October 23, 2021

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Iowa GOP rejects nonpartisan maps, a sign gerrymanders may be on the way

That’s never happened before, because in the prior four decades since the legislature passed a bill giving the LSA a central role in redistricting, control over state government has always been divided between the two parties immediately following each census. This time, however, Republicans hold the governing trifecta, which would allow them to run roughshod over the LSA’s recommendations, or even repeal its role outright—precisely what Democrats most fear. The only reason the GOP might hesitate is if it fears a backlash for torching 40 years of nonpartisan redistricting, but if there’s one thing we’ve seen time and again, few voters care about process stories.


AZ Redistricting: Arizona’s independent redistricting commission unanimously voted to release its first draft congressional map on Tuesday, but commissioners cautioned that it’s only a template to which further changes will be made. One way you can be certain it’s far from final is that the smallest district has about 15,000 fewer people than the largest; barring very specific circumstances (which don’t obtain here), the Supreme Court allows no population deviation at all between congressional districts. To view the plan, you’ll need to make a free account here, then load the map titled “CD Test Map Version 1.1”.

Campaign Action

CO Redistricting: Two Latino advocacy groups say they plan to contest Colorado’s new congressional redistricting proposal, which they argue dilutes the voting power of minority communities in contravention of the state constitution. The state Democratic Party also says it has concerns about whether the commission faithfully followed a separate directive to maximize the number of competitive districts.

The Latino organizations say they plan to file a brief with the state Supreme Court, which must approve any maps before they can take effect, while the state party is “reviewing its legal options.” The Colorado branch of the good-government group Common Cause says it, too, might join those making submissions to the court, which are due by Friday. The justices will then hold oral arguments on Tuesday before rendering a decision by Nov. 1. If they reject the map, commissioners would get a second chance to draw another one to address the court’s objections.

TX Redistricting: Texas’ Republican-run legislature has advanced several redistricting plans that they’d recently proposed, all of which would lock in GOP gerrymanders. Before the full state Senate, Republican lawmakers passed a new map for the chamber’s own districts, while a committee approved a new congressional map, both with some tweaks to prior versions. Meanwhile, in the state House, a committee signed off on a new map for the lower chamber on a party-line vote, again with some modifications.


AZ-Sen: Mark Brnovich (R): $600,000 raised

KY-Sen: Rand Paul (R-inc): $4 million raised, $7 million cash-on-hand

AZ-02: Juan Ciscomani (R): $600,000 raised (in two months)

CA-50: Joseph Rocha (D): $253,000 raised

GA-14: Marcus Flowers (D): $1.3 million raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer (D-inc): $1.1 million raised, $11 million cash-on-hand

NY-24: Francis Conole (D): $217,000 raised (in one month), $184,000 cash-on-hand

PA-17: Chris Deluzio (D): $255,000 raised (in five weeks)


AZ-Sen: The Washington Examiner’s David Drucker reports that Saving Arizona PAC, a group funded by billionaire Peter Thiel to support former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, has launched a new $1 million ad campaign against Attorney General Mark Brnovich a month after it began running commercials against him. Brnovich and Masters are competing in next year’s busy GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.

The new commercial once again uses Donald Trump as a bludgeon against Brnovich, whom Trump has repeatedly trashed for recognizing Joe Biden’s victory in the state. The narrator argues that the attorney general “isn’t doing his job on illegal immigration” and goes on to fault him for having “opposed President Trump on adding a citizenship question to the Census.” The spot then shows footage of Masters proudly proclaiming, “We got to stop illegal immigration so that American jobs go to American workers.”

NC-Sen: Businesswoman Marjorie Eastman, a combat veteran who served with the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, announced Tuesday she was joining the Republican primary for this open seat.

UT-Sen: Former CIA officer Evan McMullin, who took 21% in Utah in the 2016 general election as an anti-Trump conservative, announced Tuesday that he would take on Republican Sen. Mike Lee as an independent.

McMullin did not mention Trump, who earned 57% of the vote in 2020 after taking just 45% here four years before, in his launch video, though he did feature footage of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Instead, the independent positioned himself as an alternative to “extremes in Washington” and “as a patriot committed to defending our nation.”


CT-Gov: While Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont hasn’t given any obvious sign that he’s thinking of retiring, the incumbent said this week that he hadn’t decided whether or not to seek a second term in 2022. “I don’t want to play games with it,” Lamont said, adding, “I think I’ll make up my mind by the end of this year.” He also bemoaned, “Everybody in our capital, Hartford, is running all the time. It’s a nonstop campaign factory and we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

IL-Gov: The Republican firm Ogden & Fry gives state Sen. Darren Bailey 33% of the vote in its opening poll of the GOP primary to take on Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, with well-funded venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan a distant second with 6%.

OH-Gov: Rep. Warren Davidson has blown past his self-imposed September deadline for deciding whether he’ll challenge Gov. Mike DeWine in the Republican primary, and he also held a fundraiser Monday to benefit his congressional campaign. That doesn’t mean Davidson has ruled out a gubernatorial bid, though, as Ohio allows candidates to transfer federal campaign money to state-level committees.


CO-03: Democratic state Sen. Kerry Donovan said Monday that she was pausing her fundraising for her campaign against far-right Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert until the Colorado Supreme Court rules whether the map passed last week by the state’s new independent congressional redistricting commission can go into effect. Donovan acknowledged that the 3rd District would become even more conservative under these boundaries, which she called “an inexplicable change given that Colorado has grown significantly more Democratic since the last redistricting process 10 years ago.”

MN-04: Amane Badhasso, a member of Saint Paul’s Department of Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity who also worked as a senior staffer for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in Minnesota, announced this week that she was challenging longtime Rep. Betty McCollum in the Democratic primary. Badhasso, who would be the first Ethiopian American member of Congress, argued, “We have not seen that pursuit of economic justice and racial justice in a manner we should be seeing in the progressive leadership.”

McCollum was first elected to this safely blue St. Paul-based seat in 2000 and has faced no serious opposition during the ensuring two decades. The incumbent also responded to Badhasso’s declaration by making it clear she was running for a 12th term.  

NH-01: Former TV reporter Gail Huff Brown announced Tuesday that she would seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in the 1st Congressional District, a competitive seat that the GOP legislature will have the chance to gerrymander this cycle. Huff Brown, who is the wife of former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, joins a primary that includes former White House staffer Karoline Leavitt; state Rep. Tim Baxter; and 2020 nominee Matt Mowers, who lost to Pappas 51-46 as Joe Biden was carrying the district 52-46.

Huff Brown spent 17 years working as a reporter for Boston’s ABC affiliate WCVB-TV, a position that gave her the chance to reach most Granite State households. (About 85% of the state’s residents live within the Boston media market, so Massachusetts politicians and media figures are often familiar faces for New Hampshire’s denizens.) She then relocated to D.C. in 2010 months after her husband’s upset win in the Massachusetts special election and took a part time job with a local TV network.

In 2013, the year after Brown lost re-election to Elizabeth Warren, the couple moved to New Hampshire. Brown went on to lose a 2014 Senate bid in his adopted state against Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen, while Huff Brown later worked as a contributor for New Hampshire 1 News Network. The two relocated again in 2017 after Donald Trump picked Brown to become ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, and they returned to the Granite State following Trump’s defeat.

NH-02: Brewery owner Jeff Cozzens, a Republican who WMUR says “is also a national security expert with an emphasis in Islamic militancy,” said this week that he would challenge Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. Cozzens has been an ally of Gov. Chris Sununu, who appointed him to the state’s community college board; Sununu also just appeared at Cozzens’ establishment during a Sunday Night Football appearance just before the Patriots-Buccaneers football game.

As we’ve written before, though, the 2nd District may not be much of a GOP target next year. Republicans have made it clear that they want to make the 1st District more conservative, which they can’t do without subsequently making Kuster’s seat more Democratic.

OR-04: The AP reports that Army National Guard veteran Alek Skarlatos donated $93,000 in unused funds in February from his unsuccessful 2020 bid for Congress to a nonprofit he created called the 15:17 Trust, which then proceeded to do little except later return $65,000 to Skarlatos’ campaign.

That raises multiple flags. For one, while candidates can give leftover funds to nonprofits, they can’t give them to organizations they run. For another, nonprofits—just like for-profit corporations—can’t donate to political campaigns. Skarlatos’ filings describe the $65,000 infusion as a “refund,” but as a former FEC attorney explained, “You can’t, months later, send a different amount from a nonprofit company to a campaign and say it was a refund for a larger amount that was transferred much earlier.”

Skarlatos, a Republican who is seeking a rematch with Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio in Oregon’s now revamped 4th District, didn’t offer any kind of substantive response to the AP’s questions, though a spokesperson insisted that the transactions were “completely legal.”

TX-37: The GOP’s proposed congressional gerrymander would create a solidly blue new seat in Austin, and Democratic state Rep. Gina Hinojosa acknowledged Monday that people have asked if she’s interested in running for it. Hinojosa declined to rule out the idea, saying instead, “My focus right now is fighting for fair maps at every level. There will be time for me and anyone else who wants to consider a congressional office or any other political ambition.” She added, “With no final maps, now is not the time.”

Hinojosa’s comments are similar to the sentiment expressed last week by Wendy Davis, who was Team Blue’s 2020 nominee for the current 21st District. Davis, a former state senator who moved from Fort Worth to Austin following her defeat in the 2014 race for governor, said “Discussions around who may or may not run for election and in which districts is not the right conversation to have at this time.”

TX-38: Sen. Ted Cruz has thrown his support behind Army veteran Wesley Hunt, who currently faces no serious GOP primary opposition in his campaign for the proposed 38th District in the conservative Houston suburbs.

Attorneys General

WI-AG: Law professor Ryan Owens dropped out of the Republican primary Monday after conservatives criticized him for giving inconsistent explanations for why he’d taken several of his podcast episodes offline, including discussions with Trump critics. His departure means that, at least for now, Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney is the only declared Republican running to take on Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul in this swing state.  


Albuquerque, NM Mayor: The first poll we’ve seen of Nov. 2’s officially nonpartisan race comes from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling on behalf of the local site The Paper, and it shows Democratic Mayor Tim Keller close to the majority he’d need to avoid a December runoff.

Keller takes 47% of the vote, while Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, a self-described “strong fiscal conservative” who remains a nominal Democrat, leads Republican radio host Eddy Aragon 21-11 for second place. Keller’s critics have hoped that the city’s crime rate, which has long been an issue in Albuquerque politics, would hurt the mayor heading into Election Day, but both of his main opponents have run weak campaigns so far.

Local political observer Joe Monahan wrote Tuesday that Gonzales still has not been able to air any TV ads, while Aragon said he doesn’t expect to have much of a TV presence. Aragon entered the race late and hasn’t brought in much money, but the sheriff’s problems have attracted far more attention.

Gonzales spent months in a losing legal battle to obtain more than $600,000 in public funds that City Clerk Ethan Watson denied him due to suspected fraud. Watson concluded in a letter to Gonzales that he and his campaign “submitted forged Qualifying Contribution acknowledgment forms to the Clerk’s Office to obtain public financing in your campaign, which you and your employees knew or should have known were forged, and paid for the Qualifying Contributions of purported contributors.”

The sheriff finally acknowledged three weeks ago that he would have to rely on private funding, though he blamed the “liberal establishment” for his troubles. However, if Gonzales thought he could finally turn the page on this saga, he got a rude awakening on Sept. 24 when the city ethics board fined him $2,000 and delivered a formal reprimand after ruling that he’d submitted 16 forged documents.

Keller, who qualified for public financing without any trouble, doesn’t face the type of financial constraints that his opponents have, though, and he went up with his first TV commercial last week. As an athlete dramatically jumps over literal hurdles on a track, Keller talks about the city’s accomplishments in its fight against the pandemic. He concludes, “We’ve got more ahead of us, and I’ll never let up.”

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Attorney Sharon Gay has released a mid-September Secrest Strategies poll that shows her making big gains since July, but she may have a tough time sustaining any momentum. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Gay, who has been self-funding most of her campaign, hasn’t run any TV ads since Sept. 12, which was the last day this survey was in the field.

That poll found City Council President Felicia Moore in first place with 28% in the Nov. 2 nonpartisan primary, while former Mayor Kasim Reed led Gay 21-12 for the second spot in a likely runoff. Gay’s memo says she took just 3% in July, a poll that was conducted before she began running commercials the following month.

Cleveland, OH Mayor: Nonprofit head Justin Bibb earned an endorsement Monday from Ohio’s most prominent Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown, ahead of the Nov. 2 nonpartisan general election.

Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor announced this week that she would run for lieutenant governor next year rather than take part in a special election to succeed Mayor Tom Barrett, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to become ambassador to Luxembourg. Taylor is hoping to replace Senate candidate Mandela Barnes, who unsuccessfully challenged her in the 2016 primary; last year, Taylor herself waged a losing campaign against Barrett.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the notorious 89-year-old Arizona Republican who has lost three campaigns in as many cycles, announced Tuesday that he’d run next year for mayor of his hometown of Fountain Hills, a 25,000-person community in the Phoenix area. The city, which is home to one of the largest water fountains in the world, holds mayoral elections every two years, so win or lose, Arpaio can keep running for office every even-numbered year instead of just retiring.

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