The Political Report – May 25, 2023

Charlie Sykes: “In 2023, a major candidate for president of the United States is paying court to an erratic, decompensating, narcissistic, endlessly needy, petulant man-child, who has spent the past few months posting poop emojis, taking counsel from someone called catturd, and destroying the social media platform he bought on a whim.”

“Along the way, Musk has opened the door to bigots, crackpots, conspiracy theorists, charlatans, and the insane of every stripe, while displaying his own brain worms on a regular basis.”

“So, because it is 2023, it was inevitable that he would fancy himself a kingmaker; and that politicians would indulge his fantasy.”

A Trump adviser to NBC News: “Announcing on Twitter is perfect for Ron DeSantis. This way he doesn’t have to interact with people and the media can’t ask him any questions.”

Trump aides mocked Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plans to announce his presidential bid on Twitter with Elon Musk by sending Politico a photo of R2-D2 and C-3PO, suggesting DeSantis would be the shorter and less advanced robot.

“I’ve said publicly that my preference — and I think it would be the preference for most Americans — is willing to have someone fairly normal in office.”— Elon Musk, quoted by Axios.

Jonathan Chait: “A little over a year ago, I wrote a long feature story on Ron DeSantis. Even at that early date, it was easy to discern his blueprint for wresting the Republican nomination from Donald Trump’s hands. DeSantis was pitching himself to the party’s base as a more competent and ruthless vehicle for their agenda…”

“Everything I laid out in the piece about DeSantis’s plan has turned out to be correct, except one: I thought it would work… It still might work, of course. But the de facto rollout of DeSantis’s campaign, in advance of the de jure announcement, has undeniably failed… The main obstacle he’s facing lies outside his control: Republicans simply love Trump….”

“But the fundamental bet DeSantis has made is that the breadth of his party, from its McConnell wing to its space-laser wing, is receptive to the idea of a strongman who isn’t so dumb. No one else has stepped forward to supply that candidacy.”

“Gov. Ron DeSantis has assembled a team of wealthy business leaders to help raise money for his presidential campaign,” CNBC reports. “The bundler list, which was first provided to CNBC, includes business leaders from industries ranging from real estate to finance.”

“Bundlers will gather at the Four Seasons hotel in Miami from Wednesday through Friday. They’ll receive briefings from campaign staff and call around to raise money for the campaign.”

“A key political group supporting Ron DeSantis’s presidential run is preparing a $100 million voter-outreach push so big it plans to knock on the door of every possible DeSantis voter at least four times in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and five times in the kickoff Iowa caucuses,” the New York Times reports.

“The effort is part of an on-the-ground organizing operation that intends to hire more than 2,600 field organizers by Labor Day, an extraordinary number of people for even the best-funded campaigns.”

“The group said it expected to have an overall budget of at least $200 million, including more than $80 million to be transferred from an old DeSantis state political account, for the daunting task of vaulting the Florida governor past former President Donald Trump, who has established himself as the dominant early front-runner.”

It’s worth noting that Jeb Bush had a $150 million plan to beat Trump.

“How do you beat Trump? Well, you beat Trump by beating Trump. And where Ron DeSantis has beaten Trump is by doing what Republican voters want him to do the most.”— DeSantis Super PAC strategist Jeff Roe, quoted by the New York Times.

Rolling Stone: “The explanation for the former president’s interest in Ramaswamy’s campaign is simple: The insurgent candidate has spent much of his run for office trashing Trump’s top rival, DeSantis. As Ramaswamy’s poll numbers and standing in the primary have risen a bit in recent weeks, so has Trump’s interest. The former president has praised him both publicly and privately, offered encouragement for his White House bid, and has even told Ramaswamy how good-looking he is.”

“When asked how Trumpland generally views the former president’s boosting of Vivek 2024, one Trump adviser bluntly tells Rolling Stone that ‘of course’ it’s a ‘total ratfuck‘ against DeSantis.”

COLORADO 8TH DISTRICT, CONNECTICUT 5TH DISTRICT, and RHODE ISLAND 2ND DISTRICT. Politico reports that three defeated Republicans from last cycle―Colorado’s Joe O’Dea, Connecticut’s George Logan, and Rhode Island’s Allan Fung―are mulling 2024 House bids, though none are enthusiastic about the idea of Donald Trump leading the ticket. It’s not hard to see why: Trump lost Colorado’s 8th District 51-46 in 2020, while Joe Biden turned in double-digit wins in the two New England constituencies.

O’Dea himself lost the 8th 50-46 against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, according to data calculated by Daily Kos Elections; Democrat Yadira Caraveo won her own open seat race 48.4-47.7 the same night. Logan, meanwhile, fell short of beating Democratic incumbent Jahana Hayes by a 50.4-49.6 margin, while Democrat Seth Magaziner held off Fung 50-47.

NEW JERSEY 7TH DISTRICT. Former Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) will not seek a return to Congress next year in a rematch with Rep. Thomas Kean (R-NJ), the Republican who unseated him in 2022, the New Jersey Globe reports.

ARIZONA 1ST DISTRICT. Former TV anchor Marlene Galan Woods, a self-described “moderate Democrat” who expressed interest in taking on GOP Rep. David Schweikert back in January, has filed FEC paperwork.

CALIFORNIA 45TH DISTRICT. Board of Equalization member Mike Schaefer, an 86-year-old Democrat who would be the oldest House freshman in history, filed FEC paperwork this week for a potential campaign against Republican Rep. Michelle Steel, but his personal history may make him a nonstarter. As the San Francisco Chronicle put it in a jaw-dropping paragraph during his reelection campaign last year:

He was accused — and eventually acquitted — in a 1970 Yellow Cab bribery scandal in San Diego, when he served on the City Council. He was convicted of misdemeanor spousal abuse and jailed in 1993, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, and was ordered by a jury in 1986 to pay $1.83 million to former tenants in Los Angeles who sued because they said their apartments, rented from Schaefer, were overrun with rats, cockroaches, sewage and street gangs, according to the Los Angeles Times. And in 2013, a Nevada court ordered him to stay at least 100 feet away from actor and comedian Brad Garrett, who played a cop and brother in “Everybody Loves Raymond,” after he allegedly stalked the actor following a dispute over a complimentary ticket to a Las Vegas show.

Schaefer’s team responded by insisting people should focus on his performance in office instead of his “colorful past,” and voters supported him 59-41 over a fellow Democrat.  

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. TV reporter Darius Radzius terminated his fundraising committee days after opening it, and he told the FEC he wouldn’t be seeking the Democratic nomination “due to some issues that surfaced that need my attention.”

State Sen. Jack Martins, who was the 2016 Republican nominee for the previous version of this district, tells Politico he’s “not at all” interested” in trying to replace scandal-ridden incumbent George Santos.

Unnamed Democratic sources tell Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel that former Rep. Tom Suozzi would probably only try to regain his old seat if there’s a special election to replace his scandal-ridden successor, Republican incumbent George Santos. It would be up to party leaders to pick the nominees in a special, and Kassel writes that Suozzi “is leaning toward accepting” the nod if it’s presented to him this way. If that special never happens, though, the story says the former congressman is “unlikely” to compete in the regular primary.

SOUTH CAROLINA 6TH DISTRICT. Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn acknowledged to CNN that he’s considering retiring after 16 terms in office, an idea the 82-year-old says he thinks about “[e]very day.” He added that he’d be talking to his family about his future “during the Christmas holidays.” Biden carried this seat, which includes the state’s Black Belt and parts of Charleston and Columbia, 65-33.

MARYLAND 6TH DISTRICT. Inside Elections writes that a Democratic strategist has mentioned Hagerstown Mayor Tekesha Martinez as a possible contender, though she hasn’t publicly said anything about running to succeed Senate contender David Trone.

WISCONSIN 1ST and 8TH DISTRICTS. While Republican Rep. Bryan Steil had no trouble winning reelection last year in a southeastern Wisconsin seat that only narrowly backed Donald Trump, one prominent Democrat thinks that 2024 could be very different―and he may be right, especially if the incoming progressive majority on the state Supreme Court strikes down the state’s gerrymandered congressional map. A notable Democrat is also mulling a campaign to the northeast against Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher around Green Bay, but as we’ll discuss, his 8th District would likely be a tough lift even with new boundaries.

We’ll start in the 1st District, where Steil was elected in 2018 to succeed none other than Speaker Paul Ryan. Following the most recent round of redistricting, the new map dropped Trump’s 2020 margin of victory from 54-45 to just 50-48, but the incumbent won his third term last year by a comfortable 54-45 spread against an underfunded foe. Liberals fared considerably better here, though, in last month’s officially nonpartisan Supreme Court race, as analyst Drew Savicki calculated that progressive Janet Protasiewicz carried the district 53-47 as part of her 56-44 statewide rout.

While no prominent names have publicly expressed interest in taking on Steil just yet, Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan recently told WisPolitics that he sees a way to win in both the 1st and 3rd, another GOP-held district in the state’s southwestern corner. Pocan, who represents the safely blue 2nd District right between the other two seats, listed several local elected officials he thinks could run strong campaigns in the 1st:

  • Racine Mayor Cory Mason
  • former Racine Municipal Judge Rebecca Mason
  • State Rep. Tip McGuire
  • State Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer
  • State Sen. Mark Spreitzer

Rebecca Mason, who stepped down four years ago, is married to Cory Mason, who won reelection last month 57-43 against a Republican alderman. Steil, for his part, didn’t rule out leaving the House to wage a campaign against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin back in late March, but he’s rarely been mentioned as a potential statewide candidate.

The situation is quite a bit different in the Green Bay area where OB-GYN Kristin Lyerly, who is one of the three doctors participating in Attorney General Josh Kaul’s challenge to the state’s 1849 abortion ban, says she’s thinking about taking on Gallagher. Lyerly, who lost a campaign against GOP state Rep. John Macco 52-48 in 2020 as Trump was carrying his 88th Assembly District 50-48, acknowledged that it would be difficult to win here in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel but added, “But I did my OB-GYN residency with four kids under 10. I have no fear of hard work.”

It would indeed take a good deal of hard work for any Democrat to prevail in a constituency that favored Trump by a wide 57-41 in 2020 and that Savicki says backed conservative Dan Kelly 52-48 over Protasiewicz. It’s possible that Gallagher, whom NRSC chair Steve Daines has talked up as a potential Baldwin foe, won’t be around to defend the 8th, though Republicans would still be the favorites to hold it. (The congressman continues to evade questions about his plans, though like Steil he’s yet to actually say no to a Senate run.)

But the most important question is whether the 2024 elections will be fought under different boundaries. Protasiewicz, who blasted the state’s GOP-crafted maps as “rigged” during her campaign, will give progressives a majority on the bench when she takes office on Aug. 1, and the liberal group Law Forward says it plans to file a suit soon thereafter arguing that the state constitution forbids partisan gerrymandering. Northeast Wisconsin’s hard turn to the right during the Trump era means that even a fairer congressional map may not be enough to threaten the GOP’s control of Gallagher’s seat, but it could make life tougher for Steil.

P.S. As Pocan alluded, Badger State Democrats are also hoping to retake Southwestern Wisconsin’s 3rd District. Republican Derrick Van Orden beat Democratic state Sen. Brad Pfaff 52-48 last year, two years after Trump carried it by the same margin, and Savicki says that Protasiewicz won this seat 55-45. However, a new court-drawn congressional map could also make this district more winnable for Democrats just like it could the 1st.

The Journal-Sentinel reported in late March that Pfaff was considering a rematch, though there have been no updates about his plans since then. In that same article, though, businesswoman Rebecca Cooke and former CIA officer Deb McGrath, who both lost the primary to Pfaff, each showed some interest in running again.

“Sarah Hughes (D), who won a gold medal in figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics, has filed to run for Congress in New York, joining several other Democrats seeking to unseat Rep. Anthony Esposito (R-NY),” the AP reports.

“Hughes was just 16 when she scored her upset win over teammate Michelle Kwan at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. She later earned an undergraduate degree from Yale and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.”

TEXAS 32ND DISTRICT. Trauma surgeon Brian H. Williams, who attracted national attention in 2016 when he treated Dallas police officers wounded by a sniper, on Wednesday became the first notable candidate to announce a bid to succeed his fellow Democrat, Senate contender Colin Allred. Republicans made this northern Dallas district safely blue in order to protect their members elsewhere in the area, and plenty of other Democrats will likely consider bids for this racially diverse constituency.

Williams became a prominent figure seven years ago after he cared for several of the injured officers in an attack that resulted in five police deaths, and he said days later, “I want the Dallas police officers to see me, a Black man.” He continued, “I support you. I will defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I do not fear you.” Williams went on to chair the local board charged with overseeing the Dallas Police Department, and he later became a gun safety activist and advisor for Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

CALIFORNIA 47TH DISTRICT. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has endorsed former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh in his bid for California’s open 47th Congressional District. McCarthy’s involvement comes a month after businessman Max Ukropina became the second notable Republican to enter the race.

Last year, Baugh, who served in the state Assembly in the 1990s, lost by a 52-48 margin to Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, who is now running for Senate. Baugh also unsuccessfully ran for the predecessor version of this district in 2018 when it was still represented by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. In the top-two primary where Rohrabacher easily took first place, Baugh nearly shut Democrats out of the general election when he finished in fourth just behind the party’s two leading contenders; Democrat Harley Rouda went on to unseat Rohrabacher that fall.

NEW YORK 18TH DISTRICT. Alison Esposito, who was the GOP’s 2022 nominee for lieutenant governor, tells the New York Post she is indeed considering taking on Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan next year.

DENVER MAYOR. The Denver Republican Party has endorsed former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough over her fellow Democrat, former state Sen. Mike Johnston, ahead of the June 6 nonpartisan general election. The local GOP, which is usually a marginal presence in a city that Joe Biden took 80-18, praised her for speaking at one of its events and argued, “We do not know how she will govern if she wins, but Brough stands out by not using Marxist vocabulary and by actually addressing taxpaying residents’ concerns.”

The super PAC supporting former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough has launched what appears to be the first negative TV ad of the entire race, a piece that argues former state Sen. Mike Johnston has “lied about his leadership.” But not only was Johnston quick to cry foul, local CBS political specialist Shaun Boyd went so far as to say that she wasn’t sure she’d seen a political spot “as botched as this.”

A Better Denver insists that Johnston, who is Brough’s foe in the June 6 general election, improperly claimed credit for the creation of a COVID testing program called COVIDCheck and a gun safety bill. Denverite, though, writes that Johnston actually did help start COVIDCheck when he was in charge of a nonprofit. While the super PAC declared that it altered the ad to change “the words ‘COVIDCheck’ to ‘built Colorado’s testing program,” Boyd responded that Johnston didn’t make this new claim. Several of Johnston’s former legislative colleagues, meanwhile, were quick to praise his work on the 2013 gun safety legislation.

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

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