Skip to content

At the Races: Hearing today, gone tomorrow?

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call campaign team. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

The House Select Committee’s prime-time broadcast of its first public hearing on the Jan. 6 attack represents a chance for Democrats to remind voters that most of the Republicans on the ballot in November have failed to hold former President Donald Trump accountable for his role in the assault. 

The revelations are unlikely to make too much difference in what is expected to be a tough election cycle for Democrats, with high inflation rates overshadowing other messaging, although Virginia Democrat Elaine Luria, the only vulnerable Democratic incumbent on the committee, has a lot more at stake than her colleagues. 

But polls show that getting to the bottom of what happened that day, and who was responsible, still matters — and not only to Democratic voters, but also to independents and some Republicans. 

“There is always this question about should Democrats be focused on issues like Jan. 6, or should we be focused on economic issues? And I view this as a false choice,” said Guy Cecil, chairman of the Democratic group Priorities USA, adding that it’s important to address both. “This is the current and future Republican Party, what happened on Jan. 6, and the ongoing efforts to minimize it — to, in some cases, defend it.”

So far, we haven’t seen much messaging around the hearings from vulnerable incumbents or the groups charged with keeping them in office. That makes sense, because Democrats are taking pains to maintain an aura of gravitas surrounding the hearings. 

But an anti-Trump Republican group, The Republican Accountability Project, announced Wednesday it was launching a “six-figure” television ad campaign in battleground states, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The ads urge voters to tune in to learn about the committee’s findings and ask what Trump was doing during the attack. Finding answers to those questions may help Republicans like  Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the committee, and the handful of other Republicans who voted to impeach Trump and are facing primary challenges.

The majority of the Republican Party, though, has abandoned any efforts to appeal to voters who want to see a serious investigation. GOP incumbents who voted for a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission — most notably, Mississippi Rep. Michael Guest — continued to face backlash from primary voters. Guest took pains to make a distinction between the commission he voted for, which would have been a bipartisan endeavor and would have finished its work by the end of last year, and the House select committee airing its findings this week. He was forced into a runoff this week by a pro-Trump challenger who frequently confused the two in his attacks. 

GOP leaders, meanwhile, advanced the hearings with a series of news appearances — mostly targeting conservative media outlets — attacking the endeavor as a partisan smear campaign against Trump meant to distract voters from issues like the economy and crime. Fox News, notably, isn’t planning to air the hearings live.

Starting gate

Primary coverage roundup: With seven states holding primaries this week, we looked at some of the main takeaways from the races. Republican incumbents were on defense, and outside groups are getting ready to spend big money on competitive races. 

Keystone State battle: Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman will face former television host Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s high-profile Senate race this year. Fetterman remains off the campaign trail recovering from a stroke but released his first general election television ads this week, while Oz now faces the task of uniting Republican voters after a drawn-out primary.

Dropping out: New York GOP Rep. Chris Jacobs said he won’t seek reelection this year. His decision came a week after Jacobs said he would support some gun control measures, including a ban on assault weapons and limits on some high-capacity magazines, prompting a likely primary challenge and underscoring the opposition to gun control proposals in the Republican Party. 

Short-timer: Connie Conway, a former Tulare County supervisor and Republican leader in the state Assembly, won Tuesday’s special election runoff in California’s 22nd District for the remainder of former GOP Rep. Devin Nunes’ term. But don’t expect her to stick around after this Congress. 

ICYMI

Gun votes: Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, a National Republican Congressional Committee target who is running uncontested in next week’s Maine primary, voted against a package of gun control proposals Wednesday, saying, “While a handful of the individual provisions in the two bills before us have the potential to garner bipartisan support, taken as a whole, the bills are too sweeping in their design and fall far short of the support necessary to become law and save lives.” Meanwhile, the New York Young Republicans criticized votes for parts of the bill cast by GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, whose 11th District got redder in redistricting and likely faces a rematch with former Rep. Max Rose in November. Explaining her vote to support raising the age to purchase a semiautomatic firearm from 18 to 21, Malliotakis noted that is already the requirement in New York’s 11th District. 

Candidate charged: Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley was arrested Thursday on charges tied to his involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the FBI confirmed.

Cheney poll: Cheney is trailing Trump-endorsed primary challenger Harriet Hegeman by nearly 30 points, according to a poll of likely Republican primary voters commissioned by a pro-Hegeman super PAC and first reported by NBC News.  

Windfall: The NRCC said it has reserved $52 million for advertising this fall in 28 TV markets. Some of the initial buys aim to boost vulnerable Republicans, such as Rep. David Valadao in California’s 22nd District and Rep. Michelle Steel in California’s 45th District (assuming both pull out their primary wins). But many other spots will target Democrats, such as Maine Rep. Jared Golden, Iowa Rep. Cindy Axne and New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski.  

Target list: The NRCC added four seats to its target list, bringing its total for the cycle to 75. The additions were Rep. Al Lawson in Florida’s 4th District, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi in Illinois’ 8th, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in New York’s 17th, and an open seat in Pennsylvania’s 12th District, where Rep. Mike Doyle is retiring. The group is no longer targeting an open seat in Florida’s 22nd District, currently held by Rep. Ted Deutch, who plans to leave Congress later this year.

Endorsement watch: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise endorsed Matt Mowers in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in New Hampshire’s 1st District. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed GOP Reps. Nancy Mace and Rep. Tom Rice ahead of Tuesday’s primaries in South Carolina. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed New York state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi’s challenge to Maloney in the 17th District primary.

Last-minute gift idea: Ahead of Tuesday’s Nevada primary, GOP Senate front-runner and former Attorney General Adam Laxalt is bringing a series of pro-Trump guests in for the final weekend to avoid being upset by Army veteran Sam Brown in the race to challenge Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Trump himself held a tele-rally for Laxalt on Wednesday night, noting that primary day “happens to be my birthday,” according to the Nevada Independent. “So if you would give me a nice birthday present — and that’s Adam, give me Adam as a birthday present.”

Pedal to the metal: A Super PAC supporting Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker fueled Democratic outrage when it gave out $4,000 worth of free-gas vouchers. Meanwhile, Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock, who won his 2020 race thanks in part to a series of clever ads featuring a cuddly beagle, came out with another ad that quickly went viral. This one shows Warnock getting clobbered on the football field by a peewee player, a reference to Walker’s football fame. “If it were here,” Warnock says, “I’d clearly choose him … but this campaign is about who is ready to represent Georgia.” 

Short-term gains: Republicans are pumping money into next week’s special election to replace former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela in Texas’ 34th District. They hope that a win for Republican Mayra Flores would make a statement about GOP gains in the border area, even though she would have to run again in November in a redrawn district that’s more heavily Democratic, and she would face 15th District Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez.

GOP primary runoffs: The candidates in the June 21 primary runoffs in Georgia’s 10th and 6th districts met for debates that featured personal attacks and competition over who is the most stalwart conservative. 

Meddlesome: Democratic groups are working to boost far-right candidate Ron Hanks in the Colorado GOP primary to choose a challenger to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Democrats think Hanks would be an easier opponent for Bennet in the purple state than the more moderate construction company owner Joe O’Dea. 

FEC complaint: The campaign finance overhaul group End Citizens United filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Republican J.D. Vance’s Senate campaign and the super PAC Protect Ohio Values circumvented political money laws. The Vance campaign, ECU says, relied on research materials from Protect Ohio Values, amounting to a “massive in-kind contribution.” “This abuse is perhaps one of the clearest and most flagrant examples of a candidate and a super PAC skirting campaign finance laws,” ECU President Tiffany Muller said in a news release.

Making the list: The New Democrat Coalition Action Fund added five candidates to its watch list this week: Don Davis in North Carolina’s 1st District, Wiley Nickel in North Carolina’s 13th, Eric Lynn in Florida’s 13th , Gilbert Villegas in Illinois’ 3rd and Patrick Pihana Branco in Hawaii’s 2nd. 

Slow count: Former Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke held a narrow lead over former state Sen. Al Olszewski in the GOP primary for the state’s newly created 1st District as of Wednesday night, but all the ballots may not be counted until Friday. Lincoln County has to count all the ballots by hand because they were cut too short to be counted by automatic counting machines. 

Still waiting: The Associated Press also hadn’t called several potentially competitive races in California, including the 9th District, where Democratic Rep. Josh Harder and Republican Tom Patti appeared to make it to the top two. In California’s 13th District, Democrat Adam Gray and Republican John Duarte, an NRCC “Young Gun” candidate, were slated for the top two with more than 63 percent of the vote tabulated by 10 a.m. Thursday. AP is also waiting for more votes before determining whether GOP Reps. Young Kim and Valadao make the cut in the 40th and 22nd districts, respectively. 

United they stand: President Joe Biden has united a majority of Americans, but likely not the way he set out to do — in a staggering level of dissatisfaction with his presidency, GOP pollster David Winston writes in Roll Call.

What we’re reading

Stu says: Stuart Rothenberg reflects on his first meeting with then-candidate Christopher S. Murphy, as the Connecticut Democrat spearheads Senate negotiations over gun control legislation: “Yes, he is still personally liberal, but he seems to want to legislate, not merely complain.”

Mega-motivated: Shipping supplies magnate Richard Uihlein has donated more toward the midterm elections than any other Republican so far and is the biggest donor to the Susan B. Anthony List-affiliated Women Speak Out fund, the Financial Times reports.

Aides de campaign: Congressional staffers who hit the campaign trail can reap the rewards in extra pay and experience that leads to bigger jobs on Capitol Hill, according to Insider. 

Big-name volunteer: Former California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is working to oust her soon-to-be new member of Congress: GOP Rep. Ken Calvert, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.  

Democracy on the line: National Journal columnist Josh Kraushaar, who is joining Axios next month as a senior politics reporter, examines threats to democracy, including that “leaders and institutions have proven themselves incapable of dealing with the myriad challenges facing the country.”

That again: You could sense that self-described “election geek” and Ingraham County, Mich., Clerk Barb Byrum had spent some time explaining why the myth about dead people voting was wrong. When it came out in a video from a candidate for governor, she fired off a tweetstorm.

Going to bat: Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has thrown her support behind GOP Rep. Nancy Mace in her primary next week against Trump-backed challenger Katie Arrington. Politico reports Haley is making a play to distinguish herself from Trump as she prepares for a possible a 2024 presidential bid. 

The count: $250,000

That’s how much Protect Our Future, a super PAC primarily backed by Bahamas-based cryptocurrency billionaire Samuel Bankman-Fried, spent on producing and placing digital ads promoting attorney Robert Menendez Jr. ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic primary in New Jersey’s 8th District. Menendez’s father is Sen. Bob Menendez, who serves on the Banking Committee that regulates the markets and isn’t up for election this year. Menendez Jr., who goes by Rob, had raised more than $1 million since he started running following Rep. Albio Sires’ retirement announcement. The only one of his two opponents to report any fundraising took in just $37,000, and there was no other outside spending in the district. Menendez won the primary with 84 percent of the vote, and is such a favorite in November that Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter called it “perhaps the least competitive open seat race in the country.”

Nathan’s notes

A federal judge has ordered Louisiana to redraw its House district map to include a second Black-majority district. Republicans are appealing, while Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has called a special legislative session to comply. Before the ruling, Nathan L. Gonzales handicapped the races using the lines Louisiana had previously adopted — and may still end up using.

Candidate confessions

Progressive immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros had just requested a recount in her primary runoff against Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar this week when our colleague Paul V. Fontelo caught Cueller in Statuary Hall. The race has not been called, but Cuellar led by 187 votes, and he accepted congratulations from passing colleagues and chuckled when he explained that he hadn’t had time to closely follow the special election in the neighboring 34th District to replace Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned in March to join a lobbying firm. 

“I’ve been a little caught up with my election,” he said, adding that he intended to support Dan Sanchez, an attorney running with the support of current 15th District Rep. Vicente Gonzalez to fill the seat until after the November elections, when Gonzalez is the nominee. 

Cuellar, the only remaining House Democrat who consistently votes against abortion rights, was surprised to hear that Sanchez had said in a candiate forum Tuesday that he is “pro-life across the board.” 

“Oh good, maybe somebody else can join me,” Cuellar said with a laugh.

Shop talk: Lucas Meyer

Meyer is the strategic programs director of the New Hampshire Progress Alliance and Democracy Fund and the co-founder and board chair of 603 Forward, a nonprofit that does advocacy and candidate development. He previously managed Rep. Chris Pappas’ 2020 reelection campaign and was the president of the New Hampshire Young Democrats.

Starting out:  Growing up in Concord, N.H., Meyer said, it was hard to avoid politics. “With a citizen legislature, with the first-in-the-nation primary, it just sort of is all around you growing up, but I never worked in politics. I never volunteered on campaigns in high school,” he said. He attended Denison University and was planning to enter the Marine Corps officer candidate program but ended up interviewing for a job with the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “At the end of the interview, they said we’re going to match you with a state Senate candidate and you’re going to be their campaign manager, and I said ‘No, I’m not. I don’t know anything about campaigns or politics.’” He ran a state Senate campaign for Andrew Hosmer, who won an open seat race in 2012 that flipped from red to blue, and then continued working in politics. 

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Last year’s statewide town elections were “really profound” for Meyer. “Everybody was pretty convinced that we were going to get overrun by the far right at these school board meetings. And so 603 Forward and progressives and Democrats across the state really got serious about candidate recruitment and training in these down-ballot races and, like, running these local campaigns,” he said. Democrats won in GOP-leaning towns, and dozens of young people were elected to office, he said. “That stands out to me as a really profound moment, or a really exciting moment on that election night, seeing all those results coming in and being, like, oh damn, we did it, and this also is validation that if you build the infrastructure and you do the work and you find good people, you can win anywhere.”

Biggest campaign regret: “My biggest campaign regret was from the independent redistricting campaign in 2019, where I believed that Gov. [Chris] Sununu was going to sign the bill and I got my hopes up,” he said. Sununu vetoed a measure that would have created an independent redistricting commission. “We did a congratulations ad in the Union Leader, full page, with the Republican leader in the Senate and the Democratic leader on the bill in the House being like, ‘Hey, we did it, this is really exciting. We’re leading the nation in protecting democracy,’ and we had every expectation that it was going to go to the governor’s desk to get signed,” he said. “I believed it was going to happen, and when the governor vetoed it at, like, 4:30 on a summer Friday afternoon, that was particularly crushing and a valuable lesson in, like, run through the tape.”

Unconventional wisdom: “No job is too small,” Meyer said. “Power is built in a lot of different ways, and your influence is built in a lot of different ways, and putting your ego to the side from the jump and you might find a job opportunity that maybe feels beneath you, quote unquote, or too insignificant, but those are usually the jobs that set you up for a really strong fundamental understanding of how campaigns work, how systems of power work, how you build your own power or your own organization.” Sometimes other people questioned why he remained president of the NH Young Democrats for five years, but Meyer said he saw the value in it. “I was, like, well, because I can do a lot of good here and I can learn a lot. Maybe it wasn’t the flashiest thing, but I feel I draw on the lessons learned from that experience and the network I built and doing a lot of really, really menial, boring, excruciating tasks for a long time, but that scrappiness and that appreciation of the groundwork has set me up for a lot more success.”

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

Coming up

Sen. Tim Scott, the South Carolina Republican whose fundraising receipts have fueled discussions of higher office, plans to head to Iowa on Thursday for a reception, while Vice President Kamala Harris will be the special guest at Friday’s Blue Palmetto Dinner in Columbia, S.C.  Speaking of South Carolina, there are primary battles there next week, and in Maine, Nevada and North Dakota — plus a special election in Texas’ 34th District.

Photo finish

Former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, right, who was critically injured by a gunman in a 2011 assassination attempt, hugs Democratic Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath, whose son was shot and killed in 2012, at a memorial on the National Mall to victims of gun violence on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Subscribe now using this link so you don’t miss out on the best news and analysis from our team.

Recent Stories

Total eclipse of the Hart (and Russell buildings) — Congressional Hits and Misses

House plans to send Mayorkas impeachment articles to Senate on Tuesday

Harris sticks with Agriculture spending, Amodei likely to head DHS panel

Editor’s Note: What passes for normal in Congress

House approves surveillance authority reauthorization bill

White House rattles its saber with warnings to Iran, China about attacking US allies