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At the Races: How to deny opponents airtime

The timing of Tuesday’s indictment of former President Donald Trump on charges related to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election probably could not have been better for either President Joe Biden or members of Congress.

The House and Senate had just left for August recess — meaning members, except for those drafted to preside over brief pro forma sessions, can largely avoid unfriendly media outlets. As for Biden, he’s in Rehoboth Beach, Del., where highlights of the week include a movie date to watch “Oppenheimer” followed by a walk on the beach, according to pool reports.

Still, the latest news about Trump, who is scheduled to appear in a Washington, D.C., courtroom this afternoon, will likely take the oxygen out of whatever messaging members of Congress and their challengers would like to be talking about in the coming weeks. And the same can be said for the GOP presidential hopefuls, including former Vice President Mike Pence, whose personal notes were cited by special counsel John L. “Jack” Smith in the indictment as evidence against Trump.

“The president asked me, and his gaggle of crackpot lawyers asked me, to literally reject votes, which would have resulted in the issue being turned over to the House of Representatives, and literally chaos would have ensued,” Pence said in a Wednesday Fox News Channel interview.

On Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee circulated a list of a handful of Republican incumbents in competitive districts for 2024 who they argue had a particular connection to the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. That list includes Ken Calvert and Mike Garcia of California, Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin, Scott Perry of  Pennsylvania and Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

Starting gate

McConnell mistrust: Last cycle, Sam Brown was an outsider in the Nevada Senate race who didn’t think much of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Now, Brown is the favorite of the national GOP.

Education edge: A new poll by a Democratic group that supports charter schools suggests the party is losing its edge with voters on education issues. Voters in four battleground states trust Republicans more than Democrats to ensure that schools prepare students for success, the survey found.

Issue 1: Democratic Rep. Greg Landsman said he expects Ohio voters to next week reject an effort to, among other things, raise the threshold amending the state’s constitution by referendum by requiring 60 percent approval from voters. The change, if approved, could have repercussions for a referendum set in November that would codify the right to abortion in the state. 


Endorsement watch: Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorsed a slate of Democratic senators up for reelection, including Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, Nevada’s Jacky Rosen and Montana’s Jon Tester. EMILY’s List endorsed Michelle Vallejo in Texas’ 15th District and Sarah McBride for Delaware’s at-large House seat. The NewDem Action Fund endorsed Sabrina Matos in the special election for Rhode Island’s 1st District. 

Bishop eyes AG: North Carolina Republican Rep. Dan Bishop effectively confirmed he intends to run for North Carolina attorney general, telling WBT radio a formal announcement was planned for Friday. He said a friend recently told him that he has “an executive personality” and “that has been the challenge in Congress.”

Not running: Wisconsin Rep. Tom Tiffany won’t run for Senate, he announced this week. Republicans still considering challenges to Baldwin include businessman Eric Hovde, who lost a 2012 Senate primary, businessman Scott Mayer and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. 

Houston showdown: Seats in the House and in the Texas Legislature that haven’t been vacant since the 1980s could be open next year, depending on how this year’s race for mayor of Houston goes. That’s the opening The Texas Tribune takes in a look at the race between Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state Sen. John Whitmire.

Dem messaging: House Majority PAC, a super PAC with ties to Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, is urging Democrats to focus on the economy this August. “Economic contrast research projects conducted by HMP have shown repeatedly that Democrats dramatically improved their position when they went on offense to talk about the economy,” a memo released by the group says. “Go on offense, and build the contrast with the MAGA House Republicans immediately.”

#MDSEN: Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando has a new super PAC supporting him: the Maryland Democratic Action Network.

DSCC Medicare ads: The DSCC celebrated Sunday’s anniversary of Medicare becoming law with new ads on Meta’s social media platforms targeting Republicans, including Sens. Rick Scott in Florida and Ted Cruz in Texas.

Delta dollars: The Democratic Governors Association says it will put $750,000 into this year’s race in Mississippi, where Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley is looking to unseat Gov. Tate Reeves, a race Inside Elections rates as Likely Republican.

Primary watch: Another Democrat is running against Boebert in Colorado’s 3rd District. Anna Stout, the mayor of Grand Junction, launched her campaign this week, setting up a potential primary with fellow Democrat Adam Frisch, who came within 546 votes of ousting Boebert in 2022.

Sentencing in Georgia threat case: Jessica Diane Higginbotham was sentenced to a year and a half in prison for sending a threat to a DSCC staffer about intending to bomb a coordinated campaign office in Georgia ahead of the arrival of Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in December’s runoff election. “Higginbotham’s threat, although a hoax, diverted precious law enforcement resources and wasted taxpayer dollars, and for that she will be held accountable by spending time behind bars,” said Robert Gibbs, the FBI supervisory senior resident agent out of Macon, Ga.

#PA07: A Republican primary contest to challenge Democratic Rep. Susan Wild in Pennsylvania’s 7th District is taking shape. Maria Montero, an attorney and former executive director of both the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and the Pennsylvania Latino Commission, recently announced her campaign. State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie and 2022 candidate Kevin Dellicker are both also running. 

Manchin beats Schumer: In the fiscal 2024 bills approved last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III earmarked $165.8 million worth of spending, placing him just ahead of Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s $160.7 million in a ranking by CQ Roll Call’s Herb Jackson and Peter Cohn. No. 1 on the list was Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, with $465 million.

Teammate #1: After he joined Biden on a trip to Maine last week,Rep. Jared Golden spoke with NBC News about his opposition to some of Biden’s priorities as a Democrat in a district Trump won. In the takeaway quote, Golden praised the efforts the White House has made to not get dragged into Washington drama. “There are all kinds of weird people down there engaging in very strange debates that have very little to do with what people’s daily lives look like. … I think the president gets that,” Golden said.

Teammate #2: Meanwhile, Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips is meeting with donors, The Messenger reports, about possibly challenging Biden for the Democratic nomination. The main reason seems to be the incumbent’s advanced age. The news did not go down well in the Gopher State, MinnPost reports, with one lobbyist saying Phillips “doesn’t have the kind of draw he thinks he has.”

What we’re reading

House GOP: Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack, a self-described “institution guy,” says he is planning to run for reelection. But he told The Washington Post’s Paul Kane that the dysfunction within his party is “so unpleasant” and suggested he could consider retirement. Another longtime House Republican, Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, said lots of people are frustrated with the House and that “right now” he’s running again next year.

New rules: The California Republican Party altered its rules for allocating delegates in the state’s presidential primary, a change pushed by Trump supporters. The move could discourage other GOP candidates from campaigning in the Golden State, the Los Angeles Times reports.

History lesson: Capital B examines the long history of white resistance to Black political leadership in Alabama following the refusal of Republican leaders to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court order to redraw the congressional map to include two Black-majority districts. 

New Jersey stands alone: Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek won’t veto a bill that would allow motorists to pump their own gas. The measure, approved by state lawmakers earlier this year, would let gas stations offer self-serve on up to half their pumps, according to The Oregon Capital Chronicle. Once the measure takes effect, New Jersey will become the only state barring self-serve pumps.

Best of frenemies: The New York Times looks at the fraught relationship between Montana’s two senators: Republican Steve Daines, the NRSC chairman, and Democrat Jon Tester, whose seat is one of the GOP’s top targets this year.

Lunch bunch: Former President Barack Obama warned Biden of Trump’s political strengths during a recent White House lunch, The Washington Post reports. Obama also “promised to do all he could to help the president get reelected.” 

The count: $5.2 million

That’s how much, combined, was sitting in PACs controlled by former Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois on June 30, according to FEC filings this week. The two Republicans may have doomed their careers by voting for Trump’s impeachment and serving on the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, but they also saw a spike in contributions to campaign accounts that have now been converted into PACs. Cheney, who lost to Trump-backed Republican Harriet Hageman in November, called her PAC The Great Task, and it had $3.2 million on hand after taking in $263,000 this year. She’s spent $676,000, including $32,000 on an ad attacking Trump in New Hampshire. Kinzinger, who decided not to run for reelection, has a committee called Country First that took in $224,000 in contributions and transferred $2 million from his previous campaign account. There was $1.9 million on hand on June 30, and one notable spending item was a $5,000 contribution to Chris Christie’s presidential campaign.

Nathan’s notes

Nathan L. Gonzales is taking a break this week, but before he left, his team at Inside Elections released detailed race ratings for the Senate seats up in 2024. A key highlight, as Niels writes, was West Virginia landing in the Tilt Republican category even if Democratic Manchin runs.

Shop talk: Salena Jegede

Jegede is chief of donor advising for Way to Win, a collective of Democratic donors and political strategists building a multiracial coalition at all levels of government. She previously worked as chief advancement officer for the Sierra Club and was national finance director for Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

Starting out: Jegede has always loved politics. “I was one of those weird little kids that watched the news,” she said. After graduating from college, she spent 10 years in education but changed careers after a friend suggested fundraising. “I never had a problem asking for money. … I know money makes the world go ’round,” she said. “Not a lot of people feel comfortable talking about it, let alone asking for it, but I did.” 

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Jegede, who grew up in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, was in elementary school when her dad took her to a union protest outside the state Capitol in Sacramento. Even as a child, Jegede was puzzled: “I didn’t really understand why we were outside protesting when the people who were making the decisions were inside,” she recalled. “That always stuck with me.” The experience prompted her to get a copy of the state constitution so she could learn how state government worked. It also helped her understand that advocacy and protest are as essential to democracy as legislating, “that having an outside game is just as important as having an inside game … to effect real change,” she said. “You need to have both.”

Biggest campaign regret: “I try not to live with regret, but if there was something I would have done differently, it would have been to enjoy it more,” she said. Working on the Abrams campaign, she met Kamala Harris and Barack Obama, among other national political figures. “I had so many cool experiences … but I was just a ball of nerves the whole time, wanting everything to go perfectly well.” She’s since come to understand that “not everything is going to go exactly as planned. All you can do is try your best.”

Unconventional wisdom: “Be kind to everyone,” Jegede said. “Relationships can get really transactional in politics, particularly in the fundraising space. But prioritize building relationships with people, and [treat] everyone with respect.

“We should all be in this together, to make the world a better place,” she said. “I know that sounds Pollyanna-ish, but that’s really what it is. It’s not just about career advancement, it’s about how you can help other people.”

Coming up

Saudi-backed LIV Golf heads to the The Old White Golf Course at The Greenbrier, the resort of West Virginia Republican governor and Senate candidate Jim Justice. The golf league and its pending merger with the PGA Tour has faced considerable scrutiny on Capitol Hill. The tournament runs Friday through Sunday.

Photo finish

A Big Bus Tours tour bus, with an advertisement for a stress relief supplement, drives past the Hall of States building on North Capitol Street in Washington on July 26, a day before both chambers left town for an extended recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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