The Political Report – July 22, 2023

A new Quinnipiac poll finds voters are evenly split about voting for a third-party candidate, with 47% saying they would consider voting for a third-party candidate in the 2024 presidential election and 47% say they would not.

A new Monmouth poll finds 30% of Americans say they would entertain voting for a third-party “fusion” ticket comprised of a Democrat and a Republican in the 2024 election.

Just 5% say they would definitely vote for this option if Joe Biden and Donald Trump are the major party nominees and another 25% say they would probably vote third party. At the other end of the spectrum, 31% say they definitely would not support a fusion ticket and 34% probably would not.

A new Monmouth poll finds just 16% of registered voters would consider supporting a fusion third-party ticket with Sen. Joe Manchin (D) for president and former Gov. Jon Huntman (R) for vice president, highlighting the uphill path for such a ticket in the 2024 race.

“Republican senators say a third-party presidential bid by centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) likely would pull votes away from President Biden and help former President Trump win election to a second term if he wins the GOP presidential nomination,” The Hill reports.

Dan Pfeiffer: “Earlier this week, President Biden tweeted out this video of Greene making an impressively persuasive case for Bidenomics.”

“To say people went bananas for this video would be a huge understatement. It had 10 million views across all platforms within three hours. That number was over 50 million by Thursday. Marjorie Taylor Greene stumbling into a campaign ad for Biden is just too much fun.”

“It’s embarrassing for Greene and highlights her willfully ignorant approach to public life. The video is also a testament to the talented folks doing digital rapid response for Biden and the Democratic National Committee. Strategically, this video bodes well for Team Biden as they prepare for a long and brutal campaign.”

“I love dunking on MTG, but I am in love with this video for another reason — it is the archetype of what political communicators should aim for.”

The Cook Political Report moves the seats held by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) from Lean Republican to Toss Up.

In addition, Rep. Greg Landsman’s (D-OH) seat moves from Toss Up to Lean Democrat.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Despite a requirement that congressional districts have roughly identical populations within states, the number of raw votes cast in each district can vary widely, both within a state and across the country.”

“In 2022, there was a nearly 300,000-vote difference between the lowest-turnout district (NY-15 in New York City) and the highest-turnout one (MI-1 in northern Michigan).”

“Republicans won about two-thirds of the districts that cast the most votes (300,000 or more) while Democrats won about two-thirds of the districts that cast the fewest (less than 200,000).”

“The familiar partisan script of congressional hearings was inverted Thursday when Republicans praised Robert F. Kennedy Jr. while his fellow Democrats called the presidential candidate a menace to society who did not deserve the platform Republicans gave him,” NBC News reports.

“The hearing encapsulated Kennedy’s unusual campaign, which has been promoted by conservatives and condemned by Democrats as a cynical ploy to derail President Joe Biden’s re-election and promote conspiracy theories.”

“And it provided a microcosm of the larger partisan debates over free speech, which played out in real-time as Kennedy and his GOP allies accused Democrats of trying to censor him whenever they objected to the content his message.”

FLORIDA STATE HOUSE. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has finally called special elections for two vacant state House seats in yet another instance where he waited unusually long to set election dates and only did so after a lawsuit was filed to compel him to act. DeSantis set a Nov. 7 primary and Jan. 16 general election for the 35th District, a 52-47 Biden seat in Orlando’s suburbs, while he set an Oct. 3 primary and Dec. 5 general election for the 118th District, a much redder seat in Miami’s southern suburbs. It’s unclear why he called the two elections for different dates.

Both seats were previously held by Republicans: The 35th became vacant on June 30, while the 118th opened up on June 11. But despite Florida law requiring that DeSantis promptly call special elections to fill them, he waited to act only until after the ACLU had filed a lawsuit to require a special election in the 118th. That lawsuit, which didn’t address the 35th, noted that Florida governors took on average just over a week to call special elections from 1999 through 2020.

In 2021, though, DeSantis began dragging out special elections for months in several predominantly Black and heavily Democratic seats, including one congressional seat and three state legislative districts, which threatened to reduce Democratic strength in the next year’s legislative session. DeSantis only relented after litigation had been filed, but his delay ensured that the 20th Congressional District in southeast Florida went without representation for more than nine months, which was 39% of the entire two-year term and nearly twice as long as the two previous congressional vacancies when Republican Rick Scott was governor, both of which had involved white Republicans.

Nevertheless, Democrats now have a prime opportunity to flip the 35th District near Orlando, where Democrat Rishi Bagga is running again following his 55-45 loss last year, when abysmal Democratic turnout contributed to Republicans gaining two-thirds supermajorities in both chambers. While Democrats would still be deep in the hole even if they flip this district in January, it could bode well for their chances of a broader rebound that November.

A new CNBC All-America Economic Survey found that just 37% of respondents approved of President Biden’s handling of the economy, while 58% disapproved.

MISSOURI ABORTION REFERENDUM. The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ordered Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey to do his “ministerial duty” and certify a proposed abortion rights amendment, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says it may still be some time before pro-choice groups can start collecting signatures to reach next year’s ballot. The ACLU is suing Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who is the GOP’s frontrunner for governor, for “disinformation” for trying to get the text of the initiative to ask voters if they’d “allow for dangerous, unregulated, and unrestricted abortions, from conception to live birth, without requiring a medical license or potentially being subject to medical malpractice.”

Bailey also tried to interfere with the amendment by demanding that another Republican, Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick, estimate that its passage could cost the state “as much as $51 billion dollars.” Fitzpatrick had determined the cost would be a far smaller $51,000, and while making it clear that he opposed abortion rights, he sued Bailey for trying to force him to provide “inaccurate information.” The state’s highest court agreed and concluded that there’s no provision in state law that “gives the attorney general authority to question the auditor’s assessment of the fiscal impact of a proposed petition.”

Bailey’s obstinacy had prevented finalizing the petition that voters must sign to put the measure for the ballot, which the court noted had cost supporters more than three months of time for gathering signatures. The ruling thus removes a major obstacle to the start of signature-gathering efforts.

MICHIGAN STATE HOUSE. Conservative activists just launched recall campaigns against five Democratic members of the closely divided Michigan House, though they face steep challenges in qualifying for the ballot. But don’t expect complacency from Democrats, who haven’t forgotten that Republicans successfully used recalls to wrest away control of the state Senate in 1984—and then held it for the next four decades.

The targeted Democrats are Reps. Betsy Coffia, Jennifer Conlin, Jaime Churches, Sharon MacDonell, and Reggie Miller—five women who were all elected for the first time last year and helped power their party to shocking upset that resulted in a 56-54 majority. Except for MacDonnell, who sits in bluer turf, all represent swingy districts and all won by single digits last year. The most marginal is Church’s 27th District in the southern Detroit suburbs, which voted for Donald Trump by a 51-47 margin, while the rest backed Joe Biden to varying degrees.

Petitions filed with the secretary of state’s office state that organizers are seeking to recall the lawmakers in question for their votes in favor of a bill expanding hate crimes that is still pending in the Senate and a new red flag law that allows courts to remove firearms from the possession of those who might pose a danger to themselves or others, but the potential partisan ramifications are unmistakable. However, supporters would need to gather a daunting number of signatures, equal to 25% of the vote in last year’s election for governor in each district, in order to actually force a recall.

2022 in fact saw Michigan set a modern record for midterm turnout, with almost 4.5 million votes cast in the race between Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her Republican opponent, Tudor Dixon. While the figures will vary by district, on average, that would mean more than 11,000 valid signatures would be necessary to prompt a single recall. And the actual number they’d need to collect would, in practice, be higher, since signatures are subject to review and invariably a sizable proportion are rejected.

(Put another way, if Republicans were trying to recall Whitmer, they’d need in excess of 1.1 million signatures; by contrast, when advocates placed an amendment on last year’s ballot to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution, they submitted a record-smashing 750,000 signatures when only 425,000 were needed.)

In addition, Michigan Republicans are almost broke: The Detroit News recently reported that the party, which has been riven by bitter fighting—both figurative and literal—has just $93,000 in the bank, a sum one former executive director said “means they’re functionally bankrupt.” Even party chair Kristina Karamo appeared to recognize the problem. “Yes, we know we need a lot more money,” she told a closed-door gathering of party leaders earlier this month, according to audio obtained by the News.

Karamo’s organization also appears to have said nothing about the recall petitions, which Bridge Michigan says were all filed “by local Republican activists or past candidates” who’d previously run against the targeted incumbents. (“It wasn’t immediately clear whether any specific group was behind the recall efforts,” the Detroit Free Press observed.) The state Democratic Party, by contrast, pledged to “fully support and defend” its members, who would all be up again for a second two-year term next year.

Almost forty years ago, Republicans succeeded in recalling two Democratic senators due to anger over the passage of an income tax hike, allowing them to retake the upper chamber for the first time in a decade. Thanks to ceaseless gerrymandering in the ensuing years, the GOP held the Senate continuously until last year, when elections were held for the first time using maps drafted by the state’s newly created independent redistricting commission. Republicans have also dominated the House most of the time since 1994, losing it in 2022 for the first time since 2008. As a consequence, Democrats won complete control over state government in the November midterms for the first time since those Senate recalls.

Since then, only one legislative recall has ever been successful, a 2011 effort to oust Republican state Rep. Paul Scott that was heavily backed by teachers’ unions. Afterward, Republicans passed a new law to make recalls more difficult, most notably by shrinking the signature-gathering period by a third. It also barred recalls altogether for officials serving two-year terms during the first and last six months of their term, which explains the timing of these latest petitions.

The next date to watch is Aug. 1, when the state Board of Canvassers, which is responsible for reviewing recall petitions, is next set to meet. If they’re given the go-ahead, proponents would then have just 60 days to obtain a sufficient number of signatures to trigger recalls.

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. Town election authorities in Jamestown said Monday that they were asking local police to investigate “possible fraudulent nomination papers” submitted on behalf of Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, who is competing in the crowded Sept. 5 Democratic primary for the special election for Rhode Island’s vacant 1st Congressional District. The development won’t, however, affect Matos’ spot on the ballot.

The Boston Globe reports that 17 petitions, which were notarized by a Matos spokesman and turned in by an unknown person, ostensibly were signed by dead voters or by living people who said they hadn’t actually provided their names. The lieutenant governor’s campaign told the media, “We hold all our staff and volunteers to the highest ethical standards. That is why these reports are both surprising and concerning.”

While Matos’ many opponents were quick to attack her over the development, her campaign submitted 729 valid signatures—well more than the requisite 500. That made her one of 12 Democrats to qualify, according to the secretary of state’s office. The full list includes:

  • former Biden administration official Gabe Amo
  • 2022 secretary of state candidate Stephanie Beaute
  • Navy veteran Walter Berbrick
  • state Sen. Sandra Cano
  • businessman Don Carlson
  • state Rep. Stephen Casey
  • 2018 gubernatorial candidate Spencer Dickinson
  • Providence City Councilman John Goncalves
  • Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos
  • state Sen. Ana Quezada
  • perennial candidate Allen Waters
  • former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg

Election authorities have verified that Matos turned in almost 730 valid signatures, which is well over the 500 minimum needed to get on the ballot. But one of her opponents, businessman Don Carlson, has filed a challenge to her signatures ahead of the Board of Elections’ Friday morning; the Rhode Island Working Families Party, which supports former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, is taking similar action.

Matos campaign says, “We are confident that, once the board has reviewed the facts, they will uphold the secretary of state’s determination that we have qualified for the ballot. This is, in part, because the complaints do not challenge enough validated signatures to affect our status on the ballot.” Her team also declared, “Our campaign provided clear instructions to circulators on how to correctly gather signatures. Anyone who violated these detailed instructions and the nomination process has no place in our campaign and will be held accountable.”

Most of the signatures in question were on nomination papers signed by a paid field organizer named Holly McClaren, who appeared in a TV ad last year for Democratic Gov. Dan McKee attacking Republican foe Ashley Kalus. McClaren herself submitted her own petition to get Matos on the ballot, but election authorities rejected it because she lives in the 2nd District.

A 13th Democrat, former state official Nick Autiello, also qualified only to announce Wednesday morning that he was suspending his campaign because he lacked “the financial resources to win this race.” His announcement came ahead of the 4 PM local deadline for candidates to take their names off the ballot.

Two notable contenders, state Rep. Marvin Abney and Narragansett Aboriginal Nation tribal elder Bella Machado Noka, failed to turn in the requisite 500 signatures needed to continue their efforts despite filing initial paperwork to run two weeks earlier. Matos, for her part, submitted 729 valid petitions.

Meanwhile, Autiello released a survey of the primary on Tuesday just before his departure showing Matos as the frontrunner. Lake Research Partners sampled 300 voters, which is the exact minimum we require for inclusion in the Digest, and finds Matos her leading Regunberg 20-12; Cano and Amo respectively take 7% and 6% with Autiello at just 5%. Autiello publicized this survey even though his share of the vote didn’t budge after positive statements were read about him and all of his rivals, and while the memo argued that enough voters were undecided that he could win if he got his name out, the candidate evidently decided his prospects still weren’t good enough to continue.

Two Republicans, former Middletown Town Councilwoman Terri Flynn and Marine veteran Gerry Leonard, also made the ballot, but whoever wins the Democratic nomination will be the overwhelming favorite in this solidly blue district.

State Sen. Sandra Cano has earned the backing of the state affiliate of the National Education Association ahead of the crowded Sept. 5 special Democratic primary.

WISCONSIN STATE ASSEMBLY. Republicans won a special election for a dark-red seat in the Wisconsin legislature Tuesday night, but once again, their candidate badly underperformed compared to other recent elections in the same district.

Republican Paul Melotik beat Democrat Bob Tatterson 54-46 in the 24th Assembly District, which became vacant after Republican Dan Knodl won a closely contested special for the state Senate earlier this year. The 24th is traditionally conservative turf in the northern Milwaukee suburbs: It voted for Donald Trump by a 57-41 margin in 2020 and backed Knodl for reelection 61-39 last year. But judged against Trump’s share of the vote, Melotik ran 9 points behind, accounting for rounding. Knodl (whose new Senate district includes all of his old Assembly district) had likewise trailed the top of the ticket in his own special election by 3 points, prevailing by a narrow 51-49 spread.

Overall, Democratic candidates in special elections this year have outperformed the 2020 presidential numbers in their districts by an average of 7 points. Research by Daily Kos Elections contributing editor Daniel Donner has shown that these elections often correlate closely with the results of the ensuing general elections for the U.S. House.

NEW YORK REDISTRICTING. A divided state appeals court ordered New York’s redistricting commission to draw a new congressional map ahead of the 2024 elections on Thursday, overturning a lower court that had previously ruled in favor of retaining the state’s current court-drawn boundaries. Republicans opposing the Democratic-backed lawsuit, however, immediately vowed to appeal in an effort to prevent the adoption of districts that would be less favorable to them.

The dispute wound up in court after the evenly divided bipartisan commission failed to reach an agreement on a single set of redistricting plans for Congress and the state legislature last year.  Instead, it forwarded dueling proposals—one batch supported by Democrats, the other by Republicans—to lawmakers, who rejected them both. After that failure, the commission refused to try again, which led the Democratic-run legislature to pass its own maps.

However, the state’s highest court struck down that attempt last year in a 4-3 decision, saying that because the commission had never sent a second set of maps to the legislature as contemplated by the state constitution, lawmakers could not act on their own. As a remedy, an upstate trial court instead imposed maps drawn by an outside expert that saw Republicans make considerable gains in the November midterms.

A group of voters, though, filed a suit demanding that the commission be ordered back to work. While a lower court initially rejected that argument, the Appellate Division agreed with the plaintiffs. The commission still “had an indisputable duty under the NY Constitution to submit a second set of maps upon the rejection of its first set,” wrote the majority in a 3-2 opinion, concluding that the court-ordered maps used in 2022 were interim in nature.

If New York’s highest court, known as the Court of Appeals, upholds this decision, then the commission will again have to try to compromise on a new congressional map. If it again fails to produce an acceptable map, though, Democrats in the legislature—who enjoy two-thirds supermajorities in both chambers—would, this time, very likely be entitled to create new maps of their own design. That possibility could spur Republican commissioners to accept lines that tilt somewhat more in Democrats’ favor than the current districts rather than face the alternative of an unfettered partisan gerrymander.

PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE. Democratic state Rep. Sara Innamorato, who won the May primary for Allegheny County executive, announced Wednesday that she’d resigned to focus on the November general election, and the chamber will be tied 101-101 until the already-scheduled Sept. 19 special election takes place. Innamorato’s absence may not matter much, though, because state representatives aren’t scheduled to return until Sept. 26. Her seat in the Pittsburgh area supported Joe Biden 61-38 in 2020.

If the lower house does reconvene early, however, Democrats, who won 102 of the 203 seats in November and defended their edge in a series of special elections this year, will still remain the majority party in the deadlocked body thanks to a rule they adopted in March. The majority is now defined as the party that “won the greater number of elections for the 203 seats in the House of Representatives” in the most recent general election, and should a vacancy open up, “the political party that won that seat at the last election shall remain the party that won that seat until any subsequent special election is held to fill that seat.” Control would still shift, though, if the other side flipped enough seats before the next general election.

It’s unlikely that will happen in the race to replace Innamorato, but Democrats will have a more competitive seat to defend later. State Rep. John Galloway won both the Democratic and Republican nominations for a judgeship in Bucks County, and once he resigns to take his new job, there will be a special for his 55-44 Biden constituency in the Philadelphia suburbs. Galloway told Spotlight PA Wednesday that he wouldn’t be leaving his current office until he’s officially elected in November.

OHIO BALLOT REFERENDUM. Suffolk University on Thursday released an Ohio poll for USA Today that finds a strong 59-26 majority of likely voters saying they’ll oppose Issue 1, a Republican-backed constitutional amendment that would require 60% voter approval to pass future amendments and a more burdensome number of voter signatures to put them on the ballot. This is the very first survey that anyone has publicized of the Aug. 8 special election, a contest Republicans instigated in order to make it more difficult for pro-choice advocates to pass their own amendment this November to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.

We always caution that you should never let one poll determine your outlook of a race―even when there is literally just one poll―and that’s especially true when it comes to referendums like this one. These sorts of contests can be challenging to survey in part because, unlike most general elections, voters can’t simply rely on candidates’ party labels to help them decide.

Pollsters instead need to quickly summarize the referendum’s question for voters, who may not always fully understand the choice in front of them, and respondents may respond differently based on how the question is worded. This race presents an additional complication since no one’s sure what turnout will look like: As the head of the Ohio League of Women Voters, which opposes Issue 1, recently said, “[I]n the 200-year history of our state, the state legislature never has put an issue of such great importance on an August special election.”

However, there are already signs that considerably more people will show up than Republicans expected or hoped.’s Andrew J. Tobias reports that about 66,300 people cast ballots during the first week of early voting, which is more than ten times the amount who cast ballots at this point in the August 2022 primary.

That may come as a surprise to GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who said earlier this month that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if turnout was “similar to” the 8% of registered voters who showed up last August. (LaRose, a U.S. Senate candidate who is one of Issue 1’s most fervent supporters, backed a successful effort just months ago to end regular August elections. He argued that they “generate chronically low turnout,” which he deemed “bad news for the civil health of our state,” though he insisted Issue 1 should take place over the summer anyway.)

The amendment’s detractors have argued that this is exactly what conservatives want, with the group One Person One Vote airing an ad depicting an empty polling place as the narrator warns that special interests are “trying to sneak something through, hoping you won’t vote.” The campaign has also run a commercial featuring a clip of LaRose agreeing the Issue 1 fight is “about abortion,” as well as a spot where a pair of scissors slice the state constitution apart.

Conservatives, meanwhile, began their own TV ad campaign last week just after this poll, which was in the field July 9 to 12, was finished. Protect Women Ohio used its inaugural spot to encourage a yes vote by warning, “Out-of-state special interests that put trans ideology in classrooms and encourage sex changes for kids are hiding behind slick ads.” Neither Issue 1 nor the abortion amendment has anything to do with any of these issues, but the group is very much betting that transphobia will give them the lift they need.

One Person One Vote’s message, though, is still the one that’s getting far more exposure. Tobias reports that the group has spent $4.5 million on ads, including ones that have yet to run, compared to $1.9 million for Protect Women Ohio.

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

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