The Political Report – September 2, 2023

Tuesday is primary night for two vacant House seats on opposite ends of the country: Rhode Island’s 1st District, which Democrat David Cicilline departed at the end of May, and Utah’s 2nd District, where Republican Chris Stewart remains in office but triggered a special election by notifying Gov. Spencer Cox in June that he would “irrevocably resign” effective the evening of Sept. 15.

Given the respective lean of each district—Joe Biden took Rhode Island’s 1st 64-35, while Donald Trump carried Utah’s 2nd 57-40—the primaries will likely be dispositive in both cases. It’ll still be a little while, though, before either state sends a new member to Congress: The general election in Rhode Island will take place on Nov. 7, while Utah’s is set for Nov. 21. More on the two races below.

A. B. Stoddard: “A new standard-bearer is required to decisively beat Trump next year. It has nothing to do with the president’s record or Joe Biden the man. This is purely strategic, and solely about his chance of winning, as well as Kamala Harris’s. The vice president’s persistently low approval rating, part of the calculation for a second Biden campaign, is comparable to Trump’s when he was in office.”

“All of this may be unfair—successful first terms for incumbent presidents are usually rewarded by second terms, after all—but a determination made repeatedly by a majority of voters that Biden lacks the capacity to serve as commander in chief on account of his age isn’t going to fade away. If anything, the issue will get worse for the president as he continues to get older…”

“If Trump chooses Nikki Haley or Sen. Tim Scott to be his running mate, the race may not even be close. Throw in Cornel West’s third-party candidacy, a No Labels spoiler unity ticket—and perhaps an independent run from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., backed by Steve Bannon & Friends—and a second term of Trump starts to look like all but a sure thing.”

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. A total of 12 Democrats are on the ballot to replace Cicilline, though one of them, businessman Don Carlson, dropped out over the weekend amid a scandal.

The main contenders for this dark blue constituency are former Biden administration official Gabe Amo, state Sen. Sandra Cano, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, and former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg. Also running are Navy veteran Walter Berbrick, state Rep. Stephen Casey, Providence City Councilman John Goncalves, and state Sen. Ana Quezada.

Amo, Cano, Goncalves, Matos, and Quezada would each have the chance to make history as the first person of color to represent the Ocean State in Congress.

The only poll we’ve seen in the last month was a mid-August internal for Amo that showed Regunberg leading him 28-19 as Matos and Cano took 11% each. The survey, which found Carlson taking 8%, did not ask about the rest of the field by name and instead found 8% opting for “another candidate not mentioned here.” However, there are further indications that Regunberg, who touts endorsements from prominent national progressives like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is the frontrunner going into Tuesday.

Regunberg, who is the nephew of Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider, was on the receiving end of more attacks than any of his opponents at Tuesday’s debate. A group called Committee for a Better Rhode Island followed up days later by making Regunberg its target in the first negative TV ad of the entire race, though WPRI says it’s only putting $81,000 behind its offensive. The spot attacks the candidate over his May declaration that he would have voted against Biden’s debt ceiling deal with Speaker Kevin McCarthy; Regunberg said at Tuesday’s debate that he’d have supported the agreement if he’d been the decisive vote.

Amo, for his part, picked up an endorsement Thursday from former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who represented prior versions of this seat from 1995 to 2011 but has since moved out of the state. Kennedy, who is the son of the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, also appeared in a commercial for Amo and touted his work in the Biden administration.

Matos, meanwhile, looked like the frontrunner until July, when multiple local election boards asked the police to probe allegations that her campaign had turned in forged signatures in order to get on the ballot. State election authorities have reaffirmed that the lieutenant governor submitted a sufficient number of valid petitions, but the state attorney general’s office is continuing to investigate the matter. Matos’ allies at EMILY’s List and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus remain in her corner, however, as she’s benefited from more outside spending than any of her rivals.

Cano has trailed her opponents in fundraising and hasn’t received any third-party help, but she has several influential labor groups on her side. The rest of the field has raised little money and hasn’t picked up many notable endorsements.

UTAH 2ND DISTRICT. The GOP contest to succeed Stewart is a three-way battle between Celeste Maloy, the congressman’s former legal counsel; former state Rep. Becky Edwards; and former RNC member Bruce Hough. The winner will face Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, who has no intra-party opposition, for a seat located in central and western Salt Lake City and southwestern Utah.

Maloy, who has Stewart’s support, earned her spot on the primary ballot by winning the support of delegates at the GOP’s convention in June. Just days later, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that she’d last voted in Utah in 2018 before taking a job in D.C. to work for Stewart, which led election officials to move her voter registration to inactive status. Maloy’s detractors unsuccessfully argued in court that she’d violated state law because she only became an active voter again after she filed to run for Congress, but they’ve continued working to portray her as an interloper.

Edwards, meanwhile, infuriated conservatives in 2020 when she endorsed Joe Biden (she has since expressed “regret”), a move she followed by waging a failed primary challenge to far-right Sen. Mike Lee in which she portrayed herself as a more pragmatic option. However, the one poll anyone has released finds voters may not be holding it against her: A mid-August survey from Dan Jones & Associates showed Edwards beating Hough 32-11, with Maloy at 9%. However, half of respondents were undecided, so if this survey is accurate, the race remains up for grabs.

Unlike in Rhode Island, there has been little outside activity in this contest. Hough and Edwards had each spent about $450,000 as of mid-August, while Maloy had spent about half that.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. Republican pollster J.L. Partners has shared a recent poll with Semafor that tests next year’s primary and general election, though there’s no indication about who, if anyone, was their client. The GOP primary portion finds far-right Rep. Matt Rosendale with a wide 52-21 edge over wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy, who is the favorite of establishment Republicans and the NRSC. That result is only modestly better for Sheehy than a June survey from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had found Rosendale up 64-10 right before Sheehy kicked off his campaign.

While Rosendale has yet to formally announce his own campaign, he’s recently been acting like he’s going to run, and Democrats likely would prefer to face him given that he already lost to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester when this seat was last up in 2018. However, J.L. Partners’ poll finds little difference between the two Republicans in a hypothetical 2024 general election: Rosendale leads Tester 46-43 while Sheehy beats the incumbent 46-42. Polling has been very limited here so far, but those numbers are very similar to Rosendale’s 46-41 edge over Tester that GOP pollster OnMessage Inc. found in February.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that Blake Masters, who was one of the GOP’s very worst Senate nominees last cycle, has decided to try again this year, and Politico says his declaration could come as soon as next week. Masters would join Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb in the primary for the seat held by Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat-turned-independent who still hasn’t revealed her 2024 plans.

The Republican that everyone’s waiting on, though, is election denier Kari Lake, who Axios previously reported plans to launch in October. She and Masters campaigned together last year by urging voters to back “Lake and Blake,” but their relationship is anything but friendly these days. Lake on Sunday responded to the news that Masters would be talking to a local conservative activist by tweeting, “I hope you bring up election fraud, and Election crime. You’ve been quite silent.”

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Following a new report on Thursday from the Detroit News that former Republican Rep. Peter Meijer had formed an exploratory committee ahead of a possible bid for Michigan’s open Senate seat next year, the ex-congressman released a statement once again confirming that he’s “considering running.” The development comes as another former member of Congress, Mike Rogers, is also reportedly preparing to join the GOP primary. Democrats have a multi-way primary of their own, but Rep. Elissa Slotkin has raised far more money and earned more high-profile endorsements than the rest of the field.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Pluribus News reports that Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear and his allies have reserved $17.3 million in TV time for the remainder of the campaign, compared to $5 million from Republican Daniel Cameron and his backers.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Conservative independent Hunter Lundy has self-funded more than $1 million to air his first TV ad, which is a minute-long spot that highlights his working-class upbringing and emphasizes his Christian faith. Lundy also calls for raising the minimum wage, investing in education, and holding responsible the “people who wreck our air and water.”

LOUISIANA 1ST DISTRICT. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise announced Tuesday that he’d been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer he characterized as “very treatable.” The Republican said he’ll continue working as he receives treatment over “the next several months.”

NEW YORK 22ND DISTRICT. Democratic state Sen. John Mannion has publicized endorsement from several labor groups, including the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and AFSCME. Mannion, who previously earned the backing of the New York State United Teachers, is one of several Democrats who are competing to take on GOP Rep. Brandon Williams.

WISCONSIN 3RD DISTRICT. Democratic state Sen. Brad Pfaff tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he’s decided to run for reelection to the legislature rather than seek a rematch against freshman GOP Rep. Derrick Van Orden, who beat him 52-48 last year. Former CIA officer Deb McGrath, who took third against Pfaff in the 2022 primary, also informed the paper she wouldn’t run this cycle for this 51-47 Trump constituency.

The only notable Democrat who has announced so far is businesswoman Rebecca Cooke, whom Pfaff defeated 39-31 for the nomination last time. Both state Rep. Katrina Shankland and former La Crosse County Board chair Tara Johnson, though, reiterated their interest in taking on Van Orden this week; the Journal Sentinel also says that Missy Hughes, who serves in Gov. Tony Evers’ cabinet, still hasn’t ruled it out even though “multiple Democrats in the state have expressed doubts over whether she will run in 2024.”

CALIFORNIA 47TH DISTRICT. Democratic state Sen. Dave Min pleaded no contest Tuesday after being charged with drunk driving in May, and Politico says he was “sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation.” Min has Senate candidate Katie Porter’s endorsement in next year’s top-two primary to succeed her in this competitive Orange County constituency.

NEVADA 3RD DISTRICT. GOP Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama has picked up an endorsement from Gov. Joe Lombardo, a declaration that comes a little more than a week after Kasama launched her campaign to unseat Democratic incumbent Susie Lee.

NORTH CAROLINA 13TH DISTRICT. Republican state Rep. Erin Paré announced Wednesday that she would challenge Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel in a suburban Raleigh district that she and her colleagues will have the chance to gerrymander this year. The state representative says she’ll be self-funding $400,000 for her new effort.

Paré this year sponsored the infamous law barring trans women and girls from playing in the school sport that corresponds with their gender identity, and she launched her new campaign by branding herself “a conservative leader willing to stand up to the woke mob on behalf of conservatives in this region.”

FLORIDA 28TH DISTRICT and MIAMI-DADE COUNTY MAYOR. Spanish-language radio host Roberto Rodriguez Tejera reports that GOP Rep. Carlos Giménez has told him that he’s interested in running to reclaim his old job as mayor of Miami-Dade County next year by taking on Democratic incumbent Daniella Levine Cava. That decision would result in an open seat race for Florida’s 28th District, which backed Donald Trump 53-47 under the gerrymandered map the legislature approved last cycle; the county as a whole, by contrast, favored Joe Biden 53-46.

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

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