Morning Digest: The top GOP candidate to run Nevada’s elections is an antisemitic Big Lie proponent

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, 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

NV-SoS: Both parties will be fighting hard to win the race to succeed termed-out Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who was the only Nevada Republican to prevail statewide during the 2018 Democratic wave, and with the close of candidate filing on Friday, we now know who all the contenders are. However, while former state Athletic Commission member Cisco Aguilar faces no opposition in the June 14 Democratic primary, Republicans have a seven-way contest that includes a well-connected election denier.

That conspiracy theorist is former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, who challenged Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford last cycle in the 4th District and lost by a 51-46 margin. Marchant, though, responded to that incontrovertible defeat by baselessly claiming he was the "victim of election fraud" and unsuccessfully suing to overturn the results. The ex-lawmaker, who has repeatedly addressed QAnon gatherings, has also said that he would not have certified Joe Biden's victory in the state had he been secretary of state at the time. And as for the endless string of courtroom losses Trump allies were dealt when they sought to undo the 2020 election, Marchant has an explanation for that, too: "A lot of judges were bought off too—they are part of this cabal."

Marchant continued to embrace the far-right last week by letting loose an antisemitic rant against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. "We need to support the people in Ukraine that are not the Biden, the Clintons, the cabal," said Marchant, continuing, "They have patriots like us … that have been oppressed by the cabal, the central bankers for centuries. And that's who we need to support people that were oppressed by the Soros cabal." Yet Marchant is anything but a pariah in today's GOP, as he has the backing of former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is the frontrunner to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Republicans have several other contenders, with the most formidable looking like Reno-area developer Jesse Haw. The Nevada Independent reported in January that Haw, who was appointed to fill a vacant state Senate seat for a few months in 2016, was "expected to bring at least half a million of dollars in campaign cash in the bank." The GOP field also includes Sparks City Councilman Kristopher Dahir, former TV anchor Gerard Ramalh, and former District Court Judge Richard Scotti.

Further below we'll be taking a look at Nevada's other competitive races now that filing has closed. Candidates running statewide or in constituencies containing multiple counties were required to file with the secretary of state, while candidates running for single-county seats, such as the 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts in Clark County, had to instead file with their local election officials.

Redistricting

OH Redistricting: A group of Ohio voters, with the support of Eric Holder's National Democratic Redistricting Committee, filed a new lawsuit on Monday challenging the replacement congressional map that Republicans passed earlier this month. The suit comes after the state Supreme Court ruled on Friday that it could not entertain plaintiffs' objections to the map in a pair of pending cases because it had issued a "final judgment" when it invalidated the GOP's original district lines in January.

In its decision, however, the court noted that plaintiffs were free to bring a new suit targeting the remedial map, which remains heavily gerrymandered in favor of the GOP. Meanwhile, the ACLU of Ohio, which served as counsel in the second case, said that it is "considering next steps."

Senate

IA-Sen: Candidate filing closed Friday for Iowa's June 7 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders here. The Hawkeye State has an unusual law that requires party conventions to select nominees in races where no candidate receives over 35% of the vote in the primary, but that provision is unlikely to come into play this year in any of the contests we'll be watching.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is one of the two longest-serving members of Congress following the death of Alaska Rep. Don Young (Grassley is tied with Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is retiring), is seeking an eighth term in a state that swung hard to the right during the Trump era. The incumbent's only primary foe is 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. Trump himself, though, is supporting Grassley over Carlin, who barely raised any money in 2021.

The frontrunner on the Democratic side looks like former Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who lost a tight battle for a second term last cycle in northeast Iowa. Also in the running are retired Vice Admiral Mike Franken, who lost the 2020 primary for the state's other Senate seat, and Minden City Councilman Glenn Hurst.

MO-Sen: Former Gov. Eric Greitens' ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, accused him of physically abusing both her and their children in 2018, as well as threatening to kill himself, in a court affidavit released Monday in the couple's ongoing child custody dispute. The former governor, who is competing in the August Republican primary for Missouri's open Senate seat, responded by calling the allegations "completely fabricated." His campaign manager also characterized the account as "clearly a politically-motivated attack against him."

In her filing, Sheena Greitens attested, "Prior to our divorce, during an argument in late April 2018, Eric knocked me down and confiscated my cell phone, wallet and keys so that I was unable to call for help or extricate myself and our children from our home." When her mother confronted the then-governor, Greitens continued, her husband said he'd sought "to prevent me from doing anything that might damage his political career."

The alleged incident occurred the month before Eric Greitens resigned as governor while under indictment for purportedly sexually assaulting a woman he was having an affair with and blackmailing her into silence, as well as unrelated charges of computer tampering involving his charity. The tampering charge was dropped in exchange for Greitens’ resignation, while Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker later abandoned the assault and blackmail case saying that, while she believed Greitens' accuser, she did not think she could prove the charges.

Sheena Greitens further said in her affidavit that, during "the spring and early summer of 2018," her husband had threatened to kill himself "unless I provided specific public political support." She continues that "multiple people other than myself were worried enough to intervene to limit Eric's access to firearms on at least three separate occasions, in February, April, and May 2018."

She also added that in June of 2018, the month following his resignation, "I became afraid for my safety and that of our children at our home, which was fairly isolated, due to Eric's unstable and coercive behavior. This behavior included physical violence toward our children, such as cuffing our then three-year-old son across the face at the dinner table in front of me and yanking him around by the hair."

Eric Greitens is currently competing against several other Republicans in the August primary. Donald Trump last week said, in the words of the Washington Examiner, that "Greitens is still in the running for his seal of approval."

NV-Sen: Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto will be a top GOP target in a state that both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden narrowly won, and eight Republicans have filed to go up against her.

The undisputed frontrunner is former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial race 49-45 against Democrat Steve Sisolak and now touts endorsements from Donald Trump and the Club for Growth for his latest bid. Laxalt so far has shown no interest in tacking to the center, and he's repeatedly accused Democrats and the media of exaggerating the Jan. 6 attack, saying in September, "What the media and their left wing allies have done to weaponize this against Republicans and Trump voters is reprehensible."

However, Laxalt still faces a surprisingly well-funded intra-party challenge from Army veteran Sam Brown, though it remains to be seen whether Brown will be able to put up a serious fight. None of the other six Republicans have attracted much attention.

PA-Sen: Self-funding attorney George Bochetto's new commercial for the May Republican primary is entirely devoted to attacking TV personality Mehmet Oz for his "pro-abortion views." Bochetto, who earned all of 1% in a recent Fox News survey, doesn't even appear at all except to provide the legally required "I approve this message" disclaimer at the very end.

WI-Sen: In her second commercial ahead of the August Democratic primary, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski bemoans how prescription drug costs keep rising and declares that it's "[b]ecause Republicans like [Sen.] Ron Johnson—and let's be honest, too many Democrats—don't have the guts to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies. I'm Sarah Godlewski and I will."

Governors

IA-Gov: Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds' sole Democratic foe is Deidre DeJear, who lost the 2018 general election for secretary of state 53-45 against incumbent Paul Pate. DeJear would be the first Black person elected statewide, but a recent poll from Selzer & Company gave Reynolds a 51-43 advantage.

NV-Gov: Steve Sisolak's 2018 win made him the Silver State's first Democratic governor in 20 years, and 16 different Republicans are campaigning to unseat him this year. Most of the field has little money or name recognition, but the Republican side does include a few familiar names.

One prominent contender is former Sen. Dean Heller, who lost re-election to Democrats Jacky Rosen during the 2018 blue wave. Heller, however, has struggled to raise money for his gubernatorial bid. There's also Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who is the top lawman in a county that's home to about three-quarters of Nevada's residents and was the field's best fundraiser in 2021.

Another notable candidate is North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, a longtime conservative Democrat who switched parties just before he launched his new bid. Other contenders to watch are venture capitalist Guy Nohra and attorney Joey Gilbert, who has bragged that he was "definitely on the Capitol steps" on Jan. 6. The only recent primary poll we've seen was an early March survey from the Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling on behalf of the DGA that gave Lombardo the lead with 26%, while Heller and Lee tied for second with 13% each.

NY-Gov: Empire Results, a dark money group run by a longtime consultant to Rep. Tom Suozzi, is running a new commercial for the June Democratic primary that once again amplifies the congressman's attacks against Gov. Kathy Hochul. This time it faults the incumbent for using "state aircraft to travel to fundraisers."

PA-Gov: Pennsylvania Works, which is funded by a DGA affiliate, recently began airing ads touting Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the size of the buy is $1 million.

House

FL-07: Democratic state Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil has announced that she'll run for the state Senate rather than for the open 7th Congressional District.

FL-22: Attorney Chad Klitzman, state Rep. David Silvers, and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis have each announced that they won't compete in the August Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Deutch. The only notable contender remains Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz, who earned Silvers' support.

IA-01: Freshman Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican who won the old 2nd District by all of six votes last cycle, faces Democratic state Rep. Christina Bohannan in a southwestern Iowa seat that Trump would have carried 50-48. Bohannan has no opposition in the primary, while Miller-Meeks should have no trouble getting past her one intra-party opponent.

IA-02: Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson, who unseated Democratic incumbent Abby Finkenauer last cycle in a close race for the old 1st District, now faces Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis in a northeast Iowa seat that Trump would have taken 51-47. Neither Hinson nor Mathis, who were once coworkers at the TV station KCRG (Hinson was a morning news anchor while Mathis hosted the evening news program) have any primary opposition.

IA-03: Three Republicans are competing to take on Rep. Cindy Axne, who emerged from the 2020 elections as Iowa's only Democratic representative, in a district based in Des Moines and southwestern Iowa that Trump would have carried by a tiny 49.2-48.9 edge. The only elected official in the primary is state Sen. Zach Nunn, who is going up against businesswoman Nicole Hasso and Gary Leffler; Leffler, who took part in the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, didn't report any fundraising during his first quarter in the race.

IL-01: While former 3rd District Rep. Dan Lipinski thankfully will not be on the ballot this year, he's endorsing pastor Chris Butler, who shares his anti-abortion views, in the June Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Bobby Rush. Lipinski represented about 10% of the new 1st until he left Congress early last year following his 2020 primary loss to Marie Newman.

NV-01: Democratic Rep. Dina Titus is defending a seat in the eastern Las Vegas area where her party, in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer, cut Biden's margin of victory from 61-36 to 53-45, and eight Republicans are now running against her. The most prominent name belongs to former 4th District Rep. Cresent Hardy, who launched a surprise bid just before filing closed on Friday; only 4% of the new 1st's residents live in the old 4th, but, because both seats are located in the Las Vegas media market, he should be a familiar presence here.

Hardy was a state assemblyman in 2014 when he waged what appeared to be a longshot campaign against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in a seat that Barack Obama had carried 54-44. However, the GOP wave hit Nevada hard, and with a little-known Democrat leading the statewide ticket against popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, Team Blue's turnout was a disaster. Both parties began spending serious amounts of money in the final weeks of the race, but it was still a bit of a surprise when Hardy won 49-46.

Hardy was immediately a top Democratic target in 2016, and state Sen. Ruben Kihuen ended up unseating him 49-45 as Hillary Clinton was taking the 4th 50-45. Kihuen, though, didn't seek re-election after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, and both Hardy and Horsford ended up campaigning for the unexpectedly open seat. Both parties spent huge amounts of money for their rematch, but this time, a favorable political climate helped Horsford prevail 52-44.

Both Titus and Hardy have primaries ahead of them before they can fully focus on one another. Titus' only intra-party foe is progressive activist Amy Vilela, who also ran in the 4th in 2018 and took third place in the primary with 9%. The GOP field includes conservative activist David Brog, who previously ran a group funded by the late casino magnate Sheldon Adelson; Army veteran Mark Robertson; and former Trump campaign staffer Carolina Serrano.

NV-02: Republican Rep. Mark Amodei learned Friday that he'd have the pleasure of a primary fight against Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian, who ended his legendary losing streak last cycle after relocating from the Las Vegas area. Three other Republicans are also running for this northern Nevada constituency that would have backed Trump 54-43, and while none of them look formidable, they could cost Tarkanian some needed anti-incumbent votes.

Tarkanian previewed his strategy in a video posted just before he filed, saying that the incumbent has "voted for amnesty for illegal immigrants, for giving your money to Planned Parenthood, for voting for the $1.5 trillion budget which gave him a 20% increase." The challenger continued, "Mark Amodei was the first GOP congressman to join the Democrats in support[ing] President Trump's first impeachment inquiry, and he also blamed President Trump for Jan. 6."

Amodei, of course, never voted to impeach Trump, but he did piss off conservatives nationwide in September of 2019 when he became the first House Republican to identify as impeachment-curious, saying of the inquiry into Trump, "Let's put it through the process and see what happens." Hardliners immediately called for his ouster, and while the congressman soon protested that "[i]n no way, shape, or form, did I indicate support for impeachment," Trump's campaign notably snubbed the Silver State's only GOP member of Congress by leaving him off its list of state co-chairs for 2020.

Amodei avoided a serious primary fight, but he wasn't done inflaming Trumpists. Right after the Jan. 6 attacks, the congressman told Nevada Newsmakers, "Do I think he (Trump) has a responsibility for what has occurred? Yes." The congressman, though, this time used his interview to say upfront that he'd oppose any impeachment effort, and he soon joined most of his party colleagues in voting against impeachment. Tarkanian, however, is betting those anti-impeachment votes won't actually matter to a base looking to purge the party of anyone who's shown even a hint of disloyalty toward Trump.

NV-03: Democratic legislators sought to protect Rep. Susie Lee in this southern Las Vegas area seat by extending Joe Biden's margin of victory from just 49.1-48.9 to 52-46, but five Republicans are still campaigning against her. The frontrunner appears to be attorney April Becker, who narrowly failed to unseat state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro by a 50.5-49.5 margin last cycle; Becker then tried to challenge her 631-vote loss in court and demanded a "revote," but she failed to get what she wanted. None of the other four Republicans have generated much attention yet.

NV-04: Three Republicans are challenging Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford in a northern Las Vegas area seat where Democratic legislators doubled Biden's margin from 51-47 to 53-45. The only elected official of the trio is Assemblywoman Annie Black, who attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally the preceded the attack on the Capitol. She was later censured by her colleagues on a party-line vote for refusing to comply with the chamber's COVID mitigation rules.

Also in the running is Chance Bonaventura, who works as an aide to another far-right politician, Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore (Fiore herself recent ditched a longshot gubernatorial bid to run for state treasurer instead). Finally, there's Sam Peters, an Air Force veteran and businessman who took second place in the 2020 primary to face Horsford. However, while professional boxer Jessie Vargas announced he was running last year, the secretary of state doesn't list him as a candidate.

NY-01: 2020 2nd District nominee Jackie Gordon has earned an endorsement in the June Democratic primary from 4th District Rep. Kathleen Rice, who represents a seat on the other end of Long Island.

NY-04: Retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice has backed former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen in the June Democratic primary to succeed her in this Nassau County-based seat. The congresswoman's endorsement comes not long after Jay Jacobs, who chairs both the state and county parties, publicly talked down Gillen's chances, though he did not explain his rationale. Rice, though, has made it clear she's not at all a fan of Jacobs: Earlier this month, after the chair implored donors to refrain from contributing to anyone "until we have had an opportunity to discuss the complexities of the race," she responded by tweeting, "No wonder Democrats in Nassau county lose with this kind of leadership."

NY-16: Pastor Michael Gerald last week ended his nascent Democratic primary bid against freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman, telling Jewish Insider, "Rather than crash-landing, I think it was the best thing for me to do." Little-known opponent Manuel Casanova exited the race days later and endorsed Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi, who is now Bowman's only intra-party foe.

SC-07: On Monday, the State Law Enforcement Division confirmed it was investigating allegations leveled by former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride, who said that a blogger named David Hucks tried to bribe him to quit the June Republican primary at the behest of another candidate, Horry County school board chair Ken Richardson. Both McBride and Richardson are trying to deny renomination to Rep. Tom Rice, though they've each been overshadowed in recent weeks by Trump-endorsed state Rep. Russell Fry.

McBride claimed in early March that Hucks told him in a call, "There's an opportunity for you, there's a $70,000 job opportunity for you to step out of this race and support another candidate." Hucks responded both by denying the bribery allegation and that he'd "taken a cent from Ken Richardson." Richardson himself was asked about McBride's claims at a March 7 candidate forum and declared, "I didn't know anything about this until you dropped your bomb. I didn't know anything about it."

Attorneys General

IA-AG: Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat who is already the longest-serving state attorney general in American history, is seeking an 11th term this year. (Miller was elected in 1978, left in 1994 to unsuccessfully run for governor, and regained the post in 1998.) The one Republican taking him on is Guthrie County Attorney Brenna Bird, who previously worked as chief counsel to then-Gov. Terry Branstad.

NV-AG: Democrat Aaron Ford made history in 2018 when he became the first Black person elected to statewide office in Nevada, and two Republicans are now campaigning to unseat the attorney general. Until last month the only contender was Sigal Chattah, an attorney who has sued to try to undermine the state's pandemic response measures and who has complained that the attorney general has done a poor job investigating (baseless, of course) voter fraud allegations. February, though, saw the entrance of Tisha Black, who lost a 2018 race for Clark County Commission and whom the Nevada Independent identified as a former head of a cannabis industry trade group.

Secretaries of State

IA-SoS: Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate has no primary opposition in his bid for a third term, while the Democratic contest is a duel between Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker and Linn County Auditor Joel Miller.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Attorney: Republican Allister Adel announced Monday that she was resigning as the top prosecutor of America's fourth-most populous county, effective Friday, a move that the Arizona Republic writes came after negative attention "over her sobriety and absences from the office, which prompted investigations by the State Bar of Arizona and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors." Her situation grew worse last week when Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked her to provide more information about 180 misdemeanor cases that were dropped because Adel's office failed to file charges before it was too late.

The Board of Supervisors, which appointed Adel in 2019, must choose a fellow Republican to replace her. Adel herself won a four-year term in a close 2020 contest, but it's not clear if her soon-to-be-vacant post will be on this year's ballot or if voters will need to wait until 2024. The paper says that normally an appointed incumbent would be up whenever an election next takes place, but the deadline to turn in signatures for the 2022 cycle is fast approaching on April 5.

Suffolk County, MA District Attorney: Sen. Ed Markey on Monday endorsed Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo in the September Democratic primary, a development that came a week after Markey's home-state Senate colleague, Elizabeth Warren, also backed the city councilor. Arroyo is campaigning as a criminal justice reformer against appointed incumbent Kevin Hayden in a heavily blue county that's home to Boston and the nearby communities of Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop.

Republicans run into early headwinds in two critical Senate races

Last year, Senate Republicans were already feeling so desperate about their upcoming midterm prospects that they rushed to wish Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa a speedy and full recovery from COVID-19 so that he could run for reelection in 2022. The power of incumbency is a huge advantage for any politician, and Republicans were clinging to the idea of sending Grassley—who will be 89 when the '22 general election rolls around—back to the upper chamber for another six-year term.  

GOP fortunes have improved slightly since then, with historical trends improving their midterm prospects since Democrats now control the White House and both chambers of Congress. But the Senate map is still a long ways away from a gimme for Republicans, and several recent developments have brought good news for Democrats. 

The first of those is a new poll from the Des Moines Register showing that nearly two-thirds of Iowa voters (64%) believe "it's time for someone else" to hold Grassley's seat versus the 27% who want to see the octogenarian reelected to an eighth term. Women voters were especially brutal, with seven out of ten saying they were ready to give Grassley the heave-ho.

Grassley's numbers with GOP voters lagged too, with just 51% committing to supporting him again, while just 7% of Democrats and 23% of independents agreed. Grassley's overall job approval clocked in at a meager 45%; it's his lowest level since 1982.

The poll, conducted by Selzer & Co., upends Republican thinking that another Grassley run could help safeguard the seat. In fact, Grassley may be a liability in the general election, or GOP primary voters may choose an alternative. In any case, Iowa's Senate race could prove more competitive than Republicans had hoped. 

Meanwhile, the GOP primary race for North Carolina's open Senate seat has been scrambled by Donald Trump's surprise endorsement of hard-right Congressman Ted Budd, according to Politico. Following Trump's input at the state party convention earlier this month, former North Carolina governor-turned-Senate candidate Pat McCrory rushed to dismiss the endorsement as falling "flat" in the room.

Now, retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr is coming to McCrory's rescue, reportedly arguing both publicly and privately that he is "the only one in the race" who can win the seat statewide. “Pat McCrory has a commanding advantage," Burr told Politico.

Burr, one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump of impeachment charges, also took a swipe at Trump's rationale, or lack thereof.

“I can’t tell you what motivates him," Burr said of Trump. "I’ve never seen individuals endorse a candidate a year before the primary. That’s unusual.”

Judging by Budd's own internal polling, Burr has a point. McCrory enjoys far higher statewide name recognition, and he's leading Budd by about two dozen points, 45%-19%. Another Republican contender, former Rep. Mark Walker, garners just 12% of the vote, with 23% still undecided. 

McCrory, who has been meeting with GOP senators to make his case, is running as an establishment Republican. Budd obviously occupies the Trump lane now. It's a scenario that could easily leave one side or the other feeling resentful depending on which Republican prevails, and any result on the GOP side could wind up depressing at least some general election turnout among Tar Heel Republicans.

But that’s the least of the GOP’s worries, according to McCrory’s camp, which is intent on catastrophizing the ultimate result of a Budd primary win.

“If Republicans want a majority in the U.S. Senate, they will nominate Pat McCrory,” said McCrory adviser Jordan Shaw. “Otherwise, Democrats are going to take this seat and keep the majority."

Morning Digest: Is Charlie Baker vulnerable if he runs again? Don’t bank on this one poll to tell us

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

MA-Gov: YouGov's new poll for UMass Amherst finds Republican Gov. Charlie Baker leading five different Democrats in hypothetical 2022 general election matchups, but not by the massive spreads he's accustomed to. What's more, a huge portion of respondents are undecided in each trial heat, which makes it especially difficult to tell how much danger Baker might actually be in if he were to run for a third term.

First, the numbers, with Baker's share first in each case:

31-28 vs. Attorney General Maura Healey

37-27 vs. former Rep. Joe Kennedy

31-12 vs. former state Sen. Ben Downing

31-17 vs. state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz

31-14 vs. professor Danielle Allen

The only one of these candidates who has announced a bid is Downing, though Allen has formed an exploratory committee. Healey, meanwhile, has been talked about quite a bit as a potential candidate but hasn't said if she's interested, while Kennedy sounds very unlikely to go for it. This is also the first time we've heard Chang-Díaz mentioned as a possible contender. Baker, for his part, has been keeping everyone guessing about his re-election plans.

Campaign Action

However, while YouGov finds Baker leading Healey by just three points and well under 50% against the other four Democrats, there's a big reason to be cautious. In that matchup a plurality of 34% of respondents are undecided (the remaining 7% say they would not vote), a proportion that's even higher in three of the other trial heats, and even in the Baker-Kennedy scenario, 28% still mark themselves as not sure.

All of that makes this poll hard to interpret and therefore not particularly helpful to understanding what the future might hold. Assuming the sample accurately reflects next year's electorate—no easy feat—it's still possible that, this far from Election Day, a huge number of voters really are on the fence and could go either way. However, it's just as possible that YouGov, for whatever reason, isn't doing enough to push respondents to express their preferences.

A considerably larger portion of YouGov's panel, though, did give its opinion of Baker's performance in office, with a 52-39 majority saying they approve. That's a positive number, especially for a Republican in a very blue state, but it's a massive drop from the 68-29 score Baker chalked up in October, the last time YouGov polled him for the school. It's also far lower than what almost every other poll has found since Baker took office in 2015: Last month, for instance, MassInc showed Baker with a 74-20 score.

Events since those two polls were conducted, including Massachusetts' widely panned coronavirus vaccine rollout, may have hurt the governor, but the two pollsters' methodologies may simply be leading them to measure public opinion differently. No matter what, though, we should never let one survey determine our view of a contest. Hopefully, more firms will survey the Bay State in the near future to give us a better idea as to whether Baker remains strong at home or if he really could be in for a tough race if he runs again.

Senate

GA-Sen: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein reports that Republican Rep. Drew Ferguson is considering a bid against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock.

Ferguson, who was elected in 2016 to represent a safely red seat in the southwestern Atlanta exurbs, has not said anything publicly, though unnamed allies tell Bluestein he’s “being pressured by some state and national GOP figures” to run. Bluestein also notes that Ferguson is an ally of former Rep. Doug Collins, who is openly mulling another bid here, though it remains to be seen how that might impact either man’s calculations.

Several other Republicans are thinking about getting in. Bluestein relays that one of those “said to be considering” is businessman Kelvin King, though there’s no other word on King’s interest.

IA-Sen: Retired Vice Adm. Mike Franken, a Democrat who lost last year's primary for Iowa's other Senate seat, told The Gazette on Monday that he's not ruling out a campaign against Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley. Franken said of Grassley, who has not yet said if he'll seek an eighth term, "A lot can happen in six months, but I think the prudent person would expect that he would run again. Betting otherwise would be a fool's pursuit."

Last year, Franken went up against businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, who had the backing of the national Democratic establishment, in a very difficult primary. Greenfield, who decisively outspent Franken and benefited from close to $7 million in outside spending, beat him 48-25 before losing to Republican Sen. Joni Ernst months later.

Governors

AZ-Gov: Former homeland security official Marco López, a Democrat who previously served as mayor of Nogales, on Tuesday became the first notable candidate from either party to announce a bid to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. López, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Mexico, would be the state's second-ever Latino governor following fellow Democrat Raul Castro, who was elected in 1974 and resigned in 1977 to become Jimmy Carter's ambassador to Argentina.

López himself won elected office in 2000 when he was elected mayor of Nogales, which shares a name with its far larger neighbor on the other side of the international border, at the age of 22. After serving in several state posts under Arizona's last Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, López also worked under her at the Department of Homeland Security as chief of staff for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

López, who has spent the last decade as an international business consultant, has also acted as an advisor to billionaire Carlos Slim, who is the richest man in Mexico and one of the wealthiest people in the world. The Arizona Republic, though, writes that López is pushing back on "rumors" that he'd fund his bid with his own money. López instead said he'd be asking for donations, though he doesn't appear to have addressed if he's open to self-funding some of his campaign.

López will likely have company in next year's primary as Team Blue looks to score another win in a state that Joe Biden narrowly carried in 2020. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said about a year ago that she was considering and would likely decide in early 2021, though she doesn't appear to have given any other details about her deliberations since then. A few other Democrats have also been mentioned, though no one else seems to have said anything publicly about their interest.

House

AZ-02: State Rep. Randy Friese confirmed Tuesday that he was considering running to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, in this Tucson-area seat.

TX-06: This week, 22nd District Rep. Troy Nehls became the state’s fifth Republican House member to back party activist Susan Wright in the May 1 all-party primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Ron Wright. Another GOP candidate, former Trump HHS official Brian Harrison, also used his second TV ad to talk about what a “big government” hater he is.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: On Monday, City Councilman Joe Buscaino announced that he would compete in next year's race to succeed termed-out incumbent Eric Garcetti as mayor of America's second-most populous city. Buscaino joins City Attorney Mike Feuer, a fellow Democrat who kicked off his campaign a year ago, in the June 2022 nonpartisan primary, and there are plenty of other politicians in this very blue city who could get in.

Before we take a look at the current and potential fields, though, we'll address why this contest is taking place in an even-numbered year for the first time in living memory. Mayoral races in The City of Angels have been low-turnout affairs for a long time, with only just over 20% voters turning out for the very competitive 2013 contest that Garcetti ultimately won.

But in 2015, voters, albeit on another ultra-low turnout citywide Election Day, overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to require city elections to coincide with federal and statewide races starting with the mayoral race in 2022. In order to align future races to the new calendar, Garcetti successfully competed for a special five-and-a-half-year term in 2017 rather than the standard four-year term his successor will be elected to.

The contest to succeed Garcetti has been underway for some time, as demonstrated by Feuer's announcement in March of 2020. Feuer, a longtime officeholder who was elected city attorney in 2013, used his head start to raise $418,000 through December.

Feuer earned headlines for suing the Trump administration several times during his tenure, but he's also attracted unfavorable attention at home. In October of last year, a state judge ordered the city to pay a $2.5 million fine after ruling in favor of what the Los Angeles Times's Dakota Smith described as a "consulting firm that accused City Atty. Mike Feuer's office of concealing evidence" in a long running scandal involving over-billing by the Department of Power and Water.

Buscaino, by contrast, is a Los Angeles Police Department veteran whom the paper says is "well known to many in San Pedro but is probably less familiar to residents in other parts of the city." Buscaino, who last year was one of just two members on the 15-member City Council to vote against cutting $150 million from the police budget, defended the LAPD this week as the "largest reformed police department in the country." Buscaino also said that he spent his time as a cop "focused on problem solving, on creating partnerships to improve the quality of life here," and that he was in favor of directing more money to social services.

There are plenty of others who may run as well. Smith reports that two influential business figures, Central City Association head Jessica Lall and mall developer Rick Caruso, are both thinking about getting in. City Councilman Kevin de León, who waged an unsuccessful 2018 intra-party bid against Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and fellow City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas also have not ruled out running.

Seattle, WA Mayor: Former City Councilman Bruce Harrell announced Tuesday that he would run in this year's race to succeed retiring Mayor Jenny Durkan. Harrell is a relative moderate by the standards of this very blue city, and The Stranger's Nathalie Graham characterizes him as the type of "pro-business candidate the Seattle business community could get behind."

Harrell previously ran for this post in 2013 and took fourth in the top-two primary. In 2015, after the city began electing its councilmembers in district-level races instead of entirely citywide, Harrell competed for a South Seattle seat and won by a tight 51-49 margin. He then went on to serve as interim mayor for a week after incumbent Ed Murray resigned in disgrace in 2017, which made Harrell Seattle's first Asian American mayor and second Black leader.

In 2018, Harrell served as president of the City Council when it unanimously passed a new tax on large employers. Harrell, though, voted along with most of his colleagues to repeal the law just a month later in the face of business pressure, and analysts attributed the entire matter to the City Council's poor ratings in polls. Harrell, who retired in 2019, kicked off his new campaign by arguing that local leadership was failing and it was time to "change the way we do things, radically."

Harrell joins a field that includes Council President Lorena González and Chief Seattle Club Executive Director Colleen Echohawk, either of whom would be the first woman of color to serve as mayor. The filing deadline is in late May for the August nonpartisan top-two primary.

Other Races

Nassau County, NY Executive: On Monday, Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman launched his bid against Democratic incumbent Laura Curran with the support of the Nassau County Republican Party. No other notable Republicans have shown any obvious interest in competing here ahead of the April 1 filing deadline, so it would be a big surprise if Blakeman faces any serious opposition in the June party primary. The general election to lead this suburban Long Island county of 1.4 million people will take place in November.

Nassau County backed Joe Biden 54-45 last year, but Republicans are hoping that Blakeman will help them return to power down the ballot. As Steve Kornacki described in an excellent 2011 piece in Politico that remains one of our favorite articles about local politics anywhere, the local GOP spent decades in complete control over the county until it was brought down by corruption, infighting, and the electorate’s gradual shift to the left. Democrat Tom Suozzi finally broke the GOP's long stranglehold on the county executive's office in 2001, and he won re-election four years later.

But in 2009, with the Great Recession hurting Democrats nationwide, the GOP unexpectedly regained control over Nassau County when Ed Mangano unseated Suozzi by 386 votes. Suozzi sought a comeback in 2013, but Mangano defeated him 59-41 in another contest that foreshadowed the national Democratic Party's problems for the following year. (Suozzi would resurrect his political career in 2016 when he won a seat in Congress.)

However, scandal would again plague the Nassau County GOP. Mangano was indicted on federal corruption charges in 2016, and local Republicans successfully pressured him not to seek a third term in 2017. (Mangano was found guilty after leaving office, but his team is trying to overturn the verdict.) Curran went on to retake the executive office for Team Blue by beating the Republican nominee, former state Sen. Jack Martins, in a close 51-48 contest, but the GOP still controls the gerrymandered county legislature 11-8.

That brings us to 2021, where Team Red is turning to Blakeman to beat Curran. Blakeman is a longtime figure in New York politics, where he’s had some decidedly mixed success at the ballot box. Blakeman most notably was the 2014 GOP nominee for the open 4th Congressional District, a Nassau County-based seat that Barack Obama had carried 56-43 two years before. Major outside groups on both sides largely bypassed the contest, but the GOP wave helped Blakeman hold Democrat Kathleen Rice to a 53-47 win. In 2015, Blakeman bounced back by winning a seat on the governing body of Hempstead, a massive town with a population of about 765,000.

Data

Presidential Elections: Daily Kos Elections' Stephen Wolf has compiled a spreadsheet with the results of every presidential election by state from 1828 through 2020. The spreadsheet additionally includes calculations of the results for each of the country's four major geographic regions, and it also includes a "partisanship score" metric for comparing the result in a state with the national result for a given year. For instance, Georgia had an R+4 partisanship score in 2020 because Joe Biden's 0.2-point margin of victory there was roughly four points more Republican than his national victory margin, and it had a W+5 score in 1840 because Whig President William Henry Harrison carried the state by five points more than his national victory margin.

Grab Bag

Podcasts: Daily Kos political director David Nir just appeared on pollster Zac McCrary's brand-new podcast, Pro Politics, to discuss his own journey into politics and the rise of the progressive netroots, which (as Zac puts it) morphed over the course of two decades from "a ramshackle group of political junkies" running small-time blogs into "one of the pillars of the Democratic political universe."

Among the many topics they covered: How being the child of a Holocaust survivor has informed who David is … why seeing a Geraldine Ferraro rally in 1984 was an ill omen for the ticket’s chances … the candidate who taught David to avoid getting too attached to any individual politician … how David made the decision to forego a legal career to plunge full-time into politics… and the story of Daily Kos and the rise of Jon Ossoff—and the death of the IDC.

You can find the recording here for all formats, and if you enjoy this kind of shop-talk with political professionals, you can also follow Pro Politics on Twitter.

Morning Digest: What if the GOP held a convention but no one remembered to rent the parking lot?

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

VA-Gov: On Tuesday, the Virginia Republican Central Committee held another contentious meeting during which its members voted to nominate their 2021 candidates for statewide office at a May 8 convention in the parking lot of Liberty University … but they seem to have failed to tell their would-be hosts. The evangelical school put out a statement the following day saying it had yet to agree to hold the event at all and that GOP leaders had not even informed it about the date of the gathering.

The institution instead said that it had notified GOP leaders that it would "consider" hosting the event, "provided that full rental cost for the use was paid." That could be a real concern, since the state party had all of $1,514 in the bank at the end of 2020. (Democrats, who will pick their nominees in a traditional June primary―an event that will be paid for by the state and open to any eligible voter―were flush.) It's too late for Republicans to reverse themselves, though, because Tuesday was the deadline for parties to notify Virginia election authorities that they'd like to hold a primary.

Old Dominion Republicans were already dealing with serious agita even before Liberty raised a stink on Wednesday, since many prominent officials were very unhappy that a small group of delegates would choose the party's nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.

Campaign Action

Earlier this week, in fact, the GOP's last three governors―Bob McDonnell, Jim Gilmore, and George Allen―unsuccessfully tried to persuade party leaders to instead hold a "firehouse primary." Under such an arrangement, the party would have set up a single polling place in each county—vastly fewer than the number of voting locations in a regular primary, but more than the single statewide site that the GOP settled on. A firehouse primary also would have allowed all voters to participate.

Instead, officials announced that party-approved delegates would gather on May 8 in the parking lot of Liberty University, the school that was led by Jerry Falwell Jr. until he resigned in disgrace in August. Because of the pandemic, the delegates will fill out a ranked-choice ballot from their cars―if Liberty actually lets them camp out there, that is.

Even before Liberty's statement, GOP leaders admitted that they hadn't figured out all the logistics for this year's convention yet, with the Virginia Mercury's Ned Oliver writing, "There were also questions about whether spreading convention delegates out through multiple parking garages and surface lots across a college campus would meet the party's definition of an assembled convention."

Other Republicans also worried that the event will exclude anyone who can't make it to Lynchburg, a city that has lovely views of the Blue Ridge Mountains but is far from most of Virginia's major population centers. Another Mercury reporter, Graham Moomaw, tweeted that one official asked if delegates from Tangier Island, a small and heavily Republican community in the Chesapeake Bay that isn't connected to the rest of the state by land, were "supposed to float to Lynchburg for this big convention."

Roanoke Times reporter Amy Friedenberger responded, "The James River will get them there. Might have to leave a week or so early." However, if party leaders can't reach a deal with Liberty, they may not need to put on their swim trunks after all.

Senate

AL-Sen: Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell told The 19th News this week that she'd decide "very soon" whether she would run for Alabama's open U.S. Senate seat.

IA-Sen: Apparently, Chuck Grassley is just going to mess with us for as long as he feels like. The seven-term Republican said on Wednesday that he'd make a decision about whether to seek re-election "sometime in September, October or November," even though earlier this month he said an announcement was "several weeks off," which followed a January statement that he'd make up his mind in "several months," which in turn superseded remarks from last year in which a reporter said he'd decide "eight months to a year before the 2022 election."

GA-Sen: With David Perdue now safely out of the way, a variety of Republicans are popping their heads up to express interest in challenging Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock next year. In addition to the two big names already on the list, former Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former Rep. Doug Collins, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein catalogs a whole host of alternatives:

  • Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan: A close Loeffler ally and former minor-league pitcher for the Florida Marlins, Duncan said he might run for Senate, seek re-election to his current job, or simply retire from politics altogether
  • Attorney General Chris Carr: Bluestein calls him a "mainstream conservative" and says he "hasn't ruled it out"
  • Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black: No word on his interest, but he's a longtime Collins supporter so likely wouldn't run if Collins does
  • Attorney Randy Evans: A former ambassador to Luxembourg under Trump who is reportedly considering
  • Businessman Kelvin King: Hasn't commented but is "one of Trump's most prominent Black supporters in Georgia"
  • Justice Harold Melton: Stepping down as chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court on July 1, but Bluestein says "he's not likely to run" and a backer says "he's had no serious conversations" about the race
  • Former NFL star Herschel Walker: A favorite of pundits, there's no indication that the one-time University of Georgia standout has any desire to run for office—and he lives in Texas

PA-Sen: A spokesperson for former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands confirmed to The Hill this week that Sands is indeed considering seeking the Republican nomination for this open Senate seat. Sands, whom Politico described as "a former socialite, B-list movie star and chiropractor," was a major Trump donor who managed to draw the wrong type of attention both during and after her time as ambassador.

In 2019, Sands banned a NATO expert named Stanley Sloan from an event celebrating the alliance's 70th anniversary for what Sloan characterized as his "critical evaluation of Trump's impact on transatlantic relations." This month, the Office of Special Counsel also concluded that Sands had broken federal law for using her official Twitter account to solicit donations for Trump's 2020 campaign, spread racist conspiracy theories about Kamala Harris' eligibility to serve as vice president, and attack Joe Biden.

Governors

FL-Gov: The Orlando Sentinel reports that state Sen. Randolph Bracy is considering seeking the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. Bracy, who would be the Sunshine State's first Black governor, has used his time in the legislature to champion criminal justice reforms that have mostly failed to advance in the GOP-dominated body. Bracy was also in the news in early 2017 when he expressed interest in a primary challenge against then-Sen. Bill Nelson, though he didn't end up going for it.

MA-Gov: Democrats have speculated for years that Attorney General Maura Healey could run for governor in 2022 whether or not Republican Gov. Charlie Baker seeks re-election, and the talk only intensified this week after Healey made a pair of high-profile visits to vaccination sites. Healey, unsurprisingly, has denied that these stops were, in the words of the conservative Boston Herald, a "precursor to a potential gubernatorial bid," but she doesn't appear to have publicly addressed if she's thinking about running for the state's top job.

Healey, like Baker, is eligible to seek a third term next year, and there's little question she'd win re-election. If she instead ran for governor, though, Healey would almost certainly start the primary as the most-high profile contender in the race: Healey won re-election in 2018 by a 70-30 margin, and she has nearly $3 million on-hand in her state account. Healey would be both the first woman elected to lead Massachusetts (Republican Jane Swift ascended to this office in 2001 but never sought election in her own right), as well as the Bay State's first LGBTQ governor.

MD-Gov: Nonprofit head Wes Moore, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, told Maryland Matters this week that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Moore, who would be the state's first Black governor, did not give a timeline for when he'd decide, though Maryland Matters' Josh Kurtz writes that he's told it would likely be in "mid-to late spring."

Moore is also a nonfiction author whose work includes Five Daysa well-received 2020 book about the 2015 "uprising that overtook Baltimore after the police killing of Freddie Gray." Moore himself has not run for office before, though Kurtz notes that his wife served as a top aide to then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

A number of other Democrats are considering entering the race including Brown, who lost the 2014 contest to Hogan but was elected to the U.S. House two years later. For now, though, the only two announced candidates are Comptroller Peter Franchot, who recently received an endorsement from the Laborers' International Union of North America, and former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain.

NY-Gov: This week, Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin confirmed that he was considering a bid for governor.

House

CT-02: Republican state Rep. Mike France announced Tuesday that he would take on Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney. France is Courtney's most prominent opponent since 2006, when the Democrat first won his seat by ousting Republican Rep. Rob Simmons by 83 votes, but he'll still have a very tough time prevailing in an area that almost always favors Democrats: While this eastern Connecticut seat backed Hillary Clinton only 49-46, it returned to form last year and supported Joe Biden 54-44.

France, whom the CT Post's Emilie Munson notes was one of only eight lawmakers to vote no on a 2017 law to ban gay conversion "therapy," also doesn't seem at all interested in moderating himself. He opposed a 2019 bill that would have removed the state's religious exemption to mandatory immunizations for public school students―legislation that, unfortunately and ironically, failed to advance after the coronavirus pandemic overshadowed everything else.

France used the crisis to try to further undermine public health by challenging Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont's emergency powers in court, arguing the state wasn't facing a "major disaster." A judge dismissed France's lawsuit a few months later.

IL-16: Former Trump administration official Catalina Lauf announced Tuesday that she would challenge Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who infuriated conservatives nationwide by voting to impeach Donald Trump, for the Republican nomination. This seat, which is based in north-central Illinois, supported Trump 57-41 last year, but no one knows what this turf will look like after redistricting.

Lauf campaigned against Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood last year in the neighboring 14th District, but Lauf's bid came to an end after she took a close third place in the crowded primary. The self-proclaimed "anti-AOC" remained popular with national Republicans, though, and Lauf appeared in a convention video months later with her sister and proclaimed, "We come from Spanish descent and we're millennial women and that's not what the media wants."

TX-06: Republican activist Susan Wright announced Wednesday that she would compete in the May 1 all-party primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Ron Wright. Susan Wright served as a district director for two state representatives, and she also holds a post on the State Republican Executive Committee.

Wright is the first notable Republican to enter the race ahead of the March 3 filing deadline, but she's likely to have company. State Rep. Jake Ellzey, who lost the 2018 open seat runoff to Ron Wright, filed paperwork with the FEC this week.

Katrina Pierson, who was a prominent spokesperson for Trump in 2016 and 2020 and has spent the last few months spreading conspiracy theories about Joe Biden's win, also said over the weekend that she was thinking about running. Before she entered Trump's orbit, Pierson ran in the 2014 primary against incumbent Pete Sessions in the 32nd District, another seat in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and lost 64-36. (Sessions now represents a third seat, the 17th District.)

The Dallas Morning News' Gromer Jeffers also mentions state Rep. Tony Tinderholt as a possible Republican candidate as well as Dan Rodimer, who was Team Red's 2020 nominee for Nevada's 3rd District. This is the very first we've heard of Rodimer, whose active Twitter account continues to list his location as Las Vegas, campaigning in another state.

On the Democratic side, 2020 nominee Stephen Daniel said Tuesday that he would not run. Jeffers, meanwhile, mentions former Homeland Security official Patrick Moses, who works as a minister, as a potential candidate.

WA-03: Three Republicans recently announced campaigns against Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January, though it remains to be seen if any of them are capable of running a serious campaign. The field consists of Navy veteran Wadi Yakhour, who worked on the Trump campaign; evangelical author Heidi St. John; and Army veteran Joe Kent.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special runoff election in Texas.

TX-HD-68: Republican David Spiller defeated fellow party member Craig Carter 63-37 to win this North Texas seat. Spiller's victory puts this chamber at full strength for the current legislative session, with Republicans in control 83-67.

Other Races

SD-AG: A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the South Dakota legislature have advanced articles of impeachment against Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg after he was charged with three misdemeanors following a deadly car crash in which he struck and killed a man walking on the side of a highway last September.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has also called on Ravnsborg to resign and amped up the pressure on Tuesday by releasing two videos of interviews law enforcement officials conducted with him. In one, an investigator questioned Ravnsborg's claim that he was unaware he'd hit a person—he said he thought he'd run into a deer—by noting that the state Highway Patrol had found the victim's glasses inside Ravnsborg's vehicle. "His face was in your windshield, Jason. Think about that," said one detective.

A spokesperson for Ravnsborg has said the attorney general will not resign. A simple majority in the state House would be necessary to impeach him, and two-thirds of the state Senate would have to vote to convict him in order to remove him from office. In the event of a vacancy, Noem would name a replacement.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: On Tuesday, federal Judge Marcia Cooke ordered former Rep. David Rivera, a Florida Republican who has been accused of being part of a mind-boggling number of scandals, to pay a $456,000 fine to the FEC for illegally funneling $76,000 to prop up a straw candidate named Justin Lamar Sternad in the 2012 Democratic primary. Sternad and Rivera consultant Ana Alliegro were previously convicted for their role in the scheme, but the Miami Herald notes that this is the first time the ex-congressman has been penalized for this matter.

Cooke wrote, "Perhaps by virtue of the Court barring Rivera from engaging in similar unlawful conduct in the future, 'that will do the trick' in convincing Rivera — a former U.S. Congressman — to stop violating the law." Rivera is currently under FBI investigation as part of an unrelated scandal involving Venezuela's socialist government.

A few Republicans furrow their brows over Trump’s inspectors general purge

Donald Trump’s firing of two inspectors general and public attack on a third, amid reports that he plans a broader purge of inspectors general, is drawing bipartisan concern—for now, anyway. 

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is working on a letter asking Trump to explain his firing of Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community IG who referred the Ukraine call whistleblower’s report to Congress, helping to trigger Trump’s impeachment. Of course, that right there is the explanation for Trump’s firing of Atkinson, so asking for information is kind of performative. Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins are backing Grassley’s letter—but we know that only one of those three people has any possibility of actually standing up to Trump rather than plastering on a furrowed brow and folding.

“It is our responsibility to confirm that there are clear, substantial reasons for removal,” a draft of Grassley’s letter viewed by The Washington Post says. Which there are! They’re just totally corrupt reasons. And since every Senate Republican but one has let Trump know that they will never put any teeth in their concerns about him, he can safely ignore this like he has every other attempt at congressional oversight.

Trump also fired the acting inspector general for the Pentagon just before he was to take a position heading the panel conducting oversight of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus. You know, the one where Trump claimed “I’ll be the oversight” amid concerns that he would use the money as a slush fund to reward allies.

Additionally, he publicly attacked Christi Grimm, the Health and Human Services inspector general who issued a coronavirus response report that didn’t make the Trump administration look great.

Democrats are drafting bills to strengthen oversight of coronavirus stimulus funds and to protect inspectors general from firing without “evidence-based good cause,” in addition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s formation of a select committee to look into the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic by issuing subpoenas that will be ignored.

Donald Trump is a corrupt and lawless president and he intends to use this crisis to free himself further from accountability and oversight.

Senate Intelligence chair warns fellow Republicans that Biden probe is playing into Russia’s hands

Top Senate Republicans are moving ahead with an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, despite being warned by the Republican chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee that they may be playing directly into Russia’s hands.

Sens. Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley, the heads of the Senate Homeland Security and Finance committees, are targeting Biden as a continuation of Donald Trump’s efforts to rig the 2020 elections. On December 5, Politico reports, Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr told them that such an investigation could boost Russia’s efforts to destabilize the U.S. political system.

No less a Trump sycophant than Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, echoes Burr’s concerns. “Any documents coming out of the Ukraine against any American, Republican or Democrat, need to be looked at by the intelligence services, who has expertise I don't because Russia is playing us all like a fiddle,” Graham said in early February. His committee is not joining the investigation into Biden.

Grassley, who refused to back impeachment trial witnesses, isn’t ruling out issuing subpoenas in this baseless and politically motivated investigation—an investigation Republicans didn’t launch when or anytime soon after Hunter Biden joined the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma because they weren’t interested in damaging Joe Biden’s electoral prospects at that point. 

”We wait until we get all the information,” Grassley said. “I don’t want to threaten subpoenas until I know that they’re going to be used.” Presumably “all the information” includes whether Joe Biden looks like he could still become the Democratic presidential nominee.

Senate Republicans are not bothered one bit as Trump’s abuses of power escalate

Donald Trump is going to war with the very idea of equal administration of justice in the United States of America, and the Senate Republicans who voted last week to acquit him of abuse of power are just nodding along, barely even pausing to furrow a brow. Trump has intervened in the sentencing of his old buddy Roger Stone and publicly thanked Attorney General William Barr for doing his bidding. He’s attacked the judge and a juror in the case. These are not trifling matters in a democracy, but Republicans just don’t care.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed it with a simple, “I do not have an opinion on that.” To Sen. John Cornyn, it’s “kind of immaterial” if Trump intervened to reduce a sentencing recommendation for a friend. “It doesn’t bother me at all, as long as the judge has the final decision,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley—of the judge Trump has been working to publicly intimidate. In translation: Trump’s escalating assaults on the rule of law change nothing for Republicans.

The list of Republican senators who just don’t give a damn goes on and on. Sen. Lindsey Graham is “comfortable the system is working,” even though he gave lip service to the principle that Trump shouldn’t be speaking out about specific cases in the courts. Sen. Lamar Alexander said that “politics should never play a part in law enforcement,” without mentioning Trump by name.

Another series of Republicans pretended not to know what the issue was, falling back on the old Paul Ryan favorite, “I don’t know the facts of the case; I haven’t been following it” (this time, that one came from Sen. Ted Cruz). 

The other thing that goes on and on is Trump’s abuse of power. The Washington Post reports that, according to a former senior administration official, when aides try to persuade Trump that he should stay out of legal cases, he says, “I have a right to say whatever I want.” According to that official, “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows that he has more power than anyone else in the government—and when he tweets, everyone has to listen to him.”

A Republican congressional aide told the Post, “It’s like bad weather. Nothing more, nothing less.” Yes, abuse of power and the destruction of democratic norms and institutions is just a little bad weather.

“We cannot give him a permanent license to turn the presidency and the executive branch into his own personal vengeance operation,” Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said Wednesday, addressing his Republican colleagues in a committee meeting. “If we say nothing—and I include everyone in this committee, including myself—it will get worse. His behavior will get worse.” 

Republicans are on board with that, is the problem.

Every day that goes by and every new abuse that Trump commits shows why it's so important to retake the Senate. Please dig deep to defeat vulnerable Republicans in 2020.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden tries to expand Ukraine investigation into an actual Ukraine investigation

In 2016, Sen. Ron Johnson was one of a number of Republicans who signed a letter encouraging the president of Ukraine to fire the country’s prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin. Naturally, that fact has not even been a speed bump in Johnson joining with his colleagues Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley to accuse former Vice President Joe Biden of a nefarious act when he … encouraged the president of Ukraine to fire the country’s prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin.

Back in November, in the midst of the House impeachment hearings into Donald Trump’s extortion and slander plot, the trio of Johnson , Grassley, and Graham began a distraction campaign by demanding documents both from and about Ukraine. This has continued post-impeachment, with the three lickspittles rummaging through Secret Service records to see if they can catch Joe Biden in the act of associating with his own son. 

And now Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden has decided to join them—to dig up documents that Republicans would rather stay buried.

As The Washington Post reported last week, Republican senators were eager to demonstrate that their toadying for Trump didn’t end with their cover-up vote on his removal from office. Johnson, Grassley, and Graham are all well aware that in asking for the dismissal of Shokin, Biden was actually:

Following the instructions of Barack Obama and others at the White House who had repeatedly noted the Ukrainian prosecutor’s obstruction and corruption. Supporting a request from officials of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund who saw Shokin’s corruption as a fundamental roadblock to investment in Ukraine. Acting on the request of U.K. prosecutors upset that Shokin would not pursue an investigation into Burisma and other companies at the heart of a possible money laundering scheme.

But just because they know upfront that not only did Biden not take steps to illegally protect his son’s position, but that in helping to sack Shokin, he was also actually putting his son at risk, they are still more than willing to demonstrate that their loyalty to Trump is more important than facts. Or honesty. Or much less any concept of honor.

With that in mind, Buzzfeed News reports that Sen. Wyden has decided it would be a good thing to just open up this investigation and request a few more documents that don’t involve Hunter Biden’s airline records or what Joe Biden ate for lunch. Instead, Wyden sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directing him to turn over everything that the State Department has on Ukraine policy, both under President Obama and under Trump. That includes records of the department’s interactions on Ukraine with individuals such as Rudy Giuliani and his friends Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

Wyman’s letter makes it clear that he understands the purpose behind the much more limited requests made by Johnson, Grassley, and Graham. By restricting their search to a handful of Biden-related documents, the Republicans can continue to string together apparent connections by looking at overlapping dates or locations—connections that may, once again, show Joe Biden talking to, or even meeting with, his only surviving son. Which, as far as Republicans are concerned, is somehow much worse than bludgeoning an allied nation into providing political slander through an existential threat.

Or, as Wyden writes in his letter, “I am concerned that, in the absence of additional information … the Department's production of information requested by the Senate Committees could create an incomplete and biased record of the State Department's activities related to Ukraine.”

It can. And it still will. Because there’s almost no doubt that Pompeo, along with Attorney General William Barr, will find that the requests from the Republican senators are urgent and proper, completely worthy of their time, and deserving of a response. Wyden, on the other hand, probably forgot a comma in the fourth line, or didn’t use the right form, or … is a Democrat. If Pompeo needs another reason to ignore a document demand from the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, he can always ask the White House counsel. As these people demonstrated during Trump’s impeachment trial, they’re full of excuses. Or at least full of something.

Republican senators dig through Secret Service records to investigate Joe Biden for … who cares?

As Donald Trump uses the National Prayer Breakfast for its traditional role—declaring vengeance on enemies—Republicans in Congress want to make sure they remain on the good side of the pharaoh. Two Republican senators have now announced that they will be laying their offerings on the altar in the form of a completely pointless investigation of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

Apparently cranking up the Senate impeachment trial into an assault on Trump’s perceived enemies was insufficient. The not-a-trial offered up posters featuring the name of the intelligence community whistleblower, repeated claims about everyone who so much as read the Mueller report, and continued smears of dedicated members of the State Department for expressing concern about actions that were both illegal and threatening to national security. 

But Republicans know that if they want to save their own necks, they need to put some heads on those pikes.

The Washington Post reports that Republicans Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson have already begun digging through documents from the Secret Service to find some hint that Joe Biden’s trips to Ukraine might have overlapped with his son’s visits to the country. Or that the two of them might have met elsewhere … because what could be more suspicious than a father willingly spending time with his son for non-business purposes? It’s certainly not a problem that afflicts Trump. This report follows a letter issued last week in which Grassley and Johnson called on William Barr to get right onto investigating Joe Biden for carrying out the orders of the U.S. government.

Grassley, who voted to remove Bill Clinton after giving a lengthy speech about the importance of protecting the government from any whiff of wrongdoing, didn’t even consider asking for so much as a witness against Trump. But Johnson’s level of hypocrisy in this event may be record breaking.

Not only has Johnson been deeply involved in the Ukraine plot from the beginning, including spreading rumors against Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and urging that she be dismissed, but he was one of those who signed a bipartisan letter in 2016 calling for the removal of the same corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor who Republicans are now treating as champion unfairly removed.

Not only was the removal of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin a bipartisan request for senators looking at corruption in Ukraine, it was a request made by both the International Monetary Fund and prosecutors in the U.K. specifically because Shokin refused to go after companies whose actions appeared to be violating international law—including Burisma. Shokin was not investigating Burisma, the company where Hunter Biden worked. That fact has been confirmed both by Ukrainian records and statements from Shokin himself. By removing Shokin, Biden was actually raising the possibility that a new, less-corrupt prosecutor might actually follow through and do an investigation. Far from protecting his son’s job, Biden’s actions put that job at risk.

None of that matters. Because Grassley and Johnson aren’t interested in finding the truth. They’re not even interested in finding useful slander—Republicans just make that stuff up themselves these days. The “investigation” into Joe Biden exists only to show that Grassley and Johnson are good followers of Trump, with not a hint of dignity or character. In other words, perfect senators.

14 Republicans who voted to impeach, convict, and remove Clinton will vote to acquit Trump today

This afternoon, Senate Republicans will vote almost certainly with unanimity to acquit Donald Trump of the charges included in two impeachment articles brought against him—abuse of power and obstruction of justice. If that acquittal wasn’t already completely obvious, all doubt was removed last night by the enthusiastic fawning over the lawless Donald J. Trump’s spew of fabrications, exaggerations, and braggadocio in a speech of vindication and denial applauded by men and women who really, clearly don’t care about the gaping wound their decision will leave in constitutional norms. Not yet fatal to democracy, but this gives Trump the freedom to do something that could be.

Fourteen of those Republican senators who will vote today also voted on the impeachment of Bill Clinton 21 years ago. Eight of them, then members of the House, voted in favor of two articles of impeachment—perjury and obstruction of justice for lying under oath. Six others, who were already in the Senate then and still are, voted to convict Clinton. As you might guess, they had very different things to say about impeachment and what was impeachable at the time than they have said lately.

Below are some of their remarks during Clinton’s impeachment.

First, a look at the eight current Republican senators who were members of the House in 1998-99. All eight voted in favor of the articles of impeachment against Clinton.

Roy Blunt (Missouri)

"No president can be allowed to subvert the judiciary or thwart the investigative responsibility of the legislature," Blunt said, adding that Clinton had committed "serious felonious acts that strike at the heart of our judicial system. [...] Violating these oaths or causing others to impede the investigation into such acts are serious matters that meet the standard for impeachment."

Mike Crapo (Idaho)

"Our entire legal system is dependent on our ability to find the truth. That is why perjury and obstruction of justice are crimes," Crapo said. "Perjury and obstruction of justice are public crimes that strike at the heart of the rule of law — and therefore our freedom — in America."

Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)

He was one of the House impeachment managers in Clinton’s trial. "He doesn't have to say, 'Go lie for me,' to be a crime. He doesn't have to say, 'Let's obstruct justice,' for it to be a crime. You judge people on their conduct, not a magic phrase," Graham said. “[Impeachment is] not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office."

Jerry Moran (Kansas)

"I choose to be on the side that says no person is above the law; that this is a nation of laws, not men; that telling the truth matters; and that we should expect our public officials to conduct themselves in compliance with the highest ethical standards," Moran said.

Rob Portman (Ohio)

Portman said, “For myself, I believe the evidence of serious wrongdoing is simply too compelling to be swept aside. I am particularly troubled by the clear evidence of lying under oath in that it must be the bedrock of our judicial system.” He followed up with a press statement after he had voted, saying: “Committing perjury, obstructing justice and abusing the power of the presidency violate the rule of law that all citizens—even the president—must obey.”

John Thune (South Dakota)

Thune said, "There is one standard of justice that applies equally to all, and to say or do otherwise will undermine the most sacred of all American ideals. President Clinton has committed federal crimes, and there must be a reckoning, or no American shall ever again be prosecuted for those same crimes."

Richard Burr (North Carolina)

Burr said, "The United States is a nation of laws, not men. And I do not believe we can ignore the facts or disregard the constitution so that the president can be placed above the law."

Roger Wicker (Mississippi)

Wicker said that if Clinton urged Monica Lewinsky to lie, it "would amount to a federal felony, and that would mean serious, serious problems for President Clinton."

And here are the six Republicans who were in the Senate in 1998-99 and voted to convict Clinton:

Chuck Grassley (Iowa)

Grassley said that Clinton's “misdeeds have caused many to mistrust elected officials. Cynicism is swelling among the grass roots. His breach of trust has eroded the public's faith in the office of the presidency." The "true tragedy" of the case, he said, was "the collapse of the president's moral authority." He co-signed a statement during the impeachment proceedings pointing out that federal law "criminalizes anyone who corruptly persuades or engages in misleading conduct with the intent to influence the testimony of any person in an official proceeding."

Mike Enzi (Wyoming)

Bill Clinton "was intending to influence the testimony of a likely witness in a federal civil rights proceeding," Enzi said. "President Clinton was, in fact, trying to get Betty Currie to join him in his web of deception and obstruction of justice."

Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma)

Along with five other Republican senators, including Jeff Sessions and Pat Roberts, Inhofe signed a statement during the impeachment proceedings nothing that federal law "criminalizes anyone who corruptly persuades or engages in misleading conduct with the intent to influence the testimony of any person in an official proceeding."

Mitch McConnell (Kentucky)

McConnell said in a statement, "Do we want to retain President Clinton in office, or do we want to retain our honor, our principle, and our moral authority? For me, and for many members in my impeachment-fatigued party, I choose honor." He added, "The president of the United States looked 270 million Americans in the eye, and lied, deliberately and methodically. He took an oath to faithfully execute the laws of this nation, and he violated that oath. He pledged to be the nation's chief law enforcement officer, and he violated that pledge. He took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and he willfully and repeatedly violated that oath."

Pat Roberts (Kansas)

In a statement, Roberts said that Clinton had sought to block the investigation into his actions. "Do these actions rise to the level envisioned by our founding fathers in the Constitution as 'high crimes and misdemeanors' so warranting removal from office? Our Constitution requires that the threshold for that judgment must be set by each senator sitting as a juror. Again, I believe an open-minded individual applying Kansas common sense would reach the conclusion that I reached."

Richard Shelby (Alabama)

The senator said after voting, “After reviewing the evidence, I believe that the House managers proved beyond a reasonable doubt that President Clinton obstructed justice. Therefore, I voted for his conviction and removal for the offenses charged in Article II. However, I do not believe that the House managers met the legal requirements of proving perjury beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, I voted against conviction and removal for the offenses charged in Article I.”

For your reading displeasure, let me also include the words of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, since he could return to the Senate next year:

It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that President William Jefferson Clinton perjured himself before a federal grand jury and has persisted in a continuous pattern of lying and obstructing justice. The chief law enforcement officer of the land, whose oath of office calls on him to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, crossed the line and failed to defend and protect the law and, in fact, attacked the law and the rights of a fellow citizen. Under our Constitution, equal justice requires that he forfeit his office. For these reasons, I felt compelled to vote to convict and remove the President from office. ...

“It is crucial to our system of justice that we demand the truth. I fear that an acquittal of this president will weaken the legal system by providing an option for those who consider being less than truthful in court. Whereas the handling of the case against President Nixon clearly strengthened the nation's respect for law, justice and truth, the Clinton impeachment may unfortunately have the opposite result.