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At the Races: Sunflower shocker

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Corrected Aug. 5 | Tuesday’s primary elections in five states led to a surprising result on a Kansas abortion referendum and added to the list of Republican impeachment voters who won’t be returning to Congress next year. 

The 18-point margin in votes against Kansas’ ballot referendum, which would have made it easier for state lawmakers to restrict abortion, reinforced Democrats’ views that the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will galvanize voters in November.

While Republicans have mostly cheered the Dobbs ruling since it came down in June, party leaders acknowledged the sensitivity of the issue, although they warned against reading too much into the Sunflower State’s ballot measure, arguing that economic issues will also be driving voters to the polls. 

While both parties will keep debating how much the abortion issue will sway voters through the fall, other results this week offered more clear answers to how Republicans who voted for former President Donald Trump’s impeachment in 2021 are faring. 

The results suggest that Republican impeachment supporters do better in nontraditional all-party primaries than in traditional party primaries, as CQ Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales writes today. While Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer lost to challenger John Gibbs, Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler, who ran in all-party primaries, appear on track to advance to the general election in safe GOP seats, although their races have not been called.

The next test for impeachment voters is the week after next, when Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney faces a Trump-backed Republican primary challenger and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is on the ballot in a nonpartisan primary to select four candidates for the November ranked-choice ballot.

Starting gate

From the heartland: Democrats seeking to retain control of Congress are doubling down on the need for abortion rights after the Kansas abortion referendum vote, while Republicans are trying to keep the focus on the economy. 

Meijer ousted: Meijer became the latest Republican impeachment voter to lose a primary this week, limiting the moderate Michigander to just one term in Congress. 

Stevens prevails over Levin: Rep. Haley Stevens defeated fellow Rep. Andy Levin in a member-on-member Democratic primary in Michigan’s 11th District. Levin’s loss will mark the first time in more than 40 years that a member of the Levin family won’t represent Michigan in Congress. Levin criticized a “largely Republican-funded campaign set on defeating the movement I represent no matter where I ran” and said he would “continue to speak out against the corrosive influence of dark money on our democracy.”

Results roundup: We’ve got you covered on all the highlights of this week’s congressional primaries in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington.

Oh, you mean those assets: After CQ Roll Call’s Chris Marquette asked how Texas Democratic candidate Michelle Vallejo could loan her campaign $100,000 when her personal financial disclosure form listed almost no assets, she filed an amended form listing new assets worth as  much as $595,000 that were “inadvertently left off the original filing.”

Main Street messaging: The centrist-leaning Republican Main Street Partnership unveiled a policy agenda this week to give its endorsed candidates talking points for the trail and messaging that the group’s leaders say can provide a starting point for working with President Joe Biden and Democrats if the GOP takes control of the House, and possibly the Senate, in November. 

Snookittothem: After Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman’s $400 investment went viral with a Cameo video showing Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi taunting “Maymet” — her pronunciation of GOP nominee Mehmet Oz — for leaving New Jersey, CQ Roll Call’s Chris Cioffi looked at the rules surrounding campaign usage of the D-list-celebrity-for-hire platform.

They’re voting: Tennesseans are heading to the polls today, and Republicans in the newly drawn 5th District are likely to pick the successor to retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper.  

ICYMI

Insurrection fallout: The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from election workers about threats they face, while the Rules Committee discussed overhauling the Electoral Count Act, something GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said needs to be a priority before the year ends, CQ Roll Call’s Michael Macagnone and Cioffi report.  

Mandatory spending: Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, one of the GOP’s most vulnerable Senate incumbents, suggested ending Medicare and Social Security as mandatory spending programs, putting him at odds with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said he does not agree with a similar proposal by Florida Sen. Rick Scott, the chairman of the National Republic Senatorial Committee.  

Given the drill: A company that funded a super PAC that has spent over $500,000 to support Colorado GOP Senate nominee Joe O’Dea and almost $500,000 to oppose his former primary opponent Ron Hanks was fined $3.35 million for violating state and federal clean air laws. O’Dea, who says he believes in global warming, also supports increased oil and gas drilling. 

Attack ads: The NRSC launched twin ads aimed at Democratic senators this week in Washington state and Colorado, investing in the outer reaches of the party’s midterm battlefield and linking incumbents to Biden. The NRSC will spend $765,000 on TV ads against Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and $250,000 on a nearly identical spot against Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado. 

Buckeye State buys: Voters in Ohio are getting a crush of new ads, including a $1 million buy from Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance’s campaign and new spots from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aimed at engaging Black voters, especially on the issue of abortion rights. The nonprofit group One Nation, an affiliate of the Senate Leadership Fund — Senate Republicans’ chief super PAC — is planning a $3.8 million buy over four weeks beginning Tuesday.   

Pushback: Democrats have pushed back on the DCCC’s decision to meddle in the Republican primary in Michigan’s 3rd District, one of several Republican primaries that the party has sought to influence this year. Issue One released a statement from 35 Democratic former elected officials that was critical of Democratic organizations seeking to boost “candidates who deny the outcome of the last presidential election.” New York state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who is challenging DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney, said in a statement that he is playing “Russian roulette with our democracy” and criticized the use of donations to “to prop up anti-choice election deniers.”

Endorsement watch: FreedomWorks for America, a conservative super PAC, endorsed Eric Schmitt, the GOP nominee in Missouri’s open Senate race, and Blake Masters, the party’s nominee in the Arizona Senate race.

Adulthood allowance: Republicans have criticized Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the state’s Democratic nominee for Senate, for receiving financial aid from his parents that made up the majority of his income well into adulthood and argue that it undermines his blue-collar reputation, which is considered a political strength.

Keeping a focus on gas prices: House Majority Forward, a nonprofit affiliate of House Democrats’ biggest super PAC, is extending an ad buy urging the Senate to take up a House-passed bill meant to curb gas price gouging with a $1 million extension to continue running ads in nine House districts through next week. 

What we’re reading

Stu says: Just because so many people call themselves independents doesn’t mean a third party has much of a chance of getting off the ground, Stuart Rothenberg writes.

Florida fighter: The 19th News profiles Rep. Val B. Demings, the Democrat seeking to oust Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio in November. “I learned to fight a long time ago,” said Demings, a former police chief.

#VA politics: The Washington Post looks at how three Republican House candidates in Virginia swing districts are approaching abortion, as Democrats have sought to go on offense on social issues and are running ads on abortion rights.  

Voter rolls: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at thousands of voters in western Pennsylvania who changed their voter affiliation from Democrat to Republican, offering a snapshot of a statewide trend.

Big money = big problems: Rich Democrats who poured their own money into their  campaigns “have badly mucked up the primary process, imperiling Democrats in must-win contests,” The American Prospect reports. 

Barnes-stormer: The Washington Post profiles Wisconsin Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, the last major Democratic candidate left standing in next week’s primary to take on Johnson, after State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski dropped out and endorsed Barnes this week.

#PASen: Politico reports that the NRSC has raised concerns about Oz’s Pennsylvania’s Senate bid, including his polling and fundraising, and officials said they see a path to GOP control of the Senate even without the crucial swing state.  

The count: 3,626,180

That’s the number of followers Trump had on his Truth Social account as of the end of July, and he’s regularly picked up an average of more than 8,000 new followers a day, according to data compiled by our colleagues at Factba.se. That’s a far cry from the pace at which the now-banned @realdonaldtrump Twitter grew. The lowest average daily increase in followers for any full year since his presidential campaign launched back in 2015 was 30,791, Factba.se found.

Nathan’s notes

Moderate Blue Dog Democrats, squeezed by an increasingly progressive party base and a difficult election cycle, are at risk of joining the endangered species list on Capitol Hill, Nathan writes.

Candidate confessions

Barnes, the Wisconsin lieutenant governor, stood next to Godlewski as she joined two other major Democratic contenders who previously dropped out of the race and threw her support behind him. Up until that point, Barnes had been facing one of the most competitive Democratic Senate primaries in the country. Now he is basically assured the nomination next week. But Barnes brushed off a question about whether voters would have been better served — and the winner would have been better prepared to take on Johnson in a race that could determine control of the Senate – if they had had a say in the vetting process “This was a very tough primary,” Barnes said. “Nothing was easy for anybody who got in the race. I do think that primaries ultimately make candidates stronger. … What is most important is that we are experiencing a unity that has not been seen before in this state. We set out, out of the gate, to build a broad coalition. We are doing just that.”

Shop talk: Amanda Bailey

Bailey, a political strategist who was a lead fundraiser for the presidential campaign of now-VP Kamala Harris, recently joined the lobbying and communications firm Invariant, where she is doing public relations work for corporate clients. She also is a senior adviser for the Black Economic Alliance.

Starting out: “I’ve loved politics for as long as I can remember, and finding a way to build a career in politics can be difficult, especially for a young Black woman coming out of college,” she said. “And campaigns were my point of entry.” Her first job was on Steven Grossman’s 2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign; he lost in the Democratic primary. She previously worked for California Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, and for the 2020 presidential campaign of Mike Bloomberg. “After living in about six states, the rest is history. But I’m blessed to have a family that supported me through it all. Campaigns taught me how to be resourceful, resilient, creative, and really how to function with little to no sleep. Really, there are no excuses, and you can always find a way to get things done, and that’s something that I carry with me now.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: The campaign that stands out the most, Bailey said, is her stint in the 2018 cycle working at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when the party won control of the House. “It was one of those tasks that, at the beginning of the cycle, kind of felt impossible after the 2016 election,” she recalled. “And playing a key role in electing the historic 116th Congress, while returning the speaker’s gavel to my boss, Nancy Pelosi, was definitely an experience I won’t forget.”

Biggest campaign regret: “Not saying yes to Wes Moore,” she said of the Democrat who recently won Maryland’s gubernatorial primary, quickly adding, “I’m kidding!” She said she declined an opportunity to work on his campaign, but “I truly don’t have any regrets. I really don’t, just lessons. I’m so thrilled at his success.”

Unconventional wisdom: “Being kind is underrated,” Bailey said. “You can be ambitious, you can be focused, but you can still be kind to people, especially kind to people who can’t do anything for you. People remember that, and you never know where you’ll see somebody next.”

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

Coming up

Primaries in Connecticut, Vermont and Wisconsin and primaries — plus a special House race — in Minnesota.

Photo finish

Fans hold signs during last week’s Congressional Baseball Game depicting Minnesota Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips, who is unopposed in next week’s primary, and his dog, Henry, who isn’t running. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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This report was corrected to accurately reflect issuance of a statement by Issue One.

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