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At the Races: Hoosier next guv?

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Corrected 4:08 p.m. | Indiana businessman Mike Braun was elected to the Senate in 2018, but it was an uncomfortable fit from the start. Braun, a conservative Republican, has been a frequent critic of Congress and the way the Senate operates.

This week, he filed paperwork to run for governor of Indiana and announced that he will leave the chamber after a single term. “I always made a decision throughout life to do what you can do to have the most impact,’’ Braun said.

For Braun, having the most impact is being the CEO of a state, not being one of 100 in the Senate.

Braun isn’t the only politician to make that calculation. 

Last year, Chris Sununu was one of several GOP governors to disappoint national Republicans when he opted to skip a Senate run and seek a fourth term as New Hampshire’s governor. “I’d rather push myself 120 miles an hour delivering wins for New Hampshire than to slow down, end up on Capitol Hill debating partisan politics without results,’’ Sununu said at the time. 

Next door in Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican who has repeatedly topped lists of the nation’s most popular governors, chose to remain in Montpelier rather than seek a seat in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

Recent history offers other examples of senators forgoing careers in Washington to then lead their home state, although a far more common path runs from state capitals to the Senate, with at least nine current members in the chamber’s former governors caucus.

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana won’t be making the leap from D.C. to Baton Rouge. “For the last several years, I have been working on specific legislation that is critical for the future of our state and country,” the Republican tweeted last month. “I don’t know if these will pass, but I know they will not pass if I decide to run for another office.” Meanwhile Louisiana’s other senator is still considering a gubernatorial bid. John Kennedy said he’s been asked “time and time again to come home to serve as governor.” He promised a decision “soon.”

Starting gate

Untossed: With Tuesday’s runoff election looming, the Georgia Senate race is moving toward Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, Nathan L. Gonzales writes.

Last Frontier ranked returns: GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola won reelection last week after Alaska carried out its new ranked voting tabulation, setting out what is essentially an instant runoff. 

DCCC chair changes: Incoming House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries will have a greater role in selecting the next Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman after House Democrats voted Wednesday to change how that role is filled.

Education agenda: Republicans campaigned on education issues, from pledging to undo President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program to promoting policies that ban transgender athletes from high school and college sports. Now the GOP plans to use its House majority to escalate oversight of the Department of Education, launching hearings, investigations and lawsuits in a quest to overturn administration policies.


Minority leaders in the House: House Democrats made it official this week: New York Rep. Jeffries will become the first Black lawmaker to lead a congressional party caucus, CQ Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson reports. California Rep. Ted Lieu won a four-way contest to be the next House Democratic Caucus vice chair. He is now the highest-ranking Asian American ever in House Democratic leadership, Lindsey notes. They also made South Carolina’s James E. Clyburn assistant leader by acclamation and picked Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse as chair of the caucus’ messaging arm along with co-chairs Veronica Escobar of Texas, Lauren Underwood of Illinois and Dean Phillips of Minnesota.

On the other side: GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy says he won’t give up on his ambition for the speaker’s gavel in January, even as he so far lacks the votes to win, Lindsey reports.  

About that dinner: As columnist Mary C. Curtis writes that the uproar over former President Donald Trump’s dinner with Nick Fuentes is just the latest sign that white supremacy and antisemitism are “having a moment,” CQ Roll Call’s Rachel Oswald takes a look at how House Republicans who opted not to condemn Trump are preparing to oust Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from a committee over past antisemitic remarks.

RIP: Virginia Democratic Rep. A. Donald McEachin died Monday at age 61 after a long battle with cancer. McEachin first came to the House in 2017 and focused on environmental issues. Under Virginia law, GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin will set a special election date to fill the vacancy for the Richmond-area district. Potential candidates have not yet jumped into the race

#AZ06: A rural Arizona county’s refusal to certify election results could cost Republicans a House seat, according to Bloomberg’s Ryan Teague Beckwith and Sarah Holder.

2024 memo: House Majority PAC, the super PAC tied to House Democratic leadership, said in a memo that the group “will be prepared to take back the House in 2024.” It listed 19 districts, including six in New York, and said the goal is “to flip these back to blue in 2024.”

Readying for a rematch: New Mexico Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell, who lost her reelection race in November, is already planning for a rematch against Democratic Rep.-elect Gabe Vasquez in 2024. She filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Nov. 22.

Team Ronna: The conservative group American Principles Project endorsed Ronna McDaniel’s reelection as chairwoman of the Republican National Committee for another two-year term. “Following this month’s disappointing midterm elections, the Republican Party is badly in need of leadership who are willing to buck the conventional wisdom and instead reorient the GOP behind a clear, conservative vision which prioritizes rebuilding the family and fighting the woke left. Based on her record, we believe Ronna McDaniel can be a key leader in this effort,” said APP President Terry Schilling in a news release. 

#PASEN: David McCormick, a former Trump administration official who narrowly lost the GOP primary for Pennsylvania’s Senate race this year, is weighing another run in 2024, when Democratic Sen. Bob Casey is due to be on the ballot.

What we’re reading

On Golden’s prospects: With his reelection to a third term secure, Maine Democratic Rep. Jared Golden’s future political pursuits may stretch beyond the House of Representatives, according to the Bangor Daily News.    

Mrs. Fetterman goes to Washington: Gisele Fetterman, a “formerly undocumented migrant from Rio de Janeiro,” is now a highly watched freshman Senate spouse with a rising national profile, writes Pablo Manríquez in The New Republic. 

Western watch: The High Country News reflected on how conservation, energy policy and the protection of public land shaped the midterms in Western states: Voters in the West “generally chose pragmatism over ideology, moderation over extremism and competent governance over outright lunacy, drawing a collective sigh of relief from most reasonable folks,” Jonathan Thompson writes. 

Casting blame: Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., blamed her closer-than-expected race against Democrat Adam Frisch on other Republicans. Boebert told The Wall Street Journal that a lack of enthusiasm for the Republicans running for governor and Senate spilled over into her race. But The Colorado Sun analyzed the election results and found all but one Republican running for statewide office outperformed Boebert. “The numbers complicate Boebert’s narrative explaining why her race in the Republican-leaning 3rd District was so close,” the Sun reports.

The count: $301,051,329.65

That’s Warnock’s mega-millions fundraising haul for his 2020 special election, plus runoff, and this year’s race through Nov. 16, combined, according to FEC disclosures. The eye-popping sum includes totals for his back-to-back races and back-to-back runoffs. 

Nathan’s notes

Parents angered by COVID-19 lockdowns and other issues were supposed to propel the GOP to big majorities in this year’s midterms. The data about whether parents and adults without children voted differently, however, is more nuanced, Nathan writes.

Candidate confessions

When Washington Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer took on the chairmanship of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, dubbed the fix-Congress panel, he had a conversation with a coach, who had turned a losing team into a winning one.  

“So I call up this football coach and I said, ‘So what do you do when you have players on the team who are actively trying to sabotage the team?’” Kilmer recalled this week during a Bipartisan Policy Center event as the panel wraps up. “And he said, ‘Well, I cut ’em.’” Kilmer noted that members of Congress don’t really have that option.

Then the coach asked Kilmer how they approach new player orientation. “We don’t really have new players, but we have new member orientation,” Kilmer recalled saying. The coach asked how it worked. “It’s funny you say that,” Kilmer said. “It works entirely the wrong way. You show up to orientation, and they literally say: ‘Democrats, you get on this bus; Republicans, you get on that bus.’ And the entire orientation process is designed to keep Democrats and Republicans from interacting with each other. And this sports coach I talked to said, ‘You know, Derek, I don’t know much about Congress, but it seems like you ought to stop doing that.’”

So one of the panel’s recommendations, Kilmer said, was “to stop doing that. And this round of freshmen that’s going to orientation right now is the first round of freshmen that are going to have a more collaborative experience with their colleagues across the aisle.”

Shop talk: Liz Kurantowicz

Kurantowicz is a Republican strategist who served as general consultant for former Connecticut state Sen. George Logan’s recent unsuccessful run for Congress. She is a veteran of numerous federal, state and local races and previously worked as chief of staff for the Connecticut Republican Party and as an aide to former Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

Starting out: Kurantowicz applied for an internship in the district office of former Rep. Nancy Johnson after the Republican lawmaker nominated her high school boyfriend (and now husband) for admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She landed the internship, “and I got to see how elected representatives work, [especially] the constituent service piece,” she said. After graduating from Fordham University, Kurantowicz took a position in the Washington office of Gov. Rell. “That was one of my favorite jobs ever,” she said. “I got to work on the Hill and interface with the delegation.” At the time, Rell and other state officials were fighting to prevent the closure of a submarine base, and Kurantowicz recalled going to the White House and meeting officials in President George W. Bush’s administration. “There was a lot of camaraderie,” she said. “We were all working toward a common goal.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Election night 2016. “A lot of the work I’ve done in the last 10 years was focused on legislative elections,” she said. That year, she led an outside group that helped Republicans in Connecticut achieve parity in the state Senate and make significant gains in the House of Representatives. Donald Trump won the presidency, but he lost Connecticut to Hillary Clinton, making GOP gains in the statehouse all the more surprising. Republicans, Kurantowicz said, “were looking to just hold even … but, collectively, we were able to get a tie in the Senate and a four-vote difference in the state House.”

Biggest campaign regret: Kurantowicz says she doesn’t dwell on might-have-beens. Instead, she says, “I try and take those losses as teachable moments and turn them into something positive.” 

Unconventional wisdom: “Always surround yourself with people who are smarter than you,” she says. “Seek them out and build a team around them. You will never regret it.”

Coming up

The Supreme Court will hear arguments next week from North Carolina legislators seeking to invalidate a state court ruling against its congressional map, in a case that could restrict state courts’ ability to hear disputes about congressional races nationwide.

Photo finish

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has regularly joined her colleagues in marking National Seersucker Day, as shown by this 2021 photo. A reelection win last week means the Alaska Republican will still get to use the suit during Washington’s steamy summers. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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The spelling of Liz Kurantowicz’ name was corrected in this report. 

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