Where Club for Growth’s Sidelining Itself: Ballots & Boundaries

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The Club for Growth is taking a wait-and-see approach in two of the most consequential 2024 Senate elections.

The group, which aids Republican candidates who share its views on shrinking government spending, isn’t promising to help any of the names in the mix in Montana or Ohio. It’ll decide later about putting resources into those states, the organization’s president, David McIntosh, said in an interview in Bloomberg Government’s Washington offices.

Montana and Ohio are two of the three states that have Democratic senators up for re-election and voted Republican for president in 2020. The other is West Virginia, where the Club is already a player, supporting Rep. Alex Mooney over Gov. Jim Justice, the preferred candidate of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Sen. Joe Manchin (D) hasn’t said if he’ll seek re-election.

In Montana, McIntosh will have to decide whether to support Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) again if he chooses to seek the seat Sen. Jon Tester (D) is defending. NRSC Chair Steve Daines of Montana is backing Tim Sheehy, a businessman and former Navy SEAL. The Club backed Rosendale in his 2018 loss to Tester and in his 2020 House win. “We’re waiting to see what develops there,” McIntosh said.

In Ohio, where Republicans have multiple candidates interested in taking on Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), the Club could muscle in to help either Secretary of State Frank LaRose or businessman Bernie Moreno over state Sen. Matt Dolan.

“Our bigger goal will be the general,” McIntosh said. “Dolan, if he started to rise in the polls, we might look at that and say Bernie and Frank are better on the Club issues. So we prefer one of the two of them.”

In addition to getting out early on Mooney’s behalf, McIntosh said the Club’s super-PAC would take the leading role defending Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who could face Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas) in a competitive race. “My prediction is Ted will win, but we’re going to have to fight for it,” McIntosh said. — Greg Giroux

MONTANA: Playing in the Opposition Primary
A new super PAC already is attacking first-time candidate Tim Sheehy, the businessman and former Navy SEAL viewed by Republicans in Washington as a strong choice against Sen. Jon Tester (D).

Last Best Place PAC (borrowing Montana’s nickname) began airing a “Shady Sheehy” TV ad this week, according to data from AdImpact. A good clue about how the PAC’s aligned is in a Federal Election Commission filing: the new PAC has an account with the union-owned Amalgamated Bank popular with Democratic and progressive groups. The other big fat clue: the new PAC’s ads were placed by the firm of Meredith Patel, a veteran Democratic media buyer.

It’s not unprecedented for one party to try to bruise an opposition candidate in a contested primary. In the 2022 cycle, we saw that happen in Colorado, where the main Senate Democratic super-PAC funded a pop-up super-PAC, Democratic Colorado, that attacked businessman Joe O’Dea. O’Dea won his primary and then lost to Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

Need another data point? Patel’s clients included Democratic Colorado. Asked if Senate Majority PAC was behind Last Best Place PAC, spokeswoman Sarah Guggenheimer declined to comment. —Greg Giroux

UTAH: After Romney, Who?
Utah Republicans are headed for an unsettled primary next June to determine the likely successor of retiring Sen. Mitt Romney.

“There could be 25 people running,” said former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

Online polling by Noble Predictive Insights this summer found more than half of registered Republicans undecided in a hypothetical primary without Romney in a state that re-elected Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) by double digits last fall. The National Republican Senatorial Committee will stay neutral in the primary, according to one senior NRSC official granted anonymity to speak candidly about strategy.

Among the names in the mix: Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson (R), boasting the backing of Salt Lake City legislators and a $2.1 million war chest in an exploratory committee; Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs (R), who said Romney’s exit was “leaving the door wide open” for him, the “true conservative”; activist Carolyn Phippen (R), who said she’s “exploring” a bid, and perhaps Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), who didn’t rule out a Senate run. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (R) said he won’t run but is backing another candidate set to announce soon.

Chaffetz himself said he’s both “keeping the door open” and not “actively pursuing” the Senate. — Zach C. Cohen

CALIFORNIA: Plan B Is a Placeholder
If ailing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) can’t complete her term, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has said before and again this week that he’d appoint a Black woman to complete her term. The new wrinkle: it wouldn’t be Rep. Barbara Lee (D), who’s already running to become Feinstein’s successor.

“I don’t want to get involved in the primary,” Newsom said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”. “It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off.”

Lee’s response: “The idea that a Black woman should be appointed only as a caretaker to simply check a box is insulting to countless Black women across this country who have carried the Democratic Party to victory election after election.”

Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter and former Google executive Lexi Reese, all Democrats, also are running in the March 2024 “Top 2” primary. The Senate has no Black women currently and has had just two in its history. — Greg Giroux

CALIFORNIA: Cisneros Comeback?
One-termer Gil Cisneros is preparing for a possible second act. The Democrat filed a statement of candidacy for California’s 31st District, a Hispanic-majority Democratic area in Los Angeles County where Rep. Grace Napolitano (D) isn’t seeking re-election. She’s backing state Sen. Bob Archuleta (D).

Cisneros’ campaign committee didn’t respond to a request for comment. He was unseated by Young Kim (R) in the 2020 election in what was the 39th District, a competitive district anchored in northern Orange County. Cisneros then joined the Biden administration as Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. — Greg Giroux

First, a little backstory: five years ago, Republican pastor Mark Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in a contest that ended up not counting; North Carolina’s elections board in February 2019 ordered a redo after it uncovered evidence of absentee-ballot irregularities led by a political operative working for Harris.

He didn’t run in the new election, which Dan Bishop (R) won. Now Harris is trying again. He filed documents to run in North Carolina’s (currently) heavily GOP 8th District east of Charlotte. The Republican-controlled state legislature will redraw congressional lines in a few weeks. — Greg Giroux

Voters will get three chances next year to shift the rules for future state or local tax increases.

Before adjourning last night, legislators approved a question for the March 2024 ballot that will ask voters to change the state constitution to require a larger victory margin for enactment of state or local initiatives. The measure, backed by Democrats, is designed to thwart a November 2024 ballot measure to require two-thirds approval from voters for all local tax increases. The question in March will determine whether backers need a simple majority or a supermajority to change the tax-vote rules.

Lawmakers also passed a separate measure (A.C.A. 1) intended for the November 2024 statewide ballot. It would also amend the state constitution by reducing the vote threshold from two-thirds to 55% for local approval of bonds or special taxes funding housing or infrastructure. READ MORE from Laura Mahoney

ALABAMA: Mapapalooza
It’s time for the court-appointed special master redrawing Alabama’s congressional lines to begin sifting through suggestions, with a scant 10 days before the deadline to come up with recommendations.

Two sets of plaintiffs who challenged Republican-drawn maps under the Voting Rights Act submitted a map that would keep Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell’s Birmingham-Black Belt 7th District as Black-majority and reconfigure the southeastern 2nd District to be Black-majority. It’s now a 30% Black, Republican bastion held by Rep. Barry Moore (R), who’d be hard-pressed to win re-election under most of the proposed maps.

A third group of plaintiffs, including Alabama state Senate minority leader Bobby Singleton (D), proposed a different map that would include a Black Belt district with a 49.4% Black voting-age population and a Birmingham-centered district with a 39.6% BVAP. While the three-judge federal panel overseeing the remedial redistricting previously held a new map should have two districts with a Black voting majority or “something quite close to it,” the Singleton plaintiffs allege there’s enough white crossover voting in their proposed districts to ensure Black-preferred candidates would win most elections.

Democratic pollster Zac McCrary, an Alabama resident, and Stephen Wolf, an elections writer for the progressive site Daily Kos, together submitted two proposals. So did Jonathan Cervas, who redrew New York’s congressional map before the 2022 election.

From Alabama Speaker Pro Tempore Chris Pringle (R) came a proposed set of district lines that the state House passed but didn’t get final approval. It would reconfigure the southeastern 2nd District to have a 42.4% BVAP — higher than the 39.9% BVAP district on the legislature’s enacted map that the federal judges invalidated last week. — Greg Giroux

KENTUCKY: Tuesday Arguments
The Kentucky Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments about whether congressional and state House maps are unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

Plaintiffs including the state Democratic Party are appealing a Franklin County Circuit Court judge’s November 2022 ruling that the state constitution doesn’t expressly forbid the legislature from making partisan considerations during the map-making process.

Republicans won five of the six congressional districts under lines first used in the 2022 election. The map buttressed Rep. Andy Barr (R) by moving Franklin County (Frankfort) out of his central 6th District, which was then Kentucky’s most competitive district, and into the heavily conservative 1st District of Rep. James Comer (R) in far western Kentucky. — Greg Giroux


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To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com; Zach C. Cohen in Washington at zcohen@bloombergindustry.com; Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif. at lmahoney@bloombergindustry.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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