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Morning Digest: Hawaii is internet hosting its first open governor’s race in years. Here is the sphere to this point

Civil Beat reporter Kevin Dayton writes that Vicky Cayetano, who leads the local division of the laundry giant PureStar, had “generally had not been politically active” until last year, when she co-chaired independent Rick Blangiardi’s successful campaign for mayor of Honolulu. Despite her political pedigree, Cayetano sounds like she plans to pitch herself as an outsider if she runs for governor, saying that, like Blangiardi, she would bring “a new perspective on the problems that we face.”

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If Cayetano gets in, she’ll need to get past both Green and Caldwell, who beat her husband 54-46 in the 2012 race for mayor of what is by far Hawaii’s most populous community. For unclear reasons, however, both men refrained from confirming their candidacies this week: Caldwell is still in what Dayton characterized as “the planning stages,” while Green said he’d announce his plans after the COVID “crisis has passed.” The fact that each of their campaign websites describes them as candidates for governor, though, provides all the confirmation we require that they’re officially running.

Ige appointed Green, who works as an emergency room doctor, in March of 2020 as his administration’s “COVID-19 healthcare liaison,” and the lieutenant governor has had a large media presence throughout the pandemic. Green’s appearances seem to have boosted his image: An April MRG Research poll gave him a 63-17 favorable image statewide, with Democrats liking him by a wide 72-11 spread.

Caldwell, meanwhile, left office early this year as the leader of Honolulu, which is home to about 70% of Hawaii’s residents. But while the former mayor is well-known, MRG found that a large plurality disliked him in the spring: The same poll showed Caldwell with a 29-46 unfavorable image, though Democratic respondents gave him a somewhat better 37-38 score.

Other Democrats may also take a look at running for governor in what is one of the bluest states in the nation. Richardson relays that there are “rumors” about Reps. Ed Case and Kai Kahele, as well as former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. No members of this trio appear to have shown any obvious interest in running, however.

And thankfully, a candidacy from Gabbard, who has stepped up her attacks on fellow Democrats since leaving Congress this year, may be especially unlikely: The Fox News favorite transferred from the Hawaii Army National Guard to a California-based post in the Army Reserve in October, a move that some observers take as a sign she isn’t planning to run for office in the Aloha State again for a while.

As for the Republican Party, it hasn’t been much of a force in Hawaii politics since Gov. Linda Lingle left office at the end of 2010—leading to the state’s last open-seat race for governor—and it doesn’t appear that 2022 will be any different. The only person that Richardson mentioned as a potential candidate for the GOP nod is Honolulu City Councilwoman Andria Tupola, who lost the 2018 general election to Ige in a 63-34 landslide.

Governors

IN-Gov: Eric Doden, a former president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, got a very early jump on the 2024 Republican primary to succeed termed-out incumbent Eric Holcomb by announcing in early May. He’s also off to a quick start in fundraising: He now says he’s already raised about $940,000 through the end of June.

MA-Gov: Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey said Thursday she’d “know more by the fall” about her 2022 plans.

MI-Gov: Hoo boy: Kyle Melinn at MIRS News reports that Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s notorious education secretary, hasn’t quite ruled out a bid for governor, saying she “is staying publicly visible amid scuttle” that she could challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer next year. Among other things, she recently penned an op-ed in the New York Post—railing about “critical race theory,” of course—and trekked across the state for a GOP fundraising event, though Melinn cautions that neither signal may mean much (the fundraiser in particular might have just been DeVos repaying a favor). She also apparently has not conducted any polling.

However, given her vast fortune, high name recognition, and close association with Trump, she could certainly launch a campaign late and with little preparation yet still win the nomination. (And that might suit DeVos, since preparation is not her strong suit.) It wouldn’t even be the first time a member of her immediate family has run for governor: DeVos’ husband, Dick, was the GOP nominee in 2006, though he got crushed by Democrat Jennifer Granholm 56-42.

So far, Republicans have failed to land a prominent candidate to take on Whitmer, though that could change soon. Former Detroit police Chief James Craig, who’s been reportedly preparing a run for some time, told Fox host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday that he has “an important announcement for Michigan’s future” and said he “hope[s]” he can come back on Carlson’s show “next week.” But Melinn says that the highly touted Craig may not be “the unanimous choice among all major Republican players,” which might present an opening for someone like Betsy DeVos.

NE-Gov: State Sen. Brett Lindstrom kicked off his long-awaited campaign for Nebraska’s open governorship on Thursday, making him the third notable Republican to enter the race after businessman Charles Herbster and University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen.

Lindstrom, a financial advisor, played as a walk-on for the University of Nebraska’s football team in the early 2000s and later jumped into electoral politics with an unsuccessful primary challenge to then-Rep. Lee Terry in the 2nd Congressional District. He berated the incumbent, who four years earlier had tried to woo “Obama-Terry” voters during a difficult re-election, for being insufficiently conservative but ultimately lost by a 59-22 margin.

During that campaign, though, Lindstrom also attacked Terry as “beholden to corporate lobbyists” for his efforts to hasten the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a foretaste of his occasional breaks with right-wing orthodoxy that have marked his career in the state Senate, to which he was elected in 2014.

As Nick Fouriezos explained in a 2017 profile in the online magazine Ozy, Lindstrom has also backed workplace protections for LGBTQ people and voted to override term-limited Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of a gas tax. Most notably, Lindstrom was the crucial vote to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska during his first year in office, a decision that prompted at least one death threat. The effort was ultimately for naught, though, as Ricketts and his allies later successfully promoted a ballot measure to reinstate capital punishment.

House

FL-07: Former DeBary City Commissioner Erika Benfield has joined the crowded GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, a swing district that’s likely to become redder next year due to Republican gerrymandering. Benfield sought the GOP nomination for an open state House seat last year but lost 43-36 to the eventual winner, Webster Barnaby.

FL-10: Pastor Terence Gray, who has presided over Saint Mark AME Church in Orlando since 2004, joined the Democratic primary for Florida’s open 10th Congressional District this week. Several notable Democrats are already running for this seat, which is open because of Rep. Val Demings’ campaign for Senate, including former Orlando-area state’s attorney Aramis Ayala, civil rights lawyer Natalie Jackson, and state Sen. Randolph Bracy.

OH-11: The conservative Washington Free Beacon, which seems eager to stir up some shit in the midst of a contentious Democratic primary, is touting a new survey from Republican pollster TargetPoint Consulting that shows former state Sen. Nina Turner and Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown tied at 33 apiece and approximately a quarter of voters undecided.

The Free Beacon’s writeup is replete with cues about its intentions here—it calls Turner “the Bernie Sanders-endorsed socialist” (she doesn’t identify as a socialist), and describes the race as a “battle between the Democratic Party’s left and far-left wings.” But the biggest tell is in TargetPoint’s questionnaire, which starts one question (after the horserace matchup, at least) by flatly asserting, “Nina Turner will not be a reliable voice to work with President Biden and help pass his agenda in Congress.”

And for what it’s worth, even Brown’s own internal polling, which is the only other recent data we have, doesn’t show a race this close: A survey she released earlier this week had Turner up 43-36. So consider the Free Beacon’s poll with all the skepticism it deserves—which is to say, a lot.

OR-05: Former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer has launched a campaign for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, making her the second notable Republican in the race after Army veteran Nate Sandvig. Chavez-DeRemer’s announcement appears to have earned almost no media coverage, but in a tweet, the Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes notes that she’s lost “two well-funded races” for the state House. Those losses came against the same opponent, Democrat Janelle Bynum, in both 2016 and 2018, the first in a 51-49 defeat in an open-seat race and the second a wider 54-46 loss in a rematch.

The 5th is currently held by Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader, but its contours could shift in redistricting, particularly because Oregon will be adding a new sixth seat.

PA-18: Politico’s Ally Mutnick notes that veteran Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle reported raising just $58,000 in the second quarter of the year, on the heels of a mere $21,000 first-quarter haul—low numbers that could presage a retirement. What’s more, as Mutnick points out, Doyle’s 2020 primary opponent, law professor Jerry Dickinson, pulled in a considerably larger $211,000 during the second quarter—almost as much as he raised for his entire campaign last cycle. Dickinson lost 67-33 last year but announced in April that he’d seek a rematch.

Doyle, 67, is the longest-serving member of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation, having represented the Pittsburgh area since first winning a seat held by none other than Rick Santorum in 1994. (Remarkably, Democrats flipped four open GOP House seats that year, despite the Gingrich landslide, though Santorum of course won a race for the Senate.) Now numbered the 18th, Doyle’s district has always been solidly blue and will likely remain so after redistricting, though the congressman has yet to say whether he’ll seek re-election.

VA-10: Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson has announced a challenge to Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, making her the first notable Republican in the race. Lawson would need an exceptionally favorable political environment to make the contest competitive, though: While the 10th District was once a Republican stronghold, it has all but abandoned the GOP, like much of the rest of Northern Virginia. Wexton easily won re-election last year after unseating Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock in 2018, and Joe Biden carried the district by a wide 59-40 margin.

Mayors

Seattle, WA Mayor: With mail-in ballots about to go out for the Aug. 3 nonpartisan primary for mayor of Seattle, the Seattle Times is out with a helpful roundup of all the major endorsements in this open-seat race, which shows the contours of the 15-candidate field. Despite the unwieldy size of the field, though, it’s looking like there are two frontrunners in the race to advance to the November general election, City Council President Lorena Gonzalez and former City Council President Bruce Harrell, with a distinct labor vs. business split between the two.

Gonzalez has almost all the labor endorsements in the race, including the main heavyweight, the MLK Labor Council (King County’s AFL-CIO local). Gonzalez, who has the backing of prominent progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal, also has four of the other nine sitting City Council members in her corner; this group represents basically the leftmost half of the Council aside from Kshama Sawant, a self-described socialist who does not appear to have sided with anyone.

Harrell, meanwhile, has the support of a variety of more establishment figures, like former Gov. Gary Locke and former Mayors Norm Rice and Wes Uhlman. The city’s Chamber of Commerce, though, is not offering endorsements this year, which might be a pragmatic choice: Two years ago, their slate of candidates fared poorly in local elections where Amazon’s heavy-handed financial intervention appeared to spur a backlash.

Harrell, however, sports an “outstanding” rating from the DSA … which in this case refers to the Chamber’s allies at the Downtown Seattle Association, an organization that spurned the more left-leaning candidacy of its former board member Colleen Echohawk. Harrell additionally enjoys the backing of freshman Rep. Marilyn Strickland, who currently represents a Tacoma-area district but previously was head of Seattle’s Chamber of Commerce during the 2019 debacle.

Echohawk does have the support of former Mayor Mike McGinn, while former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell, who’s focused on the environment, has the backing of state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz. Former Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller, for his part, has a prominent but not very local endorser in the form of Tacoma-area Rep. Derek Kilmer.

The most important print media endorsement may be that of The Stranger, the local alt-weekly, not because of its huge readership but because its voice tends to move many votes among left-leaning but less-engaged younger people. The Stranger has backed Gonzalez, which probably closes off lefty architect Andrew Grant Houston’s path toward sneaking into the top two. By contrast, the Seattle Times itself has unsurprisingly endorsed Harrell.

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