At the Races: Impeachment: The Sequel

Posted February 11, 2021 at 2:30pm

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As Democratic impeachment managers made their case to senators that Donald Trump incited an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the former president’s second trial also came up on the campaign trail this week.

The DSCC issued a statement Tuesday knocking Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Marco Rubio of Florida, who are up for reelection next year, and NRSC Chairman Rick Scott for joining the group of 11 senators who voted against the trial rules. DSCC spokesman Stewart Boss said Republicans “refuse to hold President Trump accountable for inciting the violent mob attack on the Capitol and assaulting the peaceful transfer of power.” The NRSC, meanwhile, issued releases hitting Democrats on school reopening and energy jobs. 

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In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a progressive and the first high-profile Democrat to jump into the open Senate race, tweeted that he would be “100 percent sedition free” if elected. The impeachment trial also pushed former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel to launch a campaign for that state’s open Senate seat. The Republican tweeted, “Watching this sham impeachment has made my blood boil and motivated me to run.”

Even after watching stunning footage of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, few GOP senators seemed open Wednesday to holding Trump accountable. The former president still wields influence over the party’s base, and he is already planning to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment, according to Business Insider.  

Of course, a lot could happen between now and November 2022, so it’s way too early to know whether Trump’s second impeachment will be an issue in the midterms. Remember that after his first impeachment, Republicans said vulnerable Democrats had sealed their political fates, but we didn’t hear much about impeachment in last year’s closing television ads.

Starting gate

First strike: House Republicans’ campaign arm released its first target list of the 2022 cycle. The group of 47 Democrats the NRCC sees as vulnerable include incumbents in districts Joe Biden lost.

Not on the ballot, but in the race: Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley isn’t on the ballot in 2022, but don’t tell Show-Me State Democrats that. They’re looking to tie Hawley to GOP Sen. Roy Blunt, who is up for reelection next year. 

Some closure: One of the most drawn-out elections of the 2020 cycle was finally brought to an end with the reluctant concession of Democrat Anthony Brindisi to Republican Claudia Tenney in New York’s 22nd District. Brindisi capitulated after a New York judge lifted a restraining order he had put on state certification while the count was subjected to exhaustive litigation. Tenney led by 109 votes at last count. This will be Tenney’s second term representing the upstate district — she was first elected in 2016, before Brindisi unseated her two years later.

Shelby, out: Alabama Republican Richard C. Shelby announced this week that he wouldn’t seek a seventh Senate term in 2022. His exit is likely to spark a crowded GOP primary for his seat. 

Coming to a campaign ad near you: Republicans forced a series of messaging votes during last week’s “vote-a-rama” in the Senate, previewing potential campaign attacks to come. 

Going back to school: Political parents, who hail from K Street and Capitol Hill, have turned their professional campaign skills toward a personal policy fight over reopening classrooms in suburban Washington.

ICYMI

Political education: Speaking of schools, the Republican outside group American Action Network unleashed a new campaign Thursday targeting a dozen Democrats with billboards, digital ads and phone calls, urging them to support students’ return to the classroom. All of the Democrats are also on the NRCC’s target list, except one: House Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. Scott of Virginia. The other 11 include Reps. Josh Harder of California, Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, Andy Kim of New Jersey and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia. 

Gardner’s next move: Former Colorado GOP Sen. Cory Gardner isn’t leaving politics. He’s leading a “different type of super PAC,” according to a press release, called the National Victory Action Fund, which is focused on directing donors’ dollars directly to candidates, since candidates get lower rates for TV ads than outside groups.

Blast from the past: Pennsylvania Democrats don’t expect Fetterman to clear the field now that he’s jumped into the Senate race. His announcement also revived a story from 2013 when he pulled a shotgun on a Black man who was jogging in his neighborhood because he thought the man was involved in a shooting. Today, Fetterman detailed his side of the story in a Medium post.

Show-Me a primary: Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 amid multiple scandals, did not rule out challenging Blunt in a GOP primary, telling Newsmax, “Unfortunately we’ve seen Sen. Blunt out there criticizing President Trump. … That’s not where Republicans and conservatives are in the state of Missouri.” 

Hung jury: Republican leaders in Rep. Peter Meijer’s 3rd District in western Michigan deadlocked 11-11 on whether to censure the GOP freshman for voting to impeach Trump, The Detroit News reports. Meijer, who returned the seat to the GOP column in November, succeeding Republican-turned-independent-turned-Libertarian Justin Amash, still faces a primary challenge.

Breaking her silence: Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria, who reversed her self-imposed ban on donations from corporate PACs, wouldn’t explain her decision to CQ Roll Call, but the Democrat’s campaign offered some insight to the local press. “We’ve always taken ideological PAC money, association PAC money and labor PAC money,” Luria campaign manager Kate Fegley told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk. “All of our reports show that. The new element is corporate employee pooled money. All these PAC funds come from individual small-dollar contributions from employees.” Luria’s seat in southeastern Virginia is among the 47 the NRCC has put on its target list

Transition in the chamber: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a political and lobbying powerhouse, made official its passing of the reins from Tom Donohue to Suzanne Clark as president and CEO. Clark has been the group’s president since June 2019 when the group announced Donohue, who remained CEO, would begin to transition out, though initially he said he would remain until June 2022. Clark will officially take over both titles in March. Donohue led the nation’s biggest business group for 24 years. 

Ever-greene? Freshman GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene continues to have an outsize influence on Georgia politics after House Democrats stripped her of her committee assignments for incendiary remarks, including endorsing violence against Democratic lawmakers. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week that at least 15 Democrats have expressed interest in challenging her in the deep-red 14th District. Some high-ranking Republicans, meanwhile, are reportedly contemplating how to prevent her from pulling down other GOP candidates in 2022. But as The Associated Press reports, Greene is nevertheless consolidating support at home. 

Making a move? The growing list of Florida Democrats reportedly mulling a challenge to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022 includes Reps. Charlie Crist, a former governor who told a local television station he wouldn’t make a decision for several months, and Val B. Demings, a former Orlando police chief who was on the Biden VP short list. Former Republican Rep. David Jolly has also said he is interested in running as an independent.

What we’re reading

Putting distance in social: The class of 2020 may be the loneliest ever to enter Congress, CQ Roll Call’s Jim Saksa writes, because the pandemic nixed many normal get-to-know-you parts of the job, starting with orientation and continuing with virtual committee meetings and floor votes held in stages to deter crowding.

Breaking up with the GOP: Nearly 140,000 Republicans have quit the party in 25 states, The New York Times found by examining voting records in January. The departures likely point to fallout from the Capitol violence on Jan. 6 and the ex-president’s false claims of widespread election fraud aimed at stealing victory from him.

Blood money? Trump’s political operation paid more than $3.5 million to people and firms involved in the Jan. 6 demonstrations that preceded the deadly assault on the Capitol, according to an analysis of federal campaign disclosures by the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Reversing course: Politico explores how Democrats are looking to Ohio’s upcoming Senate race to reverse a string of statewide losses.

Millions for the midterms: The Democratic super PAC American Bridge is planning a $100 million effort to defend Biden during the midterms, The Washington Post reports. 

Internal affairs: The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump effort by GOP consultants, ignored early warnings about a founder who has since resigned following harassment allegations, while reaping financial gains: Of the $90 million the group has hauled in, more than $50 million has gone to firms controlled by its leaders, according to an AP investigation.

Leftward bound: The National Journal surveys efforts of progressive groups to recruit the next batch of challengers to Democratic incumbents, as some progressives see new opportunities to take on Republicans in swing districts. 

Different votes, similar problem: California Republican Reps. David Valadao and Mike Garcia took divergent positions on Trump’s claims of election fraud and on impeachment, but they ended up in the same place: in the middle of their state GOP’s roiling civil war over Trump’s future role in the party, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

The count: 4

That’s how many Senate seats are now open in 2022, thanks to GOP retirements so far. Shelby’s retirement is less concerning to Republicans since Alabama is a ruby-red state. But the departures of Republicans Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio mean the GOP will also have to contend with crowded, and potentially divisive, primaries in competitive states. But Republicans say they aren’t concerned that these open seats will be a problem — at least not yet. 

Nathan’s notes

Nathan L. Gonzales examines the latest Republican push for congressional term limits and argues that an age limit or “resign-to-run” laws could be better alternatives.

Candidate confessions

Maryland progressive Democrat Heather Mizeur told At the Races recently that she was inspired to launch a challenge to Republican Rep. Andy Harris after reports last month that Harris was involved in a tense exchange that almost came to blows on the House floor several hours after a mob attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

That’s a far cry from the tone the last time the two candidates encountered each other. 

In 2017, Mizeur, a former state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate, invited Harris to discuss gun control on her podcast, Soul Force Politics, where she seeks to soften political divides through intimate conversations. 

During the resulting hourlong interview, Mizeur and Harris shared their gratitude for things they had in common — Mizeur set the tone with a homage to a stunted evergreen tree — and dismay about what Harris described as the “raucous” tone of contemporary civic debates. They joked about launching a new version of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which engaged audiences for hours — with, as Harris pointed out, no tweets. “We’ll call them the Harris-Mizeur debates,” Mizeur said. Presumably, there would be no fistfights.

Shop talk: Matt Corridoni

Corridoni, who spent 2020 as spokesman for Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC, decamped this year for a gig as communications director to freshman Rep. Jake Auchincloss, the Democrat who succeeded Joseph P. Kennedy III in Massachusetts' 4th District. Corridoni is not leaving the campaign world entirely behind, though; he holds the same title for Auchincloss’ reelection effort.  

Starting out: Corridoni says he was born into politics. His grandparents, Dan and Elaine McDivitt, were Democratic elected officials in Indiana County, Pa., he a county commissioner and she the mayor of Saltsburg. “I remember my mother, Kelly, taking me with her to vote as a child,” he recalls. “She’s a funeral director, and the first campaign I worked on was her race for county coroner.” He was 12, and she lost. “It wouldn’t be my last losing race,” he admits. But he was hooked on politics: “There was never really going to be another path, and I wouldn’t want there to be.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: In 2016, as a staffer on former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, Corridoni was in a Des Moines bar with fellow operatives Sean Savett and Carlee Griffeth, letting reporters know that the candidate was dropping out. “Four years and one month later, I was huddled with Sean in our South Bend war room letting reporters know on deep background that Mayor Pete was dropping out of the presidential race,” he said, referring to Pete Buttigieg, now secretary of Transportation. “I’m really hopeful that one day Sean and I will get to declare presidential victory in a war room together — third time’s a charm.”

Biggest campaign regret: When he was the press secretary for Buttigieg’s failed bid to chair the Democratic National Committee in 2017, Corridoni recalls that in his rush to get out a rapid-response missive, he put the wrong city dateline. They were in Houston, not Dallas, as he wrote. Neither he nor boss Lis Smith figured it out until a rival operative, working for Tom Perez’s campaign, asked how they were enjoying Dallas. “It took me, Lis, and our manager, Jen Holdsworth, at least a half hour and an undisclosed number of drinks to get the joke. I’m still referred to as ‘Dallas’ among this group.”

Unconventional wisdom: The power of hyperlocal media paired with digital organizing and national press is the future of campaigns, he says. “It’s not just an either/or — it needs to be all of the above. People understand and accept this as a basic communications theory, but I think we’re going to see congressional offices sink or swim in this space.”

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

Coming up

House committees are expected to finish marking up Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package this week, completing a round of votes that are likely to be picked apart in the coming campaign cycle.

Photo finish

A banner hangs on a North Capitol Street bridge in Washington on Wednesday, the second day of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

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