Trump himself has also been using his not-tweets to reaffirm his endorsement. On Tuesday afternoon, just ahead of the Texas loss, he emailed out a statement reading, “Numerous candidates in the Great State of Ohio, running in Congressional District 15, are saying that I am supporting them, when in actuality, I don’t know them, and don’t even know who they are.” He added, “But I do know who Mike Carey is — I know a lot about him, and it is all good.” Carey’s many rivals have put out their own materials touting their allegiance to Trump, but there’s no word on any of them pretending to have his backing.
All of this comes at a time when Carey is getting outspent on the air. The GOP firm Medium Buying said Wednesday morning that the contender who has spent the most on radio and TV is golf club owner Tom Hwang, who has been almost entirely self-funding his campaign. Hwang has deployed $485,000 on media while state Sen. Bob Peterson holds a $265,000 to $235,000 spending edge over Carey.
Hwang is also using his largess to air a commercial that utilizes the bribery scandal involving the nuclear power company FirstEnergy, which resulted in Republican Larry Householder’s removal as state House speaker and his eventual expulsion from the chamber, as a bludgeon against Carey and two other foes. The spot features a trio of people at a restaurant talking about the election: When one suggests voting for Carey, her companion jumps in, “Ha! He’s a Washington lobbyist whose clients spent a ton on that big House Bill 6 Larry Householder bribery scandal?”
The final diner then asks about two other contenders, Peterson and state Rep. Jeff LaRe, only to be told, “They both voted for that bill, and we’re still paying.” The ad ends by touting Hwang as someone who “is not a politician, and he’s not a lobbyist.”
While Hwang has spent the most on ads, though, outside groups are helping other candidates on the air. Medium says that Protect Freedom PAC, which is run by allies of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, has shelled out $475,000 to aid another contender, former state Rep. Ron Hood. Medium did mention any spending by the campaign of Hood, who is most infamous for a 2019 bill that would have forced doctors who performed an abortion to either face murder charges or “reimplant” an ectopic pregnancy, a procedure that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says is impossible.
The old campaign of Stivers, meanwhile, has deployed $300,000 to boost LaRa, which is similar to what MAGA PAC is dropping for Carey. A group called Conservative Outsiders PAC, though, has spent $220,000 on ads attacking Carey. Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin notes that, like Protect Freedom PAC, this anti-Carey organization is heavily funded by businessman Jeff Yass, who is also a prominent contributor to the radical anti-tax Club for Growth.
The only poll we’ve seen of this entire race was a late June Carey internal that gave him a 20-9 edge over LaRe, but that was taken before much advertising had taken place. An unnamed “Republican strategist familiar with internal polling data” told Politico that they’ve seen numbers showing a “contest between Carey and Hood,” though there’s no other information. Isenstadt also notes that it could be a challenge to poll a low turnout summer race like this. No matter what their numbers say, though, Trumpworld will likely be anxiously watching this race as they try and avoid a second straight embarrassment.
● PA-Sen: Political consultant Craig Snyder has decided to test his theory that an anti-Trump Republican can win a crowded primary. Snyder, who founded a PAC in 2016 to support Hillary Clinton, announced his candidacy Wednesday after warning, “In the absence of the kind of movement that I’m trying to mobilize, Pennsylvanians are going to end up next November with an unacceptable choice between a MAGA extremist and a woke progressive extremist.” He did serve as chief of staff to a Republican senator in the 1990s, which could be an asset … if that senator weren’t the late Arlen Specter, a moderate who joined the Democratic Party in 2009.
● CA-Gov: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom will soon make the most of the huge financial advantage he enjoys over the field of would-be replacement candidates, as he just booked $8.6 million in ad time on TV and radio from Aug. 2 through Sept. 13, the day before the recall elections. Newsom first went on the air in mid-June, so it’s not clear whether this latest reservation is for new ads or to continue airing the same spots.
A major reason Newsom has raised about twice as much money as his opponents is that the targets of recalls in California are allowed to accept donations without any size limits. Contributions to any of the candidates running against Newsom, meanwhile, top out at $32,400—large by federal standards, but tiny compared to infinity.
● MI-Gov: Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson says he hasn’t ruled out a challenge to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in next year’s Democratic primary, but the better question would be, what would he hope to accomplish? An independent poll released last month showed Whitmer with a nearly 90% approval rating from Democratic voters and just reporting having more than $10 million in her campaign coffers—not exactly the markings of an incumbent vulnerable to an intra-party challenge.
Swanson, though, is an eclectic figure who may not heed this political reality. Last year, he earned national attention after setting down his baton and helmet during a Black Lives Matter protest and later joined the demonstration. But just weeks earlier, as the coronavirus pandemic was amidst its initial crescendo, he said his department would not enforce Whitmer’s lockdown orders aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.
● OR-Gov: State House Speaker Tina Kotek, who last month did not rule out a run for governor, has now acknowledged through a spokesperson that she’s considering a bid. Willamette Week‘s Rachel Monahan adds that various sources say a Kotek campaign is “likely,” including one person willing to speak on the record, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, “who reiterated this week that she herself hasn’t closed the door on running.”
While Kotek is one of the most prominent Democrats who could enter the contest, she still hasn’t offered a concrete timetable for making a decision. Given how slowly the field has taken shape, she may not feel much urgency: Though many candidates are still weighing the race, to date, the only noteworthy Democrat to launch a bid has been Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla. Several Republicans are running, most notably 2016 nominee Bud Pierce.
● VA-Gov: With Republican Glenn Youngkin set to join an “election integrity” rally on the campus of Liberty University next month—an event former GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman called “conspiracy-palooza”—Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s latest TV ad slams his opponent for “repeating Donald Trump’s lies” about last year’s presidential race. The spot features a video clip of Youngkin describing the launch of his campaign: “Our election integrity task force was launched week one. This is the most important issue we’re going to talk about.” It then plays audio of Youngkin saying, “President Trump represents so much of why I’m running,” a snippet McAuliffe has used in past ads.
● OH-16: In a deep look at Max Miller, the former aide Donald Trump is backing in the GOP primary against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, Politico’s Michael Kruse reports on allegations that Miller last year physically attacked his then-girlfriend, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham. Miller attorney Larry Zukerman responded by declaring, “Mr. Miller has never, ever assaulted Ms. Grisham in any way whatsoever,” while Grisham did not comment.
Several unnamed people close to Grisham told Kruse that they became worried after hearing about Miller’s behavior towards her in late 2019 and early 2020. Three of them relayed that they’d heard how he’d thrown “at her a dog-toy tennis ball when she suggested she suspected he was cheating on her.” They also said Miller had repeatedly “grabbed her at the elevator as she tried to leave after arguments,” though Grisham wasn’t sure if he was threatening to harm her.
These associates said, though, that there was “nothing ambiguous” about the alleged April 2020 incident when Grisham broke up with her boyfriend. “Miller pushed her,” writes Kruse, “He slapped her. She fled. The temperatures that evening dipped into the 40s, and Grisham left with no coat, only her purse.” One of her White House coworkers said that afterwards, “We just talked and cried,” while another Grisham friend unconnected to the Trump administration told Kruse, “It was violent and it was hard for her.”
Zukerman told Kruse in response, “None of these alleged ‘three people’ could possibly have any first-hand knowledge of this false incident.” He also produced emails between Miller and Grisham to argue that, by not mentioning any physical attack, Grisham had refuted the accusations “by way of omission.”
Those emails, though, do include a conversation between the two that occurred less than two days after the alleged incident in which Grisham said, “I can’t wrap my head around how much you hurt me—it just doesn’t seem possible.” She continued, “People are taking turns watching me … I’m just so hurt. Betrayal is one of the worst kinds of pain.” Miller responded, “I seriously don’t know what I did here? I did not cheat on you. I have no idea what is going on and that is the absolute truth.” That led Grisham to write, “I love you—more than anything—but I am beyond devastated by who you’ve become and how you’ve treated me.”
Kruse also spoke to a number of Miller’s high school classmates for his piece, three of whom said they’d witnessed Miller at a party where he “pushed a girl out the door of his room and she fell down some stairs after he became enraged when she resisted his attempts to touch her.” The girl, Politico says, was not injured and law enforcement was not contacted; through his attorney, the candidate “categorically denies” this incident took place.
Kruse also writes that from 2007 to 2011, when Miller was in high school and later college, he had six encounters with law enforcement in his hometown of Shaker Heights and in nearby Cleveland Heights. One serious incident occurred in 2007 when, as the Washington Post reported in 2018, Miller, then a high school senior, was “charged with assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after punching another male in the back of the head and running away from police.” Miller ultimately pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges; two years later, he “pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge related to another altercation.”
The most recent incident Kruse writes about took place in 2011, when Miller was charged with driving a vehicle while impaired after he crashed into a pole; the charges were again dropped to a misdemeanor. Miller’s associates said that around this time, he sought to change his life and later enlisted as a Marine reservist.
Miller, who hails from a very wealthy and well-connected family, is currently the main-intra party challenger to Gonzalez, who infuriated Trump by voting to impeach him in January. Both contenders are well-funded, but the congressman holds a big financial advantage at this point: Gonzalez outraised Miller $600,000 to $405,000 during the second quarter of 2021, and the incumbent ended June with a $1.52 million to $535,000 cash-on-hand lead.
● TX-06: State Rep. Jake Ellzey pulled off an upset in Tuesday’s all-GOP special election runoff for Texas’ 6th Congressional District by defeating his Trump-endorsed opponent, party activist Susan Wright, by a 53-47 margin. Ellzey will succeed Wright’s husband, the late Ron Wright, who defeated him in the 2018 primary runoff for this constituency, which includes Arlington and rural areas south of Dallas.
Trump’s backing gave Susan Wright, who was also supported by Sen. Ted Cruz, plenty of reasons to be confident heading into Tuesday, though his endorsement may have left her complacent. Wright held few events during the campaign, and she even turned down the chance to talk to the fanatically pro-Trump site Newsmax.
Ellzey, meanwhile, campaigned hard and also massively outraised the frontrunner. All of this led former Rep. Joe Barton, a 17-term congressman who was Ron Wright’s mentor, to muse about Trump, “If he had to do it over again, I don’t think he would” because Susan Wright has “run a terrible campaign.”
Wright did receive plenty of air support from the radical anti-tax Club for Growth, which said on Tuesday morning that it had spent a total of $1.2 million during the runoff, though it wasn’t enough. While Trump did send out robocalls promoting Wright, though, he barely did anything else to help her: Indeed, the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel wrote that Trump “spent less than 15 minutes over three months to make the case for his candidate.”
Trump’s endorsement, however, may have boosted Ellzey with Democratic voters who didn’t have a candidate of their own following the results of the May 1 all-party primary, though as we’ll discuss, it’s far from clear this was the decisive factor. Both Wright and Ellzey were ardent conservatives who agreed on every major issue, but some Democrats made the case that, by voting for the state representative, they could stick it to Trump. Stephen Daniel, who was Team Blue’s 2020 nominee, made this argument in early May on Twitter when he reluctantly endorsed Ellzey, adding, “Also, @SenTedCruz is against Ellzey. Good enough for me.”
Ellzey’s team was more than willing to appeal to liberals in order to win. They acknowledged Tuesday that they’d sent out texts to Democrats describing the race as between someone who was “endorsed by Donald Trump” and Ellzey, whom they said “is committed to being a champion for our Public Education System and wants to ensure ALL our voices are heard.”
Ellzey himself never portrayed himself as anything other than a loyal conservative, though, as he made clear with his election night proclamation that “once we take back the House and Senate in ’22 and take back the White House in 2024, we take back our country.”
Trump’s camp was eager to blame Team Blue for the defeat of his endorsed candidate, saying, “The Democrats went out to vote and they all voted for Ellzey.” However, FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich argues that there is “no evidence” that local Democrats actually backed him “in significant numbers.”
Rakich analyzed the precinct results in Tarrant and Ellis counties, which together cast 92% of the vote for the runoff. (The balance is in Navarro County, which is the most conservative of the three and the only one that supported Wright.) Notably, he found that there was “no relationship” between how Democratic a precinct was in the May all-party primary and how well Ellzey performed there.
After noting that turnout disproportionately dropped in those Democratic areas, Rakich added that, while there were “a handful of precincts” where the two Republican candidates received more votes on Tuesday than all the GOP contenders got during the first round, “those precincts weren’t disproportionately Democratic.”
The University of Virginia’s Miles Coleman, though, did find evidence that it was Democratic voters who helped Ellzey turn his 2018 primary defeat against Ron Wright into his 2021 victory over Susan Wright. Coleman writes that in Tarrant County, which is the largest and most Democratic portion of the 6th District, the precincts Ellzey flipped this time “supported President Biden by a 56%-42% spread in last year’s general election.” The areas that supported both Wrights also went for Biden, but by a much smaller 52-47 margin.
Like Rakich, however, Coleman also points out how low Democratic turnout was in this all-GOP race, which likely limited the impact Team Blue’s voters had.