Mayors, Borough Bosses and Land Commissioners: Why Donald Trump Is Making Extremely Local Endorsements
During their local mayoral race in early November, town residents in Hialeah, Florida, population 230,000, heard a familiar voice in a campaign ad for the city’s election. “Steve Bovo,” boomed former President Donald Trump’s voiceAn ad that included video of Trump namechecking Bovo during a 2020 rally was created. Boosting Bovo’s campaign to run the town next door to the Trump National Doral Miami resort, the former President’s endorsement told voters that “as Mayor, Bovo will fight for the values that are now under attack by the Radical Left.” With Trump’s seal of approval, Bovo won the municipal election with 59% of the vote.
Bovo’s not the only hyper-local candidate to win an endorsement from the 45th President. According to an official count, Trump has supported 57 candidates in congressional, state and local races throughout the United States over the past year. Ballotpedia. He endorsed Staten Island’s winning candidate as borough president. He’s already backed candidates running in 2022 for land commissioner in Texas, agricultural commissioner in Florida, secretary of state in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, a host of state attorneys general and lieutenant governor hopefuls, as well as 17 candidates for House races, 14 Senate races and eight state governor’s races.
A former president’s endorsement is highly sought-after political capital. It is not common for an ex-commander-in-chief to reach out to low-ranking political parties. Is Trump really up to something? It’s partly personal, political observers say. Trump was openly supportive of people who praise him. He also attacks those who denigrate him. He has intervened at low levels in race where he had a history. “He’s got a long memory and is one of the most vengeful people we’ve ever come across,” says Larry Sabato, a prominent political analyst and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Trump may also have tactical motives for intervening on the local level. His Failure in an attemptSabato’s and other supporters believe that Sabato is trying to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election. This is especially true when his local endorsements are for elections officials in swing states.
For example, Trump may have endorsed candidates for secretary-of-state to show that he has learned from the failure to reverse the 2020 election and now wants to position himself for a change in the outcome of the 2024 presidential race. Trump has not announced whether or not he intends to run. “He wasn’t able to control the process in the way that he had expected after the 2020 election. He wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again in 2024,” Sabato says. “He’s trying to prepare the way either for himself or for his chosen successor on the Republican side.” In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Trump unsuccessfully pressured members of Congress and State-level secretariesJoe Biden’s vote totals can be altered or results not certified. “We all know now Election Day is just the beginning of the process,” Sabato continues. “The old tradition of a peaceful transition of power is out the window, thanks to Donald Trump and his allies.”
An inquiry for comments was not answered by the Office for Former President Trump.
Trump’s endorsements have extended even lower into city governments than the secretaries of state or mayors’ offices. Vito Fossella was a multiple-term Albany state representative. He retired in a DUI Arrest in 2008.His political career was temporarily ruined when he revealed that he has a second Virginia-based family. But Trump boosted Fosella’s comeback in the race for Staten Island Borough President this year with an endorsement that proclaimed “New York City is now a filthy and dangerous place” and Fossella is “the only true Conservative Republican in the race who will stand up to the Radical Liberal Mob.” Fossella won. After his victory, Fossella said that Trump called him.
Trump has focused some of his recent endorsements on 2022 elections Texas—a state he won in 2020 by more than five points. Dawn Buckingham was his endorsement. She was an early supporter of Trump’s in 2015 and currently serves in the Texas state senate. The state’s current land commissioner is George P. Bush, the son of Trump’s 2016 Presidential primary rival Jeb Bush. The younger Bush broke with his family’s criticism of Trump earlier this year to praise Trump in what was widely seen as a bid to get Trump’s endorsement for Texas attorney general. Louie Gohmert (a Trump supporter) is also joining the race for attorney general. He met with organizers at the Jan. 6, rally, and is a member the House Anglo Saxon Political Traditions Caucus. Trump chose to support Ken Paxton, the incumbent for reelection. He has also scheduled a Mar-a-Lago fundraising event for Paxton in December.
Some of Trump’s early endorsements are for candidates in states that contributed to his election loss in 2020. In Michigan, he’s endorsed candidates for attorney general and secretary of state, as well as five state representatives. In Georgia, he’s backed candidates for secretary of state and lieutenant governor. He’s endorsed a candidate for secretary of state in Arizona, where allies dragged out an election audit that ultimately confirmed Biden’s win. Both of these states are expected to be competitive in 2024. Trump is trying to get allies into key positions.
Not all of Trump’s picks so far have been successful. Trump’s choice in the Republican primary for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat, Sean Parnell, dropped out of the race on Nov. 22 after losing custody of his three children amid abuse allegations in contested divorce proceedings. Trump’s endorsement can help, but “you’ve still got to nominate good candidates,” says Whit Ayers, a Republican pollster and political consultant.
Trump’s endorsements are most effective in Republican primaries in states and districts that went for Trump in 2020, says Ayers. In 2018, then-President Trump’s endorsement of Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary for Florida governor swung the race by more than 20 points in DeSantis’ favor, Ayers says. But a Trump endorsement “doesn’t appear to be anywhere near that potent today in the wake of the post-election allegations and Jan. 6,” he says. In toss-up states, a Trump endorsement could even be a “minus,” according to Ayers, and help motivate Democratic voters. Ayers argues that Trump’s false allegations of election fraud in Georgia depressed Republican turnout during the Senate runoff late last year, allowing Democrats to win those two Senate seats. When Trump endorsed Maryland state delegate Daniel Cox as a primary challenger to Maryland’s incumbent Republican Governor Larry Hogan, Hogan wrote on Twitter, “Personally, I’d prefer endorsements from people who didn’t lose Maryland by 33 points.”
The next year will show how powerful Trump is still as he tries to influence the outcomes of local elections from New York and Arizona.