The Political Report – July 23, 2023

Celinda Lake and Mac Heller: “Every year, about 4 million Americans turn 18 and gain the right to vote. In the eight years between the 2016 and 2024 elections, that’s 32 million new eligible voters.”

“Also every year, 2½ million older Americans die. So in the same eight years, that’s as many as 20 million fewer older voters.”

“Which means that between Trump’s election in 2016 and the 2024 election, the number of Gen Z (born in the late 1990s and early 2010s) voters will have advanced by a net 52 million against older people. That’s about 20 percent of the total 2020 eligible electorate of 258 million Americans.”

“And unlike previous generations, Gen Z votes.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu confirmed Wednesday that he would not seek a fifth two-year term as New Hampshire’s chief executive next year, a long-expected announcement that nonetheless instantly turns this race into one of the cycle’s top battlegrounds.

Sununu, whose first victory in a tight 2016 race ended 12 years of Democratic control, went on to decisively win his next three campaigns. His departure gives Granite State Democrats their best chance in years to take back this post in a light blue state that hasn’t backed a Republican for president since 2000.

Multiple Republican replacements, all of whom showed interest during Sununu’s months-long deliberations, immediately started surfacing, but they all share one regrettable thing in common: each of them lost their last race for public office.

Former state Senate President Chuck Morse, who served as acting governor for two days in 2017, immediately confirmed he was in, but party leaders may not be excited to have him as their standard-bearer following his 2022 campaign for the U.S. Senate.”Morse, who even a supporter characterized as someone who “is not flashy, and does not have charisma,” struggled in the primary against retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, a Big Lie conspiracy theorist who’d called Sununu a “Chinese communist sympathizer” with a family business that “supports terrorism.”

Sununu, unsurprisingly, sided with Morse in the race to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s allies also spent a hefty $4.6 million on an ad campaign to promote Morse and attack Bolduc as a surefire loser with “crazy ideas.” Democrats, though, retaliated with an expensive ad campaign of their own tying Morse to lobbyists, a move aimed at weakening him for the general election if they couldn’t keep him from the GOP nomination. But Democrats got exactly what they wanted in the primary: Bolduc edged out Morse 37-36 two months before losing to Hassan in a 54-44 rout.

Morse is once again likely to be in for a tough primary. Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who Hassan unseated in a 2016 squeaker even as Sununu was flipping the governor’s office, put out a statement saying she “look[s] forward to announcing some big news in the coming days.” State education commissioner Frank Edelblut, a self-funder who lost a close primary to Sununu seven years ago, also said Wednesday he’d reveal in the next few days if he’d run to succeed his boss.

A pair of prominent Democrats, meanwhile, had already announced campaigns even before Sununu confirmed he wouldn’t be on the ballot. Cinde Warmington, who is the only Democrat on the state’s unique five-member Executive Council, launched her bid in June while Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig joined her last week. No other notable Democrats have shown any obvious interest in running, though Rep. Chris Pappas didn’t quite rule out his own campaign back in April.

Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster quickly ruled out running for governor next year following GOP Gov. Chris Sununu’s Wednesday announcement that he wouldn’t seek reelection. Kuster said Democrats already have “two great candidates” in reference to Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, who had already kicked off their campaigns before Sununu revealed his plans.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) is considering a primary challenge to top Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Politico reports.

“Graham isn’t up for reelection until 2026. But after he was booed by his own constituents at a Trump rally in South Carolina earlier this month, conservatives who have long distrusted him feel they may have an opening to take him out.”

“Many on the right have long viewed Graham as a centrist who embraces conservative values only when it’s politically convenient. The more isolationist wing of the party has grumbled about his steadfast support of Ukraine. And Trump allies — even Trump’s own inner circle and family — have complained that he has been disloyal at times.”

TENNESSEE U.S. SENATOR. “A member of the so-called ‘Tennessee Three,’ the state lawmakers who were rebuked for protesting gun violence in their Capitol, is preparing an uphill run against Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)” Politico reports. “State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D) is eyeing a mid-August launch for a Senate campaign.”

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin tells CNN he’ll decide whether to seek reelection “in the fall sometime,” a declaration that came days after he disclosed to NBC that he’d make up his mind whether to wage a third-party bid for president “next year.” Fall ends this year on Dec. 21.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Leadership for Ohio Fund, a super PAC that supports Secretary of State Frank LaRose, has released a late June GOP primary survey from Causeway Solutions that shows him leading state Sen. Matt Dolan 28-10, with businessman Bernie Moreno at 5%. This poll, which was taken weeks before LaRose announced his bid against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, isn’t too different from the 24-11 advantage that Causeway showed in May.

Dolan, for his part, is continuing to air TV ads far ahead of the primary, and the self-funder’s latest message features two sheriffs praising him as “tough on illegal immigration.”

Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Monday launched his long-anticipated campaign to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, but the new contender first needs to get past two wealthy foes in the Republican primary. “We need a candidate who has strong statewide name ID,” LaRose told Politico as he tried to contrast himself with those intra-party rivals, businessman Bernie Moreno and state Sen. Matt Dolan, “I’m the only one that has that.” LaRose, who won reelection to his current post 59-40 last year, is indeed the only member of this trio who has prevailed statewide, though not all of his name recognition may be the type he wants.

The secretary of state has of late enthusiastically promoted Issue 1, a Republican-backed constitutional amendment to require 60% voter approval to pass future amendments instead of the currently required simple majority. Despite earlier denials about the measure’s intent, LaRose told a gathering of conservatives earlier this year that the Aug. 8 special election for the amendment is “100% about keeping a radical, pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution.” (Pro-choice advocates have turned in signatures to place a separate amendment on this November’s ballot to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.)

Issue 1’s opponents have been all too happy to use his words in their ads to make the case that “[c]orrupt politicians and special interests” are “trying to rig the rules to lock in Ohio’s extreme abortion ban and stop efforts to restore our rights.” LaRose also attracted attention earlier this month when he allowed anti-abortion groups to use incorrect forms to request absentee ballots after Jewish groups, whose supporters are more likely to back abortion rights, used similar forms and were rejected. While GOP primary voters may appreciate his crusade to keep abortion largely illegal in Ohio, a failure at the ballot box next month could be a black eye.

Two months ago, LaRose was also in the news after Politico obtained what it characterized as a “secret recording” in which he played down the potential impact of a Donald Trump endorsement. The secretary of state, while acknowledging Trump’s support “matters,” argued only 20% of the primary electorate would “vote for whoever” the GOP’s master might prefer. LaRose added that, while he thought he’d get Trump’s backing, he didn’t think “begging for it” would work.

The new candidate seems to be sticking with that approach, as he didn’t mention Trump at all in an announcement video that highlighted his service as a Green Beret. Moreno, by contrast, has made it clear he very much wants to be MAGA world’s guy, and he may be in luck: Trump, while still not formally taking sides, said over the weekend, “We love Ohio, and we love Bernie Moreno.” Dolan, for his part, said during his failed 2022 campaign for the state’s other Senate seat that the GOP needed to move on from the Big Lie and Trump, though he hasn’t actually ruled out backing him next year.

LaRose joins the race months after both Dolan and Moreno kicked off their own campaigns to take on Brown, and they’ve used their head-starts to build up their respective war chests. Dolan, a Cleveland Guardians part-owner who took third place last year, raised only $300,000 from donors during the second quarter of the year but self-funded $1 million, and he finished June with $3.9 million on hand.

Moreno, whose April launch came three months after Dolan’s, took in $2.3 million during his inaugural quarter and had $1.5 million in the bank. Like Dolan, Moreno is wealthy, but even though he threw down almost $4 million of his own money during his aborted 2022 campaign for the Senate, he hasn’t self-funded anything so far this time. LaRose, for his part, will need to build up his own campaign’s finances from scratch, though he tells NBC he helped an allied super PAC raise $1 million before he entered the race.

Brown, meanwhile, has been preparing for what will be one of the most heavily contested Senate races in America as he seeks a fourth term in what’s become a difficult state for his party. The senator raised $4.9 million during the second quarter, and he ended last month with $8.7 million in the bank.

INDIANA GOVERNOR. Campaign finance reports are in for the first six months of 2023, though as the Indiana Capitol Chronicle notes, candidates were forbidden from raising money during most of these first four months because the legislature was in session.

  • Sen. Mike Braun (R): $2.2 million raised, $4.6 million cash on hand
  • former state cabinet official Eric Doden (R): $1.8 million raised, $3.8 million cash on hand
  • Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch (R): $1.1 million raised, $3.9 million cash on hand
  • former state education superintendent Jennifer McCormick (D): $200,000 raised, $200,000 cash on hand

The Chronicle notes that about a third of Doden’s haul came from his father.

Another Republican, former Attorney General Curtis Hill, launched his bid this month after the fundraising period ended. Hill, who lost renomination in 2020 after multiple women accused him of sexual assault, began with $20,000 left over from his prior campaigns.

Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers announced Monday that he would resign his post effective Aug. 6, and his spokesperson would not address the Indianapolis Business Journal’s questions about his interest in seeking the GOP nod for governor. Chambers was a prominent real estate developer before joining termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb’s cabinet, and Howey Politics wrote last week that he’d likely self-fund if he ran.

Chambers has acknowledged for the first time that he’s considering joining next year’s Republican primary for the open governor’s race, though he did not indicate when he expected to make a decision about running for governor.

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Navy veteran Phil Ehr on Monday became the first notable Democrat to launch a bid against Republican Sen. Rick Scott, whom Ehr declared was “part of the Axis of Lies that is threatening to tear America apart at the seams.” Ehr previously raised $2 million for his 2020 bid against the nationally infamous Rep. Matt Gaetz in the safely red 1st District, a campaign he lost 65-34 as Donald Trump was taking the old 1st by a similar 66-32 margin.

Ehr began his new race by releasing an internal poll from Change Research showing him trailing Scott only 45-41 even though almost three-quarters of respondents acknowledge they’ve never heard of the challenger and another 14% list their impression as neutral. Ehr’s survey did not ask about any of the other Democrats who are thinking about going up against Scott: Politico reported last week that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the DSCC are trying to recruit former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, though she has yet to commit to anything.

Scott himself faces a primary challenge from attorney Keith Gross, but the self-described “very wealthy businessman” has yet to demonstrate that he’ll throw down the massive amount of money he’d need in order to put up a serious fight. Gross, who ran for the Georgia legislature as a Democrat in 2008 and 2010, self-funded $660,000 during the second quarter of 2023 while raising just $10,000, but he already spent most of this already. Scott finished June with a yawning $2.9 million to $160,000 cash on hand advantage over his intra-party foe.

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. Former state Sen. Andy Wells has announced that he’ll run in next year’s Republican primary for governor, setting up a rematch with Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson after the pair faced off against each other in the crowded primary for lieutenant governor when that office was open in 2020. Robinson defeated Wells 33-15 in that contest and avoided a runoff by surpassing the 30% threshold. Wells self-funded a sizable $500,000 for that race, and he has not indicated yet whether he would be able or willing to substantially self-fund in his latest campaign.

Despite having made a number of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and transphobic comments over the years, Robinson is the GOP’s undisputed primary frontrunner for next year’s race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Robinson has already secured Donald Trump’s endorsement and has enjoyed wide leads in the few polls testing potential primary matchups thus far. He finished June with $3.2 million cash on hand compared to the $1.2 million that state Treasurer Dale Folwell’s campaign said he had and the $550,000 that former Rep. Mark Walker reported.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. The Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, working on behalf of the education group Prichard Committee, finds Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear fending off Republican Daniel Cameron 52-42 in a late-June survey that’s one of the few polls we’ve seen here all year. The Courier Journal’s Joe Sonka, who first reported the results, describes the sponsor as a “nonpartisan nonprofit,” and most of the survey’s questions concerned education and childcare issues.

This is the first poll we’ve seen since two other GOP pollsters released numbers from May, and they showed a very different state of affairs. A co/efficient internal for Cameron showed Beshear ahead 45-43 while Cygnal, which did not say if it had a client, had a 47-47 tie.

MISSOURI 4TH DISTRICT. Attorney Jessica Swartz on Wednesday became the first notable Democrat to announce a campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga in Michigan’s 4th District, a historically red constituency around Kalamazoo that Donald Trump would have taken by a small 51-47 margin in 2020. Swartz, though, said that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer carried it last year, and new numbers from Daily Kos Elections find the governor did indeed prevail by a tight 50-49 as she was pulling off a 54-44 statewide landslide.

The Democrat is a first-time candidate, though she’s not quite a political novice. Swartz previously volunteered for Voters Not Politicians, a nonpartisan organization that successfully promoted a 2018 referendum to create Michigan’s independent redistricting commission. That body ended up drawing a map for the 2022 elections that led Huizenga, who’d previously represented the reliably red 2nd District along the western Michigan coast, to run for the more competitive 4th even though he only represented about a quarter of the new seat.

For months it looked like there would be an incumbent vs. incumbent primary clash between the Trump-backed Huizenga and longtime Rep. Fred Upton, who’d voted to impeach the GOP’s leader after the Jan. 6 attack, but Upton ended up retiring ahead of what would have been a challenging race. Swartz, in an interview with the Holland Sentinel, argued the district needed someone more like Upton, whom she praised for working across party lines and providing for his constituents, than the hard-right Huizenga.

Huizenga, who won his last race 54-42 against an underfunded Democrat, finished June with $630,000 in the bank, though it’s possible he won’t use it on this contest. The congressman has expressed interest a few times this year in running for Michigan’s open Senate seat, with his most recent public comments coming from a May interview with the conservative site The Dispatch. Huizenga acknowledged the state presents a “tough environment” for his party, but while he said he was “hoping to have a decision probably this quarter,” June 30 came and went without any word about his plans.

MARYLAND 6TH DISTRICT. Two Republicans, Navy veteran Tom Royals and Woodsboro Mayor Heath Barnes, announced this week that they would run to succeed Democratic Senate candidate David Trone in a seat Biden carried 54-44. (Maryland Matters notes that Barnes’ title is “burgess,” which is what some Maryland communities call their mayor.) Royals, who appears to be seeking office for the first time, launched his effort with a professionally-made video touting his combat career while also touting conservative talking points warning that the country is “under a different kind of attack—from left-wing politicians targeting the rights of parents.”

Barnes, for his part, was one of four Republicans who last year campaigned in the primary for a three-member seat in the House of Delegates. (In Maryland, state House districts can have anywhere from one to three members.) Barnes ended up losing 24-17 for that third and final spot in the general election, but he generated attention this year when told a Frederick County Public Schools meeting, “As a gay man who came out in 2005 and fought for LGBT rights, we are being set back by 30 years because we have started messing with our children.”

The mayor, who does not have school-aged children, went on to say, “No one cared about our movement, no one cared about our drag shows, no one cared about any of this stuff until the last three or four years when we’ve started pushing it in front of our children.” While Barnes did not specify what he was protesting, most people at the meeting were there to talk about a local policy to “foster a more gender-inclusive environment.”

Former Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner tells the Frederick Post she’s considering seeking the Democratic nod for this open seat, and the paper characterizes her timeframe as “fairly soon.” Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin noted in mid-May that Gardner is a proven vote-getter in a community that’s home to about 35% of the 6th District’s denizens, which could make her a formidable contender in a race where most of the other candidates are likely to hail from Montgomery County.

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

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