Sheldon was elected to the state House back in 1990 from a seat that contained his home of Mason County, a rural area in the western part of the state, and he won a promotion in a 1997 special election after he decisively unseated an appointed Democratic senator. Throughout his career (which included concurrent service on the Mason County Board of County Commissioners from 2005 to 2017), he was one of the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus and even reportedly cast a ballot for George W. Bush.
In his capacity as a county commissioner, Sheldon made news in 2009 when he argued that his well-armed constituents could make up for law enforcement budget cuts on their own and, in a statement purporting to be directed at local criminals, declared, "You're on notice: if you attempt a home-invasion robbery, you may be met with armed resistance and could receive a Mason County hot lead enema." Three years later, Sheldon was one of just three Democrats in the chamber to vote against legalizing same-sex marriage, a bill that passed with support from four Republicans. (He said Wednesday of that decision, "I've tried to make up for it in my voting the last few years. … I think I've been educated a lot by my daughter and my wife.")
It was one month after that vote, though, that Sheldon truly made himself a pariah within the Democratic Party when he and two other members, Rodney Tom and Jim Kastama, joined with the 23 Republicans to pass a budget during a special session, a move that effectively handed control of the chamber to the GOP minority. The trio, wrote NPR, soon returned to the caucus room like nothing had happened, but mainstream Democrats were furious. One colleague was particularly pissed, saying, "There are three Democrats who are holding us hostage. And they have held us hostage the whole time."
The hostage situation was about to get a whole lot worse. Republicans picked up Kastama's seat that fall after he embarked on a failed bid for secretary of state, but while Democrats maintained a 26-23 majority on paper, Sheldon and Tom made good on threats to permanently bolt the caucus. The duo, who would not be up for re-election for another two years, joined with Republicans to form an alliance called the Majority Coalition Caucus, which was essentially the West Coast version of New York's notorious IDC. The arrangement left Sheldon as the Senate’s ceremonial president pro tem, while Tom served as the powerful majority leader.
Tom retired in 2014 and was replaced by an actual Democrat, but the GOP wave destroyed Team Blue's dreams of a functioning majority. Instead, Republicans emerged with an outright 1-seat edge, with the renegade Sheldon providing extra insurance as their 26th vote. Democrats won a small measure of vengeance a few months later when they joined forces with Republican Pam Roach, a hardline conservative who was on the outs with her own party, and another GOP member to install Roach as president pro tem in place of Sheldon. However, Democrats only netted one seat in 2016, which allowed Sheldon to resume his role as the decisive vote to keep the GOP in charge—and put him back in the president pro tem's chair.
But things changed completely in 2017. That November, Democrat Manka Dhingra decisively won a special election to replace a deceased Republican senator, which gave her party the true majority it had coveted for five years. Team Blue netted four more seats the following year, and while Sheldon defeated an actual Democrat 52-48 in a seat that Donald Trump had won 47-44 in 2016, his presence no longer mattered much. (His old ally Tom also attempted a comeback but lost in a landslide.)
Mainstream Senate Democrats are going into the 2022 elections with 28 seats, so they could lose up to three members and still keep their hard-won control of the chamber. It's possible that Sheldon's now-open seat, which would have supported Trump by a narrow 49-48 margin in 2020, could replace him with an actual Democrat, though given the way the midterms are shaping up, his successor is more likely to be a Republican.
● KS Redistricting: Kansas' Republican-run state Senate has introduced a new map for the chamber's own districts. Kansas is one of 10 states that has not yet completed legislative redistricting this cycle, while five states have yet to adopt final congressional maps.
● MO-Sen: When LL Cool J demanded, "Don't call it a comeback," he gave us good reason to believe him with the explosive success of his fourth studio album, "Mama Said Knock You Out." But when a politician tells you, "Don't call it an endorsement," it's probably just a load of malarkey.
Take Republican Dave Schatz, the president pro tem of the Missouri State Senate who's running to replace retiring U.S. Sen Roy Blunt. Later this month, Schatz is hosting a fundraiser where Gov. Mike Parson will be featured as a "special guest." Parson hadn't previously weighed in on the contest, which includes a large cast of ambitious hopefuls and even one nightmare candidate that national Republicans are eager to block.
But if you're actually helping one of the contenders to raise money, that means you want them to win the race, right? Well, not according to Schatz, who insists, "I wouldn't say it's an endorsement." Perhaps he wouldn't—but we would! It's not as though the concept of an "endorsement" has any legal significance. If anything, headlining a fundraising event is a much bigger deal than simply slapping your name on a press release announcing you're endorsing someone: One generates actual dollars, the other generates … a press release.
Schatz also said of Parson, "I think anybody who would ask him to help in that way, I think he's not opposed to that." Anybody? Really? Even Eric Greitens? Yeah, we don't think so. Look, if Parson does wind up helping other candidates raise money, then we'll concede the point. But unless and until that happens, Schatz is just playing a silly game—perhaps even one Parson insisted he play.
● NC-Sen: Rep. Ted Budd has dropped a Meeting Street Research internal that shows him trailing former Gov. Pat McCrory 31-25 in the May Republican primary, with former Rep. Mark Walker grabbing 16%; the memo says that an unreleased June poll gave McCrory a 45-19 edge and argues that the congressman "has a lot of room to grow thanks to President Donald Trump's endorsement."
Those numbers, though, may have been overshadowed by the over-the-top Budd press release accompanying them, which included the line, "Politico [sniffs disdainfully and orders another cocktail at the country club]: That can't be right. We have been ASSURED by some of the premier Establishmentarians in Washington that President Trump has zero juice in primaries anymore."
● OH-Sen: Rich guy Mike Gibbons' newest ad attacks former state Treasurer Josh Mandel as a phony conservative, arguing he "supported Al Gore, flip-flopped on abortion, gave tax breaks to Hollywood leftists, and used $2 million of your tax dollars to promote himself."
That first charge is accompanied by 2000 footage of Mandel, who was student body president at OSU at the time, alongside Gore during the vice president's visit to campus, video that became public in 2011 during Mandel's first failed bid for the Senate. Mandel did not actually endorse Gore, and Michael Kruse recently wrote in a long profile in Politico that "Mandel celebrated, too, a visit to campus by Republican candidate John McCain." Of course, that may be a far worse offense in today's GOP.
Mandel's allies at the Club for Growth, meanwhile, are focusing once again on a different intra-party opponent, former state party chair Jane Timken. Their new commercial declares that one of Vladimir Putin's "old oligarchs partnered with Jane Timken's family business to build high-capacity freight rail cars, supplying Putin's government with military-grade machinery." The narrator continues, "Timken's family gets rich, Timken money funds her campaign. And she has the gall to run for United State Senate." (By the way, that makes this the second Putin-related ad we’ve seen so far in a GOP Senate primary, following one in North Carolina.)
● CA-Gov: Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Thursday evening that he wouldn't challenge Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, an announcement that came just a day before the filing deadline. Faulconer for years was one of the only Republican rising stars in dark blue California, but last September's recall campaign saw him plummet hard to earth: Faulconer took a distant third place with just 8% in the race to replace Newsom, a question that didn't even end up mattering because a 62-38 majority voted against ousting the governor.
● NE-Gov: University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen's new commercial for the May GOP primary stars Larry the Cable Guy, who at one point shouts out, "Vote for Jimmy or you're a communist!" That's the joke.
● RI-Gov: Gov. Dan McKee on Thursday picked up endorsements from two notable labor groups, the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council and the Rhode Island Laborers' District Council, for the September Democratic primary.
● CA-09: While astronaut Jose Hernandez, who was the Democratic candidate in a competitive 2012 race for the old 10th District, had filed paperwork last month for a potential intra-party bid against Rep. Josh Harder, he announced Friday that he wouldn't run.
● IL-03: The first poll of the June Democratic primary in Illinois' redrawn—and open—3rd Congressional District comes from Lake Research Partners on behalf of state Rep. Delia Ramirez's allies at the Working Families Party, and it shows her leading Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas 19-11 with most respondents undecided; a mere 1% goes to Iymen Chehade, a history professor at the center of an ethics probe involving Rep. Marie Newman (who is seeking re-election in the 6th District). The survey argues that Ramirez will increase her lead once voters learn more about each candidate.
● MI-03: EMILY's List has endorsed 2020 Democratic nominee Hillary Scholten, who faces no serious intra-party opposition as she seeks a rematch against Republican incumbent Peter Meijer.
● MN-01: State Rep. Nels Pierson and former Freeborn County GOP chair Matt Benda have each announced that they're joining the May special election primary to succeed the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn, a fellow Republican. Pierson was elected to the legislature in 2014 and held on only 51-49 in 2020 even though Donald Trump was taking his constituency by a stronger 52-47, while Benda lost a tight race for the lower chamber all the way back in 2006.
Meanwhile, multiple Republicans tell Politico that they expect Hagedorn's widow, former state party chair Jennifer Carnahan, to enter the contest ahead of the March 15 filing deadline. Carnahan resigned in disgrace last August after Tony Lazzaro, a close friend and party donor, was arrested on sex-trafficking charges, but she already had her share of enemies within the party: The Associated Press wrote last year that Carnahan was "also accused of creating a toxic workplace environment in which personal and professional lines were blurred, concerns about sexual harassment ignored, and employees who didn't fall in line were subjected to retaliation."
In addition, in a recording of a phone call released last year, Carnahan was heard saying of her husband, "I don't care. Jim, he's going to die of cancer in two years." She later said she'd uttered those words "in grief" after drinking following a long day.