At the Races: Marriage 47, pill 8

Posted July 21, 2022 at 2:30pm

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Corrected, 4:11 p.m. | After Sen. Joe Manchin III unraveled plans to “Build Back Better,” Democrats turned their attention to a series of bills to draw attention to the rights and protections they argue will be at risk under a Republican-controlled Congress or future Supreme Court decisions in the wake of the recent ruling that overturned the right to an abortion. 

The first bill this week, an effort to codify legal recognition for interracial and same-sex marriages nationwide,  passed the House overwhelmingly on Tuesday. 

Forty-seven Republicans voted for it, including National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer, a handful of members facing competitive reelection campaigns — like Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer and New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakisand even some representatives from solidly Republican districts who typically take more conservative positions on social issues. 

But Democrats are pointing to the 157 House Republicans who voted against it — including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — as representative of the GOP’s official position. 

"The GOP isn’t hiding any cards: The majority of Republicans are unwilling to protect the right to marry whomever we want, are willing to throw away precedent and dictate how we are allowed to express our freedoms,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Tommy Garcia said in a statement after the House vote. 

Democrats hope Thursday’s floor vote in the House on a bill that would protect access to contraceptives will give them another chance to attack Republicans for taking a position that is at odds with the majority of Americans. 

Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, who won her primary last month by less than 8 points and is looking at a race rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, showed up for the vote with strips of tape on her back that read, “My state is banning EXCEPTIONS. Protect CONTRACEPTION.” 

Mace cited her own sexual assault when she advocated for exceptions to abortion bans for rape and incest survivors as a state lawmaker, and she introduced a bill Wednesday with Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson that would allow “adult women” to buy over-the-counter birth control. But she was in the minority of her party Thursday as one of eight Republicans who voted for the bill, four of whom are not running for reelection. Mace and three others who voted for the bill are seeking reelection: Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and Florida Rep. María Elvira Salazar.

Starting gate

Maryland roundup: One of the biggest winners in Maryland’s primaries this week wasn’t even on the ballot. Instead of a candidate, it was a collection of pro-Israel groups that invested more than $6.4 million to boost Democrat Glenn Ivey, who won the Democratic nomination in the state’s 4th District, denying former Rep. Donna Edwards her old job. Democratic Rep. David Trone also found out his GOP challenger: state lawmaker Neil Parrott.

Cash check: Despite the forecast for November, new fundraising reports show donors have not given up on Democrats. The party’s vulnerable senators, Senate candidates and most House incumbents were doing better than Republican opponents, in some cases by many millions of dollars. But House Republican candidates for open seats on average had a cash advantage. 

Money matters: As Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance fell far short of his Democratic opponent Tim Ryan in recent campaign donations, one of the Republican’s chief fundraising vehicles says it prioritizes paying off the campaign’s debt from the May 3 primary he won. The campaign’s biggest creditor: Vance himself. 

Roadshow: Republican Wesley Hunt says he’ll “be the energy Congressman of the world” if he wins election in Texas’ new Houston-area 38th District. His campaign is embarking on an unusual effort of producing a documentary-style video series featuring oil and gas companies in the district and well beyond it. Think of it as political ads meet reality TV, or in Hunt’s words, a cross between “‘Dirty Jobs’ and Travel Channel for the oil and gas industry.”

Remember the ‘ISIS bride’?: In this week’s Political Theater podcast, host Jason Dick and politics editor Herb Jackson take advantage of a few weeks’ pause in the primary schedule to look back on themes and quirks we’ve seen so far this year.

ICYMI

Just to be clear: A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a legislative package to make clear that Vice President Mike Pence could not do what President Donald Trump’s lawyers were urging him to do on Jan. 6, 2021. Bills also would make it harder for Congress to object to electors, and increase federal penalties for threatening poll workers or voters, CQ Roll Call’s Chris Cioffi writes.

Gavel gauge: With three House Republicans vying for the party’s top spot on the Ways and Means Committee next year, CQ Roll Call’s Laura Weiss compares their second-quarter fundraising hauls.

New Red to Blue: The DCCC added six candidates to its Red to Blue program, which funnels money and support into competitive races. They are Kermit Jones, in California’s 3rd District; Adam Gray, in California’s 13th; Christy Smith, in California’s 27th; Asif Mahmood, in California’s 40th; Will Rollins, in California’s 41st; and Eric Sorensen in Illinois’ 17th.  

Young Guns: The NRCC announced additions to its three-tier Young Guns recruitment and support program, which requires candidates to reach certain benchmarks, bringing the total number of candidates who have reached the top tier of the program to 46. The new Young Guns candidates are Guy Ciarrochi in Pennsylvania’s 6th District; Regan Deering in Illinois’ 13th, Anthony D’Esposito in New York’s 4th, Mike Erickson in Oregon’s 6th; Paul Junge in Michigan’s 8th; Barb Kirkmeyer in Colorado’s 8th; Keith Pekau in Illinois’ 6th; Sam Peters in Nevada’s 4th; Mark Robertson in Nevada’s 1st; and Chris West in Georgia’s 2nd. The Committee also announced 14 additional candidates — including some who are in primaries against each other — who have reached lower-tier “On the Radar” status.

Slower Walker?: After a series of scandals and missteps rocked Georgia Republican Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign, top staffers from the NRSC traveled to Georgia to chart a new course. Walker added veteran campaign operatives to his team and reemerged with a more disciplined message at an agriculture-focused rally in South Georgia on Tuesday, which, in another departure for the campaign, was open to the press, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports

Warnock support: The left-leaning Save Democracy PAC announced a $250,000 digital ad buy in support of Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock’s reelection campaign. The two ads — one that highlights Warnock’s work in the Senate and another that attacks Walker — will be concentrated in the Atlanta media market and target swing voters likely to cast ballots in the midterms, according to a spokesman.   

Recovery files: John Fetterman, the Pennsylvania Democratic nominee for Senate, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in his first interview since suffering a stroke in May that he is “feeling really good” and that doctors support his decision to return to the campaign trail. Fetterman said he might “miss a word every now and then in a conversation, or I might slur two words,” but  he expects to return to the campaign trail “very soon.” 

Cheney trouble: Two new polls showed Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney losing her primary to attorney Harriet Hegeman by more than 20 points. Cheney, who has played a high-profile role on the House Jan 6 select committee, is one of five Republicans who outraised Trump-backed challengers in the last fundraising quarter.

Wood work: Former Jan. 6 committee investigator John Wood collected enough signatures to appear on the Missouri Senate ballot as an independent. Former GOP Sen. John Danforth’s Missouri Stands United PAC, which released an ad calling Wood a candidate “all Missouri could be proud of,” will have spent $5 million supporting the campaign by August, the Kansas City Star’s Daniel DesRochers tweets. 

Candidate under arrest: Ryan Dark White, who ran for Maryland’s GOP Senate nomination under the name Jon McGreevey and finished toward the end of a pack of 10 candidates, was arrested “for making a false report about child trafficking,” Axios reported. 

From the grave: The late Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings’ campaign account shut down — after transferring more than $23,000 to his widow. 

#WISenate: Five candidates in the Aug. 9 Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary met for a debate Sunday night. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, who are leading in the polls, focused on who would be the best candidate to defeat incumbent GOP Sen. Ron Johnson in November. And state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, the only woman in the race, criticized her male opponents for not making abortion rights a priority in their campaigns until the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade.

Blogger blowback: Texas Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzales was put on the defensive by reports that a blogger who had received payments from his campaign had published posts calling GOP Rep. Mayra Flores — his November opponent in the majority Hispanic 34th District — “Miss Frijoles” and a “cotton-pickin’ liar.” 

Dropped out: Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ended his campaign for the Democratic nomination in New York’s 10th District, signaling an end to his time in electoral politics. In Vermont, Sianay Chase-Clifford dropped out of the Democratic primary for the state’s at-large House seat, citing her “current capacity and financial resources.” Her name will remain on the ballot for the August primary. 

Abortion talk: Missouri Democratic Rep. Cori Bush, who faces a primary challenge Aug. 2, released a campaign ad in which she describes her experience having an abortion after she was raped at age 17, a story she first discussed publicly last year. 

All-in: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky made a surprise appearance at a D.C. fundraiser for Colorado Republican Senate candidate Joe O’Dea on Tuesday, saying “we're going to be all-in in Colorado,” a sign that national Republicans plan to invest in the campaign against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet, Axios reports. Inside Elections rates the race Likely Democratic, but national Republicans think it could be in play in a political environment that favors the GOP. 

Ooops: Democrat Christy Smith, who is challenging GOP Rep. Mike Garcia in California’s 27th District, apparently mistakenly tweeted criticism of her opponent for voting against a same-sex marriage bill in the House this week. The problem? He was one of 47 Republicans who voted for the measure, and GOP operatives were quick to point that out. Smith appears to have deleted her tweet. 

What we’re reading

Stu says: Handicapping a political year like 2022 is a challenge because of the steady stream of “outlandish” events, Stu Rothenberg writes.

Buckeye gripes: Ohio Republicans are airing (on background) their complaints about the J.D. Vance campaign after it posted a disappointing fundraising quarter when compared with Vance’s opponent Tim Ryan, the Washington Examiner reports. “J.D. isn’t talking to people, and by people, I mean elected officials — statewide officials, congressmen, including those who have called him,” one unnamed Ohio Republican strategist told the outlet. 

Familiar with D.C.: CNN reported this week that the recently hired communications director for Nevada GOP Senate nominee Adam Laxalt marched to the Capitol on Jan. 6, though there was no indication that she ever entered the building. The Review-Journal reported that the spokeswoman, Courtney Holland, confirmed Wednesday that she had been at the Capitol.

What he really thinks: Retiring GOP Rep. Chris Jacobs told The Buffalo News that Trump “lost his mind” after the 2020 election and said the party should “embrace the new generation of leadership” ahead of 2024, a shift from Jacobs’ previous efforts to court Trump’s endorsement in a 2020 special election.

After the blow: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch hits the campaign trail with Rep. Vicky Hartzler as she attempts to recover from Trump’s non-endorsement in the crowded Aug. 2 GOP primary for an open Missouri Senate seat. Hartzler told the paper in an interview that she had a “very positive conversation” with Trump just before he wrote on his social media platform that he didn’t think she had “what it takes,” and he was not endorsing her. “So I was, you know, kind of surprised,” she said.  

Identity politics: In the battle for New York’s 12th District Democratic nomination, Rep. Jerrold Nadler is emphasizing his Jewish faith, noting the state would lose its “last remaining” Jewish member of the House delegation if he loses a three-way August primary, the Washington Post reports. 

Majority Black districts: Bloomberg takes a look at redistricting and population changes that have gutted majority Black congressional districts and hits the campaign trail with Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin as they compete for Black votes in Michigan’s newly drawn 11th District, where there are no Black candidates on the ballot. 

The count: $54.3 million

That’s how much more Democratic Senate candidates raised during the second quarter than Republicans in these battleground states: Arizona ($10.6 million), Colorado ($1.4 million), Florida ($7.8 million), Georgia ($11.5 million), North Carolina ($5.3 million), New Hampshire ($1.7 million), Nevada ($4.7 million), Pennsylvania ($5.5 million), Washington ($24,000) and Wisconsin ($4.9 million).

Nathan's notes

Both former House members, Democratic Govs. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Tim Walz of Minnesota face tougher reelection races this November, Nathan writes. So do Democratic Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon and Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska.

Candidate confessions

Democrat Glenn Ivey, who won the primary this week in Maryland’s 4th District, will have a breeze of a commute compared with most members of Congress if he wins the general election, as expected, in the solid-blue, Prince George’s County enclave. It’s a route he knows well, too. Ivey, who was chief counsel for then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and held other high-level jobs on the Hill, said he opted to live in Cheverly, Md., back in those days for the proximity to the Capitol. “The reason we bought our house actually was, in part, because of that, because I was working on the Hill at the time,” he said. “We wanted a short commute to the Hill and later I worked at DOJ and Judiciary Square, and it’s perfect for that, too.” 

Shop talk: Barrett Marson

Marson runs a Phoenix, Ariz.-based public relations firm, Marson Media.

Starting out: After years working as a reporter for newspapers across the country, Marson was hired by the Republican speaker of the Arizona House, where he worked for four years before beginning a job at the Department of Corrections. “Finally, in 2011, I decided I’d had enough of watching people die and getting calls at 3 in the morning about a wide variety of issues that happen in prisons and decided to start my own business.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Arizona GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko’s 2018 special election campaign was “a lot of fun,” Marson said. Lesko was the only woman in a primary of about a dozen other candidates. She faced off against another state legislator who also stepped down to run and who “had some indiscretions that were coming out, and so he was avoiding the public and the press,” Marson said. Marson came up with hashtags asking about his whereabouts and noting those indiscretions, including one about his ties to women who had the same first name. Another memorable moment was when a 2014 Arizona gubernatorial candidate, Christine Jones, appeared on a podcast he used to host saying she’d been in the Air Force, when she’d actually served in the Air Force ROTC. Doug Ducey’s campaign ran ads about the claim, which Marson said he heard hurt her popularity ahead of the primary. 

Biggest campaign regret: “Probably, actually, my biggest regret is working on [Rep. Paul] Gosar’s campaign in 2012,” he said, noting that he worked for Gosar’s campaign months after launching his firm. “He was not the crazy that he is today, I gotta say that. But he showed glimpses of it, for sure. And his opponent was bona fide crazy.” Marson's current clients include Sandra Dowling, who is challenging Gosar in this year's primary.

Unconventional wisdom: “I’ve learned to be zen about Twitter and the crazies on, either the left or the right, who go after you on Twitter. All you’re reaching is a small subset of people who really care, but when you’re on a campaign, you need to reach far, far, far beyond your bubble.”

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

Coming up

Former President Donald Trump will be in this town next week, speaking on Tuesday at the America First Agenda Summit.

Photo finish

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., talks with the media outside the Energy and Natural Resources Committee office before a hearing on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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This report was corrected to reflect Barrett Marson is working for Sandra Dowling.