Ohio GOP congressman who led NRCC throughout 2018 Democratic midterm wave will resign

Stivers’ move will set off a special election in a very gerrymandered seat that includes the southern Columbus area as well as Athens in southeast Ohio, and the winner of the GOP primary will be favored to keep it. Donald Trump took this constituency 56-42 last year, which was similar to his 55-40 showing in 2016. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown did carry the 15th District 50-48 in 2018, but that victory came as he was winning statewide by a solid 52-46 margin.

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Stivers’ departure from the House ends an eventful career that included a stint leading the NRCC as his party was losing control of the chamber in 2018. Stivers got his start working as a lobbyist in state politics for Bank One, which has since been acquired by JPMorgan Chase, and he was later appointed to a state Senate seat in 2003. Stivers also served in Iraq with the Army National Guard during his time in the legislature, and he won his first full term in 2004 while stationed overseas.

Stivers got his chance to run for Congress in 2008 when Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce retired from a suburban Columbus seat that had very narrowly supported George W. Bush four years before. Stivers, who was in line to lead the state Senate, initially turned down Republican attempts to recruit him, but he changed his mind after Team Red failed to land another viable contender.

While Stivers had no trouble securing the GOP nomination, he faced a very tough contest against Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy, a Franklin County commissioner who had held Pryce to a very close victory in 2006. Stivers, though, ran a strong campaign where he emphasized his military service and portrayed himself as a moderate.

Barack Obama ended up carrying the seat 54-45, but Kilroy ultimately edged out Stivers just 46-45 in a race that took over a month to resolve. (The two awkwardly both attended freshman orientation in D.C. in November.) Stivers may have won that year if not for the presence of a Libertarian and an anti-abortion independent, who collectively took close to 9% of the vote.

House Minority Leader John Boehner soon began recruiting Stivers to run again, and this time, he promptly said yes. 2010 was a horrible year for Democrats almost everywhere, and Stivers won his rematch with Kilroy in a 54-41 landslide.

Republicans had full control over the redistricting process the following year, and they used their power to draw Stivers a seat that had backed John McCain 52-46; mapmakers even created a “peninsula” that extended into downtown Columbus, likely so that the congressman could represent several influential banks in the city. For a time it looked possible that Stivers could face a primary against fellow Rep. Steve Austria, but Austria decided to retire instead.

Stivers never had any trouble winning re-election in his new seat, and the GOP chose him to chair the NRCC for the 2018 cycle. Republicans were on the defensive nationwide that year thanks to Trump’s unpopularity, though, and Stivers faced a difficult task as he tried to keep numerous vulnerable House seats red.

Stivers’ committee responded to the challenge by running numerous bigoted commercials, including racist messaging in New York against the ultimately victorious Democrat, Antonio Delgado. Stivers also defended anti-Semitic ads his committee was airing in Minnesota the day after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.

Stivers’ biggest sin as head of the NRCC in GOP eyes, though, may have been his decision to keep sending millions to defend Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock despite polls showing her in very bad shape. Stivers insisted that September, “I know there have been reports about her potentially getting cut off. The last poll I looked at she’s winning. I’m not going to cut off somebody who is winning.” True to his word, the NRCC did not cut off Comstock, and they ultimately deployed more money in Virginia’s 10th District than in any other seat in the nation.

Comstock, though, ended up falling by a punishing 56-44 margin as the GOP was losing control of 40 other House seats, and with them control of the chamber. Stivers did not run for another term leading the NRCC and his replacement, Tom Emmer, quickly acknowledged he had been “inundated with complaints about the $5 million spent on TV ads to help Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock.” Stivers himself stuck around the House for another term, but he decided to call it a career on Monday.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The conservative Washington Examiner reports that Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters is considering seeking the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, though there’s no quote from Masters.

GA-Sen: Republican Rep. Buddy Carter confirmed to WGAU that he is thinking about giving up his safely red seat along the Georgia coast to challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Carter did not give a timeline for when he expects to decide, though two unnamed sources told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the congressman was “nearing an announcement.”

IL-Sen, IL-Gov: Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger recently told the Chicago Sun-Times that, while his “intention is to run again for the House,” he could instead campaign for the Senate or for governor if Democratic map makers dismantle his congressional district. Kinzinger, who was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump in January, already faces intra-party opposition at home, and he’ll likely be in for a very tough fight no matter what office he seeks in 2022.

MO-Sen: Republican Rep. Billy Long said Friday that he would decide “not before too long” whether to seek Missouri’s open Senate seat.

NC-Sen: While Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said Monday evening that he would not run for this open Senate seat, a different far-right Republican may enter the race before long. An advisor to Rep. Ted Budd recently told Politico that the congressman will make his decision in the “coming weeks.”

David McIntosh, the head of the radical anti-tax Club for Growth, also said that his group has been trying to convince Budd to get in and would probably spend seven figures to aid him. The Club notably deployed $500,000 for Budd in his first race in 2016, an investment that played a big role in the first-time candidate’s 20-10 victory in a 14-way primary full of several elected officials.

Governors

AR-Gov: Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reports raising $4.8 million during the first quarter of 2021, and the Trump-backed contender ended March with $3.9 million in the bank. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who announced her own bid for the Republican nomination in July of last year, took in $198,000 during the first three months of the year, and despite her head start, she had a far-smaller $1.06 million war chest at the close of the quarter.

KS-Gov: On Monday, former Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer announced his long-anticipated campaign to reclaim the job he held for just under a year with an endorsement from Sen. Roger Marshall. Colyer joins Attorney General Derek Schmidt in the primary to face Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly, though other Republicans have expressed interest in joining the contest.

Colyer, a Kansas City-area state legislator who became wealthy as a plastic surgeon, was elected lieutenant governor in 2010 and 2014 on a ticket with Sam Brownback. Colyer then was elevated to the top job in early 2018 when the extremely unpopular Brownback resigned to take a Trump administration post, but his tenure proved to be brief. The governor lost the GOP primary just a few months later to Trump-backed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach by 343 votes; Kelly went on to defeat Kobach that fall.

NE-Gov: State Chamber of Commerce President Bryan Slone recently confirmed to Politico that he’s thinking about running to succeed his fellow Republican, termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts. Slone faced Ricketts in the 2014 primary the last time this office was open but came in dead last in the six-person field with just 4% of the vote.

The only notable Republican currently in the race is University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, though agribusinessman Charles Herbster filed fundraising paperwork back in November. And while Herbster has yet to make an announcement, David Siders writes in Politico that plenty of Republicans expect that Trump will ultimately endorse his longtime ally. Herbster chaired Trump’s agriculture and rural advisory committee and donated over $1 million to Trump groups last year; he was also at the infamous Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol, though Herbster says he left before violence broke out.

NM-Gov: Over the weekend, Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block became the first notable Republican to announce a bid against Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Block, who served with the Air Force in Afghanistan, highlighted his military background, but he also attacked Lujan Grisham’s performance during the pandemic. New Mexico recently became the first state to provide at least one vaccine dose to half its adult population, but that encouraging trend didn’t stop Block from arguing, “We want our freedoms back.”

Block currently has the field to himself, but state Rep. Rebecca Dow reiterated her interest in running last week. The Albuquerque Journal also reached out to state party chair Steve Pearce to ask if the former congressman was thinking about another campaign, and his spokesperson notably did not address his interest in his response. Pearce lost to Lujan Grisham 57-43 in 2018, a performance that, while better than his 61-39 drubbing against Tom Udall in the 2008 Senate race, probably won’t have many Republicans anxious for a rematch.

OH-Gov, OH-Sen, OH-10: Democrats got their first major candidate for governor on Monday when Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley announced that she would challenge Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. Whaley, who considered bids for the Senate and House earlier in the cycle, will likely have company in the primary before long, though. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley responded to Whaley’s kickoff by saying, “I plan to announce I’m running for governor later this year. I’m thrilled supporters have already donated $800,000 to that effort.”

Whaley, who would be the first woman elected governor, campaigned for this office during the 2018 cycle, but she dropped out before the primary and endorsed the party’s eventual nominee, Richard Cordray. The Columbus Dispatch notes that Whaley’s profile has grown since then “following tornadoes and a mass shooting in 2019.”

Ohio backed Donald Trump 53-45 in 2020, but Democrats hope that a chaotic GOP primary could weaken Team Red here. DeWine infuriated Trump in late 2020 by recognizing Joe Biden’s victory, and 2018 Senate nominee Jim Renacci has talked about challenging the incumbent for renomination. Rep. Warren Davidson also has expressed interest in taking on DeWine.

OR-Gov: The Oregonian‘s Hillary Borrud recently took a look at the potential Democratic field to succeed termed-out Gov. Kate Brown, and several possible candidates did not rule out getting in.

Multnomah County Commission Chair Deborah Kafoury, state Treasurer Tobias Read, and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum each merely said they were focused on their current jobs when asked if they were interested in running for governor. Borrud notes that Rosenblum, who is not up for re-election until 2024, has retained her political consultant from last year and has hired a fundraising firm, which could indicate she’s thinking about seeking a promotion.

Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle also said, “My plan is to run for labor commissioner. That’s my current plan,” a response that’s also not a no. Borrud also mentions conservative state Sen. Betsy Johnson as a possibility, though there’s no word if she’s thinking about it: Johnson considered a 2016 bid as a member of the Independent Party but didn’t go forward with it, and she still remains a member of the Democratic caucus.

Two notable Democrats, though, did tell Borrud they wouldn’t run. Meyer Memorial Trust chief investment officer Rukaiyah Adams said, “I’m not running for governor this time,” though she seemed very open to trying another cycle. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, who was elected last year, also responded, “As I have said multiple times over the past year, I am not running for governor.”

PA-Gov: Former Rep. Lou Barletta, a Republican who badly lost the 2018 general election for Senate, recently formed a fundraising committee ahead of a potential bid for governor. The Associated Press writes Barletta said Monday he would decide “in the coming weeks” if he’d run to succeed termed-out Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf.

VA-Gov: Terry McAuliffe’s newest ad ahead of the June Democratic primary features a man praising the former governor for restoring the right to vote to his father and hundreds of thousands of other people with felony convictions who had served their sentences.

House

CA-49: 2020 Republican nominee Brian Maryott has announced that he’ll be waging a third bid for Congress. Maryott, who is a former mayor of San Juan Capistrano, campaigned in the 2018 top-two primary for this seat, which includes southern Orange and northern San Diego Counties, but took just 3% of the vote. Maryott came far closer last year, though, and held Democratic Rep. Mike Levin to a 53-47 win as Joe Biden was carrying this seat by a wider 55-43 margin.

NM-01: Democrat Melanie Stansbury has gone up with her first negative TV ad for the June 1 special election days after Republican Mark Moores aired his opening anti-Stansbury commercial. The narrator declares, “Moores opposed every measure to help people during the pandemic, opposing sick leave for essentially workers, opposing relief checks for families.” The ad also declares that, while Moores stood against “President Biden’s American Rescue Plan,” he “took nearly $2 million in PPP money for his personal business.”

TX-06: The Republican firm Meeting Street Research has released a survey of the May 1 all-party primary for the conservative blog Free Beacon that shows a very tight battle for the two spots in the all-but assured runoff.

2018 Democratic nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez and Republican activist Susan Wright, the wife of the late Rep. Ron Wright, lead with 16% and 15%, respectively. Just behind are two other Republicans, state Rep. Jake Ellzey and former Department of Health and Human Services official Brian Harrison with 14% and 12%, respectively, while none of the 19(!) other candidates take more than 5%. This is the first poll we’ve seen here in nearly a month.

Meanwhile, one of Ellzey’s old adversaries is also taking action to try to prevent him from reaching the second round of voting. The Club for Growth, which supported Ron Wright in his successful 2018 primary battle against Ellzey, is spending at least $100,000 on a TV spot trying to paint the state representative as a Never Trumper by association. The narrator declares that conservative writer Bill Kristol “backed Republicans who tried to impeach President Trump. He also backed Jake Ellzey for Congress.”

The ad goes on to say that Kristol donated to Ellzey and spoke well of him, though only the small on-screen text makes it clear that this happened during the 2018 race. The narrator goes on to say that Ellzey “trashed Texas conservatives and bashed Ted Cruz,” though he doesn’t reveal what Ellzey actually said; the tiny lettering also notes that this happened in 2012.

WA-03: While The Seattle Times name-dropped former state Rep. Liz Pike back in January as a possible intra-party opponent for Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who had just voted to impeach Trump, Pike has since donated $500 to evangelical author Heidi St. John’s campaign against the incumbent.

Mayors

Anchorage, AK Mayor: The Anchorage elections department has announced that the final ballots from the April 6 nonpartisan primary will be tallied on Tuesday. There’s no question that conservative Dave Bronson and Democrat Forrest Dunbar are advancing to the May 11 general election, but this indicates that it could again be a while before we learn the final results of that contest.

New York City, NY Mayor: Ipsos has released a survey of the June Democratic primary for Spectrum News NY1 that shows 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang leading Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams 22-13, with city Comptroller Scott Stringer at 11%. The poll goes on to simulate the instant-runoff process and finds Yang beating Stringer 57-43 in the seventh and final round of tabulations.

Other Races

GA-AG: State Sen. Jen Jordan last week launched a campaign against Republican incumbent Chris Carr, but another serious Democrat has been in the race a few months longer. Charlie Bailey, who lost the 2018 race to Carr by a tight 51-49, announced he’d seek a rematch in January, and he has some prominent supporters in his corner: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady, and Reps. Hank Johnson and Lucy McBath. Jordan, for her part, has the backing of DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston.

VA-LG: The field for the June Democratic primary shrunk to six over the weekend when Del. Elizabeth Guzman announced that she would drop out to concentrate on her re-election campaign. (Virginia allows candidates to run for statewide and legislative office at the same time.)

Guzman’s departure came just after fundraising reports were released for the first quarter of 2021. First up are the Democrats:

  • Del. Sam Rasoul: $593,000 raised, $953,000 cash-on-hand
  • Norfolk City Council member Andria McClellan: $395,000 raised, $406,000 cash-on-hand
  • Del. Mark Levine: $154,000 raised, additional $350,000 self-funded, $602,000 cash-on-hand
  • Del. Hala Ayala: $141,000 raised, $155,000 cash-on-hand
  • Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman: $105,000 raised, $159,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Xavier Warren: $11,000 raised, $39,000 cash-on-hand

Next are the Republicans, who will choose their candidate at a May 8 nominating convention:

  • Former Del. Tim Hugo: $198,000 raised, $104,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former Del. Winsome Sears: $191,000 raised, $64,000 cash-on-hand
  • Del. Glenn Davis: $135,000 raised, $36,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Lance Allen: $16,000 raised, $25,000 cash-on-hand

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