Morning Digest: Federal judges let Ohio GOP run out the clock and use illegal gerrymandered maps

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

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Leading Off

OH Redistricting: A three-judge federal court has hijacked Ohio's legislative redistricting process and rewarded Republican obstructionism by announcing on Wednesday that if the state's GOP-dominated redistricting commission fails to produce constitutional maps by May 28, it will implement maps that the state Supreme Court previously ruled were unconstitutional instead.

The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected four different sets of maps in a row for the state House and state Senate drawn by the commission, all for the same reason: They violated a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution barring partisan gerrymandering. That same amendment, however, forbid state courts from ordering the adoption of judicially crafted maps, leaving the Supreme Court with the power merely to order the commission—which consists of five Republicans and just two Democrats—to keep trying again.

But now Republicans have no incentive to try a fifth time, as the Supreme Court recently ordered, because if they fail to do so, the federal court will simply impose their third set of maps. In a 2-1 decision, two judges appointed by Donald Trump said they'd adopt those maps—despite the fact the Supreme Court found they violated the state constitution "beyond a reasonable doubt"—simply because Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is one of the five Republicans on the commission, told local election officials to prepare to use them before the justices had a chance to rule on their validity.

Federal courts cannot be barred by the Ohio constitution from imposing their own maps to remedy violations of the U.S. Constitution, and in fact they must do so in the event of an impasse to ensure that elections can be held using legal maps. (The GOP-drawn maps the state used for the last decade are now badly malapportioned in addition to being gerrymandered.) But in a dissent, Judge Algenon Marbley, who was named to the bench by Bill Clinton, castigated the majority for failing to "respect[] state policies to the maximum extent" by settling on plans that are "irredeemably flawed."

Instead, said Marbley, the state should use a plan crafted by a pair of outside map-drawers hired by the commission, which expert witnesses who testified before the federal court said "satisfies all constitutional requirements" with minor changes. The commission claimed it abandoned that plan because it was incomplete—a reason the majority cited for spurning it—but Marbley noted that an expert for opponents of the GOP's maps completed the necessary adjustments in a matter of hours.

Yet with the majority's decision, "Republican Commissioners will benefit directly from a crisis they created," wrote Marbley, "and which the Ohio Supreme Court has attributed squarely to them." And because the GOP's maps would only take effect for 2022, the same situation could unfold in future years. As Marbley explained, "The 2024 Commission, faced with the options of ceding political power or simply waiting out adverse court decisions, likely will be tempted to take the same course."

Unmentioned by the dissent is that Republicans are trying to wait out the state Supreme Court in another way as well: Republican Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, who sided with the court's three Democrats over her three GOP colleagues to strike down the maps, cannot run again in November due to age limits. If Republicans who oppose the redistricting ruling win her open seat and hold onto the other two GOP-held seats up this year, they would gain a 4-3 majority willing to uphold future GOP gerrymanders.

Democrats and redistricting reformers are essentially out of options for 2022 at this point. While an appeal of the federal court's ruling is possible, any such appeal would go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, where challengers would expect a very unfriendly reception. The Ohio Supreme Court, meanwhile, has contemplated holding commissioners in contempt. To date it's declined to do so, but even if it does, there's no reason to think Republicans would produce constitutional maps since they'll get exactly what they want as long as they hold out until May 28.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Florida's Republican-run state House approved Gov. Ron DeSantis' new congressional map in a party-line vote on Thursday, following a similar vote in the state Senate a day earlier. The map, which would establish 20 districts Donald Trump would have carried and just eight that would have gone for Joe Biden, now goes to DeSantis for his signature, though litigation challenging the plan is a certainty.

Senate

MO-Sen: Marine veteran Lucas Kunce has released a Public Policy Polling survey of the August Democratic primary that finds him leading philanthropist Trudy Busch Valentine by 25-18 with a substantial 56% of voters undecided. This is the first publicly available poll we've seen from anyone so far.

NH-Sen, NH-Gov: The University of New Hampshire has tested some potential matchups between Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and a few of her Republican challengers, and their new poll finds Hassan in a very tight race this fall:

47-46 vs. 2020 candidate and retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc

44-46 vs. state Senate President Chuck Morse

45-44 vs. former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith

46-40 vs. Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton

UNH also tested the Republican primary in September and found Bolduc with a large 33-4 lead over the nearest contender, but with 58% of voters undecided and Bolduc having significantly higher name recognition than his rivals thanks in part to his 2020 bid, that advantage could dwindle as his opponents become better known and more voters pick a candidate to support.

The GOP primary grew larger still on Thursday when author and investor Vikram Mansharamani kicked off his campaign. Vikram, who is also a lecturer at Harvard and the son of Indian immigrants, does not appear to have run for office before.

The UNH poll above also surveyed the election for governor, but the results are much less competitive than in the Senate contest. They have Republican Gov. Chris Sununu cruising to a 55-29 lead over state Sen. Tom Sherman, who is the only notable Democrat challenging the three-term incumbent so far.

OH-Sen: Protect Our Values PAC, which is supporting venture capitalist J.D. Vance in the May 3 Republican primary, has publicized a Fabrizio, Lee & Associates poll that finds Vance pulling into a 25-18 lead over former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, with investment banker Mike Gibbons taking 13%, former state party chair Jane Timken earning 11%, and state Sen. Matt Dolan winning 9%. Those numbers are an improvement for Vance since their March survey, which had Vance, Mandel, and Gibbons in a three-way tie with 18% each followed by Timken at 11% and Dolan at 9%.

This is Fabrizio, Lee & Associates' first poll since Donald Trump endorsed Vance on April 15, and it's undoubtedly intended to support the idea that Trump's support is helping put Vance ahead. However, it's worth noting that nearly every other poll here in recent months has found Vance stuck further back in third or fourth place, though no other pollster has released a survey yet since Trump made his endorsement.

Meanwhile, Buckeyes for a Strong Ohio PAC, which is supporting Gibbons, has released a new ad calling Mandel a career politician and a "total fraud." The spot disingenuously blasts Mandel for having supported Mitt Romney and former Gov. John Kasich without noting that Mandel did so when Romney at least was the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, not more recently when both he and Kasich have been among the few Republican Trump critics. The ad finishes by praising Gibbons as a businessman.

OK-Sen-B: Friday was also the filing deadline for Oklahoma's June 28 primaries, and the state has its candidate list here. A runoff would take place Aug. 23 for any contest where no one earned a majority of the vote.

Longtime Sen. Jim Inhofe announced in late February that he would resign, effective ​​when the current Congress ends, and 13 fellow Republicans are competing for the final two years of his term in this dark-red state. Inhofe is pulling for his former chief of staff, Luke Holland, and a new super PAC called OkieWay has spent $475,000 on ads starring the outgoing senator praising his would-be successor. The GOP side, though, includes several contenders who start out with more name recognition than Holland, who is a first-time candidate.

One familiar name is Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who represents a seat in the eastern part of Oklahoma. There's also former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who ran in the 2014 special election for the Sooner State's other Senate seat but lost the primary to then-Rep. James Lankford by a surprisingly wide 57-34 margin: Both Mullin and Shannon would be the first Native Americans to serve in the upper chamber since Colorado Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell retired in 2005, while Shannon would also be Oklahoma's first Black senator. Another prominent contender is former state Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who later served as Trump's first head of the EPA and resigned in the face of numerous scandals.

Also in the running is state Sen. Nathan Dahm, who took a close fourth in the 2018 primary for the Tulsa-based 1st Congressional District; Dahm, who was waging a longshot bid against Lankford before Inhofe announced his departure, has benefited from about $155,000 in TV ads so far from Protect Freedom PAC, which is allied with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Rounding out the field is former Trump White House staffer Alex Gray, while the other seven contenders don't appear to be serious.

Pruitt only entered the race just before filing closed last week so there are no fundraising reports available for him, but we have first quarter numbers from the rest of the GOP field:

  • Holland: $620,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $773,000 cash-on-hand
  • Mullin: $385,000 raised, additional $1 million self-funded, $1.96 million cash-on-hand
  • Shannon: $245,000 raised, additional $150,000 self-funded, $392,000 cash-on-hand
  • Dahm: $147,000 raised, $170,000 cash-on-hand
  • Gray: $132,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $299,000 cash-on-hand

The only Democrat in the race is former Rep. Kendra Horn, who raised $343,000 and had $369,000 available.

Governors

AZ-Gov: First quarter fundraising reports are available for candidates seeking to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, with the primaries for both parties taking place in August:

  • Former TV news anchor Kari Lake (R): $970,000 raised, $701,000 cash-on-hand
  • Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson (R): $718,000 raised, additional $2 million self-loaned, $357,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former Rep. Matt Salmon (R): $469,000 raised, $703,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Steve Gaynor (R): $35,000 raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand (thanks to prior self-funding)
  • Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D): $748,000 raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • Former homeland security official Marco López (D): $305,000 raised, additional $150,000 self-loaned, $450,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman (D): $275,000 raised, $759,000 cash-on-hand

FL-Gov: Sachs Media has conducted a Democratic primary poll on behalf of Florida Politics that shows Rep. Charlie Crist holding a 35-20 lead over state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, while state Sen. Annette Taddeo is far behind with 4%. This is Sachs' first publicly available poll; the few other pollsters who have released surveys here in recent months have also found Crist ahead but with a large share of voters still undecided with four months to go until the August primary.

GA-Gov: Former Sen. David Perdue is running a new GOP primary ad, which is backed by a modest $320,000 buy that his campaign says will grow to $500,000, that embraces the Big Lie and various other far-right themes. Perdue hits Gov. Brian Kemp for letting radicals "steal the election," by which he really means Kemp not helping Trump to actually steal it, and because of this he blames Kemp for inflation and other problems under Biden. Perdue touts Trump's endorsement and vows to eliminate the state income tax.

IL-Gov: Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin's latest GOP primary ad tries to portray state Rep. Darren Bailey as a phony conservative by highlighting how Bailey said last month that, "I might have voted for Biden," while the rest of the spot hits Bailey for having supported property tax increases while he was on a local school board.

However, the ad omits how Bailey was speaking about voting in the 2008 Democratic primary, which he claimed he had done as a way to stop Hillary Clinton, not the more recent 2020 general election. The Chicago Tribune noted that Irvin himself had refused to say whether he voted for Trump shortly after joining the race and that he had voted in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries, which Irvin justified by saying he was voting for conservative Democrats in local races.

MD-Gov: The filing deadline for Maryland's July 19 primary passed Friday, and the state has a list of contenders available here. (Both dates were twice postponed because of legal challenges to congressional and legislative maps.) The congressional and state legislative lists aren't quite final, though, as the State Board of Elections says, "These candidates are listed in the district where they live now. After election officials make changes to County, State, and Congressional districts based on final redistricting plans, some candidates may be assigned to a different district." The BoE adds that this will be finished "in late May or early June."  

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is termed out, and 10 Democrats and four Republicans are competing to succeed him in a state that Joe Biden carried 65-32. The only sitting elected official on either side is state Comptroller Peter Franchot, a moderate Democrat who has enjoyed a good relationship with Hogan. Team Blue's field also includes two former members of the Obama cabinet: former Secretary of Education John King and former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who later went on to head up the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic side also consists of two contenders who took second place in primaries for governor during the last decade: former Attorney General Doug Gansler, who lost in 2014, and former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, who unsuccessfully campaigned four years later and is now the only candidate taking part in Maryland's public financing system. Also in the contest are former nonprofit leaders Jon Baron and Wes Moore as well as Ashwani Jain, a one-time Obama administration official who lost a 2018 primary for the Montgomery County Council; two little-known candidates round out the list.

The only recent poll we've seen was a March internal for Baker that showed him trailing Franchot 23-15, with Perez and Moore at 11% and 10%, respectively. New campaign finance reports aren't due until mid-June (the last available numbers are from mid-January), so it will be a while before we get a fresh look at everyone's financial strength.

On the GOP side, Hogan is backing Kelly Schulz, whom he previously appointed as state Commerce Secretary. Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, meanwhile, is Del. Dan Cox, who played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a busload of people to attend the rally that preceded it. Also in the race are wealthy perennial candidate Robin Ficker, who decided to continue his bid despite getting disbarred, and Some Dude Joe Werner.

NE-Gov: State Sen. Brett Lindstrom's newest ad ahead of the May 10 Republican primary shows the candidate talking up his record of cutting taxes, and he says he's "just getting started."

OK-Gov: Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has three intra-party foes, with Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director Joel Kintsel looking like the most serious of the challengers. The Trump-endorsed incumbent's biggest threat, though, likely comes from a pair of dark money groups that together have spent at least $3.3 million on negative ads. Stitt has fired back with his own messaging arguing he's the victim of a smear campaign by "insiders and casino bosses," and he's also received $577,000 in help from the RGA. The Democratic side is a duel between Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who left the GOP last year, and former state Sen. Connie Johnson, who lost the 2018 primary for this office.

House

AZ-06: EMILY's List has endorsed state Sen. Kirsten Engel ahead of the August Democratic primary.

Engel raised $225,000 in the first quarter and finished March with $639,000 on hand compared to her other notable primary opponent, state Rep. Daniel Hernández, who raised $154,000 and had $447,000 in the bank. On the Republican side is Juan Ciscomani, a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, who raised $443,000 and had $1.1 million in cash-on-hand.

FL-04, FL-05: Republican state Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean says he is "still exploring" a congressional run, which Florida Politics indicates would likely be in the new 4th District.

Republican legislators passed a new congressional map this week (see our FL Redistricting item above) that carves up Jacksonville to create two Republican-leaning districts by dismantling the existing 5th District, which is a predominantly Black and safely Democratic seat stretching to Tallahassee, but the redrawn 5th District corresponds more closely to GOP Rep. John Rutherford's existing 4th District and contains most of his current turf. Florida Politics treats it as a given that Rutherford would run there instead, meaning the new 4th is effectively the closest successor to the old 5th even though it's a very different constituency.

State Rep. Jason Fischer and Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond have both previously said they were also considering running, and Florida Politics says they would also run in the 4th if they join the August GOP primary. One Republican who won't be running for either seat, though, is term-limited Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who said he will finish out the rest of his term through 2023.

IL-01: SEIU Local 1, which says it represents 30,000 members across Illinois, has endorsed Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell ahead of the crowded Democratic primary in June.

Dowell led the pack in fundraising, raising $382,000 in the first three months of 2022, and he held $297,000 on hand at the start of April. Close behind was businessman Jonathan Swain, who reported $356,000 in donations, an additional $19,000 in self-funding, and $322,000 in cash-on-hand. Former Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin Norington-Reaves raised $291,000 and had $237,000 leftover to spend, while construction company owner Jonathan Jackson raised $145,000 and had $130,000 in the bank.

Four other candidates reported raising less than $100,000: Real estate executive Nykea Pippion McGriff raised $85,000, self-funded an additional $3,000, and had $79,000 remaining; former Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority official Charise Williams took in $83,000 and had $44,000 left in the bank; state Sen. Jacqueline Collins raised $69,000, self-funded an additional $10,000, and had $62,000 left to spend; and Pastor Stephany Rose Spaulding, whom we hadn't previously mentioned, raised a mere $50,000, self-funded $23,000, and had $27,000 on hand.

IL-15: Rep. Mary Miller has launched an ad going after fellow GOP Rep. Rodney Davis for voting to create the Jan. 6 investigation committee. The spot calls Davis a "RINO" while noting that Miller has Trump's endorsement.

Davis held a sizable edge over Miller in first quarter fundraising, though, raising $923,000 and finishing March with $1.9 million in cash-on-hand. By contrast, Miller brought in just $335,000 and had $511,000 left over at the start of April.

IN-01: Air Force veteran Jennifer-Ruth Green has debuted a GOP primary ad that portrays former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo as a "Never Trump liberal" who refused to back Trump in 2016 and criticized his immigration policies. Green touts her own support from Indiana Right to Life and her top rating from the NRA.

Milo led Green $208,000 to $155,000 in first quarter fundraising, but she had just $111,000 on hand compared to Green's $151,000 at the end of the quarter. The primary is on May 3.

IN-09: American Dream Federal Action, a cryptocurrency-aligned PAC on the Republican side, has reported spending at least $387,000 on GOP primary ads for former state Sen. Erin Houchin.

Houchin raised the most money of any Republican candidate from donors in the first quarter, having brought in $377,000 and holding $250,000 on hand. Army veteran Stu Barnes-Israel raised $264,000, self-funded an additional $101,000, and had $232,000 left to spend. Former Rep. Mike Sodrel took in just $38,000 from donors but self-funded an additional $429,000, almost all of which he spent to end up with only $58,000 on hand. Lastly, businessman Jim Baker, whom we hadn't previously mentioned, raised $64,000 and had $40,000 remaining on hand.

MD-01: Rep. Andy Harris, who is one of the Republican party's ​​leading election deniers, is defending a seat along the Eastern Shore that would have backed Donald Trump 56-42, which is considerably more conservative than the seat Democrats drew up last year for a map that was ultimately struck down in state court.

Harris still faces a well-funded Democratic challenger in the form of former Del. Heather Mizeur, who took third place in the 2014 primary for governor and would be the first lesbian to represent the state in Congress. Harris outraised Mizeur $468,000 to $372,000 during the first quarter of 2022, and he finished March with a $1.88 million to $1.12 million cash-on-hand edge. Foreign policy strategist Dave Harden is also competing in the Democratic primary, but he's raised little so far.

MD-04: Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown is leaving this safely blue seat, which is based around Prince George's County in the D.C. suburbs, to run for attorney general, and three notable candidates from the county are competing to succeed him.

One well-established contender is Brown's predecessor, former Rep. Donna Edwards, a progressive who left the House in 2016 to unsuccessfully run for the Senate; Edwards later waged a 2018 comeback campaign for county executive, but she lost that primary by a wide 62-24 margin to Angela Alsobrooks. Another familiar name is former county State's Attorney Glenn Ivey, whom Brown beat 42-34 in the 2016 primary to replace Edwards. Another person to watch is former Del. Angela Angel, who lost her 2018 primary for a state Senate seat 55-37.

Edwards, who entered the race this year and has EMILY's List's support, raised $612,000 during her opening quarter and self-funded another $13,000, and she finished March with $460,000 on hand. Ivey, meanwhile, took in $294,000 from donors and provided another $150,000, which left him with a larger $584,000 war chest. Angel, finally, raised $54,000, self-funded $45,000 more, and was left with $95,000 on hand.

MD-06: Democratic Rep. David Trone faces a potentially tough general election now that redistricting has cut Joe Biden's margin of victory from 61-38 to 54-44 (Hillary Clinton would have carried this version of the 6th just 47-46), though the extremely wealthy incumbent has proven in the past that he's more than willing to make generous use of his own wealth. Indeed, Trone self-funded $2 million during the first quarter, which was far more than the $41,000 he took in from donors, and ended March with just over $2 million on hand.

The most prominent Republican in the contest for this redrawn constituency, which includes western Maryland and the D.C. exurbs, is Del. Neil Parrott, whom Trone turned back 59-39 last cycle. Parrott raised just $25,000 during the first three months of 2022 and had $262,000 in the bank, though contributors may take more of an interest in this race now that the 6th has become more competitive. State House Minority Leader Jason Buckel briefly considered running here as well before filing closed, but he decided to seek re-election instead.

NC-01: The state AFL-CIO has endorsed state Sen. Don Davis in the May 17 Democratic primary for this open seat.

NC-04: Protect Our Future PAC, the group funded by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, is spending at least $771,000 to boost state Sen. Valerie Foushee in next month's Democratic primary for this safely blue seat.

NH-02: Brewery owner Jeff Cozzens announced Thursday that he was exiting the August Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster.  

OK-02: Republicans have a huge 14-person lineup to succeed Senate candidate Markwayne Mullin in an eastern Oklahoma seat that Trump would have carried 76-22, and there's no obvious frontrunner at this point. One contender, though, ended March with a big financial lead over their many foes:

  • Economy Pharmacy CEO Chris Schiller: $257,000 raised, additional $250,000 self-funded, $501,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Sen. Marty Quinn: $106,000 raised, additional $27,000 self-funded, $129,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Rep. Dustin Roberts: $83,000 raised, additional $25,000 self-funded, $105,000 cash-on-hand
  • Muskogee Chief of Police Johnny Teehee: $42,000 raised, additional $210,000 self-funded, $250,000 cash-on-hand
  • State party chair John Bennett: $27,000 raised, $23,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Rep. Avery Frix: $15,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $215,000 cash-on-hand

The race includes several other politicians who joined the race after the new fundraising quarter began:

  • businessman Guy Barker
  • former state Sen. Josh Brecheen
  • former state Rep. David Derby
  • former defense contractor Pamela Gordon
  • Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Wes Nofire

The remaining three Republicans don't appear to be serious contenders, though it's always possible one of them could advance to a runoff in this outsized field.

OR-06: Protect Our Future PAC has dropped an additional $1.9 million to aid economic development adviser Carrick Flynn in the May 17 Democratic primary for this newly created seat, which brings its total investment here to a staggering $7 million.

PA-08: 2020 Republican nominee Jim Bognet has launched the first ad for his rematch against Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, and he quickly makes it clear what kind of campaign he'll be running when he opens, "In 2020, President Trump endorsed me for Congress. But that election was stolen from us."

RI-02: Former state Rep. David Segal declared Wednesday that he was joining the September Democratic primary for this open seat, an announcement that came almost two months after he began raising money for a potential campaign to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Langevin.

Segal, as we've written before, was active in Providence progressive politics in 2002 when he was elected to the City Council as a member of the Green Party, and he briefly served as the chamber's minority leader. After joining the Democrats and winning a seat in the state House, Segal ran for the 1st District in 2010, which was the last time Rhode Island had an open-seat race for Congress. He campaigned to the left of his many primary foes and ended up in third place with 20%; the winner, with 37%, was Providence Mayor David Cicilline, who still holds the district today. Segal didn't seek elected office in the ensuing decade, though he did found the national liberal organization Demand Progress.

SC-01: Big Lie enthusiast Katie Arrington has earned an endorsement from 2nd District Rep. Joe Wilson, who infamously shouted, "You lie!" at Barack Obama during a 2009 presidential address to Congress, for her campaign to beat incumbent Nancy Mace in the June Republican primary.  

VA-02: Candidate filing closed on April 7 for Virginia's June 21 primaries, and we'll be taking a look at the state of play in each competitive congressional race now that first quarter fundraising numbers are in; you can find a list of contenders here.

Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria is defending a Virginia Beach-based seat where, following redistricting, Joe Biden's margin of victory was halved from 51-47 to 50-48. National Republicans, including the deep-pocketed Congressional Leadership Fund, have consolidated behind state Sen. Jen Kiggans, who won her seat in a close 2019 general election campaign. Luria outraised Kiggans $1.2 million to $435,000 during the first three months of 2022 and ended March with a huge $3.16 million to $593,000 cash-on-hand.

Before she can go up against Luria, Kiggans needs to get past high school football coach Jarome Bell, a Big Lie fanatic who has the backing of 5th District Rep. Bob Good. Bell, who earned last place in the 2020 three-way primary with 23%, had a mere $9,000, though, so he may not be much of an obstacle for Kiggans, who has been happy to entertain election conspiracies herself.

VA-07: While some Northern Virginia Democrats initially expressed interest in waging a primary bid against Rep. ​​Abigail Spanberger after the new congressional map replaced much of her suburban Richmond base with turf in populous Prince William County, Spanberger will face no intra-party opposition. Those dramatic changes boosted Biden's margin from just 50-49 to 52-46, but six Republicans are hoping to take her on.

Both state Sen. Bryce Reeves and Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson were running against Spanberger before the remap, and they've continued their campaigns here: Reeves outraised Anderson $269,000 to $232,000 during the most recent fundraising quarter, and he finished March with a small $390,000 to $371,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega, meanwhile, entered the race shortly after redistricting was completed, and she raised $357,000 in her first three months and had $294,000 to spend. Another new arrival, Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chair Crystal Vanuch, took in $82,000 but self-funded $402,000, which left her with $468,000 to spend. Spotsylvania County Supervisor David Ross, likewise, raised $42,000 and provided $101,000 more, which left him with a $121,000 war chest. The final Republican, 2021 state House nominee Gina Ciarcia, had less than $15,000 to spend. Spanberger herself raised $1.13 million to defend herself, and she finished March with $3.89 million in the bank.

ECU: The progressive group End Citizens United has endorsed six Democratic House contenders:

Attorneys General

ID-AG: While the Club for Growth doesn’t appear to have endorsed its old ally, former Rep. Raúl Labrador, in the May 17 Republican primary for attorney general, the group is spending nearly $300,000 to weaken five-term incumbent Lawrence Wasden. The commercial attacks Wasden for refusing to join 13 other GOP attorneys general in suing to overturn the Biden administration’s COVID relief bill, with the narrator arguing he “allowed Washington to shove their woke agenda down our throats.” The ad also goes after him for refusing to join the 2020 lawsuit aimed at overturning Biden’s win, saying he “looked the other way when election integrity hung in the balance.”

MD-AG: The Democratic primary to succeed retiring Democratic incumbent Brian Frosh is a duel between two well-connected candidates: Rep. Anthony Brown, who was the party's 2014 nominee for governor, and former Baltimore Judge Katie Curran O'Malley, who is the wife of former Gov. Martin O'Malley. The winner will be the heavy favorite in November for an office that the GOP last won in 1918.

MI-AG, MI-SoS: Michigan Republicans will hold a convention Saturday to choose their candidates to take on Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, races that Donald Trump has intervened in as he seeks to install adherents of the Big Lie into key offices like these nationwide. However, the weekend's results may not bring about a definitive resolution because the party's endorsement can be overturned in August with an affirmative vote of three-fourths of delegates, and at least one candidate hasn't ruled out pursuing this option if he loses.

MLive.com explains this strange state of affairs came about because, as GOP consultant John Sellek puts it, these springtime gatherings are "completely made up by the parties." Indeed, state law requires that the parties, rather than primary voters, pick their nominees for these offices (as well as for lieutenant governor) at conventions that take place in the "fall" (which has been interpreted, for some reason, to include August).

Democrats, though, decided several years ago that they wanted to choose their candidates far earlier in order to give them a head start for the general election. That's why they came up with the idea of the April endorsement convention, with the later event serving only to make the results official. (Michigan voters will select nominees in all other races in the state's Aug. 2 primary.)

Republicans decided to try this approach out themselves for the first time this cycle, but Trump's interventions have, unsurprisingly, complicated things. While many GOP leaders want their nominee for attorney general to be former state House Speaker Tom Leonard, who lost to Nessel by a close 49-46 margin in 2018, Trump has instead backed Matthew DePerno, an attorney who's made a name for himself advancing the conspiracy theories about the 2020 elections and recently called for the arrest of Nessel, Benson, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The GOP field also includes state Rep. Ryan Berman, who has tried to position himself as an alternative to Leonard and DePerno but has been willing to call out DePerno's lies. In the race for secretary of state, Trump is similarly pulling for Kristina Karamo, who has called the Jan. 6 insurrectionists "​​totally antifa posing as Trump supporters," to beat state Rep. Beau LaFave and Chesterfield Township Clerk Cindy Berry.

Sellek predicted that DePerno, who earlier this month called for his supporters to "storm" the county-level meetings where party activists pick delegates for the endorsement convention, would respond to a defeat on Saturday by trying to get the results overturned in August. Berman, though, was the only one who publicly addressed the idea, telling MLive, "It depends on what happens this weekend. We'll see how it plays out." Still, it would take quite a lot to convince 75% of the August delegates to adopt what Sellek called a "smash-glass-in-case-of-emergency" option.

And the glass may remain intact no matter what these insurgents might want. GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, who backs Trump's picks, predicted, "The party as a whole is going to coalesce around this team, starting Saturday afternoon," adding, "I will work my tail off for whatever candidates come out of this convention."

Former state party executive director Jason Roe, though, struck a very different tone when describing the stakes of the endorsement convention. "We're going to find out if we're going to be held hostage to second-tier candidates who can't win general elections in pursuit of genuflecting to the dear leader," he said, "or if we're going to focus on winning elections and making sure that conservatives control state government and make the policies that we all have to live under."

Morning Digest: New York lawmakers launch impeachment investigation into Andrew Cuomo

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

Leading Off

NY-Gov: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Thursday evening that lawmakers would "begin an impeachment investigation" into Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, with a majority of state legislators now calling for his resignation.

The development came after the Albany Times Union reported additional details about a sixth woman who has accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct, as conveyed by "a person with direct knowledge of the woman's claims." According to the paper's source, the unnamed woman, a Cuomo aide, was summoned to the governor's mansion "under the apparent pretext" of helping him with an issue with his cell phone. Alone in Cuomo's private quarters, the governor "closed the door and allegedly reached under her blouse and began to fondle her," said the source, who added that the woman said Cuomo had touched her on other occasions.

Following the publication of the Times Union's article, the governor's counsel, Beth Garvey, said the incident had been referred to the Albany police. "As a matter of state policy, when allegations of physical contact are made, the agency informs the complainant that they should contact their local police department," said Garvey.

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The Assembly's investigation will be led by Judiciary Committee chair Charles Lavine, a Long Island Democrat. Heastie's statement announcing the inquiry did not specifically reference the many sexual harassment accusations against Cuomo but rather said the committee would "examine allegations of misconduct." That broad wording suggests that Lavine might also look into the burgeoning scandal involving the Cuomo administration's attempts to conceal the number of nursing home deaths due to COVID, his abusive treatment of staff and elected officials, or other topics.

To impeach Cuomo, a majority of the 150-member lower chamber would have to vote in favor. Unusually, while a trial would involve the state Senate, the members of New York’s highest court, known as the Court of Appeals, would also sit as jurors. Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins would not participate, however, because she is second in the line of succession after the lieutenant governor. As a result, the jury would consist of seven judges—all of whom are Cuomo appointees—and 62 senators, with a two-thirds majority, or 46 votes, needed to convict the governor and remove him from office. Should that happen, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, would ascend to the governorship.

Senate

AL-Sen: Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard has launched a $100,000 opening TV buy for next year's Republican primary. The ad opens by arguing that "transgender athletes who participate in girls' sports" are part of the "madness" in Biden-era D.C. It then moves on from that transphobic message to predictable Trump-era themes as Blanchard plays up her ties to Donald Trump and her conservative values.

MO-Sen: Unnamed sources close to former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon tell the Missouri Independent's Jason Hancock that Nixon is giving some "serious thought" to the idea of a bid for this open Senate seat, though they still think it's "highly unlikely he'll give up life in the private sector." Nixon left office in early 2017 after two terms as governor and now works as an attorney.

On the Republican side, the conservative Missouri Times writes that unnamed sources close to Attorney General Eric Schmitt expect him to enter the race "in the coming days." Numerous other politicians could end up running for Team Red, and St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum name-drops state Sen. Bob Onder as a possibility. Gov. Mike Parson, meanwhile, said Thursday that he will not be running, which didn't seem to surprise anyone.

NC-Sen: Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday that he would not run for Senate next year, though there'd been no indication that he'd even been thinking about entering the race. Cooper told Politico, "I've promised the people four years as governor and that's what I want to do," though he also noted that his early departure would put Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a far-right extremist with a history of anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and transphobic screeds, in charge of the state.

NH-Sen: Saint Anselm College gives Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who's said he's still months away from deciding whether to run for Senate, a 47-41 lead in a hypothetical matchup against Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan.

OH-Sen: A day after longtime talking head Geraldo Rivera, a Republican who mulled a 2013 Senate run in New Jersey, tweeted from Siesta Key, Florida that he was considering a 2022 Senate run in Ohio, Rivera followed up by saying he'd "decided not to seek public office." No vaults were harmed in the making of this un-campaign.

Governors

PA-Gov: Republican state Rep. Jason Ortitay tells the Pennsylvania Capital-Star that he is considering a bid for governor either next year or "sometime in the future." Ortitay, who runs a delicious-sounding enterprise called Jason's Cheesecake Company, sought the party's nomination for the 2018 special election to succeed disgraced Rep. Tim Murphy in the old 18th Congressional District. Regrettably for Ortitay and Republicans who wanted to keep that seat red, however, delegates opted for fellow state Rep. Rick Saccone instead.

TX-Gov: When actor Matthew McConaughey was asked if he was interested in a run for governor on a recent podcast, he responded, "It's a true consideration." McConaughey, who has described himself as "aggressively centrist," did not reveal if he was interested in running under either party's banner.

House

LA-02: Local Louisiana pollsters Edgewater Research and My People Vote have released a survey of the March 20 all-party primary in the 2nd Congressional District, which was done on behalf of Xavier University in New Orleans. The poll finds state Sen. Troy Carter leading with 35%, while fellow state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson beats a third Democrat, activist Gary Chambers, 24-11 for the second place spot in the all-but-assured April runoff.

LA-05: Donald Trump has endorsed University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow in the March 20 all-party primary to succeed her late husband, Republican Luke Letlow.

NC-11: The Mountaineer's Kyle Perrotti writes that local Democrats have speculated that pastor Eric Gash, who previously played football for the University of North Carolina, could enter the race against Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Gash himself, however, doesn't appear to have said anything yet about his interest in competing in this red district in western North Carolina. Another Democrat, state Rep. Brian Turner, didn't rule out a campaign of his own in an interview with the paper, though Perrotti says that he sounds unlikely to go for it.

On the Republican side, 2020 candidate Lynda Bennett didn't quite close the door on a rematch against Cawthorn, who defeated her in the GOP runoff in a giant 66-34 upset last year. Bennett instead told the Mountaineer, "As of now, I'm not planning on running." Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper also relays that there are "rumors" that state Sen. Chuck Edwards "is interested in the seat." There's no other information about Edwards' possible interest, though he's been very willing to criticize the congressman in the past.

Edwards notably put out a statement days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol taking Cawthorn to task for trying to delegitimize the 2020 election, declaring, "Congressman Cawthorn's inflammatory approach of encouraging people to 'lightly threaten' legislators not only fails to solve the core problem of a lack of confidence in the integrity of our elections system. It exacerbates the divisions in our country and has the potential to needlessly place well-meaning citizens, law enforcement officers, and elected officials in harm's way."

WY-AL: On Thursday, a committee in the Wyoming state Senate advanced a bill that would require a runoff in any party primaries where no candidate won a majority of the vote—but not until 2023. The legislation was championed by Donald Trump Jr., who has argued that it would make it easier to defeat Rep. Liz Cheney in next year's Republican primary, but those supportive tweets came before the measure was amended to only take effect next cycle.

Doug Randall of WGAB writes that this important change came Thursday following testimony from members of the Wyoming County Clerks Association. The bill as originally written would have moved the first round of primaries from August to May of 2022 so that any potential runoffs could take place in August. However, Randall reports that this shift could have given election officials "less than two months to get ready for the primary election after the results of re-districting are known," which proved to be a convincing argument to committee members.

It is, however, unlikely to appease the legion of Cheney haters who suddenly developed an intense interest in Wyoming election policy after the congresswoman voted to impeach Donald Trump in January. Cheney currently faces intra-party challenges from two legislators, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard and state Rep. Chuck Gray, and it's very possible that other Republicans could also join the contest. A crowded field could split the anti-incumbent vote and allow Cheney to win with a plurality, which is why Junior wants to change the rules for 2022 to avert this possibility.

Mayors

Fort Worth, TX Mayor: Tarrant County Democratic Party chair Deborah Peoples earned an endorsement this week from the Tarrant County Central Labor Council, which the Fort Worth Star-Telegram describes as the county's "largest group of organized unions," for the May 1 nonpartisan primary.

New York City, NY Mayor: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams earned an endorsement this week from 32BJ SEIU, which is one of the four major unions active in city politics, for the June instant-runoff Democratic primary. 32BJ SEIU, which represents building workers and airport employees, joins the Hotel Trades Council in Adams' corner. Meanwhile, Loree Sutton, the city's former commissioner of veterans' affairs, announced Wednesday that she was dropping out of the primary.

San Antonio, TX Mayor: In a major surprise, the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association announced Wednesday that it would remain neutral in the May 1 race for mayor rather than back conservative Greg Brockhouse's second campaign against progressive incumbent Ron Nirenberg. Similarly, another longtime Brockhouse ally, the San Antonio Police Officers Association, has yet to take sides this time but also appears to be unlikely to give him much, if any, support.

Two years ago, Brockhouse held Nirenberg to a 51-49 victory after a nasty race to lead America's seventh-largest city. Brockhouse, who used to be a consultant for both the city's police and firefighter unions, spent that campaign arguing that the mayor was "needlessly" battling first responders in ongoing contract negotiations. The two labor groups in turn were ardent supporters of Brockhouse: Joshua Fechter writes in the San Antonio Express-News that they deployed a combined $530,000 on Brockhouse' behalf, which was more than twice what the candidate spent, and helped him mobilize voters.

However, Fechter says that things have changed quite a bit since Nirenberg was re-elected. For starters, the city reached a new contract with the firefighters that won't expire until 2024. Union head Chris Steele also said his members weren't happy that Brockhouse, as Fechter puts it, "ducked questions about a pair of domestic violence allegations from a former spouse and his current wife, Annalisa, during the 2019 campaign."

San Antonio Police Officers Association head Danny Diaz, meanwhile, says it's "more than likely" it will take sides in the mayoral campaign, but it may not amount to the boost Brockhouse is hoping for. As Fechter notes, the police union is concentrating on defeating Proposition B, a measure that would repeal the group's right to engage in collective bargaining.

Morning Digest: Conspiracist GOP lawmaker joins Iowa Senate race without waiting on Grassley

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

Leading Off

IA-Sen: While Sen. Chuck Grassley has yet to make a decision about seeking an eighth term, one fellow Republican has already announced a bid for his seat: state Sen. Jim Carlin, a pro-Trump die-hard who has baselessly claimed the 2020 election was stolen and spouted antisemitic conspiracy theories blaming wealthy Jews like Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros for the outcome.

Carlin didn't appear to address the incumbent in recent remarks discussing his run, though earlier this month, Grassley said he'd finalize his plans within "several weeks." Carlin may be hoping to push Grassley to the exits, but he doesn't seem like a particularly imposing presence: Iowa Starting Line notes he "doesn't start with much of a political infrastructure in the state."

Just last week, Carlin introduced legislation requiring that all employees of Iowa's public universities be interrogated about their political beliefs, part of a long-running conservative crusade against higher education. He's also pushing a "bathroom bill" that would target transgender people and has proposed a measure requiring that schoolchildren be taught cursive handwriting.

Campaign Action

Senate

AL-Sen: Wealthy businesswoman Lynda Blanchard, who served as Donald Trump's ambassador to Slovenia until earlier this year, says she's considering a bid for Alabama's open Senate seat. "I am deeply interested in promoting President Trump's MAGA agenda," she said in a statement, "while fighting the socialist policies of the Biden/Pelosi/Sanders/Schumer crowd."

NH-Sen: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who previously hadn't ruled out a bid for Senate, now says he'll "take a look" at the possibility but suggested he wouldn't have an answer until he "get[s] through the legislative session maybe six, seven months from now." The current session is not scheduled to conclude until the very end of June. Sununu's indecision is therefore likely to freeze the field of other potential GOP candidates, robbing whoever does ultimately run of precious time to campaign against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.

OH-Sen: Republican Rep. Steve Stivers, who has reportedly been considering a bid for Ohio's newly open Senate seat, now confirms that he's looking at the race in a new interview. Stivers insisted he would not "rush into a decision" and said he'd likely wait "months" to decide. When asked about the possibility that Donald Trump could endorse another candidate in the primary, the congressman ever-so-slightly edged away from Trump, saying he's "not putting my faith in any one individual that could deliver this race for anybody.

Stivers' 15th District is conservative turf in the southern Columbus area. He served as chair of the NRCC during the 2017-18 election cycle, when Republicans lost control of the House.

Governors

CA-Gov: Politico reports that former Trump apparatchik Richard Grenell is interviewing staff for a possible run for governor in the event a recall of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom makes the ballot. Grenell himself says the report "isn't true" but did not dispute that he's considering a bid.

IL-Gov: Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf kicked off a bid for governor on Monday, making him the first notable Republican to challenge Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Schimpf served a single term in the legislature but declined to seek re-election last year without explaining why. In 2014, he ran for state attorney general but got crushed 59-38 by Democratic incumbent Lisa Madigan.

House

CT-02: Republican state Rep. Mike France has filed paperwork for a possible challenge to veteran Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney, but he hasn't yet announced a campaign and did not respond to press inquiries. After ousting Republican Rep. Rob Simmons by just 83 votes in the 2006 Democratic wave, Courtney's never faced a difficult re-election, winning with at least 59% of the vote every time.

The 2nd District, which occupies the entirety of eastern Connecticut, normally is reliably blue turf, but in 2016, Hillary Clinton carried it just 49-46. However, according to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, it returned to form last year, supporting Joe Biden 54-44. Simmons described himself as "excited" about France's potential candidacy, though the former congressman, who had a relatively moderate reputation during his time in office, recently went full tinfoil and blamed the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection on "antifa."

LA-02: Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter is spending at least $100,000 on a TV buy ahead of the March 20 all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond. "Throughout my career I've remained laser focused on the simple ways to improve people's day to day lives," Carter says, "like guaranteeing access to COVID-19 vaccine, equal pay for women, criminal justice reform, and fighting for a living wage."

Carter continues by pledging, "In Congress, I'll have your back and I'll get things done." The candidate does not mention Richmond, though on-screen text informs the viewer that Carter has the former congressman's endorsement.

TX-06: Republican Brian Harrison, who served as chief of staff to former Trump HHS chief Alex Azar during his disastrous handling of the COVID pandemic, is reportedly considering a campaign for the late Rep. Ron Wright's vacant 6th Congressional District. Notes Politico, "In the West Wing, a handful of his detractors derisively referred to Harrison as 'the dog breeder'—a reference to the labradoodle-breeding family business that he helped run prior to joining the Trump administration." More on that here.

Judges

PA Supreme Court: Both of Pennsylvania's major parties have endorsed candidates in the May 18 primary for a key open seat on the state Supreme Court, with Democrats backing Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin and Republicans giving their support to Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson.

Judicial candidates in Pennsylvania who don't earn their party's official seal of approval often drop out, and we may yet see that happen. While PoliticsPA says that Superior Court Judge Carolyn Nichols, who is hoping to become the first Black woman to sit on the high court, intends to continue her bid for the Democratic nod, she said in a statement that she will "consider the next steps in this election," which could presage a departure.

The situation for the GOP is even more uncertain, since the party's two other hopefuls, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Paula Patrick and Commonwealth Court Judge Patty McCullough, both declined to comment when asked about their plans. Any questions will be resolved soon, though, since the filing deadline is March 9. Democrats currently hold a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court but could expand it in November since this year's race is for the seat held by Republican Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75.

Mayors

St. Louis, MO Mayor: The Missouri Scout has released a survey from the GOP firm Remington Research of the March 2 nonpartisan primary, which will be the city's first experience using the "approval voting" system.

Approval voting allows voters to cast as many votes in the primary as there are candidates, and Remington finds that 59% of the sample plans to back Aldermanic President Lewis Reed. City Treasurer Tishaura Jones has the support of 51% of respondents, while a third Democrat, Alderman Cara Spencer, is in third with 40%. Just 19%, however, intend to vote for the final contender, Republican Andrew Jones. The two candidates with the most votes will face off in the April 6 general.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also reports that the pro-Spencer group Gateway to Progress is spending at least $45,000 on a TV ad praising her for "cracking down on predatory lenders, slum landlords, and City Hall insiders."

Morning Digest: Trumpworld’s favorite pollster is pushing unhinged election conspiracy theories

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

Leading Off

WY-AL: Donald Trump's "Save America" PAC is trying to put the hurt on Republican Rep. Liz Cheney by publicizing a poll of next year's primary purporting to show the congresswoman in dire straits, but there are some serious problems we’re obligated to address.

We’ll spare a quick look at the numbers first, though as we’ll show in just a moment, there’s good reason to question their veracity because they’re from the notorious firm McLaughlin & Associates—and not just for the usual reasons.

The survey shows Cheney trailing both state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (who's already announced a bid) and state Rep. Chuck Gray (whose name hasn't come up previously) by the same 50-23 margin, and it even has her losing a three-way matchup, with Bouchard taking 28, Cheney 21, and Gray 17. McLaughlin’s track record for sheer wrongness is so well-known we don't even need to get into it, but there’s something else we do want to get into.

Campaign Action

In particular, we need to shine a spotlight on recent comments made by the firm's principal, John McLaughlin, who's veered deep into the land of election conspiracy theories. In promoting a poll his firm conducted last month, McLaughlin tried to buttress support for a number of long-debunked lies:

  • "It is concerning that in this poll where a majority of voted for Biden, they still can't say it was an honest election."
  • "Since Election Day, and despite media spin the election fraud story is a big nothing, belief among voters of serious vote fraud has grown."
  • "Weeks have passed since the presidential election, but in spite of Big Media and Big Tech's promotion of Joe Biden, more American voters believe the election was marred with fraud — and it's growing."

The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported that McLaughlin happily obliged a rage-filled Trump with similarly unhinged polling after the election, including numbers that—impossibly—showed him with a positive job approval score. (The article memorably featured one White House adviser comparing Trump to "Mad King George, muttering, 'I won. I won. I won.'" It listed McLaughlin first among aides “happy to scratch [Trump’s] itch” for validation.)

Most extreme of all, on the night of the Georgia Senate runoffs, McLaughlin approvingly retweeted a Trump tweet that read, "Looks like they are setting up a big 'voter dump' against the Republican candidates. Waiting to see how many votes they need?" Pointing to heavily Democratic DeKalb County, McLaughlin wondered aloud, "Are they deciding how many votes the Democrats need to win?" and later that night grimaced, "The big dump came." Needless to say, no such thing happened.

As we said when we recently surveyed similar statements by the head of another Republican polling outfit, Trafalgar Group:

We take a heterodox approach to polling—there are many ways to get it right, and no one has a monopoly on the truth. But the truth is what we all must seek. Excluding polls is not something we do lightly, but when a pollster espouses beliefs about elections that are demonstrably false, we are unable to conclude that such a person does in fact believe in seeking the truth.

So too with McLaughlin. While he's long been an object of ridicule, he's now demonstrated that it's not just incompetence that lies behind his many errors but a fundamental disregard for the truth—and we’ll treat him accordingly.

Senate

FL-Sen: Politico reports that the DSCC and Joe Biden are working to recruit either Rep. Val Demings or Rep. Stephanie Murphy to run against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio next year, though both have been "noncommittal." Demings said last month she was considering a bid while Murphy declined to rule out the race in December.

IN-Sen: In a new interview, former Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly didn't rule out a possible challenge to Republican Sen. Todd Young next year, saying that "we'll see what the future holds." However, Donnelly cautioned that he has "not made any kind of decisions on those types of things" and declined to specify any sort of timetable. Donnelly, who won a remarkable upset in 2012, lost his bid for a second term to Republican Mike Braun by a 51-45 margin in 2018.

NH-Sen, NH-Gov: WMUR's John DiStaso reports that Republican operatives believe that former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, whose name has more frequently come up as a possible gubernatorial candidate if Gov. Chris Sununu decides to run for Senate, will herself "take a hard look" at a bid against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. DiStaso notes, though, that Ayotte and Sununu are "very unlikely" to run against one another, so presumably Ayotte would be more inclined to consider the governorship if Sununu goes for the Senate but would have greater interest in the Senate race if Sununu seeks re-election.

OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Far-right Rep. Jim Jordan’s team said Thursday that he would not run to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Sen. Rob Portman. Buckeye State Republicans had speculated that if Jordan, who has long been a key Donald Trump ally, had run, he would have been able to deter many of his would-be primary opponents. That won’t be happening now, though, and Jordan’s decision could encourage the many Republicans eyeing this race to make the jump.

Jordan’s spokesperson did not mention a Cleveland.com report from November that the congressman was considering challenging Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who fell out with Trumpworld after he recognized Joe Biden's victory. However, we haven’t heard anything new about a potential Jordan gubernatorial campaign in the ensuing two months, and it’s not clear if the congressman is even still considering the idea.

DSCC: Democrats have chosen Michigan Sen. Gary Peters to lead the DSCC for the coming cycle. Peters has experience winning difficult elections, holding off Republican John James by a close 50-48 margin last year.

Governors

FL-Gov: Politico reports that Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist is "maneuvering with the governor's mansion in mind," which is the first time we've seen reporting that the former governor might actually be considering a bid. The only other hint we've seen from Crist came in November, when he ran some unusual post-election ads thanking voters for re-electing him. That prompted observers to wonder if he was laying some early groundwork for another statewide bid, a possibility that he appeared not to rule out.

Crist won the governorship in 2006 as a Republican but waged an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 2010 (during which he left the GOP to become an independent) rather than seek re-election. Crist became a Democrat two years later, and, after falling just short in a gubernatorial comeback bid in 2014, won the St. Petersburg-area 13th Congressional District in 2016.

IL-Gov: Wealthy businessman and Trump megadonor Gary Rabine, the founder of a paving company, is "expected" to launch a bid for governor next month, according to Politico. It's not clear just how much Rabine is worth, but a 2016 report described his business operations as "a $210 million dollar conglomerate of 11 companies," so if he still owns a large chunk of that enterprise, it's likely he could at least partly self-fund a campaign.

MD-Gov: Ashwani Jain, a 31-year-old former Obama administration official and son of Indian immigrants, just became the second Democrat to enter next year's primary for governor, joining state Comptroller Peter Franchot. In 2018, Jain ran for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council and finished eighth in a 33-candidate field (the top four vote-getters won seats). Maryland Matters described the showing as "relatively strong" and said Jain "impress[ed] political professionals" during his bid.

OH-Gov, OH-Sen: Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley says he'll report raising $350,000 in the second half of 2020 and has $500,000 on-hand ahead of a likely gubernatorial bid against Republican Gov. Mike DeWine next year. Cranley is the only Democrat who's filed paperwork so far, and while he hasn't announced a campaign, he says he's "extremely serious about running." He also just ruled out a run for Ohio's newly open Senate seat.

House

MD-01: Former Del. Heather Mizeur formally announced a challenge to Republican Rep. Andy Harris on Thursday, a few weeks after saying she might do so in response to Harris' role in inciting the Jan. 6 assault on Congress. Maryland's 1st Congressional District, which voted for Donald Trump 59-39 in November, is safely red, but because Democrats control the redistricting process, they could adjust the lines to make it competitive.

MI-08: Real estate agent Mike Detmer has announced he'll once again seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin in Michigan's 8th Congressional District. Detmer lost last year's primary to former ICE official Paul Junge just 35-29 despite raising almost no money. He did, however, gain attention for a Facebook post defending the far-right white supremacist group the Proud Boys.

NM-01: Democratic state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, who filed paperwork the other day, officially joined the likely special election for New Mexico's 1st Congressional District on Wednesday.

WA-04: Republican state Rep. Brad Klippert has launched a challenge to Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, though in a lengthy statement announcing his bid, he didn't actually use the word "impeachment" once.

Morning Digest: Ever heard of a ‘top-four’ primary? It could be coming to a state near you soon

Leading Off

Election Reforms: This November, as many as five states will vote on ballot measures that could dramatically change how their elections are conducted.

In Florida, voters will decide whether to institute a top-two primary system, while Massachusetts could implement instant-runoff voting. Alaska, meanwhile, could become the first state in the nation to adopt a "top-four" voting system, which, as we'll explain, is something of a hybrid between top-two and instant-runoff.

Top-four ballot measures have also been certified for the ballot in Arkansas and North Dakota. However, there's still ongoing litigation in each state that could impact whether or not these referendums would take effect if they won.

Campaign Action

We'll start with a look at the Florida top-two ballot initiative, Amendment 3, which needs to win at least 60% of the vote in order to pass. If this measure takes effect, starting in January of 2024, all the candidates in races for governor; the other three state cabinet offices (attorney general, chief financial officer, and commissioner of agriculture); and for the state legislature would each compete on one primary ballot rather than in separate party primaries.

The two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, would then advance to the general election. Candidates would not be able to avert the general election by taking a majority of the vote in the primary. Amendment 3 would not apply to federal elections such as the presidential or congressional contests due to limitations on the scope of any single initiative.

California and Washington already use the top-two primary (Louisiana also uses a similar all-party primary system that does allow candidates to avoid a second round of voting if they win a majority), and as we've written before, it's notorious for producing outcomes that don't reflect the desires of the electorate. One chief reason why: A party can win a majority of votes cast in the primary, yet get shut out of the general election simply because it fields a large number of candidates while the minority party only puts forth a few, or even just two.

Furthermore, primary electorates often feature very different demographic compositions than higher-turnout general elections, producing greater partisan and racial dissonance between the two rounds. These distortions have seen one party or the other get shut out of general elections in recent years in California and Washington, including in contests they likely would have won if the parties had gotten to nominate candidates through traditional primaries.

Indeed, if the top-two had been in place in 2018 when both parties had competitive primaries for governor, Democrats would have been locked out of the general election. That year, Republican Ron DeSantis would have taken first place with 29%, while fellow Republican Adam Putnam would have beaten Democrat Andrew Gillum 19-17 for second, even though Republicans outvoted Democrats just 51-49.

The only poll we've seen all year of Amendment 3 was a late May survey from St. Pete Polls, which found the "no" side ahead 44-35. However, Amendment 3's backers have received at least $6.2 million from conservative billionaire Mike Fernandez, who has been leading the effort to get the top-two implemented, which gives the campaign the resources to put up a serious fight.

Over in Massachusetts, meanwhile, supporters of instant-runoff voting (also known as ranked-choice voting), are trying to pass Question 2 this November. If Question 2 receives a majority of the vote, then starting in 2022, instant-runoff would be used in both primaries and general elections for governor and other statewide offices; U.S. Senate and House seats; the state legislature; and countywide posts such as district attorney and sheriff. The measure would not impact presidential elections or races for city and town offices.

The only poll we've seen this year was an early August survey from MassINC that showed voters deadlocked 36-36 on whether to adopt Question 2. If the measure passes, then Massachusetts would become the second state after Maine to use this method to decide many of its elections.

Finally, voters in Alaska, Arkansas, and North Dakota each will have the opportunity to become the first states to adopt a top-four primary. This system would require all the candidates to face off on one primary ballot, and the top four vote-getters would advance. In the general election, voters would then be able to rank their choices using instant-runoff voting. Each of these referendums only needs to win a majority of the vote to pass, but there are some key differences between them.

While each would apply to all congressional, legislative, and statewide races, only Alaska's Measure 2 would also institute instant-runoff voting for the presidential contest. North Dakota's Measure 3, meanwhile, would additionally remove the legislature's unfettered control over legislative redistricting and put it in the hands of a bipartisan commission.

North Dakota's top-four law would also take effect 30 days after approval, Arkansas' would start Jan. 1, 2021, and Alaska's measure would begin in 2022. The only poll we've seen from any of these three states was a mid-July survey from the Arkansas League of Women Voters, which supports the top-four measure, from Mercury Analytics that showed respondents agreeing by a 60-28 margin that they support "[a]llow[ing] voters to rank their top four candidates when voting in the general election so voters can have more say in their second choice candidate."

Senate

MA-Sen: The Sept. 1 Democratic primary has become particularly heated on the airwaves in recent days.

Sen. Ed Markey is running a commercial accusing Rep. Joe Kennedy of running a desperate campaign, while a spot from Kennedy's allies at New Leadership PAC features audio from the congressman's recent speech declaring that Markey was questioning his family's integrity. The ads come at a time when Markey has been trying to use Kennedy's membership in what is arguably America's most prominent political family (the congressman is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy) against him.

In an Aug. 11 debate, Markey took aim at New Leadership PAC, which Kennedy's twin brother and other relatives have been raising money for. Markey also brought up speculation that the congressman's father and namesake, former Rep. Joe Kennedy II, could fund the PAC with the $2.8 million in campaign funds he still has available almost 22 years since he left Congress. "Tell your father and tell your twin brother you don't want any money to be spent on negative ads," Markey said in a clip that generated plenty of attention and quickly made it into the senator's digital advertising.

Markey also generated headlines with an online commercial that didn't mention Kennedy or his family directly, but concluded with the senator putting his own spin on the famous 1961 inaugural address delivered by the congressman's great uncle. "With all due respect," Markey said, "it's time to start asking what your country can do for you."

On Monday, Kennedy responded with the speech that was used in New Leadership PAC's new commercial. Kennedy declares, "I'm here today to talk about my family, because Sen. Markey is questioning their integrity, weaponizing their history." The congressman goes on to talk about his grandfather's record as U.S. attorney general during the civil rights era before saying he understands that "a legacy is earned." Kennedy continues by describing his own work in Congress and declares, "We deserve a senator who will not stand by."

Kennedy's campaign is also running a commercial where the narrator says he "knows how a legacy is earned." The spot goes on to show footage of RFK and the congressman's two legendary great uncles, JFK and Ted Kennedy, and says that for the younger Kennedy, battles for racial justice and healthcare for all are "a fight in his blood."

Markey's campaign, meanwhile, is airing their own commercial that contrasts the senator with Kennedy. After decrying how Kennedy is attacking the incumbent, the narrator quotes from the Boston Globe's Markey endorsement. The narrator reads how the senator has "been ahead of the curve championing progressive causes," while Kennedy "lacks the chops and track record Markey brings."

Markey's allies at United for Massachusetts are also up with a spot that also quotes the Globe endorsement, though it doesn't mention Kennedy. The ad extols Markey as "a progressive champion with chops" who has been "achieving real results on healthcare and the environment." The commercial also features images of Markey with two of his most prominent supporters, fellow Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

This has been a very expensive contest. From July 1 to Aug. 12 (the time the FEC defines as the pre-primary period), Markey outraised Kennedy $1.4 million to $930,000, while Kennedy outspent the incumbent $4.3 million to $2.8 million during this time. Markey had a $3.5 million to $1.4 million cash-on-hand edge for the homestretch.

NH-Sen: Saint Anselm College's new poll of the Sept. 8 GOP primary finds wealthy attorney Corky Messner, who is Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, with a 31-29 edge over retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc. A late June Remington Research poll for Bolduc had Messner up 17-8, while a mid-July Tarrance Group internal for Messner had him ahead 39-27. The winner will be the underdog against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Gubernatorial

MT-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in covering June 15 to Aug. 15. Democrat Mike Cooney outraised Greg Gianforte $725,000 to $582,000, while the wealthy Republican threw down an additional $1 million of his own money. Gainforte outspent Cooney by a lopsided $1.7 million to $209,000 during this time, though it was Cooney who ended the period with $670,000 to $330,000 a cash-on-hand lead. However, Gianforte likely can afford to do much more self-funding over the next few months.

NH-Gov: Saint Anselm College has released the first poll we've seen of the Sept. 8 Democratic primary, and it gives state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes a narrow 22-19 lead over Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky; an additional 13% say they'd back "someone else," though there aren't any other candidates on the ballot.

Feltes, meanwhile is using his second TV spot to go right after Republican Gov. Chris Sununu over his handling of school reopenings. Feltes appears with his wife and young children and says, "As parents, we just want to know our kids will be safe. That's why it's so distressing that Chris Sununu refuses to even put forward a plan." Feltes continues, "He says nobody has to wear masks. There are no clear guidelines. Teachers are afraid. Why shouldn't they be?"

House

CA-08: The general election for this open 55-40 Trump seat hasn't generated much attention, but Democrat Chris Bubser has released a poll from Global Strategy Group to try to change that. The survey gives Republican Assemblyman Jay Obernolte a 48-38 lead, which Bubser, who is a first-time candidate, argues will dramatically narrow once she gets her name out. The sample also finds Donald Trump ahead only ahead 49-44 in this seat, which contains northern San Bernardino County and the geographically vast, but sparsely populated, High Desert to the north.

Bubser ended June with a small $325,000 to $300,000 cash-on-hand edge over Obernolte, but she'll need much more to effectively communicate her message: Almost all of this seat is located in the Los Angeles media market, where it costs quite a lot of money to air TV commercials.

FL-18: Immediately after Pam Keith decisively won the Democratic primary for Florida's 18th Congressional District, Republican Rep. Brian Mast launched a $150,000 TV buy against her. The commercial, like so many Republican ads we've seen this cycle, ties Keith to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.

The narrator alternates between praising Mast's record and portraying Keith as an extremist, declaring at one point that the Democrat "called all Republicans 'traitors,' 'racist,' 'stupid,' and 'white supremacists.'" Parts of Keith tweets going after Donald Trump and his allies fill the screen, including an October 2019 message written during the House's impeachment inquiry into Trump where she asked, "I wonder if the GOP realizes that an entire generation of Americans is growing up knowing no other version of Republicans than the racist, white supremacist, bigoted, woman-hating, anti-science, delusional, gun-worshiping, treasonous greed-mongers currently on display."

Mast held a huge $1.8 million to $100,000 cash-on-hand lead over Keith on July 29, and he's likely going negative now to weaken her before she can effectively respond. Still, it's a bit surprising that Mast feels he needs to do this, since he's looked safe for a long time.

This seat, which includes the Palm Beach area and the Treasure Coast to the north, moved from 51-48 Romney to 53-44 Trump, and it remained tough turf last cycle. Mast won re-election 54-46 against a well-funded opponent, and according to analyst Matthew Isbell, both Republicans Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis carried it 52-47 as they were narrowly winning the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial contests statewide.

Still, this district could be worth watching this fall, especially if 2020 turns out to be a better year for Florida Democrats than 2018 did, which may be why Mast has decided he needs to take action now.

GA-07: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the far-right Club for Growth has booked $900,000 on TV to attack Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, though there's no copy of the spot yet. The Club is backing Republican Rich McCormick, who badly trailed Bourdeaux $760,000 to $106,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of June.

MA-01: Democratic Majority for Israel recently launched a $100,000 ad buy against Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse ahead of the Sept. 1 Democratic primary, and their newly released commercial attacks him over the condition of the local school system. American Working Families, a PAC supported by labor, also began airing commercials earlier this month going after Morse on this.

DMFI's new campaign is the latest in what has become a very expensive intra-party battle for this safely blue western Massachusetts seat. OpenSecrets reports that, as of Friday, outside groups supporting Rep. Richie Neal have spent a total of $1.3 million, while organizations like the Justice Democrats and Fight Corporate Monopolies have dropped $995,000 to oppose the incumbent.

Neal's campaign also maintains a huge financial edge over Morse, though the challenger has been bringing in a credible amount of money. Morse outraised Neal $470,000 to $360,000 during the pre-primary period, while the incumbent outspent him by a $1.8 million to $490,000 margin during this time. Neal held a $2.8 million to $295,000 cash-on-hand edge for the final weeks of the race.

MA-04: Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss uses his new commercial for the Sept. 1 Democratic primary to contrast his time in the Marines, where he says leadership was "on you," with Donald Trump's refusal to take responsibility for his many failures.

NY-01: In the previous Digest, we wrote that an internal poll for Democrat Nancy Goroff found Donald Trump leading Joe Biden 46-42 in New York's 1st Congressional District. However, those numbers were transposed by the outlet that originally reported the poll. Goroff's poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group, in fact found Biden ahead 46-42.

Ads: The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund is spending $2.5 million on August advertising in seven Democratic-held seats that Donald Trump carried in 2016. Politico provides a breakdown:

  • ME-02 (Jared Golden): $200,000
  • NM-02 (Xochitl Torres Small): $500,000
  • NY-11 (Max Rose): $260,000
  • NY-22 (Anthony Brindisi): $650,000
  • OK-05 (Kendra Horn): $500,000
  • SC-01 (Joe Cunningham): $200,000
  • VA-07: (Abigail Spanberger): $200,000

It is not clear if these buys come from CLF's existing reservations in these seats, or if it's new money. The only spot that is available right now is the group's ad against Horn, which ties her to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Other Races

PA-AG: Josh Shapiro, a rising star in Pennsylvania Democratic politics, won his bid for attorney general 51-49 in 2016 as Donald Trump was carrying Pennsylvania 48-47, but Republicans are hoping to unseat him this fall and regain a seat they'd previously held for decades. Shapiro is only the second Democrat to win this post since it became an elected office in 1980: The first was Kathleen Kane, who decisively won in 2012 but resigned in disgrace in 2016.

Republican nominee Heather Heidelbaugh recently launched what her campaign says is a $200,000 opening ad campaign. Heidelbaugh doesn't mention Shapiro directly in her spot as she talks about her tough upbringing, but her pledge to "serve my full term" was very much a dig at the incumbent, whom politicos widely expect to run for governor in 2022. Indeed, when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who will be termed-out, was asked last year about the contest to succeed him, he pointed at Shapiro and said, "That's my guy right there."

Shapiro held a massive $4.1 million to $210,000 cash-on-hand lead over Heidelbaugh on June 22, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that a group called Commonwealth Leaders Fund has booked a total $435,000 to help the Republican. The PAC, which the paper says has already spent $144,000, has been running commercials that ditch Heidelbaugh's subtlety and tear into Shapiro as "a career politician already looking to run for governor."

Shapiro responded in mid-August with what the Inquirer writes is his first TV spot. The ad says Shapiro is being attacked by dishonest commercials "paid for by people backing the insurance companies' candidate, hack lawyer Heather Heidelbaugh." The narrator goes on to praise the incumbent's service as attorney general, including his high-profile role in "holding Catholic Church officials accountable for covering up sexual abuse."

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