Skip to content

At the Races: Beyond the Beltway, voters voted

Democrats had cause for optimism from the results of two contested special elections for state legislative seats Tuesday. In New Hampshire, Democrats flipped a state House seat and pulled just a little bit closer to taking a narrow majority.

The Democratic National Committee highlighted that result Wednesday, arguing it “builds on a consistent pattern of Democratic candidates outperforming partisan leans in 2023 special elections following the historic 2022 midterm performance by Democrats.”

Hal Rafter, a Democrat, came out ahead of Republican James Guzofski, as WMUR reports.

The other Democratic victory in a special election for a legislative seat Tuesday came in Western Pennsylvania, where the Allegheny County win was no surprise. It breaks a tie in control of the state House in Harrisburg, with Democrats retaining control, as The Associated Press reports.

Lindsay Powell, whose résumé includes time working for both Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, fills a vacancy created when a fellow Democrat stepped aside to run for county executive.

Projecting results of individual state races onto the congressional map is challenging, but the overperformance by Democrats appears to be an ongoing trend. The big data points will come in November, including in a gubernatorial contest in Kentucky and state legislative races in New Jersey and Virginia.

There’s no shortage of potential exigent factors that could affect the outcome even of the 2023 off-year elections, especially if the autoworkers strike drags on and there is an extended government shutdown.

And, as our friend Stu Rothenberg reminds readers this week in a cautionary tale about early polling, the 2024 presidential election isn’t until, well, 2024.

“Pollsters always warn that polls are a snapshot of things at a moment in time. They aren’t necessarily predictive because events will have an impact on what people think and how voters plan to behave,” Rothenberg writes. “You wouldn’t know that from the way most in the media treat polling about the 2024 presidential contest.”

Starting gate

Retiring: Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton announced she won’t seek reelection after doctors said she has progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder that was initially diagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. The field to fill the 10th District seat could become more clear after the commonwealth’s legislative elections in November.

Cisneros comeback? Gil Cisneros, a Navy veteran from California who served one term in the House, is aiming for a political comeback. He’s one of several Democrats vying to replace retiring Rep. Grace F. Napolitano in the 31st District. 

Spotlight on the FEC: The agency charged with enforcing federal campaign finance laws came before a congressional committee for the first time in more than a decade this week amid calls to ramp up oversight, improve transparency and modernize technology as more money flows into politics than ever before. 

Shutdown politics: Some of the 18 House Republicans who represent districts Joe Biden won in 2020 pushed back on conservative hard-liners who halted work on a defense appropriations bill earlier this week and said they were working to avoid a partial government shutdown.

Get ready to vote: To mark National Voter Registration Day, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Pennsylvania, where Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro announced a new policy that would automatically register voters when they get driver’s licenses and state IDs. Some critics of the policy said it could increase participation of ineligible voters.

ICYMI

Well, it is fashion month: Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman is once again getting attention for his sartorial choices, but the freshman said people needn’t freak out about changes to the Senate dress code this week. Meanwhile, Fetterman said he’d wear a suit on the Senate floor next week “if those jagoffs in the House stop trying to shut our government down, and fully support Ukraine.” On Wednesday he dressed down to preside over the chamber.

On their minds: The potential for court-ordered redistricting means House seats in Georgia suburbs once seen as Republican bastions are drawing early Democratic challengers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

#NJSen: Mendham Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner launched a campaign for Senate in New Jersey as a Republican. She aims to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who is the subject of investigations including, as WNBC reports, whether he and his wife improperly received gold bars worth thousands of dollars from a bank executive. 

Courting Steele: Republicans in Connecticut and Washington are eyeing former ESPN broadcaster Sage Steele as a potential candidate to run against Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes, political observer Kevin Rennie reports in his Daily Ructions blog. Steele left the Connecticut-based sports network after a highly publicized dispute over the company’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. Republican George Logan, who narrowly lost to Hayes in 2022, is considering another run for the seat. 

Collective support: Texas Democrat Amanda Edwards picked up the endorsement of The Collective PAC, which is dedicated to increasing Black political power. Edwards, an attorney and former member of the Houston City Council, is running in the 18th District, where incumbent Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is a candidate for mayor of Houston and also was endorsed by The Collective PAC.

Growing crowd in TX-32: State Rep. Rhetta Bowers is joining the increasingly crowded field of Democrats seeking the Dallas-area House seat currently held by Rep. Colin Allred. Her entry into the race this week represents a reversal from her earlier statement that she would not run. She joins at least eight other Democrats, including fellow Texas legislator Julie Johnson and trauma surgeon Brian Williams. Allred is running for Senate against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Weary voters: A new Pew Research Center poll paints a grim picture of American political views: Just 4 percent of adults said the political system is working extremely or very well, and nearly 3 in 10 expressed unfavorable views of both parties. Meanwhile, 65 percent said they always or often feel exhausted when thinking about politics. 

Crime polling: Democratic candidates can benefit from talking about crime in a comprehensive context, according to newly released message-testing polling from GQR and Vera Action. “The benefit of talking about crime and safety is clear, the groups write in a polling memo. “At the beginning of the survey, voters say Republicans are better at handling crime issues than Democrats on all aspects of crime, except in dealing with guns.”

What we’re reading

How it’s playing at home: A Los Angeles Times columnist traveled to Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s district in Central California to find out what voters think about impeaching President Joe Biden. Unsurprisingly, many denizens of the deep-red district back the impeachment inquiry. But interviews with McCarthy’s constituents suggest that support isn’t rooted in specific, and unproven, allegations of corruption but rather a general sense that the country is on the wrong track.

The complexities of Katie Porter: The Washington Post profiles Rep. Katie Porter, the California Democrat running for Senate. From her famous whiteboard and her penchant for going viral to her struggles as a single mom and allegations that her office is a toxic workplace, the story examines the life and career of the Iowa native and Harvard grad whose “real person” persona has drawn both praise and criticism. 

Eyeing the exits: One thing that unites some of the GOP hard-liners who are causing headaches for McCarthy this week: They’re either running or interested in running for other offices, Politico notes. 

The Taylor effect: Taylor Swift’s Instagram story urging people to register to vote this week helped the website Vote.org to register more than 35,000 new voters, Axios reports.

The count: 86 percent

That’s how much contributions increased for Republican chairs of House committees during the first six months of this year compared with two years ago, when they were in the minority, Bloomberg’s Kate Ackley reports. The only member of the group who didn’t raise more than he did in 2021 was Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Nathan’s notes

Ratings on 10 House races have changed, with seven of them moving toward the Democrats, but the 2024 battleground remains very competitive, Nathan L. Gonzales writes.

Key race: Pennsylvania Senate

Pennsylvania’s Senate race is set to pick up tonight, when David McCormick is expected to launch his campaign to challenge Sen. Bob Casey.

McCormick narrowly lost a Republican Senate primary last year to Mehmet Oz but has long signaled that he was considering running again. His official launch will move the campaign into a new phase, but both parties have already shown how they’ll attack their opponents. 

Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party launched a digital ad on Thursday criticizing McCormick for his ties to China and arguing that he lives in Connecticut, while his team has argued his home is in Pennsylvania although he also has a house in the Nutmeg State. Meanwhile, Republicans have so far sought to suggest that Casey, who is in his third term, and his family are cashing in on his political connections.   

Inside Elections rates the race as Tilt Democratic. The commonwealth is likely to be one of the main political battlefields in next year’s presidential race, in addition to hosting a competitive Senate race and likely some tight House races. 

A National Public Affairs poll of 622 likely voters conducted between Sept. 14 and 17 found that Casey trailed a generic Republican 41 percent to 39 percent, with 20 percent undecided.

Crucially for Republicans, it seems McCormick may avoid a bruising primary like the one Oz had last year. Doug Mastriano, the state’s 2022 Republican gubernatorial nominee who previously said he won’t run for Senate next year, said he thinks McCormick can win if the party unifies. He said he is “not going to be part of the problem,” suggesting he planned to support McCormick’s candidacy. 

“It’s time to unify,” he said on Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks. “Let’s get lazy Bob Casey out of office and put Dave McCormick in.”

A former hedge fund executive, McCormick loaned his campaign $14 million during his 2022 campaign. Casey had $6 million on hand at the end of June.

Coming up

Fox Business Network and Univision will carry the second Republican presidential debate from Simi Valley, Calif., on Wednesday. But front-runner Donald Trump will once again skip the show, as he plans to make a speech to autoworkers and members of other unions in Detroit instead.

Photo finish

If you’re wondering, here’s what Fetterman looked like in a suit on May 2. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Subscribe now using this link so you don’t miss out on the best news and analysis from our team.

Recent Stories

Security fence to go up at Capitol for State of the Union

California has no shortage of key House races on Tuesday

Alabama, Arkansas races to watch on Super Tuesday

Over the Hill — Congressional Hits and Misses

House GOP reverses course on Jan. 6 footage, will no longer blur faces

Three questions North Carolina primaries may answer