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Governor Matthew McConaughey? Senator Herschel Walker? DC statehood?

April 23, 2021

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

Key Takeaways

  • GA-Sen: Herschel Walker (R) Under Pressure to Run
  • CA-21: Ex-Rep. T.J. Cox (D) Converts Committee to PAC
  • FL-20: Ten Democrats Now in Special Election
  • GA-Gov: Vernon Jones (R) to Challenge Gov. Brian Kemp (R)
  • TX-Gov: Matthew McConaughey (D) Leads Gov. Greg Abbott (R)
  • WDC: Washington, DC Statehood Bill Passes House


California: Appointed California Sen. Alex Padilla (D) has earned endorsements of 40 of the state’s 42 US House members and senior Senator Dianne Feinstein (D). The two federal officeholders who have not endorsed are Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) and Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). Mr. Khanna is reportedly still deciding whether to run for the Senate himself, while Rep. Waters’ spokesperson indicated that the Congresswoman would “soon” be endorsing Sen. Padilla. The seat comes in-cycle in 2022.

Georgia: Pressure is intensifying on University of Georgia former football star Herschel Walker (R) to run for the Senate next year to oppose incumbent Raphael Warnock (D). Both Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler/Savannah) and former US Ambassador Randy Evans are indicating they would step aside for Mr. Walker if he were to enter the Senate race. Should he not, both stated they would consider becoming candidates themselves. For his part, Mr. Walker is non-committal. One problem: Walker lives in Texas.  

North Carolina: After last week saying he was considering entering the open US Senate race, Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (R) said this week that he would not become a candidate. Former Governor Pat McCrory (R) announcing his own candidacy could well have influenced Mr. Robinson’s decision. Also in the GOP race is former US Rep. Mark Walker. Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) is a probable candidate likely to soon announce his statewide bid. Sen. Richard Burr (R) is not seeking re-election.


CA-21: Soon after his 1,522-vote loss to Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield), defeated Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Fresno) indicated he would return in 2022 for a rematch. Such may not be the case, however. This week, Mr. Cox announced that he is converting his campaign committee into a PAC to help the Democratic Party and would not be raising money for himself, at least in the short-term. A spokesman said the move does not mean Mr. Cox won’t run in 2022, and the final decision will be made after redistricting is settled.

FL-20: State Rep. Bobby DuBose (D-Ft. Lauderdale) became the tenth Democrat and second state legislator to enter the special election campaign to replace the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D). Also in the race is state Senator Perry Thurston (D-Ft. Lauderdale). Two sitting Broward County Commissioners and one former Palm Beach County Commissioner also announced their congressional candidacies. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has yet to set the special election calendar.

IA-3: US Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines), who was one of only nine congressional winners to record less than 50% of the vote last November and says she is open to running statewide in 2022, has drawn her first congressional opponent of significance for the coming campaign. Former four-term state Representative Mary Ann Hanusa (R-Council Bluffs) announced that she will enter next year’s congressional race. 

Ex-Rep. David Young (R), who lost to Ms. Axne in both 2018 and 2020 by small margins, has yet to say whether he will again become a candidate. Regardless of whether Rep. Axne runs for Senate, Governor, or re-election, the 3rd District will host another competitive political contest in 2022.

MN-2: Tyler Kistner (R), the Marine Corps Reserve officer who held Rep. Angie Craig (D-Eagan) to a 48-46% tight win last November, filed a 2022 campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission late this week signaling that the re-match between him and Rep. Craig will soon be underway. We can expect another highly competitive campaign here next year.

OH-15: Ohio US Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus) announced this week that he won’t run for the Senate, and he’s leaving the House, as well. Rep. Stivers said he is resigning from Congress on May 16th to become President and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The Congressman had an impressive 1st quarter fundraising haul (almost $1.4 million) that suggested he was gearing up for a Senate contest, but now his plans have obviously changed. 

Within a day of the Stivers announcement, State Senator Bob Peterson (R-Fayette County), who represents all or parts of five of the 15th Congressional District’s twelve counties, said that he will enter the replacement special election contest. On the heels of Sen. Peterson’s announcement, state Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) followed with his own declaration of candidacy. For the Democrats, Athens Mayor Steve Patterson confirms that he is also considering entering the special election campaign.

NY-23: Former Defense Department official Andrew McCarthy (R) says he will enter the open 23rd District race to replace retiring Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning). Mr. McCarthy indicated he would have challenged Rep. Reed in the Republican primary even if the Congressman had decided to seek re-election, so his plan was always to run for the House in 2022. The 23rd CD, however, is undoubtedly on the shortlist to be eliminated since reapportionment will cost New York at least one congressional seat. The 23rd is the least populated of the state’s 27 current congressional districts.

WA-4: 2020 Washington Republican gubernatorial finalist Loren Culp, the former police chief of Republic, WA, which is not in the 4th Congressional District, announced that he will challenge Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Sunnyside/Yakima) in the 2022 jungle primary. Also in the race is state Rep. Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick) and businessman Jerrod Sessler (R). Rep. Klippert not reporting any money raised for the campaign in the first quarter of 2021 may have spurred Mr. Culp into becoming an active candidate. 

Washington has a jungle primary system, so it is possible that two Republicans could advance into the general election. Mr. Culp lost the Governor’s race to incumbent Jay Inslee (D) 56-43%, but he did carry the 4th District. Rep. Newhouse is one of ten Republicans to vote in favor of impeaching ex-President Donald Trump after the January 6th US Capitol insurrection. Nine of the ten already have 2022 Republican opposition.


Florida: Former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), who served one term in the House before becoming a victim of the court-imposed 2015 redistricting order and then ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 2018, was appointed as Assistant US Secretary of Education for Legislation and Congressional Affairs. The move likely eliminates her from the 2022 Governor’s race, a campaign for which she was rumored to be considering. The Graham federal appointment further cements state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried as the leading early Democratic contender to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) next year.

Georgia: Former DeKalb County CEO and state Representative Vernon Jones, who switched from the Democratic Party to the Republicans and became a vocal African American supporter of ex-President Donald Trump, announced that he will challenge Gov. Brian Kemp in next year’s Republican primary. With the conservative base seemingly turning against Gov. Kemp over the election controversy, this campaign could develop into a major challenge, especially if Mr. Trump were to publicly support Mr. Jones.

Maryland: John B. King (D), former President Barack Obama’s final Education Secretary announced that he will join the open 2022 Governor’s contest in seeking the Democratic nomination. So far, state Comptroller Peter Franchot, former Prince Georges County Executive and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Rushern Baker, non-profit corporation executive Ashwani Jain, and policy executive Jon Baron are the officially announced Democratic candidates. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is ineligible to seek a third term.

New York: Former Westchester County Executive and 2014 New York Republican gubernatorial nominee Rob Astorino, saying he would be “the adult in the room,” announced yesterday that he will again run for Governor next year. In 2014, a Republican landslide year nationally, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) defeated Mr. Astorino, 53-39%. Also in the Republican race is US Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley/Long Island), and Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove/Long Island) is considering challenging Gov. Cuomo in the Democratic primary if the incumbent avoids impeachment and chooses to seek re-election.

Ohio: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (D), who was for a short time a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2018 before withdrawing when Richard Cordray returned to the state to run, announced that she will enter the 2022 primary with the goal of challenging Gov. Mike DeWine (R) in the general election. Mayor Whaley was first elected in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. Prior to serving as Mayor, Ms. Whaley won two four-year terms on the Dayton City Commission. 

Other potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates are Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. After the Whaley announcement, Mr. Cranley was quoted as saying her entry does not affect his plans and he will announce for Governor in the coming weeks.

South Carolina: Democratic former Congressman Joe Cunningham, who lost his Charleston anchored seat after just one term has filed documents to run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in hopes of challenging Gov. Henry McMaster (R) next year. Mr. Cunningham has yet to make a public announcement, but the filing clearly suggests that he is planning on making the race.

Texas: The University of Texas at Tyler recently conducted an extensive poll for the Dallas Morning News (4/6-13; 1,126 TX registered voters; 290 live interviews; 836 online responses) and among the many questions put before the respondents was a ballot test featuring Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who is preparing to run for a third term, and actor Matthew McConaughey (D). The latter man confirms he is considering running and describes his philosophy as “aggressively centric.” 

According to the poll results, Mr. McConaughey would lead Gov. Abbott 45-33% while 22% said they would prefer another choice. While celebrities often perform better than politicians in early campaign polling, the fact that Gov. Abbott only records 33% in any poll suggests that he is losing some of the luster he enjoyed during most of his Governorship. It remains to be seen if Mr. McConaughey actually becomes a gubernatorial candidate, but the early numbers and demographic shifts in the state suggest that the 2022 Texas Governor’s campaign could be one of interest.


NevadaLegislation to convert the Nevada primary to a top-two jungle system similar to what is used in Louisiana, California, and Washington, appears dead for this session. The bill failed to meet a mandatory legislative deadline, thus indicating that it will not be heard before the legislature adjourns.

Washington, DC: On a straight party-line vote of 216-208 with two Democrats and four Republicans not voting, the House passed HR 51 that would grant statehood to the District of Columbia. The bill now must overcome a filibuster in the Senate before going to President Biden’s desk for signature. 

A state can be added to the Union through the normal legislative process. Under the Constitution, no new state can form, however, from territory currently existing within a state. Furthermore, no current states may merge to become a different state. 

WisconsinA bipartisan bill in the Wisconsin state Senate would, if passed, institute a top five jungle primary to replace the current closed partisan nomination system. In this instance, all candidates would be placed on the same ballot with the top five finishers, regardless of party identification, advancing into the general election. It is unclear whether the legislation has a legitimate chance of being enacted into law.