The Political Report – June 22, 2023

“The battle for Virginia’s future — and 2023’s biggest down-ballot elections in the country — can now begin in earnest,” Politico reports.

“Gov. Glenn Youngkin aims for unified Republican control in a state that hasn’t gone for a GOP presidential candidate since George W. Bush, and Democrats hope to retake enough seats to defend abortion rights in the state.”

“Both parties are expected to dominate the airwaves over the next five months, with every single legislative seat across the two chambers up for grabs in November. Virginia is one of two states with a split legislature — Democrats have a slim majority in the state Senate while Republicans have a narrow one in the state House — and both parties believe they have a viable path to controlling either chamber.”

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) is verging on total control of state government — a potential sea change with major implications for 2024, Politico reports.

“If Republicans achieve dominance, Youngkin could see his star rise even further. Youngkin, who hasn’t entirely closed the door on running for president, could use total control of the state legislature to pass a conservative agenda in a blue-leaning state. And of course, what happens in Virginia is always viewed as a sign of things to come.”

Donald Trump appeared to mix up his Kennedys during an interview on Fox News, referring to Democratic presidential hopeful Robert Kennedy Jr. as “JFK Jr.” at one point.

Trump insisted that he knows the Kennedy scion “very well.”

“Marianne Williamson has lost her second campaign manager in as many months in what has proven to be a rocky 2024 presidential bid,” Politico reports.

VIRGINIA STATE SENATE. Former Del. Lashrecse Aird won Tuesday’s Democratic primary for a seat in the Virginia state Senate by defeating scandal-plagued incumbent Joe Morrissey, a self-described “unapologetically pro-life” lawmaker who has long been one of the most conservative Democrats in the legislature, in a 69-31 landslide.

Morrissey’s defeat in the reliably blue 13th District outside of Richmond comes months ahead of a Nov. 7 general election where all 40 seats in the upper chamber are on the ballot for four-year terms. Democrats are looking to defend their 22-18 majority under a brand-new map, and they’ll be relieved that they’ll no longer need to worry about the ever-present possibility that Morrissey could provide a crucial vote for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s agenda.

For decades, Morrissey confounded observers by surviving an endless series of scandals that most recently included allegations by his estranged wife that he’d abused her and had sex with her when she was still a minor. The senator, though, became the pivotal vote in the chamber following the 2021 elections, when Youngkin flipped the governorship and Republicans took back control of the House of Delegates. (Aird that year narrowly lost her campaign for reelection to Republican Kim Taylor.)

The Senate was not on the ballot that year, but Democrats held just a 21-19 edge at the time. Had Morrissey ever chosen to side with Republicans on any given vote—as he sometimes threatened to do—Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears’ would have been able to break ties in the GOP’s favor.

Democrats’ greatest fear was that Morrissey would break ranks on abortion, especially after he cosponsored a proposal to largely ban abortion after 20 weeks and said he was open to backing Youngkin’s own anti-abortion bills. But Democrats got a reprieve in January when Aaron Rouse flipped a GOP-held district in a special election in the Virginia Beach area that focused heavily on abortion.

Virginia Democrats, though, recognized that it would take the loss of just one seat in November to restore Morrissey to his previous position in the cat-bird seat, and they worked overtime to avoid that scenario. Aird, who declared she was “100% pro-choice,” earned endorsements from U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, multiple members of the House, and all six women in the party’s Senate caucus, as well as from abortion rights heavyweights like Planned Parenthood.

Morrissey pushed back by insisting he probably would have opposed Youngkin’s proposed 15-week abortion ban, though he simultaneously mocked Aird’s focus on the issue. He also tried to attack Aird for the support she received from Clean Virginia, an environmental group founded by hedge fund CEO Michael Bills. “My opponent is a one-trick pony: ‘Let me just talk about abortion; let me borrow a half-million dollars from my billionaire friend in Charlottesville; let me flood the airwaves with that and let me try to steal a state Senate seat,” he told the Associated Press.

Morrissey, for his part, received large contributions from Dominion Energy, the mammoth energy producer that Clean Virginia argues has far too much influence in state politics. But not only did Aird decisively outraise Morrissey, the incumbent also faced the challenge of introducing himself to many voters he’d never represented before. This was the first election to take place using a revamped Senate map drawn by the state Supreme Court, and Morrissey only represented about 45% of the residents of the new 13th District.

Aird’s win makes her the heavy favorite this fall in a district that, according to data from Dave’s Redistricting App, supported Joe Biden 62-37 in 2020 and Democrat Terry McAuliffe 57-42 in the 2021 election for governor, even as he was losing statewide to Youngkin. But the battle for both legislative chambers is only getting started, and because Earle-Sears won’t have to face the voters again until 2025, Senate Democrats can only afford to lose one seat if they’re to retain control.

VIRGINIA. A trio of reform-minded Democratic commonwealth’s attorneys won renomination in populous Northern Virginia communities, and all three prosecutors are favored in the fall. Fairfax County’s Steve Descano turned back defense attorney Ed Nuttall 55-45 in the largest county in the state. Loudoun County’s Buta Biberaj likewise held off former public defender Elizabeth Lancaster 56-44, while Arlington County’s Parisa Dehghani-Tafti scored a similar 57-43 victory over former subordinate Josh Katcher.

OHIO REDISTRICTING. A leading Ohio Republican says the state may once again use the congressional map that the state Supreme Court struck down last year as an illegal partisan gerrymander, in continued defiance of the court’s order last July to redraw it.

According to the Ohio Capital Journal, Senate President Matt Huffman cited the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to say whether it will take up a Republican appeal of the case as the reason for lawmakers’ ongoing delay. The ACLU of Ohio, a redistricting litigant, blasted that argument last year when it was advanced by House Speaker Bob Cupp, saying there was “no legitimate way” for Republicans to ignore the state Supreme Court’s deadline.

Huffman also says he expects the state’s GOP-dominated redistricting commission to draw new legislative maps by September. Last year, a federal court allowed elections for the state Senate and state House to go forward using districts that the state Supreme Court had similarly ruled were illegal gerrymanders, but the federal court specified those lines could only be used for 2022.

NEW JERSEY U.S. SENATOR and 7TH DISTRICT. Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello tells the New Jersey Globe that he’ll decide “this week” if he’ll abandon his longshot Democratic primary bid against Sen. Robert Menendez and instead challenge freshman GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr. Signorello’s entire 14,000-person community is located in Democratic Rep. Donald Payne’s 10th District, but Signorello says he lives “five minutes away” from Kean’s constituency. Working Families Party state director Sue Altman currently is the only major candidate seeking the Democratic nod for the 7th.

MISSISSIPPI U.S. SENATOR. Far-right state Rep. Dan Eubanks tells Mississippi Today that he’ll wage a longshot bid to deny renomination to Republican incumbent Roger Wicker, a development that comes two months after the challenger set up a fundraising committee. Eubanks, who said in 2020 his family would not be getting vaccinated for COVID, introduced a pair of bills the next year to criminalize abortion and to prevent employers from requiring COVID vaccines.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. State Sen. Matt Dolan has launched the very first TV commercials of next year’s GOP Senate primary, and the wealthy candidate’s team tells Fox it’s putting seven figures behind the opening TV and digital campaign. The Cleveland Guardians part-owner attacks Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown on border security and ignores Dolan’s only serious intra-party opponent, fellow self-funder Bernie Moreno.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Tom Tiffany over the weekend told reporters at the state GOP convention that he’d decide in the next month and a half if he’d challenge Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin, while wealthy businessman Eric Hovde said he might make his own choice by early September. Hovde, who narrowly lost the 2012 primary for this seat, previously indicated he’d make up his mind as late as December.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. The RGA’s Kentucky Values affiliate is continuing to weaponize transphobia with its newest spot against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, a strategy it began two months ago shortly after the GOP-dominated legislature overrode his veto on a bill that bans gender-affirming care for young trans people. The new ad also attacks the governor for commuting the sentences of about 1,700 inmates early in the pandemic.

NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu told WEEI on Friday, “I don’t think I’m going to run again,” adding, “Could I win again? Of course. But it’s [public] service and someone else needs to kind of take the mantle.” The governor also reiterated he’d “make a firm decision this summer.”

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

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