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Veteran California Democrat retires, prompting colleague to switch districts

The new 13th also contains Harder’s hometown of Turlock, though he sought to emphasize his ties to the new 9th by saying, “150 years ago my great-great-grandpa settled in Manteca to start a peach farm and raise his family.” Politically, the two districts are very similar on the presidential level, with the 9th a touch bluer: It would have backed Joe Biden 55-43, compared to 54-43 for Biden in the 14th. The 9th, however, is much more compact and closer both to Sacramento and the Bay Area; for whatever reason, Harder decided he preferred it to the 13th.

Campaign Action

Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray, who has been one of the most prominent business-friendly moderates in the state capitol, responded to Harder’s announcement in turn by almost immediately launching a bid for the 13th with an endorsement from Rep. Jim Costa. Gray, as we’ve noted before, represents 60% of the 13th in the legislature, which could give him a big edge in the June top-two primary.

GV Wire also reports that prosecutor Andrew Janz, who ran an expensive 2018 race against then-GOP Rep. Devin Nunes in the old 22nd District, is also considering the new 13th. Janz held Nunes to a 53-47 in that reliably red seat, but he went on to lose the 2020 officially nonpartisan contest for mayor of Fresno 52-40 against Republican Jerry Dyer. California’s filing deadline is in mid-March, so any potential candidates have about two months to make their decisions.

McNerney himself was elected to Congress in the 2006 blue wave by defeating seven-term Republican Rep. Richard Pombo, a campaign that took place two years after Pombo beat him in a landslide. McNerney, of whom NBC would later say, “He has written novels and a satire diet book, and is a wind energy consultant who named his daughter Windy,” was a little-noticed first-time candidate in 2004 when he won the nomination with a write-in campaign after Team Blue failed to field another candidate.

Pombo, by contrast, was a prominent rancher and House Resources Committee chair whose turf was sometimes referred to as “Pombo Country,” and he had no trouble winning in the years since his tight initial 1992 victory. Pombo’s seat, which was numbered the 11th, at the time contained some of the Bay Area’s more conservative suburbs as well as a large slice of Stockton’s San Joaquin County, and the incumbent turned back McNerney 61-39 as George W. Bush was carrying the district by a 54-45 spread.

McNerney soon sought a rematch, but the DCCC backed Navy veteran Steve Filson in the party primary (California wouldn’t implement its current top-two primary system until the 2012 cycle) over their last nominee. McNerney, though, had the support of the state Democratic establishment and local labor groups, and he won the nomination 53-28. Pombo, meanwhile, faced a quixotic but high-profile intra-party challenge of his own from former Rep. Pete McCloskey, a liberal Republican who had famously run an anti-war primary campaign against President Richard Nixon in 1972. Pombo won by a wide 62-33, but McCloskey soon resurfaced as a prominent McNerney supporter.

It became clear before long that this McNerney-Pombo race would be far more competitive than their last match was, and it wasn’t just because 2006 was turning into an awful year for Team Red. Environmental groups detested Pombo, who had used his prominent post to promote drilling and push policies that benefited landowners, and they spent heavily to beat him now that he finally seemed vulnerable. McNerney also captured the attention of the nascent netroots community, which helped him raise a serious amount of money this time.

Pombo still enjoyed a big financial advantage, but he was badly damaged by his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. All of this allowed McNerney to completely turn things around from the last cycle and win 53-47, which made the Republican the one California congressman to lose a general election from 2002 through 2010. Pombo, for his part, would go on to take third in the 2010 primary for the 19th District against Jeff Denham, who would eventually lose in 2018 to none other than Harder.

Republicans planned to target McNerney in 2008, but he held off former Assemblyman Dean Andal 55-45 as Barack Obama was taking the 11th by the same 54-44 margin. But 2010 was an altogether different matter, and the congressman had a tough race ahead of him against Republican David Harmer, a well-funded businessman who had run a strong special election campaign the previous year for the neighboring and far more Democratic 10th District.

McNerney, who had worked hard to cultivate a moderate image, enjoyed far more outside support than Harmer, which may have made all the difference: The incumbent won by a 48-47 margin in a race that took weeks to call, giving his party some late good news after an otherwise dreary cycle.

The state’s new independent redistricting commission soon completely redrew the congressional map, and McNerney opted to move to the potentially competitive 9th District around Stockton for 2012 rather than take on fellow Democratic Rep. Pete Stark in the safely blue 15th in the East Bay. (Stark would go on to lose an intra-party general election to Eric Swalwell.)

McNerney still looked like the favorite in a seat that Obama had carried 56-41 in 2008, but he faced a serious threat from Republican Ricky Gill, a well-connected 25-year-old businessman and member of the state Board of Education. Gill, who sought to use McNerney’s Bay Area roots against him, outraised the incumbent and benefited from heavy spending from the NRCC, but the Democrat won 56-44 as Obama carried the 9th by a larger 57-38 margin.

National Republicans never again seriously went after McNerney, though this may have cost them the chance to beat him in 2014. Few gave perennial candidate Tony Amador a second thought including McNerney, who spent little in the lead up to the election, but the congressman won just 52-48 as another GOP wave hit hard. McNerney, however, won their rematch 57-43 in 2016, and he also claimed his final two terms by double digits.

Redistricting

VT Redistricting: Vermont’s Democratic-run state House has voted to advance a new map for its own chamber that differs significantly from one the state’s advisory redistricting commission recommended last month. That panel, known as the Legislative Apportionment Board, drafted a plan that would have eliminated multi-member districts and instead used single-member districts to elect all 150 members of the House.

Legislative Democrats, however, favored a map that would preserve several dozen districts that elect two members apiece, over the objections of Republicans. The full House will have to approve the map again in a further vote. Redistricting in the state Senate, which also uses multi-member districts, is still underway.

4Q Fundraising

  • NV-Sen: Sam Brown (R): $1 million raised
  • AZ-Gov: Matt Salmon (R): $1.2 million raised (in 2021), $500,000 cash-on-hand
  • NY-Gov: Kathy Hochul (D-inc): $21.6 million (from late Aug. to mid-Jan.), $21 million cash-on-hand; Tom Suozzi (D): $3.2 million raised (since Nov. 29), additional $2.1 million transferred, $5.2 million cash-on-hand
  • CA-49: Brian Maryott (R): $321,000 raised, additional $500,000 self-funded, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
  • FL-18: Brian Mast (R-inc): $701,000 raised, $2.3 million cash-on-hand
  • GA-10: Mike Collins (R): $150,000 raised, $750,000 cash-on-hand
  • IL-06: Sean Casten (D-inc): $700,000 raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
  • KS-03: Sharice Davids (D-inc): $855,000 raised, $2.3 million cash-on-hand
  • OR-04: Val Hoyle (D): $210,000 raised (in one month); Alek Skarlatos (R): $425,000 raised
  • OR-05: Jamie McLeod-Skinner (D): $277,000 raised (in two months)
  • MO-04: Mark Alford (R): $200,000 raised

Senate

OH-Sen: Republican state Sen. Matt Dolan is airing his first set of TV and digital ads, backed by a reported $1.7 million buy, in which he declares we’re in a “cold war” with China.

PA-Sen: Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, who hails from western Pennsylvania, continues to rack up support in the voter-rich eastern part of the state, this week earning an endorsement from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. Earlier this month, some major building trade unions from the Philly area also got in Lamb’s corner.

However, as is often the case, the diverse labor movement isn’t uniting behind a single candidate in the Democratic primary. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Julia Terruso reports that all four Philadelphia-based affiliates of SEIU, which represents healthcare workers and public employees, will endorse state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta on Wednesday.

Governors

AZ-Gov: State Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced over the weekend that she was dropping out of the crowded Republican primary for governor and would instead seek re-election. Yee had looked like a frontrunner when she entered the race for Arizona’s top job back in May but raised just over $500,000 for 2021, a sum that put her far behind most of the field.

Another contender, Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, meanwhile has launched her opening spot ahead of the August GOP primary, which features her blaming “the Biden and Harris administration” as she shows what she says are undocumented immigrants crossing the border.

IL-Gov: Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin announced Monday that he was joining the June Republican primary to face Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a move that was greeted with satisfaction by Ken Griffin, the state’s wealthiest man. While Griffin did not confirm reports saying that he planned to take advantage of Illinois’ meager campaign finance laws to donate up to $150 million to aid Irvin’s bid, he declared, “Richard Irvin’s life embodies the American Dream and a real commitment to making communities stronger.” Pritzker, for his part, threw down $90 million of his own money just before the mayor made his declaration on top of the $42 million he’d already self-funded.

Irvin, who would be the state’s first Black governor, quickly attracted endorsements from other notable Republicans, including state House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, former Rep. John Shimkus, and wealthy perennial loser Jim Oberweis, but he has some clear potential primary liabilities. As we’ve written before, the mayor voted in the 2014, 2016, and 2020 Democratic primaries, though he did cast a ballot in the 2018 Republican contest.

The Chicago Tribune‘s Rick Pearson also said last month that Irvin “supports immigrant rights, and implementing sanctuary city-style policies with law enforcement for immigrants who lack legal status.” Irvin additionally proclaimed a day of honor to acknowledge Ngozi Ezike, the state director of public health who has implemented many of the measures to curb the pandemic that the GOP base utterly despises. Perhaps most notably, Irvin’s associates relayed that he’s told them he’s pro-choice, though his advisor denied this.

MN-Gov: Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, whose name came up as a possible GOP gubernatorial candidate in both 2014 and 2018, is either testing the waters for 2022 or is the target of a recruitment effort, since Morning Take reports that he’s the focus of a new poll pitting him against Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. The newsletter adds that there’s been a “strong” push to woo him into the race but adds that Stanek has so far “resisted.”

Stanek has long touted his bipartisan appeal, which allowed him to win three terms in deep-blue Hennepin County (home of Minneapolis). For that same reason, however, he’d face a difficult time in a GOP primary, which is why Morning Take suggests Stanek could run as an independent. He also hasn’t ruled out seeking his old job, which he lost in a narrow upset in 2018.

NY-Gov: Bowing to reality for once, former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday that he would not run in the June Democratic primary against Gov. Kathy Hochul. A Siena poll released the same day found Hochul dominating de Blasio 46-12, with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at 11% and Rep. Tom Suozzi taking just 6.

PA-Gov, PA-17: Several media outlets reported last week that former state House Speaker Mike Turzai would use a state party meeting on Saturday to promote an unannounced bid for governor, but the event passed without any public declaration from him. An unnamed source also told Pittsburgh City Paper that Turzai was also “strongly considering” running for Congress, though there were no other details. Turzai’s former seat is entirely located in the current 17th Congressional District, but Pennsylvania is far from finishing redistricting.

WI-Gov: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel relays that 2018 Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson will announce in the “coming days” that he’ll seek the GOP nomination for governor.

House

AZ-06: Republican state Sen. Kelly Townsend, who has a long history of spreading lies about the 2020 election and trying to undermine vaccinations, said Monday that she would run for the new and swingy 6th District―a southern Arizona constituency that local NBC reporter Brahm Resnik says is about 50 miles away from her home in the Mesa area. Townsend will take on Juan Ciscomani, a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey who has the backing of the major GOP super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund, in the August primary.

Townsend, who chairs the Senate Government Committee, spent the weekend before her announcement at Trump’s rally in the state, and she used her speech to further spread The Big Lie. “What do we want? Indictments!,” Townsend said, adding, “When do we want them? Now!” In case it wasn’t clear what she meant, the state senator continued, “We want indictments of the election workers so that they don’t continue to do this.” Last year, Townsend also took issue with a billboard reading, “Want to return to normal? Get vaccinated.” She tweeted, “Seen in Communist China today. Oops, I mean Arizona.”

FL-26, FL-27: Former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat who narrowly lost re-election last cycle in the 26th District, responded to a Miami Herald inquiry about another congressional campaign by saying, “I will be making an announcement very shortly on what I’ll be doing … Within the next week or so.” Florida’s GOP-dominated legislature is currently working on redistricting.

IL-01: Construction contracting firm owner Jonathan Jackson has confirmed that he’s interested in competing in the June Democratic primary for this safely blue seat and will decide in “the next week or two.” Jackson is the son of two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and the younger brother of former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned from the neighboring 2nd District in 2012 and later was sentenced to 30 months in prison for spending campaign money on himself.

Real estate executive Nykea Pippion McGriff, meanwhile, also says she’s thinking about campaigning to succeed retiring Rep. Bobby Rush.

IL-15: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth has endorsed Rep. Mary Miller, who already had Donald Trump’s support, in her June Republican primary battle against fellow incumbent Rodney Davis.

MI-08: Bill Schuette, who was the 2018 Republican nominee for governor, announced Tuesday that he wouldn’t take on Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee in the new 8th District after all. Kildee already faces a challenge from former Trump administration official Paul Junge, who lost a close 2020 battle against Rep. Elissa Slotkin in the old 8th.

NE-01: State Sen. Mike Flood declared Sunday that he would challenge indicted Rep. Jeff Fortenberry in the May Republican primary. Flood, a former speaker of the unicameral chamber who also owns and operates the local news media chain News Channel Nebraska, argued that Fortenberry’s legal problems threatened the GOP’s control over what should be a safe seat. “I would tell you that we’re here today because of the situation that Congressman Fortenberry is in as it relates to the indictment,” Flood said, adding, “I respect his service and I look forward to being a challenger that can not only win the primary but win the general.”

NJ-11: Republican Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, who is a former lobbyist for Sesame Street’s Sesame Workshop, told the New Jersey Globe on Friday that she was interested in taking on Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill in the new version of this seat, which would have backed Joe Biden 58-41.

The site also reports that Dunn the next day appeared before the Passaic County GOP’s screening committee, which is the first step towards getting the county party’s important endorsement line, and told its members, “Once again, my name is Aura Dunn, and I am running for Congress.” Despite that seemingly firm declaration, though, she has yet to make any public announcement.

NY-03: DNC member Robert Zimmerman, a longtime local Democratic politico who runs a public relations firm and often appears on cable news, announced Monday that he was entering the primary to succeed Rep. Tom Suozzi. Zimmerman, who would be Long Island’s first gay member of Congress, joins a June nomination contest that includes 2020 candidate Melanie D’Arrigo, deputy Suffolk County Executive Jon Kaiman, and Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan.

Zimmerman, after losing a trio of races in the 1980s, became a major national party fundraiser in the 1992 presidential election and has remained an influential party bundler in the decades since then. The New York Times even wrote back in 2004 that a Democratic operative dubbed him the “Pope of Long Island” due to what the paper called his “bloated Rolodex and ability to coax money from Democrats.”

However, Zimmerman hasn’t entirely restricted his efforts to helping Team Blue. Back in 2014, he hosted a fundraiser at his home for the re-election campaign of Republican state Sen. Jack Martins. Zimmerman, who was also on the DNC at the time, declared, “I’m a proud Democrat, but my community and Long Island come before partisanship.” Martins won that campaign, but he lost the general election for the 3rd District two years later by a 53-47 margin to none other than Tom Suozzi.

OH-13: Democratic state Rep. Emilia Sykes, who stepped down as House minority leader last month and faces term limits this year, announced a bid for Congress on Tuesday, though where she’ll be able to do so isn’t yet clear. Under the map adopted by Ohio Republicans in November, Sykes—who also served on the state’s GOP-dominated redistricting commission—would have run in the open 13th District, which included her home base of Akron. Last week, however, the state Supreme Court struck down the entire map as an illegal partisan gerrymander, and we likely won’t see new lines until next month at the soonest.

RI-02: Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin, a Democrat whose 2000 win made him the first quadriplegic to ever serve in Congress, said Tuesday that he would retire from the 2nd District.

The current version of this seat, which includes part of Providence and western Rhode Island, backed Joe Biden by a 56-43 spread four years after it favored Hillary Clinton by a smaller 51-44 margin. The redrawn 2nd will almost certainly look almost identical because the state’s redistricting commission recently advanced a map that made only minimal changes to Rhode Island’s two seats, though the Democratic-run legislature still needs to approve new boundaries.

Langevin was a 16-year-old Warwick police cadet in 1980 when an officer discharged a gun he didn’t know was loaded, an incident that severed Langevin’s spinal cord and left him permanently paralyzed. The future congressman, who would receive a $2.2 million settlement from the city, couldn’t become an officer afterwards, and he turned his attention to politics.

Langevin served as secretary of the state Constitutional Convention in 1986 two years before he won a spot in the state House, and he was elected statewide in 1994 by decisively unseating Secretary of State Barbara Leonard, the last Republican to hold that post. Langevin, who made a name for himself by championing open government, won re-election in a landslide, though his opposition to abortion rights infuriated some progressives.

Langevin was one of four Democrats to seek the 2nd Congressional District in 2000 when incumbent Bob Weygand left to unsuccessfully challenge appointed Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, and he quickly emerged as the favorite. His main foe was Association of Social Workers executive director Kate Coyne-McCoy, a longtime establishment critic who had famously once proclaimed that “there’s no such thing as being too liberal.” Coyne-McCoy focused on Langevin’s anti-abortion views and argued he was too close to special interests, but he won 47-29 ahead of an easy general election victory.

Langevin’s conservative stance on abortion eventually earned him a 2006 primary challenge from Brown University political science professor Jennifer Lawless, who raised a notable amount of money with aid from pro-choice groups, but he prevailed 62-38. Langevin’s final notable intra-party challenge came four years later from state Rep. Betsy Dennigan, who focused more on the economy than abortion, and he won 57-34.

Langevin, unlike other Democrats with anti-abortion histories, rarely attracted national attention during the rest of his tenure, and he announced last year that, while he was still “personally opposed to abortion,” he backed a bill to protect abortion rights from an adverse Supreme Court decision.

Grab Bag

Babka: With 2021 now squarely in our rear view, we are pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 Daily Kos Elections prediction contest, sponsored by GreensBabka.com! Click here to see how you did—and whether you won one of our prizes!



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