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At the Races: Money madness

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The first-quarter fundraising numbers, due officially for public eyes next week, have begun to trickle out. And based on these initial glimpses, we have every reason to expect another record-shattering midterm cycle in 2022. 

The House GOP campaign arm said today it will report a record for March and nearly $34 million for the first three months of this year. Lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum say they posted banner sums. Rep. Nancy Mace, a South Carolina Republican who unseated an incumbent Democrat in November, said her campaign would report more than $500,000 for the quarter. 

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California posted a record haul for his campaign, $1.5 million for the first quarter. He said he saw an uptick in support from progressive-leaning donors as well as people in the tech sector. He does not accept donations from lobbyists or political action committees but said the moves of some corporate PACs to suspend donations after the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 was “the responsible decision.” It’s made for an especially fraught political environment for corporations with even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggesting this week that such interests stay out of politics — except for their donations, of course.  

“I think we need reform more fundamentally,” Khanna said in an interview this week. “It’s not enough to say, ‘OK, I don’t take PAC money or lobbyist money.”

But the fate of his party’s House-passed, major overhaul of campaign finance, voting and ethics laws remains in limbo in the Senate. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III reiterated in a Washington Post op-ed last night that he won’t make it easy for Democrats to clear that measure — or any other — in the chamber with a simple majority: “There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.”

Starting gate

Staffing up: Some Democratic campaign operatives say the focus on building racially diverse presidential campaign staffs in 2020 didn’t translate to congressional campaigns. That’s raising concerns among Democrats who say having diverse staffs better equips campaigns to connect with voters of color, who are key to the party coalition and protecting Democratic majorities, in 2022.

Lee’s next move: New York GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin announced this morning that he’s running for governor. Democrats have targeted his House seat on Long Island in recent election cycles, but New York’s congressional lines will also be changing with the state possibly losing up to two House seats.

Promise small: The DCCC released its first target list of the cycle. With 21 Republican-held districts and one open seat, the list is a lot more modest than last cycle, when Democrats were still riding high on the 2018 blue wave.

Left-wing to mainstream: Longtime Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper learned this week that the progressive group Justice Democrats would back community activist Odessa Kelly’s challenge to him in the Democratic primary, but don’t expect as many attacks from the left to other Democrats in this cycle.

GOP crystal ball: Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson, vice chair of the House Republican Conference, joined the CQ Future podcast to discuss where the GOP goes from here.


Battleground bucks: Senate candidates began announcing their first-quarter fundraising totals this week. In the $1 million club are Democrats Jeff Jackson in North Carolina and Alex Lasry of Wisconsin, and Republicans Josh Mandel of Ohio and Jeff Bartos of Pennsylvania. Former Ohio GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken announced she raised more than $2 million in the first quarter. And Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly announced his campaign raised $4.4 million.

Keystone contest: Pennsylvania Democrat Val Arkoosh, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, jumped into the open-seat race to replace retiring Sen. Patrick J. Toomey this week with a video stressing her background as a physician. Democratic Rep. Brendan F. Boyle, meanwhile, said he wouldn’t run. On the Republican side, activist Kathy Barnette announced a Senate run. She lost a challenge to Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean in 2020. Another failed GOP House candidate, Sean Parnell, is eyeing a Senate run after unsuccessfully challenging Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb last fall.

In other Senate campaign news: Alabama GOP Rep. Mo Brooks secured former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in the state’s open Senate race. And Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, seen as a potential GOP Senate candidate, said he won’t be running for any office in 2022 after admitting to an affair. In Ohio, Democrat Amy Acton, the former head of the Ohio Department of Health, announced she would not run for the state’s open Senate seat, while GOP businessman Bernie Moreno entered in the race. And in North Carolina, Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton, a retired Air Force colonel, launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination.

In the numbers: Gallup polling of the first quarter of 2021 released Wednesday showed an average of 49 percent of American adults identified with the Democratic Party or said they were independents who lean toward the Democratic Party. That’s a 9-point lead over the 40 percent who identified as Republicans or Republican leaners, the largest margin Gallup has measured since the fourth quarter of 2012.

Not sorry: Texas Republican Sery Kim, a Korean American and former Trump administration official running in the special election for the 6th District, lost the endorsements of California Reps. Michelle Steel and Young Kim, two of the first Korean American women elected to the House, after she said at a GOP forum that she does not want Chinese immigrants in the country. Kim doubled down, filing a $10 million defamation lawsuit against The Texas Tribune for a headline that called her comments “racist.”

#LA02: Karen Carter Peterson, who is seeking the progressive vote in her runoff against fellow Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter in the special election for Louisiana’s 2nd District, is the beneficiary of $162,000 in independent spending by the Congressional Progressive Caucus for digital ads, FEC disclosures show. Carter Peterson also got a welcome boost Wednesday with an endorsement from New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Seeing Greene: Freshman Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s campaign reported that she has raised $3.2 million in the first fundraising quarter, a sum the campaign accurately described in an email as “jaw-dropping.” Greene was removed from her committee posts in February by the Democratic majority and 11 members of her own conference over her controversial comments and friendliness toward right-wing extremists and QAnon conspiracy theorists. She has attracted several potential Democratic challengers.

In the wilderness: Former Vice President Mike Pence this week launched a new advocacy and policy nonprofit group dubbed Advancing American Freedom. It will work to combat the “radical Left” agenda, according to a news release. Paul Teller will serve as executive director, while Pence takes on the title of chairman. Kellyanne Conway, Newt and Callista Gingrich, former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and Indiana Rep.-turned-Club for Growth head David McIntosh are among those on the new group’s advisory board. Meanwhile, another Trump administration alumnus, Stephen Miller, started a new conservative group called the America First Legal Foundation. Former North Carolina Rep. and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will serve on the foundation’s board.

Political armor: A collection of seven Democrats who lost House elections this November started a new fund, called Shield PAC, to defend members of their party from GOP attacks, they wrote in USA Today. Ex-Reps. Anthony Brindisi of New York, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, Ben McAdams of Utah and Kendra Horn of Oklahoma are among those behind the effort. They called themselves “proud capitalists” and said they aimed to shield vulnerable Democrats from GOP charges of socialism “and other ideas that are toxic in their districts.”    

What we’re reading

NJ on NH: National Journal dives into the New Hampshire Senate race, aka “the Senate race no one is talking about.” 

Click bait: The Washington Post uncovers the GOP “persuasion machine” looking to help Republicans in 2022. 

Demographic divide: The shifting racial and ethnic makeup of America’s young people, a sign of a future where white Americans are no longer the majority, is shaping politics today, including Sen. Manchin’s role, writes Thomas B. Edsall in the New York Times’ opinion section. 

Settling into the swamp: After four tempestuous years, thousands of former Trump administration staffers are looking to remain in the swampy trenches of Washington, but it’s not so easy for them to find plum corporate assignments, according to The Washington Post. 

Trump Template: Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz’s claim that the federal sex trafficking investigation against him is a deep-state smear represents a test of the durability of the Trump playbook, the Los Angeles Times writes. 

Still kicking: Much has been made about the GOP’s refusal to indulge in the tradition of exploring the reasons for their losses through a post-2020 election autopsy. FiveThirtyEight explored why Republicans won’t rebrand

Fifty years and counting: The Atlantic takes a look at political-money reformer Fred Wertheimer, who’s spent five decades on the policy matter and is a “principal author” of Democrats’ HR 1/S 1 bill.  

Forever Young: Insider profiles Indiana GOP Sen. Todd Young, last cycle’s NRSC chair, who’s up for reelection next year.  

Dem dive: The Intercept takes a deep dive into the DCCC’s “consultant factory.”

The count: 12

After the death of Florida Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, there are now just a dozen members of Congress who were born in the 1930s, CQ Roll Call’s Paul V. Fontelo notes. And so far, two of them have already said they’ll retire after this term: Alabama GOP Sen. Richard C. Shelby and Texas Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.

Nathan’s notes

They don’t agree on much, but Democrats and Republicans do seem to be engaging in some bipartisan bashing of corporations, Nathan L. Gonzales observes.

Candidate confessions

Sery Kim, who is running in a crowded, all-party primary to replace the late GOP Rep. Ron Wright in Texas’ 6th District, said she isn’t worried about Democrats who think they can make inroads in the district south of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, which Wright represented for a little more than one term before dying of COVID-19 complications in February. Kim, one of two former Trump administration officials in the race, thinks the district is still so solidly Republican that Trump’s endorsement could decide the outcome. She spends about an hour a day working to secure a nod from Mar-a-Lago, she said in a recent interview. “If he does give it, it would change my life,” she said. “It would change anybody’s life.”

Shop talk: Tom Perez

Perez, a Labor secretary in the Obama administration, was the first Latino chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a post he held from 2017 to 2021. He is now the co-chair of American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic super PAC, and is weighing a Maryland gubernatorial bid

Starting Out: “My parents came to this country because they had to flee an authoritarian leader in the Dominican Republic. Politics is what brought my family to this country. And so growing up, politics were constantly discussed, and my parents were very, very, very grateful for the freedom that our nation gave us and they imparted on myself and my four siblings — I’m the youngest of five — the sense of responsibility: This is a great country that gave us the opportunity and freedom. And you should always give back,” Perez said. His siblings went into medicine, while he started exploring the law degree that led to his early career as a prosecutor after he fainted on the operating room floor the first time he watched his brother perform an operation. “I was rubber-kneed,” Perez recalled. “Unlike any other time in my life, I don’t ever remember being that lightheaded and faint, and it was a routine gallbladder removal. It wasn’t like it was open-heart surgery. But it was pretty clear to me that this line of work wasn’t going to be for me.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Perez was running for Maryland attorney general in 2006 when the state’s highest court threw him off the ballot 12 days before the election. “We had just gotten our polling back showing that it was a dead-heat race. We thought we had a pretty good chance of winning,” he said.  “It was like driving 70 miles an hour and hitting a brick wall that you never saw.” He said he accepted the ruling and dropped his bid. 

Biggest campaign regret: “I wish we had a system where we had all primaries, and we didn’t have any caucuses, because the Iowa caucus in 2020 was a real debacle. We had made some rule changes that encouraged states to go from caucuses to primaries. We had 14 caucus states in 2016. We had seven in 2020. Those that moved from a caucus to a primary saw an exponential increase in turnout. That was the main reason we wanted to have primaries because more people participate. And I think it’s a great thing when more people participate. And I also think that the folks in Iowa are really, really well intentioned. They’re good people. But I really think that the party should be in the business of winning elections, not running elections. We don’t have the authority to mandate that states have a primary. They have to pass a law. And so we went as far as we could. But with hindsight, I don’t know that it was hard enough.”

Unconventional wisdom: “The conventional wisdom is that we’re not going to do so hot in 2022. But I think the unconventional wisdom is going to prevail. And that unconventional wisdom is a product of the basics of politics: When you help people and they feel it, they will reward you at the polls. And we’re helping people.”

Do you know someone who works in campaigns whom we should feature for Shop Talk? Email us at

Coming up

Early voting starts Saturday for the April 24 runoff between Democrats Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson in Louisiana’s 2nd District. The deep-blue seat became vacant when Democrat Cedric L. Richmond became White House public engagement director.

Photo finish

Florida Rep. Alcee L. Hastings in November 1997. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

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