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● Philadelphia, PA Mayor: Former Philadelphia Councilmember Helen Gym, who is one of the city's more prominent progressives, announced Wednesday she was entering the May Democratic primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Jim Kenney. Gym joins a busy field that already included:
- businessman Jeff Brown
- former Judge Jimmy DeLeon
- former Councilmember Allan Domb
- former Councilmember Derek Green
- former Councilmember Cherelle Parker
- former Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez
- former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart
It only takes a simple plurality to win the Democratic nomination in a loyally blue city where the November general election is almost always an afterthought.
Gym, Parker, Quiñones Sánchez, and Rhynhart would each be the first woman elected to lead Philadelphia. A victory for Gym would additionally make the City of Brotherly Love the largest city to ever elect an Asian American mayor, while Quiñones Sánchez would be Philadelphia's first Latino chief executive. Parker would also have the distinction of being the first Black woman to lead the city.
Gym first drew attention for her activism in local education issues and as a board member for Asian Americans United, where she led successful protests to stop planned developments in Chinatown. In 2015 Gym, whom Philadelphia Magazine had dubbed "Philadelphia's preeminent public agitator" two years before, ran for a citywide Council seat and narrowly advanced by securing the fifth and final spot on the general election ballot, finishing behind both Green and Domb. (Philadelphia has seven at-large seats, but each party can only nominate up to five candidates.)
Gym quickly established herself as a full-throated progressive, with Billy Penn explaining that she's stood out "on issues like housing, education, youth issues, and worker's rights." Primary voters rewarded her in 2019 when she took first place as she was winning more votes than any Council candidate since 1987; the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote afterwards, "Political observers credit Gym's popularity to a good narrative and a lot of media exposure … She is involved in almost every major battle in Philadelphia."
Gym is entering a crowded contest without a dominant frontrunner, though the Inquirer's Sean Collins Walsh wrote just before Thanksgiving that "the conventional wisdom around City Hall" favors Parker at this early point. Parker, Walsh explained, is the party's leader in Northwest Philadelphia's 50th Ward, an area full of high-turnout voters. Parker also is close to several prominent unions, though they haven't endorsed her yet, as well as allies of outgoing Gov. Tom Wolf. However, Walsh notes that the perceived frontrunner went on to fare poorly in both the 2007 and 2015 open seat races, which may explain why Parker herself is rejecting that title.
The other contenders also have their own profiles that could help them stand out in this busy race. Green, who shares a similar geographic base as Parker, made an early effort to run to Gym's right, saying his former colleague "pushes a socialist agenda to raise taxes, and opposes more funding for the police." (Both Green and Gym were part of the majority that voted against a planned budget increase for the police in 2020.)
The field may not be set yet, as state Rep. Amen Brown, who has an uneasy relationship with many fellow Democrats, hasn't ruled out his own campaign. However, while the filing deadline isn't until March, potential candidates have a strong incentive to declare within the next month. That's because campaign donation limits reset at the start of each calendar year, so late arrivals would miss out on the chance to take in contributions in 2022.
● GA-Sen: The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger reports that a former girlfriend of Republican Herschel Walker named Cheryl Parsa has disclosed new domestic violence allegations against the candidate from 2005. Four other former Walker partners, including the one who said Walker reimbursed her for an abortion in 2009, also spoke to Sollenberger and described his “habit of lying and infidelity.”
Parsa said that, after she caught Walker with another woman, he put his hands on her neck and chest. “I thought he was going to beat me,” she recounted in an interview where she also called him a “pathological liar.” Parsa added that Walker, who says he suffers from dissociative identity disorder, “knows how to manipulate his disease, in order to manipulate people, while at times being simultaneously completely out of control.”
● NY Redistricting: New York's bipartisan redistricting commission has advanced a draft map of new Assembly districts for the 2024 elections to replace the invalidated map that was used in 2022. (The map can be viewed on the commission's site as well as in Dave's Redistricting App.) Political scientist Chris Warshaw, using data from Plan Score, notes that the proposed map "appears to have a large pro-Republican bias in the translation of votes to seats," and reporter Jeff Coltin from City & State New York points out that the proposal is "nearly identical to the 'Plan B' map that the Legislature voted down in January." (The "Plan B" maps were those that had the support solely of the Republican members of the commission.)
However, there's still a long way to go before the proposed districts can become law. The commission will next hold a series of public hearings, and it has a deadline of April 28 to pass a final map next year and send it to the Democratic-run legislature, which can either approve or reject it. If lawmakers reject the map, a court would likely once again step in to draw one instead.
New York is in this situation because the equally divided commission deadlocked earlier this year and failed to produce a new map. Democratic legislators subsequently took over the redistricting process and passed their own maps only to see state courts rule that the legislature lacked the authority to do so. However, those successful legal challenges only attacked the maps for Congress and the state Senate. An appeals court allowed the Assembly map to remain in place for 2022 because Republican plaintiffs had waited too long to bring their lawsuit.
But the commission's authority to redraw the Assembly lines is disputed. The plaintiffs in the Assembly redistricting case had asked the trial court to appoint a special master to redraw the districts, while Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders wanted the commission to do so. The court denied the request to appoint a special master, instead ordering the redistricting commission to reconvene and prepare new maps. The plaintiffs have appealed that ruling.
● ME-Sen: While Sen. Angus King suggested during the 2018 campaign that he was waging his last race, a spokesperson for the Democratic-aligned independent now says he's likely to seek a third term. "Senator King feels great, has been an active driver in one of the most productive Congressional sessions in years, and he feels there is still plenty of work to be done," he said, adding, "I expect he'll make an official announcement when campaign season kicks into gear next year."
● IN-Gov, IN-Sen: There are numerous Hoosier State Republicans who are considering running in 2024 either to succeed Republican Sen. Mike Braun, who has filed to run for governor, or to compete against Braun in the contest to replace termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb, and we'll be taking a look at the names below. Braun himself has yet to announce his gubernatorial campaign, though Howey Politics' Brian Howey relays that the kickoff will be Dec. 12.
We'll start with the race for governor, where former Indiana Economic Development Corporation president Eric Doden, who announced back in May of 2021, has a little while left to enjoy his status as the only declared candidate. One long-awaited contender is Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, whom Howey says "is expected to officially declare her candidacy in mid-December." Crouch, who would be the first woman to lead the state, acknowledged that she can't self-fund unlike at least two of her would-be rivals, Braun and Doden, but said she expected to finish 2022 with $3 million on-hand.
A few other GOP notables could be eying both the governorship and Braun's Senate seat, though they each seem to be strongly leaning in one direction or the other. Retiring Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, who has self-funded his past bids, told CNN this week that there are "several" jobs that appeal to him. Hollingsworth didn't specify what offices he was considering, but Howey writes that he's been contacting county GOP chairs about a run for governor and has told them he could put $10 million into the effort.
Another prospective contender is Attorney General Todd Rokita, a former congressman who lost the 2018 Senate primary to Braun. Unnamed insiders predicted to the Indianapolis Star that Rokita would just seek re-election rather than go through another tough statewide primary for either Senate or governor, but Howey says that his sources predict the attorney general is interested in trying to replace Braun. There has been no word from Rokita himself, though, about what he's thinking.
Former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who will step down as president of Perdue University on New Year's Day, seems to be going in the opposite direction. While he didn't rule out a bid for his old job over the summer after two former aides formed a PAC in August to encourage him to run for governor, Howey says that Daniels has privately said no to that race. Unnamed Daniels allies, though, say they're now hoping he'll run for Senate, an idea they once dismissed as "unthinkable."
But that prospect may not be quite so impossible to fathom now, as one source says, "At first glance, the idea is sort of interesting to him." The same cannot be said for Holcomb himself, though, with local Republicans saying they think he's looking to do other things once he leaves office.
Two U.S. House members, as we've previously written, have also made it known they're eyeing the race to replace Braun. Rep. Jim Banks has publicly expressed interest, while colleague Victoria Spartz has reportedly told people privately that she plans to run.
The list for potential Democratic candidates for governor is far shorter, though one familiar name may be considering it. Joe Donnelly became ambassador to the Vatican a few years after Braun unseated him 51-45, and one of his allies responded to Howey's inquiries about the gubernatorial race by saying he's "keeping all of his options open."
Former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick also recently opened up an exploratory committee for governor; Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, who lost to GOP Sen. Todd Young 59-38 last month, also has expressed interest, while 2020 House nominee Christina Hale didn't rule it out. No notable Democrats, though, have said anything about a Senate bid.
● LA-Gov: State Treasurer John Schroder said Thursday that he would only run for governor if his fellow Republican, Sen. John Kennedy, stays out of next year's all-party primary. Schroder added that if Kennedy doesn't make the race, "I plan to announce and pursue the title of Governor in 2023." It's hard to be governor of Louisiana without the title of governor of Louisiana, though Huey Long pulled it off after he nominally left to join the Senate.
● OR-06: Republican Mike Erickson has made good on his pre-election threat to sue to overturn a defeat against Democratic Rep.-elect Andrea Salinas, and a local judge heard arguments Thursday. Erickson is relying on a state law the Oregon Capitol Chronicle says "prohibits knowingly making false statements about a candidate, political committee or ballot measure," though it's not clear if it's ever successfully been employed to reverse the results of an election.
Erickson, as we've written before, took issue with a Salinas commercial highlighting his 2016 arrest and conviction for drunk driving where the narrator noted that in addition to the DUI, Erickson was "charged with illegal drug possession for illegal oxycodone." The Republican's legal team insisted that he "has never been charged with illegal possession of drug" because his lawyer six years ago said that she'd made a "mistake" by filing a plea agreement stating that the district attorney's office had "agreed to dismiss felony possession of controlled substance upon tender of guilty plea."
An attorney for Salinas, however, cited that very statement in support of the ad's truthfulness in a letter and argued that "a charge is a charge, whether or not the DA files it."
● VA-04: Former Del. Lashrecse Aird has not ruled out running to succeed her fellow Democrat, the late Rep. Donald McEachin, instead telling Axios she'll "address any potential candidacy in due course." Aird is currently waging an intra-party battle to unseat state Sen. Joe Morrissey, who is one of the most unreliable Democrats in the legislature. Morrissey himself hasn't closed the door on competing for McEachin's seat, though he sounded likely to remain put.
Del. Jeff Bourne, meanwhile, has disclosed to Axios he'll be sitting out the upcoming special election. Reporter Ned Oliver also mentions Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin, who is the congressman's widow, as a possible contender.
● State Legislative Supermajorites: With some states having already finalized their vote counts and many more coming close to finishing, we are increasingly getting a more complete picture of which state legislative chambers saw parties gain or lose supermajorities, although a shrinking number of key races remain still too close to call in certain states. All but a few states require supermajorities of varying thresholds for procedures such as overriding a governor's vetoes, passing budgets or tax increases, or passing constitutional amendments, and we rounded up which chambers saw the parties gain or lose supermajority status in 2022 below:
Republican Gains: Florida Senate and House, Iowa Senate, Montana Senate, North Carolina Senate, South Carolina House, and Wisconsin Senate.
Republican Losses: None.
Democratic Gains: Colorado House, Connecticut Senate, Nevada Assembly, and Vermont House.
Democratic Losses: Oregon Senate and House (only for tax increases).
Additionally in New York, Democrats are just barely hanging onto their supermajorities in both chambers depending on the outcome of a Senate race that is undergoing a hand recount after Democratic incumbent John Mannion led by 27 votes following the initial count.
A few more chambers have seen one party narrowly fail to gain a supermajority. In Nebraska's unicameral and nominally nonpartisan Senate, Democrat John Fredrickson won by just 82 votes to prevent Republicans from gaining a two-thirds supermajority, avoiding an automatic recount by only a single vote. In the North Carolina House and Wisconsin Assembly, Republicans were respectively one and two seats shy of gaining supermajorities like their Senate counterparts did.
Most of these states above already have a "trifecta" where one party controls the governor's office and both legislative chambers, making supermajorities less important, but there are a few exceptions:
In Nebraska where the GOP holds the governor's office and legislature, it takes a two-thirds supermajority to overcome one of the nation's strongest legislative filibusters. While Republicans came one seat short of surpassing that threshold, Democratic state Sen. Megan Hunt warned that the loss of the remaining GOP moderates and continued presence of at least one anti-choice Democrat means that a filibuster-proof majority may now exist for restricting abortion rights.
In Nevada, Democrats lost control of the governor's office and with it their legislative trifecta, but regaining an Assembly supermajority means they will need to persuade just one Senate Republican in order to override vetoes from GOP Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo or pass any new tax increases.
In North Carolina, Republicans fell just one seat shy of gaining the three-fifths supermajority in the House needed to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's veto on most matters (Cooper already can't veto certain important measures such as congressional and legislative redistricting). However, Republicans might be able to peel off the one necessary vote from a remaining moderate House Democrat on certain issues such as the state budget.
In Vermont, Democrats (along with their left-wing Progressive Party allies) have regained the House supermajority needed to override GOP Gov. Phil Scott's vetoes.
In Wisconsin, Republicans gained a supermajority in the Senate but not the Assembly, meaning they lack the votes to override Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' vetoes, but now they could theoretically impeach and remove him and other officials from office without needing any Democratic support. Republican senators have already been using their power over confirming key executive branch appointees to categorically refuse to approve any of Evers' nominees for various positions and thus enable some of former GOP Gov. Scott Walker's appointees to remain in office long after their terms have expired.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Salt Lake City, UT Mayor: Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, a former Democrat turned third-party candidate, announced Wednesday that he would try to reclaim his old job by challenging Democratic incumbent Erin Mendenhall in next year's officially nonpartisan race. Anderson, who touted how his city hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics when he was mayor, said he was launching his comeback campaign "because of the deterioration of our city resulting from an absence of effective, compassionate leadership."
Salt Lake City has long been a rare Democratic bastion in this overwhelmingly red state, and Anderson himself was one of the state's most outspoken liberals during his two terms as chief executive from 2000 to 2008. Among many other things, the mayor supported same-sex marriage when it was unpopular even among many Democrats, and denounced George W. Bush as "the most dangerous president the country's ever had."
Anderson, though, proved to be no fan of President Barack Obama. Anderson angrily left the Democratic Party in 2011 and ran for president the next year as the nominee of his newly founded Justice Party in a campaign that attracted little support in Utah or anywhere else. He went on to attend a 2015 dinner in Moscow celebrating the propaganda outlet Russia Today where he was seated a few tables from Vladimir Putin, a meal he later recalled was "a very loose, fun event." Anderson said over the summer that he still belongs to the Justice Party.
Mendenhall, for her part, was elected in 2019 by beating a fellow Democrat 58-42 in a contest that took place just months before the start of the pandemic. The mayor's team responded to Anderson's previous criticisms of Mendenhall's approach to crime and homelessness by saying, "It's easy to snipe and second-guess on Twitter, but Mayor Mendenhall is doing the hard work of governing every day in service to the people of Salt Lake City … She has delivered real results for the city through unprecedented crises and challenges.
Anderson is the first notable candidate to announce a campaign against Mendenhall. All the contenders will face off in a summer primary, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.
● Where Are They Now?: Former Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer has accepted a post in the State Department as its Special Envoy for Global Youth Issues while her fellow Democrat, outgoing Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb, will join the prominent Philadelphia personal injury law firm Kline & Specter.
Lamb, who like Finkenauer lost a Senate primary this year, notably did not rule out a future run for office as he was announcing his new gig. He tweeted, "I want my law practice to be about providing a voice for people who need help, and making our democracy work … I will work alongside all who share these goals, and I hope to return to public service one day, perhaps soon."
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