Daines-Led NRSC Ducks a Difficult Primary: Ballots & Boundaries

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If there were any doubts about a change of philosophy within the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Chairman Steve Daines put them to rest with his comments about Indiana.

As soon as former Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.) took himself out of the running for the open seat, Daines (R-Mont.) quickly pledged to work to elect Rep. Jim Banks (R), “one of our top recruits this cycle.”

The previous NRSC chief, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), had a self-imposed vow of silence in non-incumbent primaries. He took some flak from fellow Republicans who argued that staying out of the way made a difference as candidates with a decent shot at winning in November failed to win nominations in Georgia, New Hampshire, and Arizona.

“We’ve seen what happens when we nominate people who can win a primary but then can’t pivot toward a general election and get the broad support you need to win,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), another former NRSC chairman. “You don’t get to govern if you can’t win an election.” — Zach C. Cohen

As the Senate retirement watch continues, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D) is still uncommitted, a formidable potential opponent says he’ll decide about that race this month, Montana’s Jon Tester (D) is non-specific, and California’s Dianne Feinstein (D) has narrowed down her announcement window. Here’s the latest.

  • California: “You’ll be hearing, soon,” Feinstein told Bloomberg News. “In the spring sometime. Not in the winter. I don’t announce in the winter.” Feinstein, 89, is the Senate’s longest-serving Democrat and its oldest member.
  • Montana: Tester said he’ll decide whether to run for re-election “soon.” In a brief hallway interview, the senator said his considerations included figuring out what’s best for his farm in Big Sandy, Mont. “I don’t want to put that at risk,” he told Bloomberg Government.
  • West Virginia: Gov. Jim Justice (R) told CBS News he’ll decide by the end of February whether to run for Manchin’s seat. In his latest comments, Manchin said a Justice candidacy wouldn’t change his own calculations. “Whatever he wants to do is fine with me,” he said. “Whatever I do, I’ll make my own decision in my own time. So that won’t pressure me one way or another.” And less than two weeks ago, Manchin declined to rule out a presidential run in 2024. READ MORE from Bloomberg News.

Meanwhile, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) shot down speculation about his seat opening up early. He said he’s not even thinking about a run to succeed term-limited Gov. Roy Cooper (D). “Never a serious consideration regardless of what folks back home were saying,” Tillis said in a brief hallway interview.

Tillis said his time spent as the state House speaker “was fun, but I moved on.” — Zach C. Cohen

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Election Law

INDIANA: Remote Votes
Hoosier voters with certain disabilities will be allowed to cast votes over the internet thanks to a settlement struck between the state and advocacy groups.

Voters who find it difficult or impossible to use print ballots, such as the blind, will be able to use a computer ballot-marking tool to privately fill out their ballots and submit them to election officials via email.

That voting method isn’t brand new—Indiana permits email-based absentee voting for overseas and military voters. However, the change means disabled voters won’t have to deal with a “’traveling board’ law requiring that voters with print disabilities rely on strangers for help marking paper absentee ballots,” Jelena Kolic, a Senior Staff Attorney with Disability Rights Advocates, said in a statement. — Alex Ebert

CALIFORNIA: Recall Resistance
California’s two-step ballot question for kicking governors out of office would go away under a proposal that could go before voters in 2024.

When Californians considered kicking Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from office in September 2021, they were asked to first answer “do you want to recall Governor Newsom?” and then respond to: “If the governor is recalled, who do you want to replace him?” Voters had the opportunity to pick from 53 candidates, and nearly 62% chose not to recall Newsom.

Now, state Sen. Josh Newman (D) is trying again to ditch the second part of that process. His measure (SCA 1) would replace a recalled governor with the lieutenant governor, rather than a panoply of candidates.

Newman himself was recalled in 2018 and replaced with a conservative candidate. He won his Orange County-based seat back two years later.

Amending the California state constitution requires a two-thirds vote in the Assembly and state Senate, followed by a majority of voter support. — Tiffany Stecker

ARIZONA: Was That Tweet a Felony?
Tweeting out images of voter signatures is the latest controversy in the long saga of a defiant candidate who insists she didn’t lose her race for governor.

Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D) has asked Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) to investigate Kari Lake (R), saying it’s a felony to reproduce a voter’s document unless you’re the voter, the Washington Post reported. You can check out the tweet HERE.


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To contact the reporters on this story: Zach C. Cohen in Washington at zcohen@bloombergindustry.com; Tiffany Stecker in Sacramento, Calif. at tstecker@bgov.com; Alex Ebert in Madison, Wisconsin at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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