At the Races: We interrupt this program …

Posted June 2, 2022 at 2:30pm

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The week began with the White House trying to flip the narrative about the economy, even as inflation and gas prices remained high and baby formula was scarce.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, President Joe Biden outlined a plan that would include calling on Congress to act to bring down energy, prescription drug and housing costs. 

Republicans quickly panned the efforts as too little, too late, and even some Democrats said Biden should go further.

“I support the president’s efforts, but we need a bolder vision and faster action,” California Rep. Ro Khanna wrote Thursday in his own New York Times essay

But as the week progressed, gun violence continued to crowd out other news. A mass shooting at a Tulsa, Okla., medical center came as people were still seeking answers to the police response to a gunman at a school in Uvalde, Texas. Due to leave this evening for the Delaware beaches, Biden pushed back his departure to add a prime-time televised address on guns.

On Capitol Hill, House Democrats worked in the Judiciary Committee to mark up legislation that would address a number of issues — including raising the age to buy semiautomatic rifles — that were unlikely to get past the Senate filibuster. In the Senate, a bipartisan group of senators talked about less impactful legislation. 

Meanwhile, after a brief break in the primary schedule, the pace will pick up again Tuesday, with voters in seven states choosing nominees for November, a reminder of how little time remains for the White House to convince voters that its policies will help the economy and that they should keep Democrats in control of Congress.

Starting gate

Guns, lobbying and campaign donations: The debate over federal gun legislation has begun to permeate political messaging and fundraising appeals in competitive House and Senate races. Gun control organizations and the gun rights groups on the other side are gearing up for an immediate lobbying push on Capitol Hill while also investing in the candidates they’d like to see make up the next Congress. 

Follow the money: SEAL PAC — run by former Interior secretary and Rep. Ryan Zinke, who is seeking a return to Congress in Montana’s new House seat — raised millions from small donors with pitches about helping veterans run for office. But the PAC spent most of its money on operating costs rather than helping candidates, and the candidates it did back included some who weren’t veterans or voted against boosting veterans benefits, CQ Roll Call’s John M. Donnelly reports.

Place your bets: Early voting is underway in Nevada, where the House and Senate races are going to be some of the most competitive this fall, CQ Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski reports.

Finally finished: Who said drawing just one congressional line is easy? New Hampshire’s Supreme Court adopted a congressional map proposed by a special master that moves five small towns into the 2nd District but is otherwise similar to the state’s current lines.

ICYMI

It’s over: Oregon Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader lost his renomination bid to a more liberal challenger, Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Hours after The Associated Press called the race, Schrader conceded in a Facebook post summing up his efforts in Congress and referring to McLeod-Skinner as “my opponent.” 

Nail biters: As of press time, The Associated Press still hadn’t called two Democratic primary runoffs in Texas, and none of the candidates had conceded. But Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney said Rep. Henry Cuellar probably won his 28th District race against progressive immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, who trailed him by 192 votes as of Wednesday evening. And progressive small business owner Michelle Vallejo declared victory over attorney and Army veteran Ruben Ramirez in the 15th District, where unofficial final results reported by the largest counties in the district Wednesday expanded her lead to 33 votes. 

Majority choice: A poll released Thursday by Navigator Research found that a majority of Americans, including nearly half of all Republicans (44 percent), identify as “pro-choice.” The poll also found that bipartisan pluralities think getting rid of the filibuster would have a positive impact, and that a growing share of Americans support expanding the Supreme Court since the leak of a draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.  

Endorsement watch: Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Joni Ernst of Iowa both said they favored Katie Britt in Alabama’s GOP Senate primary runoff against Rep. Mo Brooks. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC is backing Patrick Pihana Branco in the Democratic primary for Hawaii’s 2nd District and Dan Sanchez in the special election for Texas’ 34th District. The Chamber of Commerce backed Republican Tom Kean Jr., who is seeking to oust New Jersey Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski. The science-and-math-focused 314 Action Fund endorsed Michael Franken, who is running in the Democratic primary next week for the party’s Iowa Senate nomination. Florida GOP Rep. Mike Waltz is backing Matthew Foldi in Maryland’s 6th District.

Clyburn GOTV: House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn will campaign for New Jersey Democratic Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. on Thursday ahead of the state’s Tuesday primary. Payne is facing his first competitive primary in a decade this year. 

Other people’s money: Outside groups are investing heavily in the Senate GOP runoff in Alabama between Britt and Brooks, slated for June 21. The Alabama RINO PAC, a super PAC, disclosed spending $50,000 on May 26 against Brooks, while the super PAC Alabama Christian Conservatives spent more than $100,000 recently in canvassing for Britt and against Brooks, according to recent disclosures with the Federal Election Commission. Sen. Richard C. Shelby has donated at least $2.5 million of his own political money to Alabama Christian Conservatives to help Britt, a former top aide of his in the Senate. 

She’s out: After raising more than $956,000 and spending more than half of it preparing for a primary challenge to Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, progressive-backed candidate Rana Abdelhamid ended her campaign because the state’s new map put her outside the Manhattan-based district in which Maloney is running — now against fellow Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler. Abdelhamid’s other choice was to take on a fellow progressive, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Rep. Nydia Velázquez

But they’re in: The race for the Democratic nomination in New York’s 10th District is getting crowded. Daniel Goldman, who was the lead counsel for Democrats during former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment inquiry, said he would run in a primary that also includes Rep. Mondaire Jones, former NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Member Carlina Rivera and state Assembly Member Yuh–Line Niou.

Southern strategy: AAPI Victory Alliance, a progressive nonprofit associated with the Asian American and Pacific Islander Victory Fund super PAC, launched a Texas-based organization, Rise AAPI, to “maximize AAPI political power” there and in “other key swing states,” according to a news release. 

Someone could have predicted this: The Democratic super PAC Progress Action Fund is airing ads attacking Georgia GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker’s history of alleged domestic assaults. As the barrel of a pistol points at the screen, a narrator says Walker pointed a gun at his wife’s head and said, “I’m going to blow your brains out,” and that he “threatened the same to his mistress.” And Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, Walker’s opponent in November, released an ad highlighting Walker’s August 2020 promotion of a body spray that could “clean you from covid.” 

Nerds vs. flamethrowers: Former GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan made his first endorsement of the 2022 cycle for Rep. Tom Rice, one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. In a visit to South Carolina’s 7th District, Ryan described Rice’s June 14 primary as a symbol of the battle between “nerds” like the two of them who want to enact conservative policies, and “flamethrowers” out to extract vengeance for Trump and increase their own celebrity in the process. 

#WASen: Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray is up with her first ad of the cycle, a spot focused on her support for middle-class tax cuts and acknowledging that "things are hard right now" with rising costs.

Michigan ad wars: Michigan Democratic Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin, who will face off in an August primary in the 11th District, both launched their first television ads of the campaign. Stevens’ spot focuses on her work to revive the auto industry during the Obama administration, while Levin’s emphasizes his support for progressive policies like “Medicare for All.” 

South Carolina ad wars: GOP Rep. Nancy Mace released an ad attacking her Trump-endorsed primary opponent Katie Arrington as someone who cannot be trusted because she lost her security clearance after Pentagon officials alleged she improperly disclosed classified information. Arrington, meanwhile, is out with an ad calling Mace a “liberal” and featuring footage of Trump calling Mace a “terrible person” who “has no idea what she is doing.” 

Air Wyoming: Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney placed her first broadcast ad buy of 2022, with television and radio spots set to begin Thursday. The ads don’t mention her position as one of the leading GOP critics of Trump’s influence on the party — although she is described as someone with the courage to “stand up to bullies.” Instead, they feature a range of Wyoming residents attesting to her work fighting for their interests, including recreational access to public lands, providing telehealth services throughout the state and preserving working ranches. 

Campaign pause in PA: Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey said he’s not concerned about Lt. Gov. John Fetterman being sidelined from the campaign trail as he recovers from a stroke and expects to hear an update on his health soon. Republicans, meanwhile, are awaiting the results of a recount to know their candidate. “After a long primary on both sides, in both parties, I think voters need a rest, too,” Casey told reporters on a Zoom call Thursday. “They don’t need to be hearing from candidates every minute of every day.”

What we’re reading

East side vs. west side: Former allies and longtime members  Nadler and Maloney are likely to have one of the most bitter member-on-member primaries of this cycle after a judge adopted a map that combined much of their current districts. The New York Times talks to both candidates about the campaign. 

To the rescue: Freshman GOP Rep. Young Kim, along with allied outside groups, has invested big money for advertising recently leading up to Tuesday’s all-party primary, according to the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times, too, looks at Republicans’ “surprise rescue operation” on behalf of Kim. 

Echo chambers: The Fulcrum’s David Meyers looks at recent polling indicating that most Americans limit their social interactions to people who share their political beliefs.

Primary challenge: New York GOP Rep. Chris Jacobs faces a more difficult path to reelection after he said he would support certain gun control measures, The Buffalo News reports. Nicholas Langworthy, the state party chair, is one of several potential candidates who could challenge Jacobs in an August primary for the Republican nomination for the 23rd District, one of the reddest parts of the state.

Like father, like son: Rob Menendez is the front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination for New Jersey’s 8th District, an area his father, Sen. Bob Menendez, once represented. The younger Menendez told the New Jersey Monitor that “he’s never been asked about his connection to his father on the campaign trail,” other than by reporters. His two primary opponents would have to overcome his cash advantage and higher name ID to secure the nomination. 

The count: seven

That’s how many House seats, two originally won by Democrats and five by Republicans, are vacant since 19th District Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado resigned last week to become New York’s lieutenant governor. Former GOP Rep. Devin Nunes’ seat will be filled next week in California’s 22nd District by either Republican former state Assemblywoman Connie Conway or Democratic water operations department manager Lourin Hubbard. Alaskans have also received mail-in ballots with the names of 48 candidates, including Republican former Gov. Sarah Palin, 2020 Senate nominee Al Gross, and an “independent, progressive, democratic socialist” from North Pole, Alaska, named Santa Claus. All are vying for the late Rep. Don Young’s seat. Ballots have to be postmarked by June 11, and the four candidates who get the most votes will face each other in a ranked-choice special election Aug. 16.

Nathan’s notes

Republicans could come out of the midterms with 20 seats in Florida, up from 16 now, unless a court overturns the state’s new gerrymandered map, Nathan L. Gonzales writes.

Candidate confessions

Colorado Republican Joe O’Dea, a construction company owner who wants to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in November, is Catholic and points out that he was adopted. But in a debate last week against primary rival Ron Hanks, he said he supports Roe v. Wade and would vote to codify its provisions into law, although he said Colorado legislation signed this year guaranteeing the right to abortion goes too far. 

“I do think the decision should be left up to the woman and her doctor early on in the pregnancy and in cases of rape, incest or medical reasons,” he said. “I don’t support a total ban. The country is not 100% pro-life, the country is not 100% pro-choice. We need balance, and we need to move forward.” Abortion access is one of several touchstone issues on which the two take opposing sides, a rarity in Republican primaries this cycle that have largely featured candidates competing over who is the most loyal Trump supporter. Hanks, a state lawmaker, believes life begins at conception and opposes abortion at any stage.

Shop talk: Chris Martin

Martin, formerly deputy executive director of America Rising PAC, recently joined Bullpen Strategy Group as vice president of communications. When he’s not working on corporate and advocacy clients, you might find the Florida native cheering on the Tampa Bay Lightning or his adopted home team, the Washington Capitals.

Starting out: “I wasn't really interested in politics until college,” Martin said. In his junior year at the University of South Florida, he took a class on media and politics. “It was about how the media interacts with elected officials.” It covered ad making, direct mail and an internship with a campaign of your choice. Martin sought his with the 2012 Mitt Romney presidential campaign. “I walked into a field office,” he recalled, and began volunteering — making phone calls, knocking on doors. “And before I knew it, they offered me a job on the campaign.” He took six months off of college to work as a volunteer coordinator for the Romney campaign before heading back to campus. “There was something about the energy, the feeling of being on a team.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: “Hearing a candidate I worked for reading remarks that I prepared for them for the first time during a campaign rally was just a thrilling experience,” he said. “It’s so humbling to feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. And to see your hard work pay off and see the words you’ve written down, communicated to voters.”

Biggest campaign regret: “The first couple of years in my career, there were a couple of really incredible job opportunities in D.C. and other states. But I stayed in Florida, and I do regret not leaving my comfort zone sooner to explore these opportunities,” he said. “But I think it worked out in the end. I just wish I had taken that leap of faith sooner and packed up my car and moved across the country, which I ended up doing in 2014. I moved to Wisconsin to work on a gubernatorial campaign.”

Unconventional wisdom: Grassroots audiences are “starving” for good political content to share with their social networks, Martin said, but “a lot of campaigns and issues advocacy groups and even corporations just don’t have the systems in place to push out that content on a daily basis.” They’re missing opportunities to identify “viral moments” to use in their fundraising or advocacy messaging, he adds. “The need for really compelling digital content is something that kind of goes by the wayside when everything else is going on.”

Do you know someone who works in campaigns whom we should feature for Shop Talk? Email us at attheraces@cqrollcall.com.

Coming up

You want primaries? We got ’em Tuesday in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota.

Photo finish

Oregon Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader — who lost his primary last week — has been called out at home before, such as in this 2015 play in the Congressional Baseball Game, when Illinois Republican Rep. John Shimkus made the tag. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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