The Political Report – October 27, 2023

A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll finds Joe Biden and Donald Trump tied at 37% in the presidential race, with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at 13% and Cornel West at 4%.

Without Kennedy in the mix, Trump would edge Biden 41% to 39%, a lead within the survey’s margin of error, with West at 7%.

Without West in the mix, Biden would edge Trump by an even narrower margin, 38% to 37%, with Kennedy at 14%.

With neither Kennedy nor West on the ballot, Biden and Trump would tie 41% to 41%.

NORTH CAROLINA REDISTRICTING, 6TH DISTRICT and 14TH DISTRICT. On Wednesday, North Carolina Republicans passed new congressional and state legislative gerrymanders that will likely cost three to four House Democrats their seats in Congress and guarantee GOP control of the legislature in this longtime swing state. Thanks to an unusual provision of the state’s constitution, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper lacks the power to veto this map, so these new districts will now become law.

The GOP’s new congressional map will rank as one of the most extreme gerrymanders in the country and upend the state’s House delegation. North Carolina relied on a court-drawn map in 2022 that elected seven Democrats and seven Republicans, with Republican House candidates collectively winning the popular vote by a close 52-48 margin.

As shown on this graphic comparing the old and new maps, that fairer map will be replaced with one that will almost certainly elect 10 or 11 Republicans next year and just three or four Democrats. The plan could also end the House career of one of the state’s three Black representatives.

Meanwhile, the GOP’s new state Senate and state House maps turbocharge their existing gerrymanders and will make it effectively impossible for Democrats to secure majorities, even though they’re routinely capable of winning statewide elections. Even worse, the new maps will likely ensure that, in all but the most Democratic of election years, Republicans will maintain the three-fifths supermajorities they’d need to override gubernatorial vetoes and to place constitutional amendments on the ballot.

The congressional gerrymander works by cracking apart two heavily Democratic urban areas: the city of Fayetteville and the region known as the Piedmont Triad, which includes Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point. These four cities are collectively split among six different districts, combining their large Black populations with heavily white rural areas to ensure that all will be represented solely by Republicans.

Republicans are using the reverse approach to suppress the strength of voters in Charlotte and Raleigh, the state’s two biggest cities, as well as the Research Triangle region in the Raleigh area. There, they’ve packed Democrats into just three dark-blue districts, while adjacent districts dilute blue-trending suburbs with deep red rural turf.

Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning, who comfortably won reelection 54-45 last year, is one of the GOP’s targets. Her Triad-based 6th District previously contained all of Greensboro, which is the state’s third-largest city; almost all of neighboring High Point; and part of nearby Winston-Salem. The reconfigured 6th retains only High Point and a small portion of Greensboro, instead picking up heavily Republican rural areas to the southwest.

Those changes turn the district from one that would have voted 56-43 for Joe Biden in 2020 into one that would have gone 57-41 for Donald Trump, according to Dave’s Redistricting App—a 29-percentage-point swing in partisanship.

Earlier this month, before the GOP unveiled its map, Manning had said she would seek reelection to a third term, though the new district’s lean would make her task Herculean if not impossible. That same week, High Point Mayor Jay Wagner announced he would seek the Republican nomination for “[w]hichever district the city of High Point is in,” and other Republicans will likely run here, too.

Additionally on Wednesday, former GOP Rep. Mark Walker told the conservative Carolina Journal that he was dropping his long-shot gubernatorial campaign and will run for the 6th. Walker had held a previous version of this district last decade, but he declined to seek reelection in 2020 when litigation led to that GOP gerrymander getting replaced with a somewhat fairer map that year, and Manning won to succeed him.

In the Triangle, meanwhile, Republicans have completely transformed freshman Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel’s 13th District by removing its portions of Raleigh and the nearby suburb of Cary, both of which are solidly blue. They’ve instead added rural and exurban areas to the north and northwest of Raleigh so that the district now fully wraps around the Research Triangle in a backward “C” shape.

These changes turn what had been a 50-48 Biden district, which Nickel narrowly won 52-48 last year, into a 58-41 Trump seat, a shift of 17 points. In response to the map’s passage, Nickel released a statement saying he would not yet announce his 2024 election plans but would instead “sue the bastards” in court.

Down in Charlotte, Republicans have dismantled freshman Rep. Jeff Jackson’s 14th District, which was a 57-41 Biden district that covered the southern half of the city and its western exurbs. They’ve accomplished this by giving almost all of Charlotte to the dark blue 12th District, represented by Democratic Rep. Alma Adams.

Instead, the 14th now sprawls westward nearly to the Appalachian Mountains and becomes a 57-41 Trump district. That 32-point swing to the right is the largest in any of the state’s congressional districts. Conversely, Adams’ 12th District will become an extreme Democratic vote sink, shifting 20 points to the left, from 64-34 for Biden to 74-24.

When the GOP’s first draft was unveiled, Jackson strongly implied that he wouldn’t seek reelection in such an unwinnable district, though he could run for state attorney general. On the Republican side, state House Speaker Tim Moore is retiring from the legislature next year and said Tuesday he is considering running for the new 14th. Political insiders had long predicted that Moore could draw a new seat for himself, and very conveniently, the 14th now includes his entire legislative district and has no GOP incumbent.

The fourth and final Democrat who could lose their seat thanks to the new map is freshman Rep. Don Davis, whose 1st District previously included rural parts of inland northeastern North Carolina and has been represented by a Black Democrat since its creation as a district protected by the Voting Rights Act in the 1990s. The 1st loses the city of Greenville, which has a large Black population and leans strongly Democratic, to GOP Rep. Greg Murphy’s 3rd District, which in return gives the 1st parts of the Outer Banks along the coast that are heavily white and Republican.

These changes shift the 1st from a 53-46 Biden district that Davis won 52-48 as an open seat last year into a district that Biden carried just 50-49. The new 1st has been trending Republican over the past decade, as evidenced by Republican Ted Budd’s 52-46 win under the revised lines in last year’s Senate contest. While it’s not a guaranteed GOP pickup if Davis seeks reelection, he likely would have lost last year had these lines been in effect. (Budd lost the old 1st by 49.3-48.8.) Davis has not yet revealed what his plans are.

Several Republican members will also see their seats drastically reconfigured, but the map spreads around GOP voters with laser precision to ensure each district remains safely red without wasting those voters in overly Republican districts. Murphy’s 3rd, for instance, now extends much further inland from the coast and becomes bluer thanks to Greenville, but it’s still solidly red, with a 58-41 Trump margin.

The bulk of Greensboro, meanwhile, now gets drawn into Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx’s 5th District, which runs westward along the Virginia border all the way to the Appalachians and is safely red, with a 57-42 Trump margin. At the same time, almost all of Winston-Salem gets added to Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry’s 10th District, where most of the population remains in rural areas to the southwest and the Charlotte exurbs. That drops it from a 69-30 Trump margin to 57-41 Trump —much more efficient, from the perspective of Republican gerrymandering.

As for the leftover fringes of Greensboro and its conservative exurbs, they’re added to GOP Rep. Richard Hudson’s 9th District, which now extends southeast through heavily Republican rural areas to include part of Fayetteville in the Sandhills region. This would shore up Hudson: His previous district backed Trump by a somewhat modest 53-45 spread, but the new map makes it more secure at 56-42 Trump.

In the 8th District, GOP Rep. Dan Bishop is retiring to run for attorney general, leaving open a 58-40 Trump seat that spans from Charlotte’s suburbs eastward to the Sandhills. The revised district appears to reward turncoat Democratic state Rep. Tricia Cotham, whose party switch to the GOP earlier this year handed Republicans a veto-proof majority, which they’ve used to restrict abortion and pass other far-right policies. Cotham has not yet indicated what she’ll do next—her legislative district was also made much redder—but the 8th picks up her base in Charlotte’s inner suburbs from the 12th.

The state’s other four House members would see their districts retain a similar political composition. The two remaining Democratic districts would both become bluer: Rep. Deborah Ross’ 2nd District in Raleigh would shift from 64-35 Biden to 67-31 Biden, while Rep. Valerie Foushee’s neighboring 4th District, which includes the Durham and Chapel Hill areas in the Research Triangle, moves from 67-32 Biden to 72-26 Biden.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. David Rouzer’s 7th District in southeastern North Carolina sees few changes and stays solidly red at 55-44 Trump. Finally, in the Appalachian Mountains, in the state’s far western corner, Republican Rep. Chuck Edwards’ 11th District is largely untouched and would have voted 55-44 for Trump in 2020.

As a result, the new map will yield a delegation that, at best, splits 10-4 in Republicans’ favor, or very possibly 11-3—if not next year, then later this decade. Democrats’ only real chance of reversing these gerrymanders involves either passing legislation at the federal level, which likely can’t happen before 2025, or taking back the state Supreme Court, which involves a multiyear plan that would require winning four of the next five court races between 2024 and 2028.

FLORIDA 13TH DISTRICT. Whitney Fox, who stepped down as an official with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority this week, on Tuesday became the first notable Democrat to launch a bid against hardline GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna. Fox entered the race with an endorsement from former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman for a seat that, under the current GOP gerrymander, backed Donald Trump 53-46 in 2020.

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. While GOP state Sen. Jack Martins said back in May he was “not at all” interested” in trying to replace scandal-ridden incumbent George Santos, he showed a little more interest this week in an interview with Politico. “We will have that conversation if and when it comes up,” said Martins, who was the 2016 nominee for the last version of this seat, even as he maintained that he wanted to remain in the legislature.

Former Rep. Tom Suozzi has earned the backing of the well-connected New York State and New York City Building and Construction Trades Councils for his bid for the Democratic nod.

PENNSYLVANIA 10TH DISTRICT. Former TV news anchor Janelle Stelson has released a survey from Public Policy Polling that shows her leading 2022 nominee Shamaine Daniels 33-20 in next year’s Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Scott Perry, with no one else exceeding 3%.

The memo also finds that the frontrunners are the only candidates with much name recognition with primary voters: Stelson, who stepped down last month after 27 years working for NBC affiliate WGAL, posts a 49-8 favorable rating, while respondents give Daniels a 35-9 score.

Blake Lynch, who recently stepped down as an executive at central Pennsylvania’s NPR affiliate WITF, announced Tuesday that he was joining the busy Democratic primary to face far-right GOP Rep. Scott Perry. Lynch, who previously worked in Harrisburg city government as both a community policing liaison and director of community relations and engagement, would be the first Black person to represent the Harrisburg and York areas in the House.

COLORADO 4TH DISTRICT. Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams has ruled out waging a GOP primary bid against Rep. Ken Buck, explaining that “the timing is simply not right for me and my family.”

OREGON 5TH DISTRICT. State Rep. Janelle Bynum on Tuesday publicized an endorsement from Gov. Tina Kotek ahead of next year’s Democratic primary to face freshman GOP Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer.

The Oregon Capitol Chronicle’s Julia Shumway notes that Bynum mulled a 2020 bid for state House speaker against Kotek, who held that post. But Bynum, who remains the only Black woman in the chamber, decided not to go through with it after Kotek pledged to strengthen the Black, Indigenous and People of Color Caucus and ensure that a person of color served in the leadership.

Bynum is competing against 2022 nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Oregon Metro Council President Lynn Peterson for the right to take on Chavez-DeRemer for a seat that Joe Biden carried 53-44 but where Republican Christine Drazan beat Kotek 47-43 last year. (Another 9% went to conservative Democrat-turned-independent Betsy Johnson.)

McLeod-Skinner outraised Bynum by $260,000 to $190,000 during the third quarter, but it was the state representative who finished September with a $220,000 to $150,000 cash on hand advantage. Both women have experience running against Chavez-DeRemer: Bynum beat her in 2016 and 2018 to win her seat in the legislature, while McLeod-Skinner lost 51-49 last year.

Peterson, for her part, only took in $70,000 and had $40,000 in the bank. Chavez-DeRemer herself far outpaced everyone by bringing in $620,000 and ending last month with $1.3 million in the bank.

McLeod-Skinner, who has waged three unsuccessful runs for office, got some unwelcome attention two weeks ago when Shumway reported that staffers from her previous campaigns “described her as a nightmarish boss, who yelled at and berated her staff, corralled them into frequent hours-long meetings, texted them in the middle of the night and retaliated against those who stood up to her.” One person who worked on her last effort declared, “She spends so much time tearing her staff down that she neglects her duties, like fundraising and building support with voters and important allies.”

Multiple sources also said that her campaign manager tried to convey these complaints to McLeod-Skinner in the month before the 2022 election, but the candidate responded by ceasing to communicate with her top staffer. McLeod-Skinner denied this and showed Shumway an email from last October she’d copied her campaign manager on.

The candidate also responded with a statement saying, “All campaigns are fast-paced and require long hours and hard work, but I have always sought to create a positive work environment, which many of my staff can attest to. If that was not the experience of certain individuals, I apologize and am always looking for ways to be a better leader.” Some of her former employees also argued to Shumway that the criticisms were sexist, with one declaring, “I don’t think there’s anything that I can think of that Jamie did that would stand out as unusual behavior for a candidate.” Her 2020 manager also said, “I have never seen Jamie raise her voice or berate staff. That is not my experience.”

ALABAMA 2ND DISTRICT. Inside Elections’ Erin Covey recently took a look at the potential Democratic field for this revamped seat, and unnamed party operatives mention U.S. Department of Justice official Shomari Figures as a possible candidate. Figures’ mother, state Sen. Vivian Figures, has been publicly considering a bid, and one source confidently predicted, “There will be a Figures on the ballot.”

Republicans haven’t shown much optimism about holding a constituency that would have favored Joe Biden 56-43, and Pike Road Mayor Gordon Stone last week told the conservative 1819 News that he was unlikely to try. Stone, however, still acknowledged, “I’m not closing any doors.”

Shomari Figures announced this week that he was stepping down from his post at the U.S. Department of Justice as he considers entering the Democratic primary for the redrawn 2nd District. His mother, state Sen. Vivian Figures, had expressed interest in running herself last month, but she sounds like she’s ready to defer to her son. “There are a lot of people―including myself―who are excited by the possibility of him seeking public office,” she told “I think he would be an outstanding candidate and representative.”

Alabama State University President Quinton Ross, meanwhile, told the Montgomery Independent’s Jeff Martin he’d stay out of the Democratic contest. Martin also mentions Secretary of State Wes Allen as a possible GOP contender, though there’s no indication that he’s interested.

NEW JERSEY 7TH DISTRICT. The New Jersey Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran spoke to former Rep. Tom Malinowski for his op-ed urging the Democrat to change his mind and challenge GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr., and Malinowski didn’t quite reject the idea. Still, the former congressman doesn’t sound eager to revisit his May decision to stay out of the race: “I’m very happy in my life right now,” said Malinowski, “and looking forward to the next challenge, not backward.”

ARIZONA 8TH DISTRICT. Retiring Rep. Debbie Lesko told Punchbowl News Tuesday that she was endorsing state House Speaker Ben Toma in the GOP primary even though she acknowledged that Toma had not yet announced a bid to succeed her.

The GOP field for this 56-42 Trump seat already included 2022 attorney general nominee Abe Hamadeh, who has the support of former ticket mate and fellow Big Lie enthusiast Kari Lake: Lake, who is now running for the Senate, last week tweeted just before Hamadeh launched his campaign, “I sure hope my friend @AbrahamHamadeh considers running! #AZ08 deserves a fighter & Abe is one of the toughest in Arizona.”

Hamadeh, though, lives in GOP Rep. David Schweikert’s neighboring 1st District. Toma, by contrast, is a resident of the 8th, and he currently represents about 30% of the seat in the legislature.

The field may also soon contain Brandon Urness, who managed then-Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s 2022 Senate bid ahead of his weak third-place primary finish. Urness declared Tuesday he was forming an exploratory campaign, though his declaration attracted little attention beyond a brief mention in the Arizona Republic. Urness, without mentioning any of his opponents directly, tweeted, “The West Valley will not be fed lies by carpetbaggers with a silver spoon.”

MARYLAND 6TH DISTRICT. Former Commerce Department official April McClain Delaney declared Wednesday that she was joining the busy primary to replace her fellow Democrat, Senate hopeful David Trone, in this 54-44 Biden seat. McClain Delaney is the wife of former Rep. John Delaney, who represented the previous version of the 6th District for three terms before leaving office in 2019 for an ill-fated bid for president best remembered by a meme-worthy photo showing the grim-faced candidate descending a slide at the Iowa State Fair.

Delaney represented about 80% of the new 6th, but MoCo360 notes that the couple’s residency is not part of the district McClain Delaney wants to represent. Indeed, the story notes that Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin’s 8th District already included their Potomac home under the old map, but the revamped lines mean that McClain Delaney now lives 10 miles away from her would-be constituents instead of just a few blocks. The candidate, however, argued, “I know this district, I love this district, and I know the folks from Cumberland to Frederick to Gaithersburg want things done that will make their lives better and that will protect and strengthen our democracy.”

Delaney self-funded a total of $3.7 million during his trio of House campaigns, and MoCo360 writes that McClain Delaney is “widely expected” to use “some of the assets held by her and her husband.” That sort of personal investment could help her stand out in a crowded primary field where none of the candidates have amassed large war chests. The contender with the most money at the end of September was Del. Joe Vogel, who had $160,000 banked.

Just behind with $150,000 is psychiatrist Geoffrey Grammer, whom we hadn’t previously mentioned. Grammer, an Army veteran who has self-funded most of his effort, does not appear to have run for office before.

The Democratic field could still expand, though MoCo360 reports that state Sen. Brian Feldman and former Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner have both privately decided not to run even though neither has ruled anything out publicly.

NEW YORK 16TH DISTRICT. Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s office said Wednesday he’d reached a deal with the D.C. attorney general’s office hours after it charged him with a misdemeanor for falsely pulling a fire alarm in a House office building the previous month. Axios writes that the charge will be dropped in three months in return for Bowman pleading guilty on Thursday, apologizing, and paying the maximum fine of $1,000. “I am responsible for activating a fire alarm, I will be paying the fine issued, and look forward to these charges being ultimately dropped,” the congressman said.

Bowman attracted national attention on Sept. 30 when he pulled the fire alarm hours ahead of a possible government shutdown, and detractors were quick to accuse him of doing this to delay a vote on a GOP-crafted spending bill. He instead argued he was rushing to a vote, saying, “I was trying to get to a door. I thought the alarm would open the door, and I pulled the fire alarm to open the door by accident.” The Capitol Police, though, says there were signs “with clear language” declaring that the door he wanted to pass through were “secured and marked as an emergency exit only.”

All of this comes as Westchester County Executive George Latimer continues to consider a primary bid against Bowman in his safely blue seat. Latimer, though, says he wants to learn if the congressional map will need to be redrawn before making up his mind. Westchester Deputy Corrections Commissioner Michael Gerald launched his own campaign over the summer, but he finished September with less than $40,000 in the bank. The incumbent, for his part, had $180,000 on hand.

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

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