The Political Report – July 15, 2023

New York Times: “Even though Democrats held off a widely expected red wave in the 2022 midterm elections, Republican turnout was in fact stronger, and the party energized key demographic groups including women, Latinos and rural voters, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.”

“The report serves as a warning sign for Democrats ahead of the 2024 presidential election, with early polls pointing toward a possible rematch between President Biden and former President Donald Trump.”

“Though Democrats maintained control of the Senate, all but one of their governor’s mansions and only narrowly lost the House, the Pew data shows that a larger percentage of voters who supported Mr. Trump in 2020 cast ballots in November than those who backed Mr. Biden did. People who had voted in past elections but sat out 2022 were overwhelmingly Democrats.”

FiveThirtyEight: “Initial evidence suggests that, in a rematch between Biden and Trump, a No Labels and/or West campaign could pull marginal support from Biden and subtly shift the election toward Trump.”

“Whether this would actually make for a potential spoiler, though, is a different question: History — and common sense — suggest that these possible third-party candidates would be most likely to affect the outcome if the overall race were close. But in our deeply divided political era, close elections have been the norm, which makes a spoiler candidacy a live possibility.”

Molly Jong-Fast: “Republicans are hoping they can use age as a cudgel to beat the president. But opening the door to this could boomerang back at them. The problem for Republicans is that Biden is only three years older than Trump. In 2020, voters compared the two men and Biden won. It’s hard to imagine how, three years later, Biden will seem less healthy than Trump. After all, Biden is athletic. He starts every morning on the Peloton and lifting weights; he goes to bed early. Biden is photographed exercising, and Trump is known for his love of fast food (though leans more toward McDonald’s than Dairy Queen).”

“There are lots of voters who like fast food more than exercise, myself included, but if your platform is essentially ‘my guy is healthier,’ the fast-food pics are going to hurt your case.”

COLORADO 8TH DISTRICT. Weld County Commissioner Scott James filed FEC paperwork on Wednesday hours after his fellow Republican, 2022 nominee Barbara Kirkmeyer, announced that she’s decided to seek reelection to the state Senate rather than try to avenge her 48.4-47.7 general election loss to now-Rep. Yadira Caraveo. Fellow Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine, a far-right extremist who took third place in last year’s congressional primary, also tells Colorado Politics she’s decided not to run here this cycle. His filing prompted Democrats to immediately blast him for an anti-abortion, Islamophobic rant he delivered as a talk radio host in 2007.

James, as Media Matters documented at the time, declared “the civilization that you know … will be overtaken by those who would like you to practice Sharia law … just by mass numbers” because “the European cheese weenies simply aren’t breeding.” James continued, “You can do the math and see the rapid decline of … civilization,” before saying of the United Kingdom, “Their birth rate declining, the abortion rate increasing. You do the math. You don’t have the sanctity for the life like that, your society will simply extinguish.”

Democrats also went after James, who remained on the radio after winning his seat on the county commission in 2018, for his vote the next year to designate Weld County as a “Second Amendment sanctuary.” That action, which authorized the county sheriff to “exercise of his sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law,” came in response to a new red flag law that allows family and household members, as well as law enforcement officials, to petition a judge to confiscate firearms from an individual they fear is dangerous. “Taking constitutional rights away from citizens under the guise that it is for the ‘greater good’ is a very dangerous path to walk down,” James said at the time, “and one we do not support.”

James launched his campaign to unseat Caraveo hours after fellow Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer, the GOP’s nominee last year, announced that she would seek reelection to the state Senate rather than try to avenge her narrow 48.4-47.7 general election loss. The commissioner is the first notable Republican to join the contest for this constituency in the northern Denver suburbs and Greeley area, turf Joe Biden carried 51-46 in 2020, but he’s not the only one who is thinking about running here.

State Rep. Gabe Evans reiterated his interest Tuesday to the Colorado Sun, while Weld County Commissioner Steve Moreno and former state Rep. Dan Woog both said they were mulling over the idea last month. Multiple publications also reported in June that Joe O’Dea, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet last year, is considering as well, though he’s shown no obvious sign that he’s preparing for another run.

ILLINOIS 12TH DISTRICT. The Republican pollster Cor Strategies finds Rep. Mike Bost fending off 2022 gubernatorial nominee Darren Bailey only 43-37 in the very first poll we’ve seen of their GOP primary fight. Cor, which conducted the survey in the days following Bailey’s announcement, tells us this survey wasn’t done for a client and that they aren’t affiliated with either contender.

KANSAS 3RD DISTRICT. Prasanth Reddy, who is an executive at the healthcare company Labcorp, declared Wednesday that he’d seek the GOP nod to take on Democratic incumbent Sharice Davids. Reddy, who immigrated from India when he was young, would be the first Indian American to represent Kansas in Congress should he defeat Davis in a suburban Kansas City seat the GOP last year unsuccessfully tried to gerrymander her out of.

Reddy, though, isn’t the only Republican in the running. Karen Crnkovich, who owns a plumbing and ventilation business, quietly filed FEC paperwork last month, and her website identifies as her a candidate. Former police officer Jonathon Westbrook, who would be the state’s first Black member of Congress, likewise set up a committee back in May, but he still doesn’t appear to have publicly said if he’s running; Westbrook previously served as a Trump White House fellow and as then-Gov. Sam Brownback’s appointee to two state commissions.

Davids flipped a previous version of this seat in 2018 by unseating GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder, a win that made her both Kansas’ first LGBTQ+ representative and, along with New Mexico Democrat Deb Haaland, the first native American woman to ever serve in Congress. Davids won reelection two years later 54-44 against Republican Amanda Adkins as Joe Biden was carrying her constituency by an identical margin, but legislative Republicans soon used their veto-proof majority to make the 3rd considerably tougher by splitting up the Kansas City area.

Biden only carried the new version of the seat 51-47, and Republicans hoped that new boundaries, as well as their expected red wave, would allow Adkins to win this time. Davids, though, emphasized the Republican’s opposition to abortion rights, as well as her ties to Brownback’s toxic legacy. The congresswoman also got some help at the top of the ticket as Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly performed well in this area in her own successful reelection campaign. Davids, to the surprise of most observers, increased her margin of victory to 55-43, but Republicans are hoping their gerrymander will take her down in 2024.

NEW YORK 22ND DISTRICT. State Sen. John Mannion tells that he’s running in the Democratic primary to take on freshman GOP Rep. Brandon Williams in what will likely be one of the most competitive House races in the country. Mannion joins Utica University professor Clemmie Harris and DeWitt Town Board member Sarah Klee Hood in the nomination fight for a Syracuse-based seat that Joe Biden took 53-45 but where Williams prevailed 50-49 last year.

Mannion himself was elected to his current post on his second try in 2020, a win that made him the first Democrat to represent this area in the state Senate in 50 years. He faced another tough task during the difficult 2022 cycle but ultimately won reelection by just 10 votes, and he now represents about 30% of this congressional district in the legislature. Mannion​, writes City & State, has cultivated a moderate image​ by voting against several bills backed by criminal justice reformers and environmental​ groups, but he’s also enjoyed the backing of the state teachers union. 

WEST VIRGINIA 2ND DISTRICT. West Virginia U.S. House candidate Riley Moore (R), who was endorsed by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, has made six appearances on antisemite Michael Scheuer’s podcast and has praised the host and his “tremendous program,” Media Matters reports.

Scheuer has called for the assassinations of numerous Democrats and said that Jewish people are “disloyal,” “subversive,” and “lethal enemies of Americans” who “must be stopped and then scoured from the continent.”

PENNSYLVANIA 7TH DISTRICT. The Morning Call reports that Republican state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie “is expected to officially announce” later this month that he’ll run for this Lehigh Valley district held by Democratic Rep. Susan Wild, though Mackenzie doesn’t appear to have publicly addressed his interest in the race just yet. Mackenzie has served in the state House since 2012 and previously showed interest in running for a congressional district in this area in two recent cycles but didn’t ultimately end up on the ballot either time.

Last cycle, Mackenzie had filed with the FEC for a potential campaign in the 7th but decided to seek reelection shortly before the state Supreme Court released the new congressional map it had drawn following the 2020 census. Back in the 2018 cycle, Mackenzie went further by declaring a bid to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Charlie Dent in what had been the 15th District, but he dropped out of that contest after the same court struck down the GOP’s gerrymander and replaced it with a fairer map that redrew the red-leaning 15th as a swing district that it also renumbered as the 7th District, which Wild successfully flipped later that year.

If Mackenzie does run, he’d join a primary that includes businessman Kevin Dellicker, who just kicked off his own campaign Monday after falling short by only 51-49 for the GOP nomination last year.

Technology consulting company owner Kevin Dellicker, who came unexpectedly close to winning last year’s GOP primary, on Monday became the first notable candidate to announce a bid to take on Democratic Rep. Susan Wild. Dellicker likely won’t have the field to himself, though, as María Montero, who is the director of public affairs for the Pennsylvania Convention Center last week filed paperwork for this 50-49 Biden constituency in the Lehigh Valley.

Dellicker, as we recently wrote, sought to challenge Wild last year, but he was completely overshadowed in the primary by 2020 nominee Lisa Scheller. It was consequently a major surprise when Scheller, who enjoyed the backing of Kevin McCarthy, only outpaced Dellicker 51-49; Wild went on win a tough general election, also by a 51-49 margin.

OHIO 1ST DISTRICT. Local prosecutor Orlando Sonza on Monday became the first notable Republican to launch a bid against freshman Democratic Rep. Greg Landsman in what’s currently a 53-45 Biden constituency based in Cincinnati, and the Army veteran presently doesn’t have any serious intra-party opposition in sight. The chair of the Hamilton County GOP tells the Cincinnati Inquirer’s Scott Wartman that no other potential candidates have spoken to him about running, while both former Cincinnati City Councilwoman Amy Murray and former state Rep. Tom Brinkman also say they’re not going to take on Landsman.

Sonza last year lost a race for a safely blue state Senate seat 73-27 against Democrat Catherine Ingram, and it doesn’t seem like that campaign trained him for how to deal with the tough questions about abortion rights he can expect coming for him. Sonza used his kickoff to declare he’ll “he will stand up for life,” but he wouldn’t provide an answer when reporters when in a pregnancy he thinks abortion should be banned. The Republican, writes Wartman, then “was whisked away by a staffer after the question was asked.”

It remains to be seen if Republicans will try to redraw Ohio’s already-gerrymandered congressional map to weaken Landsman, though the GOP likely will try to beat him no matter what. Sonza, for his part, insisted, “I don’t have any plans to drop out of this race no matter how this district is drawn,” which may not be quite as strong a statement as he wants it to be.

ILLINOIS 7TH DISTRICT. The Chicago Sun-Times reports via a campaign source that Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, who filed for a potential campaign this spring, will announce in the next few months that she will indeed challenge longtime Rep. Danny Davis in the Democratic primary for this dark blue district. However, Conyears-Ervin’s team only confirmed that she “will make an official announcement this fall.”

The news comes on the heels of Davis’ last primary challenger, gun safety activist Kina Collins, announcing Monday that she would challenge the incumbent from the left again after losing to him just 52-46 last year. If Conyears-Ervin does join the race, doing so could significantly undermine the prospects of either challenger successfully ousting the 14-term incumbent by splitting the votes of those who prefer a new face, since it only takes a plurality to win primaries in Illinois.

Gun safety activist Kina Collins, who came close to beating veteran Rep. Danny Davis in last cycle’s Democratic primary two years after falling well short, tells Politico she’s decided to wage a third campaign. Her declaration comes about two months after the 81-year-old incumbent confirmed he’d seek a 15th term in this safely blue seat based in Chicago’s West Side and downtown.

Collins lost the 2020 primary to Davis 60-14 in a race where the presence of two other challengers made it difficult for anyone to emerge as his main opponent, but their one-on-one rematch was a far more competitive affair. Collins, who became the first Davis foe to ever advertise on televisionblasted the incumbent for missing votes and argued he didn’t do enough to fight for progressive causes. Collins benefited from outside help from the Justice Democrats, though a pro-Davis super PAC also arrived to help him. Biden endorsed Davis two days before he prevailed just 52-46.

Collins launched her newest effort by arguing, “My candidacy presents Danny Davis with the most significant primary challenge of his 25-year career in Congress,” but unlike in 2022, she’s not the only Democrat trying to beat him. Teacher Nikhil Bhatia, who holds an elected post as a member of the Local School Council for the Galileo Scholastic Academy, entered the race in May, though it remains to be seen if he’ll have the resources needed to wage a strong effort. Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin also formed an exploratory committee before Davis announced his plans, and she still hasn’t said if she’ll take on the incumbent or wait for him to retire.

Former Republican state Rep. Dan Brady, who was the GOP’s nominee for secretary of state last year, says he won’t run to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Eric Sorensen here.

CALIFORNIA 49TH DISTRICT. Businesswoman Sheryl Adams, a Republican, has announced she will challenge Democratic Rep. Mike Levin in this coastal seat, which covers southern Orange County and northwestern San Diego County. She joins a top-two primary field that includes businessman and fellow Republican Matt Gunderson.

Adams quickly gained an endorsement from longtime GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents the neighboring 48th District further inland. Issa had previously represented prior versions of the 49th District for 18 years until retiring in 2018, likely to avoid losing to Levin in that year’s blue wave, but he subsequently won the next cycle in an adjacent district.

TEXAS 34TH DISTRICT. Former Republican Rep. Mayra Flores announced Tuesday that she would seek a rematch with Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who convincingly beat her 53-44 in an unusual incumbent vs. incumbent contest last year. National Republicans, however, are hoping that 2024 will be a strong year for them in Rio Grande Valley constituencies like this one.

The Texas Tribune reported last week that, not only was the NRCC working to recruit Flores for a second bout in this Brownsville-based seat, which has the largest Latino population of any House district in America, its late May internal from 1892 Polling found her and Gonzalez deadlocked 42-42. Reporter Patrick Svitek, though, noted that Republicans fell victim to over-optimism in south Texas last cycle, and Flores herself tweeted on election night that “the RED WAVE did not happen.”

Flores’ frustration came at the end of a cycle in which Republicans expected to make huge gains up and down the ballot in a region that had long been reliably Democratic downballot but seemed to be wavering, as her own special election win months earlier had suggested.

Other data supported that notion: Under the previous map, the 34th District, which was represented by Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, had moved dramatically to the right between 2016 and 2020, supporting Hillary Clinton 59-38 but Joe Biden just 52-48. Gonzalez, meanwhile, had represented the neighboring 15th District, which experienced a similar shift.

But the GOP’s new gerrymander and a retirement shuffled the map: Vela opted against seeking reelection, while GOP mapmakers made the 34th District bluer in order to strengthen their position in the neighboring 15th. As a result, the revamped 34th supported Biden 57-42 but the 15th backed Trump 51-48.

Gonzalez unsurprisingly went on to announce that he’d run in the new 34th rather than the 15th, even though he only represented about a quarter of the former. (While Gonzalez would blame Republicans for moving him out of his district, it was a fellow south Texas Democrat who proposed the amendment that awkwardly transported Gonzalez’s home from the 15th to the 34th. It passed almost unanimously.)

The move made sense for him personally, but by leaving the 15th open, he made it ripe for a Republican pickup—and the GOP did in fact capitalize (more on that below). In the 34th, though, Gonzalez started off looking like the favorite against Flores, a local conservative activist who’d never run for office before. But her prospects started to improve after Vela resigned to take a job at a lobbying firm a few weeks after she convincingly won the GOP primary.

That triggered a June special election to succeed him in the old 34th, which ultimately set up the strange November face-off between Flores and Gonzalez. Ordinarily, when a retirement unexpectedly turns into a resignation, that creates an opportunity for the two candidates seeking the seat in the general election to both run in the special. But in this case, the Democrat was Gonzalez, who already had a seat in Congress and therefore had no incentive to join the race for the final six months of Vela’s term and trigger a vacancy for his own seat if he had won.

That task instead fell to former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez, while Flores eagerly jumped at the opportunity. Republican outside groups saw an opening and deployed $1 million to aid Flores, while Democrats only began airing TV ads in the final week. Flores ended up beating Sanchez 51-43 in a win that made her the first House Republican elected to represent portions of the seat since 1870, fueling GOP certainty that a red wave was looming.

It didn’t take long, however, for the new congresswoman’s extremist views to start attracting attention in a way they hadn’t during the special after Media Matters and CNN both reported that Flores had repeatedly used the “#qanon” hashtag on social media (she later claimed to the San Antonio Express-News during the special election that she had “never been supportive” of the conspiracy theory).

She had in fact spent the weeks after the 2020 elections denying Trump lost, including on Jan. 6 itself. “If we allow the Democrats to steal THIS election,” she tweeted, “they will steal EVERY election moving forward!” Flores wrote later that day that the attack “surely was caused by infiltrators” and falsely insisted that one rioter was a Black Lives Matter activist. When the New York Times repeatedly asked the congresswoman if she considered Biden’s win to be legitimate, she responded four times, “He’s the worst president of the United States.”

While Democrats had run some ads during the special tying Flores to the rioters, they deployed far more money to advance that point during her showdown with Gonzalez. The congressman’s allies also went after her ardent opposition to abortion rights, an issue she said led her to leave the Democratic Party a decade earlier. Republicans, meanwhile, tried to portray Gonzalez as hostile to the police and tried to attack him over his past career as an attorney.

Altogether, the four largest House groups spent $11.1 million on a contest that seemed to be anyone’s race going into Election Day. It ended, however, in a comfortable 9-point romp for Gonzalez, even as Republican Monica De La Cruz was simultaneously flipping the 15th District; the GOP also failed to unseat another Rio Grande Valley Democrat, conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar, despite another expensive effort. Gonzalez’s win, according to Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux, also came as Democrat Beto O’Rourke was carrying the 34th 56-43 despite losing his campaign for governor, another sign that Democrats were by no means a spent force in the area.

Flores is hoping that 2024 will be the red wave that 2022 wasn’t, though it’s not quite clear yet whether she’ll have an obstacle-free path to the general election. Her only notable intra-party foe so far is perennial candidate Mauro Garza, a self-funder who most recently lost last year’s primary in the 15th to De La Cruz 57-15. A more serious potential opponent is former Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, who recently told the Texas Tribune he’d decide after Labor Day. Pastor Luis Cabrera, however, told the site in May he’d only get in if Flores passed on the race.

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

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