At the Races: Census shuffle = money hustle

Posted April 29, 2021 at 2:30pm

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call campaign team. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

Well, that’s 100 days of the Biden administration — and 558 days to go before the 2022 midterms, but who’s counting? 

President Joe Biden offered his highlights Wednesday from his first months in the Oval Office (vaccines, COVID-19 relief legislation). More importantly, he outlined his agenda ahead, including sweeping new government investments in education and child care, as well as tax increases on companies and well-to-do Americans to help pay for it. All promise to become fodder for the midterm campaigns.   

Biden’s speech “signaled he is going to double-down on Democrats’ dangerous socialist agenda,” said Minnesota GOP Rep. Tom Emmer, who heads his party’s House campaign arm. 

As Republicans seek to reclaim the House (and Senate) next year, expect to see more of Emmer’s rhetoric in ads and fundraising appeals. But there was another pitch for campaign cash this week that rolled in to our inboxes. Lawmakers in states that stand to lose a House seat, thanks to 2020 census figures made public this week, sent out the fundraising alarms, seeking to shore up war chests in advance of new district lines that could pit them against fellow incumbents.  

The campaigns of Democrats Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens of Michigan, a state that is losing a seat, asked for help. Slotkin, one appeal said, “will have new voters to reach, and will need resources to introduce herself to new communities for the first time.”

“Consider pitching in now, to help us prepare for whatever comes our way once we get our new district lines,” it continued.

Ditto for California Democrat Josh Harder, whose state is poised to lose a seat for the first time ever, and for Hold the House PAC and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, which pleaded: “Please make an urgent donation to fight for a fair and nonpartisan redistricting process.”

Starting gate

Making Census: The U.S. Census Bureau, as we noted, released its reapportionment numbers this week. Texas will gain two House seats, while Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Montana and Oregon will each gain one, CQ Roll Call’s Michael Macagnone reports. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will each lose a seat. The detailed data that will drive redistricting processes across the country is expected to be released in August. 

About those districts: Here’s a rundown on how the lines will be drawn in states that are losing seats, and in states that are gaining them. But don’t start counting any of those seats on anyone’s side of the aisle just yet, Nathan L. Gonzales writes.

He’s running: Rep. Tim Ryan announced Monday that he’s running for Ohio’s open Senate seat, becoming the first high-profile Democrat to jump into the race. 

The Wright stuff: A week after early voting started for the 23-candidate special election in Texas’ 6th District, former President Donald Trump endorsed Republican Susan Wright’s bid for the seat her late husband held before he died in February of complications from COVID-19. The Club for Growth PAC followed Trump’s lead two days later.

Budding Senate race: North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, a member of the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday he would run for his state’s open Senate seat, joining an already crowded contest to replace retiring Republican Richard M. Burr. The 2022 race will likely be among the more expensive. ones, and already Budd has the backing of a major GOP group.

Reading, ’rithmetic and ’riting checks: As debates raged earlier this year over reopening schools and including money for education in a massive coronavirus relief package, the nation’s largest teachers unions sharply increased their spending on political contributions.

Ways and means: Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee outraised their Democratic counterparts in the first quarter of the year, thanks largely to California Rep. Devin Nunes. This happened despite many corporate donors hitting the pause button on campaign donations to GOP lawmakers after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, CQ Roll Call’s Doug Sword reports.

ICYMI

Still ticking: Alaska Republican Don Young, who turns 88 on June 9, is the oldest and longest-serving member of Congress. Democrats have been trying to convince voters he is losing his grip since he was term-limited out of all of his committee and subcommittee chairmanship posts in 2017. They’ll have another chance this cycle after Young announced this week that he is running for reelection.

About that $26 million … Georgia’s two new Democratic senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, were seated together in the House balcony for Biden’s speech and were congratulated often by Democratic lawmakers for their January runoff wins that gave the party majority control of the Senate. When left alone, they could be overheard discussing fundraising. Ossoff, who won a full term, raised $156 million last cycle. Warnock, who won an unexpired term and is running again in 2022, raised $125 million.

Thanks, but no thanks: Former Georgia GOP Rep. Doug Collins announced this week that he’s not running for any office in 2022 after weighing a Senate run or a primary challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp. Collins, a Trump ally, noted in his statement that this was “goodbye for now, but probably not forever.” Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Mike Kelly is also telling Republicans he is not running for Senate or for governor next year, but will instead seek reelection to the House, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Yes, please? Florida Rep. Charlie Crist, who was a Republican governor before becoming a centrist Democrat, is laying the groundwork for a much-anticipated gubernatorial bid with a state political action committee, Florida Politics reports. His fellow Democratic Rep. Val B. Demings told Politico she is seriously considering a statewide run too, either for governor or challenging GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

Does Biden have one that says 7,052,770? Biden’s first speech to a joint session of Congress was marked by social distancing, and a lack of coordinated fashion, compared with 2017’s State of the Union, when many female lawmakers wore suffragette white, CQ Roll Call’s Jim Saksa and Katherine Tully-McManus noted. Still, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks used her mask to highlight her narrow victory in Iowa’s 2nd District last year, wearing a covering that said, simply, “6.”

#NCSEN: Cheri Beasely, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, announced Tuesday that she would run for the Democratic nomination for state’s open Senate seat. Her video announcement focused on her background, and her work as a public defender and as a judge. She was the first Black woman to serve as chief justice of the state’s high court. The Collective PAC, a group that supports Black candidates, endorsed her on Tuesday in its first Senate endorsement of the cycle. 

The internet is forever: CNN uncovered some of Alaska Senate hopeful Kelly Tshibaka’s past writings and posts, some of which had been deleted before the Republican announced she would challenge GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski. In one controversial article from the Harvard Law Record, Tshibaka wrote that gay people can “work through the process of coming out of homosexuality” through Christianity. 

Double up: The 15th District seat in Ohio that GOP Rep. Steve Stivers will give up May 16 to become CEO of the state Chamber of Commerce won’t be filled until at least November, just like the 11th District seat that Democrat Marcia L. Fudge gave up to become secretary of Housing and Urban Development, state officials announced Wednesday. The primary for both special elections will take place Aug. 3, with the general election on Nov. 2.

View in VA-02: Virginia state Sen. Jen Kiggans, a Republican running for the state’s 2nd District now represented by Democrat Elaine Luria, nabbed a recent endorsement from Value In Electing Women, or VIEW, PAC, which supports female GOP candidates. “She embodies the best and brightest of our Republican Party and is exactly the kind of candidate VIEW PAC is committed to electing to Congress,” said Julie Conway, the PAC’s executive director.

Deciding: Asked about running for the state’s open Senate seat, GOP Rep. Ann Wagner, a DCCC target, told “This Week in Missouri Politics” that she’s “taking a look at it very seriously” while fighting against Democrats’ “socialist agenda.”

I get by with a little help from my friends: West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III said recently that he would support Murkowski’s reelection (he also backed Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins in 2020). In Arizona, venture capitalist Peter Thiel is spending $10 million to fund a super PAC supporting Republican Blake Masters, who works for Thiel and is expected to soon jump into the race against incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly, according to Politico.

Tapping the rich: Trump is backing a GOP group called the America Alliance that seeks to counter a sprawling Democratic donor network with a similar name — the Democracy Alliance. The new group would ask donors to pay annual dues and commit to giving $100,000 to its preferred candidates and organizations, The New York Times reports. 

Chum in the water: The Bangor Daily News reports that the field against targeted Maine Democratic Rep. Jared Golden is starting to form, though none of the Republicans they mention has officially filed to run as yet. 

Anti-PAC man: Fresh off introducing legislation to ban corporate PACs, Rep. Josh Harder’s campaign sent out a fundraising pitch invoking the new measure, which is unlikely to go anywhere on Capitol Hill. “This week Josh introduced his landmark bill banning corporate PACs, and just like clockwork, they have already launched a new attack on him,” the email for the California Democrat read. “We need your help right now to fight back! Will you donate $15 so Josh can defend himself against these attacks?”

What we’re reading

Stu says: Politicians have given up trying to change voters’ minds about policies, in favor of firing up supporters by calling opponents names and defining the opposition by its most polarizing members, Stuart Rothenberg writes.

Election angst: Trump’s push to overturn the 2020 election results continues to affect Senate races. The Daily Beast reports that the former president remarked that he might campaign for the Democratic incumbent if Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, who dismissed Trump’s claims that the election was fraudulent, runs for Senate and wins the primary. Trump’s claims are also dividing GOP candidates in other battleground races, including the North Carolina Senate contest, CNN reports.  

No pressure: Politico delves into the Democratic duo that will decide control of the Senate and the future of Biden’s agenda: Arizona’s Kelly and Georgia’s Warnock. 

About that vote: Politico Magazine takes a trip to Ohio to explore the Trump-fueled backlash against GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, whose status as a rising star in the party has been muddied by his vote for impeachment. 

Borderline: Texas Democrat Vicente Gonzalez and New Mexico Republican Yvette Herrell’s divergent approach to immigration policy in their border districts could be a litmus test of whether voters prefer the GOP’s “harder line on migrants or the new approach by Mr. Biden emphasizing humanitarian concerns,” The Wall Street Journal reports. 

On the rebound: Republican election and campaign lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who left the firm Foley & Lardner amid an internal investigation into her role in a high-profile Trump phone call with Georgia officials, is now working on controversial voting laws in GOP-led states, The Guardian reports.

The count: 121

That’s how many congressional districts will be drawn by bipartisan redistricting commissions, according to the Cook Political Report. That’s up from 88 districts drawn by commissions in 2011, and does not include states where legislatures can have a final say over a commission’s map. Of the rest, Republicans will control the new congressional lines in 187 districts; Democrats will control the lines of 75 districts; 46 districts are in states where party control is split; and six won’t be redrawn at all, because they’re in states that have only one House seat.

Nathan’s notes

Nathan delves into whether vulnerable Democrats should keep surprise campaign donations from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Republicans are already pressuring Democrats to return her money, but Nathan points out that Democrats could follow a former Republican lawmaker’s example and use the money to defend themselves against incoming attacks. 

Candidate confessions

Wisconsin state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski launched a Senate run earlier this month, drawing a contrast with GOP incumbent Ron Johnson in her launch video. If the Democrat eventually becomes a senator, Godlewski could see herself being a team player — on the softball team, that is. She said in an interview earlier this year that she would be interested in playing in the annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game, where female lawmakers take on a common enemy: the women of the press corps. “I might be more of a liability,” Godlewski joked, but she added that she does have softball experience. She played the sport as a kid and said she was a switch-hitter.

Shop talk: Cam Savage

Savage is the founder and principal of Limestone Strategies, a political consulting firm in Indianapolis and Alexandria, Va. He has served as a campaign and policy adviser to Republican candidates for two decades, including freshman Reps. Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma and Carlos Gimenez of Florida, who flipped Democratic seats in November. He also served as regional political director for the NRSC in 2012.

Starting out: Savage said he developed an interest in politics and American history growing up in the Cincinnati suburbs in Northern Kentucky. His grandfather was a pastor, and his large family spent hours around dinner tables every Sunday after church. “What everybody else in America’s Thanksgiving dinner is like, we had 52 weeks a year,” he said. “You might have 10, 12, 15 people at dinner every Sunday. And there are these big conversations about everything in the world. And as the oldest and only grandchild for a while, you sat around and soaked all that up.” 

He went to college expecting to become a journalist, he said, but realized that might not be a great fit. “I came to that conclusion that I was really going to struggle to be impartial,” he said. “I wanted to be on the activist side.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Savage was the general consultant for Indiana Republican Todd Young’s Senate campaign in 2016 when he had to break the news that Evan Bayh, a wealthy former senator and popular two-term governor, was going to replace Young’s struggling Democratic opponent Baron Hill in the race. “We had just won the primary. We had like $800,000 in the bank, and here’s the guy with 10 times as much money and 100 percent name recognition,” Savage said. “It was pretty daunting. The very next day, they released a poll that showed us that we were already down 26 points. The bookend is that on election night, I got to be the one to tell Todd that he was going to win, and that he was going to be a senator.”

Biggest campaign regret: The first campaign that Savage managed on his own was for a New York county comptroller named Nancy Maples running for a Western New York district. Naples was a “terrific” candidate, he said, but she lost the race by 3,700 votes to Democrat Brian Higgins, who still serves in Congress. “It was one of the closest races in the country,” Savage said. “It was the Democrats’ No. 1 pickup target that year. It was an open seat that had been held by Jack Quinn, who was sort of the last labor Republican. And we outperformed President Bush by 9 points. So I don’t know that there was any great expectation that we would win, but we nearly did, it was like a half a point or so. … There’s no one big mistake that I can point to. But I think about that race every day. There’s really no question in my mind that I could win that race today.”

Unconventional wisdom: “There’s always been a struggle, in the Republican world, around political consultants and how they structure their businesses. And I’m very encouraged, as I see more and more people leaving the Hill or leaving the committees, and going out on their own to continue as consultants, but in the mode of activists, where they are understanding that you can continue to work in politics as an activist, which basically means identifying candidates that you really think are worth it, candidates that will really do a good job, and working for only them. And then really limiting who you work for and the scope of your work. You’re not signing up everybody, trying to make a buck working for any candidate who can pay you. … Not only are they doing that, they’re being successful at it.”

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

Coming up

Absentee ballots go out and in-person early voting starts Tuesday in New Mexico’s 1st District special election to replace Democrat Deb Haaland, who is now secretary of the Interior.

Photo finish

From left, California Sen. Alex Padilla, Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff, Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen, California Rep. John Garamendi and Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock pose for a selfie in the visitor gallery Wednesday before the start of President Joe Biden’s joint session address. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Subscribe now using this link so you don’t miss out on the best news and analysis from our team.