Campaign Report — Incumbents, Republicans gear up for primary packed Tuesday

Rolls of stickers that read "I voted" sit on a table
Rolls of stickers are seen at the Chester County Voter Services office as workers process ballots for the Pennsylvania primary election, Thursday, May 19, 2022, in West Chester, Pa.

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, tracking all things related to the 2022 midterm elections. You can expect this newsletter in your inbox twice weekly leading up to November’s election. 

Email us tips and feedback: Max Greenwood (mgreenwood@thehill.com), Julia Manchester (jmanchester@thehill.com), Tal Axelrod (taxelrod@thehill.com), Caroline Vakil (cvakil@thehill.com) and Monique Beals (mbeals@thehill.com).  

INCUMBENTS ON DEFENSE

Seven states will be holding primaries on Tuesday, the biggest – and bluest – of which is California.

Democrats will be put to the test in the state, including in the local offices of the San Francisco district attorney and Los Angeles mayor.

In San Francisco, Chesa Boudin (D), whose office has been riddled with resignations and terminations since he started the job, is seeking to prove that the city’s progressive prosecutor is tough enough on crime. That recall comes against the backdrop of the failed recall that took place less than a year ago against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)—seen as a rebuke to his response to the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Democrats make up roughly 63 percent of the registered voters in San Francisco, according to city data, though Republicans and some Democrats have expressed support in the recall effort, including some of Boudin’s former prosecutors.

The Los Angeles mayoral election is another race we’re keeping our eye on. The election has gained significant attention, both for its high-profile endorsements (we see you, Kim Kardashian) and for the sheer amount of spending from one candidate alone.

Candidates in the race have received support from a number of top names, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), all of whom are backing Democratic frontrunner Karen Bass.

Meanwhile, billionaire Rick Caruso has received endorsements from Kardashian and Tesla’s Elon Musk, among others. Caruso has also spent tens of millions on his campaign.

Another interesting race to watch? The Democratic Senate primary in Iowa between retired U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Franken and former Rep. Abby Finkenauer, the latter of whom was told just two months ago that her name could still be on the Democratic primary ballot.

The bigger feat, however, will be if a Democrat is able to make for a formidable challenger given that Cook Political Report has rated the Senate seat “solid Republican” and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) has been serving in the upper chamber since 1981.

If we had a song to set the tone for Tuesday’s primary, we might throw in Kendrick Lamar’s “Loyalty” given how several Republicans will be put to the test in California in beyond.

It’s a secret society

All we ask is trust

(All we ask is trust)

All we got is us

Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty

Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty

It’s definitely the case for Rep. Young Kim (R) and Rep. David Valadao (R), both of whom have been criticized by their competitors for supporting to either censure or impeach former President Trump following the deadly Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

California’s primary is not the only place where Republicans’ loyalty is being tested; Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who voted in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that passed last year, ultimately upsetting Trump, is fending off a challenge from conservative commentator Mike Crispi.

Though Crispi hasn’t notched an endorsement from the former president, the Republican candidate has clearly tried to align himself closely with Trump, posting pictures on social media of the two of them together.

In Mississippi, incumbent Rep. Michael Guest (R) is being dinged by his challengers for supporting the establishment of the independent commission to look into the Capitol riot.

Meanwhile, in South Dakota, state Rep. Taffy Howard (R ) has criticized Rep. Dusty Johnson’s vote not to kick vocal Trump critic Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her leadership spot and for supporting the commission’s establishment.

COUNTDOWN

154 days until the 2022 midterm elections

POLL WATCH

Americans are viewing abortion as an increasingly important issue, with 27 percent of respondents in a Gallup poll released on Monday saying that they would only vote for a candidate who shares their views on abortion – up three percentage points since 2020.

Over half of respondents, 54 percent, say that they would consider a candidate’s position on abortion as of many important factors, up four percentage points since 2020.

The poll comes just one month since a leaked Supreme Court draft ruling indicated that the high court would get rid of federal level abortion protections. A final ruling is expected sometime in the coming weeks.

The leaked ruling has put Democrats in a bind given that they don’t have the 60 votes needed to codify Roe v. Wade.

AD WATCH

Campaigns on Tuesday continued to roll out their first general election ads of the cycle.

In Georgia, incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp (R) released his general election spot titled “First.” The ad swipes at Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams for her past comments calling Georgia ”the worst state in the country to live.”

“Georgia leads the nation because Brian Kemp is governor,” the ad says. “He reopened Georgia first, brought thousands of jobs, and Kemp’s cut taxes to help families deal with Biden’s inflation. Brain Kemp has kept Georgia the best place to live.”

Abrams drew numerous attacks from her Republican critics last month when she made the remarks about Georgia, referring to its rankings in maternal mortality and incarceration rates.

“When you’re No. 48 for mental health, when you’re No. 1 for maternal mortality, when you have an incarceration rate that’s on the rise and wages that are on the decline, then you are not the No. 1 place to live in the United States,” Abrams said. “But we can get there. You see, Georgia is capable of greatness. We just need greatness to be in our governor’s office.”

Meanwhile, up north in Pennsylvania’s Senate race, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s campaign released his first two general election ads. In the first ad, titled “Labels,” Fetterman talks about his ties to Pennsylvania, and in the second ad, titled “Washington, D.C.”, he hits the establishment in the nation’s capital over policies that have hurt communities in Pennsylvania.

Fetterman’s ads come after former hedgefund CEO David McCormick conceded to Dr. Mehmet Oz in the commonwealth’s Republican Senate primary, kicking off the general election. Fetterman also made headlines last week when he revealed he failed to follow up with doctors after he was diagnosed with a previously undisclosed heart condition in 2017. Fetterman suffered a stroke last month just days before the Pennsylvania primaries.

Meanwhile, on the House races side, the Democratic House Majority PAC, released a Spanish-language ad hitting Republican Mayra Flores, who is running in the special election in Texas’ 24th congressional district. The ad, “Lawless”, links Flores to people involved in the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks on the Capitol. It will run in the Harlington, Texas media market. The ad come two days before the highly anticipated televised Jan. 6 committee hearings on Thursday.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Campaign page for the latest news and coverage. See you next time.