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Ex-RNC Chair Michael Steele Files Exploratory Committee in the MD Governor’s Race

July 23, 2021

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.

Key Takeaways

  • NH-Sen: New Poll, Same Dead Heat Result
  • WI-Sen: Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) Announces Senate Run
  • NY-21: National Speedskater Bridie Farrell to Oppose Rep. Stefanik
  • TX-6: Susan Wright (R) With Lead Heading into 7/27 Special Election
  • CA-Recall: Court Places Talk Show Host Larry Elder (R) on Ballot
  • MD-Gov: Ex-RNC Chair Michael Steele Files Exploratory Committee

Senate

Iowa: Saying at one time she looked up to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), former US Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) who in 2020 lost her seat to freshman Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids), declared her US Senate candidacy. Incumbent Grassley, first elected in 1980, has yet to confirm that he will seek an eighth term. Already in the Democratic primary are Minden City Councilman Glenn Hurst and former Crawford County Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer. Retired Navy Admiral and 2020 Senate candidate Mike Franken remains a possible candidate. The 2022 Iowa race is expected to be competitive.

New Hampshire: The University of New Hampshire released the results of their July statewide survey (7/15-19; 1,794 UNH panel respondents; 1,540 NH likely voters; online) and again see Gov. Chris Sununu (R) holding a slight lead over first-term Senator Maggie Hassan (D). The ballot test gives the Governor a 49-48% edge, similar to the 48-46% spread found in February.

If former Senator Kelly Ayotte were the Republican candidate, thus setting the re-match between the two women from the 2016 campaign that Ms. Hassan won 48-47%, the ballot test breaks 49-45% in the current Senator’s favor. In February, the spread between the two was an almost identical 48-43%. If retired Army General and 2020 Senate candidate Don Bolduc were the GOP nominee, Sen. Hassan would enjoy a stronger 51-41% advantage. 

On the money front, the incumbent raised a whopping $11.3 million during her out-cycle time and now reports $6.56 million cash-on-hand, meaning she is ready for a serious 2022 campaign.

Oklahoma: It was believed the members attending the Oklahoma Republican Party convention last weekend were going to impose censure on its own GOP Senators, Jim Inhofe and James Lankford because they voted in favor of recognizing President Biden’s electoral victory. When the vote was actually conducted, however, the move to officially censure the pair of Sooner State GOP Senators failed on a 93-122 count (43% favor; 57% oppose). 

Pennsylvania: It appears safe to say that none of the announced Republican candidates is catching early fire. The leading fundraiser for the second quarter was author and former congressional candidate Kathy Barnette, slightly ahead of ex-congressional candidate Sean Parnell, and 2018 Lt. Governor nominee Jeff Bartos, but none even reached the $600,000 mark in receipts for the second quarter. 

Conversely, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman attracted $2.5 million for the quarter and Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh (D) scored just over $1 million. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh), said to be seriously considering a Senate race, reported raising just under $1 million. The open Pennsylvania race with Sen. Pat Toomey (R) retiring could be the most pivotal campaign in the 2022 election cycle.

Wisconsin: As expected, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) declared his candidacy for the Senate in next year’s campaign pledging to “change the game” while attacking Sen. Ron Johnson (R) as not delivering for his constituency. Already in the Democratic primary are state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, state Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, and Milwaukee Bucks basketball team senior executive and former Obama White House aide Alex Lasry. Sen. Johnson has not yet said if he will seek a third term.

House

CA-21: Angel Lara (D), a former staff aide to California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), joined the congressional primary to face incumbent Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Fresno). In the jungle primary race is former state Assemblywoman Nicole Parra (D), former Fresno City Councilman and ex-New Mexico political candidate Chris Mathys (R), and Delano Mayor Bryan Osorio (D). 

According to the second quarter campaign financial disclosure lists, none of the challengers are showing raising much money. All are well under Mr. Mathys’ self-funding total of $200,000. Former Rep. T.J. Cox (D) maintains he will make a final decision about his own 2022 candidacy once the new district lines are adopted. In the meantime, however, Mr. Cox has converted his campaign apparatus into a political action committee, suggesting he will not run.

CO-3: State Rep. Dylan Roberts (D-Eagle County), who was viewed as a possible 2022 congressional candidate, this week instead announced that he would run for the Colorado Senate. Mr. Roberts will seek the seat that Senate President Pro Tempore Kerry Donovan (D-Wolcott) is leaving to herself run for Congress. A total of ten Democrats have announced their congressional candidacies for the 3rd District seat, but Sen. Donovan appears to be the early leader. She raised $1.18 million in the second quarter, far more than any other Democrat. 

Still, Ms. Donovan trails incumbent Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt) by $800,000 in campaign receipts and approximately $700,000 in cash-on-hand. Additionally, the first unofficial Colorado redistricting commission congressional map would make Rep. Boebert’s western slope district even more Republican.

FL-13: Local St. Petersburg attorney Amanda Makki announced that she will return for a re-match in the Republican congressional primary, but this time the competition will be over an open seat. Incumbent Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), whom they opposed in 2020, is running for Governor. Last year, Ms. Makki lost the nomination to military veteran Ana Paulina Luna, 36-28%. The latter woman would then hold Rep. Crist to a 53-47% re-election victory in the general election, closest of any winning Florida incumbent. Without Rep. Crist in the race and the Republican legislature likely making the 13th District more favorable to a Republican candidate, this Tampa Bay race will become a key national congressional campaign.

IL-17: National Democratic leaders attempting to find a successor for retiring Land of Lincoln Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline) in a politically marginal congressional district were dealt a setback. Their top prospect, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara (D), announced that he will not run for Congress next year. Redistricting will drastically change IL-17, a seat already having more boundary twists and turns than any Illinois rural CD. It is very difficult to predict the outcome of this open seat until we see how western Illinois is eventually configured.

NH-1: Former Trump White House aide Karoline Leavitt (R) announced her congressional candidacy this week in New Hampshire’s 1st District, the seat that has defeated more incumbents nationwide than any other since 2004. With Republicans in control of the redistricting apparatus and a sense they will make the 1st District much more Republican, thus conceding District 2 to Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Concord), a spurt of candidate activity has already erupted. In addition to Ms. Leavitt, state Rep. Tim Baxter (R-Seabrook), Iraq War veteran Julian Acciard, and 2020 congressional candidate Gilead Towne have all announced their candidacies. 

For his part, Rep. Chris Pappas (D-Manchester) says he wants to seek re-election, though if the district becomes too Republican, he is exploring entering what could be an open Governor’s race. Incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is a potential US Senate candidate.

NY-21: Bridie Farrell, who was a member of the US National Speedskating Team and an advocate for protecting women from sexual assault, announced that she will enter the Democratic primary in hopes of challenging House Republican Conference chair Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) next year. Ms. Farrell, at the outset, would appear to be the strongest of the three announced Democrats. For her part, Rep. Stefanik, originally elected in 2014, has already raised $2.3 million for her re-election effort holding $2.1 million in her account. 

TX-6: The Texas double-Republican special election runoff between Susan Wright, widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Arlington), and state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) will be held on July 27th, and the former is viewed as the favorite. Rep. Ellzey, however, is the superior fundraiser. 

According to the campaign filings, Mr. Ellzey has raised $1.74 million for the federal campaign with over $484,000 in the bank through the pre-special election disclosure period ending July 7th. Ms. Wright has raised a considerably smaller $740,000 sum with just over $164,000 in her campaign account in early July. Ms. Wright is benefiting from an $835,000 expenditure from the Club for Growth. The Elect Principled Veterans Fund has spent $155,000 to aid Mr. Ellzey.

The latest polling, coming from the Wright campaign (American Viewpoint; 7/19-21; 400 TX-6 likely special election voters; live interview) finds Ms. Wright leading Mr. Ellzey, 44-34% heading into election day.

TX-24: One of the Democrats who fled Austin to stop the passage of the Republican leadership’s voting bill has now declared her congressional candidacy. State Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton) announced that she will challenge freshman US Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Irving) next year. On paper, this looks like a potential Democratic conversion opportunity since the Congresswoman won with just under 49% of the vote. Redistricting, however, will likely change this seat drastically, and in Ms. Van Duyne’s favor, so Ms. Beckley may find herself in a much different political situation once the new maps are enacted.

TX-30: House Science Committee chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas) said before the 2020 election that she was running for her final term in the House. Now 85 years of age, she was originally elected in 1992 after serving ten non-consecutive years in the Texas legislature. The second quarter financial disclosure reports suggest that Ms. Johnson remains on a retirement course. She has raised just $9,500 from the period beginning January 1st, clearly indicating that she is not planning on running another campaign.

Governor

California: Radio talk show host and attorney Larry Elder (R) challenged the Secretary of State for disqualifying him as a candidate in the California recall election, and late this week won his judicial ruling for placement on the ballot as a candidate in the September 14th gubernatorial recall election. The total number of qualified candidates now reaches 46. Should Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) be recalled from office, votes cast for the replacement candidates would then take effect and the top vote-getter would serve the balance of the current gubernatorial term.

Illinois: Five-term Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) said this week that he is confident “any Republican” would defeat Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) next year. This is a strong statement considering Illinois has been Democratic-heavy throughout the past decade and one-half. Concluding his remarks, Rep. Davis said, in reference to running for Governor, “if I choose to make a race, I don’t get in it to lose.” With Illinois losing a congressional seat, there is a good chance that Rep. Davis 13th CD would be broken up or paired with another Republican member such as freshman Rep. Mary Miller (R-Oakland). 

Maryland: Former Republican National Committee chairman, ex-Maryland Lt. Governor, and previous US Senate candidate Michael Steele filed an exploratory committee in the Maryland Governor’s race. With Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ineligible to seek a third term, Republicans have only state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, state Delegate Dan Cox (R-Frederick), and frequent candidate Robin Ficker as announced candidates. Should Mr. Steele enter the race, he would be the favorite to capture the Republican nomination but would be cast as a decided underdog to whoever becomes the Democratic nominee.

Massachusetts: Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has been coy about whether or not he will run for a third term next year, but we now have a strong clue that he is taking concrete action to construct a campaign. Though he has done little to raise much money for another political bid, the Baker campaign has now scheduled a major fundraising event for August 20th, thus suggesting that he will again be on the ballot next year.

Michigan: Saying will likely become a gubernatorial candidate, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig (R) filed a gubernatorial fundraising committee with the Michigan Secretary of State but qualified his move as exploratory. Mr. Craig said he will make a final decision about running and subsequent announcement after Labor Day. Currently in the Republican primary are online talk show host Tudor Dixon, businessman Austin Chenge, and chiropractor Garret Soldano. The eventual Republican nominee will challenge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

Virginia: Though Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin is capable of funding his own campaign, he has yet to do so according to the second quarter financial report. As a result, Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, the former Governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman, enjoys a wide financial edge. From contributors, Mr. McAuliffe has raised $7.5 million to date as compared to $3.6 million for Mr. Youngkin. The McAuliffe cash-on-hand advantage is $9 million to $2.6 million.