Morning Digest: You’ve got to try hard to raise as little as this Republican

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

NY-03: Thanks to a series of signature challenges, Republicans now know that their hopes of avenging their loss in February's special election for New York's 3rd District will rest with former Assemblyman Mike LiPetri. But even though supporters of LiPetri were behind those challenges, there's good reason to wonder whether he can pose a serious threat to Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi.

LiPetri's campaign has denied involvement in the efforts to boot four other candidates, including Air Force veteran Greg Hach and businessman Jim Toes, from the June 25 primary ballot. But Hach and Toes were quick to accuse the Nassau County Republican Party, which has endorsed LiPetri and seldom brooks dissent in nominating contests, of trying to pre-ordain the outcome in comments to the Long Island Herald's Will Sheeline.

Hach and Toes also pointed out the disastrous fates of the Nassau GOP's last two hand-picked choices for this seat: George Santos, who was expelled from Congress last year, and Mazi Pilip, who got crushed by Suozzi in the special to replace Santos.

Republicans should be concerned about LiPetri, too: After announcing his campaign on March 11, he raised all of $52 for the rest of the month—a sum so small that you'd almost have to make an effort not to raise more. Suozzi, by contrast, still had $1.1 million banked at the end of March, despite his heavy spending on the special. (Hach at least had self-funded almost $700,000, and both he and Toes managed to bring in about $100,000 from donors.)

There's still time for LiPetri to turn things around, but since this Long Island-based district is contained entirely inside the ultra-expensive New York City media market, he'll need lots of dough to get his name out, especially given how well-known his Democratic rival is. And LiPetri can't count on outside GOP groups to make up the difference, as Pilip hoped they would, since third parties pay much higher advertising rates than candidates.

Senate

 AZ-Sen: A new report from Politico points out that national Republican groups have yet to make ad reservations for Arizona's Senate race despite the eight-figure sums Democrats have already booked, and it's almost certainly because of their likely nominee's never-ending record of self-sabotage.

Perhaps no incident better sums up the problem posed by Kari Lake, the far-right former TV anchor who narrowly lost her bid for governor in 2022, than her incoherent response to a recent state Supreme Court ruling upholding an 1864 law banning nearly all abortions.

Following that ruling, Lake reportedly urged state lawmakers to repeal the ban, according to multiple media reports. But just days later, on a trip to Idaho—Lake has a penchant for out-of-state travel—she reversed herself completely.

"The Arizona Supreme Court said this is the law of Arizona, but unfortunately, the people running our state have said we're not going to enforce it," she told a conservative outlet called the Idaho Dispatch. "So it's really political theater." (The state did ultimately undo the ban earlier this month.)

Episodes like this have made many Republicans wary of Lake, including Mitch McConnell. As Politico points out, the minority leader recently failed to mention Arizona when listing the GOP's top four targets this year, which he gave as Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

Lake is also getting swamped by her likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has raised $21 million this cycle compared with just $5.5 million for the Republican. In addition, Gallego has been on TV continuously since March while Lake has barely advertised.

Lake may be getting some help soon, though: Politico reports that the NRSC "is preparing to launch a joint TV ad buy" with the candidate. However, any such coordinated expenditures would be limited to about $720,000 in total, since it's unlikely that hybrid ads would be effective in swingy Arizona.

 NV-Sen, OH-Sen, PA-Sen, WI-Sen: More big ad reservations from both sides are flooding into a quartet of top-tier Senate races.

AdImpact reports that Duty and Honor, a Democratic super PAC affiliated with the Senate Majority PAC, has booked at least $7 million to start running ads in Ohio later this month. Meanwhile, the firm says that the GOP group One Nation has reserved $8.5 million in Pennsylvania, almost $4 million in Wisconsin, and $1.5 million in Nevada. These spots are set to begin sometime this summer.

Governors

 WV-Gov: With just days to go before West Virginia's primaries, the Club for Growth has started airing ads attacking Secretary of State Mac Warner, who has been mired in fourth place in the polls and had been ignored by outside groups until now.

The new spots, from the Club's affiliated Black Bear PAC, slam Warner for failing to endorse Donald Trump's third bid for president (and par for the course for this race, it also manages to throw in a transphobic jab). It's not clear how much the Club is putting into this latest offensive, but the GOP firm Medium Buying points out that Warner's campaign has spent a measly $17,000 on TV and radio so far.

Early on in the contest, the Club, which is hoping to see Attorney General Patrick Morrisey secure the Republican nod for the open governorship, focused its fire on businessman Chris Miller, apparently seeing him as the biggest threat. But several weeks ago, it began hammering former Del. Moore Capito, who recently earned the endorsement of term-limited Gov. Jim Justice.

According to 538's polling average, Morrisey remains the frontrunner with the support of 33% of primary voters with Capito not far behind at 26. Miller is further back at 20 while Warner brings up the year with just 12% of the vote.

House

 NJ-10: New Jersey Redevelopment Authority COO Darryl Godfrey and Shana Melius, who worked as a staffer for the late Democratic Rep. Don Payne, each joined the July 16 special Democratic primary election to succeed Payne before filing closed Friday

Godfrey is a top official at an independent state agency that describes its mission as "transform[ing] urban communities through direct investment and technical support." The New Jersey Globe says that Godfrey, who previously worked in banking, says he's willing to do some self-funding, though it remains to be seen to what extent.

Godfrey grew up in the 10th District in Newark, but he currently lives in Morristown in Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill's neighboring 11th District. The candidate, writes the Globe, intends to move back to this constituency. (Members of Congress do not need to live in the district they represent.) He does not appear to have sought office before. 

Melius, meanwhile, spent three years in Payne's office, and she also co-founded a group to improve "diversity and social equity within the cannabis industry." Melius is a first-time candidate.

Godfrey and Melius are two of the 11 Democrats competing in the special election for this safely blue Newark-area seat. The other main contenders are all current or former elected officials: Newark City Council President LaMonica McIver, who has the backing of several influential figures in populous Essex County; Linden Mayor Derek Armstead; Hudson County Commissioner Jerry Walker; and former East Orange City Councilwoman Brittany Claybrooks, who worked as North Jersey political director for Rep. Andy Kim's Senate campaign.

Kim's Senate campaign was part of a successful lawsuit that barred Democrats from utilizing the county line system in this year's primaries, a ruling that applies to this contest. That's a big difference from the 2012 special election to Payne's father and namesake, where the younger Payne's favorable ballot position, as well as name identification, helped him easily beat several opponents.

Whoever secures a plurality in the July 16 primary should have no trouble beating Carmen Bucco, a perennial candidate who has the Republican side to himself, in the Sept. 18 general election.

Payne's name remains on the ballot for the regularly scheduled June 4 primary, where he's the only candidate listed. Local Democratic leaders will be tasked with selecting a new nominee sometime after results are certified on June 17. The New Jersey Globe previously reported that party officials "are not expected" to act until after the special Democratic primary.

 NY-16: Westchester County Executive George Latimer is airing what appears to be his first negative ad targeting Rep. Jamaal Bowman ahead of next month's Democratic primary, featuring several people who castigate Bowman's record and views.

"One of only six Democrats to oppose the historic infrastructure bill," says one woman. "Just to stick it to President Biden," adds another in disgust.

Bowman said in 2021 that he'd voted against the infrastructure bill because it had been severed from a climate change and healthcare reform measure known as Build Back Better, though many of those priorities became law thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed in 2022. (Bowman voted for the latter bill.)

The spot then shifts to address reports from earlier this year about the congressman's questionable beliefs.

"Bowman even promoted dangerous conspiracy theories about 9/11," says another woman. "That's a disgrace."

In January, the Daily Beast's Will Bredderman revealed that Bowman had written a "free verse" poem embracing conspiracies about the attacks in 2011, which Bowman sought to dismiss as an old attempt at intellectual exploration. Just days, ago, however, Bredderman also reported that Bowman had subscribed to all manner of fringe channels on his YouTube account, including some operated by flat earthers and UFO obsessives.

The ad concludes with various individuals praising Latimer for "modernizing our infrastructure" and "protecting our reproductive rights."

 OR-03: State Rep. Maxine Dexter reported raising more than $218,000 on a single day recently, a haul that OPB's Dirk VanderHart says "appears" to be linked to the prominent pro-Israel group AIPAC.

Federal candidates normally report fundraising data on a quarterly basis, but in the 20 days prior to an election, FEC rules give them just 48 hours to declare any new donations of $1,000 or more. With Oregon's primary looming on May 21, that accelerated reporting period began earlier this month, prompting Dexter's disclosure.

VanderHart says that the "vast majority" of donors who gave to Dexter on May 7 "have a history of giving to AIPAC," though AIPAC itself did not comment. Dexter's campaign also noted that the group has not issued an endorsement in the Democratic primary for Oregon's 3rd District, a safely blue open seat based in Portland.

Dexter faces two notable rivals in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Earl Blumenauer: former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, who is the sister of Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales.

Jayapal had led the pack in fundraising through the end of March, but a different set of reports that were due at the FEC on Thursday showed Dexter surging during the month of April. (Twelve days before their primaries, candidates must also file a pre-election report that details all fundraising from the end of the previous quarter through the 20th day before the primary. After that point, the 48-hour reporting rule for large donations goes into effect.)

In her pre-primary filing, Dexter reported raising $575,000 while Jayapal took in $160,000 and Morales pulled down $112,000. Dexter also outspent her opponents in April and entered the stretch run with more cash on hand. That advantage has only grown since then, though: While both Jayapal and Morales had each filed one 48-hour report through Friday, their total hauls were a more modest $18,000 and $8,000 respectively.

 TX-13, TX-22, TX-38: It's Texas Week for the House Ethics Committee, which issued announcements concerning inquiries into three different Lone Star Republicans on Thursday and Friday.

The committee revealed in a press release that it's investigating Rep. Ronny Jackson, who two years ago was the subject of a report by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics concerning alleged improper spending.

That earlier report, which the Ethics Committee did not reference in its release, concluded there was "substantial" evidence that Jackson had spent campaign money for membership at a private social club, which is prohibited by federal law.

At the time, an attorney for Jackson, who had refused to cooperate with the OCE's investigation, said the congressman had sought to use the membership for campaign events. In response to the latest developments, a spokesperson called the accusations "baseless," though she claimed that Jackson had "fully complied" with the committee.

Separately, the committee said it would extend a previously announced probe into Rep. Troy Nehls that began in March. It also released a report from the OCE saying there was "probable cause to believe" that Nehls had made personal use of campaign funds and had failed to provide required information on the annual financial disclosure forms that all members of Congress must file.

The OCE's report focuses on payments from Nehls' campaign to a company he owns called Liberty 1776, ostensibly to rent office space to run his campaign. However, Nehls listed a property run by an entity called Z-Bar as his headquarters on his FEC filings, though he never recorded paying any rent to Z-Bar and only made irregular payments to Liberty 1776.

An attorney for Nehls denied the OCE's allegations, and Nehls, like Jackson, has refused to cooperate with the office's investigation. He said, however, that he would cooperate with the Ethics Committee.

Finally, the committee acknowledged it's looking into Rep. Wesley Hunt, though there's been no reporting as to what this investigation might concern. A spokesperson for Hunt told the Dallas Morning News that the congressman was cooperating with the committee and was "extremely confident that the matter will be dismissed shortly."

All three Republicans secured renomination two months ago, and all of them are defending reliably red seats this fall.

 UT-03: Sen. Mitt Romney has endorsed attorney Stewart Peay in the race for Utah's open 3rd District, where he's one of five candidates hoping to succeed Rep. John Curtis, who himself is running to replace Romney. Peay's wife, Misha, is a niece of Romney's wife, Ann.

Ballot Measures

 FL Ballot, FL-Sen: A new survey of Florida from a Republican pollster finds an amendment to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution passing despite strong numbers for Republican candidates at the top of the ticket.

The poll, conducted by Cherry Communications for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, shows Amendment 4 earning the support of 61% of voters while just 29% are opposed; to become law, it needs to win a 60% supermajority. A separate measure known as Amendment 3 that would legalize recreational marijuana is just short of the threshold at 58-37.

In the race for Senate, though, Republican incumbent Rick Scott holds a wide 54-39 lead over his likely Democratic opponent, former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, while Donald Trump is up 51-42 against Joe Biden.

 NV Ballot: The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld a February ruling by a lower court that blocked a pair of amendments that would establish a bipartisan redistricting commission from appearing on the ballot this fall. That earlier ruling disallowed the amendments because they would not raise the revenue needed to operate the commission they sought to create.

Obituaries

 Chris Cannon: Former Utah Rep. Chris Cannon, an ardent conservative who lost renomination to Jason Chaffetz in the 2008 Republican primary, died Wednesday at age 73.

Cannon served six terms in Congress and compiled a very conservative voting record, but he also supported a pathway to citizenship and government benefits for some undocumented immigrants. His decisive defeat foreshadowed the direction his party was heading in a full eight years before the ascendence of Donald Trump was complete.

Cannon first won his seat in 1996 by unseating Democratic Rep. Bill Orton 51-47 in the 3rd District, and he went on to serve as one of 13 House managers in the 1999 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. However, while Cannon never had trouble turning back Democrats, his views infuriated the GOP's nativist base.

"We love immigrants in Utah. We don’t make distinctions between legal and illegal," he said in 2002—comments that would be unthinkable for a Republican now.

Cannon passed his first major test in the 2004 primary when he held off former state Rep. Matt Throckmorton 58-42. Two years later, his 56-44 triumph over developer John Jacob in the primary was viewed by national observers as a major win for George W. Bush's immigration goals. (Jacob infamously told the Salt Lake Tribune ahead of that race, "There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C. It's the devil is what it is.")

However, Cannon's victories proved misleading. Chaffetz, a former chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman, made a nativist pitch similar to that of Cannon's prior opponents while arguing that the party as a whole had "lost its way." Chaffetz won in a 60-40 landslide that presaged years of turbulence and waning influence for the old GOP establishment.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Big Lie pushers aim to recall Wisconsin Republican for not pushing Big Lie enough

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

WI State Assembly: Far-right groups seeking to oust Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced Monday that they'd turned in about 10,700 signatures to recall the powerful Republican. The effort comes less than two years after Vos narrowly won renomination against an opponent backed by Donald Trump, who sought to punish the speaker for failing to do enough to advance the Big Lie.

If the recall campaign qualifies for the ballot, each party would hold separate primaries ahead of a general election. Vos' 63rd District in the Racine area is solidly Republican turf, so the best way for his conservative detractors to get rid of him may be to deny him the nomination. It only takes a simple plurality to win the primary, though, so a crowded field would likely benefit the incumbent.

Vos, whose 11 years in power makes him the longest-serving speaker in state history, has used his power to continuously block Democratic Gov. Tony Evers from implementing his agenda and responded to Joe Biden's tight 2020 win in Wisconsin by claiming that he believed there was "widespread fraud."

That pronouncement, however, was far from good enough for Trump. The two had a public falling out in 2022 after Vos told Congress that Trump had called him and urged him to retroactively decertify Biden's victory—a move the speaker said was legally impossible.

Trump retaliated by endorsing a previously little-known Republican named Adam Steen. The challenger came very close to defeating Vos, but the speaker hung on with a 51-49 win. (Steen's subsequent general election write-in campaign came nowhere close to succeeding.) While Vos has continued to frustrate Evers, the speaker antagonized election deniers again last year when he wouldn't advance an impeachment effort targeting Wisconsin's top elections official, Meagan Wolfe.

Vos argued in November that, while he wanted Wolfe removed, his party was "nowhere near a consensus" on how to do it. "We need to move forward and talk about the issues that matter to most Wisconsinites and that is not, for most Wisconsinites, obsessing about Meagan Wolfe," he said. But conspiracy theorists were far from done obsessing about Meagan Wolfe and quickly made good on their threats to launch a recall effort.

However, it's not clear exactly which voters would decide Vos' fate. Last month, Evers signed new legislative districts into law to replace gerrymandered Republican maps that the new liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down. (The court has yet to sign off on the new lines.) Last week, though, the justices declined Evers' request to clarify which set of maps would be used for any special elections or recalls that take place before November, when the new districts are otherwise set to go into effect.

Matt Snorek, who is leading the recall effort against Vos, acknowledged this uncertainty to WisPolitics even as he argued that the old boundaries should apply. "It's unconstitutional to allow folks who didn't vote for him in 2022 to remove him," Snorek said, but also noted that the recall campaign sought to collect signatures in both versions of the seat.

The partisan makeup of Vos' constituency didn't change dramatically, but it did become several points bluer: The old district favored Trump 58-40 in 2020, while the revamped version backed him 56-43.

If the previous lines are used, recall organizers will need 6,850 valid signatures, which represents 25% of the votes cast in the old 63rd District in the 2022 race for governor; the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes that it's not clear what this target would be under the new boundaries. Recall expert Joshua Spivak also added that an "unusual feature" in state law makes it easier to put a recall on the ballot: While most states require anyone who fills out a petition to be a registered voter in their district, the Badger State mandates only that signatories be "eligible" voters.

Vos, though, is hoping his enemies have failed to gather enough signatures and says his team plans to review each petition. Scott Bauer of the Associated Press writes that the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission has a total of 31 days to conduct its own review, though its decision can be challenged in court.

If the recall campaign qualifies, a primary would be held six weeks later, with a general election four weeks after that. (In the unlikely event that no primaries are necessary, the recall would take place on the day that primaries would have taken place.)

P.S. While Vos is on the outs with Big Lie spreaders now, the Republican has a long history of advancing conspiracy theories about elections. Vos responded to Democrat John Lehman's 819-vote victory over GOP state Sen. Van Wanggaard in a June 2012 recall by claiming, "Unfortunately, a portion of [the vote] was fraud." The soon-to-be speaker, though, acknowledged he "did not personally witness any voter fraud" in the campaign, which gave Democrats control of the upper chamber for a few months before Republicans won it back that fall.

Election Night

Mississippi: Tuesday is primary night in Mississippi, but none of the state's members of Congress appear to be in any danger of losing either renomination or the general election.

The most eventful race is the GOP primary for the 4th Congressional District, where self-funding perennial candidate Carl Boyanton has been airing animated ads depicting freshman Rep. Mike Ezell as a "busy bee" who's too close to special interests. (One even features a rhyming jingle.)

Boyanton, however, failed to break out of the single digits in either 2020 or 2022, so it would be a surprise if he gave Ezell a hard time on Tuesday. A third candidate, Michael McGill, is also in, though his presence would only matter if no one earned the majority of the vote needed to avert an April 2 runoff.

Senate

MI-Sen: Former Rep. Mike Rogers picked up the "Complete and Total Endorsement" of Donald Trump on Monday, a move that likely shortcircuits any prospect of a strong MAGA-flavored candidate entering the August GOP primary against the NRSC favorite. Rogers himself mulled challenging Trump in this year's presidential race, but the former congressman has spent his Senate bid cozying up to the man whose time he once said had "passed."

MN-Sen: SurveyUSA shows Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar with a 49-33 advantage over Republican Joe Fraser, a banker and Navy veteran who launched a campaign in January. This poll for the ABC affiliate KSTP, which is the first look we've had at this matchup, also shows Joe Biden ahead 42-38 in Minnesota.

NJ-Sen: Rep. Andy Kim won the Ocean County Democratic convention 86-13 on Saturday against former financier Tammy Murphy. Kim represented about half of this longtime GOP bastion under the congressional map that was in place when he won his first two terms in the House, though now it's split between two Republican-held districts, the 2nd and the 4th.

Senate: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC announced Monday that it has reserved a total of $239 million in TV advertising in four additional states:

  • Arizona: $23 million
  • Michigan: $14 million
  • Pennsylvania: $42 million
  • Wisconsin: $14 million

The super PAC also said it had booked $65 million to defend Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio, which is a bit more than the $61 million the GOP firm Medium Buying relayed last month. SMP previously reserved $45 million in Montana and $36 million in Nevada. All seven of these states are held by members of the Democratic caucus, including Arizona, where independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is not seeking reelection.

Governors

IN-Gov: Sen. Mike Braun has publicized a late February internal from Mark It Red that gives him a 41-12 advantage over Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch ahead of the May 7 Republican primary for governor, which is similar to the 40-13 spread the firm found in December.

House

AZ-02: Former Yavapai County Supervisor Jack Smith filed paperwork with the state on Friday for a potential August primary bid against freshman Rep. Eli Crane, who was one of the eight House Republicans who voted to end Kevin McCarthy's speakership last year. Smith, who does not have the most helpful name for a Republican candidate seeking office in 2024, has not said anything publicly about his plans. The filing deadline is April 1.

Politico reported last month that McCarthy's network planned to target Crane in northeastern Arizona's reliably red 1st District. There's no word yet, though, whether the former speaker sees Smith, who resigned from office in 2019 to become state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program, as a strong option.

CA-20: NBC projects that Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong has secured first place in last week's top-two primary to succeed his old boss, former Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Fong, who served as McCarthy's district director before winning a seat in the legislature in 2016, leads with 38% as of Tuesday morning. Another Republican, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, holds a 25-22 advantage over Democrat Marisa Wood for second.

It's not clear how many ballots remain to be tabulated, though. NBC estimates that 65% of the total vote has been counted, but the Associated Press places the proportion at just 62% reporting. The AP has almost 1,500 more votes tallied than NBC even as it reports that a lower percentage of the vote is in.

Note that the first round of the special election for the remaining months of McCarthy's term will take place on March 19. Donald Trump, who like McCarthy backs Fong, carried this Central Valley seat 61-36.

Georgia: Candidate filing closed Friday for Georgia's May 21 primaries, which will mark the first time that the state's new congressional map will be used, and you can find a list of contenders available here. A June 18 runoff will take place in contests where no candidate wins a majority of the vote. The state also conducts a general election runoff between the top two vote-getters on Dec. 3 if no candidate receives a majority on Nov. 5, though that's unlikely to come into play in any congressional races this year.

There was one notable development just ahead of the filing deadline when state Rep. Mandisha Thomas became the third and final Democrat to launch a campaign for the new 6th Congressional District, a safely blue seat in the western Atlanta suburbs. Thomas, though, will face a challenging battle against 7th District Rep. Lucy McBath, a nationally known gun safety activist who ended 2023 with $1 million at her disposal. Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson is also running, but she finished last year with a mere $4,000 banked.

MO-03: State Rep. Justin Hicks announced Monday that he was joining the August Republican primary to replace retiring GOP Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer. The launch comes several months after Max Calfo, a former Jim Jordan staffer who was challenging him for renomination, shared what he claimed were court documents from St. Louis County dating to 2010 in which a woman accused the then-17-year-old Hicks of trying to choke her.

"The restraining order's true," the woman, whose name has not been shared publicly, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Jack Suntrup in November. The county's Circuit Court would not confirm the existence of the records, however, though a spokesperson informed Suntrup that the forms posted by Calfo appeared to match those used by the court at the time. Hicks does not appear to have responded to the allegations, though Calfo claims the state representative is now suing him.

NY-03: Politico reports that the Nassau County Republican Committee has endorsed former Assemblyman Mike LiPetri, who does not appear to have shown any prior public interest in taking on Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi. LePetri ran for the open 2nd District in 2020 under a prior map but lost the primary 63-36 against Andrew Garbarino, his then-colleague and the eventual general election winner.

Politico says that, while the Nassau GOP only announced its support for LiPetri late Sunday, party chair Joe Cairo gave a heads-up to the other notable Republican running in the June primary, Air Force veteran Greg Hach. Hach quickly used that information to blast LiPetri on Friday as an "Anti-Trumper" who was "anointed by the local back-room political machine" and has "financial ties" to George Santos. But even though LiPetri fired off nine different tweets that same day, he only confirmed he was running to Newsday on Monday evening.

SC-01: Donald Trump on Saturday endorsed Rep. Nancy Mace, whom he'd unsuccessfully tried to defeat in the GOP primary last cycle. The congresswoman that Trump called "an absolutely terrible candidate" in 2022, however, has used the ensuing two years to remake herself into a diehard MAGA defender. Mace does not appear to have a similar reconciliation with Kevin McCarthy, whom she voted to oust as speaker in October.

Mace faces a June primary challenge from former state cabinet official Catherine Templeton, whom the incumbent labeled "McCarthy's puppet" last month. Dan Hanlon, who is Mace's former chief of staff, filed FEC paperwork in late January, but he still has not said anything publicly about this race. The candidate filing deadline is on April 1.

TX-23: Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales on Monday unveiled an endorsement from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, one of the most powerful far-right politicians in Texas, ahead of his May 28 primary runoff against gun maker Brandon Herrera, whom he led 45-25 in the first round of voting. Patrick's stamp of approval could be a welcome asset for Gonzales a year after the state party censured him for, among other things, voting to confirm Joe Biden's victory in the hours after the Jan. 6 attacks.

WA-06: State Sen. Emily Randall on Monday unveiled endorsements from two Democratic congresswomen who represent neighboring House seats, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of the 3rd District and Rep. Marilyn Strickland of the 10th. Retiring Rep. Derek Kilmer, whose seat Randall is seeking, previously endorsed the other major Democrat in the race, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

Ballot Measures

MO Ballot, MO-Sen, MO-Gov: A new poll from the GOP firm Remington Research Group for the local tip-sheet Missouri Scout finds a 42-26 plurality in favor of amending the state constitution "so that future constitutional amendments would need a statewide majority vote and a majority vote in a majority of congressional districts to take effect."

Note that this poll sampled November general election voters even though the proposed constitutional amendment would likely appear on the August primary ballot (should lawmakers actually pass the measure).

In the Senate race, Remington also finds GOP incumbent Josh Hawley outpacing the Democratic frontrunner, Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, 53-39. GOP Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft likewise holds a similar 53-36 advantage in a hypothetical race for governor against state House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, though both candidates face contested primaries this summer.

Prosecutors & Sheriffs

Cook County, IL State's Attorney: Attorney Clayton Harris has publicized an endorsement from Rep. Chuy Garcia, a high-profile progressive who is also one of the most prominent Latino politicians in the Chicago area, ahead of next week's Democratic primary.

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: With big primary win, Colin Allred kicks off race to unseat Ted Cruz

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

TX-Sen: In one of Super Tuesday's biggest races, Rep. Colin Allred secured the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who holds one of just two Senate seats that Democrats have a realistic shot at flipping this cycle. The news is especially welcome for Democrats because it means Allred can start campaigning against Cruz immediately, since he avoided a May 28 runoff by easily securing a majority of the vote with his 59-17 victory over state Sen. Roland Gutierrez.

No Democrat has won statewide in Texas since 1994, but the congressman, who has already proven himself a formidable fundraiser, could finally achieve the breakthrough Lone Star State Democrats have long dreamed of. Allred, who first won office in 2018 by flipping a longtime GOP stronghold in the Dallas area, would also be the state's first Black senator.

Allred's win was far from the only notable result, though, on a Super Tuesday that more than lived up to its name—at least downballot. Below is a state-by-state summary of where things stood as of 8 AM ET in all of the major contests. You can also check out our cheat-sheet that summarizes the outcomes in every key race.

Election results

 Alabama: A runoff will be held on April 16 in contests where no candidate earned a majority of the vote.

 AL-01 (R): Rep. Barry Moore defeated colleague Jerry Carl 51-49, an outcome that makes Carl the first member of Congress to lose renomination in 2024. This race, which is likely to be the only incumbent vs. incumbent primary in the entire cycle, took place because Moore decided to run here after the state's new court-drawn map turned his 2nd District into a Democratic-leaning constituency. This revamped seat in southern Alabama would have favored Donald Trump 75-24 in 2020.

Moore's win was an upset, as Carl represented considerably more of this territory and enjoyed a large fundraising advantage throughout the race. Both incumbents are ardent conservatives who voted against recognizing Joe Biden's 2020 win, though they still represented different factions of the party: Moore is a member of the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus, while Carl is closer to the party leadership.

 AL-02 (D & R): Former Justice Department official Shomari Figures and state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels will compete in the Democratic runoff for a redrawn seat that now takes in Mobile, Montgomery, and the eastern Black Belt. Figures, who benefited from heavy spending from a super PAC with ties to the cryptocurrency industry, took first with 43%, while Daniels outpaced ​​state Reps. Napoleon Bracy 22-16 for second.

Republicans also have a runoff between former state Sen. Dick Brewbaker, who took 40%, and attorney Caroleene Dobson, who beat out state Sen. Greg Albritton 26-25. The GOP nominee, though, will have a difficult time in the general election for what's now a plurality Black district that would have backed Joe Biden 56-43.

 Arkansas: A runoff will be held on April 2 in contests where no candidate earned a majority of the vote.

 AR-03 (R): Rep. Steve Womack held off a far-right challenge from state Sen. Clint Penzo 54-46 in this dark red northwest Arkansas seat. Penzo's ideological allies did little to help the underfunded legislator overcome his huge cash deficit against Womack, a decision they may not regret following the relatively weak victory for the self-described "institution guy."

 California: All candidates running for Congress and for state office compete on one ballot rather than in separate party primaries; the two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, advance to the Nov. 5 general election. Candidates cannot win outright in the primary by taking a majority of the vote, except in some officially nonpartisan elections.

Note, though, that it will be a while before all votes are tabulated. Because the state permanently adopted universal mail voting in 2021, vote-counting takes some time thanks to the security measures needed to verify the large number of mail ballots officials receive. 

 CA-Sen: Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff got the general election opponent he wants in this dark blue state, as Republican Steve Garvey defeated Democratic Rep. Katie Porter for the crucial second spot in November. The Associated Press estimates that only 47% of the vote is tabulated, so the candidates' margins will likely shift even though the AP has called both slots: Schiff currently leads with 33% as Garvey, who is a former Major League Baseball player, is outpacing Porter 32-14. Another 7% goes to the third Democratic House member on the ballot, Rep. Barbara Lee.

The lineup will be the same in the November special election to fill the final two months of the late Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's term. Garvey this time leads with 35% as Schiff outpaces Porter 31-16 for second.

 CA-12: Only 23% of the estimated vote is in, but BART board member Lateefah Simon leads with 43% in the race to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Barbara Lee. Another Democrat will almost certainly be on the November ballot for this dark blue Easy Bay seat, though it's less clear which one: Cal State professor Jennifer Tran holds a 17-15 edge over Alameda Vice Mayor Tony Daysog.

 CA-16: Two Democrats will likely be competing in the general election to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo in Silicon Valley, though the AP has not called either spot yet with only 51% of the estimated vote in. Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo leads with 22%, while Eshoo's choice, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, holds an 18-16 edge over Assemblyman Evan Low. Republican Peter Ohtaki is just behind with 14%.

 CA-20: Two Republicans, Assemblyman Vince Fong and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, lead with 52% of the estimated vote in, but the AP has not called either general election spot. Fong, who has the support of Trump and former Rep. Kevin McCarthy, is far out ahead with 39%, while Boudreaux is outpacing Democrat Marisa Wood 24-22.

Note that the first round of the special election for the remaining months of McCarthy's term will take place March 19. Trump carried this Central Valley seat 61-36.

 CA-22: Democrats are hoping they've avoided being locked out of the general election in this competitive Central Valley seat, though the AP also hasn't called either spot with only 30% of the estimated vote in. GOP incumbent David Valadao is in first with 34%, while 2022 Democratic nominee Rudy Salas leads self-funding Republican Chris Mathys 28-22. The final candidate on the ballot, Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado, is taking 15%.

 CA-25: Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz appears likely to face yet another little-known Republican rather than a local Democratic elected official in this 57-41 Biden seat, which is almost certainly an outcome he's happy with. 

Ian Weeks leads fellow Republican Ceci Truman 19-17 for second with 46% of the estimated vote in, but it likely doesn't matter which of them advances against Ruiz. Indio City Council member Oscar Ortiz, who launched an intra-party bid against Ruiz in December, is in a distant fourth place with 9%. The incumbent, for his part, is taking 49% in this constituency, which is based in eastern Riverside County and Imperial County.

 CA-26: Agoura Hills City Council member Chris Anstead's intra-party bid against Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley appears to be over, as he's taking a mere 4% of the vote with 52% of the estimated vote in. The incumbent leads with 51%, while Michael Koslow is leading fellow Republican Bruce Boyer 34-11. 

The AP has not yet called the second spot, though neither Republican has reported raising the type of money they'd need to put this Ventura County constituency into play.  Joe Biden carried this seat to the northwest of Los Angeles 59-39, while Brownley went on to win 55-45 during a tough 2022 cycle for California Democrats.

 CA-29: Assemblywoman Luz Rivas unsurprisingly looks well-situated to succeed her fellow Democrat and top ally, retiring Rep. Tony Cárdenas, though the AP hasn't called either general election spot with only 40% of the estimated vote in. Rivas leads with 48%, while Republican Benny Bernal is outpacing perennial Democratic candidate Angelica Duenas 31-21. This eastern San Fernando Valley seat is safely blue at 75-23 Biden.

 CA-30: The AP estimates that 60% of the vote is in, and Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman is in front with 27% as Republican Alex Balekian leads Democratic state Sen. Anthony Portantino 21-14 for second; neither spot has been called as of Wednesday morning. This Los Angeles-based seat, which Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff is leaving behind to run for the Senate, favored Biden 72-26.

 CA-31: With just half of the estimated vote in, former Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros is taking first place with 21%, while Daniel Martinez leads fellow Republican Pedro Casas 21-19 for second. A pair of Democratic state senators are further behind: Susan Rubio is taking 15%, while another 11% goes to Bob Archuleta, who has the endorsement of retiring Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano. Biden took this seat in the eastern San Gabriel Valley 64-33.

 CA-34: It looks like there could be a third all-Democratic general election between Rep. Jimmy Gomez and former prosecutor David Kim in this dark blue Los Angeles seat, though the AP hasn't called either spot with only 41% of the estimated vote in. Gomez leads with 51% as Kim is outpacing Republican Calvin Lee 24-18. 

 CA-40: Retired Orange County Fire Capt. Joe Kerr appears poised to take on GOP Rep. Young Kim in this 50-48 Biden seat in eastern Orange County, though the AP has not made a call with 60% of the estimated vote in. Kerr leads his fellow Democrat, Tustin Unified School District Board of Education president Allyson Muñiz Damikolas, 26-16, while Kim is at 58%. 

 CA-45: There's a close contest to determine which Democrat will go up against Republican Rep. Michelle Steel in a western Orange County constituency that Biden carried 52-46. Attorney Derek Tran is edging out Garden Grove City Councilwoman Kim Nguyen-Penaloza 16-14 with 47% of the estimated vote in, while Steel is in front with 57%.

 CA-47: Former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh and Democratic state Sen. Dave Min are the leaders in the top-two primary to replace Democratic Senate candidate Katie Porter, but the AP has not made any calls with 60% of the estimated vote in. Baugh is in front with 33%, while Min leads fellow Democrat Joanna Weiss 25-19. Biden took this seat based in coastal Orange County and Irvine 54-43, while Porter fended off Baugh 52-48 two years later.

 CA-49: Businessman Matt Gunderson holds a 26-11 lead over his fellow Republican self-funder, media executive Margarita Wilkinson, but we're still awaiting a call with 59% of the estimated vote in. The winner will be the underdog against Democratic incumbent Mike Levin, who is sitting at 51%, in a coastal San Diego County seat that Biden carried 55-43.

 North Carolina: A runoff will be held on May 14 in contests where no candidate earned at least 30% of the vote, though the second-place finisher must formally request a runoff for one to occur.

 NC-Gov (R & D): Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein will face off in a long-anticipated showdown to replace termed-out Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. 

The far-right Robinson won his primary 65-19 against state Treasurer Dale Folwell, with wealthy businessman Bill Graham securing the balance. Graham declared on election night, "Mark Robinson is an unelectable candidate in the general election in North Carolina, and he puts a conservative future at risk for everyone, from the courthouse to the White House." Stein, for his part, defeated former state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan 70-14.

 NC-01 (R): National Republicans got the nominee they want against Democratic Rep. Don Davis, as Army veteran Laurie Buckhout beat scandal-ridden two-time nominee Sandy Smith 53-47. Republican mapmakers transformed this seat in the inland, northeastern corner of the state from a constituency Biden carried 53-46 into one he barely won 50-49.

 NC-06 (R): Lobbyist Addison McDowell will face former Rep. Mark Walker in the runoff to replace Rep. Kathy Manning, who is one of three Democratic House members who is not seeking reelection in a seat that Republicans made all but unwinnable for her party. The Trump-endorsed McDowell took 26%, while Walker beat out 2022 nominee Christian Castelli 24-21 for the second spot in this seat in the central Piedmont region.

 NC-08 (R): Pastor Mark Walker appears to have won the GOP nomination outright over half a decade after his campaign was responsible for one the most ignominious election-fraud scandals in recent memory, though the AP has not yet made a call with 97% of the estimated vote in. Walker is sitting at 30.4%, while former Union County Commissioner Allan Baucom is at 27%. The GOP nominee will be favored to replace attorney general nominee Dan Bishop in this 58-41 Trump seat based in the eastern Charlotte suburbs and rural areas further east.

 NC-10 (R): Firearms manufacturer Pat Harrigan has narrowly secured the nomination to replace his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Patrick McHenry, in this 57-41 Trump seat centered in Winston-Salem and the western Piedmont region. Harrigan, who was the 2022 nominee against Democrat Jeff Jackson in the old 14th District, beat out state Rep. Grey Mills 41-39 following an expensive contest

 NC-13 (R): Attorney Kelly Daughtry has taken one of the two runoff spots in the race to succeed Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel, who is leaving Congress because Republicans gerrymandered his Raleigh-area seat, but the AP hasn't called the other slot. Daughtry is at 27%, while former federal prosecutor Brad Knott leads businessman Fred Von Canon 19-17 with 85% of the estimated vote in.

 NC-AG (D): Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson beat Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry 55-33 despite an expensive attempt by the Republican Attorneys General Association to meddle in the primary. Jackson will go up against far-right Rep. Dan Bishop, an election denier who had no opposition in the GOP primary. 

Texas: A runoff will be held on May 28 in contests where no candidate earned a majority of the vote.

TX-02 (R): Rep. Dan Crenshaw outpaced underfunded primary foe Jameson Ellis only 59-41 just two years after beating him 74-17. Crenshaw has little to worry about in the general election for a suburban Houston seat that Trump took 61-38, but his diminished showing could inspire a stronger intra-party foe next cycle.

TX-07 (D): Rep. Lizzie Fletcher scored a 73-27 victory against Pervez Agwan, a renewable energy developer whose campaign was overshadowed by sexual misconduct allegations leveled by former staffers, in this safely blue Houston seat.

TX-12 (R): State Rep. Craig Goldman and businessman John O'Shea will compete in the runoff to replace their fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Kay Granger, in this conservative constituency in the Fort Worth area. Goldman, who has the backing of Gov. Greg Abbott, took 44%, while O'Shea led a little-known opponent 26-15. O'Shea has the support of Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom Goldman voted to impeach last year.

TX-18 (D): Longtime Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee turned back a well-funded challenge from former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards 60-37 in this reliably blue seat. Jackson Lee appeared vulnerable after badly losing December's runoff for mayor of Houston to fellow Democrat John Whitmire, but Edwards largely avoided attacking the incumbent.

TX-23 (R): Rep. Tony Gonzales has been forced into a runoff against a far-right opponent, gunmaker Brandon Herrera. Gonzales secured 45% of the vote a year after he was censured by the state party, while Herrera outpaced former Medina County GOP Chair Julie Clark 25-14. The winner will be favored in a sprawling West Texas seat that favored Trump 53-46.

TX-26 (R): Far-right media figure Brandon Gill secured the nomination to replace retiring GOP Rep. Michael Burgess in this conservative seat in the northern Fort Worth suburbs and exurbs. The Trump-backed Gill, who is the son-in-law of MAGA toady Dinesh D'Souza, took 58% despite an expensive campaign to stop him. The now-meaningless runner-up title goes to Scott Armey, a former Denton County judge who lost the 2002 runoff to Burgess and grabbed just 15% this time.

TX-32 (D): State Rep. Julie Johnson is currently sitting on 50.1% in the primary to replace Senate candidate Colin Allred, but the AP has not made a call with 98% of the estimated vote in. Trauma surgeon Brian Williams, who would be her runoff opponent should she fail to take a majority, is a distant second with 19%. 

TX-34 (R): Former Rep. Mayra Flores easily beat unheralded opponent Laura Cisneros 81-9 ahead of her long-anticipated rematch against Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez. Gonzalez appears to have meddled in the primary by sending out mailers boosting Greg Kunkle, but Kunkle clocked in at just 4%. Gonzalez beat Flores 53-44 in 2022 in a campaign that took place two years after Biden carried this seat in the eastern Rio Grande Valley 57-42. 

Senate

AZ-Sen: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema finally confirmed Tuesday that she will not seek reelection in Arizona this year. Sinema's departure almost certainly guarantees that the November general election will be a two-way race between each party's respective frontrunner, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and Republican conspiracy theorist Kari Lake. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had not taken sides while Sinema was still publicly deliberating, quickly endorsed Gallego, as did the DSCC.

Pollsters disagreed as to which major party Sinema—who during her career has been a member of the Green Party, a Democrat, and an independent—would have hurt more had she sought a second term. However, essentially every survey showed Sinema in a distant third place and with little hope of securing the plurality she would have needed to win.

P.S. Sinema is now the second straight occupant of this seat to quit after just one term, following Republican Jeff Flake's departure ahead of the 2018 elections.

FL-Sen: Former Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell's allies at EMILYs List have released an internal poll from Public Policy Polling that shows her trailing Republican Sen. Rick Scott by a narrow 44-41 margin. This survey, which is the first we've seen here all year, did not include presidential numbers. The pollster's memo also did not mention self-funding businessman Stanley Campbell, who is taking on Mucarsel-Powell in the August primary.

OH-Sen: SurveyUSA's new poll of the March 19 GOP primary for the Center for Election Science finds wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno edging out state Sen. Matt Dolan 29-27, with Secretary of State Frank LaRose at 21% and another 23% undecided. The numbers are considerably different from a recent Moreno internal from Fabrizio Lee that showed him with a wide 31-21 advantage over LaRose, while Dolan was in third place with 19%.

The results are also a sharp contrast with data that CES, which promotes approval voting, previously released in December. That earlier poll (also conducted by SurveyUSA) found LaRose beating Dolan 33-18 as Moreno grabbed just 12%. However, Donald Trump endorsed Moreno almost immediately after that poll was publicized, which helps account for the dramatic shift in the race to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

It's not clear what interest CES has in this race, though, especially since SurveyUSA doesn't appear to have asked respondents about approval voting or any other alternative voting method.

WI-Sen: WinSenate, which is affiliated with the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC, has deployed at least $2 million for a March 5-25 ad buy targeting wealthy businessman Eric Hovde, who last month became the first notable Republican to enter the race against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

WinSenate's spot attacks Hovde over his weak ties to the state he's seeking to represent. The ad notes that he is the "CEO of a billion-dollar bank" and owns a $7 million hillside mansion overlooking Laguna Beach in Orange County, California, where a local outlet named him one of the county's "most influential" residents for three years running.

Hovde launched a $700,000 ad buy of his own the very same day that WinSenate's campaign began, and his new spot unsurprisingly tries to establish his Wisconsin bona fides. The minute-long commercial features his wife, Sharon Hovde, speaking to the camera as she notes that her husband grew up in Wisconsin and became a successful businessman.

Last year while he was still considering a campaign, Hovde wouldn't give a straight answer when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice asked him how much time he spends in the state. However, after joining the race last month, Hovde recently claimed to conservative radio host Jay Weber that he spends roughly nine months each year living in Wisconsin.

House

GA-13: Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Waites, who last year declined to rule out a primary challenge to Democratic Rep. David Scott, has instead announced that she's resigning her current post and will run for Fulton County Superior Court clerk. Scott currently faces one notable opponent, Army veteran Marcus Flowers, though anyone else interested in running this year only has until Friday's candidate filing deadline to decide.

LA-06: Republican Rep. Garret Graves says he'll seek reelection in his current district, explaining that he believes Louisiana's new congressional map will get struck down by the courts, according to WBRZ.

That map was enacted by the state after a federal court ordered the creation of a second district where Black voters could elect their preferred candidates. To comply, lawmakers redrew Graves' 6th District, transforming it from a 65% white seat that Donald Trump would have won by a 64-34 margin to one with a 54% Black majority that Joe Biden would have carried 59-39.

Under those new lines, Graves would have virtually no chance of winning another term, but a group of voters recently filed a separate lawsuit challenging the new map as an unlawful racial gerrymander. If they're successful, Louisiana could be sent back to the drawing board, which in turn could restore Graves to a district he'd be able to win.

MI-10: Former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga has released a late January internal poll from Public Policy Polling showing him with a wide lead in the Aug. 6 Democratic primary to take on the Republican who beat him in 2022, first-term Rep. John James. The survey finds Marlinga taking 30% of the vote while none of his opponents break 4%, though 55% are still undecided. That's very similar to polling Marlinga shared last August, when PPP likewise had him up 31-5 on his nearest rival.

ND-AL: Wade Webb, a judge on the Cass County District Court, has opted against joining the June GOP primary for North Dakota's lone House seat. However, several other notable Republicans are running for this seat, which is open because GOP Rep. Kelly Armstrong is seeking the governorship, and more could get in. The state's filing deadline is April 8.

NJ-09: Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, who is reportedly planning to launch a challenge to Rep. Bill Pascrell in this year's Democratic primary this week, has confirmed to Politico's Daniel Han that he will run. However, said Han, Khairullah "declined to discuss it further, saying he was waiting until his official announcement."

PA-12: Facing challenges to her ballot petitions, nonprofit head Laurie McDonald abandoned her campaign against first-term Rep. Summer Lee in the April 23 Democratic primary on Monday and said she would instead seek the Republican nod as a write-in. That effort is likely just as doomed, though, since manufacturing executive James Hayes is already on the GOP primary ballot.

Lee, meanwhile, must still contend with a challenge from businesswoman Bhavini Patel for the Democratic nod. Joe Biden carried the Pittsburgh-based 12th District 59-40, so whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee should be favored in November.

Mayors & County Leaders

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon has publicized an internal poll from Garin-Hart-Yang that gives her a small 40-37 advantage over incumbent Brandon Scott in the May 14 Democratic primary. This survey, which is the first we've seen here all year, also finds former federal prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah and wealthy businessman Bob Wallace at 10% and 6%, respectively, with 8% undecided. It only takes a simple plurality to secure the Democratic nomination to lead this loyally blue city.

Ad Roundup

Correction: The results for the Texas Senate Democratic primary inadvertently left out Colin Allred’s margin of victory; he won 59-17.

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Digest: Alabama poised to have two Black Congress members for first time thanks to new map

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

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Leading Off

AL Redistricting: A federal court on Thursday chose a new congressional map to impose in Alabama for the 2024 elections, finally creating a second district where Black voters can elect their preferred candidate. You can see the new map here, and click here for an interactive version.

The court had previously found that the map Republicans enacted in 2021 violated the Voting Rights Act, though the map was still used in last year's elections while the GOP appealed. Consequently, a Black Democrat will likely replace a white Republican after 2024, which would give Alabama two Black House members (out of seven total) for the first time in its history, roughly matching the 27% of its population that is Black.

Compared with the previous map, the new map significantly reconfigures the 1st and 2nd districts in southern Alabama to turn the latter district from a majority-white, safely Republican constituency into one that is 49% Black and just 44% white. To do so, the new map gives the 2nd the rest of Montgomery and most of Mobile—two cities that both have large Black populations—while the 2nd sheds the heavily white rural areas along the Florida border and exurbs north of Montgomery. (Changes to the other five districts were relatively limited.)

Consequently, the redesigned 2nd District would have favored Joe Biden 56-43 in 2020, making it a likely Democratic flip in 2024. Current 2nd District Rep. Barry Moore, a Republican who is a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, is now at significant risk of losing his seat, though Moore recently indicated he could bail on the 2nd District and instead run against fellow GOP Rep. Jerry Carl in the primary for the 1st. However, Moore would likely be starting at a disadvantage there since our calculations indicate Carl currently represents 59% of the new district compared to Moore's 41%.

The new map is the culmination of multiyear litigation that saw the lower court strike down the GOP's 2021 map last year because it packed Black voters into the heavily Democratic 7th District while dispersing them elsewhere to ensure that the other six districts would remain heavily white and safely Republican. The Supreme Court put that ruling on hold for the 2022 elections while Republicans appealed, but it subsequently upheld the lower court's ruling in a landmark decision this past June, preserving a key protection of the Voting Rights Act.

Following the Supreme Court's ruling, the lower court gave the Republican-controlled legislature a second chance to draw a compliant map, instructing them to draw two districts that were either majority-Black or "something quite close to it." But in July, Republicans brazenly defied the courts, enacting a new map with just one majority-Black district and another that was only 39.9% Black—well short of a majority and therefore safely Republican.

Last month, the lower court blocked this new Republican map, and the Supreme Court also rejected the GOP's last-ditch attempt to keep it in place. Republican Secretary of State Wes Allen subsequently dropped the state's appeal to the high court earlier this week. This ensures the new map adopted by the lower court will be used in 2024, though state Republicans could still sue to invalidate the court-imposed map later this decade.

election recaps

Memphis, TN Mayor: Downtown Memphis Commission CEO Paul Young defeated Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner 28-23 Thursday to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out Mayor Jim Strickland, in a 17-way contest where it took only a simple plurality to win. Young, who outspent each of his opponents, was long involved in city government but had never before run for office, and he argued he'd be the most prepared mayor in history while also representing change.

The winning candidate, who is the son of two well-known pastors, also focused on turning out younger voters. Young, when questioned why he'd voted in two GOP primaries since 2016, argued this was "strategic crossover voting to ensure that we have good people on both sides of the ledger." "I'm a Democrat," he said at one debate, "but I'm gonna get the job done."

3Q Fundraising

  • AZ-Sen: Ruben Gallego (D): $3 million raised, $5 million cash on hand
  • NV-Sen: Jacky Rosen (D-inc): $2.7 million raised, $8.8 million cash on hand
  • PA-Sen: Bob Casey (D-inc): $3.2 million raised, $7.3 million cash on hand
  • WI-Sen: Tammy Baldwin (D-inc): $3.1 million raised, $7 million cash on hand
  • CA-27: George Whitesides (D): $400,000 raised, additional $300,000 self-funded, $1.7 million cash on hand
  • CA-41: Will Rollins (D): $830,000 raised
  • CO-03: Adam Frisch (D): $3.4 million raised, $4.3 million cash on hand
  • NY-17: Mondaire Jones (D): $1.15 million raised, $840,000 cash on hand
  • WI-03: Rebecca Cooke (D): $400,000 raised

Senate

CA-Sen: Politico relays that Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff have all made it clear they'd continue to run for the Senate even if their fellow Democrat, appointed incumbent Laphonza Butler, sought a full term.

NJ-Sen: Rep. Andy Kim's allies at End Citizens United are out with an internal from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that shows the congressman beating First Lady Tammy Murphy 42-19 in a hypothetical Democratic primary, with indicted Sen. Bob Menendez taking all of 5%. The firm also finds Kim, who remains the only major declared candidate, defeating the incumbent 63-10 in a one-on-one fight. This is the only primary poll we've seen other than a Data for Progress survey that showed Kim beating fellow Rep. Mikie Sherrill 27-20 in a crowded contest, but that survey was largely conducted after Sherrill said she wouldn't run.

Another Democratic House member, Rep. Frank Pallone, sounds unlikely to seek a promotion, though he didn't quite rule it out to Politico. Pallone, who has served in the lower chamber since 1988, instead says he wants to regain the top post on the Energy and Commerce panel under a new Democratic majority. He said of the Senate chatter, "I’m flattered by the suggestions."

The story also adds that Rep. Josh Gottheimer is continuing to prepare his likely 2025 gubernatorial bid and isn't "planning to change course and run for Senate," though he hasn't said this publicly. (See our NJ-11, NJ-Gov item below for more on both Gottheimer and Sherrill's 2025 deliberations.)

WV-Sen: The Tarrance Group's late-September poll for the Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC tied to Mitch McConnell, shows GOP Gov. Jim Justice leading Sen. Joe Manchin 49-43 in a hypothetical general election scenario where the senator runs as an independent rather than as a Democrat. The memo did not mention Rep. Alex Mooney, who is waging an uphill primary battle against Justice.

Governors

MS-Gov: The conservative Magnolia Tribune has released a survey from Mason-Dixon that shows GOP Gov. Tate Reeves leading Democrat Brandon Presley 51-43, which is only a little smaller than the 52-41 advantage that Siena College found in late August. Mason-Dixon does not appear to have asked respondents about independent Gwendolyn Gray, whose presence on the ballot could conceivably prevent anyone from taking the majority needed to avert a Nov. 28 runoff; Siena, though, found just 1% opting for "someone else."

House

AZ-01: Former TV news anchor Marlene Galán-Woods has publicized an endorsement from former Gov. Janet Napolitano, who served from 2003 to 2009, in the Democratic primary to face GOP incumbent David Schweikert.

MI-08: Saginaw police officer Martin Blank, who served as an Army trauma surgeon in Afghanistan, on Thursday became the first notable Republican to launch a bid against Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee. Joe Biden would have carried this seat, which is based in the Flint and Tri-Cities areas, 50-48, but Kildee won an expensive race 53-43 two years later.

Blank has twice run for the state legislature, but he came nowhere close to securing the nomination either time. He lost his 2020 bid for the state House 50-31 against Timothy Beson, who went on to win the seat. Black campaigned for the upper chamber last year in a four-way primary, but he finished dead last with 18%. (Annette Glenn won that nomination contest with 41% only to lose to Democrat Kristen McDonald Rivet in the fall.)

MN-03: DNC member Ron Harris tells Punchbowl News he's considering running for the seat currently held by Rep. Dean Phillips, and he didn't rule out challenging the would-be Biden primary foe. Harris sounds more interested in running for an open seat, however, even though Minnesota's June filing deadline means that Phillips wouldn't need to choose between humoring his longshot presidential dreams and seeking reelection. "As Dean considers a run for President, I'm exploring a run for Congress to ensure this district stays in Democratic hands," Harris tweeted Thursday.

Harris, who is currently the DNC's Midwestern Caucus chair, previously served as Minneapolis' chief resilience officer from 2019 until last year. (Minnesota's largest city is located entirely in Rep. Ilhan Omar's 5th District.) Harris would be the first Black person to represent the 3rd, a seat in the western Minneapolis suburbs that favored Biden 60-39.

NJ-11, NJ-Gov: Politico relays chatter that New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill could retire this cycle to prepare for a potential 2025 bid to succeed her fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. Phil Murphy, though there's no word from the congresswoman about her thinking. The current version of Sherrill's 11th District, which includes New York City's western suburbs and exurbs, would have backed Joe Biden 58-41, and Democrats would be favored to keep it no matter what.

The congresswoman would be free to seek a fourth term in the House in 2024 and even remain in Congress should she lose a bid for governor, but Sherrill could decide instead that she'd prefer to focus on a statewide campaign. Indeed, Politico previously reported in July that another Democrat who flipped a seat during the 2018 blue wave, Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger, has decided against running for reelection so she can commit all of her time towards her own 2025 gubernatorial bid: Spanberger herself says she'll reveal her plans after the Nov. 7 legislative elections. (New Jersey also holds its state House and Senate contests that day.)

If Sherrill were to run for governor, she'd be in for an expensive primary battle. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop launched his campaign all the way back in April, and he announced Thursday that he'd raised enough money to receive all $7.3 million from the state's matching funds program, which provides $2 in state funds for every dollar raised. Anyone participating in the program can only spend $7.3 million during the primary, though super PACs like the pro-Fulop Coalition for Progress, which had $6.5 million available at the end of June, can deploy as much as they want.

Sherrill also isn't the only Democratic House member who might try to be the next inhabit of Drumthwacket, the governor's delightfully named official residence. An advisor for Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a prominent centrist who represents a neighboring seat to the north, confirmed the congressman's interest back in July to the New Jersey Globe. However, Politico relays that unnamed "Democrats close to Gottheimer" anticipate he'll also seek reelection next year to the 5th District, which favored Biden 56-43.

Plenty of other Democrats have also been talked about as potential candidates to replace Murphy in this blue state, and we'll take a closer look at the many potential contenders after the Nov. 7 elections. On the GOP side, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli announced he was in days after he lost the 2021 general election to Murphy by a surprisingly narrow 51-48 spread.

VA-10: Axios' Hans Nichols reports that former National Security Council advisor Eugene Vindman, the whistleblower who attracted national attention in the leadup to Donald Trump's first impeachment, is considering running to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Jennifer Wexton. Vindman didn't deny anything to Nichols when asked at an event for the Democratic group VoteVets, saying instead, "I'm focused on Ukraine funding. I'm focused on war crimes now. That's all I'm focused on."

Nick Minock of the local ABC affiliate 7News, meanwhile, writes that Loudoun County Supervisor Juli Briskman discussed campaigning for the Democratic nod after Wexton announced that she wouldn't run following her diagnosis with Progressive Supra-nuclear Palsy. Briskman, who was photographed flipping off Donald Trump's motorcade while biking in 2017, divulged last week that she was being treated for breast cancer, and she said doctors are optimistic about her prospects. The supervisor, who is up for reelection on Nov. 7, did not respond to 7News' inquiry about her 2024 plans.

Minock also mentions state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Del. Elizabeth Guzman, and former Attorney General Mark Herring as possible Democratic candidates. Nichols additionally names Jessica Post, who announced last week that she would step down as president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee after this year's races; like the aforementioned trio, Post does not appear to have said anything publicly about participating in this contest. But Del. Danica Roem, who is seeking a promotion to the state Senate, told 7News she wouldn't run herself; Roem previously ruled out a bid for the neighboring 7th District.

On the GOP side, attorney Mike Clancy on Thursday became the first declared candidate for this 58-40 Biden seat. Clancy, whom Minock describes as a "business executive with a global technology company," ran here last year and self-funded the majority of his campaign's $400,000 budget, but he didn't come close to winning the party-run "firehouse primary."

Minock also supplies a few names of possible GOP contenders:

  • 2020 nominee Aliscia Andrews
  • Loudoun County Supervisor Caleb Kershner
  • 2022 candidate Caleb Max
  • state Sen. Jill Vogel

Kershner is up for reelection next month, while Vogel is retiring from the legislature.

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Morning Digest: A right-wing darling wants a CNN gig. His enemies want his seat

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Leading Off

CO-04: Colorado state Rep. Richard Holtorf announced Tuesday that he was forming an exploratory committee for a potential primary bid against Republican Rep. Ken Buck, a Freedom Caucus member who has improbably morphed into a vocal critic of extremists in his own party. Holtorf may not get his chance to take on Buck, though, as the congressman revealed that same day that he was interested in leaving the House to take an on-air cable news job.

Holtorf, who is the first notable Republican to publicly express interest in campaigning against the incumbent in the 4th District, told Colorado Public Radio he'd make up his mind in December. The state representative took Buck to task for condemning a letter from local Republicans accusing the federal government of violating the rights of Jan. 6 defendants, as well as Buck's opposition to his party's fervor to impeach Joe Biden. "Why is he on CNN and MSNBC?" asked Holtorf, "I don't think the message he is explaining represents the sentiment of the district."

But voters may soon see a whole lot more of their congressman on one of those networks than in eastern Colorado. The New York Post published a story shortly after the CPR interview went live in which Buck said, "I am interested in talking to folks at CNN and other news organizations—on the, I don't want to call them left, but sort of center-left—and having an opportunity to do that full-time or do that as a contributor would be great also."

Buck went on to inform the paper he was also eyeing similar roles at hard-right outlets like Fox News and Newsmax, though he added that he hasn't decided if he wants to leave the House just yet. And despite publishing a Washington Post piece titled, "My fellow Republicans: One disgraceful impeachment doesn't deserve another," Buck also said he hadn't actually ruled out voting to impeach Biden. "I am not opposed to impeachment, I'm opposed to the impeachment inquiry because I don't think it gives us any broader authority to investigate this," the congressman argued.

Until recently, it would have been tough to imagine Buck speaking out against his party's far-right elements. Buck, who previously served as Weld County district attorney, first emerged on the national scene as a prominent tea partier in the 2010 cycle when he challenged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. His hardline rhetoric, however, helped cost his party a pickup during what was otherwise a massive GOP wave.

Late in the campaign, Buck appeared on "Meet the Press" and said he stood by his 2005 declaration that he had refused to prosecute an alleged rape because "a jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer's remorse." He also argued that being gay was a choice. "I think birth has an influence over it," he said, "like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically you have a choice." Republicans quickly responded to Buck's narrow loss by citing him, along with Delaware's Christine O'Donnell and Nevada's Sharron Angle, as a cautionary example of what happens when the party chooses extremist nominees in crucial Senate races.

Unlike his fellow travelers, though, Buck actually had a future in elected office. For a time in 2014, he waged another Senate bid, but then switched places with Rep. Cory Gardner when the latter decided to wage a late campaign against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

Buck decisively won the primary for Gardner's seat by a 44-24 margin, and he's never had trouble holding his reliably red constituency. He went on to chair the state GOP ahead of a dispiriting 2020 cycle and has spent most of his tenure as an ardent conservative, though he broke from Freedom Caucus doctrine in 2021 when he became part of the minority of Republicans to vote to recognize Biden's win.

Holtorf, by contrast, likely has far more in common with most of Buck's colleagues on the extreme right. The state representative made national news in 2021 when he called a Latino colleague "Buckwheat," claiming later that he didn't know of the racist origins of the word. Holtorf again attracted unwanted attention again the next year when he accidentally dropped his gun in the state capitol while rushing to a vote, an episode that one observer called "reckless and scary."

The Downballot

 We did it! And it's all thanks to Molech! We're devoting this week's episode of "The Downballot" to giving praise to the dark god himself after New Hampshire Democrat Hal Rafter won a critical special election over Republican Jim Guzofski, the loony toons pastor who once ranted that liberals make "blood sacrifices to their god Molech." Democrats are now just one seat away from erasing the GOP's majority in the state House and should feel good about their chances in the Granite State next year. Republicans, meanwhile, can only stew bitterly that they lack the grassroots fundraising energy provided by Daily Kos, which endorsed Rafter and raised the bulk of his campaign funds via small donations.

We're also joined by Daily Kos Elections' own Stephen Wolf to update us on the ongoing litigation over Alabama's congressional map. In an unusual move, the court's appointed expert invited the public to submit their own proposals as he prepares replacement maps, so Wolf took him up on the offer and drew two plans of his own. Wolf describes those plans in detail and sings the praises of Dave's Redistricting App, the invaluable free tool that has allowed ordinary citizens to participate in the redistricting process in ways never before possible.

Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show—new episodes every Thursday! You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Politico reported Wednesday that Republican Kari Lake, who continues to challenge her defeat in last year's race for governor, will "almost certainly" announce in October that she'll run for the Senate, which is the same timeline Axios laid out last month. Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb has been campaigning for the GOP nod since April, but it remains to be seen if any other notable names will join in. While multiple publications said just before Labor Day that 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters had decided to get in, a separate Politico story from Wednesday says his entry is "now on hold as Kari Lake preps her entry."

IN-Sen: Wealthy businessman John Rust has filed a lawsuit to challenge the state law that would keep him off the GOP primary ballot, though he'd be the underdog against Rep. Jim Banks even if he succeeded in court.

The state only allows candidates to run with the party they belong to, and the easiest way for Hoosiers to establish party affiliation is to cast their two most recent primary votes in that side's nomination contests. (There is no party registration in Indiana.) But while Rust most recently participated in the 2016 GOP primary, his prior vote was in the 2012 Democratic race. Candidates can get an exemption if their local party chair certifies that they belong to the party, but Jackson County party head Amanda Lowery said last month she wouldn't do this.

Governors

KY-Gov: Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear has launched his most hard-hitting ad of the race, a spot where a rape survivor condemns Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron's ardent opposition to abortion rights.  "I was raped by my stepfather after years of sexual abuse," says a woman identified as Hadley. "I was 12."

Hadley continues, "Anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it's like to stand in my shoes. This is to you, Daniel Cameron: to tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather, who raped her, is unthinkable."

Beshear last month became probably the first statewide candidate to ever air a general election ad attacking the GOP's opposition to abortion rights, and Planned Parenthood has also launched digital ads on the topic. Cameron has defended the state's near-total ban, which has no exemptions for rape or incest, in court and on the campaign trail, telling LEX 18 News in April, "I'm not going to waiver in my position on this and we're going to continue to defend the law as is."

The attorney general seems to have finally recognized that that stance is toxic even in this conservative state, and he declared Monday, "If our legislature was to bring legislation before me that provided exceptions for rape and incest, I would sign that legislation."

Beshear's side quickly made it clear they wouldn't stop attacking his record in office, though. The state Democratic Party posted 2022 footage Tuesday where Cameron celebrated the end of Roe v. Wade by proclaiming, "Abortion is, for all intents and purposes, over here in the commonwealth, with the exemption of life [of the mother]. There is no rape and incest exemption." The governor's campaign debuted this new ad the following day.

LA-Gov: State Rep. Richard Nelson, who raised little money and barely registered in the polls, announced Wednesday that he was exiting the Oct. 14 all-party primary and endorsing his fellow Republican, far-right Attorney General Jeff Landry. Nelson said last month that he was interested in replacing another now-former GOP rival, Stephen Waguespack, as head of the state's Chamber of Commerce affiliate, but he also acknowledged Wednesday that the group had passed him over.

UT-Gov, UT-Sen: While former Rep. Jason Chaffetz still hasn't ruled out running for governor or Senate this cycle, the Republican acknowledged to KSL he's likely to remain a Fox News talking head instead. "That's not something I'm planning to do, challenging Gov. [Spencer] Cox is not in my plans," said Chaffetz, adding he's more interested in seeking the governorship in 2028. He also said of a campaign to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Mitt Romney, "I haven't fully closed the door on it, but it's not something I'm actively pursuing."

House

CA-40: EMILY's List has endorsed Tustin Unified School District trustee Allyson Muñiz Damikolas in the top-two primary to face GOP Rep. Young Kim in an eastern Orange County seat that Joe Biden carried 50-48. Damikolas' only notable intra-party foe is retired Orange County Fire Capt. Joe Kerr, who previously earned endorsements from four Southern California House Democrats: Senate candidates Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, plus Reps. Lou Correa and Mike Levin.

Ballot Measures

AZ Ballot: A campaign has launched in Arizona to place an amendment on next year's general election ballot to do away with the state's partisan primaries starting in 2026, an effort that comes months after Republican legislators placed their own amendment on the ballot to protect the status quo and ban instant-runoff voting. The Arizona Mirror says that if both amendments won next year, only the one with the most support would take effect.

However, even if voters opted to change how elections are conducted, it still wouldn't be up to voters what system they'd get to use. Axios' Jeremy Duda explains that, while all the candidates would run on one all-party primary ballot, it would be up to the legislature if anywhere between two and five contenders would advance to the general election for races where only one candidate can win.

Instant-runoff voting would be used for the second round of voting if more than two contenders are allowed to move forward, but the GOP's hatred of ranked-choice voting means that this almost certainly wouldn't happen as long as the party maintains its narrow majorities in both chambers. Should the legislature fail to reach an agreement, though, it would be up to the secretary of state―a post currently held by Democrat Adrian Fontes―to make this call.

In order to qualify for the ballot, the campaign must secure about 384,000 valid signatures by July 3. Republican leaders very much hope it fails to hit this target, with state party chair Jeff DeWit ardently condemning the effort.

OH Ballot: Ohio's Republican-led Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld most of the summary that the conservative Ohio Ballot Board crafted for the Nov. 7 proposed abortion rights amendment to replace the one drawn up by the amendment's backers, including text that substitutes the words "unborn child" in place of "fetus." The actual text of the amendment that would go into the state constitution remains unchanged.

One Republican on the seven-member body, Justice Pat Fischer, sided with the three Democrats to order the Ballot Board to swap the words "state of Ohio" out for "citizens of the state of Ohio" in a passage describing who had the power to limit access to the procedure. However, the summary that will go before voters will still declare that the amendment would "[a]lways allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability if, in the treating physician's determination, the abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant woman's life and health."

Mayors & County Leaders

Manchester, NH Mayor: Republican Jay Ruais and Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh advanced out of Tuesday's nonpartisan primary to the Nov. 7 general election to succeed retiring incumbent Joyce Craig, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, for a two-year term as leader of New Hampshire's largest city. Ruais secured 42% while Cavanaugh, a former state senator who went into the first round with endorsements from Craig and Sen. Maggie Hassan, beat out fellow Democratic Alderman Will Stewart 25-19 for second; a third Democratic alderman, June Trisciani, took the remaining 14% and quickly backed Cavanaugh.

While supporters of Ruais, who is a former congressional staffer, celebrated his first-place finish, at least one prominent Republican strategist noted that the three Democrats outpaced him 58-42. Michael Biundo tweeted that Ruais "will celebrate tonight and he should," but continued, "as someone that has spent a lot of time around Manchester politics, the fact the Democrats got a combined majority is a cautionary tale for the GOP. Lots of work ahead if Manchester is going to move in a better direction."

While Manchester, with a population of just over 110,000, isn't a particularly large city by American standards, its status as one of the few places with a sizable concentration of voters and activists in New Hampshire makes it an enticing place for presidential hopefuls to burnish their profiles—not to mention fill their favor banks. The mayor's office also is an attractive springboard to bigger things, particularly given the dearth of statewide elected positions in New Hampshire (only the governor and its two U.S. senators are elected by the entire state).

Republicans had held the mayor's office for more than a decade prior, but Craig broke their streak in 2017 by unseating incumbent Ted Gatsas. The GOP is now hoping to win this key city back even though Biden carried it by a 56-42 margin, which was the best performance by a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996.

San Mateo County, CA Board of Supervisors: Former Rep. Jackie Speier unexpectedly announced Tuesday that she would run for an open seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the five-member body the Democrat previously served on four decades ago. Speier first won that post in 1980, two years after she survived the 1978 Jonestown cult shooting that murdered her boss, Rep. Leo Ryan, by unseating a 20-year incumbent. She left after she was elected to the state Assembly in 1986, and she'd eventually serve close to 15 years in Congress.

Speier, who retired from the House last cycle, launched her new effort this week by declaring, "The people of District 1 know me, and I know them. I will use the skills I've honed, the relationships I've built, and the experiences I've earned to fix problems our community confronts." She should have a far easier time winning the officially nonpartisan race south of San Francisco than she did in 1980, as the two major contenders, Millbrae Councilmember Gina Papan and Burlingame Councilmember Emily Beach, both dropped out and endorsed her. The nonpartisan primary will be in March, with a November general if no one wins a majority.

P.S. Three of Speier's former House colleagues currently serve on the board of supervisors for other counties in California. Democrat Janice Hahn gave up her seat in 2012 to wage a successful bid in Los Angeles County, while Republican Paul Cook did the same thing in 2020 in San Bernardino County to the east. Another Democrat, Hilda Solis, left the House in 2009 to become U.S. secretary of labor, and she later won the 2014 race to join Hahn on the governing body for America's most populous county, whose five supervisors each represent nearly three times as many constituents as House members do.

This sort of career switch hasn't worked out for every House member, though. In 2014 freshman Democratic Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod left her safely blue seat to run for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors only to lose a tight race to Republican Assemblyman Curt Hagman, and their 2018 rematch went the same way.

Other Races

Los Angeles, CA City Council: City Councilmember Kevin de León announced Wednesday that he'd seek reelection, a development that comes almost a year after audio surfaced where he and two of his then-colleagues made racist comments about other councilmembers and Los Angeles residents. De León, who defied calls for his resignation from President Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats, told Politico, "I understood in a deeper way the relationship that I had with my community and how that motivates and drives me. That's why I'm still here."

De León, who is a former leader of the state Senate, rose to national prominence in the 2018 cycle when he waged an unsuccessful challenge from the left against Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but he returned to elected office in 2020 when he won a seat on the 15-member City Council in America's second-largest city.

De León went on to take a distant third place in the 2022 nonpartisan primary for mayor, but he had much bigger concerns a few months later when audio leaked of his 2021 conversation with City Council President Nury Martinez, City Councilman Gil Cedillo, and labor leader Ron Herrera. The quartet discussed how to use City Council redistricting to strengthen Latino representation and weaken their opponents, and Martinez also made bigoted remarks about Jews, Armenian Americans, African Americans, and Oaxacans.

At one point De León was recorded agreeing when Martinez described the Black adopted child of a white colleague, Mike Bonin, as "an accessory," with De León saying Bonin's decision to bring his son to political events was like "when Nury brings her Goyard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag." De León also described Bonin as the council's "fourth Black member," adding, "Mike Bonin won't fucking ever say peep about Latinos. He'll never say a fucking word about us."

The release of the recording turned into a national scandal, and both Martinez and Herrera ended up resigning; Cedillo, who had lost reelection months before, ended up staying until his term ended that December. But De León, who would call his insult about the younger Bonin as "a flippant remark," remained put. He argued to Politico this week that, while he should have called out Martinez and the others during their talk, "The context of our conversation was about redistricting and ensuring equal representation." He continued, "You have to look no further than the maps that were drawn. Are they fully reflective of the demographics of the city? Not really."

De León's many foes, though, aren't accepting any of his apologies or explanations. Two Democratic members of the California Assembly, Miguel Santiago and Wendy Carrillo, said that, while they didn't diverge with the incumbent on policy, he couldn't remain in office. Another contender, tenants rights attorney Ysabel Jurado, meanwhile argued she'd represent a change from the unacceptable status quo in city politics.

All of the candidates will face off on one nonpartisan ballot in March, which is the same day that California holds its federal and state primary, and a November runoff would take place unless someone secures a majority. However, several labor leaders argue to Politico that the incumbent is anything but doomed. "He's out in the community," said one unnamed source, while another said the crowded field could make it tougher to present a united front.

Where Are They Now?: Heading to the pokey. Former Rep. Steve Buyer, an Indiana Republican who served from 1993 until his 2011 retirement, was sentenced to 22 months in prison Tuesday for insider trading, and the judge ordered him to report to jail in late November.

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Morning Digest: Check out our preview of special elections in Utah and Rhode Island

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

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The Daily Kos Elections team will be taking Friday off for the Labor Day weekend. The Live Digest will be back on Tuesday, and the Morning Digest will return on Wednesday. Have a great holiday!

Leading Off

Primary Night: Tuesday is primary night for two vacant House seats on opposite ends of the country: Rhode Island's 1st District, which Democrat David Cicilline departed at the end of May, and Utah's 2nd District, where Republican Chris Stewart remains in office but triggered a special election by notifying Gov. Spencer Cox in June that he would "irrevocably resign" effective the evening of Sept. 15.

Given the respective lean of each district—Joe Biden took Rhode Island's 1st 64-35, while Donald Trump carried Utah's 2nd 57-40—the primaries will likely be dispositive in both cases. It'll still be a little while, though, before either state sends a new member to Congress: The general election in Rhode Island will take place on Nov. 7, while Utah's is set for Nov. 21. Below, we preview both contests.

RI-01: A total of 12 Democrats are on the ballot to replace Cicilline, though one of them, businessman Don Carlson, dropped out over the weekend amid a scandal.

The main contenders for this dark blue constituency are former Biden administration official Gabe Amo, state Sen. Sandra Cano, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, and former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg. Also running are Navy veteran Walter Berbrick, state Rep. Stephen Casey, Providence City Councilman John Goncalves, and state Sen. Ana Quezada.

Amo, Cano, Goncalves, Matos, and Quezada would each have the chance to make history as the first person of color to represent the Ocean State in Congress.

The only poll we've seen in the last month was a mid-August internal for Amo that showed Regunberg leading him 28-19 as Matos and Cano took 11% each. The survey, which found Carlson taking 8%, did not ask about the rest of the field by name and instead found 8% opting for "another candidate not mentioned here." However, there are further indications that Regunberg, who touts endorsements from prominent national progressives like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is the frontrunner going into Tuesday.

Regunberg, who is the nephew of Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider, was on the receiving end of more attacks than any of his opponents at Tuesday's debate. A group called Committee for a Better Rhode Island followed up days later by making Regunberg its target in the first negative TV ad of the entire race, though WPRI says it's only putting $81,000 behind its offensive. The spot attacks the candidate over his May declaration that he would have voted against Biden's debt ceiling deal with Speaker Kevin McCarthy; Regunberg said at Tuesday's debate that he'd have supported the agreement if he'd been the decisive vote.

Amo, for his part, picked up an endorsement Thursday from former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who represented prior versions of this seat from 1995 to 2011 but has since moved out of the state. Kennedy, who is the son of the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, also appeared in a commercial for Amo and touted his work in the Biden administration.

Matos, meanwhile, looked like the frontrunner until July, when multiple local election boards asked the police to probe allegations that her campaign had turned in forged signatures in order to get on the ballot. State election authorities have reaffirmed that the lieutenant governor submitted a sufficient number of valid petitions, but the state attorney general's office is continuing to investigate the matter. Matos' allies at EMILY's List and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus remain in her corner, however, as she's benefited from more outside spending than any of her rivals.

Cano has trailed her opponents in fundraising and hasn't received any third-party help, but she has several influential labor groups on her side. The rest of the field has raised little money and hasn't picked up many notable endorsements.

UT-02: The GOP contest to succeed Stewart is a three-way battle between Celeste Maloy, the congressman's former legal counsel; former state Rep. Becky Edwards; and former RNC member Bruce Hough. The winner will face Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, who has no intra-party opposition, for a seat located in central and western Salt Lake City and southwestern Utah.

Maloy, who has Stewart's support, earned her spot on the primary ballot by winning the support of delegates at the GOP's convention in June. Just days later, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that she'd last voted in Utah in 2018 before taking a job in D.C. to work for Stewart, which led election officials to move her voter registration to inactive status. Maloy's detractors unsuccessfully argued in court that she'd violated state law because she only became an active voter again after she filed to run for Congress, but they've continued working to portray her as an interloper.

Edwards, meanwhile, infuriated conservatives in 2020 when she endorsed Joe Biden (she has since expressed "regret"), a move she followed by waging a failed primary challenge to far-right Sen. Mike Lee in which she portrayed herself as a more pragmatic option. However, the one poll anyone has released finds voters may not be holding it against her: A mid-August survey from Dan Jones & Associates showed Edwards beating Hough 32-11, with Maloy at 9%. However, half of respondents were undecided, so if this survey is accurate, the race remains up for grabs.

Unlike in Rhode Island, there has been little outside activity in this contest. Hough and Edwards had each spent about $450,000 as of mid-August, while Maloy had spent about half that.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that Blake Masters, who was one of the GOP's very worst Senate nominees last cycle, has decided to try again this year, and Politico says his declaration could come as soon as next week. Masters would join Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb in the primary for the seat held by Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat-turned-independent who still hasn't revealed her 2024 plans.

The Republican that everyone's waiting on, though, is election denier Kari Lake, who Axios previously reported plans to launch in October. She and Masters campaigned together last year by urging voters to back "Lake and Blake," but their relationship is anything but friendly these days. Lake on Sunday responded to the news that Masters would be talking to a local conservative activist by tweeting, "I hope you bring up election fraud, and Election crime. You've been quite silent."

MI-Sen: Following a new report on Thursday from the Detroit News that former Republican Rep. Peter Meijer had formed an exploratory committee ahead of a possible bid for Michigan's open Senate seat next year, the ex-congressman released a statement once again confirming that he's "considering running." The development comes as another former member of Congress, Mike Rogers, is also reportedly preparing to join the GOP primary. Democrats have a multi-way primary of their own, but Rep. Elissa Slotkin has raised far more money and earned more high-profile endorsements than the rest of the field.

MT-Sen: Republican pollster J.L. Partners has shared a recent poll with Semafor that tests next year's primary and general election, though there's no indication about who, if anyone, was their client. The GOP primary portion finds far-right Rep. Matt Rosendale with a wide 52-21 edge over wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy, who is the favorite of establishment Republicans and the NRSC. That result is only modestly better for Sheehy than a June survey from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had found Rosendale up 64-10 right before Sheehy kicked off his campaign.

While Rosendale has yet to formally announce his own campaign, he's recently been acting like he's going to run, and Democrats likely would prefer to face him given that he already lost to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester when this seat was last up in 2018. However, J.L. Partners' poll finds little difference between the two Republicans in a hypothetical 2024 general election: Rosendale leads Tester 46-43 while Sheehy beats the incumbent 46-42. Polling has been very limited here so far, but those numbers are very similar to Rosendale’s 46-41 edge over Tester that GOP pollster OnMessage Inc. found in February.

Governors

KY-Gov: Pluribus News reports that Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear and his allies have reserved $17.3 million in TV time for the remainder of the campaign, compared to $5 million from Republican Daniel Cameron and his backers.

LA-Gov: Conservative independent Hunter Lundy has self-funded more than $1 million to air his first TV ad, which is a minute-long spot that highlights his working-class upbringing and emphasizes his Christian faith. Lundy also calls for raising the minimum wage, investing in education, and holding responsible the "people who wreck our air and water."

Ballot Measures

MO Ballot: Missouri voters could see dueling ballot measures on abortion rights next year after a new group submitted six petitions that would create several exceptions to the state's near-total ban on the procedure, including in cases of rape or fatal fetal abnormalities. One version of the petition would also allow abortion through 12 weeks of pregnancy, while two others would permit it until fetal viability, which is generally viewed as beginning at around 23 to 24 weeks.

However, the proposals, which were put forward by a former Republican political operative and artist named Jamie Corley, have earned the ire of the state's Planned Parenthood affiliate, particularly for their focus on exceptions to Missouri's ban. Yamelsie Rodríguez, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in a statement that Corley's approach "will continue to harm Missourians" and warned that "exceptions have never provided meaningful access."

Reproductive rights activists have been working to qualify their own measure for the 2024 ballot after filing 11 different petitions earlier this year, all of which are more expansive than Corley's proposals. (Proponents will ultimately settle on a single plan.) However, the local Planned Parenthood has taken exception to this push, too: Politico reported in April that the organization had pulled out of the coalition behind the effort, called Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, because most of its petitions also impose a fetal viability limit.

Corley is arguing that her more restrictive petitions have a better chance of becoming law. "I have respect for other organizations that are working in this realm," she told KCUR. But, she added, "I would say I think we have a much different view and assessment about what is ultimately passable in Missouri."

Missourians for Constitutional Freedom is also in the midst of a lawsuit against Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft over the summary language he drafted for six of the group's petitions.

Ashcroft, who is running for governor, wrote that the measures would "allow for dangerous, unregulated, and unrestricted abortions, from conception to live birth, without requiring a medical license or potentially being subject to medical malpractice." The ACLU of Missouri, which is leading the challenge, charged that the descriptions are "misleading" and prejudicial." A state court will hold a trial on the dispute on Sept. 11, with the judge promising to deliver a ruling "pretty quick."

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was one of the most powerful Republicans in Arizona just seven years ago, announced Wednesday that he'll run again in 2024 for mayor of the Phoenix suburb of Fountain Hills, the 24,000-person community where incumbent Ginny Dickey beat him 51-49 last year. Arpaio, who is 91, previously lost his 2016 reelection campaign for sheriff, his 2018 primary for U.S. Senate, and the 2020 primary to regain the sheriff's office.

Morning Digest: Father of anti-trans ‘bathroom bill’ joins race for North Carolina attorney general

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

NC-AG, NC-08: Far-right Rep. Dan Bishop, an election denier who rose to prominence after spearheading North Carolina's transphobic "bathroom bill" in 2016 while in the state Senate, announced Thursday that he'd run for state attorney general next year. The congressman quickly earned an endorsement from the well-funded Club for Growth for his bid to become the first Republican to hold this office since 1975, though he currently faces former state Rep. Tom Murry in the primary.

Bishop, however, may not be the only sitting congressman who ends up running to succeed incumbent Josh Stein, the Democratic frontrunner in next year's race for governor. The very same day, Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson declined to rule out a bid of his own. Jackson told the News & Observer's Danielle Battaglia that he'd only start thinking about a campaign after the state's Republican-run legislature passes a new congressional map sometime this fall, which could leave the freshman without a seat he can win.

Jackson, however, was quick to make clear how he'd go after Bishop. "I did hear his announcement," he said, "and as a prosecutor, I don't think that anyone who supported overturning an election should be talking about law and order." The Democratic field currently consists of Marine veteran Tim Dunn and Navy Reserve veteran Charles Ingram, but both reported having minimal cash stockpiles at the end of June.

Bishop did indeed vote to overturn Joe Biden's win in the hours following the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, a move the congressman justified by echoing Donald Trump's lies about mail-in votes. "In the 2020 election, the national Democratic Party carried out a highly coordinated, massively financed, nationwide campaign to displace state regulation of absentee ballots by means of a flood of election-year litigation," Bishop wrote just before the riot, and he's continued to spread the Big Lie since then. The congressman fired off an evidence-free tweet last year claiming that Jack Dorsey "and Twitter put their thumb on the scale in the last election to help Biden." (Unsurprisingly, Bishop has a far more favorable view of that site's new owner.)

Before Bishop devoted himself to enabling conservative extremists in Washington, D.C., he was a state lawmaker who indirectly helped cost the GOP the governorship in 2016. That year, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the Bishop-crafted House Bill 2, which required anyone using bathrooms at schools or public facilities to use the restroom associated with the sex on their birth certificate, regardless of their gender identity. That legislation sparked a national backlash that led several major corporations to cancel planned expansions in the state, and voters responded by narrowly booting McCrory in favor of then-Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Bishop's career, though, survived and thrived even after Cooper signed a law rolling back HB 2. The state senator unexpectedly got the chance to run for Congress in what was then numbered the 9th District in 2019 after the results of the previous year's election were voided because of election fraud carried out to assist Republican nominee Mark Harris. Bishop decisively won the primary and went on to narrowly defeat 2018 Democratic nominee Dan McCready 51-49 after an expensive campaign for a gerrymandered constituency that Trump had taken 54-43 in 2016.

But despite that underwhelming victory, as well as a new court-supervised map that made the 9th District a shade bluer, Bishop turned in an easy 2020 win in a contest that national Democrats didn't target. His constituency was soon renumbered the 8th District following the 2020 census and became safely red turf that Bishop had no trouble holding last year. The congressman then used the first days of the new Congress to cast 11 straight votes against making Kevin McCarthy speaker, but he eventually flipped; McCarthy rewarded Bishop afterward with a spot on the GOP's Orwellian-named "Weaponization of the Federal Government" subcommittee.

Republican legislators were recently given the green light to once again gerrymander to their hearts' content after the newly conservative state Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the court's previously Democratic majority that had banned the practice. They'll likely draw up another safe seat to replace the one Bishop currently represents, and there's already chatter about who could run to replace him.

An unnamed source tells the National Journal's James Downs that Harris and Dan Barry, who took a distant fifth in the 2012 primary for the 9th District several maps ago, are "names to watch." Harris chose not to run in the 2019 special election that Bishop ultimately won, but while the consultant responsible for the fraud that wrecked his campaign went to prison, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman announced the following year that she wouldn't charge the candidate as part of her probe.

P.S. While Bishop would be the first Republican to serve as attorney general in 50 years, the last member of his party to actually win this office was Zeb Walser all the way back in 1896. Republicans last held the attorney general's office in 1974 when GOP Gov. James Holshouser appointed James Carson to fill a vacancy, though Carson lost the ensuing special election a few months later to Democrat Rufus Edmisten.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Noble Predictive Insights, which until recently was known as OH Predictive Insights, has released a poll that finds Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego leading in six different general election scenarios:

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego (D): 33, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb (R): 25, Kyrsten Sinema (I-inc): 24
  • Gallego (D): 40, Lamb (R): 36
  • Gallego (D): 32, Sinema (I-inc): 28, 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters (R): 24
  • Gallego (D): 44, Masters (R): 36
  • Gallego (D): 34, Sinema (I-inc): 26, 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake (R): 25
  • Gallego (D): 45, Lake (R): 35

Gallego and Lamb are the only notable candidates who have announced they're running. NPI, which sometimes does work on behalf of GOP groups, is the very first poll we've seen from anyone since April.

ND-Sen: Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer told KUMV this week that he hasn't decided whether he'll seek reelection, though the incumbent sounds like he's leaning strongly towards another campaign. "A second term for me would mean greater clout, probably a chairmanship as well," Cramer said. "Seniority matters in the Senate. That's where my thinking is today without telling you exactly what I intend to do. I guess I would be surprised if I decided not to run for reelection." The senator does not appear to have indicated what factors would push him toward retirement.

WV-Sen: The Washington Post reports that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to direct money towards positive ads "to help prop up his poll numbers before he decides whether he'll run," but Manchin won't use his own $10.8 million war chest for this purpose because he "doesn't want to spark speculation that he's running for reelection by making an ad buy to boost his image." The Democratic group Duty and Honor did run commercials in the spring to counter a GOP offensive to damage the incumbent, but the paper says that Schumer doesn't want to make a big investment here before he knows if Manchin will actually run again.

Governors

MS-Gov: Republican incumbent Tate Reeves seems to agree with Democrats that the state's $77 million welfare funds scandal could hurt him even in this red state because he's already up with a response spot two days after Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley launched his first commercial on the topic. The challenger may not mind too much, though, because Reeves' ad makers adopt the dubious strategy of repeating some of the very attacks Presley is leveling against him.

"Have you seen this ad attacking our governor, Tate Reeves?" asks the narrator as footage fills the screen of Presley's earlier piece, complete with on-screen text reading, "REEVES … PLAGUED BY WELFARE FRAUD SCANDAL." Reeves' narrator isn't happy, saying, "Tate Reeves had nothing to do with the scandal … it all happened before he was governor." It's rarely a good move to put your candidate's name in the same sentence as "scandal," but Presley's team is also disputing the idea that Reeves isn't to blame for something that occurred while he occupied the powerful lieutenant governor's office.

"[T]he reality is Tate Reeves used to brag about his watchdog responsibilities and overseeing the state budget," the campaign said in a statement, which included a quote from a 2019 ad where Reeves proclaimed he was "managing the government's money like it's your money―because it is."

WA-Gov: Richland School Board member Semi Bird on Thursday pledged to continue his campaign for governor two days after the Republican appears to have lost a recall election along with two colleagues. The trio voted in February of 2022 to defy the state's COVID protocols and make it optional to wear masks in local public schools; school was canceled for two days as a result, and the group ultimately backed down.

Bird hasn't gained much traction ahead of a top-two primary contest where former Rep. Dave Reichert appears to be the GOP frontrunner, but he's hoping his likely ouster will change that. (The state is still counting ballots, but the pro-recall "yes" side was ahead 56-44 in Bird's race as of Thursday; the results were similar in the other two contests.) "The teachers unions and leftest activists may have won the recall battle, pouring 10's of thousands of dollars into the effort," Bird wrote Thursday in a fundraising email, "but when the people of Washington send me to Olympia, we will win the war."

House

DE-AL: EMILY's List on Thursday endorsed state Sen. Sarah McBride in the Democratic primary for this statewide seat, declaring that it "was proud to support McBride when she made history in 2020 as the first openly transgender state senator in the country — and we are thrilled to once again help her make history and become the first openly transgender member of Congress."

NC-??: State House Speaker Tim Moore announced last month that he will not seek another term leading the chamber after the 2024 elections, and he and his team are continuing to evade questions about whether he'd run for the U.S. House after his party passes a new gerrymander. Political advisor Paul Shumaker told the News & Observer, "We don't know what the maps are going to look like. We have all this speculation." Shumaker added that his client could also go into the private sector.

PA-01: Anti-abortion activist Mark Houck announced Wednesday that he'd run to deny renomination to Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in this competitive suburban Philadelphia seat, a declaration that comes months after he was found not guilty of allegedly violating a federal law designed to protect abortion clinics. Houck became a conservative celebrity in the leadup to that January trial, where he was accused of intimidation by twice shoving a 72-year-old Planned Parenthood volunteer in 2021; Houck never denied he'd done this, though he successfully claimed that he'd only become violent after his son was insulted.

Houck launched his campaign by telling the far-right website The Church Militant, "We're running to protect the rights of families and defend traditional family values in our district. Unfortunately, Brian doesn't represent that." Fitzpatrick, who has made a name for himself as a pragmatist, has always run well ahead of the top of the ticket during his four campaigns, and Democrats would be delighted if Houck gave him a hard time in this 52-47 Biden seat. The well-funded congressman turned back a little-known primary foe 66-34 last cycle before pulling off a 55-45 victory against Ashley Ehasz, a Democrat who is running again.

TX-28: Conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar on Thursday unveiled endorsements from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and the rest of the chamber's Democratic leadership, as well as Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, in what's likely a move to deter another primary challenge from the left. Cuellar narrowly fended off immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros in 2020 and 2022, and her former spokesperson told the Texas Tribune back in March that she hadn't ruled out a third try. The Lone Star State's downballot filing deadline is Dec. 11, which is one of the earliest in the nation.

Attorneys General

TX-AG: Thursday finally brought some action concerning Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton's long-stalled trial for securities fraud, with a state judge agreeing to a request from both prosecutors and the defense to delay scheduling anything until Paxton's separate impeachment trial concludes sometime next month. Both sides agreed that Paxton would be more likely to try to reach a deal concerning the eight-year-old security fraud indictment if two-thirds of the state Senate votes to remove him from office, with one of his attorneys explaining that this outcome would be "a kill shot to his political career, so it opens the door to a resolution that’s not open right now."

Ballot Measures

OH Ballot: A GOP consultant tells cleveland.com that groups looking to beat Issue 1, which would make it much harder to amend the state constitution, have added $2.5 million to their media buys for the final days of the Aug. 8 special election. The story says the conservative pro "yes" side enjoys a small $5.9 million to $5.3 million edge in ad spending for the last week of the race: The GOP firm Medium Buying also tweets that the "no" side has outspent its rivals $12.2 million to $9.7 million on TV and radio for the entire campaign.

Meanwhile, organizers seeking to place a statutory initiative on the November ballot to legalize recreational marijuana say they've submitted 6,500 additional signatures to the secretary of state, and they only need about 10% of them to be valid in order to qualify: The campaign fell just 679 petitions shy of the 124,000 minimum last month, but state law granted them 10 extra days to make up the shortfall.

Because this proposal would not amend the constitution, it would only need to win a majority no matter how the Issue 1 fight ends next week. Issue 1 would also not eliminate the 10-day grace period for statutory initiatives like this, though it would end this rule for future constitutional amendments. Polling from Civiqs shows that two-thirds of Ohio voters believe "the use of cannabis should be legal."

Morning Digest: He ranted about ‘European cheese weenies.’ Now he’s running for Congress

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

CO-08: Weld County Commissioner Scott James announced Wednesday that he'd seek the Republican nomination to challenge freshman Rep. Yadira Caraveo in Colorado's 8th District, prompting Democrats to immediately blast him for an anti-abortion, Islamophobic rant he delivered as a talk radio host in 2007.

James, as Media Matters documented at the time, declared "the civilization that you know ... will be overtaken by those who would like you to practice Sharia law ... just by mass numbers" because "the European cheese weenies simply aren't breeding." James continued, "You can do the math and see the rapid decline of ... civilization," before saying of the United Kingdom, "Their birth rate declining, the abortion rate increasing. You do the math. You don't have the sanctity for the life like that, your society will simply extinguish."

Democrats also went after James, who remained on the radio after winning his seat on the county commission in 2018, for his vote the next year to designate Weld County as a "Second Amendment sanctuary." That action, which authorized the county sheriff to "exercise of his sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law," came in response to a new red flag law that allows family and household members, as well as law enforcement officials, to petition a judge to confiscate firearms from an individual they fear is dangerous. "Taking constitutional rights away from citizens under the guise that it is for the 'greater good' is a very dangerous path to walk down," James said at the time, "and one we do not support."

James launched his campaign to unseat Caraveo hours after fellow Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer, the GOP's nominee last year, announced that she would seek reelection to the state Senate rather than try to avenge her narrow 48.4-47.7 general election loss. The commissioner is the first notable Republican to join the contest for this constituency in the northern Denver suburbs and Greeley area, turf Joe Biden carried 51-46 in 2020, but he's not the only one who is thinking about running here.

State Rep. Gabe Evans reiterated his interest Tuesday to the Colorado Sun, while Weld County Commissioner Steve Moreno and former state Rep. Dan Woog both said they were mulling over the idea last month. Multiple publications also reported in June that Joe O'Dea, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet last year, is considering as well, though he's shown no obvious sign that he's preparing for another run.

Redistricting

NY Redistricting: A divided state appeals court ordered New York's redistricting commission to draw a new congressional map ahead of the 2024 elections on Thursday, overturning a lower court that had previously ruled in favor of retaining the state's current court-drawn boundaries. Republicans opposing the Democratic-backed lawsuit, however, immediately vowed to appeal in an effort to prevent the adoption of districts that would be less favorable to them.

The dispute wound up in court after the evenly divided bipartisan commission failed to reach an agreement on a single set of redistricting plans for Congress and the state legislature last year.  Instead, it forwarded dueling proposals—one batch supported by Democrats, the other by Republicans—to lawmakers, who rejected them both. After that failure, the commission refused to try again, which led the Democratic-run legislature to pass its own maps.

However, the state's highest court struck down that attempt last year in a 4-3 decision, saying that because the commission had never sent a second set of maps to the legislature as contemplated by the state constitution, lawmakers could not act on their own. As a remedy, an upstate trial court instead imposed maps drawn by an outside expert that saw Republicans make considerable gains in the November midterms.

A group of voters, though, filed a suit demanding that the commission be ordered back to work. While a lower court initially rejected that argument, the Appellate Division agreed with the plaintiffs. The commission still "had an indisputable duty under the NY Constitution to submit a second set of maps upon the rejection of its first set," wrote the majority in a 3-2 opinion, concluding that the court-ordered maps used in 2022 were interim in nature.

If New York's highest court, known as the Court of Appeals, upholds this decision, then the commission will again have to try to compromise on a new congressional map. If it again fails to produce an acceptable map, though, Democrats in the legislature—who enjoy two-thirds supermajorities in both chambers—would, this time, very likely be entitled to create new maps of their own design. That possibility could spur Republican commissioners to accept lines that tilt somewhat more in Democrats' favor than the current districts rather than face the alternative of an unfettered partisan gerrymander.

2Q Fundraising

The deadline to file fundraising numbers for federal campaigns is July 15. We'll have our House and Senate fundraising charts available soon afterwards.

  • AZ-Sen: Ruben Gallego (D): $3.1 million raised
  • CA-Sen: Katie Porter (D): $3.2 million raised, $10.4 million cash on hand
  • WV-Sen: Joe Manchin (D-inc): $1.3 million raised, $10.7 million cash on hand
  • LA-Gov: Jeff Landry (R): $4.5 million raised, $9 million cash on hand
  • NC-Gov: Mark Robinson (R): $2.2 million raised (in six months), $3.2 million cash on hand
  • AZ-06: Juan Ciscomani (R-inc): $815,000 raised, $1.6 million cash on hand
  • CA-45: Michelle Steel (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.7 million cash on hand
  • IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $690,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • IA-03: Zach Nunn (R-inc): $729,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • IL-17: Eric Sorensen (D-inc): $515,000 raised, $770,000 cash on hand
  • MI-10: John James (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.7 million cash on hand
  • MT-01: Ryan Zinke (R-inc): $786,000 raised, $876,000 cash on hand
  • NC-14: Jeff Jackson (D-inc): $507,000 raised, $663,000 cash on hand
  • NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer (D-inc): $1.2 million raised, $15.1 million cash on hand
  • NJ-07: Tom Kean Jr. (R-inc): $860,000 raised, $1.47 million cash on hand
  • NY-02: Rob Lubin (D): $343,000 raised (in five weeks), additional $7,000 self-funded
  • NY-03: Anna Kaplan (D): $455,000 raised
  • OR-05: Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-inc): $717,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • TX-15: Monica De La Cruz (R-inc): $833,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • WA-03: Joe Kent (R): $245,000 raised, $392,000 cash on hand

Senate

FL-Sen: Politico reports that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the DSCC are trying to recruit former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to take on GOP incumbent Rick Scott, but another Democrat appears ready to launch his campaign before she makes up her mind.

Navy veteran Phil Ehr, who raised $2 million for his 2020 bid against the nationally infamous Rep. Matt Gaetz in the safely red 1st District, confirms he's interested and will decide in the coming weeks. An unnamed source, though, says that Ehr, who lost to Gaetz 65-34 as Trump was taking the old 1st by a similar 66-32 margin, is planning to get in "soon."

MI-Sen: The Daily Beast's Ursula Perano reports that, while actor Hill Harper says he's lived in Michigan for the last seven years, the new Democratic candidate's residency "may be more complicated." Perano uncovered a 2020 Seattle Times article saying that Harper moved to that city during the first season of production for his show, The Good Doctor, so his son could attend school there. (That season aired in 2017 and 2018.) That same story said that "Harper commutes from Seattle to the show’s set in Vancouver, British Columbia."

Perano also found a pair of websites used to book the actor for speaking engagements, both of which appear to have been in use in recent years: One said that Harper would be traveling from California, where he also owns a condo, while the other said he'd be coming from Seattle. "Hill Harper began spending time in Michigan because of work, but quickly realized the greatest people in the world live in Michigan and decided to move there full time," his campaign told the Daily Beast for the story, "Ever since moving to Michigan in 2016, he’s voted as a Michigander, paid taxes to the state, and runs a small business in Detroit."

Governors

IN-Gov: Howey Politics relays that there are still "rumors" that state Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers is considering seeking the GOP nod to succeed his boss, termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb and would likely self-fund. There is no other information about Chambers' interest.

MO-Gov: Businessman Mike Hamra, whose eponymous company operates almost 200 restaurants nationwide, tells the St. Louis Business Journal he's "seriously considering" seeking the Democratic nod and will "likely to have a final decision later in the fall." Hamra made his interest known days after state House Minority Leader Crystal Quade launched her own bid to lead what's become a tough state for Democrats.

MS-Gov: Republican incumbent Tate Reeves is airing a transphobic new TV ad where the governor, after praising his daughter for working to earn a soccer scholarship, declares, "Now, political radicals are trying to ruin women's sports, letting biological men get the opportunities meant for women." Reeves, as Mississippi Today notes, signed a 2021 law banning trans athletes from women's sports even though the bill's sponsor acknowledged she didn't know of this happening in the state.

House

AK-AL: Businessman Nick Begich on Thursday became the first notable Republican to announce a campaign against Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola, who twice beat him last year for Alaska's only House seat. But Begich is unlikely to have the top-four primary to himself, especially since many Republicans made it clear last fall that they still harbor a grudge over how he acquitted himself during the final months of longtime Rep. Don Young's life.

Begich, who is the rare Republican member of Alaska's most prominent Democratic family (his grandfather and namesake was Young's immediate predecessor, while his uncle Mark Begich served one term in the U.S. Senate), was initially a Young supporter, and he even co-chaired the congressman's 2020 campaign. But, as the Anchorage Daily News' Iris Samuels reported in April of 2022, Begich spent about a month working in the congressman's office the next year—at Young's invitation—only to launch a bid against Young soon afterward. "It was just such an invasion of our goodwill and the Congressman's goodwill," one unnamed staffer later told Insider's Bryan Metzger, adding, "We were completely hoodwinked and betrayed."    

Young, who'd represented the state in the House since 1973, died before that faceoff could occur, and Begich was one of the 48 candidates who filed to run in a special election that featured America's first-ever top-four primary. But after Begich advanced to the general against former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin and Peltola (a fourth finisher, independent Al Gross, dropped out), it looked likely that one of the two Republicans would prevail in a state Donald Trump took 53-43 in 2020.

Begich and Palin, though, instead went negative on one another while ignoring Peltola (that is, when they weren't smiling in selfies with her), which helped give the Democrat the opening she needed. Begich was only too happy to portray Palin as a disastrous governor who only cared about being a celebrity, while Palin hit back by castigating Begich for supporting his Democratic relatives.

An unscathed Peltola went into ranked-choice tabulations with 40% of first-choice votes, with Palin edging out Begich 31-28 for second. But following the fratricidal GOP campaign, Begich's backers only went for Palin by a 50-29 margin as a crucial 21% didn’t express a preference for either finalist. As a result, Peltola pulled off 51-49 upset.

All three candidates, plus Libertarian Chris Bye, competed again in November for a full two-year term, but things went even worse for the GOP this time. Begich and his allies pointed to data from the Alaska Division of Elections saying that he'd have defeated Peltola 52-48 had he come in second place in the special election to make his case that conservatives should choose him over Palin. But several of Young's former staffers not only endorsed Peltola, who had enjoyed a close relationship with the late congressman for decades, they also vocally aired their grievances against Begich for what they saw as his duplicity.

One particular incensed Young aide was a former communications director, Zack Brown, who posted a picture of Begich's congressional intern badge in a since-deleted tweet. "Begich was planning on primarying Young all along," he wrote. "He used DY & staff to secure inside info." Brown followed up, "According to FEC docs, he claimed campaign expenses BEFORE he came on as an INTERN in Don Young's office. He KNEW he was going to primary Young before he joined our office, but used the Congressman and staff for his own ends anyway. Disgraceful."

Peltola this time almost took a majority of first-choice ballots, scoring 49% of them as Palin once again staggered into second place, beating out Begich 26-23. Peltola then crushed Palin in a 55-45 drubbing after the instant-runoff process was finished. To add insult to injury for Begich, election data showed he would have lost by a slightly larger margin than Palin this time―just under 11 points―had he taken second.

Republicans are likely to make a priority of beating Peltola, who represents the reddest Democratic-held seat in the chamber, but it remains to be seen who else will join Begich in the top-four. The Anchorage Daily News writes that Palin, who rather prematurely named her congressional chief of staff the day after the November election [i]In anticipation of an announcement of victory," hasn't shown any sign she's thinking of trying a third time, though that hardly means she won't surprise everyone like she did when she decided to run last year.

MD-06: Hagerstown Mayor Tekesha Martinez on Wednesday joined the busy primary to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate candidate David Trone, for a seat based in western Maryland and the northwestern D.C. exurbs. Martinez, who was elected to the city council in 2020, became this northwestern Maryland community's first Black mayor in February after her colleagues appointed her to fill the vacant post. She joins Dels. Lesley Lopez and Joe Vogel, as well as think tank founder Destiny Drake West, in seeking the Democratic nod for this 54-44 Biden constituency.

NJ-07: Former state Sen. Ray Lesniak tells the New Jersey Globe he's "still waiting until this November" before deciding whether to seek the Democratic nod to take on GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr.

NY-22: New York State United Teachers, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, has endorsed Democratic state Sen. John Mannion's bid to take on GOP Rep. Brandon Williams. Mannion is a former public school teacher, and City & State says the labor group has enthusiastically backed him in past races.

RI-01: Lincoln Town Councilor Pamela Azar at some point quietly ended her campaign for the Democratic nod and endorsed one of her many former rivals, state Sen. Ana Quezada.

TX-34: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has endorsed former GOP Rep. Mayra Flores in her rematch effort with Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez.

UT-02: State election officials confirmed this week that both former RNC member Bruce Hough and former state Rep. Becky Edwards have turned in enough valid signatures to make the Sept. 5 special Republican primary to succeed outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart. The pair will face Celeste Maloy, a former Stewart aide who qualified for the ballot by winning last month's party convention. The winner will be favored on Nov. 7 against Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe in this gerrymandered 57-40 Trump seat.

WI-03: Both state Rep. Katrina Shankland and former La Crosse County Board chair Tara Johnson tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they're interested in joining the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Derrick Van Orden.

Mayors and County Leaders

Houston, TX Mayor: Former Republican City Councilmember Jack Christie tells the Houston Chronicle he's considering entering the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner, though he said he was still "far from signing up." Attorney Tony Buzbee, an independent who lost the 2019 runoff to Turner 56-44 after spending $12 million, likewise says he hasn't ruled out another campaign even though he's representing Attorney General Ken Paxton at the Republican's upcoming impeachment trial. The filing deadline is Aug. 21, weeks before Paxton's Sept. 5 trial starts.

Indianapolis, IN Mayor: Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett has gone on TV well ahead of the Nov. 7 general with a spot hitting his wealthy foe, Republican Jefferson Shreve, that utilizes footage from the ads Shreve ran during his failed 2016 state Senate bid. "Jefferson Shreve will fight for the right to life," says Shreve's old narrator, "and our Second Amendment rights." Indianapolis backed Joe Biden 63-34, but Republicans are hoping Shreve's resources will help him argue that change is needed after Hogsett's two terms.

Nashville, TN Mayor: The Nashville Scene reports that a conservative group called Save Nashville PAC is spending $150,000 on TV ad campaign to help the one notable Republican in the race, party strategist Alice Rolli, advance past the Aug. 3 nonpartisan primary. The messaging, unsurprisingly, invokes the specter of crime in big cities … other big cities, that is. "How many once-great cities around the U.S. are now complete disasters?" asks the narrator, "Is Nashville next? Alice Rolli will protect Nashville and keep it a clean, safe city."

The offensive comes at a time when two wealthy Democrats, former AllianceBernstein executive Jim Gingrich and former economic development chief Matt Wiltshire, continue to dominate the airwaves in the contest to succeed retiring Democratic Mayor John Cooper. AdImpact relays that Gingrich and his allies have outspent Wiltshire's side $1.6 million to $1.2 million in advertising, while Democratic Metro Council member Freddie O'Connell is far back with just $190,000.

A firm called Music City Research, though, has released a survey showing that, despite being heavily outspent, O'Connell leads with 22% as Wiltshire outpaces Rolli 17-13 for the second spot in the likely Sept. 14 runoff. The pollster is affiliated with Harpeth Strategies, which is run by one of O'Connell's supporters, fellow Metro Council member Dave Rosenberg. Rosenberg tells us this poll was conducted for a "private entity and not a mayoral campaign or an organization associated with a mayoral campaign." He added that, as far as he is aware, the sponsor is not backing or opposing anyone.

The last poll we saw was over a month ago, and it showed a far more unsettled race. The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, working for real estate development group NAIOP Nashville, had O'Connell at 10% as two Democratic members of the state Senate, Jeff Yarbro and Heidi Campbell, respectively took 9% and 8%.

Morning Digest: Elections chief who advanced the Big Lie launches bid for West Virginia governor

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

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Leading Off

WV-Gov, WV-Sen: Secretary of State Mac Warner, who runs West Virginia's elections even as he's helped spread election conspiracy theories, announced Tuesday that he was joining the 2024 primary to succeed his fellow Republican, termed-out Gov. Jim Justice.

Warner kicked off his campaign with a speech emphasizing service in the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps and declaring, "It is time to call-out the radical, woke, dangerous and ridiculous policies of the 'progressive' Administration in Washington, D.C." West Virginia Metro News' Brad McElhinny notes that in that address, the secretary of state "did not mention issues specific to West Virginia."

Warner, who won his job in 2016 by narrowly unseating Democratic incumbent Natalie Tennant, was respected by fellow election officials heading into the 2020 contest for his efforts to combat misinformation, but that very much changed after Election Day. That's because Warner, who had just decisively defeated Tennant in their rematch, spent the next weeks backing up lies about Donald Trump's defeat.

Warner appeared at a December "March for Trump" rally in the state, where he appeared to be holding up a "Stop the Steal" sign. He later said he didn't actually think he'd hoisted that particular banner, but there's no question the secretary of state told Trump's fans at that gathering that it was "so important to keep him in office."

Warner also supported Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's failed lawsuit to invalidate Joe Biden's win in four swing states. While he insisted he was concerned whether changes states made in how late mail-in ballots could be received were constitutional, Warner also spread lies alleging, "When cardboard is put over windows, when two cases of ballots come out, when ballots are pre-marked or don't have folds on it—there's all those things. Those are red flags that need to be looked at and not just discounted, and that's what the mainstream media wants us to do."

Warner the following year was the one person at the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting to vote against a bipartisan proposal by his colleagues to set a standard for election audits, and he soon withdrew from the group in protest. (Missouri's Jay Ashcroft, who is also likely to run in 2024 for governor of his own state, abstained.)

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Warner acknowledged Biden "was elected," but he still questioned if that contest was fairly run. He also argued that congressional Democrats' efforts to expand voting rights and the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear Paxton's suit are "what spurred on the Jan. 6 people."

Warner joins a GOP primary that includes Del. Moore Capito and auto dealer Chris Miller, both of who come from prominent Mountain State political families. Capito is the son of Sen. Shelly Moore Capito and grandson of the late Gov. Arch Moore, while Miller's mother is Rep. Carol Miller. Warner also has some notable relatives: His wife, Debbie Warner, was recently elected to the state House, while his brother Monty Warner badly lost the 2004 gubernatorial race to Democrat Joe Manchin. Another brother currently leads the West Virginia Economic Development Authority.

The contest to replace Justice could expand further, as Auditor JB McCuskey has talked about getting in. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who lost the 2018 Senate race to Manchin, also put out a video Tuesday reiterating he was "still evaluating my options as to whether I'm going to run for U.S. Senate or for governor … We're coming soon." While Morrisey didn't indicate which office he was leaning towards, McElhinny noted that the attorney general's message urging voters not to "settle for second best" went up as Warner was still delivering his announcement speech.

The Downballot

 Hell yeah! Election season is already here, and it's off to an amazing start with Democrats' huge flip of a critical seat in the Virginia state Senate, which kicks off this week's episode of The Downballot. Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard dissect what Aaron Rouse's victory means for November (abortion is still issue #1!) when every seat in the legislature will be on the ballot. They also discuss big goings-on in two U.S. Senate races: California, where Rep. Katie Porter just became the first Democrat to kick off a bid despite Sen. Dianne Feinstein's lack of a decision about her own future, and Michigan, which just saw veteran Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow announce her retirement.

The Davids also delve back into a topic that frequently came up last year: redistricting. Didn't every state just draw new maps? you might ask. Yes! But many have to do so again, thanks to court rulings. Unfortunately, this gives Republicans in North Carolina and Ohio the opportunity to gerrymander once more, though there's an outside chance some Southern states could be required to draw new congressional districts where Black voters can elect their candidates of choice.

New episodes of The Downballot come out every Thursday morning. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The Democratic firm Blueprint Polling has released numbers showing conspiracy theorist Kari Lake, who was the 2022 Republican nominee for governor, leading Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego 36-32 as independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema grabs 14%. None of these people have said they'll be running for the Senate in 2024, though Gallego has been hiring staff for a likely campaign. The firm says this poll was done "with no input or funding from any candidate, committee, or interest group."

CA-Sen: Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that longtime Rep. Barbara Lee told the Congressional Black Caucus she planned to run for the Senate seat held by her fellow Democrat, incumbent Dianne Feinstein, but Lee herself did not commit to anything when reporters asked about her 2024 plans. "What I said was that I'm very sensitive and honoring Senator Feinstein," said Lee, who represents a heavily Democratic bastion that's home to Oakland and Berkeley. (Joe Biden performed better in Lee's new 12th District than he did in any of California's other 51 House seats.)

Lee, who has long been a national progressive favorite, told Politico in a separate interview she'd say what she's doing "when it's appropriate," adding, "I'm not really doing anything except letting colleagues know that there'll be a time to talk about the Senate race." The congresswoman also did not reveal if she was willing to challenge Feinstein if the 89-year-old incumbent surprised the political world and ran again. Rep. Katie Porter, a fellow Democrat who represents an Orange County seat, launched a bid on Tuesday and currently has the field to herself.

MD-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin tells Politico he'll decide "probably in February or March" if he'll seek a fourth term.

MI-Sen: Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson, a Republican who failed to make the Republican primary ballot for governor last year, confirms he's interested in running for this open seat but has no timeline for deciding. Johnson spent $7 million of his own money last cycle before election authorities disqualified him after he and several other GOP contenders fell victim to a fraudulent signature scandal, and he unsuccessfully sued to try to get his name included. The ever-modest Johnson then began talking about a 2024 run for president after he decided to pass on a write-in effort.

Former Rep. Fred Upton, who was not on the 2022 ballot for anything by choice, meanwhile didn't quite dismiss a Senate campaign but sounds unlikely to go for it. The Republican noted he was 69 in his interview with MSNBC's Andrew Mitchell (the relevant portion begins at the 4:45 point) and said he was "probably not a candidate." Mitchell responded by noting he hadn't ruled it out, to which Upton replied, "I'm glad to be out of the Congress this last week, haven't thought about my future quite yet ... I guess you could say I've not ruled it out, but I'm really probably most inclined not to do so."

For the Democrats, Rep. Elissa Slotkin on Tuesday publicly confirmed for the first time she was "seriously considering" running to succeed retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow, though she also didn't have a timeline to decide. Attorney General Dana Nessel, however, played down the possibility she'd run, declaring she believes she could "do the most good" in her current post. "That's where I intend to stay," said Nessel.

NE-Sen-B: Gov. Jim Pillen says he'll announce Thursday morning whom he'll appoint to succeed Ben Sasse, a fellow Republican who has resigned from the Senate to become president of the University of Florida.

Governors

KY-Gov: Former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, who currently has the airwaves to herself ahead of the May Republican primary, is running a new ad focused on combating fentanyl.

LA-Gov: East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore, a Democrat who is considering entering this year's race for governor, tells LaPolitics' Jeremy Alford, "I expect to have a decision in the next few weeks or sooner." Alford also writes that state Democratic chair Katie Bernhardt "sounds as serious as serious can get and will have something to say in a week or so." Bernhardt last week did not rule out a bid last week after her name was included in an unreleased poll.

House

CA-47: Former Rep. Harley Rouda, a Democrat who represented about two-thirds of this constituency from 2019 to 2021, announced Wednesday that he would run for the seat that Democratic incumbent Katie Porter is giving up to campaign for the Senate.

The only other declared candidate so far is former Orange County Republican Party chair Scott Baugh, who narrowly lost to Porter last cycle. This constituency, which includes coastal Orange County and Irvine, supported Biden 54-43, but this historically red area contains plenty of voters who are open to backing Republicans who aren’t named Donald Trump.

Rouda and Baugh previously faced off in the 2018 top-two primary to take on longtime Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the old 48th District in what turned out to be an expensive and consequential contest. Rouda and another first-time Democratic candidate, Hans Keirstead, spent months competing against the Putin-loving congressman, and it looked likely that one of them would advance to the general election. But everything changed just before the filing deadline when Baugh, who had previously served in the state Assembly in the 1990s, unexpectedly jumped in and threatened to lock Democrats out of the general election.

Baugh, though, was hardly running as a favor to Rohrabacher. The two Republicans used to be friends, and when Baugh began raising money in 2016 for a campaign, Rohrabacher initially took it in stride and said he was "just laying the foundation for a race for Congress when I am no longer a member ... but I don't know when that's going to be." Their relationship publicly collapsed, however, after Baugh refused to actually say he wouldn’t use that cash against the congressman.

Baugh didn’t run for anything in 2016, but he used the money he’d amassed that year for his last-second bid against Rohrabacher two years later. Democratic outside groups scrambled to make sure this nasty intra-party fight didn’t end up hurting their own chances to flip the seat, and the DCCC and House Majority PAC spent about $1.8 million on an effort mostly aimed at attacking Baugh. The DCCC, which supported Rouda, also made an effort to promote a third Republican, little-known candidate John Gabbard, to further splinter the vote.

This expensive undertaking proved to be just enough to avoid a disaster for Democrats in a contest where Rohrabacher, who was in no danger of being eliminated, grabbed first with 30%. Rouda edged out Keirstead 17.3-17.2, while Baugh was right behind with 16%; Gabbard finished with 3%, which may have been enough to hold back Baugh. Rouda went on to score a 54-46 victory over Rohrabacher, who never seemed to take his general election seriously.

Baugh unexpectedly turned down a rematch with Rouda in 2020, and Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel instead stepped up to take on the new congressman. Steel proved to be a much tougher foe than Rohrabacher, and she managed to secure enough voters who’d turned against Trump but still favored Republicans down the ballot: Biden took the 48th 50-48, but Steel unseated Rouda 51-49.

Rouda quickly began running against Steel again, but that was before redistricting scrambled California’s map at the end of 2021. Rouda and Porter initially both planned to run for the new 47th District, and while Rouda had represented considerably more of the redrawn constituency than his former colleague, Porter went into 2022 with a massive financial edge and a national progressive base that allowed her to bring in far more. Rouda soon announced he wouldn’t run for anything that cycle, and Porter went on to beat Baugh 52-48 after a very expensive battle.

NY-03: Prominent Nassau County Republican officials held a press conference Wednesday calling for GOP Rep. George Santos to resign only for the scandal-drenched freshman to immediately say, "I will not." The state Conservative Party, which usually backs Republicans in general elections, also told Santos to get lost; Nick Langworthy, the 23rd District congressman who still leads the state GOP, later said he supported the Nassau County party's anti-Santos declaration.

Still, while there was no reason to think Santos would heed the calls for his departure, his former allies used their gathering to make it clear just what they thought of him. Nassau County GOP chair Joseph Cairo, whose community forms three quarters of the 3rd District (the balance is in Queens) even said that the freshman congressman had personally lied to him about being "a star on the" volleyball team at Baruch College, an institution Santos never attended.

Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, who was elected to the neighboring 4th District last year on the same night as Santos, said he "will not associate with him in Congress and I will encourage other representatives in the House of Representatives to join me in rejecting him." The county GOP even added that it would direct any constituent calls from Santos' district to D'Esposito, while county Executive Bruce Blakeman called the 3rd District congressman "a stain on the House of Representatives."

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, though, showed no interest in pressuring Santos to resign or trying to organize two-thirds of the House to expel him. (The last time this happened was 2002, when Democratic Rep. James Traficant of Ohio was ejected by his colleagues three months after he was found guilty on corruption charges.) McCarthy instead said, "The voters elected him to serve," adding, "Is there a charge against him? In America today, you're innocent until proven guilty."

While McCarthy did declare that Santos, who backed him last week in each of the 15 speakership votes, would not be assigned to any of the top House committees, he made it clear that he'd get to sit on some panels. The speaker, when reminded how Santos had lied about his biography, responded, "Yeah, so did a lot of people here, in the Senate and others, but the one thing I think, it's the voters who made that decision. He has to answer to the voters and the voters can make another decision in two years."

Legislatures

MI State House: Democrats last November flipped the state House to win a 56-54 edge, but Gorchow News Service notes the chamber would become tied for a few months should two members from the Detroit suburbs win their respective mayoral elections this November. State Rep. Kevin Coleman said last month that he would run to lead Westland, while colleague Lori Stone recently filed paperwork for a potential bid for mayor of Warren.  

Democrats would be favored to keep both of their constituencies should any special elections take place. According to data from Dave's Redistricting App, President Joe Biden carried Coleman's 25th House District 59-40, while he racked up an even larger 64-35 margin in Stone's HD-13.

Mayors and County Leaders

Jacksonville, FL Mayor: The two leading Republicans are continuing to attack one another ahead of the March nonpartisan primary, with City Councilwoman LeAnna Gutierrez Cumber's PAC airing a commercial declaring that Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis was "ready to sell out" the city by supporting the privatization of the municipal utility JEA.

"As CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, Davis took over $300,000 from JEA to promote privatization," declares the narrator, who argues this would have raised energy bills. The ad then plays audio of Davis saying, "I think more privatization should take place in the city of Jacksonville." Davis' own PAC recently went up with a commercial labeling Cumber a "fake conservative."

Montgomery County, PA Board of Commissioners: Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro announced Wednesday that he was nominating Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Chair Valerie Arkoosh, a fellow Democrat who succeeded him in 2016 as head of the state's third-largest county, to become the new state human services secretary. Should Arkoosh, who ran an aborted 2022 campaign for the U.S. Senate, be confirmed by two-thirds of the state Senate, it would be up to the County Court judges to pick her replacement on the three-member body.

Arkoosh's planned departure comes ahead of this year's local elections in this suburban Philadelphia county. All three Commission seats are elected countywide, and voters in November can select up to two candidates. However, each party can only nominate two candidates this May, so the body will wind up with a 2-1 split no matter what.

Republicans spent generations as the dominant party in Montgomery County, and they continued to control the Commission into the 21st century even as local voters began favoring Democratic presidential candidates. In 2011, though, Shapiro led his party to its first-ever majority, and there's no reason to think they're in danger of losing it this fall in what's become a heavily blue area.  

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

Philadelphia, PA District Attorney: The Republican-led state Senate voted Wednesday to indefinitely postpone its impeachment trial against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a decision that came weeks after the state's Commonwealth Court ruled that state House Republicans failed to demonstrate any of the legally required standards for "misbehavior in office" in their articles of impeachment. That ruling did not order the upper chamber to halt the planned Jan. 18 trial, and the House GOP has not yet said if it will appeal the decision.