At the Races: Build back something?

Posted July 14, 2022 at 2:30pm

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Lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill this week for what could be a flurry of legislative activity ahead of the August recess, when campaigning for the November elections will pick up.

Democrats are making another go at a reconciliation bill, albeit a slimmed-down version of one that passed the House last year. But challenges abound for a bill meant to address climate and health care issues, such as New York and New Jersey Democrats who are pushing for the package to raise the $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes, known as SALT, CQ Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson and Laura Weiss report. 

Democratic operatives argue that passing a bill addressing climate and prescription drug costs could only help candidates and draw more contrasts with Republican opponents. At the same time, passing a bill too close to Election Day may not leave enough time for voters to feel its effects. 

Republicans, who have already been hammering Democrats for even discussing an increase in federal spending after inflation hit 9.1 percent last month, are warning that Democrats would pay a political price for raising taxes as is being discussed. One Nation, the issue advocacy arm of the Senate Leadership Fund, has run ads this summer urging Democratic incumbents in states like New Hampshire and Georgia to stop “reckless government spending.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers are debating how to move forward with a separate bill meant to improve U.S. global competitiveness that is stalled in a conference committee, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatens to block the measure if Democrats move forward with reconciliation. Democrats are hopeful that posturing could help their candidates in states like Ohio, where Intel Corp. jobs could be on the line if the bill does not pass. 

“If Intel scraps its plans and sets up shop overseas as a result of Mitch McConnell’s hostage-taking, the blame will lay squarely at the feet of cowards like Mike DeWine and J.D. Vance who have covered for McConnell at the expense of Ohio workers,” said Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Michael Beyer, referring to the Republican governor and Senate nominee.

Starting gate

Arizona agenda: Former President Donald Trump heads to Arizona for a rally with his endorsed candidates on Saturday, but CQ Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski got ahead of the crowds in the Grand Canyon State last week. Coverage explored how the Trump visit will put a contentious GOP Senate primary into focus and why Rep. Tom O’Halleran is still running despite a redistricting map that made his district much more conservative.

Choosing sides: Interviewing voters in Michigan’s 11th District ahead of the primary faceoff between Democratic Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin, CQ Roll Call’s Paul M. Krawzak found fans of each candidate and some folks undecided. He also found Democrats fired up to vote by the Supreme Court ruling overturning abortion rights.

#MOSenate: Willing to go on conservative talk radio and question his party while touting an origin story that includes his parents’ bankruptcy from medical bills, Marine veteran and Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Lucas Kunce is trying to win back rural and working-class voters

Circle the date: Elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales notes that Aug. 15 is the deadline in Pennsylvania to switch candidates if Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman isn’t able to return to the trail after the stroke he suffered just before the primary.

Mega money: Former Rep. Donna Edwards and Glenn Ivey, a longtime government official and Hill staffer-turned-lobbyist, find themselves in a bruising Democratic primary for Maryland’s 4th District. Outside interests, mostly those focused on Israel, have poured more than $5.5 million into the race.

ICYMI

Endorsement watch: New York GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik’s EPAC recently endorsed a slate of candidates: Barbara Kirkmeyer in Colorado’s 8th District, Regan Deering in Illinois’ 13th District, Sue Kiley in New Jersey’s 6th District and Yesli Vega in Virginia’s 7th District. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer, who faces a GOP primary challenger, and — if he wins — a competitive race in November. 

He’s not running: After fueling speculation about a potential run as an independent in Illinois' 6th District, former Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski ultimately decided against it. “Instead,” he wrote in a Chicago Tribune op-ed, “I will focus my attention on helping build the emerging ‘Independents Movement.’ I already have had discussions with U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger about teaming up in this effort.” Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who voted to impeach Trump, is not seeking reelection. 

Onboarding: Democrat J.D. Scholten, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018 and 2020 in Iowa’s 4th District, is joining the Senate campaign of Michael Franken, who is challenging longtime Sen. Charles E. Grassley. Scholten will be the campaign’s political director. 

Seeing green: WinRed, the Republican fundraising platform, said that it had processed $325.6 million in donations during the first half of this year, 28 percent more than the first six months of 2021.

CLF cash: Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is reporting a $43.5 million haul for the second quarter, plus another $4 million in the third quarter through the Fourth of July, according to the group. That extra $4 million is being reported to the Federal Election Commission for the special election in Texas’ 34th District. Punchbowl News reported CLF’s Democratic counterpart, House Majority PAC, raised just $19.7 million during the quarter.

Up on air: J Street Action Fund launched a $700,000 television ad campaign in Michigan’s 11th District supporting Levin’s primary against Stevens. AIPAC and United Democracy Project are supporting Stevens, in another example this cycle of pro-Israel groups taking sides in Democratic primaries. 

Michigan ad blitz: The GOP super PAC Defending Main Street launched a six-figure mail blitz supporting Meijer, whose primary is next month. The American Principles Project PAC announced a separate digital ad campaign calling Meijer a “sell-out Republican” and supporting his challenger, John Gibbs.

Ticket-splitting: New polling out of Georgia suggests a real possibility of ticket-splitting in two marquee statewide races. The survey commissioned for AARP Georgia finds GOP Gov. Brian Kemp leading Democrat Stacey Abrams 52 percent to 45 percent but Republican Hershel Walker trailing Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock by 3 points. This tracks with what Atlanta Journal-Constitution correspondent Greg Bluestein reported on Wednesday.

What we’re reading

Face time: Bloomberg Government examines an effort by the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity that targets voters one-on-one rather than relying on more expensive TV ad blitzes to shape the midterms: “At a time when the airwaves are saturated with political ads, the well-heeled conservative group says it’s found a more effective way to reach key voters.” 

Not paying: Ordered to pay $273,000 to publishers, reporters and their attorneys after losing a lawsuit saying she was a victim of “revenge porn,” former California Rep. Katie Hill has filed for bankruptcy protection, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Swing seat: Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger has made a habit of distancing herself from Democratic leadership and is focused on legislative accomplishments as she officially launched her campaign for a third term in a district that swung back to Republicans in last year’s gubernatorial race. 

Changing hues of blue: For the first time in a New York Times/Siena College national survey, Democrats had a “larger share of support among white college graduates than among nonwhite voters — a striking indication of the shifting balance of political energy in the Democratic coalition,” according to the Times. And Ruy Teixeira wrestles with why working-class and Hispanic voters are losing interest in the party.

Make it in America: Fetterman writes in an op-ed that “making more stuff here in America” would bring down high prices and that his Republican opponent, millionaire Mehmet Oz, is not “connected to the struggles that Pennsylvanians are facing every day.”

Back to school: New polling from the American Federation of Teachers ahead of the midterm elections found that 60 percent of voters in states with competitive Senate races this year are dissatisfied with the way racial issues are taught in schools, NBC News reports

The count: 7

That’s how many more House seats Republicans would net if all the races break the way they’re rated by Inside Elections and if the parties split the Toss-ups 50-50, Nathan writes. Since the GOP needs a net gain of only four, it would take the majority, but that narrow margin would be a disappointment given some projections of a red wave. Yet it’s still early, and more races will shift as the election gets closer.  

Candidate confessions

Lucas Kunce, the Democrat running for Senate in Missouri, often gets compared to other high-profile Democratic Senate candidates running on populist messages in rural and rust belt states, like John Fetterman in Pennsylvania or Rep. Tim Ryan in Ohio. But Kunce says he isn’t paying much attention to those campaigns. “I hate to disappoint you, but I'm not a real political follower,” he said. “I just focus on Missouri. I look at everything through the lens of, what are the people who I grew up with, who were very caring people, what would they want to see? How do I serve them?” Likewise, he struggles to come up with anyone currently serving in Congress he would want to emulate, saying if there is anyone he looks to for inspiration it would be a historical figure like Paul Wellstone, a Democrat who represented Minnesota in the Senate from 1991 until he died in a plane crash in 2002, or former President Harry S. Truman, who left office in 1953. Kunce runs his campaign from Truman’s hometown of Independence, and he likes to tell people that he can see Truman’s childhood home from his house — but only from his bathroom window, and only in the winter when the leaves don’t obscure the view. 

Shop talk: David Reid

A lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Reid focuses on a range of policy issues, including infrastructure, health care, gaming and entertainment. He also runs the firm’s political operation. He served as the Washington, D.C., and PAC finance director for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and was deputy finance director of the Democratic Governors Association. He serves on the executive committee of the One Victory and LGBTQ Victory Institute board and the governing bodies of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and Institute, and he is a member of the board for Q Street, the professional association of LGBTQ lobbyists and public policy advocates.

Starting out: “My first real exposure to national politics was when I was a page in high school,” he said, recalling the summer of 2001, when he worked in the House side of the Capitol. “That was the experience that really made me interested in doing politics more than as just a hobby, and the experience itself was very, very transformative in that sense.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Working on Clinton’s 2016 campaign “was an unforgettable experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world,” he said. He was involved in building a finance operation and leading fundraising events that put him face-to-face with some “pretty fascinating people,” including the cast of “Scandal.” “One of the events towards the tail end of the campaign we did was with Anna Wintour and Diane Von Furstenberg,” he recalled, referring to Vogue’s editor-in-chief and the fashion designer, respectively.  

Biggest campaign regret: “I don’t have any major regrets,” Reid said. But, he added, he should have done a better job earlier in his career of staying in touch with colleagues and donors along the way. “I wish I had started to really cultivate relationships earlier. Going back, I wish I’d been a little bit better at that because, you know, it's all about the people.”

Unconventional wisdom: “When you're working with people, in any job, especially in D.C., I think it’s important, and I think this is somewhat lost on folks: Do good work, work hard and don’t be an a--hole,” he said. “I think that folks are not necessarily seeing the long game and, you know, if you treat somebody without respect or disrespect someone to try to achieve something in the short term, down the line that’s gonna bite you.”

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

Coming up

Second-quarter FEC reports are due at midnight Friday, and polls in the Maryland primary close at 8 p.m. Tuesday. 

Photo finish

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., right, and Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman compare socks outside the Senate chamber on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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