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At the Races: Commonwealth conundrum

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Editor’s note: In order to facilitate the grilling of meats and exploding of fireworks required to honor the patriots’ rejection of the British crown, At the Races will not hit your inbox next week on July 4. It will return on July 11.

The Republican primary last week in Virginia’s solidly red 5th District was billed as a test of Donald Trump’s MAGA movement against those who had called for a new party leader. 

Instead, it may be a test case for Republican cries of election fraud — with a GOP lawmaker who Trump disowned at the center of the drama.

Virginia Rep. Bob Good endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during the party’s presidential primary, angering Trump, who backed state Sen. John McGuire in the 5th District primary. McGuire was leading by 373 votes as of Thursday morning, according to The Associated Press, which has not yet declared a winner.

McGuire declared victory and said on X that it is “time to put our differences aside, unite, and help Trump Make America Great Again.” Good has made a Trump-like move by alleging fraud. 

“The bottom line is we can’t certify this election. There’s great concern of inappropriate activity relative to the biggest city in the district, Lynchburg,” Good told Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign and White House chief strategist, on his podcast Monday.

“They did not secure their drop boxes. There’s no accountability for when those boxes were open,” Good contended. “They were apparently left to be stuffed for two or three days after the election. There’s no accountability for who opened those, how many ballots came out.”

A Good spokesperson on Tuesday said in a statement that “the people of our district are reaching out to our campaign demanding that we pursue a recount.”

“Already thousands of dollars in donations have come in for our recount efforts,” Diana Shores, Good’s campaign manager and senior adviser, added. “We will pursue the recount to settle any questions about the fairness or transparency of the election process.”

Trump has scheduled a rally Friday in Chesapeake, Va. 

The former president talks often about his unproven theories of “rigged” elections and Democratic shenanigans, and he recently urged supporters to “police” voting stations. He and other Republicans forgot to “police” one of their own.

Starting gate

Recap: Losses by three Trump-backed candidates highlight Tuesday’s results from elections in Colorado, New York, South Carolina and Utah. Along with the rejection of some self-funders, there’s still an uncalled race in Utah’s 2nd District Republican primary, where Trump-endorsed Rep. Celeste Maloy was ahead by only 2 percentage points Thursday against an Army veteran backed by Sen. Mike Lee.

Cost cutters: If you’ve been sleeping until now, here’s your notice that tonight is the debate between Trump and President Joe Biden, who was holed up most of the week at Camp David preparing. While he was out of the spotlight, though, members of his administration have been all over the place, touting what the administration says are efforts to lower costs on everything from food to prescription drugs.

Bowman out: New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman lost his primary to Westchester County Executive George Latimer, becoming the first Democratic incumbent to lose a primary this year.

Colorado seat filler: House Republicans picked up a reinforcement Tuesday, with the election of Greg Lopez, the former mayor of Parker, Colo., to fill the seat opened by the resignation of former Republican Rep. Ken Buck. Nick Eskow reports for Roll Call on the new member, who will be a short-timer.

Boebert likely next: Lopez won’t have that seat for long, as he’s not running in the general election this November. Instead, in a game of musical chairs triggered by Buck’s resignation, Rep. Lauren Boebert is now seeking that 4th District seat for the next Congress. Boebert prevailed in a crowded primary for the seat that appears to be easier for her to win than the one she is vacating.

Focus on Dobbs: Democrats up and down the ballot were highlighting reproductive rights this week to mark the two years since the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. From ads in publications with high women’s readership to a low seven-figure outreach campaign aimed at swing-state women who are considered less likely to vote to billboards targeting vulnerable House Republicans, Democrats were reminding voters that justices named by Trump ended the constitutional right to abortion access. 

ICYMI

Time booked: The independent expenditure side of the NRCC is reserving nearly $46 million in fall television airtime, director Tom Erickson wrote in a Thursday memo. Of that, Erickson says more than a quarter is going toward media markets where Democratic incumbents hold five seats previously carried by Trump.

One-candidate debate: Mark Lamb, the Pima County sheriff, was the only Senate candidate to show up for a Republican debate Wednesday aired by a consortium of Arizona media outlets, including ABC15 in Phoenix. Former gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake is the clear favorite, but her absence gave Lamb what he referred to as a 30-minute “job interview.”

Wisconsin debate on debates: Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and her Republican challenger Eric Hovde have agreed to participate in one October debate hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation, with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporting that Hovde’s campaign is pushing for more.

WHCA ballots: Another election that wrapped up Wednesday was for the White House Correspondents’ Association board. Justin Sink of Bloomberg News was unopposed for an at-large seat, and he will be in line to be the 2026-27 president of the WHCA. Karen Travers of ABC and Trevor Hunnicutt of Reuters won the seats representing radio outlets and wire services.

What we’re reading 

Canine cameo: New taxpayer-funded murals adorning the West Virginia Capitol depict iconic places and scenes from the Mountain State’s history. But tucked among an image of Seneca Rock is a tiny portrait of a bulldog who looks a lot like Babydog, Gov. Jim Justice’s beloved English bulldog and frequent political prop. Justice, who is running for Senate, told West Virginia’s Metro News he had no idea how his canine companion wound up in the mural and suggested it wasn’t Babydog at all but her distant ancestor.

Insider info: We haven’t yet heard of any of our Most Vulnerable members taking this approach, but over in the United Kingdom, the BBC reports on a Tory member of Parliament who isn’t denying betting 8,000 pounds that he’s going to lose in next week’s election.

Donors revealed: Remember the PAC that spent $3.25 million to attack progressive congressional candidate Susheela Jayapal in last month’s Democratic primary in Oregon? The PAC’s donors have been revealed, and its largest contribution came from a group affiliated with AIPAC, The Oregonian reports. Jayapal, the sister of Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., lost the primary for the open seat in the 3rd District to state Rep. Maxine Dexter.

Bill stalls: A measure pushed by the GOP in Ohio that would have required “intellectual diversity” on politically divisive topics such as abortion and the outcome of elections as well as barring diversity training at the state’s public universities didn’t make it across the finish line before the legislature adjourned for the summer. But Statehouse News Bureau reports that the measure’s sponsors plan to reintroduce it. 

Crime question: An effort in California that would make shoplifting a felony for repeat offenders could shape several key congressional contests in the Golden State. Proponents are pushing a ballot initiative that they say would address retail theft, but Democrats are fighting to kill the proposal, which could drive turnout among conservative voters and tip several battleground House races, the AP reports.

Getting from ‘nah’ to ‘ugh, OK’: Digging into Biden’s high public disapproval figures, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics reports how younger and nonwhite “somewhat disapprovers” could be key to his chances.

The count: 4:12

In an age of quick-hitting reels and stories that have to catch someone’s attention in five seconds or else they’ll keep swiping, that’s the runtime of a video released Tuesday by New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim. It recounts the Democratic Senate candidate’s visit with the family of Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who died after battling pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6, 2021. In it, you hear the low-key Kim saying, “Thank you for inviting me,” after he knocks on the door. A family member also tells Kim that Biden cried when he called to offer condolences.

Nathan’s notes

What if the road to the majority in the House really were an actual road? Nathan has mapped a series of stories about roads that link battleground districts, with the first part analyzing a dozen races along Interstate 5 in California, Oregon and Washington. Nathan also discussed the effort this week with Jason Dick, our editor-in-chief, for the Political Theater podcast.

Key race: #MISEN

Candidates: Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin and former Republican Rep. Mike Rogers are their respective parties’ favorites to win the nominations for Michigan’s open Senate seat. But both have competition in an Aug. 6 primary. Actor Hill Harper is running in the Democratic primary, while former Rep. Justin Amash, businessman Sandy Pensler and physician Sherry O’Donnell are running in the Republican primary. 

Why it matters: Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s decision to retire opens up a swing seat that could help determine which party controls the Senate or how large its majority is. 

Cash dash: Slotkin, a three-term House member, has a major lead in fundraising. She had $8.6 million on hand at the end of March, far outpacing Harper, who had $441,000. On the Republican side, Pensler had $2.1 million on hand at the end of the first quarter. He loaned his campaign more than $3 million. Rogers had $1.4 million on hand, while Amash had $740,000 and O’Donnell had $37,000. Great Lakes Conservative Fund, a super PAC supporting Rogers, had spent $2.7 million so far this year, according to Federal Election Commission filings. A group called Protect Freedom Political Action Committee has spent $1.1 million opposing Rogers. Take Back Your Liberty, which is supporting Amash, has spent $304,000 so far. 

Backers: Fellow Michigan Reps. Haley Stevens, Hillary Scholten and Dan Kildee have backed Slotkin, as have a number of outside groups, including EMILY’s List, the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund and Giffords, a group that advocates gun control. Former Michigan Rep. Brenda Lawrence endorsed Harper. The NRSC is supporting Rogers, who also won Trump’s endorsement. Amash has campaigned with Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie.

What they’re saying: In her first Senate ad, Slotkin highlighted her experience as a CIA analyst and said she worked for both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Rogers had criticized Biden and Democrats on issues like the border crisis and inflation. Meanwhile, Pensler’s campaign ran an ad seeking to tie Rogers to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the attack on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. Amash has criticized Rogers and Slotkin for being part of the “surveillance state” while in Congress.

Terrain: Michigan is often home to competitive elections, but Democrats haven’t lost a Senate race in the state since 1994. Inside Elections rates the race as Tilt Democratic. 

Wild card: Both parties have had internal challenges in Michigan over the past year. Republicans ousted their state party chair earlier this year, although Kristina Karamo is trying to be reinstalled in the position. In February, meanwhile, 13 percent of Democrats voted for “uncommitted” in the presidential primary instead of Biden as Arab Americans in the state were aggressively against how Biden was handling Israel’s war in Gaza.

Coming up

Along with being the day a bunch of rebels in Philadelphia signed the Declaration of Independence 248 years earlier, July 4 is also the deadline for candidates running to fill the late Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr.’s seat in New Jersey’s 10th District to file pre-primary disclosures of contributions and expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. The special primary is July 16, which is the second day of the Republican National Convention, and the special election is Sept. 18, which is a Wednesday.

Photo finish

This is the Cannon House Office Building exit door where Rep. Jamaal Bowman, the New York Democrat beaten in Tuesday’s primary, pulled a fire alarm ahead of a Sept. 30, 2023, vote on a stopgap spending bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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