The Political Report – September 22, 2023

A new CNN/University of New Hampshire poll finds Donald Trump leading the Republican primary field with 39% of likely voters, followed by Vivek Ramaswamy at 13%, Nikki Haley at 12%, Chris Christie at 11%, Ron DeSantis at 10%, Tim Scott at 6% and Mike Pence at 2%.

A new Fox News poll in Iowa finds Donald Trump leading the Republican presidential field with 46%, followed by Ron DeSantis at 15%, Nikki Haley at 11%, Tim Scott at 7%, Vivek Ramaswamy at 7%, Mike Pence at 3%, Chris Christie at 3% and Doug Burgum at 2%.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Politico reported Wednesday that Republican Kari Lake, who continues to challenge her defeat in last year’s race for governor, will “almost certainly” announce in October that she’ll run for the Senate, which is the same timeline Axios laid out last month. Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb has been campaigning for the GOP nod since April, but it remains to be seen if any other notable names will join in. While multiple publications said just before Labor Day that 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters had decided to get in, a separate Politico story from Wednesday says his entry is “now on hold as Kari Lake preps her entry.”

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. “David McCormick, a former hedge fund executive who lost the Republican primary for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat last year, will announce on Thursday that he is running again for Senate — this time against three-time incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Casey Jr.,” Reuters reports.

TEXAS U.S. SENATOR. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who was acquitted last week in his historic impeachment trial in the state, took swipes at Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and kept the door open to a possible run for the senator’s seat in 2026, saying “everything’s on the table” at this point, The Hill reports.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear has launched his most hard-hitting ad of the race, a spot where a rape survivor condemns Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s ardent opposition to abortion rights.  “I was raped by my stepfather after years of sexual abuse,” says a woman identified as Hadley. “I was 12.”

Hadley continues, “Anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it’s like to stand in my shoes. This is to you, Daniel Cameron: to tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather, who raped her, is unthinkable.”

Beshear last month became probably the first statewide candidate to ever air a general election ad attacking the GOP’s opposition to abortion rights, and Planned Parenthood has also launched digital ads on the topic. Cameron has defended the state’s near-total ban, which has no exemptions for rape or incest, in court and on the campaign trail, telling LEX 18 News in April, “I’m not going to waiver in my position on this and we’re going to continue to defend the law as is.”

The attorney general seems to have finally recognized that that stance is toxic even in this conservative state, and he declared Monday, “If our legislature was to bring legislation before me that provided exceptions for rape and incest, I would sign that legislation.”

Beshear’s side quickly made it clear they wouldn’t stop attacking his record in office, though. The state Democratic Party posted 2022 footage Tuesday where Cameron celebrated the end of Roe v. Wade by proclaiming, “Abortion is, for all intents and purposes, over here in the commonwealth, with the exemption of life [of the mother]. There is no rape and incest exemption.” The governor’s campaign debuted this new ad the following day.

INDIANA U.S. SENATOR. Republican Sen. Mike Braun, who’s running for governor next year, has finally endorsed Rep. Jim Banks to succeed him in the Senate. The far-right Banks had along ago consolidated support from all levels of the Indiana GOP establishment and more or less lacks any primary opposition. His one nominal opponent, wealthy egg farmer John Rust, is still acting like a candidate (and Banks is still treating him like one), but he seems unlikely to make the primary ballot because his Republican bona fides are insufficient under state law.

Rust has filed a lawsuit to challenge the state law that would keep him off the GOP primary ballot, though he’d be the underdog against Rep. Jim Banks even if he succeeded in court.

The state only allows candidates to run with the party they belong to, and the easiest way for Hoosiers to establish party affiliation is to cast their two most recent primary votes in that side’s nomination contests. (There is no party registration in Indiana.) But while Rust most recently participated in the 2016 GOP primary, his prior vote was in the 2012 Democratic race. Candidates can get an exemption if their local party chair certifies that they belong to the party, but Jackson County party head Amanda Lowery said last month she wouldn’t do this.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. While former Rep. Jason Chaffetz still hasn’t ruled out running for governor or Senate this cycle, the Republican acknowledged to KSL he’s likely to remain a Fox News talking head instead. “That’s not something I’m planning to do, challenging Gov. [Spencer] Cox is not in my plans,” said Chaffetz, adding he’s more interested in seeking the governorship in 2028. He also said of a campaign to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Mitt Romney, “I haven’t fully closed the door on it, but it’s not something I’m actively pursuing.”

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. State Rep. Richard Nelson, who raised little money and barely registered in the polls, announced Wednesday that he was exiting the Oct. 14 all-party primary and endorsing his fellow Republican, far-right Attorney General Jeff Landry. Nelson said last month that he was interested in replacing another now-former GOP rival, Stephen Waguespack, as head of the state’s Chamber of Commerce affiliate, but he also acknowledged Wednesday that the group had passed him over.

MARYLAND U.S. SENATOR. Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks this week picked up a Democratic primary endorsement from Rep. Glenn Ivey, who represents much of her geographic base.

NEW JERSEY U.S. SENATOR. Republican Christine Serrano Glassner, who serves as mayor of the 6,000-person Mendham Borough, announced Monday that she would challenge Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez, who remains under federal investigation. Glassner, who served in George W. Bush’s U.S. Small Business Administration, is married to Michael Glassner, the chief operating officer for Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign.

NC-Gov: The progressive group Carolina Forward last week released an early September survey from Change Research that shows Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson leading Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein 42-38, is almost identical to the 46-43 Robinson lead it found in May.

COLORADO 4TH DISTRICT. Colorado state Rep. Richard Holtorf announced Tuesday that he was forming an exploratory committee for a potential primary bid against Republican Rep. Ken Buck, a Freedom Caucus member who has improbably morphed into a vocal critic of extremists in his own party. Holtorf may not get his chance to take on Buck, though, as the congressman revealed that same day that he was interested in leaving the House to take an on-air cable news job.

Holtorf, who is the first notable Republican to publicly express interest in campaigning against the incumbent in the 4th District, told Colorado Public Radio he’d make up his mind in December. The state representative took Buck to task for condemning a letter from local Republicans accusing the federal government of violating the rights of Jan. 6 defendants, as well as Buck’s opposition to his party’s fervor to impeach Joe Biden. “Why is he on CNN and MSNBC?” asked Holtorf, “I don’t think the message he is explaining represents the sentiment of the district.”

But voters may soon see a whole lot more of their congressman on one of those networks than in eastern Colorado. The New York Post published a story shortly after the CPR interview went live in which Buck said, “I am interested in talking to folks at CNN and other news organizations—on the, I don’t want to call them left, but sort of center-left—and having an opportunity to do that full-time or do that as a contributor would be great also.”

Buck went on to inform the paper he was also eyeing similar roles at hard-right outlets like Fox News and Newsmax, though he added that he hasn’t decided if he wants to leave the House just yet. And despite publishing a Washington Post piece titled, “My fellow Republicans: One disgraceful impeachment doesn’t deserve another,” Buck also said he hadn’t actually ruled out voting to impeach Biden. “I am not opposed to impeachment, I’m opposed to the impeachment inquiry because I don’t think it gives us any broader authority to investigate this,” the congressman argued.

Until recently, it would have been tough to imagine Buck speaking out against his party’s far-right elements. Buck, who previously served as Weld County district attorney, first emerged on the national scene as a prominent tea partier in the 2010 cycle when he challenged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. His hardline rhetoric, however, helped cost his party a pickup during what was otherwise a massive GOP wave.

Late in the campaign, Buck appeared on “Meet the Press” and said he stood by his 2005 declaration that he had refused to prosecute an alleged rape because “a jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer’s remorse.” He also argued that being gay was a choice. “I think birth has an influence over it,” he said, “like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically you have a choice.” Republicans quickly responded to Buck’s narrow loss by citing him, along with Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell and Nevada’s Sharron Angle, as a cautionary example of what happens when the party chooses extremist nominees in crucial Senate races.

Unlike his fellow travelers, though, Buck actually had a future in elected office. For a time in 2014, he waged another Senate bid, but then switched places with Rep. Cory Gardner when the latter decided to wage a late campaign against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

Buck decisively won the primary for Gardner’s seat by a 44-24 margin, and he’s never had trouble holding his reliably red constituency. He went on to chair the state GOP ahead of a dispiriting 2020 cycle and has spent most of his tenure as an ardent conservative, though he broke from Freedom Caucus doctrine in 2021 when he became part of the minority of Republicans to vote to recognize Biden’s win.

Holtorf, by contrast, likely has far more in common with most of Buck’s colleagues on the extreme right. The state representative made national news in 2021 when he called a Latino colleague “Buckwheat,” claiming later that he didn’t know of the racist origins of the word. Holtorf again attracted unwanted attention again the next year when he accidentally dropped his gun in the state capitol while rushing to a vote, an episode that one observer called “reckless and scary.”

HOUSTON MAYOR and TEXAS 18TH DISTRICT. The Texas secretary of state’s office announced Tuesday that Houston’s runoff will take place Dec. 9 for any contests where no one wins a majority of the vote in the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary, a date that comes two days before the filing deadline to compete in the 2024 state and federal party primaries. The frontrunners for mayor are Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Sen. John Whitmire, and neither Democrat has said if they’d run for reelection should they lose this fall’s race.

NASHVILLE MAYOR. Progressives had a strong night in Nashville on Thursday when Metro Council member Freddie O’Connell won a 64-36 blowout in the runoff for mayor against Republican strategist Alice Rolli. Despite the election being an off-cycle, nonpartisan contest, O’Connell’s landslide nearly matched Joe Biden’s 64-32 victory over Donald Trump here in 2020, which itself was the largest margin since 1948 for a Democratic presidential candidate. Progressives also had a strong performance in races for the Metro Council itself, which will see women holding a majority of seats for the first time in its history.

O’Connell’s victory marks a shift from outgoing Mayor John Cooper, a more moderate Democrat who unexpectedly retired after just a single term. O’Connell had campaigned on the slogan “More ‘Ville, less Vegas” as part of his argument that the city needed to prioritize the needs of residents over tourists, and he emphasized his opposition to Cooper’s successful drive this year for taxpayers to fund a new stadium for the Tennessee Titans. The mayor-elect had drawn well-funded opposition from parts of the local business community, but it wasn’t enough to stop him from advancing to the runoff in a crowded field and winning.

TEXAS 32ND DISTRICT. State Rep. Rhetta Bowers declared Tuesday that she would campaign for the safely blue seat that her fellow Democrat, Rep. Colin Allred, is giving up to run for the Senate, a declaration that came more than three months after she surprised observers by announcing she’d run for reelection rather than seek a promotion. The new contender entered the race with an endorsement from former 30th District Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson; Johnson only represented 17% of this seat when she retired in January, but she was a prominent figure in Dallas-area politics during her 30 years in the House.

Bowers did not say why she’d changed her mind about running, though one of her rivals, fellow state Rep. Julie Johnson (no relation to the former congresswoman), was quick to argue to the Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek that Bowers “has flip-flopped on her previous statement about running to Texas voters.” Bowers, for her part, took a not very subtle dig at Johnson in a launch video that highlighted how Bowers had joined and remained with other state House Democrats by flying to D.C. in a 2021 effort to deny Republicans the quorum they needed to pass a voter suppression bill.

While that video does not mention Johnson directly, Svitek notes that she was one of the two members described in the Tribune headline contained in Bowers’ video reading, “Two House Democrats who broke quorum missing from Washington, D.C., reportedly vacationing in Portugal.” “I was away from my family for 38 days and when some broke ranks,” Bowers tells the audience about the unsuccessful drive to stop the bill. “I stood on principle until the bitter end.”

The Democratic field also includes 2022 state Board of Education nominee ​​Alex Cornwallis, civil rights attorney Justin Moore, and trauma surgeon Brian Williams. A runoff would take place if no contender won a majority of the vote in the first round of the primary.

MARYLAND 6TH DISTRICT. April McClain-Delaney announced Tuesday she was stepping down from her post at the U.S. Commerce Department, a move that came about a week after MoCo360 reported that she’d launch a bid for the Democratic nod in October.

VIRGINIA 10TH DISTRICT. The Richmond Times-Dispatch mentions Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall as a possible contender to succeed Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a fellow Democrat who is retiring for health reasons. Randall, whose 2015 win made her the first Black woman to chair a board of supervisors anywhere in the state, has not said anything publicly about this contest.

On the Republican side, 2022 nominee Hung Cao’s team says he’ll continue his campaign against Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine rather than run here.

CALIFORNIA 40TH DISTRICT. EMILY’s List has endorsed Tustin Unified School District trustee Allyson Muñiz Damikolas in the top-two primary to face GOP Rep. Young Kim in an eastern Orange County seat that Joe Biden carried 50-48. Damikolas’ only notable intra-party foe is retired Orange County Fire Capt. Joe Kerr, who previously earned endorsements from four Southern California House Democrats: Senate candidates Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, plus Reps. Lou Correa and Mike Levin.

INDIANA 5TH DISTRICT. Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz hinted that she might rethink her retirement decision on Monday in the midst of a fight with the man she called a “weak Speaker,” Kevin McCarthy.

Spartz reacted to McCarthy’s declaration that “[i]f Victoria is concerned about fighting stronger I wish she would run again and not quit” by tweeting, “I wish @SpeakerMcCarthy would work as hard at governing our country as he does at collecting checks but his wish might come true.” After a blush emoji, she added, “I do need to regroup to win the war but considering the significance of this battle maybe I should win it first.”

CONNECTICUT 5TH DISTRICT. Kevin Rennie of Daily Ructions reported Monday that unnamed GOP leaders are recruiting former ESPN broadcaster Sage Steele to challenge Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes, and she didn’t rule it out when the Indianapolis Star’s Dana Hunsinger Benbow asked her about it that same day. “No comment on this,” said Steele, who is an Indiana University alum, “but I appreciate you asking.”

Steele attracted attention in 2021 when she publicly denounced the COVID vaccine mandate from Walt Disney Co., which owns ESPN; her employer temporarily took her off the air over this and for what Benbow says were “comments questioning former President Barack Obama’s identification as Black on the census and sexual harassment of women sports reporters.” Steele, after apologizing, filed a lawsuit against ESPN, and the parties recently reached an out-of-court settlement.

Joe Biden carried this seat, which includes northern Fairfield County and northwestern Connecticut, 55-44, but former state Sen. George Logan held Hayes to a 50.6-49.4 victory last year. The head of the state GOP told CT Insider last month that “[w]e’re hoping George will be getting in soon,” and Politico reported shortly before Labor Day that Logan was “likely” to run again.

ARIZONA 1ST DISTRICT. Former TV news anchor Marlene Galán-Woods has earned an endorsement from 7th District Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who represents much of southern Arizona, in the Democratic primary to face GOP incumbent David Schweikert in a swingy seat in the Phoenix area.

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

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