DNC Votes For New Primary Schedule; Potential New Candidate in Montana; Indiana’s Spartz to Retire From House

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023

President

Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison speaks at the DNC’s winter meeting, in Philadelphia.

DNC: Votes to Change Primary Schedule — At the Democratic National Committee’s Winter Meeting in Philadelphia over the weekend, the membership officially adopted President Biden’s recommendations for a new pre-Super Tuesday primary voting schedule. As part of the major action, party members removed the Iowa Democratic Caucuses from their traditional first voting state slot. This means the Hawkeye State nomination schedule is forced to move after the Super Tuesday date of March 5, 2024.

The new schedule propels South Carolina, home to DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison, as the first primary state, which will presumably be scheduled for Feb. 3, 2024. New Hampshire and Nevada would share a primary date almost exactly a year from now, on Feb. 6, 2024. Georgia would then vote on Feb. 13, with Michigan following on Feb. 27. The Committee is giving both New Hampshire and Georgia, which are asked to comply with the new DNC schedule, until June 3, 2023 to enact new election laws. Considering the two states have Republican governors and legislatures, it appears such approval will not be easy to obtain. The Michigan legislature and governor have already taken action to move their primary.

On the other hand, Republicans are keeping the traditional early schedule of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. This means we could see at least some of these states holding separate nominating events for each party.

Senate

Montana: Potential New Candidate — The National Journal is reporting that first-term state Attorney General Austin Knudsen, the former eastern Montana Roosevelt County District Attorney, is considering a US Senate run. Most of the attention, in terms of potential opponents for Sen. Jon Tester (D), has centered around US Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive) and Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish). A spokesperson for AG Knudsen did not confirm or deny the report, only to say that “announcements regarding future plans will come at a later date.”

The Montana race will be a top Republican conversion target in 2024. Sen. Tester said he will make a decision about seeking a fourth term before the end of March. Should Knudsen enter the Senate race, he would risk his current position as his office is also on the ballot in 2024.

House

Indiana Rep. Victoria Spartz (R)

IN-5: Rep. Victoria Spartz (R) to Retire — Second-term Indiana US Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville) announced on Friday that she will not enter the open US Senate primary, and won’t even seek re-election to the House. Rep. Spartz had previously confirmed that a Senate race was under consideration, but she was not viewed as a particularly strong potential candidate. The surprise decision, however, was her saying that she will retire completely from elective politics when her current term ends. The congresswoman said she has teenage daughters who need her guidance at home.

Indiana’s post-redistricting 5th CD is securely in the Republican column. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the seat as R+22, and Dave’s Redistricting App calculates the partisan lean at 57R – 40D. The major population centers are the communities of Fishers, Muncie, Noblesville, and Kokomo.

The Spartz retirement decision means six seats will already be open in the 2024 election cycle. Aside from the Indiana congresswoman leaving the House, Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Katie Porter (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jim Banks (R-IN), and Alex Mooney (R-WV), have all formally announced their intentions to run for the Senate.

States

North Carolina: State Supreme Court will Reconsider Election Rulings — In a continuing game of political football between what was the Democratic controlled state Supreme Court and the Republican legislature, the new Supreme Court voted to reconsider two election-oriented decisions that the previous panel rendered at the end of its tenure in January. The previous court, a 4D-3R majority, struck down the North Carolina state Senate map as a partisan gerrymander, and determined the state’s voter ID law is unconstitutional. The new court, a 5R-2D majority, will now reconsider each of those rulings.

North Carolina redistricting has been a decade-long battle between the state Supreme Court and the legislature. In the Tar Heel State, the governor has no veto power over redistricting. Now that the high court is in Republican hands, it is likely the justices will interpret the laws closer to what the Republican majority in the legislature has repeatedly enacted. This, and the US Supreme Court hearing the North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case, is likely to soon stabilize the NC redistricting and election law situation.

Pelosi Endorses in Calif. Senate Race; A Challenger for Sen. Cruz in Texas; FEC Publishes Year-End Finances; Mississippi Candidates Set for ’23

By Jim Ellis — Monday, Feb. 6, 2023

Senate

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) endorses Adam Schiff.

California: Rep. Schiff Attracts Major Political Endorsements — Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the veteran former House Speaker, said yesterday that she will support Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) in the 2024 US Senate race so long as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) decides to retire. An additional 14 California US House members also publicly pledged their support to Rep. Schiff. This, even though Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) is already in the race, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) is a virtual certainty to also enter. The March 5, 2024 California jungle primary is likely to advance two Democrats into the general election.

Texas: Ex-Presidential Candidate Considers Senate Race — Former US Housing & Urban Development Secretary and ex-San Antonio mayor, Julian Castro (D), is reportedly considering entering the Texas US Senate race to challenge two-term incumbent Ted Cruz (R). US Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas) is also discussed as a possible candidate, but the Congressman has yet to confirm that he has interest in running statewide.

Though Sen. Cruz only won re-election in 2018 with a 51-48 percent victory margin over then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), he appears to be in stronger position this year. In a presidential year, and with Republicans still controlling all of the major Texas statewide elected offices, Sen. Cruz must begin this race as a solid favorite for re-election.

Finance Numbers: FEC Publishes Senators’ Year-End Filings — The Senate campaign finance figures are now public, thus giving us clues as to which incumbents are best prepared to wage their re-election campaigns. Though not facing a competitive 2024 battle, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) ended the year with the most cash-on-hand, well over $9.7 million.

The senator who has the highest account balance while facing a competitive challenge is West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D). He appears to have the most difficult re-election path of any in-cycle Senate incumbent. In his two-congressional district state, Sen. Manchin posts just over a whopping $9.5 million in his campaign account. The two senators with the lowest cash-on-hand figures are Mitt Romney (R-UT) with $3,569, and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who holds just $9,968.

States

Mississippi: Candidates Set for ’23 Off-Year Election — The Magnolia State’s candidate filing period has closed and in all eight statewide races set for this year’s ballot, each currently Republican held, Democrats have candidates for every campaign. The two elections sure to attract the most attention are the battles for governor and lieutenant governor, though the latter is a GOP primary confrontation.

It is likely the general election will feature Gov. Tate Reeves (R) and Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D) in what many observers believe will become a significant race. The Republican lieutenant governor primary highlights state senator and former US Senate candidate, Chris McDaniel, challenging incumbent Delbert Hosemann.

Michigan Moves Primary; New Polling Results For Arizona Senate Race; Tillis Out in NC Gov. Race

By Jim Ellis — Friday, Feb. 3, 2023

President

Michigan: State House Passes Bill to Move Primary — The Michigan House of Representatives approved a measure to move the state’s primary to the fourth Tuesday in February, just ahead of the Super Tuesday voting primaries. Michigan was one of the states that President Biden outlined in his suggested primary schedule changes. Dropping Iowa and adding Georgia along with the Wolverine State and keeping South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada as the five states with permission to vote before Super Tuesday recaps the president’s recommendations.

The Michigan Senate has already approved the primary election measure, which means the bill will head to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) for her signature. Republicans opposed the legislation because moving the primary would cause them to violate the GOP party rules that only allow Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina to vote early. Such penalties could mean the forfeiting of 90 percent of a state’s delegate votes.

Expect the parties and states to come to a scheduling agreement in the near future. The first votes are scheduled for this time next year.

Senate

Arizona: New Three-Way Polling — The Normington Petts survey research firm conducted a poll (Jan. 18-23; 80 registered Arizona voters) for three progressive left Arizona organizations testing Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) opposite Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and both 2022 Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake (R), who has not closed the door on running for the Senate, and former Gov. Doug Ducey (R), who says a Senate race is not under his consideration.

While the poll sponsors were highlighting Gallego’s performance, it is Sinema’s standing that has greatly improved since previous polls were made public. In the configuration with Gallego and Lake, Sen. Sinema, while still running in third place, improves her standing to 24 percent as opposed to 14 and 13 percent respectively in December and early January polls from Public Policy Polling and Blueprint Polling. Rep. Gallego and Lake were tied at 36 percent apiece.

When Normington Petts tested Sen. Sinema with Rep. Gallego and former Gov. Ducey, the congressman held a 37-31-27 percent advantage over the GOP ex-state chief executive and Sen. Sinema, respectively. The progression suggests that Sen. Sinema is coming into a competitive position as the prospective candidates begin to prepare for a three-way race.

Michigan: Ex-Congressman Contemplates Senate Race — Former US Rep. Mike Rogers (R), who chaired the House Intelligence Committee during part of his seven-term congressional career, confirms that he is considering making a return to elective politics with a potential US Senate run. The move would give the Republicans a strong contender in a state that routinely produces close statewide elections. Before his election to the US House, Rogers served six years in the Michigan state Senate. He has been in the private sector and the media since his retirement from Congress.

Governor

North Carolina: Sen. Tillis Out of Gov Race — Despite his name being added to ballot test questions from some pollsters surveying the impending open North Carolina governor’s race, Sen. Thom Tillis (R) made the definitive statement yesterday that he will not be a candidate for the state’s chief executive post. Sen. Tillis did say, however, that he expects a contested GOP primary to evolve. At this point, the leading Republican candidate appears to be Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein is the lone major announced contender in his party.

A Trend of Candidates Declining to Run … And a Challenger in NY-22

By Jim Ellis — Feb. 2, 2023

Senate

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R)

Indiana: Ex-Gov. Mitch Daniels Won’t Run — Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who was considering entering the 2024 open US Senate race from his state, said he would not become a candidate. The announcement is good news for Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City), who had previously declared his own Senate candidacy. Immediately after the Daniels announcement, National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairman Steve Daines (R-MT) heaped praise upon Rep. Banks, whom he described as one of the party’s “top recruits.”

Daniels served two full terms as governor, from 2005-2013. His last time on the ballot, however, was for re-election in 2008. Daniels indicated that he was not right for the Senate, since developing seniority is still important in being able to achieve major goals. Since Daniels would be 75 years old upon election, his ability to accumulate many years of Senate seniority would be obviously limited.

Incumbent Sen. Mike Braun (R) is not seeking re-election in order to run for governor. Republicans are prohibitive favorites to hold the seat in the general election.

House

NY-22: Freshman Brandon Williams (R) Draws Challenger — Manlius Town Councilmember Katelyn Kriesel (D) declared her congressional candidacy at the beginning of the week. She will challenge freshman upstate New York Rep. Brandon Williams (R-Syracuse) in what promises to be another close election.

In November, Rep. Williams succeed retiring US Rep. John Katko (R) with a 51-49 percent victory over former US Intelligence analyst Francis Conole (D) in a seat that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates as D+2. We can expect further Democrats to come forward for this race, possibly including Conole, for a re-match. NY-22 will likely be a national top Democratic target in 2024.

Governor

Mississippi: 2019 Reeves’ Opponent Won’t Run Again — With candidate filing closing in Mississippi for the 2023 elections, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. (R) announced that he will not challenge Gov. Tate Reeves in this year’s Republican primary. In 2019, the two faced each other with Reeves prevailing, 54-46 percent.

At the end of last week, Secretary of State Mike Watson, another potential Reeves’ primary opponent, also said that he would not run. This leaves physician John Witcher as the governor’s lone GOP primary challenger. Obviously, these developments enhance Gov. Reeves’ political standing. It is likely he will face Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D) in the general election.

Cities

Nashville: Mayor Won’t Seek Second Term — Nashville Mayor John Cooper (D), brother of retiring Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper (D), announced that he will not seek a second term, saying he has completed his objectives upon which he ran in 2019. He went on to say that being in municipal office during the Covid year of 2020 was “like serving an entire term” in and of itself. Local politicos are expecting now to see a highly competitive open-seat mayoral campaign in the Music City.

Trump Tops DeSantis, Haley, Scott, Pence; Michigan Rep. Declines Senate Run; House Races Adding Candidates

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023

President

Former President Donald Trump

South Carolina: Sen. Scott, Ex-Gov. Haley Badly Trail Trump, DeSantis — Presidential state polls are beginning to surface, and a recently released Moore Information South Carolina survey (Jan. 18-24; 450 likely South Carolina Republican primary voters; live interview) finds former President Donald Trump leading the GOP field in one of the top early primary states while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis follows. The surprise result is that both South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and the Palmetto State’s former governor and ex-UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, each of whom appears to be testing the waters for their own presidential run, fare poorly on the ballot test question.

According to the numbers, Trump holds a 41-31-12-5-4 percent advantage over DeSantis, Haley, Scott, and former Vice President Mike Pence, respectively. While the two South Carolinians don’t score well on the ballot test, their favorability ratings among the Republican faithful are on par with the two leading candidates. Trump has a positive rating of 83 percent, Gov. DeSantis is at 82 percent, while Haley and Sen. Scott score 79 and 78 percent, respectively. Pence is also viewed positively with a 70 percent favorable rating.

Senate

Michigan: Rep. Haley Stevens (D) Declines Senate Bid — Three-term US Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Birmingham) who defeated then-Rep. Andy Levin in a redistricting forced Democratic primary pairing last August, said Monday that she would not pursue a race for Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s (D) open seat next year. Rep. Stevens believes she “can best serve Michigan’s working families, manufacturers, students, and small businesses in my current role.”

It had been expected that Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) was preparing an official announcement to enter the Senate race, but has yet to move forward. Despite a flurry of early activity among Democrats examining the open race, no one has yet formally declared their intention to become a Senate candidate.

House

AZ-3: Dems Positioning for Open Race — Arizona state Senate Minority Leader Raquel Teran (D-Phoenix), also a former Arizona Democratic Party chair, confirms that she is considering entering the open primary to succeed Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix), who is now officially running for the Senate. With the downtown Phoenix 3rd District voting overwhelmingly Democratic — the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the seat D+44 — the August 2024 party primary will determine the next representative. A crowded field featuring a number of local and state elected officials is expected to form.

CA-30: Field Now Grows to Eight — Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) running for the Senate has already led to a field of six viable 2024 candidates with two more announcements coming over the weekend. Both state Sen. Anthony Portatino (D-La Canada) and former Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer (D) announced that they will run for the congressional seat next year.

Already in the field are state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Los Angeles Unified School District board member Nick Melvoin, actor Ben Savage, and businessman John Bocanegra (D). The California jungle primary is scheduled for Super Tuesday, March 5, 2024. It is likely that two Democrats will advance into the general election from this D+45 rated CD.

IN-3: Former Congressman May Return — Former Republican US congressman and ex-Indiana state legislator Marlin Stutzman confirms that he is considering running for his previous position since Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) has declared for the Senate. At this point, the only formidable announced candidate in what will be an open safe Republican congressional seat anchored in the Ft. Wayne area is state Sen. Andy Zay (R-Huntington). Rep. Banks’ successor will come from the May 2024 Republican primary.

Zeldin’s Contemplation; Dems Positioning for Next Race in NY; Five Competitive Candidates in Chicago Mayoral Race; McDaniel Re-Elected as RNC Chair

By Jim Ellis — Jan. 31, 2023

Senate

Former NY Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley)

New York: Ex-Rep. Zeldin’s Contemplation — Former Long Island US Congressman Lee Zeldin (R), who held Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to a highly competitive 53-47 percent statewide re-election victory in November, has seen his name being bandied about for many potential positions. Some Republican leaders want him to challenge New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) next year, which would likely be a political suicide run in a presidential year from one of the Democrats’ strongest states, while others are talking up the possibility of him running for Suffolk County Executive.

This latter election will occur later this year and is an open race since Democratic incumbent Steve Bellone is ineligible to run for a third term. Considering Zeldin carried his home county by a 59-41 percent margin in the governor’s race and represented Suffolk in Congress for eight years, he would clearly be the Republicans’ strongest candidate for such a position. At this point, Zeldin has been quiet about what future political plans, if any, he may be contemplating.

House

NY-3: Dems Positioning for Next Race — While the fate of beleaguered freshman US Rep. George Santos (R-Long Island) continues as a daily media story, Democrats are beginning to position themselves for what could be a special election if Santos is eventually forced to resign or run in next cycle’s regular election. Some local Democratic leaders are reportedly attempting to convince former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D), to make a political comeback for his former position.

Suozzi left the House last year to make a head-scratching run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, a race he had scarcely little potential to win. So far, the former congressman has been non-committal about a future District 3 race. On the other hand, the man who Rep. Santos defeated in November, George Zimmerman (D), is preparing for another run. Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan (D), who lost the congressional nomination to Zimmerman in 2022, has already announced that he will run for the seat in the next election.

Cities

Chicago: Poll Shows Five Competitive Candidates — There has been a lot of attention paid to the Chicago mayoral race because the incumbent is in trouble and the election is fast approaching, now less than a month away on Feb. 28.

A new Victory Research survey (Jan. 23-25; 806 likely Chicago voters; live interview) finds former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and current Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a virtual tie at 19 percent support apiece. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago) is a close third with 17 percent, while Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, and businessman Willie Wilson follow with 15 and 12 percent, respectively. This shows that two of these candidates will head to a runoff election on April 4, but it remains unclear as to which pair will advance.

Political Parties

Republican National Committee: Ronna McDaniel Re-Elected — On Friday, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel was easily re-elected to her position, capturing 66 percent support among the 168 voting members. Former President Donald Trump originally appointed McDaniel and continued to support her through this election. California National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon, who criticized McDaniel for the party losing touch with the grassroots and drew support from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, finished a distant second with 53 votes. My Pillow company founder Mike Lindell received four votes. McDaniel will now serve through the 2024 presidential election.

Schiff Announces After Losing House Intel Committee Spot; Kentucky Gov. Beshear in Strong Shape; Watson Says No to Mississippi Gov. Run

By Jim Ellis — Monday, Jan. 30, 2023

Senate

California Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank)

California: Now, Rep. Schiff Announces — As the California US Senate race continues to ripen even though incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) says she will not decide about her own political plans “for a couple of months,” another Democratic candidate late last week announced for the statewide position.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), a day after being stripped of his House Intelligence Committee position, officially entered the 2024 US Senate contest that will first begin with a March primary jungle primary election. Fellow southern California Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) was the first to officially enter, doing so in the early part of this month. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) is reportedly telling supporters that she, too, will enter the Senate race. Her fellow San Francisco Bay Area colleague, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont), says he will assess the political situation after Rep. Lee makes a decision.

Rep. Schiff says he talks to Sen. Feinstein frequently and “has her blessing” to run, though he did confirm that such a statement does not mean that she is endorsing his candidacy. It is presumed that two Democrats will advance to the general election, but such did not happen in the 2022 governor’s race. Therefore, the March 5, 2024 Super Tuesday California primary will feature much more intrigue than just what happens in the presidential contest.

Governor

Kentucky: Gov. Beshear (D) in Strong Polling Shape — Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy just released a survey of the impending Kentucky governor’s race (Jan. 18-23; 625 registered Kentucky voters; 404 likely Kentucky Republican primary voters; live interview) and the data finds Gov. Andy Beshear (D) with high approval ratings and recording sizable leads against all potential Republican opponents. M-D projects the governor’s job approval ratio at 61:29 percent favorable to unfavorable, certainly in the top tier when compared with other state chief executives.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron has developed a big lead in the Republican primary according to the poll, topping former UN Ambassador Kelly Craft, state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, and state Auditor Mike Harmon by a 39-13-8-5 percent count.

Gov. Beshear enjoys lead of at least 19 points over the latter three Republicans, but at a much closer 49-40 percent divide against AG Cameron. It is likely this race will draw closer before election day, but the incumbent governor is clearly beginning his re-election drive in the favorite’s position.

Mississippi: Sec of State Watson Says No — It appears what could have been a major 2023 Republican primary challenge for Gov. Tate Reeves later this year probably won’t materialize. Secretary of State Michael Watson (R), who was publicly contemplating a gubernatorial run, said late last week that he will not challenge the incumbent. With the candidate filing deadline scheduled for Feb. 1, it is unlikely now that a major GOP player will come forward.

Dr. John Witcher, who is an anti-Covid vaccination physician, formally declared his candidacy earlier this week but is not expected to become a strong challenger. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. (R), who ran against Reeves four years ago, is still a potential candidate, however.