Time to See What’ll Stick in Senate Races: Ballots & Boundaries

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Going negative seems to always be in season and this week brings a pretty robust inventory of examples.

Exhibit A: One of the names in the mix as a potential successor to retiring Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) will have to weigh the potential damage of a rebuke from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Salt Lake Tribune and Axios summarize the details. (By the way Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson resigned from the legislature and promises an announcement on Wednesday.)

Exhibit B: The National Republican Senatorial Committee goes wide against Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) by pulling his family into a right-out-of-the-box attack ad.

Exhibit C: Voters looking for information on the NRSC’s primo recruit with self-funding capability and super-rich friends who appear to be ready to throw money into the race to defeat Casey will also find a Vanity Fair piece documenting that Pennsylvania has been a place to visit rather than stay and an Associated Press story about candidate Dave McCormick doing virtual campaign interviews from Connecticut and failing to receive a primary-place-of-residence homestead tax exemption in Pittsburgh.

Exhibit D: There are no Republican incumbents in tossup contests so the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is focusing on Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in its government shutdown-focused attack ads. The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter rates both races as “Likely Republican.”

Exhibit TBD: Now that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has been indicted, it’s hard to imagine the opposition resisting the urge to do something with the allegations about gold bars and hidden cash. The indictment will add strongly Democratic New Jersey to the roster of competitive 2024 Senate elections if he continues to seek re-election.

New Jersey voters have seen this movie before. In 2015, Menendez was indicted on federal corruption charges along with Salomon Melgen, a wealthy eye doctor and close friend. A 2017 trial ended with a hung jury. The judge declared a mistrial, and government prosecutors dropped the case in early 2018.

Menendez subsequently was “severely admonished” by the Senate Ethics Committee and underperformed in the 2018 election. In a good Democratic year, Menendez defeated wealthy Republican businessman Bob Hugin by 54%-43% in a state Joe Biden won 57%-41% two years later. Republicans last won a New Jersey Senate election in 1972.

If Menendez resigns, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) would appoint a successor. — Greg Giroux

ALABAMA: Maps Coming Monday
Alabama’s next congressional district map should come into sharper focus the next few days.

A court-appointed special master has until Monday to submit three maps and a report and recommendation for a three-judge federal panel’s consideration. Richard Allen, a former Alabama chief deputy attorney general, received a dozen proposed maps from plaintiffs, defendants, and other individuals. Some would link Mobile to Montgomery and imperil Rep. Barry Moore (R).

And the US Supreme Court is set to act any day on a Republican request to block the judges’ ruling that the GOP legislature’s remedial map didn’t create two districts where candidates preferred by Black voters consistently win elections. Just one of Alabama’s seven districts is majority-Black.

Alabama election officials have said new lines need to be in place by early October to prepare for the state’s early March primary. — Greg Giroux

FLORIDA: Federal Case Next
The Republican-friendly congressional map pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis goes to federal trial next week.

DeSantis (R-Fla.) “hijacked the redistricting process in an unprecedented manner” and “committed intentional racial discrimination” by signing a map that dismantled a Black-plurality district linking Jacksonville to Tallahassee, Common Cause plaintiffs said in a filing.

Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd (R) said through lawyers that the DeSantis map is constitutional, and that reinstating the at-issue 5th District “would amount to racial gerrymandering in North Florida and would violate the Equal Protection Clause.” The federal trial begins Tuesday.

In a state case, Byrd’s office is appealing a Tallahassee judge’s ruling that the DeSantis map violated the Florida Constitution. Republicans hold 20 of the 28 districts. — Greg Giroux

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KENTUCKY: Supreme Court Deciding
The Kentucky Supreme Court is weighing whether Republican legislators ran afoul of the state constitution with 2022 election maps that solidified their congressional and state House majorities.

The justices heard oral arguments in Graham v. Adams, in which Democrats appealed a trial court’s ruling that the Kentucky Constitution doesn’t explicitly forbid “the consideration of partisan interests” in the line-drawing process. Read the legal briefs here. — Greg Giroux

NEW YORK: Split Decision
New York’s redistricting commission can begin preparing to redraw the state’s 26 congressional districts — but can’t formally vote on or send a map to the Democratic-controlled legislature for consideration amid ongoing litigation.

That was the split ruling from the New York Court of Appeals, which will hear oral arguments Nov. 15 over whether it should uphold an intermediate court’s ruling directing the commission to submit a new map to the legislature. Read more from Beth Wang. — Greg Giroux

OHIO: Wording Tweaked
Abiding by a state Supreme Court order, the Ohio Ballot Board changed some of the language that voters will see in November as they decide whether to bake abortion rights into the state constitution. Unchanged, though, is the board’s decision to include the phrase “unborn child.” READ MORE from Eric Heisig.

MAINE: Golden Opponent
State Rep. Mike Soboleski, a Marine Corps veteran and a former actor and stuntman, is going after the seat of Rep. Jared Golden, a party-bucking Democrat from a district that preferred Donald Trump in 2020.

Sobolewski’s announcement video linked Golden to President Joe Biden and showed an image of Soboleski volunteering as a rescue worker on Sept. 11, 2001, when he lived in Manhattan at the time of the terrorist attacks.

The Republican primary could pit him against state House colleague Austin Theriault, a stock car driver who may soon enter the contest with backing from Washington Republicans.

Golden, one of just five Trump-district Democrats, is a co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition of Democratic centrists who emphasize fiscal restraint, and votes against Democratic leaders more frequently than anyone else in his party’s caucus. Golden was re-elected 53%-47% in 2022 in a district that includes most of Maine’s land area. — Greg Giroux

A prominent conservative super-PAC gave its good-housekeeping seal to five Republican candidates for House seats.

Americans for Prosperity Action said it will support ex-Michigan state Sen. Tom Barrett, who’s seeking the district Rep. Elissa Slotkin is giving up to run for Senate; former Ohio state Rep. Craig Riedel, who’s trying to oust 21-term Rep. Marcy Kaptur; Pennsylvania state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, who running against Rep. Susan Wild in the Lehigh Valley; Pennsylvania state Rep. Rob Mercuri, challenging Rep. Chris Deluzio; and West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore, a nephew of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) angling to succeed Senate candidate Alex Mooney.

All five districts are politically competitive and Democratic-held except for Mooney’s. Americans for Prosperity Action has close ties to billionaire Charles Koch. — Greg Giroux


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— With assistance from Zach C. Cohen and Eric Heisig.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.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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