The amendment's supporters need to turn in 413,000 valid signatures—a number that represents 10% of the number of votes cast for last year's governor race—by July 5. State law makes things more complicated for progressives, though: Not only must these petitions come from at least half of Ohio's 88 counties, each of those 44 counties must provide signatures equal to 5% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election in that county.
Because the Buckeye State's left-leaning voters are largely concentrated in several large urban counties, getting to half the counties includes those that Donald Trump won by margins of up to 70-28, requiring abortion rights backers to focus their efforts on collecting signatures in many conservative rural areas. Even Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is the only Democrat to win a statewide partisan election in the last decade, didn't come close to winning a majority of Ohio's counties despite his decisive 53-47 re-election victory in 2018. That year, Brown carried only 16 counties; two years later, Joe Biden took just seven amidst his loss to Donald Trump.
However, as successes in deep red states like Kansas and Kentucky last year showed, support for abortion rights crosses partisan borders, which gives organizers an expanded pool of voters to draw on. The unsuccessful ballot measures in those two states, though, sought to roll back abortion rights rather than guarantee them; an amendment in Michigan that, like the proposal in Ohio, enshrined the right to an abortion passed with a 13-point margin in 2022—similar to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's 11-point victory.
If the amendment does make the ballot, it would then need to win a majority of the vote this November in the face of fierce opposition from anti-abortion forces. The head of the right-wing Center for Christian Virtue predicted last month, "It's going to be a true grassroots and TV campaign. This is going to be pulling out all the stops to beat this."
This amendment would protect the right to an abortion until "fetal viability," which is usually 23 or 24 weeks into a pregnancy, and would roll back a law Republican legislators passed in 2019 that effectively bans abortion after just six weeks. A state judge blocked that law last fall, but while the procedure is still legal up to 22 weeks, Republicans have asked the state's conservative Supreme Court to reverse that ruling.
Abortion rights supporters are moving forward this year, despite the smaller off-year electorate, in part because Republican legislators are working to place their own referendum on November's ballot to require that future amendments win the support of 60% of voters instead of a simple majority. That measure, ironically enough, needs to win just a majority of the vote in order to pass and would impact any future amendments, though recent similar efforts by Republicans in other states have been rejected by voters.
● AZ-Sen: While Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb reportedly was originally Kari Lake’s choice to run for the Senate, the Wall Street Journal’s Eliza Collins now reports that he isn’t going to be deferring to her now that she’s mulling her own campaign for the Republican nomination. Lamb, writes Collins, instead “is expected to announce a run in the coming weeks.”
A different Big Lie spreader, though, is behaving differently. Collins writes that 2022 attorney general nominee Abe Hamadeh, who like Lake refuses to accept his defeat, told the NRSC they should consolidate behind her. Hamadeh added that he was interested in running, but only if Lake didn’t.
Blake Masters, who was one of the party’s very worst 2022 Senate nominees, meanwhile is sending some contradictory signs about his intentions for next year. Masters says he “will probably run” for the seat held by Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema, but unnamed allies tell Collins he wouldn’t take on Lake.
● KY-Sen: A spokesperson for Mitch McConnell said Monday that the Senate minority leader has been “discharged from the hospital” five days after he experienced a concussion when he tripped and fell. That statement continued, “At the advice of his physician, the next step will be a period of physical therapy at an inpatient rehabilitation facility before he returns home.”
● MI-Sen: While neither retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow nor Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has endorsed Rep. Elissa Slotkin, Politico reports that both helped deter several other Democrats from running against her. The story says that Stabenow “directed other ambitious Democrats” toward offices that will be up in 2026, while Schumer “conveyed to anyone that would listen that Slotkin was well-funded and forcing her to spend big in a contested primary would hurt the party.”
Slotkin will still likely face intra-party opposition as actor Hill Harper reportedly will launch his bid in April, though no one knows if he’d be a strong opponent.
● NY-Sen: The Daily Beast’s Jake Lahut reports that Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is warning her donors that disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo is preparing to challenge her, though there’s no sign that Cuomo is gearing up for a comeback bid. It’s unlikely this sort of talk will die down anytime soon, though: One unnamed insider told Lahut, “The worst thing that could possibly happen is Andrew Cuomo wakes up one morning and decides that his comeback story lies in, I don’t know, being elected to the United States Senate.”
And don’t hold your breath on Cuomo dispelling speculation about his plans. We only learned he wouldn’t seek the Democratic nod for his old job or campaign for it as an independent after the respective filing deadlines passed and he didn’t submit any petitions to make the ballot.
● PA-Sen: Rich guy Dave McCormick finally confirmed this weekend that he's considering challenging Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, but a new poll indicates that McCormick and his GOP establishment allies would first need to put in some real work to stop the party from nominating the toxic Doug Mastriano again. The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows Mastriano, who was the GOP's disastrous nominee for governor last year, leading McCormick 42-28 in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup.
PPP also tests out a scenario where Kathy Barnette, a far-right figure who took third in last year's Senate primary, is included, but she doesn't change much: Mastriano edges out McCormick 39-21, with Barnette at 11%. Barnette hasn't shown any obvious interest in another Senate bid since she earned 25% in the primary for Pennsylvania's other seat in a contest where Mehmet Oz defeated McCormick 31.2-31.1; Oz went on to lose to Democrat John Fetterman.
Mastriano, though, said last week he was considering a campaign against Casey just months after his blowout 56-42 loss to now-Gov. Josh Shapiro, and prominent Republicans quickly made it clear how little they like that idea. Both NRSC chair Steve Daines and the deep-pocketed Senate Leadership Fund have made it clear they want McCormick as their nominee, with Daines adding of Mastriano, "His last race demonstrated he can't win a general."
McCormick, for his part, hasn't said anything about when he expects to decide on a second Senate run except that it would be "later this year." The Washington Post, though, writes that his choice "will be heavily influenced by how much he can consolidate party support." So far, Mastriano is the only other notable Republican who has shown any interest in running, and if he got in, well-funded conservative groups would almost certainly do everything they could to make sure he doesn't advance out of the primary.
But if Mastriano's detractors have polls showing him losing a primary or general election, don't expect that data to convince him to stay out. Mastriano, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, last Tuesday tweeted out a fake polling memo that ostensibly showed him beating Casey two hours after the account that actually created it deleted its own tweet and apologized. Mastriano, though, still has those phony numbers on his account as of Monday afternoon.
● IL-17: Politico reports that Esther Joy King, who was the Republican nominee in both 2020 and 2022, has decided not to run again, though there's no quote from her. King in November lost an open seat race to Democrat Eric Sorensen 52-48 in a western Illinois constituency Biden took 53-45 two years before.
● NC-14, NC-AG: The Charlotte Observer's Danielle Battaglia writes that Tim Moore, the Republican speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, is "believed" to be planning to redraw Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson's 14th Congressional District into a constituency that he can win. Battaglia adds that there's talk that Jackson could run for the attorney general's post that fellow Democrat Josh Stein is giving up to run for governor rather than seek a second term, but all the congressman would say about his plans is that he's "looking forward to seeing any new map drawn by the General Assembly."
The current version of Jackson's district backed Biden 57-41 under the lines that the state Supreme Court approved for the 2022 elections. However, the body's new GOP majority is likely to approve whatever gerrymander the legislature agrees on this summer, and under state law, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper cannot veto redistricting plans for Congress or legislature.
Moore has coveted a spot in the House for some time, and in 2021 he helped craft what was supposed to be a new seat in the Charlotte area that he could slide into. Things quickly went off-script, though, when far-right Rep. Madison Cawthorn unexpectedly announced he'd run in the proposed 13th District even though it contained barely a shred of the western North Carolina seat he already held. But while Cawthorn successfully bullied Moore into seeking re-election to the legislature, the speaker would have a far better 2022 than the congressman.
The state Supreme Court, which at the time had a Democratic majority, rejected the maps that Moore and his colleagues drew, and Cawthorn's attempted district hop did not play well with the constituents he'd tried to abandon. Cawthorn, who also was buried by scandal after scandal, ended up losing renomination to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, while Moore went on to easily win a historic fifth term as speaker. Cawthorn moved to Florida days after leaving Congress, while Moore is positioned to finally craft the district he's always wanted for himself.
● RI-01: Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos on Monday became the first notable Democrat to enter the upcoming special election to succeed David Cicilline, who will resign June 1 to become head of nonprofit, in Rhode Island's safely blue 1st Congressional District. Matos, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic, would make history as both the first person of color and the first Democratic woman to represent the Ocean State in Congress. (Republican Claudine Schneider was elected to a previous version of the 2nd District in 1980, and she gave it up a decade later to wage an unsuccessful Senate campaign.)
Matos rose from president of the Providence City Council to the lieutenant governor's office in 2021 after Gov. Dan McKee, who himself had just ascended to the governor's office, appointed her to his old post. Matos soon had to get through a competitive primary to keep her new job, but she turned back state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero 47-33 before winning her general election 51-43.
Matos will likely need to get through another eventful nomination battle this year. State politicos are closely watching to see if two other prominent Democrats will run: former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, who only narrowly lost her own primary to McKee last year, and state House Speaker Joe Shekarchi. Numerous other people are also thinking about getting in, and one of them, state Sen. Sandra Cano, said Friday she was "getting very close" to making her choice.
Joe Biden carried this constituency, which includes eastern Rhode Island as well as eastern and southern Providence, 64-35, so the Democratic nominee should have no trouble in the general. No one knows when the primary or general will be, though, because state election officials can't set the dates until Cicilline's resignation takes effect two-and-a-half months from now.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Chicago, IL Mayor: The Republican firm Victory Research shows former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas beating Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson 45-39 in the April 4 nonpartisan primary for mayor of Chicago, which falls right between what two other recent surveys have found. 1983 Labs had Vallas ahead by a wide 44-32 margin last week, while a Lake Research Partners internal for Johnson had its sponsor up 45-40.
Both candidates are also airing their first negative TV ad of the general election, and the spot takes aim at their rival's most obvious weakness. Johnson's spot begins by accusing Vallas of having "wrecked Chicago's schools finances, leaving us with billions in higher property taxes," a statement that's followed up with the narrator saying he "was just caught spreading racist and homophobic tweets." It follows up with 2009 footage of Vallas saying, "I'm more of a Republican than a Democrat." Vallas has repeatedly maintained he's a "lifelong Democrat" and that that clip was taken out of context.
Vallas' Twitter account, the local media reported just before the Feb. 28 nonpartisan primary, has a history of liking offensive tweets, including a message from that month arguing a senior police official was leaving because he "sees the writing on the wall, as a white male his ascension on CPD is limited. Identity over competency." The page also did the same for several homophobic blasts against Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is the city's first lesbian leader.
Vallas' team responded by saying that the candidate doesn't manage his account, and that "[t]he campaign is working to identify who is responsible for liking these tweets as many volunteers have had access to the account in recent years, including some who are no longer with the campaign." They issued a similar statement last week when the Chicago Tribune reported that Vallas' Facebook page had also liked comments that called Chicago a "hell hole" and dubbed Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker "the king of full term abortion."
Vallas' ad, meanwhile, utilizes a clip of a reporter declaring that Johnson "said he would cut the Chicago police budget by at least $150 million." The narrator goes on to declare, "Chicago can't afford Brandon Johnson's risky proposals to raise taxes and defund the police." Johnson himself insisted Monday, "I never said 'defund the police.'"
Vallas, meanwhile, earned an endorsement that same day from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, which said it was sending his campaign $1 million. The labor group previously supported Rep. Chuy Garcia, who took fourth in the nonpartisan primary.
● Houston, TX Mayor: Bond investor Gilbert Garcia, who is the former head of the local public transit authority METRO, announced Friday that he was joining the busy November nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Garcia is a first-time candidate, though he has some notable connections. The Houston Chronicle's Dylan McGuinness writes that he chaired Annise Parker's 2009 campaign, which ended with her making history as the first gay person elected to lead America's fourth-largest city, and Parker went on to appoint him to run METRO. Garcia a decade later served as treasurer to self-funder Tony Buzbee's bid to unseat Turner, but that effort ended in a double-digit defeat.
Garcia would be the first Latino elected mayor, a distinction that City Councilman Robert Gallegos would also achieve. The field also includes state Sen. John Whitmire, who has long looked like the frontrunner, former City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, former Harris County interim clerk Chris Hollins, and attorney Lee Kaplan.
Political writer Charles Kuffner also reported back in January that longtime Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee paid for a poll testing her out as a contender. There have been no new public developments since then, though McGuinness says that "[r]umors have intensified in recent months" about a possible Jackson Lee bid.
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