Campaigns we are watching
Don’t we all have one non-work-related race that lights us up? Maybe it’s the candidate, or the district, or the short-term implications that makes us want (or need) to follow every detail? It’s also safe to say that we all could use a little reading material to keep us up tonight (this is not a paid advertisement for Taylor Swift). So in honor of one of our nation’s greatest storytellers (yes, we are still talking about Ms. Swift) we thought we’d tell you the races that we are watching.
Harris County, home to 4.7 million, is treated like a playground by right-wing oil men and developers, and they are convinced they can take out a rising star in Democratic politics, Judge (county executive) Lina Hidalgo, along with every Democratic judge who sits on the bench. They have generously funded candidates and PACs, and flooded TV with millions in ads putting crime and corruption at Democrats’ feet.
There is a lot of paid media right now, and it is moving poll numbers and raising people’s blood pressures. My concern is immediate and long-term.
A year ago, Democrats had their eye on picking up a seat on the County Commission. The possibility Republicans could regain control is stomach turning because it will mean policy and reform rollbacks. The current budget impasse adds to the drama.
I’m tracking this race because it is clear that the 2023 election cycle has already started. The messages about crime and corruption we are seeing now will have a lingering impact on the electorate. People running for Houston Mayor and City Council in 2023 should consider the lingering effects since they have more responsibility to deal with crime than Lina Hidalgo, despite what you’re seeing on TV.
I was born and raised in Cranston, Rhode Island. You may know it as the inspiration for the town Quohoag from Family Guy, the birthplace of the U.S.’s most recent Miss Universe, or, if you’re following House races this year, the hub of one of the most competitive elections of the cycle.
Allan Fung was my mayor for most of my adult life. He has tried a couple times to leverage his folksy, faux-moderate image into the governor’s office. He’s been shaking hands and kissing babies here for a long time and it seems like he may finally be poised to win something. It’s been a pretty surreal experience to see my home district go from a safe, blue, 60-40 district to a messy, tossup, open seat seemingly overnight.
Dems seem fixated on putting Fung’s moderate image to the test. It’s not illogical; Biden won the district by 13 points. The question is whether it’s enough. In a race between a candidate people like versus a platform people support, who comes out on top? That’s a question I’m looking to see answered in several districts this year.
So, In my “free time,” I’m working with my local Dems, doing what I can to keep this seat.
Oregon (pronounced like “oregano”) has a special place in my heart so the race I’m closely watching is the Governor’s race, which has turned into an absolute sh*t show. I do not think that Oregon is turning into a Republican state but there is some action happening in Beaver state. With an incredibly unpopular incumbent, Governor Kate Brown, being an absolute downer, a dynamic but flawed Democratic candidate, former House Speaker Tina Kotek, AND an independent candidate happily funded by those who maybe (errr. do) desire the Republican Christine Drazan to win, this gubernatorial seat in the +16 2020 Biden state is a toss up.
I hope Multnomah County voters come to play and juice the Democratic turnout so the best candidate, Tina Kotek, wins. However, if they don’t, I believe the Dems will look to the independent candidate as a party-pooper, but perhaps some more introspection might be needed. Democrats and our allies need to figure out how to boost our champions while also creating dynamic candidate brands so voters have a story to latch on to. Tina is bringing a record of great accomplishments to the campaign and yet, perhaps her downfall will be that her accomplishments actually bogged down her reason for running. Stay tuned!
Luck and chance are underrated factors in politics in my opinion, perhaps because it leads to a sobering realization: there is so much one can do before the window of opportunity closes. That is why I’m watching Charles Booker’s second senatorial bid. The factors that made Booker’s 2020 Democratic Senate Primary run exciting are absent this time around, and like many campaigns nationally, Booker faces a more nebulous and divisive electoral environment.
Kentucky isn’t on everyone’s minds now, and I think it’s because many observers took the wrong lessons from Amy McGrath’s loss. Deep red states like Kentucky need continuous work if we want them to flip. Yet people have short bandwidth with supporting campaigns. They direct it to a candidate and once that candidate is finished, they move on to the next shiny new person. It’s a major disservice to the emerging talent wanting to transform their state and contributes to the tendency for compelling candidates to lose steam on their second or third attempts.
Let’s be clear, deep red states are extremely hard to flip, and a state like Kentucky has a much more nuanced electoral environment than outsiders can imagine. And Booker will surely lose– for any Democrat in a deep red state, the question is always, just by how much. We should still pay attention to these races so that we can create the infrastructure needed to sustain support of new leaders so that eventually, some of them can win.
I always like looking at the story behind the story. Secretaries of state and state attorney generals have an enormous influence on both state and national governments. The majority of attorney generals (30) and secretary of state offices (27) are on the ballot this year. About 15 of the 57 races are competitive.
In particular, I’m watching the Nevada and Arizona secretary of state races, where several of the most extreme election deniers have a narrow lead over the Democratic candidates in the most recent polling. Nationally, Republicans have nominated seven election deniers for secretary of state offices, as well a large number of election deniers who are running for local election administrative offices.
Onward to the AG races, there’s a number of tight races. Even though Kansas is a red state, the AG race is tied, with a large number of voters undecided due to the poor quality of the GOP candidate, former Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Arizona features a Republican novice who has made anti-Semitic remarks running against a former Republican-turned-Democrat. In Iowa, the Democratic AG has been in office for 38 years (longest serving in US history!) and is facing a strong challenger. In Wisconsin, the AG’s race could determine the fate of abortion rights, and thankfully the Democratic candidate has an overwhelming financial advantage. And in Michigan, the Republicans have nominated yet another election denier, this time for AG, but the Democrat leads by 10 points.
We’ve heard it over and over again this year- “Abortion is on the ballot.” And for me that rings especially true in Michigan, where not only are prominent pro-choice / pro-freedom candidates on the ballot but also an actual constitutional amendment. Governor Gretchen Whitmer took on the fight to protect abortion rights in Michigan head-on with her lawsuit against the outdated 1931 law that would go back into effect once Roe was overturned. With Michigan’s Republican majority in the gerrymandered legislature, Whitmer was the only line of defense to protect rights for millions of women, and she won. Now she faces Republican Tudor Dixon, who has clearly stated she does not support the right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest. The contrast could not be clearer, and the stakes could not be higher. Without Big Gretch, the right to abortion is on the line.
There are a few other factors at play that make Michigan even more interesting to me– the constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights and newly drawn maps from an independent, citizen-led redistricting commission. Could fairer maps and voters motivated to protect abortion access in the state turn Michigan just a little bit bluer?