The Political Report – May 22, 2023

new analysis from Catalist, a Democratic-data firm, highlights the political ascendance of Millennials and Zoomers. The 2022 data is striking and really bad news for Republicans.

Gen Z and Millennial voters had exceptional levels of turnout, with young voters in heavily contested states exceeding their 2018 turnout by 6% among those who were eligible in both elections.

Further, 65% of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 supported Democrats, cementing their role as a key part of a winning coalition for the party. While young voters were historically evenly split between the parties, they are increasingly voting for Democrats. Many young voters who showed up in 2018 and 2020 to elect Democrats continued to do the same in 2022.

As Eric Levitz notes: “This is a big long-term problem for the Republican Party. With each passing election cycle, Zoomers and Millennials will become more likely to vote. As this chart from Catalist illustrates, generations tend to grow more and more electorally influential until they reach their mid-70s and then start aging out of the electorate owing to illness or death. Boomers have already passed their political peak. Millennials will be building toward theirs for a long time to come.

Also interesting: “It is not surprising that Millennials have retained their exceptionally strong Democratic lean even as they’ve exited their youth… Millennials spent their formative years watching George W. Bush preside over catastrophic wars and an economic disaster while his party embraced soon-to-be-discredited social crusades (such as opposition to gay marriage). And millennials were also raised by parents who were markedly more socially liberal than the boomers’ forebears.”

It is therefore unsurprising that the generation has proven durably hostile to a Republican Party that refuses to abandon the cultural commitments of America’s white Evangelical minority.

Republicans weathered the rise of Millennials and Zoomers mostly because America’s older generations are more conservative. But the number of those voters is only getting smaller. They’re dying. And the Republican party is still mostly trying to appeal to them.

Cook Political Report: “GenZ/Millennial voters (defined as those between the ages of 18-41), not only turned out at higher levels than they did in 2018, but they were the only age group that increased their support for Democratic candidates from 2018.”

“After 2008, many assumed that Obama’s personal connection with younger voters would transfer to the Democratic Party’s candidates in subsequent elections. That didn’t happen. Instead, what seems to be driving younger voters to the polls isn’t love, but anger. In 2018, Donald Trump’s presence in the White House was a motivating factor for these voters. In 2022, anger over the abortion decision was the most likely catalyst for turnout.”

PHILADELPHIA MAYOR. Former City Council member Cherelle Parker pulled off an unexpectedly wide 33-23 victory over former city Controller Rebecca Rhynhart in a Democratic primary where no one seemed to have an obvious advantage heading into election day. Parker, who would be the first Black woman to lead a city that has also never elected a woman as mayor, should have no trouble in November against Republican David Oh in the contest to succeed termed-out Democratic incumbent Jim Kenney.

Minutes after Cherelle Parker (D) won the Democratic mayoral primary in Philadelphia, her supporters learned that she would not be able to attend her election party due to an emergency, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

She was apparently hospitalized for a “dental emergency.”

KENTUCKY SECRETARY OF STATE. Incumbent Michael Adams turned back a challenge from Big Lie spreader Steve Knipper by a 64-26 margin, though Knipper naturally used election night to spread more conspiracy theories about his own defeat. Adams will be favored in the fall against state Rep. Buddy Wheatley, who had no Democratic primary opposition.

JACKSONVILLE MAYOR. Florida Democrats scored a huge pickup on Tuesday when former TV anchor Donna Deegan won the officially nonpartisan race for mayor of Jacksonville by defeating her Republican foe, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce head Daniel Davis, 52-48. Deegan’s win in the race to succeed termed-out GOP Mayor Lenny Curry will make her the first woman to lead the state’s most populous city and just the second Democrat to hold this office since the early 1990s.

Deegan overcame a serious financial advantage enjoyed by Davis, who aired ads attacking her for attending Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020, to give her party a much-needed victory months after its statewide drubbing. She also ends Jacksonville’s status as the largest city in America with a Republican mayor, a title that now goes to Fort Worth, Texas, where incumbent Mattie Price easily won a second term earlier this month.

Jacksonville, which was consolidated with the rest of Duval County in 1968, was for decades a conservative stronghold in both state and local politics. Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory began a Republican winning streak that would continue well into the 21st century, while Mayor Ed Austin’s 1993 party switch gave the GOP control of city hall for the first time in a century.

Democrats finally took back the mayor’s office in 2011 when Alvin Brown narrowly beat a hardline GOP foe who had alienated business interests, a win that also made him the city’s first Black leader. His tenure, though, didn’t usher in a new progressive era in Jacksonville as the mayor distanced himself from state and national Democrats and further alienated the party base by refusing to back a human rights ordinance aimed at protecting the city’s large LGBTQ community. Curry, a former state GOP chair, unseated Brown 51-49 in 2015, and Democrats didn’t even put up a candidate to oppose him four years later.

Despite recent history, though, Democrats still had reasons for optimism about Duval County’s long-term direction. Both Sen. Bill Nelson and gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum took the city in 2018 despite narrowly losing statewide, while Joe Biden’s subsequent 51-47 victory made him the party’s first presidential nominee to carry Duval County since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Things were much bleaker in 2022 as both Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis carried Duval by wide margins, though local Democrats at least had the comfort of knowing that Jacksonville was still voting to the left of the state as a whole.

Deegan’s win on Tuesday at last gave her party some indisputably good news, but Democrats still have much work to do in the future in order to turn Duval County into a blue bastion. Republican T.K. Waters secured reelection this year without opposition as sheriff, which also puts him in charge of the city’s police, while the GOP continues to maintain a considerable advantage on the 19-person City Council. Still, Democrats are hoping that Deegan’s triumph will mark a new beginning in north Florida.

PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT. Democrat Dan McCaffery and Republican Carolyn Carluccio, who each had their respective state party’s endorsement, will compete in the November statewide election for the state Supreme Court seat that’s been vacant since Democrat Max Baer died last September. McCaffery outpaced Debbie Kunselman, a fellow member of the Superior Court, 60-40.

Carluccio, who is the Montgomery County president judge, pulled off a smaller 54-46 win over Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, who unsuccessfully ran for a different Supreme Court seat in 2021 by pitching herself as “the ONLY Judge in America to order the 2020 Presidential Election results not be certified.” National Republicans worked to make sure Carluccio was their nominee by deploying $500,000 to support her, while McCullough received financial support from far-right state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the party’s disastrous 2022 nominee for governor.

While control of the seven-member body, which retains a 4-2 Democratic majority, isn’t at risk in November, the stakes are high going into the 2024 presidential election. Democrats felt Baer’s absence keenly last year when one Democratic justice, Kevin Dougherty, sided with his two Republican colleagues on an important preelection case regarding mail ballots. A win for Carluccio would make it easier for a similar thing to happen again and put Republicans one step closer to reclaiming a majority in 2025.

PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE. Democrats will keep their one-seat majority in the state House following Heather Boyd’s 60-39 victory over Republican Katie Ford in the special election for the 163rd District in the Philadelphia suburbs. That win, along with Republican Michael Stender’s 61-36 victory in the 108th in the rural central part of the state, leaves the 203-member chamber with a full complement of 202 Democrats and 201 Republicans.

While neither party doubted that Stender would prevail in his 65-33 Trump seat, Democrats spent at least $1 million to ensure that Boyd won in Delaware County. While this 62-37 Biden constituency looked safe on paper, the local Democratic brand had taken a hit due to a series of scandals in recent years, culminating with the resignation of state Rep. Mike Zabel in March after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. Democrats argued that a Ford victory would threaten abortion rights, messaging that included TV ads starring Gov. Josh Shapiro and an endorsement a day before the election from President Joe Biden.

Republicans, who hoped to link Zabel to Boyd, spent less than Democrats (albeit still in the six figures); Ford reacted to her defeat on election night by responding to a reporter’s request for a comment by texting back, “You can lose my number asshole.”

The Atlantic: “As state auditor—and his party’s only elected politician in statewide office—Rob Sand is in the Republicans’ sights. But his eyes are on higher things.”

ALLEGHENY COUNTY (PA) EXECUTIVE. State Rep. Sara Innamorato, who had the backing of prominent local and national progressives, defeated county Treasurer John Weinstein 38-30 to win the nomination to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out incumbent Rich Fitzgerald, as leader of a populous county that includes Pittsburgh and several of its suburbs. Innamorato will be favored in November against Joe Rockey, who had no Republican opposition, in a county that backed Biden 59-39; Innamorato would be the first woman to hold this office.

COLORADO SPRINGS (CO) MAYOR. Independent Yemi Mobolade will become the first non-Republican mayor of this longtime conservative bastion since the city began electing its leaders 45 years ago following his wide 57-43 victory over GOP City Councilor Wayne Williams in the nonpartisan general election. Mobolade, who is originally from Nigeria, also will make history as the city’s first elected Black mayor.

Mobolade pitched himself as a moderate who can appeal to voters across party lines, and he secured a prominent endorsement late in the campaign from conservative Sallie Clark, a former Trump administration official who took a close third in the April nonpartisan primary. Williams, who had the support of termed-out Mayor John Suthers, used his financial edge to label his opponent a “liberal,” but it proved far from enough.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY (PA) BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS (COUNTY COUNCIL). Appointed incumbent Jamila Winder and attorney Neil Makhija each secured the Democratic nomination for a spot on the three-member Board of Commissioners, which all but guarantees them both victory in November. Winder took first with 33% while Makhija defeated her ally, Whitpain Township Supervisor Kimberly Koch, 23-19 for second. Winder’s appointment earlier this year made her the first Black woman to serve on the body, while Makhija would be Pennsylvania’s first Asian American county commissioner.

Republicans meanwhile chose former school board member Tom DiBello and Upper Dublin Township Commissioner Liz Ferry while throwing far-right incumbent Joe Gale overboard. DiBello led with 38% as Ferry scored a 35-26 victory over Gale, who has a terrible relationship with his party’s leaders. All three commission posts are elected countywide, and since each party may only nominate two candidates, either DiBello or Ferry is almost sure to win a seat in this dark blue suburban Philadelphia community.  

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE HOUSE. As Democrats across the country enjoyed a string of electoral successes on Tuesday night, they were joined by their compatriots in New Hampshire, who saw one of their own, former Nashua Alderman Marc Plamondon, romp in the special election in the closely divided state House. Plamondon’s margin stands out not just because he far outperformed other Democratic candidates in his district, but because it’s yet one more sign that Democrats are well-positioned to flip a Republican-held House seat in an upcoming special—a turn of events that would yield an exact tie in the 400-member chamber.

While the Hillsborough County district Plamondon successfully defended is safely blue, his 72-28 win amounts to a 43-point margin of victory. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, by contrast, both carried the same turf by 27 points, meaning Plamondon ran 16 points ahead of them. In New Hampshire’s gigantic House, districts are very small, and so total turnout was as well—just around 200 votes—so it’s wise not to read too much into a single data point. But fortunately, we have more.

Most notably, Democratic state Rep. Chuck Grassie prevailed in a do-over race in February after his November election ended in an exact tie. In that heavily scrutinized and very expensive rematch in Strafford County, Grassie won by 12 points—a huge improvement, needless to say, over his previous deadlock, but also over Biden’s 7-point margin. And we’ve seen that pattern repeated in special elections nationwide this year: In aggregate, Democrats are running almost 7 points ahead of the 2020 presidential results in 18 total specials so far.

That brings us to the forthcoming special election in Rockingham County, which is nestled along New Hampshire’s coast, right between Strafford and Hillsborough counties. Republican state Rep. Benjamin Bartlett resigned from the county’s 1st District last month, and an election to fill his vacant seat is likely to take place in August or September.

That district (which locals often refer to by the two towns it encompasses, Northwood and Nottingham) is very swingy. Donald Trump carried it by less than a point in 2020, 49.1 to 48.7, and the trends appear to be favorable, since his margin in 2016 was more than 8 points. And according to one analyst, Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan actually won it by 2 points last year while Democrats fell just 10 votes shy of securing one of the district’s three seats. (Only one seat will be up in the expected special.)

Given the prevailing winds, Democrats have good reason to think they’ll be able to pick up Bartlett’s seat. If they can do so (and also win another special in a solidly blue seat in Grafton County), then on paper, the New Hampshire House would have exactly 200 members of each party. It would represent an extraordinary development, given that Republicans gerrymandered the current map to their advantage following the 2020 census. But what would happen next?

It’s not clear that formal control of the chamber would change, particularly because a handful of Democrats voted to elect Republican Sherman Packard as speaker by secret ballot following the November midterms. But on any given day in the New Hampshire House, there are always absences, so what matters is who shows up. And Democrats have at times this year enjoyed superior numbers on the floor, allowing them to block GOP bills or advance measures of their own.

It’s also not impossible that the unprecedented nature of a tied House could prompt a reckoning that could lead to a power-sharing agreement. But what matters most is preparing for the future. There will assuredly be more special elections at some point, which means that Democrats could take a bona fide majority before long. Even if not, though, they’ll want to position themselves for victory in 2024, when the entire legislature once again goes before voters. The more seats they hold now, the likelier they are to meet with success next year.

ALLEGHENY COUNTY (PA) DISTRICT ATTORNEY. Allegheny County Chief Public Defender Matt Dugan scored a 56-44 primary win over Stephen Zappala, a 25-year-incumbent who is despised by criminal justice reformers, but the district attorney said he’d likely be running in the fall general election as a Republican. “I apologize to my friends and supporters that we didn’t have a stronger showing this evening,” Zappala said on election night, adding, “But I’ll tell you what I think—if we stick around until November, we can kick some ass and take some names.”  

Zappala can almost certainly continue his campaign because Republicans encouraged their voters to write down his name in a primary where they had no candidates, and no rival effort ever emerged. Close to 12,000 write-in votes were cast, and while election officials still need to tabulate the results, Zappala needs just 500 of them to be for him in order to win the GOP nod with a plurality.

NORTHAMPTON COUNTY (PA) DISTRICT ATTORNEY. Former local Judge Stephen Baratta defeated incumbent Terry Houck 54-46 in the Democratic primary, and Houck immediately told his supporters he’d be running as a Republican in the general election.

Houck openly encouraged GOP voters to write down his name in a primary where, just like in Allegheny County, they had no options on their own ballot, and over 2,100 write-ins were cast. Election authorities still need to assign these ballots to a candidate, but it’s likely that Houck cleared the 250-vote minimum. Biden carried this county in the Lehigh Valley just 50-49 four years after Donald Trump took it 50-46.

MICHIGAN 10TH DISTRICT. 2022 Democratic nominee Carl Marlinga filed paperwork this week for a potential second bout with freshman Republican Rep. John James, but he tells the Detroit Free Press he hasn’t actually decided to run yet. Marlinga says he did this because he’s raised more than $5,000 during the year, which is the maximum amount that a possible candidate can raise or spend before they’re required to register with the FEC.

NEW YORK 22ND DISTRICT. Clem Harris, a Utica University history professor who previously served as a high-level aide for then-Gov. David Patterson, told Tuesday he planned to launch a bid against Republican Rep. Brandon Williams within 10 days. Harris would face DeWitt Town Board member Sarah Klee Hood in the Democratic primary for a constituency in the Syracuse and Utica areas that Joe Biden took 53-45.

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

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