The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.
● House: Which House districts are the most likely to change hands heading into next year's pivotal elections? The 2024 elections might be more than a year away, but we can tell you right now thanks to the new edition of our House Vulnerability Index.
Our index, which we've been using for more than a decade relies on just two data points: how red or blue every district is (based on an average of its presidential results over the last two elections) and how well each incumbent performed in the 2022 midterms. We rank each criterion (with open seats given a zero for the second factor), combine the ranks, and then re-rank the entire House, separated by party. This gives us an excellent view of the congressional battleground—something we can confirm by analyzing how it's performed in the past (the answer: very well).
So which are the most vulnerable seats? For Republicans, the top five are all freshmen who were lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending on how things pan out) to win races last year in blue districts in California or New York—two states where poor Democratic turnout allowed the GOP to win on turf that's normally out of reach. Democrats' toughest defense, meanwhile, will be in Michigan's 7th District, a very swingy seat that's open next year because Elissa Slotkin, a strong campaigner and impressive fundraiser, is running for the Senate.
As more incumbents retire, or as maps get altered in redistricting, we'll keep updating the index from now through Election Day, so it's an eminently bookmarkable tool for activists and analysts alike.
● WA Redistricting: Democratic legislative leaders have announced that they won't reconvene Washington's bipartisan redistricting commission after a federal court ruled last month that one of the legislative districts that commissioners adopted after 2020 violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting Latino voting power. However, the Republicans who were allowed to intervene as co-defendants in the case have announced they will appeal the district judge's ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Because Washington's redistricting commission has two voting members from both parties and no tie-breaking vote, the GOP likely would have blocked a suitable remedy had it been reconvened.
Last month, a district judge struck down the 15th District, which is located in the Yakima Valley in south-central Washington, finding that despite its nominal 51% Latino majority among eligible voters, turnout disparities and white voters' hostility to Latino-preferred candidates meant that Latino voters could not effectively elect their chosen candidates there. If the court's ruling survives on appeal and it redraws the 15th to strengthen Latino voting power, it could eventually result in Latino-backed Democrats gaining one seat in the state Senate and two in the state House (Washington uses the same map for both legislative chambers, with each district electing one senator and two representatives.)
● IN-Sen: Republican Sen. Mike Braun, who's running for governor next year, has finally endorsed Rep. Jim Banks to succeed him in the Senate. The far-right Banks had along ago consolidated support from all levels of the Indiana GOP establishment and more or less lacks any primary opposition. His one nominal opponent, wealthy egg farmer John Rust, is still acting like a candidate (and Banks is still treating him like one), but he seems unlikely to make the primary ballot because his Republican bona fides are insufficient under state law.
● PA-Sen: The conservative site The Dispatch reporters that wealthy former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick will launch a second bid for the Senate on Thursday. At the moment, there are no notable Republicans running to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, who is seeking a fourth term.
● UT-Sen: The Republican field to replace Sen. Mitt Romney following his recent announcement that he won't seek reelection next year continues to take shape, and Bloomberg relays a quote from conservative activist Carolyn Phippen saying she's "exploring" a run, something that state party chair Robert Axson had previously suggested was likely. Meanwhile, KUTV reports that a spokeswoman for Gov. Spencer Cox said her boss was not planning to run, though there's no direct quote. Cox had previously announced in March that he would seek reelection next year instead, though that of course was before Romney had called it quits.
The Salt Lake Tribune mentioned several Republicans who could run, including Reps. John Curtis, Blake Moore, and Burgess Owens; Lt. Gov. Diedre Henderson; real estate executive and former state party chair Thomas Wright; JR Bird, who is the mayor of the small town of Roosevelt; and businessman Brad Bonham, who serves on the Republican National Committee. None of that bunch appears to have said anything about their interest yet except for Curtis and Moore, who both had already refused to rule out the prospect.
Lastly, Politico reports that multiple congressional Republicans are encouraging Donald Trump's former national security adviser Robert O'Brien to run. O'Brien, who had worked on both of Romney's presidential campaigns, just last month said he didn't want to run for office next year, but it's unclear yet if his interest has changed with Romney out of the picture.
So far the only notable candidate officially running is Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who had been primarying Romney from the right. However, state House Speaker Brad Wilson had also been raising money for a potential bid against Romney for months and had hinted right after the senator's announcement that he could formally jump into the race soon.
● DE-AL: A new poll for the Human Rights Campaign, which previously endorsed state Sen. Sarah McBride, finds her leading in the Democratic primary for Delaware's open House seat. The survey, conducted by Democratic pollster Change Research, puts McBride in front with 44% of the vote while 23% say they support Delaware State Housing Authority director Eugene Young and 13% back state Treasurer Colleen Davis. Somewhat surprisingly for a poll conducted a full year before the primary—and long before campaigns will begin spending in earnest—only 18% of respondents say they are undecided.
● GA-06: Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson, who recently kicked off a bid for Georgia's 6th Congressional District, says she'll see her campaign through to the end regardless of whether the state's map gets redrawn.
In 2021, Republicans gerrymandered the Atlanta-area 6th District to an extreme degree: Under its prior boundaries, the district had backed Joe Biden by a 55-44 margin, but after the GOP got done with it, the new version would have supported Donald Trump 57-42. That makes it inhospitable turf for Democrats like Richardson—so much so that the district's former representative, Lucy McBath, decided to seek reelection last year in the neighboring (and safely blue) 7th instead.
But the Atlanta area could get rejiggered yet again, depending on a lawsuit that says Republicans are obligated by the Voting Rights Act to create an additional district where Black voters can elect their preferred candidates. (The suit relies on the same provision of the VRA at issue in Alabama, where Black voters successfully made a similar argument.) A trial in the case just ended on Thursday, and the judge presiding over the dispute says he plans to rule by Thanksgiving, which this year is Nov. 23.
● IL-07: Chicago city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin was set to launch her long-anticipated primary challenge against Democratic Rep. Danny Davis last week, but the would-be candidate ended up postponing her kickoff event as the fallout from recently disclosed allegations that she abused her power continued to unfold. Conyears-Ervin's campaign said the postponement was "due to a scheduling conflict," but the Chicago Sun-Times reported that a source on her campaign said the real reason was that the city's Board of Ethics held a hearing on the allegations last Monday.
The allegations against Conyears-Ervin surfaced earlier this month when the city released a 2020 letter where two of her former top aides—Ashley Evans and Tiffany Harper—accused the treasurer of misusing government money and personnel. The pair claimed Conyears-Ervin hired an unqualified employee "for personal services;" used official resources for electoral matters, including sending money to religious organizations that supported her; and threatened to retaliate against any subordinates who wouldn't help her. Evans and Harper later received a total of $100,000 in a 2021 settlement after arguing they were fired in just such an act of illegal retaliation.
While that settlement was public knowledge, then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was a Conyears-Ervin ally, spent years trying to keep this letter from becoming public. However, new Mayor Brandon Johnson, a fellow Democrat who defeated Lightfoot and other challengers in elections earlier this year, released the letter earlier this month.
In response to questions during last week's meeting about why the board had apparently failed to act on the letter for nearly three years, chairman William Conlon defended his board's actions by claiming that members lacked investigatory powers of their own. Conlon contended that the board had properly referred the case to the city's inspector general, whose office never referred the matter back to the board.
The Chicago Tribune reported that it was "unclear" whether the inspector general had ever opened an investigation but noted that there have long been concerns about the office taking multiple years to resolve investigations. Current Inspector General Deborah Witzburg, who was appointed last year by Lightfoot and confirmed by the City Council, declined to comment. However, the Tribune added that the city has "tight restrictions" on the inspector general commenting on investigations, meaning it's unclear when we'll get more clarity on the situation from city officials.
● MN-05: State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, who briefly ran for Minnesota's safely blue 5th Congressional District when it was an open seat in 2018, won't rule out a challenge to Rep. Ilhan Omar in next year's Democratic primary. In new remarks to MinnPost's Ana Radelat, Champion said he "hasn't thought about" a bid before adding, "I never, ever make a decision based on people asking me to do something." Omar already has two opponents in former National Guard recruiter Tim Peterson and attorney Sarah Gad, but several other bigger names are reportedly weighing the race.
● TX-AG: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who was facing a trial in the state Senate after getting impeached by the House on charges of corruption, was acquitted on all 16 counts on Saturday. Just two of Paxton’s fellow Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate voted to convict him on any counts even though the vast majority of Republicans in the House had voted to impeach him in May. Axios reported that Paxton allies had threatened primary challenges against any Republicans who voted against the attorney general.
● OH Supreme Court: State Supreme Court Justice Joe Deters, a Republican appointed to the court by GOP Gov. Mike DeWine in January to fill a vacant Republican seat, has indicated he will instead challenge one of the two Democratic incumbents who will be up for reelection next year rather than run for his current seat. Because Deters filled a vacancy to replace GOP Justice Sharon Kennedy after she was elected to the chief justice's position last year, the 2024 election for Deters' seat is only for the final two years of Kennedy's term. By contrast, both Democratic Justices Melody Stewart and Michael Donnelly are running for what would be their second six-year terms.
Deters has yet to indicate which Democrat he will challenge, but Democrats are already facing another tough election cycle after Republican lawmakers made court races partisan contests ahead of last year's elections in order to help their party in this red-leaning state, and Republicans hold a 4-3 majority after winning all three races last year. Democrats theoretically could gain a 4-3 edge of their own if both Stewart and Donnelly won reelection and the party flipped Deters' open seat in 2024, but that will be a challenging task in a state that has shifted rightward during the Trump era.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Nashville, TN Mayor: Progressives had a strong night in Nashville on Thursday when Metro Council member Freddie O'Connell won a 64-36 blowout in the runoff for mayor against Republican strategist Alice Rolli. Despite the election being an off-cycle, nonpartisan contest, O'Connell's landslide nearly matched Joe Biden's 64-32 victory over Donald Trump here in 2020, which itself was the largest margin since 1948 for a Democratic presidential candidate. Progressives also had a strong performance in races for the Metro Council itself, which will see women holding a majority of seats for the first time in its history.
O'Connell's victory marks a shift from outgoing Mayor John Cooper, a more moderate Democrat who unexpectedly retired after just a single term. O'Connell had campaigned on the slogan "More 'Ville, less Vegas" as part of his argument that the city needed to prioritize the needs of residents over tourists, and he emphasized his opposition to Cooper's successful drive this year for taxpayers to fund a new stadium for the Tennessee Titans. The mayor-elect had drawn well-funded opposition from parts of the local business community, but it wasn't enough to stop him from advancing to the runoff in a crowded field and winning.