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Rothenberg’s best and worst of 2022

Turn a sure thing into a win for the other side? You get an award

Washington Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez had no chance in a solidly Republican district, but on Friday she was drawing a number in the new member lottery for Capitol Hill office space.
Washington Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez had no chance in a solidly Republican district, but on Friday she was drawing a number in the new member lottery for Capitol Hill office space. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Here we go again. Another year and another batch of winners and losers. Normally, I try to be funny. But this year was the opposite of funny, so don’t expect lots of belly laughs.

This year, as always, I’ll offer a few obvious nominees for each category before picking my “favorite.” You can decide whether you agree or disagree. Just don’t feel the need to let me know.

Biggest upset of the year

The nominees

  • Republican Rep.-elect Michael Lawler: Lawler defeated Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who chaired the DCCC, in New York’s 17th District. Campaign committee chairs never lose, do they? But with contests taking place in newly drawn districts and Democrats not showing their usual strength in the Empire State, Maloney did.
  • Democratic Rep.-elect Marie Gluesenkamp Perez: Who? Nobody knew or cared that she was running since she had no chance of winning in Washington’s 3rd District.  But she did, in one of the biggest House upsets I have seen over the past 40 years.
  • Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola: Alaska voters are going to send a Democrat to Congress? Get real. But they did when Peltola won an August special election, then repeated the feat against the same opponents in November.

My choice: Lawler deserves some credit, but he wasn’t the underdog that Gluesenkamp Perez and Peltola were. Peltola had the benefit of Alaska’s quirky politics and ranked choice voting. Gluesenkamp Perez is the clear choice in this category. She wasn’t just a long shot. She was a “no-shot” who won.

Worst Senate nominee of the year

The nominees

  • New Hampshire Republican Don Bolduc:  He cheered the “Stop the Steal” movement before he was against it.
  • Pennsylvania Republican Mehmet Oz: Who knew that a platter of raw veggies like celery stalks, bell peppers, cucumbers, and carrots — er, crudité — could be a fatal combination, even against a guy who had a stroke during the campaign?
  • Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson: A nasty man.
  • Georgia Republican Herschel Walker: Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. And everyone knows it. Even the GOP Senate leadership. They just don’t care.

My choice:  I’ll have to go with Walker. He is as bad a candidate as I have ever seen.

White supremacist of the year

The nominees

  • Nick Fuentes, Holocaust denier
  • Donald Trump, former president
  • Ye/Kanye West, former entertainer
  • Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, Oath Keepers
  • Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, Proud Boys

My choice: No thank you.

Worst gubernatorial nominee of the year

The nominees

  • Maryland Republican Dan Cox: This uber Trumper campaigned as if he was running in Mississippi, not Maryland. Maybe that’s why he drew less than one-third of the vote and lost by more than 32 points in the general election.
  • New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul: It’s all about the results. She won, but unimpressively.
  • Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano: Lost badly in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia but ran OK in the part of Pennsylvania that resembles Alabama. White supremacy apparently doesn’t sell well in the upscale Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs.
  • Arizona Republican Kari Lake:  Charismatic. Articulate. Personable (when she wanted to be). Attractive. But also a Trump acolyte who regurgitated the stolen election baloney. She couldn’t overcome her Trump connection or her claims of election fraud.

My choice: Hmmm, this is a difficult one. Given Maryland’s Democratic bent, Cox started off in a deep hole. He made it deeper, of course, by running as a right-wing election denier. Hochul won unimpressively, but she won. That leaves Mastriano and Lake. Both helped define the GOP in their states, which boosted Democrats up and down the ballot. I can’t choose. Mastriano and Lake tie for the worst gubernatorial nominee of 2022.

Legal/political mastermind of the year

The nominees

  • Sidney Powell
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • John Eastman
  • Jenna Ellis

My choice: Thanks, but I’ll pass.

Worst congressional nominee of the year

The nominees

  • Michigan Republican John Gibbs: Gibbs won the 3rd District GOP nomination over incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer because Democratic ads helped inform Republican primary voters that Gibbs was an extremist — which is exactly what some Republican voters were looking for.
  • Washington Republican Joe Kent: Kent defeated Jaime Herrera Beutler in the 3rd District GOP primary, but he lost the general election to Gluesenkamp Perez because he turned out to be too far right for this district.
  • Alaska Republican Sarah Palin: Lost an August special election in a race that would have been a slam dunk for any normal Republican.

My choice: It’s Gibbs. Democrat Hillary Scholten defeated Gibbs by almost 13 points because he was so extreme.

Elected official who most obviously put country over party

The nominees

My choice: All of them.

Special awards

Non-pollster of the year: The award goes to The Trafalgar Group, which showed Sen. Patty Murray in serious trouble — the Washington Democrat won by more than 14 points — and promised a huge red wave that never appeared.

Winner of the year: The award goes to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Sometimes, dignity, experience, class and service deserve to be rewarded.

Loser of the year: Let’s see, who could the “winner” of this award be? Maybe someone who endorsed losing Senate and House candidates, all but erasing a Republican midterm electoral wave. Someone who believes it’s OK to “suspend the Constitution.” Maybe someone who excels at name-calling and telling untruths. Who on earth could that be? The clear winner of the Loser of the Year for 2022 is Donald John Trump. It was a very bad year for Donald.

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