Why Justin Amash could give the GOP a headache in Michigan’s Senate race

Former Rep. Justin Amash entered the Republican primary for Michigan's open Senate race on Thursday, but he's unlikely to have much appeal with GOP voters after quitting the party due to his hostility toward Donald Trump. However, by further fracturing the non-MAGA vote, his presence in the race could open the door for a more Trumpist candidate to jump in—and leave Republicans saddled with a nominee who could cost them a shot at flipping this seat.

During the 10 years Amash represented western Michigan's 3rd Congressional District, he often found himself at odds with Republican leadership and frequently dissented by invoking beliefs he described as "libertarian." His differences with his party reached new heights, however, when he came out in support of Trump's first impeachment in 2019, making him the only Republican to do so.

Amash soon after quit the far-right House Freedom Caucus, which he had co-founded, then left the GOP to become an independent. The following year, he joined the Libertarian Party, making him the first member of Congress to ever serve under the party's banner. But with his path to reelection seemingly foreclosed in a race that already featured candidates from both major parties, Amash opted against seeking a sixth term in 2020.

Now, though, Amash apparently sees a road back to office, but even setting his many apostasies aside, he still faces a further obstacle: former Rep. Peter Meijer, the man who succeeded him in Congress. Meijer also knows what it's like to be ostracized by the Republican Party. While never the maverick Amash was, Meijer backed Trump's second impeachment in 2021 and paid the price when he lost the GOP primary to a Trump-endorsed challenger, John Gibbs, the next year. (Gibbs was defeated in the general election by Democrat Hillary Scholten.)

For that same reason, Meijer also probably is not what pro-Trump voters are looking for; in a recent poll conducted by a GOP firm, he trailed former Rep. Mike Rogers 23-7. But the problem he and Amash pose to one another is not so much their standing with Republican voters but rather that they share the same geographic base in the Grand Rapids area. Rogers, by contrast, represented turf in the central and eastern parts of the state, though he's been out of office for nearly a decade.

It's therefore Rogers who's probably happiest to see Amash jump into the race, though the National Republican Senatorial Committee may be pleased as well. The executive director of the Senate GOP's official campaign arm slammed Meijer on the record when he launched his campaign last year, saying that "the base would not be enthused" if he were the nominee, so the committee may be hoping that Amash will hold Meijer back. Indeed, an NRSC spokesperson greeted Amash's announcement by snarking, "And here we thought Peter Meijer was the biggest Trump hater in this race."

But it's just as possible that the GOP's woes have increased. Politico's Ally Mutnick reported in November that NRSC operatives were worried Meijer could "split the moderate vote with another centrist candidate, such as former Rep. Mike Rogers," and allow an extremist to capture the Republican nomination. The far-right contender that party leaders were likely worried about, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, has since dropped out, but a more formidable option could still emerge to take his place.

Amash can't be considered either a moderate or a centrist, but he'd draw from the same broader pool of primary voters who aren't aligned with Trump. And Rogers, who said in 2022 that "Trump’s time has passed" as he mulled his own presidential bid, is unlikely to scratch MAGA's itch.

Rogers, who did not end up seeking the White House, did an about-face and endorsed Trump earlier this year, but his belief that "Biden was lawfully elected to the presidency" may be too much for Big Lie believers to accommodate. Another candidate, wealthy businessman Sandy Pensler, could have his own issues with the base, as he told the Detroit News in December that he opposed passing federal laws that would roll back abortion rights, including any policies that would overturn the state's 2022 reproductive rights amendment.

But the time for a new candidate to enter the race is running short. Michigan's filing deadline is on April 23, and campaigns need to devote time and resources to make sure they have a place on the ballot.

Hunter Biden admits he put his father on speakerphone, invited him to meetings, but denies ‘involvement’

Hunter Biden admitted during his deposition Wednesday that he put his father, Joe Biden, on speakerphone with his business associates, and invited him to drop by business lunches, while maintaining that his father was never involved in his business dealings, a transcript of his testimony reviewed by Fox News Digital reveals. 

Fox News Digital obtained the transcript of Hunter Biden's highly-anticipated testimony. The first son sat for a deposition on Capitol Hill Wednesday for more than seven hours as part of the impeachment inquiry against his father. 

During his deposition, Hunter Biden testified repeatedly that his father was not involved in his business dealings. 

When pressed about testimony from his ex-business associates like Devon Archer and Rob Walker — both of whom claimed Hunter Biden put his father on speakerphone when doing business and attended business lunches and meetings — Hunter Biden testified that it was normal behavior, as he was speaking to his father, and spending time with his father. 

Archer testified before the House Oversight Committee last year that Hunter Biden put his father on speakerphone at least 20 times with business associates. 

When asked if he ever placed his father on speakerphone with his business associates, Hunter Biden testified that "certainly my dad has called me." 

"My dad calls me like I'm sure a lot of your parents do or a lot of you do with your children, and if I'm with people that are friends of mine, I'll have him say hi," he testified. 

"I'm surprised my dad hasn't called me right now, and if he did, I would put him on speakerphone to say hi to you and to Congressman Raskin and everybody else in the room," Hunter Biden said. "It is nothing nefarious literally." 

The first son detailed his relationship with his family, describing that when the president was 29 years old, "he woke up one day, went to work, and got a phone call and lost his wife and his daughter. And, in that same accident, he also lost almost my brother and myself. And then, when I was 46 years old, my 47-year-old brother died." 

"And in our family, when you have a call from -- I call him or he calls me or I call one of my -- his grandkids or one of my children, you always pick up the phone," Hunter Biden said. "It's something that we always do. And you can ask anybody that I know; it does not have to do with Devon." 

He added: "If my dad calls me and I'm in the middle of something, I either get up from the table or I answer the phone at the table if it's with people that I have a  long-term relationship with." 

As for business lunches, Hunter Biden said: "Would you call it involvement if my dad was in New York City at the same time I was in New York City and I was having lunch with some of my business associates, and I said, Hey, dad, come by for lunch?" 

"Who wouldn't do that? Are you saying that you wouldn't do that with your father if he was in town at the same time?" Hunter Biden asked investigators. 

The first son was asked explicitly about his business deals with Chinese energy company CEFC, which has been said to be linked to the Chinese Communist Party. 

Hunter Biden testified that he began his work with CEFC in the spring of 2017, and admitted that he had received money from working with CEFC, but maintained that his father was not involved. 

"I received money from a Chinese company," he said. "I don't know the exact amount, but I know that it was all completely legal, it was incredibly ethical…And I do know this:  is that my father never received any money or any benefit from any of the businesses that I've ever done." 

Biden's ex-business associate Rob Walker testified that Joe Biden met the chairman of CEFC, Ye Jianming, but Hunter Biden could not recall the meeting. 

"I do not recall the date of the meeting," he said. "And so number one is this: is that my business with CEFC, which was completely legitimate and completely, 100 percent in line with my experience and my abilities, was done when my father wasn't even in office.  He was out of office.  It had nothing to do with my father." 

He added: "My father never benefited from my business.  My father never made any decisions as it related to my business to benefit me.  My father was never financially, nor any other way, of benefit of my business. And the business that you're talking about now wasn't even when he was in office." 

Hunter Biden transcript released following impeachment testimony

WASHINGTON — First son Hunter Biden’s closed-door impeachment inquiry testimony was released Thursday — just a day after he sat for questions about President Biden’s recurring role in lucrative foreign business relationships. Hunter, 54, maintained that his 81-year-old father was not corrupt and that his own abuse of alcohol and drugs were to blame for many...
Posted in Uncategorized

Texas AG Paxton teases primary challenge to Cornyn as senator announces leadership bid

Embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, teased a potential 2026 primary challenge to Texas Sen. John Cornyn after the lawmaker announced his bid to succeed Minority Leader Mitch McConnell come November. 

Paxton took to X, formerly Twitter, Wednesday night — prior to Cornyn revealing his intention to run for leader — addressing speculation about it. Paxton said the senator would have difficulty remaining in his role "since he is anti-Trump, anti-gun, and will be focused on his highly competitive primary campaign in 2026."

Despite Paxton's claim, Cornyn endorsed former President Trump for president last month, calling on Republicans to rally around him. 


The attorney general's accusation of Cornyn being "anti-gun" is likely a reference to his involvement in crafting and bolstering the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a gun reform bill taken up following the Uvalde elementary school shooting in the Lone Star state. Cornyn pioneered the bill alongside senators Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.


Paxton didn't note in his post who would be competing against Cornyn in a primary, but he also hasn't dismissed speculation he would challenge Cornyn. Representatives for Paxton did not respond to Fox News' inquiries about a potential Senate run. 

"Republicans deserve better in their next leader and Texans deserve another conservative Senator," Paxton wrote on X. 

"Hard to run from prison, Ken," Cornyn posted to X shortly afterward, referencing Paxton's legal trouble. In April, the attorney general heads to trial on charges related to securities fraud in a case that has been delayed since an initial indictment more than eight years ago. Paxton was acquitted late last year of 16 articles of impeachment that alleged various acts of bribery and corruption following a highly publicized Texas Senate trial. 

After McConnell's surprise announcement Wednesday that he would step down as Republican Senate leader, Cornyn told reporters, "Not today," noting the day "is about Mitch McConnell." But, he added, "I've made no secret about my intentions."

On Thursday morning, the Texas Republican announced his bid for leader of the Republican conference. 

"I am asking my Republican colleagues to give me the opportunity to succeed Leader McConnell," Cornyn said in a statement. 


"I believe the Senate is broken — that is not news to anyone," he said. "The good news is that it can be fixed, and I intend to play a major role in fixing it."

Cornyn was the first to announce his campaign for the role, though several others are expected to join the race. 

Paxton responded to the news on X, posing a poll to his followers.

"John Cornyn has waved the white flag on election integrity, border security, protecting the 2nd amendment, and everything else constitutional conservatives care about. Do you think he's conservative enough to lead Republicans in the Senate?" Paxton asked. 

The poll had received more than 13,000 votes by the afternoon, with the overwhelming majority saying "No."

Cornyn's office declined to comment when reached by Fox News Digital.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to what to look for in a leadership race to succeed McConnell

It is almost too early to truly understand and divine where the votes might for someone to succeed retiring Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The reason? The universe and conditions under which Republican senators will vote next fall to pick their new leader haven’t formed yet. Yes, take a look at the three Johns: Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), former Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Even someone like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) could be in play. A source tells FOX is interested in the race. 


But beyond that, we don’t know much.

Here’s why:

We have to first know who wins the presidential election. And if 2024 is anything like 2020, we might not definitively know until week or more after the election. A delay in figuring out the winner could delay the internal secret leadership election which Senate Republicans will take in mid to late November. But the winner of the presidential election will dictate who the GOP wants – especially if former President Trump prevails and has much to say about it.

Ironically, FOX is told that the antipathy between the former President and McConnell was not a major factor in the decision-making of the Kentucky Republican to step down.


Another factor: who has control of the Senate – and by how many seats. Keep in mind we didn’t know until January 2021 as to which party would control the Senate in the last Congress.

This is why other figures may emerge. Especially dark horses. 

As I have written before, leadership elections in Congress are not "partisan politics" They are "particle politics." The person who is propelled into leadership is not always the obvious choice: Think former House Speakers John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Or even current House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).


FOX is told that some Senate Republicans are tired of what one senior Senate GOP leadership source termed a "weekly MAGA show" by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), JD Vance (R-Ohio) and others at the weekly Senate Republican Conference meetings. So if former President Trump loses and if the GOP doesn’t have control of the Senate, that could dictate who Republicans pick.

However, if Republicans prevail with a substantial majority, look at Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) as a possibility. He leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the GOP’s campaign arm. Daines has made many of the right moves so far in GOP contests. If Republicans win the Senate by a good margin, some members (especially the new ones), might be willing to give Daines a look – if he’s interested. 

The same factor could undercut Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). It’s not clear if Scott is interested. He ran unsuccessfully against McConnell in the fall of 2022. Scott led the GOP’s campaign efforts in 2022 – and Republicans failed to win the Senate. That could be an albatross for Scott and potentially inhibit him from making another run at leadership.

Watch GOP congressman get absolutely stumped trying to defend his Biden lies

Republican Rep. Tim Burchett spoke with CNN’s Boris Sanchez on Wednesday in an attempt to defend the House GOP’s bogus “investigations” into President Joe Biden and his family. Unfortunately for Burchett, Sanchez decided to be a big stickler about facts.

After Burchett lazily repeated the baseless accusations that Biden took millions of dollars for favors done on behalf of his son Hunter, Sanchez reminded the Tennessee congressman about the difference between legal and illegal.

There's a huge distinction between whether it's appropriate for the family of a president to make money off of his name and whether that's ethical. But the question is specifically about what Joe Biden did when he was in office in vice president. Whether he abused his power or whether he enriched his family members. And right now, there is zero evidence coming from the oversight committee that when he was vice president, he did either of those things.

Burchett responded by floating the mythical $20 million number that Republican House committee chairs like James Comer and Jim Jordan speak into microphones a lot, even though there is zero evidence that the Biden family received any such amount. Hunter Biden’s former business associate Devon Archer even testified that Joe Biden not only did not help his son’s new employers out, but he may have added more uncertainty to their business venture at the time.

Sanchez interrupted Burchett to say he had seen the banking records and there was no such evidence. Burchett bristled, saying, “Are you going to let me speak?” Sanchez responded, “I'm not going to let you say things that are untrue, sir.” Burchett then tried to reiterate … the exact same talking point again, so Sanchez took apart the $20 million claim. That led to this sweet exchange:

Burchett: So, listen, if you want to, you just do the interview. But you're asking me a question and I'm trying to give you an answer.

Sanchez: You're not giving me an honest answer, sir. You're repeating a talking point that has been debunked repeatedly.

What makes the GOP attacks on Biden and his family so remarkable is the utter lack of even the most tangentially circumstantial evidence. Every “star” witness has been a bust and every “bombshell” piece of evidence has not only been debunked, but frequently debunked in record time.

Campaign Action

Sen John Cornyn declares candidacy for Republican leader after McConnell steps down

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has officially entered the race to succeed Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

McConnell, 82, announced Wednesday that he plans to step away from leadership after becoming the longest-serving party leader in Senate history. Cornyn is one of McConnell's top lieutenants in the GOP conference, though he does not currently hold a leadership role. 

"I am asking my Republican colleagues to give me the opportunity to succeed Leader McConnell," said Cornyn, 72, in a statement released Thursday.  

In the developing pool of potential successors, Cornyn is frequently mentioned as one of the "three Johns" likely to next lead the conference. The other two are Sens. John Thune, R-S.D. and John Barrasso, R-Wyo. 


Of the three, Barrasso is considered the most conservative, a source familiar with Senate Republican conference discussions told Fox News Digital. Barrasso is also believed to be a more palatable option for the various factions of Republicans in the Senate who don't always see eye to eye. He notably endorsed former President Donald Trump early last month.

However, Cornyn and Thune have also endorsed Trump for re-election, and Cornyn boasts that he voted with Trump more than 92% of the time during his term in the White House. 

The Texas Republican's pitch is that he's a proven election-winner with a track-record of building consensus to advance legislation. His statement pointed to his two terms as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, during which time Republicans unseated five Democrats and positioned the conference to capture the majority in 2014. 

 "I believe the Senate is broken — that is not news to anyone. The good news is that it can be fixed, and I intend to play a major role in fixing it," Cornyn said.


To assuage criticisms from hardline Republicans over the Senate process, Cornyn pledged to "improve communication, increase transparency, and ensure inclusion of every Member's expertise and opinion." 

"We will restore the important role of Senate committees and reestablish the regular appropriations process, rather than lurch from one crisis to another. And we will return power back to our members; there will be no more backroom deals or forced votes on bills without adequate time for review, debate and amendment," Cornyn pledged. 

Those promises appear to be an answer to Sen. MIke Lee, R-Utah, one of the most conservative members of the conference and a frequent McConnell critic.

"Anyone wanting to be the next Senate GOP leader should tell Senate Republicans — as specifically as possible — how he or she would do the job differently than it’s been done since 2007," Lee posted on X after McConnell announced he would step down.


Lee demanded that the next Republican leader leverage "must-pass" spending bills to achieve conservative priorities like cutting spending and slashing regulations; that they refrain from interfering in GOP primaries against conservative candidates; and that they not "organize ambush sessions in an effort to scold and humiliate conservative senators," among other grievances hardline senators have long voiced against McConnell. 

But only a handful of senators ever sided with Lee and others against McConnell. 

When Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., challenged McConnell for leadership in 2022, the vote was 37-10 in favor of McConnell. One Republican voted "present." Some of those who reportedly voted against McConnell were Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Mike Braun, R-Ind.; Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Even so, in a field with several candidates and GOP factions at odds, 10 votes may hold a powerful sway over any senator who would be leader. Announcements come first, and then the backroom deals begin. 

Fox News' Chad Pergram and Fox News Digital's Julia Johnson and Jamie Joseph contributed to this report.

McConnell stepping down is the death rattle of the GOP’s establishment wing

When long-serving Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday he would step aside from his Senate leadership post in November, it may have seemed like a natural passing of the baton by a physically frail 82-year-old man. McConnell experienced several public health episodes last fall after suffering a concussion in early 2023. 

But in truth, McConnell's surrender is less of a baton-passing than it is a death rattle of the so-called establishment wing of the Republican Party. Ever since Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination in 2016, McConnell believed he could control Trump, using him as a tool to pack the Supreme Court with conservative extremists and pass the 2017 tax cuts, which have overwhelmingly boosted the bottom line of America's wealthiest households. 

But while McConnell was giddily ticking off his goals, Trump was stealing the party right out from under the veteran leader's nose. By the time Trump lost his November 2020 reelection bid, McConnell, facing two January runoffs in Georgia, realized that he likely couldn't save his Senate majority without Trump's army of MAGA foot soldiers. 

So McConnell began a years-long walk down the plank, fatefully embracing Trump in the Georgia Senate runoffs that resulted in twin losses to Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock and McConnell’s demotion from Senate majority leader to minority Leader. As many predicted, Trump's incessant grousing about the supposedly stolen election helped suppress Republican turnout in the runoffs, ultimately reducing McConnell's final years in leadership to permanent minority status.   

McConnell had several golden opportunities to write a different epitaph for his career. On Jan. 6, 2021—the day after Georgia voters handed McConnell his walking papers as Senate leader—Trump and his followers executed a deadly attack on the U.S. seat of government, providing McConnell a fresh chance to nail shut Trump's future in U.S. politics. 

But McConnell, the highly vaunted political tactician, misread the politics, believing Trump to be "a fading brand," according to reporting by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book, “Peril.”

“There is a clear trend moving,” McConnell predicted, toward a Republican Party that isn't dominated by Trump. “Sucking up to Donald Trump is not a strategy that works,” he added.

But suck up he did. After House Democrats impeached Trump with seven days left in his term, McConnell, still majority leader, delayed the Senate impeachment trial until after Jan. 20, when Democrats took control of the White House and the upper chamber, with the vice president giving Democrats the tie-breaking vote.

McConnell, who didn't lift a finger to help end the country's long national nightmare, reportedly reveled in the idea that Republicans could just follow Democrats' lead. “The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us,” McConnell told two of his Kentucky confidants on Jan. 11.

Of course, Trump's conviction would take 17 Republican votes in addition to the 50 that Senate Democrats provided. And while McConnell eventually paid lip service to the idea that Trump was "practically and morally responsible" for the Jan. 6 riot, he cravenly declined to twist enough arms to muster GOP support for Trump's conviction. The fact that McConnell himself ended up voting to acquit Trump was just icing on the cake. 

McConnell likely figured he could live with one more humiliation on the way to reclaiming the Senate majority in the 2022 midterms, where Republicans had several good pick-up opportunities and history suggested Democrats, with unilateral control of Washington, were doomed. 

In fact, at the same confab where McConnell dubbed Trump a "fading brand," he also imagined mounting fierce opposition to his arch rival if he supported a crop of unelectable losers.

“The only place I can see Trump and me actually at loggerheads would be if he gets behind some clown who clearly can’t win,” McConnell said. “To have a chance of getting the Senate back, you have to have the most electable candidates possible.”

But by October 2021, McConnell would find himself eagerly endorsing the laughably unfit former Georgia football star Herschel Walker as "the only one who can unite the party, defeat Senator Warnock, and help us take back the Senate." 

McConnell and his allies had mounted a feeble public campaign to encourage Walker to sit the cycle out. But in the end, they folded to Trump and embraced his guy, who proved to be an electoral loser alongside a handful of other Trump picks for Senate. 

After entering the midterm cycle with a lot of hope and bluster, Senate Republicans not only failed to pick up a single seat in the supposed year of the "red wave," they actually lost a seat when another MAGA extremist fell short of keeping an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania. 

Fast-forward to today, and Trump's takeover of the Republican Party is nearly complete. Trump is set to handily win the Republican nomination with the steadfast support of his MAGA base. He effectively owns the Republican National Committee, recently engineering the ouster of chair Ronna McDaniel and pushing for his own daughter-in-law to take the helm. He has sucked up the party's small-dollar donations while hobbling the party committees' fundraising appeals to big-dollar donors. He has overtaken the infrastructure of state parties, even as some continue to be consumed by internecine warfare.

All the while, McConnell's resistance to Trump has faded. When Trump recently attacked a bipartisan border deal negotiated by a close McConnell ally, the minority leader acquiesced, helping to kill the deal himself

And despite McConnell's avid support of Ukraine’s fight for sovereignty against Russia, Trump and his congressional allies have so far succeeded in blocking and indefinitely delaying a new round of U.S. aid for the effort.

What is perhaps most clear as McConnell prepares to hand the reins to a new generation of leaders is that Senate Republicans, the last bastion of the old GOP guard, are now on a glide path to resembling House Republicans. Not only have many Senate Republicans embraced MAGA policy tenets such as isolationism, they are adopting MAGA tactics, making the caucus more ungovernable with each passing month. In essence, the less McConnell has led, the less his conference has become capable of being led. 

When veteran Democratic leader and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced late last year that she and her leadership team would step down, she left House Democrats in very good hands—with a succession plan, a capable leadership team on deck, and a wealth of legislative accomplishments to campaign on as they fight to win back the majority in November. 

Pelosi not only left her conference better off, she had done her level best to safeguard the institution of which the leadership had been entrusted to her. And when Democrats are in charge, the House is still functional, even with the slimmest of majorities. 

When McConnell steps aside later this year, he will leave behind a conference, an institution, and a party in disarray—and he will be complicit in having either actively or passively gutted the integrity of all three. 

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: How Trumpists could win a top elections post in a key swing state

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

From Daily Kos Elections' Jeff Singer:

The Downballot

The first downballot primaries of 2024 are here! We're previewing some of Tuesday's biggest races on this week's episode of "The Downballot" with Daily Kos Elections editor Jeff Singer. Singer highlights major elections in four states, including the battle for second place in California's Senate contest; whether Democrats will avoid a lockout in a critical California House district; if the worst Republican election fraudster in recent years will successfully stage a comeback in North Carolina; and how Alabama's new map will affect not one but two House races.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also shake their heads in dismay at New York Democrats, who just unilaterally disarmed in the face of extreme GOP gerrymandering nationwide by passing a new congressional map that barely makes any changes to the status quo. The Davids emphasize that as long as Republicans keep blocking Democratic efforts to ban gerrymandering, Democrats have no choice but to fight fire with fire. Yet in New York, they grabbed the fire extinguisher.

Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time. New episodes every Thursday morning!


KY-Sen: Sen. Mitch McConnell announced on Wednesday that he would relinquish his role as the GOP's Senate leader in November, ending his tenure as the chamber's longest-serving party leader.

The 82-year-old McConnell has faced questions about his health following two televised incidents in 2023 in which he froze while speaking publicly, but he indicated he intends to remain in the Senate until his term ends in 2027. Were McConnell to leave early, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear would be required to name another Republican in his seat after state lawmakers passed a law requiring same-party appointments in the event of vacancies in 2021.

First elected in 1984, McConnell has led Republicans in the upper chamber since early 2007, including six years as majority leader between 2015 and 2021. McConnell's tenure as leader coincided with a historic escalation in Republican obstruction tactics and norm-breaking.

But despite blockading Senate Democrats' agenda and enabling Donald Trump at nearly every step, McConnell earned the ire of diehard Trump supporters by blaming him for the Jan. 6 attack, though he ultimately voted not to convict Trump following his second impeachment. Nonetheless, McConnell won his final term as leader last year by a 37-10 margin among Senate Republicans.

MI-Sen: Great Lakes Conservative Fund, a super PAC that's supporting former Rep. Mike Rogers with a $2 million ad buy ahead of the Aug. 6 Republican primary, has released a poll from TargetPoint showing Rogers with a 32-12 lead against former Rep. Peter Meijer.


CO-08: Weld County Commissioner Scott James announced Tuesday that he was dropping out of the June GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo. James' departure leaves state Rep. Gabe Evans, who has the support of House Speaker Mike Johnson, as the Republican frontrunner. Thanks to self-funding, though, health insurance consultant Joe Andujo finished 2023 with a $203,000 to $186,000 cash on hand advantage over Evans.

Joe Biden would have carried Colorado's 8th District, which is based in the northern Denver suburbs and Greeley area, 51-46 in 2020, but Republicans are hoping that Caraveo's tight 48.4-47.7 win after the district was established following reapportionment foreshadows another close contest. Caraveo, though, ended last year with a hefty $1.4 million on hand to defend herself.

LA-03: The newsletter LaPolitics suggests that Rep. Garret Graves could try to extend his political career by challenging Rep. Clay Higgins, a fellow Republican, in the November all-party primary for Louisiana's 3rd District, though the item notes that such a notion is still "[s]peculation." The latest version of this constituency, which is based in the southwestern part of the state, would have supported Donald Trump 70-28.

Following court-ordered redistricting, Graves' 6th District became unwinnable for him, but the congressman has insisted he won't retire. However, he's all but ruled out running against Rep. Julia Letlow, another Republican, in the 5th District, and according to calculations from Daily Kos Elections, he currently represents just 10% of Higgins' revised 3rd.

MN-02: Marine veteran Tyler Kistner, who had already sounded unlikely to wage a third campaign against Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, has confirmed that he won't run again. Former federal prosecutor Joe Teirab and attorney Tayler Rahm are both still seeking the GOP nod, though Teirab ended 2023 with a notable $269,000 to $76,000 cash on hand advantage.

Craig finished the year with $2.2 million available to defend a suburban Twin Cities seat that favored Joe Biden 53-45 in 2020.

MT-02: Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale announced Wednesday that he would seek reelection to Montana's safely red 2nd District, a move that came two weeks after he dropped out of the June primary to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.

Eight Republicans had launched bids to replace Rosendale when it looked like he'd campaign for the Senate, and while several of them insisted earlier this month that they were willing to run against him, it remains to be seen how many of them will continue now that they know they'll have to take on an incumbent. It only takes a simple plurality to win the nomination, so a crowded field would likely benefit Rosendale.

House GOP leaders may, however, be hoping that someone puts up a strong fight against Rosendale, a Freedom Caucus member who was one of the eight House Republicans who voted to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Donald Trump, though, might still have his back: Trump wrote on Feb. 10 that, while he was backing wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy for Senate, "I always respect Matt Rosendale, and was very happy to Endorse him in the past and will Endorse him again in the future, should he decide to change course and run for his congressional seat."

The congressman used his Wednesday announcement to say that he was also supporting Sheehy, whom Rosendale attacked as a puppet of "the uniparty" and "a candidate who profited off Biden’s Green New Deal" during what turned out to be a seven-day Senate campaign.

NY Redistricting: Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a new congressional map into law on Wednesday, hours after Democratic lawmakers approved it. We recently detailed the likely partisan impacts of the new map, which closely resembles a proposal from the state's redistricting commission that Democratic legislators rejected earlier in the week.

While many observers had expected (or hoped) that Democrats would draw an aggressive gerrymander, their new map made only modest changes to the commission's map—so modest that state GOP chair Ed Cox said his party had "no need" to sue because the "lines are not materially different from" the court-drawn map used in 2022.

That sentiment was shared by former Rep. John Faso, who helped lead the successful legal challenge to the map that Democrats passed two years ago. The map even received votes from more than a dozen Republican lawmakers, including Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay.

Democrats also sent a bill to Hochul that would limit where redistricting lawsuits could be filed to just one of four blue counties—Albany, Erie, New York (Manhattan), or Westchester—to prevent Republicans from shopping for a favorable Republican judge, as they were accused of doing in their previous lawsuit. However, given the response from Republicans so far, that legislation may not ultimately matter for the new map.

NY-01: Former state Sen. Jim Gaughran has endorsed former CNN anchor John Avlon in the June Democratic primary for New York's 1st Congressional District, one day after Gaughran ended his own campaign. Two other notable Democrats are running to take on first-term GOP Rep. Nick LaLotta: Nancy Goroff, who was the party's nominee in 2020, and former congressional staffer Kyle Hill.

NY-03: Air Force veteran Kellen Curry tells Politico that he's considering running for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi. Curry spent months challenging then-Rep. George Santos and raised $432,000 from donors before party leaders tapped another Republican, Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip, for the Feb. 13 special election.

The GOP field already includes two other Republicans who originally campaigned against Santos, Air Force veteran Greg Hach and Security Traders Association president Jim Toes. Hach informs Politico that he's going to self-fund $1 million. There is no indication that Toes, who only raised $100,000 during his first effort, has similar abilities.

The November election will take place under slightly different lines than the recent special. New York's Democratic governor and legislature just approved a new congressional map that makes modest changes to the 3rd District, increasing Joe Biden's margin of victory from 54-45 to 55-44.

OH-09: J.R. Majewski announced Wednesday that he'd remain in the March 19 Republican primary, a move that came less than a day after the toxic 2022 nominee told Politico he was considering ending his second campaign to take on Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Majewski even titled his mid-week press release "J.R. Majewski (Almost) Suspends Campaign for Congress" while still expressing defiance toward the GOP establishment.

TX-32: The crypto-aligned PAC Protect Progress has spent close to $1 million to promote state Rep. Julie Johnson ahead of next week's Democratic primary, according to data from OpenSecrets. Johnson, who was the first Texas legislator with a same-sex spouse, has also benefited from $266,000 in support from Equality PAC, which is affiliated with the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus.

The only other candidate who's getting notable outside backing is trauma surgeon Brian Williams, an Air Force veteran who has received $210,000 in aid from the Principled Veterans Fund. Johnson and Williams have significantly outraised the other eight Democrats competing to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred in this safely blue Dallas seat.

TX-34: The Texas Tribune's Matthew Choi writes that Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez appears to be meddling in next week's GOP primary by sending out mailers labeling former Rep. Mayra Flores "the weakest Republican and the easiest to defeat this November" and calling little-known foe Greg Kunkle a supporter of the "MAGA AGENDA." However, neither the congressman nor any outside groups seem to be doing much else to boost Kunkle, who hasn't reported raising any money.

Two other Republicans are also on the ballot, though neither of them appears to be a serious threat to Flores. Gonzalez, for his part, insists to Choi that he genuinely believes that Flores, whom he beat 53-44 last cycle, would be his weakest possible foe.

Ballot Measures

AK Ballot: Alaska election officials said this week that the campaign to repeal the state's top-four primary system has collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot this year, though it's not yet clear when. The Alaska Beacon says that the timing of the vote will depend on whether the legislature adjourns before or after April 22. If lawmakers end their session before that date, the measure would appear on the Aug. 20 primary ballot, while a later adjournment would move the vote to Nov. 5.

Mayors & County Leaders

Bridgeport, CT Mayor: Mayor Joe Ganim won reelection Tuesday 59-38 against former city official John Gomes, a fellow Democrat who ran under the banner of the state Independent Party, in their fourth and final contest over the last six months. You can find the backstory to Bridgeport's prolonged election season here.

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action