At the Races: Q-ing up for ’22

Posted February 4, 2021 at 2:30pm

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January seemed like a long month, but maybe it was actually a year because we are already into the 2022 campaigns. Need evidence? House Democrats’ campaign arm, the DCCC, launched television ads this week hitting potentially vulnerable Republicans, such as California’s Mike Garcia, for their party’s ties to QAnon conspiracy theorists.   

Republicans questioned the early launch of television ads, rolling their eyes at what they view as premature investments. But Democrats believe they have a strategy to hold the House in the midterms. The ads preceded a vote today to strip Georgia freshman Marjorie Taylor Greene of her House committee assignments for her radical views, including an embrace of QAnon. “Washington Republicans have made their choice — they chose to cave to the murderous QAnon mob that has taken over their party,” said New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who chairs the DCCC.

Before the vote, Greene said on the House floor that she no longer believed in Q, that school shootings and 9/11 were real, and that she was being crucified by colleagues who tolerated riots and were allowing the media, which “is just as guilty as QAnon,” to divide the chamber.

GOPers indicated they would fight ’22 on policy issues. “We are going to continue hammering House Democrats for their job-killing, socialist agenda and leave elevating fringe conspiracies to the DCCC,” Michael McAdams, a spokesman for the NRCC, responded in a statement.

Considering history and Democrats’ super-slim majority in the chamber, House Republicans should be on a glide path toward 2022, but intraparty conflict leaves doubts. The party will continue to fight over the role of former President Donald Trump, as it did last night in a caucus vote over Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney keeping her position as the No. 3 House Republican. Some Trump supporters had sought to oust her for her support for impeachment last month. Cheney won decisively but will face the real test for her job in a primary next year.      

“The fact that Liz Cheney won 145-61 shows that when the ballots are secret, the ‘Vote No, Hope Yes Caucus’ votes yes,” tweeted former House GOP leadership aide Doug Heye. “And that, privately, they want to move past Trump.” 

Given that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy supported keeping Cheney in leadership and also sent out a recent fundraising solicitation invoking Trump, the party’s platform remains uncertain, as senators take their turn next week in deciding Trump’s fate at trial.   

Starting gate

Still running: In the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and amid ongoing threats against lawmakers, some potential candidates have been raising questions about their safety. But so far, the security risks aren’t deterring congressional hopefuls from running, according to campaign operatives in both parties. 

A new chairman in town: New DSCC Chairman Gary Peters of Michigan spoke to At the Races this week and shared his thoughts on candidate recruitment, primary endorsements and QAnon as a campaign issue. 

O-H-I-O: Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan is planning to run for Senate in Ohio following last week’s news that GOP Sen. Rob Portman won’t run for a third term.  

Trump’s majority? McCarthy, the House GOP leader, is relying on the brand and grassroots network of his party’s ex-president to gin up donations in Republicans’ quest to retake the majority in 2022. But it comes with a cost, as some donors seek to divorce the party from Trumpism. 

Reversal of fortune: Corporate political action committees donated more than $30,000 to Rep. Elaine Luria in the final weeks of 2020, after the Virginia Democrat reversed her policy of refusing such donations. The PACs of Google, Altria, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Rolls Royce North America and others went to pay off campaign debt, recent FEC filings reveal.

Ballot battles ahead: After the pandemic led states to hastily adopt drastic changes, a whopping 66.7 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in November, the biggest turnout in 120 years. Now those changes are being reviewed, and voting may not be as easy in the future, CQ Roll Call’s Herb Jackson reports. 

ICYMI

Boebert battles: Colorado state Sen. Kerry Donovan launched a challenge this week to freshman Republican Lauren Boebert in the 3rd District. She joins lawyer Colin Wilhelm and Gregg Smith, a consultant and commercial banker with ties to Blackwater, in what promises to be a crowded Democratic primary. Boebert, along with Greene, has become a prime 2022 target for her eagerness to flout House norms and flirt with conspiracy theories. 

House guys: Two House Republicans have ruled out making runs for the Senate. Ohio’s Jim Jordan is staying put (a reminder that he’s long eyed the House Judiciary chairmanship). And Colorado’s Ken Buck tweeted that he won’t seek a rematch against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who defeated Buck back in 2010. 

The Senate map: Potential GOP Senate candidates for the open seat in Pennsylvania include Trump’s Navy secretary, Kenneth Braithwaite, (per Politico) and real estate developer Jeff Bartos (according to The Philadelphia Inquirer). In North Carolina, Democrat Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, is considering a Senate run for the open seat, as is former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, according to the Carolina Journal. Other potential Democratic candidates in North Carolina include state Attorney General Josh Stein, former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, state Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls, state Sen. Sydney Batch, and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, according to Politico.

One more time?: New Jersey state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. announced this week that he would not seek reelection to the state Legislature, stirring speculation that he would make another congressional run. Kean narrowly lost to Democrat Tom Malinowski in the 7th District in November. 

Meet the team: The DCCC is staffing up for the 2022 cycle, bringing on Missayr Boker, a onetime political director for Vice President Kamala Harris, as its independent expenditure director and senior political adviser for recruitment. Karen Defilippi, previously with EMILY’s List, comes on as deputy executive director for campaigns and political, while Gisel Aceves, formerly executive director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC, will serve as political director for redistricting. Dyjuan Tatro, a legal and criminal justice overhaul advocate, signs on as senior adviser for strategic outreach for the DCCC’s diversity and inclusion department. 

Meet the team, GOP edition: The NRSC also made some new hires. Daria Grastara, the Trump campaign’s digital advertising director, is the new digital director. Mike Hahn, the Trump campaign’s social media director, will be deputy digital director. T.W. Arrighi, who worked for South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, will serve as national press secretary, while Katharine Cooksey, who recently worked for Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign, will serve as press secretary. And Priscilla Ivasco, who worked in NRSC Chairman Rick Scott’s Senate office and on his campaign, will serve as director of media affairs.

Palmetto pushback: After being censured by his state party for voting to impeach Trump, South Carolina Republican Tom Rice wasn’t backing down, saying, “It’s absolutely a high crime or misdemeanor.” His fellow Republicans in the House delegation gave him lukewarm support, though, and he drew a primary challenger from the school board chairman in Horry County, Ken Richardson, The Post and Courier in Charleston reports.

Lunching with Tuberville: You can’t eat the Capital Grille’s spicy calamari over Zoom, apparently. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Alabama’s new GOP senator, has invited lobbyists and other Beltway donor types to very small, in-person luncheon fundraisers at the downtown haunt later this month. One is scheduled for Feb. 12, and the other for Feb. 26. They’ve capped the guests at four people, according to an invite, which suggests $500 donations from individuals and $1,000 from PACs. 

Still counting: A New York state judge delayed certification of the 22nd District race by yet another week after a last-minute challenge by Democrat Anthony Brindisi, who trails Republican Claudia Tenney by 122 votes at last count.

Why impeach?: Hoping to frame the response Democrats can give if asked why they’re holding an impeachment trial for a president who’s already left office, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee will be spending in the five figures to air an ad on cable news channels in the D.C. area featuring an explanation from House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin of Maryland. 

What we’re reading

Not mincing words: GOP former Reps. Barbara Comstock of Virginia and Charles Boustany Jr. of Louisiana write in a CQ Roll Call op-ed that the Senate must convict Trump and keep him from holding office ever again. 

Post-election fundraising: Trump’s new PAC hauled in $31.5 million in the weeks after Election Day, according to a Washington Post analysis of new disclosures.  

Holding the lines: The New York Times explores the next major political fight on the near horizon: congressional redistricting, where Republicans hold the advantage, including in battleground states.

Looking to his left: Politico delves into how Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who is up for reelection in 2022, is looking to shore up support on his left flank amid chatter that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could launch a primary challenge. 

Georgia (still) on our minds: With the GOP’s civil war this week centering on Greene, the Washington Examiner and Politico look at how Peach State Republicans view 2022.

Leaving a void: There are no Black women serving in the Senate, with Harris no longer the junior senator from California. NPR explored the barriers facing Black female candidates who seek higher office. 

A real s-storm: As it became clearer that the nation’s political futures would hinge on election officials counting presidential and Senate ballots in Georgia, a urinal overflowed in a ballot-processing center in Fulton County, setting off a cascade of “mind-boggling” consequences, Atlanta’s WABE reported in this gripping play-by-play

No tea leaves: FiveThirtyEight took a look at the demographic shifts that resulted in the decline of the so-called bellwether counties, as the handful of counties that for decades served as a barometer of the country’s political mood became whiter and less-college educated than the country as a whole. 

The count: $2,900

That’s how much an individual may donate to a federal candidate, for each election, in the 2022 campaign cycle, according to the FEC’s new inflation adjustments. It’s an increase of $100 from the 2020 max. Donors may give $2,900 in a primary and $2,900 in a general election for a total of $5,800. 

Nathan’s notes

Nathan L. Gonzales explores the chatter about Ivanka Trump challenging Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in a GOP primary, and he’s skeptical that the former first daughter could take down the incumbent. History isn’t on her side, Nathan notes. In the last 40 years, just nine senators have lost their parties’ nominations when they sought another term.

Candidate confessions

Some lawmakers expect future campaign events to have more security in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and amid persistent threats. But they hope it doesn’t affect their interactions with voters. Former NRSC Chairman Roger Wicker recently told our colleague Jennifer Shutt at the Capitol that he has been guarded by Capitol Police on two occasions, once when he was NRSC chairman and once when he received ricin in the mail in 2013. 

“I just found it very contrary to the way I want to live my life as an elected representative of the people,” the Mississippi Republican said. “I don’t want to walk into my choir rehearsal room with three guards, as I had to do. I wanted to get in my own car, drive up to my own little church and be a regular guy when I’m back home.”

Shop talk: Amanda Makki

Makki, a lawyer and Republican strategist, is rebounding from a 2020 GOP primary in Florida’s 13th District, where she was cast as the Washington insider against a Trumpier opponent. She had the endorsements of numerous Republicans in House leadership. But she lost to Anna Paulina Luna, a media personality and Air Force veteran who was backed by Trump ally and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. Luna went on to lose to Democratic incumbent Charlie Crist by 6 points. 

Starting Out: Makki was born in Iran and fled with her parents during the Iranian Revolution, when she was a baby. She remembers watching the GOP convention with her father in 1988, when she was 10. “He told me how different it was than the country where he grew up, than the country I was born in,” she said. “It was very much a sense of pride for him that we lived in a democracy where you get to choose, the people get to choose, who the next political leader is going to be. And it just gave me a sense of, I could do this too. … And that’s when I knew that I was going to be involved in politics.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Makki had never heard of “The Daily Show” when correspondent Mo Rocca approached her group of college Republicans outside a presidential debate in New Hampshire 1999. So she answered with a straight face when Rocca asked her if George W. Bush was a “master debater” who would “shoot to the top.” Her friends filled her in as Rocca walked away, she said. But she didn’t see the clip until she told the story to a younger acquaintance almost 20 years later. “This millennial, within two minutes of me telling her when it was and where it was, she pulled up the video and sent it to me,” she said. “I almost didn’t even want to see. But it was funny. And you’ve got to have a sense of humor in politics, even if the joke’s on you.”

Biggest campaign regret: When Makki was running her own campaign in South Florida during the 2020 cycle, she said she underestimated the power of social media to connect with voters past retirement age. “There’s always an assumption that older people don’t know how to use technology, that they’re not savvy with social media,” she said, adding that is not true. “You may not know 40-year-olds that have Instagram accounts, but the older populations actually do, because it gives them an opportunity or an outlet to be able to share the things they’re doing and their grandkids are doing or great-grandkids are doing, especially during a time when, with COVID, travel was limited.”

Unconventional wisdom: “Whether you like him or not, the principles that President Trump stood on are solid,” she said. She credits Trump for creating a strong economy and a low unemployment rate, and for enacting a criminal justice overhaul. “The best advice for Republicans that I have right now is to follow through on his legacy, his accomplishments and continue to stand on those as Republican principles,” Makki said. “Because whether you like him or not, he was right on the principles. We know this because it helped us down ballot. We did extremely well in 2020.”

Do you know someone who works in campaigns whom we should feature for Shop Talk? Email us at attheraces@cqrollcall.com.

Coming up

The Senate’s impeachment trial kicks off next week, when senators will weigh whether Trump incited an insurrection. Stay tuned to RollCall.com for our coverage.

Photo finish

This photo may be anxiety-inducing, and not just because it features maskless people sitting close to each other. It’s a throwback to the Iowa caucuses! Exactly one year and one day ago, Iowa voters gathered together in a not-so-socially-distant way to pick a Democrat to take on Donald Trump. It didn’t go well. For a trip down memory lane, here’s a throwback to Stephanie’s coverage of a satellite caucus site in D.C. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo).

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