“Joe Biden and Donald Trump may be months away from officially being opponents. But the last two weeks have not only highlighted how the two candidates need each other as foils, but how the general election has effectively started,” The Messenger reports.
“It’s remarkably early for this to occur in a presidential race, reflecting the unique dynamic of a current and former president running away with their respective primaries to set up a likely rematch in 2024.”
“Just hours after Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced he would run for president as an independent, more than $11 million gushed to the coffers of the super PAC supporting him,” Politico reports.
“American Values 2024 said it raised $11.28 million in just six hours following Kennedy’s announcement in Philadelphia.”
Said Kennedy: “You know what, I love my family. Every family has disputes.”
Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said he hasn’t ruled out running for president in 2024, noting that most Americans want an alternative to Joe Biden or Donald Trump, Bloomberg reports.
Said Hogan: “However I can serve, I’m still trying to figure that out, but I’m not walking away.”
He added: “I don’t want to run a race and nibble around the edges. If I thought there was a path to success to win the race, then I just said I wouldn’t shut the door to that opportunity.”
“Since the start of his presidential campaign, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has pulled his punches during speeches to voters, choosing not to attack the man leading him by 40 points in many national Republican primary polls,” the New York Times reports.
“But in recent stump speeches in California, South Carolina, Florida and Iowa, Mr. DeSantis has started attacking former President Donald Trump more directly, drawing laughter and applause from his audiences.”
“Previously, Mr. DeSantis had talked about Mr. Trump, who helped secure his political rise, only when prompted by questions from voters or during interviews with the news media. No longer.”
ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Kari Lake’s (R) Senate campaign kickoff event “bore little resemblance to the fire and brimstone candidacy that marked her gubernatorial bid two years ago,” Politico reports.
“Appearing in an airplane hangar in 94-degree heat, the former TV anchor devoted much of her address to lamenting rising inflation, gas prices and the border crisis. The script suggested a candidate keenly invested in trying to tweak her image. It contained just one passing reference to the election fraud claims that she has harped on so much that they came to politically define her.”
“Donald Trump is expected to endorse Kari Lake for Senate in Arizona as soon as Tuesday evening as she runs in what will be one of the nation’s most consequential Senate races,” the New York Times reports.
“Arizona, along with West Virginia, Montana and Ohio, are seen as among the best opportunities for Republicans to pick up Senate seats next year and win back a majority.”
“The move comes weeks after Mr. Trump told a prospective Republican candidate, Blake Masters, who lost a race for the other Senate seat in the state last year, that he would lose the primary against Ms. Lake if he ran.”
There’s considerably less consensus on how she’d do in a general election against Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, who faces no serious primary opposition, especially since Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema remains uncommitted about seeking reelection.
Two polls were released ahead of Lake’s campaign rally, and they presented very different takes of this still-developing race. Gallego’s campaign first publicized a Public Policy Polling internal that showed him leading the Republican 41-36, with Sinema taking 15%. PPP also found Sinema drawing equal support from both major party opponents, as it has the congressman beating Lake 48-43 in a two-way matchup.
The Republican group National Research Inc., though, argues that Democrats should hope the incumbent sits the contest out. The firm showed Lake leading Gallego 37-33, with Sinema at 19%; when respondents were just asked about the two frontrunners, however, the race became a 44-44 deadlock. The pollster tells us this survey was “conducted for a private client with no ties to either campaign.”
The GOP primary already includes Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, a former Lake ally who launched his bid back in April. (NBC reported in December of last year that Lake was encouraging him to run before she started eyeing this race herself.) The sheriff, though, has struggled to raise money, and he was overshadowed by Lake months before she even launched her campaign against him. Still, Lamb insisted to local NBC reporter Brahm Resnik on Tuesday, “I don’t scare easily and I’ve looked a lot tougher people in the eyes than what I’m running against.”
Blake Masters, who waged a disastrous 2022 campaign for Arizona’s other Senate seat last year against Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly, has been talking about another run, but the Wall Street Journal reported late last month that Trump convinced him to pause his planned entry; Masters, though, has yet to say if he’s decided not to run. PPP tested both Lamb and Masters in three-way matchups and found them each performing worse than Lake: Gallego led the sheriff 40-31 and Masters 41-31, with Sinema respectively taking 16% and 17%. National Research, by contrast, did not release any numbers testing this pair of Republicans.
Well before her 2022 campaign for governor, Lake herself became a household name in the Grand Canyon State as an anchor at Phoenix’s Fox 10, and she was still at that job when she began setting up accounts on sites popular with QAnon followers and neo-Nazis and circulated lies about COVID and the 2020 election. Lake went on to run to succeed termed-out GOP incumbent Doug Ducey and, with Trump’s endorsement, she narrowly beat Ducey’s chosen successor in the primary.
What followed was an expensive and nasty race between Lake and her Democratic foe, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Lake and her allies adopted the playbook Republicans used nationwide and portrayed Hobbs as weak on public safety, while Lake also attacked the secretary of state for refusing to debate her. Hobbs and her allies, though, stuck with their strategy of highlighting Lake’s extremism, which included an ad hitting her for appearing to flirt with secession in response to the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago. They also made use of clips of the Republican saying, “I don’t think abortion should be legal” and calling for the FBI to be disbanded.
Lake became a national MAGA star ahead of what her party expected would be a red wave year, and some over-eager observers speculated that she could be Trump’s running mate―or even a future presidential nominee. What she didn’t do, though, was try to appeal to voters who were sick of the Trump-era GOP. In addition to throwing out more lies about the 2020 election, Lake spent the week before the election making light of the assassination attempt on Nancy Pelosi, saying, “Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in D.C.—apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection.”
Hobbs won 50.2-49.5, and Lake characteristically spread more conspiracy theories about her defeat before proclaiming herself “the duly elected governor” in January. Lake spent the following months filing more lawsuits to overturn her defeat and throwing out more attacks on election officials; a fellow Republican, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, filed a defamation lawsuit against her in June, alleging that Lake’s actions had led to “violent vitriol and other dire consequences.” She also spent the time since her defeat going on a nationwide tour to promote her memoir and functioning as a Trump surrogate.
However, while Lake has spent the last several months preparing a Senate bid, it’s not clear just how much time she’s actually spent in the state she wants to represent. People Magazine reported in June that she had in fact “spent a significant portion of her time” in Florida at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago lair. “Kari Lake is there all the time,” volunteered one unnamed source. “There’s a suite there that she practically lives in.” Her team called this account “ridiculous,” a denial they leveled weeks after Lake urged her social media followers to read a thread that claimed the state of California, which backed Biden 63-34, had actually gone for Trump “BIG.”
NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. The Justice Department issued a superseding incitement against Republican Rep. George Santos on Tuesday for, in the words of U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, allegedly “stealing people’s identities and making charges on his own donors’ credit cards without their authorization, lying to the FEC and, by extension, the public about the financial state of his campaign.”
Peace continued, “Santos falsely inflated the campaign’s reported receipts with non-existent loans and contributions that were either fabricated or stolen.” The 23-count superseding indictment came days after Santos’ former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, pleaded guilty to helping her boss fake $53,200 in donations and a $500,000 loan so his campaign would look stronger financially than it really was in order to impress national Republicans.
The charges were filed hours after former Rep. Tom Suozzi joined the Democratic contest to take on his scandal-ridden predecessor in New York’s 3rd District. Suozzi, who has a long electoral history in Long Island, dispelled speculation that he’d only run if there was a special election by saying he was filing “to run for Congress in November of 2024.”
However, it still remains to be seen whether primary voters will be the ones deciding Suozzi’s future. Santos’ resignation or expulsion would set off a special election for the 3rd, and it would then be up to each party’s local leaders to pick their nominees. Complicating things further is the possibility that the state’s court-imposed congressional map could change depending on the result of a pending lawsuit.
Suozzi, a moderate who left the House last cycle to wage a failed primary bid against Gov. Kathy Hochul, joins a busy field of Democrats, and one of them made it clear just how unhappy she is about his latest comeback attempt. “After almost a year of this district having embarrassing representation, Tom Suozzi thinks voters on Long Island have forgotten that he abandoned us to George Santos,” said former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, who lost the 2016 primary to Suozzi under the previous lines.
Kaplan, notes Gothamist, also referenced a 2006 Suozzi plan to reduce abortions by promoting policies like birth control, adoption, and abstinence, a plan that NARAL Pro-Choice New York slammed at the time. Suozzi identified himself as a supporter of abortion rights back then and has continued to identify this way, but Kaplan made it clear she sees his record differently. “The Democratic Party is a pro-choice party,” she said in her statement, “and unlike Tom Suozzi, I will always stand up for a woman’s right to choose—period.”
The field also includes Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who took third place in last year’s primary despite an endorsement from Suozzi; Gramercy Surgery Center CEO Austin Cheng; and nonprofit founder Zak Malamed. Several Republicans are also challenging Santos for renomination, though it’s anyone’s guess if the scandal-drenched incumbent will even be in office by the time primary voters would render their judgment.
Joe Biden would have carried this seat, which includes northern Nassau County and a portion of Queens, 54-45, but this area lurched hard to the right after that campaign. Republican Lee Zeldin beat Hochul here 56-44, according to numbers from Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux, and Santos won 54-46 weeks before his false life story began to unravel.
Suozzi’s attempt to return to the House marks the newest chapter in a career that has seen some big successes and dire lows. In 2001, he made history when he became the first Democrat to win the Nassau County executive’s office in more than 30 years, a victory that marked the end of the old and once-all powerful local Republican machine.
But while Suozzi won reelection four years later, what followed was a disastrous decade that saw him lose the 2006 primary for governor to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in an 82-18 wipeout; his 2009 reelection campaign to Republican Ed Mangano in a 386-vote shocker; and his 2013 rematch with Mangano in a 59-41 landslide. (We took a closer look at all three of those races in our 2021 writeup.)
Suozzi’s career looked over after that third defeat, but he unexpectedly got the chance for one more comeback in 2016 when Democratic Rep. Steve Israel decided to retire. The former executive took part in a crowded Democratic primary and beat Israel’s endorsed candidate, Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern, 35-22 despite being decisively outspent. (The aforementioned Kaplan was in fourth with 16%.) Suozzi went on to win a competitive general election against Republican state Sen. Jack Martins 53-47 as Hillary Clinton was carrying his seat by a similar 52-46 spread, and this time, he had no trouble winning reelection.
Suozzi had little trouble holding his new post, and he even beat the little-known Santos 56-43 in 2020, but he wasn’t content to stay put. He responded to disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2021 resignation, and Hochul’s subsequent elevation, by mulling a second campaign for the top job. Suozzi, after briefly considering becoming a New York City deputy mayor rather than running for office, ended up challenging Hochul with a call to cut taxes, hire more police officers, and modify the state’s landmark 2019 bail reform law.
Suozzi’s second statewide effort, however, went about as well as the first. Hochul beat Jumaane Williams, the New York City public advocate challenging her from the left, 67-19, while Suozzi secured just 13%. Santos would go on to flip his seat months later, and he took office despite the many scandals surrounding him: Suozzi used his last day in office to publish a New York Times op-ed titled, “A Con Man Is Succeeding Me in Congress Today.”
- AZ-06: Kirsten Engel (D): $424,000 raised, $650,000 cash on hand
- IA-01: Christina Bohannan (D): $660,000 raised (in six weeks)
- MT-Sen: Jon Tester (D-inc): $5 million raised, $13 million cash on hand; Tim Sheehy (R): $2.2 million raised, additional $600,000 self-funded
- VA-Sen: Hung Cao (R): $730,000 raised
- IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $740,000 raised, $1.3 million cash on hand
- MN-02: Angie Craig (D-inc): $664,000 raised, $1.5 million cash on hand
- MT-01: Ryan Zinke (R-inc): $1.2 million raised, $1.7 million cash on hand
- NE-02: Tony Vargas (D): $870,000 raised
- NY-03: Zak Malamed (D): $302,000 raised, $524,000 cash on hand
- PA-01: Ashley Ehasz (D): $216,000 raised
- VA-07: Derrick Anderson (R): $150,000 raised (in two weeks)
NEW JERSEY U.S. SENATOR. “Indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is torturing Democrats trying to hold the Senate as he openly weighs a reelection bid. So far, though, most in the party are doing little about it other than cross their fingers and hope he goes away,” Politico reports.
“Though more than half the Senate Democratic caucus called on Menendez to resign in the wake of his indictment for allegedly taking bribes, there’s scant sign of a concerted strategy to force him out.”
CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. After months of flirtation, former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey declared Tuesday that he’d run as a Republican in this solidly blue state. Garvey, a 10-time All-Star who played first base for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in a 19-season career that ended in 1987, is the most prominent Republican to launch a bid for the seat held by appointed Democratic Sen. Laphonza Butler.
The one survey we’ve seen that included Garvey, though, found he’s hardly a sure bet to advance out of the March top-two primary. UC Berkeley’s late August poll, which was conducted about a month before Sen. Dianne Feinstein died, showed Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter securing the first two spots with 20% and 17% each; Garvey, perennial GOP candidate James Bradley, and Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee were locked in a three-way tie with 7% each. Butler, who has not yet said if she’ll seek a full term, was not tested.
“After nearly two decades of statewide Republican candidates being rejected by California’s left-leaning electorate, former Dodger All-Star Steve Garvey hopes to drag the GOP back toward political relevance,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
“Garvey announced Tuesday that he is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Dianne Feinstein, a gambit by a political newcomer banking on his baseball fame and affable demeanor to overcome the long odds Republicans face in this solidly Democratic state. At the very least, Garvey offers GOP voters a dash of celebrity excitement and his candidacy may raise the stakes for the top-shelf Democratic candidates.”
WASHINGTON GOVERNOR, 3RD DISTRICT and PUBLIC LANDS COMMISSIONER. The Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner reports that former GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler told the conservative group Future 42 on Monday that she’ll run for state public lands commissioner rather than for governor or for her old 3rd District. This post, which oversees the Washington Department of Natural Resources, is currently held by Democrat Hilary Franz, who is campaigning for governor next year.
The former congresswoman, who was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump after Jan. 6, lost her seat last year after she came in third against far-right foe Joe Kent in the top-two primary; Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez went on to flip the seat that November. While Politico reported the next month that Herrera Beutler was interested in another House bid, she announced in late January that she’d signed on to become a strategic advisor for the Children’s Hospital Association―a decision that some observers believed meant she wouldn’t be running for any office in 2024.
Those assumptions were premature, and The Dispatch reported just a month later that Herrera Beutler was thinking about running for governor. However, while she didn’t rule out the idea shortly after Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee announced his retirement in May, she never again showed any obvious sign of interest after her former House colleague, Dave Reichert, became the GOP frontrunner in July. We hadn’t previously heard Herrera Beutler mentioned for a different statewide office until Brunner reported Monday that she would campaign for public lands commission.
Five Democrats are currently running to replace Franz: state Sens. Rebecca Saldaña and Kevin Van De Wege; former state Sen. Mona Das; King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove; and DNR manager Patrick DePoe. The only Republican who declared before Herrera Beutler was Sue Kuehl Pederson, who lost to Franz 57-43 in 2020.
MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. “Sen. Jon Tester, one of three Democrats up for reelection in 2024 that represent a state former President Donald Trump won twice, announced raising $5 million in the third fundraising quarter of 2023, spanning July through September,” The Messenger reports.
“The campaign will report entering October with more than $13 million cash on hand.”
TEXAS U.S. SENATOR. Fox News: “Cruz’s haul is up from the $4.4 million he raised during the April-June second quarter of fundraising and the $1.8 million he brought in during the first three months of 2023.”
Cruz’s campaign has more than $6.7 million cash on hand.
WISCONSIN REDISTRICTING. On Friday, the new progressive majority on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ruled 4-3 along ideological lines to hear a lawsuit that’s challenging the GOP’s legislative gerrymanders, setting oral arguments for Nov. 21.
The court’s ruling limited its review to only the claims over non-contiguous districts and whether map’ adoption by the court’s previous conservative majority violated the separation of powers, setting aside the plaintiffs’ partisan gerrymandering claim for now because resolving it would require extensive fact-finding. A trial to conduct that fact-finding could have delayed new maps until after the 2024 elections, and the court noted it would become unnecessary if it strikes down the maps over contiguity or the separation of powers anyway.
Earlier on Friday, progressive Justice Janet Protasiewicz rejected the GOP’s calls for her to recuse herself because of how she had called the maps “rigged” during her election campaign earlier this year and received campaign funding from the state Democratic Party. Protasiewicz’s recusal decision cited a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling where that court’s conservative majority overturned a Minnesota law that had barred judicial candidates from declaring their views on legal and political issues, and she noted that the Wisconsin Democratic Party was not involved with the redistricting case.
Nonetheless, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos responded on Monday by claiming precedent by the federal high court “compels her recusal, and the United States Supreme Court will have the last word here,” implying the GOP could appeal her recusal decision to the federal court. Vos and his party have repeatedly threatened to impeach Protasiewicz if she didn’t recuse in this case, though he notably did not mention that in Monday’s statement.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY (PA) EXECUTIVE. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Republican Joe Rockey continues to enjoy a huge advertising edge over Democrat Sara Innamorato as he tries to score an upset win next month in this 59-39 Biden county. Rockey has deployed $700,000 on TV ads through Friday promoting him as a moderate and pledging to oppose county tax reassessments. His allies at Save Allegheny County, meanwhile, have thrown down another $480,000; the group has gotten about a quarter of its budget from Commonwealth Leaders Fund, which is largely funded by conservative billionaire Jeff Yass.
Innamorato herself spent $140,000 on the general election, while super PACs have not aired their own ads to aid her. Her opening commercial debuted Oct. 1 and begins by touting her as a candidate who “shares our values” on public safety and reproductive rights. The narrator then goes after Rockey as someone who “bankrolled Trump, supporting extremists, backed Republicans repealing reproductive rights, and said he won’t stand up for the right to choose.”
PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT. The Associated Press writes that Republican Carolyn Carluccio outspent Democrat Dan McCaffery $2.8 million to $900,000 through Sept. 18, though outside groups have also been aiding him in this statewide race. However, it’s not quite clear how much other organizations have been spending on the Democrat’s behalf: The AP says that Planned Parenthood and Pennsylvanians for Judicial Fairness have deployed “hundreds of thousands more, with more spending coming,” while the ACLU and Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee have promised to deploy resources here.
McCaffery ended Sept. 18 with a $1.2 million to $600,000 edge in cash on hand, though Carluccio likely has access to far more money. The story says that she received a total of $2.1 million through that date in donations from Commonwealth Leaders Fund, a group funded by conservative billionaire Jeff Yass. McCaffery, for his part, has benefited from large contributions from unions and trial lawyer organizations.