At the Races: S 1 and done

Posted June 24, 2021 at 2:30pm

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Democrats attempted to bounce back from the stalling of their signature elections and campaign finance overhaul in the Senate this week by feverishly working to advance a host of issues they see as defining the 2022 midterms. 

While House and Senate Democrats prepared ambitious budget blueprints, and President Joe Biden announced he had a deal on a bipartisan infrastructure framework, a day after outlining plans to address rising rates of violent crime — an issue Republicans have been hammering Democrats on for months. 

But that doesn’t mean Democrats are moving beyond the voting rights and campaign overhaul debate. Instead, they vowed to continue to push alternative measures, portrayed Republicans who blocked the bill as anti-democratic and put money behind initiatives aimed at keeping the debate at the forefront of voters’ minds. In one example, the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA announced a $20 million “initial investment” to “address assaults on voting rights.” 

Democratic candidates echoed that message on the campaign trail and in fundraising appeals. “Republicans in the Senate are scared senseless that more democracy is bad for their political futures,” Florida Rep. Val B. Demings, who is challenging GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, said in one such statement.

Republicans, meanwhile, continued to project an air of confidence that they would ride their portrayal of Democrats as corrupt, fiscally irresponsible socialists who can’t stop crime or secure the border back to majority control in the House and Senate. 

The NRSC released TV ads targeting vulnerable Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire on their votes to advance what the committee called the “Corrupt Politicians Act.” Republicans have depicted Democrats’ voting rights plans as power grabs that would give the federal government too much control over elections. 

Right-leaning groups also found plenty of fodder in the other measures on Democrats’ agenda this week. American Action Network, which is tied to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC, released TV ads in the districts of vulnerable House Democrats Ron Kind in Wisconsin and Cindy Axne in Iowa, claiming that Democrats would pay for their infrastructure plan with a “death tax for trillions in wasteful spending [that] would force farmers to sell off land that’s been in their families for generations.”

Starting gate

Rocky Mountain wakeup: After winning his eighth term by 21 points last year, Colorado Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter woke up this morning looking at a preliminary district drawn by staffers for an independent commission that the Republican candidate for state attorney general in 2018 would have won by 3 points.

Pressure points: Democrats have pledged to carry on their fight for an overhaul of elections, campaign finance and ethics laws after a procedural motion failed in the Senate. Liberal activists have mounted advertising campaigns and demonstrations to keep up the pressure, including to end the filibuster. Our colleague Michael Macagnone writes that Congress, sooner or later, may wrestle again with the issue of voting rights and federal elections. 

The middle ground: The Republican Main Street Partnership, a centrist-leaning GOP group that includes an affiliated super PAC, has tapped former Oregon Rep. Greg Walden as an outside adviser as it seeks to raise more than it ever has, $25 million, in the 2022 election cycle.

Trump jumps in: Former President Donald Trump has long said he would campaign against Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a vocal critic who voted to convict him of inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Late last week, he officially endorsed one of her Republican challengers, Kelly Tshibaka, and this week Tshibaka’s campaign followed up with a TV ad touting the endorsement. 

Investor inquiry: More than 125 groups managing over $1.5 trillion in invested assets recently wrote to board members who oversee political spending at some of the largest U.S. public companies to push for more disclosure. They also want policies implemented to bar money from going to lawmakers who voted against certifying presidential election results, CQ Roll Call’s Laura Weiss reports.

Capitol probe: Speaker Nancy Pelosi will launch a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Unlike the proposed independent commission that Republicans rejected, Democrats will control the select committee, including its subpoena power, CQ Roll Call’s Katherine Tully-McManus explains.

Covert influence: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the Rhode Island Democrat who chairs a Judiciary subcommittee, wants to curb the influence of conservative anonymous donors when it comes to Supreme Court fights — even as that “dark money” now floods in to support the judicial nomination process his party controls, CQ Roll Call’s Todd Ruger writes.

ICYMI

Fili-busted? One Nation, the nonprofit arm of the GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund, launched a $1 million digital ad buy targeting Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly for not taking a stance on the filibuster. In a private call that Kelly and two other Democratic senators held with supporters, Kelly signaled he was open to changing the filibuster but did not get into specifics. “I would like to see us, you know, change the rules,” he said, according to Colorado Newsline.  

Taking sides: EMILY’s List announced this week it was endorsing Pennsylvania Democrat Val Arkoosh, who chairs the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, for the state’s open Senate seat. The group’s heavy spending in the 2016 Democratic primary helped Katie McGinty win the nomination that year. (She went on to lose to GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, who is retiring next year.) And in Wisconsin, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a grassroots group, is backing state Sen. Chris Larson in the Democratic Senate primary.

Still a ‘no’: NRSC Chairman Rick Scott told reporters last month that he thought Arizona’s term-limited governor, Doug Ducey, would ultimately seek the GOP nomination for Senate even though Ducey ruled out a run back in January. But it turns out Ducey hasn’t changed his mind. Asked on a press call this week if he was considering a Senate bid, he said, “I’ve been asked that question before, and my answer’s been ‘no.’ And my answer hasn’t changed.”

Show-Me a plea deal: Missouri GOP Senate candidate Mark McCloskey pleaded guilty last week to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault and was fined $750 for pointing a gun at Black Lives Matter protesters outside his home last summer. “The prosecutor dropped all charges against me, except for a claim that I put other people in imminent fear of physical harm. That’s exactly what I did, that’s what the guns were for,” McCloskey said in a statement. The GOP primary to succeed retiring Republican Roy Blunt is already crowded, but it looks like it won’t include Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, whose spokesperson told the Washington Missourian that Luetkemeyer “has no interest in pursuing other offices.” And Axios reports that a super PAC that supported former GOP Gov. Eric Greitens’ gubernatorial run is back for Greintens’ Senate bid

K Street watch: Former Colorado GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, who lost his seat in November, has set up shop on K Street, joining the firm Michael Best Strategies as a member of the board of advisers. He’s under a two-year ban on lobbying, as are all senators after leaving office. The firm’s board also includes former Trump White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who serves as chairman, and former Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat. Gardner will work with the firm on business development and will provide strategic advice to clients, the firm said. 

From the farm team: Late last week, Biden announced he plans to nominate former Rep. Xochitl Torres Small to serve as undersecretary of rural development in the Department of Agriculture. The New Mexico Democrat’s Senate confirmation would likely end speculation of her seeking a rematch against Republican Yvette Herrell, who ousted Torres Small in 2020. The 2nd District is expected to become more favorable to Democrats after redistricting. 

#GA06: Jake Evans, the well-connected chairman of the Georgia ethics commission, joined a list of formidable Republicans thought to be considering a run against Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath in the Atlanta suburbs when he announced he was stepping down this week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. 

#FL07: Rep. Brian Mast is the third Republican from the Florida delegation to endorse Army veteran Cory Mills in what is shaping up to be a crowded primary to challenge Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in the Orlando-area 7th District.

Maggie June: Maggie’s List, a PAC that supports conservative women, announced its first round of 26 endorsements for 2021 special elections and the 2022 midterms.

What we’re reading

Walker watch: A few Republicans have already jumped into the Georgia Senate race, but all eyes are on Herschel Walker, a former football player whom Trump has encouraged to run, Politico reports. 

Dems divided: National Journal takes a deep dive into the divisions rankling the Democratic Party in Nevada, which will play host to a competitive Senate race next year. 

Inflated hopes? The Associated Press looks at how Republicans are hoping to leverage rising prices and inflation on the 2022 campaign trail. 

Foot, shot? As the GOP gears up to press its advantage in Republican-controlled legislatures to “win redistricting” and boost its advantages in the 2022 midterms, Democrats are “unilaterally disarming,” ceding control to independent commissions, Politico reports. 

Trump vs. Cheney: The Daily Beast takes a look at the GOP primary field running against Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, writing that if she loses, her successor’s road to victory will likely have begun at a pro-Trump candidate forum held by a QAnon-curious Florida activist.

Outlasting the pandemic: The coronavirus pandemic changed how we vote. Politico looks at the states that are making those changes permanent.  

Wild card: The high voter turnout over the past three elections could help Democrats defy the historical trends and entrenched disadvantages working against them in the 2022 midterms, CNN reports. Significantly more voters supported Democrats than Republicans in the last three elections, a trend that helps explain the torrent of voting restrictions the GOP is pushing in red states. 

The count: 41 percent

That’s how many persuadable likely voters under age 50 in a dozen battleground states don’t have live TV at home, according to a new report titled “The Streaming Twenties” from Rising Tide Interactive and HIT Strategies. Among all age groups, 48 percent watch mainly streaming services. “Going forward, effective campaigns will consider not just who our target voters are and what messages resonate,” the report concludes, “but also where these voters are consuming media and how best to reach them.”

Nathan’s notes

You probably could fill a great lake in Utah with the salt needed to consume polls these days, but Nathan L. Gonzales found some grains worth pondering in recent Senate polls in Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

Candidate confessions

Former Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi, who narrowly lost his upstate New York seat last cycle to Republican Claudia Tenney, won’t seek a do-over next year. In an email to supporters, he said that “spending time commuting to and from Washington, DC each week took its toll on me, and took me away from Erica, Anthony, Jr., and Lily at such an instrumental time in my kids’ lives.”

He added: “I wanted to let you know, firsthand, friend, that I will not be running for re-election to Congress in 2022.” 

“It’s no secret how important my family has been, and always will be, to me,” he said. “I cherish all of our family meals, hikes, trips, baseball games, softballs games and more — together.”

Shop talk: Brett Broesder

Broesder is the executive director of Democrats Serve, a new PAC that will support Democratic candidates with public service backgrounds. The group recently endorsed Demings’ campaign for Senate in Florida.

Starting out: In 2004, Broesder, a Minnesota native, decided to transfer from Augustana University in South Dakota to Rhode Island College. When he arrived, he tried to join the College Democrats, only to find out that the group didn’t exist. So he started his own group, in part because it seemed like a good way to meet people. He was right — 2004 was a presidential election year after all, so students were engaged. Broesder recalled getting a call from Seth Magaziner, the head of Brown University’s College Democrats, who was coordinating other college groups to help Democrats running for office in Rhode Island. “From there I was just hooked,” Broesder recalled. Magaziner, a former teacher, is now Rhode Island’s state treasurer and a potential gubernatorial candidate. After college, Broesder worked for Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse’s winning Senate campaign in 2006. 

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Broesder was working for a direct mail firm in 2012 when he was dispatched to Arizona’s 2nd District to help out Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s campaign during the final weeks of the race. Broesder was holed up in a hotel room where the campaign was hosting its election night party, crunching numbers with other campaign staff. It looked like Kirkpatrick would win, but it would be close. When Broesder left to get food, he ran into Kirkpatrick in the hotel ballroom. She asked if he had heard anything about the results. No one else was around so Broesder told her, “So you won, but I’d recommend going to get some sleep.” He later felt bad that he broke the news to Kirkpatrick rather than a staffer who had been with the campaign for months. In 2018, Broesder was working with Susan Bysiewicz’s campaign for Connecticut lieutenant governor and the race was extremely close, but it looked like she could win. “I end up telling Susan the story about Ann Kirkpatrick and I go, ‘Thankfully, this time as a staff member, I feel better about saying this: You should probably go get some sleep,’” Broesder said. 

Biggest campaign regret: In 2010, Broesder ran Peter Kilmartin’s campaign for Rhode Island attorney general, which involved a hotly contested primary. Broesder went on the record knocking Kilmartin’s chief primary rival, former Providence City Solicitor Joe Fernandez, for working after college at a Wall Street firm that represented a company tied to the Enron scandal. Kilmartin prevailed in the primary and the general election. In December, Fernandez died after an illness. “You start to feel awful about how the campaign went,” Broesder said. “Now I don’t necessarily regret how it was run because of the outcome, but I regret the fact that that situation weighs on families — not just him passing but the stress that comes with a campaign that is very hard fought and combative.” 

Unconventional wisdom: “I think that there is a tendency, especially for younger folks going into campaigns, to be drawn to the splashy campaigns rather than the smaller ones where they’re bound to learn so much more,” Broesder said, noting that he’s learned more working at the local level than in presidential and statewide campaigns. “The amount you can learn from the municipal work, whether it’s running or working in it, lends itself to having a more well-rounded view of government. So I hope that folks who are younger can take a step back from the splashier side of campaigns and get into the nitty-gritty of local and state races.”

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

Coming up

We’re getting closer to seeing candidates’ latest fundraising reports, with the fundraising deadline for the second quarter coming up next week on June 30. The reports are due to the Federal Election Commission by July 15.

Photo finish

The room where it happened: A bipartisan group of senators, including, from left, Ohio Republican Rob Portman, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III and Utah Republican Mitt Romney, met with White House aides Tuesday to negotiate an infrastructure package. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

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