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At the Races: A year later …

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Much of official Washington and the Capitol Hill community, including CQ Roll Call’s own reporters and photographers, are marking today’s anniversary of the violent attack on the nation’s temple of democracy. But that doesn’t mean a break from divisive politics. 

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their fellow Democrats on the Hill said the assault on the Capitol last year by supporters of Donald Trump made it all the more urgent for the Senate to pass voting rights and election overhaul measures. Those bills still face steep opposition from Republicans and long odds of enactment, notably because two Democrats (Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona) say they oppose repealing the filibuster. Still, we’re expecting a showdown, as CQ Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski writes. 

It should come as no surprise that lawmakers and candidates view Jan. 6, and the voting and elections overhauls, through a partisan lens. That division is expected to continue in the 2022 midterm campaigns, as our Stephanie Akin explores.

“Let’s be clear, we must pass voting rights bills that are now before the Senate,” Biden said today in remarks in Statuary Hall. Some Republicans, by contrast, sought to downplay the significance of the unprecedented attack, with Trump — who canceled a planned event amid concern from his political allies — saying in a statement that “Democrats want to own this day of January 6th so they can stoke fears and divide America.” 

Outside activists pushing for the overhaul bills are planning vigils today, including one at 4:45 p.m. at the Capitol. “That dark day reminded us how fragile our democracy is,” New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Luján said on a press call with activist groups. “Jan. 6 proved that Congress must take legislative action now to defend the fundamental right to vote.”  

His fellow Democrat, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, injected a bit of reality, saying that the party’s negotiations on voting rights and rules changes are going about as “slow as my commute,” referring to his epic all-nighter trapped on an icy and snowy I-95.

Starting gate

Voter motivator? Images from Jan. 6 are playing heavily in some Democrats’ campaign materials, with a burst of new ads released this week. Democrats say reminders of the attack on the Capitol could convince voters that nothing less than the future of democracy is at stake in the midterms, counteracting the apathy typical of off-year elections. Republicans, though, say voters have moved on.

UnPACing politics: In the aftermath of the Capitol attack, dozens of company PACs made the unusual move of turning off their political donations. Most have since resumed, but a few plan to continue to withhold donations to the 147 Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying Biden’s 2020 victory in the Electoral College — at least through the 2022 midterm election cycle. Defense contractors were among the biggest company donors to those 147, CQ Roll Call’s John M. Donnelly writes. 

Exit crunch: A slew of House lawmakers announced plans not to seek reelection, and At the Races has you covered. Illinois Rep. Bobby L. Rush is retiring, as is fellow Democrat Brenda Lawrence of Michigan. Other Democrats on their way out include Florida’s Stephanie Murphy, the first woman born in Vietnam to serve in Congress; Albio Sires, a Cuban immigrant who rose through Democratic politics in New Jersey; and California’s Lucille Roybal-Allard, the first Mexican American woman to be elected to Congress.

Maps and ratings: California lost a House seat in reapportionment, but its new map appears to give Latinos and Democrats a boost, and Nathan L. Gonzales’ handicapping shows it’s one place where Republican incumbents will be on the defensive. The new map in New Jersey puts Democrat Tom Malinowski in a tougher district. The Arizona map gives a boost to the GOP in two districts Democrats currently now. And the new map in Michigan, which also lost a seat in reapportionment, set off a game of musical chairs among the state’s House delegation.


They’re running: Democratic political organizer and former congressional staffer Kevin Easton is running for Oregon’s new 6th District. “I am a new candidate, in a new district for a new era of politics,” Easton, who worked for former Oregon Rep. Darlene Hooleym said in a news release. Also, Cincinnati City Council Member Greg Landsman, a Democrat, announced a run against GOP Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st District, which has been a Democratic target for years and became a hair more Democratic-leaning in redistricting. Arizona Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran said he would run in the state’s new 2nd District, even though the new lines make it more Republican-leaning than his current 1st District seat. And California Democrat Jay Chen, who had been running against GOP Rep. Young Kim in the current 39th District, said he would instead run against Republican Rep. Michelle Steel in the new 45th District, a race Inside Elections rates a Toss-up

But they’re not: After looking at the new map, former California Rep. Harley Rouda decided to end his comeback bid because that would have meant running against fellow Democrat Katie Porter in the new 47th District instead of Steel, who ousted Rouda in 2020. And Virginia Republicans Amanda Chase and Taylor Keeney suspended their House campaigns because they were drawn into districts already represented by GOP incumbents, Rob Wittman and Bob Good respectively. And former Iowa state Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa dropped her GOP primary campaign to take on Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne in the redrawn 3rd District, which doesn’t include Hanusa’s home, opting to run for state auditor instead.

Maybe: South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune says he will announce on Sunday whether he plans to seek reelection in November. He told The New York Times late last year that he was mulling retirement. 

Endorsement tracker: New York Rep. Elise Stefanik’s E-PAC has endorsed Jane Timken, the former chair of the Ohio GOP, in the Republican primary for the state’s open Senate seat. It’s the first time Stefanik’s PAC has formally endorsed a Senate candidate. Democrat Jessica Katzenmeyer, who is seeking the party nod in Wisconsin’s 5th District, got the backing of two progressive groups: LPAC, which supports LGBTQ female candiates, and the Freethought Equality Fund PAC, which supports “humanists who share progressive values.” 

Member vs. member: Other incumbents learned over the holidays that they’d be facing off against each other. Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, who survived tough reelections in 2018 and 2020 in a toss-up seat, is getting a primary challenge in the new 15th District from fellow Republican Rep. Mary Miller, a hard-line conservative who has the endorsement of Trump. The new district lines make the seat much more Republican.

Seen enough: Despite predictions that Republicans would retake the House through new maps alone, redistricting could turn out to be a wash between the parties, Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter writes. 

Regrets: South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice is the only one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year to also vote against certifying Biden’s election, in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack. He told Politico in December that he now regrets his vote against certification. 

Organizing labor: Staff members of the Democratic National Committee have unionized, officially joining the Service Employees International Union Local 500 this week. A select committee of staff will work with management to draft the first contract, the DNC said in a news release. 

Big money: The GOP outside group One Nation, an affiliate of the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC, launched a $1 million TV, radio and digital ad campaign in West Virginia this week targeting, you guessed it, Manchin. The ads urge the moderate Democratic senator to “keep his promise” to protect the Senate filibuster.

Active but not running: Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s political life after Congress won’t include an immediate run for Senate or governor, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Instead, Kinzinger — a Republican who has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s grip on the GOP — said he plans to focus on combating the extremism that led to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

What we’re reading

Stu says: Excerpting Alan Crawford’s 1980 book about the “New Right,” Stu Rothenberg concludes that Crawford’s warning “about the danger that a populist, reactionary movement would pose to the rule of law” has come to pass.

Mega-MAGA? Populist members of the House GOP Conference, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, are working to support like-minded candidates in GOP primaries, The Washington Post reports. The Trump-backed effort is part of a broader movement to purge the GOP of those deemed disloyal to Trump and increase the ranks of his followers on Capitol Hill. 

Self portrait: Some state lawmakers have launched congressional campaigns in districts that they or their friends helped draw to increase their chances, Politico reports.

In the electoral land of Oz: New York magazine got an inside look at the campaign of Mehmet Oz, who is running for the GOP nomination for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat, when Oz’s wife didn’t hang up the phone when she thought she did.

Whose side is she on? The New York Times looks at how both the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party want to claim Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams as their own.

The count: 60 percent

That’s the portion of corporate PACs that resumed contributions to Republicans who voted against certifying electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, after a pause to reassess policies or that never stopped giving at all, according to a survey by the Public Affairs Council.

Nathan’s notes

As the NRCC and NRSC prepare to spend millions on independent TV and digital ads in battleground races, the party committees have turned to veterans of past campaigns to lead the efforts, Nathan reports. 

Candidate confessions

She’s been ousted from House leadership and faces a battle for renomination, but Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney says she is giving no thought to leaving the GOP. In a Q&A posted this week, The Dispatch asked Cheney about suggestions, including from The Washington Post opinion page, that she consider running as a third-party candidate. “I have not considered it, and I would rule it out,” she said. “I believe in the Republican Party, and I’m going to fight for the Republican Party. We’ve seen in too many instances people try to take control of the party apparatus who have pledged allegiance to Donald Trump ahead of their allegiance to the Constitution, and I’m not willing to cede our party to that. It’s toxic and wrong. I’m going to fight for the Republican Party and for the future of the Republican Party.”

Shop talk: Adam Green

Before co-founding the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Green worked as director of strategic campaigns and as civic communications director for; Oregon press secretary for the DNC during the 2004 presidential campaign; communications director for the New Jersey Democratic Party in 2003; and press secretary for former South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson’s 2002 campaign.

Starting out: Green’s first actual campaign experience came when his father was running for school board, and Green was charged with handing out “low-budget” business cards imprinted with his father’s campaign platform to his neighbors. His father won, he said. But Green’s political awakening didn’t come until a few years later, as he watched Bill Clinton campaign in the 1992 presidential primaries and comedian Dana Carvey’s impersonations of George H. W. Bush on “Saturday Night Live.” Both performances “captivated him,” Green recalled. “It was the first major election when I actually started paying attention,” he said. He joked that he could have taken a cue from another one of Carvey’s famous caricatures and gone in a different direction. “I could have been a punk rocker or in politics,” he said. “I went with Bush as opposed to ‘Wayne’s World.’”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: “My progressive awakening actually happened in South Dakota in 2002,” he said. “I took a year off of law school to work on Tim Johnson’s [Senate] reelection campaign in a 20-point red state. Dan Pfeiffer, who later became Obama’s communications director, was my boss. He was comms director, I was press secretary. There were Big Ag corporations that came into the state with full-page ads, hitting Tim Johnson for a provision of the farm bill he authored to basically protect little-guy family farmers from being taken over by Big Ag monopolies. And there was a press conference that we pulled together to reiterate the senator’s support for this provision. And these farmers and ranchers, many of whom were pro-life and pro-gun and lifelong Republicans, drove from hours away to be there. This one guy got up to speak, who was not scheduled to speak, which is your worst nightmare for the press secretary when your boss is watching. But he said something I’ll never forget. He said, ‘Look around this room. Look at all these cowboy hats. Pretty much every one of us is Republican. And we’re standing with Democratic Senator Tim Johnson. He’s fighting for economic interests. He’s fighting to protect our family farms.’ And you could hear a pin drop. And throughout the course of that year, every other press conference we did was about this Ag issue … and we ended up winning that year, by 524 votes. … And it changed my life course in that moment, from just being a Democratic press hack to being more of a progressive movement builder.”

Biggest campaign regret: “There was a mantra during the Trump years among Democrats that being anti-Trump was not enough. We had to have our own vision and message. And in the context of the 2020 election, there was this instinct that we should be making more of a case for why the presidential nominee needed a Democratic Congress. … And I don’t think we pressed that case enough after the nomination was settled. We focused on working with Biden on a very good Build Back Better agenda and other stuff. But we lost the point of emphasis that being anti-Trump wasn’t enough. The net impact of that was that we had split-ticket voting. There were many House and Senate seats, down ballot, we possibly could have won if we had made a better case for why we needed a governing majority. And maybe we wouldn’t be having these Joe Manchin problems now.”

Unconventional wisdom: “I’ve gone from thinking one year ago that nothing will impact the 2022 election more than the questions of ‘Can people vote?’ and ‘Are they motivated to vote?’, which has led to our focus on the democracy bill and Build Back Better for the last year. But after Virginia and New Jersey, I think that a third question actually supersedes those first two, which is ‘Have Democrats properly set expectations and met expectations around COVID anxiety?’ I think if we’re living in a world where we’ve successfully gotten people child tax credits and universal pre-K and $35 insulin, but their kids’ schools are closing, and they don’t know if they can get tested when they need it in order to visit their family, we could still lose the election, even if people can vote.”

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Coming up

On Tuesday, voters in Florida’s 20th District will finally choose someone to succeed the late Democratic Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, who died April 6. In a district that backed Biden over Trump by 55 points, home health care company CEO Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick won the Democratic nomination by five votes in November and is expected to coast to victory next week.

Photo finish

The focus at the 2009 inauguration was on President Barack Obama, of course. But CQ Roll Call’s Tom Williams caught the moment when Obama stopped to grab the hand of Rep. Bobby L. Rush, the only person to beat Obama in an election (in the 2000 Democratic primary in Illinois’ 1st District).

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