Politics News 

Morning Digest: North Carolina GOP passes new legislative gerrymanders—and some Democrats join them

Senate

NC-Sen: Republican Sen. Thom Tillis’ new TV ad, which is part of a reported $2.2 million buy stretching through the March 3 primary, is pure Trump-time. The spot features footage of Donald Trump praising Tillis for opposing sanctuary cities and exhorting North Carolina to re-elect him. Tillis, who has pissed off purists with his occasional hints of reluctance toward the Trump agenda, faces a challenge from self-funding businessman Garland Tucker in the GOP primary.

Gubernatorial

KY-Gov: A new RGA ad recycles an old (and bogus) attack against Democrat Andy Beshear, wrapped up in some fresh newsprint.

The first 10 solid seconds of the spot are devoted to a scandal that has nothing to do with Beshear: the recent conviction of Jerry Lundergan, the father of outgoing Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, on charges that he illegally funneled money to her 2014 Senate bid. Never fear, though: The narrator pirouettes to link Grimes to this year’s race for governor by claiming that “the Beshears are part of Frankfort’s corrupt culture, too,” and once again brings up the conviction of Beshear’s former top deputy, Tim Longmeyer.

However, as we’ve noted before, while Longmeyer went to prison for accepting bribes (and said he’d donated some of his bribe money to Beshear’s last campaign for attorney general), no evidence has ever surfaced indicating Beshear knew of the bribery. In addition, Beshear donated the $14,000 remaining in his campaign account to the good-government group Common Cause to make amends for what Longmeyer had done (it’s unclear how much ill-gotten cash he actually gave).

House

CA-08: On Tuesday, Rep. Paul Cook’s chief of staff said the congressman would not seek re-election next year, making Cook the 16th Republican to retire from the House so far this cycle. Instead, Cook will seek an open seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, a race his team had previously said he was interested in.

Cook first won election to the House in 2012 after GOP Rep. Jerry Lewis announced his retirement. At the time a member of the state Assembly, Cook took just 15.3% in a 13-way top-two primary that June, barely trailing fellow Republican Gregg Imus, a tea partier who managed 15.6%. That fall, though, the very conservative Cook beat the even more strident Imus 57-43, in part by offering slightly greater appeal to Democratic voters.

Cook easily turned back Democratic opponents in 2014 and 2016, thanks to his district’s deep red lean: This sprawling seat, which hugs the Nevada border and takes in Northern San Bernardino County and the High Desert, voted 55-40 for Donald Trump and 60-40 for Republican John Cox in 2018’s gubernatorial race. Last year, after Democrats narrowly got squeezed out in the primary once more, Cook again faced another Republican in the general election, former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, and beat him 60-40. (Imus, incidentally, had worked for the hard-right Donnelly in the legislature.)

As such, Republicans are overwhelmingly likely to retain this seat, though it doesn’t say much about the party’s prospects for regaining control of the House if members in safely red districts don’t want to stick around. The San Bernardino board, by contrast, is in Republican hands, making it much more appealing to someone like Cook, who would earn a salary comparable to his congressional pay if he’s elected supervisor—and enjoy a much shorter commute.

CA-48: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has endorsed Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel in her bid to unseat freshman Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda. A few other minor Republicans have announced campaigns for this seat.

FL-13: Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna announced a bid for Florida’s 13th Congressional District on Monday, joining several other Republicans looking to take on Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist. The other notable GOP contenders already running are attorney Amanda Makki and businessman Matt Becker, though former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker has not ruled out the race.

IL-03: On Tuesday, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who famously made her way to Congress by primarying a longtime incumbent who was out of step with his district, endorsed Democrat Marie Newman, who’s trying to do the same thing in a safely blue district in Illinois.

For the second straight cycle, Newman is running against Rep. Dan Lipinski, an anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ Blue Dog who survived by just a 51-49 margin last year. In 2018, Newman earned the support several prominent members of Congress and has done so once again, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders previously giving her their backing.

IL-15: Attorney and former Miss America Erika Harold will not seek retiring Rep. John Shimkus’ open congressional seat, according to unnamed sources cited by Politico. Harold lost a primary challenge to GOP Rep. Rodney Davis in the neighboring 13th District in 2014 55-41, then lost a bid for state attorney general to Democrat Kwame Raoul last year by a 55-43 margin.

Also not running is former state Sen. Kyle McCarter, who is now Donald Trump’s ambassador to Kenya. McCarter, who tried to primary Shimkus in 2016 but lost 60-40, says he wants to remain in his current post.

However, there are a number of other Republicans who could seek this safely red district. So far, the only person to actually kick off a bid is Air Force veteran Alex Walker, but Joseph Bustos of the Belleville News-Democrat rounds up two more names. Madison County Board Members Kurt Prenzler and Chris Guy both say they’re considering but neither offered a timeframe for making a decision. Prenzler, who chairs the board, is up for re-election in 2020 so he’d have to give up his current seat; Guy, by contrast, doesn’t go before voters again until 2022. State Sen. Jason Plummer had previously said he’s weighing the race.

MA-04: A spokesperson for state Treasurer Deb Goldberg, who earlier this week filed paperwork with the FEC, says she’s “in a decision-making process on whether to run” for Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District in the event the seat comes open. Lots of other Bay State Democrats are also hovering around this race, waiting to see whether Rep. Joe Kennedy challenges Sen. Ed Markey, but we’ll hold off on invoking the Great Mentioner unless and until we have an actual open seat on our hands—or, as was the case with Goldberg, someone prominent takes an affirmative step toward running.

NE-02: Nonprofit executive Kara Eastman, who was last year’s Democratic nominee, has released a new poll of Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District showing her closer to Republican Rep. Don Bacon than either of her likely primary rivals.

The survey, from GQR, puts Bacon up just 50-49 on Eastman, while he leads attorney Ann Ashford 53-46 and restaurateur Gladys Harrison (who hasn’t actually kicked off a campaign yet) 55-44. The argument here, of course, is that Eastman, who lost to Bacon 51-49 in 2018, is the most electable candidate.

However, the poll did not include a test of the Democratic primary, so we don’t know where Eastman stands vis-à-vis her opponents, or whether her message of electability is resonating. Also, in a finding that’s unusual for a survey of an election that’s still 14 months away, only 1% of respondents said they were undecided, an extremely low proportion.

WI-05: State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who’d been considering a bid for Wisconsin’s open 5th Congressional District, became the first notable Republican to formally join the race on Tuesday. Fitzgerald was a key ally of former Gov. Scott Walker and played a major role in passing the union-busting Act 10 in 2011, which sparked massive protests and prompted Senate Democrats to flee the state in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to deny the GOP a quorum to vote on the bill. Naturally, Fitzgerald remains proud of his work in gutting organized labor and specifically cited Act 10 in a statement announcing his campaign.

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