The Golden Apple – October 29, 2021

The weather’s appropriately gloomy on this Friday afternoon in Washington, D.C., as the leaves keep turning, the temperature drops, and we prepare for trick-or-treaters. Did you know the original jack-o-lanterns were turnips, not pumpkins? They didn’t have pumpkins in Ireland, where the jack-o-lantern originated. Score one for the New World. Happy Halloween. 

Biden unveils Build Back Better framework, House readies for action
The House of Representatives postponed its expected vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) this week as President Joe Biden announced a revised version of his Build Back Better plan, which he described as “a historic economic framework.” The framework includes funding for universal preschool; support for child care, elder care, and people with disabilities; a one-year extension of the child tax credit; tax credits and investments in clean energy and climate resilience; a four-year extension of ACA premium tax credits and a hearing benefit for Medicare; $150 billion for housing affordability; investments in workforce development and education programs; and a one-year extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit. “No one got everything they wanted, including me,” President Biden said. The House Rules Committee held a five-hour hearing on the framework yesterday, and in a letter to her colleagues, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) thanked the “overwhelming number of House Democrats who support both the BIF and the Build Back Better Act.” She reminded members that although the vote had been postponed, the House is ready to vote on the BIF, as they’ve concluded debate on the bill. 

Chopra calls for rules “easy to understand, easy to follow, easy to enforce”
The new Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Rohit Chopra, appeared at oversight hearings before the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee this week. He told legislators that he wants the Bureau’s enforcement activity to focus on large organizations doing the most damage to consumers and markets, rather than on small businesses that might be easier targets. Chopra said he was especially concerned about transitions back to repayment for homeowners and student loan borrowers, and that the Bureau would be paying close attention to the massive transfers of student loan servicing that will happen as some of the largest servicers leave the industry. He promised to share information gathered from the orders sent last week to Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, PayPal and Square, asking for reports about how they collect, store, and use consumer data. Chopra asked all stakeholders to comment on the Bureau’s notice of proposed rulemaking on section 1071 of Dodd-Frank, which requires data reporting on small business credit applications. That notice remains open for comment until January 6, 2022. 

House panel looks for transparency in Chinese investments
The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets held an unusually well-attended hearing on Tuesday to examine the risks American investors face when putting money into Chinese-owned businesses. Last year the House passed the bipartisan Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act (HFCAA), which requires public companies to establish that they are not owned by foreign governments if the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board isn’t able to inspect its audit reports. In practice, this law applies only to Chinese firms, since all other countries allow the PCAOB to examine their audit practices. Tuesday’s hearing considered a bill that would accelerate this process from three years to two, and a bill that would require disclosures from all companies importing goods from the Uyghur Autonomous Region. Members on both sides of the aisle expressed concern about index funds investing in Chinese-owned businesses and Chinese firms’ use of variable interest entities (VIEs) to limit investors’ voting rights. 

Anticipated OSHA vaccine mandate faces vehement Republican opposition
Democrats and Republicans found no common ground whatsoever on Tuesday, when two subcommittees of the House Education & Labor Committee held a hearing on federal vaccine requirements and employee accommodations. The White House has directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that would require employers of 100 workers or more to implement vaccine and testing policies for their workers. OSHA has not yet published any details of this standard, and has not asked for public comment, although the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has met with dozens of stakeholders to discuss the plan. Republican committee members called the plan unnecessary overreach and probably illegal, while Democrats and a witness from Columbia Sportswear said that a uniform federal standard would simplify things for companies operating across state and even county lines.
Confirmations, Nominations, Departures
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) will run for Attorney General in Maryland next year instead of seeking a fourth term in Congress.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) announced that he is retiring from the House next year, at the end of his sixth term.

The Consumer Financial Protection Board named Lorelai Salas as Assistant Director for Supervision and Acting Assistant Director for Supervision Examinations; she has been the New York City Commissioner of Consumer and Worker Protection since 2016. 

The CFPB named Eric Halperin as Assistant Director for the Office of Enforcement. A veteran of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, he was most recently CEO of Civil Rights Corps.  ​
The Week Ahead
November 2 at 10 a.m. House Financial Services Task Force on Financial Technology holds a hearing on “Buy Now, Pay More Later? Investigating Risks and Benefits of BNPL and other Emerging Fintech Cash Flow Products.” 

November 2 at 10 a.m. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs holds a hearing on “The Libor Transition: Protecting Consumers and Investors.” 

November 3 at 10 a.m. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions holds a hearing on “Cyber Threats, Consumer Data, and the Financial System.” 

November 3 at 10 a.m. The Asset Management Advisory Committee of the Securities and Exchange Commission meets to consider recommendations from the Subcommittees on the Evolution of Advice and Small Advisers & Small Funds. 

November 3 at 10:15 a.m. House Education & Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services holds a hearing on “A Call to Action: Modernizing the Community Services Block Grant.”

November 4 at 10 a.m. House Financial Services Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy holds a hearing on “From Timber to Tungsten: How the Exploitation of Natural Resources Funds Rogue Organizations and Regimes.” 

November 4 at 10 a.m. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions holds a hearing on “Next Steps: The Road Ahead for the COVID-19 Response.” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, NIH Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, FDA Acting Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, and Assistant Secretary of HHS Dawn O’Connell will testify. 

November 4 at 10:15 a.m. House Education & Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions holds a hearing on “Closing the Courthouse Doors: The Injustice of Forced Arbitration Agreements.” 
The Ellis Insight – Jim Ellis on political news
Georgia:  It appears the Republican leadership has fallen in behind Georgia Senatorial candidate Herschel Walker. Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced his endorsement of the former football star. Mr. Walker did well in raising $3.7 million in short order for his campaign, but the amount pales in comparison to Sen. Raphael Warnock’s (D) $17.2 million cash-on-hand figure. 

With Republicans having few Democratic Senate targets, Georgia will remain in the top tier challenger race category almost regardless of what happens moving forward.
Iowa:  The new Cygnal polling organization’s Iowa study confirms what Selzer & Company found in September. The Cygnal data (10/18-19; 600 IA likely voters; interactive voice response system, text, and email) projects Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) to be leading former Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D), 55-39%, which is almost identical to last month’s polling result from Selzer, which posted the race at 55-37%. In between the two polls, Sen. Grassley announced that he is running for an eighth term.
Missouri:  Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who resigned his office under pressure after a sex scandal broke, is now a US Senate candidate in the open seat vying to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R).
A new Remington Research Group poll for the Missouri Scout political blog (10/20-21; 806 MO likely Republican primary voters; interactive voice response system) finds Mr. Greitens previously stronger lead dropping to 27-25-19-8-4% over state Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R), US Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia), Rep. Billy Long (R-Springfield), and attorney Mark McCloskey, respectively. The Missouri primary isn’t until August 2, 2022, so this race has many months in which to develop.
New Hampshire:  St. Anselm’s College returned a new poll from the Granite State field (10/20-22; 1,323 NH registered voters; online) and found the Republicans holding the upper hand in what has become a quintessential swing state. According to the results, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) would lead Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), 46-41%, a little down from his 49-41% showing in St. Anselm’s previous poll. Still, a consistent 41% support figure for an incumbent is a poor number.
North Carolina:  Former Governor Pat McCrory’s campaign released a new Public Opinion Strategies internal poll (10/16-19; 500 NC likely Republican primary voters; live interview), and while it shows a fifteen point advantage for their candidate in the GOP primary, such is not the entire story. The actual ballot test, which curiously wasn’t released in the polling summary, yields a 40-25% result for Mr. McCrory over US Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance). 

The underlying story, however, is the first POS poll for McCrory released in April gave the former Governor a 48-13% lead. Therefore, this new survey yields a net 20 point gain for Rep. Budd. With the early March 8th primary still on the schedule, this contest will soon be firing on all cylinders.

MD-4:  Three-term Maryland Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Bowie) announced that he will enter the open Attorney General’s race next year. Mr. Brown was the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in the Republican landslide year of 2014, losing 51-47% as the favorite to current Gov. Larry Hogan (R). 

The Prince Georges County anchored 4th District is safely Democratic (Biden ’20: 79-19%), so the succession battle here will be settled in what is expected to be a crowded Democratic primary. So far, state Delegate Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s County) announced that he will enter the newly open 4th Congressional District contest.
NY-2:  Former Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon (D), who held freshman Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville) to a 53-46% open seat win in 2020, announced this week that she will return for a re-match next year. The four self-contained Long Island congressional districts need an aggregate of almost 150,000 more people to meet their per district resident quota of 776,971 individuals, so the 2nd District will undergo significant change. We will know more when the redistricting process in New York progresses further.
OR-5:  Former local city manager and frequent candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner (D) announced that she will challenge Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby/Salem) in the state’s new 5th Congressional District. Already in the Democratic primary is Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, who opposed Rep. Schrader in 2020. The new 5th is a marginal political district and only contains 47% of Rep. Schrader’s current constituency. The Congressman has not yet fully decided if he will run in the 5th or new 6th District, which also includes much of his current constituency.
TX-15:  Now that Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) will run in the open 34th District – one of the last tweaks on the congressional map before passage was even to add Mr. Gonzalez’s home to District 34 – the politically marginal open 15th District is attracting a lot of attention. Last week, attorney and Iraq War veteran Raul Ramirez (D) announced his congressional candidacy, and now educator Eliza Alvarado (D) has followed suit.
The top Republican candidate, armed with an endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), is 2020 nominee Monica de la Cruz-Hernandez (R), who held Rep. Gonzalez to a 50-48% re-election victory. The new 15th would have supported former President Trump by a three percentage point margin.

Connecticut:  The Connecticut Governor’s race hasn’t drawn much attention so far, and the first released ballot test survey tells us why. Public Policy Polling conducted a survey for the Connecticut Democrats for Education Reform organization (10/21-22; 729 CT registered voters; live interview and text) and unsurprisingly found Gov. Ned Lamont (D) staked to large early leads. 

Against former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (R), the Governor leads 52-32%. If businessman Bob Stefanowski was the GOP nominee, Mr. Lamont would claim a similar 52-36% advantage. Gov. Lamont is rated a prohibitive favorite for re-election.
Georgia:  Reports are surfacing from Georgia that former Senator David Perdue is seriously considering launching a Republican primary challenge against Gov. Brian Kemp. With the Governor still reeling in popularity within the GOP base over the post-election handling of the voter fraud accusations, there is no doubt that Mr. Kemp is vulnerable in a Republican primary. Expect to see polling released on this proposed race shortly.
Massachusetts:  Though most people believe that Gov. Charlie Baker (R) is seeking a third term, such is not necessarily the case. The Governor has not confirmed he is running, and said in a Boston Public Radio interview this week that running again is “a complicated issue, for all kinds of reasons.”
New Jersey:  Heading into the last week of campaigning before the November 2nd election, Emerson College just released their latest Garden State gubernatorial poll (10/15-18; 600 NJ likely voters; combination live interview, text, and interactive voice response system) and it finds challenger Jack Ciattarelli (R), a former state Assemblyman from Somerset County, pulling to within upset range of Gov. Phil Murphy (D). The Emerson ballot test finds the Governor’s lead falling to 50-44%, and an even closer 48-45% among those most likely to vote.
Two other closing surveys, however, find Gov. Murphy in stronger shape. Stockton University (10/17-26; 522 NJ likely voters) sees a nine point spread, 50-41%. Monmouth University (10/21-25; 1,000 NJ registered voters) posts the Murphy advantage back to 50-39%.
New York:  The City online site covering New York City news is running a story saying that Attorney General Letitia James is actively preparing to launch a Democratic primary challenge to new Gov. Kathy Hochul. It was AG James who brought the sexual harassment charges against Gov. Andrew Cuomo that finally forced him to resign. The City reporters say Ms. James is already filming ads and her political staff is calling state Democratic leaders to recruit support for her gubernatorial bid.
New Mexico:  Albuquerque television weatherman and 2020 Republican US Senate nominee yesterday officially announced his challenge to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D). Though an underdog, Mr. Ronchetti should have little trouble uniting the Republican base around his candidacy based upon his closer-than-expected 52-46% result against now-Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D) in a race that national Republicans did not target. A negative against Gov. Grisham is her recent sexual harassment settlement of $150,000 with a male former aide.

Virginia:  It appears that the Virginia Governor’s race is going down to the wire in a dead heat. Five closing polls for next Tuesday’s election find the contest between former Governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe and ex-hedge fund CEO Glenn Youngkin (R) lapsing into a virtual tie.
The five surveys were conducted by KA Consulting, Cygnal, Emerson College, Suffolk University, and Christopher Newport University. All were sampled between October 18-25, with respondent universes between 500 and 944 Virginia likely voters. KA gave Youngkin a two-point, 43-41% edge; Cygnal found the two candidates tied with a support factor of 49%; Emerson saw Mr. McAuliffe holding a one-point 49-48% tight edge; Suffolk, too, produced a flat tie; and Christopher Newport also gives McAuliffe a 49-48% edge. This race will be decided by whichever side best turns out its voters.
At week’s end, Fox News released a new poll that reverses their study of two weeks previous. In the earlier poll, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) held a 51-46% lead over former hedge fund CEO Glenn Youngkin (R). Their new release, conducted over the October 24-27 period (1,212 VA registered voters; 1,015 individuals identified as likely VA gubernatorial election voters; live interview), finds Mr. Youngkin now pulling ahead of the former Governor and race favorite, 53-45%. 

A Republican skew appears in that the GOP has a four point advantage on the self-identified partisan division, well beyond Old Dominion political reality. Therefore, the Youngkin lead may be several points less.

Buffalo:  As we have previously covered, four-term Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown was defeated for re-nomination in June and is trying to win the general election as a write-in candidate. He lost to self-proclaimed socialist India Walton in the Democratic primary, but polling shows him way ahead in the general election.
Emerson College confirmed Mayor Brown’s lead in their latest survey (10/22-23; 539 Buffalo likely voters; live interview, online, and interactive voice response system). The result finds a whopping 54-36% lead for the Mayor, but does this support translate into a write-in victory?  The overwhelming majority in surveys say they have never written in a candidate. This will be another interesting race to watch on election night, November 2nd.
Minneapolis:  ALG Research released a survey of 600 Minneapolis likely voters regarding the upcoming Mayoral election on November 2nd. According to the survey, conducted during the October 16-19 period, Mayor Jacob Frey leads the ranked choice voting system with a 44-25% margin over community organizer Sheila Nezhad, who pledges to end “violent policing.”  Carried through to a hypothetical third ranked choice ballot, the Mayor’s margin expands slightly to 47-27%.