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At the Races: Admakers (heart) NY

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Sometimes, the ads write themselves.

That seems likely to be the case for House Democrats and their campaign operations after a late-afternoon vote today on a GOP bill designed to incentivize states to go after people who engaged in unemployment insurance fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s because among the 13 counts in the indictment unsealed against New York Republican Rep. George Santos on Wednesday was an allegation he unlawfully obtained almost $25,000 in unemployment benefits by making false statements to the New York Department of Labor. Michael Macagnone has a full report on the charges against Santos.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who appeared on MSNBC after former President Donald Trump’s CNN town hall Wednesday night, couldn’t help but highlight the role the Long Island and Queens-based Santos has within the House GOP.

“At this point, George Santos remains a critical member of the House Republican Conference,” Jeffries, whose base is in Brooklyn, said, noting that Santos was actually the deciding vote when the House passed a Republican spending reduction and debt limit package.

Santos topped our House Most Vulnerable list even before word of the indictment in the Eastern District of New York. But he is not the only GOP member of the Empire State delegation making the top 10. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, who represents parts of Long Island’s south shore, is just behind Santos. Rep. Brandon Williams is also on the list, representing a Syracuse-based district that extends east to Utica.

The other New Yorker on the list got some good news Wednesday. Rep. Mike Lawler, who checks in at No. 5, got an unexpected in-kind contribution from President Joe Biden on Wednesday, when the president told a crowd in Westchester County that “he’s not one of these MAGA Republicans.”

Republican operatives were excited by that development, as the Hudson Valley district is a prime pickup opportunity for the Democrats. Lawler somewhat unexpectedly unseated then-DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney last cycle.

Starting gate

Vote check: Trump’s campaign is attacking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for threatening Social Security and Medicare, citing votes he took as a House member. The thing is, many of Trump’s biggest supporters in Congress voted the same way, and one of those votes made the tax overhaul Trump touts as one of his signature achievements possible, CQ Roll Call’s Paul M. Krawzak and David Lerman report.

Air time: The battle over raising the debt ceiling is not just taking place in White House meetings with Biden and congressional leaders. House members in battleground seats on both sides are facing TV or digital ad attacks over their parties’ positions.

Staying put: Santos said he has no plans to resign, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he wasn’t going to call for that, although he won’t support the New Yorker’s reelection next year. But as CQ Roll Call’s Ryan Tarinelli points out, nine other House and Senate members indicted while in office over the past 15 years also didn’t quit when they were charged.

ICYMI

MD politics: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks launched her campaign for Senate and was endorsed Thursday by EMILY’s List. If elected, she would be the first Black woman to represent Maryland in the Senate. Rep. Jamie Raskin set a June deadline for deciding whether he’ll run and told Axios it was an “absolute tossup.” Meanwhile, the race to replace Rep. David Trone as he makes a Senate run kicked off, with state Delegate Joe Vogel announcing he’ll run in the 6th District. 

Running: Indiana state Rep. Chuck Goodrich, a Republican, is running for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Victoria Spartz. In New Jersey, retired Detective Capt. Tim Alexander said he would run again in the 2nd District to challenge GOP Rep. Jeff Van Drew

Endorsement watch: The Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC endorsed Rep. Ruben Gallego for Arizona’s Senate race. Scott Baugh, the Republican making a second run for the now-open House seat in California’s 47th District, was endorsed by former Rep. Tom McClintock and the state GOP.

McConnell on 2024: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN he’s focusing on flipping seats in Montana, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania next year, but he said he’s not confident Republicans will take back the majority. Republicans are still assessing how involved they’ll get in Wisconsin and Nevada, other swing states with Senate elections next year.  

New York rematches: Former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said she will run again for New York’s 4th District, a race that she lost by 4 points last year to D’Esposito. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race as a Toss-up. Democrat Josh Riley also said he would run again in the 19th District, after losing last year to Republican Marc Molinaro by 2 points. 

Been there: Former New Jersey Democratic Rep. Albio Sires was elected Tuesday to a post he held before he came to Congress, mayor of West New York, N.J., which, as its name implies, sits across the Hudson River from its bigger neighbor.

What we’re reading

Stu says: The state appears to be trending against Democratic Rep. Colin Allred’s bid to oust GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, and Biden could be a drag at the top of the ticket. Still, Stu Rothenberg writes, he may have a chance.

Split delegations: The number of states with senators from both parties has fallen to a historic low and could fall even lower after the 2024 elections, Bloomberg Government reports.

Florida north?: Our North Carolina-based columnist Mary C. Curtis asks whether the politics of the Tar Heel State are evolving in the same rightward direction as Florida.

Mace on finding her place: South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace tells The New York Times she is “trying to show how you can bring conservatives and independents along to be on the same page,” as she has secured commitments from top Republicans in exchange for voting for major legislation this year. Mace, who says Capitol Hill can be a lonely place, could face a more difficult reelection next year if her district lines are redrawn as ordered by federal judges. 

Booked: The Los Angeles Times looks at how California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter’s book tour is boosting her campaign for Senate. She’s promoting a memoir, “I Swear: Politics is Messier than My Minivan.”

Purple Idaho?: Larry LaRocco, a former Democratic congressman from Idaho, is predicting the Gem State will shift to the political center, despite the fact that conservatives now control state government. “The far right’s agenda stalled in many areas during the recent legislative session,” LaRocco writes in an opinion piece in The Lewiston Tribune. “The ugly civil war within the Idaho GOP continues to splinter as moderates reemerge. The result could be the breakup of the right’s stranglehold on Idaho governance.” 

Frayed ties: Americans are deeply divided over politics, as anyone who’s skipped Thanksgiving dinner to avoid a political discussion with their uncle or unfriended a former classmate because of their political posts already knows. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Communication and Civic Renewal looked at how those rifts are playing out in the Badger State, where 17 percent of respondents to a recent survey said they’ve cut ties with friends or relatives over politics. 

The count: $3.6 million

That’s how much money The Great Task, a PAC that former GOP Rep. Liz Cheney created with funds left from her unsuccessful reelection campaign last year, had on Dec. 31, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings. The PAC funded an ad this week in New Hampshire in which Cheney recounts some of the findings about Trump from the committee she co-chaired investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters.

Nathan’s notes

Six months into the 2024 election cycle, the map favors Republicans’ bid to take Senate control, but there are several states where they still don’t have candidates. Nathan looks at the whole landscape and offers thoughts on when it could be too late to launch a run.

Shop talk: Annie Wu Henry

Henry is the creative director of the AAPI Victory Fund, which mobilizes Asian American and Pacific Islander voters and supports Democratic AAPI candidates. Henry also serves as a strategist for the Working Families Party and for Philadelphia mayoral candidate Helen Gym. She previously worked as a social media producer for John Fetterman’s 2022 Senate campaign and was dubbed his “TikTok whisperer” by The New York Times.

Starting out: Henry studied journalism, political science and communications at Lehigh University. Initially she thought she might attend law school and work on Capitol Hill, she said, but she had no connections to that world. “I’ve always been interested in politics, but I didn’t get right into the space because … honestly, I didn’t know how,” said Henry, the daughter of two teachers. She did some organizing work for local politicians in Pennsylvania while holding a full-time job outside of politics before landing on Fetterman’s team last year. One of her responsibilities was managing the Democratic candidate’s TikTok account.

Most unforgettable campaign moment: There was the time she went to 30 Rockefeller Plaza to get tickets to “Saturday Night Live” and had a chance encounter with then-Sen. Kamala Harris. The two took a photo together, and Harris offered words of encouragement. “Someone overheard it and tweeted about it,” Henry said. “It was a cute moment that got solidified on the internet.” Then there were the celebrity endorsements, such as Chrissy Teigen’s supportive comments on her Instagram post about fighting anti-Asian racism. “All of those opportunities were very fun and cool,” she said. But ultimately, Henry said, it’s the smaller moments, such as interactions with fellow staffers, introducing her dad to Fetterman and the day-to-day satisfaction of the work, that she remembers the most. “The work is what matters,” she said. 

Biggest campaign regret: “So many things were just a blur, and there were times when I didn’t appreciate the history that was being made [on Fetterman’s campaign] because I was so tired and so busy,” Henry said. “I don’t know if that’s a regret, but there are always so many things you wish you would have had time to do.”

Unconventional wisdom: “Stay true to you,” she advises. “It’s so easy to compare yourself to others … but do what feels right to you and not … what is the most conventional, not what’s going to impress the most people or make the most money.” Henry said her own unconventional route to politics through the digital sphere led to opportunities she couldn’t foresee. “So many of my experiences don’t make sense on paper,” she said. “It wasn’t a traditional path, but I’m better for it because it helped me find what I was interested in.”

Coming up

After the legislature sent him a bill specifying the state’s “resign to run” law won’t apply if he seeks the presidency, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis heads to Iowa this weekend for a trip that includes a “family picnic” hosted by Rep. Randy Feenstra in Sioux Center and a reception hosted by state GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann in Cedar Rapids.

Photo finish

How many of these House and Senate members who were indicted while in office during the past 15 years can you name? (Photos by Bill Clark, Tom Williams and Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call)

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