The Political Report – July 30, 2023

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Despite an increasing correlation between presidential and down-ballot results, there are still nine governors who govern states that their party did not win for president. That means there is a higher percentage of crossover governors than crossover members of the Senate and House.”

“Still, the number of crossover governors was higher in the recent past.”

“While there are lots of moving pieces, including what happens in the 2024 presidential election, we could see even more of a decline in the number of crossover governors in this cycle’s gubernatorial elections.”

The Cook Political Report is out with its initial race ratings for the Electoral College in 2024 and finds only four states are toss-ups: Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

PENNSYLVANIA 7TH DISTRICT. Republican state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie kicked off a bid Wednesday against Democratic Rep. Susan Wild in Pennsylvania’s swingy 7th District, following two abortive flirtations with campaigns for Congress in recent years.

Last cycle, Mackenzie had filed with the FEC for a potential challenge to Wild but decided to seek reelection shortly before the state Supreme Court released the new congressional map it drew following the 2020 census thanks to a deadlock between the Republican-run legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Mackenzie went further in 2018 by actually declaring a bid to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Charlie Dent in what was then known as the 15th District, but he dropped out of that contest after the same court struck down the GOP’s gerrymandered map and replaced it with its own. The Supreme Court’s new map that year transformed the red-leaning 15th into a swing district (and renumbered it the 7th), which Wild flipped that fall by defeating Republican Marty Nothstein 53-43.

But while the current map and its immediate predecessor were both crafted by the court, the newer iteration made the Lehigh Valley-based 7th tougher for Wild. Under the prior lines, the district had voted 52-47 for Joe Biden, while the new version would have supported the president by less than a point, 49.7 to 49.1. Wild faced an exceptionally tough and expensive race last year but turned back Republican Lisa Scheller by a 51-49 margin in a rematch following their close 2020 contest.

Mackenzie joins a primary that already includes businessman Kevin Dellicker, who came very close to winning the primary in 2022 despite the fact that Scheller had Kevin McCarthy’s endorsement and outraised her opponent by more than an 8-to-1 ratio. In April, Inside Elections reported that Scheller hadn’t ruled out a third try, but we haven’t heard anything further from her since.

ILLINOIS 11TH DISTRICT. Civil rights attorney Qasim Rashid launched a campaign against Democratic Rep. Bill Foster earlier this month, criticizing the incumbent for accepting contributions from corporate PACs, including from pharmaceutical and fossil fuel companies. Rashid originally hails from Illinois but only recently moved back to the state after twice seeking office in Virginia, losing races for the state Senate in 2019 and the U.S. House a year later. In that second contest, Rashid managed to raise $1.6 million despite getting blown out 58-42 by GOP Rep. Rob Wittman in the conservative 1st District.

Foster is a mainstream Democrat who has served the Chicago suburbs in two separate stints: He first won the historically conservative 14th District in a 2008 special election after House Speaker Denny Hastert resigned but lost to Republican Randy Hultgren in the 2010 GOP wave. Foster quickly returned to Congress, however, by easily defeating Rep. Judy Biggert after Democrats redrew the 11th District to make it much bluer. He’s generally enjoyed comfortable reelections ever since, though in 2020, he turned aside another primary challenge from the left from Will County Board member Rachel Ventura by a 59-41 margin, a fairly modest showing for an incumbent.

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. A second notable Republican has entered the race to unseat the chair of the Congressional Con Artist Caucus: Businessman Mike Sapraicone, a former detective with the New York City Police Department, announced a challenge to Rep. George Santos on Tuesday. Endorsing Sapraicone as part of his kickoff was former Sen. Al D’Amato, once a titanic figure on Long Island politics who lost his bid for a fourth term to Chuck Schumer in 1998 by a 55-44 margin. Already running in the GOP primary is former investment banker Kellen Curry, an Air Force veteran who actually outraised Santos in the most recent fundraising quarter, $195,000 to $162,000.

Three noteworthy Democrats are also vying for the chance to replace Santos. Nonprofit founder Zak Malamed led the pack in fundraising in the second quarter with a $417,000 haul, while former state Sen. Anna Kaplan took in $249,000 and Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan raised $193,000. A number of other candidates from both parties continue to consider the race.

OHIO 9TH DISTRICT. Former state Rep. Craig Riedel, who is once again hoping to take on Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, has earned an endorsement from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Riedel, who also has the backing of far-right Rep. Jim Jordan, raised $538,000 in the second quarter of the year, more than 10 times as much as any of his opponents in the GOP primary. However, Riedel was also the top Republican fundraiser when he sought this seat last year yet still lost the primary in an upset to Qanon supporter J.R. Majewski.

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) “has been receiving inquiries about his willingness to challenge Biden and is going to New York City next week to meet with Democratic donors about such a race,” Politico reports.

“Phillips is highly unlikely to mount a primary challenge unless Biden’s health worsens or his political standing drops precipitously, I’m told, and does not want to further weaken the president. Yet he remains convinced that Democrats need a robust conversation about who to nominate and recognizes that the more obvious would-be challengers in the party will not get in unless somebody else first breaks the political ice — much as his fellow Minnesotan, former Sen. Eugene McCarthy, did against Lyndon Johnson in 1968.”

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. Two Democrats are going on the airwaves ahead of the Sept. 19 special election primary in Rhode Island’s vacant 1st Congressional District. Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos’ first ad focuses on her emigration from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. and her humble upbringing before the candidate herself speaks. “The American dream is real,” Matos says, “but we have to work hard to protect it from MAGA Republicans who would destroy everything we value.” WPRI’s Ted Nesi says that Matos has reserved $280,000 in TV time through Labor Day, which includes $100,000 for the next two weeks.

Former Biden administration official Gabe Amo is also going up on television with his first ad. The spot features similar themes, with Amo calling himself a “poor kid from Pawtucket” who made it to the White House and “helped communities shattered by senseless gun violence, stood up to MAGA Republicans to protect Medicare and Social Security, and fought for reproductive freedom.” Amo has booked $215,000 for TV ads through early September, per Nesi.

The State Board of Elections put out a statement Wednesday saying it would not review any signatures from Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos’ campaign, declaring, “Local boards did their job, verifying signatures, rejecting signatures, identifying a subset of rejected signatures as potentially fraudulent, and referring these to state and local law enforcement for criminal investigation.” The state attorney general’s office is investigating allegations that Matos’ team submitted fraudulent petitions, but the Board of Elections argues she still turned in more than enough valid signatures to appear on the crowded Sept. 6 special Democratic primary ballot.

Meanwhile, former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg has begun what his team tells WPRI’s Ted Nesi is a $300,000 TV buy through Election Day, which is the most that anyone has committed to spending on the airwaves. Regunberg’s two inaugural spots (here and here) tout him as an effective progressive who “took on the old guard” and touts his support for Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. The latter ad also informs viewers that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is backing Regunberg, an endorsement that became public the same day the spots debuted.

Nesi relays that Matos and former Biden administration official Gabe Amo, who each began their own opening buys, have spent or booked $280,000 and $215,000, respectively. Nesi adds that a fourth candidate, clean energy investor Don Carlson has increased his broadcast TV budget to $240,000 and will start advertising on Tuesday rather than in mid-August as he originally planned. Navy veteran Walter Berbrick has yet to launch any spots, though he did secure an endorsement from VoteVets this week.

“Bernie Sanders is the latest big-name Democrat to get involved in a crowded primary in a Rhode Island special congressional election that could serve as an early bellwether of sentiment inside the party’s base in the absence of a real presidential primary,” NBC News reports.

“With 12 Democrats on the ballot and the party’s establishment divided among several candidates, former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg is trying to consolidate progressives with the help of validators like Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont.”

“Republicans view President Joe Biden as ripe for defeat in 2024. But recently, they’ve been zeroing in on who they see as an even easier target: Kamala Harris,” The Messenger reports.

“As Harris has stepped up her role as campaign trail attack dog, GOP presidential candidates are leaning even harder into attacking the vice president as a way to highlight voters’ wariness over Biden’s age. Given that the 80-year-old Biden is the oldest person to ever occupy the Oval Office, the argument goes, a vote for him is equivalent to elevating Harris — who by many measures is even less popular than her boss — to commander-in-chief.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE 1ST DISTRICT. Former Executive Councilor Russell Prescott on Thursday became the first notable Republican to launch a campaign against Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas, an announcement that came less than a year after Prescott badly lost the 2022 primary for this eastern New Hampshire constituency. He’s likely to once again face intra-party opposition, though, in a longtime swing seat that favored Joe Biden 52-46.

Prescott is a longtime Granite State politician who won reelection to the state Senate in the 2002 general election by fending off none other than now-Sen. Maggie Hassan; Hassan unseated him in their 2004 rematch, but Prescott reclaimed his seat by riding the 2010 red wave to victory in their third and final bout. (Hassan herself bounced back in 2012 by winning the governorship.) Prescott made the jump to the powerful Executive Council in 2016 and narrowly won re-election two years later before retiring in 2020.

Prescott tried to return to elected office last cycle when he kicked off his campaign to take on Pappas, who had served with him on the Executive Council during his first term, just three-and-a-half months before the primary, but things did not go well. The candidate, whose $350,000 loan accounted for most of his budget, struggled to gain traction in a 10-way contest dominated by 2020 nominee Matt Mowers and election denier Karoline Leavitt: Leavitt beat out Mowers 34-25, with former TV reporter Gail Huff Brown taking 17% and Prescott lagging in fourth place with just 10%. Republicans hoped that another red wave would wash up, but Pappas instead beat Leavitt by a convincing 54-46.

NEW YORK 22ND DISTRICT. GOP Rep. Brandon Williams’ office said Wednesday that the congressman was back in the hospital due to a “complication” following the heart bypass surgery he received two weeks ago. Williams’ team added that he would be absent from the House “for the remainder of the week.”

INDIANA GOVERNOR. Howey Politics wrote Thursday that it anticipates outgoing state Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers will join the GOP primary “[s]ometime between now and Labor Day.”

COLORADO 3RD DISTRICT. Grand Junction Mayor Anna Stout announced Wednesday that she’ll seek the Democratic nod to take on far-right Lauren Boebert, a move that comes months after 2022 nominee Adam Frisch launched his second bid after coming shockingly close to victory. Stout was elected in 2019 to the city council for this 68,000-person community where Trump won roughly 56-41 in 2020, and her colleagues chose her to serve a second one-year term as mayor in April. Colorado Public Radio also adds that she has “developed a reputation as a moderate lawmaker.”

Stout will be in for an expensive fight against Frisch, who hauled in a massive $2.6 million during the second quarter of the year and finished June with $2.5 million in the bank. Boebert, who fended Frisch off by all of 546 votes last year, took in $810,000 during this time and had $1.4 million on-hand. Donald Trump carried this western Colorado district 53-45, but Democrats are hoping Boebert’s tough race last year means she’ll be in for another serious fight in 2024.

CALIFORNIA 22ND DISTRICT. Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado on Wednesday filed FEC paperwork for a potential campaign against GOP Rep. David Valadao. Hurtado would join a top-two primary that includes 2022 nominee Rudy Salas, who lost a tight and expensive race last time: Politico notes that Salas enjoys the support of the number-three Democrat in the House, 33rd District Rep. Pete Aguilar, for his second try.

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

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