• June 17, 2021

Exclusive: Terry McAuliffe advances in bid to be Virginia’s first two-term Democratic governor

 Exclusive: Terry McAuliffe advances in bid to be Virginia’s first two-term Democratic governor


Joining McAuliffe on the ticket will be Del. Hala Ayala, who defeated fellow Del. Sam Rasoul 38-26 to emerge from a six-person field with the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Her Republican opponent in the fall will be former Del. Winsome Sears, who served one term in the legislature almost two decades ago; either would be the first woman of color elected statewide. This post (which is open because Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax ran for governor) is of particular importance in Virginia because the lieutenant governor can break ties in the state Senate, where Democrats have just a narrow 21-19 advantage (the full state Senate isn’t up for election again until 2023).

Campaign Action

The lone incumbent on the ballot for one of Virginia’s top three posts, Attorney General Mark Herring, also survived a serious threat from Del. Jay Jones, holding his challenger off by a 57-43 margin (thanks in part to heavy spending by the Democratic Attorneys General Association). Del. Jason Miyares, who first won office in 2015, is the GOP nominee.

Republicans have not won a statewide election in the Old Dominion since 2009, when they swept every race. Since then, Virginia’s grown considerably bluer, but prior to the Trump era, turnout in odd-numbered years had traditionally favored the GOP, so the big question is whether the fall electorate reverts to old ways now that a Democrat is back in the White House.

Both parties also held primaries in races for the state House, where all 100 seats will be on the ballot in November. Several incumbents appear to have lost their bids for re-election, the most notable of whom was Democratic Del. Lee Carter, a self-described socialist who fell to challenger Michelle Lopes-Maldonado 44-38. Under Virginia law, Carter was able to run for a third term while simultaneously seeking the Democratic nod for governor, a race in which he finished last with less than 3% of the vote.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli banished some pre-game jitters and decisively won the Republican nomination for governor. Ciattarelli was at 49% when we closed the Digest, while pastor Phil Rizzo and perennial candidate Hirsh Singh were far behind with around 25% each. Singh, who claimed the mantle of the true Trump acolyte, seemed to throw a bit of scare into Ciattarelli, who wound up running a battery of negative TV ads attacking his primary opponent after treating the primary like a foregone conclusion—so much so that he’d previously aired ads hitting Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who was unopposed.

While Republicans will be relieved to avoid making Singh their standard-bearer, Ciattarelli will nevertheless be the underdog against Murphy, given New Jersey’s consistently blue lean.

Senate

AL-Sen: Katie Boyd Britt, who recently stepped down as the head of the Business Council of Alabama and is a former chief of staff to retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, has announced that she is joining the Republican primary for this open seat to succeed her former boss. Britt appears to be making her first run for office and would be the first woman to represent Alabama in the Senate if elected.

Britt may be in for a tough primary against Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate, far-right Rep. Mo Brooks, but intra-party apathy to the congressman may give her an opening. CNN writes that some unnamed Republicans fear that Brooks, who was one of the ringleaders who egged on the crowd at the Jan. 6 rally that turned into an invasion of the U.S. Capitol, would be “an unreliable ally to the business community.”

In addition to Brooks, Britt joins a field that includes former Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard. It takes an outright majority to win primaries in Alabama, and a separate runoff would take place if no one wins an initial majority.

AZ-Sen: Recently retired Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, who stepped down as adjutant general of the Arizona National Guard back in April, has announced that he will join the GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly next year. McGuire is making his first run for office after three decades in uniform, but he previously gained some visibility due to his role in televised briefings over the state National Guard’s efforts to address the pandemic.

McGuire joins a primary that includes businessman Jim Lamon, but the field is likely to grow even larger still as former Rep. Andy Biggs has previously expressed interest in running and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich is reportedly considering, too.

FL-Sen: Former Rep. Alan Grayson, whom longtime readers will know is one of our least favorite Democrats in America, appears to have made his challenge to GOP Sen. Marco Rubio official after he tweeted, “Grayson vs. Rubio – it’s on.  Watch to see how we’ll beat Marco Rubio. We can beat Rubio, and Keep the Senate Blue, if we work together. Join us!” Grayson’s tweet included a link to a fundraising page and an attack ad against Rubio that features the link to a bare-bones campaign website.

Grayson had already been raising money after filing for this seat back in March, and he previously lost the 2016 Democratic primary by a wide margin to former Rep. Patrick Murphy, who went on to lose to Rubio that fall. Grayson joins a 2022 primary field that includes Rep. Val Demings and Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell. It only takes a plurality to win, since Florida doesn’t hold runoffs.

NV-Sen: Either Adam Laxalt is definitely running for Senate, or we’re about to have a lot of fun at the NRSC’s expense: In new remarks to the AP, committee chair Rick Scott says of the former Nevada attorney general, “I think Adam will run. He has not told me that he for sure will run. But I’ll actually be surprised if he doesn’t.” Laxalt, however, didn’t respond to the AP’s request for a comment and hasn’t offered a timeframe for making an announcement. Republicans have yet to land a candidate to take on first-term Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto next year.

OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance, who’s been considering running for the GOP nomination for Ohio’s open Senate seat, now says, “I’ll have a pretty big announcement, I think, in the next six or so weeks.”

PA-Sen, PA-06: Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan announced Tuesday that she would seek re-election rather than enter the primary for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat. The current version of her 6th District, which is based in Philadelphia’s Chester County suburbs and Reading, backed Joe Biden by a wide 57-42 margin, but redistricting could complicate things next year.

Governors

KS-Gov: While state House Speaker Ron Ryckman had previously expressed interest in challenging Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, he took his name out of contention this week by endorsing Attorney General Derek Schmidt in the Republican primary.

Schmidt’s only serious intra-party foe so far is former Gov. Jeff Colyer, who earned an endorsement last week from Rep. Tracey Mann, a freshman who represents what is by far the most conservative of Kansas’ four congressional districts. The development wasn’t a surprise, as Mann served as Colyer’s lieutenant governor and as his running mate during his unsuccessful 2018 primary campaign.

NM-Gov: Plenty of Republicans are blaming state party chair Steve Pearce for the party’s poor performance in last week’s special election for the 1st Congressional District, but if you think that’ll shame him out of considering another campaign for governor, well, you really don’t know Steve Pearce.

The former congressman told Politico’s Bryan Metzger he wasn’t in any hurry to decide whether he’d seek a rematch with Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham, who beat him 57-43 in 2018. “People know who I am, they know what my values are,” he said, adding, “and we’ll make that determination as we get closer to the filing deadline.”

Pearce cultivated a very conservative image during his two stints representing southern New Mexico in the House, and he’s only gotten worse since he took over as state party chair. Pearce refused to recognize Joe Biden’s 54-43 victory in the state and unsuccessfully sued to overturn the results. He later put out a statement the day after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that condemned Congress for certifying Biden’s electoral college win and did not mention the far-right violence that had just taken place.

All of that may have had real consequences for Team Red last week. A trio of Republicans publicly attributed Pearce’s Trump-like behavior for the party’s decline, while Metzger also notes that “the state party blamed the loss in the special election on depressed voter turnout due to lingering anger over the 2020 election, anger that the state party arguably helped foment.”

PA-Gov: Sen. Scott Martin says he’s considering joining the Republican primary for Pennsylvania’s open gubernatorial race but cautioned he wants “to take the time to make sure that the support needed to run a winning campaign is truly there.” According to Gillian McGoldrick at Lancaster Online, though, Martin said last month that he’d kick off a bid “in the next few weeks,” so it seems that he’s now slowing his roll.

VA-Gov: Former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman confirmed Tuesday morning that he would not run as an independent this fall.

House

FL-07, FL-11: Far-right state Rep. Anthony Sabatini said Monday that he was dropping his Republican primary challenge to Rep. Dan Webster in the 11th District and would instead take on Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in the 7th, though he characteristically did it in a bizarre way.

Sabatini tweeted, “BREAKING: Based on projected maps in Florida … this morning I OFFICIALLY filed for the new District 7 congressional seat,” and he accompanied his message with a map that showed his Lake County base located in a new 7th District. However, Sabatini soon acknowledged that these boundaries didn’t come from anyone in the legislature and instead came from people on the internet. “If you just literally Google how to make maps, you’ll find that there’s a lot of the data out there [and] you can do it yourself,” said the state representative.

Despite Sabatini’s confidence in those hypothetical boundaries, though, we probably shouldn’t expect to actually see it get passed. While Sabatini’s Republican legislative colleagues will have the chance to draw up a tougher seat for Murphy, they’re very unlikely to try to help a man who has a terrible relationship with party leaders.

Florida Data expert Matt Isbell also told the Orlando Sentinel that, while the conservative Supreme Court likely wouldn’t enforce much of the voter-passed Fair Districts amendment meant to curtail gerrymandering, “[T]he Republicans of Florida are not so stupid and lazy as to draw that map … That map is insulting to the ability of any party to gerrymander in a way that doesn’t look horrible.”

Sabatini himself seems to be aware he might not end up running against Murphy after all: He said that, while he’d run for a different open seat in Lake County, he wouldn’t actually campaign against a Republican incumbent.

GA-10: Trucking executive Mike Collins announced Tuesday that he would wage a second bid for this safely red district in east-central Georgia.

Collins, who is the son of the late Rep. Mac Collins, ran the last time this constituency was open in 2014 and finished just a hair behind talk radio host Jody Hice in the first round of the Republican primary. Collins ran commercials featuring his father, who was shown sporting a black cowboy hat and his member of Congress pin, but that may have been the wrong message to send at a time when the party base was as furious as ever with the status quo.

Rep. Paul Broun, who had given up this seat to mount a failed Senate campaign, backed Hice and argued Collins would “do whatever the leadership wants.” The runoff proved not to be so close, and Hice won 54-46.

Collins joins what’s turning into a crowded primary to succeed Hice, who is Trump’s endorsed candidate for Georgia secretary of state. The field includes Broun, state Rep. Timothy Barr, former Georgia Revenue Commissioner David Curry, and wealthy businessman Matt Richards.  

NY-01: 2020 Democratic nominee Nancy Goroff, who was in attendance when Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn kicked off her campaign for New York’s open 1st Congressional District last week, removed any doubt about whether she might run again when she formally endorsed Hahn on Monday.

OH-11: Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown is out with a positive ad ahead of the Aug. 3 Democratic primary. The spot, part of a $200,000 buy in Cleveland, features Brown and her mother in a split-screen format as the pair tout her accomplishments on the County Council. As she has in previous ads, Brown also emphasizes her support for Joe Biden, with her mother holding up a picture of Brown and Biden together as she claims “Shontel’s a Democrat’s Democrat, proudly voting for Joe Biden”.

Observers who have been following the race closely could interpret this as a veiled dig at former state Sen. Nina Turner, Brown’s chief competition in the primary, who has only offered tepid support for the president in the past. For most viewers, though, this is simply an effort by Brown to associate herself with Biden.

TX-06: Party activist Susan Wright has released an American Viewpoint survey of the July 27 all-GOP special election runoff that gives her a 49-34 lead over state Rep. Jake Ellzey. This is the first poll we’ve seen of the contest between the Trump-endorsed Wright, who is campaigning to succeed her late husband, and Ellzey.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: A poll from City Councilman Andre Dickens we covered recently only tested Democratic voters, making it unrepresentative of the actual November electorate, since Atlanta’s mayoral race is nonpartisan and open to all voters.





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