The Political Report – November 8, 2023

Gov. Andy Beshear (D) won re-election in the Kentucky, defeating Daniel Cameron (R), according to the Cook Political Report. Decision Desk also called the race for Beshear.

David Wasserman: “Looking at the numbers, it’s pretty evident Kentucky Republicans had a turnout/enthusiasm problem today.”

New York Times: “Being the most popular governor in the country turns out to be a good thing if you want to get re-elected.”

“Mr. Beshear spent his first term and his re-election campaign hyperfocused on local issues like teacher salaries, new road projects, guiding the state through the pandemic and natural disasters and, since last summer’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, opposing his state’s total ban on abortion.”

“It’s not as if Republican voters stayed home; all the other Republicans running for statewide office won with at least 57 percent of the vote. Mr. Beshear just got enough of them to back him for governor. A Democrat who can win Republican voters without making compromises on issues important to liberal voters is someone the rest of the party will want to emulate in red states and districts across the country.”

Ohio Issue 1, a measure to establish a right to an abortion in the state constitution, has been approved by voters, according to the Cook Political Report. Abortion rights continues to be a winning issue for Democrats, even in red states. Ohio voters also legalized recreational marijuana by a vote of 57-43.

Democrats won control of the Virginia House of Delegates, flipping the Republican majority and giving them control of both chambers, according to the Cook Political Report. Democrats won the majority in the Virginia Senate, according to the Cook Political Report. These wins deny Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) control of the state legislature and the ability to pass a 15-week abortion ban as he promised.

Gov. Tate Reeves (R) won re-election in Mississippi, defeating challenger Brandon Presley (D), according to the Cook Political Report.

Exonerated “Central Park Five” member Yusef Salaam won a seat Tuesday on the New York City Council, completing a stunning reversal of fortune decades after he was wrongly imprisoned in an infamous rape case, the AP reports.

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. A new poll from UC Berkeley for the Los Angeles Times finds Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff advancing out of the March top-two primary for California’s open Senate seat, but almost a third of voters are still undecided. Porter holds a skinny 17-16 edge on Schiff, while former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey, the most notable Republican tested, takes 10%, and Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee is in fourth with 9%. Four other candidates were also included, but none get more than 7% of the vote. 30% of respondents haven’t made up their minds yet, so the race remains fluid, though Porter and in particular Schiff have dominated the field in fundraising.

The Atlantic: “Schiff understands that some of the rancor directed at him is performative, and likes to point out the quiet compliments he receives from political foes. Trump used to complain on Twitter that Schiff spent too much time on television—in reality, a source of extreme envy for the then-president.”

“Schiff tells a story about how Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, came to Capitol Hill for a deposition from members of Schiff’s Intelligence committee in 2017. ‘Kushner comes up to me to make conversation, and to ingratiate himself,’ Schiff told me. ‘And he said, ‘You know, you do a great job on television.’ And I said, ‘Well, apparently your father-in-law doesn’t think so,’ and Kushner said, ‘Oh, yes, he does.’”

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. The NRSC has publicized a new survey it commissioned from the Tarrance Group finding Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen with a 45-40 lead over its endorsed candidate, Army veteran Sam Brown. No numbers pitting Rosen against any of the other GOP candidates were released.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. National Journal’s Hotline relays that the hard-line anti-tax Club for Growth has finally confirmed that it isn’t committed to backing far-right Rep. Matt Rosendale if he runs for Senate again next year. Club president David McIntosh had initially said in February that his group would eagerly support Rosendale if he joined the Republican primary, but McIntosh began baking away from that position in July after wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy joined the race.

Hotline’s Kirk Bado further reported via unnamed GOP strategists that some Republicans have grown skittish about Rosendale because of weak fundraising and the high turnover rate among his congressional staff. Rosendale only raised $335,000 in the third quarter while Sheehy raised $2 million from donors and self-funded an additional $653,000.

Although Rosendale began October with a $1.7 million to $1.1 million advantage in cash on hand after Sheehy spent a substantial $1.7 million, the latter should have little trouble replenishing his coffers. Indeed, a new analysis from Business Insider finds that Sheehy would be one of the wealthiest members of Congress if he were elected, with a net worth between $74 million and $260 million.

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who narrowly defeated Rosendale in 2018, dominated over his prospective GOP rivals by raising $4.9 million last quarter and beginning October with $13 million in the bank. Consequently, it isn’t hard to see why some national Republicans would be concerned about Rosendale’s fundraising and prefer an alternative candidate who could amply self-fund if needed.

Rosendale’s fundraising struggles could also be related to why he still hasn’t formally jumped into the race despite reportedly telling allies that he would run at least as early as April. After pushing back his previous timeline for choosing whether to run for Senate or seek reelection, Rosendale recently said he may not decide until the March 11 filing deadline.

ALLEGHENY COUNTY (PA) DISTRICT ATTORNEY and EXECUTIVE. SURVIVOR PAC, a group that describes its goal as “advocating for survivors of sexual assault and other violent crimes,” has publicized a survey from Embold Research that shows tight races for both district attorney and county executive. The Republican nominee for the former office, incumbent Stephen Zappala, posts a tiny 46-45 edge over Democrat Matt Dugan, while respondents favor Democrat Sara Innamorato 47-44 for executive over Republican Joe Rockey.

This poll from Embold, which is the “nonpartisan unit” of the Democratic firm Change Research, is the first complete survey we’ve seen ahead of Tuesday. SURVIVOR PAC, which characterizes its goal as “advocating for survivors of sexual assault and other violent crimes,” does not appear to have backed anyone for either of these offices.

Joe Biden won by 59-39 in this longtime blue bastion, which is home to Pittsburgh and many of its suburbs, but both contests present unusual challenges for the president’s party. Zappala, who is despised by criminal justice reformers, was elected as a Democrat six times, and he says he still identifies as one even though he won May’s GOP primary through a write-in effort. Dugan, who decisively wrested the Democratic nomination from Zappala that same evening, has enjoyed a modest spending advantage for their rematch: AdImpact relayed Tuesday that Dugan’s side held a $705,000 to $552,000 advantage in advertising.

That same data showed Rockey and his allies dwarfing Innamorato $2 million to $473,000, and he’s made use of his resource advantage to argue he’s a moderate running against an extremist. Innamorato has used her more limited cash to tie Rockey to unpopular national Republicans and tout herself as the candidate who “shares our values” on public safety and reproductive rights.

Innamorato is also turning to one of her party’s biggest stars in a closing ad starring Gov. Josh Shapiro, who carried Allegheny County 69-30 last year. “As county executive, she’ll oversee the board of elections, protecting us from extremists,” Shapiro tells the audience, adding, “And Sara’s the only candidate I trust to defend a woman’s right to choose.”

The winner will indeed have a good deal of power over how Pennsylvania’s second-largest county conducts elections. As Bolts Magazine’s Daniel Nichanian writes, the county executive essentially decides partisan control over a three-person board of elections whose other members are the two at-large county council members, fake Trump elector Sam DeMarco and Democrat Bethany Hallam. Both parties may only nominate one candidate for an at-large seat, and DeMarco and Hallam have the ballot to themselves.

VIRGINIA 5TH DISTRICT. Politico’s Olivia Beavers reports that Del. John McGuire, who is unopposed in Tuesday’s race for a state Senate seat, already plans to seek another promotion by challenging far-right Rep. Bob Good for the GOP nod. There’s no word from McGuire, but Beavers wrote Friday that her sources anticipate he’ll launch “in the coming weeks.” Donald Trump carried the 5th District, which includes Charlottesville and western Southside Virginia, 53-45.

The Old Dominion allows parties to decide if they want to pick their nominees through a traditional party primary, a convention, or a party-run “firehouse primary,” and it remains to be seen what method the GOP will utilize next year. Good, though, predicted to Beavers, “I think Virginia is moving to all primaries.”

Good himself first won the GOP nod when he successfully challenged one-term Rep. Denver Riggleman, who’d riled the party base after he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers, at the convention. McGuire, who is a Navy SEAL veteran, also ran for Congress that year in the old 7th District, but his own convention didn’t go so well: Fellow Del. Nick Freitas beat McGuire 56-44 on the third ballot months before losing the general election to Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger.

McGuire initially launched another bid for the 7th, but he dropped out last year after court-imposed redistricting scrambled the map. Good, for his part, easily won a second term, and he’s spent much of it alienating some of his party’s most powerful leaders. The congressman voted against Kevin McCarthy in each round of the marathon January speakership election before finally flipping to “present” for the last ballot, and he was one of the eight Republicans who deposed the speaker last month. Good also endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over Donald Trump in May.

Beavers writes that, while there’s no indication that McGuire is working with Trump and McCarthy’s camps, both men may see him as a vehicle to take down a disloyal congressman whose colleagues have nicknamed him “Bob Bad.” (Original, we know). McCarthy, who still retains well-funded allies, responded to Politico’s questions about whether he’d intervene in the nomination fight by saying, “I don’t know. I have to study all these. Prior to being the speaker, I couldn’t get engaged in races. But I’m a free agent now.”

Good ended September with only $170,000 in the bank, but he may get some serious outside help. The Club for Growth, which is currently on the outs with Trump, declared in July it would aid the Republicans who’d voted against McCarthy at the start of the year.

TEXAS 12TH DISTRICT. State House Republican Caucus Chair Craig Goldman declared Friday that he’d run to succeed Rep. Kay Granger, a fellow Republican who is retiring from this 58-40 Trump seat. Goldman would be the second Jewish person to represent Texas in Congress after Martin Frost, a Democrat who lost to Republican colleague Pete Sessions in 2004 after the GOP gerrymandered his Dallas-area seat.

Goldman is the first major contender to enter the March primary for this Fort Worth-based seat since Granger announced her retirement on Wednesday, though businessman John O’Shea has been running for months with Attorney General Ken Paxton’s support. However, former Fort Worth Council Member Brian Byrd tells the Fort Worth Report he’s thinking about running to replace Goldman in the legislature rather than running against him for Congress.

Goldman, who is a real estate investor, was first elected to the legislature in 2012, and he currently represents almost a quarter of Granger’s 12th District. Goldman this year rose to become GOP caucus chair, which makes him the rough equivalent of the chamber’s majority leader. Goldman joined most of his caucus in May in voting to impeach Paxton for corruption, but the state Senate later acquitted the attorney general.

NORTH CAROLINA 14TH DISTRICT. State House Speaker Tim Moore’s team announced Thursday that he was running for the 14th District that Moore and his GOP colleagues turned reliably red through their new gerrymander. Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson responded to the new map by running for attorney general, which makes this an open seat.

But self-funder Pat Harrigan, a firearms manufacturer who lost to Jackson 58-42 last year, quickly left no doubt that the speaker was in for a nasty March primary. “Let’s be clear,” Harrigan said in a statement, “Tim Moore carries a legacy of corruption, from being bought and paid for by the casino and gambling bosses, to taxpayer-funded sexual escapades.” Harrigan ended September with $745,000 in the bank, money he’ll almost certainly use to broadcast these attacks far and wide.

Back in June, a former Apex Town Council member named Scott Riley sued Moore for allegedly destroying his marriage. The speaker, who is divorced, acknowledged that he had an “on-again, off-again, very casual, nothing-consistent type of relationship” from 2019 until last year with the plaintiff’s estranged wife, state government employee Jamie Liles Lassiter. However, he told the News & Observer that he “fully understood that she was separated.”

Both Moore and Liles Lassiter, however, denied the allegations in the lawsuit insinuating that the speaker traded political influence for sexual favors. She also said that “the only person who has ever abused me or threatened my career was my soon to be ex-husband.” Riley weeks later withdrew the suit because, according to his lawyer, the matter “has been resolved,” but neither side provided any additional information.

Harrigan, though, is very much hoping that the matter isn’t resolved for voters, and he’s also signaling he’ll make Moore’s ties to the gambling industry an issue. Moore used to serve as an attorney for developers looking to build a resort casino with The Catawba Nation, and he previously recused himself from votes involving gambling. That changed in May, though, when the Legislative Ethics Committee ruled that he no longer had any conflict of interest.

ARIZONA 8TH DISTRICT. State House Speaker Ben Toma finally announced Thursday evening that he would run to replace retiring Rep. Debbie Lesko, a fellow Republican who had already endorsed him the previous week. Lesko made sure to emphasize that, unlike at least two of his intraparty rivals, “Ben Toma lives in our district.”

In 1987 at nine years old, Toma immigrated to the U.S. from Romania as his family fled the latter’s communist regime. The Romanian embassy said in January that he’s the highest-ranking Romanian American elected official in the country. Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts recently described the speaker as a conservative who nonetheless is “not a creature of the MAGA movement.”

COLORADO 4TH DISTRICT. State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg tells The Fort Morgan Times that he hopes to decide “by Thanksgiving” if he’ll compete in the June GOP primary to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Ken Buck. 

MISSOURI 1ST DISTRICT. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that state Sen. Brian Williams is indeed considering opposing Rep. Cori Bush in the August Democratic primary but is “assessing the situation to see where organized labor and pro-Israel political committees stand in the race against Bush.” St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell is already challenging Bush for renomination.

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Former Rep. Peter Meijer announced Monday that he’d seek the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, but both the NRSC and Michigan Republican Party responded to the news by expressing utter contempt for their new candidate.

“Peter Meijer isn’t viable in a primary election,” declared NRSC Executive Director Jason Thielman, “and there’s worry that if Meijer were nominated, the base would not be enthused in the general election.” Meijer, who was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, narrowly lost renomination last year to a Trump-backed foe, John Gibbs; Gibbs, in turn, badly lost the general election for the Grand Rapids-based 3rd District to Democrat Hillary Scholten.

While Republicans almost certainly would have been better off if Meijer, who first won office in 2020 by beating Scholten in a more conservative version of the 3rd, had prevailed against Gibbs, Thielman isn’t the only one arguing he’d demoralize Republicans if he were to win the August primary. An unnamed Republican told Politico that internal polls showed Meijer considerably more popular with Democrats than with GOP voters, though no one has released any actual data to that effect.

And the NRSC’s attacks don’t come in a vacuum: The committee successfully recruited former Rep. Mike Rogers to run last month, and its chair, Steve Daines, praised him when he kicked off his campaign. But Rogers, too, has a history of criticizing Trump, so there may be something deeper to the NRSC’s sharp words for Meijer.

In fact, both Politico and CNN report that the committee is also worried that Meijer’s presence could make it easier for former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who has run as an ardent Trump ally, to win the GOP nod. Craig’s hard-line views aren’t the only reason that his intraparty critics want to stop him. He waged a disastrous bid for governor last cycle that culminated in him getting thrown off the primary ballot, and his new Senate campaign is picking up right where he left off: Craig took just 17 days to part ways with both his campaign manager and deputy manager.

The state GOP, which is led by election denier Kristina Karamo, also made it clear how much it despises Meijer with a tweet that went up immediately after the new candidate’s launch. “Peter Meijer voted to impeach President Trump,” the party’s official account posted. “Remember that.” However, the message was deleted just minutes later.

What replaced it was a statement declaring that the party “remains neutral and supportive of all Republican primary candidates.” It continued, “Unfortunately, an over-zealous intern posted a negative comment regarding a candidate that does not reflect the position of MIGOP.” Could it actually be that an intern of any level of zeal would have unfettered access to the state party’s social media properties? As unlikely as that might seem, The Messenger’s Matt Holt speculated that the near-bankrupt outfit might indeed be dependent on such labor.

Meijer, for his part, didn’t mention Trump at all in a launch statement that argued he was the most electable Republican in the race. But the former one-term congressman, who is an Army veteran and heir to his family’s eponymous supermarket chain, may already be trying to revise his anti-MAGA image.

Meijer submitted a court filing days before his announcement opposing a lawsuit arguing that Trump should be barred from the state ballot because the 14th Amendment disqualifies officeholders who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” Meijer sees things differently. “I filed an amicus brief today to support Mr. Trump being on the ballot,” he said in a statement, “because our democracy relies on the ability of voters, not judges or partisan election officials, to determine their leaders.” Rogers, who retired from Congress six years before Meijer’s election, also has attacked Trump’s critics in recent months.

There’s been less drama on the Democratic side, where Rep. Elissa Slotkin holds a wide financial advantage over actor Hill Harper and the rest of the field. Harper, though, got some welcome news Monday when he received an endorsement from Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, who leads the most populous county in the state.

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

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