While this senator insisted on remaining anonymous in order to avoid Reeves’ wrath, others have grown less timid. “[S]everal Republican senators bucked Reeves or spoke out about his top-down, heavy-handed leadership style,” wrote Ganucheau, “an act that once would have been considered suicidal.” Last year, several GOP senators even went so far as to derail two major Reeves’ priorities, a rewrite of the state’s formula for funding public education and an expansion of school vouchers.
It’s not just state legislators who may not be keen to see Reeves get a promotion. Ganucheau also said last month that lobbyists had been “whispering” that their clients were tired of the lieutenant governor. He also noted that state House Speaker Philip Gunn, Reeves’ counterpart in the lower chamber, also killed another Reeves priority, an infrastructure improvement plan.
Bryant, the man Reeves and Waller are running to succeed, also doesn’t seem to be completely on-board with his number two. While Bryant fired off a supportive tweet when Reeves launched his campaign last month, Hall wrote this week at the Clarion-Ledger, “The love-loss between the Bryant and Reeves camps is no secret, even if the two top Republican leaders have seemingly buried the political hatchet as of late.” Hall also predicted that many members of Bryant’s old campaign team would support Waller.
However, while Reeves has his vulnerabilities, he’s not going to be easy to stop. Hall notes that Waller has more than 20 years of judicial decisions to attack, potentially giving Reeves material he can use to disqualify Waller in the eyes of GOP primary voters.
Waller, on the other hand, may be able to score some points with power-brokers by portraying himself as the more electable candidate against Attorney General Jim Hood, the likely Democratic nominee. However, Reeves seems to be trying to squelch talk of that possible weakness early. The lieutenant governor just released a late January poll from OnMessage polling this week that gives him a 51-36 lead over Hood in a hypothetical general election. That’s considerably better for Reeves than a recent Mason-Dixon poll that found Hood with a 44-42 edge. Neither release tested Waller as a Republican, though the Mason-Dixon survey found Waller taking 9 percent as an independent, with Hood leading Reeves 40-38.
Right now, the only other notable Republican running in the primary is state Rep. Robert Foster, whom Mason-Dixon found losing to Reeves by a crushing 62-9 margin. The March 1 filing deadline is fast approaching, so the field will be set very soon, but note that if no one takes a majority of the vote in the Aug. 6 primary, there would be a runoff three weeks later.
● AZ-Sen: Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego has been eyeing a Senate bid for a while, and fellow Rep. Raul Grijalva pre-endorsed him this week.
● TX-Sen: Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro has occasionally been mentioned as a possible 2020 opponent for GOP Sen. John Cornyn, and one unnamed source close to the Texas congressman says he's very much considering. This person tells Politico that Castro believes that 2018 Senate nominee Beto O'Rourke could beat Cornyn and if he "decides to see this thing through and do that, then Joaquin will give him his full support." However, they add that, if O'Rourke sits out the Senate race, "Joaquin will absolutely consider jumping in and finishing the job." Castro has yet to say anything publicly about his interest in a Senate run.
Castro, who represents a safely blue House seat in San Antonio, has been aiding the presidential bid of his identical twin brother, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro. O'Rourke said recently that he'd decide on a presidential bid of his own by the end of February, and since the Castros almost certainly would prefer not to face another Texan Democrat in a presidential primary, it makes sense that they'd encourage him to run against Cornyn instead. O'Rourke hasn't shown much public interest in another Senate run but has refused to rule it out, and Politico also reports that he met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last week about a possible campaign against Cornyn.
However, it's far from guaranteed that Joaquin Castro would challenge Cornyn if O'Rourke didn't. Castro expressed interest in challenging GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in July of 2016 and continued to talk about running throughout early 2017, but he finally said no in early May. A few months later, Politico reported that some Democrats, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, were encouraging Castro to take on GOP Gov. Greg Abbott. Castro wouldn't rule out challenging Abbott when asked, but he otherwise never showed much enthusiasm for the idea. Ultimately, Castro ended up winning a fourth term in the House without any trouble.
● VA-Gov: While law enforcement officials in Virginia have no apparent jurisdiction to investigate the two sexual assault allegations that have recently been made against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, the district attorney in Boston says she's prepared to investigate one of the claims. An attorney for Vanessa Tyson, the woman who accused Fairfax of assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, responded by saying she'll meet with the DA for Suffolk County, Rachael Rollins, though a date has not yet been set.
In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations for such crimes is 15 years, so Tyson still has six months to press charges. (It's also possible that the statute of limitations was "tolled," or paused, when Fairfax left the state.) Prior to these developments, a Fairfax spokeswoman previewed a shocking pre-emptive strike, saying the lieutenant governor "will explore all options with regard to filing his own criminal complaint in response to the filing of a false criminal complaint against him."
More recently, though, Fairfax softened his tune, with his spokeswoman saying, "We look forward to meeting the Suffolk County district attorney should they decide to commence an investigation and will cooperate fully."
Meanwhile, at attorney for Meredith Watson, who says Fairfax raped her while the two were undergraduates at Duke University in 2000, says she does not plan to seek charges against Fairfax, and the district attorney for Durham, North Carolina, says that no complaint has been filed. Watson's lawyer explained, "Ms. Watson came forward to support another rape victim. She believed her corroboration of Dr. Tyson would help Dr. Tyson and maybe remove Fairfax from a position of national prominence."
● GA-07: On Tuesday, 2018 Democratic nominee Carolyn Bourdeaux picked up an endorsement from Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights legend who represents a nearby seat.
● Jacksonville, FL Mayor: St. Pete Polls is out with the first public survey of the March 19 nonpartisan contest, and they find Mayor Lenny Curry crushing City Councilor Anna Brosche, a fellow Republican, by a 58-20 margin. Brosche's campaign also began airing their first TV spot on Thursday, which Florida Politics says is running for $128,000.
● Deaths: Lyndon LaRouche, whom the New York Times' characterized as a "quixotic, apocalyptic leader of a cultlike political organization who ran for president eight times, once from a prison cell," died Tuesday at the age of 96. LaRouche's far-right fringe movement has run candidates in numerous elections, but thankfully, with very little success. However, his allies unexpectedly scored key wins in Democratic primaries in Illinois in 1986, an infamous event that completely upended Team Blue's hopes to unseat GOP Gov. James Thompson.
Back in 1982, former Sen. Adlai Stevenson III, the son and namesake of two-time Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson, had challenged Thompson. Stevenson lost 49.4-49.3 and contested the result until the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed it in a four-to-three vote days ahead of the Republican's inauguration. Thompson was seeking a fourth term in 1986 and Stevenson had no trouble once again winning the Democratic nomination for their rematch, and it looked like Illinois was in for another tight race.
However, state law at the time did not allow nominees for governor to pick their running mates. Instead, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor would compete in separate primaries but would be paired together on the general election ballot. LaRouche's allies ran a little-known candidate named Mark Fairchild, who beat the mainstream Democrat, state Sen. George Sangmeister, 52-48.
Janice Hart, another LaRouche candidate, also won the Democratic nod for secretary of state in a 51-49 upset against Aurelia Pucinski. Hart exclaimed after her win, "I'm going to revive the spirit of Abraham Lincoln and General Patton, and we're going to roll our tanks down State Street." She also said days after her victory that, "There will be Nuremberg tribunals set up around the country," and "Illinois will lead the charge. Traitors will be charged with treason, drug runners will be charged with killing children."
The results attracted national attention and left Democrats wondering just what had happened. A spokesperson for LaRouche's front group attributed their win to their platform, which opposed laws requiring balanced budget and supported a national laser defense system similar to Ronald Reagan's proposed "Star Wars" initiative. Fairchild and Hart's platforms also called for mandatory AIDS screenings and for anyone with the disease to be quarantined.
However, a more likely culprit was low turnout, with bad weather also keeping voters at home. The New York Times also wrote at the time that Illinois politicians speculated that their intended nominees had been overconfident and had run weak campaigns. Voter confusion also likely added to the upset. Democratic officials speculated that some voters confused Hart for Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, who had run a high-profile bid for the Democratic presidential nod two years earlier.
Party operatives also mused that low-information voters were more comfortable backing people with "familiar" names like Fairchild and Hart rather than ethnic last names like Sangmeister and Pucinski. Some Democratic voters also said they thought that LaRouche's group, National Democratic Policy Committee, was affiliated with the Democratic Party. Plenty of Republican voters also likely crossed over to vote in the Democratic primary to support whom they correctly viewed as weaker candidates.
Whatever the cause, Stevenson declared the day after the primary that he "will never run on a ticket with candidates who espouse the hate-filled folly of Lyndon LaRouche," and that he was "exploring every legal remedy to purge these bizarre and dangerous extremists from the Democratic ticket."
Days later, Stevenson kept his word and he announced that he was running as an independent, a move backed by the mainstream Democratic statewide ticket. The former senator acknowledged at the time that this could hurt the Democratic Party because voters would need to split their ballots between him and nominees like Sen. Alan Dixon, but "that is a small price for a message that our Democratic Party is united ... against the madness of Lyndon LaRouche and his small band of neo-Nazis." Two months later, Fairchild declared himself the new Democratic gubernatorial nominee by right of succession."
Ultimately, no candidate was the Democratic nominee for governor. Stevenson, who had created the Solidarity Party for this bid, lost his rematch to Thompson 53-40, with another 7 percent voting for the Democratic nominee "no candidate." GOP Secretary of State Jim Edgar, a future governor, defeated Solidarity Party nominee Jane Spirgel 67-17, with Hart taking 15 percent. However, other members of the statewide Democratic ticket, including Dixon, still pulled off wins.
While the law that would have paired Stevenson and Fairchild together caused so much frustration for Democrats in 1986, it remained on the books to cause trouble again 24 years later. After the 2010 primary, Democrats awoke to learn that a little-known pawn shop owner named Scott Lee Cohen had won their nomination for lieutenant governor in a six-way primary. But Cohen didn't remain little-known for long and the public soon learned of his sordid past as, in the words of the local NBC affiliate, "an abusive prostitute-dating steroid user."
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, like Stevenson before him, was alarmed at the prospect of sharing a ticket with Cohen, but unlike Fairchild, Cohen did withdraw from the ticket. Quinn was narrowly re-elected in the fall, with Cohen taking 4 percent of the vote as an independent. After all of this, Illinois finally changed its law, and now, candidates for governor pick a running mate before the primary. However, despite these two awful experiences, a number of other states, including New York, still nominate governors and lieutenant governors separately but pair them together on the ballot for the general election.
P.S. Despite their embarrassing 1986 primary losses to the LaRouche candidates, Sangmeister and Pucinski still had successful political careers afterwards. Sangmeister was elected to the U.S. House in 1988 and retired ahead of the 1994 GOP wave, while Pucinski was elected as a judge in Cook County.