finally, a proper scandal
State Auditor Kathy McGuiness, somehow the first Democrat to hold the auditor’s office in reliably blue Delaware in quite some time, was indicted Monday on a wide array of public corruption charges, including multiple felonies. Gov. John Carney will get to appoint a replacement if McGuiness doesn’t finish out her term, either through resignation or impeachment; either way, an open statewide race is all but guaranteed in 2022, when McGuiness’s term expires. (Should the legislature pursue impeachment, it would be a bit uncomfortable for state House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf; both are from the small Atlantic resort town of Rehoboth Beach, and the pair have been allies for decades.)
To the credit of the state party, chairwoman Betsy Maron promptly called for McGuiness’s resignation after the charges were announced. The investigation is ongoing, so these may not be the only charges against McGuiness when all is said and done.
Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief was endorsed by Rep. Lois Frankel, who represents a neighboring district in Palm Beach County.
Rep. John Yarmuth, the chair of the House Budget Committee, announced his surprise retirement yesterday. This could be a signal that Kentucky Republicans are going to carve up Yarmuth’s district—a Democratic stronghold in Louisville—or simply a consequence of the fact that Yarmuth is 73 and in his fourteenth year in Congress, which is actually a totally normal reason to retire that only surprises observers because a concerning number of high-ranking House Democrats refuse to retire until they’re forced to do so by voters or Father Time.
If this district continues to exist, state Rep. Attica Scott is a frontrunner by default; she was already running before Yarmuth retired. Also automatically at the top of the field is state Sen. Morgan McGarvey, who leads the Democratic caucus in the state senate and who immediately announced his own campaign following Yarmuth’s retirement announcement. Senate candidate Charles Booker, a former state representative from Louisville, could also drop down to the House race; if he did, we think he’d be a strong favorite. However, yesterday he committed to continuing his quixotic Senate campaign.
Yarmuth has committed to neutrality in the race for his successor, barring the possibility of one entrant: his son, Aaron Yarmuth. Aaron says he's merely considering it, but this summer he sold LEO Weekly—the newspaper that put his father on the map, ownership of which was transferred to Aaron after John left for Congress—in order to "step back" from the publishing world. In addition to the newspaper, Aaron has been working with his father in politics, especially recently. The two sound like they're on the same page ideologically, which is to say progressive but not Squad material.
Tish James, the New York Attorney General who just had her star-making turn leading the investigation that eventually brought down Andrew Cuomo, is still noncommittal about whether or not she’s planning on running for governor, but other politicians are lining up to replace her just in case. First up is Zephyr Teachout. Teachout, a lawyer focused on government transparency and anti-trust actions, has been involved in politics for nearly 2 decades, and first rose to prominence during her 2014 attempt to primary Cuomo from the left, where she did surprisingly well on a microscopic budget. After an unsuccessful run at an upstate Congressional seat in 2016, she launched her third campaign in 2018, for the newly-open AG office, but lost to James 39-30. Teachout has been clear that she will definitely be a candidate if James runs, and the NY left still thinks highly of her, even if she’s not going to score the NYC-DSA endorsement, so it looks like the left has its candidate in the race should James decide to make the leap. Also floating his name has been Queens Assemb. Clyde Vanel. Vanel was previously a high-powered Manhattan corporate attorney before moving into business ownership himself. He lives in Queens now, but electing the literal corporate elite seems like a bad idea for Attorney General? Perhaps? He endorsed Michael Bloomberg for president, if you had any doubts about his politics.
State Rep. Andrea Salinas is considering running for the new OR-06, a safely Democratic district containing the cities of Salem and Corvallis, as well as a significant chunk of the Portland suburbs. Salinas, first appointed to her suburban house seat in 2017, made it to House leadership just a couple years later, and has spent her time in office functioning as a solid progressive: She’s supported efforts to create a public option for Oregon (because “getting to some kind of single payer system is the best thing we could do..for all people in the US”), allow prisoners to vote, and give agricultural workers overtime pay. The local Democratic establishment clearly likes her if they appointed her to office, and to leadership not long after, so she’ll be a considerable force in the primary should she run. She also helped draw the new district, so the odds of it being at least somewhat optimized for her are pretty high.
Rhode Island is a small enough state that at some point we're going to have to start measuring the number of gubernatorial candidates as a percentage of the state population. This week's entrant is former CVS CEO Helena Foulkes. Foulkes was born into a family with connections (her uncle is Chris Dodd and various other family members know everyone from Nancy Pelosi to Joe Biden). She’s never run for political office, and her only direct connection with Rhode Island government is when she sat on a state economic development board committee for Lincoln Chafee, who was at that point a Republican-turned-independent (he had yet to turn Democrat and then Libertarian). She is, in other words, a rich centrist with no supporters or clear pitch. Those candidates tend to wither under the spotlight of actual campaigning, but they are infuriating while they last, most of all because every once and a while they actually get elected.
How’s this for a headline former mayor Kasim Reed didn’t want in October: “Kasim Reed’s attorneys say the former mayor is not under federal investigation”?
Reed is once again in the hot seat over the small issue of seemingly everyone he was involved with during his time in office being either convicted, indicted, or subpoenaed courtesy of a long-running federal corruption probe. Of course, it’s a rough week for everyone as the heat of negative campaigning gets underway. Someone is faking texts from the Fulton County GOP and sending them on “behalf” of Council President Felicia Moore’s campaign to convince Democrats she’s the GOP-endorsed candidate in this nonpartisan race. Elsewhere, unattributed signs have begun showing up, telling voters to defund the police by voting for Councilman Andre Dickens. Reed and Moore lead in the polls, but voters are largely undecided, and Reed, who is running against raising taxes and for allowing the richer, whiter north of the city to secede, has much more money left to spend than the rest of the field.
We have a poll of the runoff election, and it is bad for moderate city councilor Annissa Essaibi George. Fellow councilor Michelle Wu, a staunch progressive, leads with 57% of the vote to Essaibi George’s 25%, and has wide leads among voters of every race, age, and gender. (Especially worth noting are Essaibi George’s absolutely abysmal numbers with Black, Latino, and Asian voters—she barely registers double digits with each group.)
Recently filed financial disclosures for Wu and Essaibi George are another data point in what political observers have noticed for weeks: Wu is pulling away with it. Even after being outspent nearly $600,000 to $400,000 in the last month, Essaibi George now lags in cash on hand $400,000 to $150,000, and is raising at a slower pace than Wu on top of it. If there’s one thing a candidate favored by businesses and wealthy homeowners should be able to do, it’s lead in fundraising. That she’s fallen well behind in the money race despite that is an ominous sign for an already flagging campaign.
Literally overnight, second-term Mayor Muriel Bowser went from having no serious challengers to having two. At-large Councilor Robert White and Ward 8 Councilor Trayon White both announced their campaigns today. Aside from their surname and their shared opponent, however, the Councilors White are quite different. Robert White is a generally progressive member of the Council who would be a significant improvement over Bowser, a Bloomberg-endorsing moderate; Trayon White is an idiosyncratic anti-vaxx nutcase who infamously thought Jews controlled the weather.
This has been quite a busy few weeks in DC politics, and the DC Council has been no exception. A number of Council seats saw significant developments.
Council Chair Phil Mendelson, a reliably irksome moderate, drew a challenger in Erin Palmer, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner from the Takoma neighborhood in northwest DC. And fellow moderate Anita Bonds also drew a pair of challengers for her at-large seat: progressive activist Ambrose Lane Jr. and former DC shadow representative Nate Fleming, the latter of whom is also a staffer for the aforementioned Trayon White (ick.) (The office of shadow representative is an ultimately powerless one, but it’s elected districtwide; the shadow representative, like the District’s two shadow senators, is tasked with lobbying for statehood as an elected representative of the people of DC.)
Vincent Orange has been a fixture of DC politics for more than thirty years, appearing on ballots every few years since his first run for office in 1990. By our count, he’s run for office in DC twelve times, losing eight and winning four; he’s now apparently betting that thirteen is his lucky number. Ward 5, which Orange represented during his first stint on the council from 1999 to 2007, is open due to the retirement of incumbent Kenyan McDuffie, and Orange, fresh off a loss in the 2020 race for an open at-large seat, is running to succeed him.
Lorena González and Bruce Harrell are entering the home stretch, with ballots hitting voters’ mailboxes soon. Most prominently, a PAC formed by a collection of González’s allies in labor is running a new attack ad against Bruce Harrell that turns the dial up to 11. Over black-and-white footage of the January 6 Capitol riots, a narrator explains that Trump’s largest Seattle-area donor gave Bruce Harrell’s PAC $100,000. While Harrell says he finds the ad insulting, González and the PAC both stand by it. For his part, Harrell is running a new ad, promising to resume homeless sweeps and add more money to the police budget.