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At the Races: It was so nice, they’re running twice

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call campaign team. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

The Fourth of July brought the usual hot dogs and fireworks. For Tony Vargas and Mondaire Jones, it also meant a return to the campaign trail. 

Vargas and Jones both announced Wednesday that they would once again run for Congress. Jones, who was elected to one term in 2020, is running for his old seat in New York’s 17th District, after redistricting fallout led him to run in a separate district and Republican Rep. Mike Lawler flipped the seat, helping Republicans win control of the House. 

Vargas is running for Nebraska’s 2nd District, seeking for the second cycle in a row to oust GOP Rep. Don Bacon, who’s been a fixture on our most vulnerable lists for years but has continued to win the competitive seat in the Omaha area. The NewDem Action Fund and BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, both endorsed Vargas. 

More candidates are expected to declare they’re running this summer, and several could also be running for a second time. Last year’s elections included several rematches, but only one instance in which a challenger won against an incumbent they’d previously faced: Republican Rep. Thomas H. Kean Jr. won his second run at Democrat Tom Malinowski after redistricting made New Jersey’s 7th District more favorable to Republicans. 

In Nevada, former Army Capt. Sam Brown has a “special announcement” scheduled for Monday in the Reno-Sparks area. The Purple Heart recipient lost a GOP primary for Senate last year but has become the preferred choice of national Republicans to challenge Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen next year. 

Other Senate incumbents in swing states could also gain clarity as to who their potential challengers are this summer. In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, there’s so far been more news about who’s not running than who is. 

A leadership PAC supporting David McCormick, who lost a Senate primary in Pennsylvania last year, raised over $1 million, most of which came from one donor, between May 2 and June 5, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. That comes as McCormick is weighing another run to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.

Starting gate

Fired up?: Groups that train women to run for office saw a surge of interest after the precedent establishing a national right to abortion was overturned, but so far, that hasn’t translated into more actual candidates, CQ Roll Call’s Jim Saksa reports.

Plan B: After the Supreme Court’s rejection of President Joe Biden’s student loan relief proposal, the president offered a new approach. Biden and his Democratic allies blame Republicans — including the state officials who brought a lawsuit challenging his legal authority to waive the debt, members of Congress who supported legislation undermining the plan and the GOP-appointed justices on the Supreme Court — for the failure of his initial effort. On Thursday, Politico reported that a group of student loan debt relief advocates launched a digital campaign targeting House Republicans from battleground districts.

Beyond that ruling: Overall, the court dominated by Republican nominees continued its conservative push in the term that just ended, with a big exception for dealing with the Voting Rights Act and an attempt to give state legislatures unchecked power over federal elections, CQ Roll Call’s Michael Macagnone reports

Irregular order: The fiscal year doesn’t end until Sept. 30, but House Republicans, in a sign they may recognize a shutdown could hurt them politically, are discussing bringing up a short-term budget extension this month, CQ Roll Call’s Paul M. Krawzak and David Lerman report. Meanwhile, Aidan Quigley and Peter Cohn look at how the opposing House and Senate majorities are treating minority members when parceling out earmarks.


Endorsement watch: Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke endorsed Tim Sheehy for Senate. His GOP House colleague, Rep. Matt Rosendale, is also considering a run for the nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. Elect Democratic Women, a PAC formed by Democratic women in the House, endorsed Kirsten Engel in Arizona’s 6th District, Laura Friedman in California’s 30th, Liz Whitmer Gereghty in New York’s 17th, Michelle Vallejo in Texas’ 15th and Joanna Weiss in California’s 47th. The 60 Plus Association endorsed GOP Sen. Rick Scott’s reelection in Florida.

#OH-SEN: Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown led three potential Republican challengers, but they all were within the 4-point margin of error in an East Carolina University poll taken June 21 to 24. State Sen. Matt Dolan came closest, trailing Brown 45 percent to 44 percent. Brown led Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose 44 percent to 42 percent and businessman Bernie Moreno 46 percent to 42 percent, the poll of 805 registered voters found.

Primary woes: Biden’s in South Carolina today, where he’s touting new investments in manufacturing. The Palmetto State also happens to be what the Democratic National Committee says is the home of the party’s first 2024 primary. As The Associated Press reported this week, changing up the calendar has been far from easy, however.

Allred radio: Texas Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Collin Allred was on our friend Julie Mason’s radio program recently to talk about why he thinks Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz actually will be vulnerable in 2024. Allred raised $6.2 million in the two months since he kicked off his campaign, according to The Texas Tribune.

One more?: Add New Mexico, where Democrats hold all three House seats, to the states that might get new congressional maps in 2024. The state Supreme Court issued guidance on Wednesday for dealing with a Republican lawsuit arguing the current map is a partisan gerrymander. The court set an Oct. 1 deadline for the case to be resolved, The Associated Press reports.

Moderate moves: Freshman Republicans from swing districts have asked the NRCC not to use any money they’ve raised to support the campaigns of far-right colleagues, The Washington Post reports

Primaried: In Illinois, Darren Bailey, a former Republican state senator who lost a bid for governor last year, filed paperwork to run against GOP Rep. Mike Bost in the 12th District.

What we’re reading

#MISEN: Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin has had Michigan’s Senate race mostly to herself so far this year, but that could change in the coming weeks. Actor Hill Harper could enter the race as soon as this month as a Democrat and potential Republican candidates are also weighing runs, Time reports

A conflict of interest in Big Sky Country?: Sheehy, a Republican running to unseat Tester, is facing questions about his role as CEO of an aerospace company that gets most of its money from the federal government. Sheehy’s spokeswoman told Bloomberg that, if elected, he would step down from the company and comply with Senate ethics rules. But a watchdog group says receiving funds from government contracts poses a conflict of interest.

Who isn’t running for Rhode Island’s open House seat? The race to fill the vacancy created when Rep. David Cicilline stepped down in June now includes 35 candidates. The Providence Journal looks at why so many have jumped in. Not all will make the ballot: Candidates must collect 500 signatures by July 14 to qualify for party primaries, which will be held on Sept. 5. 

If they could turn back time: Gen X presidential candidates Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis have built their presidential campaigns on their (relative) youth, drawing contrasts with former President Donald Trump and Biden. But Haley and DeSantis have embraced surprisingly stodgy messages built upon “good-ol’-days mythology,” according to an opinion piece in Washington Monthly. “[T]he Republican Party is increasingly defined by dismay over cultural and demographic change, which is leading to aging in its ranks and is surely compelling DeSantis and Haley to idealize the past,” the piece states.

NC changes: Legislators in North Carolina are set to redraw the state’s congressional maps to advantage Republicans and are also considering legislation that would change how elections there are run, The New York Times reports. Republicans now have veto-proof majorities in the state legislature, despite Democrat Roy Cooper holding the governor’s office. 

It’s good to be mayor: Miami Mayor Francisco Suarez saw his personal wealth jump fivefold during his first term. The Miami Herald digs into the details of the mayor’s lucrative outside employment. Suarez is seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

The count: 11 points

That’s the margin, 50 percent to 39 percent, by which voters who “somewhat disapprove” of the job Biden is doing still said they would vote for him over Trump, according to a national NBC News poll released June 25. Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin flagged the finding and notes that in the 2022 midterms, Democrats won voters who “somewhat” disapproved of Biden by 4 points (while they won those who “somewhat” disapproved of Trump by 29 points). All of which reinforces the take Amy Walter at The Cook Political Report had in May about the real challenge for Biden: holding on to voters who feel “meh” about him.

Nathan’s notes

A holiday recess means a trip down memory lane. Eight years ago this week, here’s how Nathan saw the top 2016 races shaping up in the West, in mountain states, the Midwest, the Plains, the Southwest, in New England, the Mid-Atlantic region and the South.

Shop talk: Lisa Turner

Turner is the executive director of LPAC, which supports LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary candidates running for political office at all levels of government. She previously worked as a political appointee in the Obama administration and as a campaign consultant and donor adviser.

Starting out: Turner’s career in politics began in the early 1990s, when she volunteered for a state delegate race in Virginia. After graduating from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., she returned to her home state of Michigan and worked for Democrats in the state Senate, including current U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow. In 1995, Turner came to Washington to help launch the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Turner says her experience as a strategic adviser to philanthropist Jon Stryker shaped her perspective about the role progressive donors can play to influence the political landscape. “Working with a billionaire changed my life in terms of how I think of opportunities,” she said. Stryker, whose grandfather founded a medical technology company, is a major donor to LGBTQ causes. 

Biggest campaign regret: A mistake early in Turner’s political career offered a valuable lesson. She was managing a state Senate race in Michigan and had hired some canvassers to collect the signatures of people seeking absentee ballots. Unbeknownst to her, one of the canvassers was submitting the signatures of names they had found on gravestones at a local cemetery. “Under Michigan law, it was illegal to get dead people to sign petitions for absentee ballots,” she said. Her candidate lost the race, but she gained a key insight: “When you’re [running a campaign], sometimes things move very fast,” she said. “I was trying to do quality control, but I learned at that very early point in my career how important it is to have oversight of your team and the people that are doing the work. It was a very sobering moment.”

Unconventional wisdom: “One thing that I’ve learned after all this time is that the playing field is still not equal,” she said. “There are still inequities for women, LGBTQ women and people of color when it comes to entering the political [arena].” To address those inequities, Turner counsels against complacency. “I’ve seen too many times that when you have electoral gains, when you win the White House or win majorities in a statehouse or in Congress, you take your foot off the gas. In fact, you should be doing just the opposite. You have to press harder, you have to do more. You cannot sit on your laurels and expect things to continue the way they were. … It’s time to double down.”

Coming up

A team of reporters and editors will be taking on members of Congress in the annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game on Wednesday night at the Watkins Recreation Center on Capitol Hill. Proceeds from the $10 tickets go to a nonprofit that supports young adults with breast cancer. Rookies on the congressional team are Democrats Becca Balint of Vermont, Nikki Budzinski of Illinois, Jasmine Crockett of Texas, Mary Peltola of Alaska, Brittany Petterson of Colorado and Hillary Scholten of Michigan, as well as Republicans Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon and Jen Kiggans of Virginia, according to rosters released by organizers. Congressional captains are Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla.; Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. The press team, dubbed the Bad News Babes, will be captained by Gretchen Frazee of PBS NewsHour and Emily Goodin of the Daily Mail. The game’s first ever home run was hit by At the Races alumna Bridget Bowman back in 2018.

Photo finish

As a strike looms at UPS, House members might be able to offer some advice. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., delivered packages in July 2019 as part of her Sharice’s Shift outreach program. Two years earlier, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. — who called his stints “Josh on the Job” — also donned a brown shirt, shorts and cap. (Stephanie Akin/CQ Roll Call)

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