Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Last Call For Dems Cashing Up

Deep-pocketed Democratic donors have finally decided to fight fundraising fire with fundraising fire and are forming their own big donor network to win the House back.

Major Democratic donors in New York have discreetly formed a new political alliance to raise roughly $10 million that would be injected into as many as two dozen key House battlegrounds in an effort to wrest control of Congress from Republicans. 
Admission to be an official partner in what’s being called the House Victory Project comes with a $108,000 price tag. More than 80 people have each committed that sum, according to a half-dozen donors familiar with the group, whose existence has not previously been reported. 
The $108,000 pledge allows each donor to effectively give the maximum $5,400 contribution to 20 different House candidates. With nearly $9 million in commitments amassed so far, each Democratic recipient could see a windfall of as much as $432,000 — an amount that, for many House candidates, equals months of fund-raising in one fell swoop. 
Jane D. Hartley, a former ambassador to France under President Barack Obama, said that the donors were a “very diverse” group that included philanthropists who have previously not engaged in political giving.

“Many have not been involved in politics in the past, but they’ve said they can’t sit out this election,” she said. 
Ms. Hartley, who hosted an event in recent months to pitch donors on the idea, is one of five organizers of the project, donors said. The others include Robert E. Rubin, the former treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton; Roger C. Altman, the former deputy treasury secretary in the Clinton administration; and two investment bankers who are major Democratic fund-raisers, Deven J. Parekh and Blair W. Effron.

Ms. Hartley, the only of the five to return calls for comment, declined to discuss how candidates would be chosen, but others briefed on the group’s plans said they plan to stay mostly away from contested Democratic primaries and the ideological battles that are roiling the party across the country. 
Instead, the group is focusing on bolstering Democratic candidates in general election battleground races, with the goal of flipping 24 Republican seats to take the House in November. 
Donors who got pitches to contribute said the group was focused on quantitative criteria that included the results in the past election, such as if President Trump or Hillary Clinton carried a district, as well as the ratings of the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato, a race prognosticator. Candidates have not been brought in for interviews. 
“The idea is to win 24 highly curated races,” said Alan Patricof, a venture capitalist and Democratic donor, who said that many of the contributors involved have worked together for decades. 
Mr. Patricof said the goal was finding candidates with a “high probability of prevailing” in November.

And hey, unlike the Republican version of this, we know who the donors are, and they're putting their money where their ideals are.  Pick the 24 races most likely to win, and give them the money to prevail, what a concept.

Now, I'm sure some of these candidates will turn the money down, and that's fine.  But precisely zero Republicans would ever turn down a dime for attack ads, so if the issue is "Dems can't get their message out" well now here's the money to do that.

It's better than the alternative, which is "complain that Republicans are spending money to win" and then Democrats kicking rocks.

Let's fight to win, guys.

Stopping The Schneid

So far NY state Solicitor General Barbara Underwood is taking over as interim state AG from the disgraced (and probably headed to jail) Eric Schniederman, who resigned Monday after a bombshell New Yorker article detailing a years-long pattern of sexual assault against multiple women.  But Emprire State politics wait for no one, and the jockeying for position means several candidates will running for not only a possible appointment by NY state legislators but again in November.  Politico's crew has the rundown, but a couple names seem to be at the top:

State Sen. Mike Gianaris

The Queens Democrat has spent years preparing to run for the attorney general’s office whenever Schneiderman declined to do so — and he’s amassed a $2.2 million war chest for just that purpose. On Tuesday, he said he was still very interested. 
“I’m getting a lot of really strong encouragement to run, which I appreciate,” he told POLITICO. “There are a lot of moving parts right now, this is all one day old, so I think there’s still time for this thing to play out, but I’m interested and exploring it.” 
As the head of his conference’s campaign efforts for the past seven years, Gianaris might have an advantage in a potential crowded primary field, as he’s spent the past several election cycles getting to know top Democrats in every corner of the state. But as a white male, he could face a hurdle in the Legislature, where Democrats are clearly hungry for a candidate who’ll add diversity to the roster of statewide officials. 
New York City Public Advocate Tish James

James rapidly emerged as a candidate who could possibly win appointment by the Legislature and continue into the general election season. She’s a woman of color and an attorney who as New York City’s public advocate already has been active filing lawsuits as a kind of people’s lawyer. 
James is also well-liked by leaders of the Working Families Party, which would provide a critical buttress in a competitive Democratic primary, and had been floated as a possible replacement for Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul — a sign that Cuomo would be open to her candidacy. 
And critically, several sources said, Heastie and other Democrats from the Bronx are open to pushing the former Brooklyn council member because of the move’s secondary effects. James is considering a run for mayor in 2021, when she is term-limited in her current job (as is Mayor Bill de Blasio). If she were state attorney general, however, it’s unlikely that she would make a bid for mayor. That could benefit Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who is also looking at a mayoral run. 
At several points on Tuesday, James refused to say whether she wanted the job. “The next attorney general will be decided by the state legislature and I await their decision. Thank you,” she said before running away from reporters. 
Rep. Kathleen Rice

A former Nassau County district attorney, Rice ran for attorney general in 2010 and finished just a few points behind Schneiderman in a five-way primary where she was the only woman. She still has $1.6 million in a state campaign account that could be used for a run. 
Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs told POLITICO that he has spoken with Rice and “she definitely has an interest in it and is taking a good look at it."
“She's run for it before. It is a job she aspired to at one time and I think she does again. She'll be a formal candidate, and I'm sure she'll throw her hat in the ring,” Jacobs said. 
But such a candidacy would reverberate: it would require Rice to vacate her House seat, which is in a potentially competitive district. That would potentially draw out state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) as a congressional candidate, which would in turn create a competitive race in the state Senate. Democrats are fighting to take outright control of the chamber in November’s general election. 
“There’s a lot of moving pieces that all impact one another,” Jacobs said. “Just what I was looking forward to.”

And of course, Republicans could just refuse to play along with Democrats and force them to keep Underwood.  Things get messy depending on who is picked and then runs in November, New York's famously (and ridiculously) late mid-September primary means we could be having this fight for some time.

The most important thing to remember is that Schneiderman was looking into the Trump organization, and keeping those cases moving has to be the top priority for Dems, not that I expect a Trump partisan to win.

But there's one more name that needs to be mentioned, of course.

Preet Bharara 
The former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York quickly emerged quickly on Twitter as a potential candidate, but on Tuesday gave no signals that he would do so. 
One political operative referred to Bharara as the “800-pound gorilla” looming over the primary, but after he was fired by President Donald Trump last spring he ignored pleas to seek office in New York. He has not laid any groundwork for a political campaign, and has focused on media commentary about the Trump administration. 
And as a prosecutor who targeted state legislators, he would have no chance of winning their appointment, lawmakers said.

We'll see.  Bharara has made some indication today that he's not ruling out a run.

Primary Evidence, Con't.

In Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana, primaries went pretty much according to plan.  Former Obama Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Richard Cordray will face off against GOP AG Mike DeWine for Ohio governor, Convicted WV con man Don Blankenship finished third in his primary to take on Joe Manchin in November, and Mike Pence's brother Gary will be running for Mike's old House seat.

But in North Carolina, things got pretty surprising last night as NC-9 GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger is out after losing his primary to challenger Mark Harris.

Former Charlotte pastor Mark Harris defeated Rep. Robert Pittenger in Tuesday's primary in North Carolina's 9th District, making him the first incumbent in the country to lose this year.

Pittenger also became North Carolina's first member of Congress in memory to lose a primary to a nonincumbent opponent.

"I've called Mark Harris, I've conceded the race and I wish him the best," Pittenger told supporters at what was expected to be a victory party.

Harris said, "I invite the congressman and his supporters to join our journey as we focus on keeping the 9th District red in November, ensuring the hard-working people of the 9th District have a congressman who is focused on representing them and their values ... "

The 9th contains Monroe and the southwest Charlotte suburbs and the counties east along the border with SC, up into Fayetteville, along where US Highway 74 and Interstate 74 cross, out to Interstate 95.  It's arguably the most boring part of the state I grew up in, nothing much out that way but tobacco farms and Lumberton (where David Lynch set Blue Velvet) and it's still a good hour and change to the coast.  Believe me, made the trip out through here several times over the years.  You're not missing much. 

But Pittenger going down means the Dems have a real shot in what's now an open district.

With nearly 95 percent of the precincts counted, Harris had 48.5 percent to Pittenger's 46.2 percent. A third candidate, Clarence Goins of Cumberland County, had 5.3 percent.

Harris enjoyed leads in Union and Bladen counties that had offset Pittenger's lead in Mecklenburg.

Pittenger, a former state senator first elected in 2012, was seeking a fourth term in the district that extends from southeast Charlotte east to Bladen County. In 2016 he defeated Harris by 134 votes, one of the country's closest congressional races.

Harris cast the primary as a battle for "the heart and soul of the Republican Party." He ran as much against the GOP-controlled Congress as against Pittenger. He said Pittenger was part of the Washington "swamp."

Pittenger had the backing of Washington's GOP leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who wrote a testimonial, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who visited for a fundraiser. Vice President Mike Pence shared a Charlotte stage with him.

Harris sided with mavericks, once suggesting he'd support a co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus for speaker.

In TV ads and on the stump, each candidate portrayed himself as President Donald Trump's more loyal supporter.

Here's the thing through, NC-9 has a significant black and Native American population.  It's R+8, which is exactly the kind of district the Dems would need to win in order to take back the House, and in a wave year, this would be a district that would go blue.  It's one of the districts that got redrawn twice in in the last five years over the state's GOP gerrymandering fight.  The Democrat in the race is Dan McCready.

Democrats compare McCready, a Marine combat veteran, to Conor Lamb, the Democrat who won a special election this year in a Pennsylvania district that had gone for Trump by 20 points. McCready has attempted to steer toward the middle of the road, saying he would not support Nancy Pelosi for Democratic leader.

These are the red state districts Dems will have to win and keep in order to take the House, guys.  Until things can get redrawn in 2021, Republican-leaning districts like this are going to be the key.


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