Politics

Morning Digest: Investment in GOP primary for Illinois governor pays dividends … for Democrats

Irvin in late May had unveiled his own numbers showing himself ahead 31-25, but he didn’t have anything to offer Friday when reporters asked him about his underwhelming showing from PPP. Instead, the one-time frontrunner said there were “two and a half weeks left” before primary day and that “that’s a lifetime in politics.” Those comments came a day after Irvin’s campaign confirmed they had cut planned advertising in southern Illinois, which led observers to wonder if the mayor was running out of the $50 million he’d received from billionaire Ken Griffin.

But Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s allies at the DGA are still pouring it on with another ad designed to make Bailey, who among other things once pushed a hopeless bill to kick Chicago out of Illinois, more appealing to GOP voters. Just like the group’s previous spots, the narrator asks, “Are pro-Trump conservative Darren Bailey’s policies too conservative for Illinois?” The spot goes on to remind viewers that Bailey “sued to stop J. B. Pritzker’s Covid mandates” before showing footage of the state senator using a firearm.

election recaps

 AK-AL: Almost 110,000 votes have been counted in Saturday’s special top-four primary for the final months of the late GOP Rep. Don Young’s term, and while the Associated Press has not yet called any of the four spots in the Aug. 16 instant runoff general election, three contenders have established clear leads over the other 45 candidates. Two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich III, are taking 30% and 19%, respectively; independent Al Gross, who was the 2020 Democratic Senate nominee, is in third with 12%.

The battle for the fourth and final spot is tight, with former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola holding a 7-5 edge over a third Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney; not far behind with 4% is North Pole City Council member Santa Claus, a self-described “independent, progressive, democratic socialist” who previously had his name changed from Thomas O’Connor. 

It’s not clear how many votes are left since mail-in ballots received though June 21 will be tabulated as long as they were postmarked by Saturday, though election authorities say that a total of 139,000 votes have been received thus far. The state, writes the Alaska Beacon, plans to count more ballots on Wednesday, Friday, and June 21, with certification to follow four days later.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: A panel of judges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday issued a short-term “administrative stay”​ for a lower court ruling that struck down Louisiana’s GOP-drawn congressional map for racial discrimination, but the stay was lifted Sunday​​. Arguments over the case are set to take place in early July, though, so this is far from the final word on the future of the maps. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has reiterated that a special redistricting session will begin Wednesday.

NY Redistricting: A state appellate court has struck down New York’s Democratic-drawn Assembly map on the grounds that the legislature lacked the authority to draw its own map after the state’s bipartisan commission failed to pass anything of its own. However, the ruling won’t take effect until after this year’s elections, since the court ruled that the Republican plaintiffs had waited too late into the election cycle to bring their lawsuit, meaning the upcoming June 28 primary will proceed using the Democratic-drawn districts and the courts will oversee the redrawing of the map for the 2024 elections.

Senate

GA-Sen: The progressive group VoteVets has launched a TV commercial as part of a $1.5 million ad buy that accuses Republican Herschel Walker of using his supposed charity to prey upon veterans to his own financial benefit of $331,000 last year alone, noting that prosecutors charged the charity with defrauding the federal government. As the Associated Press has reported, Walker served as a celebrity spokesperson for Patriot Support, which is actually a for-profit program marketed to veterans by the large hospital chain Universal Health Services.

A civil lawsuit against Universal by the Justice Department and a number of state governments alleged that the company aggressively pushed veterans into inpatient mental health care facilities, often via misdiagnosis and fraudulent documents, to take advantage of how government-sponsored insurance plans don’t limit the duration of psychiatric hospital stays under certain conditions, unlike private insurance plans. Universal ultimately reached a $122 million settlement with the federal government and various states in 2020 but denied any wrongdoing.

NV-Sen, NV-Gov: The nonpartisan Nevada Independent has once more released a survey from the GOP firm OH Predictive Insights of Tuesday’s Republican primaries, and it finds the Trump-backed Senate and gubernatorial frontrunners, former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, maintaining double-digit leads in their respective contests.

In the contest to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Laxalt posts a 48-34 edge over Sam Brown, an Army veteran who has run a surprisingly well-funded campaign. One month before, the firm showed Laxalt up by a similar 45-30 edge, and we haven’t seen any reliable polling in the intervening time. The former attorney general’s allies at the Club for Growth and its School Freedom Fund affiliate aren’t taking any chances, though, as they’ve continued to spend on advertising in the closing days of the contest.

Meanwhile in the race to go up against Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, Lombardo outpaces attorney Joey Gilbert, a former professional boxer who has bragged that he was “definitely on the Capitol steps” on Jan. 6, 34-21, which puts things a bit closer than Lombardo’s 35-15 edge the previous month. Two other Republicans, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee and former Sen. Dean Heller, tie for third with 10% each, which is about where they each were in May.

NBC reported Wednesday that Lee, a former conservative Democrat who defected to the GOP last year, has actually outspent Lombardo $2 million to $1.2 million on advertising, but that a group called Better Nevada PAC has deployed an additional $2.9 million to help the sheriff. The DGA-affiliated A Stronger Nevada, meanwhile, has poured $2.5 million into ads largely attacking Lombardo as “more worried about his public image than public safety” in an effort to try to derail the frontrunner.

OH-Sen: The Democratic group Innovation Ohio has publicized an internal from GrowProgress that shows Democrat Tim Ryan leading Republican J.D. Vance 44-41, little different from his 43-41 edge in a late April poll taken just before both men won their primaries. The only other recent general election survey we’ve seen was a late May Suffolk University poll that put Vance ahead 42-39.

Governors

MD-Gov: Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker announced Friday that he was suspending his campaign, saying that he didn’t have the money to win the Democratic nomination on July 19. Baker, who took second in the 2018 primary, said he’d consider restarting his efforts if he received substantially more donations in the next month, but he acknowledged this was very unlikely to happen.    

MI-Gov: Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who was the Republican primary frontrunner before he was disqualified last month for fraudulent voter petition signatures, announced Thursday that he’d wage a write-in campaign to secure the nomination in August. “I got emails, text messages through my campaign that says: ‘Chief, we know you were robbed,” insisted Craig. “And you know what? I’m not going to roll over. Because this is not about me as a candidate.”

Craig made his announcement on the local station Fox 2 along with self-funding businessman Perry Johnson, who is suing in federal court to get back on the ballot himself. However, while Johnson, whose campaign also fell victim to a fraudulent signature scandal, is going to federal court to try to get back on the ballot, he sounded skeptical about running his own write-in effort.

Johnson, while not explicitly ruling out the idea, acknowledged it would be “very, very difficult” for anyone to pull off and estimated the effort would take $22 million. Craig, who had $1.2 million on-hand at the end of 2021, suggested that he and his wealthy former rival “should be partners,” but Johnson quickly said he didn’t want to be his running mate.

MN-Gov, MN-AG: The Democratic firm Change Research’s new survey for the nonpartisan MinnPost shows Democratic Gov. Tim Walz leading his likely Republican rival, Scott Jensen, just 42-40, but there’s an important caveat.

The firm found that 7% of respondents chose, “The candidate from either one of the legalize marijuana parties (Legal Marijuana Now or Grassroots Legalize Cannabis),” but the poll didn’t name any candidates by name or even separate the two parties. This is a potential issue because, by presenting the two options this way, Change is not replicating how these choices will actually be presented on the ballot. (Independence-Alliance Party Hugh McTavish, who was indeed asked about by name, snagged an additional 3%.)

The poll also finds Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison locked in a tight race against both of the Republicans competing in the August primary. Attorney Jim Schultz, who won the party convention last month, edges out Ellison 45-44, while the incumbent deadlocks 44-44 in a rematch against 2018 rival Doug Wardlow.

House

FL-07: Several Orlando-area Democratic elected officials have endorsed state party official Karen Green’s campaign to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in a constituency that the new GOP gerrymander transformed from a 55-44 Biden seat into one Trump would have taken 52-47. One of the pols backing Green, whom we hadn’t previously mentioned, is state Rep. Carlos Guillermo, who didn’t quite rule out a bid of his own right after Murphy retired. Florida’s filing deadline is June 17, so the field will be set very soon.

FL-23: Airline pilot Curtis Calabrese has filed paperwork with the FEC terminating his campaign for the Democratic nomination for this open seat. Calabrese only switched his party registration from Republican to Democratic in March even though state law requires candidates be registered with their party at least a year before the start of candidate filing, so he likely would have faced serious legal opposition had he continued on.

GA-10: There haven’t been many negative ads in the leadup to the June 21 GOP primary runoff, but former state Rep. Vernon Jones is going up with one that portrays his opponent, trucking executive Mike Collins, as a little boy who can only explain his rationale for running with, “My daddy was in Congress.” After the actor playing “Little Mike” repeats this line, Jones tells the audience, “My daddy wasn’t in Congress, but he was a veteran and he fought for this country.”

MT-01: The Associated Press on Thursday evening called the June 7 Republican primary for former Rep. Ryan Zinke, who outpaced former state Sen. Al Olszewski by a surprisingly slim 41-40 margin. But despite his name recognition, support from Trump, and financial advantage, Zinke faced serious scrutiny for reportedly spending more time in his wife’s hometown of Santa Barbara, California rather than in Montana, as well as over his myriad of ethics issues from his time as Trump’s secretary of the interior.

Zinke will go up against Democratic nominee Monica Tranel, an attorney and former Olympic rower, for a western Montana seat that Trump carried 52-45.

NY-23: State Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy said Friday morning that he would indeed run to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Chris Jacobs, a decision Langworthy revealed hours before candidate filing closed.

NY-23 (special): Republican leaders on Thursday chose Steuben County party chair Joe Sempolinski as their nominee in the Aug. 23 special election for the final months of former GOP Rep. Tom Reed’s term. Sempolinski, who is not seeking a full term in Congress this year, will go up against Democrat Max Della Pia in a constituency Trump took 55-43.

TN-05: The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled that music video producer Robby Starbuck would stay off the August Republican primary ballot for this open seat, a move that reverses a lower-court decision that briefly resurrected his campaign.

Starbuck, who was booted by the state GOP failing to meet its opaque “bona fide” standard​, responded by tweeting Sunday​, “I have 3 days to decide if I’ll run write in for the primary or general (I have to pick 1). Problem is, if I win the primary, TNGOP can ignore it and pick the person who came in 2nd.” He added that he’d told party leaders​, “If they agree to honor the results of the primary election and support the winner, even if it’s a write-in, then I’ll run in the primary as a write-in and not in the general. The ball is in their court now.”

Secretaries of State

NV-SoS: The GOP firm OH Predictive Insights surveys Tuesday’s Republican primary for secretary of state for the nonpartisan Nevada Independent and finds a 21-21 deadlock between former Assemblyman Jim Marchant and developer Jesse Haw. Marchant, a QAnon ally who has said he would not have certified Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, has attracted attention by grouping with other conspiracist candidates running to become their state’s chief election official. Haw, though, has himself winked at the Big Lie by saying that last election “had a lot of shenanigans and potential fraud.”

The eventual nominee will go up against former state Athletic Commission member Cisco Aguilar, who faces no Democratic primary opposition in the race to succeed termed-out Republican incumbent Barbara Cegavske.




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