The Political Report – August 7, 2023

It’s the middle of summer but politics isn’t slowing down at all.  On Tuesday, Ohio will hold a special election to decide Issue 1, which would make it much more difficult to amend the state’s constitution.

The special election is being held ahead of a referendum on the ballot in November which would guarantee abortion rights through a constitutional amendment.

Naturally, the two measures are being considered together even if they’re being voted on separately.

Most observers suggest that gives an edge to abortion rights advocates.

In response, the anti-abortion forces are spending $5.5 million on a statewide ad campaign that falsely claims the measure would allow transgender minors to receive gender-affirming care without parental consent.

They’re obviously hoping the scare tactics will mobilize social conservatives to come out for what is expected to be a low turnout August special election.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. GOP Rep. Tom Tiffany on Tuesday announced he’d remain in the House rather than take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a move that means Republicans still don’t have a major candidate here.

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. Friday was the deadline for candidates to submit their campaign finance reports covering the first six months of 2023, and the Associated Press has rounded them up:

  • Attorney General Josh Stein (D): $5.98 million raised, $8.23 cash-on-hand
  • Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R): $2.29 million raised, $3.21 cash-on-hand
  • former Rep. Mark Walker (R): $554,000 raised, $495,000 cash-on-hand
  • Treasurer Dale Folwell (R): $170,000 raised, additional $1 million self-funded, $1.19 million cash-on-hand

Folwell previously revealed how much money he had in the bank, though he didn’t indicate that he was self-funding most of his campaign. Another Republican, former state Sen. Andy Wells, launched his campaign in July weeks after he seeded it with a $51,000 loan, and he finished the previous month with $63,000 available.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Noble Predictive Insights, which until recently was known as OH Predictive Insights, has released a poll that finds Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego leading in six different general election scenarios:

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego (D): 33, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb (R): 25, Kyrsten Sinema (I-inc): 24
  • Gallego (D): 40, Lamb (R): 36
  • Gallego (D): 32, Sinema (I-inc): 28, 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters (R): 24
  • Gallego (D): 44, Masters (R): 36
  • Gallego (D): 34, Sinema (I-inc): 26, 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake (R): 25
  • Gallego (D): 45, Lake (R): 35

Gallego and Lamb are the only notable candidates who have announced they’re running. NPI, which sometimes does work on behalf of GOP groups, is the very first poll we’ve seen from anyone since April.

NORTH DAKOTA U.S. SENATOR. Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer told KUMV this week that he hasn’t decided whether he’ll seek reelection, though the incumbent sounds like he’s leaning strongly towards another campaign. “A second term for me would mean greater clout, probably a chairmanship as well,” Cramer said. “Seniority matters in the Senate. That’s where my thinking is today without telling you exactly what I intend to do. I guess I would be surprised if I decided not to run for reelection.” The senator does not appear to have indicated what factors would push him toward retirement.

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. The Washington Post reports that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to direct money towards positive ads “to help prop up his poll numbers before he decides whether he’ll run,” but Manchin won’t use his own $10.8 million war chest for this purpose because he “doesn’t want to spark speculation that he’s running for reelection by making an ad buy to boost his image.” The Democratic group Duty and Honor did run commercials in the spring to counter a GOP offensive to damage the incumbent, but the paper says that Schumer doesn’t want to make a big investment here before he knows if Manchin will actually run again.

ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. GOP Sen. Katie Britt said Monday she’d checked herself into the hospital over the weekend after she “experienced a sudden onset of numbness in my face.” The senator continued that doctors “determined that my symptoms were a result of swelling of a facial nerve, most likely caused by a post-viral infection,” and that her ongoing outpatient care might “take several weeks.”

WASHINGTON GOVERNOR. Richland School Board member Semi Bird on Thursday pledged to continue his campaign for governor two days after the Republican appears to have lost a recall election along with two colleagues. The trio voted in February of 2022 to defy the state’s COVID protocols and make it optional to wear masks in local public schools; school was canceled for two days as a result, and the group ultimately backed down.

Bird hasn’t gained much traction ahead of a top-two primary contest where former Rep. Dave Reichert appears to be the GOP frontrunner, but he’s hoping his likely ouster will change that. (The state is still counting ballots, but the pro-recall “yes” side was ahead 56-44 in Bird’s race as of Thursday; the results were similar in the other two contests.) “The teachers unions and leftest activists may have won the recall battle, pouring 10’s of thousands of dollars into the effort,” Bird wrote Thursday in a fundraising email, “but when the people of Washington send me to Olympia, we will win the war.”

INDIANA GOVERNOR. Wealthy businessman Eric Doden announced Wednesday that he was launching an opening $2 million TV and digital buy far ahead of next May’s Republican primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb. Doden is the first candidate to go on the air, though he’s not the only 2024 downballot candidate in the nation who is already on TV: Maryland Rep. David Trone began running ads in May with a full year to go before his Democratic primary, and he’d already deployed more than $2 million through June.

Doden’s first spot in his campaign to keep the governor’s office in Eric hands isn’t especially exciting stuff, however: His narrator declares that this “grandson of a preacher” is a “devoted family man and pro-life champion,” as well as “a job creator who’s rebuilt community.” But Doden, who ran the Indiana Economic Development Corp. under Gov. Mike Pence, could use any chance to increase his name recognition in a primary where Sen. Mike Braun looks like the early frontrunner; the field also includes Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and disgraced former Attorney General Curtis Hill, while outgoing state Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers is also talking about running.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Sen. Bill Cassidy on Monday endorsed far-right Attorney General Jeff Landry in the October all-party primary, a move that comes two-and-a-half years after the senator’s vote to convict Donald Trump turned him into a GOP pariah.

Landry, who has Trump’s backing for this campaign, was one of the many Republicans who piled on at the time, tweeting that Cassidy “has fallen into the trap laid by Democrats to have Republicans attack Republicans.” (Trump, characteristically, called Cassidy “wacky” and declared he “could not even be elected dog catcher today.”) The attorney general, though, seemed happy to accept an endorsement this week from the senator, who himself spent months last year mulling a bid for governor before opting to stay put.

NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR and 2ND DISTRICT. Former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns, a Republican who lost last year’s general election to Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster in a 56-44 routreaffirmed to WMUR on Sunday that he’s interested in a campaign for governor or in seeking a rematch with the congresswoman. Burns indicated he’d prefer the former option, though he added that he’d also look at running for the powerful Executive Council if the opportunity presented itself.

NEW JERSEY U.S. SENATOR. Kyle Jasey, the head of a real estate lending company and the son of retiring Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, told Politico this week that he’d wage a long-shot Democratic primary bid against Sen. Robert Menendez, who remains under federal investigation. The younger Jasey quietly filed FEC paperwork in May but hasn’t reported raising any money yet, and there’s no indication that the state’s powerful party establishment is looking to abandon Menendez.

The New York Times’ Tracey Tully reports that the federal prosecutors investigating Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez appear to be probing whether the senator or his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, “received undisclosed gifts from a company run by a friend of Ms. Menendez, and that those gifts might have been given in exchange for political favors.” Tully writes that the friend in question is Wael Hana, who runs the only company empowered by the Egyptian government to certify that any imported food meets halal dietary requirements even though he’d previously filled out court papers saying he had no background in that industry.

The story says that federal authorities are investigating allegations that either Robert or Nadine Arslanian Menendez obtained a car or apartment from Hana’s company, IS EG Halal, though Tully adds, “It is, however, unclear which, if any, of Mr. Menendez’s official acts as a senator is under scrutiny by prosecutors.” Hana’s spokesperson told the paper in May, “Allegations about cars, apartments, cash and jewelry being provided by anyone associated with IS EG Halal to Senator Menendez or his wife at all—let alone in exchange for any kind of favorable treatment—are totally without basis.”

The senator, who has made it clear he plans to run again this cycle but hasn’t yet announced, predicted to the Times this matter would be “successfully closed.” Menendez previously was indicted in 2015 on corruption charges in a different matter, but the jury failed to reach a verdict two years later. Federal authorities decided not to seek a second trial, and the Democrat won another term in 2018.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Ohio Northern University’s new poll with Lucid shows Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown taking an identical 45% of the vote against his three notable GOP foes:

  • 45-33 vs. state Sen. Matt Dolan
  • 45-32 vs. Secretary of State Frank LaRose
  • 45-28 vs. businessman Bernie Moreno

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. Doug Mastriano (R) “is in the very early days of another run for governor in 2026, which raises the prospect of a rematch with Gov. Josh Shapiro, who soundly defeated him last year,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Congratulations on your reelection, Governor Shapiro!

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney tells CNN’s Manu Raju that he will “wait ’til the fall” to decide whether to seek a second term, a more specific timeframe than the one his team offered in April, when a spokesperson said the senator would “make a final decision in the coming months.” Romney’s most recent fundraising report offered some confusing tea leaves: He took in just $350,000 from donors during the second quarter but also rented out his fundraising list for double that sum. He already has one GOP primary opponent in Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, though Staggs reported raising only $171,000. However, State House Speaker Brad Wilson, who is still weighing a bid, has already brought in $1 million and self-funded another $1.2 million.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale still seems to be in absolutely no hurry to decide whether to join the race to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester even as the only serious declared candidate, self-funder Tim Sheehy, is spending $200,000 on what Politico says is an introductory “broadcast, cable, satellite and digital ad buy.” Rosendale instead tells Bloomberg, “We’ve got plenty of time for that,” a statement that comes over a month after Politico reported he was telling colleagues he planned to avenge his 2018 loss to Tester.

Sheehy’s head start may be costing Rosendale, as Club for Growth president David McIntosh recently suggested to reporters that it might backtrack from its previous statements indicating it would once again support the congressman. But Rosendale insisted to Politico on Wednesday that McIntosh told him “that he was misquoted,” though the 2018 nominee admitted that the Club head said Sheehy had an “impressive record.” However, the Club itself does not appear to have publicly suggested that McIntosh was inaccurately quoted saying, “Matt has not yet decided to run. If he does, we’re going to take a close look at that race and figure out what the best answer is.”

Sheehy, for his part, is using his opening ad buy to air versions of the video that accompanied his campaign launch last month. The candidate tells the audience that the Sept. 11 attacks “motivated me to serve our nation as a Navy SEAL.”

“Tim Sheehy is running in one of the country’s most competitive U.S. Senate races while also running an aerial firefighting company that is heavily dependent on federal contracts,” NBC News reports.

“But the company, which issues publicly traded stock, also has explicit rules about political contributions and activities. Employees are not permitted to engage in politics while on company time, according to the company’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics. There are also rules requiring legal reviews and approval before company funds can be spent on behalf of candidates or campaigns.”

TEXAS 18TH DISTRICT and HOUSTON MAYOR. Incumbent Sheila Jackson Lee has not said if she’d seek reelection to her safely blue seat in the event that she loses this year’s race for mayor of Houston, but former City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards tells the Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek that she’d continue her bid to replace Jackson Lee no matter what. “I do think Congresswoman Jackson Lee can win the race and certainly anticipate that her seat will be the one that becomes open,” said Edwards, who has endorsed the congresswoman for mayor, before adding she “will remain in the CD-18 race even if Congresswoman Jackson Lee decides to pursue CD-18 again.”

Both Jackson Lee and state Sen. John Whitmire are likely to earn the most support in the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out Mayor Sylvester Turner, but Svitek notes that it’s not clear if a runoff would take place before or after the Dec. 11 filing deadline for their current posts. He writes that a new state law would require that a second round take place on a Saturday between 30 to 45 days after the primary, which would leave either Dec. 9 or Dec. 16 as options. Whitmire, who led Jackson Lee 51-33 in a recent runoff poll from the University of Houston, also has not said what he’d do if he loses.

The University of Houston is out with the first poll anyone has released since Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee launched her campaign four months ago, and it finds that, while she’s well-positioned to advance to a runoff with state Sen. John Whitmire, she’d be the underdog against her fellow Democrat in a second round.

The school first looks at the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner and has Whitmire and Jackson Lee taking 34% and 32%, respectively, with former METRO board chair Gilbert Garcia a very distant third with just 3%. U of H, though, shows Whitmire defeating the congresswoman 51-33 in a runoff. (The date has not yet been scheduled.)

While both the frontrunners are longtime Democratic officeholders in this blue city, the school shows Whitmer, who has sided with the GOP on multiple votes against bail reform, winning over Republican voters by an astounding 88-2 as independents back him 60-18. Jackson Lee, who reliably votes with her party in D.C., carries Democrats 55-28, but U of H says that’s far from enough.

INDIANA 3RD DISTRICT. Businessman Tim Smith, who lost the 2019 race for mayor of Fort Wayne 61-39 against Democratic incumbent Tom Henry, this week became the latest Republican to enter the contest for this safely red seat.

TEXAS 15TH DISTRICT. EMILY’s List has endorsed 2022 Democratic nominee Michelle Vallejo’s rematch bid against GOP freshman Rep. Monica De La Cruz, a development that comes at a time when no other notable Democrats are running here.

TEXAS 28TH DISTRICT. Conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar on Thursday unveiled endorsements from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and the rest of the chamber’s Democratic leadership, as well as Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, in what’s likely a move to deter another primary challenge from the left. Cuellar narrowly fended off immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros in 2020 and 2022, and her former spokesperson told the Texas Tribune back in March that she hadn’t ruled out a third try. The Lone Star State’s downballot filing deadline is Dec. 11, which is one of the earliest in the nation.

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

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