The Political Report – October 7, 2023

“Donald Trump’s campaign announced on Wednesday that it had raised $45.5 million from July through September, an enormous sum that tripled what his closest rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, had revealed raising earlier in the day,” the New York Times reports.

“The Trump haul, which was built in part by an outpouring of money after his mug shot in Georgia became public following his fourth indictment, gives the former president a critical financial edge at the most important juncture of the campaign.”

 “Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is relocating a significant portion of his presidential campaign staff from Tallahassee to Des Moines, according to his top deputies, redeploying his team to the leadoff state after a $15 million fund-raising haul that advisers said had helped stabilize his campaign,” the New York Times reports.

“The push into Iowa highlights the state’s make-or-break status for Mr. DeSantis’s long-shot effort to defeat former President Donald J. Trump. Mr. DeSantis hopes a surprise victory in Iowa’s caucuses, the first voting state of the Republican nominating contest, will make enough voters see that Mr. Trump is beatable — motivating them to quickly rally around Mr. DeSantis as the only candidate able to stop him.”

NBC News: “The Florida governor’s presidential campaign entered this month with just $5 million in cash available for the primary, a sum that reignites doubts about his solvency, budgeting and ability to gain ground on front-running former President Donald Trump.”

PENNSYLVANIA 10TH DISTRICT. Longtime local TV news anchor Janelle Stelson, who stepped down last month after 27 years working for NBC affiliate WGAL in Lancaster, announced Wednesday that she would seek the Democratic nomination to challenge far-right Rep. Scott Perry in Pennsylvania’s 10th District. Stelson joined the already-busy race to take on the Republican, who is one of the most prominent Big Lie spreaders in America, the same week that Army veteran Bob Forbes kicked off his own campaign against the Freedom Caucus chairman. Located in the Harrisburg and York areas, the 10th backed Donald Trump 51-47 in 2020.

Stelson, who moderated debates between Perry and his Democratic opponents in both 2018 and 2020, will likely start out with plenty of name recognition in the district: The entire seat is located in the Harrisburg media market, which is served by WGAL. However, the new candidate lives in the Lancaster suburbs, a dark red area that is represented by 11th District GOP Rep. Lloyd Smucker rather than by Perry. (Lancaster and York have a famous rivalry known as the “War of the Roses,” though unlike the eponymous 15th-century English civil war, this conflict revolves around high school football.)

Stelson, though, told that she’s lived in various communities in what’s now the 10th District during her long career, saying, “I’ll put my knowledge of people around here up against Congressman Perry or anybody else running.” The former anchor, who was a registered Republican until February, added, “I think every ‘normal’ Republican has been feeling a little bit disenchanted with their party for quite some time now … And you know, it all kind of adds up cumulatively.”

Forbes, meanwhile, is also a first-time candidate, though his wife serves on the governing body for the small Harrisburg suburb of Camp Hill. PoliticsPA writes that Forbes did several overseas deployments, including to Afghanistan and Iraq, and he became a local substitute teacher after retiring in 2018.

Stelson and Forbes launched their respective campaigns the month after two other contenders, businessman John Broadhurst and Marine veteran Mike O’Brien, also got in. The Democratic field also includes Harrisburg City Council member Shamaine Daniels, who lost to Perry 54-46 last year, and Rick Coplen, who unsuccessfully sought the nomination against Daniels. However, neither repeat contender had more than $20,000 banked at the end of June. ABC 27 also reported last week that Blake Lynch, who works as an executive at central Pennsylvania’s NPR affiliate WITF, is also considering running.

Perry, who was first elected in 2012 to what was a safely red constituency, has long been one of the more extreme Republicans in the House, and he did nothing to moderate himself after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the GOP-drawn gerrymander in 2018 and left him with a more competitive seat. Perry only turned back George Scott 51-49 after a surprisingly expensive battle in that blue wave year, but he prevailed 53-47 in 2020 against a more prominent Democrat, then-Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

Democrats, including DePasquale, hoped that the 2022 round of redistricting would leave Perry with an even more competitive seat, but they were disappointed when the state’s highest court made few changes to the 10th. DePasquale ended up sitting the race out and Daniels struggled to raise money even after the FBI confiscated the incumbent’s cell phone as part of an investigation into Perry’s role in attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.

Perry, who has not been charged with anything, won by 8 points in 2022, but Democrats are arguing that the party’s better performance at the top of the ticket that year bodes poorly for his future prospects. According to data from the state election officials, Republican Mehmet Oz carried the 10th by a tiny 49-48 as he was losing the Senate race to John Fetterman, while now-Gov. Josh Shapiro defeated Republican Doug Mastriano 55-43 that same night. Stelson is hoping those latter results will give her a path to victory over Perry, and she launched her effort by linking him to his fellow election denier Mastriano.

ALABAMA REDISTRICTING. A federal court on Thursday chose a new congressional map to impose in Alabama for the 2024 elections, finally creating a second district where Black voters can elect their preferred candidate. You can see the new map here, and click here for an interactive version.

The court had previously found that the map Republicans enacted in 2021 violated the Voting Rights Act, though the map was still used in last year’s elections while the GOP appealed. Consequently, a Black Democrat will likely replace a white Republican after 2024, which would give Alabama two Black House members (out of seven total) for the first time in its history, roughly matching the 27% of its population that is Black.

Compared with the previous map, the new map significantly reconfigures the 1st and 2nd districts in southern Alabama to turn the latter district from a majority-white, safely Republican constituency into one that is 49% Black and just 44% white. To do so, the new map gives the 2nd the rest of Montgomery and most of Mobile—two cities that both have large Black populations—while the 2nd sheds the heavily white rural areas along the Florida border and exurbs north of Montgomery. (Changes to the other five districts were relatively limited.)

Consequently, the redesigned 2nd District would have favored Joe Biden 56-43 in 2020, making it a likely Democratic flip in 2024. Current 2nd District Rep. Barry Moore, a Republican who is a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, is now at significant risk of losing his seat, though Moore recently indicated he could bail on the 2nd District and instead run against fellow GOP Rep. Jerry Carl in the primary for the 1st. However, Moore would likely be starting at a disadvantage there since our calculations indicate Carl currently represents 59% of the new district compared to Moore’s 41%.

The new map is the culmination of multiyear litigation that saw the lower court strike down the GOP’s 2021 map last year because it packed Black voters into the heavily Democratic 7th District while dispersing them elsewhere to ensure that the other six districts would remain heavily white and safely Republican. The Supreme Court put that ruling on hold for the 2022 elections while Republicans appealed, but it subsequently upheld the lower court’s ruling in a landmark decision this past June, preserving a key protection of the Voting Rights Act.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, the lower court gave the Republican-controlled legislature a second chance to draw a compliant map, instructing them to draw two districts that were either majority-Black or “something quite close to it.” But in July, Republicans brazenly defied the courts, enacting a new map with just one majority-Black district and another that was only 39.9% Black—well short of a majority and therefore safely Republican.

Last month, the lower court blocked this new Republican map, and the Supreme Court also rejected the GOP’s last-ditch attempt to keep it in place. Republican Secretary of State Wes Allen subsequently dropped the state’s appeal to the high court earlier this week. This ensures the new map adopted by the lower court will be used in 2024, though state Republicans could still sue to invalidate the court-imposed map later this decade.

MEMPHIS MAYOR. Downtown Memphis Commission CEO Paul Young defeated Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner 28-23 Thursday to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out Mayor Jim Strickland, in a 17-way contest where it took only a simple plurality to win. Young, who outspent each of his opponents, was long involved in city government but had never before run for office, and he argued he’d be the most prepared mayor in history while also representing change.

The winning candidate, who is the son of two well-known pastors, also focused on turning out younger voters. Young, when questioned why he’d voted in two GOP primaries since 2016, argued this was “strategic crossover voting to ensure that we have good people on both sides of the ledger.” “I’m a Democrat,” he said at one debate, “but I’m gonna get the job done.”

OREGON STATE HOUSE SPECIAL RECALL ELECTION. The recall effort against Democratic state Rep. Paul Holvey went down in flames Tuesday, and ballots counted as of Thursday morning show the “no” side ahead 90-10. It’s possible that the margin will change as more mail-in ballots are counted, but not enough to come close to justifying the more than $300,000 that the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 spent to try to oust the incumbent.

Holvey has long been one of labor’s most ardent allies in state government, but Local 555 tried to unseat him after the committee he chaired this year refused to advance a bill that would have opened the door toward allowing cannabis workers to unionize. Holvey argued that he was advised by the legislature’s legal team that the policy violated federal law, and the electorate in this dark blue Eugene seat wasn’t persuaded by Local 555’s insinuations that he was instead acting due to pressure from a marijuana company that frequently donates to Democrats.

Holvey, who retained the support of the state’s other major unions, celebrated his win Tuesday night by declaring, “I hope that members of UFCW 555 hold UFCW’s leadership and individuals behind this recall accountable for wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars from their dues, without making a single worker’s life better.” Local 555, meanwhile, says it’s trying to place a measure that would let cannabis workers unionize on the statewide ballot.

NEW YORK 1ST DISTRICT. Nancy Goroff, who was the 2020 Democratic nominee in the last version of this eastern Long Island seat, tells Politico she’s decided to challenge freshman GOP Rep. Nick LaLota.

Another new candidate this week is former Cuomo administration official Craig Herskowitz, who alleges he was fired for cooperating in the sexual harassment investigation against his old boss. Herskowitz, whose retaliation lawsuit was dismissed in Januaryquietly filed with the FEC last month; the contender, who stepped down as a New York City administrative law judge, also says he’s raised $100,000 ahead of his Wednesday announcement. Former state Sen. Jim Gaughran previously launched his bid in August.

Goroff was the head of the chemistry department at ​​Stony Brook University when she launched her campaign to unseat GOP incumbent Lee Zeldin in the old 1st, and she would have been the first woman in Congress with a Ph.D. in natural science. Goroff, who self-funded a total of $2.2 millionnarrowly outpaced 2018 nominee Perry Gershon in the primary, and major outside groups from both parties ended up spending in the general election.

The area that made up the 1st was a longtime battleground, and Democrats hoped that it would return to form after backing Donald Trump 54-42 in 2016. Zeldin, though, won his expensive bout with Goroff 55-45 as Trump was taking his seat by a smaller 51-47 spread.

The current version of the 1st would have supported Joe Biden in 2020 by a tiny 49.5-49.3, but Long Island once again swung hard to the right after that election. Zeldin defeated Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul here 57-43 according to numbers from Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux, and LaLota scored a similar 56-44 victory over County Legislator Bridget Fleming. There’s a chance, however, that the state’s court-imposed congressional map could change depending on the result of a pending lawsuit.

INDIANA 4TH DISTRICT. Republican Rep. Jim Baird declared Tuesday that he’d seek reelection, a move that comes almost two weeks after Howey Politics relayed speculation that he would make a late retirement announcement so his son could succeed him without facing any serious intra-party opposition.

“I will continue to fight with my conservative colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives for life, liberty and opportunity for every Hoosier I represent,” said Baird, who represents a dark red seat in the western part of the state. We’ll see if that appeases people like Howey’s unnamed source, who asserted weeks ago that the incumbent was “definitely not going to end up running.”

ILLINOIS 17TH DISTRICT. Businessman Ray Estrada dropped out of the GOP primary Tuesday ahead of what the Pantagraph’s Brenden Moore says is former state Circuit Judge Joseph McGraw’s planned Oct. 11 launch. Moore also relays that McGraw is “believed to be the preferred candidate of” the NRCC against freshman Democratic Rep. Eric Sorensen in this 53-45 Biden seat.

ARIZONA 1ST DISTRICT. Former TV news anchor Marlene Galán-Woods has publicized an endorsement from former Gov. Janet Napolitano, who served from 2003 to 2009, in the Democratic primary to face GOP incumbent David Schweikert.

MICHIGAN 8TH DISTRICT. Saginaw police officer Martin Blank, who served as an Army trauma surgeon in Afghanistan, on Thursday became the first notable Republican to launch a bid against Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee. Joe Biden would have carried this seat, which is based in the Flint and Tri-Cities areas50-48, but Kildee won an expensive race 53-43 two years later.

Blank has twice run for the state legislature, but he came nowhere close to securing the nomination either time. He lost his 2020 bid for the state House 50-31 against Timothy Beson, who went on to win the seat. Black campaigned for the upper chamber last year in a four-way primary, but he finished dead last with 18%. (Annette Glenn won that nomination contest with 41% only to lose to Democrat Kristen McDonald Rivet in the fall.)

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE HOUSE. State Rep. Maria Perez announced Monday she was leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent, a move that once again changes the math ahead of a series of upcoming special elections for this closely divided chamber.

Republicans currently hold a 198-196 edge in a 400-member body that includes Perez and two other nonaligned members. The final three seats are vacant, but while Joe Biden carried two of them by double digits, the final one favored Donald Trump 53-45: Voters go to the polls Nov. 7 to fill the bluest of these three constituencies, while the other two specials have not yet been scheduled. However, given how much volatility we’ve seen in the state House this year, it’s anyone’s guess what the membership rolls will look like by the time all three of these seats are occupied.

MINNESOTA 3RD DISTRICT. DNC member Ron Harris tells Punchbowl News he’s considering running for the seat currently held by Rep. Dean Phillips, and he didn’t rule out challenging the would-be Biden primary foe. Harris sounds more interested in running for an open seat, however, even though Minnesota’s June filing deadline means that Phillips wouldn’t need to choose between humoring his longshot presidential dreams and seeking reelection. “As Dean considers a run for President, I’m exploring a run for Congress to ensure this district stays in Democratic hands,” Harris tweeted Thursday.

Harris, who is currently the DNC’s Midwestern Caucus chair, previously served as Minneapolis’ chief resilience officer from 2019 until last year. (Minnesota’s largest city is located entirely in Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 5th District.) Harris would be the first Black person to represent the 3rd, a seat in the western Minneapolis suburbs that favored Biden 60-39.

NEW JERSEY 11TH DISTRICT and GOVERNOR. Politico relays chatter that New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill could retire this cycle to prepare for a potential 2025 bid to succeed her fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. Phil Murphy, though there’s no word from the congresswoman about her thinking. The current version of Sherrill’s 11th District, which includes New York City’s western suburbs and exurbs, would have backed Joe Biden 58-41, and Democrats would be favored to keep it no matter what.

The congresswoman would be free to seek a fourth term in the House in 2024 and even remain in Congress should she lose a bid for governor, but Sherrill could decide instead that she’d prefer to focus on a statewide campaign. Indeed, Politico previously reported in July that another Democrat who flipped a seat during the 2018 blue wave, Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger, has decided against running for reelection so she can commit all of her time towards her own 2025 gubernatorial bid: Spanberger herself says she’ll reveal her plans after the Nov. 7 legislative elections. (New Jersey also holds its state House and Senate contests that day.)

If Sherrill were to run for governor, she’d be in for an expensive primary battle. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop launched his campaign all the way back in April, and he announced Thursday that he’d raised enough money to receive all $7.3 million from the state’s matching funds program, which provides $2 in state funds for every dollar raised. Anyone participating in the program can only spend $7.3 million during the primary, though super PACs like the pro-Fulop Coalition for Progress, which had $6.5 million available at the end of June, can deploy as much as they want.

Sherrill also isn’t the only Democratic House member who might try to be the next inhabit of Drumthwacket, the governor’s delightfully named official residence. An advisor for Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a prominent centrist who represents a neighboring seat to the north, confirmed the congressman’s interest back in July to the New Jersey Globe. However, Politico relays that unnamed “Democrats close to Gottheimer” anticipate he’ll also seek reelection next year to the 5th District, which favored Biden 56-43.

Plenty of other Democrats have also been talked about as potential candidates to replace Murphy in this blue state, and we’ll take a closer look at the many potential contenders after the Nov. 7 elections. On the GOP side, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli announced he was in days after he lost the 2021 general election to Murphy by a surprisingly narrow 51-48 spread.

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

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