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At the Races: Redistricting redux

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Cue the new congressional maps in a handful of states.

The Supreme Court this week cleared the way for Louisiana to redraw its congressional map, following a ruling earlier this month that Alabama had violated the Voting Rights Act. Now, both states are poised to add a district that would give Black voters more influence, possibly as soon as this year. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, set a July 17 special session for legislators to draw a new map by a court-imposed July 21 deadline. 

The timeline for new maps in Louisiana isn’t yet clear, but the biggest changes are most likely to come to districts represented by one of three Republicans: Reps. Garret Graves, Julia Letlow and Mike Johnson. The state Democratic Party, meanwhile, was advertising a free training opportunity for candidates, staff and local leaders this week in combination with the Collective PAC, which has the mission of “working to fix the challenge of under-representation of the Black community.” Similar lawsuits are also working their way through the courts in Georgia and South Carolina. 

Democrats also praised a separate Supreme Court ruling this week that found state courts can rule on state laws overseeing federal elections. That case, out of North Carolina, does little to change the status quo in the Tar Heel State, where the Republican-held state Supreme Court already gave the Republican-led legislature the nod to redraw the district lines, which last year resulted in a split 7-7 congressional delegation. A new map could lead to Republicans being favored to win at least two or three new districts next year. 

But the ruling could give momentum to redistricting efforts in Wisconsin, where Democrats are set to take the majority on the state Supreme Court in August. Some Democrats are hopeful that a lawsuit could lead to the state’s 1st or 3rd District being redrawn to be more favorable to the party. 

Democrats are also seeking to restart the redistricting process in New York, where a special master drew a new map last year. New district lines are also expected in Ohio, after the state Supreme Court declared the map drawn for the last election to be unconstitutional, but because of time restrictions the election was held under that map anyway. 

With the battle for the House as close as it is, new maps in a handful of states could reshape the already tight battlefield for control next year.

Starting gate

Tie goes to: The Federal Election Commission deadlocked, and therefore took no action, on a request to develop regulations for AI-generated deepfake political ads.

Affirmatively in the negative: On the penultimate day of its session, the Supreme Court has struck down the affirmative action admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, with the court’s six Republican appointees voting together, Michael Macagnone reports. Political reaction was swift. Congressional Black Caucus members, led by Nevada Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, said the court “has thrown into question its own legitimacy.” Republicans, on the other hand, were generally elated. Former Vice President Mike Pence touted his role in getting three conservatives on the court during the administration of President Donald Trump and said the court is ending the “egregious violation of civil and constitutional rights in admissions processes, which only served to perpetuate racism.” Trump said it was a “great day for America” because admissions would be “going back to all merit-based.”

The last of a breed: One of the most prominent liberal voices within the GOP died this week. Former Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. of Connecticut was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, a thorn in the side of President Richard Nixon, a supporter of gay rights, an advocate for people with disabilities and, above all, a believer in government as a force for good. He was the quintessential New England moderate, a breed that no longer fits comfortably within the modern Republican Party.

Bidenomics: President Joe Biden took his economic policy message, now fully branded as “Bidenomics,” to Chicago on Wednesday. In remarks, the president touted the state of the economy and the benefits of investments enacted during his administration. The CBO projects that as a result of the budget deal, the long-term deficit outlook has improved, but that will not be true in the next two decades. As Paul M. Krawzak reports, despite lower revenue projections, the agency now believes that debt held by the public as a share of the economy will be lower at the end of the next 30 years than CBO thought it would be last year.

#NY03: The House Ethics Committee usually puts investigations on hold when prosecutors get involved, but nothing is usual about indicted New York GOP Rep. George Santos. Last week the committee not only said its probe was ongoing but also said the scope had been expanded, CQ Roll Call’s Ryan Tarnelli reports. On Monday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Fox that Santos “shouldn’t run” for another term next year, although Santos said on Twitter that his comments “do not change my intention of running.” An Economist/YouGov poll released Wednesday found only 11 percent of adults nationally had a favorable opinion of Santos, while 56 percent had an unfavorable view.

Pulse check: We’re a quarter of the way through the divided 118th Congress, and CQ Roll Call’s John T. Bennett looks back at top moments since January, concluding that expectations of low amounts of legislating and a high amount of drama were correct.

ICYMI

CA-SEN: Tech industry executive Lexi Reese is running for California’s open Senate seat. In a campaign video released Thursday, Reese, a Democrat, talks about her family’s struggles. “My dad worked at Sears proudly for 21 years, and then he lost his job unexpectedly,” she said. “My parents divorced. My siblings struggled with addiction. My sister, she found recovery. My brother, Peter, he lost his life trying.” Reese joins a Democratic field that already includes Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam B. Schiff

MT-SEN: Aerospace executive and retired Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy’s campaign for Montana Senate got a boost Thursday when he picked up the endorsement of Gov. Greg Gianforte. “Tim’s business experience and commitment to public service is what we need in Washington, Gianforte wrote. Sheehy, a Republican, is hoping to unseat Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. Montana is considered key to the GOP’s hopes of retaking the Senate, and several Republican senators are backing Sheehy. But Rep. Matt Rosendale, who lost to Tester in 2018, is also considering a run.

Pelosi enters #AZ-SEN: Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is headlining a virtual reception for Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego’s run for the Senate seat held by incumbent Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema has not yet announced 2024 plans, so Pelosi getting involved is significant, as NBC News reports.

Other Democratic endorsements: EMILY’s List endorsed former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen in New York’s 4th District, where she’s hoping for a rematch with GOP Rep. Anthony D’Esposito. The group also backed Liz Whitmer Gereghty, the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in New York’s 17th District. The LGBTQ+ Victory Fund is supporting Will Rollins in California’s 41st District, where he is hoping to unseat Republican Rep. Ken Calvert in a rematch.

What we’re reading

Abortion arguments: While Democrats are optimistic that abortion will be a top issue in next year’s elections, Politico reports that vulnerable Republicans say they are prepared to counter the attacks. 

Absent: South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott’s absences on the Senate floor as he campaigns for the GOP nomination for president meant he missed four recent votes on judicial nominees when Vice President Kamala Harris would have otherwise been needed a break a tie, Axios reports. A spokesperson for the campaign said Scott wasn’t the deciding vote on any recent nominees.

In New Jersey?: The Philadelphia Inquirer has new reporting on longtime South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross, who appears to be under investigation by both the New Jersey attorney general’s office and the FBI over real estate dealings in Camden. Norcross’ brother Donald represents the 1st District in the House.

Covering RFK: Vanity Fair looks at the challenges of covering Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who participated in a televised town hall Wednesday night hosted by NewsNation. Other outlets are taking a more cautious approach: The Democratic presidential candidate’s penchant for embracing baseless conspiracy theories about the safety of vaccines is partly why CNN’s Jake Tapper won’t host a town hall with him.

Registration questions: Celeste Maloy won the backing of Republican delegates at a convention to select the party’s nominee to fill the soon to be vacant 2nd District seat in Utah. But when Maloy filed her candidacy, her voter registration was not current — she had been living in Virginia while she worked for outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Maloy didn’t update her registration to vote in Utah until the day after the filing deadline for the special election. Some Republicans are angry, and at least one is considering a lawsuit.

The count: $70

That’s how much more, per capita, residents of states that went for Donald Trump in 2020 will be getting vs. states that went for Joe Biden from the allocation of nearly $42 billion in federal funding for high-speed internet access. The grant money, approved in a 2021 infrastructure law, is aimed at reaching rural and rugged areas, which helps explain why Alaska is slated to get $1,387 per capita, compared with the national average of $123. Of the 10 states getting the most per capita, only Vermont and New Mexico gave Biden their electoral votes. “I promised to be a president for all Americans, whether or not they voted for me or whether or not they voted for these laws,” Biden said in a story by CQ Roll Call’s Valerie Yurk. “These investments will help all Americans. We’re not gonna leave anyone behind.”

Nathan’s notes

Evangelical voters are solidly Republican, but they are not a bigger group than Black, Latino and union voters combined as Faith & Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed said they were over the weekend, Nathan writes.

Key race: OR-05

Three Democrats have already launched bids to unseat freshman Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, and a fourth is pondering a rematch.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner told the Oregon Capital Chronicle she will decide whether to run again in early July. The progressive Democrat lost to Chavez-DeRemer by about 2 percentage points in 2022 after defeating incumbent Democrat Kurt Schrader.

Democrats Kevin Easton, a state worker; Lynn Peterson, who leads the greater Portland Metro Council; and state Rep. Janelle Bynum and have all announced their campaigns.

McLeod-Skinner released a poll this week showing her crushing Easton, Bynum and Peterson. 

Republicans seem eager for a rematch with McLeod-Skinner. “Jamie McLeod-Skinner is … so toxic that national Democrats abandoned her race last October, while Democrat strategists admitted McLeod-Skinner was too liberal and extreme to win,” Courtney Parella, communications director for the Congressional Leadership Fund, said in a statement. 

Chavez-DeRemer raised about $635,000 in the first three months of 2023.

But Democrats view Chavez-DeRemer as a top target for 2024. The former Happy Valley mayor flipped a redrawn battlefield district in Oregon that stretches from the Portland suburbs to rural areas in the southern and eastern parts of the state. President Joe Biden carried the district by nearly 9 points.

Inside Elections rates the race a Toss-up.

Coming up

Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin has set a Fourth of July deadline to decide which of the two speeches he told NPR he’s written he will deliver. In one, he says he’s running again for his 8th District seat; in the other, he’s jumping into the race for Senate, which already features Democratic 6th District Rep. David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Raskin is scheduled to be the grand marshal of his hometown Fourth of July parade in Takoma Park.

Photo finish

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