However, a small win here for any Democratic presidential nominee in this district, which has been redrawn many times over the decades but has always been focused on Orange County’s formerly staunchly conservative coastal communities, would have been unfathomable even a few years ago. Indeed, this area has not been represented on the Board of Supervisors by a Democrat since 1894, when Grover Cleveland was serving the second of his two non-consecutive terms as president.
Much more recently, Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama 55-42 in District 2 in 2012. Donald Trump only narrowly carried the seat four years later, but Steel won her 2018 re-election campaign in a 63-25 landslide.
Foley, however, benefited from a deeply fractured GOP field, as the three Republican candidates combined to narrowly lead the two Democrats 51-49. (Some ballots remain to be counted, so these totals could shift.) There was already clear tension within the GOP field, though, and as Foley’s victory became evident, it spilled further into public view. Moorlach, the Republican candidate who had the blessing of the county GOP, referred to his intraparty opponents as “confused Republicans” and blamed them for Team Red’s failure to hold this seat, a view shared by county party chair Fred Whitaker.
Kevin Muldoon, a Republican who took third with 11%, strongly pushed back on this assessment by claiming that many voters in the district had reservations about Moorlach, who once held this seat himself. Muldoon argued, “This is Moorlach’s second time costing Republicans a safe seat,” alluding to Moorlach’s 51-49 loss last year for the state Senate district he represented.
Muldoon’s view of tepid support in the district for Moorlach could be based in fact. Two of the three current GOP members of the board threw their support behind Muldoon and the traditionally Republican-friendly Orange County sheriff deputies union spent heavily against Moorlach.
Republicans made a weak attempt at splitting the Democratic vote when the Lincoln Club of Orange County, a group who had backed Moorlach, spent $2,000 to support Team Blue’s other candidate, Janet Rappaport. This half-hearted venture to influence the Democratic field was far from enough, though, as Rappaport finished in a distant fifth place with 5%.
Foley will serve out the remainder of Steel’s term and be on the ballot once again in 2022. Fellow Democratic Supervisor Doug Chaffee will be up that year as well, and there will also be a race for term-limited Republican Supervisor Lisa Bartlett’s seat. If Democrats hold their seats and successfully flip Bartlett’s seat, Team Blue would win control of this body for the first time in decades.
● MO-Sen: Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said Wednesday that he would not run for this open seat, an announcement that came a day after unnamed Republicans incorrectly relayed that he would enter the primary. Ashcroft is the son of John Ashcroft, a former governor and senator who was George W. Bush’s first attorney general, and it’s possible his connections could have deterred some intra-party foes.
A number of other Republicans are talking about running to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, and Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer’s spokesperson confirmed that he was considering seeking a promotion.
Meanwhile, the New York Times mentions Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver as a possibility, though he hasn’t shown any obvious interest in a statewide campaign so far.
● KS-Gov: The Topeka Capital-Journal writes that wealthy businessman Wink Hartman, who was the 2018 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, is “expected to consider” challenging Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly. State House Speaker Ron Ryckman also told the paper he was thinking about running.
● MI-Gov: Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel unsurprisingly said Wednesday that she would not run for governor.
● VA-Gov: Rich guy Glenn Youngkin is continuing to test out the idea that TV ads can be an effective way to appeal to the relatively small number of convention delegates who will be choosing the Republican nominee in May, and his newest spot takes a not-very subtle shot at one of his intra-party rivals.
The spot shows five men on a basketball court repeatedly missing the hoop as the narrator decries how career politicians “talked a big game on vaccine rollout and school reopenings” only to deliver “nothing but air.” Youngkin then appears and argues that he’s the one “true outsider” in the race before describing his opponents as “a combined 160 years of political baggage.” The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel says of this line, “In reality, Youngkin’s Republican opponents don’t have that much experience in elected office, and are more diverse than the ‘Cocoon’ extras pictured here.”
Indeed, while the Democratic field does include five current or former elected officials, only two are in the hunt for the GOP nomination: Del. Kirk Cox, who is a former state House speaker, and far-right state Sen. Amanda Chase. None of the five bad basketball players depicted in Youngkin’s ad are women, so there’s no question which of his opponents he’s focused on here: Weigel even notes that one of the actors is a “ringer” for Cox.
Cox, meanwhile, recently earned an endorsement from Rep. Morgan Griffith, who is one of the state’s four GOP members of Congress.
● NJ-02: Civil rights lawyer Tim Alexander announced this week that he would seek the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew, though Alexander set up an account with the FEC back in January. Donald Trump carried this South Jersey seat by a small 51-48 margin last year, but the party-switching congressman won his first campaign as a Republican by a wider 52-46.
● OH-11: On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge to serve as U.S. secretary of housing and urban development, which will make her the first Black woman to lead the department since its inaugural holder, Patricia Roberts Harris, stepped down in 1981. Fudge resigned from the House later that day right after voting for the coronavirus relief bill, and her departure will set off a special election for her safely blue seat.
Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, a majority Black constituency that stretches from East Cleveland south to Akron, backed Joe Biden 80-19, and there’s no question that the Democratic nominee will prevail. Even though the special could not be scheduled before Fudge departed, a number of candidates have been running here for months. The two contenders who have generated the most attention so far are former state Sen. Nina Turner, who was a high profile backer of both of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns, and Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown, who also leads the county’s Democratic Party.
The field also includes former state Rep. John Barnes, former Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson, and former state Sen. Shirley Smith. Others may also enter the race, but one prospective candidate, pastor Jawanza Colvin, announced this week that he would not run.
Fudge’s promotion to the cabinet also marks the end of her long career in state politics, at least for now. Fudge first got involved in high school in 1967 when she was part of “Young Folks for Stokes,” a group that helped Rep. Carl Stokes in his successful bid to become Cleveland’s first Black mayor. Fudge would later become close to Stephanie Tubbs Jones, whom she started working for following Tubbs Jones’ 1991 election as Cuyahoga County prosecutor. Tubbs Jones was later elected to a previous version of the 11th District in 1998, and Fudge soon became her first chief of staff.
Fudge herself left D.C. after she decisively won the 1999 race for mayor of Warrensville Heights, and she held that post when Tubbs Jones suddenly died from a cerebral hemorrhage in August of 2008. It was up to the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party’s executive committee to choose a replacement nominee, and Fudge beat four other contenders with 175 out of 280 votes. A special primary for the final months of Tubbs Jones’ term took place in October, which Fudge won 67-13 against the aforementioned Jeff Johnson.
Fudge never faced any serious opposition over the following decade, and she went on to lead the Congressional Black Caucus from 2013 to 2015.
● PA Supreme Court: The day before Tuesday’s filing deadline, Superior Court Judge Carolyn Nichols announced she was suspending her campaign for an open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. That leaves fellow Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin, who earned the endorsement of the state Democratic Party last month, as the only candidate seeking the party’s nomination. Republicans, meanwhile, will have a three-way primary on May 18 featuring two judges on the Commonwealth Court, Kevin Brobson (the state GOP’s official choice) and Patty McCullough, as well as Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Paula Patrick.
Democrats currently hold a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court but could expand it in November as Republican Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75 this year, is leaving the bench.
● Special Elections: Here’s a recap of Tuesday’s two legislative special elections:
GA-HD-90: Angela Moore defeated fellow Democrat Stan Watson 59-41 to win this seat in the southern Atlanta suburbs. This safely blue district that Hillary Clinton carried 76-22 in 2016 became vacant when former Rep. Pam Stephenson resigned just prior to the 2020 election.
While most Georgia specials are conducted using all-party primaries, the timing of Stephenson’s departure changed things somewhat. Stephenson had been seeking this seat unopposed, so only a Democratic primary was held to determine who would fill this seat. Six Democrats filed for the first round of voting and Moore and Watson were the top two vote-getters, with Watson coming out ahead 28-17.
This chamber is now at full strength with Republicans in control 103-77.
ME-SD-14: Democrat Craig Hickman decisively defeated Republican William Guerette 63-37 to hold this seat for his party. Hickman’s win represents a huge improvement on past Democratic performances in this district: According to analyst Jessy Han, Joe Biden won this district 49-48 in 2020, and Daily Kos Elections’ own calculations show Donald Trump was victorious here 47-45 in 2016. Han also notes that Hickman outperformed Biden in every municipality located in this district.
GOP strategist Shawn Roderick gave the Bangor Daily News an interesting reason for Team Red’s poor performance in this traditionally swingy district. He conjectured that the GOP’s electorate was dissatisfied with Guerette for not disavowing Sen. Susan Collins’ vote to impeach Trump earlier this year.
Democrats control this chamber 22-13 with no other vacancies.
● Pittsburgh, PA Mayor: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for the May 18 primary, and Democratic incumbent Bill Peduto faces three intra-party opponents in his quest for a third term. The Democratic nominee should have no trouble in the general election in this very blue city, especially since Republicans aren’t even fielding a candidate.
Peduto’s main foe is state Rep. Ed Gainey, who would be the Steel City’s first Black leader. Peduto, who is running in a city that hasn’t ousted an incumbent mayor since before World War II, has the backing of most prominent local politicians and a number of unions. Gainey, though, has also raised a credible amount of money and has the support of the influential SEIU Healthcare union as well as One Pennsylvania, a progressive group that has scored some primary wins in legislative races in recent years.
The Democratic field also includes Tony Moreno, a retired police officer who was a vocal Trump supporter as recently as 2019, and Will Parker, who previously considered running as an independent. It takes a plurality of the vote to win the nod.