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Morning Digest: Is Charlie Baker vulnerable if he runs again? Don’t bank on this one poll to tell us

The only one of these candidates who has announced a bid is Downing, though Allen has formed an exploratory committee. Healey, meanwhile, has been talked about quite a bit as a potential candidate but hasn’t said if she’s interested, while Kennedy sounds very unlikely to go for it. This is also the first time we’ve heard Chang-Díaz mentioned as a possible contender. Baker, for his part, has been keeping everyone guessing about his re-election plans.

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However, while YouGov finds Baker leading Healey by just three points and well under 50% against the other four Democrats, there’s a big reason to be cautious. In that matchup a plurality of 34% of respondents are undecided (the remaining 7% say they would not vote), a proportion that’s even higher in three of the other trial heats, and even in the Baker-Kennedy scenario, 28% still mark themselves as not sure.

All of that makes this poll hard to interpret and therefore not particularly helpful to understanding what the future might hold. Assuming the sample accurately reflects next year’s electorate—no easy feat—it’s still possible that, this far from Election Day, a huge number of voters really are on the fence and could go either way. However, it’s just as possible that YouGov, for whatever reason, isn’t doing enough to push respondents to express their preferences.

A considerably larger portion of YouGov’s panel, though, did give its opinion of Baker’s performance in office, with a 52-39 majority saying they approve. That’s a positive number, especially for a Republican in a very blue state, but it’s a massive drop from the 68-29 score Baker chalked up in October, the last time YouGov polled him for the school. It’s also far lower than what almost every other poll has found since Baker took office in 2015: Last month, for instance, MassInc showed Baker with a 74-20 score.

Events since those two polls were conducted, including Massachusetts’ widely panned coronavirus vaccine rollout, may have hurt the governor, but the two pollsters’ methodologies may simply be leading them to measure public opinion differently. No matter what, though, we should never let one survey determine our view of a contest. Hopefully, more firms will survey the Bay State in the near future to give us a better idea as to whether Baker remains strong at home or if he really could be in for a tough race if he runs again.

Senate

GA-Sen: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein reports that Republican Rep. Drew Ferguson is considering a bid against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock.

Ferguson, who was elected in 2016 to represent a safely red seat in the southwestern Atlanta exurbs, has not said anything publicly, though unnamed allies tell Bluestein he’s “being pressured by some state and national GOP figures” to run. Bluestein also notes that Ferguson is an ally of former Rep. Doug Collins, who is openly mulling another bid here, though it remains to be seen how that might impact either man’s calculations.

Several other Republicans are thinking about getting in. Bluestein relays that one of those “said to be considering” is businessman Kelvin King, though there’s no other word on King’s interest.

IA-Sen: Retired Vice Adm. Mike Franken, a Democrat who lost last year’s primary for Iowa’s other Senate seat, told The Gazette on Monday that he’s not ruling out a campaign against Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley. Franken said of Grassley, who has not yet said if he’ll seek an eighth term, “A lot can happen in six months, but I think the prudent person would expect that he would run again. Betting otherwise would be a fool’s pursuit.”

Last year, Franken went up against businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, who had the backing of the national Democratic establishment, in a very difficult primary. Greenfield, who decisively outspent Franken and benefited from close to $7 million in outside spending, beat him 48-25 before losing to Republican Sen. Joni Ernst months later.

Governors

AZ-Gov: Former homeland security official Marco López, a Democrat who previously served as mayor of Nogales, on Tuesday became the first notable candidate from either party to announce a bid to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. López, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Mexico, would be the state’s second-ever Latino governor following fellow Democrat Raul Castro, who was elected in 1974 and resigned in 1977 to become Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to Argentina.

López himself won elected office in 2000 when he was elected mayor of Nogales, which shares a name with its far larger neighbor on the other side of the international border, at the age of 22. After serving in several state posts under Arizona’s last Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, López also worked under her at the Department of Homeland Security as chief of staff for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

López, who has spent the last decade as an international business consultant, has also acted as an advisor to billionaire Carlos Slim, who is the richest man in Mexico and one of the wealthiest people in the world. The Arizona Republic, though, writes that López is pushing back on “rumors” that he’d fund his bid with his own money. López instead said he’d be asking for donations, though he doesn’t appear to have addressed if he’s open to self-funding some of his campaign.

López will likely have company in next year’s primary as Team Blue looks to score another win in a state that Joe Biden narrowly carried in 2020. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said about a year ago that she was considering and would likely decide in early 2021, though she doesn’t appear to have given any other details about her deliberations since then. A few other Democrats have also been mentioned, though no one else seems to have said anything publicly about their interest.

House

AZ-02: State Rep. Randy Friese confirmed Tuesday that he was considering running to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, in this Tucson-area seat.

TX-06: This week, 22nd District Rep. Troy Nehls became the state’s fifth Republican House member to back party activist Susan Wright in the May 1 all-party primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Ron Wright. Another GOP candidate, former Trump HHS official Brian Harrison, also used his second TV ad to talk about what a “big government” hater he is.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: On Monday, City Councilman Joe Buscaino announced that he would compete in next year’s race to succeed termed-out incumbent Eric Garcetti as mayor of America’s second-most populous city. Buscaino joins City Attorney Mike Feuer, a fellow Democrat who kicked off his campaign a year ago, in the June 2022 nonpartisan primary, and there are plenty of other politicians in this very blue city who could get in.

Before we take a look at the current and potential fields, though, we’ll address why this contest is taking place in an even-numbered year for the first time in living memory. Mayoral races in The City of Angels have been low-turnout affairs for a long time, with only just over 20% voters turning out for the very competitive 2013 contest that Garcetti ultimately won.

But in 2015, voters, albeit on another ultra-low turnout citywide Election Day, overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to require city elections to coincide with federal and statewide races starting with the mayoral race in 2022. In order to align future races to the new calendar, Garcetti successfully competed for a special five-and-a-half-year term in 2017 rather than the standard four-year term his successor will be elected to.

The contest to succeed Garcetti has been underway for some time, as demonstrated by Feuer’s announcement in March of 2020. Feuer, a longtime officeholder who was elected city attorney in 2013, used his head start to raise $418,000 through December.

Feuer earned headlines for suing the Trump administration several times during his tenure, but he’s also attracted unfavorable attention at home. In October of last year, a state judge ordered the city to pay a $2.5 million fine after ruling in favor of what the Los Angeles Times‘s Dakota Smith described as a “consulting firm that accused City Atty. Mike Feuer’s office of concealing evidence” in a long running scandal involving over-billing by the Department of Power and Water.

Buscaino, by contrast, is a Los Angeles Police Department veteran whom the paper says is “well known to many in San Pedro but is probably less familiar to residents in other parts of the city.” Buscaino, who last year was one of just two members on the 15-member City Council to vote against cutting $150 million from the police budget, defended the LAPD this week as the “largest reformed police department in the country.” Buscaino also said that he spent his time as a cop “focused on problem solving, on creating partnerships to improve the quality of life here,” and that he was in favor of directing more money to social services.

There are plenty of others who may run as well. Smith reports that two influential business figures, Central City Association head Jessica Lall and mall developer Rick Caruso, are both thinking about getting in. City Councilman Kevin de León, who waged an unsuccessful 2018 intra-party bid against Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and fellow City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas also have not ruled out running.

Seattle, WA Mayor: Former City Councilman Bruce Harrell announced Tuesday that he would run in this year’s race to succeed retiring Mayor Jenny Durkan. Harrell is a relative moderate by the standards of this very blue city, and The Stranger‘s Nathalie Graham characterizes him as the type of “pro-business candidate the Seattle business community could get behind.”

Harrell previously ran for this post in 2013 and took fourth in the top-two primary. In 2015, after the city began electing its councilmembers in district-level races instead of entirely citywide, Harrell competed for a South Seattle seat and won by a tight 51-49 margin. He then went on to serve as interim mayor for a week after incumbent Ed Murray resigned in disgrace in 2017, which made Harrell Seattle’s first Asian American mayor and second Black leader.

In 2018, Harrell served as president of the City Council when it unanimously passed a new tax on large employers. Harrell, though, voted along with most of his colleagues to repeal the law just a month later in the face of business pressure, and analysts attributed the entire matter to the City Council’s poor ratings in polls. Harrell, who retired in 2019, kicked off his new campaign by arguing that local leadership was failing and it was time to “change the way we do things, radically.”

Harrell joins a field that includes Council President Lorena González and Chief Seattle Club Executive Director Colleen Echohawk, either of whom would be the first woman of color to serve as mayor. The filing deadline is in late May for the August nonpartisan top-two primary.

Other Races

Nassau County, NY Executive: On Monday, Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman launched his bid against Democratic incumbent Laura Curran with the support of the Nassau County Republican Party. No other notable Republicans have shown any obvious interest in competing here ahead of the April 1 filing deadline, so it would be a big surprise if Blakeman faces any serious opposition in the June party primary. The general election to lead this suburban Long Island county of 1.4 million people will take place in November.

Nassau County backed Joe Biden 54-45 last year, but Republicans are hoping that Blakeman will help them return to power down the ballot. As Steve Kornacki described in an excellent 2011 piece in Politico that remains one of our favorite articles about local politics anywhere, the local GOP spent decades in complete control over the county until it was brought down by corruption, infighting, and the electorate’s gradual shift to the left. Democrat Tom Suozzi finally broke the GOP’s long stranglehold on the county executive’s office in 2001, and he won re-election four years later.

But in 2009, with the Great Recession hurting Democrats nationwide, the GOP unexpectedly regained control over Nassau County when Ed Mangano unseated Suozzi by 386 votes. Suozzi sought a comeback in 2013, but Mangano defeated him 59-41 in another contest that foreshadowed the national Democratic Party’s problems for the following year. (Suozzi would resurrect his political career in 2016 when he won a seat in Congress.)

However, scandal would again plague the Nassau County GOP. Mangano was indicted on federal corruption charges in 2016, and local Republicans successfully pressured him not to seek a third term in 2017. (Mangano was found guilty after leaving office, but his team is trying to overturn the verdict.) Curran went on to retake the executive office for Team Blue by beating the Republican nominee, former state Sen. Jack Martins, in a close 51-48 contest, but the GOP still controls the gerrymandered county legislature 11-8.

That brings us to 2021, where Team Red is turning to Blakeman to beat Curran. Blakeman is a longtime figure in New York politics, where he’s had some decidedly mixed success at the ballot box. Blakeman most notably was the 2014 GOP nominee for the open 4th Congressional District, a Nassau County-based seat that Barack Obama had carried 56-43 two years before. Major outside groups on both sides largely bypassed the contest, but the GOP wave helped Blakeman hold Democrat Kathleen Rice to a 53-47 win. In 2015, Blakeman bounced back by winning a seat on the governing body of Hempstead, a massive town with a population of about 765,000.

Data

Presidential Elections: Daily Kos Elections’ Stephen Wolf has compiled a spreadsheet with the results of every presidential election by state from 1828 through 2020. The spreadsheet additionally includes calculations of the results for each of the country’s four major geographic regions, and it also includes a “partisanship score” metric for comparing the result in a state with the national result for a given year. For instance, Georgia had an R+4 partisanship score in 2020 because Joe Biden’s 0.2-point margin of victory there was roughly four points more Republican than his national victory margin, and it had a W+5 score in 1840 because Whig President William Henry Harrison carried the state by five points more than his national victory margin.

Grab Bag

Podcasts: Daily Kos political director David Nir just appeared on pollster Zac McCrary’s brand-new podcast, Pro Politics, to discuss his own journey into politics and the rise of the progressive netroots, which (as Zac puts it) morphed over the course of two decades from “a ramshackle group of political junkies” running small-time blogs into “one of the pillars of the Democratic political universe.”

Among the many topics they covered: How being the child of a Holocaust survivor has informed who David is … why seeing a Geraldine Ferraro rally in 1984 was an ill omen for the ticket’s chances … the candidate who taught David to avoid getting too attached to any individual politician … how David made the decision to forego a legal career to plunge full-time into politics… and the story of Daily Kos and the rise of Jon Ossoff—and the death of the IDC.

You can find the recording here for all formats, and if you enjoy this kind of shop-talk with political professionals, you can also follow Pro Politics on Twitter.

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