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    Chicago-Area Races Test Progressive Strength

    Two local races in the Chicago area on Tuesday will gauge voters’ enthusiasm for progressive causes in an Illinois primary that lacks drama at the top of the ticket.Progressive Democrats, who have built political strength in Chicago over the last decade but received mixed reviews for their governance, are pushing for a change to the city’s real estate transfer tax that would raise rates on high-value properties to fund homelessness programs.Progressives are also trying to hold onto the Cook County prosecutor’s office as the incumbent, Kim Foxx, who overhauled systems but faced criticism, prepares to leave office after two terms.The contests have sparked debates about Chicago’s post-pandemic struggles with homelessness, crime and empty downtown office space, and the races will give voters a chance to weigh in on the direction of the city under Ms. Foxx and Mayor Brandon Johnson, a fellow progressive who was elected last year.With the major party presidential nominations already settled, the results in Chicago, which is dominated by Democrats, could come down to whether progressives or moderates have more success turning out voters.The proposed tax change, which opponents say would be a major blow to the struggling commercial real estate sector, calls for reducing the transfer rate on properties that sell for less than $1 million, and imposing higher rates on homes and commercial buildings that sell for more than $1 million.The extra money — supporters say it would be at least $100 million each year — would be put toward addressing homelessness, with the details of that spending to be finalized later. The City Council would still have to enact the new tax rates. Mr. Johnson, a former union organizer, supports the ballot measure and made it part of his campaign platform.Democratic voters in Chicago and its inner-ring suburbs will also choose between two candidates vying to succeed Ms. Foxx, who brought promised changes to the local justice system but also faced criticism for persistently high crime rates and her handling of a case involving the actor Jussie Smollett.Clayton Harris III, a university lecturer and former prosecutor, has consolidated support from progressive politicians. His opponent, Eileen O’Neill Burke, a retired appellate judge, is trying to win the nomination by appealing to moderate and conservative voters.The winner of the primary will face a Republican in November, but countywide partisan races are rarely competitive. More

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    The Key Elections Taking Place in 2023

    Among the races to watch are governors’ contests in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi and mayoral elections in Chicago and Philadelphia.It might be tempting to focus on the 2024 presidential election now that the midterms are in the rearview mirror, but don’t sleep on 2023: key races for governor, mayor and other offices will be decided.Their outcomes will be closely watched for signs of whether Democrats or Republicans have momentum going into next year’s presidential election and congressional races — and for what they signal about the influence of former President Donald J. Trump.Virginia and New Jersey have noteworthy state house elections, and in Wisconsin, a state Supreme Court race will determine the balance of power in a body whose conservative majority routinely sides with Republicans. Here’s what to watch:Kentucky governorOf the three governors’ races this year, only Kentucky features an incumbent Democrat seeking re-election in a state that Mr. Trump won in 2020. The race also appears packed with the most intrigue.Gov. Andy Beshear won by less than 6,000 votes in 2019, ousting Matt Bevin, the Trump-backed Republican incumbent in the cherry-red state that is home to Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate G.O.P. leader.A growing field of Republicans has ambitions of settling the score in 2023, including Daniel Cameron, who in 2019 became the first Black person to be elected as Kentucky’s attorney general, an office previously held by Mr. Beshear. Mr. Cameron, who is seen as a possible successor to Mr. McConnell, drew attention in 2020 when he announced that a grand jury did not indict two Louisville officers who shot Breonna Taylor. Last June, Mr. Trump endorsed Mr. Cameron for governor, but there will be competition for the G.O.P. nomination.Attorney General Daniel Cameron, signing the papers for his candidacy last week, is among Republicans seeking to challenge Gov. Andy Beshear this year.Timothy D. Easley/Associated PressKelly Craft, a former ambassador to the United Nations under Mr. Trump, is also running. So are Mike Harmon, the state auditor of public accounts, and Ryan Quarles, the state’s agricultural commissioner, and several other Republicans. The primary will be on May 16.Louisiana governorGov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who narrowly won a second term in 2019, is not eligible to run again because of term limits. The open-seat race has tantalized some prominent Republicans, including Jeff Landry, the state’s attorney general, who has declared his candidacy.Two other Republicans weighing entering the race are John Schroder, the state treasurer who has told supporters he will run, and Representative Garret Graves.Shawn Wilson, the state’s transportation secretary under Mr. Edwards, is one of the few Democrats who have indicated interest in running in deep-red Louisiana.Electing a New Speaker of the HouseRepresentative Kevin McCarthy won the speakership after a revolt within the Republican Party set off a long stretch of unsuccessful votes.Inside the Speaker Fight: Mr. McCarthy’s speaker bid turned into a rolling disaster. “The Daily” has the inside story of how it went so wrong and what he was forced to give up.A Tenuous Grip: By making concessions to far-right representatives, Mr. McCarthy has effectively given them carte blanche to disrupt the workings of the House — and to hold him hostage to their demands.Looming Consequences: Congressional gridlock brought on by far-right Republicans now seems more likely to lead to government shutdowns or, worse, a default on debt obligations.Roots of the Chaos: How did Mr. McCarthy’s bid become a four-day debacle? The story begins with the zero-sum politics of Newt Gingrich.Mississippi governorGov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, is running for a second term. But the advantage of incumbency and a substantial campaign fund may not be enough to stop a primary challenge, especially with his job approval numbers among the lowest of the nation’s governors.Philip Gunn, Mississippi’s House speaker, has been coy about possible plans to enter the race after announcing in November that he would not seek re-election to the Legislature. Among the other Republicans whose names have been bandied about is Michael Watson, the secretary of state. But Mr. Reeves is the only Republican to have filed so far; the deadline is Feb. 1.A Democrat hasn’t been elected governor of Mississippi in two decades, since a contest was decided by the Legislature because the winning candidate did not receive a majority of votes. Not surprisingly, few Democrats have stepped forward to run. One name to watch is Brandon Presley, a public service commissioner. Mr. Presley is a relative of Elvis Presley, who was from Tupelo, Miss., according to Mississippi Today, a nonprofit news website.U.S. House (Virginia’s Fourth District)The death in late November of Representative A. Donald McEachin, a Democrat from Virginia, prompted Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, to schedule a special election for Feb. 21.In December, Democrats resoundingly nominated Jennifer McClellan, a state senator, to represent the party in the contest for Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Richmond and leans heavily Democratic. She could become the first Black woman elected to Congress in Virginia, where she would complete the two-year term that Mr. McEachin won by 30 percentage points just weeks before his death.Republicans tapped Leon Benjamin, a Navy veteran and pastor who lost to Mr. McEachin in November and in 2020.Chicago mayorMayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, a Democrat who in 2019 became the first Black woman and first openly gay person to lead the nation’s third-most populous city, faces a gantlet of challengers in her quest for re-election.That test will arrive somewhat early in the year, with the mayoral election set for Feb. 28. If no candidate finishes with a majority of the votes, a runoff will be held on April 4.Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago faces several challengers in her re-election bid.Jim Vondruska/ReutersThe crowded field includes Representative Jesús G. García, a Democrat who is known as Chuy and who was overwhelmingly re-elected to a third term in his Cook County district in November and previously ran unsuccessfully for mayor. In the current race, Ms. Lightfoot has attacked Mr. García over receiving money for his House campaign from Sam Bankman-Fried, the criminally charged founder of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX.Ms. Lightfoot’s other opponents include Kam Buckner, a state legislator; Brandon Johnson, a Cook County commissioner; Sophia King and Roderick T. Sawyer, who both serve on the City Council; Paul Vallas, a former chief executive of Chicago public schools; and Ja’Mal Green, a prominent activist in the city.Philadelphia mayorAn open-seat race for mayor in Pennsylvania’s foremost Democratic bastion has attracted an expansive field of candidates. The office is held by Jim Kenney, a Democrat who is not eligible to run again because of term limits.Five members of the City Council have resigned to enter the race, which city rules require. They are Allan Domb, Derek Green, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker and Maria Quiñones Sánchez.The field also includes Rebecca Rhynhart, the city’s controller, who has likewise resigned in order to run; Amen Brown, a state legislator; Jeff Brown, a supermarket chain founder; and James DeLeon; a retired judge.Wisconsin Supreme CourtConservatives are clinging to a one-seat majority on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, but a retirement within the court’s conservative ranks could shift the balance of power this year. The court’s justices have increasingly been called on to settle landmark lawsuits involving elections, gerrymandering, abortion and other contentious issues.Two conservative and two liberal candidates have entered what is technically a nonpartisan election to succeed Judge Patience D. Roggensack on the seven-member court.Daniel Kelly, a conservative former justice on the state Supreme Court who lost his seat in the 2020 election, is seeking a comeback. Running against him in the conservative lane is Jennifer Dorow, a circuit court judge in Waukesha County who drew widespread attention when she presided over the trial of Darrell E. Brooks, the man convicted in the killing of six people he struck with his car during a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., in 2021.Janet Protasiewicz and Everett Mitchell, judges from Milwaukee County and Dane County, which includes Madison, the capital, are seeking to give liberals a majority on the court.The two candidates who receive the most votes in the nonpartisan primary on Feb. 21 — regardless of their leanings — will face each other in the general election on April 4.Legislature (Virginia and New Jersey)Virginia is emerging as a potential tempest in 2023, with its divided legislature up for re-election and elected officials squarely focused on the issue of abortion — not to mention a Republican governor who is flirting with a run for president.Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, emboldened by the Supreme Court’s repeal last summer of Roe v. Wade, the 50-year-old constitutional right to an abortion.His proposal is expected to resonate with Republican lawmakers, who narrowly control the House of Delegates. But it is likely to run into fierce opposition in the Senate, where Democrats are clinging to a slender majority. All seats in both chambers are up for election.Another Mid-Atlantic state to watch is New Jersey, where Republicans made inroads in 2021 despite being in the minority and are seeking to build on those gains. More

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    As Crime Surges, Roll Back of Tough-on-Crime Policies Faces Resistance

    With violent crime rates rising and elections looming, progressive prosecutors are facing resistance to their plans to roll back stricter crime policies of the 1990s.Four years ago, progressive prosecutors were in the sweet spot of Democratic politics. Aligned with the growing Black Lives Matter movement but pragmatic enough to draw establishment support, they racked up wins in cities across the country.Today, a political backlash is brewing. With violent crime rates rising in some cities and elections looming, their attempts to roll back the tough-on-crime policies of the 1990s are increasingly under attack — from familiar critics on the right, but also from onetime allies within the Democratic Party.In San Francisco, District Attorney Chesa Boudin is facing a recall vote in June, stoked by criticism from the city’s Democratic mayor. In Los Angeles, the county district attorney, George Gascón, is trying to fend off a recall effort as some elected officials complain about new guidelines eliminating the death penalty and the prosecution of juveniles as adults. Manhattan’s new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, quickly ran afoul of the new Democratic mayor, Eric Adams, and his new police commissioner over policies that critics branded too lenient.The combative resistance is a harsh turn for a group of leaders whom progressives hailed as an electoral success story. Rising homicide and violent crime rates have even Democrats in liberal cities calling for more law enforcement, not less — forcing prosecutors to defend their policies against their own allies. And traditional boosters on the left aren’t rushing to their aid, with some saying they’ve soured on the officials they once backed.“I think that whole honeymoon period lasts about five or six hours,” said Wesley Bell, the prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County in Missouri, who is seeking re-election this fall.St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, center, surrounded by area police chiefs before a news conference about a police officer who was shot and killed in 2019.Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, via Associated PressMr. Bell, a former city councilman in Ferguson, Mo., is part of the group of prosecutors elected on a promise to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Most support eliminating the death penalty and cash bail, limiting prosecutions for low-level, nonviolent offenses and scaling back sentences.In a show of political strength, progressive prosecutors in Chicago and Philadelphia handily defeated challengers in recent years. Mr. Bell’s re-election bid in November is one of several races being watched for signs that voters’ views have shifted on those policies as violent crime has risen and racial justice protests have fallen out of the headlines.Homicide rates spiked in 2020 and continued to rise last year, albeit less slowly, hitting levels not seen since the 1990s. Other violent crimes also are up. Both increases have occurred nationally, in cities with progressive prosecutors and in cities without.That’s left no clear evidence linking progressive policies to these trends, but critics have been quick to make the connection, suggesting that prosecutors have let offenders walk and created an expectation that low-level offenses won’t be charged. Those arguments have landed on voters and city leaders already grappling with a scourge of pandemic-related ills — including mental health care needs and housing shortages, rising drug use, even traffic deaths.Last week, a Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters in New York City found that 74 percent of respondents considered crime a “very serious” problem — the largest share since the survey began asking the question in 1999 and more than 20 percentage points greater than the previous high, which was recorded in January 2016.Politicians are heeding those concerns. In New York, Mr. Adams, a Democrat, has promised to crack down on crime, and his police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, slammed Mr. Bragg’s proposals as threatening the safety of police officers and the public. In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed has become an outspoken critic of Mr. Boudin’s approach, which emphasizes social services over policing.“This is not working,” Ms. Breed said recently on The New York Times podcast “Sway.” “We’ve added all these additional resources — the street crisis response team, the ambassadors, the services, the buildings we purchase, the hotels we purchase, the resources. We’ve added all these things to deal with food insecurity. All these things. Yet people are still being physically harmed and killed.”The criticisms from two prominent Black mayors are particularly biting. In their liberal cities, the leaders’ nuanced complaints have far more influence with voters than familiar attacks from Republicans or police unions. Both mayors have argued that the minority communities that want racism rooted from the justice system also want more robust policing and prosecutions.President Biden, who was one of the architects of the tough-on-crime criminal justice overhaul of the 1990s, recently spoke highly of Mr. Adams’s focus on crime prevention. Some prosecutors and their allies took that as sign that the Democratic establishment is digging in on a centrist approach to criminal justice reform.Mr. Biden’s comments came as the Democratic Party worried about retaining the support of moderate suburban voters in midterm elections this year. Many Democratic lawmakers and strategists believe that protest slogans like “defund the police” hurt the party in the 2020 elections — particularly in Congressional swing districts and in Senate races. Republican candidates, eager to retake control of Congress in November, already have run advertisements casting Democrats as soft on crime.Most progressive prosecutors oppose the calls to gut police department budgets, but that is a nuance often missed. At one liberal philanthropic group, some newer givers have said they will not donate to any criminal justice groups — or to the campaigns of progressive prosecutors — because they don’t want to endorse defunding the police, according to a person who connects donors to criminal justice causes, and who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.Samuel Sinyangwe, an activist who has been involved in several organizations pushing progressive prosecutors, said prosecutors hadn’t been as forceful as law enforcement unions in selling their solutions to rising violence in cities.“Police are spending a lot of money convincing people the appropriate response to that is more policing and incarceration,” he said. “I think that individual cities and counties are having to push back against that narrative. But I think they’re struggling to do that right now.”In San Francisco, Mr. Boudin argued that the effort to recall him was fueled by politics, not voters’ worries about crime. He pointed to the Republican megadonors who have funded the recall efforts and said Ms. Breed has a political incentive to see him ousted — he beat her preferred candidate for district attorney.San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin earlier this week. He faces an effort to recall him.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images“These are Republican talking points,” Mr. Boudin said. “And it’s tremendously destructive to the Democratic Party and the long-term progress that the party is making at the local and national level around public safety and criminal justice to allow a few folks dissatisfied with a local election to undermine that progress.”Mary Jung, a Democratic activist leading the recall campaign, said those who painted the efforts as fueled by conservatives or moderates were missing the point. Many of their supporters, she said, are lifelong liberal Democrats.Those voters, she said, don’t view the effort to recall Mr. Boudin, who was elected in 2019, as a broad shift away from progressive policies, but as a local response in a community that feels unsafe. She cited several attacks against Asian immigrants and incidents of shoplifting as the sort of crimes that have rattled residents, regardless of political ideology.In another sign of Democrats’ discontent, San Francisco voters ousted three progressive members of the Board of Education in a recall election driven by pandemic angst.“Over 80,000 San Franciscans signed our petition and we only needed 53,000 signatures,” Ms. Jung said. “There’s only 33,000 registered Republicans in the city. So, you know, you do the math.”Some progressives warn against ignoring people’s fears. Kim Foxx, the state’s attorney for Cook County, which includes Chicago and some of the country’s most violence-plagued communities, said that any dismissive rhetoric could make prosecutors risk looking out of touch.“You can’t dismiss people,” Ms. Foxx said. “I live in Chicago, where we hit 800 murders last year, and that represents 800 immediate families and thousands of people who are impacted.”Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, right, with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter announcing charges last month in a fatal shooting.Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated PressMs. Foxx faced a well-funded opponent and won re-election in 2020, as did Philadelphia’s district attorney, Larry Krasner, the following year. Those victories show the resilient support for progressive ideas, Mr. Krasner said, warning the Democratic Party not to abandon them.“Put criminal justice reform on the ballot in every election in almost every jurisdiction, and what you’re going to see is a surge in turnout,” Mr. Krasner said. “And that turnout will overwhelmingly be unlikely voters, reluctant voters, brand-new voters, people who are not connected to what they see as governmental dysfunction between the parties — but they are connected to an issue that has affected their communities.”But there are signs that attitudes about overhauling the criminal justice system are changing even among progressives. Many activists have shifted their focus away from electoral politics and toward policies they think address root of the problem, such as reducing the number of police and abolishing prisons.That “makes it very difficult to even defend or support particular prosecutors, because at the end of the day, they’re still putting people in jail,” Mr. Sinyangwe said.In 2020, Mr. Bell, the St. Louis prosecutor, faced the ire of the same progressive activists who had helped elect him. That July, he announced that his renewed investigation into the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown Jr., a young Black man, which ignited weeks of protests, had delivered the same results: no charges for the officer who killed him.Mr. Brown’s mother denounced Mr. Bell’s investigation. Speaking to reporters then, Mr. Bell said the announcement was “one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do as an elected official.”Asked to discuss the incident and the investigation, Mr. Bell declined.Josie Duffy Rice, the former president of The Appeal, a news outlet focused on criminal justice, said that in some ways the voters were learning the limitations of the progressive prosecutor’s role.“Prosecutors have the power to cause a lot of problems,” Ms. Duffy Rice said. “But not enough power to solve problems.” More