Morning Digest: Trump endorses rival to Freedom Caucus chief who schlepped to his trial

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

VA-05: Donald Trump delivered his long-awaited endorsement on Tuesday to state Sen. John McGuire's campaign to unseat Rep. Bob Good, who chairs the nihilistic Freedom Caucus, in the June 18 Republican primary for Virginia's conservative 5th District.

Trump used a post on Truth Social, which included an obligatory and unfunny pun on the incumbent's name, to make it plain he's out to punish Good for supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the presidential primary.

"Bob Good is BAD FOR VIRGINIA, AND BAD FOR THE USA," Trump wrote. "He turned his back on our incredible movement, and was constantly attacking and fighting me until recently, when he gave a warm and 'loving' Endorsement – But really, it was too late. The damage had been done."

Good's recent trek to New York City to attend Trump's hush money trial doesn't seem to have its intended effect of placating the GOP's overlord, though his hopes for a third term already looked to be in dire shape even before Trump publicly took sides. (Awkwardly, McGuire showed up for the trial on the same day.) A McGuire internal poll conducted at the beginning of the month showed him toppling the incumbent 45-31, and Good has yet to release contrary numbers.

While the congressman's decision a year ago to back DeSantis' already shaky White House bid played a key role in putting him in this unenviable position―and in getting him ejected from a "Trump store" (these apparently exist)―Trump isn't the only powerful Republican he's pissed off. 

Good was one of eight House Republicans who voted to end Kevin McCarthy's speakership in October, and McCarthy's well-funded political network is making central Virginia a key stop on its revenge tour. MAGA world and McCarthy's loyalists often don't align behind the same candidates―Trump days ago endorsed the Floridian who led the charge against McCarthy, Rep. Matt Gaetz―but Good managed to give both factions a reason to want him gone.

Antipathy for the sophomore lawmaker runs deeper still: Good, who has endorsed several far-right primary challenges to his own colleagues, has also alienated major donors who are tired of the Freedom Caucus' antics. 

All of this helps explain why, according to data from the FEC, super PACs have spent more than $3 million attacking Good and promoting McGuire. There's likely even more in store as American Patriots PAC, which is funded by megadonors Ken Griffin and Paul Singer, so far has only used two-thirds of the $3 million in ad time that Bloomberg reported that it reserved early this month.

Good, though, still has some well-heeled allies who are opening their wallets to help him, to the tune of more than $2 million so far. Most of that has come from two groups: Conservative Outsider PAC, which is an affiliate of the Club for Growth, and Protect Freedom PAC, a super PAC aligned with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Paul himself has been starring in the latter's ads, urging Virginians to renominate "a true defender of liberty." But as Kentucky's junior senator learned the hard way in 2016, the man who just backed McGuire has far more pull with GOP primary voters than Paul does.

Election Recaps

TX-12 (R): State Rep. Craig Goldman defeated businessman John O'Shea 63-37 in Tuesday's runoff to succeed retiring Rep. Kay Granger. Goldman had the backing of Granger, Gov. Greg Abbott, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, as well as a huge financial advantage over O'Shea. Attorney General Ken Paxton supported his ally O'Shea over Goldman, who voted to impeach Paxton for corruption a year ago, but it wasn't enough.

Donald Trump carried Texas' 12th District, which is based in western Fort Worth and its suburbs, 58-40 in 2020, so Goldman is now on a glide path to Congress. The Republican nominee would be the second Jewish person to represent Texas in Congress after Martin Frost, a Democrat who lost to Republican colleague Pete Sessions in 2004 after the GOP rearranged his Dallas-area seat as part of the infamous "DeLaymander."

TX-23 (R): Rep. Tony Gonzales scraped by far-right challenger Brandon Herrera 50.7-49.3 to secure renomination in the 23rd District. Gonzales will be favored in the fall against Democratic businessman Santos Limon in a sprawling west Texas seat that Trump took 53-46 four years ago.

While Herrera prevented Gonzales from winning outright in March by holding him to a 45-25 edge, the incumbent and his allies used their massive financial advantage to push their preferred narrative about Herrera, whom Gonzales dubbed "a known neo-Nazi." Gonzales' side also highlighted Herrera's mockery of the Holocaust, veteran suicide, and even Barron Trump, and pointed out that he only relocated to Texas from North Carolina a few years ago.

The Freedom Caucus, including chair Bob Good of Virginia, still held out hope that it could rid itself of Gonzales, whom the Texas GOP censured a year ago. Texas Rep. Chip Roy, who represents the neighboring 21st District, also backed Herrera on Tuesday morning, but as tight as the race was, his belated endorsement wasn't enough to change the outcome.

TX-28 (R): Navy veteran Jay Furman defeated businessman Lazaro Garza 65-35 in the GOP runoff to take on Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, who was indicted on corruption charges earlier this month.

Neither Republican has raised much money, but the GOP is hoping that Cuellar's legal problems will give them an opening in the 28th District, which includes Laredo and the eastern San Antonio suburbs. Joe Biden carried this constituency 53-46 in 2020, but the area has been trending to the right.

TX State House (R): State House Speaker Dade Phelan held off former Orange County Republican Party chair David Covey after an exceptionally expensive GOP primary runoff. With all votes counted, Phelan survived by a margin of 50.7 to 49.3—a difference of just 366 votes.

The victory represented an upset win for Phelan, who trailed Covey 46-43 in the first round of voting for his dark red East Texas seat, which is numbered the 21st District. It's unusual for a top legislative leader to be the underdog for renomination, but Phelan had a vast array of far-right forces arrayed against him.

Covey had the support of Paxton and Donald Trump, who were looking to punish Phelan for supporting Paxton's impeachment last year, as well as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the state Senate. Gov. Greg Abbott, however, remained conspicuously neutral even as he targeted other lawmakers who successfully blocked his plan to use taxpayer money to pay for private schools. (We'll have more on those races in the next Digest, though Phelan was one of just two House GOP incumbents to prevail Thursday; six others lost.)

The speaker fought back by raising money with the help of prominent Republicans from yesteryear like former Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Karl Rove, who was one of the most powerful GOP operatives in the country during George W. Bush's administration. The Texas Tribune labeled this effort the "last stand for the Republican Party’s business-minded establishment," and it proved just enough to secure a rare major win over the party's current leadership.

Senate

 MI-Sen, MI-08, MI-10: The Michigan Bureau of Elections on Friday recommended that the Board of State Canvassers disqualify nine congressional candidates from the Aug. 6 primary ballot. The bipartisan Board is scheduled to decide the fates of these candidates, most of whom face trouble for failing to file a sufficient number of signatures, on May 31.

The Bureau, though, gave the thumbs up to the three main Republicans running for the state's open Senate seat: former Reps. Mike Rogers and Justin Amash and wealthy businessman Sandy Pensler. Both the DSCC and the state Democratic Party earlier this month asked the Canvassers Board to look into "potential fraud in the nominating petitions," but officials determined that all three filed enough signatures to make the ballot.

Rogers remains the favorite to advance to the general election, but allies of the leading Democratic candidate, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, insist he still needs to watch his back in the primary. A new Public Policy Polling survey for the Voter Protection Project shows Rogers leading Pensler 30-12, with Amash at 11%. The group's release argues that Pensler can close the gap as more voters learn about him.

However, not all Senate hopefuls were quite so lucky. The Bureau concluded that Democrat Nasser Beydoun, a former leader of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce who is waging a longshot bid for Senate, should be disqualified because he listed a post office box on his petition sheets when state law requires a street address.

Beydoun responded, "We're going to fight it because it's suppressing the vote on a technicality." His involuntary departure would leave Slotkin and actor Hill Harper as the only Democrats on the August ballot.

Further down the ballot, the most prominent name on the Bureau's list of candidates it recommended for disqualification belongs to Wayne State University Board of Governors member Anil Kumar, a self-funder who ended March with a massive cash on hand advantage in the Democratic primary for the right to take on GOP Rep. John James in the 10th District.

The Bureau determined that Kumar and another Democrat, social justice activist Rhonda Powell, both fell short of signature requirements, but Kumar says he plans to contest the finding.

Bureau staff made the same determination about state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, a Republican who is trying to flip the competitive 8th District. Snyder was also booted from the ballot over signature issues in 2020 during a prior bid for the House. This time, Snyder's team alleges that they fell victim to fraud from a consultant.

 NJ-Sen: The New Jersey Globe reports that indicted Sen. Bob Menendez is collecting signatures for a potential bid as an independent, an option Menendez said he was keeping open in March when he announced he wouldn't campaign in the June 4 Democratic primary.

Menendez, whose corruption trial is still underway, has until the day of next month's primary to submit 800 valid signatures. Any independent who makes the ballot has until Aug. 16 to withdraw their name.

 VA-Sen: Navy veteran Hung Cao picked up Donald Trump's endorsement on Monday for the June 18 GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. Cao faces four intra-party opponents, including former Club for Growth official Scott Parkinson, ahead of what would be a difficult general election to unseat Kaine.

Governors

 ND-Gov, ND-AL: The media outlet North Dakota News Cooperative has commissioned a survey from the GOP firm WPA Intelligence that shows Rep. Kelly Armstrong far ahead in the June 11 GOP primary for governor, but two Republicans are locked in a more competitive race to fill his House seat.

WPA finds Armstrong outpacing Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller 57-19 in the contest to replace retiring Gov. Doug Burgum, who supports Miller. An early May internal from the Democratic firm DFM Research for the labor group North Dakota United showed Armstrong ahead by an almost identical 56-18 spread, while an Armstrong internal from around that same time gave him an even larger advantage. No one has released any other polls of this contest.

But WPA's House portion has Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak leading former state Rep. Rick Becker by a much tighter 32-25 margin, with 28% undecided. Former Miss America Cara Mund and former State Department official Alex Balazs are well behind, though, with 10% and 5%, respectively.

DFM previously placed Becker ahead of Fedorchak 29-26, with Mund at 14%. No one has released any other polls of the contest to represent this dark red seat in the House. Fedorchak sports endorsements from Burgum and other prominent local Republicans like Sen. John Hoeven, while the far-right Freedom Caucus is pulling for Becker.

 WA-Gov: A new Elway Research survey for KCTS-TV finds Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson and former GOP Rep. Dave Reichert both poised to advance out of the Aug. 6 top-two primary, a matchup that almost everyone in Washington politics has expected for some time. 

Ferguson leads with 22% while Reichert outpaces Democratic state Sen. Mark Mullet 20-6 for second. Another 5% opt for a different Republican, far-right Marine veteran Semi Bird, while 47% of respondents are uncommitted. This release did not include general election numbers.

House

 CO-05: The Colorado Sun reports that a Republican super PAC is spending almost $400,000 on an ad campaign to stop state GOP chair Dave Williams in the June 28 primary for Colorado's 5th District. 

The spot, from America Leads Action, argues that, unlike Donald Trump, Williams doesn't "believe in Made in America." The ad goes on to accuse the candidate's business interests of putting China "ahead of you." It does not mention that Trump is supporting Williams in the contest to replace retiring Rep. Doug Lamborn.

ALA, which is funded by North Carolina businessman Jay Faison and Walmart heir Rob Walton, has devoted itself to stopping hardline candidates who could pose a headache for the House GOP leadership. The party Williams leads has been causing exactly the sort of trouble ALA wants to stamp out, recently endorsing former state Rep. Janak Joshi's longshot bid for the competitive 8th District rather than coalescing around the national party favorite, state Rep. Gabe Evans.  

ALA's foray comes after Americans for Prosperity deployed more than $350,000 to promote conservative radio host Jeff Crank, who has the support of Lamborn and Speaker Mike Johnson. There has been no other outside spending here so far.

But AFP, which unsuccessfully tried to help Nikki Haley win the GOP presidential nomination, may do its candidate more harm than good. Trump wrote in March that he was backing Williams because his "opponent is Endorsed, and works closely with, Americans for Chinese Prosperity, a Charles Koch Disaster."

 NH-02: Wealthy investor Bill Hamlen still won't "confirm on the record" whether he's seeking the GOP nod for New Hampshire's open 2nd District, reports the NH Journal's Evan Lips, even though he's appeared at campaign events and filed paperwork with the FEC last month.

But even Hamlen's efforts at campaigning have been odd, to say the least: Lips notes that his most recent appearance was at a Republican town committee event in the wrong congressional district. (New Hampshire has only two.) "Hamlen's entire candidacy has inspired a lot of head scratching inside state GOP circles," says Lips, who notes that Hamlen voted in the state's Democratic primary for president earlier this year.

The one notable Republican who so far is actually willing to say he's seeking the seat that Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster is leaving behind is businessman Vikram Mansharamani, who took a distant fourth place in last cycle's U.S. Senate primary. 

There are, however, several assorted randos who have put their names forward. These include a former Colorado Libertarian Party chair who took third in the 2022 primary for the 2nd District and a convicted Jan. 6 rioter who also tried to run against Kuster two years ago but struggled on account of being in jail.

 NJ-10: Recordings made public in connection with a new lawsuit feature Linden Mayor Derek Armstead making antisemitic comments about Hasidic Jews, claiming that his community was at risk of "being taken over by guys with big hats and curls."

The audio, which was obtained by NJ.com's Ted Sherman, was recorded by Paul Oliveira, a former Linden school official who filed a lawsuit last week alleging that Armstead and other city leaders had sought to "deliberately exclude Jews" from obtaining employment with the local school district.

Armstead, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the upcoming special election for New Jersey's vacant 10th Congressional District, also called Newark "a hellhole over there from top to bottom" and warned that Linden was headed for the same fate if it did not exercise "full and complete control of who gets hired." (Newark makes up a quarter of the 10th District.)

Armstead called Oliveira's accusations "a whole bunch of hogwash" and said of the recordings, "I'm glad he has me on tape. … Nobody respects someone who comes into a room and starts tape-recording people."

 VA-07, VA-10: Protect Progress, a super PAC supported by the cryptocurrency industry, is spending heavily to air ads boosting two Democrats seeking open House seats in Virginia.

The group is putting almost $900,000 behind a spot in the 10th District that praises Del. Dan Helmer for supporting gun safety laws and reproductive rights. It also mentions his recent endorsement from the Washington Post. The PAC is spending a similar sum to elevate former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman in the 7th District, but no copy of the ad appears to be available online.

Poll Pile

  • MI-Sen: Mitchell Research for MIRS: Elissa Slotkin (D): 40, Mike Rogers (R): 36 (49-47 Trump in two-way, 46-45 Trump with third-party candidates) (March: 37-37 Senate tie)

  • NV-Sen: The Tyson Group (R) for Breaking Battlegrounds: Jacky Rosen (D-inc): 47, Sam Brown (R): 33 (47-44 Trump in two-way, 40-37 Trump with third-party candidates)

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: After a Democrat won in Alaska, Republicans want to kill ranked-choice voting

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

AK Ballot: Alaska voters made history in 2020 when they made their state the first in the nation to adopt a top-four primary with a ranked-choice general election, but conservatives tell the Alaska Beacon's James Brooks that they're close to qualifying a measure to repeal the system that would go before voters next year.

The campaign has until the start of the January legislative session to turn in about 27,000 valid signatures, a figure that represents 10% of the total number of votes that were cast in the most recent general election, and it must also hit certain targets in three-quarters of Alaska's 40 state House districts. One leader says that organizers have already gathered 30,000 petitions so far but will analyze them later to see if more are needed.

Under the current top-four system, all the candidates run on one primary ballot, and the four contenders with the most votes—regardless of party—advance to an instant-runoff general election. This method was first used last year in the special election to succeed the late GOP Rep. Don Young as Alaska's lone House member, a contest that ultimately saw Democrat Mary Peltola defeat former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin 51-49.

Conservatives both in Alaska and across the country were furious because Palin and another Republican, Nick Begich, outpaced Peltola by a combined 59-40 in the first round of tabulations. They blamed their surprise loss on instant-runoff voting rather than Palin's many failings or the Democrat's strengths.

"60% of Alaska voters voted for a Republican," griped Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, "but thanks to a convoluted process and ballot exhaustion—which disenfranchises voters—a Democrat 'won.'" But even without ranked-choice voting, Peltola still would have come in first, as she beat Palin 40-31. And since Begich took third with 28%, he may well still have lost a traditional primary to Palin had one been used.

Furthermore, a poll conducted right after the special by supporters of ranked-choice voting showed that Alaskans saw their new voting system as anything but "convoluted." Instead, 85% of respondents found it to be "simple," while 62% said they supported the new method.

Hard-right groups, though, soon had even more reasons to hate the new status quo. Thanks to the top-four system, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a rare Republican who's crossed party lines on high-profile votes, would no longer face what would almost certainly have been a tough GOP primary against Donald Trump's preferred candidate, former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka. (Murkowski famously lost her 2010 primary to a far-right foe but won the general through a write-in effort.)

Instead, Murkowski and Tshibaka easily advanced to the general election with Democrat Pat Chesbro and a little-known third Republican. Murkowski led Tshibaka 43.4-42.6 in the first round of general election tabulations, but the 10% of voters who supported Chesbro overwhelmingly broke for the incumbent and helped lift her to a 54-46 victory. Peltola also won her rematch with Palin 55-45 after initially leading her 49-26; unsurprisingly, both Palin and Tshibaka ardently back the effort to end the top-four system.

Redistricting

OH Redistricting: Ohio's congressional districts will remain unchanged in 2024 after the state Supreme Court granted a request by plaintiffs to dismiss two legal challenges to the map, which the court ruled violated the state constitution as an impermissible partisan gerrymander last year.

Despite that ruling, however, challengers faced steep odds of a favorable outcome after hard-right Republicans won a majority on the court in November. But by abandoning their cases, voting rights advocates will ensure that Republicans cannot draw an even more aggressive gerrymander for 2024, since Ohio's constitution requires that the current map remain in place through next year's elections.

Republicans would still get a chance to draw a new map after 2024 under the current law, though, which is why reformers are instead focusing their efforts on qualifying an amendment for next year's ballot that would establish an independent redistricting commission to draw new maps.

This week, organizers submitted new ballot summary language after Republican Attorney General Dave Yost rejected their first attempt, mostly making technical changes in response to his complaints. Once they get the green light, activists will be able to start collecting the 413,000 signatures they need to put their measure before voters in 2024.

Senate

CA-Sen: UC Berkeley has released two versions of its survey of the March top-two primary: One that includes a scenario where former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey campaigns as a Republican, and one where he doesn't run. First is the Garvey version:

  • Rep. Adam Schiff (D): 20
  • Rep. Katie Porter (D): 17
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (D): 7
  • former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey (R): 7
  • perennial candidate James Bradley (R): 7
  • 2022 attorney general candidate Eric Early (R): 5
  • tech executive Lexi Reese (D): 1
  • Others: 4
  • Undecided: 32

Next up is the one without Garvey, though the two leading candidates don't see their numbers budge at all:

  • Schiff (D): 20
  • Porter (D): 17
  • Bradley (R): 10
  • Lee (D): 7
  • Early (R): 7
  • Reese (D): 1
  • Others: 4
  • Undecided: 34

This is the first poll we've seen that includes Reese, who announced in late June, though UC Berkeley's release misspells her first name as "Lexie." A strategist for Garvey, meanwhile, told Politico in early June that "[w]e should have a decision made here in the next few weeks," but we're still waiting on him three months later.

FL-Sen: EMILY's List has endorsed former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who is the Democratic frontrunner in the primary to face GOP incumbent Rick Scott.

Governors

IN-Gov: Former state Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers has made it clear he'll be doing a substantial amount of self-funding in his quest for the GOP nod by throwing down $5 million of his own money. Chambers also began airing TV ads this week far ahead of the May primary: His opening spot, which Politico says has seven figures behind it, goes biographical by touting the candidate's local roots and his supposed status as a political "outsider." Eric Doden, another wealthy former state cabinet official, began running his own spots a month ago.

Former state education superintendent Jennifer McCormick, meanwhile, has publicized a mid-August internal Public Policy Polling that tests the Democrat against the other three notable Republican contenders:

  • 36-36 vs. former Attorney General Curtis Hill
  • 35-39 vs. Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch
  • 35-46 vs. Sen. Mike Braun

The release argues that, while McCormick trails two of her would-be GOP foes, opposition to Indiana's near-total abortion ban and unhappiness with the direction of the state could give her an opening.

WA-Gov: The Seattle Times' Jim Brunner says that Attorney General Bob Ferguson will announce Saturday that he's running for governor, a move that comes four months after he said he was forming an exploratory committee to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring incumbent Jay Inslee. As Brunner has noted before, Evergreen State law doesn't actually distinguish between exploratory committees and full-fledged campaigns.

House

CA-49: Margarita Wilkinson, who works as an executive at the TV broadcaster Entravision, on Thursday became the latest Republican to join the top-two primary to go up against Democratic Rep. Mike Levin. The GOP field already consisted of businesswoman Sheryl Adams, 2022 state Senate candidate Matt Gunderson, and Marine veteran Kate Monroe. Joe Biden carried this seat, which includes coastal communities north of San Diego, 55-43.

IN-03: Construction project manager Grant Bucher, who the Indiana Capitol Chronicle says is running the $26 million project to build a new Steuben County judicial center, said this week that he was joining the GOP primary for this safely red seat. Reporter Casey Smith adds that the new candidate grew up in this northeast Indiana seat, which Republican Jim Banks is giving up to run for the Senate, but that Bucher only recently returned from Michigan.

MI-03: Republican Paul Hudson, an attorney who took fourth place last year for the state Supreme Court (where the top-two finishers were elected), declared Thursday that he'd challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Hillary Scholten. Joe Biden carried this constituency 53-45 two years before Scholten beat far-right Republican John Gibbs 55-42, a win that made her the first Democrat to represent a Grand Rapids-based seat in the House since the mid-1970s.

Hudson, however, did not have such a great 2022 even though the state GOP picked him and incumbent Brian Zahra to be its candidates in the officially nonpartisan statewide contest for two seats on Michigan's highest court. Democratic Justice Richard Bernstein and Zahra won those two seats respectively with 34% and 24%, while Democrat Kyra Harris Bolden was just behind with 22%. (Gov. Gretchen Whitmer weeks later appointed Bolden to the body after fellow Democrat Bridget Mary McCormack stepped down.) Hudson, for his part, languished in fourth place with just 13%.

MI-10: Former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga announced Thursday that he would seek the Democratic nomination for a rematch against freshman Republican Rep. John James, who beat him by a surprisingly narrow 49-48 last year. Marlinga launched his campaign by publicizing a primary internal from Public Policy Polling that showed him leading Tiffany Tilley, a state Board of Education member whom we hadn't previously heard mentioned as a possible candidate, 31-5.

Two people who are running, gun safety activist Emily Busch and financial advisor Diane Young, take 3% each, as does physician Anil Kumar. The Detroit News says that Kumar, who unsuccessfully ran for the House twice before winning his 2018 statewide race for the Wayne State University Board of Governors, has formed an exploratory committee, and his team says he'll decide by early next month. The paper also identifies former Macomb County Health Department head Rhonda Powell, who lost last year's primary to Marlinga 48-17 and secures 2% in his poll, as a possible contender.

Marlinga has had a long career in Macomb County politics going back to 1984, when he was elected to the first of what would be five terms as county prosecutor, but he's experienced some major setbacks over the decades. Marlinga competed in the 1994 primary for Michigan's open U.S. Senate seat and took last place in the six-way primary with just 8% of the vote, though he convincingly won re-election two years later. He was still serving as prosecutor in 2002 when he challenged Republican Rep. Candice Miller in an earlier and more conservative version of the 10th District, a campaign the Democrat lost 63-36.

Marlinga was indicted two years later for allegedly helping a convicted rapist earn a new trial in exchange for contributions for that congressional campaign, and he stepped down as county prosecutor afterward. A jury, though, acquitted him in 2006, and Marlinga sought to return to public office soon after. After narrowly losing a 2010 primary for the state Senate, Marlinga was decisively elected to a local judgeship in 2012; it was during that campaign that he filled out a questionnaire saying the two U.S. Supreme Court justices he most identified with were anti-abortion hardliners Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, a response that surfaced again a decade later.

Marlinga decided to run for the House again last year after Michigan's independent redistricting commission last cycle created a suburban Detroit seat that would have favored Donald Trump just 50-49, and Democratic Rep. Andy Levin's ill-fated decision to run against colleague Haley Stevens in the 11th District meant that there would be no incumbent here. Marlinga, who argued he'd selected the two conservative justices because he's "always been a strict constitutionalist" but backed abortion rights, decisively won the primary but was in for a difficult general election.

James, who had waged competitive Senate races during the previous two cycles, massively outspent Marlinga $6.1 million to $1 million, and conservative outside groups deployed another $2.4 million as the other side directed their resources elsewhere. Michigan Democrats, though, enjoyed a strong year, and Marlinga came close to pulling off what would have been a truly shocking upset. The former judge, who went on to lead Attorney General Dana Nessel's Elder Abuse Task Force, emphasized James' opposition to abortion rights in his kickoff and argued that this time he'd have the resources to win.

NJ-07: Greg Vartan, who serves as city council president for the community of Summit (pop. 22,000), tells the New Jersey Globe he's considering joining the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr. It may be a few months before he decides, though, as Vartan said he was currently focused on "electing great leaders" in the Nov. 7 local elections.

TX-18: Isaiah Martin, who is a consultant in the aerospace industry, announced Wednesday that he was seeking the safely blue seat currently held by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a fellow Democrat who is competing in this year's race for mayor of Houston. The incumbent has not said if she'd seek reelection should she lose her current race.

Martin, a 25-year-old who says he wants to be Congress' "next Gen-Z member," is a former Jackson Lee intern, and the Houston Chronicle says he's been aiding her current campaign. The field to succeed the incumbent already includes former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, who has said she'll run no matter what Jackson Lee does; Martin, for his part, does not appear to have directly addressed what he'd do should the congresswoman seek reelection.

Mayors and County Leaders

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Former Mayor Sheila Dixon announced Thursday that she would seek a Democratic primary rematch next May against incumbent Brandon Scott, who beat her 30-27 in the 2020 nomination contest to lead this dark blue city. Dixon, as we recently wrote, resigned in 2010 after she was convicted of stealing gift cards that were supposed to help needy families, but she's still enjoyed a loyal base of support from voters who remember her tenure as a time when the city's high murder rate dropped.

Dixon, who also came close to winning in 2016, kicked off her third comeback effort with an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun touting her accomplishments more than a decade ago and addressing the scandal that ended her career. "I let matters of the heart lead me astray once before," she wrote, "and for that, and the pain that it caused to my beloved Baltimore, I am truly sorry. I hope the people realize that my love for the future of Baltimore outweighs the mistakes of my past."

Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: Democratic incumbent Daniella Levine Cava has publicized an internal from MDW arguing that she's favored in next year's nonpartisan race even if her Republican predecessor, Rep. Carlos Giménez, tries to retake his old job. The firm finds Levine Cava leading Giménez 55-19 in the nonpartisan primary, with another 8% going to conservative YouTuber Alex Otaola. (Candidates can avoid a second round by winning a majority in the summer primary.) The sample favored Joe Biden 51-39 over Donald Trump; Biden carried the county 53-46 in 2020.