Freedom Caucus member quits House after complaining Congress is ‘so broken’

Republican Rep. Mark Green, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, unexpectedly announced Wednesday that he would retire after just three terms representing Tennessee's 7th District.

Green, a hardliner who rose to national infamy in 2017 after Donald Trump tried to name him secretary of the Army, was eligible under GOP rules to serve two more terms as the top Republican on this powerful panel, which makes his departure all the more surprising. But he explained his decision by emphasizing his dissatisfaction with Congress.

"There's also just the frustration of trying to get something done here," he told Axios. "This place is so broken, and making a difference here is just you know, just it feels like a lot of something for nothing." Green is a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, which has played a central role in fomenting dysfunction on Capitol Hill.

Whoever replaces Green, though, likely won't be much different. His constituency, which includes western Nashville as well as nearby suburbs and further-flung rural areas, backed Donald Trump 56-41, so the winner of the Aug. 1 Republican primary will be the favorite to succeed him. The candidate filing deadline is April 4.

Green, who served as an Army medic in the 2003 mission that led to Saddam Hussein's capture, was elected to the state Senate in 2012 by unseating Democratic incumbent Tim Barnes 53-47 as Mitt Romney was taking his seat 55-44.

Once in office, Green spent his time attacking Muslims and LGBTQ+ people. He declared in 2016, "If you poll the psychiatrists, they're going to tell you transgender is a disease."

And in a speech to tea partiers the following year that soon became infamous, the senator said that he would "not tolerate" teaching the "pillars of Islam" in textbooks. He also specifically told an attendee who raised fears of armed violence from people who "don't belong here, like Muslims in the United States" that he'd asked a "great question."

Green launched a bid for governor in 2017, but he dropped out a few months later, after Trump nominated him to become the Army's top civilian official. However, Green's history of ugly rhetoric was too much for even the Republican-led Senate, and he had to withdraw his nomination.

The episode was anything but a career-ender, though. Green soon entered the race to replace Rep. Marsha Blackburn after she kicked off what would prove to be a successful Senate campaign, and no one ended up opposing him in the primary for her safely red House seat.

After easily winning the general election, the incoming congressman once made the sort of news he'd become known for by advancing a conspiracy theory claiming that the Centers for Disease Control was hiding data on a link between vaccines and autism.

Even before he was sworn in, the new congressman-elect began considering a bid to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander around that same time, but he ultimately decided to stay put. Green, who exchanged messages with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about overturning the 2020 election in the months after Joe Biden won, never had trouble winning reelection.

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Tennessee GOP twists rules into pretzel to protect scandal-plagued incumbent from challengers

The leadership of the Tennessee Republican Party narrowly voted over the weekend to implement rules that the Tennessee Journal's Erik Schelzig reports could keep several would-be primary foes for freshman Rep. Andy Ogles off the Aug. 1 ballot.

Schelzig adds that these new by-laws had been set take effect in 2026, but the party's executive committee voted 32-29 to start enforcing them this cycle even though some members "conceded they didn’t understand entirely what they were voting on."

Under the new plan, hopefuls who want to compete for any GOP nomination this year must have voted in three of the party's last four primaries, which is similar to requirements that were already in place.

However, anyone who cast a ballot in the Democratic primary during this timeframe would not be allowed to run under the Republican banner even if they participated in the other three GOP contests. Another new rule also prevents any person who's sued the state party from appearing on the primary ballot over the next decade.

Those changes are all unwelcome news for the would-be campaigns of businessman Baxter Lee and music video producer Robby Starbuck, two undeclared candidates who both failed a less-stringent version of this test in 2022 when they tried to run for this same seat.

Lee's problem this time is that he voted in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, a choice he claims he made in order to "help secure the best match-up for President Trump." Starbuck, meanwhile, unsuccessfully sued the party last cycle because he hadn't lived in the state long enough to meet yet another of the party's requirements.

Schelzig says that both Lee and Starbuck had been considering taking on Ogles, who currently has no credible intra-party opposition ahead of the April 4 filing deadline. Ogles has been the subject of unflattering investigative coverage by WTVF's Phil Williams throughout the year.

Williams first reported in February that Ogles appears to have fabricated large portions of his life story, and in November he questioned how the congressman could have self-funded $320,000 in 2022 when he did not report having so much as a savings account on mandatory financial disclosures. The 5th District in Middle Tennessee favored Trump 54-43 under the gerrymander the GOP legislature passed last cycle.

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New York Democrats rally around legislator for House special election, but a primary challenge looms

Democratic leaders in the Buffalo area voted Thursday to select New York state Sen. Tim Kennedy as their nominee in the as-yet-unscheduled special election to replace Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat who has said he'll resign in the first week of February to lead a local cultural center. But while Kennedy is on a glide path to succeed Higgins in the 26th Congressional District, which favored Joe Biden 61-37 in 2020, he's likely to face a familiar name in the June 25 primary for a full term.

Former Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, who twice came unexpectedly close to flipping the now-defunct 27th District, announced Tuesday that he'd run for the constituency that Higgins is giving up. McMurray, who has a fraught relationship with local party insiders, acknowledged to the Buffalo News that there was little chance they'd select him as the party's standard-bearer. (There are no primaries in New York special elections.)

However, McMurray also told the paper he plans to keep campaigning through the summer primary. "Do I think it will be a quick thing? No," he said. "I think it’s going to be a fight and a struggle." The former supervisor, though, argued he felt compelled to run because of the danger Donald Trump poses to American democracy. "I think the people in Western New York know, if we have another insurrection, they’re going to want Nate McMurray in the room when it happens," he said.

McMurray also took Kennedy to task for opposing abortion rights earlier in his career. "I was pro-abortion in the middle of the reddest district in New York State," said McMurray, “but I am somehow blasphemous because I want to have open discussions and open debate about the future of the community." Kennedy made news in 2014 when he announced that his positions had "evolved," a shift that NARAL Pro-Choice New York praised as "wonderful."

Both Kennedy and McMurray have experience competing in tough races, though the former has enjoyed considerably more success. Kennedy, a longtime Higgins ally, earned an appointment to the Erie County Legislature in 2004, where he joined a bipartisan coalition that backed Republican County Executive Chris Collins. But Kennedy campaigned from the left in 2010 when he waged a primary challenge to state Sen. William Stachowski, a 28-year incumbent who opposed a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage.

Kennedy won in a 63-26 landslide, but he faced a difficult general election battle against both Republican Assemblyman Jack Quinn and Stachowski, who continued to run as the nominee of the Independence Party. Kennedy, however, had the support of the Conservative Party, which usually supports Republicans (candidates in New York can accept multiple parties' nominations), and its backing helped him win a tight contest despite that year's GOP wave.

Kennedy wound up turning back Quinn 47-45, with the balance going to Stachowski. The following year, Kennedy voted for a successful bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the Empire State and said wouldn't seek the Conservative Party's nomination to avoid putting it in a "touchy situation."

Kennedy never again had to worry about a competitive general election, but he had to fight to win his primary in 2012 against Erie County Legislature Minority Leader Betty Jean Grant. Grant, whose longtime antipathy toward Kennedy was reciprocal, went after him for his old alliance with Collins, the Republican county leader. The seat, which was redrawn after the 2010 census, also was home to a large Black electorate, which was a factor in the contest between the white incumbent and his Black challenger. After Kennedy won the primary 50.3-49.7―a margin of just 156 votes―Grant soon made it clear she'd seek a rematch.

Their 2014 battle was an expensive and closely watched affair. Grant, who was close to Erie County Democratic Chair Jeremy Zellner, also had the support of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway faction that allowed the Republican minority to remain in control of the state Senate—an ironic state of affairs given her attacks on Kennedy for his cooperation with Collins. Kennedy, though, prevailed 60-40, and he never again faced a serious threat.

McMurray emerged on the national political scene a few years later, when he challenged Collins in 2018. The Republican, who had lost reelection as executive in 2011 to Democrat Mark Poloncarz, had bounced back the following year by unseating future Gov. Kathy Hochul in the 27th Congressional District, and he appeared secure in a seat that had favored Donald Trump 60-35 in 2016.

But Collins' grasp on New York's reddest House seat was threatened after he was accused of insider trading and grew weaker still after he was indicted just months before the 2018 election. McMurray ran a strong campaign against the scandal-tarred congressman, but Collins held on 49.1-48.7 after he ran a xenophobic campaign ad showing footage of the Democrat speaking Korean.

Collins, however, resigned the following year as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, prompting a special election in June of 2020. The GOP selected Chris Jacobs as its nominee, but despite lacking Collins' taint, he beat McMurray by an underwhelming 51-46 margin. Their November rematch, though, ended with a 60-39 victory for Jacobs as Trump was taking his district 57-41. Collins, meanwhile, soon received a pardon from Trump after serving just two months of what was supposed to be a 26-month prison sentence.

McMurray announced in January of 2023 that he'd challenge Poloncarz in that year's primary for county executive, but he dropped out the following month. The former supervisor published a series of tweets charging that "the party machine" had made "a legitimate primary (from someone like me) nearly impossible." He made it clear this week his opposition to local insiders would be a centerpiece of his newest effort.

Just over 10% of the 26th's denizens live within the boundaries of the old 27th, but the district could soon be transformed. New York's highest court recently ordered the state's bipartisan redistricting commission to draw a new congressional map, but several steps remain before a new map can be finalized. However, the special election to replace Higgins will take place under the current district lines, which were used in 2022.

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Will Utah Republicans nominate another Mitt Romney—or another Mike Lee?

Candidate filing closed Monday in Utah, and the state has a list of contenders here. However, hopefuls have a lot of work to do first to ensure they're even on the June 25 primary ballot.

The Beehive State allows candidates to advance to the primary either by collecting signatures or by taking more than 40% of the vote at a party's convention, though they're allowed to try both methods. None of the candidates we discuss below, however, are pursuing the signatures-only option. Both Democrats and Republicans will hold their respective conventions on April 27.

UT-Sen: The Republican contest to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Mitt Romney will be the most closely watched affair in the state this year, with 11 candidates competing for the nomination. The early frontrunners appear to be Rep. John Curtis and former state House Speaker Brad Wilson, and they're each planning to both gather petitions and take part in the convention. (Candidates must reveal their intentions when they file by checking off one of three boxes.)

But a few other notable Republicans are also in the hunt. Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs was campaigning against Romney from the right before the incumbent decided to retire, though he's struggled to raise money. Meanwhile, conservative activist Carolyn Phippen and attorney Brent Hatch, who is the son of the late Sen. Orrin Hatch, both launched campaigns following Romney's retirement announcement. All three are competing at the convention, while Hatch is the only one of this trio who is also collecting signatures.

The biggest question looming over the race is whether Republicans nominate a candidate in the mold of Romney or someone more like the state's other senator, the far-right Mike Lee. Curtis, a one-time Democrat who at times has criticized GOP extremists and called for protecting the environment, comes closest in temperament to the outgoing incumbent. Staggs and Phippen, by contrast, would fit in with election deniers like Ted Cruz and Rick Scott. (Phippen herself is a former Lee aide.)

Wilson, who is self-funding much of his campaign, might be somewhere in between. The former speaker oversaw the passage of anti-abortion legislation, but he also helped stop the legislature from formally rebuking Romney in 2020 for his vote to convict Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial. Hatch, who doesn't have a record in public office, is more of a blank slate, though he does serve as treasurer of the hardline Federalist Society.

Democrats haven't held a Senate seat in Utah since Frank Moss left office following his 1976 loss against Hatch, and both parties are focusing their efforts on more competitive states. But Democrats did land a candidate with an unusual background shortly before filing closed when Caroline Gleich, a professional ski mountaineer who summited Mount Everest in 2019, entered the race.

UT-Gov: Republican Gov. Spencer Cox, who is one of the party's few prominent Trump skeptics still in elected office anywhere in the country, faces notable intra-party opposition on his right from both state Rep. Phil Lyman and former state party chair Carson Jorgensen. All three are taking part in the convention, though only Cox and Lyman are also gathering signatures. Two little-known Republicans have also filed.

The only Democrat in the race is state Rep. Brian King, who finished an eight-year stint as minority leader in early 2023. The last Democrat to win this office was Scott Matheson in 1980.

UT-02: Republican Rep. Celeste Maloy won a November special election to replace her old boss, former Rep. Chris Stewart, but now she faces two intra-party foes in her first reelection campaign: Green Beret veteran Colby Jenkins and perennial candidate Ty Jensen. As she did in the special, Maloy is depending on party delegates to place her on the ballot, while Jenkins and Jensen are trying both the convention and signature routes. Donald Trump carried this district 57-40 in 2020, while Maloy prevailed 57-34 in last year's general election.

UT-03: Rep. John Curtis announced he would run for the Senate less than a week before candidate filing closed, but 10 fellow Republicans have stepped forward to replace him. This constituency, which includes Provo, southeastern Salt Lake City, and the rural southeastern part of the state, favored Donald Trump 57-38 in 2020.

All of the Republicans who filed plan to compete at the convention, and the following seven will also gather petitions:

  • Roosevelt Mayor Rod Bird

  • Perennial candidate Lucky Bovo

  • Former Senate aide Kathryn Dahlin

  • State Auditor John Dougall

  • Some Dude Clayton Hunsaker

  • Businessman Case Lawrence

  • Former state party chair Stewart Peay

The three who are only going with the convention route are former state Rep. Chris Herrod, state Sen. Mike Kennedy, and Utah Young Republicans chairman Zac Wilson.

Herrod unsuccessfully campaigned against Curtis three times: in the 2017 special election, in 2018, and again in 2022. The former state representative outpaced the congressman, who did not collect signatures in 2022, 55-45 in their most recent convention matchup, which put him close to knocking Curtis out of contention. The congressman, however, went on to prevail 70-30 in the primary.

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Texas Democrats are challenging all three Republicans on Supreme Court who denied emergency abortion

Filing closed Dec. 11 for Texas' March 5 primary, though there's a quick: Candidates file with their respective political parties, which had an additional five days to send final lists to the secretary of state. That means we can now take a comprehensive look at who is running in the major contests.

Texas may be the second-largest state in the union, but as far as House races are concerned, most of the action will be confined to the primaries (and, in contests where no candidate takes a majority, May 28 runoffs). That's because Republicans enacted a very precise defensive gerrymander following the most recent census, opting to make competitive GOP-held districts safely red rather than aim for further gains by targeting Democratic seats.

You'll also want to bookmark our calendar of every filing deadline, primary, and runoff for the 2024 elections. One person we're very sure does not use our calendar is Donald Trump, who on Monday night called for someone to challenge GOP Rep. Chip Roy for renomination in the 21st District. "If interested, let me know!!!" Trump wrote a week after it was too late for anyone to take him up on his offer. Roy, who appears to have pissed off his party's supreme leader by campaigning with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is unopposed in March.

TX Supreme Court: Partisan control of Texas' all-Republican, nine-member Supreme Court isn't at stake, but progressives are hoping that the trio of justices up in 2024 will pay a price for their unanimous ruling rejecting Kate Cox's petition for an emergency abortion. Cox, who said her fetus suffered from fatal abnormalities and posed a risk to her own health, left the state to undergo the procedure in a case that continues to attract national attention.

Each of the three Republicans faces at least one Democratic foe in their respective statewide race. Justice John Devine is being challenged by Harris County District Judge Christine Weems, who narrowly won reelection last year in Texas' largest county. Two pairs of Democrats, meanwhile, are competing to take on each of the other incumbents.

Going up against Justice Jimmy Blacklock are Harris County District Judge DaSean Jones, who last year survived an extremely tight reelection contest, and attorney Randy Sarosdy. And in the race to unseat Justice Jane Bland are Court of Appeals Judge Bonnie Lee Goldstein, who prevailed in a close 2020 race in the Dallas area, and Judge Joe Pool, who has run for the Supreme Court in the past as a Republican but won a local judgeship last year in Hays County as a Democrat.

TX-Sen: Ten Democrats have filed to take on Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, though Rep. Colin Allred ended September with a huge financial advantage over the entire primary field. However, a new survey from YouGov on behalf of the University of Texas and Texas Politics Project finds that many primary voters have yet to make up their minds with about two-and-a-half months to go.

Allred leads state Sen. Roland Gutierrez 28-7, who is the only other Democrat who had at least a six-figure war chest at the end of the third quarter. Two other notable options, state Rep. Carl Sherman and former Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez, were at just 2% each. A 38% plurality volunteered they "haven't thought about it enough to have an opinion," while another 10% answered "don't know." Spending has yet to begin in earnest, however, so this state of affairs should soon change.

TX-03: Freshman Rep. Keith Self faces a GOP primary rematch against businesswoman Suzanne Harp, whom he outpaced in a truly strange 2022 contest. Harp, though, finished September with less than $5,000 in the bank, so she's unlikely to be much of a threat. Three other Republicans are also running for this Plano-based seat that Donald Trump took 56-42.

TX-04: GOP Rep. Pat Fallon is running for reelection after waging a bizarre one-day campaign to return to the state Senate, but he seems to be in for a soft landing. Fallon faces just one little-known primary foe in a safely red seat based in the northeastern Dallas exurbs.

TX-07: Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher's only intraparty foe in this safely blue seat is Pervez Agwan, a renewable energy developer whose challenge from the left has been overshadowed in recent weeks by sexual harassment allegations.

The Houston Landing reported this month that one of Agwan's former staffers is suing him for allegedly trying to kiss her; the candidate responded by insinuating that the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC was involved in the lawsuit, but he did not produce any evidence to back it up his claim. The New Republic later reported that 11 staffers resigned in October from Agwan's campaign, which it described as an environment "where multiple women faced frequent sexual harassment from senior staff."

TX-12: Longtime Rep. Kay Granger is retiring from this conservative seat in western Fort Worth and its western suburbs, and five fellow Republicans are competing to succeed her. The early frontrunner is state House Republican Caucus Chair Craig Goldman, who has the support of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Another name to watch is businessman John O'Shea, who began running well before Granger announced her departure in November. However, while O'Shea has the support of Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom Goldman voted to impeach earlier this year, he ended the third quarter with a mere $20,000 in the bank.

Also in the running is businesswoman Shellie Gardner, the self-proclaimed "Queen of Christmas Lights." (Gardner says her business has spent nearly two decades "supplying Christmas lights across the country, including the United States Capitol Christmas Tree.") Two other lesser-known Republicans round out the field.

TX-15: Freshman GOP Rep. Monica De La Cruz faces a rematch against businesswoman Michelle Vallejo, whom she beat 53-45 last year after major Democratic groups spent almost nothing on the race. Donald Trump won this seat in the Rio Grande Valley 51-48 in 2020. The incumbent ended September with a huge $1.4 million to $184,000 cash on hand lead.

Vallejo herself drew a familiar intra-party opponent on the final day of filing from attorney John Villarreal Rigney. Vallejo edged out Rigney 20-19 for second place in the 2022 primary, while Army veteran Ruben Ramirez took first with 28%, though Vallejo went on to narrowly beat Ramirez in the runoff.

TX-18: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee announced she would seek a 16th term just two days after she was blown out by state Sen. John Whitmire, a fellow Democrat, in Houston's mayoral race, but she faces a challenging renomination fight in this safely blue seat.

Former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, who once was a Jackson Lee intern, began campaigning after the congresswoman kicked off her bid for mayor and pledged to stay in the race even if the incumbent ultimately were to run for reelection—a promise she's kept. Edwards finished September with a hefty $829,000 banked, around four times as much as Jackson Lee reported. A third candidate named Rob Slater is also in, and his presence could prevent either Jackson Lee or Edwards from claiming a majority.

TX-23: GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales faces four primary foes in a sprawling West Texas seat that went 53-46 for Trump, one of whom has attracted some attention. Two Democrats are also running, though neither has earned much notice.

Gunmaker Brandon Herrera, who has over 3 million subscribers on his "The AK Guy" YouTube channel, finished September with $240,000 in the bank, which was far more than any of Gonzales' other intra-party challengers. Those hopefuls include former ICE official Victor Avila, Medina County GOP Chair Julie Clark, and Frank Lopez, who claimed 5% as an independent in last year's general election.

Gonzales infuriated hardliners by confirming Joe Biden's victory in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack and later supporting gun safety legislation after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, which took place in his district. The state GOP responded to his apostasies in March by censuring him, a move that bars him from receiving party help until after any runoffs take place. Gonzales may not care, though, since he ended the third quarter with $1.7 million to spend.

TX-26: Rep. Michael Burgess announced his retirement shortly before Thanksgiving, and 11 fellow Republicans want to replace him in a safely red seat located in the northern Fort Worth suburbs and exurbs.

Donald Trump is supporting far-right media figure Brandon Gill, who is the son-in-law of MAGA toady Dinesh D'Souza. Gill also recently earned the backing of the like-minded House Freedom Caucus, which is capable of spending serious money in primaries.

Southlake Mayor John Huffman, meanwhile, picked up the support of 24th District Rep. Beth Van Duyne, who serves a neighboring seat. And in a blast from the past, former Denton County Judge Scott Armey is also in the running, more than two decades after losing a nasty 2002 runoff to Burgess. (Armey is the son of former Majority Leader Dick Armey, who was Burgess' immediate predecessor.)

Also in the running is Luisa Del Rosal, who previously served as chief of staff to 23rd District Rep. Tony Gonzales. The fourth quarter fundraising numbers, which are due at the end of January, will provide clues as to whether any of the other seven Republicans are capable of waging a serious effort.

TX-28: Rep. Henry Cuellar, who is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, does not face any intraparty opposition this year, following narrow back-to-back wins against progressive Jessica Cisneros. Joe Biden carried this seat, which includes Laredo and the eastern San Antonio suburbs, 53-46.

Cuellar turned back a well-funded general election rival by a comfortable 57-43 margin in 2022, so it remains to be seen if any of his four Republican foes are capable of giving him a scare this time. The candidate who has attracted the most attention so far is Jose Sanz, who is a former Cuellar staffer. Not all the attention has been welcome, though, as the Texas Tribune reported in October that the Republican was arrested for throwing a chair at his sister in 2021; the case was eventually dismissed after Sanz performed community service and attended batterer intervention classes.

TX-32: Ten Democrats are competing to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred in a diverse northern Dallas constituency that Republicans made safely blue in order to protect GOP incumbents elsewhere in the area.

The two early frontrunners appear to be state Rep. Julie Johnson, whose 2018 victory made her the first Texas legislator with a same-sex spouse, and Brian Williams, the trauma surgeon who attracted national attention in 2016 after he treated Dallas police officers wounded by a sniper. Williams finished September with a $525,000 to $404,000 cash lead over Johnson; the only other Democrat with a six-figure campaign account was Raja Chaudhry, a charter bus company owner who self-funded his entire $266,000 war chest.

Also in the running are Alex Cornwallis, who was the party's 2022 nominee for a seat on the state Board of Education; former Dallas City Council member Kevin Felder; and civil rights attorney Justin Moore.

TX-34: Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez is in for a rematch against former GOP Rep. Mayra Flores, whom he convincingly beat 53-44 in an unusual incumbent vs. incumbent contest last year. Gonzalez finished September with a $944,000 to $230,000 advantage in cash on hand.

Three other Republicans are also running, including wealthy perennial candidate Mauro Garza, but none of them appear to pose much of a threat to Flores. Joe Biden won this seat in the eastern Rio Grande Valley 57-42.

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GOP nominee in Santos special has unique biography but one troublesome photo

Multiple media outlets reported Thursday that Republican leaders have chosen Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip to be their nominee for the Feb. 13 special election to succeed expelled GOP Rep. George Santos, with an official announcement set for the following day.

Pilip would take on former Rep. Tom Suozzi, who was awarded the Democratic nomination last week. (Primary voters in New York do not select nominees in special elections.) The Long Island-based 3rd District, which includes northern Nassau County and a small portion of Queens, supported Joe Biden 54-45 in 2020, but it's swung hard toward the GOP following the president's inauguration.

While Suozzi has spent more than two decades as one of the most prominent Democrats on Long Island, his rival is a relative newcomer to local politics. Pilip was airlifted from Ethiopia to Israel as a child refugee and went on to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. She immigrated to the United States in 2005 and won a seat on the County Legislature during the 2021 GOP sweep by unseating Democratic incumbent Ellen Birnbaum 53-47.

Pilip went on to secure reelection last month 60-40 against Democrat Weihua Yan during what was another strong night for Long Island Republicans. In one odd detail recently reported by Politico, however, Pilip has remained a registered Democrat during her years as a Republican elected official.

But Pilip's unusual biography could make her a formidable nominee, a belief some Democrats may share. "There is an undercurrent out there that Suozzi is concerned about running against Mazi," an unnamed source told Jewish Insider earlier this month. "He keeps calling around to find out, ‘Is it going to be her, is it going to be her?’"

However, Pilip's detractors have already found one potentially damaging item from her recent past. In September, Yan posted a photo on social media of the legislator smiling alongside Santos. The New York Times reported that this photo was shared with reporters this month through "an unsigned, untraceable email" in an apparent attempt to convince party leaders to pick someone else.

One of the Republicans those leaders passed over for the nomination, Air Force veteran Kellen Curry, seemed to have had this picture in mind last week when he shared the results of an internal poll. The survey showed Suozzi leading Pilip and Curry 43-40 and 43-39, respectively, but the memo also found 58% of respondents said they were "less likely" to support someone who has backed Santos in the past. In a possible reference to Pilip, pollster Brian Wynne added, "Thankfully, my understanding is that you did not endorse Santos and no photographs of you exist with him."  

However, it was a different topic that gave Pilip trouble when she spoke to the New York Times' Nicholas Fandos on Thursday afternoon. "When Ms. Pilip was asked to state her position on a national abortion ban," Fandos writes, "a spokesman for the Nassau County Republican Party cut in to say that the candidate did not intend to 'get through the whole platform here.'" Fandos says that, in addition to abortion rights, Pilip has expressed "no known public opinions on major issues" like gun safety and Donald Trump's indictments.

Fandos also notes that, unlike Suozzi, Pilip has "almost no experience raising money." National Republicans, however, are likely to ensure that she has access to as much cash as she needs in what will be a closely watched special election.

Suozzi, for his part, is making use of his head start to go on the air early. The Democrat's first ad, which debuted Thursday morning, touts him as a bipartisan figure who knows the area well.

P.S. New York's highest court this week ordered the state's bipartisan redistricting commission to draw a new congressional map to be used in next year's elections, but this special election will take place under the existing lines. The contest for a full term, however, will be conducted using the new boundaries.

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Michigan Republicans have a new Senate candidate. The NRSC already hates him

Former Rep. Peter Meijer announced Monday that he'd seek the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, but both the NRSC and Michigan Republican Party responded to the news by expressing utter contempt for their new candidate.

"Peter Meijer isn't viable in a primary election," declared NRSC Executive Director Jason Thielman, "and there's worry that if Meijer were nominated, the base would not be enthused in the general election." Meijer, who was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, narrowly lost renomination last year to a Trump-backed foe, John Gibbs; Gibbs, in turn, badly lost the general election for the Grand Rapids-based 3rd District to Democrat Hillary Scholten.

While Republicans almost certainly would have been better off if Meijer, who first won office in 2020 by beating Scholten in a more conservative version of the 3rd, had prevailed against Gibbs, Thielman isn't the only one arguing he'd demoralize Republicans if he were to win the August primary. An unnamed Republican told Politico that internal polls showed Meijer considerably more popular with Democrats than with GOP voters, though no one has released any actual data to that effect.

And the NRSC's attacks don't come in a vacuum: The committee successfully recruited former Rep. Mike Rogers to run last month, and its chair, Steve Daines, praised him when he kicked off his campaign. But Rogers, too, has a history of criticizing Trump, so there may be something deeper to the NRSC's sharp words for Meijer.

In fact, both Politico and CNN report that the committee is also worried that Meijer's presence could make it easier for former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who has run as an ardent Trump ally, to win the GOP nod. Craig's hard-line views aren't the only reason that his intraparty critics want to stop him. He waged a disastrous bid for governor last cycle that culminated in him getting thrown off the primary ballot, and his new Senate campaign is picking up right where he left off: Craig took just 17 days to part ways with both his campaign manager and deputy manager.

The state GOP, which is led by election denier Kristina Karamo, also made it clear how much it despises Meijer with a tweet that went up immediately after the new candidate's launch. "Peter Meijer voted to impeach President Trump," the party's official account posted. "Remember that." However, the message was deleted just minutes later.

What replaced it was a statement declaring that the party "remains neutral and supportive of all Republican primary candidates." It continued, "Unfortunately, an over-zealous intern posted a negative comment regarding a candidate that does not reflect the position of MIGOP." Could it actually be that an intern of any level of zeal would have unfettered access to the state party's social media properties? As unlikely as that might seem, The Messenger's Matt Holt speculated that the near-bankrupt outfit might indeed be dependent on such labor.

Meijer, for his part, didn't mention Trump at all in a launch statement that argued he was the most electable Republican in the race. But the former one-term congressman, who is an Army veteran and heir to his family's eponymous supermarket chain, may already be trying to revise his anti-MAGA image.

Meijer submitted a court filing days before his announcement opposing a lawsuit arguing that Trump should be barred from the state ballot because the 14th Amendment disqualifies officeholders who have "engaged in insurrection or rebellion." Meijer sees things differently. "I filed an amicus brief today to support Mr. Trump being on the ballot," he said in a statement, "because our democracy relies on the ability of voters, not judges or partisan election officials, to determine their leaders." Rogers, who retired from Congress six years before Meijer's election, also has attacked Trump's critics in recent months.

There's been less drama on the Democratic side, where Rep. Elissa Slotkin holds a wide financial advantage over actor Hill Harper and the rest of the field. Harper, though, got some welcome news Monday when he received an endorsement from Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, who leads the most populous county in the state.

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Kay Granger, powerful House Republican once courted by Democrats, will not seek reelection

Republican Rep. Kay Granger, who chairs the influential House Appropriations Committee, confirmed Wednesday that she would not seek a 15th term in Congress, following reporting late Tuesday night from the Fort Worth Report that she would retire.

Texas' 12th Congressional District, which is based in the Fort Worth area, favored Donald Trump 58-40 in 2020, so whoever wins the GOP nod should have little trouble in the fall. The primary is set for March 5, though a May 28 runoff would take place if no one wins a majority of the vote in the first round.

Granger's announcement came only a little more than a month before the Dec. 11 filing deadline, though one person was already running against the congresswoman. Businessman John O’Shea attracted little attention when he launched his campaign in April, however, and he finished September with a mere $20,000 in the bank. O’Shea, though, has the backing of Attorney General Ken Paxton, a far-right favorite who has survived numerous scandals and a high-profile impeachment.

State House Majority Leader Craig Goldman, meanwhile, has been talked about as a possible Granger successor for a while, and the Texas Tribune notes that an unknown party reserved several domain names relevant to Goldman in the days before Granger announced her departure. Goldman responded to the Star-Telegram's inquiries about his interest by saying only that Wednesday was a day to celebrate the congresswoman's accomplishments.

The Tribune adds that wealthy businessman Chris Putnam, who lost to Granger 58-42 in the 2020 primary, is considering. Fellow state Reps. Brian Byrd and Nate Schatzline, meanwhile, say they are focused on their current jobs, but they don't appear to have outright said no. Tarrant County Commissioner Manny Ramirez gave a similar response to the paper, though he explicitly said he wasn't ruling out a bid. However, Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare, who is the county's top executive official, and Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker were both quick noes.

Granger, who founded an insurance agency, got her start in public life in the early 1980s when she joined the Fort Worth Zoning Commission. She first assumed elected office in 1989 when she won a seat on the City Council, a body whose nonpartisan nature kept her from having to publicly identify with a party. (Texas Democrats were still a force at the time, though not for much longer.)

That state of affairs continued two years later when she won a promotion to mayor, a similarly nonpartisan post. Longtime political observer Bud Kennedy would recount to the Daily Beast in 2013, "She was carefully centrist in the way she led the city."

That led both Democrats and Republicans to see Granger as a prize recruit in 1996, when Democratic Rep. Charlie Geren, a conservative who had been elected to succeed none other than former Democratic Speaker Jim Wright, decided to retire from a previous version of the 12th. Granger settled on the GOP, though, and she beat her nearest opponent 69-20 in her first-ever Republican primary.

In a sign of just how different things were three decades ago, Granger campaigned as a supporter of abortion rights. She had little trouble in the general election against Democrat Hugh Parmer, a former Fort Worth mayor who had badly lost a 1990 race to unseat Republican Sen. Phil Graham. Granger beat Parmer 58-41 even as, according to analyst Kiernan Park-Egan, Bill Clinton narrowly beat Republican Bob Dole by 46.3-45.5 in the 12th. (Independent Ross Perot, who hailed from neighboring Dallas, took 8%.)

Granger's win made her the second Republican woman to represent Texas in Congress after Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and the first to serve in the House; there would not be another until Beth Van Duyne won the neighboring 24th District in 2020. Granger, who is tied with Maine Sen. Susan Collins as the longest-serving Republican woman in congressional history, owed her longevity in part to the fact that she only faced one serious reelection challenge during her long career.

That expensive primary battle took place in 2020, when Putnam tried to portray Granger as insufficiently pro-Trump even though she had Trump's endorsement. Putnam, who had the Club for Growth on his side, also tried to tie the incumbent to long-running problems at an expensive local development project called Panther Island that used to be led by the congresswoman's son.

But Granger and her backers at the Congressional Leadership Fund fought back by reminding voters that she was Trump's candidate, and she defeated her opponent by 16 points ahead of another easy general election. While Putnam initially announced he'd seek a rematch the following cycle, his decision not to file left her Granger on a glide path to yet another term.

Granger became chair of the Appropriations Committee after her party retook the House in 2022. From that powerful perch, she was one of the most prominent Republicans to vote against making Jim Jordan speaker. She described that stance as "a vote of conscience," adding, "Intimidation and threats will not change my position." But the chairwoman, like the rest of her caucus, embraced far-right Rep. Mike Johnson a short time later, saying she'd work with him "to advance our conservative agenda."

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Blake Masters is seeking a comeback. Are Republicans really sure they want him to?

Blake Masters, a Big Lie enthusiast who ran arguably the worst Senate campaign of 2022 in a cycle chock-full of terrible Republican candidates, announced Thursday that he'd run to succeed retiring Rep. Debbie Lesko in Arizona's 8th District.

Multiple media publications reported in late August that Masters planned to campaign for Arizona's other Senate seat, but he put all that on hold after Donald Trump made it clear he'd be back one of Blake's fellow Arizona losers, Kari Lake, instead. Masters' calculations shifted further last week after Lesko unexpectedly announced that she wouldn't seek reelection in the reliably red 8th in Phoenix's western suburbs.

But Masters will face yet another high-profile 2022 failure on his road to the GOP nomination. Abe Hamadeh, a fellow election denier who narrowly lost last year's general election for attorney general, launched his own campaign to replace Lesko hours after she called it quits, and he was quick to portray his former ticketmate as an outsider.

"It is sad to see the establishment tricking @bgmasters into driving up all the way from Tucson and getting in the race," Hamadeh said in a tweet that included a photo of Masters campaigning alongside Mike Pence last year.

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Masters does indeed live 100 miles away in southern Arizona, though Hamadeh also resides outside the 8th, making his home in GOP Rep. David Schweikert's neighboring 1st District. Lesko herself is supporting state House Speaker Ben Toma, who is one of her constituents, though he hasn't actually announced he's running yet. Lake, for her part, is backing Hamadeh.

A pair of polls surfaced the day before Masters launched his new effort, but they disagree who has the edge in the August primary. A Data Orbital survey sponsored by Masters showed him beating Hamadeh 33-18, with Toma at just 7%. But National Public Affairs, a Republican firm that says it commissioned its own survey, has Hamadeh defeating Masters 31-24 as Toma grabs 11%.

Masters won the GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly last year after receiving Trump's endorsement and benefiting from heavy spending by his old boss and mentor, Peter Thiel. Reuters, though, reported back in April that Thiel doesn't plan to contribute to any candidates this cycle, a development that could spell trouble for his one-time protégé. (It's not clear, though, whether Thiel was ruling out redeploying his super PAC.) But the Club for Growth may come to Masters' aid, as Politico reported last week that it was encouraging him to run following Lesko's surprise announcement.

Masters ultimately lost to Kelly 51-47 statewide, though Bloomberg's Greg Giroux says the Republican carried the 8th 52-46. However, that 6-point margin was less than half of Trump's 56-43 performance, a shortfall almost certainly due to Masters' preternaturally weak campaign.

That bid was defined by poor fundraising and some truly strange gaffes. To take just one example, he called Ted Kaczynski a "subversive thinker that's underrated" before belatedly acknowledging that it's "probably not great to be talking about the Unabomber while campaigning.” Indeed, the University of Virginia’s J. Miles Coleman aptly summed him up last year when he said that Masters “comes across as a 4chan guy.” (If you're not familiar with 4chan, you're one of the lucky ones.)

However, not everyone is convinced Masters' new effort will be like his first. Time's Eric Cortellessa wrote in June that unnamed state Republicans were "impressed with Masters’ introspection" since his defeat, saying that he'd "made clear to party insiders his desire to seek public office again and has recognized a need to soften his image." It remains to be seen, though, what this type of softening entails, or if Masters will even bother to stick with it now that his top priority is winning the primary.

An exclusive focus on wooing MAGA voters could be a mistake, though: When Lesko first won office in a 2018 special election, she did so by just a 52-48 margin, and she didn't have anything like Masters' baggage. (Like, what the hell was this?) A Masters candidacy could therefore create an unlikely opening for Democrats. So far, former Defense Department official Greg Whitten is the only Democrat to report raising any money, and he's brought in just $58,000 so far, but with an open seat and a notorious opponent potentially in the offing, he'll now have the chance to prove himself.

After making an all-new set of enemies, Rep. Nancy Mace may face a familiar GOP primary foe

Former state Rep. Katie Arrington tells The Hill that she's considering seeking a GOP primary rematch against South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, who shocked her colleagues last week when she voted to terminate Kevin McCarthy's speakership. Things could become still more volatile in the Palmetto State, though, because the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Wednesday for a lawsuit that seeks to strike down Mace's 1st District as a racial gerrymander.

We'll start with Arrington, who told reporter Caroline Vakil that "all options are on the table" for another campaign against an incumbent who is no stranger to making enemies within her own party. Mace, who unseated Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham in 2020, broke with Donald Trump in the days after she was forced to barricade in her office during the Jan. 6 attack, saying, “I hold him accountable for the events that transpired.” Although the congresswoman, who was an early 2016 Trump supporter, never backed impeachment and soon stopped trying to pick fights with him, her party's master endorsed Arrington as part of an effort to purge critics.

But while Arrington did all she could to try to frame the primary as a battle between pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces, Mace used her superior financial resources to advance a different narrative. The congresswoman reminded voters that Arrington had denied renomination in 2018 to another Trump critic, then-Rep. Mark Sanford, only to suffer an upset loss against Cunningham. The GOP legislature had already done what it could to make sure that no Republican could lose this coastal South Carolina seat by passing a map that extended Trump’s 2020 margin from 52-46 to 54-45, but Mace still argued that Arrington could once again cost the party the general election.

The incumbent prevailed 53-45 before easily winning the general election, but Mace wasn't done refashioning her public image. This summer she became a prominent Trump defender on cable news, and Politico reported he passed on his compliments to the congresswoman he'd previously castigated as a "grandstanding loser." But Mace's biggest moment in the spotlight came last week when she joined Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, whom she'd called "a fraud" earlier this year, and six other Republicans to oust McCarthy.

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Observers, including Arrington, were quick to highlight how McCarthy's allies had deployed millions to help Mace in 2020, and the former speaker's backers were also quick to blast the congresswoman's perceived disloyalty. Mace, for her part, argued McCarthy had broken his word to her by refusing to advance her priorities, including a balanced budget amendment and a bill to test more rape kits, and she predicted his backers would seek revenge. "I do need help, because they are coming after me," she said last week to Steve Bannon, the former Trump strategist whom she'd voted to hold in contempt of Congress in 2021.

However, not everyone agrees that Mace will need much help to win renomination in 2024. "When you look at the voting base there, they’re not your typical party-line Republican," longtime GOP strategist Dave Wilson told Vakil of the local GOP primary electorate. "They’re a little bit more independent in the way that they think." Arrington, though, dismissed Mace's actions as a "political stunt" and predicted that if she doesn't run, "[T]here will be many others." South Carolina requires a primary runoff if no one secures a majority in the first round.

Complicating things further is that no one knows yet just what Mace's district will even look like next year. In January, a federal court ruled that Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against Black voters when they redrew Mace's 1st District by packing too many African Americans into the neighboring 6th District. However, it's up to the nation's highest court to decide if the legislature needs to rework the 1st or if the current boundaries will stand.

Even if the Supreme Court strikes down the current map, though, Republicans may still be able to keep their hold on six of the state's seven congressional districts. As we explained in January, the lower court's ruling hinged on the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause rather than the Voting Rights Act; while the latter can require states to draw districts that empower Black voters to elect their chosen candidates, the former has been interpreted to mandate only that map-makers don't let race predominate over other factors without a compelling justification when crafting lines.

For now at least, Mace is behaving like she has more to worry about on her right flank than from Democrats. The congresswoman announced Sunday that she was joining Trump in endorsing Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, an election conspiracy theorist, for speaker. CBS' Margaret Brennan followed up by asking Mace about the accusations from several former Ohio State University wrestlers alleging that Jordan, who was an assistant coach in the 1980s and 90s, knew their team doctor was sexually assaulting them but didn't intervene. "I'm not familiar or aware with that," said Mace. "He's not indicted on anything that I'm aware of. I don't know anything and can't speak to that."