The Political Report – August 17, 2023

Associated Press-NORC poll: “Overall, 35% of Americans have a favorable view of Trump and 62% unfavorable. Among Republicans, though, seven in 10 view the former president favorably, and about 6 in 10 say they want him to make another run for the White House.”

TRUMP 2024. “The extraordinary collision course between former President Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign and his legal morass will be on stark display the next two weeks,” Axios reports.

“His two-week schedule features nearly half a dozen court hearings and 2024 campaign-related events, previewing what’s to come over the next 15 months as he navigates his re-election bid amid mounting legal fights.”

“Trump won’t have to attend every court hearing, but his attempt to run a national campaign while fighting 91 criminal counts in four jurisdictions will be a high-stress logistical challenge for the 77-year-old former president and his team.”

“If Donald Trump is going to romp to the 2024 GOP presidential nomination — and stay out of prison — he’ll need to break his Georgia losing streak,” Politico reports.

“That’s not just in the case of a criminal trial stemming from his indictment over allegedly trying to steal the 2020 election, but in the state’s potentially pivotal Republican presidential primary next March.”

The Messenger: “The state is the site of Donald Trump’s biggest defeats. Will his indictment there sink him in 2024?”

“Republican strategists are worried that if former President Trump doesn’t secure the GOP’s presidential nomination next year, or if he is kept off the ballot because of his mounting legal problems, it could spell a voter turnout disaster for their party in 2024,” The Hill reports.

“GOP strategists say there’s growing concern that if Trump is not the nominee, many of his core supporters, who are estimated to make up 25 percent to 35 percent of the party base, ‘will take their ball and go home.’”

NBC News: “The campaigns of four of the seven candidates who say they’ve qualified for the Aug. 23 debate in Milwaukee acknowledged to NBC News they’re holding debate prep sessions as if Trump will be there. A fifth candidate, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, said she expects Trump to be there…”

“The focus on Trump in the run-up to the debate is a sign of the power he wields over the field and his potential to wreak havoc. With just more than a week before they step onto the highest-profile stage of the campaign yet, the GOP presidential candidates are still unsure of their precise target.”

new study finds that Donald Trump’s indictments have not increased his support among Republican primary voters.

Instead, it found that polls suggesting this phenomenon used a bad question format. When the questions are asked correctly, the poll found that indictments actually hurt Trump a little.

Donald Trump’s “refusal to sign the Republican National Committee’s loyalty pledge is putting the organization in a bind as next week’s GOP primary debate approaches,” The Hill reports.

“Trump said he wouldn’t sign the pledge last week and is expected to announce in the coming days whether or not he will attend the event.”

MTG. Politico: “Greene no longer looks endangered. No substantive primary challenge has materialized. And the backlash to her ties to McCarthy (R-Calif.) hasn’t led to any clear vulnerabilities in her deep red district.”

“Greene’s ability to insulate her right flank may be a testament to just how irrefutable her brand of conservatism has become. But it also underscores how the party’s base and its establishment have become intermingled.”

Greene wouldn’t rule out challenging Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in a GOP primary for the U.S. Senate seat in 2026, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. Said Greene: “I haven’t made up my mind whether I will do that or not. I have a lot of things to think about. Am I going to be a part of President Trump’s Cabinet if he wins? Is it possible that I’ll be VP?”

Greene called serving as Trump’s running mate “an honor” and something she would consider “very, very heavily.”

CALIFIROIA 49TH DISTRICT. Margarita Wilkinson, who works as an executive at the TV broadcaster Entravision, filed FEC paperwork this week to run as a Republican against Democratic Rep. Mike Levin.

CALIFORNIA 41ST DISTRICT. The prominent labor group SEIU California has endorsed former federal prosecutor Will Rollins, a Democrat who faces only a few underfunded intra-party foes as he seeks a rematch against Republican Rep. Ken Calvert.

ARIZONA 3RD DISTRICT. Duane Wooten, a pediatrician who has been quoted by the local news concerning medical issues, tells the Arizona Republic he’s filed FEC paperwork for this safely blue open seat and anticipates joining the Democratic primary later in the month.

Ylenia Aguilar announced Friday she was ending her campaign for the Democratic nomination for this safely blue open seat, a decision the Central Arizona Water Conservation District board member said she was making because of “unexpected health developments.”

CALIFORNIA 22ND DISTRICT. Former Assemblyman Rudy Salas has earned an endorsement from Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi for his rematch campaign against GOP Rep. David Valadao. Salas is the only notable Democrat who has announced a bid so far, though state Sen. Melissa Hurtado set up a fundraising account in late July.

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. EMILY’s List and its allies at Elect Democratic Women are spending $400,000 on a TV buy to support Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, whom WPRI says doesn’t have the resources to air her own spots ahead of the Sept. 5 special Democratic primary. The spot, which comes a week after the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC deployed $300,000 on its own pro-Matos ad campaign, touts her record on reproductive rights.

Businessman Don Carlson, meanwhile, is airing his own commercial that begins with footage of gunshots and the sounds of people panicking during a shooting, both of which the on-screen text says are dramatizations. Carlson, whose daughter spent the night in lockdown after a man fired gunshots into a hallway at Colby College (only the shooter was injured), tells the audience, “That was the scene at my daughter’s college a few months ago. We were lucky that night, but no parent should ever have to wait by the phone to find out if their child was a victim of gun violence.”

Famed actress and environmental activist Jane Fonda stars in former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg’s newest ad for the special Sept. 5 Democratic primary, and she tells the audience, “Aaron is the only candidate we can trust in this race to truly stand up to Big Oil.”

The Rhode Island Board of Elections announced Tuesday that its review of Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos’ petitions found “no obvious pattern of fraud,” and that it only disqualified four additional signatures. The body, though, voted to subpoena everyone who collected petitions for Matos, but it said this would not happen until after the Sept. 5 special Democratic primary. The attorney general’s office and state police are conducting their own probe into allegations that Matos’ campaign handed in petitions ostensibly from dead voters and people who said they’d never signed.

One of the other Democrats, state Sen. Sandra Cano, meanwhile went up with her own commercial featuring her young daughter. Cano, who like Matos would be the first woman to hold this seat, declares she’s running “because a woman’s perspective matters, and no woman has ever represented us in Congress.” The only Rhode Island woman to ever serve in either chamber is Republican Claudine Schneider, who served the 2nd District from 1981 to 1991.

GEORGIA 13TH DISTRICT. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that “rumors persist” that Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Waites will seek a rematch with veteran Rep. David Scott after falling short in the 2020 Democratic primary in 2020, and Waites herself did nothing to dispel the chatter.

While saying that she had nothing to announce at the moment, Waites highlighted concerns from fellow Democrats about the 78-year-old Scott’s ability to effectively do his job. “The point of sending our representatives to Washington is to be our voice,” Waites argued, “and if their capacity is limited due to illness or whatever the case may be, I think it puts us at a disservice.” Scott recently reaffirmed that, despite rumors to the contrary, he’ll seek reelection. “Age happens,” he declared. “As long I’m doing the job, I’m going to do it.”

Waites previously served in the state House from 2012 until she resigned to wage a failed 2017 bid for chair of the Fulton County Commission, and she was out of office when she joined the 2020 primary to take on Scott. She raised virtually nothing in her bid to beat one of the more conservative Democrats in the chamber and lost 53-25, though she came unexpectedly close to forcing Scott into a runoff. She had better luck the following year when she won an at-large seat on the Atlanta City Council, but only about 700 of Scott’s constituents live within the city limits.

NEW HAMPSHIRE 1ST DISTRICT. 2022 GOP nominee Karoline Leavitt dispelled whatever talk there was about a rematch against Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas Monday, saying, “I have decided not to put my name on the ballot in the next election.” Leavitt, a Big Lie spreader who now works for a pro-Trump super PAC, lost that campaign 54-46.

FLORIDA 5TH DISTRICT. Plaintiffs challenging Florida’s GOP-drawn congressional map before a state court reached an agreement with defendants on Friday to narrow their claims to just a single seat in the northern part of the state, dropping arguments concerning several other districts.

As a result of that deal, the case will now focus solely on whether Republicans violated the state constitution’s prohibition on diminishing the ability of racial or language minorities to elect their preferred candidates when they dismantled the 5th District in redrawing Florida’s map last year. That district, which was created in 2016 in response to a previous round of litigation, was home to a 46% Black plurality and elected Al Lawson, a Black Democrat, three times in a row.

But after Republicans sliced the 5th down the middle to wring out a new, solidly red seat in north Florida, Lawson was left with the choice of either retiring or running in the revamped 2nd District, which contained his Tallahassee base. That district, though, was home to a 63% white majority and would have voted for Donald Trump by a 55-44 margin. It also was home to GOP Rep. Neal Dunn, though Lawson forged ahead nonetheless, losing in a 60-40 landslide.

That reality, however, seems to have informed the new agreement between the parties. In exchange for plaintiffs consenting to limit the scope of the case, defendants stipulated that “none of the enacted districts in North Florida are districts in which Black voters have the ability to elect their preferred candidates.” That admission should boost plaintiffs’ chances of success when the case proceeds to trial, which both sides have asked take place on Aug. 24.

In response to the development, Lawson told Politico that he said he’d consider a comeback if a version of his old district were restored. “It’s almost like they have no representation there,” Lawson said, relaying the concerns of former constituents who’ve said their pleas for assistance from Republican members of Congress have gone unheeded.

Disappointed Democrats in the rest of the state, however, may not get a shot at redemption. The plaintiffs, who are backed by national Democrats, had also alleged that a large number of districts ran afoul of the state constitution’s ban on partisan gerrymandering, including not just the 5th but also the 4th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 26th, and 27th.

Those claims have now been abandoned, though it’s conceivable different plaintiffs could raise them in a new suit. Given the sharp right turn Florida’s Supreme Court has taken in recent years—five of its seven members were appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis—it’s likely that the plaintiffs in the present suit believed their best hope lies in focusing on the 5th District and dispensing with their partisan gerrymandering arguments.

TEXAS 7TH DISTRICT. Renewable energy developer Pervez Agwan launched a campaign to deny renomination to Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher back in February, and while he’s struggled with fundraising since then, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch writes that he’s “already mounting a heavy ground game with door-knocking and in-person campaigning seven months before the March primary.” Agwan, who is the son of immigrants from India, would be Texas’ first Muslim member of Congress.

Last cycle, Republicans in the state legislature made Fletcher’s once-competitive seat safely blue in order to shore up GOP incumbents in other Houston-area constituencies. Fletcher initially flipped the 7th District in 2018 by running as a moderate, but now Agwan argues that he’s a more progressive alternative. To that end, the challenger has called for Green New Deal in an area where the oil and gas industry is a major presence.

He’s also gone after Fletcher over support she’s received from the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC. Agwan told The Intercept in July that when it comes to U.S. aid to Israel, “I support ending all aid to and implementing economic sanctions on any foreign country that egregiously violates human rights.” So far, though, he doesn’t have much money to get his message out. He finished June with just $77,000 in the bank, while Fletcher, a prodigious fundraiser, had $1.6 million at her disposal.

INDIANA 6TH DISTRICT. GOP Rep. Greg Pence tells The Republic that he plans to file for reelection in his reliably conservative seat, though he doesn’t appear to have addressed the possibility that he could instead serve as Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch’s running mate should she win the Republican primary for governor. Nominees for lieutenant governor are chosen by convention delegates rather than primary voters a month or more after the primary, so it’s possible Pence could hedge his bets and simultaneously run for Congress and statewide office.

“A national political movement that could offer an independent presidential ticket in 2024 as an alternative to major-party nominees said Monday it has now won ballot access in 10 states, after North Carolina election officials formally granted official status to a ‘No Labels’ affiliate,” the AP reports.

“The other states are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota and Utah.”

WASHINGTON 3RD DISTRICT. The Washington Republican Party on Saturday endorsed election conspiracy theorist Joe Kent in his bid for a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, despite the mess Kent unleashed less than a year ago. Kent’s extremism, which included his belief that the Jan. 6 rioters were “political prisoners,” helped Gluesenkamp Perez pull off a 50.1-49.9 upset in a southwestern Washington seat that Trump took 51-47 in 2020. That win helped ensure that House Democrats now represent every district that touches the Pacific Ocean, a feat they hadn’t accomplished since before Washington became a state in 1889.

GOP donors so far don’t seem happy with the idea of a second Kent campaign, but they’re also not rallying behind his only notable intra-party foe. Kent outraised Camas City Councilmember Leslie Lewallen $185,000 to $135,000 during the second quarter of 2023, and he finished June with a $371,000 to $124,000 cash-on-hand advantage. There was briefly some chatter last year that Tiffany Smiley, who was the party’s Senate nominee last year, could run, but the Northwest Progressive Institute says she’s backing Lewallen. Gluesenkamp Perez, for her part, hauled in $665,000 during the last quarter and had $1.2 million banked to defend herself.

NEW YORK 12TH DISTRICT. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who emerged from his 13-month prison sentence as a vocal critic of his old boss, told Semafor’s Kadia Goba on Thursday he’s interested in challenging veteran Rep. Jerry Nadler in the Democratic primary. A local Democratic strategist incredulously responded with a “jesus fucking christ,” a reaction that Goba says is similar to what others have expressed.

NEW JERSEY 7TH DISTRICT. Jason Blazakis, who is the former head of the U.S. State Department’s Counterterrorism Finance and Designations Office, declared Monday that he would seek the Democratic nod to take on GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr. in a competitive seat that includes the southwestern New York City suburbs and exurbs.

The New Jersey Globe’s Joey Fox writes that Blazakis grew up in the 7th District but only recently started living there again, to which he responded, “I’ve worked on national security for the last 20-plus years, trying to keep Americans safe from terrorists. That took me away [from New Jersey]―working on the hardest national security challenges in the world.” Fox also notes that Blazakis served as a legislative aide for GOP Rep. Jim Saxton from 1997 to 2001; Blazakis says that Saxton, who retired in 2009 from a South Jersey seat, is the last Republican he ever voted for.

Blazakis used a separate interview with Punchbowl News to identify himself as a “centrist, moderate,” while declaring labeling Kean “an enabler of an extremist agenda.” The new candidate joins Sue Altman, who heads the state branch of the progressive Working Families Party, and Roselle Park Mayor Joe Signorello in the primary for this 51-47 Biden district.

VIRGINIA 7TH DISTRICT. Two Republicans who served in different branches of the armed forces, retired Marine Jon Myers and Navy SEAL veteran Cameron Hamilton, have each filed FEC paperwork for the seat that Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger reportedly plans to retire from. Myers’ site says he’s raising money for an “exploratory committee,” while we’re still waiting to hear directly from Hamilton.

“I would tell DeSantis the hard truth. In my 40 years in presidential politics, I have never seen a worse campaign and candidate. He should withdraw from the race.”— Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, when asked by Slate what advice he would give Gov. Ron DeSantis.

PENNSYLVANIA 1ST DISTRICT. Anti-abortion activist Mark Houck tells Punchbowl News that he launched his GOP primary bid against Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick after receiving encouragement from Freedom Caucus head Scott Perry, who represents the 10th District. Houck claimed of Perry, “He said, ‘This is a decision you need to make,’ but if he were in my shoes, he would do it, were kind of his words, which is exactly what he did, so yeah, he did encourage me.” Perry’s team responded, “While Congressman Perry greatly respects Mr. Houck’s tireless dedication to fighting for the unborn, he only encouraged Mr. Houck to pray about a decision to run for Congress.”

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. Air Force veteran Greg Hach this week became the latest Republican to launch a primary bid against still-Rep. George Santos, telling the conservative Washington Examiner, “I’m as confused about George Santos’ life as he is.” Hach is now part of a field that includes a pair of businessmen, Kellen Curry and Mike Sapraicone.

PENNSYLVANIA 17TH DISTRICT. Republican state Rep. Rob Mercuri announced Tuesday that he’d take on freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Deluzio in a suburban Pittsburgh constituency that favored Joe Biden 52-46. Mercuri, who served with the Army in Iraq, represents a legislative district is contained entirely within Deluzio’s seat, but because Pennsylvania House districts are so small, the Republican only serves about 8% of the 17th Congressional District.

Mercuri launched his campaign by telling that he identifies as “pro-life” but believes the federal government should let the states define their abortion laws. But while the state representative wouldn’t say when he thinks abortions should be prohibited in Pennsylvania, reporter Ryan Deto notes that Mercuri cosponsored a 2021 bill that would have largely outlawed the procedure after six weeks. The DCCC also quickly posted a CBSN clip from his 2020 bid where, upon being asked if he’s a “Trump supporter,” Mercuri replied, “I am a Trump supporter. I am a fan of his policies.”

Deluzio, a Navy veteran who also served in Iraq, won an expensive open seat battle 53-47 last year, and Democrats hope that Trump’s toxicity will continue to keep this seat out of GOP hands. The only other declared Republican is pastor Jim Nelson, who raised a mere $29,000 during his opening fundraising quarter and finished June with $14,000 to spend. Deluzio, meanwhile, took in $348,000 and had $368,000 available.

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

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