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At the Races: Censure and sensibility

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On Tuesday, the day that former President Donald Trump was arraigned in federal court in Miami, freshman Florida Rep. Anna Paulina Luna took to the House floor to bring up a privileged resolution seeking to censure and fine Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and top rival of conservatives.

A Democratic effort to table the resolution passed Wednesday, with 20 Republicans — including seven from districts that backed Joe Biden over Trump in 2020 — voting with Democrats to block Luna’s resolution.

A Republican strategist said a vote on Schiff is mostly a Beltway issue and the biggest impact might be on Schiff’s small-dollar fundraising. Still, Republicans could defend their vote either way, the strategist said.  

Among the 20 Republicans who voted with Democrats to table the censure resolution were Mike Lawler and Marc Molinaro of New York; Young Kim, David Valadao, Kevin Kiley and Jay Obernolte of California; and Thomas H. Kean Jr. of New Jersey. Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves, a top ally of Speaker Kevin McCarthy who was a lead negotiator with Democrats during the recent debt limit debate, was also among them. Graves’ district, which backed Trump over Biden by more than 30 points, could be redrawn next year as a result of a Supreme Court ruling last week that said Alabama’s congressional map violated the Voting Rights Act. 

But other vulnerable Republicans, like Reps. Anthony D’Esposito of New York and John Duarte of California, voted with most Republicans to advance Luna’s attempt to censure Schiff.

The effort has also given Schiff, who is running for Senate, more TV exposure and fodder for fundraising emails. In an email after Wednesday’s vote, he warned that he’s expecting another censure resolution, without an accompanying $16 million fine that was constitutionally controversial to some Republicans, to come to the floor as soon as next week. He’ll surely keep his mailing list informed.

Starting gate

Crowded fields: Upcoming special elections for open House seats in Rhode Island and Utah haven’t generated much interest among the party committees since the districts are unlikely to flip and therefore won’t change the balance of power in the House. Yet, for ambitious politicians, an unexpected vacancy in a politically safe district represents a rare opportunity that could lead to a long career in Congress, which explains why these races have drawn a glut of candidates.

New endorsement: EMILY’s List, a group that supports Democratic women who support abortion rights, endorsed Joanna Weiss for an open seat in California’s 47th District. It’s the first time the group has backed a nonincumbent House candidate in a competitive seat so far this cycle. 

Gallagher stands down: Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher might have been the best recruit to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, but he’s decided to stay in the House, where he chairs a select committee on U.S. competition with China. That leaves an open question as to who may challenge Baldwin.

ICYMI

MAGA Hatch Act: White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has been rebuked by the Office of Special Counsel for referring to “mega MAGA Republicans” ahead of last year’s midterms. The OSC issued a warning letter saying the press secretary violated the Hatch Act by engaging in impermissible political conduct on official time. It took no further action, however. Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that the White House Counsel’s office was reviewing the matter. “If you look at the archived Trump White House website, it contains about 2,000 — nearly 2,000 uses of ‘MAGA’ to describe policies and official agendas. Congressional Republicans have also used ‘MAGA’ to refer to policies and official agenda frequently, for years now — even, clearly, before we entered the administration,” she said.

New PAC alert: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer launched the “Fight Like Hell” PAC, which will raise money for Biden’s reelection campaign and Democrats up and down the ballot. Money raised through the PAC could not be spent on a federal race in which Whitmer is a candidate — but she does have a sister running for a House seat in New York. 

Endorsement watch: North Dakota Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven are supporting Doug Burgum, their state’s governor, for president. McCarthy endorsed Riley Moore in West Virginia’s 2nd District, which is open because Rep. Alex X. Mooney is running for Senate. Rep. Haley Stevens endorsed fellow Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin for Senate and will campaign with her on Friday.

Brotherhood love: President Joe Biden will be back in Philadelphia on Saturday for a political rally with AFL-CIO members. The Wall Street Journal reports that the union is expected to give the Democratic president an early endorsement.

Eyeing a run: The contest for California Senate could get a bit more crowded: Bay Area tech executive Lexi Reese said Thursday she is exploring a run for the seat currently held by Democrat Dianne Feinstein. Reese, who worked at Facebook and Google, cited high costs and public dissatisfaction with Congress in a statement. She would enter a race that already features Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Schiff.

What we’re reading

Stu says: Former Vice President Mike Pence is finding out how tough it is to be a critic and a defender of Trump at the same time, Stu Rothenberg writes. 

Going once … : West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and his businesses owe almost $400,000 in back taxes on properties they have placed on the auction block. The sell-off is the “latest indication of financial trouble facing Justice’s business empire as the coal magnate, who inherited his father’s businesses in 1993, mounts a U.S. Senate run,” according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Red Miami? Trump’s court appearance in Miami this week prompted The Associated Press to take stock of the city’s turn to the right. Democrat Hillary Clinton carried Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county, by nearly 30 points when she faced Trump in 2016. But in 2020, that margin tightened, with Trump losing to Biden by just 7 percentage points. Meanwhile, Francis X. Suarez, the city’s Republican mayor — who is being investigated by the FBI — is expected to announce his run for president Thursday night.

Intraparty warfare: As chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, Dave Williams is expected to lob attacks against Democrats. But Williams, a former state representative, has also targeted officials within his own party, including GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn. “Colorado Republicans are fed up with say-anything politicians like Doug Lamborn who say one thing to gain power but then do the opposite when they think no one is paying attention,” Williams said in an email to party members that was obtained by Colorado Public Radio.

Hawkeye rules: As the orchestra warms up for another Iowa-New Hampshire who-goes-first dance, FrontloadingHQ takes a close look at what Iowa’s Democrats plan to do and whether it really runs afoul of a law signed by GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds.

New York lines: Democrats argued in New York last week that the state’s current district lines should be redrawn, an effort that could land at the state’s Court of Appeals, The New York Times reports. The outcome could affect which party is in position to be in control of the House after next year’s elections.

The count: 1

That’s how many more House seats the GOP won last year than would have been expected based on the average share of the vote the party’s candidates received nationwide, The Associated Press finds. The near draw occurred because both parties gerrymandered districts, however, with gains in states where Democrats drew the lines being offset in states where Republicans drew the lines. 

Nathan’s notes

It may not have been swift, but justice was served in the case of two guilty pleas in federal court this month connected to a “scam PAC” that raised money to push a Wisconsin sheriff to run for Senate in 2017, Nathan L. Gonzales writes. 

Key race: Texas Senate

Democrat Colin Allred won his first term in the House by flipping a suburban Dallas district in 2018. Now the former Baylor University football standout and civil rights lawyer is hoping to unseat GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

Allred will test Democrats’ hopes that Texas is becoming a politically purple state by taking on the two-term Republican incumbent, who won reelection by nearly 3 percentage points over Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales shifted the contest from “solid Republican” to “battleground” following Allred’s entry into the race.

In his initial campaign video, Allred hit Cruz for traveling to Cancun in February 2021 while Texas endured a devastating winter storm that left millions without power. He also criticized Cruz for opposing the certification of the 2020 presidential election and for fueling a divisive culture war.

Texas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Lloyd Bentsen won in 1988, and Cruz has sought to portray Allred as far to the left of the state’s electorate.

Allred said he raised $2 million in the 36 hours after he kicked off his campaign. Cruz had about $3 million in his campaign account on March 31, according to his filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Allred could face at least one Democratic opponent: State Sen. Ronald Gutierrez, who represents the city of Uvalde, where 19 students and two teachers were killed in May 2022, has said he is considering a run.

Coming up

The president, vice president, first lady and second gentleman are slated to attend more than 20 fundraisers combined in the second half of June, ahead of a key financial disclosure deadline. Upcoming presidential travel includes trips to Greenwich, Conn., Chevy Chase, Md., the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City.

Photo finish

Putting any “stop the steal” Republicans on the field to a real test, freshman Democratic Rep. Jasmine Crockett of Texas takes off for second base during the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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