The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● TX-06: Filing closed Wednesday for the May 1 all-party primary to succeed Republican Rep. Ron Wright, who died last month after contracting COVID-19, and the Texas Tribune has a list of contenders available here. Trump's margin of victory in this seat, which includes much of Arlington and rural areas south of Dallas, plunged from 54-42 to 51-48, but Team Red has continued to do well here down the ballot.
A total of 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, and two others ultimately filed. In the almost certain event that no one takes a majority, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, would compete in a runoff that would take place on a later date. (Under Texas law, the second round of voting cannot be scheduled until the all-party primary results are certified.)
On the Republican side, the most prominent candidate may be party activist Susan Wright, who is the late congressman's wife. Wright, who serves on the State Republican Executive Committee, has the support of a number of local elected officials, as well as Reps. Jodey Arrington, Lance Gooden, and Chip Roy.Campaign Action
The most familiar name to Digest readers, though, is likely former WWE wrestler Dan Rodimer, who was the 2020 nominee for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District. Rodimer kicked off his campaign on Wednesday less than an hour before filing closed and said that he was "moving back to Texas" to run.
It's not clear exactly how long the candidate has been away from the Lone Star State, though, as his website merely says he had "lived in Houston, Texas" and "owned a house in Galveston," neither of which are located anywhere close to the 6th Congressional District. (There are about 250 miles between Houston and Mansfield, the Fort Worth suburb that Rodimer now lists as his address.)
Rodimer's site also says he "always thought of Texas as his true home," which might be a surprise to the Nevadans he campaigned to represent in the state Senate in 2018 and in Congress just a few months ago. Rodimer last year was Team Red's nominee for a swing seat located in Las Vegas' southern suburbs against Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in a race that attracted millions in outside spending from both sides.
Lee and her allies focused on the many times the Republican had been accused of assault, including the time he pleaded guilty to battery after a 2010 altercation. Ultimately, Lee turned back Rodimer 49-46 as Joe Biden was carrying her seat by a smaller 49.2-49.0 spread.
The GOP field includes a number of notable candidates. The only sitting elected official is state Rep. Jake Ellzey, who ran against Ron Wright in 2018 for what was an open seat and lost the runoff 52-48. There's also Brian Harrison, who served as chief of staff to former Trump Health and Human Services chief Alex Azar during his disastrous handling of the COVID pandemic. You can also find out here why Harrison's former colleagues nicknamed him "the dog breeder"—it was not a compliment.
Another Trump administration alum campaigning for this seat is Sery Kim, who would be Texas' first Asian American member of Congress. There's also Army veteran Mike Egan, who was twice awarded the Bronze Star, and Marine veteran Michael Wood, who has generated some attention by campaigning as an anti-Trump Republican. Four other Republicans are on the ballot, and it’s possible one or more of them could stand out in this very crowded field.
For the Democrats, the candidate who may start out with the most name recognition is 2018 nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez, who lost to Wright 53-45. Another contender who was recently on the ballot is Lydia Bean, who last year lost a high-profile race for the state House 54-46 against a Republican incumbent. Other candidates to watch include education advocate Shawn Lassiter and former Homeland Security official Patrick Moses.
And just like on the GOP side, it's worth keeping an eye out to see if any of the other six contenders can establish themselves over the next two months.
● OH-Sen: The Club for Growth is once again backing its old pal, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, as he tries for a third time to win a seat in the Senate. The Club endorsed Mandel on both previous occasions and forked out close to $1 million on his losing effort against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown; Mandel's abortive 2018 bid, however, only lasted long enough for the Club to spend $27,000 before he dropped out.
If Mandel manages to last longer this time, support from the deep-pocketed anti-tax extremists at the Club could play a pretty different role. A decade ago, Mandel didn't really have much in the way of competition in the Republican primary. Next year, however, there's certain to be a hard-fought battle for the party's nomination, with former state GOP chair Jane Timken already running and many others considering. The Club is arguing, naturally, that Mandel is best-positioned to win, releasing a poll from WPA Intelligence that has him up 38-6 on Timken. (The survey also included three other would-be candidates: Rep. Steve Stivers with 11%, businessman Mike Gibbons at 3, and businessman Bernie Moreno at 2.)
The latest Republican to say he might join the festivities, meanwhile, is Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who has promised a decision in two weeks.
● MN-Gov, MN-02: Two unnamed Republicans tell the Minnesota Reformer that state Rep. Barbara Haley could run for governor next year, or might be interested in a bid against Democratic Rep. Angie Craig in the 2nd District, depending on the outcome of redistricting.
● IL-02: On Tuesday evening, Rep. Robin Kelly won a competitive race to chair the Democratic Party of Illinois. Kelly, who will continue to represent her safely blue seat in Chicago, will succeed Mike Madigan, who stepped down after 23 years as Illinois party chair shortly after he failed to win another term as speaker of the state House in January. Kelly is the first woman or person of color to hold this post.
To win, though, Kelly had to defeat Chicago Alderman Michelle Harris, who had the backing of Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Sen. Tammy Duckworth. (Madigan also voted for Harris.) The Chicago Tribune's Rick Pearson writes that many members of the 36-member Democratic State Central Committee, which was in charge of picking the new chair, were wary of allowing Pritzker to consolidate his influence over state and party politics the way that Madigan had.
By contrast, they saw Kelly, who was endorsed by Sen. Dick Durbin, as an alternative who would "decentralize party power." Politico's Shia Kapos also says that, while Kelly personally contacted the committee members, some "found lobbying tactics by Pritzker's aides to be heavy-handed with numerous emails and calls."
Kelly's detractors argued that the congresswoman wouldn't be able to effectively bring in money for the party because she would be subject to federal fundraising laws that are more strict than the state's own rules, but she insisted that "there are things that can be put in place, guardrails in place, and I can still raise federal money." Ultimately, Kelly beat Harris 52-48.
Kelly will join her Democratic colleague, Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams, as the only sitting House member to also serve as leader of their state party. (Rep. Ken Buck recently stepped down as chair of the Colorado Republican Party after two acrimonious years that culminated in Joe Biden's double digit win in November.) New York Rep. Gregory Meeks also currently chairs the Queens Democratic Party.
A few former representatives also ran their county party during their time in Congress including New York Rep. Joe Crowley, who was succeeded by Meeks as chair of the Queens Democratic Party after Crowley left Congress following his 2018 primary loss to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. There's also former Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Brady, who remains head of the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee two years after retiring from the House.
● LA-02: Roll Call reports that EMILY's List has spent about $457,000 so far for the March 20 all-party primary on "media and mailings" supporting Karen Carter Peterson or opposing her main rival, fellow Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter.
● MI-03: Audra Johnson, whose MAGA-themed wedding went viral a couple of years ago, says she'll run against Rep. Meijer in next year's GOP primary, because that's the world we live in now. Meijer was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January and had already earned a challenge from a minor 2018 opponent.
● NC-11: Even though he recently filed paperwork for a rematch with freshman Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, Democrat Moe Davis tells Raw Story he probably won't run again, saying he thinks it's unlikely he can win. "The hardcore that drank the Trump Kool Aid, there's nothing I can do to change their minds," said Davis, who lost to Cawthorn 55-42 last year, a margin almost identical to Donald Trump's 55-43 win in North Carolina's 11th District. Davis, a retired Air Force colonel, also said that he's been inundated with death threats, adding, "I'm not going to risk getting myself killed if there's no realistic shot at winning."
● OH-04: The FEC recently sent 10 letters to Republican Rep. Jim Jordan's campaign asking it explain the source of nearly $3 million in discrepancies in its fundraising filings dating back to 2018. The campaign blamed a former treasurer for "inadvertently double-report[ing] certain fundraising expenses," but as the Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger notes, that claim only addresses spending and doesn't account for the fact that Jordan's reports were off by almost $1.3 million in terms of how much he'd raised.
Jordan has until early April to respond. Several experts say that the sheer magnitude of the errors could prompt the FEC to start an enforcement action, though the bar for doing so is high, and even if it does take that step, the commission would not publicly reveal it had done so.
● WY-AL: State Rep. Chuck Gray announced Thursday that he would challenge Rep. Liz Cheney, who is the most prominent Republican to vote to impeach Donald Trump, in the primary for Wyoming's sole House seat. Gray, a conservative radio host who has represented a Casper-based seat since 2017, made it no secret that he'd frame the race as a battle between an ardent MAGA ally and the congresswoman that Trump trashed again over the weekend.
It's far from clear, though, that Gray will even be Cheney's main rival. Anthony Bouchard, a far-right state senator who is a huge fan of two of the most extreme Republican members of the House, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, announced his own campaign back in January.
Other Cheney haters may also decide to join the fray for one of the very few congressional districts where redistricting will not be a factor in 2022, which could further split the anti-incumbent field enough for Cheney to secure renomination with just a plurality of the vote.
● Boston, MA Mayor: John Barros, who recently stepped down as Boston's economic development chief, announced Thursday that he would join the September nonpartisan primary. Barros, whose parents are originally from Cape Verde, is competing in a contest where each of the other four declared candidates would also be the first person of color elected mayor.
Barros, who is a former member of the city's School Committee, ran for mayor in 2013 and took sixth place with 8% of the vote. Barros backed Marty Walsh the following month ahead of a close general election, and the victorious Walsh soon picked his former opponent to be the city's economic development chief.
Barros may face another former member of Walsh's cabinet. Karilyn Crockett resigned Monday as Boston's first equity chief, and multiple media sources report that she's considering joining the race. The candidate filing deadline is May 18, so it may take a while longer for the field to fully take shape. Perhaps the biggest question looming over the contest is whether City Council President Kim Janey, who would become mayor in the very likely event that Walsh is confirmed as U.S. secretary of labor, will seek a full term or if the city will have a rare open-seat race.
● VA-AG: Gov. Ralph Northam surprised observers on Thursday when he endorsed Del. Jay Jones' campaign to defeat Attorney General Mark Herring in the June Democratic primary. Northam's statement did not mention the incumbent but instead focused on how Jones, who will be 32 on Election Day and would be the first African American elected to this office, would be part of a "new generation of leaders to take the reins."
A Northam aide also explained the decision by saying that the governor was close to Jones and his family, and that Northam also wanted a candidate from Hampton Roads to be on Team Blue's statewide ticket. (Jones represents part of Norfolk in the legislature, while Herring held a Northern Virginia state Senate seat when he was first elected attorney general in 2013.)
Northam's move may also be a form of payback against Herring. Herring was one of the numerous Old Dominion Democrats who called for Northam to resign in February of 2019 after a photo from Northam's old medical school yearbook surfaced that allegedly showed the now-governor either in blackface or dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member. Herring, though, himself apologized days later when he revealed that he'd worn blackface to a party when he was a college student
Jones, for his part, did not condemn either man, though he used a speech weeks later to declare, "To me, and many people like me, these events are a window into a struggle that defines daily life for Black Americans from the day we are born until the day we die." Ultimately, both Northam and Herring remained in office, and the governor's reputation recovered enough over the following two years that Jones and other candidates could once again feel comfortable accepting an endorsement from him.
● House: Using Daily Kos Elections' recently completed calculations of the 2020 presidential result by congressional district, Stephen Wolf has created maps and charts identifying the 25 districts that saw the largest shift by margin toward each party between 2016 and 2020. Overall, Joe Biden improved over Hillary Clinton's performance in 319 districts while Donald Trump performed better than he did in 2016 in the other 116 districts.
Districts where Biden improved the most over Clinton's results almost universally have relatively high levels of educational attainment, concentrated especially in affluent suburban areas that have historically favored Republicans. Many of these districts previously saw Clinton exceed Barack Obama's level of support eight years ago and continued their march to the left in 2020.
The districts where Trump turned in a notably better performance, meanwhile, were almost all home to large communities of color, with the shift most pronounced in regions with sizable Latino majorities. It was a considerably different story from four years earlier, when Trump's biggest gains were concentrated in districts with large white working-class populations.