Updated May 17, 2023, 9:27am EDT
politicsNorth America

DeSantis-backed candidates stumble in Tuesday's elections

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The News

Ron DeSantis wasn’t on a ballot last night, but his endorsed candidates flopped. In Kentucky, where Attorney Gen. Daniel Cameron won the Republican nomination for governor, DeSantis cut a last-minute recording for former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft. She stumbled into third place, after spending more than $10 million to portray the Trump-endorsed Cameron as a faux-conservative “teddy bear.”

Craft’s campaign had hired Axiom, the political consulting firm run by Jeff Roe, who is currently advising the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down. Trumpworld enjoyed watching the operative take a hit. “Republican voters stand with President Trump, not Ron DeSantis,” said Alex Pfeiffer, a spokesman for the Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc. “Voters know that President Trump has their interests in mind when he endorses a candidate, not the interests of the consultant class.”

DeSantis’ candidate also lost in Jacksonville, the largest city in the country with a Republican mayor. Democrat Donna Deegan, a former local TV anchor and founder of a breast cancer foundation, prevailed 52-48 over local Chamber of Commerce head Daniel Davis. Six months ago, DeSantis had carried the city by 12 points, but Davis and another Republican clashed bitterly in the first round, and Deegan pre-empted effective Republican attacks on crime by promising to hire more police officers.

Republicans lost in Colorado Springs, too, where former Secretary of State Wayne Williams conceded to independent entrepreneur Yemi Mobolade. The office is nonpartisan, but the GOP backed Williams, who’d irritated conservatives by appearing in an ad with his Democratic successor in the elections job.

Progressive Democrats got more mixed results. In Philadelphia, ex-city council member Cherelle Parker had a stable lead for the party’s mayoral nomination. She called for hiring 300 more cops and re-allowing stop-and-frisk policing, and consolidated the Black vote. Ex-city council member Helen Gym slumped into third place, a setback for progressives, days after Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigned for


The left did better in Allegheny County, where state Rep. Sara Innamorato won the Democratic primary for county executive. First elected with the support of Democratic Socialists of America, Innamorato beat more moderate Democrats who called her ideology dangerous.

In another notable result back in Kentucky, Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams easily fended off two primary challengers running on election rigging conspiracies involving George Soros, one of whom was backed by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell.

Adams was quite blunt about their differences in a pre-election interview with Semafor: “It’s not just me and my opponents on the ballot. Misinformation is on the ballot — whether we're going to be a fact- and rationality-based government, when it comes to elections, or whether we're gonna let conspiracy theorists run the show.”

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David's view

DeSantis had a bum hand, but he picked it: The decision to endorse Craft at the end of early voting, when she was trending down in polls, got him nothing. Craft’s Axiom-led campaign put her to the right of an already very conservative candidate — both for anti-trans legislation, both supporting full abortion bans — and came off phony.

We got more evidence that the Republican brand is suffering in cities, where voter unhappiness with rising crime isn’t enough to make them go MAGA. Democrats do their venting on this issue in primaries: Gym was badly damaged by a billionaire Republican’s ad campaign, accusing her of corruption, but most voters ended up voting for someone to her right. A majority of primary voters picked a candidate who wanted to recruit more police.


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