The Political Report – October 26, 2023

A new PRRI/Brookings survey finds nearly a quarter of Americans agree that “patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country” — the most in the nearly three years the question has been asked since Donald Trump’s presidency.

Axios: “The report found there is one thing the vast majority of Americans agree on: People across the political spectrum — 75% of all Americans — agree that American democracy is at risk in the 2024 presidential election.”

“Voters in a Tennessee city have firmly rejected a far-right mayoral candidate after she refused to denounce her white supremacist supporters, and the incumbent mayor decried hate and divisiveness as he celebrated his election win,” the AP reports.

“Gabrielle Hanson lost the race by a wide margin Tuesday.”

 “Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has tied Virginia Republicans’ hopes for winning legislative elections next month in part to the controversial strategy of embracing new limits on abortion access after 15 weeks, transforming his divided state into a national litmus test that is likely to shape the 2024 elections,” the Washington Post reports.

“If successful, Youngkin’s reputation inside the party will probably rise, offering a model for the party’s presidential and Senate candidates who have been scrambling for a winning message on abortion after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to the procedure last year. If he fails, festering strategic divisions among antiabortion activists and Republican political strategists are set to worsen.”

Politico on Virginia Governor Glen Youngkin’s embrace of early voting: “Youngkin and his political operation can succeed, it could have profound implications for the rest of the party — not just in Virginia, but nationally ahead of next year’s presidential election.”

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R), a leading candidate for governor, “found his efforts to declare solidarity with Israel backfiring — by drawing renewed scrutiny to his long history of invoking antisemitic conspiracy theories and casting doubt on the Holocaust,” Jewish Insider reports.

“Robinson, while briefly serving as acting governor two weeks ago, sought to downplay his past social media comments at a press event held in the state legislature, where he acknowledged that ‘there have been some Facebook posts that were poorly worded on my part’ but stressed that ‘there is no antisemitism standing here in front of you.’”

“Newly uncovered social media comments, however, show that Robinson’s well-documented history of incendiary online activity is even more extensive than his remarks at the press conference suggested.”

Rich guy Bill Graham has launched what his campaign says is a $3.5 million opening ad buy for the March GOP primary. The first spot from the new candidate, who launched his effort last week, doesn’t attack his main intraparty foe, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, or any of his other rivals. The ad instead plays images and audio of gunfire before Graham pledges to expand the death penalty to cover “drug dealers and human traffickers.”

“President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign informed the chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party on Tuesday that he would follow the rules outlined by the Democratic National Committee and not declare his candidacy for the state’s primary,” The Messenger reports.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) reportedly told McKay Coppins, author of the new book, Romney: A Reckoning, that she doesn’t care if she loses re-election because she could “do anything” once she’s out of office, Insider reports.

She added: “I don’t care. I can go on any board I want to. I can be a college president. I can do anything. I saved the Senate filibuster by myself. I saved the Senate by myself. That’s good enough for me.”

 “An eagle-eyed motorist spotted a campaign bus devoted to the Democratic congressman from Minnesota, who is preparing a belated primary challenge to President Biden after spending months bemoaning the lack of internal opponents to the 80-year-old commander-in-chief,” the New York Post reports.

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig parted ways with both his campaign manager and deputy manager just 17 days after announcing he’d seek the Republican nomination for Michigan’s open Senate seat, reports the Messenger.

“I resigned due to differing opinions on the strategic direction of the campaign,” said Craig’s now-former campaign manager, August Atencio. But Craig adviser Ted Goodman pushed back, arguing that “this is a non-story being pushed by our political opponents.”

The “non-story,” though, may feel uncomfortably familiar to Craig fans who remember his disastrous 2022 campaign for governor. The former police chief’s previous effort went through several major staff shake-ups, including the departure of two different campaign managers in less than four months and the resignation of chief adviser John Yob.

During that race, the Detroit News reported that Craig had brought on two co-managers in March, a month before the candidate filing deadline. Yob responded with a snarky tweet declaring, “The nice thing about appointing co-campaign managers is that when the third one quits, there might still be a fourth one.”

But Yob, who had already switched to working for wealthy businessman Perry Johnson’s rival effort, wasn’t quite able to fully enjoy what happened next to his former client. Election authorities disqualified Craig, Johnson, and three other contenders from the ballot after they fell victim to a huge fraudulent-signature scandal and failed to turn in enough valid petitions. Craig insisted on forging ahead with a write-in campaign that ultimately won just 2% of the vote, while Johnson decided to turn his attention to running for president. (Yob, who has since gone back to praising Craig on social media, signed on to Johnson’s White House campaign.)

It’s possible, however, that primary voters will get to see both Craig’s and Johnson’s names on their Senate ballot next year. The latter declared Friday that he was suspending his presidential campaign after barely registering in the polls and failing to qualify for any debates, though his name will remain on the ballot in New Hampshire and other early primary states.

And there may be a backup plan in the works. Johnson, who self-funded at least $8.4 million, told NBC last month that he might refocus his efforts on a bid to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, though he’s now sending mixed messages about his interest in that idea.

A spokesperson for Johnson responded to the network’s questions about a Senate run by saying, “Perry hasn’t ruled anything out.” Johnson, however, doesn’t seem to have quite abandoned his White House dreams, as he said Friday he’d keep a small number of people on staff “in the event the dynamics of the race change.”

Craig will face intraparty opposition no matter what Johnson does, though his main competitor still has a lot to prove. Former Rep. Mike Rogers launched his campaign in early September, but a recent survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Craig beating the NRSC’s preferred recruit 30-19.

It also remains to be seen whether Rogers will have the money to run a serious effort. The candidate raised just $810,000 during the third quarter and finished September with $790,000 in the bank, though his campaign highlighted that his haul came after only 24 days on the trail. Craig, for his part, launched his bid after the fourth quarter began, so we’ll need to wait until the end of January to get our first look at his financial strength.

The GOP field also includes state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, but she ended last month with all of $90,000 on hand after yet another weak fundraising quarter. Former Rep. Peter Meijer also set up an exploratory committee in late August, but he has yet to report any fundraising numbers.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Elissa Slotkin continues to hold a huge financial edge over her many opponents. Actor Hill Harper attracted a good deal of attention when he entered the race in early July, but he raised only $560,000 from donors during his opening quarter and self-funded another $460,000. Slotkin, for her part, hauled in $3 million, and she finished September with a huge $5.2 million to $420,000 cash-on-hand advantage over Hill. A third Democrat, former American Arab Chamber of Commerce leader Nasser Beydoun, had a mere $100,000 in the bank, while the rest of the field lags even further behind.

MARYLAND U.S. SENATOR. Gov. Wes Moore announced Monday that he was backing Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks in next year’s Democratic primary to succeed retiring Sen. Ben Cardin. Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando, who dropped out Friday, also threw his support to Alsobrooks.

Moore’s decision comes a year after Alsobrooks provided him with an important endorsement in his own nomination contest. Observers cited her support as one of the reasons that Moore, who carried populous Prince George’s County 47-21, pulled off a narrow statewide victory on his way to becoming Maryland’s first Black governor.

Alsobrooks, who would be the first African American to represent the Old Line State in the Senate, already had much of the state’s party establishment in her corner for her expensive primary against Rep. David Trone. While Cardin has not taken sides, Alsobrooks has endorsements from Sen. Chris Van Hollen; Reps. Steny Hoyer, Glenn Ivey, and Rep. Kweisi Mfume; and Baltimore County Executive Johhny Olszewski. Trone, by contrast, has the backing of close to 50 of his colleagues, but none of them are members of the Maryland delegation.

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. The Democratic Governors Association has publicized an internal from Public Policy Polling that shows GOP Gov. Tate Reeves edging out Democrat Brandon Presley just 46-45 in this conservative state. That’s significantly closer than the 51-43 Reeves advantage that Mason-Dixon found three months ago in its survey for the conservative Magnolia Tribune; we haven’t seen any other polls since Labor Day.

The DGA, though, is spending like it believes this contest is winnable. The group contributed $3 million to Presley’s campaign during the third quarter of the year on top of the $750,000 it previously gave him. Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau notes that the DGA provided then-Attorney General Jim Hood a smaller $2.4 million four years ago ahead of his 52-47 loss to Reeves; the committee also only spent $300,000 this year to aid Louisiana Democrat Shawn Wilson, who failed to even force a runoff against GOP Gov.-elect Jeff Landry.

Reeves still finished September with a hefty $6 million to $1.8 million cash on hand lead, though some of his fellow Republicans have warned that their party could lose. “The way we end up with a liberal governor is that Republicans assume we win,” longtime state operative Henry Barbour warned in a September radio interview that Ganucheau says attracted plenty of attention in conservative circles. An unnamed GOP source also recently told Mississippi Today, “I can’t remember a statewide election cycle when a Republican had a tough challenge and so few Republican voters seemed to care.”

It’s possible, however, that there will be a second round in the race to lead Mississippi. Independent Gwendolyn Gray remains on the ballot even though she dropped out earlier this month and endorsed Presley, and her presence could prevent either remaining candidate from winning the majority they need to avert a Nov. 28 runoff.

HOUSTON MAYOR. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee put out a statement Monday night acknowledging she had “fallen short of my own standards” in her treatment of her staff, a move that came days after an anonymous person posted what they claimed was audio of the congresswoman berating her employees. Listeners heard a person who sounds like Jackson Lee calling a pair of staffers “[t]wo Goddamn big-ass children, fuckin’ idiots who serve no Goddamn purpose,” as well as “fuck-ups” and a “fat-ass stupid idiot.”

Jackson Lee’s campaign has not confirmed or denied that the voice is hers, and Monday’s statement addressed an “alleged recording.” Her team also argued last week that the audio was released to benefit state Sen. John Whitmire, a fellow Democrat who is her main opponent in the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary. Whitmire’s camp responded, “We know nothing about it other than what everybody else does. And to try to accuse our camp of leaking it is just trying to take attention away from what is in the recording.”

Jackson Lee’s office has long had one of the highest rates of turnover in the entire House, and congressional staffers have often ranked her as one of the “meanest” members in Washingtonian magazine’s regular surveys. “Any little thing can set her off to screaming at you,” one unnamed former employee told the Houston Chronicle’s Rick Casey in 2008. Casey wrote that another relayed “she once told an aide he was so stupid that his son should be embarrassed to have him as a father.” However, this same person told the paper, “I really believe there’s a good person in there.”

The congresswoman herself used her Monday statement to declare, “I want to convey to the people of Houston that I strongly believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and that includes my own staff.” She continued, “I know that I am not perfect. I recognize that in my zeal to do everything possible to deliver for my constituents I have in the past fallen short of my own standards and there is no excuse for that.” However, Jackson Lee’s words did not include an apology.

MAINE REFERENDUM. Maine voters will decide in two weeks whether to replace the state’s current investor-owned energy system with a publicly owned nonprofit led by a board with seven members elected statewide who’d pick six experts to work with them.

The campaign to promote Question 3, Pine Tree Power, argues that a win would help pass environmentally friendly policies. Nebraska is currently the only state where consumer-owned companies provide all of the utilities, and Pine Tree Power notes that the Cornhusker State is trying to advance a net-zero carbon plan by 2050. “This is a definitive fight of 2023 as far as climate,” a representative of the environmental group told the Boston Globe recently, adding, “This is a promising framework for other states to investigate.”

The “yes” side of Question 3 has also highlighted how Central Maine Power, which serves 80% of the state, has spent the last four years in last place in J.D. Power’s national consumer-satisfaction survey of 76 electric utilities; Versant, which is the state’s other large utility company, has also fared poorly in J.D. Power’s rankings.

Pine Tree Power, though, will need to overcome a massive financial disadvantage to win the majority it needs to pass on Nov. 7. Spectrum News’ Susan Cover writes that CMP and Versant spent a combined $34.7 million through Sept. 30 to promote the “no” side, while Question 3’s backers have raised just around $1 million. The only poll we’ve seen was a mid-September survey from the GOP firm Moore Information Group for Versant’s PAC, and it showed voters rejecting the measure 54-31.

Question 3 has the support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, but the state’s Democratic governor is firmly against it. “Question 3 will cost Maine people as much as $13.5 billion in borrowed money,” Janet Mills predicted last month. She also warned, “Because Question 3 is a hostile take-over of our utilities with eminent domain, we are guaranteed to go to court and to be tied up in litigation for years, if not decades.” Mills previously vetoed a 2021 bill passed by the Democratic-led legislature that would have advanced similar goals as this measure.

CMP and Versant are also promoting a separate referendum that would make it tougher for Question 3 to go into effect should it win. The utilities are advancing Question 1, which would “bar some quasi-governmental entities and all consumer-owned electric utilities from taking on more than $1 billion in debt unless they get statewide voter approval.”

Cover explains that if both measures passed, another statewide vote would likely be needed before Pine Tree Power’s plan could go into effect, while a win for just Question 3 would mean “the utility takeover will begin without delay.” Moore’s poll last month showed a 39-33 plurality supporting the “yes” side of Question 1.

PENNSYLVANIA STATE AUDITOR and STATE HOUSE. Democratic state Rep. Mark Rozzi, a self-described “centrist” who spent a short but vital two-month period as speaker early this year, announced over the weekend that he would challenge Republican Auditor General Timothy DeFoor. Rozzi launched his bid for the nod months after Malcolm Kenyatta, a fellow state representative who took third in last year’s U.S. Senate primary, kicked off his own campaign against DeFoor.

Pennsylvania allows candidates to run for multiple offices at once, and Kenyatta, who would be the first gay person elected statewide, says he’ll also seek reelection to his dark blue seat in Philadelphia. But Rozzi, who represents part of nearby Berks County, declared that he wouldn’t try to hold his legislative seat; Rozzi’s 126th District favored Joe Biden 55-44 in 2020.

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

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