gold bars, huh
Alabama took the news that they’d have to draw a second district that will elect the candidate of Black voters’ choosing remarkably poorly. After initially asking the Supreme Court to invalidate another major portion of the Voting Rights Act and losing, Alabama was given the opportunity to draw the new district. Their blatantly noncompliant response was a reshuffling of a few counties in the southeastern corner of the state, producing a district was less than 40% Black and heavily Republican. The only comprehensible reason for this choice was that they’d interpreted sections of the court’s opinion laying out a potential path for Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to eventually be scrapped, written by Brett Kavanaugh, as an open invitation to immediately try again using those arguments, instead of as a trail of bread crumbs to be used several years down the road. Even still, Alabama’s strategy was ill-advised. They could have easily created a district that less blatantly defied the court’s order by creating a district that was, for instance, 45% Black and voted for Trump by 4-5%, just enough to ensure a Democrat would not be winning it outside of an extreme circumstance. Or they could have even created a district with nominal Black majority by population, but which would produce a white majority electorate, and which Biden would have barely won. The state was, however, clearly less interested in pushing the envelope than tearing it up entirely, and the result was multiple levels of federal court smacking their case down so hard a special master was immediately dispatched to draw new districts with no input from the state. A last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court was also swiftly rejected, despite chatter that Brett Kavanaugh might be interested in overturning his own ruling on Alabama’s redistricting.
This week, three substantially similar drafts of the new district were filed by the special master, all proposing a second district that stretches from Mobile in the west to the Columbus, GA suburbs in the east, with Montgomery included in the area between. The only difference of note between the three is whether the southeastern county of Henry and city of Dothan gets included, or if more of the Mobile area gets included instead. Functionally, the Dothan-and-Henry plan leans towards a higher Black population, the Henry-but-not-Dothan plan leans towards compactness, and the Mobile-only plan leans towards better Democratic performance, though, again, the differences between the three are minor.
The new 2nd District, by virtue of its geographic sprawl, has a great number of potential candidates. State Sens. Vivian Davis Figures (Mobile), Kirk Hatcher (Montgomery), and Robert Stewart (Selma, rural Black Belt) are the most obvious choices in the state legislature, but more candidates could be found in the dozen members of the House in the district. Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed and State Board of Education member Tonya Smith Chestnut round out the obvious choices as far as current elected officials go, but the potential field isn’t limited to them. Alabama’s only Democratic member of Congress right now is Terri Sewell, who was a lawyer with no political experience when she was recruited by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to run for Congress in 2009.
The redraw keeps much of Alabama’s 7th district the same. While Montgomery and a handful of rural counties are jettisoned in favor of more of the Birmingham area, most of the district remains in the new iteration. This is not what state Sen. Bobby Singleton wanted. Singleton, who represents a district on the western border of the state, pushed for a bizarre configuration that created one plurality Black district in the rural Black Belt, and one majority white district containing Birmingham. The reason behind this is simple, and simply self-serving: he wanted his state Senate district to be in the new majority Black district, despite that making no sense from a geographic perspective, so his solution was apparently to just make one of the two “Black” districts nothing of the sort, and make both districts barely lean Democratic to the left of the nation as a whole. Not that it’s really the point, but his proposal was still incredibly sloppy regardless—you can make both districts safely Democratic and either majority Black or merely plurality while still keeping his entire Senate district in AL-02.
Singleton, after seeing his hopes dashed by a federal court system that had priorities other than his personal career advancement, decided to just plunge forward anyway, announcing that he was launching an exploratory committee to run for Congress…in the 7th district, challenging Terri Sewell. While Sewell is a finance industry-friendly moderate, she’s never pulled anything like Singleton did with those district proposals, and she never endorsed Mike Bloomberg for president either.
The latest poll of the Senate race in California, from the Public Policy Institute of California, find the race much in the same state other polls have found it: Adam Schiff leads, with 20% of the vote, Katie Porter is a close second, with 15% of the vote, and Barbara Lee trails in a more distant third, at 8% of the vote.
In more immediate news, Sen. Dianne Feinstein passed away at age 90 last night. Gavin Newsom has pledged to appoint a Black woman who will not run to succeed Feinstein to avoid giving anyone an unearned leg up on Schiff, Porter, and Lee, but the appointment likely won’t be made for a few days.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is now the *third* statewide officeholder to declare for a new office (in this case governor) in 2026 before filing even opens for the 2024 cycle.
New Jersey has really outdone itself this time.
The nation’s angriest and greatest [Opinion Haver note: Citation needed] state has been associated with corruption and freewheeling sleaze for as long as it’s existed. US Sen. Bob Menendez is no stranger to allegations of corruption; they’ve followed him his entire career, and to some extent it comes with the territory. Someone who came up through the Hudson County Democratic machine, corrupt? Yeah, that tracks. The cloud of corruption over Menendez last posed a threat to his career in 2018, when the lingering bad taste in voters’ mouths left by his 2017 corruption mistrial led him to a piss-poor primary performance against broke perennial candidate Lisa McCormick, who collected a solid 38% of the vote and won multiple counties just by being the only other name on the ballot. 2018 was a big year for Bob: he beat the corruption charges, managed to avoid drawing a strong primary challenger, and went on to beat self-funding Republican Senate nominee Bob Hugin by a healthy margin (albeit narrower than New Jersey Democrats usually get.) He also met his future wife, Nadine Arslanian, that year,and that’s where our story—or, rather, the Southern District of New York’s story—begins.
In a brutal 39-page indictment, federal prosecutors laid out a series of dealings between Bob, Nadine, mob-tied developer and bank fraudster Fred Daibes, trucking company executive and insurance fraudster Jose Uribe, and Egyptian-American businessman Wael Hana, in which the Menendezes provided a variety of improper benefits in exchange for a Mercedes, furniture, gold bars, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. Sensitive information on military aid, international arms financing, and US embassy staffing was allegedly passed along to the Egyptian government via Hana, and Menendez worked to rescue military aid packages for Egypt which other senators wanted to cancel because of Egypt’s continued failure to make improvements on human rights and democracy; Menendez also used his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to help Hana secure a lucrative monopoly on halal meat exports in Egypt. Menendez allegedly intervened in an attempt to derail state and federal criminal prosecutions against Daibes and an associate of Uribe, and lobbied to install Phillip Sellinger as US Attorney for the District of New Jersey because he thought Sellinger would go easy on Daibes. (Sellinger instead recused from the case after consulting with the Department of Justice; Daibes eventually pleaded guilty to bank fraud in New Jersey.)
In New Jersey political circles, the indictment sent shockwaves just shy of a nuclear blast. In any other state, with any other senator, that would be a given just by virtue of there being an indictment against a US Senator, but not in New Jersey, and not against Bob Menendez. The extent of the criminality alleged by federal prosecutors was, by all appearances, a deep and genuine shock even to people who already figured Bob Menendez was pretty crooked. Within hours of the Friday indictment, numerous key party bosses, several of New Jersey’s Democratic members of Congress, and Gov. Phil Murphy had called for Menendez’s resignation, and Rep. Andy Kim announced that he’d challenge the senator in next year’s Democratic primary if he didn’t step aside.
Over the weekend, consensus continued to build that Menendez needed to go, and New Jersey politicos began to seriously think about life after Menendez. Nobody joined Kim in the race right away, but Reps. Mikie Sherrill, Josh Gottheimer, and Donald Norcross all started looking at the race—though Sherrill was reportedly more interested in the gubernatorial race in 2025, despite her lack of actual effort to prepare for that race. Rep. Frank Pallone even started thinking about it, despite the general sense that he was pretty settled in the House now. Sherrill’s lack of interest helped nudge another candidate towards a run: New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy. Tammy Murphy is more politically active than many political spouses, and has been deeply involved in her husband Phil’s political career every step of the way; it’s not news to New Jersey political circles that she has ambitions of her own. The optics of the governor’s wife running to succeed an indicted senator who infamously installed his son in Congress just last year are…questionable, but if Mikie Sherrill isn’t interested (and she’s not, officially taking herself out of the running this afternoon), Tammy Murphy is the next most plausible candidate to become New Jersey’s first female senator. (We assume this means just-christened Lt. Gov. Tahesha Way, a former Passaic County commissioner who has served as Secretary of State for Phil’s entire governorship and just added the LG job to her portfolio after the unexpected death of previous Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, is not all that interested in the Senate herself.) The name of state Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz has also come up, though less than those of First Lady Murphy and the US House delegation.
As for Bob? Well, he insists he’s not leaving, and might even run for reelection. The hundreds of thousands in cash—with the fingerprints of Daibes and his driver on some of the envelopes—were, he says, a trauma response to his parents’ flight from the Cuban dictatorship. Menendez has been a singularly dogged supporter of the embargo on Cuba as a method of fighting the Castros (long after most Democrats realized that the embargo does nothing but inflict suffering on the Cuban populace) despite his family actually fleeing the previous US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Seriously, that’s his spin on this:
This despite losing the support of just about everyone, including a majority of his Democratic Senate colleagues—even Cory Booker, his fellow New Jerseyan and personal friend, has called for his resignation.
Andy Kim’s Senate candidacy opens up his bluish suburban district along the New Jersey Turnpike. Burlington County, between Philadelphia and Trenton, is likely to dominate the primary electorate, but Trenton’s eastern Mercer County suburbs and the booming sprawl exurbs of western Monmouth County also get a say. Two Burlington County politicians with strong ties to the South Jersey machine and state legislative leadership are already openly considering runs to succeed Kim: state Senate Majority Leader Troy Singleton and Assembly Majority Leader Carol Murphy. Murphy in particular is seen as almost certain to run. Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello is considering joining the fray as well. Other potential candidates, according to the New Jersey Globe, include Assemb. Wayne DeAngelo, Mercer County Democratic Chair and East Windsor mayor Janice Mironov, Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin, and Marlboro Mayor Jon Hornik.
Frank Pallone, the 71-year-old chairman-in-waiting of the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee, is the quintessential House lifer. After a landslide defeat at the hands of Cory Booker in the 2013 U.S. Senate primary, Pallone happily went back to the Jersey Shore House seat he’s held since the late 80s, and when Democrats took the House in 2019, he got the E&C gavel, leading the committee until the House flipped back to the GOP last year. House Democrats don’t impose term limits on their committee chairs and ranking members the way House Republicans do, so Pallone can pick up where he left off whenever Democrats take back the House. Great incentive to stay put, right? Apparently not: along with several of his colleagues, Pallone is interested in a promotion to the Senate. Unlike the rest of those interested colleagues, Pallone hasn’t been widely expected to seek a statewide promotion since his 2013 loss; additionally, his departure could create a messy duel between his home county, Monmouth, and Middlesex County, which casts most of the NJ-06 primary vote and has long chafed at its lack of representation in Congress.
Bob Menendez’s apparent career doom comes at a very bad time for his son Rob Menendez Jr., who just took office in January as the congressman for a squiggly urban district along the Hudson River waterfront from Elizabeth to North Bergen (with a westward arm taking in Newark’s heavily Latino northern and eastern ends.) Just about everybody in Hudson County chafed at Bob’s installation of Rob in Congress last year, but nobody felt able to do anything about it then; the senator is famously vindictive, and after his stunning escape from his first set of federal corruption charges he had an aura of invincibility. That aura of invincibility vanished on the morning of the indictment, and at least one ambitious Hudson County politician took note. Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla was one of the few Hudson pols to call for Menendez’s resignation after the indictment, and he’s now mulling a primary challenge to Rob Jr. To be clear, Bhalla is an opportunist, not a genuine outsider—he’s climbed the machine ladder just like most of his Hudson County counterparts. But is he better than Rob Jr.? Yeah.
Bhalla isn’t the only challenger who’d make sense; state Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz of Newark, Assemb. Annette Chaparro of Hoboken, and Assemb. Annette Quijano of Elizabeth could all make a run for it, especially if the county machine they’re closest to decides Rob Jr. is more trouble than he’s worth.
Nancy Pelosi endorsed Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee for mayor of Houston. According to public polling, Jackson Lee is an underdog against state Sen. John Whitmire, a fellow Democrat who has tacked so far to the right in this campaign that no serious Republican bothered running.
LA City Council
Prosecutor Ethan Weaver, who’s running to the right of District 4 incumbent Nithya Raman, has released a poll showing him ahead 45-41. We would caution against reading too deeply into the specifics of this poll. It was performed by EMC Research, who have been responsible for some wacky results in the past; a polling memo was not included in the release; and (based on online chatter) there appears to have been a message testing section, but it's unclear if this result comes from a question before or after the message testing. However, this is a real poll, and it speaks to a legitimately challenging reelection campaign ahead for Raman. Not only was Raman inevitably going to be the target of years of reactionary backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement after her 2020 election, her district was made considerably more conservative by the racists drawing the Council districts in order to make her lose reelection. The poll is perhaps better viewed as Nithya Raman running against Generic Opponent, given how little name recognition Weaver likely has at this point. Weaver may be as close to Generic Opponent as the tough-on-crime crowd is going to get, and the LA establishment is lining up behind him. He's already been endorsed by several building trade unions, as well as ex-City Council President Mitch O'Farrell, who lost reelection last year to Hugo Soto-Martínez, who, like Raman, was endorsed by the DSA.
Speaking of the DSA, they’ve made their endorsements for the cycle, two of them. Surprising no one, Nithya Raman is one; the other is tenants’ rights attorney Ysabel Jurado, running in District 14. Jurado is challenging incumbent Kevin de León, who has spent the last year acting like he wasn’t one of the voices on the racist recordings (he’s doing pretty well so far, only pummeling one protester about it). The field is far from clear for that district, as Los Angeles is a city full of term-limited politicians who smell blood in the water: Assemb. Wendy Carrillo, Assemb. Miguel Santiago, and ex-Councilmember Nick Pacheco are all running, as are several others.
This summer, three DSA-affiliated candidates announced their desire to challenge Assemb. Juan Ardila, who was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, and admitted the substance of the allegations before recanting his admission and attempting to muscle through the scandal. This district, in the Sunnyside, Long Island City, and Woodside neighborhoods of Queens, has a history of supporting progressive and socialist candidates, as well as a strong DSA organizational presence; their choice of candidate will be hugely impactful. This week they announced their endorsement: Claire Valdez, a union organizer who has been part of DSA electoral efforts before. Within days of the endorsement becoming public, both other candidates exited the race. District Leader Émilia Decaudin, the first to announce her campaign, bowed out and endorsed Valdez owing to the endorsement, while activist Hailie Kim told the Queens Eagle that personal issues including the loss of her grandfather helped her decide not to run. The resulting field consists entirely of Ardila and Valdez, setting up a showdown that Valdez is more likely than not to win as things stand.
Except…he didn’t. In April 2020, he had met her “at a campaign rally years ago.” By October 2020, he had met her “almost a decade ago” at the Union City IHOP, and by January 2021, he had met her in December 2018 at that same IHOP. According to the indictment, it’s possible that all of these stories are false: federal prosecutors allege that Bob and Nadine began dating sometime in early 2018, no later than March, when the Menendezes’ Egyptian patron first met the couple to discuss the terms of their illicit arrangement. All parties, at least, would seem to agree that Bob and Nadine began dating at some time in 2018. But why would you lie to the New York Times about meeting your wife at IHOP? Like, what?