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Democrats up and down the ballot dispatched urgent fundraising appeals this week around one unified message: abortion rights. Georgia Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath, who faces a primary against fellow incumbent Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, wrote to donors that “everything is urgent right now” and reiterated her support for “Planned Parenthood and pro-choice policies in Congress.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund has endorsed both McBath and Bourdeaux in their May 24 race.
It’s not yet clear whether or how midterm campaigns may be upended by a potential Supreme Court decision, leaked to Politico, overturning the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision. But it’s already certain that Democrats see a galvanizing message, one that rouses their donors and one that, they hope, will woo pivotal suburban swing voters who have turned against the party over high inflation and pandemic-related school closures. ActBlue, the online Democratic donor platform, said it processed $12 million in contributions in the roughly 27 hours after Politico published the draft opinion.
Republicans, by contrast, have been mostly muted in their response to the prospect that Roe could be overturned, the culmination of decades of work from conservative activists. They focused more on the leak itself, something Democratic strategists told CQ Roll Call this week they hope is a sign that the GOP is worried about the electoral consequences of such a monumental court decision.
With primaries in full swing now, we’re watching two upcoming races in which abortion rights may be a factor. In the crowded and pricey primary for Oregon’s new 6th District, state lawmaker Andrea Salinas has Planned Parenthood’s endorsement and was already up on the air with an ad highlighting her support for abortion rights. One of her rivals for the nomination, Carrick Flynn, has mega-money backing him from super PACs. A new poll shows Salinas with a slight lead over Flynn. Texas GOP Rep. Henry Cuellar, who faces progressive Jessica Cisneros in a May 24 runoff, is one of the few remaining self-described pro-life Democrats on Capitol Hill. Planned Parenthood has endorsed Cisneros, though House Democratic leadership has rallied to Cuellar’s rescue. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina traveled to Texas this week to campaign for Cuellar. “I don’t believe we ought to have a litmus test in the Democratic Party. I think we have to bring as many people into the party as we possibly can,” Clyburn told reporters after a rally, according to the Texas Tribune.
Ayes have it: The Senate Rules and Administration panel approved the nomination of Dara Lindenbaum, a lawyer whose clients included the gubernatorial campaign of Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, to the Federal Election Commission. The full Senate still has to vote.
Trump tests: The hold that former President Donald Trump has over the GOP was put to the test Tuesday in Ohio and Indiana, the first of a series of weekly primaries, with results that showed he is still very much a kingmaker, and a potential liability. Here’s our roundup of the races we were watching.
Motivating voters? Democrats are hopeful the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion showing a majority of justices supporting overturning Roe v. Wade will galvanize voters ahead of the midterm elections, while Republicans said they expect pocketbook issues like inflation will continue to drive voters’ decisions.
Heading home: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul tapped Rep. Antonio Delgado as the state’s next lieutenant governor. The two-term Democrat could have faced a more difficult reelection this year after the state’s congressional maps were tossed out last week. Hawaii Rep. Kai Kahele will also reportedly not seek reelection and will instead run for governor.
Country roads: CQ Roll Call’s Chris Marquette headed to West Virginia to hear Rep. David R. McKinley explain at a town hall meeting his vote for an infrastructure bill that led Trump to endorse his primary opponent, Rep. Alex X. Mooney. CQ Roll Call’s Aidan Quigley looked at that primary and one in Illinois in which Republicans facing each other made opposite decisions about earmarks.
Hmmm: This week’s primaries in Ohio offer an interesting case study. Democrats and Republicans had privately conceded that 20-term Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s redrawn district lines could put an end to her career. That was until a surprise challenger emerged from Tuesday’s GOP primary: J.R. Majewski, who has Q’Anon and Jan. 6 baggage that may remove that race from the toss-up category. The House GOP campaign arm did not respond to requests for comment about Majewski’s win. Majewski filmed a "Let’s Go Brandon" rap video that has been making the rounds on Twitter this week.
#TX15: Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, one of several pro-Israel groups that has been spending liberally in House primaries this cycle, launched an ad buy in Texas’ 15th District, where the PAC has endorsed Ruben Ramirez, a trial attorney and Army veteran in the May 24 Democratic runoff against Michelle Vallejo, a community advocate and entrepreneur. The ads, which begin airing Friday, bring the total spent on ads placed on broadcast and cable to $244,000, Adimpact Politics tweeted.
Endorsement watch: Latino Victory, which supports progressive Latino candidates, is announcing endorsements in numerous House races Thursday. The endorsements, provided to CQ Roll Call, are: Phil Arballo in California’s 13th District, Robert Garcia in California’s 42nd, Rep. Raul Ruiz in California’s 25th, Rudy Salas in California’s 22nd, Robert Menendez Jr. in New Jersey’s 8th, Gabriel “Gabe” Vasquez in New Mexico’s 2nd and Gilbert “Gil” Villegas in Illinois’ 3rd. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee also announced endorsements in open seats that favor Democrats, backing Donna Edwards in Maryland’s 4th, David Segal in Rhode Island’s 2nd, Nida Allam in North Carolina’s 4th and Jasmine Crockett in Texas’ 30th.
Prioritizing: Polls in the Michigan and Virginia districts of Democratic Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Elaine Lauria taken last month illustrate the potential impact that Supreme Court action on abortion could have. Respondents gave the embattled incumbents slight leads of 5 to 6 points, but opposition to overturning Roe was 61 percent to 25 percent in Michigan’s 7th; and 54 percent to 28 percent in Virginia’s 2nd District. In other words, the pollsters note, support for abortion rights was higher than support for Democrats.
Protected speech: The FEC rejected allegations that Courier Newsroom, a network of progressive news sites, had operated as a de facto Democratic political outfit, affirming that "even biased or ideologically driven news reporting can’t be regulated as 'political' activity," according to Axios.
Pushed primary: New York’s congressional primaries are delayed until Aug. 23 after the state’s highest court threw out those maps last week. A state judge ordered that a special master would finish drawing new maps by May 20.
Ballot eligibility: A lawyer for North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn argued before a panel of judges on Tuesday that only Congress, not the state, can block the first-term Republican from running for a second term. A group of voters argued that Cawthorn is ineligible to be on the ballot this year, under a provision of the 14th Amendment, because he spoke at a Jan. 6 rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol.
Video drop: Facing several recent scandals, Cawthorn released a video pushing back on what he called “outlandish” reports and said he is “one of the first examples of a politician who grew up with a cellphone in their hand.” Later Wednesday, Cawthorn said he was “being crass with a friend, trying to be funny” after an opposition group released a video that appeared to show him naked in bed. Cawthorn has drawn several challengers in the 11th District ahead of a primary later this month.
Ballot box: A spokeswoman for Mehmet Oz, a GOP Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, defended a photo of him casting a vote in Turkey’s 2018 presidential election, saying his decision to cast a ballot does not pose a security issue. Oz, a former daytime television host, has said he would renounce his Turkish citizenship if elected to the Senate.
Ad drop: Cheri Beasley, the front-runner for North Carolina’s Democratic Senate nomination, released an ad Thursday focusing on her work to combat human trafficking when she was the state Supreme Court’s chief justice. The ad comes as Republicans have sought to paint Democrats as soft on crime.
What we’re reading
Stu says: Just ask Jimmy Carter how toxic the combination of inflation and recession can be for presidents, Stu Rothenberg writes. And President Joe Biden doesn’t have a lot of options.
China ads: A Wall Street Journal analysis of broadcast television and national cable data finds that roughly 1 in 9 ads aired so far this year in all House and Senate races have mentioned China, which is not far behind mentions of inflation. Ads featuring criticism of China are more often supporting Republican candidates than Democrats and running most heavily in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, which the article attributes partly to the timing of primaries and partly to economic angst in Rust Belt states. Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate Mehmet Oz mentioned the issue the most, followed by Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, whose China-focused ads have attracted criticism from some Democratic groups.
Female candidates: In a new report on gender and politics, the Barbara Lee Foundation finds that female candidates are no longer seen as a novelty and, in a shift from previous reports, voters care more about their knowledge of issues than their personal stories. But women (and people who identify as women) still face hurdles when it comes to balancing qualifications and likability, and women and men are viewed somewhat differently even within the same party.
Progressive pipeline: HuffPost looks at Arena, a progressive group that began after the 2016 elections, and its plans to spend millions of dollars to train potential Democratic staffers in Texas, Arizona and seven other states in the coming months, “part of an effort to diversify the staffing pipeline for the Democratic Party.”
Distancing begins: Vulnerable Senate Democrats are seeking to distance themselves from “Washington” in their latest advertisements, Politico reports. For example, New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan said in a new ad that she is “taking on members of my own party to push a gas tax holiday.”
The count: $34.7 million
That’s how much four Republicans who didn’t get the Ohio Senate nomination Tuesday either loaned or donated to their own campaigns. One of them, Bernie Moreno, dropped out of the race in February after putting in $3.8 million of his own money. FEC disclosures through April 13 also show Matt Dolan, who finished third with 23 percent of the vote, put in $10.6 million of his own money. Mike Gibbons put in $16.8 million and finished fourth with 12 percent, while Jane Timken put in $3.5 million and finished fifth with 6 percent.
Ohio lost one seat in reapportionment, but Democrats could lose two because of the way the new map was configured, Nathan L. Gonzales writes in his ratings for each district.
Democratic Rep. Shontel Brown defeated former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner on Tuesday in a rematch for the 11th District Democratic nomination, but Turner suggested she could set her sights higher in the 2024 cycle.
“I’m going to take this magic all over the country and shake it that way, and baby, 2024 is coming, and I think the great state of California’s got something to say about what Sister Turner should do,” Turner said, speaking off the cuff after reading a concession speech off her phone. “The great state of Iowa’s got something to say about what Sister Turner should do. The great state of Nevada got something to say about what Sister Turner should do. We ain’t going nowhere. They just reinforced my resolve. And just like King James, Lebron James, decided to take his skills to South Beach, but what Sister Turner is going to do is to continue taking my skills all over this nation, and I’m going to see some folks in 2024.”
Shop talk: Lance Trover
Trover, a Republican consultant, has worked with House and Senate candidates across the map, including former Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk and California Rep. Michelle Steel. He was deputy director of communications at the NRSC in 2012.
Starting out: Trover’s introduction to politics came in the town of 1,400 where he grew up in Southern Illinois, 20 minutes from the Kentucky border. When he was a little younger than 10, he said, his great aunt, who was very involved in Illinois politics, informed his parents that she would start taking him to the local county Republican women’s meetings. “So I started to go to the Republican women’s meeting where the average age is probably 60,” he said. “And I got to become a regular. They’d give me little roles and things to read and do. My aunt, she could see I took to it at a young age. And so she started taking me to other political events with, like, the governor of Illinois, or other fundraising events. That was when the seed was planted, the spark of where my future was headed.”
Most unforgettable campaign moment: “I've worked in this profession now for quite some time,” he said. “And you can kind of become jaded. You can forget the bigger picture, why you do what you do, where you came from. ... You can kind of lose sight of what's so great about this country and why you're doing it. And so, one of my memorable moments actually was in 2020. Michelle [Steel] had brought me on to do comms for her 2020 [House] race, and I went out to Orange County, and I had dinner with Michelle and her husband, and they took us to this hole-in-the-wall Japanese-Korean barbecue place. And I will never forget sitting down. And, you know, they're all Korean and Japanese in this place, and listening to Michelle. She so fluidly worked between ordering dinner in Korean and speaking Japanese. And then conversing with me in English. … For this kid from a small town, it was just this remarkable reminder to me of how diverse our country is and how in this profession, you get introduced to some truly fascinating people that you just meet along the way.”
Biggest campaign regret: When Trover worked for the NRSC in 2012, he planned a trip to visit the campaigns in his assigned region. His itinerary included Missouri, where state Rep. Todd Akin had just won the GOP nomination to challenge then-Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. He arrived the day after Akin said that women who were victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant — an explosive statement that is widely believed to have cost him the election. “And so I show up in the campaign headquarters, literally, as the NRSC is announcing that they're pulling their support from him. Needless to say, I immediately regretted my trip to Missouri that day.”
Unconventional wisdom: “When in doubt, lean in,” he said. What I mean by that is, voters today, they're not looking for your traditional politician. They're looking for someone who's authentic. They're looking for someone who stands up for what they believe in, even if they don't necessarily agree with what the person running for office says. They're just looking for conviction. And so that's why I think, candidates and campaigns, when they've decided on a direction or strategy, they just need to stick with it. And just always lean into the path that they've chosen. And I think voters will reward you for that.”
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West Virginia sees the country’s first member-vs.-member primary on Tuesday, while Nebraska’s ballot still has the name of an incumbent who dropped out. Readers next week also will see the six-months-out installment of CQ Roll Call’s 10 most vulnerable House and Senate member lists.
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