gripping Republicans of all stripes about the inevitability of Trump again being the GOP standard bearer.”

Said Christie: “What you need to decide is: Are we just going to put this race on autopilot, ‘he’s ahead, let him win, let’s see what happens, how bad can it be?’”

John Ellis: “The fact that [vaccine nut nepo baby Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.] won’t be the 2024 Democratic presidential nominee does not mean he won’t have a significant impact on the 2024 presidential campaign. Ask Lyndon Johnson if Sen. Gene McCarthy had any chance of being the Democratic presidential nominee in 1968. Ask George H.W. Bush if Pat Buchanan had any chance of being the Republican presidential nominee in 1992. Neither McCarthy nor Buchanan had a realistic chance of being their respective parties’ nominees. Both men had a measurable impact on the outcome of the general elections in 1968 and 1992.”

“McCarthy and Buchanan were ‘messengers.’ The ‘establishment’ reaction to their candidacies was ‘shoot the messenger.’ But they persisted, and subsisted, because they gave voice to discontent. That’s what some candidates become, sometimes. They become vehicles of discontent.”

Andrew Sullivan: “At this point, if RFK plays his cards right, I would be surprised if he doesn’t get to the mid-30s or higher in some polls. At which point, as I’ve written, watch New Hampshire, debate invitations, and online fundraising.”

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

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