The Political Report – June 4, 2023

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “In 2020, Donald Trump would have needed to flip 37 additional Electoral College votes to reach 269, thereby winning an effective majority in the Electoral College, thanks to a likely Republican advantage if the Electoral College produces a tied outcome.”

“The 2024 Electoral College map will reflect the 2020 census’s reallocation of electoral votes. Using this new map, the GOP will need to flip 34 electoral votes (down from 37) to reach 269.”

“Using 2020 presidential election results, we can map out the different paths that Trump had to winning 269 electoral votes. These routes give us a template for how presidential candidates might plan their strategies for next year’s election.”

“Flipping Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin is likely the GOP’s best chance at winning back the presidency. But there are other viable routes to 269 as well that involve Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE HOUSE. New Hampshire officials just scheduled a pivotal special election in the Republican-run state House that could see each party wind up with exactly 200 seats in the chamber and potentially put control of the body up for grabs.

The state Executive Council on Wednesday ordered that a primary for Rockingham County’s 1st District take place on Aug. 1, with a general election on Sept. 19. If, however, only one Republican and one Democrat file by the June 9 deadline, then the primary would be skipped and the general election would get bumped up to the day that nominating contests would have otherwise been held.

The district in question became vacant after Republican Rep. Benjamin Bartlett, who also works for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, resigned in April, citing health issues. However, a report in the Boston Globe (building off a post by blogger Doug Bates) suggested that the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity, may have played a role.

Whatever the reason for his departure, Bartlett’s district is a competitive one: Donald Trump carried it by less than a point in 2020, 49.1 to 48.7, and the trends appear to be favorable for Democrats, since Trump’s margin in 2016 was more than 8 points. Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, meanwhile, won the district 50-48 during her successful campaign for reelection last year as Democrats fell just 10 votes shy of securing one of the district’s three seats. (Only one seat will be up in the special.)

At the moment, Republicans hold 200 seats in the House and Democrats 198, with a separate special election for a safely blue seat likely this fall. If Democrats prevail in both, that would lead to an exact 200-all tie, though it’s not clear whether control of the chamber would immediately be impacted. That’s because at least five Democrats voted for Republican Sherman Packard as speaker, and they may or may not be interested in returning to the fold. (We don’t know who those wayward Democrats are, by the way, because the speaker is elected via secret ballot.)

However, more specials are likely, particularly after the current legislative session adjourns on June 29, which is when a new budget must pass. Party leaders will undoubtedly try to forestall more resignations, but turnover is always high in the New Hampshire House, where lawmakers are paid just $100 a year. And given Democratic success in special elections both in the Granite State and nationwide this year, there’s good reason to think they’ll be able to increase their numbers as the opportunity arises.

DENVER MAYOR. Campaign finance reports show the super PAC supporting former state Sen. Mike Johnston is finishing with a huge financial lead over former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough’s allies ahead of next week’s general election between the two Democrats. Advancing Denver, according to the Colorado Gazette, outpaced A Better Denver $1.6 million to $380,000 from April 5 through May 30.

The pro-Johnston PAC’s major donors, notes Colorado Newsline, are some of the same people who supported his unsuccessful 2018 campaign for governor: LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; former Davita CEO Kent Thiry; and hedge fund managers John Arnold and Steve Mandel. The largest funder for Brough’s side for the general election Pete Coors, who was the 2004 GOP nominee for Senate.

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien said Wednesday he would not enter the upcoming special Democratic primary.

Democratic Rep. David Cicilline resigned from Congress as planned on Wednesday following his vote to raise the debt ceiling, which allowed Gov. Dan McKee to officially schedule the special election to succeed him. The dates McKee set match the “tentative calendar” that he rolled out in March: The party primaries for this 64-35 Biden constituency will take place on Sept. 5, which is one day after Labor Day, while the general election is set for Nov. 7.

Anyone who wants to run would need to submit paperwork by June 30, though there’s still another important step. Candidates will have between July 6 and July 14 to gather 500 valid signatures to make the ballot, and they must turn them in by the final day of that period.

Sixteen Democrats have already announced their campaigns in a race where there’s no obvious frontrunner, and the field could swell further over the next month. One notable Democrat, however, just took his name out of the running: While former Attorney General Patrick Lynch didn’t rule out running right after Cicilline announced his departure in February, he said this week he’d instead back former Biden administration official Gabe Amo.

OHIO 9TH DISTRICT. J.R. Majewski, who was last year’s disastrous GOP nominee, said Tuesday night that he was ending his rematch campaign against Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur following his mother’s recent surgery. Majewski’s departure is a relief to Republicans, who did not look forward to the prospect of having him again as their standard bearer following his 57-43 landslide loss.

NEW JERSEY 7TH DISTRICT. Working Families Party state director Sue Altman on Wednesday became the first major candidate to announce a bid for the Democratic nod to take on freshman GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr. Joe Biden took this North Jersey seat 51-47, while Kean flipped it last year by ousting Democratic incumbent Tom Malinowski by an unexpectedly small 51-49 margin.

Altman, as we recently wrote, is a first-time contender, but she became a prominent force in state politics over the last decade by challenging the power of longtime party boss George Norcross. (Her organization is the state affiliate of the national Working Families Party, which usually backs progressive Democrats rather than run its own general election candidates.) Altman, Politico detailed last year, has been a crucial backer of Gov. Phil Murphy, especially during his first term when he worked to pass his agenda over Norcross supporters in the legislature.

INDIANA 5TH DISTRICT. While there was some talk during the winter that pastor Micah Beckwith could run to succeed retiring Rep. Victoria Spartz, who beat him in the 2020 GOP primary, Beckwith instead filed this week to campaign for lieutenant governor.

COLORADO 8TH DISTRICT. Weld County Commissioner Scott James, reports Inside Elections, is considering seeking the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo. Joe Biden carried this constituency in the northern Denver suburbs and Greeley area 51-46, while Caraveo won her seat 48.4-47.7 last year.

ARIZONA 3RD DISTRICT. Phoenix City Councilmember Laura Pastor on Wednesday joined the busy Democratic primary to succeed Senate candidate Ruben Gallego in this dark blue seat. Pastor is the daughter of the late Rep. Ed Pastor, who represented previous versions of this constituency from 1991 until he retired in 2015, and she’s been talked about as a likely House candidate for years.

Chatter about her plans intensified in December of 2021 when she urged the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to revise its proposed congressional map to place a heavily Latino part of Phoenix in Gallego’s seat, a change that would have made Republican Rep. David Schweikert’s new 1st District reliably red. Pastor, who represented most of this area, said that she was acting to make sure the city’s “historic core,” heavily LGBTQ neighborhoods, and other locations weren’t split; however, skeptics argued she was willing to protect Schweikert in order to boost her own prospects in a future contest to succeed Gallego. But the dramatic changes Pastor wanted didn’t happen, and Schweikert went on to only narrowly win re-election.

MARYLAND 6TH DISTRICT. Del. Lesley Lopez declared Thursday that she’d seek the nod for the seat that Rep. David Trone, a fellow Democrat, is giving up to run for the Senate. Lopez, who recently led the legislature’s women’s caucus, is the granddaughter of immigrants from the Philippines, and she’d be the first Asian American person to represent Maryland in Congress. She joins another state delegate, Joe Vogel, in the primary for this 54-44 Biden constituency.

CALIFORNIA 40TH DISTRICT. Retired Orange County Fire Capt. Joe Kerr confirmed this week that he’d join Allyson Damikolas, a fellow Democrat and a local school board trustee, in the top-two primary to face GOP Rep. Young Kim. Kerr, who has described himself as a “centrist” in the past, waged unsuccessful campaigns for the Orange County Board of Supervisors and state Senate in 2018 and 2022, respectively.

Kerr’s first bid ended when he finished just 454 votes behind fellow Democrat Doug Chaffee in what was an officially nonpartisan primary, just missing out on the second spot in the general election. (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’s 2022 campaign for the legislature was considerably more anticlimactic, however. Democratic leaders consolidated behind Catherine Blakespear, who beat him out 43-11 for the second general election slot and went on to prevail in the fall.

MICHIGAN 7TH DISTRICT. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said Thursday that she wouldn’t run to succeed Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a fellow Democrat, in this competitive seat. No major contenders from either party have entered the race yet, though Democrats may not need to wait too much longer to see if former state Sen. Curtis Hertel will get in. Hertel, who currently serves as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s legislative director, hasn’t said anything publicly about his interest, but the Detroit News writes he could launch as soon as next month, once the state budget is finished.

On the GOP side, 2022 nominee Tom Barrett has yet to kick off a second campaign despite sounding almost certain three months ago. A consultant for Barrett, a far-right extremist who lost to Slotkin by a surprisingly wide 52-46 margin, told the Lansing State Journal in late February that his client “plans to” try again and would announce sometime in the next few weeks. But the paper noted Thursday that Barrett still hasn’t said he’s in, though the Detroit News wrote on Thursday that he’s still “expected” to run.

UTAH 2ND DISTRICT. A day after announcing his resignation, Republican Rep. Chris Stewart told Roll Call he’ll probably make his departure official sometime in September, saying, “We’re trying to work out the best date for the state and also we want to help with appropriations bills and get some work finished here.” Stewart’s would-be GOP successors, though, are already expressing interest in running to succeed him in the upcoming special election for a gerrymandered seat that Donald Trump took 57-40.

Quite a few people have already expressed interest in running to various media outlets, including the Salt Lake TribuneKSLN, and Fox 13:

  • state party activist Kathleen Anderson
  • former state party chair Derek Brown
  • former state Rep. Becky Edwards
  • state party official Jordan Hess
  • state Sen. Mike Kennedy
  • 2022 candidate Erin Rider
  • Washington County Commissioner Adam Snow
  • state Sen. Todd Weiler
  • Salt Lake County Council member Aimee Winder Newton

Edwards, who lost last year’s GOP primary to Sen. Mike Lee 62-30, told KSLN that “I intend to run,” while Weiler disclosed to Fox 13 on Wednesday his own decision would come “in the next couple of days.”

Per the Tribune and KUTV, several others are also reportedly considering but haven’t yet spoken publicly:

  • state party chair Rob Axson
  • Republican National Committeeman Bruce Hough
  • former state House Speaker Greg Hughes
  • state Sen. Dan McCay
  • The paper also mentions a few others as possibilities:
  • businessman Brad Bonham
  • former state Rep. Kim Coleman
  • academic Henry Eyring
  • Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson

In the “no” column are state Rep. Walt Brooks and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who is challenging Sen. Mitt Romney.

On the Democratic side, state Sen. Kathleen Riebe has announced she’s in. Former Rep. Ben McAdams, who represented the 4th District from 2019 to 2021 under the previous map, didn’t quite reject the idea of a comeback, though he told the Tribune he was unlikely to try one now. Finally, unnamed allies of conservative independent Evan McMullin, who unsuccessfully challenged Lee last year in the general election, tell the paper he’s “being encouraged to run.”

“Jamie Dimon said pursuing a political career has crossed his mind amid speculation about what might come next for the chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase,” Bloomberg reports. Dimon “wants to be president,” but “doesn’t want to run for president,” Fox News reports. Yeah, that’s not how that works.

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

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