There were no elections last week, but we did get conclusions to a few outstanding races. In GA-13, awful incumbent David Scott stayed above 50%, finishing with 51.9%, and avoiding a runoff. In NV-SD-07, Harry Reid pick Roberta Lange has finished above Ellen Spiegel. The contest was more about Reid’s grip on Nevada than any particular issue. Finally, in PA-HD-22, incumbent Pat Schweyer is up by 57 votes on Enid Santiago, with everything counted. She is, however, petitioning Lehigh County to refuse to certify the results, citing election irregularities, an action which would cause a revote in this race.
New York is voting right now, and man is everything happening at once. First, let’s take a look at fundraising for federal races, as well as independent expenditures. Aaron Narraph Fernando (@aaronnarraph on Twitter - he’s a great follow) has done something similar for legislative races.
Pre-primary reports came out for federal candidates in New York, and there are some eye-catching figures. It’s worth noting that the pre-primary reports only include data from April 1 to June 3--the full picture fundraising and spending in the weeks since then won’t be known until after the primary. However, independent expenditures are required to be immediately reported to the FEC, so we can get a decent picture of outside spending in the races where there’s a lot of it (NY-15, NY-16, and NY-17.) For the purposes of this item, we’re going to count all independent expenditures on or after May 23, exactly one month before the primary.
NY-03: Incumbent Tom Suozzi raised $85,000 and spent $229,000, which indicates he’s at least a bit concerned about his primary (or, considering his massive $2,000,000 bank account, he figured he might as well spend some of it.) Challengers Melanie D’Arrigo and Michael Weinstock each raised just shy of $15,000; D’Arrigo has much more to spend in the final days than Weinstock, but neither comes close to Suozzi’s money.
NY-06: Incumbent Grace Meng, like Suozzi, is either a bit concerned or has decided she’s better safe than sorry.
NY-09: Yvette Clarke is the first incumbent here who’s definitely panicking. She was outraised by challenger Adem Bunkeddeko, but she outspent him $228,000 to $153,000, and burned most of her cash in the process. Conservative city councilman Chaim Deutsch is spending a fair amount of money, too, which is bad news for Clarke; he appeals to the conservative white neighborhoods that put Clarke over the top in 2018. Heading into the final stretch, her and Bunkeddeko have similar sums left to spend.
NY-10: Lindsey Boylan outraised incumbent House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler by about $75,000, but he outspent her and has far more left to spend. However, Boylan’s campaign is far from broke, and she has the funds to get her message out in the final days of this race.
NY-12: House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney was outraised by Suraj Patel, but nearly doubled him in spending; Patel actually has more cash on hand left than Maloney does. This is clearly a two-person contest, but neither candidate here is very good - Maloney more so on policy and Patel with personal issues, so we can’t bring ourselves to be too invested in the outcome.
NY-14: AOC outraised and outspent her main challenger, former Republican CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, and has much more on hand; she’s clearly favored to defeat Caruso-Cabrera, who’s probably running this campaign to set herself up for a book deal or Fox hosting gig.
NY-15: This race remains wide open, but city councilman Ydanis Rodriguez is clearly falling behind, and city councilman Ritchie Torres is running laps around everyone else in spending (with the most money left to spend, too.) Notable is Samelys López, who had a good fundraising period for the first time in her campaign. Also notable is that she didn’t spend most of it, perhaps because it mostly came in late in the pre-primary period. Outside spending in this race has been all over the place: $25,000 supporting former city council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, $64,000 supporting Asm. Mike Blake, $138,000 supporting Torres, and a whopping $342,000 opposing city councilman Rubén Díaz Sr., the conservative, homophobic nightmare who might win this seat.
NY-16: Jamaal Bowman outraised incumbent Eliot Engel, but Engel outspent him by double and outside spending in this race tilted in Engel’s favor, as well: $796,000 in favor of Engel and $436,000 opposing Bowman, but only (“only”) $330,000 in favor of Bowman and $300,000 opposing Engel. More in our NY-16 item. (Note: the initial version of this issue missed an independent expenditure on Engel’s behalf by Perise Practical, Inc., in the amount of $180,000 on June 2, due to the FEC failing to properly format the filing on their website, an error we should have nonetheless caught. We thus understated the amount of pro-Engel spending by $180,000. Due to a transcription error, we also double-counted an anti-Bowman expenditure, overstating the amount of anti-Bowman spending by $17,000. Both figures are correct now.)
NY-17: This remains a wide-open race, and pharmaceutical billionaire failson Adam Schleifer continues to pump millions of his father’s money into his campaign. Thankfully, outside spending levels the playing field at least a little bit, with progressive Mondaire Jones getting $259,000 in outside support, while supporters of moderate Evelyn Farkas helpfully dropped $80,000 bashing Schleifer (and $146,000 supporting Farkas.) More in our NY-17 item.
NY-25: Progressive Robin Wilt, who lost to Joe Morelle in the Democratic primary for this then-open seat two years ago, outraised the incumbent thanks to a heavy dose of self-funding. However, she was still outspent three to one, and is almost out of cash to spent, while Morelle still has a quarter of a million dollars that he might as well spend on the primary, since the general election in this Rochester district should not be remotely competitive.
Almost overnight, NY-16 has become the race that everyone wants in on. This week Jamaal Bowman found progressives across the country flocking to his side, with endorsements including Daily Kos, MoveOn, The New York Times, Katie Porter, Elizabeth Warren, and Ayanna Pressley (in rough chronological order), who joined the ranks of, among others, Justice Democrats, the Working Families Party Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who were already behind him. Last week, the Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party announced a $500,000 joint ad buy under the former’s name, and this week they have bolstered it with another $50,000 over what they’d promised. No new ads have been released, so this is probably a continuation of the two from last week. Also jumping in with an independent expenditure here is the Collective Super PAC, which is the Super PAC run by the Collective PAC for the purposes of independent expenditures. They’re going up with four ads this week, and they’ve promised to put “low six figures” into Bowman’s.
On Engel’s side, two of the most prominent and powerful members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which endorsed Engel a while ago, have gotten more involved in this race. Hakeem Jeffries, Jim Clyburn, Maxine Waters, and Gregory Meeks all individually endorsed Engel this week. Jeffries was particularly vocal about his support of Engel, and has been consistently active in making his opposition to primary challengers Morgan Harper, Cori Bush, and Adem Bunkeddeko known. The CBC’s reaction to white Democratic incumbents with Black primary challengers recently has largely been to support the incumbent. They also endorsed Mike Capuano against Ayanna Pressley in 2018 and Steve Cohen over Willie Herenton in 2010. It’s not universally the case for the CBC - recent exceptions include them staying neutral in the John Barrow-Regina Thomas 2010 primary, but indicating disappointment with Barrow, and in the 2004 post-redistricting battle between Al Green and Chris Bell, where multiple CBC members backed Green, though the CBC itself was very clear that it endorsed neither. In this particular case, the hardline Engel stance of many CBC members may reflect their longstanding antipathy for the Justice Democrats.
Chuck Schumer, who was listed as an endorsement on Engel’s website, asked about the race, declined to endorse Engel, and then was subsequently removed from his site, has turned back around and endorsed Engel. Why deny Engel the endorsement like that if he was just going to give it to him later? Who knows? But the important thing is that he embarrassed Engel in public for no reason.
The biggest gun to move in this week for Engel were not, however, any politicians. It is the Democratic Majority for Israel, an AIPAC-affiliated Super PAC best known for running some laughably over-the-top attack ads against Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary. They have already put over $700,000 into boosting Engel and attacking Bowman and give no indication of slowing down. To fund this ad barrage, they’ve drawn on a variety of sources most Democrats would be embarrassed to admit they’re backed by, including $1 million from an oil heiress fond of conservative politicians and $100,000 from a GOP Super PAC.
All that’s just the outside forces in this race. The candidates are also involved in campaigning - who knew? Engel and Bowman (along with minor candidate Chris Fink) faced off in their first proper debate, hosted by NY1 News. It went truly terribly for Engel. The following is a direct quote from Eliot Engel:
"I'd like to ask Mr. Bowman: where has he been? We had community night outs every single year. We're fighting against flooding in Westchester. When we're fighting about crime or about anything, schools. Where's he been? He's been with his school."
Let’s take a moment to appreciate how insane that is. Normal human beings would think that running a school is a pretty damn good answer for the question “where have you been in our community?” Engel not only didn’t believe so, he thought it was so shameful that he had to level it as a gotcha accusation.
Bowman has gone up on the air with his own ad, a spot similar in character to the Justice Dems/WFP piece above, hitting Engel for absenteeism, including “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care” clip, and giving a quick promise to “[care] about our communities year-round, not just during election season”. That clip has been invaluable to basically every pro-Bowman ad in the race. Meanwhile, the Engel campaign is pushing hard on a story that basically amounts to Bowman, a decade or more ago, making the common mistake of registering with the Independence Party instead of no party affiliation, and then not joining the Democratic Party officially until sometime in the mid 2010s. This means Bowman didn’t vote in the 2012 Democratic Presidential primary (which was essentially uncontested), so they’re going with the line he “didn’t vote for Obama in 2012”. If it sounds desperate, that’s because it is.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out one of Engel’s advisors, and apparent spokesperson: Tom Watson. If you spend time on Twitter, you’ll remember him as a never ending fountain of bullshit about the dangers of politicians who would actually like to accomplish something. Humorously, Watson previously said he’d back a primary challenge to Engel in a tweet last year that has since been deleted. As a blogger, he’s perhaps best remembered for his incessant Hillary Clinton cheerleading on her way to blowing the 2008 election, and as a political consultant his choices have been just as bad.
Tom Watson is perhaps the worst spin doctor in existence. Every single time he attempts to craft a narrative, it's just insanely obvious. Sure, Engel didn't give him a lot to work with, but even considering the circumstances, he’s laughable. Consider how Engel basically admitted that he knew he couldn’t get the NYT endorsement, so the campaign put out a statement proclaiming well, actually, he wouldn’t want it anyway, and then declared the endorsement of Bowman “Low level payback” for that press release. Was anyone fooled? No. And when asked about it, Watson said it was Engel’s call to put out the statement, but notably didn’t deny it was his idea.
And we’re STILL not done. Someone from the Engel campaign was texting voters saying that Bowman was a “communist trying to take over the Democratic Party”, right before talking about Engel’s “international platform”. Watson denied that this was a campaign script, but in the same sentence boasted about how it was the side effect of a “robust” texting operation.
[Extremely infomercial voice] But wait! There’s more! We’ve got polling. The better of the two comes from Data for Progress, to whom we’d be very grateful for polling primary races even if we weren’t under their umbrella. You can find the full poll here, but we won’t keep you in suspense. Bowman is up 41% to 31% among all Democratic voters. When leaners--people who say they are undecided, but have a preference if asked to choose--are pushed to pick a candidate, Bowman’s up 52% to 36%. We encourage you not to take any poll as gospel, and in this case the fact DFP left out minor candidates Chris Fink and Sammy Ravelo is an extra source of uncertainty. But there’s no way to spin this as anything other than a good poll for Bowman.
The poll also identifies Bowman’s two areas of strength: young voters and Black voters. With learners, Bowman leads Engel 53% to 20% or 21% among voters under 45. Among Black voters, he leads 62% to 14% or 15%. That is an astounding margin, and it comes after Engel’s attempts to show his support among Black politicians. The only demographic groups that Bowman trails among are white voters and men. This is DFP’s second poll of NY-16. In October, they found Engel leading Bowman 29% to 10%. Considering that question did not push leaners, it means Engel’s vote share has grown by 2% since then.
Engel’s campaign team didn’t take the release of this poll lightly. They announced that they had an internal that “show[s] Engel up by 8”. No further details forthcoming, except that they referenced that this was before voters heard the story about Bowman not being registered as a Democrat in 2012, so they’re either using that as message testing, or it was taken before the story broke, meaning it’s at least a few days older than the Data for Progress poll.
And that’s it. That’s our final NY-16 item before the primary preview this weekend. Damn, a lot can happen in a week.
Just north of the absolute maelstrom happening in NY-16, NY-17 is going through its own last-minute shakeup. The biggest piece of news is that we’ve got more polling in this district. If you’ll remember last week, a recently-released Data for Progress poll found de facto Republican state Sen. David Carlucci leading with 15%, and pharmaceutical heir Adam Schleifer, former Department of Defense official Evelyn Farkas, and progressive attorney Mondaire Jones trailing with 13%, 13%, and 12%, respectively.
A new poll, commissioned by the town of Greenburgh’s Democratic Committee, finds the race has radically shifted since then: Jones leads with 25%, with Farkas and Schleifer tied for second with 14% each and Carlucci now in fourth with 11%. The differences in Farkas, Schleifer, and Carlucci’s vote shares could easily be noise; a 13-percentage-point jump for Jones is most likely not. That jump could be due to a surge of outside spending on Jones’s behalf, from groups including the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, the Collective PAC, and End Citizens United. In the case of Carlucci, it may also be because the messaging against his IDC tenure by outside groups is having an effect.
This poll breaks the race down by county: Rockland or Westchester. Carlucci’s Senate district is basically just Rockland County. In it, he gets 25%. Outside of it, he gets 2%. That is someone with no appeal to voters who didn’t already know him.
College student and Queens activist Aaron Narraph Fernando (also mentioned in the fundraising section) did something pretty amazing, using just Twitter and a spreadsheet: he got more than a dozen New York politicians to return or donate campaign contributions from police unions. Police unions use their political clout to stymie any sort of reform or accountability (not to mention defunding), and the power of police unions must be overcome to end police violence and mass incarceration. Giving up their money signals that a candidate can’t be counted on to toe the cops’ line--though it’s preferable for candidates to be progressive enough that police unions never donate to them in the first place.
Among those returning police union money were three incumbent state legislators facing primary challengers running to their left: Assemblymembers Aravella Simotas, Michael DenDekker, and Joe Lentol. This angered the PBA, the largest NYPD union, so much that they rescinded their endorsements of DenDekker and Lentol (after DenDekker refused to renounce their endorsement when pressured by progressive challenger Jessica González-Rojas.)
MA-Sen: Indivisible for Ed Markey (i) over challenger Rep. Joe Kennedy III
NJ-05: Bernie Sanders for Arati Kreibich over incumbent Josh Gottheimer
NY-10: the New York Times for Jerry Nadler (i) over challenger Lindsey Boylan
NY-12: the New York Times for Carolyn Maloney (i) over challengers Suraj Patel, Lauren Ashcraft, and Peter Harrison
NY-15: the New York Times for Ritchie Torres (open seat)
NY-16: see item
TN-05: Indivisible for Keeda Haynes over incumbent Jim Cooper
WA-10: Bernie Sanders for Beth Doglio (open seat)
Kai Kahele has effectively been elected the next member of Congress from HI-02. Kahele, a state senator who started out as Tulsi Gabbard’s primary challenger, ended up being the only candidate of note to file for the Democratic nomination in this heavily Democratic district, providing a very anticlimactic conclusion to the weird saga that was Tulsi Gabbard 2020. (Unlike Gabbard, Kahele is fairly consistently good on the issues.)
Amidst the very visible Black Lives Matter protests that have sprung up around the country, including in the city of Newton, there was a vote among its councilors to take a very minor step towards defunding the police. There are currently five vacant spots on the force, and the city was considering merely holding them open for a year, for a budget reduction of $375,000, just 1.6% of the police’s budget, and still more than any year before 2017, adjusted for inflation. The vote failed, 8-16, in an infuriating example of elected resistance to activist pressure. Among those 16 were Becky Grossman and Jake Auchincloss, both of whom are running for the open MA-04 primary. If they aren’t willing to scale back policing while they’re running for office, it’s pretty clear they wouldn’t be willing while in Congress either.
Glen Rock Councilor Arati Kreibich’s campaign is up with a new way of informing voters about incumbent Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s conservatism: a website, joshgottheimer.republican. It’s a promoted result if you google “Gottheimer” or “Josh Gottheimer”, and it nicely compiles Gottheimer’s impossibly long list of awful votes, statements, and actions. Take a look if you want to be reminded of that time Gottheimer killed an attempt to protect kids from abuse in ICE custody, or his support of border wall funding, or his efforts to deregulate big banks he’s personally invested in.