The Election Recap

The Election Recap: Sept. 6, 2022

Palin loses, Mastriano sues, and more

Happy belated Labor Day, and welcome back to The Election Recap, your weekly, one-stop shop for the last seven days of midterms news. Let's get into it:

A Palin pass

Former GOP-vice-presidential-nominee-turned-congressional-candidate Sarah Palin last week failed in her bid to fill late Republican Rep. Don Young's vacated House seat, having lost the special election to Democrat Mary Peltola. Peltola is now the first Native Alaskan elected to Congress, as well as the first Democrat to hold the state's singular House seat since Young's nearly 50-year tenure began. "I look forward to continuing Don Young's legacy of bipartisanship, serving all Alaskans, and building support for Alaska's interests in D.C.," Peltola said in a statement. "We built a great deal of momentum in a short time. ... I plan to continue introducing myself to Alaskans and working to earn their trust." In addition to the contest to fill out the remainder of Young's term, which will end Jan. 3, Peltola, Palin, GOP candidate Nick Begich, and libertarian candidate Chris Bye are all running for a separate, two-year House bid in the general election in November.

Re: Democracy

President Biden last week gave an impassioned speech on democracy from Philadelphia's Independence Hall, where he warned of the threat posed by former President Donald Trump and "MAGA Republicans." To be clear, Biden said, "not every Republican, not even a majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans." But those that are "do not respect the Constitution," the president continued. "They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people" and "refuse to accept the results of a free election." In fact, they're "working right now" to "undermine democracy itself," and "it's in our power, in our hands, yours and mine, to stop the assault," Biden went on. As noted by my colleague David Faris, it would've been quite odd for the president to make such a speech just two months ago, "when persistent inflation was the single biggest issue on the minds of voters." But given his recent legislative and political wins, there has been "space" for the president to return to the issue of democracy. That said, Republicans are not happy with the remarks, which they've criticized as flying in the face of Biden's pledge to unify the nation. "Biden has pitted neighbors against each other, labeled half of Americans as fascist, and tarnished any idea of his promise of 'unity,'" said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Emma Vaughn, for one. As for whether the feisty gamble at swaying public opinion pays off, well, we'll have to wait and see in November. 

I've got new rules, I count 'em

Attorney General Merrick Garland last Tuesday issued new, restrictive guidance for Justice Department political appointees, whom he barred from taking part in campaign events going forward. The announcement arrived just before the DOJ's 60-day pre-midterms "blackout" period — at which point the department works to publicly avoid any outwardly political cases, lest it sway the results of the election — and as it continues to field an onslaught of criticism for authorizing the FBI raid on Trump's Florida mansion. "We must do all we can to maintain public trust and ensure that politics — both in fact and appearance — does not compromise or affect the integrity of our work," Garland advised DOJ employees in the Tuesday memo. More specifically, the attorney general's guidance outlawed certain exceptions allowing political appointees to attend partisan campaign events "in their personal capacities" so long as they "participated passively and obtained approval," The Hill summarized. "I know you agree it is critical that we hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards to avoid even the appearance of political influence as we carry out the department's mission," Garland's memo continued. "It is in that spirit that I have added these new restrictions on political activities by non-career employees."

Sue me!

Far-right Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor Doug Mastriano is suing the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, arguing it does not have the power to compel him (or other witnesses) to sit for a deposition. He also wants the panel to pay his attorney's fees, Politico reports. The suit, which was filed in federal court on Thursday afternoon, names the committee, its members, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as defendants. In terms of stakes, Politico reports, the challenge sets up "a legal fight between one of the most prominent congressional investigations in recent memory and a Trump-backed candidate in a hotly contested midterm race." Mastriano handed over a number of documents and indicated he would voluntarily interview with the panel when he was first subpoenaed back in February, but things grew complicated when the committee pushed to record the deposition without allowing Mastriano to make a recording of his own. The candidate ultimately "appeared for a video-conference meeting with the committee in August but left without answering questions," per Politico. He will face off against Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro in November. 

Hanging chads:

  • Republican candidates back away from mentions of Trump and abortion as general election nears. [The Week, NYT]
  • The GOP could still dominate in November — but its prospects are slipping as the "fall sprint" begins. [AP]
  • Relatedly, The Wall Street Journal has released two big polls: One indicating growing support for legalized abortion, the other indicating independent voter support for Democrats in the midterms. [Poll 1, Ppoll 2]
  • "Maxwell Frost is figuring out how to be Gen Z's likely first congressman." [WaPo
  • "Cameras, Plexiglass, Fireproofing: Election Officials Beef Up Security." [NYT]
  • While we were all sweating, the labor market cooled a bit in August. [WSJ]

Coming up ...

  • It's voting day in Massachusetts, where gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey is primed to win the Democratic nomination. Per The New York Times, limited polling indicates a Healey victory in the general election as well, regardless of Republican opponent, "but her path may be smoothest if Geoff Diehl, a former state representative endorsed by [Trump], wins the nomination over Chris Doughty, a moderate businessman."
  • Following Labor Day events in battleground states Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Biden's schedule for this week includes a trip to Ohio, where he'll celebrate the recently-passed CHIPS Act, as well as an appearance before the Democratic National Committee, per The Washington Post.
  • Separate from midterms news, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will also on Sunday visit the Pentagon and New York City, respectively, to commemorate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, per the Post, as well.

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