Heart of the Primaries 2022, Democrats-Issue 3 (December 16, 2021)

December 16, 2021

Welcome to our last biweekly edition of The Heart of the Primaries. Catch us weekly on Thursdays in the new year, starting Jan. 6!

In this issue: Abortion stances become a focal point in TX-28 rematch and Pelosi endorses in Maryland gubernatorial race

Abortion stances become a focal point in TX-28 rematch

Texas’ March 1 primaries will feature a rematch between U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and Jessica Cisneros in the 28th Congressional District. Cuellar defeated Cisneros 51.8% to 48.2% in 2020.

The issue of abortion is receiving national attention partly due to a Texas law restricting abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The law went into effect on Sept. 1 and was the subject of two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases. The abortion debate is cropping up in the 28th District Democratic primary.

Among Cisneros’ endorsers are NARAL Pro-Choice America, EMILY’s List, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. In its November endorsement, Planned Parenthood Action Fund mentioned the Texas law.  

Cisneros’ press release announcing Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s endorsement said Cuellar has been “proudly anti-choice for decades, co-sponsoring anti-choice legislation with Republicans, supported Trump-era restrictions on abortion and reproductive healthcare, was the only Democrat to vote in favor of the discriminatory Hyde amendment this Congress and most recently was the only Democrat to vote against the Women’s Health Protection Act.”

Cuellar said he voted against the bill, which would have limited restrictions on abortion, because “I am a Catholic, and I do believe in rights and right to life. … Sometimes people vote because of political (views), they think this is a Democratic or Republican issue. To me, it’s a matter of conscience.” 

Tannya Benavides is also running in the Democratic primary. In September, she and Cisneros held an event on Instagram to discuss Texas’ abortion law. Benavides said, “Abortion access is health care. It’s so bizarre that this is where we have gotten to.”

In the 2020 Democratic primary, Cuellar said his district “is more moderate, conservative Democrats” and that he understood south Texas politics.

While it doesn’t tell us anything about the ideological leaning of Democrats within the district, recent redistricting will make the 28th District a little more Democratic than in the past. President Joe Biden (D) would have defeated Donald Trump (R) 53% to 46% in the redrawn district. Biden defeated Trump 52% to 47% in the current district.

North Carolina Supreme Court postpones statewide primary to May 17

On Dec. 8, the North Carolina Supreme Court issued an order postponing the state’s primary election from March 8 to May 17. The change comes as a result of two lawsuits that originated in Wake County Superior Court challenging the newly enacted congressional and state legislative district maps that the state legislature passed. Both lawsuits allege partisan and racial gerrymandering.

The court also suspended the Dec. 17 candidate filing deadline for those elections and ordered the trial court to make whatever changes to the election schedule necessary. The trial court has until Jan. 11 to make a final ruling.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R), a named defendant in both lawsuits, said the order moving the election date “leaves North Carolinians with uncertainty,” adding, “Despite this delay, we are confident that we will prevail at trial.” Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said the court’s order “restores faith in the rule of law and it is necessary for the Court to rule on the constitutionality of these unfair districts before the next election.”

All states have been engaged in redistricting after the 2020 census. This is the only primary date changed during the 2022 election cycle (so far). We’ll follow up with North Carolina’s filing deadline and any news on changes to the primary timeline in other states.

Vermont follow-up: Gray, Balint announce bids for open U.S. House seat

Since our last issue, Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint (D) and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray (D) officially announced their campaigns for the state’s at-large U.S. House seat. Current Rep. Peter Welch (D) is running for U.S. Senate. The current incumbent, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), is retiring. The primary is scheduled for Aug. 9.

Endorsements for Newman, Casten in incumbent-vs.-incumbent primary

U.S. Reps. Sean Casten (D) and Marie Newman (D) will run against one another in the primary for Illinois’ 6th Congressional District after Newman’s current district was eliminated in redistricting. Both candidates have received endorsements from national influencers and organizations in recent weeks.

Casten announced endorsements from 12 U.S. House members, including Illinois Reps. Bill Foster (D) and Brad Schneider (D), on Dec. 1. Among the other members endorsing him were Maxine Waters (D), chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, and Kathy Castor (D), chairwoman of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Casten’s campaign released a list of more than 40 local endorsers on Dec. 8, including seven state legislators and seven county board members.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ political action committee endorsed Newman on Dec. 8. The 95-member caucus’ stated goal is enacting policies that “prioritize working Americans over corporate interests, fight economic and social inequality, and advance civil liberties.” Newman’s other recent endorsers include 10 mayors and the Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 241 and 308.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorsed both Casten and Newman.

Newman was first elected to the House in 2020 after defeating incumbent Dan Lipinski in the Democratic primary. Casten defeated incumbent Peter Roskam (R) in the 2018 general election. 

Nancy Pelosi endorses Tom Perez in Maryland gubernatorial primary

On Dec. 13, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed Tom Perez in the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial primary. Pelosi said on Twitter, “Maryland has an opportunity to flip from red to blue, and the most qualified person to do just that is my friend Tom Perez.”

Perez was U.S. secretary of labor from 2013 to 2017 and chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2017 to 2021.

The Democratic primary so far includes Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, former state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, and former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. The Washington Post‘s Ovetta Wiggins said Pelosi’s endorsement “could give [Perez] an edge in a race where no candidate has emerged as a clear front-runner for the nomination.”

An email Ballotpedia received on Dec. 16 stated that Bread and Roses Party of Maryland founder Jerome Segal was entering the Democratic gubernatorial primary as well.

Incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is term-limited. In 2018, Hogan defeated Ben Jealous (D) 55% to 44%. In 2020, Biden defeated Trump in Maryland 65% to 32% 

The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 28. 

New York follow-up: Letitia James out of gubernatorial race

New York Attorney General Letitia James dropped out of the Democratic primary for governor and announced she’ll seek re-election. Several Democrats who were running for attorney general dropped out of that race after James’ announcement. We covered the New York gubernatorial primary in our first two issues.   

Betsy Johnson, running as independent, receives Knute Buehler’s endorsement for Oregon governor

One of the notable stories in Oregon’s gubernatorial election so far is who’s not running in the Democratic primary. Democratic state Sen. Betsy Johnson is running as an independent. Johnson served in the state House from 2001 to 2005 and has been in the state Senate since 2007. Johnson said her candidacy will give voters an alternative to a “left-wing liberal” or a “right-wing Trump apologist.” 

Oregon Capital Bureau‘s Gary A. Warner wrote, “Johnson has consistently been the most moderate of Democrats in the Senate. While backing most of her party’s social issue stances, including support for abortion rights, she has voted with Republicans on issues such as business restrictions, gun rights and limiting carbon emissions.”

On Dec. 7, Knute Buehler—the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2018—endorsed Johnson. Buehler wrote in a Facebook post, “It is vital that we break the iron grip monopoly of the radical left on power, politics, and policy in our state” and that “the Republican Party is no longer a viable alternative in Oregon.” Buehler left the Republican Party in early 2021 and registered as nonaffiliated following the Jan. 6 Capitol breach and the Oregon Republican Party’s response to the event. (The party said there was evidence the event was a “‘false flag’ operation designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans.”)

So far, eight Democrats and 12 Republicans are running in Oregon’s gubernatorial primaries, scheduled for May 17. The Democratic primary field includes state House Speaker Tina Kotek, former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, and state Treasurer Tobias Read. Kotek leads in endorsements, with several from state representatives, unions, and groups including EMILY’s List

Texas primary update after Dec. 13 filing deadline

The filing period for Texas’ U.S. House and state legislative races ended on Dec. 13. Texas has next year’s first primaries on March 1. We reviewed the list of candidates that filed with the secretary of state’s office to identify the number of contested primaries. The numbers below were current the morning of Dec. 15. Note that the state may not have processed all candidates at that time. 

U.S. House of Representatives

  • 78 Democratic candidates have filed.
  • 11 Democratic incumbents filed for re-election. Democrats currently represent three U.S. House districts where no incumbent is running. In addition, Rep. Vincente Gonzalez (D-15) is running in Texas’ 34th District. The current incumbent, Rep. Filemon Vela (D), is not seeking re-election. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-35) is running in the newly created 37th Congressional District.
  • Five Democratic incumbents currently face a contested primary.
  • 17 U.S. House districts have multiple Democratic candidates.

The current partisan composition of Texas’ U.S. House districts is 13 Democrats and 23 Republicans. The state gained two additional districts after the 2020 census.

State Senate

  • 29 Democratic candidates have filed.
  • 10 Democratic incumbents have filed for re-election. SD-27 incumbent Eddie Lucio (D) announced on Nov. 4 that he would not run for re-election.
  • 1 Democratic incumbent currently faces a contested primary.
  • 4 Senate districts have multiple Democratic candidates.

The current partisan composition of the Texas Senate is 18 Republicans and 13 Democrats.

State House of Representatives

  • 153 Democratic candidates have filed.
  • 53 Democratic incumbents have filed for re-election. Twelve Democratic incumbents are not running for re-election.
  • 8 Democratic incumbents currently face a contested primary.
  • 25 House districts have multiple Democratic candidates. 

The current partisan composition of the Texas House is 85 Republicans and 65 Democrats.