The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● 2020 Elections: The presidential election and competitive races for the House and Senate may be generating most of the headlines, but there are many important contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year. From mayoral races to district attorney elections and contests for control of county boards of supervisors, 2020 will feature major battles in some of the country's largest cities and counties. Daily Kos Elections has compiled a calendar with all the key dates for this year's major local races, and there's a lot to keep track of.Campaign Action
Wisconsin will be the site of the first big downballot election night of the year on Tuesday, when party primaries for the special election in the vacant 7th Congressional District will take place; the general election will follow on May 12. The main event, though, will be the primary for a seat on the state Supreme Court, while Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee will also be voting for county executive and mayor, respectively. Runoffs between the top two vote-getters in all three of these races will take place on April 7. You can find a preview of those races here.
It will be an interesting year on the mayoral front in particular. Of the 100 largest cities in the country, 29 will hold elections for mayor at some point during 2020. Yet even though Republicans hold less than a third of all big-city mayoralties, they're defending 15 seats this year, versus 12 for Democrats (two are held by independents).
The biggest city on the list is San Diego, California, where Democrats are hoping for a pickup, in part because Republican Kevin Faulconer is term-limited. The largest Democratic-held prizes are Portland, Oregon and Baltimore, Maryland, though Republicans have no shot at flipping either.
Further down the ballot, the three largest counties in California—Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange—will hold elections for their boards of supervisors, as will Maricopa County, Arizona. All except Los Angeles have a Republican majority, and control of each of those GOP-held bodies is on the line.
Meanwhile, the two largest counties in the entire country, Los Angeles and Cook County, Illinois (home of Chicago), will be selecting their district attorneys. Orleans Parish in Louisiana, which is coterminous with the city of New Orleans, will also vote for its top prosecutor; embattled incumbent Leon Cannizzaro is eligible for re-election.
2020 promises to be an active year and we may also see more contests come onto the radar as events develop. Bookmark our calendar to keep tabs on all the action. Also check out our separate calendar of congressional and state-level primaries for all 50 states.
● KS-Sen: Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is out with a poll from the GOP firm McLaughlin & Associates that shows him leading Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier 47-38 in a hypothetical general election. Kobach released his survey from the less than reliable McLaughlin days after a poll from the Democratic firm DFM Research for the union SMART came out showing him tied with Bollier 43-43.
Despite this McLaughlin poll, national Republicans remain worried that Kobach, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial election to Democrat Laura Kelly, would put them in danger in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator since 1932. Senate Republicans made it clear before Kobach even announced his campaign that they'd take action to stop him from winning the August primary, and CNN reported over the weekend that they remained as opposed to him as ever.
However, one notable Republican isn't ready to strand Kris Kobach on the Isle of Misfit Senate Candidates. CNN writes that Donald Trump spoke to his old ally in person late last month, and that Jared Kushner is working with Kobach on a White House immigration plan. Trump's advisers reportedly "have gently pressed him" to back Rep. Roger Marshall, who is one of the many other Republican candidates here, but Trump doesn't seem to be in any hurry to decide.
Still, there is at least one indication that Trump may be listening. The Kansas City Star reports that Trump met with Marshall in the Oval Office in mid-January and tried to call Kobach up right then and there to convince him to drop out. Trump got Kobach's voicemail, though, and the two ended up speaking a few hours later after Marshall had left the White House. There's no word on what they said to one another, but Kobach remains in the race a month later.
● TX-Sen: The University of Texas is out with a survey for the Texas Tribune of the March 3 Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn, and it's the first survey we've seen that shows a clear frontrunner. Air Force veteran MJ Hegar, who has the DSCC's endorsement, leads with 22%, which is still well below the majority she'd need to avoid a May runoff.
Nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez holds a 9-7 edge over former Rep. Chris Bell for second place, while former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards and state Sen. Royce West each are just behind with 6%. Two underfunded contenders, Annie "Mamá" Garcia and Sema Hernandez, each take 5%.
● AK-Gov: The Alaska Supreme Court announced Friday that it would hear oral arguments on March 25 about the legality of the recall campaign against GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy. While the justices have not yet determined if Alaskans can vote whether to cut short Dunleavy's tenure, they also ruled last week that Recall Dunleavy is allowed to collect signatures to get a recall measure on the ballot.
As we've written before, an official in Alaska may only be recalled for "(1) lack of fitness, (2) incompetence, (3) neglect of duties, or (4) corruption." This provision, which recall expert Joshua Spivak calls a "malfeasance standard," differs from the practice in many other states, where only voters' signatures are needed for a recall to go forward.
Recall Dunleavy, the group that is seeking to fire the governor, is focusing on the first three grounds for recall. However, in an opinion for the state Division of Elections, Republican state Attorney General Kevin Clarkson argued that the stated allegations listed on the campaign's petitions "fail[ed] to meet any of the listed grounds for recall." Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth ruled in January, though, that the recall campaign could proceed because all but one of their stated grounds was valid.
However, in a confusing series of events, Aarseth soon issued a stay that prevented Recall Dunleavy from gathering signatures before the state Supreme Court heard the appeal, quickly said that the stay have been "inadvertently issued," then issued another stay a week later that once again halted the signature gathering. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled on Friday, though, that Aarseth "did not expressly consider the harm to Recall Dunleavy from a stay, and as a result it appears to have applied an incorrect analysis." This decision allows Recall Dunleavy to collect petitions even though its legal battle is far from over.
If Recall Dunleavy successfully convinces the justices that its campaign is valid under state law, organizers will need to collect another 71,000 signatures in order to place the recall on the ballot. There's no time limit for gathering petitions, and a recall election would take place 60 to 90 days after the Division of Elections verified that enough valid signatures have been turned in.
If the recall is successful, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who is also a Republican, would replace Dunleavy. No matter what, though, Alaska's regularly-scheduled gubernatorial election will take place in 2022.
● MO-Gov: On Friday, former Gov. Eric Greitens declined to rule the idea that he’d challenge Gov. Mike Parson, who was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor in 2020 after Greitens resigned in disgrace, in the August GOP primary. People close to Greitens tell the Kansas City Star’s Jason Hancock that this comeback is unlikely to actually happen this year, but Parson’s allies are still taking the idea seriously. Missouri’s filing deadline is at the end of March.
Greitens has avoided the media since his departure from office, but he reemerged last week one day after he got some welcome news from the Missouri Ethics Commission. The body announced that it was fining Greitens $178,000 after it ruled that his 2016 campaign had not disclosed its coordination with a federal PAC and a nonprofit. However, the Commission said they had “found no evidence of any wrongdoing on part of Eric Greitens” and that most of the fine would be forgiven as long as he pays $38,000 and doesn’t incur any other violations over the next two years.
Greitens used the occasion to go on a conservative media tour and proclaim in Trump-like fashion that he had received a “total exoneration,” and he wasn’t just talking about the matters the Commission ruled on last week. Back in early 2018, his once promising political career began to unravel in the face of allegations that he'd sexually assaulted the woman he was having an affair with and blackmailed her.
Greitens ended up getting indicted by local prosecutors twice: Once on allegations of first-degree felony invasion of privacy related to this story, and once for unrelated charges of computer tampering involving his charity. The GOP-led state legislature, which had little love for Greitens after spending a year feuding with him, also began to move towards removing him from office.
Greitens eventually resigned in exchange for the tampering charges getting dropped. A short time later, the Jackson County Prosecutor's office also announced that it was dropping the charges in the sexual assault and blackmail case because it believed it was impossible to successfully prosecute Greitens.
Greitens declared on Friday that the GOP legislature’s old investigation was some “Joseph Stalin stuff,” but he wasn’t so vocal about his current plans. When host Jamie Allman asked him if he was considering a 2020 bid for his old office Greitens responded, “Anything is a possibility.” Greitens added that he’d be willing to reappear on Allman’s program later to talk about this contest, but he didn’t say anything else about it.
However, unnamed Greitens associates tell Hancock that the former governor is well aware that he’s still unpopular and that he’s not sure if he could raise enough money to compete. They didn’t dismiss the idea that he’d run against Parson, though, and neither did the incumbent’s allies. John Hancock, who runs the well-funded pro-Parson super PAC Uniting Missouri, said he didn’t expect Greitens to get in, “But we don’t take anything for granted in a political campaign.”
A Parson adviser put it more bluntly to the paper: “Will he run? I doubt it. Are we going to be haunted by his ghost until he declares or filing for the primary closes? Absolutely.”
● AL-05: On Friday, Donald Trump tweeted out his endorsement for Rep. Mo Brooks ahead of the March 3 GOP primary. Brooks faces a challenge from retired Navy Cmdr. Chris Lewis, who earned the support of the Alabama Farmers Federation but has very little money.
● NJ-03: Over the weekend, former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs received the recommendation of the Ocean County Republican Screening Committee, which puts her in a good position to win the county party’s backing at its March 4 convention.
As we’ve noted before, county party endorsements matter quite a bit in New Jersey, and Gibbs’ already has the support of the Burlington County GOP. Ocean County contains the somewhat larger share of Republican primary voters in this two-county district, though, which makes it a very important prize in the June GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim.
● TX-18: On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich dismissed a lawsuit brought against Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee's office and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation by a former CBCF aide identified only as Jane Doe. Doe had alleged that she'd been fired by Jackson Lee in 2018 after she'd told the congresswoman's chief of staff, Glenn Rushing, that she would take legal action against the CBCF, which was led by Jackson Lee at the time.
Doe said in her suit that she had been raped by a CBCF supervisor in 2015 when she was interning there. She further said she'd told Rushing about the assault in 2018 after she learned that her alleged assailant was looking for a job in Jackson Lee's congressional office. The man was not hired, but Doe said she then told Rushing she planned to sue the foundation and wanted to speak to Jackson Lee about it. No meeting took place, and Doe said she was fired two weeks later, ostensibly for "budgetary issues."
Jackson Lee announced in January of last year that she was resigning as head of the CBCF and temporarily stepping aside from a House Judiciary subcommittee chairmanship as a result the lawsuit. Friedrich, though, ruled that Doe had not alleged any legally sufficient claims for which Jackson Lee's office or the CBCF could be held liable. Doe's attorney says that she's unsure if her client will appeal.
● TX-28: Texas Forward, which is allied with EMILY's List, is out with a Spanish language TV spot ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary that argues that conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar has embraced Washington and is no longer “one of us.” Meanwhile, a large coalition of labor groups are spending $350,000 on radio and digital ads, as well as voter turnout operations, in support of immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros.
● WA-05: Former Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase announced on Friday that he would challenge Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a fellow Republican, in the August top-two primary. Chase lost his 2018 bid for a seat on the county commission by a lopsided 61-39 margin to a fellow Republican, and he's unlikely to pose much of a threat to the well-funded incumbent.
● Where Are They Now?: Siena College announced on Friday that former GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, who represented a competitive seat in upstate New York from 2011 through 2017, would become its new president in July. Gibson is a Siena graduate, and he will be the first non-friar to lead the Franciscan college.
Gibson has been mentioned as a possible GOP statewide candidate in the past, though he surprised political observers when he decided to pass on a 2018 run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Gibson's new gig probably means that he won't be running for office anytime soon, though he'll still have a connection to the world of politics: Siena has a prolific polling arm that conducted the New York Times' famous (or infamous) live polls in 2018.