The Political Report – May 9, 2023

Associated Press-NORC Poll: “While only about half of Democrats overall say they want Biden to run again in 2024, 81% say they would definitely or probably support him if he were the nominee. The groundswell isn’t as stark among Black adults: 41% say they want him to run and only 55% say they are likely to support him in the general election.”

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) said she is “absolutely” done with parties and will never join the Republican Party, Politico reports.  Said Sinema: “You don’t go from one broken party to another.”

Politico’s Holly Otterbein relayed Wednesday that a Republican strategist close to Kari Lake believes the 2022 gubernatorial nominee will announce a Senate bid in the early fall. The news came one day before the state Supreme Court sanctioned Lake’s attorney for making “unequivocally false” claims about her defeat last year. The once and likely future candidate herself is scheduled to attend CPAC Hungary, which is being headlined by autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, along with far-right Rep. Paul Gosar.

Democrats relishing a comeback for Blake Masters may be disappointed, as unnamed sources tell the conservative website The Dispatch that the GOP’s disastrous 2022 Senate nominee is unlikely to go up against his former ticket-mate, Kari Lake, should the not-governor wage her own anticipated campaign. Masters, though, insists, “Any decision I might make to run for any office in the future will depend upon a number of factors, not just one person.”

The story also says that party strategists doubt Karrin Taylor Robson, who narrowly lost to Lake in last year’s GOP primary for governor, is really interested in running for Senate, with one saying on the record, “She wants to be governor.” However, one of Robson’s allies insists “she hasn’t made any decisions” about 2024. A Lake spokesperson, meanwhile, says he’s “99% sure” his boss will campaign for the seat currently held by Kyrsten Sinema, who has yet to announce her own re-election plans.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. “As Kentucky’s GOP primary campaign sprints toward the finish line, some Republicans are looking ahead to the November election with an eye toward who best can reclaim the governorship — a job that the state’s dominant party has struggled to hold despite its strong showing in other races,” the AP reports.

“With candidates dashing from the hills of Appalachia to the suburbs of Lexington and Louisville and rural communities out west, some of the voters they meet along the way say they are basing decisions in the May 16 primary mostly on which Republican would pose the toughest challenge to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who is facing nominal party opposition.”

Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s backers at Bluegrass Freedom Action are airing a spot in eastern Kentucky touting his endorsement from Donald Trump, and new campaign finance reports underscore just how much he needs the super PAC to keep pro-Cameron messaging on the airwaves ahead of the May 16 Republican primary.

The attorney general finished May 1 with only $340,000 in the bank, compared to the $1.2 million that his self-funding rival, former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft, had at her disposal. But BFA, which is in turn funded by a dark-money organization called the Concord Fund, still had $750,000 available. Cameron raised just over $80,000 from April 16 to May 1, while BFA took in $810,000 in those two weeks. Craft, though, poured in a much larger $2.25 million from her own wallet, which brings her total personal investment to about $9.3 million.

Craft’s husband, coal billionaire Joe Craft, previously gave $1.5 million to support a different organization backing his wife, the Commonwealth PAC, but the group didn’t report taking in any new money during this period and had little left to spend. The candidate has insisted she didn’t know her spouse was financing the PAC, though the head of the state Registry of Election Finance said last month that Joe Craft’s involvement “certainly raises concerns about potential coordination, and will be reviewed by the Registry.”

The two rivals are continuing to attack one another while ignoring other primary contenders, a situation that Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles is hoping to take advantage of. Quarles, who has pitched himself as a positive alternative to his two main opponents, went up with his first spot in late April, and while he raised only around $30,000 during the most recent period, he had $460,000 left for the rest of the campaign. The commissioner, who has not received any significant outside support, has been trying to appeal to rural voters. “It’s been 20 years since we’ve had a governor from rural Kentucky,” he’s told supporters. “Just get the farm vote out for me, don’t forget.”

Only Quarles, though, appears positioned to benefit should voters sour on the frontrunners. Somerset Mayor Alan Keck had a mere $35,000 available for the rest of the campaign, while Auditor Mike Harmon and suspended attorney Eric Deters each had less than $15,000 left. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, for his part, continues to stock up ahead of what will be an expensive general election fight. The incumbent raised $350,000 from April 16 through May 1 and finished with $6.1 million in the bank.

PHILADELPHIA MAYOR. Former City Council member Allan Domb this week picked up the backing of Bill Green, who was elected to his single term as mayor in 1979, ahead of the May 16 Democratic primary. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that this is one of the first prominent endorsement that Domb, who has self-funded more than $7 million, has received in the entire race.

Former City Council member Cherelle Parker’s allies at Philadelphians For Our Future have launched the first negative TV ad anyone’s directed at former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart in the May 16 Democratic primary, as well as a separate spot going after both former Council colleague Allan Domb and businessman Jeff Brown. So far, the PAC, which is largely funded by building trades unions, hasn’t aired spots targeting the fifth major candidate, former City Council member Helen Gym, though she’s been on the receiving end of another group’s attack ads. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes Parker is also now the only serious contender who hasn’t been singled out in any negative TV spots.

The new anti-Rhynhart ad charges that when she was then-Mayor Michael Nutter’s treasurer during the Great Recession, the “city failed to pay vendors on time” and “closed pools and libraries.” (The libraries stayed open after a judge ruled they couldn’t be shuttered without City Council approval.) Rhynhart has defended herself from similar criticisms leveled by Gym at a debate by saying she was implementing Nutter’s directives rather than her own.

The other ad casts Domb and Brown, who have spent more than anyone else in the race, as self-funders “trying to buy the mayor’s office” who’ve each aided “anti-choice Republican politicians.” The Inquirer’s Anna Orso says that, while Brown has almost exclusively contributed to Democrats, he did donate $1,500 to then-Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in 2013. Domb, for his part, has donated to the National Association of Realtors’ PAC, which has long supported candidates from both parties.

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R), the frontrunner to be the state’s GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2024, has a “long history” of remarks “viciously mocking and attacking” survivors of the 2018 Parkland shooting, CNN reports.

“In posts after the shooting, Robinson called the students ‘spoiled, angry, know it all CHILDREN,’ ‘spoiled little bastards,’ and ‘media prosti-tots.’ … Robinson’s comments about the school shooting survivors were frequently personal, mocking their appearance and intelligence.”

MICHIGAN 10TH DISTRICT. Inside Elections’ Erin Covey relays that Democratic state Sen. Kevin Hertel is considering taking on freshman Republican Rep. John James in a seat Donald Trump took just 50-49, a bid that comes as his brother, former state Sen. Curtis Hertel, is also reportedly mulling a run one district away in the open 7th.

A win for Kevin Hertel, though, would necessitate a special election in a 52-47 Trump constituency that the Democrat captured by just over 300 votes last year; Democrats currently hold a 20-18 majority in the chamber, with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist able to break ties for the party. (Michigan’s Senate is only up in midterms and members serve four-year terms.)

Covey also confirms that 2022 nominee Carl Marlinga is “preparing for a rematch” with James, following his unexpectedly close 48.8-48.3 loss last year. A local Democratic elected official said in February that Marlinga was telling fellow Democrats he would run, but we’d heard nothing else about his plans until now. Covey adds that while former Rep. Andy Levin, who badly lost last year’s primary in the 11th District to fellow incumbent Haley Stevens, hasn’t closed the door on a bid against James, her sources doubt he’ll do it.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. The main super PAC backing Stephen Waguespack has launched a $1.75 million TV ad campaign to boost the first-time Republican candidate’s name recognition well ahead of October’s all-party primary. In a spot devoid of red meat, Reboot Louisiana touts Waguespack, who recently stepped down as head of the state’s Chamber of Commerce affiliate, as a “pro-law enforcement” leader who is not a politician. (Sorry, but anyone who runs for office is by definition a politician whether or not they’ve held office before.)

The expensive buy comes weeks after two of Waguespack’s intra-party foes, Treasurer John Schroder and Attorney General Jeff Landry, began running ads of their own. The development is notable, given that Louisiana’s campaign season historically gets off to a late start. In fact, LaPolitics’ Jeremy Alford writes that it’s “unique” to see multiple gubernatorial candidates or their allies on the air this early. Alford says that a single candidate in past cycles has sometimes debuted ads months before their rivals, but races for governor typically don’t get fully engaged until “late summer or around Labor Day”—something that’s very much not happening this time around.

TEXAS U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) confused his potential 2024 challenger, Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), with another black man: Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

“I took off my jacket and got ready to take on anyone who came through that door. Ted Cruz? He cheered on the mob… then hid in the supply closet.”— Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), referencing the Capitol riots in his Senate campaign announcement.

MARYLAND 6TH DISTRICT. Democratic Del. Joe Vogel confirmed his interest in running to succeed Rep. David Trone hours before the incumbent launched his Senate bid, and Vogel set up an FEC committee on Thursday. Vogel, who is 26, would be one of the youngest members of Congress.

Plenty of other Democrats will also likely eye this seat in Western Maryland and northwestern D.C. exurbs, which supported Joe Biden 54-44. Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz mentions state Sen. Brian Feldman, Del. Lesley Lopez, former Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, and U.S. Commerce Department official April McClain-Delaney as possibilities; the latter is the wife of former Rep. John Delaney, who won a previous version of this seat in 2012 and gave it up six years later to run for president.

For the GOP, Kurtz name-drops House Minority Leader Jason Buckel and 2022 gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox. Cox, according to Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux, lost this constituency 53-44 to Democrat Wes Moore. The former delegate then signed on in February as chief of staff for Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who remains in office following his own disastrous campaign to lead his state.

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Former Rep. Mike Rogers didn’t quite rule out a bid for Senate when the Detroit News’ Nolan Finley asked if he’d consider switching from what can charitably be called a longshot White House bid. “Never say never,” Rogers said, adding he believes that the Democratic frontrunner, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, could be defeated “[w]ith the right candidate.”

NEW MEXICO U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich announced Thursday that he’ll seek a third term, and no serious Republicans have shown any obvious interest in taking him on in the general election.

CALIFORNIA 12TH DISTRICT. EMILY’s List on Thursday endorsed BART board member Lateefah Simon in next year’s top-two primary for this dark blue East Bay seat.

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. “Republicans’ best option for unseating Sen. Joe Manchin: Pray that he retires first,” Politico reports. “The longtime West Virginia Democrat might be the most endangered member of his party heading into 2024. But Republicans still see the contest against him as treacherous. Manchin is a West Virginia institution who has repeatedly defied the odds in a deep-red state.”

MARYLAND U.S. SENATOR. Angela Alsobrooks (D), the executive of Prince George’s County and one of the most prominent Democrats in Maryland politics, will launch her campaign for the Senate this week, Time reports.

Despite a favorable Senate map in 2024, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told CNN that “he knows full well that things can quickly go south.”

“So he’s been working behind the scenes for months to find his preferred candidates in key races – including during his recent recovery from a concussion and a broken rib – in an attempt to prevent a repeat of 2022: When a highly favorable GOP landscape turned into a Republican collapse at the polls and a 51-49 Senate Democratic majority.”

Said McConnell: “I just spent 10 minutes explaining to you how we could screw this up, and we’re working very hard to not let that happen. Let’s put it that way.”

McConnell is focused on four states: Ohio, Montana, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

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