Ethics gone awry: Jan. 6 probe calls for ethics probe of GOP leader McCarthy, 3 fellow GOP lawmakers

For their failure to cooperate with the investigation of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Jan. 6 committee on Monday officially requested that the House Ethics Committee assess whether four Republican lawmakers violated congressional ethics rules. 

Those referred to the House Ethics Committee are House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. 

The decision is unlikely to gain serious traction given the current dynamics in Congress: The House will be Republican-controlled next year and the House Ethics Committee itself is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Additionally, Investigations by the ethics committee into members of Congress are rare and often move slowly, given the required steps to conduct such a probe. Daily Kos interviewed David Laufman, former investigative counsel to the House Ethics Committee, last October to unpack the process. 

All five lawmakers were subpoenaed earlier this year and refused cooperation while simultaneously criticizing the probe publicly as a political witch hunt. Both Biggs and Jordan echoed those sentiments on Monday after the committee announced its referrals.

RELATED: Jan. 6 panel subpoenas five GOP members of Congress including Kevin McCarthy

Biggs, who is running for speaker of the House against McCarthy, called the decision by the Jan. 6 probe its “final political stunt” on Twitter Monday and said it was “inappropriate” to utilize the House Ethics Committee to reach a “pre-determined” conclusion.

Biggs’ commentary on what is or is not appropriate may seem odd given his most recent tirade relying on conspiracy theory over fact.

Biggs was an early advocate of Trump’s Big Lie and messaged then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Nov. 6, calling on Meadows to appoint alternate electors for Trump. Trump, Biggs urged, should not concede his defeat. 

In the executive summary of the select committee’s final report published on Monday, investigators on the panel urged the House Ethics Committee to act. 

“If left unpunished, such behavior undermines Congress’s longstanding power to investigate in support of its lawmaking authority and suggests that members of Congress may disregard legal obligations that apply to ordinary citizens,” the summary states. 

McCarthy was of interest to the probe because of his direct engagement with Trump on Jan. 6.

He spoke to Trump by phone during the siege, as well as Trump White House insiders like Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington Republican, told the committee McCarthy relayed his conversation with Trump to her directly. 

She said:

“And he said [to President Trump], “You have got to get on TV. You’ve got to get on Twitter. You’ve got to call these people off.” You know what the President said to him? This is as it’s happening. He said, “Well Kevin, these aren’t my people. You know, these are Antifa. And Kevin responded and said, “No, they’re your people. They literally just came through my office windows and my staff are running for cover. I mean they’re running for their lives. You need to call them off.” And the President’s response to Kevin to me was chilling. He said, “Well Kevin, I guess they’re just more upset about the election theft than you are.”

McCarthy’s remarks were corroborated by Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former acting White House chief of staff. 

The House minority leader told reporters at CBS and Fox on Jan. 6 that he spoke to Trump and urged the outgoing president to issue a statement calling for peace. In talks with Republican leadership in the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6, McCarthy discussed Trump’s resignation and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office for being unfit. When Trump was impeached by the House for incitement of insurrection, McCarthy voted against impeachment but said “the president bears responsibility” for the attack. 

“He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,” McCarthy said in January 2021. 

According to the committee, McCarthy told Republican members he believed Trump was responsible for the attack, and when he spoke to Trump, Trump agreed he was culpable—at least in part. 

“I asked him personally today, does he hold responsibility for what happened? Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened. And he need[s] to acknowledge that,” McCarthy said.

As for Rep. Jordan, the committee noted in its executive summary on Monday: “Representative Jordan was a significant player in President Trump’s efforts. He participated in numerous post-election meetings in which senior White House officials, Rudolph Giuliani, and others, discussed strategies for challenging the election, chief among them claims that the election had been tainted by fraud.” 

Jordan was a participant on a conference call with Trump on Jan. 2 in which delay strategies were discussed. That same day, Jordan and Trump spoke by phone for an hour. 

A day before the insurrection, Jordan was in contact with Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff. Jordan offered advice to Meadows about how then-Vice President Mike Pence could intervene in the joint session on Jan. 6. Pence did not have that authority and Jordan showed himself to be a less-than-capable reader of the Constitution. 

Jordan also spoke to Trump on Jan. 6 at least twice. His public accounting of that day has been littered with inconsistencies. 

RELATED: Jim ‘Nothing to Hide’ Jordan responds to Jan. 6 committee with a list of demands and specious claims

Evidence collected by the committee indicates Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, called Jordan at least five times on the evening of the 6th. Jordan picked up at least two of those calls. Giuliani told the committee he reached out to Jordan because he was one of several lawmakers he called, pleading with them to keep up the spirit and object to the electoral slates once the joint session finally resumed.

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson also testified that Jordan was among those members of Congress who discussed presidential pardons after the attack. But, she added, he never asked for one directly. 

Rep. Scott Perry, who has been on the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 radar for quite some time, was a key proponent of Trump’s Big Lie after the 2020 election. Both he and Jordan were involved in conversations about the objection strategy but it was Perry who arguably had the more influential role. Perry introduced Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows to Jeffrey Clark, a mid-level Justice Department lawyer at the time who believed that the election had been “stolen.”

Perry pushed for Trump to speak at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the committee says, and he was among those lawmakers who asked for a pardon once the attack was over. 

The lawmakers’ refusal to cooperate with the investigation was “flagrant,” the committee wrote it in the executive summary of its final report. 

“The Rules of the House of Representatives make clear that their willful noncompliance violates multiple standards of conduct and subjects them to discipline. Willful noncompliance with compulsory congressional committee subpoenas by House Members violates the spirit and letter of House Rule XXIII, Clause 1, which requires House Members to conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House,” the report states. 

House Ethics Committee rules dictate that its members can go on a fact-gathering mission when assessing whether a lawmaker violated ethics rules and the body can use subpoenas to compel documents. While this avenue wasn’t particularly successful with McCarthy, Jordan, or Biggs, one particular notable difference here is that members cannot claim privileges like the Speech and Debate clause to avoid scrutiny. 

But the ethics committee would also require a vote to start a probe. If just one Republican currently sitting on the panel breaks ranks, the next step would be the formation of an investigative subcommittee. From that point, a full investigation would be conducted and House Ethics would issue what is known as a “statement of alleged violation.” 

If there's enough clear and convincing evidence and its proven that a member violated ethics rules or the law, liability could be established. Then its about due process. So, let's say a violation IS established. In that case, accountability could translate in a few ways...

— Brandi Buchman (@Brandi_Buchman) December 19, 2022

With enough information, liability could potentially be established and from there, accountability would come by way of a “letter of reproval” of that member or a formal reprimand. A letter of reproval does not require a full House vote, but a reprimand does. 

Only 11 members of Congress have been reprimanded since the process first began in the 1960s. 

Jan. 6 probe makes ethics complaint against four lawmakers including GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy

For their failure to cooperate with the investigation of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Jan. 6 committee on Monday officially requested that the House Ethics Committee assess whether four Republican lawmakers violated congressional ethics rules. 

Those referred to the House Ethics Committee are House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. 

The decision is unlikely to gain serious traction given the current dynamics in Congress: The House will be Republican-controlled next year and the House Ethics Committee itself is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Additionally, Investigations by the ethics committee into members of Congress are rare and often move slowly, given the required steps to conduct such a probe. Daily Kos interviewed David Laufman, former investigative counsel to the House Ethics Committee, last October to unpack the process. 

All five lawmakers were subpoenaed earlier this year and refused cooperation while simultaneously criticizing the probe publicly as a political witch hunt. Both Biggs and Jordan echoed those sentiments on Monday after the committee announced its referrals.

RELATED: Jan. 6 panel subpoenas five GOP members of Congress including Kevin McCarthy

Biggs, who is running for speaker of the House against McCarthy, called the decision by the Jan. 6 probe its “final political stunt” on Twitter Monday and said it was “inappropriate” to utilize the House Ethics Committee to reach a “pre-determined” conclusion.

Biggs’ commentary on what is or is not appropriate may seem odd given his most recent tirade relying on conspiracy theory over fact.

Biggs was an early advocate of Trump’s Big Lie and messaged then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Nov. 6, calling on Meadows to appoint alternate electors for Trump. Trump, Biggs urged, should not concede his defeat. 

In the executive summary of the select committee’s final report published on Monday, investigators on the panel urged the House Ethics Committee to act. 

“If left unpunished, such behavior undermines Congress’s longstanding power to investigate in support of its lawmaking authority and suggests that members of Congress may disregard legal obligations that apply to ordinary citizens,” the summary states. 

McCarthy was of interest to the probe because of his direct engagement with Trump on Jan. 6.

He spoke to Trump by phone during the siege, as well as Trump White House insiders like Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington Republican, told the committee McCarthy relayed his conversation with Trump to her directly. 

She said:

“And he said [to President Trump], “You have got to get on TV. You’ve got to get on Twitter. You’ve got to call these people off.” You know what the President said to him? This is as it’s happening. He said, “Well Kevin, these aren’t my people. You know, these are Antifa. And Kevin responded and said, “No, they’re your people. They literally just came through my office windows and my staff are running for cover. I mean they’re running for their lives. You need to call them off.” And the President’s response to Kevin to me was chilling. He said, “Well Kevin, I guess they’re just more upset about the election theft than you are.”

McCarthy’s remarks were corroborated by Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former acting White House chief of staff. 

The House minority leader told reporters at CBS and Fox on Jan. 6 that he spoke to Trump and urged the outgoing president to issue a statement calling for peace. In talks with Republican leadership in the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6, McCarthy discussed Trump’s resignation and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office for being unfit. When Trump was impeached by the House for incitement of insurrection, McCarthy voted against impeachment but said “the president bears responsibility” for the attack. 

“He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,” McCarthy said in January 2021. 

According to the committee, McCarthy told Republican members he believed Trump was responsible for the attack, and when he spoke to Trump, Trump agreed he was culpable—at least in part. 

“I asked him personally today, does he hold responsibility for what happened? Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened. And he need[s] to acknowledge that,” McCarthy said.

As for Rep. Jordan, the committee noted in its executive summary on Monday: “Representative Jordan was a significant player in President Trump’s efforts. He participated in numerous post-election meetings in which senior White House officials, Rudolph Giuliani, and others, discussed strategies for challenging the election, chief among them claims that the election had been tainted by fraud.” 

Jordan was a participant on a conference call with Trump on Jan. 2 in which delay strategies were discussed. That same day, Jordan and Trump spoke by phone for an hour. 

A day before the insurrection, Jordan was in contact with Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff. Jordan offered advice to Meadows about how then-Vice President Mike Pence could intervene in the joint session on Jan. 6. Pence did not have that authority and Jordan showed himself to be a less-than-capable reader of the Constitution. 

Jordan also spoke to Trump on Jan. 6 at least twice. His public accounting of that day has been littered with inconsistencies. 

RELATED: Jim ‘Nothing to Hide’ Jordan responds to Jan. 6 committee with a list of demands and specious claims

Evidence collected by the committee indicates Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, called Jordan at least five times on the evening of the 6th. Jordan picked up at least two of those calls. Giuliani told the committee he reached out to Jordan because he was one of several lawmakers he called, pleading with them to keep up the spirit and object to the electoral slates once the joint session finally resumed.

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson also testified that Jordan was among those members of Congress who discussed presidential pardons after the attack. But, she added, he never asked for one directly. 

Rep. Scott Perry, who has been on the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 radar for quite some time, was a key proponent of Trump’s Big Lie after the 2020 election. Both he and Jordan were involved in conversations about the objection strategy but it was Perry who arguably had the more influential role. Perry introduced Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows to Jeffrey Clark, a mid-level Justice Department lawyer at the time who believed that the election had been “stolen.”

Perry pushed for Trump to speak at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the committee says, and he was among those lawmakers who asked for a pardon once the attack was over. 

The lawmakers’ refusal to cooperate with the investigation was “flagrant,” the committee wrote it in the executive summary of its final report. 

“The Rules of the House of Representatives make clear that their willful noncompliance violates multiple standards of conduct and subjects them to discipline. Willful noncompliance with compulsory congressional committee subpoenas by House Members violates the spirit and letter of House Rule XXIII, Clause 1, which requires House Members to conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House,” the report states. 

House Ethics Committee rules dictate that its members can go on a fact-gathering mission when assessing whether a lawmaker violated ethics rules and the body can use subpoenas to compel documents. While this avenue wasn’t particularly successful with McCarthy, Jordan, or Biggs, one particular notable difference here is that members cannot claim privileges like the Speech and Debate clause to avoid scrutiny. 

But the ethics committee would also require a vote to start a probe. If just one Republican currently sitting on the panel breaks ranks, the next step would be the formation of an investigative subcommittee. From that point, a full investigation would be conducted and House Ethics would issue what is known as a “statement of alleged violation.” 

If there's enough clear and convincing evidence and its proven that a member violated ethics rules or the law, liability could be established. Then its about due process. So, let's say a violation IS established. In that case, accountability could translate in a few ways...

— Brandi Buchman (@Brandi_Buchman) December 19, 2022

With enough information, liability could potentially be established and from there, accountability would come by way of a “letter of reproval” of that member or a formal reprimand. A letter of reproval does not require a full House vote, but a reprimand does. 

Only 11 members of Congress have been reprimanded since the process first began in the 1960s. 

Morning Digest: Why we won’t know the winner of New York’s mayoral primaries for weeks

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

New York City, NY Mayor: A final poll from Ipsos ahead of Tuesday's instant-runoff Democratic primary in New York City shows Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in a strong position to secure his party's nomination, in contrast with other recent polls that have shown one of his top rivals, former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, prevailing in the end. But regardless of who's leading, it may not be until mid-July until we know who's actually won—more on that in a bit.

First, the new survey, which gives Adams the lead with 28% when it comes to voters' first-choice preferences, while 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang edges out Garcia 20-15 for second. This is the strongest performance in some time for Yang, the one-time frontrunner, but it's not good enough: Ipsos shows Adams beating him by a wide 56-44 spread in the seventh and final round of ranked-choice tabulations.

We've seen a few other polls in the last few weeks, and while they all agree that Adams is in striking distance to take the nomination, they're not united in designating him as the undisputed frontrunner. The best recent numbers for Adams prior to Ipsos' new data came from a Marist College poll conducted in early June that had him defeating Garcia 56-44 in the last round of tabulations.

Campaign Action

But those contrasted with Public Opinion Strategies' survey for the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, that found Garcia narrowly beating Adams 52-48 after ranked-choice tabulations were complete. The Democratic pollster Change Research, on behalf of a pro-Garcia super PAC, showed something very similar, with Garcia triumphing over Adams in the end by a slim 51-49 margin.

One big challenge for pollsters is that New York City will be the largest jurisdiction in America to ever hold an instant-runoff election, and no one, including the candidates, is quite sure what to expect. Vividly illustrating the terra incognita this new system is uncovering, Yang and Garcia made news over the weekend by campaigning together, an alliance that would never come about in a traditional primary.

The accord however, didn't quite amount to a formal coalition: While Yang implored his voters, "Rank me No. 1 and then rank Kathryn Garcia No. 2," Garcia didn't ask her supporters to make Yang their second choice. (It's not clear why Yang assented to such a one-sided arrangement, but Garcia says his team "absolutely knew what I was gonna say.")

The joint appearances drew a furious response from Adams, who spent his final days accusing his rivals of banding together to stop New York City from electing its second-ever Black mayor. Attorney Maya Wiley, who is also Black, had a very different response, expressing her support for ranked-choice voting and condemning Adams' description of the alliance as a form of "voter suppression."

No matter what, though, we're very unlikely to know for sure who's won the Democratic nomination until mid-July. While votes will be tabulated Tuesday after polls close at 9 PM ET for ballots cast in-person during the early voting period and on Election Day, mail-in votes will not be counted until the week of July 12. The New York City Board of Elections said last month that the delay is a result of a state law that allows absentee votes to be received for up to two weeks after Election Day, and for voters to fix any minor errors.

Ranked-choice tabulations will not occur on election night but will instead start June 29. You'll notice that this date is long before the count of mail ballots will begin, raising the obvious question of why anyone would bother tabulating any instant-runoff scenarios before all votes are counted, since they won't be representative of the full electorate. (If there's a good explanation, we haven't heard it.)

Instant-runoff voting is also being used in other city primaries, including races for comptroller, borough president, and City Council, many of which are open due to term limits. A big exception, though, is the crowded race for Manhattan district attorney: Because the post is a state-level office, the ballot measure New York City voters approved in 2019 to establish ranked-choice voting doesn't apply, so the victor only needs a plurality to prevail.

Key elections in the rest of the state, including the Democratic primary for mayor of Buffalo, are also being conducted with plurality rules, so there's a better chance we'll know the winners of these races somewhat earlier, though delays in processing mail ballots still apply.

Senate

AK-Sen: Donald Trump has endorsed former Alaska cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka in her quest to dethrone Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, whom Trump has long despised for her insufficient fealty. Tshibaka once wrote approvingly of "conversion therapy" and hasn't answered questions as to whether she still believes in the discredited practice herself. On a now-defunct personal blog, she also warned that the "Twilight" series of vampire books and movies "is evil and we should not read or watch it" because it "leaves us open to the enemy's attacks."

MO-Sen: Attorney Mark McCloskey, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Senate, pleaded guilty late last week to a misdemeanor assault charge after he and his wife brandished firearms at a group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators. McCloskey paid a $750 fine and surrendered the weapon he pointed at protestors last year, but he said immediately after his sentencing that "I'd do it again" and quickly purchased a new rifle that he proudly showed off on social media.

Meanwhile, it looks like we can rule out Republican Rep. Blaine Leutkemeyer for this race: A spokesperson told The Missourian that the congressman "has no interest in pursuing other offices."

NC-Sen: File this one under endorsements you don't want—if you're running in a GOP primary: Retiring Sen. Richard Burr, who was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict Donald Trump at his second impeachment trial, just described former Gov. Pat McCrory as "the only one in the race that can win the general election" in next year's Senate race in North Carolina. It's not clear whether McCrory actually considers Burr's comments to be a formal statement of support, but the surest sign we can look for is whether rival campaigns try to use this against him at some point.

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commission Chair Val Arkoosh earned an endorsement on Monday from EMILY's List ahead of next year's Democratic primary for this open seat. Arkoosh is the only woman running a serious campaign for Team Blue's nomination, and that looks unlikely to change now that Reps. Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan have both taken their names out of contention.

Governors

AL-Gov: State Auditor Jim Zeigler said Monday that he was forming an exploratory committee for a potential Republican primary campaign against Gov. Kay Ivey, but don't mark him down as a candidate yet. Zeigler took this very action back in 2018, but he ended up staying out of that contest for governor. The auditor said later that year that he'd formed an exploratory committee for a 2020 Senate race, but he never so much as filed FEC paperwork afterwards.

AZ-Gov: Former Rep. Matt Salmon unveiled an endorsement Monday from extremist Rep. Andy Biggs for next year's Republican primary. It's hardly a surprise that Biggs decided to back his predecessor in Congress: Back in 2016, Salmon issued a retirement announcement that caught almost everyone off guard except Biggs, who immediately entered the House race with Salmon's endorsement.

CA-Gov: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is out with a trio of TV ads as part of what Politico says is a $3 million opening reservation ahead of the unscheduled recall vote, and while the first spot touts his accomplishments, the other two take aim at his many far-right enemies.

One commercial begins, "The same Trump Republicans who refuse to accept the presidential election are back, passing voter suppression laws across the country. Now, they've set their sights on California." As footage of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol plays, the narrator declares, "Different tactics, same assault on democracy."

The final ad, which is running in Spanish, makes many of the same arguments while also focusing on a figure closer to home. The narrator reminds viewers that a recall organizer named Orrin Heatlie wrote that his allies "supported tracking immigrants with microchips."

ID-Gov: Far-right anti-government militant Ammon Bundy, who unsuccessfully tried to file paperwork for a gubernatorial bid last month, has now officially kicked off his campaign for the GOP nomination. (For what it's worth, that filing snafu appears to be have been resolved, since Bundy's campaign is now listed as "Active" on the Idaho secretary of state's website.)

Bundy is best known for leading an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016, in protest of federal land management policies. While other militants were convicted of charges in relation to the occupation, Bundy himself was acquitted. Yet despite his reputation, Bundy may not be the most extreme candidate in the race, since he's competing with Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin for the title. Both are challenging incumbent Gov. Brad Little, who has yet to declare for re-election.

MD-Gov: Nonprofit executive Jon Baron announced Monday that he was joining the crowded Democratic primary for this open seat. Baron, who formed an exploratory committee back in March, is a former official in the Clinton-era Department of Defense who went on to serve on boards and commissions during the Bush and Obama administrations, though this is his first run for office.

Baron later worked as vice president of Arnold Ventures, a group supported by a billionaire couple that describes its mission as "invest[ing] in evidence-based solutions that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice." The nonprofit was in the headlines last year after it launched a program where it attempted to reduce crime by flying drones over Baltimore; Baron says he had nothing to do with this controversial initiative, which ended after six months.

NJ-Gov: Farleigh Dickinson University has put out the first poll of New Jersey's gubernatorial race conducted after the June 8 primary and finds Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy up 48-33 on former Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli. A poll taken by Rutgers shortly before the primary had Murphy ahead 52-26.

OR-Gov: On Friday, Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla became the first elected official to announce a campaign for the Democratic nomination for this open seat. Kulla, who works as a farmer, won his first campaign in 2018 in his county, which is located southwest of Portland.

WI-Gov: Despite (or perhaps because of) her caginess, Wisconsin political observers have been quite certain for some time that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch would challenge Democratic Gov. Tony Evers next year, and new remarks she made over the weekend have them more convinced than ever. At a gathering on Saturday night, Kleefisch referred to a slew of Republican voter suppression bills and said that, with a different governor in office, "I can tell you she will sign them on day one"—with an emphasis on the word "she," according to the Journal Times' Adam Rogan. Still, there's no word on when she might announce.

House

FL-07: A trio of Florida Republican congressmen have endorsed Army veteran Cory Mills' bid against Democratic incumbent Stephanie Murphy: Neal Dunn, Brian Mast, and Greg Steube.

GA-06: Republican Jake Evans announced Monday that he was resigning as chair of the Georgia ethics commission ahead of what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says is his anticipated campaign against Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath.

MO-04: On Thursday, Cass County Commissioner Ryan Johnson became the second Republican to enter the race to succeed incumbent Vicky Hartzler, who is giving up this safely red seat in the west-central part of the state to run for the Senate. Johnson joins former state Sen. Ed Emery in what could be a crowded contest.

Johnson, who is a veteran of the Army and Coast Guard, previously worked for another Missouri Republican congressman, Sam Graves, before he helmed the dark money group Missouri Alliance for Freedom. Johnson won elected office for the first time last year when he narrowly unseated an incumbent in the primary.

NM-02, Where Are They Now?: President Joe Biden announced Friday that he was nominating former Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small for a position at the Department of Agriculture, a move that ends speculation that she could instead try to retake her old seat from Republican incumbent Yvette Herrell. The current version of the 2nd District in southern New Mexico backed Donald Trump 55-43, but Democrats could shift it to the left now that they're in charge of the redistricting process for the first time in decades.

Attorneys General

TX-AG: Former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman announced Monday that she would take on scandal-plagued incumbent Ken Paxton in next year's Republican primary for attorney general.

Guzman, who was the first Latina to serve on the body, joins a nomination fight that also includes Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who has a terrible relationship with the party's nativist base. She refrained from going after Bush on his attempts to renovate the Alamo, though, and instead argued that she's the only Paxton challenger who has the experience and credibility to hold this post.

Guzman almost certainly lacks the name recognition of both her foes, though she did enter the race with an endorsement from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which the Texas Tribune describes as "the powerful tort reform group that supported Paxton for attorney general in the 2014 and 2018 general elections." A primary runoff would take place if no one earns a majority of the vote in the first round.

Other Races

Staten Island, NY Borough President: Former Rep. Vito Fossella's lethargic comeback campaign picked up an endorsement over the weekend from Donald Trump ahead of Tuesday's instant-runoff Republican primary.

Fossella, who retired from Congress in 2009 after the public learned about his second family, faces two intra-party opponents: New York City Councilman Steven Matteo, who has the backing of the borough's Republican Party and a number of police unions, and former borough party chair Leticia Remauro, who has the Conservative Party in her corner. Four Democrats are also competing for an office that has been in GOP hands since the 1989 election.

Morning Digest: D.A. leading reform charge in Philadelphia faces primary challenge from skeptic

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.

Leading Off

Philadelphia, PA District Attorney: Larry Krasner's 2017 victory in the race for Philadelphia district attorney gave criminal justice reformers an early high-profile win, but he faces a competitive May 18 Democratic primary fight to hold onto his office. Krasner's opponent is former prosecutor Carlos Vega, who has argued that the incumbent has been running "an experiment that is costing the lives of our children." The eventual nominee should have no trouble in the November general election in this heavily blue city.

Politico's Holly Otterbein writes that Vega, who was one of the 31 prosecutors whom Krasner fired shortly into his tenure, has avoided "campaigning as a tough-on-crime politician." Vega instead has argued he can deliver "real progressive reform" and insisted that "we don't have to choose between safety and reform." Vega has also blamed the city's spike in homicides on the district attorney's policies.

Krasner has responded by pointing out that murders have increased nationwide for reasons far beyond his control, saying, "What has happened, and essentially every criminologist agrees on this, is that the pandemic, closing of society and closing of so many different aspects of what protects and surrounds especially young men have disappeared." Krasner has further defended himself by arguing, as Otterbein writes, that he's "delivered on his campaign promises by lowering the jail population, exonerating the innocent and reducing the amount of time people are on probation and parole."

Campaign Action

The incumbent, in turn, is framing his contest as a choice between criminal justice reform and "past that echoes with names like [Frank] Rizzo," the city's racist late mayor. Krasner is also trying to turn the local Fraternal Order of Police's support for Vega into a liability by pointing out that the national organization backed Donald Trump last year. Vela, who was the first Latino homicide prosecutor in Pennsylvania, has pushed back, saying it was "really rich" for Krasner to compare him to Trump "when this is coming from a person who's white, elite, from an Ivy League school."

Krasner outraised his opponent by hauling in $420,000 during the first three months of 2021, but Vega still brought in a credible $340,000. Krasner also has to deal with a well-funded group called Protect Our Police PAC, which has mostly been financed by pro-Trump megadonor Timothy Mellon. The PAC, though, generated plenty of negative attention in early April when it sent out a fundraising email falsely blaming George Floyd for his own death.

Vela quickly disavowed the group, which blamed the message on a marketing firm, and said he didn't want its backing. Protect Our Police, in turn, responded by saying that it wasn't endorsing Vela but was "laser-focused" on unseating Krasner.

One major question looming over the race is whether billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who has in the past donated heavily to groups supporting Krasner and likeminded candidates, will help him again. Otterbein also notes that there have been no public polls here, and insiders disagree on how vulnerable Krasner is next month.

1Q Fundraising

NV-Sen: Catherine Cortez Masto (D-inc): $2.3 million raised, $4.7 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AK-Sen: The prominent GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund has backed Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who already faces an intra-party challenge from former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka. Murkowski, who has not yet announced if she'll seek re-election, had suggested she might run as an independent back in January, but SLF's endorsement indicates that party leaders doubt she'll abandon the party label.

As we've noted before, Alaska will not hold a conventional party primary next year thanks to a new ballot measure Alaska voters passed in November that radically reforms how elections are conducted in the state. Under Measure 2, all candidates from all parties will now run together on a single primary ballot, with the top four vote-getters advancing to a November general election. Voters would then choose a winner from that quartet by means of an instant runoff.

AZ-Sen: The far-right anti-tax Club for Growth has released a survey from its usual pollster WPA Intelligence showing its ally, extremist Rep. Andy Biggs, edging out Gov. Doug Ducey 46-45 in a hypothetical Republican primary.

Biggs said a few weeks ago that he'd decide by the end of March if he'd challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but the month concluded without any public comment from the congressman about his plans. Ducey, by contrast, took his name out of consideration in January, though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly has been trying to get him to reconsider.

GA-Sen: While Donald Trump generated plenty of chatter about former NFL running back Herschel Walker's interest in this race last month when he not-tweeted "Run Herschel, run!", the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Walker himself has remained "silent" about a possible campaign against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. The paper says that Walker, who remains a Texas resident, also "hasn't returned the calls of even some senior Republican officials trying to ascertain his next move."

Meanwhile another Republican, banking executive Latham Saddler, filed paperwork with the FEC on Friday for a potential campaign.

NC-Sen: On Thursday, a consultant for far-right Rep. Ted Budd named Michael Luethy told the News & Observer that his boss would make his decision whether to run for the state's open Senate seat "sooner than later." Luethy also said of the Budd's deliberations, "It's fair to say he's leading towards it."

That same day, the conservative Carolina Journal published a piece by Dallas Woodhouse, the infamous former executive director of the state GOP, who wrote that multiple unnamed sources believed that Budd "will enter the U.S. Senate race in the coming weeks." Luethy, though, insisted that, while Budd is putting together a "formidable team," the congressman had not yet made a final decision.

The only notable Republican in the running right now is Budd's former colleague, ex-Rep. Mark Walker, though others are eyeing this contest. The potential candidate who continues to generate the most attention is former Trump campaign adviser Lara Trump, while former Gov. Pat McCrory has been flirting with a bid for years.  One Republican who will not be running, though, is state party chair Michael Whatley, who took his name out of contention on Thursday.

NV-Sen: On Thursday, former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval unambiguously ruled out running against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto. "I have no interest in running and I will not be a candidate" said Sandoval, who now serves as president of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Governors

MD-Gov: Former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker announced Thursday that he would seek the Democratic nomination to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Baker's decision came as a surprise, as his name had not been mentioned much before he kicked off his second campaign for this office.

Baker, who would be Maryland's first Black governor, competed in the 2018 primary to take on Hogan, and he attracted the support of almost the entire state party establishment. However, Baker lost by a surprisingly wide 40-29 margin to former NAACP president Ben Jealous, whom Hogan went on to defeat in the general election.

The Washington Post's Arelis Hernandez took a close look at what went wrong for Baker right after the primary and pointed to a number of factors that led to his downfall. These included his refusal to heed advice that he campaign more visibly, Jealous' aggressive courting of unions and stronger fundraising, and the fact that Baker didn't jump on developments coming out of the Trump White House in the way that Jealous did. On Friday, fellow Post writer Rachel Chason noted that Baker was also held back by "political enemies he made in Prince George's, including labor unions and opponents of his controversial efforts to improve county public schools."

In an interview Thursday with Maryland Matters, Baker acknowledged that his underwhelming fundraising had played a big role in his defeat last time. Baker argued, though, that he was limited at the time by his responsibilities as county executive and local ethics rules restricting how much officeholders could take from developers, which will not be factors for him now.

Baker joins a primary field that already includes state Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has been running for over a year, and former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, while more could be in before long. Maryland Matters' Bruce DePuyt writes that former Attorney General Doug Gansler, who badly lost the 2014 primary for governor, is "expected to announce that he's running later this month." DePuyt also relays that Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski "is expected" to decide next month after the county council acts on his proposed budget.

Several other Democrats could also join the field, but it looks like Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks will not be one of them. Alsobrooks, who was elected in 2018 to succeed Baker as leader of the state's second-largest county, said last month that "in this moment I'm running for re-election."

While Alsobrooks' statement didn't quite close the door on a campaign for higher office, Baker said Thursday that he'd only made his decision after talking with her the day before. Baker said he'd spoken to her about the gubernatorial race and added that "[w]e're genuinely friends" and "our supporters are the same."

NV-Gov: Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo acknowledged to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Thursday that he was thinking about seeking the Republican nomination to face Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Rep. Mark Amodei also recently reaffirmed his interest, while former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchinson has reportedly been considering as well. The paper writes of this group, "The consensus among local Republican political operatives is that the trio is working to reach an agreement on a single candidate to support by the beginning of summer.

NY-Gov: Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik's team on Thursday put out their first statement directly addressing the possibility that she could run for governor, which came hours after her colleague, Lee Zeldin, kicked off his own bid. "Congresswoman Stefanik continues to receive encouragement from all corners of the state as she would immediately be the strongest Republican candidate in both a primary and general gubernatorial election," said senior advisor Alex DeGrasse, who added that she "is not ruling anything out - nor will she make her decision based on others' timetables."

House

FL-01, NY-23: The House Ethics Committee on Friday announced that it had opened investigations into two Republicans embroiled in separate scandals, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and New York Rep. Tom Reed.

The committee says it is "aware of public allegations" that Gaetz "may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct." Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for sex trafficking, has rejected calls for his resignation.

The Ethics Committee, meanwhile, is probing allegations that Reed "may have engaged in sexual misconduct." Last month, a woman named Nicolette Davis accused Reed of sexually harassing her at a Minneapolis restaurant in 2017. While Reed initially denied Davis' account as "not accurate," he published a statement two days later apologizing to her and announcing that he would not be on the ballot for anything next year.

FL-20: The Sun Sentinel writes that, while Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness hasn't yet launched a campaign to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings, Holness has "been informally running for months" for this safely blue South Florida seat. The paper also name-drops Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard as another possible Democratic contender for the unscheduled special election.

NY-01: Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who took third in last year's Democratic primary, filed paperwork with the FEC on Friday for a potential bid to succeed Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is running for governor. Fleming did not immediately announce a bid, though she responded to a tweet the previous day urging her to run by writing, "Stay tuned."

Morning Digest: Eric Greitens, the GOP’s worst nightmare in Missouri, already has a major opponent

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.

Leading Off

MO-Sen: Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Wednesday that he would seek the Republican nomination for the state's open Senate seat, a decision that came two days after disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens also entered the primary.

An unnamed source close to the attorney general told the Kansas City Star's Bryan Lowry that Greitens' kickoff had no impact on the timing of Schmitt's own launch. Lowry, though, notes that, by getting in early, Schmitt may be trying to establish himself as the main intra-party adversary for Greitens, whom national Republicans reportedly fear could endanger their hold over this seat should he win the nomination.

However, while Schmitt may be hoping that his entrance could deter other Republicans from running, a former Greitens adversary is also making it clear he's thinking about diving in. On Tuesday, wealthy businessman John Brunner posted a photo of himself with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul captioned, "Does Rand Paul need another freedom fighter in the US Senate?" Brunner lost the 2012 primary for Missouri's other Senate seat to the infamous Todd Akin before he campaigned for governor in 2016. Greitens, though, defeated Brunner 35-25 after a truly ugly contest.

Campaign Action

Schmitt, for his part, was first elected statewide that year when he decisively won the race for state treasurer, a contest that coincided with Greitens' victory in the gubernatorial contest. However, while Greitens resigned in 2018 in the face of multiple scandals, including allegations that he'd sexually assaulted a woman he was having an affair with and blackmailed her into silence, Schmitt secured a more powerful post months later following that year's elections. That promotion came about when the state's new governor, Mike Parson, appointed Schmitt attorney general to succeed Josh Hawley, who had just been elected to the Senate

Schmitt before long used his new job to sue the government of China over its response to the pandemic, a move that got him plenty of press but unsurprisingly went nowhere after China refused to be served. (Chuck Hatfield, who served as chief of staff to Democrat Jay Nixon when he held that office, snarked, "You're suing the Chinese Communist party in Cape Girardeau, Missouri? What do they have a field office down there?") Schmitt also continued the state's lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act even after Missouri voters approved a referendum last August to expand Medicaid.

Schmitt had no trouble winning a full term last year, and he quickly became one of the main figures behind a lawsuit by multiple Republican attorneys general to overturn Joe Biden's victory. The U.S. Supreme Court quickly dismissed the attempt, but that hardly stopped Schmitt from using his Wednesday campaign appearance on Fox to brag, "I fought alongside President Trump in defending election integrity." At no point did Schmitt ever refer to Joe Biden as president.

P.S. One of Schmitt's allies in that suit was fellow Republican Derek Schmidt, the attorney general of neighboring Kansas. Schmidt is currently competing in the primary for governor of his state, so both Attorneys General Schmitt and Schmidt will be on the ballot around the same time next year. That could make for a confusing experience for TV viewers in media markets that cover both states, especially Kansas City, though Kansas will be the only one of those two states to host a gubernatorial race in 2022.

Senate

AL-Sen: Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell said Wednesday that she would remain in the House rather than run for the Senate in this very red state.

AZ-Sen: Extremist Rep. Andy Biggs recently told the Wall Street Journal that he would decide by the end of the month whether to seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly.

NC-Sen: State House Speaker Tim Moore has reportedly been considering seeking the Republican nomination for next year's Senate race, but he said this week that he planned on re-election to the legislature. That declaration seems unlikely to silence chatter about Moore's 2022 plans, though, as it came in the midst of a strange story that only led to more questions about whether the speaker would be sticking around state government.

The News & Observer reports that Tom Fetzer, a powerful lobbyist who previously served as mayor of Raleigh and as state GOP chair, sent out a text over the weekend for, in his words, "putting together a fundraiser" to benefit House Majority Leader John Bell. Fetzer tried to entice would-be attendees by writing, "As Tim Moore has stated he is not seeking another term in the House, John is the odds on favorite to be Speaker in 2023."

State law, though, forbids lobbyists from hosting fundraisers or soliciting contributions while the legislature is in session, as it is scheduled to be through July. Bell said that Fetzer wasn't involved with the event, which has since been canceled, and that he hadn't heard that Moore planned to leave the legislature. "It's way too early for me to be talking about that," said Bell about his boss' future.

The paper writes that Moore, for his part, "texted an N&O reporter Tuesday to say he plans to seek a fifth term, which would be a record." However, while Fetzer says he wasn't actually involved in holding that ill-fated fundraiser ("I dictated the text into my phone and just sent," he said), the lobbyist insisted that he'd made no mistake when he said Moore was on his way out. "I do think the speaker has informed people that he does not intend to seek another term," Fetzer said, adding, "I don't know that that's a real surprise."

The story did not mention the Senate race, but N&O reporter Brian Murphy tweeted it out saying, "Lots of news in this story, but one takeaway that will lead to lots of speculation: Is NC House Speaker Moore planning a run for U.S. House or U.S. Senate?" This is the first we've heard of the possibility that Moore, who is in place to play a major role during the upcoming round of redistricting, could run for the House.

NV-Sen: The National Journal's Madelaine Pisani takes a look at Nevada's surprisingly quiet Senate race, where no major Republicans have publicly expressed interest yet in taking on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, and she mentions a few possible contenders for Team Red

Pisani name-drops former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, and state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, though she adds that "none have made public indications they are preparing bids." Ex-Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was the party's 2018 gubernatorial nominee, reportedly has been eyeing this contest, though he's said nothing about his deliberations.

Governors

CA-Gov: Probolsky Research, a firm that has worked for Republicans in the past but says it has no client in this year's recall campaign, has released a poll that finds likely voters saying they'd vote against ousting Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom by a 53-35 margin.

The recall has not yet been officially scheduled, much less declared, though, which makes it especially tricky to determine who is likely to turn out. Probolsky asks the same question among all voters and also finds a plurality opposed to recalling Newsom, but by a much-smaller 46-40 spread.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that billionaire Tom Steyer, an environmentalist who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2020, recently commissioned a poll of his own testing his prospects in a hypothetical race to succeed Newsom. A spokesperson for Steyer only said to check back in "late April," which is around the time that county clerks have to validate signatures for the recall petition. However, an unnamed source close to Steyer said he'd be "very, very surprised if he is looking at the recall ballot."

IL-Gov: Chicago Now writes that wealthy businessman Gary Rabine will announce "next Tuesday" that he'll seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

MI-Gov: Craig Mauger of the Detroit News reports that officials from the Republican Governors Association have met with three possible candidates in next year's race to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: 2020 Senate nominee John James, conservative radio host Tudor Dixon, and businessman Kevin Rinke. Of this trio, Dixon has said she's looking at the race, while Rinke has very much not ruled it out; James, meanwhile, has been quiet about his intentions.

We'll start with James, who is the best known of the trio. James ran in 2018 against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and lost 52-46 while Whitmer was beating Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette 53-44. That showing impressed national Republicans, who recruited James to take on Michigan's other Democratic senator, Gary Peters: After a very expensive contest, Peters won 50-48 as Joe Biden was carrying the state by a slightly-larger 51-48 spread

James has spent the last several weeks attacking Whitmer in media appearances, but he hasn't said if he's thinking about challenging her. Mauger writes that some Republicans would prefer he run for the House after redistricting because they believe it would be easier than a third statewide campaign, and that James' 2022 "decision could still be months away."

Dixon was much more forthright, saying, "Michigan needs to mount a comeback with a new governor, and that might just be me." Mauger says that she recently spoke at a protest against the arrest of a restaurant owner who had defied Whitmer's COVID-19 restrictions and a court-order.

Finally, there's businessman Kevin Rinke, who also argued Tuesday that the state needed a new governor. "Who the candidate will be?" Rinke asked, before answering, "To be determined." Mauger writes that the family has owned car dealerships in the Detroit area, which gives them a recognizable name in this large section of the state.

Mauger also mentions Schuette, former Rep. Mike Bishop, and former state House Speaker Tom Leonard as possible contenders. Leonard, he writes, is "expected" to instead seek a rematch with Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, who beat him 49-46 in 2018, though Mauger says he is still "viewed as a potential gubernatorial candidate."

NE-Gov: Republican Sen. Deb Fischer confirmed Wednesday that she was considering running in next year's open seat race for governor, though she said she was "in no hurry" to decide. That could be very unwelcome news for other Republicans looking at this race, as Fischer would be a very prominent contender who could deter others from running.

NY-Gov: Democrat Charles Lavine, who chairs the New York Assembly's Judiciary Committee, said on Tuesday that he expects the committee's impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo will take "months, rather than weeks." Two women who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, Ana Liss and Lindsey Boylan, have said they won't participate in the investigation, citing both its slow pace and criticisms about its independence. A third, Charlotte Bennett, has said she will take part, but her attorney said "questions remain" about the probe.

House

GA-10: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that businessman Ames Barnett, the former mayor of the small community of Washington (pop. 4,000) is considering seeking the Republican nomination to succeed incumbent Jody Hice and "hopes to make a decision within the next week."

NJ-02: Hector Tavarez, a former member of the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education, said this week that he'd seek the Democratic nod to take on Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew. Tavarez joins civil rights attorney Tim Alexander in the primary for this South Jersey seat.

The New Jersey Globe notes that Tavarez, who is also a retired police captain, has a more conservative pitch than most Democrats. Tavarez notably said in his kickoff, "Welfare and other social programs were designed to assist American families in need for a short period of time while they got themselves up on their feet. Over the years, these programs have evolved into a way of life, generation after generation."

NY-23: Several Republicans are showing at least some interest in running to succeed retiring Rep. Tom Reed, though many acknowledged that they'd want to wait and see what the new congressional map looks like. New York, as we've noted before, is likely to lose at least one House seat, and Reed's departure could make it easier for map makers to eliminate this upstate constituency.

Former state Sen. Cathy Young told WIVB reporter Chris Horvatits that she was thinking about it, while Assemblyman Joe Giglio said it was something he "might consider." In a separate interview with the Olean Times Herald, Giglio said he'd be interested if the 23rd District "still existed" after the remap.

State Sen. George Borrello, who was elected to succeed Young in a 2019 special election, also told Horvatits he wasn't ruling it out. Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel also said he was focused on his re-election bid and didn't appear to directly address a congressional bid. Assemblyman Andy Goodell, though, said he wouldn't be running himself.

On the Democratic side, 2020 state Senate candidate Leslie Danks-Burke said she was open to a House race. Meanwhile, Tracy Mitrano, who lost to Reed in 2018 and 2020, said she wouldn't wage a third congressional campaign.

Legislative

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Virginia:

VA-SD-38: Republican Travis Hackworth defeated Democrat Laurie Buchwald 76-24 to hold this seat for his party. Hackworth's win was similar to Donald Trump's 75-22 victory here in 2016.

This chamber is now at full strength, with Democrats maintaining their narrow 21-19 majority.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Core Decision Analytics has released its second poll of the instant-runoff Democratic primary for Fontas Advisors, a lobbying group that is not working for any candidates, and it shows 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang leading Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams 16-10.

The firm has changed one important part of its methodology since its February survey, which had Yang beating Adams 28-17. The earlier poll included a brief description of each candidate while this one just lists their names, which helps explain why the proportion of undecideds skyrocketed from 19% to 50%.

Yang's campaign, meanwhile, has released another poll from Slingshot Strategies that shows him outpacing Adams 25-15, with City Comptroller Scott Stringer at 12%. This survey, which the pollster tells us was in the field March 12-18, is very similar to its January survey finding Yang up 25-17.

The crowded primary field also got a little smaller Wednesday when City Councilman Carlos Menchaca exited the contest.

Morning Digest: Rhode Island has a new governor, but a hard fight looms if he wants to say in office

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.

Leading Off

RI-Gov: On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to serve as secretary of commerce. Raimondo resigned and was succeeded by Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, a fellow Democrat who may need to get through tough primary and general election contests in order to keep his new job.

In January, WPRI's Eli Sherman wrote that McKee was "somewhat less liberal than Raimondo," who has had a rocky relationship of her own with labor and progressives at home ever since ushering through painful pension cuts in 2011 as state treasurer. Indeed, a number of labor groups, especially teachers unions, have clashed with McKee for over a decade because of his ardent support for charter schools.

In 2008, the National Education Association of Rhode Island, the state AFL-CIO, and Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals ran ads against McKee during his re-election bid as mayor of Cumberland, but he decisively won with 64% of the vote. Six years later, after McKee claimed the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, several unions decided to back his Republican opponent in the general election, but McKee prevailed 54-34.

Campaign Action

McKee, though, came close to losing renomination in 2018 to progressive state Rep. Aaron Regunberg. Regunberg, who accused the incumbent of accepting "dark money" from PACs, also benefited from the support of what Sherman described as "most of the state's unions." But McKee, who argued that he'd be better positioned to lead the state should Raimondo leave office early, still had the backing of most Ocean State politicos, and he held on 51-49 before decisively winning the general election.

It remains to be seen if McKee's longtime detractors will attempt to beat him in 2022, however. In January, right after Raimondo's nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Commerce was announced, the head of the state branch of the National Education Association praised McKee as someone who "will bring the perspective of local control being important." McKee and Raimondo's notoriously distant relationship may also not matter much to the new governor now that Raimondo is heading to D.C.

Of more immediate concern to McKee are the number of other Rhode Island Democrats who had planned to run in 2022, when Raimondo was to be termed-out, and may now decide to take on McKee. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea reaffirmed her interest in January, while Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and state Treasurer Seth Magaziner have both raised serious amounts of cash. A crowded field, though, would likely aid McKee in a state where conservative Democrats still retain plenty of influence in primaries.

Rhode Island, while a solidly blue state in federal elections, has also been willing to sending Republicans to the governor's office, and a bruising Democratic primary could give Team Red a larger opening. Former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung reportedly has been mulling a third bid for office: Raimondo beat Fung only 41-36 in the 2014 open seat race, though she prevailed by a decisive 53-37 in their 2018 rematch. There has also been speculation that state House Minority Leader Blake Filippi could also campaign for governor.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Rep. Andy Biggs, who hasn't previously spoken publicly about his interest in seeking a promotion to the upper chamber, confirms he's "looking at" taking on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly next year. Biggs, the extremist head of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, also appears to have leaked a very hypothetical primary poll that shows him leading a bunch of largely unknown potential rivals, though he didn't offer a timetable for making a decision.

Two of the names tested in Biggs' poll are new, though: Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, who is in charge of the Arizona National Guard, and businessman Jim Lehman.

MO-Sen: Disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, who last month declined to rule out a bid for Senate, now says in a new interview that he's "evaluating" a possible campaign against Sen. Roy Blunt in next year's GOP primary.

Greitens, who was pressured to leave office by members of his own party in 2018 after he was accused of sexual abuse, criticized Blunt for insufficient fealty to Trump and even attacked him for his role presiding over Joe Biden's inauguration. However, it's traditional for the chair of the Senate Rules Committee (which Blunt presided over until recently) to do so: In 1997, the last time the Senate and White House were held by opposite parties following a presidential election, Virginia Republican John Warner chaired the inaugural committee for Bill Clinton's second swearing-in.

Greitens didn't say when he might make a decision, but if he does go for it, he may not wind up squaring off against Blunt after all: While the 71-year-old senator has said he's "planning" to seek re-election, he's made some comments this year that suggest he might not go through with it.

Governors

FL-Gov: Mason-Dixon is out with the first poll we've seen of next year's race for governor of Florida, and it finds Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis leading two Democrats who are considering taking him on. DeSantis bests state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 51-42, while he enjoys a slightly-larger 52-41 edge against Rep. Charlie Crist.

House

AZ-01: Republican state Rep. Walt Blackman recently filed paperwork with the FEC for a possible bid against Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran in this swingy northern Arizona seat, though he doesn't appear to have said anything publicly about his interest yet.

Blackman, who earned a Bronze Star serving with the Army in Iraq, won a close race for the state House in 2018, which made him the legislature's first Black Republican member. While Blackman successfully passed a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill during his time in office, he's also made a name for himself by attacking Black Lives Matter as a "terrorist organization." Blackman also posted a video about George Floyd on Facebook that the state representative titled, "I DO NOT support George Floyd and I refuse to see him as a martyr. But I hope his family receives justice."

Blackman won re-election last year after another competitive contest, and he spent the next few months ardently echoing Donald Trump's lies about election fraud. Blackman at one point even suggested that the state legislature could try to overturn Joe Biden's victory in Arizona and instead award its 11 electoral votes to Trump, and he was one of three legislators to call for the U.S. Senate to reject the state's electors.

Another Republican, Williams Mayor John Moore, also filed with the FEC, but he's unlikely to make much of an impact if he gets in. The National Journal notes that Moore, whose community has a population of just over 3,000, ran here in 2020, but he ended his campaign before the primary.

According to new data from Daily Kos Elections, Arizona's 1st District swung to the left from 48-47 Trump to 50-48 Biden as O'Halleran was winning his third term 52-48. No one knows what the new congressional map would look like, though, especially since Republicans are continuing to do whatever they can to undermine or eliminate the state's independent redistricting commission.

LA-02: Both Democratic state senators competing in the March 20 all-party primary for this safely blue seat received a notable endorsement over the last few days. Troy Carter picked up the support of the SEIU, which joins the AFL-CIO in his corner, while Karen Carter Peterson earned the backing of the League of Conservation Voters.

MD-01: Foreign policy strategist Dave Harden announced this week that he would seek the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Andy Harris in Maryland's 1st District, a conservative seat that the Democratic legislature could dramatically redraw in the upcoming round of redistricting. Harden, who says he intends to "run down the middle," will face off in the primary against former Del. Heather Mizeur, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2014 as a progressive.

Harden previously served in the Foreign Service in the Middle East and other parts of Asia before taking a post in the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Obama administration. Harden left the Foreign Service in 2018 and went on to found a consulting group.

MS-04: The Office of Congressional Ethics this week released a report determining that it had "substantial reason to believe" that Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo impermissibly used campaign funds for personal purposes. Investigators also uncovered evidence that the congressman had asked government aides to perform tasks benefitting his political campaigns and himself. The OCE recommended that the House Ethics Committee probe Palazzo, who has represented a heavily Republican seat along Mississippi's Gulf Coast since 2011.

Palazzo's campaign revealed in November that it was under investigation by the OCE for allegedly misusing nearly $200,000 in campaign funds, though his treasurer argued at the time that the congressman had done nothing wrong. The newly published report, however, highlighted what it called a "concerning pattern of campaign expenditures" to pay for rent and repairs to "a large riverfront home which Rep. Palazzo owned and rented to Palazzo for Congress as an ostensible campaign headquarters." The OCE says its evidence "casts doubt on the extent to which the River House actually was used as a campaign headquarters."

OCE staffers also concluded that the congressman's brother, Kyle Palazzo, had been paid $23,000 by the campaign during the last election cycle for work that "may not have justified the salary he received." They further "found evidence that Rep. Palazzo may have used his official position and congressional resources to contact the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in order to assist his brother's efforts to reenlist in the military." According to a former staffer, Kyle Palazzo "was separated from the Navy for affecting a fraudulent enlistment."

TX-15: 2020 nominee Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez's new campaign earned an endorsement this week from Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a high-profile Republican whose Houston-area 2nd District is located far from this South Texas seat. Last year, De La Cruz-Hernandez held Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez to a shockingly close 51-48 win as this McAllen-based constituency snapped from 57-40 Clinton to just 50-49 Biden.

Mayors

Hialeah, FL Mayor: Republican Mayor Carlos Hernandez is termed-out this year as leader of Hialeah, a longtime GOP bastion that's home to the highest proportion of Cuban Americans in the country, and a familiar name is running to succeed him. Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Steve Bovo, a Republican who lost last year's race to lead the county 54-46 against Democrat Daniella Levine Cava, announced Monday that he would join the contest. He may have some big-name backing soon, as Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated last month that he'd support a Bovo campaign.

The field already includes two former city council members, Vivian Casáls-Muñoz and Isis Garcia-Martinez, as well as perennial candidate Juan Santana. All the candidates will compete in the Nov. 2 nonpartisan primary, and a runoff would take place two weeks later if no one contender received a majority of the vote.

Minneapolis, MN Mayor: Former state Rep. Kate Knuth announced Tuesday that she would challenge her fellow Democrat, Mayor Jacob Frey, in the November instant-runoff election.

Knuth left office in early 2013 and went on to serve as Minneapolis' chief resilience officer under Frey's predecessor, Betsy Hodges, but left soon after Frey's 2017 victory. Knuth joins community organizer Sheila Nezhad in the contest, though Nezhad raised a mere $5,100 last year for her campaign. Other contenders may also get in ahead of the August filing deadline.

Both Knuth and Nezhad have emphasized police reform in a campaign that will take place the year after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. (Chauvin is scheduled to go on trial for second-degree murder and manslaughter next week.) Knuth argued in her kickoff that the Minneapolis Police Department should be abolished and replaced by a "public safety department that includes multiple ways to create public safety, including first responders who can help solve problems," though unlike Nezhad, she avoided explicitly saying the department should be defunded.

Frey, for his part, was loudly booed in June when he told a crowd that he opposed an effort by the City Council to fully defund the police. The mayor told NPR afterwards, "We need to entirely shift the culture that has for years failed Black and brown people … We need a full structural revamp. But abolishing the police department? No, I think that's a bad idea."

Frey has also defended his handling of the unrest that followed Floyd's death and argued that he's put needed changes in place at the police department. The incumbent enjoys the backing of state Attorney General Keith Ellison, a former Minneapolis-area congressman and the first Black person to win a non-judicial statewide office in Minnesota.

Other Races

SD-AG: Former South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has announced a comeback bid for his old job next year against incumbent Jason Ravnsborg, who was criminally charged for striking and killing a man with his car late last month and now faces impeachment proceedings.

A nominee would not be chosen by voters in a primary but instead by Republican delegates at a state party convention. Jackley unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018 when he was term-limited out as attorney general, losing to now-Gov. Kristi Noem 56-44 (in a contest that was decided by a primary). Under state law, he can run again now that he's been out of office in the interim. Ravnsborg hasn't said anything about seeking re-election, though he's insisted he won't resign, even with fellow Republicans moving forward with impeachment proceedings in the state House.

Data

House: Using Daily Kos Elections' recently completed calculations of 2020 presidential election results by congressional district, Stephen Wolf looks at the districts that split their tickets last year for House and president, complete with maps and and a chart. Seven districts voted for a Democrat and Donald Trump while nine voted for Joe Biden and a Republican, and those 16 "crossover" districts represent the lowest number of split-ticket districts in a century, a result of historically high levels of partisan polarization.


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