The Political Report – May 11, 2023

President Biden’s public approval was at 40% in recent days, close to the lowest level of his presidency, with Americans unhappy about his handling of immigration and inflation, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.

A new Morning Consult survey finds Donald Trump crushing Ron DeSantis in the Republican presidential race, 60% to 19%. It’s Trump’s biggest lead yet.

No other candidate has more than 5% support.

“I wish things were different, but I can’t see this changing anything in a Republican primary. The things that are going to change anything in a Republican primary are if the field — his opponents for 2024 — show some political backbone and political talent and ability to capture some of the oxygen that he is sucking up.”— Political strategist Sarah Longwell, quoted by Politico, on Donald Trump being found liable for sexual assault.

INDIANA 5TH DISTRICT. State Rep. Chuck Goodrich declared Monday that he would seek the GOP nod for this gerrymandered constituency, though he already self-funded $1 million in March to support his campaign-in-waiting. Goodrich joins Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings in the primary to replace retiring Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz.

ILLINOIS 7TH DISTRICT. Democratic Rep. Danny Davis’ team told the Chicago Sun-Times this week that the incumbent will seek a 15th term this cycle, and it remains to be seen if he’ll face intra-party opposition from another prominent Chicago politician. City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, who formed an exploratory committee weeks ago, responded, “Last month, I announced I was exploring a run for Congress, and that process continues. In the coming months, I will determine how I can best serve the people of the Seventh Congressional District.” Davis himself won renomination only 52-46 last year in a safely blue seat that includes Chicago’s West Side and downtown.

MISSISSIPPI LT. GOVERNOR. An organization called Conservatives Mississippi PAC is airing a TV ad targeting state Sen. Chris McDaniel ahead of his August GOP primary against incumbent Delbert Hosemann, though there’s no word how much it’s spending. The spot argues that, while McDaniel says how much he loves to “fight,” the only thing his fighting has achieved is getting three insignificant bills passed since 2014. “Lots of speeches,” says the narrator, “lots of big talk. But no substance, no real accomplishments.”

KENTUCKY SECRETARY OF STATE. Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican who has denounced election conspiracy theorists as people who “just want to watch the world burn,” faces two intra-party foes next week who see the world quite differently. His opponents are Steve Knipper, who took a distant third in the 2019 primary for this post, and Allen Maricle, who served in the state House in the 1990s.

Both challengers, writes the Lexington Herald-Leader’s John Cheves, have criticized Adams for refusing to withdraw Kentucky from the bipartisan Electronic Registration Information Center, a multi-state group to maintain voter lists that has recently been at the center of numerous far-right conspiracy theories. Knipper has eagerly embraced the Big Lie and suggested there was “fraud” in Democrat Andy Beshear’s 2019 victory over GOP Gov. Matt Bevin. Maricle wasn’t willing to go that far, though, saying of Knipper, “I do think we have some problems, but I think he’s gone off on some wild tangents.”

Adams, who says he’s experienced “a number of violent threats” during his tenure, has decisively outraised both his foes, but he doesn’t seem at all convinced he’s secure. “Yeah, I could lose,” he told Cheves last week, “No question about it.” The winner will take on former state Rep. Buddy Wheatley, who has no Democratic primary opposition.

CALIFORNIA 47TH DISTRICT. Former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh last week earned the backing of the state party for next year’s top-two primary. Also in Baugh’s corner is 45th District Rep. Michelle Steel, who represented almost 60% of this constituency under the old map.

ARIZONA 3RD DISTRICT. Héctor Jaramillo, who is a member of the Glendale Elementary School Board, announced Monday he would compete in the Democratic primary for this safely blue Phoenix seat. He joins Phoenix City Councilmember Yassamin Ansari and former state Sen. Raquel Terán in the contest to succeed Senate candidate Ruben Gallego.

Jaramillo in 2022 competed in the primary for the state House but took fourth with just 9% of the vote in a contest where the two candidates with the most votes advance to the general. But he still won his current post without opposition that year with the backing of a group opposed to school vouchers after he was one of just two contenders to file for one of the two board seats.

PHILADELPHIA MAYOR. New campaign finance reports reveal that Republican megadonor Jeff Yass, a charter schools advocate who is the wealthiest man in Pennsylvania, is the principal funder behind the attack ads being leveled at former Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym ahead of the May 16 Democratic primary for mayor―a race that’s now the most expensive in city history.

Yass is responsible for $750,000 of the $1 million raised by a PAC called Coalition for Safety and Equitable Growth, which has run negative ads against Gym while ignoring her intra-party rivals. And this isn’t the only Democratic primary that Yass, a registered Libertarian who lives outside city limits, is interested in, as he’s also aiding an effort to help business-aligned candidates for City Council.

Gym’s team previously insinuated that Yass was financing the offensive against their candidate, who has the backing of the American Federation of Teachers and prominent national progressives like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, though it’s only now that we have confirmation.

There’s no word if the billionaire, who has donated over $55 million to support Republicans in federal elections, has a favorite candidate in the contest to succeed termed-out incumbent Jim Kenney, though supporters of two other contenders have made contributions to the same PAC. The Laborers District Council, which is pulling for former City Councilmember Cherelle Parker, chipped in $25,000, while former Mayor Michael Nutter, who is backing former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, contributed $3,100.

Kenney himself said Monday that he had voted for Parker while still insisting, “I’m not endorsing anyone publicly. I don’t think it’s right for any old mayor to be endorsing anybody, in truth.” Kenney said of Parker, who would be the first Black woman to hold the post, “I think she has the ability to lead the city forward, and honestly I think it’s time for a woman of color.” (Gym, who is Asian American, would also achieve this distinction in a city that has yet to elect a woman mayor.) But Parker’s campaign seems to be just fine to treat Kenney’s vote as anything other than an endorsement, as a spokesperson didn’t even comment when asked about the news.

The only recent poll we’ve seen testing Kenney’s standing with primary voters was a mid-April internal for former City Council member Allan Domb, who has aired ads highlighting his conflicts with the mayor, and it showed the incumbent with a poor image. GBAO’s memo said that just only 41% of respondents approved of Kenney’s performance in office, though it didn’t reveal how many disapproved. And none of Kenney’s potential successors seem to view him as an electoral asset: The candidates were asked to grade his time in office at a debate earlier last month, and the C from Parker was the most positive score anyone would offer.

All of this comes as polls show a tight race next week to secure the plurality needed to win the Democratic nomination, which is almost always tantamount to election in the City of Brotherly Love. Gym’s team on Friday unveiled a survey from Data for Progress that found her deadlocked 21-21 with Rhynhart, with Parker just behind with 19%; Domb was further back with 13%, with grocer Jeff Brown at 9%. The survey was finished April 29, which was just as the Yass-financed ads against Gym began airing.

An independent poll from SurveyUSA for several non-aligned groups also found a cliffhanger late last month, with Rhynhart edging out Parker 19-17 as Gym, Domb, and Brown respectively took 16%, 15%, and 12%. Domb’s internal, by contrast, had the former city controller ahead of Gym 21-19 with himself at 17%; those numbers placed Parker and Brown at 16% and 13%. This tight primary comes at the tail end of what the Philadelphia Inquirer says is “easily the most expensive election in Philadelphia history.” The candidates and super PACs combined have brought in a total of $31.4 million, with Domb alone self-funding just under a third of that.

Unless one of the five major candidates shocks everyone next week, this would be the first Democratic mayoral primary of the 21st century with a margin of victory in the single digits. The last time Philadelphia saw such a close race was in 1999, when John Street beat Martin Weinberg 36-31 ahead of a tight general election win over Republican Sam Katz. There’s little question, though, that whoever takes the Democratic nod this year is in for an easier time in November against former Councilmember David Oh, who has the GOP primary to himself but faces long odds in a city that Joe Biden carried 81-18.

FLORIDA ABORTION REFERENDUM. Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and a coalition of other organizations are launching an effort to place a constitutional amendment on Florida’s ballot next year that would both undo the six-week abortion ban that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last month and allow the procedure to take place up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. However, not only would this proposal need to win 60% of the vote in order to pass, supporters need to clear multiple hurdles to get on the ballot in the first place.

First, abortion rights advocates need to turn in about 892,000 valid signatures by Feb. 1, a figure that represents 8% of the total number of votes cast in the state’s last presidential election. That’s not all, though, because Florida law further requires that organizers hit this target by collecting 8% of the districtwide vote from at least half of the state’s 28 congressional districts, a task that got tougher after DeSantis pushed through an aggressive gerrymander last year.

Florida Republicans have also enacted laws making it tougher to collect petitions, including one rule that makes it illegal to pay people based on the number of signatures they gather—something that experts say has doubled the cost of qualifying for the ballot. The conservative state Supreme Court presents yet another obstacle as well, as its members have prevented proposed amendments from reaching the ballot. In 2021, notably, the high court blocked two different amendments to allow the use of recreational marijuana after ruling that the proposals were confusingly worded.

If pro-choice groups overcome all of these impediments and reach the 2024 ballot, though, the amendment may be able to win the three-fifths supermajority it would need to prevail. Supporters have pointed to a March survey from the University of North Florida that found that only 22% of registered voters backed “a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy in Florida, with no exceptions for rape or incest,” while 75% were against the idea.

NEVADA 3RD DISTRICT. Conservative columnist Drew Johnson announced Thursday that he would seek the GOP nod to take on Democratic Rep. Susie Lee, a campaign that comes months after he lost an officially nonpartisan race for the Clark County Commission to Democratic incumbent Justin Jones 50.2-49.8. Johnson and his wife, notes Roll Call, started a tradition of chucking plastic flamingos onto the hockey ring to celebrate home game victories for the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Joe Biden carried this constituency in the southern Las Vegas area 52-46.

TEXAS 32ND DISTRICT. Trauma surgeon Brian H. Williams, who attracted national attention in 2016 when he treated Dallas police officers wounded in an ambush, confirmed Thursday that he would decide “soon” if he’ll run to succeed his fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Colin Allred. The Dallas News also lists Dallas City Council member Adam Bazaldua, who is up for re-election on Saturday, as a possible Democratic contender along with state Reps. Ana-Maria Ramos and Rhetta Andrews Bowers.

The article also name-drops state Rep. Victoria Neave Criado, though she said in February she wanted to stay in the legislature. State Sen. Nathan Johnson, however, told the paper this week he was a no.

MARYLAND 6TH DISTRICT. Del. Joe Vogel on Monday became the first major candidate to announce a campaign to succeed his fellow Democrat, Senate contender David Trone, in this 54-44 Biden constituency based in western Maryland and the northwestern D.C. exurbs. Vogel, a 26-year-old who was born less than two weeks after the youngest member of Congress, Florida Democrat Maxwell Alejandro Frost, declared, “When it comes to lived experience, there is an entire generational perspective that is missing.” The candidate, who immigrated from Uruguay at age 3, identifies as Jewish, Latino, and gay.

Vogel may have intra-party opposition before too long, as Del. Lesley Lopez tells Inside Elections she’ll “likely make a decision soon.” Montgomery County Councilmember Marilyn Balcombe, though, told Jacob Rubashkin, “I can safely say I won’t be running for Congress.”

On the GOP side, Bethesda Magazine suggests that former state Del. Neil Parrott could try again after losing the last two campaigns to Trone, though there’s no word from Parrott if he’s considering.

NORTH CAROLINA SOMETHING. Republican state Rep. Erin Paré has set up an exploratory committee and tells Axios she will “at least keep my options open.” Her Wake County constituency is entirely located in Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel’s existing 13th Congressional District, though Paré and her Republican colleagues will be able to implement a new gerrymandered congressional map this year.

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. George Santos (R) tops Roll Call’s initial list of next year’s most vulnerable House members.  “But Santos isn’t the only blue-state Republican facing headwinds in 2024. Six other GOP incumbents, compared with just three Democrats, made the list. That’s partly because Democrats lost a net of nine seats when the House flipped in November, and only some of them are going to be among the most competitive races next year.”

CNN reported on Tuesday evening that federal prosecutors have formally charged Republican Rep. George Santos with criminal wrongdoing, according to three unnamed sources, though details of the charges are not yet known. Santos will reportedly appear in court “as soon as Wednesday.” The freshman congressman has been accused of an extraordinary array of falsehoods and misdeeds, but those of the most immediate interest to federal law enforcement are likely to be the inexplicable campaign finance irregularities that have surrounded his two campaigns for the House.

CALIFORNIA 40TH DISTRICT and 49TH DISTRICT. Two politicians who both unsuccessfully campaigned for the same state Senate seat last year took steps toward running for Congress Tuesday in Southern California constituencies. Retired Orange County Fire Capt. Joe Kerr filed paperwork to campaign as a Democrat against Republican Rep. Young Kim in the 40th District, while businessman Matt Gunderson announced he’d run as a Republican to unseat Democratic incumbent Mike Levin in the 49th.

Kerr ran for office in 2018 when he took a close third in the nonpartisan primary for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, finishing just 454 votes behind fellow Democrat Doug Chaffee. (Chaffee’s subsequent victory that fall made him the first Democrat on the body in 12 years, but he’s often sided against his party on key votes.) Kerr campaigned as a centrist four years later when he sought the 38th state Senate seat, but he did poorly in the top-two primary: Gunderson earned 46% while Democrat Catherine Blakespear far outpaced Kerr 43-11 for second.

Kerr faces another daunting challenge against Kim, who has no announced opponents, in an eastern Orange County seat that remains tough turf for Democrats downballot even though it favored Joe Biden 50-48. The congresswoman won re-election 57-43 last year as fellow Republican Brian Dahle was beating Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom 55-45 there even as he was badly losing statewide.

Gunderson, who is also Levin’s first notable opponent, himself had a tough battle against Blakespear in a seat Biden had taken 57-41, but he came close to pulling off an upset. Blakespear, though, prevailed 52-48 at the same time that Newsom was carrying the seat 53-47. Conditions that year were similar in Levin’s 49th Congressional District, a 55-43 Biden constituency located along the coast of southern Orange and northern San Diego counties: The incumbent turned back Republican Brian Maryott 53-47 after an expensive battle for a seat that Newsom took just 50.4-49.6.

PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE. Pennsylvania Democrats must win a May 16 special election in the Philadelphia suburbs in order to preserve their one-seat majority in the state House, and they’re turning to Gov. Josh Shapiro to underscore the stakes. “If Republican extremists win, they’ll take away my veto power by putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest,” Shapiro says in a new spot from the House Democratic Campaign Committee touting Heather Boyd, a former member of the local school board.

Another ad from the committee says of her GOP rival, “Katie Ford will give MAGA Republicans the majority they desperately want and that’s downright dangerous. They’re counting on Katie Ford to be the deciding vote to make every abortion in Pennsylvania illegal.” Their Republican counterparts don’t appear to have gone on TV, though the House Republican Campaign Committee has sent out anti-Boyd literature masquerading as a newspaper.

The 163rd House District in Delaware County became vacant in March when Democrat Mike Zabel resigned after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, and Ford and her allies are hoping that scandal will give the GOP an opening in a constituency that supported Joe Biden 62-37. The Republican has accused Boyd, who is a local party official, of not taking action after an SEIU lobbyist named Andi Perez told Boyd that Zabel had harassed her back in 2019. But Perez herself praised Boyd in March as someone who “has been a true ally to me because she kept what I told her about my experience of sexual harassment private until I was ready to share my story publicly,” though that hasn’t deterred Republicans from using this line of attack.

A victory for Boyd in next week’s contest, which coincides with the regularly scheduled statewide primary, would confirm Democratic control of the House for the third time in less than seven months. The party took its first majority in a dozen years in November when Democrats won 102 of the chamber’s 203 seats, but Republicans temporarily enjoyed a small 101-99 advantage in membership because three Democratic-held seats became vacant. Democrats swept the February special elections for that trio of western Pennsylvania constituencies, and Joanna McClinton became the first Black woman to serve as speaker a short time later after Mark Rozzi, a moderate Democrat who had won the gavel with GOP support the previous month, stepped aside.

Zabel resigned a short time later, but Democrats still maintained a one-seat advantage because Republican Schlegel Culver had left the lower chamber after winning her own January special election to the state Senate. The contest to fill Culver’s old 108th District will also take place next week, but both parties are treating this 65-33 Trump constituency as an easy hold for the GOP.

P.S. The Associated Press notes that four Democratic representatives are on the ballot next week in primaries for local office, so control of the chamber could again be at stake should any of them go on to prevail in November. John Galloway, who is campaigning for a judgeship in Bucks County, represents the most competitive seat of the four, though Biden still took his 140th District 55-44.

The president scored just over 60% of the vote in the seats held by Sara Innamorato and Kristine Howard, who are respectively running for Alleghany County executive and a judicial post in Chester County. Biden also won 93% in the Philadelphia seat held by Amen Brown, though polls show the representative with almost no support in the primary for mayor.

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

1 comment on “The Political Report – May 11, 2023

  1. cassandram

    ““I think Democrats are pro-life and Republicans are against it,” said one participant in Ohio, when asked what Democrats and Republicans believe on abortion.”

    In a straight, dictionary reading of these words, this seems to be the correct assessment.

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