The Political Report – September 10, 2023

A new USA Today/Suffolk University Poll of unlikely voters — those who are eligible to vote but say they probably won’t — give Donald Trump a lopsided edge over President Biden.

“Registered voters who say they aren’t likely to go to the polls back Trump over Biden by nearly 20 percentage points, 32% to 13%, with 27% supporting a third-party or other candidate. Citizens who are eligible to vote but haven’t registered also favor Trump by close to 2-1, 28% to 15%; 27% prefer another candidate.”

“If they participated in the election, Trump’s advantage among them is so wide that they could shift the political landscape to his advantage.”

David Paleologos: “Here’s the irony of ironies: when the unlikely voters were asked why they were registered but not voting next year, about 13% used the words ‘election is rigged/corruption/unfair/don’t like the voting process/mail-in ballots.’ These have been Trump’s words for the past five years, and the very people who could help elect him have totally soured on elections and voting.”

MICHIGAN 10TH DISTRICT. Former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga announced Thursday that he would seek the Democratic nomination for a rematch against freshman Republican Rep. John James, who beat him by a surprisingly narrow 49-48 last year. Marlinga launched his campaign by publicizing a primary internal from Public Policy Polling that showed him leading Tiffany Tilley, a state Board of Education member whom we hadn’t previously heard mentioned as a possible candidate, 31-5.

Two people who are running, gun safety activist Emily Busch and financial advisor Diane Young, take 3% each, as does physician Anil Kumar. The Detroit News says that Kumar, who unsuccessfully ran for the House twice before winning his 2018 statewide race for the Wayne State University Board of Governors, has formed an exploratory committee, and his team says he’ll decide by early next month. The paper also identifies former Macomb County Health Department head Rhonda Powell, who lost last year’s primary to Marlinga 48-17 and secures 2% in his poll, as a possible contender.

Marlinga has had a long career in Macomb County politics going back to 1984, when he was elected to the first of what would be five terms as county prosecutor, but he’s experienced some major setbacks over the decades. Marlinga competed in the 1994 primary for Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat and took last place in the six-way primary with just 8% of the vote, though he convincingly won re-election two years later. He was still serving as prosecutor in 2002 when he challenged Republican Rep. Candice Miller in an earlier and more conservative version of the 10th District, a campaign the Democrat lost 63-36.

Marlinga was indicted two years later for allegedly helping a convicted rapist earn a new trial in exchange for contributions for that congressional campaign, and he stepped down as county prosecutor afterward. A jury, though, acquitted him in 2006, and Marlinga sought to return to public office soon after. After narrowly losing a 2010 primary for the state Senate, Marlinga was decisively elected to a local judgeship in 2012; it was during that campaign that he filled out a questionnaire saying the two U.S. Supreme Court justices he most identified with were anti-abortion hardliners Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, a response that surfaced again a decade later.

Marlinga decided to run for the House again last year after Michigan’s independent redistricting commission last cycle created a suburban Detroit seat that would have favored Donald Trump just 50-49, and Democratic Rep. Andy Levin’s ill-fated decision to run against colleague Haley Stevens in the 11th District meant that there would be no incumbent here. Marlinga, who argued he’d selected the two conservative justices because he’s “always been a strict constitutionalist” but backed abortion rights, decisively won the primary but was in for a difficult general election.

James, who had waged competitive Senate races during the previous two cycles, massively outspent Marlinga $6.1 million to $1 million, and conservative outside groups deployed another $2.4 million as the other side directed their resources elsewhere. Michigan Democrats, though, enjoyed a strong year, and Marlinga came close to pulling off what would have been a truly shocking upset. The former judge, who went on to lead Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Elder Abuse Task Force, emphasized James’ opposition to abortion rights in his kickoff and argued that this time he’d have the resources to win.

VIRGINIA 2ND DISTRICT. Navy veteran Missy Cotter Smasal on Wednesday became the first notable Democrat to announce a campaign against freshman Rep. Jen Kiggans, a Virginia Republican who flipped one of the most competitive House seats in the nation last year.

The 2nd District, which includes all of Virginia Beach as well as other communities in the Hampton Roads area, favored Joe Biden 50-48 in 2020 before backing Republican Glenn Youngkin by a hefty 55-44 margin in the following year’s race for governor. Kiggans, then a state senator, unseated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria 52-48 in 2022 after an expensive battle, but Democrat Aaron Rouse’s subsequent victory in the special election to replace Kiggans in the legislature was another reminder that this area remains swingy turf.

Cotter Smasal herself waged a high-profile campaign in 2019 for a different seat in the state Senate when she went up against Republican incumbent Bill DeSteph. DeSteph had won his first term 59-41 in 2015, a year before Donald Trump carried his constituency 51-43, but both parties made this contest a priority at a time when Democrats were looking to flip the chamber.

Cotter Smasal, who decisively outraised her opponentattracted national attention late in the race when she ran a TV ad starring Karen Havekost, who had survived a mass shooting in Virginia Beach earlier in the year in which a city employee murdered 12 people. “I asked Sen. Bill DeSteph to do something so this doesn’t happen again,” Havekost told the audience. “Sen. Bill DeSteph did not meet with us. He blocked the Senate from even voting on gun safety laws.” DeSteph responded with his own ad calling Cotter Smasal’s message “shameful.” He went on to a narrow 52-48 win, but that same night, his party lost control of the Senate for the first time since 2014.

Cotter Smasal launched her campaign to flip the 2nd District, where veterans make up a large portion of the electorate, by charging that Kiggans “voted to cut veterans’ health benefits and then lied about it.” (The congresswoman also served in the Navy.) The Democrat entered the race with endorsements from former Gov. Ralph Northam, who represented part of this area when he was in the legislature a decade ago, and Rep. Jennifer McClellan, who won a special election to represent the neighboring 4th District earlier this year. No other major Democrats have publicly expressed interest in running against Kiggans so far.

INDIANA 3RD DISTRICT. Construction project manager Grant Bucher, who the Indiana Capitol Chronicle says is running the $26 million project to build a new Steuben County judicial center, said this week that he was joining the GOP primary for this safely red seat. Reporter Casey Smith adds that the new candidate grew up in this northeast Indiana seat, which Republican Jim Banks is giving up to run for the Senate, but that Bucher only recently returned from Michigan.

CALIFORNIA 49TH DISTRICT. Margarita Wilkinson, who works as an executive at the TV broadcaster Entravision, on Thursday became the latest Republican to join the top-two primary to go up against Democratic Rep. Mike Levin. The GOP field already consisted of businesswoman Sheryl Adams, 2022 state Senate candidate Matt Gunderson, and Marine veteran Kate Monroe. Joe Biden carried this seat, which includes coastal communities north of San Diego, 55-43.

WISCONSIN 3RD DISTRICT. WisPolitics reports that state cabinet member Missy Hughes, who serves as the secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, won’t join the Democratic primary for this seat. However, just as with previous reports about her potential interest in running, there’s no word directly from Hughes herself yet.

Former La Crosse County Board chairwoman Tara Johnson announced Wednesday that she was joining the Democratic primary to face freshman Republican Rep. Derrick Van Orden in the 3rd District, a southwestern Wisconsin constituency that Donald Trump carried 51-47.

Johnson was elected in 2000 to the governing body of La Crosse County, which is home to 16% of the district’s denizens, and she’d end up serving there for 20 years. She sought a promotion during that long stint in 2008 when she challenged Republican state Sen. Dan Kapanke, but she lost 51-49. (Kapanke himself would go on to wage a failed 2010 campaign to unseat Democratic Rep. Ron Kind in an old version of the 3rd, and voters would recall him the following year.) Johnson was named chair in 2011, and she still held that title when she announced she’d retire in 2020.

Johnson will face businesswoman Rebecca Cooke, who took second in last year’s primary, for the nomination. State Rep. Katrina Shankland is also mulling a bid, though she tells WisPolitics she doesn’t know when she’ll decide.

MICHIGAN 3RD DISTRICT. Republican Paul Hudson, an attorney who took fourth place last year for the state Supreme Court (where the top-two finishers were elected), declared Thursday that he’d challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Hillary Scholten. Joe Biden carried this constituency 53-45 two years before Scholten beat far-right Republican John Gibbs 55-42, a win that made her the first Democrat to represent a Grand Rapids-based seat in the House since the mid-1970s.

Hudson, however, did not have such a great 2022 even though the state GOP picked him and incumbent Brian Zahra to be its candidates in the officially nonpartisan statewide contest for two seats on Michigan’s highest court. Democratic Justice Richard Bernstein and Zahra won those two seats respectively with 34% and 24%, while Democrat Kyra Harris Bolden was just behind with 22%. (Gov. Gretchen Whitmer weeks later appointed Bolden to the body after fellow Democrat Bridget Mary McCormack stepped down.) Hudson, for his part, languished in fourth place with just 13%.

HOUSTON MAYOR. Democratic state Sen. John Whitmire is making use of his enormous financial advantage to launch his opening TV ad ahead of the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary, and his campaign says it will be part of a “multi-million dollar advertising campaign.” The spot touts how his community aided his family after their house burned down when he was young, with Whitmire saying, “It just instilled in me how good people are.”

BALTIMORE MAYOR. Former Mayor Sheila Dixon announced Thursday that she would seek a Democratic primary rematch next May against incumbent Brandon Scott, who beat her 30-27 in the 2020 nomination contest to lead this dark blue city. Dixon, as we recently wrote, resigned in 2010 after she was convicted of stealing gift cards that were supposed to help needy families, but she’s still enjoyed a loyal base of support from voters who remember her tenure as a time when the city’s high murder rate dropped.

Dixon, who also came close to winning in 2016, kicked off her third comeback effort with an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun touting her accomplishments more than a decade ago and addressing the scandal that ended her career. “I let matters of the heart lead me astray once before,” she wrote, “and for that, and the pain that it caused to my beloved Baltimore, I am truly sorry. I hope the people realize that my love for the future of Baltimore outweighs the mistakes of my past.”

NEW JERSEY 7TH DISTRICT. Greg Vartan, who serves as city council president for the community of Summit (pop. 22,000), tells the New Jersey Globe he’s considering joining the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr. It may be a few months before he decides, though, as Vartan said he was currently focused on “electing great leaders” in the Nov. 7 local elections.

CALIFORNIA 1ST DISTRICT. “Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to run for reelection was shaped by what she called San Francisco’s ‘special needs,’ but she made clear in an interview Friday that she was as motivated by fervent desire to reclaim the House majority and block former President Donald Trump’s return,” Politico reports.

PENNSYLVANIA 10TH DISTRICT. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Janelle Stelson, who’s an anchor at the local NBC affiliate in Lancaster, is considering running here as a Democrat. Stelson didn’t rule out the prospect, stating in an email, “In the past more than three decades that I’ve been a journalist in Central PA, I’ve had quite a few people ask if I would be interested in running for office … so I’m not surprised you would hear something like that. And I’m honored folks would mention my name.”

Lancaster is located outside the 10th District, which covers the nearby Harrisburg and York areas, but Stelson likely would not be lacking for name recognition in the 10th, since it’s fully located within the same broadcast TV market as Lancaster. The Inquirer even notes that she moderated debates between GOP Rep. Scott Perry and his Democratic opponents in both 2018 and 2020.

TEXAS 18TH DISTRICT. Isaiah Martin, who is a consultant in the aerospace industry, announced Wednesday that he was seeking the safely blue seat currently held by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a fellow Democrat who is competing in this year’s race for mayor of Houston. The incumbent has not said if she’d seek reelection should she lose her current race.

Martin, a 25-year-old who says he wants to be Congress’ “next Gen-Z member,” is a former Jackson Lee intern, and the Houston Chronicle says he’s been aiding her current campaign. The field to succeed the incumbent already includes former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, who has said she’ll run no matter what Jackson Lee does; Martin, for his part, does not appear to have directly addressed what he’d do should the congresswoman seek reelection.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY MAYOR. Democratic incumbent Daniella Levine Cava has publicized an internal from MDW arguing that she’s favored in next year’s nonpartisan race even if her Republican predecessor, Rep. Carlos Giménez, tries to retake his old job. The firm finds Levine Cava leading Giménez 55-19 in the nonpartisan primary, with another 8% going to conservative YouTuber Alex Otaola. (Candidates can avoid a second round by winning a majority in the summer primary.) The sample favored Joe Biden 51-39 over Donald Trump; Biden carried the county 53-46 in 2020.

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

0 comments on “The Political Report – September 10, 2023

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: