This Week/Next Week

Senate retirements, Sarah Huckabee Sanders running for AK Gov, California's flavored tobacco proposition, the impeachment trial, and chaos in the AZ GOP

Welcome to “This Week/Next Week”, your weekly rundown of the three most important election stories this week and a quick look at three I’ll be watching next week. Thanks for reading, and please send this around to your friends or family who might be interested. It’s the very best way to help us out.

— Seth


This Week

Rob Portman announced he’s retiring

Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman isn’t going to run for reelection in 2022. Portman, along with Pat Toomey (PA) and Richard Burr (NC), makes three Republican Senators in competitive states who have announced their plans to retire. 

Portman would have been a shoo-in for re-election. He outran Trump in Ohio by 11% in 2016, carrying the state with a 19% margin. Even without the popular Senator running, things look pretty safe for Republicans in Ohio. Last year, Trump matched his 2016 margin, again carrying the state by 8%, boosted by the power of rural Ohioans. Republicans also have a deep bench of potential candidates—they hold all of the state’s partisan executive offices. Democrats, less so. One possible contender is Democratic Tim Ryan, the Congressman from Youngstown who made an unsuccessful run in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders announces her run for AK Gov

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s Press Secretary from 2017 to 2019, is running for Arkansas Governor. There are already two other high-profile Republicans in the race running to replace term-limited Governor Asa Hutchinson. In her eight-minute announcement video, Sanders touts her connection to Trump and plays on the culture war saying that she “took on the media, the radical left and their ‘cancel culture,’” during her time in the Trump administration and that “Everything we love about America is at stake, and with the radical left now in control of Washington.” The primary will likely be a showdown between candidates vying for Trump’s support and his base, but Sanders has an early leg up after Trump endorsed her on Monday.

Sanders’s father, Mike Huckabee, was the state’s governor from 1996 to 2007. This will be an interesting test of the Republican/Trump base. As Press Secretary, Sanders’ was out front supporting Trump for half of his presidency. It’ll be interesting to see the Trump stamp of approval carries her in the primary even though she has no record in public office. 

California’s ban on flavored tobacco makes it on the 2022 ballot

Next year, Californians will decide via ballot measure whether or not to ban flavored tobacco. The referendum is in response to SB-793, a law passed in August 2020 that would ban flavored tobacco products (with a few exceptions for hookah, loose-leaf tobacco, and cigars) and set a fine of $250 for every sale in violation of the law.

The law was supposed to go into effect on January 1, 2020, but with the referendum on deck, that date has been suspended until Californians decide for themselves on November 8, 2022. 

Next Week

Watch for Senate Retirements

Three Senate Republicans in battleground states for the 2022 midterms have already announced that they will not be running again. Pat Toomey (PA), Richard Burr (NC), and Rob Portman (OH) made their decisions to retire early in the cycle, something that both Democratic and Republican party leadership will push other wavering Senators to do as well. It’s easier for the parties to find and nominate strong candidates in these races if they have time and don’t have to scramble in the days or weeks before the filing deadline. It may not happen next week, but more Congressional retirement announcements will be coming soon.  

Five Republicans position themselves for the impeachment trial

The Senate will start Trump’s impeachment trial the week of February 8, the week after next. On Tuesday, all but 5 Republican Senators voted that holding a trial against a former president is unconstitutional. The five Republicans who voted along with all 50 Democrats were Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), Ben Sasse (NE), and Pat Toomey (PA). 

A successful conviction, which requires ⅔ of the chamber, is unlikely. But the five Republicans above will spend the next week positioning themselves for their eventual vote.

Chaos continues in Arizona’s GOP

The Arizona Republican Party renominated Kelly Ward a the Party Chair last Saturday. Ward is a notorious Trumpster who has claimed that voter fraud and rigging cost Trump the election. 

But now, after claims of voting irregularities in the election for Arizona Party Chair, her opponent in that race, Sergio Arellano, is requesting an audit. The audit hasn’t happened yet, and according to Arellano’s spokesperson, the party hasn’t responded to their audit request at all. The intra-party chaos will continue next week and risks tearing apart a party in one of the most competitive states, and one with a critical Senate race in 2022.

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— Seth