Midterm Roundup: Self-Funders Spend Big in PA, OH, and AZ

Today is the first edition of the Spangld Midterm Roundup.

Breaking news events from Washington and around the world can often crowd out important developments in Senate, House, and governor’s races. The roundup gives you the most important campaign news from all 50 states, curated for you every other Saturday.

State of Play

Each roundup will begin with 4 key numbers:

  1. The president’s job approval rating (per the FiveThirtyEight polling average)
  2. The “generic Congressional ballot” (a poll question asking voters whether they’d prefer to vote for a generic Republican or a generic Democrat) (per the RealClearPolitics average)
  3. Is the country on the right track, or off the wrong track? (per the RCP average)
  4. The number of Congressional retirements (Members tend to retire at higher rates if they think they’ll lose reelection or lose the majority)

State of Play – January 29, 2022

Battle for the Senate

Ohio (GOP primary): Call it the millionaire’s derby. Businessman/ 2018 US Sen. candidate Mike Gibbons and Cleveland Guardians part-owner/OH Sen. Matt Dolan have each contributed $10 million+ of their own money to their Senate campaigns. They are competing against four other millionaires for the GOP nomination: ex-OH GOP chief Jane Timken, ex-Treasurer and 2012/2018 US Senate candidate Josh Mandel, author JD Vance and car dealer Bernie Moreno.

Pennsylvania (GOP primary): 2018 Lt. Gov. nominee Jeff Bartos (R) has gone 3-for-3 in straw polls of GOP activists in Northeast, Northeast Central, and Central PA. His primary rivals include ex-hedge fund CEO/veteran/Bush 43 alum Dave McCormick and as-seen-on-TV Dr. Mehmet Oz. Oz and McCormick have each have already spent around $4 million on TV ads alone.

Wisconsin (Dem primary): Incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) is being challenged by four left-wing Democrats in the narrowly divided Badger State. The four candidates – Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, WI Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, the Milwaukee Bucks SVP/owner’s son Alex Lasry, and Green Bay-area county executive Tom Nelson are running far to Biden’s left, the WSJ reports.

Governors’ Races

Arizona (GOP primary): Campaign finance reports revealed the four candidates with the most cash – 2018 Secretary of State nominee Steve Gaynor, AZ Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, ex-Rep. Matt Salmon, and biscotti tycoon Paola Tulliani Zen – all self-funded significantly. Ex-TV anchor Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed candidate, brought up the rear.

Massachusetts: MA Attorney General Maura Healey announced her campaign on Jan. 20 to succeed retiring moderate GOP Gov. Charlie Baker. Healey is the early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination and would be the nation’s first lesbian governor. Healey is favored over the GOP candidates – businessman Chris Doughty and 2018 US Senate nominee Geoff Diehl.

Michigan: A Jan. 23 nonpartisan poll found Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) narrowly ahead of her leading opponent, former Detroit police chief James Craig, 46%-41%. Whitmer’s approval rating was underwater, 45% approve to 52% disapprove.

Pennsylvania (GOP primary): Businessman Dave White (R) has won two straw polls to ex-Rep./2018 US Senate nominee Lou Barletta’s (R) one. White and Barletta are running in a 13-candidate field to take on the leading Democratic candidate, PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Shapiro raised $6.3 million in Q4 of 2021 and has a whopping $13.5 million in the bank.

The House of Representatives

Alabama redistricting: A federal court overturned Alabama’s congressional map for Voting Rights Act violations. Alabama must draw a new map that would give Democrats an extra seat.

Illinois’s 6th (Dem primary): Redistricting threw Democratic Reps. Sean Casten and Marie Newman into the same House seat. Newman’s career – and freedom – are in jeopardy after a Jan. 24 Office of Congressional Ethics report accused her of bribing a potential primary opponent with the promise of a federal job – in writing(!) – to keep him out of the race.

Nebraska’s 1st (GOP primary): Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R) is facing a federal indictment and a primary challenge from NE Senator Mike Flood in this Lincoln-based seat. On Jan. 21, Flood was endorsed by NE Gov. Pete Ricketts and ex-NE Gov. Dave Heineman in a blow to the incumbent.

Rhode Island’s 2nd: 10-term Rep. Jim Langevin (D) announced his retirement on Jan. 18. The GOP could win this western RI district in a wave year. The GOP nominee for governor, Allan Fung, carried the seat in 2014 and nearly did in 2018. RI Sen. Jessica de la Cruz (R) and RI Treasurer Seth Magaziner have launched campaigns and could be joined by Fung himself.

Tennessee’s 5th: 16-term Rep. Jim Cooper (D) is retiring after Tennessee’s new map redrew his Nashville district from Biden+24 to Trump+11. Possible candidates include ex-TN House Speaker Beth Harwell and ex-Trump official Morgan Ortagus, who Trump endorsed.

Texas’s 28th (Dem primary): The FBI raided the home of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) as part of a campaign finance investigation. Activist Jessica Cisneros (D) is challenging Cuellar again. He defeated her by 2,700 votes in the 2020 primary for this Rio Grande Valley seat. Biden only narrowly carried the Laredo-based district, and it should be competitive in the general election.

Wyoming at-large (GOP primary): Ex-president Donald Trump’s handpicked candidate Harriet Hageman dominated the WY GOP Central Committee’s straw poll. Hageman, a 2018 gubernatorial candidate, won 59 votes to incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney’s six.

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© Dominic Moore, 2022