The Political Report – October 3, 2023

“California Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to appoint Emily’s List president Laphonza Butler to succeed the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein,“ the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Butler, a longtime labor leader in California, heads up the group, which funds female candidates who support abortion rights for office. She would become the first openly gay U.S. senator from California, and only the second Black woman to represent the state in the Senate.”

“She is expected to be sworn in as early as this week.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s appointee to the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat will be free to run for a full term in 2024, and there will be no precondition that this is a temporary replacement, Punchbowl News reports.

Senate Democratic leadership expects to swear in Feinstein’s replacement by the middle of the week.

“Allies of Rep. Barbara Lee are mounting a last-ditch effort to persuade Gov. Gavin Newsom to reverse himself and appoint Lee to the U.S. Senate,” Politico reports.

“The pressure campaign intensified in the hours and days since Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s death as Lee’s supporters — both outside advocates and members of the Congressional Black Caucus — sought to seize a narrow window of opportunity, arguing Newsom’s public disinclination to pick Lee had sidelined the best-qualified Black woman.”

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Sunday evening that he was appointing EMILY’s List head Laphonza Butler to replace the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died Friday at the age of 90.

Butler, who will become only the third Black woman to ever serve in the upper chamber once she’s sworn in this week, has not revealed her 2024 plans, and the Democrat has only a little more than two months to do so ahead of the Dec. 8 filing deadline.

The three main contenders running in the March 5 top-two primary to replace Feinstein, who announced her retirement in February, are a trio of Democratic House members: Katie Porter; Adam Schiff; and Barbara Lee, whose allies unsuccessfully tried to convince Newsom to pick her. The field also includes another Democrat, wealthy tech executive Lexi Reese, as well as several underfunded Republicans.

Butler would face a challenging campaign if she were to compete against the candidates who have spent months raising money and organizing their efforts in America’s largest state, but she does have some connections that could help her put up a fight. Butler is a former head of SEIU Local 2015, the long-term care workers union that the Los Angeles Times says is the state’s largest. She also served as Airbnb’s director of public policy and campaigns, on the University of California’s Board of Regents, and as an adviser for Kamala Harris’ unsuccessful 2020 presidential bid.

Butler most recently spent the last two years leading EMILY’s List, the powerhouse progressive organization that helps elect pro-choice Democratic women. She moved to the East Coast for this role and registered to vote in Maryland, though Newsom’s team says the “longtime California resident and homeowner” will re-register in the Golden State before taking office.

Newsom pledged in 2021 that he’d appoint a Black woman as senator if he were ever tasked with filling this post, a promise that came months after he chose a Latino man, Alex Padilla, to replace Vice President-elect Harris in California’s other Senate seat. He reiterated that pledge to NBC less than three weeks before Feinstein died and added that he’d make an “[i]nterim appointment” so he wouldn’t “tip the balance” of the primary.

That was unwelcome news to Lee, who is the only Black woman who has launched a serious campaign for this seat but trails Schiff and Porter in recent polls. However, while her allies urged the governor to appoint her following Feinstein’s death, he opted for Butler instead: Lee responded to the news by tweeting her congratulations and adding, “I am singularly focused on winning my campaign for Senate.”

Porter and especially Schiff have also enjoyed a huge fundraising advantage over Lee, and Politico notes that the latter’s edge could grow far wider now that there won’t just be one Senate race on the 2024 ballot. That’s because a special election will take place for the final months of Feinstein’s term, and it’s likely both rounds will take place concurrent with the regularly scheduled races for the full term. Indeed, this is what happened in 2022 when Padilla successfully ran both to complete Harris’ term and secure another six years in office.

This means that, because the special is technically a separate contest, individual donors are now free to give twice as much as the federal maximum of $6,600 per candidate. Politico says that 495 people already had maxed out to Schiff as of June 30 compared to 47 for Porter, and it estimates that he’d outraise her $3.2 million to $310,000 if the same people also hit the limit for the special; numbers for Lee, who is largely reliant on small donors, were not included. (New quarterly reports are due Oct. 15).

Butler, as well as the three House members, each used Friday to express their appreciation for Feinstein, who is both the longest-serving woman in Senate history and the person who represented California in the upper chamber longer than anyone else. Feinstein herself rose to prominence well before her 1992 election when she became mayor of San Francisco following the 1978 assassination of both incumbent George Moscone and fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk. 

ALABAMA 1ST DISTRICT. While 1st District Rep. Jerry Carl declared Monday that he’d run for reelection in a redrawn 1st, fellow GOP incumbent and would-be primary foe Barry Moore isn’t committing to anything yet. “We’re seriously praying about it, and we’ll make a decision once we get a map,” Moore, who represents the current 2nd District, told a conservative radio host Thursday.

Moore said in a separate interview with Punchbowl News that he was, in the words of reporter Mica Soellner, “leaning toward running for reelection.” All three of the maps advanced by the court-appointed special master would leave Carl representing considerably more of the 1st than Moore. Moore, though, may be able to count on one well-funded ally in a faceoff: The Club for Growth spent over $700,000 on ads to help him win his 2020 primary, while it deployed $1.4 million that cycle in an unsuccessful drive to help one of Carl’s intra-party foes.

Both Republicans were elected that year in safely red seats, and each voted against recognizing Joe Biden’s win in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack. But Moore, who belongs to the nihilistic Freedom Caucus, went even further that weekend by tweeting of the death of rioter Ashli Babbitt, “[I]t was a Black police officer who shot the white female veteran.” The New York Times later reported that Kevin McCarthy responded to that post by telling his leadership team that he wished social media companies would ban some of his own members the way they had banned Donald Trump.

NEW JERSEY U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) “is closing in on a massive $1 million haul in just one week, a gargantuan fundraising performance in his first week as a candidate for the U.S. Senate,” the New Jersey Globe reports.

“Kim announced last Saturday that he would challenge incumbent Bob Menendez in the Democratic Senate primary next year. His entrance into the race came one day after federal prosecutors unsealed a staggering indictment against Menendez.”

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. Gramercy Surgery Center CEO Austin Cheng on Wednesday became the latest Democrat to announce a bid against scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos, and he launched his campaign by saying he’d already raised $100,000 and self-funded $500,000 more. Cheng would be the first Asian American to represent Nassau County in Congress.

“Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s presidential bid, cut more than $530,000 in reserved time on broadcast television stations in Iowa and New Hampshire on Friday in what the group said was a shift in strategies following the second Republican debate,” Bloomberg reports.

The Messenger: “Biden’s campaign has turned to a series of unlikely spokespeople in their bid to reelect the president, running a spate of digital ads that directly take words from the likes of Greene, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley and use them as a way to either tout the work of the Biden administration or degrade the standing of former President Trump.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has once again teased a potential 2024 presidential run, The Messenger reports.

“The senator argued President Joe Biden and 2024 GOP hopeful Donald Trump are too partisan and influenced by extremists in their parties.”

Said Manchin: “Why not have options? People are unsatisfied right now.”

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign early Sunday left a birdcage and bird food in front of GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley’s hotel room door in Des Moines in reference to his new nickname for her, “Birdbrain,” The Messenger reports.

 “Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign is pushing the Republican Party to change the qualifying and debate format rules for the upcoming GOP presidential debate in Miami on Nov. 8, calling for only the top four polling candidates besides Donald Trump to participate and asking for a single moderator,” Politico reports.

ALAMEDA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY. The campaign to recall District Attorney Pamela Price, who was elected last year by campaigning as a criminal justice reformer, said Thursday that election officials had given it the green light to collect petitions. Recall expert Joshua Spivak says that Save Alameda for Everyone needs to turn in about 73,200 valid signatures―a figure that represents 15% of the number of votes cast here in the 2022 race for governor―by early March in order to require a vote. County Counsel Donna Ziegler says that no recall vote has taken place in Alameda County in at least 30 years “if ever.”

Price’s detractors have argued she’s done a poor job combatting violent crime in this East Bay county. They’ve additionally faulted the incumbent for hiring her boyfriend, Antwon Cloird, for a job that wasn’t publicly advertised; the man Cloird’s company listed as its business agent also told the media he’d never even heard of his firm.

Price, for her part, has pushed back by touting her successes in office, including “embracing high-tech tools to deliver fair justice faster for victims” and putting together “the most diverse class of victim-witness advocates ever.” Price, who also accused Republicans of funding the effort to beat her in this dark blue county, further told KPIX in July, “I was elected because the people in this community didn’t feel safe, unfortunately. We know that crime under my predecessor was pretty much exploding.”

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

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