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At the Races: Gerrywhatnow?

When the New York Court of Appeals — which, yes, is the highest court in the state — ordered that new congressional maps be drawn up in time for the 2024 elections, Democrats secured a victory that they hope will at least offset Republican gains in North Carolina.

New York Democrats now have the opportunity to try to make seats more favorable for them, although the law still formally prohibits partisan gerrymandering. Nonetheless, with so many competitive seats across the state, trimming a few GOP votes here and adding a few Democrats there could make a big difference.

Michael Macagnone has Roll Call’s full coverage of the legal battles over redistricting, including in New York. While a commission will seek to draw new maps in accordance with the court order, the Democrat-controlled Legislature wields the ultimate power.

North Carolina’s new maps set off a wave of retirements. Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel joined that party on Thursday morning, announcing a 2026 Senate campaign instead.

An early look at the upcoming Empire State redistricting process from The New York Times suggests Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis could emerge relatively unscathed in her Staten Island-based district, citing the outcry that followed the Democratic Legislature’s previous redistricting attempt when it appeared Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood would be put in the same district.

Republicans in Westchester County and points north and west may have more trouble. GOP Rep. Mike Lawler, whose district could be reconfigured to benefit Democrats, responded to the court in a House floor speech Tuesday, saying, “It is pathetic, it is shameful, and it serves only one person, the leader of the Democratic conference. He should be embarrassed.”

It’s a speech that could have been given by Nickel or fellow Tar Heel Democrat Kathy Manning, who announced her retirement last week, about the Republican map in North Carolina. In announcing his decision Thursday, Nickel said the GOP “rigged the system to favor themselves.”

But Lawler was referring to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who hails from Brooklyn. Jeffries praised the court decision, saying that “the current Congressional district lines drawn by an unelected, out-of-town Special Master undercut the will of New York voters in the 2022 midterm election.”

They also undercut his chances of becoming speaker.

Starting gate

Western rails: President Joe Biden’s stop in Las Vegas last week to announce $3 billion in new rail funding to connect the city with Southern California has generated fodder for the state’s key 2024 Senate contest. Republican candidate Sam Brown said the project should have been offered as a loan rather than a grant, and he said in a statement, “This $3 billion should have gone to: securing the borders; delivering school choice for parents; enhancing public safety; or supporting veterans and military families.” That led Nevada Democrats to point out that Brown’s stance is not in line with other Republicans, including Gov. Joe Lombardo. Valerie Yurk covered the rail announcements for Roll Call.

Pile on the (university) president: The House on Wednesday approved a resolution condemning antisemitism on college campuses and calling for the resignation of the presidents of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The move came in response to a Dec. 5 hearing in which the leaders were asked whether calls for the genocide of Jews would violate their institutions’ policies against bullying and harassment. Their carefully worded responses, couched in legalistic language that attempted to distinguish between speech and action, drew swift condemnation across the political spectrum, including from the White House.

Open seats: Senate vacancies can be filled by governors through appointment, but a patchwork of state laws governs how quickly special elections are held for House openings. That has some members asking if states are able to deal with “continuity of government” if a mass casualty event strikes Congress.

Showdown in Texas: The stage is set for a competitive Democratic primary in Texas after Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee lost her bid to become Houston’s mayor and then filed for reelection to the House. Houston attorney Amanda Edwards, who was once Jackson Lee’s intern, had kicked off her campaign for the House seat in June and will remain in the race. But a second Democratic challenger, aerospace consultant Isaiah Martin, dropped out and endorsed Jackson Lee.

#GA03 opening: As the House’s last voting session of the year drew to a close Thursday, Republican Rep. Drew Ferguson says he won’t be running again next year, Jim Saksa reports

ICYMI

Pilip gets GOP nod: Both Newsday and The New York Times report that Long Island Republicans are backing Mazi Melesa Pilip, a local Nassau County legislator without a significant political track record, as their candidate to take on former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi in the special election to replace the ousted George Santos. Newsday cited former Rep. Peter T. King, ahead of a formal announcement.

FEC fine authority: Congress acted to extend for 10 years the FEC’s Administrative Fine Program, which was set to expire on Dec. 31. The program lets the commission impose civil fines for late and missing campaign finance reports, which Allison Schoeppner at CQ’s House Action Reports says has led to a significant decrease in the number of late reports, according to the House Administration Committee.

Supporting Rosen: BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is endorsing Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada. Rosen “understands the importance and power of Latino voters — and she’s been a champion for Nevada’s Latino community throughout her time in the Senate,” BOLD PAC’s chair, Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., said in an announcement shared first with At the Races. 

Texas roundup: Texas will have some competitive House primaries — along with the challenge facing Jackson Lee cited above, there are 10 people running for the GOP nomination in the district where Republican Rep. Michael C. Burgess is retiring — but The Dallas Morning News reports 16 incumbents have no primary opponent and five of them have no opponent in the opposite party either. For nearly all incumbents, “Once they nab the nomination, victory is all but assured because districts are drawn to heavily favor one party or the other.”

#TX07: He was the darling of progressives, who lauded his rejection of PAC money and his support for Palestinians. But Pervez Agwan, who has launched a bid to unseat Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, a fellow Texas Democrat, faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment, including a lawsuit. The New Republic spoke to former staffers, who said the campaign’s hostile work environment led to the mass resignation of 11 people, including almost all women on staff. Agwan’s press liaison told the magazine that the allegations are “unequivocally false.”

Trump backs Hamadeh: Former state attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh has won former President Donald Trump’s backing in the Republican primary for the seat being opened up by Rep. Debbie Lesko’s planned retirement. The Arizona Republic has an update on the race in AZ-08.

Off the ballot: The Alabama Republican Party has removed disbarred attorney Daniel Bowman from the ballot. Bowman, who also faces theft charges, was running in the 5th District, according to Alabama.com. The move leaves Rep. Dale Strong, R-Ala., with no opponent from either party.

What we’re reading

Stu says: As the end of 2023 approaches, Stu Rothenberg takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the year’s best and worst.

Emerging tensions: Fueled by anger and activism following Trump’s 2016 win, Emerge America became a political powerhouse, training thousands of Democratic women to run for office at all levels of government. But The 19th reports that the organization is grappling with conflicts between its national staff and some of its state chapters.

Post-McCarthy: Politico looks at the chaotic battle to replace former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who cast his final votes in the House on Thursday.

Stock sale questions: Rep. Mike Garcia sold up to $50,000 in shares of Boeing stock in August 2020 but didn’t report the transaction until after that year’s election, which he narrowly won. The Daily Beats talks to ethics advocates about the delay, and how a committee Garcia served on also released a report about deadly crashes involving Boeing’s 737 Max airliner.

Ramaswamy and King: Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy was campaigning Wednesday in Iowa with none other than former Rep. Steve King, whose history of racist remarks helped lead to his losing the GOP primary for his longtime seat back in 2020. The NBC News team, including Bridget Bowman who covered that race here, has more on King’s reappearance.

Plagiarism allegations: The News & Observer dug into allegations that Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., copied a letter by Manning, the North Carolina Democrat, about campus antisemitism. The newspaper’s conclusion: “Based on emails between the two House members’ offices, it sure looks that way.”

The count: +0.3

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales has updated its Baseline metric, providing a measurement of how a typical Democrat or Republican candidate would do based on votes cast for each party’s candidates in statewide elections in prior years. The data reveals that the three most evenly divided districts in the country skew 0.3 percentage points in favor of Democrats. Republicans Don Bacon of Nebraska and Zach Nunn of Iowa hold two of those seats, while Ohio Democrat Emilia Sykes holds the third.

Nathan’s notes

Using that Baseline metric for each House district, Nathan suggests there’s a glimmer of hope for Democrats looking to retake the House next year. 

Shop talk: Mike Berg

Berg is communications director for the NRSC and previously served in a senior communications role at the NRCC. Before that, Berg worked on Capitol Hill and as a campaign manager and communications director on campaigns around the nation.

Starting out: In high school, the only class he enjoyed was AP Government. In college, he says he was “lucky to get a few Capitol Hill internships,” working primarily with House members. After graduating from Miami University of Ohio, Berg took a bus to Washington, “Couchsurfed for a while, got a job offer [doing opposition research] on a Friday to start the next Monday, and the rest is history.” 

Most unforgettable campaign moment: “It’s hard to top 2022,” he said. That was the year the GOP won the majority in the House and also began internal battles for leadership spots. “I had the privilege of helping NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer become Majority Whip,” Berg said, referring to a contest in which Emmer faced off against Reps. Drew Ferguson of Georgia and Jim Banks of Indiana, who is now running for Senate. “It was a hard-fought race, and Emmer ended up making the final ballot by one vote before winning the job outright.” 

The entire team behind Emmer “worked incredibly hard to make it happen, so it felt great to win,” Berg added.

Biggest campaign regret: “Not working on campaigns when I was in college,” he said. Berg was focused on securing internships on the Hill, but working on campaigns when he was just starting out “would have made getting a full-time job in campaign politics a lot easier,” he said.

Coming up

The deadline to run in North Carolina’s primary on March 5, where one more seat has just opened up, is Friday. The deadline to run in Ohio’s March 19 primary is next week, on Dec. 20.

Photo finish

Ahead of the House vote Wednesday to formally authorize the impeachment investigation into his father, Hunter Biden made a statement to reporters outside the Capitol about his willingness to testify publicly before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee. The committee, however, wanted him to appear for a closed deposition, and when he didn’t show, Republican members said they would seek to hold him in contempt. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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