The Political Report – November 17, 2023

A new Quinnipiac poll finds that 52% of voters say they would like to see other candidates enter the 2024 presidential race, while 42% say they are satisfied with the current field.

Independents (72% to 20%) and Democrats (58% to 39%) say they would like to see other candidates enter the presidential race, while Republicans (67% to 29%) say they are satisfied with the current field of candidates.

A new Emerson poll in New Hampshire finds Donald Trump leading the Republican presidential primary with 49%, followed by Nikki Haley at 18%, Chris Christie at 9% and Ron DeSantis at 7%.

Sources say the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is gearing up to spend more than $100 million in Democratic primaries as part of a campaign to knock “The Squad” out of Congress in 2024, Slate reports.

Among the targets: Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, Jamaal Bowman, Summer Lee, and Rashida Tlaib.

NJ State Assembly: The New Jersey Globe reports that Democrat Anna Katz has ousted GOP Assemblyman Brandon Umbra in the 8th Legislative District following the counting of provisional ballots and mail ballots that were postmarked by Election Day but didn’t arrive until days later. With Katz’s victory, Assembly Democrats have flipped six seats and expanded their majority to 52-28.

“A Democratic victory in the Court of Appeals would let legislators make the lines for as many as seven Republican-held seats in New York friendlier to Democrats. The stakes are high: Democrats would have kept a majority in Congress in 2022 had they won five additional races.”

New Jersey U.S. Senator. New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy (D) on Wednesday announced her run for U.S. Senate in 2024, the New Jersey Globe reports.

A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Rep. Andy Kim (D) leads Murphy, 40% to 21%, with indicted incumbent Bob Menendez running third with just 5% of the Democratic vote. 

Menendez also sports an atrocious favorability rating, with just 10% of respondents saying they have a positive view of the senator, compared to 68% who see him negatively. Murphy and Kim, by contrast, are both well-liked though not universally known, with scores of 50-9 and 45-5, respectively. If Menendez does seek reelection after all, he could plumb new depths at the ballot box, especially since his trial on federal corruption charges is set for May 6—just a month before the primary.

Whatever Menendez decides, the battle for his seat is likely to come down to Murphy and Kim. In a new interview with the New Jersey Globe, Murphy suggested that she doesn’t have many ideological differences with Kim (“I suspect that Andy and I stand for a lot of the same policies”), but the two cut very different profiles politically.

Kim, who is the son of Korean immigrants and went on to work at the State Department, first won office in 2018 with the support of Joe Biden and Barack Obama but has portrayed himself as an outsider in this race—and is largely getting treated like one. Murphy, a former banker at Goldman Sachs, is a consummate insider.

And insiders have almost always had the advantage when seeking office in the Garden State, due in large part to its unique approach to ballot design. In 19 of the state’s 21 counties, leaders of both parties can award special placement on the ballot to their preferred candidates, known as the “county line.” These candidates appear together in a single column of the ballot, often the first one, that has a name on every line (you can see an example in column 1 of this sample ballot). Other hopefuls are relegated to more distant columns amid a sea of blank space.

Research has shown that the county line can confer a major benefit—often an enormous one: One forthcoming study finds that candidates with the line run on average 38 points ahead of those without it. Immediately after launching her bid, Murphy secured the county line in populous Hudson County, which also happens to be Menendez’s home base. (Menendez slammed Hudson leaders in response. “At the end of the day, I don’t need the party line to win in Hudson,” he insisted, while also warning, “I know where all the skeletons in closets are.”)

She also won the backing of the party chair in Somerset County, which doesn’t guarantee she’ll get the line there but is a strong signal that it’ll go to her. Other counties are likely to follow suit. (Politico reported last month that “the state party establishment” was “miffed” by Kim’s decision to jump into the race prior to the state’s legislative elections, which concluded last week.) Kim, though, could potentially earn the line in the South Jersey counties that make up his district, even though he’s said he thinks the practice should be abolished.

But the county line might not play as potent a role in this contest as it so often does in others. In many races further down the ballot, candidates tend to be little-known. In those less salient elections, voters have less incentive to go hunting across and down their ballot to find alternatives who lack official party blessing. In this high-profile showdown for the Senate, though, both Kim and Murphy will head into the primary with wide name recognition, and their supporters will know to look for those names wherever they might appear.

Michigan State House. Michigan Democrats, who just won control of the state House last year for the first time in more than a decade, have now lost their majority—and it will likely be some time before they get it back.

That’s because two incumbents are about to depart after winning mayoral races in their hometowns in last week’s local elections. As a result, the chamber will be tied at 54 seats for each party, and the prospect of quick special elections to fill the two vacancies appears to have faded, according to a new report from Bridge Michigan’s Jonathan Oosting.

While Democrats would have liked to hold primaries in January and then general elections on Feb. 27, when the state will conduct its presidential primary, state House Speaker Joe Tate said this week that such a timetable would not be “feasible.” It’s not clear what the schedule will ultimately look like, though Tate says he’s discussing a “spring timeframe” with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose responsibility it is to call the elections.

Whenever those specials do finally happen, both Democratic seats should remain blue. According to Dave’s Redistricting App, Joe Biden carried Kevin Coleman’s 25th District 59-40 and won Lori Stone’s 13th District 64-35. One thing that won’t happen in the interim, said Tate, is any sort of power-sharing agreement, pointing out that the chamber’s rules for addressing ties only apply when there’s a 55-55 split and all seats are filled.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told NBC News he would consider running for president.

Said Manchin: “I will do anything I can to help my country, and you’re saying, ‘Does that mean you would consider it?’ Absolutely.”

“Manchin said he first has to explore whether there’s an appetite among voters for a moderate candidate like him.”

“I could not vote for Donald Trump.”— Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), when asked by CBS News if he could vote for Donald Trump or Joe Biden in 2024.

Peter Hamby: “Washington might be fixated on Manchin and No Labels, but I’ve found it curious that he’s been getting more attention lately than the more realistic threats to Biden’s candidacy coming from his left flank—Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West and Jill Stein. All three of them are swimming in a pool of leftist populism, anti-establishment thinking, antiwar dogma and a dash of conspiracy theory. Each of them has the potential to siphon support from disaffected young people, progressives, and younger Black voters—core Democratic voting blocs that have soured on Biden since 2020.”

“Among those three, though, Kennedy is the candidate that Democrats should be most concerned about. I find it strange that the alarms aren’t louder.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was photographed on an airplane going to the restroom without socks or shoes, TMZ reports.

Alaska At Large District. Republican Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom announced on Tuesday that she will challenge Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola next year. Dahlstrom first won her current office last year after Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy chose her to run on his ticket, though she had previously served in his administration during his first term and in the state House before that.

Dahlstrom joins a GOP field that includes businessman Nick Begich III, who unsuccessfully ran last year. Under Alaska law, the top four primary finishers will advance to a general election using ranked-choice voting.

Following Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom’s announcement, national Republican groups have already signaled that they view her favorably. The NRCC’s press secretary called Dahlstrom “a top-tier recruit,” while the president of the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is the House GOP’s main allied super PAC, called her candidacy a “recruiting coup” and a “[g]ame changer in Alaska.”

Dahlstrom is competing to be the GOP’s standard-bearer with businessman Nick Begich, who unsuccessfully ran for this seat last year. All candidates regardless of party will run on the same primary ballot, and the top four finishers will advance to a general election using ranked-choice voting.

Virginia 7th District. Semafor reported Wednesday that former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman, who is a retired Army colonel, will join the Democratic primary to succeed Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger and has already set up a fundraising page, though he had yet to officially declare he was running.

Vindman gained national attention in 2019 when he and his identical twin brother, former National Security Council official Alexander Vindman, helped blow the whistle on Donald Trump’s attempt to extort Ukraine’s government into undermining Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Alexander Vindman testified before Congress about Trump’s abuse of power, which helped lead to his first impeachment by the House that year.

Eugene Vindman and his brother were both born in Ukraine in 1975 when it was under Soviet control, but they immigrated to the United States as young children and later served as career military officers. While the Washington Post described Vindman as a “newcomer to Virginia politics,” his role in Trump’s impeachment, along with growing hostility from congressional Republicans to providing funding for Ukraine’s resistance against Russia’s invasion, could give him the prominence needed to run a strong race.

Dauphin County (PA) Board of Commissioners. In a historic victory, Democrats have gained their first majority on the Board of Commissioners since at least 1919 in Dauphin County, which contains the state capital of Harrisburg and nearby suburbs, after Republican Chad Saylor conceded to Democrat Justin Douglas on Monday.

Combined with Democratic wins around the state, every county that Joe Biden won in 2020 will now have a Democratic-led county government, which covers 56% of the state’s population. As Bolts Magazine’s Daniel Nichanian has detailed, Pennsylvania’s county governments play an important role in administering elections, determining access to voting, and certifying election results in this major swing state.

“JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has been talking privately with GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley about the global economy, and believes she has the potential to bring the country together,” Axios reports.

North Carolina Attorney General. Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry unexpectedly announced Friday she would seek the Democratic nomination for attorney general. Deberry will take on Rep. Jeff Jackson, who until now had no serious opposition in the March primary to replace their fellow Democrat, gubernatorial candidate Josh Stein. The winner will likely take on far-right Rep. Dan Bishop, who still has no major opponents in the GOP contest.

Deberry was elected in 2018 to become the top prosecutor for Durham County, which is the bluest in the state, and she won again last year. Deberry, who would be the first Black woman to hold one of the 10 statewide offices that are part of the North Carolina Council of State, has touted herself as a “progressive prosecutor.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General. The Republican Attorneys General Association has endorsed York County District Attorney Dave Sunday in next year’s open-seat race for Pennsylvania Attorney General. While Sunday is the only declared Republican candidate, state Rep. Craig Williams has also been looking at a bid. RAGA’s move, however, may be aimed at heading him off, given the hostility it’s previously expressed toward him.

Earlier this fall, Williams suggested to GOP leaders that the organization viewed his potential candidacy favorably. RAGA executive director Peter Bisbee responded by trashing Williams, suggesting Williams had hoped to mislead voters after he was seen taking selfies with the group’s logo at their offices. “To win the AG’s race we need a serious prosecutor who is tough on crime,” he wrote, “not someone trying to deceive people and eyeing their next political move.”

Four notable Democrats are also running to succeed appointed Democrat Michelle Henry, who has said she will not run for a full term next year: former public defender Keir Bradford-Grey, former state Auditor Eugene DePasquale, former Bucks County Solicitor Joe Khan, and state Rep. Jared Solomon.

Louisiana Redistricting. A panel of three judges on the conservative-dominated 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has given Louisiana’s heavily Republican legislature until Jan. 15 to draw a new congressional map with a second district where Black voters could elect their preferred candidate, who would almost certainly be a Black Democrat.

The appellate judges agreed with a lower court that Republican mapmakers likely violated the Voting Rights Act when they enacted a congressional map after the 2020 census with just one majority-Black district instead of two. However, Republicans are unlikely to draw a compliant map, since they’re claiming that the relevant part of the VRA is unconstitutional in a separate lawsuit challenging their legislative maps.

Aware of this possibility, the 5th Circuit said that if lawmakers fail to act, the lower court should proceed with a trial in time to implement a new map ahead of the 2024 elections. Although it didn’t set a firm timeline, the panel referenced the defense counsel’s suggestion of a Feb. 15 start date for a trial and a May 30 deadline for a new map to be adopted to allow sufficient time before the July 19 candidate filing deadline.

Months before the 2022 elections, a federal district court had temporarily blocked the GOP’s map, but the Supreme Court put that ruling on hold while Republicans appealed. However, in a landmark decision in June, the Supreme Court upheld a similar ruling requiring a second Black district in Alabama, where a lower court just implemented a new map for 2024. If the justices follow their own precedent as laid down in the Alabama case, Louisiana’s map should ultimately face a similar fate.

However, a trial would give the Republicans more opportunities to delay since they could appeal any subsequent ruling. Further delays could provide a pretext for the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority to once again say it’s too close to the next election to adopt a new map, which would let Louisiana Republicans get away with an illegal gerrymander for a second of the decade’s five elections.

Virginia State House. The race for Virginia’s 82nd District in the state House may go to a recount after final tallies cut Republican Rep. Kim Taylor’s lead over Democrat Kimberly Pope Adams to 74 votes. Including write-ins, the difference between the two candidates stands at 0.27%, which is below the 0.5% threshold that would allow Adams to request a recount paid for by the state. Adams, however, has not yet decided whether to ask for one, and despite the seemingly small margin, a recount would be unlikely to change the outcome.

In the 41st District, meanwhile, the spread between Republican Chris Obenshain and Democrat Lily Franklin tightened considerably, but the final margin of 0.74% left the race just outside of state-paid recount territory. That prompted Franklin to concede, though the result was much closer than most analysts had expected, particularly given Obenshain’s name recognition as the cousin of state Sen. Mark Obenshain.

If the result in the 82nd District holds, Democrats would have a 51-49 majority in the House to go along with their 21-19 advantage in the state Senate when the legislature reconvenes in January.

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

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