Poliquin, a one-time Wall Street investment manager who later was appointed state treasurer, flipped this northern Maine constituency during the 2014 GOP wave, and he held it two years later as his district was swinging from 53-44 Obama to 51-41 Trump. The Republican incumbent, though, learned the hard way in 2018 that the area hadn’t abandoned its Democratic roots. Golden ran a strong campaign that emphasized his service in the Marines, and this race ended up attracting huge amounts of outside money from both parties.
The contest also took a weird turn in the final days when Poliquin aired an ad set in a local hot dog restaurant that featured diners awkwardly and unconvincingly praising him and dissing the challenger. Some sample dialogue from the actors, many of whom were actually local Republican officials: “One thing’s for certain, Bruce Poliquin’s good for jobs,” and “Stopping Mainers from buying heating oil? Golden’s out there.”
The spot also featured a doctor sporting a lab coat with the logo of the Central Maine Medical Center, which led the hospital to publicly call for the campaign to pull the commercial. Poliquin’s team, naturally, refused to so much as make a minor edit to remove the logo.
Poliquin led Golden 49-47 among first-choice voter preferences on election night, but that wasn’t enough under the 2016 voter-approved ranked-choice law. Golden ended up prevailing 50.6-49.4 once votes were assigned to subsequent preferences as minor candidates were eliminated, a result that made Poliquin the first incumbent to lose re-election in the 2nd District since 1916.
The defeated congressman, though, responded by filing a lawsuit arguing that the ranked choice law violated the Constitution. Poliquin’s suit was frivolous, and both the district court and an appellate court emphatically rejected his legal arguments since nothing in the Constitutional provisions he cited came close to barring the use of ranked-choice voting, which several states have used for overseas and military voters for years to comply with federal law regarding absentee ballots. Poliquin ultimately dropped all his legal challenges a full seven weeks after Election Day but never acknowledged his defeat.
The now-former incumbent soon began expressing interest in a 2020 rematch, and he took every chance he got to pretend he was the rightful victor of the last race. In April of 2019, Poliquin ranted that he’d “won in 2018” and his defeat was illegitimate because “[w]e have this thing called ranked voting” that is “the biggest scam I’ve ever seen in my whole life.”
Not everyone was excited about the idea of a Poliquin return, though. The National Journal reported that even Republican operatives who believed he could beat Golden thought he’d made some serious mistakes in 2018, and they singled out his hot dog restaurant commercial for particular scorn. The former congressman ultimately announced that, while he was “itching to run again,” he’d sit the cycle out to care for his ailing parents; Donald Trump soon nominated Poliquin for a volunteer post on the Board of Securities Investor Protection Corporation, but the Senate never held a confirmation vote.
Republicans may have been better off if Poliquin, for all his flaws, had been their standard bearer in 2020, however. The eventual GOP nominee, Dale Crafts, struggled to raise money, and major groups on both sides dramatically cut their ad buys in the final weeks of the race to focus elsewhere. Golden ultimately fended off Crafts 53-47 even as his seat backed Trump 52-45, making it the reddest House seat held by a Democrat after 2020.
● MO-Sen: Rep. Billy Long announced Tuesday evening that he was joining the crowded Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt. Long noted that he’d previously been elected to succeed Blunt in southwestern Missouri’s 7th Congressional District back in 2010, and Long argued he’d continue the senator’s legacy in the upper chamber. The congressman went a little too far linking himself to the incumbent, though. While his launch event listed both Blunt and fellow Sen. Josh Hawley as his “honorary co-chairmen,” both soon confirmed they weren’t taking sides in the primary.
Long hails from one of the biggest sources of GOP votes in the state, though as we noted before, the former auctioneer may not be able to count on as much local support as he might want. While Long has never faced serious intraparty opposition since he won his first race a decade ago, he’s also never exceeded 66% of the vote in any of his nomination fights. We’re not sure exactly why so many primary voters keep opting for Some Dudes over their incumbent, especially since Long doesn’t seem to have done anything serious to alienate conservatives.
Long may also face fundraising challenges in what will be an expensive race. The congressman raised a mere $200,000 during the second quarter of 2021, though he may be able to ramp it up now that he’s officially running for the Senate and he ended June with $560,000 in the bank.
Two of Long’s primary foes finished the last fundraising period with more than twice as much cash on hand. Fellow Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who represents the west-central portion of Missouri, took in $890,000, and she had $1.5 million available. Attorney General Eric Schmitt, meanwhile, raised a far-stronger $1.3 million during his opening quarter and had $1.1 million to spend.
The field also includes a few other Republicans of note, though they don’t currently have particularly large war chests. Wealthy attorney Mark McCloskey raised $545,000 from donors, but he had only $165,000 on-hand at the end of June. McCloskey was also in the news again Tuesday when GOP Gov. Mike Parson pardoned the candidate along with his wife, weeks after the couple pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault; McCloskey had paid a $750 fine and surrendered the weapon he pointed at protestors last year, though he said immediately after his sentencing that “I’d do it again” and quickly purchased a new rifle that he proudly showed off on social media.
Disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, meanwhile, raised $435,000 during the second quarter, and he had a mere $135,000 in the bank. He’ll get some major help, though, as Politico reported last month that billionaire Richard Uihlein, a prominent megadonor, has provided $2.5 million to a new pro-Greitens PAC. Greitens soon responded by putting out a press release proclaiming that $3.1 million had been raised “to support” his campaign, though he naturally avoided trumpeting his actual campaign’s total.
The GOP field could expand further as Rep. Jason Smith has been talking about running for months, and he’d start out with plenty of cash if he did get in. Smith hauled in $540,000 for the quarter, and he ended June with $1.6 million to spend.
On the Democratic side, the contender with the largest war chest was Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, who raised $625,000 and had $325,000 on-hand.
● OH-Sen: The Club for Growth has released a new GOP primary survey from WPA Intelligence that finds its endorsed candidate, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, leading venture capitalist J.D. Vance 40-12, with the rest of the field even further behind.
● FL-Gov: St. Pete Polls, working on behalf of Florida Politics, has released the first survey of next year’s general election that we’ve seen in some time, and it finds Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis locked in close races against two Democratic foes. Rep. Charlie Crist edges out DeSantis 45-44, while the governor outpaces state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 45-42.
Florida Politics proclaimed this a “Shock poll,” as DeSantis has usually held clear leads in the few surveys that have been released this year, but we haven’t seen much other data in months. St. Pete Polls, however, actually found DeSantis and Fried deadlocked 45-45 back in March (Crist was not tested), so this isn’t the first time that the firm has found a closer race than other pollsters.
● MI-Gov: MIRS News caused quite a stir in mid-July when Kyle Melinn reported that former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hadn’t quite ruled out seeking the GOP nomination for governor, but her inner circle is playing coy about if she’s even remotely interested. DeVos’ own husband, 2006 nominee Dick DeVos, wasn’t helpful when he was asked last month, saying, “The question is if she’s interested in being the governor. That’s a question you’d have to ask her some day.”
Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer fully recognizes that the notorious former secretary makes for an effective foil no matter whether or not she runs, though, and she’s been sending out fundraising appeals warning about her “billionaire-funded campaign.” A Betsy DeVos spokesperson was asked about her interest in the race and responded, “She hasn’t said word one about it, but Whitmer sure seems scared of it,” which isn’t a no.
Still, the Detroit Free Press‘ Paul Egan writes that “the story of a possible DeVos run for governor has gained little traction.” He noted that when DeVos appeared on a political radio program last month, she wasn’t even asked if she was thinking about making the race.
● FL-13: While St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin expressed interest in early June in seeking the Democratic nomination for this open seat, it looks very unlikely she’ll be on the ballot next year. Tomalin announced Tuesday that she’d be taking a leadership post at Eckerd College starting in the new year; Tomalin doesn’t appear to have said anything new about the congressional race, though Florida Politics notes that this career move “dulls speculation” about her running.
● FL-27: Janelle Perez, a self-described “moderate Democrat” who co-owns her family’s Medicare managed care company, this week became the first notable candidate to enter the race against freshman Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar in this Miami-area seat. Perez, who grew up as a Republican, worked as a GOP staffer for the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee before she returned to Florida in 2014. If Perez, who is a first-time contender, prevails next year, she would be the state’s first LGBTQ member of Congress.
Perez told the Miami Herald she’d campaign against Salazar no matter what happens next with redistricting, though many other Democrats appear to be waiting to see what the new boundaries will look like. The only other notable politician who appears to have publicly expressed interest in running so far is former Rep. Donna Shalala, whom Salazar beat last year; Shalala told Politico last month that she’ll likely decide in October.
One name we hadn’t previously heard mentioned as a possibility was former state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, and we almost certainly won’t again: While the Herald name-dropped him as a potential candidate, it notes that President Joe Biden nominated him for a position at the U.S. Department of Labor last month.
● MO-07: Republican Rep. Billy Long’s decision to run to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt opens up his 7th Congressional District in the southwestern corner of the state, a constituency that backed Donald Trump by a massive 70-28 margin last year.
This district is home to Springfield, Joplin, and Branson, the resort community The Simpsons once declared was “like Vegas if it were run by Ned Flanders,” and most residents live in a county that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. (Branson’s Taney County went for James Buchanan in 1856 when its namesake, the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford author Roger Taney, was Supreme Court chief justice.) Long won his 2010 primary to succeed Blunt by beating six opponents, and we could be in for another crowded contest in this ancestrally red area.
State Sen. Eric Burlison quickly expressed interest in running, while the Missouri Independent mentioned a few other contenders “thought to be considering.” That list is made up of state Sens. Lincoln Hough and Mike Moon; former House Speaker Elijah Haahr; and former Blunt aide Joelle Cannon.
● OH-11: Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown won an upset victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District by defeating former state Sen. Nina Turner 50-45. Brown should have no trouble in the Nov. 2 general election to succeed Marcia Fudge, who resigned earlier this year to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in a majority-Black seat that Joe Biden carried 80-19 last year.
Turner, who was a prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate for both of his presidential campaigns, spent the race looking like the frontrunner, and she appeared to be the favorite going into Election Day; even Brown and her allies had released polls in the final weeks that, while showing Brown closing what was once a sizable gap, still had Turner ahead.
Turner campaigned as a conventional Democrat who supported Barack Obama, and she had support from well-known local figures like longtime Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. But Brown’s side, including the well-funded group Democratic Majority for Israel, worked hard to remind voters of Turner’s past criticisms of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. One quote that constantly made the rounds was Turner’s declaration last year that encouraging voters to back Biden in the general election was “like saying to somebody, ‘You have a bowl of shit in front of you, and all you’ve got to do is eat half of it instead of the whole thing.’ It’s still shit.'”
Brown’s side also had plenty of resources to circulate that message. While Turner outspent Brown throughout the race, pro-Brown outside groups deployed $2.6 million compared to $870,000 for Turner’s allies.
Brown, who also serves as chair of the county Democratic Party, also made sure to position herself as a dependable Biden ally. The councilwoman had the backing of both Clinton, who decisively won this seat in the 2016 primary, as well as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who is the most powerful African American member of the chamber. And while Fudge herself remained neutral, the secretary’s mother, Marian Saffold, appeared in ads for Brown.
Turner, who campaigned in a van decked with the slogan “corporate Democrat want a puppet,” fired back by portraying her opponent as someone who was being propped up by special interests. Turner also aired a commercial during the final days that asserted, without evidence, that Brown was “facing investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission” and “could face … jail time,” a risky message that indicated that Turner knew her campaign was in trouble.
However, while observers were quick to frame the primary between the two veteran Cleveland-area politicians as the latest national skirmish between the party establishment and progressive outsiders, there were plenty of local factors that contributed to the result.
As NBC’s Henry Gomez notes, Turner angered the Cleveland Black political establishment all the way back in 2009 when she backed a successful ballot measure to reform the Cuyahoga County government after several high-profile corruption scandals, and she even waged a 2012 primary campaign against Fudge. Turner, Gomez writes, “dropped the primary challenge idea pretty quickly, as Fudge had the Black establishment firmly in her corner, and that definitely matters in” this seat. Turner, with Fudge’s support, was the party’s 2014 nominee for secretary of state, but any rapprochement with local powerplayers ended the next year when Turner switched from being a Clinton supporter to being a Sanders backer.
Brown, by contrast, won a 2014 race for the county council, an election that took place, as Gomez notes, thanks to the 2009 ballot measure Turner championed. Brown later became chair of the county party with the support of Fudge, and the two remained close allies. “Regardless of whether Nina Turner spent five years as a top Bernie surrogate,” Gomez writes, “the establishment back home in Cleveland was always going to be an obstacle for her. While some have forgiven her for the county reform push, she was not among the party insiders like Brown was.”
● OH-15: Coal company lobbyist Mike Carey, a longtime political operative who had Donald Trump’s backing, won the GOP nomination by beating state Rep. Jeff LaRe 37-13 in this southern Columbus area constituency. That victory spares Trump more bad headlines following the defeat of his endorsed candidate in last week’s all-GOP runoff for Texas’ 6th Congressional District. Carey will be the favorite in the Nov. 2 special election against Democratic state Rep. Allison Russo in this heavily gerrymandered 56-42 Trump seat.
● TX-24: 2020 Democratic nominee Candace Valenzuela reiterated her interest this week in seeking a rematch with freshman GOP Rep. Beth Van Duyne, though she told Roll Call she needed to see the new map before deciding.
● Detroit, MI Mayor: Mayor Mike Duggan outpaced Anthony Adams, a former deputy mayor, by a massive 72-10 margin in the nonpartisan primary. Candidates for mayor cannot avert a Nov. 2 general election by winning a majority of the vote, but it would be a huge surprise if Duggan had any trouble against Adams in the fall as he seeks a third term.
● Los Angeles, CA Mayor, CA-37: The Washington Post‘s Sean Sullivan reported Tuesday evening that Democratic Rep. Karen Bass is thinking about running in next year’s race for mayor of Los Angeles instead of seeking re-election to her safely blue House seat. Bass’ spokesperson didn’t rule out the idea, saying, “People are urging her to do it. She is not considering it at this time. Her plan right now is to run for re-election to her House seat in 2022.”
Two sources told Sullivan that a major factor for Bass would be whether her close friend, City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, gets in, with the Los Angeles Times writing that both politicians’ supporters “could not envision a scenario where they would run against each other for the same citywide office.” Still, others told Sullivan they were skeptical that the prominent congresswoman, who was on Joe Biden’s 2020 vice presidential shortlist, would get in no matter what.
Next June’s nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is awaiting his Senate confirmation hearings to become ambassador to India, has been slow to develop. The field currently includes City Attorney Mike Feuer, Councilman Joe Buscaino, and businessman Mel Wilson, though plenty of others are considering getting in. Los Angeles Magazine relays that an unnamed “group of local power players approached Bass” because they weren’t impressed with the declared candidates or other potential names.
P.S. The last time a sitting House member ran for mayor of America’s second-largest city was 2001, when five-term Rep. Xavier Becerra campaigned in that year’s open seat race. Becerra took fifth with just 6% of the vote but, because that race took place in an odd-numbered year, he was able to keep his place in Congress and continue his upward political trajectory. A 2015 ballot measure, though, moved mayoral races to midterm years starting in 2022, so Bass would need to choose between staying in the House and campaigning for this post.
● Seattle, WA Mayor: Former City Council President Bruce Harrell and Lorena González, who holds that post now, advanced past Tuesday’s nonpartisan top-two primary into the Nov. 2 general election, a result that local politicos had anticipated for some time. Harrell, who briefly served as interim mayor in 2017, took first with 38%, while González outpaced former nonprofit head Colleen Echohawk 29-8 for the second place spot.
Each contender represents a powerful faction in Emerald City politics. Harrell is close to business groups, and he also had the support of establishment figures like former Gov. Gary Locke and ex-Mayors Norm Rice and Wes Uhlman. González, meanwhile, has almost all the labor endorsements in the race, as well as the backing of prominent progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal.
Harrell and González would each make history if they prevail in the race to succeed retiring Mayor Jenny Durkan. Harell’s week-long tenure four years ago made him Seattle’s first Asian American mayor and second Black leader, and he’d achieve another milestone if he were elected mayor. González, by contrast, would be the first person of Latino ancestry to serve as mayor, as well as the first woman of color to occupy this post.
● King County, WA Executive: As expected, incumbent Dow Constantine will face state Sen. Joe Nguyen, a fellow Democrat, in the November general election. Constantine took first with 53% of the vote, while Nguyen beat his nearest foe 30-12 for second.