The Political Report – June 3, 2023

A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll suggests that Gov. Ron DeSantis may have actually lost ground Donald Trump since officially entering the race for the 2024 GOP nomination.

Among potential Republican primary voters, Trump now leads the full field of seven declared candidates with 53%. That’s up from 48% in early May, before DeSantis threw his hat in the ring. And DeSantis now lags further behind than he did just a few weeks ago; his 25% is down from 28% in early May.

Put another way, DeSantis trailed Trump by 20 points in the previous Yahoo News/YouGov poll. Today, he trails by 28 points.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. “Senate GOP recruiters are making a renewed push to lure Rep. Mike Gallagher into Wisconsin’s Senate race,” Politico reports.  “Gallagher, a four-term member who represents the northeastern portion of the state, is considering a run against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. National Republicans have concluded he would be their strongest possible nominee and are eagerly courting him.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR. New Hampshire Democrat Cinde Warmington, who is her party’s only member on the state’s unique Executive Council, on Thursday became the first notable candidate to announce a bid for governor next year. That post is currently held by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who has won his last three contests with ease but has loudly hinted that he won’t run for reelection—possibly to run for the White House. But whether or not Sununu makes a long-shot bid for the presidency, his departure would give Democrats a strong chance to reclaim his office after eight years in the wilderness.

Warmington devoted much of her kickoff video to emphasizing her support for abortion rights, though she also told viewers she didn’t care what Sununu’s political future holds. But with the governor likely to pursue other options, Warmington probably won’t have the primary to herself: Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig formed an exploratory committee a month ago, and WMUR writes she’s “expected to officially enter the race soon.” On the GOP side, meanwhile, former state Senate President Chuck Morse said last month he’d run if Sununu bails, and several other Republicans are also considering doing likewise.

Warmington, who also works as a health care attorney, was elected in 2020 to the powerful Executive Council, a powerful body that Sununu himself previously served on. The five-member Council, whose members are elected in district-level contests, is tasked with approving any state contracts over $10,000 as well as the governor’s appointments to the judiciary and state agencies, gubernatorial pardons, and a large portion of the budget. Warmington has been the Council’s lone Democrat during her entire tenure, a record she alluded to in launching her gubernatorial campaign by calling herself the “last line of defense against Republican overreach and extremism.”

Warmington’s kickoff comes at a time when Granite State Democrats are hoping to capitalize on a surprisingly good 2022 cycle in this longtime swing state. While Republicans had counted on a red wave that would wash aside Sen. Maggie Hassan and Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster, all three incumbents convincingly turned back extremist foes.

And though Sununu’s 57-41 victory proved that ticket splitting remains alive and well in New Hampshire, Democrats made big gains in the state House despite a new Republican gerrymander. That momentum has continued this year, with Democrats turning in strong performances in a pair of House special elections, and they could even tie the chamber if they win another special this summer.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. It seems we’re doomed to months more of waiting to see whether not-Gov. Kari Lake will seek the Republican nomination for Senate, as Time’s Eric Cortellessa writes that she now plans to decide in September or October. As for how likely she is to eventually announce she’s in, one of her former staffers says, “I wouldn’t say 100%. But I really do think 99% is a very fair number.” This Senate seat is held by Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema, who also hasn’t revealed her plans.

Lake, for now, is devoting her attention to spreading more lies about her 2022 loss to actual-Gov. Katie Hobbs and readying a nationwide tour to promote her memoir, but Cortellessa says her delay has made other would-be GOP contenders restless. Blake Masters, who was one of the party’s worst Senate candidates last cycle, reportedly doesn’t want to take on Lake, but Cortellessa writes that he’s not content to wait her out. Democrats might love a Masters reprise, though the article adds that unnamed state Republicans “have been impressed with Masters’ introspection” since his 51-45 loss to Sen. Mark Kelly.

So far, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb has the GOP side to himself, but Cortellessa adds that even conservatives who respect Lamb still doubt he could beat Lake. Meanwhile, wealthy businessman Jim Lamon, who lost last year’s primary to Masters, is sending out mixed messages about his interest in another try. Though he said in April he was supporting Lamb, Time reports he’s now told people he could run against Lake if no real alternative presents itself.

“The delay is leaving the field of other potential GOP candidates stuck in a state of limbo as they await her decision. Lake remains highly popular among a plurality of Arizona Republicans, positioning her as the immediate frontrunner for her party’s nomination. Several prospective Senate hopefuls have been holding back until they know for certain what the right-wing sensation known for her Trump-inspired theatrical fearlessness will do. It’s creating an especially difficult dilemma for those with a smaller national profile, who would need more time to get their fundraising and ground operation off the ground.”

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. An advisor for former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey, who played first base for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in a 19-season career that ended in 1987, says he’s considering running as a Republican in next year’s top-two primary. “We should have a decision made here in the next few weeks,” GOP strategist Andy Gharakhani told the Los Angeles Times’ Seema Mehta about the 1974 National League MVP. Mehta writes that, while Garvey, a 10-time All-Star, knows he’d be a longshot, he wants to give his party “a prominent name at the top of the ballot.”

Garvey, the story notes, also talked about running for the Senate in 1981 back when the state was far from the dark blue bastion it is now, and he also showed some interest in eventually succeeding fellow Californian Ronald Reagan as president. In 1988, he again expressed enthusiasm running for office sometime in the following decade, remarking, “We’ve had an actor in the White House. Why not a first baseman?” The only campaign Garvey has undertaken so far, though, is an as-yet unsuccessful effort to join the Hall of Fame.

“Former Los Angeles Dodgers icon Steve Garvey is considering running for the open U.S. Senate seat in California as a Republican, a move that would immediately upend the 2024 race, according to several GOP state party insiders and operatives who requested anonymity to discuss the former All-Star’s plans,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“The 74-year-old has never held elected office but has been meeting with GOP donors and leaders around the state as he weighs a bid and is expected to make a decision within the next month or so.”

MARYLAND U.S. SENATOR. Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks held a rally on Thursday at which she was endorsed by endorsed by Rep. Steny Hoyer, who spent 20 years as the No. 2 Democrat in the House. Hoyer stepped down from his leadership post after the 2022 elections, but he’s long been an influential force in Maryland politics and continues to represent a dark blue district in the D.C. suburbs.

Playbook: “The former House majority leader, sometimes a kingmaker in Maryland, is a big get for Alsobrooks — and a blow for Rep. David Trone (D), who’s also in the Democratic primary. Might it signal that Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) will choose not to run?”

Said Raskin to Politico: “I’m still thinking about throwing my bandana in the ring.”

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. Wealthy businessman and Navy SEAL veteran Tim Sheehy finally confirmed to the HuffPost’s Chris D’Angelo that he’s thinking of challenging Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, though he didn’t give any timeline for when he’d decide. Sheehy’s interest was hardly a secret, however, as Axios first reported back in March that NRSC chair Steve Daines―who is also Montana’s junior senator―has been trying to recruit him.

Sheehy, notes D’Angelo, is a Minnesota native who only moved to the state in 2014, something D’Angelo notes “can create headaches when running for public office” in Montana. Indeed, Tester used every chance he got in his victorious 2018 campaign to remind voters that his opponent, Matt Rosendale, was originally from Maryland and had only relocated 16 years prior. Rosendale, who now represents the eastern half of the state in the House, himself hasn’t ruled out trying to avenge that defeat.

WASHINGTON GOVERNOR. State Sen. Mark Mullet said Thursday that he’d enter the top-two primary to replace retiring Gov. Jay Inslee, a fellow Democrat who backed an intra-party challenge to Mullet in an expensive—and nearly successful—campaign to oust him from the legislature three years ago.

The state senator, who has campaigned as a moderate in the past, kicked off his new bid by telling the Seattle Times he’s supported Democratic priorities like abortion rights, gun safety, and environmental protection. However, he also argued that his belief that “[y]ou can’t tax your way out of every problem facing Washington state” sets him apart from his main intra-party foes, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

Mullet beat Republicans in what was a swing district in both 2012 and 2016, but Inslee lost patience with him ahead of the 2020 elections. The governor, citing the incumbent’s opposition to his climate bills, endorsed a challenge from the left by Ingrid Anderson for what had become a dependably blue seat. Anderson hit Mullet for opposing taxes on capital gains and banks, while the teachers union also sought to beat him after clashing with the senator over his support for charter schools.

The Washington Realtors and business groups, though, sided with Mullet in a campaign that saw a hefty $3 million in outside spending. Anderson actually edged out Mullet by 1% in the primary, where they were the only two candidates, but Mullet bounced back in the general election to prevail by just 57 votes in a contest that took six weeks and a hand recount to settle. “It was a shot across the bow what they did in my race,” Mullet later said of the effort, adding, “Even though I won, they sent a very powerful message to other people not willing to vote for their policies that they will be willing to take them out.”

Former Gov. Christine Gregoire, who served from 2005 to 2013, has endorsed the “exploratory campaign for governor” of her fellow Democrat, Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

A bipartisan pair of political consultants mention 2022 GOP Senate nominee Tiffany Smiley as a possible candidate for governor to Crosscut, but there’s no word if she’s interested.

INDIANA GOVERNOR. Disgraced former Attorney General Curtis Hill tells the Hamilton County Reporter that he is indeed considering running in next year’s Republican primary for governor. Hill narrowly lost renomination at the 2020 convention to former Rep. Todd Rokita two years after multiple women accused the attorney general of groping them.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. The RGA’s State Solutions affiliate has launched what the GOP firm Medium Buying says is a $325,000 opening general election ad campaign against Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear, though its first commercial is the same one it used against him in mid-April. The spot targets Beshear for vetoing a bill that bans gender-affirming care for young trans people, something the GOP-dominated legislature quickly overrode.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Republican Rep. Warren Davidson has announced he won’t run for Senate against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown next year, avoiding a potential headache for establishment Republicans in one of their top pickup opportunities this cycle. The far-right Davidson had been urged to run by the anti-tax hardliners at the Club for Growth, who had reportedly promised to spend on his behalf if he had joined the Republican primary.

Davidson’s decision to stay put helps ease the path for wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno to consolidate Trump-supporting primary voters, though Secretary of State Frank LaRose could still join the race and recently said he would decide “by the middle part of summer.” Moreno has won praise from Trump himself and a recent endorsement from GOP Sen. J.D. Vance, and he currently faces wealthy state Sen. Matt Dolan, an avowed Trump critic who unsuccessfully ran against Vance in the primary for Ohio’s other Senate seat when it was open last year.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Politico relays that state Treasurer Stacy Garrity isn’t ruling out running for the GOP nomination to face Democratic Sen. Bob Casey next year instead of seeking reelection, though Garrity acknowledged that taking on the three-term senator is “going to be tough no matter who runs against him.” Garrity won her current office in 2020 when she unseated Democratic incumbent Joseph Torsella 49-48 in an upset even as Biden was pulling off his own close win, and she has gone on to endorse Trump’s 2020 election conspiracy theories.

Politico also reports that Carla Sands, a wealthy donor who was Trump’s ambassador to Denmark, isn’t ruling out a run of her own, though she took a distant fourth place with only 5% when she ran in the primary for Pennsylvania’s other Senate seat last year.

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. East Carolina University has polled next year’s Senate contest in West Virginia and finds Republican Gov. Jim Justice in a dominant position to win. Justice holds a 53-12 lead over Rep. Alex Mooney in the primary and would go on to trounce Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin 54-32 if he’s the nominee next year. The poll also tested Mooney against Manchin and finds the congressman leading by a much smaller 41-40 spread.

NORTH DAKOTA and NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, whom multiple media outlets report has decided to wage a longshot GOP presidential bid, has “a special announcement” set for June 7, while New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Sunday he’d decide on his own White House plans “in the next week or two.” Both Republicans could seek reelection in 2024 should their presidential hopes fail, though Sununu sounds unlikely to run again for his current post.

TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL. Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday appointed former Secretary of State John Scott as interim attorney general to replace incumbent Ken Paxton, who was automatically suspended last week when the state House impeached him. Paxton, who like Abbott and Scott is a Republican, would resume his duties if he avoids being convicted by two-thirds of the state Senate, while we recently detailed what would happen to this office should he be removed.

PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL. Former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale became the first notable candidate from either party to announce a bid for attorney general, a high-profile position that will be open in 2024. The current incumbent, Democrat Michelle Henry, was named to the post after her longtime boss and predecessor, Josh Shapiro, was elected governor last year. Prior to her confirmation by the state Senate, Henry said she would not seek election to a full term.

DePasquale, a Democrat, was first elected statewide in 2012, and he secured a second term four years later by a 50-45 margin even as Donald Trump was unexpectedly pulling off a narrow victory in Pennsylvania. He was last on the ballot in 2020 when he lost to far-right Rep. Scott Perry 53-47 as Trump was taking the Harrisburg-based 10th District by a smaller 51-48 spread.

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

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