The Political Report – September 1, 2023

“Most Republican voters in Georgia polled by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution say they still believe the 2020 presidential election was tainted by large-scale fraud — despite abundant evidence to the contrary.”

“The poll of likely Republican Party primary voters shows that 61% of respondents said there was widespread fraud in the last presidential election, a distrust that has persisted for nearly three years as another race looms.”

Daily Beast: “At the start of the 2022 midterm cycle, the RNC had twice as much cash on hand as the Democratic National Committee—$80.5 million versus $38.8 million. Now, the RNC has less than half as much on hand as the DNC—$11.8 million to the DNC’s $25.4 million.”

“The reversal comes after longtime RNC chair Ronna McDaniel fought off a contentious challenge to her leadership earlier this year, a victory secured partly through her pledge to prioritize the party’s fundraising efforts.”

“But the current state of affairs has left many RNC members concerned about the group’s financial status just as the 2024 cycle begins to pick up steam—with some of them pining for the not-so-distant past.”

WARREN COUNTY, IOWA AUDITOR. A conservative Iowa county ousted the Republican official in charge of administering its elections in a special election landslide on Tuesday night after social media posts surfaced in which Auditor David Whipple had spread election conspiracy theories.

The development stands out because Warren County, which is located just south of Des Moines, had once been competitive turf but voted for Donald Trump by a 57-41 margin in 2020. Nevertheless, Whipple, who’d been appointed to his post earlier this year, was defeated in a 67-33 drubbing by Democrat Kimberly Shields, whom he’d previously suspended from her job as deputy auditor.

Sheets had applied to be appointed to replace the previous auditor, Traci VanderLinden after she announced in May that she’d resign for personal reasons. But while VanderLinden, the last Democrat left in countywide office, recommended that the county’s Board of Supervisors pick Sheets, the all-GOP body instead unanimously went for Whipple, a construction professional with no government experience. One of the three supervisors, admitting that she was friends with Whipple and his wife, acknowledged that it “look[ed] weird” to choose him, but she argued he was a “detail-oriented person, especially in elections.”

Things only got weirder from there. Whipple’s critics soon uncovered Facebook posts from just after the 2020 election, including one in which he wrote of the president, “Joe admits MASSIVE VOTER FRAUD during brain fart.” Whipple also shared a QAnon video days before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and followed up with one promoting a Sept. 11 conspiracy theory. Kedron Bardwell, a professor at local Simpson College, publicized Whipple’s posts, though he concluded that Republican leaders weren’t bothered by them. “I think it’s highly likely that [the county supervisors] didn’t see them as problematic because in large part they agree,” he told the BBC.

Democrats, of course, disagreed, and they had a small window of opportunity to do something about it. While Whipple ordinarily would not have gone before voters until November of 2024—and had the chance to oversee next year’s elections—Iowa law gives voters 14 days to sign petitions to force a special election for any appointed county officials. Whipple’s foes quickly worked to collect the roughly 2,400 signatures they needed, a figure that represents 10% of the votes cast in the most recent election for governor in Warren County.

On the same day the campaign turned in approximately 3,000 petitions in June, Whipple announced that he was putting Sheets on leave. The auditor claimed he wanted to avoid putting staffers in an awkward position since Sheets was already being talked about as a potential opponent, though Sheets sharply objected. “I can still do my job with no problem,” she told Iowa Starting Line. “I just wasn’t given that opportunity.”

During her campaign, Sheets zeroed in on Whipple’s social media posts. “You need somebody in that office that can curb that misinformation, that can tell them exactly where they can go vote, if this rumor is true, if this is what really happened,” she told voters.

Whipple distanced himself from his election-denying posts on the trail, even telling the BBC that he acknowledged Joe Biden had won and that what he’d written was “ridiculous.” But he soon reverted to his old ways when he fired off a Facebook missive days before the election in response to Sheets’ call for Simpson College students to vote.

“Several have notified me that Kim is soliciting votes from New college students to decide your election outcomes in Warren county,” he posted. “While it may be legal, it isn’t always right.” Sheets responded by telling students, “You’re part of our community and deserve to have a say in its leadership.”

Sheets ended up pulling off a giant win in a county that had swung hard to the right over the last decade and now rarely supports Democrats. Whipple reacted to his loss by telling Starting Line he didn’t know much about local government before his appointment yet didn’t rule out another bid for office.

The new auditor, meanwhile, declared on election night, “When the county supervisors tried to take away the voice of the people, the people of Warren County stood up for our democracy and said with one voice: We trust competence over conspiracies.”

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. Michigan Republican Tudor Dixon says that Donald Trump advised her to soften her message on abortion during her failed gubernatorial bid last year, but that her campaign “could not pivot in time,” Politico reports.

Dixon told Trump on her podcast: “You were absolutely right, sir, and I hope that you are able to navigate that issue in ’24 and that we can win those women back. They are already putting out attack ads, and it is not a fair issue for them to attack on.”

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. “Former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican who served in the U.S. House for seven terms and chaired its intelligence committee, is expected to soon announce a bid for Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat,” the AP reports.

“Rogers would become the first prominent Republican in the state to announce a campaign more than eight months after longtime Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced that she would retire next year after her fourth term.”

“A major Republican donor and one-time financial backer of former President Donald Trump is now a leader in the Florida chapter of No Labels’ third-party presidential bid,” Politico reports.

“Allan Keen, a Florida-based real estate developer and investor who gave more than $137,000 to Trump-related election entities last cycle, has joined the centrist political group in a leadership role with its Florida chapter.”

“The organizers of No Labels, the bipartisan group preparing a potential third-party presidential ticket, have been conducting focus groups with like-minded voters to help draft a candidate selection plan next year without a traditional state-run primary system,” the Washington Post reports.

“The group is also considering staging televised town halls or debates in the coming months, possibly with a media partner, to help kick-start the process of selecting presidential and vice-presidential nominees. No Labels plans to nominate candidates at an April convention in Dallas only if the group’s leaders first determine that there is a viable path to victory against the Democratic and Republican nominees.”

“Sen. Joe Manchin and his daughter Heather Manchin are pitching major political donors on a nascent effort to promote centrist policies and candidates that is projected to cost more than $100 million,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The project comes as Manchin, a 76-year-old West Virginia Democrat, is weighing whether to mount an uphill effort to win re-election to the Senate in 2024 or pursue a long-shot run for president—or take on a different role in politics altogether. The centrist senator, who represents a solidly Republican state, has been a pivotal deal maker in recent years and has flirted with becoming an independent, citing increasing frustration with both parties.”

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. Democrat Brandon Presley has publicized an internal from Impact Research conducted Aug. 6 to Aug. 9 that shows him deadlocked 46-46 against Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, which is a slight improvement from the governor’s 47-44 edge in Impact’s April survey. The only poll we’ve seen in the intervening time was an OnMessage Inc. survey for Reeves from early July that showed the Republican up 49-32.

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. Termed-out Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that he was endorsing Attorney General Josh Stein to succeed him, a declaration that came a month after Punchbowl News reported that the incumbent told a gathering of the Democratic Governors Association that one of his priorities is electing Stein. Cooper’s public support for the attorney general may be part of an attempt to deter outgoing state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan from launching his own campaign for the Democratic nod.

“Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes said Tuesday that his office is figuring out how to handle potential complaints over whether former President Donald Trump should be disqualified from appearing on the 2024 ballot,” NBC News reports.

“The issue centers on the 14th Amendment, which prohibits people who have ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion’ from holding public office. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson raised the theory at last week’s GOP presidential debate that Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6, 2021, might disqualify him on those grounds — a theory that has gained traction among some legal scholars, though others discount the possibility.”

“Now, the people running state elections are trying to figure out what to do if people bring legal challenges against Trump.”

Politico: “When Pramila Jayapal faced fierce blowback in mid-July after dubbing Israel a “racist state,” it immediately unnerved fellow House progressives. Their concern: Would Democratic leaders recommit to the longstanding policy of backing all incumbents, including critics of Israel?”

“The answer was emphatic: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and other leaders quickly reassured the group in a late-July meeting at party headquarters that they planned to continue standing behind incumbents… That defense would include those who faced challenges funded by the deep-pocketed American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as well as the progressives who had initially won their seats by taking on Democratic incumbents.”

“Weeks later, Democratic leaders are following through on that promise. A slew of party leaders officially endorsed Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) reelection bid in statements.”

“A super PAC backing GOP presidential candidate Doug Burgum is launching a huge national ad campaign in an effort to vault the North Dakota governor into the second debate next month,” Politico reports.  “Best of America PAC on Wednesday reserved over $4 million in advertising set to run nationally on Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, the History Channel, Newsmax, TBS, TNT on the Fox broadcast network. The ads are set to run from Aug. 30 to Sept. 24, the day ahead of debate qualification.”

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

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