At the Races: Humble pie

Posted December 3, 2020 at 2:30pm

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While many of us have been scouring the internet for recipes to spice up turkey leftovers, House Democrats may need a recipe for humble pie. 

This week, it became clear that no House Republican incumbent lost reelection this cycle, with California Rep. Mike Garcia securing a narrow victory over Democrat Christy Smith in the Los Angeles-area 25th District. Smith may already be eyeing a rematch in 2022, tweeting a GIF with the words “I’ll be back” after The Associated Press called the race. 

The November results, culminating in a narrower House majority, sent Democrats reeling. They took their first step toward the next election cycle earlier this morning, electing New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to lead the DCCC for the 2022 midterms.

Speaking of election results, Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey was in the spotlight this week for certifying the Grand Canyon State’s results, pushing back against President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of fraud. Ducey is term-limited as governor, and Republicans in the state believe he could run for Senate in 2022 against Democrat Mark Kelly, who was sworn into office yesterday

Openly clashing with Trump could spell trouble for Ducey in a GOP primary though. Ducey argued he was following the law, but Trump tweeted at the governor, “Republicans will long remember!” For his part, Ducey may have to remember to keep his phone on silent.

Starting gate

PAC track: A record 155 incumbents and challengers vowed to reject corporate PAC money during the 2020 cycle, but potential cracks in the trend have begun to emerge, including a change in position from Virginia Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria.

Behind the scenes: A record number of women are heading to the House next year, thanks in part to a critical, but often unseen, network of mentors who help candidates overcome the unique obstacles they face as women. The question for Republicans is whether this network is sustainable.

From the pulpit: Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler is mining Democrat Raphael Warnock’s past sermons at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to back up her claims that he is too radical to win a Georgia Senate seat in the state’s January runoff. But Black political and religious leaders say the attacks deliberately misinterpret the teachings of the Black church and could backfire after a November election that saw increased turnout from Black voters in the Peach State.

Walker’s running: Almost a year after signaling he could run for Senate, retiring North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker launched his Senate campaign Tuesday, kicking off a potentially competitive Republican primary and raising questions about whether he still has Trump’s support with the president’s daughter-in-law eyeing a run.

Not staying long: Georgia’s 5th District got a representative for the first time since the death of Rep. John Lewis in July with today’s swearing-in of special election winner Kwanza Hall, but the Democrat will only serve until the next Congress starts in January.

2020 hindsight: After seeing two districts in Oregon have similar results when only one of them was expected to be intensely competitive, Nathan L. Gonzales explains what happened and how fundamentals usually trump the conventional metrics. 

ICYMI

BOLD choice: Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego will be the next chairman of BOLD PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. 

He’s back: Former GOP Rep. David Valadao is heading back to Congress after unseating freshman Democrat TJ Cox in California’s 21st District. The race was a rematch of 2018, when Cox defeated Valadao by less than 1,000 votes. It’s not clear as yet if Biden carried the seat, but Trump lost the Central Valley district by 15 points in 2016.

A sticky situation: Former GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney is leading freshman Democrat Anthony Brindisi by a mere 12 votes in the 22nd District in upstate New York. But Tenney warned in a statement Monday night that “the process is far from over” because “hundreds of contested ballots, both counted and uncounted, will be reviewed by the court.” Ballot counting issues, including lost sticky notes and a box of ballots that was misplaced, have plagued the race. 

DiFi’s pick: California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Wednesday she would like Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint Secretary of State Alex Padilla (who worked for Feinstein way back when) to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Senate seat.

Fixing up the old FEC: The Senate Rules and Administration panel took a big step toward restoring a full slate at the Federal Election Commission, approving three nominees Thursday.

Ca-Ching: The Democratic online fundraising powerhouse ActBlue said that 14.8 million donors contributed $4.8 billion in the 2020 election cycle to 22,000 different candidates and organizations, a record for the organization. 

PAC man: After his unsuccessful bid for Senate in South Carolina, Jaime Harrison, who shattered fundraising records, launched his own Dirt Road PAC to boost fellow Democrats, according to the AP.  

The anti-Squad? A group of incoming House freshman Republicans, many from competitive districts, are forming a “Freedom Force,” to counter the “squad” of progressive Democratic congresswomen. The new group is made up of women and people of color, including members-elect Burgess Owens of Utah, Nicole Malliotakis of New York, Michelle Steele of California, Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma, Victoria Spartz of Indiana, and Carlos Gimenez, Maria Elvira Salazar and Byron Donalds of Florida. 

What we’re reading

Reality check: Stu Rothenberg offered a note of caution to Republican predictions that the GOP can flip the House in 2022.

On the chopping block: Politico breaks down the House members at risk of losing their seats due to redistricting. 

Speaking of redistricting: The New York Times dives into Democrats’ down-ballot failures, including races for state legislatures where Republican majorities will control redistricting. 

The zipper factor: Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer waxes regretful about Democratic challengers’ losses, including in North Carolina where Cal Cunningham “couldn’t keep his zipper up,” Axios reported him telling party donors in recent calls. 

The count: 6 

Iowa election officials certified the results in the open 2nd District on Monday, with GOP state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks winning by just SIX votes. Her Democratic opponent, former state Sen. Rita Hart, announced Wednesday that she would file a petition with the U.S. House to include “legally cast ballots” that weren’t counted in the initial canvass. 

It’s rare (at least in modern history) for the House to reverse an election result that a state has certified. The last time Congress did so was back in 1985, when the Democratic-controlled House investigated and conducted its own recount in Indiana’s 8th District (aka “the Bloody 8th”) and the Democratic incumbent ended up winning by four votes. Charles Stewart III, an MIT professor who has studied Congress and election administration, told At the Races that delving into Iowa’s 2nd District results “opens up a huge can of worms” for Democrats.

Nathan’s notes

Democrats face their smallest House majority in over a century, and that means in the floor vote for speaker next month, Nancy Pelosi can’t afford to lose as many members as she did in 2019. But Nathan’s column highlights how some of last year’s defectors enter the 117th Congress on safer political ground.

Candidate confessions

Female candidates often say they face different questions and criticisms than their male counterparts, especially if they have children. “When I knocked doors, I had a lady basically shame me for being a mom and leaving my children to go run for office,” Iowa GOP Rep.-elect Ashley Hinson, who has two sons, recently told ATR. “My answer back to her was, ‘Hey, look, I’m a good role model for my boys. And that’s what I’m trying to do here.’” 

Georgia watch

Trump’s planned campaign visit to Georgia on Saturday is putting a spotlight this week on the growing rift in the state GOP over the president’s refusal to concede the election. 

Trump’s sustained attacks on election results have put Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in a position that is getting trickier by the day. 

They both fell in line with Trump’s allegations of irregularities in Georgia in early November, even though it complicates their argument that they are the last line of defense against full Democratic control in Washington. 

But several of the state’s Republican election officials pleaded with Trump this week to drop his crusade, saying it was putting election workers in danger and potentially discouraging Republicans from voting. Loeffler and Perdue released statements staying they don’t condone violence, but neither has accepted Biden’s victory.

Meanwhle, former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell told a crowd at a “Stop the Steal” rally in the state yesterday she would “encourage Georgians to not vote at all until your vote is secure. I mean that regardless of party,” Yahoo News reporter Caitlin Dickson wrote on Twitter. 

The New York Times on Wednesday published a deep dive into Perdue’s stock portfolio showing he had profited from trading stocks of companies that fall under his committees’ oversight, continuing a story line that has posed problems for both of the high-net-worth Republican senators. 

Democrats have consistently highlighted both senators’ stock trades in ads, and groups affiliated with Senate Majority PAC announced a new $5.5 million outlay for spots aimed at Perdue and Loeffler. American Bridge also announced a “multi-million dollar” effort in Georgia targeting “rural, working-class voters.” The push kicked off with a “six-figure” ad buy on digital and streaming services, with a pair of spots that also focus on the senators’ investments and trading. 

On the Republican side, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a $2 million ad buy with positive spots about Loeffler and Perdue’s response to the pandemic. And Donald Trump Jr.’s advisers have launched a new super PAC focused on turning out the president’s supporters. The NRSC has also launched two new ads, both featuring Ossoff and Warnock, and arguing Democratic victories would put the “far left” in power. 

The action continues with Perdue and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appearing at a town hall tonight with Fox News host Laura Ingraham. Loeffler and Warnock meet Sunday night for what is expected to be the only debate before the election.  

Coming up

Louisiana voters go to the polls on Saturday for a runoff between Republicans Luke Letlow and Lance Harris for the solidly Republican 5th District. Letlow is the chief of staff for GOP incumbent Ralph Abraham, who is retiring after an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid. He has Abraham’s endorsement over Harris, who is a state representative.

Photo finish

Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly took office Wednesday, marking the first time in nearly 70 years that two Democrats are representing the Grand Canyon State in the Senate. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

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