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

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election Recaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poll Pile

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

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

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: GOP tries to boost Oregon Democrat disdained by national party

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

OR-05: A new super PAC called Health Equity Now has launched what appears to be an attempt by Republicans to meddle in Tuesday's Democratic primary in Oregon's competitive 5th District. The group is airing ads designed to boost 2022 nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who is not her national party's preferred candidate.

The Associated Press, citing data from AdImpact, says that the PAC has reserved $350,000 for an ad campaign that began Wednesday. Its commercial declares that McLeod-Skinner is "putting progressive values into action" and says she backs Medicare for All. The spot does not mention state Rep. Janelle Bynum, who has the support of the DCCC, or the Republican they're both hoping to unseat, freshman Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer.

Health Equity Now does not need to disclose its donors until after the primary, but there's a very good reason to think that Republicans are behind the effort: According to Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin, the PAC is using a media buyer that only works for Republicans. In past races, new outfits looking to cause trouble in primaries have often given away their true partisan affiliation through their choice of media firms.

Bynum's camp responded to the development by telling the AP it "certainly looks like there are ties to Republicans." McLeod-Skinner didn't address whether the GOP might be helping her, however, but signaled her agreement with the ad's themes.

"While I’ve never heard of this group and don’t support undisclosed money in our elections," she said in a statement, "it’s absolutely true that I believe everyone should have high-quality, affordable physical and mental healthcare." McLeod-Skinner's own ads, however, have not focused on Medicare for All but rather on abortion and corruption.

While McLeod-Skinner lost to Chavez-DeRemer by a close 52-48 margin in what was a hairy year for Oregon Democrats, her intra-party detractors do not want to give her the chance to avenge that defeat.

Axios reported last year that unnamed party leaders believed that Bynum, who previously defeated Chavez-DeRemer in legislative races in both 2016 and 2018, would be "a more business-friendly candidate better positioned to win swing voters" than McLeod-Skinner.

McLeod-Skinner later was the subject of stories from the Oregon Capitol Chronicle and Willamette Week featuring allegations that she had mistreated her staff, both during previous bids for office and as the city manager for the small Oregon community of Phoenix.

Mainstream Democrats PAC, a group funded by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, has aired ads based around these accusations, including a report that "McLeod-Skinner's driver texted, 'I'm scared she's gonna hit me.'" The candidate has denied the allegations.

Bynum has received outside help herself: Mainstream Democrats and 314 Action have spent a total of $1.2 million to propel her to victory on Tuesday, while Health Equity Now is the first third-party group that's taking action to boost McLeod-Skinner.

Bynum's campaign also enjoys a financial advantage. The state representative outspent McLeod-Skinner $383,000 to $196,000 during the month of April, and Bynum had a $340,000 to $191,000 cash advantage going into the final weeks of the race.

McLeod-Skinner, however, is hoping her own messaging, as well as her name recognition from her last bid, can overcome that deficit. She began airing commercials last week attacking Bynum's voting record in the legislature, including one highlighting that Bynum "was the only vote against giving rape survivors more time to seek justice against their rapists." Regarding that vote, Bynum argued at the time, "It's not popular to protect the accused but it is our job."

The 5th District, which is based in Portland's southern suburbs and central Oregon, favored Joe Biden 53-44 in 2020, but both parties are preparing for a difficult general election. Chavez-DeRemer, who has no primary opposition, had $1.9 million stockpiled as of May 1.

Senate

UT-Sen: Rep. John Curtis' allies at the super PAC Conservative Values for Utah have publicized an early May internal poll from Guidant that shows him leading Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, by a wide 41-15 margin in the June 25 Republican primary.

Two self-funding candidates, former state House Speaker Brad Wilson and businessman Jason Walton, respectively clock in at 9% and 2%, while the remaining 33% are undecided. This is the first poll we've seen of the primary to replace retiring Sen. Mitt Romney since the April 27 GOP convention, which shrunk the number of contenders from 10 to four.

House

CA-16: The California Democratic Party endorsed Assemblyman Evan Low on Tuesday over former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in the all-Democratic general election for this open seat. The party previously backed Rep. Anna Eshoo at its November convention only for her to announce her retirement days later, and it had not issued a new endorsement until now.

CO-03: The Colorado Republican Party has endorsed former state Rep. Ron Hanks, an underfunded election conspiracy theorist, in the six-way June 25 primary for the open 3rd District. The move came one day after the GOP backed former state Rep. Janak Joshi's longshot campaign in the swingy 8th District over the national party favorite, state Rep. Gabe Evans.

In a statement, the party trashed two of Hanks' intra-party rivals, attorney Jeff Hurd and state Board of Education member Stephen Varela. Among other things, it took issue with Hurd for launching a primary challenge to incumbent Lauren Boebert before she decided to run in the more conservative 4th District rather than defend the more competitive 3rd District in western Colorado. (The party is supporting Boebert in her new race.)

It also charged that Hurd had refused to commit to voting for Donald Trump and attacked him for gaining a place on the primary ballot by collecting signatures rather than competing at last month's party convention. It further alluded unhappily to the $200,000 that Americans for Prosperity, a tea party-era group that's now toxic in MAGA world, has spent to help Hurd so far.

Varela, by contrast, won the convention that Hurd skipped, but the party still has grievances to air against him. Its statement alluded to a February story in the Denver Post reporting that Varela was under federal investigation for allegedly misspending his union's money when he led a chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees. It also highlighted an earlier report from 9News noting that Varela had changed his party affiliations 18 times since 2011.

Varela responded by arguing that the party was unwittingly helping the same national Democrats who spent millions last cycle in an unsuccessful attempt to boost Hanks, whom they viewed as a weak potential nominee, in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. (Wealthy businessman Joe O'Dea won the nod but lost badly to Bennet anyway.) Democrats, however, have made no similar effort to promote Hanks so far this year.

MI-08: EMILYs List has endorsed state Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet in the Aug. 6 Democratic primary for this competitive open seat. McDonald Rivet's main intra-party rival appears to be businessman Matt Collier, who served as mayor of Flint three decades ago. State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh is also running, but she's struggled to raise money.

MI-13: Staffers for Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett officially recommended that she disqualify former state Sen. Adam Hollier from the August Democratic primary ballot on the grounds that he failed to turn in the requisite 1,000 valid signatures from voters.

In a report released Thursday, Garrett's team determined that Hollier submitted only 863 acceptable signatures, concluding that the remaining 690 were not usable.

The Detroit Free Press' Clara Hendrickson says that state law requires that this staff report must be made public at least two business days before Garrett makes a decision. Hendrickson adds that "those who disagree" with the clerk's determination may contest it with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson or in court.

Hollier is seeking a rematch against freshman Rep. Shri Thanedar following his close 28-24 loss two years ago, when the safely blue 13th District was open. Thanedar sought to foreclose a second go-round, though, by announcing last month that he was challenging Hollier's signatures on the grounds that many were forged. Garrett's team agreed.

"It was more than obvious to staff that the same hand had completed and signed" several petition sheets, officials wrote in their report. Altogether, the review said that most of the 348 signatures collected by three circulators were suspicious. Other signatures couldn't be accepted for more prosaic reasons, such as the signer not being a registered voter in the 13th District.

Detroit Councilmember Mary Waters is also running against Thanedar, and she would likely benefit if Hollier is disqualified. Waters, though, had just $5,000 in her campaign coffers at the end of March, so she may not be able to put up an effective fight against the wealthy incumbent.

NY-16: AIPAC's United Democracy Project has begun what Jewish Insider reports is a $2 million week-long buy to beat Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the June 25 Democratic primary, with one of its opening ads attacking the incumbent for voting against the Biden administration's priorities.

This messaging may already be familiar to viewers, as Westchester County Executive George Latimer debuted his own ad last week that, like the UDP's, went after Bowman for voting against the 2021 infrastructure bill.

UDP, which is also airing a commercial praising Latimer as a reliable liberal, is the first super PAC to spend a serious amount of money. Bowman, however, was already facing a big advertising deficit: AdImpact said Thursday that Latimer has outspent Bowman $967,000 to $171,000 on ads.

SC-01: A super PAC called South Carolina Patriots has spent a total of $2 million as of Thursday attacking Rep. Nancy Mace ahead of the June 11 Republican primary, which is almost twice as much as the $1.1 million that the Post & Courier reported it had deployed through Sunday. The group has ties to allies of Kevin McCarthy, whom Mace voted to depose as speaker last year.

Altogether, AdImpact writes that $4.3 million has been spent or reserved for ads either attacking Mace or promoting her main intra-party rival, former state cabinet official Catherine Templeton, compared to $2.5 million in pro-Mace advertising. The Trump-backed incumbent's main ally is the Club for Growth, which, according to FEC records, has spent $1 million to help her.

Marine veteran Bill Young is also running, and while he's attracted little attention, his presence on the ballot could prevent either Mace or Templeton from winning the majority of the vote needed to avert a June 25 runoff.

VA-07: The Washington Post, which has a large readership in Northern Virginia, has endorsed former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman in the June 18 Democratic primary for an open seat based in Washington's southern exurbs. The 7th District, which Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger is giving up to focus on her 2025 bid for governor, favored Joe Biden 53-46.

Vindman, along with his identical twin brother, Alexander, was at the center of the scandal that led to Donald Trump's 2019 impeachment. Thanks to the siblings' high profile during that affair, Vindman has been one of the strongest House fundraisers in the nation. He ended March with a massive $1.8 million to $188,000 cash advantage over his nearest intra-party opponent, Prince William County Supervisor Andrea Bailey.

The field also includes Bailey's colleague on the County Board, Margaret Franklin; Del. Briana Sewell; former Del. Elizabeth Guzman, and two little-known contenders. Spanberger has not taken sides in the race to succeed her.

The Post also endorsed Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson for the Republican nomination, though the paper's support was not a sought-after prize for GOP primary candidates even before Donald Trump made it one of his many "fake news" punching bags.

Indeed, one of Anderson's intra-party rivals, Navy SEAL veteran Cameron Hamilton, responded to the development by retweeting messages from the last two GOP nominees, Nick Freitas and Yesli Vega, saying that the Post's endorsement demonstrates that Anderson is the least conservative option. Anderson himself has ignored the development on his social media accounts.

The good news for Anderson is that he already had more valuable endorsements from Speaker Mike Johnson and the Congressional Leadership Fund. Anderson also ended March with a $581,000 to $176,000 cash on hand advantage over Hamilton, while none of the other four candidates had so much as $100,000 available.

VA-10: The Washington Post has also endorsed Del. Dan Helmer in the Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat who is not seeking reelection because of the worsening symptoms of a neurodegenerative disease.

Earlier this week, Wexton backed a different state legislator, state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam, in the 12-way race for the nomination. The 10th District, which is located just north of the 7th, backed Joe Biden 58-40 in the last presidential election.

Helmer ended March with a decisive financial lead over the rest of the field, though his advantage isn't as yawning as Alexander Vindman's in the 7th. Helmer finished the first quarter with an $815,000 to $608,000 lead in cash on hand over Krystle Kaul, a defense contractor who has been self-funding much of her effort.

Subramanyam was just behind with $575,000 banked, compared to $435,000 for former state House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. Former state education secretary Atif Qarni had $208,000 on hand, while state Sen. Jennifer Boysko and Del. David Reid respectively had $172,000 and $109,000.

Judges

GA Supreme Court: A federal court has rejected a lawsuit by former Democratic Rep. John Barrow seeking to block a state panel from policing his statements on abortion as he seeks a seat on the Georgia Supreme Court, ruling that Barrow had failed to show he'd been injured by the board's actions.

The harms Barrow alleged stemmed from a letter that the state's Judicial Qualifications Commission had sent the candidate, warning him that his comments and advertisements expressing support for abortion rights violated the state's Code of Judicial Conduct.

But U.S. District Judge Michael Brown pointed out in his decision that the letter in question was confidential and only became public because Barrow shared it. He also questioned Barrow's claims that his speech might be chilled, noting that Barrow has continued to speak out on abortion.

An attorney for Barrow said the campaign might appeal or file a new suit in state court. Barrow is seeking to unseat conservative Justice Andrew Pinson in an officially nonpartisan election on Tuesday.

Ballot Measures

MO Ballot: A Republican plan to entice voters into curtailing their rights is all but dead after Democrats in the Missouri Senate staged a record-breaking filibuster that forced the GOP to back down on Wednesday. With the legislative session coming to an end on Friday evening, Republicans now have little time to act, buoying Democratic hopes of preserving direct democracy and passing an abortion rights amendment this fall.

Republicans had been hoping to thwart that effort, which would undo the state's near-total ban on abortion, by placing their own measure on the Aug. 6 primary ballot that would make it harder to pass future amendments.

Mindful of the humiliating failure their counterparts in Ohio experienced last year, however, Missouri Republicans sought to add so-called "ballot candy" to their proposal: empty provisions that might entice conservatives to back it despite its deleterious impact on voters' power.

It was these enticements that Democrats objected to vociferously, prompting a 50-hour filibuster that began on Monday. These blandishments included provisions that would ban non-citizens from voting and prohibit foreign donations—things that are already illegal.

Democrats had strong reason to resist, since this tactic had proven successful in the past: In 2020, voters repealed a redistricting reform measure they'd passed in a landslide two years earlier by narrowly adopting a Republican amendment that included some fig-leaf ethics reforms.

Democrats say they are prepared for a fair fight over a candy-free version of the GOP's proposal, which would require amendments to win a majority of the vote both statewide and in five of the state's eight congressional districts.

"I think it will definitely be defeated and defeated resoundingly," Democratic state Sen. Lauren Arthur told Daily Kos Elections on "The Downballot" podcast.

That is, if the measure makes the ballot at all. Republicans brought the Democrats' filibuster to an end on Wednesday by voting to send their amendment to a conference committee with the state House, which previously passed it, complete with candy.

The House, however, voted to reject any such conference that might yield an unencumbered version of the amendment on Thursday afternoon. That means Senate Democrats are certain to resume their filibuster to ensure that the sugar-coated variant doesn't pass, a talk-a-thon they'd need to sustain until 6 PM local time on Friday.

Republicans could still try to break a filibuster by deploying a little-used parliamentary maneuver known as "calling the previous question"—a step that members of the far-right Freedom Caucus have implored their party to take. But more mainstream Republicans have resisted, due both to a bitter split within the GOP and because past attempts have often resulted in even greater dysfunction.

If Democrats stand strong, then, and Republicans remain divided, the GOP would come away empty-handed, and the measure to restore abortion rights would only need a simple majority to become law in November.

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

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

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ballot Measures

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

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

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

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

Obituaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Primary Night: Indiana on Tuesday plays host to a busy downballot primary night, and as always, Jeff Singer has put together an in-depth look at what to watch.

One of the most-watched races will take place in the central part of the state as no-longer-retiring Rep. Victoria Spartz tries to hold off self-funding state Rep. Chuck Goodrich in the GOP primary for the 5th District. But seven other candidates are also on the ballot, so their presence could help Spartz win the plurality she needs to avoid an involuntary retirement.

If Goodrich manages to get past Spartz, though, she'd be just the second House incumbent to lose renomination this cycle. Currently, the sole member of this unhappy group is Alabama Republican Jerry Carl, who lost an incumbent vs. incumbent primary two months ago after redistricting transformed his state's congressional map.

Meanwhile, two former House members―Marlin Stutzman and John Hostettler―are waging comeback bids for open seats on opposite ends of the state. Both men lost the 2010 Senate primary to eventual winner Dan Coats, but this time, they have a similar set of allies and enemies.

Some wealthy donors haven't forgotten how both Stutzman and Hostettler caused trouble for their party's leaders during their first stints in Congress and are hoping to make sure they don't get a second chance to cause chaos. However, one well-known senator from a neighboring state is working to help the two ex-congressmen advance through nasty and expensive primaries.

Check out our preview for much more on these contests and more. We'll be liveblogging all of these races at Daily Kos Elections on Tuesday night, starting when polls close in most of Indiana at 6 PM ET. Join us for our complete coverage!

Senate

MD-Sen: With just a week to go before Maryland's primaries, EMILYs List has come in with a major ad buy to boost Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks past Rep. David Trone for the Democratic nomination for Senate.

According to reports filed with the FEC, EMILYs is spending $1.6 million to air this ad on television and digital platforms, which makes this by far the largest outlay by a third-party group—though still just a fraction of what Trone has put in.

EMILYs' opening spot, which was obtained by Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin, hammers Trone "and his companies" for $500,000 in past donations to "extreme and MAGA Republicans to win their elections."

While the narrator doesn't mention any candidates by name, she specifically calls out Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, saying "the Trump-loving governor signed an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape and incest." She also references former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, noting the state Supreme Court's recent ruling that revived the state's 1864 abortion ban.

The ad goes on to reference a Washington Post article on Trone's history of giving to GOP candidates that was published shortly after he launched his first bid for the House in 2016. Trone, the wealthy founder of the alcoholic beverage chain Total Wine, was blunt in explaining his donations in that piece.

"I sign my checks to buy access," he told reporter Bill Turque. That quote is displayed on-screen as the narrator emphasizes it. In his interview with Turque, Trone added, "We disagree categorically with their political positions on everything social and economic." He responded to the new attack by arguing that EMILY is supported by a Republican donor.

In recent weeks, Trone dumped another $12 million into his own coffers, bringing his total self-funding to $54 million. That puts him second all-time among Senate candidates behind only Florida Republican Rick Scott, who spent $63 million on his successful 2018 bid. Trone, however, has self-funded more in a primary than anyone else on record.

MI-Sen: Self-funding businessman Sandy Pensler has launched his first negative ad in the Republican primary, attacking former Rep. Mike Rogers. Pensler's spot recycles a bogus GOP talking point from yesteryear to ... blame Hillary Clinton for the deaths of Americans in the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. The narrator claims that Rogers, who chaired the House Intelligence Committee from 2011 to 2015, "covered for Hillary then and covers for her now."

VT-Sen: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, announced on Monday that he'd seek a fourth term.

Sanders, 82, is unlikely to face any serious opposition as he's won his three previous campaigns with at least 65% of the vote. Sanders has also always easily prevailed in the Democratic primary before officially declining the nomination, a move that's allowed him to run in the general election without either a party label or a nominal Democratic opponent.

Sanders is the last incumbent senator up for reelection this year to confirm his plans except for New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, who goes on trial for federal corruption charges next week. Menendez declined to participate in the Democratic primary but has said he might run again as an independent.

Sanders was also one of two prominent Vermont incumbents who had yet to reveal if he'd run again in 2024. Local politicos are still waiting for GOP Gov. Phil Scott to announce his plans, though the VT Digger recently reported that he's "widely expected" to seek another two-year term. The filing deadline is May 30 for major-party candidates and Aug. 1 for independents.

WV-Sen: Research America finds Gov. Jim Justice demolishing Rep. Alex Mooney in a 67-23 landslide in its newest poll of next week's Republican Senate primary. But Mooney's prospects were dire even before the publication of this survey, which was conducted for MetroNews and a health insurance provider called The Health Plan, something even his biggest ally has now openly acknowledged.

Club for Growth head David McIntosh tells Politico's Burgess Everett that, while he still believes Mooney is the best choice for Republicans, Donald Trump's decision to endorse Justice in October meant "there wasn't a viable path forward" for the congressman.

The Club's pessimism has long been plain: Everett reports that, according to data from AdImpact, the organization has only spent $1.8 million of the $10 million it publicly promised to expend on Mooney's behalf a year ago.

Governors

DE-Gov: State House Minority Leader Mike Ramone announced Monday that he was seeking the Republican nomination for governor, prompting state GOP chair Julianne Murray to respond by ending her own brief campaign. Ramone is campaigning for an office that Republicans last won in 1988.

NJ-Gov: Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller hasn't entered the 2025 Democratic primary for governor just yet, but a nonprofit he runs called Protecting Our Democracy has begun spending $500,000 on a TV ad that suggests he might do so soon. The spot features Spiller extolling the benefits of democracy, calling it the foundation for "how we create solutions" for issues like investing in education, infrastructure, and housing affordability.

In addition to being mayor of a suburb of 40,000 residents near Newark, Spiller is president of the New Jersey Education Association, which the New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein says is "the state's largest public employee union." Spiller previously opted not to seek reelection in 2024.

UT-Gov: State Rep. Philip Lyman announced Saturday that attorney Natalie Clawson would be his new running mate for the June 25 GOP primary, a move that came one day after a state judge ruled that Lyman's original pick, former Trump administration official Layne Bangerter, did not meet Utah's residency requirements. The new Lyman-Clawson ticket is hoping to deny renomination to Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson.

House

CO-05: Retiring Rep. Doug Lamborn endorsed conservative radio host Jeff Crank on Monday in the June 25 Republican primary to replace him, a move that once would have seemed unthinkable given the nasty battles the pair went through in both 2006 and 2008.

But Lamborn has his own ugly—and far more recent—history with Crank's only intra-party foe, state GOP chair Dave Williams, who tried to unseat Lamborn just two years ago. Crank, meanwhile, sought to play down his past run-ins with the incumbent.

"We were primary foes 18 years ago, but Congressman Doug Lamborn and I became friends and joined forces to support our community," he tweeted.

NJ-10: Newark City Council President LaMonica McIver became the first major candidate to enter the July 16 special Democratic primary to succeed the late Democratic Rep. Don Payne, launching her bid on Monday with an endorsement from Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

The New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein also reports that two other powerful figures in Essex County, County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and party chair LeRoy Jones, agreed to back McIver on Friday. Essex County, which includes Newark, forms 58% of the safely blue 10th District; the balance is split between Hudson and Union counties.

Wildstein adds that Darryl Godfrey, who is the chief operations officer of the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority, is considering running and that a "formal announcement [is] expected to come within the next few days." Pastor Ronald Slaughter, however, said he was supporting McIver rather than running himself. The candidate filing deadline is Friday, so any potential contenders have only a short window to decide.

OR-05: With just two weeks to go before Oregon's primaries, the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer in the swingy 5th Congressional District has turned into a negative affair.

Mainstream Democrats PAC, a group funded by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, is spending at least $750,000 to air a new ad attacking attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who was the Democratic nominee in 2022. The spot focuses on reports that she mistreated her staff during previous bids for office and as the city manager for the small community of Phoenix.

"Fired by City Council for creating a toxic work environment, then five former campaign staffers described her as a 'nightmarish boss,'" says a narrator. "McLeod-Skinner's driver texted, 'I'm scared she's gonna hit me.'" The spot ends by praising state Rep. Janelle Bynum as someone who will "fight to restore abortion rights and restore decency to politics."

McLeod-Skinner is firing back with an attack ad of her own, claiming that Bynum "voted to cut teacher pensions" and says that in the legislature "she was the only vote against giving rape survivors more time to seek justice against their rapists." Regarding the latter vote, Bynum argued at the time, "It's not popular to protect the accused but it is our job."

The voice-over then says that McLeod-Skinner will "ban politicians from stock trading and "[s]tand up to anyone who'd outlaw abortion." There's no word on how much McLeod-Skinner is spending, though new fundraising reports due Thursday night will give us more insight into each campaign's finances.

TX-23: Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales is continuing his TV ad offensive against gun maker Brandon Herrera with a spot portraying his intra-party challenger as hostile to Trumps—yes, plural.

The ad utilizes footage from last year of Herrera saying that Donald Trump "messed up a lot of stuff" and predicting that he'd "win the primary by a landslide and lose the general" in 2024. The commercial then makes use of a March story from the Daily Beast detailing how Herrera mocked 18-year-old Barron Trump, complete with video of the candidate saying, "Daddy is coming, Daddy is angry."

Gonzales and Herrera face off in the May 28 GOP runoff, a contest that the elder Trump has not waded into.

WA-04: 2022 GOP Senate nominee Tiffany Smiley unexpectedly announced Monday that she would wage an intra-party challenge against Rep. Dan Newhouse, who voted to impeach Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 riot. Smiley launched her surprise effort a little more than two weeks after Trump himself endorsed a different challenger, former NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler, in the Aug. 6 top-two primary for Washington's conservative 4th District.

Newhouse himself on Monday made it clear he would seek a sixth term despite what the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner characterized in February as "rampant speculation" he'd retire. The incumbent both filed with the state and issued a statement announcing his reelection campaign while also faulting Smiley for racking up $1 million in campaign debt last cycle.

Smiley, a former nurse and motivational speaker, challenged Democratic Sen. Patty Murray in 2022 and attracted the attention of donors who believed a red wave could carry her to an upset. Smiley ultimately raised $20 million for a quest that, according to several conservative pollsters, had a real chance to succeed in an otherwise blue state.

However, while those GOP firms drowned out numbers from Democrats and non-aligned pollsters showing Murray well ahead, they didn't alter reality. Murray prevailed 57-43 against Smiley, who took to conservative media a few months later to announce that she was forming a new PAC to aid "political outsiders." Brunner reported months later that donations to the group were directed toward paying off the Republican's campaign debt.

Newhouse's 4th District, which is based in the central part of the state, favored Trump 57-40 in 2020; Smiley, according to data calculated by the state, carried it 66-34 two years later. However, it remains to be seen whether Democrats will field a single candidate who would have a strong shot to claim one of the two general election spots, which is what happened in 2022, or if the Democratic field will be split enough for two Republicans to advance. The candidate filing deadline is Friday.

WV-02: Politico highlights that Defend American Jobs, a super PAC with ties to the crypto industry, is spending at least $725,000 on a late ad buy to promote state Treasurer Riley Moore ahead of next week's Republican primary. This is the first major independent expenditure for the race to succeed Senate candidate Alex Mooney, who supports Moore, in West Virginia's 2nd District.

Moore, the grandson of the late Gov. Arch Moore and the nephew of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, is the frontrunner in the five-way primary for this safely red seat in the northern half of the state. (His cousin, former Del. Moore Capito, is taking part in the GOP primary for governor that same day.) However, at least one of Moore's intra-party opponents may be able to put up a fight on May 14.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Chris Walker launched his campaign in January, a kickoff that came well after Moore's entry in November of 2022. Walker, though, hauled in $620,000 from donors through April 24, a notable sum in a relatively short amount of time, while he self-funded another $70,000.

Moore, who had a 14-month head start, took in about $1 million during the entire campaign, but he enjoyed a big $400,000 to $100,000 cash advantage over Walker at the end of the most recent reporting period. A trio of other Republicans are also running, though, and their presence could make it tougher for Walker, who would be West Virginia's first Black member of Congress, to get past Moore.

Attorneys General

VA-AG: Democrat Steve Descano, the top prosecutor in Northern Virginia's populous Fairfax County, has opted against running for state attorney general next year and instead gave his endorsement to former Del. Jay Jones on Monday.

Jones himself has not announced a bid, but Virginia Scope's Brandon Jarvis says that "sources close to" the ex-lawmaker "say he will be running." Jones, who would be Virginia's first Black attorney general, challenged Democratic incumbent Mark Herring in the 2021 primary but lost 57-43. Herring in turn fell to Republican Jason Miyares that November in a nailbiter, losing his bid for a third term by a margin of 50.4 to 49.6.

Miyares is a potential candidate for governor in 2025, but he has not confirmed his plans and could seek reelection. Only one other Democratic name has surfaced so far as a possibility for the attorney general's race, Shannon Taylor, who is the prosecutor for Henrico County in the Richmond suburbs. Taylor had considered a bid in 2021 but opted out after Herring said he'd run again. She has yet to say anything publicly about next year's contest.

Poll Pile

  • CA-27: Impact Research (D) for George Whitesides: George Whitesides (D): 47, Mike Garcia (R-inc): 44

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Morning Digest: A Georgia justice could be the first to lose in over a century

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

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GA Supreme Court: If former Democratic Rep. John Barrow wins his bid for the Georgia Supreme Court later this month, he'll accomplish something no one in the state has managed in over 100 years: unseating an incumbent justice.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, such an event hasn't happened since Richard Russell Sr. beat Chief Justice William Fish back in 1922. (Russell was the father and namesake of the segregationist Sen. Richard Russell, who, as Robert Caro detailed in "Master of the Senate," was a key mentor to Lyndon Johnson.)

Not many justices, though, have ever even been in danger of losing, since it's rare for sitting Georgia judges to face any opponents at all. The AJC noted last month that conservative Justice Andrew Pinson was the only one of four Supreme Court justices and six Court of Appeals judges up this year who drew a challenger, while just five of 122 trial court judges across the state have any sort of opposition.

And most justices haven't even needed to win an election to earn a spot on the high court in the first place. Instead, the vast majority have been appointed to fill vacancies, making open-seat races as uncommon as contested elections.

Sometimes elections don't even happen at all, as Barrow found out the hard way not long ago. That's because justices can time their departure to make sure their successor doesn't even need to appear on the ballot for several years.

Barrow had launched a campaign in 2019 to succeed retiring Justice Robert Benham, who was the last Democratic appointee on the Supreme Court. That election was scheduled to take place the following year, but it was called off after Benham decided to resign rather than serve out his term, thanks to a Georgia law that allows newly appointed judges to spend at least six months on the bench before they have to face the voters.

But Barrow now has the chance to score a historic victory against Pinson on May 21, which is the same day that the Peach State will holds its primaries for other offices. No other candidates are running in this officially nonpartisan race, so this contest will be settled without a November runoff.

While Barrow was one of the more conservative Democrats during his time in the House, which ended following his loss Republican Rick Allen during the 2014 GOP wave, he's focused his comeback bid on his opposition to the state's six-week abortion ban.

"It’s the most important decision the Supreme Court of Georgia is going to make in the next 20 years," he told local Democrats of the ongoing legal challenges to the law. "Politicians shouldn’t be making your personal health care decisions."

Pinson, for his part, has argued he can't talk about issues like abortion that could come before the court. He notably declined to attend a recent debate by arguing his appearance could breach state judicial codes, an argument his opponent was not impressed with.

"The only thing worse than his record is that he’s too chicken to come here and stick up for himself," Barrow said at the event, which proceeded despite Pinson's absence.

A win for Barrow wouldn't change the ideological majority of the nine-person court, as Pinson and almost every other member were appointed by Republican governors. (The one exception is Justice John Ellington, who won a six-year term at the ballot box in 2018 with support from figures in both parties.) Should Barrow prevail, though, it would be another strong sign that Georgia's shift to the left during the last few years isn't over.

Senate

MD-Sen: Rep. David Trone has removed a put-down charging that the Senate "is not a place for training wheels" from a new negative ad attacking his opponent in the May 14 Democratic primary, Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, per a new report from Axios' Stephen Neukam.

Neukam notes that the edit came after more than 650 Black women signed a letter charging that the remark, which was uttered by Prince George's County Council member Edward Burroughs, was "not only disparaging and dismissive but also echoes tones of misogyny and racism." Trone, who is white, used the phrase himself in an NBC interview that aired earlier this week.

Trone's campaign claims the change to his commercial was made because his editors "chose to make a number of additional edits" after coming across other clips they found "compelling," according to Neukam.

MI-Sen: Wealthy businessman Sandy Pensler is returning to the airwaves and reportedly plans to continue advertising on TV through the Aug. 6 Republican primary. The Detroit News relays an AdImpact analysis finding that Pensler has spent at least $655,000 so far and reserved nearly $1 million more over the next three weeks.

Pensler's latest ad targets Rep. Elissa Slotkin, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, by trying to associate her with Squad member and fellow Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib. However, a senior adviser said Pensler also plans to "spend a serious amount" on commercials introducing himself and attacking former Rep. Mike Rogers, who is the favorite of national and state Republicans.

Pensler has raised almost nothing from donors but self-funded at least $3 million so far this cycle, much as he's used his personal wealth to fund prior campaigns for office. His latest financial disclosure forms indicated a net worth of anywhere from $80 million to $116 million, so there may be many more campaign ads to come.

House

CA-16: Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has publicized an early April internal from Lake Research Partners that shows him leading Assemblyman Evan Low 36-26 in the all-Democratic general election.

Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin notes that another question from this poll surfaced weeks ago when it looked as though there would be a three-way contest. That configuration saw Liccardo with a smaller 26-21 advantage over Low as another Democrat, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, took 20%.

A former Liccardo staffer named Jonathan Padilla, unexpectedly requested a recount shortly after that survey was concluded, and it ultimately resulted in Simitian failing to advance.

IN-03: The hardline Club for Growth is airing a commercial targeting former Judge Wendy Davis ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary that she argues violates a new Indiana law by "dub[bing] together words and unrelated statements … to form a sentence that fits their absurd claims."

The audience hears Davis ostensibly saying, "In our government, we lack diversity of ethnicity, diversity of different religions. We don't have enough inclusion that I believe the constitution, still a living and breathing and living document, requires." Davis' campaign quickly responded by declaring that what appears to be a single statement was "spliced" together from an hour-long event, and that she was trying to get the spot taken off the air.

Davis also cited a bill GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb signed in March that requires a continuous disclaimer to be on screen during ads that are altered in a way that "conveys a materially inaccurate depiction of the individual’s speech, appearance, or conduct as recorded in the unaltered recording."

Davis is one of eight Republicans competing in the expensive primary to succeed Rep. Jim Banks, who is unopposed for the GOP's Senate nod, in the 3rd District, a longtime conservative stronghold in the Fort Wayne area. Her main intra-party rivals appear to be former Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who is Banks' immediate predecessor; wealthy businessman Tim Smith; and state Sen. Andy Zay.

The Club has spent about $510,000 on messaging against Davis and Smith. While the group has not endorsed anyone, it was close to Stutzman during his previous stint in Congress—though not close enough to rescue his ailing Senate campaign ahead of his landslide 2016 primary loss to fellow Rep. Todd Young.

However, the Club has been far outspent by two super PACs that do not want to see Stutzman back in the lower chamber. One of them, America Leads Action, is working to defeat hardline candidates who could pose a headache for the House leadership and has deployed $1.6 million to thwart his comeback.

Stutzman demonstrated during the 2010s he was exactly the type of Republican congressman that ALA doesn't want more of. Among other things, he infamously said during the 2013 government shutdown, "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

A different group, Winning for Women, has spent another $1.1 million to promote Davis, who is the only woman in the race, and attack Stutzman.

The former congressman, though, has benefited from close to $700,000 in support from an array of groups tied to the House Freedom Caucus and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Zay, meanwhile, has mostly gone ignored, except for $100,000 that a super PAC called Honest Hoosiers has expended on his behalf.

MI-08: VoteVets has endorsed businessman Matt Collier, a former Flint mayor who served in the Army, in the Aug. 6 Democratic primary for this competitive open seat.

MI-13: Freshman Rep. Shri Thanedar's campaign announced Tuesday it was challenging the signatures of former state Sen. Adam Hollier, who is his main opponent in the August Democratic primary, because it believes he failed to turn in the requisite 1,000 valid signatures. Among other things, Thanedar's team alleges that 85 of Hollier's signatures were forged.

The Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer writes, "[I]t's hard to look at the signatures on nine of 10 petition pages provided to the Free Press by Thanedar and not conclude that they'd been written by the same person; that they're forgeries, and not very good ones, at that."

Kaffer also says that she noticed that one of those signatures ostensibly belonged to a Free Press colleague, Tresa Baldas, who responded, "That's not my signature." All of these questionable pages came from a single circulator named Londell Thomas, who did not respond to the paper's inquiry. Thanedar's team is asking election officials to throw out all petition pages from Thomas even if individual signatures aren't suspect on the basis that Thomas is a "Fradulent canvasser."

Hollier's team responded to questions about why Baldas' name was there by telling Kaffer, "Some issues have been brought to our attention related to a small number of the nomination signatures that were collected on behalf of our campaign." The campaign went on to express confidence that a "significant number of the challenges filed against our signatures are erroneous."

It's up to the elections commission in Wayne County, which makes up the entire 13th District, to decide on the validity of the challenged signatures, though its decision can be appealed to the Wayne County Circuit Court. Kaffer says the whole process may not be settled until early next month.

Forged signatures have ended the campaigns of several Michigan politicians. Republican Rep. Thad McCotter famously was thrown off the ballot in 2012 after his campaign handed in fraudulent signatures.

A decade later, five GOP candidates for governor, including nominal frontrunner James Craig, were similarly disqualified after they fell victim to a massive fraud scandal. McCotter remarked to Local 4 in response, "In the immortal words of Bill Clinton, ‘I feel your pain.'"

NC-13: Wealthy attorney Kelly Daughtry announced on Thursday that she was dropping out of the May 14 Republican primary runoff and endorsing her opponent, former federal prosecutor Brad Knott.

Before quitting the race, Daughtry had spent millions of her own money on her campaign, just as she did in her unsuccessful 2022 bid for the previous version of this seat. She took first place in the March primary with a 27-19 lead over Knott, but that was short of the 30% needed to avoid a runoff.

Daughtry released an internal poll giving her a 51-32 edge in early April, but Donald Trump endorsed Knott just days later, and Daughtry said upon her departure that Trump's involvement had foreclosed her path to victory.

Daughtry's exit virtually assures that Knott will win this seat and succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel thanks to the GOP's new gerrymander. That new map transformed Nickel's swingy seat in Raleigh and its southern suburbs into a solidly red district comprised of exurbs and rural areas outside of Raleigh.

Although Knott is a first-time candidate, he has extensive connections to state Republicans. His brother, Tucker Knott, is chief of staff for Sen. Ted Budd, who endorsed the candidate after the first round of voting, and the Knott family also funded a super PAC that spent heavily on his behalf.

Daughtry is the second North Carolina Republican to bail on a House runoff this year. In March, former Rep. Mark Walker abandoned his bid for the open 6th District after Trump promised him a job on his presidential campaign, putting his Trump-endorsed opponent, lobbyist Addison McDowell, on a glide path to victory in another newly gerrymandered district.

NJ-08: A super PAC called America's Promise is spending $100,000 on a TV ad opposing Rep. Rob Menendez in the June 11 Democratic primary by linking him to his father, Sen. Bob Menendez, who will go on trial for corruption charges starting May 13. The younger Menendez has not been implicated in any of his father's alleged crimes, but the ad attacks him for defending his father, refusing to return campaign donations from the senator's PAC, and accepting contributions from corporate interests.

NV-03: Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo has endorsed wealthy music composer Marty O'Donnell for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Susie Lee. As the Nevada Independent noted when O'Donnell joined the race two months ago, the first-time candidate is using some of the same consultants who helped Lombardo get elected governor in 2022.

O'Donnell faces a GOP field that includes former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, former state Sen. Elizabeth Hegelian, and conservative columnist Drew Johnson, but Schwartz has a weak electoral history while the other two Republicans have struggled to raise money. Establishment Republicans began looking for a viable candidate after Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama dropped out in January to seek reelection, so Lombardo's endorsement is a sign that O'Donnell may now be their man.

VA-05: Bloomberg reports that American Patriots PAC has booked a hefty $3 million to help state Sen. John McGuire deny renomination to Rep. Bob Good, the Freedom Caucus chair who was one of the eight House Republicans who voted to end Kevin McCarthy's speakership last year. Good also infuriated Donald Trump's network last year by endorsing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' White House bid, but Trump himself has not yet taken sides.

The reservation from American Patriots PAC, which is funded by Republican megadonors Ken Griffin and Paul Singer, represents by far the largest planned expenditure in what's already an expensive June 18 primary for Virginia's 5th Congressional District. This constituency, which stretches from the Charlottesville area to western Southside Virginia, backed Trump 53-45, so the GOP nominee will be favored in November.

A new super PAC called Virginians for Freedom has already deployed almost $500,000 to make sure that McGuire is that nominee. The group has received funding from the American Prosperity Alliance, which is run by McCarthy allies looking to punish the Republicans who deposed him.

On top of that, the Republican Main Street Partnership, an organization devoted to stopping Republicans who like to cause grief for party leaders, previously told the New York Times it planned to spend $500,000 to end Good's career, though the FEC doesn't yet record any independent expenditures from the PAC.

While Main Street Partnership for decades had a reputation for supporting moderate Republicans, it's shown a willingness in recent years to back election deniers like McGuire, who attended the Jan. 6 Donald Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol.

But Good, who himself is an ardent Big Lie believer, still has some well-heeled allies. Protect Freedom PAC, which is affiliated with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, has spent close to $500,000 on messaging promoting the incumbent as "the true constitutional conservative." Yet even though Good runs the Freedom Caucus, its political arm has laid out less than $100,000 to protect its chief. The organization has a history of spending large sums in races it cares about, though, and there's still time to pour in more resources.

Perhaps the biggest question still looming over the race, however, is whether the GOP's supreme leader will eventually get involved and punish Good for his disloyalty. Trump campaign manager Chris LaCivita previewed trouble to come back in January when he told Cardinal News, "Bob Good won’t be electable when we get done with him."

Over the ensuing months, Trump has targeted two other disloyal House members, Florida Rep. Laurel Lee and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, but he hasn't gone after Good—yet. Many of Good's GOP colleagues, however, would be quite happy if Trump eventually took out his wrath on this apostate.

Six sitting House members, including Virginia Rep. Jen Kiggans and House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers of Alabama, hosted a fundraiser for McGuire in March. Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales, meanwhile, made his hatred of Good known to a national audience last month when he went on CNN and took the Freedom Caucus chair to task for endorsing gun maker Brandon Herrera, who is Gonzales' opponent in the May 28 GOP runoff.

"Bob Good endorsed my opponent, a known neo-Nazi," the Texan declared, adding, "These people used to walk around with white hoods at night; now they’re walking around with white hoods in the daytime." (Herrera, who has made jokes about Nazis and the Holocaust, tweeted Sunday, "This should be obvious, but I am not, nor have I never been a neo-Nazi.")

Good, meanwhile, made news last month when he endorsed former West Virginia Del. Derrick Evans, who served 90 days in prison for his participation in the Jan. 6 riot, in his May 14 GOP primary challenge to Rep. Carol Miller. That move came after House Speaker Mike Johnson told CNN he was "vehemently opposed to member-on-member action in primaries," an admonition his caucus seems to have completely ignored.

Ballot Measures

SD Ballot: Abortion rights advocates in South Dakota announced Wednesday they'd submitted about 55,000 signatures to put a constitutional amendment before voters that would end the state's near-total ban on abortion, which is about 20,000 more than the minimum. Election officials have until Aug. 13 to verify that organizers submitted at least 35,017 valid signatures to place this amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot, where it would need a simple majority to pass.

The proposal would specifically bar the state from imposing regulations on abortion access during the first trimester of pregnancy. It also establishes that during the second trimester, "the State may regulate the pregnant woman's abortion decision and its effectuation only in ways that are reasonably related to the physical health of the pregnant woman." For the final trimester, the state would be permitted to retain the status quo.

Several pro-choice groups have taken issue with what they've argued is a weak amendment. The state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union put out a statement claiming the proposal "does not have the strongest legal standard by which a court must evaluate restrictions on abortion, and thereby runs the risk of establishing a right to abortion in name only." The regional Planned Parenthood affiliate has likewise declined to endorse the campaign.

Judges

LA Redistricting: Republican Gov. Jeff Landry has signed a bipartisan bill that revamps Louisiana's Supreme Court districts to create a second majority-Black district, the first redraw since earlier litigation prompted lawmakers to pass the current map in 1997. Louisiana is roughly one-third Black, but only one of the current seven districts, the New Orleans-based 7th, enables Black voters to elect their preferred candidate.

The new map creates a 2nd District that unites Baton Rouge with parishes along the Mississippi border and parts of central Louisiana. It replaces a majority-white and solidly Republican seat with a 55% Black district that would have favored Joe Biden 60-39 in 2020, according to VEST data from Dave's Redistricting App. Republican Justice Scott Crichton, who is white, isn't seeking reelection, and a Black Democrat will likely win this fall's contest to succeed him.

Landry and his fellow Republicans supported the new map to bring costly litigation to an end, an approach similar to the one they took when they redrew the state's congressional map earlier this year. However, a federal court overturned that map earlier this week for relying excessively on race. The new Supreme Court map could likewise be vulnerable to a lawsuit given the similarities of some districts, though an alternative map with a pair of more compact majority-Black districts is possible.

Mayors & County Leaders

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Former federal prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah announced Wednesday that he was dropping out of the May 14 Democratic primary and endorsing former Mayor Sheila Dixon.

Vignarajah, whose name will remain on the ballot, took a distant third place in a pair of independent surveys conducted in April, but his departure could help Dixon consolidate support against incumbent Brandon Scott. It only takes a simple plurality to win the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to election in this loyally blue city, and a large number of lesser-known candidates remain in the race.

Other Races

Miami-Dade, FL Elections Supervisor: Donald Trump on Tuesday night endorsed Republican state Rep. Alina Garcia, who is campaigning to be the top elections administrator for Florida's most populous county. But when asked about Trump's many election lies the follow day, Garcia declined to push back.

"In reference to the 2020 elections, I can only speak to how the elections were conducted in Florida and in Miami-Dade County, which were fair, transparent and the results reported timely," she told the Miami Herald's Douglas Hanks. Garcia previously told the paper that, while she believed most elections were "fair," many "don’t always feel that they’re fair, and perception is very important."

Garcia, who already had Sen. Marco Rubio's backing, faces attorney Megan Pearl in the Aug. 20 GOP primary, while attorney J.C. Planas has the Democratic side to himself. The field may not be set, though, because the deadline to run for county office in Florida doesn't pass until June 14. (Last Friday was the deadline to run for Congress and most other offices.)

The job this trio is seeking is currently held by an appointed incumbent, Christina White, a Democrat who unexpectedly announced last year that she would not run for a full term.

In 2018, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that requires every county to elect rather than appoint certain officers, including election supervisors, and 2024 is the first time that Miami-Dade County voters will pick their elections chief. (The post was previously filled by the county mayor.)

Last week, Trump also took sides in the primary for sheriff by backing Rosie Cordero-Stutz, an official with the Miami-Dade Police Department. Hanks earlier this week reported that Trump decided to support Cordero-Stutz after an April 7 meeting at his Doral compound during a golf tournament.

Trump also reportedly also told another local politician in attendance that she could call on him if she wanted his endorsement. But Doral City Council member Maureen Porras demurred, and not just because she's a Democrat.

"I said, ‘Well, thank you very much, but I’m not up for election,'" she recounted to Hanks. Porras is up again in 2026.

VA-LG: Democratic state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi announced Thursday that she would seek the post held by Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, a Republican whom local political observers anticipate will run for governor next year rather than seek reelection.

Hashmi, who immigrated from India as a child, won her current office in 2019 by unseating Republican state Sen. Glen Sturtevant 54-46 in a closely watched race in the Richmond area. That victory, which helped Democrats retake the state Senate, made Hashmi the first Muslim to serve in the upper chamber, as well as the first Muslim woman in the entire legislature.

Following the most recent round of redistricting, Hashmi's district was made safer, and she easily earned reelection last year as Sturtevant returned in a different seat. Because the entire 40-member state Senate won't be up against until 2027, Hashmi won't need to give up her current job in order to run next year.

Hashmi joins a primary that includes Prince William County School Board Chairman Babur Lateef, fellow state Sen. Aaron Rouse, and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. The lieutenant governor serves as the tiebreaker in the state Senate, where Hashmi and Rouse are part of a narrow 21-19 Democratic majority.

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: Trump targets one of last two pro-impeachment House Republicans

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

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Leading Off

WA-04: Donald Trump on Friday endorsed former NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler's intra-party bid against Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is one of the two remaining House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 riot.

Trump's backing makes Sessler, who waged an unheralded campaign two years ago, Newhouse's only notable foe in what had been a quiet Aug. 6 top-two primary for Washington's conservative 4th District. However, it remains to be seen whether Democrats will once again consolidate behind a single candidate as they did in 2022, a development that could make it tougher for one of the two Republicans to reach the November general election.

Newhouse's own plans are also uncertain. Two months ago, the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner relayed that there had been "rampant speculation in state Republican circles that Newhouse may be the next to announce his retirement." The incumbent doesn't appear to have confirmed his 2024 plans yet, though he tweeted out an endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Business on Monday. The candidate filing deadline isn't until May 10, so it may still be a few weeks before the roster is set here.

Newhouse, who was elected to represent central Washington in 2014, attracted little attention during his first three terms in Congress, but all of that changed early in 2021 when he responded to the Jan. 6 attack riot by voting to impeach Trump.

"A vote against this impeachment is a vote to validate the unacceptable violence we witnessed in our nation's capital," he said in a statement. "It is also a vote to condone President Trump's inaction."

Sessler, who had raced in local NASCAR competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues (his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.info), was one of several hard-right politicians who reacted by launching campaigns against the congressman. Trump, however, was far more impressed by 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, a former cop who refused to recognize his decisive loss to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

Trump's endorsement, though, didn't do much to help Culp augment his weak fundraising numbers hauls. Newhouse's allies at Defending Main Street, which is aligned with the GOP leadership, also spent over $1 million to boost the incumbent while the challenger received no major outside help. Sessler, who self-funded about $400,000 but raised little from donors, attracted comparatively little attention.

The 4th District had favored Trump 57-40 in 2020, but businessman Doug White benefited from being the only Democrat on the ballot in a top-two primary that featured seven Republicans. Newhouse and White took 25% apiece, while Culp and Sessler respectively grabbed 22% and 12%. That victory made Newhouse and California Rep. David Valadao the only two pro-impeachment Republicans to win renomination in a cycle that saw their eight fellow travelers either opt to retire or lose their own primaries.

Newhouse went on to easily beat White 66-31 in the general election (Valadao narrowly won in a more competitive seat), and he resumed his former role as a quiet conservative vote. The congressman even made it clear earlier this month that, despite saying three years ago that Trump "failed to fulfill his oath of office," he'd support his return to the White House. Trump repaid him Friday with a Truth Social missive branding Newhouse "a weak and pathetic RINO named Newhouse, who voted to, for no reason, Impeach me."

Trump, as he almost always does, also extolled his newest endorsee as someone who will "stand for the Rule of Law," though Sessler had a recent run-in with authorities. In September of 2022, a month after Sessler's first congressional campaign came to an end, a code enforcement officer in Benton County named Dale Wilson said that he'd investigated a complaint that someone was living on Sessler's property without the proper permits. Wilson said that Sessler confronted him and threatened to retrieve a gun and "deal with him" if Wilson returned.

County commissioners sent the once and future candidate a letter a few months later telling him that the actions described by Wilson constituted a felony, adding, "If you continue to threaten Benton County employees, the county will involve law enforcement to conduct a full investigation." There do not appear to have been any public developments since then.

Another Washington Republican who voted to impeach Trump, former Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, will also be on the Aug. 6 top-two primary ballot as she campaigns for the open post of state lands commissioner. Herrera Beutler's career representing the 3rd District came to an end two years ago when her Trump-backed foe, Joe Kent, edged her out in the first round, though Kent went on to suffer an upset general election loss to Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez.

Herrera Beutler faces one fellow Republican, Sue Kuehl Pederson, who badly lost the 2020 general election for lands commissioner, along with several Democrats. Kent, meanwhile, needs to get past Camas City Councilmember Leslie Lewallen to set up a rematch with Gluesenkamp Perez. Trump has not yet endorsed in either contest.

Election Night

AL-02: The downballot primary season picks back up on Tuesday in Alabama's revamped 2nd District, which is the only place in America that's hosting a congressional nominating contest this week. Whoever wins the Democratic primary runoff will be favored in November to claim a constituency that, under the new map drawn by a federal court, is now a plurality Black district that would have backed Joe Biden 56-43.

Former Justice Department official Shomari Figures led state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels 43-22 in the first round of voting on March 5. While Figures' share of the vote was below the majority needed to win the Democratic nod outright, his performance established him as the frontrunner for the runoff.

Subsequent developments have only underscored the perception that Figures is the one to beat. State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, who took third place with 16%, went on to endorse him, and a late March Impact Research poll for an unknown client showed Figures beating Daniels 59-24.

Figures has once again gotten a major assist from Protect Progress, a super PAC with ties to the cryptocurrency industry that spent heavily on him ahead of the primary and has poured in another $900,000 for the runoff. The only pro-Daniels outside spending, by contrast, is about $50,000 from Progress for Alabama, a super PAC that Politico reports is run by Republican operative David Driscoll. Driscoll did not comment when Politico asked him about his interest in the race.

Each Democrat is arguing that the other has weak ties to this district, which now takes in Mobile, Montgomery, and the eastern Black Belt. Figures, who hails from a prominent political family in Mobile, has highlighted the fact that Daniels represents a legislative seat in Huntsville, far off in the northern part of the state.

Daniels, however, has emphasized his roots in the Montgomery area and pointed out that Figures only recently returned to Alabama after spending his career in and around the nation's capital.

The GOP runoff pits former state Sen. Dick Brewbaker and attorney Caroleene Dobson. Brewbaker led Dobson 40-26 on March 5.

MI State House: Two special elections taking place in the Detroit suburbs on Tuesday would allow Democrats to regain the majority they earned in the state House in 2022 if they prevail in both. The contests are being held to succeed a pair of Democrats who resigned to become mayor of their respective communities, Kevin Coleman of Westland and Lori Stone of Warren.

The election to replace Coleman in the 25th District pits his cousin and fellow Democrat, Westland City Councilman Peter Herzberg, against Republican businessman Josh Powell. Joe Biden, according to data from Dave's Redistricting App, carried this seat 59-40 in 2020.

The race to succeed Stone, meanwhile, is between Democrat Mai Xiong, a member of the Macomb County Commission, and Republican Ronald Singer, a perennial candidate. Xiong, who would be the first Hmong American elected to the state House, should have little trouble Tuesday in a seat that favored the president 64-35

However, November's contest for a full term would likely be more difficult. That's because, under the replacement map that Michigan's independent redistricting commission recently passed pursuant to a court order, the redrawn 13th would have backed Biden just 50-48.

Senate

KY-Sen & Louisville, KY Mayor: Kentucky's Republican-dominated legislature overrode vetoes by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of two election-related bills, one that will have an impact statewide and one more local.

The first bill prohibits the governor from appointing anyone to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat. This legislation replaces a 2021 law that required the governor to pick from a three-person list submitted by the party of the person who last held the Senate seat.

The new bill's sponsor, state House Majority Floor Leader Steven Rudy, denied that these new changes have anything to do with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's health. McConnell himself expressed support for the legislation even as he once again reiterated that he'd serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in early 2027.

The legislature, which only requires a simple majority in each chamber to override vetoes, also defied Beshear by approving a new law that, among other things, makes elections for Louisville's local government officially nonpartisan starting next year. All the candidates would face off on one ballot, and the top two vote-getters would advance to the general election.

Kentucky's largest city, which was consolidated with the rest of Jefferson County in 2003, favored Joe Biden 59-39 in 2020, so this switch could make it easier for Republicans to win races now that party affiliation won't be included on the ballot.

State Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, however, told Louisville Public Media last month he was supporting the legislation "out of respect for" Mayor Craig Greenberg, a Democrat whom he says was involved in discussions about the law. Greenberg, who is up for reelection in 2026, didn't answer when LPM asked him about the bill when it was first introduced earlier this year.

MD-Sen: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has publicized an internal from Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group that shows her trailing Rep. David Trone by a small 43-40 spread ahead of the May 14 Democratic primary. It's the first data that Alsobrooks has shared since launching her campaign, and it's also the first internal poll of the race we've seen since Trone shared a Hickman Analytics internal two months ago that had him up 49-32.

In between, two March polls conducted by Braun Research for separate clients found Trone ahead by larger margins: An early March poll for the Washington Post and the University of Maryland gave the congressman a 34-27 edge, while its subsequent numbers for Goucher College and the Baltimore Banner showed him leading 42-33.

NJ-Sen: Fairleigh Dickinson University shows Democratic Rep. Andy Kim posting 9-point leads over his two most notable Republican rivals, developer Curtis Bashaw and Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner. Were Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez to run as an independent, Kim would still defeat both Republicans by a 6-point margin:

  • Kim (D): 48, Bashaw (R): 39
  • Kim (D): 47, Glassner (R): 38
  • Kim (D): 44, Bashaw (R): 38, Menendez (I-inc), 6
  • Kim (D): 45, Glassner (R): 39, Menendez (I-inc): 7

Presidential numbers were not included in this release.

Governors

WV-Gov: The Club for Growth, which supports Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the May 14 Republican primary, has launched what appears to be the first TV ad from anyone attacking former Del. Moore Capito. Morrisey and his allies until now had focused on tearing down businessman Chris Miller, but this shift in strategy suggests they think Capito has now emerged as a threat as well.

The Club's ad declares that Capito, who is the son and namesake of Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, was "born with a silver spoon in his mouth," though the commercial doesn't reference the senator by name. Instead, it features several animations of Capito accompanied by spoons (maybe the ad maker is a fan of "The Room") as the narrator accuses him of repeatedly voting to raise taxes.

Capito, meanwhile, has launched a spot in which his narrator declares, "Moore Capito wrote the bill blocking puberty blockers for children while Morrisey got rich lobbying for the puberty blocker companies." Miller recently used a similar line of attack against Morrisey, who has run his own transphobic ad campaign.

Capito ends his ad by portraying Morrisey as an outsider, though strangely, he doesn't actually bring up the state the attorney general is originally from. "California's that way," Capito tells the New Jersey-reared attorney general, who ran for Congress in the Garden State back in 2000 only to finish last in a four-way primary.

House

CA-16: Election officials in California's 16th Congressional District began the process for a machine recount of the March 5 top-two primary on Monday, but there are still big questions over just what will happen next in this wild race.

The Mercury News reports that Jonathan Padilla, who was a 2020 Biden delegate, paid the county a $12,000 deposit to start the recount. However, election administrators in Santa Clara County, which makes up over 80% of this Silicon Valley-based seat, tell KQED's Guy Marzorati that it will cost $16,800 per day for what they estimate will be a five-day undertaking.

Their counterparts in San Mateo, which forms the balance of the 16th District, say it will take another $4,550 per day to recount its ballots, though they told Marzorati they hadn't received a deposit as of Monday morning.

Marzorati writes that if Padilla misses a day's payment, the recount would end and the results certified by the state earlier this month would stand. A second voter, Dan Stegink, had sought a recount as well, but he withdrew his request and did not put down the requisite deposit.

Padilla's own plans have also changed somewhat, as he said he originally intended to seek a manual recount before opting for a machine recount. A manual recount is more likely to catch errors, but it's also far more expensive.

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, whom Padilla worked for in 2014, is guaranteed a spot in the November general election, while two other Democrats, Assemblyman Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, would both advance if they remain tied for second. Should a recount shift the results even a single vote for either runner-up, however, then Liccardo would face the second-place finisher in a one-on-one matchup.

FL-15: Far-right social media troll Rogan O'Handley told the conservative site The Floridian over the weekend that he's decided not to challenge freshman Rep. Laurel Lee in the Aug. 20 Republican primary. The candidate filing deadline is April 26.

IN-03: Winning for Women, a conservative super PAC largely funded by megadonor Ken Griffin, has launched a commercial accusing former Rep. Marlin Stutzman of being weak on border security. The spot does not mention former Judge Wendy Davis, whom Politico says the group supports in the May 7 Republican primary for this safely red seat in northeastern Indiana. According to reports filed with the FEC, WFW has spent $414,000 so far.

The offensive comes at a time when another super PAC, America Leads Action, is spending a similar amount to derail Stutzman's comeback campaign. The former congressman's allies at the far-right House Freedom Caucus have deployed $110,000 to return him to Congress after an eight-year absence, but most of that spending came last year.

IN-05: State Rep. Chuck Goodrich's new commercial for next month's GOP primary utilizes material from a 2022 Politico article to argue that Rep. Victoria Spartz is an abusive boss. "Manic behavior," says the narrator, continuing, "She yells and curses, calling them morons and idiots." The spot goes on, "Victoria Spartz's behavior is embarrassing. We don't need politicians who lie and disrespect employees and lack the temperament for public service."

IN-08: Former Rep. John Hostettler is getting some welcome outside support from Protect Freedom PAC, which is airing commercials starring Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. There is no word yet as to how much the PAC is spending to promote Hostettler, who has been on the receiving end of at least $1.75 million in attacks from a trio of super PACs. Hostettler's campaign, according to AdImpact data from Howey Politics, had not run any TV ads for the May 7 GOP primary as of April 5.

Paul uses the ad to tout Hostettler as someone who will resist "the politicians that are destroying America," a crowd that, according to footage shown on-screen, includes Paul's home state colleague, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Paul was elected to the upper chamber four years after Hostettler lost reelection in the 2006 blue wave, but his father, then-Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and Hostettler were part of a small group of House Republicans who opposed the Iraq War. The elder Paul went on to endorse Hostettler's failed 2010 Senate primary campaign.

NH-02: State Sen. Becky Whitley announced Sunday that she would run to succeed retiring Rep. Annie Kuster, a fellow Democrat. Whitley says she's raised $100,000 for her bid in her first week since forming an exploratory committee earlier this month.

Whitley, who has worked as a disability rights lawyer, joined the legislature in 2020 after winning a safely blue Senate seat, but she first had to get past a familiar name in the primary. To earn the nomination, she scored a 41-33 victory over former Rep. Paul Hodes, who was seeking a comeback a decade after his failed bid for the U.S. Senate.

WMUR wrote earlier this month that Whitley, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, has since "been on the legislative front lines" in battles to safeguard abortion rights. She joins a September primary that includes former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, who has Kuster's endorsement.

But two would-be Democratic candidates, state Reps. Angela Brennan and Rebecca McWilliams, each said this week they'd seek to replace Whitley in the state Senate rather than run for Congress.

Mayors & County Leaders

Baltimore, MD Mayor: OpinionWorks shows incumbent Brandon Scott edging out former Mayor Sheila Dixon 38-35 in the May 14 Democratic primary, with former federal prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah far back at 10%. The survey was conducted for FOX45 News, the Baltimore Sun, and the University of Baltimore.

The only other independent poll we've seen of Baltimore's mayoral race this year was a Braun Research survey released last week on behalf of Goucher College and The Baltimore Banner, which gave Scott a larger 40-32 edge over Dixon. (Vignarajah was similarly situated at 11%.) It only takes a plurality to secure the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to election in this dark blue city.

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Morning Digest: Congressman turned unsuccessful fast-food proprietor seeks comeback

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

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Leading Off

The NRCC was recently bashing Democratic candidates who lost elections in previous years as "week old crusty lasagna," so surely that gustatory slur should apply to Republicans too, right? Ex-Rep. Denny Rehberg, once a touted recruit, was last on the ballot in 2012, when Sen. Jon Tester sent him packing. Since then, he's operated a bunch of fast-food restaurants, all of which have since shuttered. (What was that about past-their-prime vittles?) Oh, and he also became a lobbyist. Read more at Daily Kos Elections about Rehberg's quest to win eastern Montana's maybe-open House seat.

He may have co-founded No Labels, but now he wants to adopt at least one label: Former CNN anchor John "Fipp" Avlon just launched a campaign for Congress on Long Island under the banner of the Democratic Party. His problem is that he's not the only person with that idea, since he's joining a crowded primary that already has a frontrunner—and he'll have to explain to voters why a longtime Manhattanite who never voted in Suffolk County prior to 2020 is the right fit for the district. Jeff Singer handicaps the evolving Democratic primary to take on first-term Republican Nick LaLota.

The Downballot

The economy seems to be going great, but lots of voters still say they aren't feeling it. So how should Democrats deal with this conundrum? On this week's episode of "The Downballot," communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio tells us that the first step is to reframe the debate, focusing not on "the economy"—an institution many feel is unjust—but rather on voters' economic well-being. Shenker-Osorio advises Democrats to run on a populist message that emphasizes specifics, like delivering tangible kitchen-table economic benefits and protecting personal liberties, including the right to an abortion.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also investigate the new candidacy of rich guy Eric Hovde, the latest in a long line of GOP Senate candidates who have weak ties to the states they want to represent. Then it's on to redistricting news in two states: Wisconsin, which will have fair legislative maps for the first time in ages, and New York, where Democrats are poised to nuke a new congressional map that no one seems to like.

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

Senate

CA-Sen: Analyst Rob Pyers highlights that Fairshake, a super PAC funded by cryptocurrency firms, has deployed an additional $3.2 million against Democratic Rep. Katie Porter. This brings the group's total investment to $6.8 million with less than two weeks to go before the March 5 top-two primary.

MD-Sen: Former Gov. Larry Hogan has publicized an internal poll from Ragnar Research conducted about a week before the Republican unexpectedly entered the race, and it shows him far ahead of both of the major Democrats. The numbers, which were first shared with Punchbowl News, show Hogan outpacing Rep. David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks 49-33 and 52-29, respectively. The memo did not include numbers pitting Joe Biden against Donald Trump in this blue state.

MI-Sen: The Michigan-based pollster EPIC-MRA finds Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin narrowly edging out former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers 39-38 in a hypothetical general election as respondents favor Donald Trump 45-41 over Joe Biden. There is no word if the firm had a client for this survey, though The Detroit Free Press, which often employs EPIC-MRA and first reported these numbers, says that this poll was not conducted on its behalf.

House

AL-01: The Club for Growth has launched a $580,000 TV buy to help Rep. Barry Moore fend off fellow incumbent Jerry Carl in the March 5 Republican primary, an ad campaign that comes more than three months after Moore insisted he wouldn't "accept support" from the well-funded group. But Moore, as we explained at the time, may have issued this public disavowal to stay on the good side of Donald Trump, whose on-again, off-again feud with the Club was very much "on" last year.

Politico reported earlier this month that Club head David McIntosh and Trump have again made peace, though Moore doesn't appear to have said anything new about the Club. However, independent expenditure organizations like the Club's School Freedom Fund affiliate don't need a candidate's permission to get involved and in fact cannot legally seek it.

The Club, of course, is behaving like there never was any feud: Its opening commercial promotes Moore as an ardent Trump ally, complete with a clip of him proclaiming, "Go Trump!" Carl goes unmentioned in the script, though his image appears alongside Mitch McConnell's as the narrator attacks "weak-kneed RINOs." The buy comes shortly after another pro-Moore organization, the House Freedom Caucus, launched what AdImpact reported was a $759,000 buy targeting Carl.

CA-16: Primary School flags that a super PAC called Next Generation Veteran Fund has now spent close to $1.1 million to promote businessman Peter Dixon, who is one of the many Democrats competing in the March 5 top-two primary to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo in Silicon Valley. The organization, which says it is "exclusively supporting former U.S. Marine Peter Dixon," is connected to the With Honor Fund, a group co-founded by Dixon that backs military veterans in both parties.

Dixon is one of several well-funded Democrats on the ballot, but he's the only one who hasn't previously held elected office. His opponents include former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Assemblyman Evan Low, and Eshoo's endorsed candidate, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian. Palo Alto City Councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims is also competing, though she finished 2023 with considerably less money than the rest of the pack. (Updated fundraising reports covering Jan. 1 through Feb. 14 are due Thursday evening.)

Dixon's backers at Next Generation Veteran Fund, according to OpenSecrets, have also spent considerably more than any other outside group. Liccardo and Low have each received just over $300,000 in aid from allied super PACs, while about $250,000 has been spent to boost Simitian. None of these PACs have spent in any other contests this year.

Joe Biden carried the 16th District 75-22, so there's a good chance that two Democrats will advance to the Nov. 5 general election. Indeed, the Palo Alto Daily Post writes that one of the two Republican candidates, self-described "small business owner" Karl Ryan, appears to have done no campaigning and has an AI-generated website that "includes made-up quotes from made-up people, and a single photo of Ryan with what appears to be his family."

CO-04: Colorado Politics' Ernest Luning writes that most of the 11 Republicans campaigning to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ken Buck say they'll try to reach the June 25 primary ballot both by collecting signatures and by competing at the party convention. (We explain Colorado's complex ballot access process here.)

The only candidate who appears to have said he'll only take part in the convention, which usually occurs in early April, is former state Sen. Ted Harvey. Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg, meanwhile, said at a debate that he's currently only going the convention route but held open the possibility of also gathering signatures.

MN-03: Former state judge Tad Jude announced this week that he'd seek the GOP nod to replace Democratic Rep. Dean Philips, who is continuing on with his quixotic bid for president. But Jude, who has a political career stretching back five decades, may be tilting at windmills himself: While Republicans were the dominant party in this highly educated suburban Twin Cities seat before Donald Trump entered the White House, Joe Biden carried the 3rd District 60-39 in 2020.

Jude was elected to the legislature as a 20-year-old Democrat in 1972, and he still carried that party label in 1992 when he narrowly failed to unseat Rep. Gerry Sikorski in the primary for the 6th District. (Sikorski went on to badly lose reelection to Republican Rod Grams.) Jude soon switched parties and claimed the 1994 GOP nod to replace Grams, who left to wage a successful Senate campaign, but he lost a tight general election to Democrat Bill Luther.

After decisively losing a rematch against Luther two years later, Jude eventually returned to elected office by winning a packed 2010 race for a local judgeship. He left the bench ahead of the 2022 elections to campaign for attorney general, and he responded to his defeat at the GOP convention by switching to the race for Hennepin County prosecutor. That effort, though, also ended after Jude took fourth place in the nonpartisan primary.

MO-03: The Missouri Scout's Dave Drebes reports that state Rep. Justin Hicks has filed FEC paperwork for a potential campaign to replace his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer.

The site also has a candidate tracker for the August GOP primary, and it identifies three names we hadn't heard before as "considering": Cole County Prosecutor Locke Thompson, former state House Speaker Rob Vescovo, and state Rep. Tricia Byrnes. The Scout also lists in the "OUT" column state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer (whom Drebes has said is the congressman's cousin "of some indeterminate distance") and state Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden. The filing deadline is March 26.

NY-26: Republican leaders nominated West Seneca Supervisor Gary Dickson on Wednesday as their candidate for a difficult April 30 special election to succeed former Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins. Dickson, who was chosen a day before the deadline to pick nominees, will take on Democratic state Sen. Tim Kennedy in a Buffalo area constituency that Joe Biden carried 61-37 in 2020. (Democrats tapped Kennedy in mid-January.)

However, the two men may not have the ballot to themselves. Former Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, who was the Democrats' nominee three straight times in the now-defunct 27th District, is trying to collect enough signatures to appear on the ballot as an independent. McMurray previously announced that he would campaign for a full term in the June Democratic primary.

PA-10: EMILYs List on Wednesday endorsed former local TV anchor Janelle Stelson ahead of the six-way April 23 Democratic primary to take on far-right Rep. Scott Perry. Only one other Democrat, however, finished 2023 with a six-figure bank account. Marine veteran Mike O'Brien led Stelson $186,000 to $140,000 in cash on hand, while former local public radio executive Blake Lynch was far back with $22,000.

Perry, for his part, had $547,000 available to defend himself. This seat, which is based in the Harrisburg and York areas, favored Donald Trump 51-47 in 2020.

TN-07: Music video producer Robby Starbuck tells The Tennessee Journal's Andy Sher that he's interested in running to replace retiring Republican Rep. Mark Green in the 7th District, though whether he can even appear on the August GOP primary ballot may not be up to him.

Starbuck campaigned for the neighboring 5th District in 2022 three years after relocating from California to Tennessee, but party leaders ruled that he was not a "bona fide" Republican because he hadn't yet voted in enough primaries in his new home state.

Starbuck unsuccessfully went to court to challenge the GOP for keeping his name off the ballot, but that move may have ended his hopes for future cycles: The state Republican Party passed new by-laws last month stating that any person who's sued the party cannot appear on a primary ballot for the ensuing decade.

Party chair Scott Golden informs Sher that GOP leaders could grant Starbuck the waiver they denied him two years ago, which would allow him to compete in the primary for the 7th District. Still, Golden added that he believed the would-be candidate's primary voting record still prevented him from meeting the regular definition of a "bona fide" Republican.

Sher also reports that state Sen. Kerry Roberts is reportedly interested in seeking the GOP nod if her colleague, Bill Powers, stays out of the race. The candidate filing deadline is April 4.

WA-05: Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner, a Republican who previously said he was considering competing for this conservative open seat, tells the Washington State Standard he is "receiving overwhelming support to run and could likely make an announcement early next week." He even listed his campaign's likely co-chairs, including Dino Rossi, who was the unsuccessful GOP nominee for competitive races for governor, the Senate, and the 8th Congressional District over the past two decades.

Mayors & County Leaders

Maricopa County, AZ Board of Supervisors: Far-right Rep. Debbie Lesko confirmed Tuesday that she would run for the seat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors held by incumbent Clint Hickman, a fellow Republican who is retiring following years of harassment from Big Lie spreaders. We took a detailed look at the elections for the five-member body that leads Arizona's largest county in our story previewing a possible Lesko bid earlier this week.

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Morning Digest: Double-bunked Alabama incumbents vie to prove who’s the most extreme

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

AL-01, AL-02: Rep. Barry Moore announced Monday that he'd take on fellow incumbent Jerry Carl in the March Republican primary for Alabama's revamped 1st District, a declaration that comes almost a month after a federal court approved a new map that makes Moore's old 2nd District all but unwinnable for his party. The 1st remains centered around the Mobile area but lost nearly all of the city itself and now includes the rural Wiregrass region in the state's southeastern corner.

Moore, who unlike Carl belongs to the far-right House Freedom Caucus, used a new interview with the conservative site 1819 News to try to position himself as the ideologically purer choice. After noting that redistricting made Carl's already safely red 1st District even more Republican, Moore argued, "Me being a House Freedom Caucus guy, I realized at that point the district really needs a true, true conservative to represent it."

But Carl, who is much closer to his party's leadership, was not content to let this narrative take hold. "Bring it on," he said in a statement. "I have a proven track record of putting Alabama first every day and delivering conservative results for Alabama's First Congressional District." Carl finished September with a $870,000 to $650,000 advantage in cash on hand. He also represents 59% of the population of the redrawn district to Moore's 41%. (Each incumbent's section of the new 2nd is comparably conservative, with both having given about 75% of the vote to Donald Trump, and the two regions saw similar turnout.)

It's possible, though, that the Club for Growth could come to Moore's aid. The hard-line anti-tax group spent over $700,000 on ads to boost him in his first successful campaign for Congress in 2020, when he came from behind to handily win the GOP primary runoff after Rep. Martha Roby retired. (Moore himself challenged Roby for renomination two years before, but he ended up taking third place in that primary.)

The Club also sought to influence that year's race in the 1st District, which was also open thanks to Rep. Bradley Byrne's unsuccessful Senate bid, and spent $1.4 million in an attempt to thwart Carl. But Carl managed to squeeze past state Sen. Bill Hightower 52-48. The Club didn't commit to anything on Monday, however, merely telling AL.com that its "endorsement process is confidential and we have nothing to announce at this time."

Moore, who previously served in the state House, also used his announcement to remind 1819 News that Monday marked nine years since a jury found him not guilty of perjury in connection with a corruption investigation targeting Mike Hubbard, who had been speaker of the state House. "I became a conservative who was attacked by the swamp itself, but it was the Montgomery swamp at that time," he said of that trial. "That was the thing that changed the trajectory of my life that we felt we were called into this fight."

Both Carl and Moore voted against recognizing Joe Biden's win in the hours after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, but Moore went even further in promoting extremism that weekend. "[I]t was a Black police officer who shot the white female veteran," Moore tweeted of rioter Ashli Babbit, who was fatally shot attempting to breach a hallway adjacent to the House chamber. Moore went on to propose legislation this year to designate the AR-15 the "National Gun of America" and later spoke at a CPAC Hungary event headlined by autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Senate

NJ-Sen: The New Jersey Globe reports that state First Lady Tammy Murphy plans to file FEC paperwork this week for a potential Democratic primary bid against indicted incumbent Bob Menendez and that her announcement "could come sometime in the next few weeks." The contest already includes Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, who launched his bid the day after federal prosecutors indicted Menendez on corruption charges.

House

AL-02: State Sen. Kirk Hatcher and state Rep. Napoleon Bracy on Monday became the first notable Democrats to announce that they would run for the redrawn 2nd District, which will be open because GOP Rep. Barry Moore is campaigning for the 1st. (See our AL-01, AL-02 item above.) Hatcher also told AL.com that he anticipated that Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed would support him rather than run himself, something that the Alabama Reporter’s Josh Moon also reported would happen earlier Monday.

Hatcher hails from Montgomery, while Bracy represents the Mobile suburb of Prichard. Hatcher argued to Moon, "It’s been 40 or 41 years since the whole of Montgomery has been represented in Congress by someone who lives in Montgomery." He also criticized several prospective candidates who hail from north of the 2nd, declaring, "I know them and I think they’re fine people. But we would not go into Birmingham or to Huntsville. We have people who can represent this area."  

Bracy, whose community is in the new 2nd, didn't emphasize geography in his declaration, though he told AL.com, "This district is made up of so many cities, communities, and neighborhoods just like the one I grew up in—places hurting with high poverty and crime rates, unemployment that just don’t have a lot of opportunities, some of it is because they’ve been overlooked."

CA-20: Businessman David Giglio, a Republican who took fourth in last year's top-two primary for the neighboring 13th District, announced Monday that he'd wage an intraparty bid against Rep. Kevin McCarthy. The incumbent said he planned to seek reelection to this safely red seat days after his speakership came to an involuntary end, though Politico notes that there's still plenty of talk he could retire or resign.

Giglio last cycle raised $500,000 and self-funded another $340,000 for his quest for the open 13th, though he ended up taking back $130,000 of his loan. But Giglio didn't come close to displacing John Duarte as the main GOP candidate: Duarte took 34% to Democrat Adam Gray's 31%, while Democrat Phil Arballo edged out Giglio 17-15 for the honor of taking third. Duarte went on to narrowly defeat Gray, who along with Arballo is seeking a rematch this cycle.

Giglio, however, is focusing on his new rival's failure rather than his own. "Kevin McCarthy was removed as Speaker by 8 courageous members of his own party for failing to keep his promises and capitulating to Joe Biden and the radical Democrats," Giglio declared in a statement. "Kevin McCarthy must be defeated."

IL-17: Farmer Scott Crowl, who previously led an affiliate of the labor group AFSCME, declared last week that he would seek the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Eric Sorensen. Crowl entered the contest weeks after retired local judge Joe McGraw launched his own campaign for a north-central Illinois constituency that favored Joe Biden 53-45.

The Pentagraph previously wrote that McGraw has the NRCC's support, while Crowl says he's campaigning "against the establishment." He told the Quad Cities Times, "If the establishment was so good at picking candidates I wouldn’t be running today."

MO-01, MO-Sen: St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell announced Monday that he would challenge Rep. Cori Bush in the Democratic primary rather than continue his longshot campaign to unseat Republican Sen. Josh Hawley. Missouri's 1st District, which includes St. Louis and its northern suburbs, supported Joe Biden 78-20, so whoever wins the Democratic nod next August should have no trouble in the general election.

Bush won a major upset in 2020 when she defeated 20-year incumbent Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary and swiftly became one of the House's most visible progressives. Now, however, her outspoken views on police funding and Israel are helping to fuel Bell's bid.

The congresswoman has spent her two terms in office as an ardent critic of Israel's government. Following Hamas' deadly invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, Bush released a statement that sparked criticism from both fellow members of Congress and Jewish organizations.

"As part of achieving a just and lasting peace," she said the day of the attack, "we must do our part to stop this violence and trauma by ending U.S. government support for Israeli military occupation and apartheid."

Bell joined Bush's critics in his Monday kickoff. "We can’t give aid and comfort to terrorists, and Hamas is a terrorist organization," he said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Bell also highlighted Bush's calls for defunding the police, arguing the cause was both wrong and helped the Republicans flip the House last year.

Bush's team, meanwhile, responded to Bell's entry with a statement emphasizing her progressive views and questioning her opponent's decision. "It is disheartening that Prosecuting Attorney Bell has decided to abandon his US Senate campaign to become Missouri's first Black Senator after less than five months, and has instead decided to target Missouri's first Black Congresswoman," she said in a statement.

While both candidates hold prominent positions in local politics, both of them will be starting this matchup with little money. Bush finished September with just $20,000 in the bank, a smaller war chest than any House incumbent seeking reelection.

Bell, though, did not inspire many donors during his Senate campaign. The prosecutor, who was overshadowed in the primary by Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, took in just $280,000 during his two quarters in the race. He ended last month with $90,000 banked, funds that he can use for his new bid.

 OR-03: Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer told Willamette Week on Monday that he would not seek reelection to the seat he first won in a 1996 special election, saying, “I’m not certain that two more years in Congress in this climate is the best way to deal with things I care about.” Oregon’s 3rd District, which is based in the eastern Portland area, favored Joe Biden 73-25, and whoever takes a plurality in the May 21 Democratic primary should have no trouble in the general election.

We’ll have more in our next Digest about the race to succeed Blumenauer, who told The Oregonian, “There are literally a dozen people salivating at the prospect of getting in this race,” as well as the congressman’s long career.

TX-32: State Rep. Rhetta Bowers announced Monday that she was exiting the Democratic primary and would instead seek reelection to the legislature after all. Bowers launched a campaign in mid-September to replace Democratic Senate candidate Colin Allred months after she said she'd run for reelection rather than seek a promotion, but she raised a mere $25,000 during what remained of the quarter.

House: Politico writes that the Congressional Leadership Fund and Club for Growth will stick with the January agreement they made to persuade far-right members to support Kevin McCarthy even though Mike Johnson now sits in the chair. The terms were as follows: CLF said it "will not spend in any open-seat primaries in safe Republican districts" or fund any other groups that would, while the Club agreed to endorse McCarthy's speakership bid.

Attorneys General

TX-AG: A judge on Monday scheduled Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton's trial for April 15, which will be close to nine years after he was charged with securities fraud.

Paxton has been reelected twice while under indictment, and while he was suspended from office in May when the state House impeached him in a different matter, the upper chamber acquitted him last month. Special prosecutor Kent Schaffer unsubtly highlighted how Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick received $3 million from a pro-Paxton organization before presiding over his trial, declaring, "Unlike the impeachment, this is going to be a fair trial. This judge is not corrupt. This judge is not on the take."

If Paxton is forced from office this time, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott would nominate a successor; this person would require the support of two-thirds of the Senate in order to be confirmed.

Ballot Measures

OH Ballot: Public Policy Polling's new survey of next week's election for former Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper finds a strong 55-38 majority in favor of Issue 1, which is described to respondents as a state constitutional amendment "which would protect reproductive freedom and an individual right to one's own reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion."

Pepper writes that this summary "approximates the first sentences voters will read on the ballot but doesn't get into all the details that appear later." Those details include ballot summary language written by the GOP-led Ohio Ballot Board that, among other things, substitutes the words "unborn child" in place of "fetus." Pepper argues, "I believe that all the attack ads and disinformation have made this narrower in reality" than what the toplines show even though the numbers demonstrate that "Ohio remains a pro-choice state."

The only other poll we've seen this month was conducted by Baldwin Wallace University and SurveyUSA in mid-October, and it also found a 58-34 majority in favor of Issue 1. The description provided in that poll said that the proposed amendment "would protect the right to reproductive freedom, including "access to contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one's own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion," as well as "allow the state to prohibit abortion after fetal viability, unless 'it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient's life or health.'"

PPP also shows voters backing Issue 2, a statutory measure to legalize recreational marijuana, 59-39, which is comparable to the 57-35 edge BWU and SurveyUSA found. PPP additionally quizzed voters about the proposed 2024 amendment to "create an independent commission, made up of Ohio citizens and not politicians, to draw fair congressional and state legislative district lines," and respondents say they'd support it 57-15.

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Morning Digest: Mitt Romney, facing a difficult path to reelection, won’t run for second term

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

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Leading Off

UT-Sen: Republican Sen. Mitt Romney announced on Wednesday that he would not run for reelection next year, bringing to an end a three-decade political career that featured several bids for office but only two victories years apart. Romney's decision creates a wide-open race to succeed him in a deeply conservative state dominated by Republicans but one where critics of Donald Trump, including Romney himself, retain a measure of support.

Romney was born in Detroit in the years immediately after World War II and, as a 15-year-old in 1962, watched his father win election as governor of Michigan. While George Romney would serve three two-year terms and wage an ill-fated bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968, Mitt, his youngest son, did not get involved in politics until the early 1990s—and did so in a different state.

The younger Romney had moved to Massachusetts in 1972 to pursue a joint JD/MBA program at Harvard and went on to make his name in the business world, co-founding the private equity firm Bain Capital in 1984. A decade later, he sought to challenge veteran Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, hoping that a favorable political climate for Republicans would help him oust the "liberal lion" of the Senate. But despite polls that showed a tight race, Kennedy prevailed by a comfortable 58-41 margin, though it would be the closest contest of his long career.

Romney immediately returned to Bain and was later credited with turning around the financially trouble committee responsible for running the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Just weeks after the closing ceremonies, though, Romney announced a campaign for governor after acting Gov. Jane Swift, a fellow Republican, dropped her bid for a full term.

While Massachusetts had for many decades seldom sent Republicans to Congress, it had a long tradition of electing them to the governorship; when Romney sought the post, the last time a Democrat had won it was in 1986, when Michael Dukakis secured his third and final term. As he had in his race against Kennedy, Romney campaigned as a moderate and claimed to support abortion rights. (Kennedy had jeered that Romney was not pro-choice but "multiple-choice.") Thanks in part to a large financial advantage—the wealthy Romney self-funded $6 million, a record at the time—he defeated his Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien.

The victory was Romney's first, and it also marked the fourth straight gubernatorial win for Massachusetts Republicans. But the streak wouldn't last long for Romney: With more than a year left in his term, he announced he would not seek reelection. The move came ahead of a widely expected campaign for president, which he'd telegraphed by shifting to the right on key issues like abortion.

Romney's metamorphosis left many conservatives unconvinced, however, and he lost the nomination to John McCain, who in turn was beaten by Barack Obama. Four years later, though, true believers failed to rally around a strong alternative and Romney captured the GOP nod, but he, too, lost to Obama. (Romney was reportedly "shellshocked" by the loss despite the incumbent's consistent polling leads.)

Romney later relocated to Utah, where he'd earned his undergraduate degree at Brigham Young and had long maintained a vacation home. But despite declaring he'd been branded a "loser for life" in a documentary about his attempts to win the presidency, he made one last foray into the political arena. Following Sen. Orrin Hatch's retirement, Romney easily won both the GOP primary and general election to succeed him in 2018, making him the first person in 150 years—and just the second ever, after the legendary Sam Houston—to serve as governor and senator in two different states.

While Romney remained a traditional conservative, his Senate tenure was marked by his criticism of Trump. (Hard as it may be to believe now, Trump actually endorsed Romney's initial campaign for Senate.) He made history in 2020 when he became the first senator to vote in favor of convicting a president from his own party at an impeachment trial during Trump's first impeachment, then voted (along with a handful of other Republicans) to convict him again at his second impeachment the next year.

The hatred his apostasies engendered from the MAGA brigades all but ensured he'd face a difficult fight to win renomination had he sought another term. An August poll showed him taking just 44% in a hypothetical primary matchup, a soft showing for an incumbent. It turned out that his 2018 victory would not only be just his second ever but also his last.

In remarks on Wednesday announcing his departure, Romney noted that he'd be in his mid-80s at the end of a second Senate term and said that "it's time for a new generation of leaders." That new generation likely won't look much like the outgoing senator, though it's possible that a split among extremists could see the GOP nominate a relative pragmatist: In the recent special election primary for Utah's 2nd Congressional District, former state Rep. Becky Edwards took a third of the vote despite saying she'd voted for Joe Biden and opposed the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

At the moment, though, the only Republican in the race is Trent Staggs, mayor of the small community of Riverton. Other candidates, however, are already hovering in the wings, so we're likely to see a crowded primary in 2024.

The Downballot

What do you do if you're associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you're Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris' 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before "casting" them. Bipartisan officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won't shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also discuss a late entrant into the race for North Carolina governor; why Republicans are struggling to recruit in Ohio now that they can't gerrymander their congressional map again; how a Freedom Caucus member has bizarrely emerged as a voice of sanity within the GOP—and why it'll likely doom him; Mitt Romney's retirement in Utah; and proposed maps that our Daily Kos Elections colleague Stephen Wolf submitted to the federal court in Alabama that's about to impose new congressional districts.

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

Senate

MI-Sen: Wealthy businessman John Tuttle, who's the vice chair of the New York Stock Exchange, has declared that he won't run for the GOP nomination next year. Tuttle's announcement leaves former Rep. Mike Rogers as the only major candidate in the primary so far, though some other big GOP names are still considering the open seat contest.

WI-Sen: Trempealeau County Board Supervisor Stacey Klein has filed paperwork to run as a Republican and said she would officially kick off her campaign on Saturday. Klein, who first won her board seat in April 2022, hails from a county that is home to less than 1% of Wisconsin's population, but her entry nonetheless makes her the most prominent GOP candidate so far in a longtime swing state where Republicans have struggled to land a major candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Governors

DE-Gov: Term-limited Gov. John Carney has endorsed Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long just one day after his fellow Democrat announced she was running to succeed him next year. Both Democrats are currently serving their second terms (governors and lieutenant governors are elected separately in Delaware), and Hall-Long faces a primary against New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, whose county contains 58% of the state's population.

IN-Gov: The far-right Club for Growth has endorsed Republican Sen. Mike Braun in his primary to succeed term-limited Gov. Eric Holcomb. Braun, who previously won the Club's endorsement during his competitive initial primary for Senate in 2018, faces a crowded GOP field for governor that includes Lt. Gov. Susanne Crouch, former state Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers, former Indiana Economic Development Corporation president Eric Doden, and former state Attorney General Curtis Hill.

House

AR-03: Republican Rep. Steve Womack announced that he'll seek another term representing his safely red seat in northwestern Arkansas, which he first won in 2010. Although Womack himself is solidly conservative, he had nonetheless recognized Joe Biden's 2020 victory and had previously told the Washington Post that he had been considering retirement due to dissatisfaction with GOP leadership caving to far-right hardliners, though he's never had any trouble winning renomination before.

OH-13: Former state GOP chairwoman Jane Timken, who unsuccessfully competed in her party's 2022 primary for Senate, announced Wednesday that she wouldn't run for the 13th District next year. Timken's decision comes just a week after the state Supreme Court granted a request by plaintiffs to dismiss their legal challenges against the GOP's current gerrymander, which ensured that Republicans won't get a chance to draw an even more extreme map for 2024 that could have targeted freshman Democratic Rep. Emilia Sykes in this 51-48 Biden seat in Akron.

Ballot Measures

OH Ballot: Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, which is supporting November's ballot initiative that would enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution, has launched their first TV ad buy for $687,000 over the next week. The new spot argues that the government shouldn't be making difficult reproductive healthcare choices for Ohioans and that voting yes on Issue 1 would "end Ohio's extreme abortion ban," which has "no exceptions for rape or incest." It also emphasizes that the amendment would protect access to birth control and emergency care for miscarriages.

Legislatures

NY State Assembly: Democrat Sam Berger won Tuesday's special election to fill a Democratic-held seat in Queens by a 55-45 spread against Republican David Hirsch. This district contains large Asian American and Orthodox Jewish populations, two demographics that Democrats have lost some ground with in recent years in New York City, and some had feared that Republican Lee Zeldin's 56-44 win over Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul here last year was a warning sign of things to come.

However, Berger enjoyed a large fundraising advantage and nearly matched Joe Biden's 56-43 victory in the district. Assembly Democrats will retain a 102-48 supermajority once he's sworn in, which will make the 25-year-older Berger the chamber's youngest member.

Morning Digest: Sen. Ben Cardin isn’t running next year, but these Maryland Democrats might

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

MD-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin announced Monday that he would not seek a fourth term next year in Maryland, a decision that marks the beginning of the end for a political career that started in 1966 when he was still in law school. There's little question that Cardin's party will hold his seat in a state that favored Joe Biden 64-32 and where Republicans last won a Senate race in 1980, but there's already a great deal of interest among Old Line State Democrats in succeeding him.

Politico reported back in February that Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who would be the first Black woman to represent Maryland in the upper chamber, was already hiring people for a campaign, and she said that same month she would consider running if Cardin didn’t. The chatter only intensified Monday after the incumbent revealed his plans: Politico says she’d “almost certain” to jump in, while Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz anticipates she’ll launch “before the end of the month.” Alsobrooks was elected in 2018 to lead her populous and very blue community in the D.C. suburbs, and observers have credited her support for now-Gov. Wes Moore as an important factor in his close primary victory last year.

Another contender that Politico writes is all but assured to compete is Rep. David Trone, the Total Wine & More co-founder whom Insider ranked as the 17th wealthiest member of Congress in 2021. The moderate congressman, says the story, already knows who would likely be his campaign manager, and while Trone declined to answer Monday when asked if he intends to seek a promotion, Kurtz adds that his launch could come as soon as this week. Trone self-funded what was a record $13 million in his failed 2016 primary bid for the 8th Congressional District before pumping in a total of $33 million during his subsequent three victorious campaigns for the 6th, and Time Magazine reports he’s told allies he intends to deploy as much as $50 million of his own money to succeed Cardin.

Another name to watch is Rep. Jamie Raskin, a progressive favorite who defeated Trone in that 2016 primary. Raskin, who recently finished a successful treatment for diffuse large B cell lymphoma, said through his aides he was considering a statewide campaign. Kurtz, though, believes it’s more likely the congressman will stay in the lower chamber. 

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando, meanwhile, said two weeks ago he was thinking about a Senate bid, and Maryland Matters now writes he’s “preparing to run.” The councilmember, whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria, would be Maryland’s first Black senator. Jawando also competed in that 2016 primary for the 8th District and finished with just 5%, but he won his current countywide seat two years later; Kurtz predicts that, should Raskin go for Senate after all, Jawando would instead run for the 8th again.  

But wait, there’s more! Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski’s team also says their boss is interested, and unlike the aforementioned four officeholders, his geographic base of support comes from the Baltimore suburbs rather than the D.C. area. (Baltimore County is a separate jurisdiction from the neighboring city of Baltimore.) The executive, though, has also been eyeing a campaign for the 2nd District should veteran Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger retire; a spokesperson for the 77-year-old congressman said Ruppersberger “has not made any decisions about the next term, nor does he have a timeline to do so.”

Kurtz additionally names Rep. John Sarbanes as another person who is “expected to consider,” though there’s no word from the congressman. Sarbanes is the son of Cardin’s predecessor, the late Paul Sarbanes, and he mulled a bid for the state’s other Senate seat in 2015 before opting to stay put. The congressman, though, doesn’t appear to have been getting ready for a campaign for his father’s old seat, though, as he raised just $10,000 during the first three months of 2023.

FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley also offers former DNC chair Tom Perez, who narrowly lost this primary to Moore last year, as a possibility, though Perez doesn’t appear to have said anything about a bid. There’s additionally talk that Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous, who badly lost the 2018 race for governor to Republican incumbent Larry Hogan, could go for it, though a former Jealous aide tells Politico “he has made clear to them that his preference is for Jamie Raskin to run.”

The GOP wish list, by contrast, pretty much starts and ends with Hogan, who left office earlier this year, but he once again doesn’t sound at all likely to go for it. The party unsuccessfully recruited the outgoing governor to take on Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen last year, and a source told Politico that his response to their new charm offensive was to again say that “he has never been interested in the Senate.” On Monday, the head of Hogan’s political organization forwarded Maryland Matters that article when asked if the former governor was now thinking about making the race.

Whoever eventually wins will succeed a senator who, despite one tough race in 2006, never lost an election in a career that began when Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. Cardin grew up in a notable Baltimore political family that included his father, Meyer Cardin, who was elected to his sole four-year term state House in 1934 and later became a judge. An uncle, Maurice Cardin, enjoyed a 20-year career in the lower chamber, but he made it clear to his nephew that he wanted him as his successor when he retired.

That day came in 1966 when Ben Cardin was 23 and still a University of Maryland law student: Maurice Cardin himself recounted in 1982 that as the pair stood outside a polling place on Election Day voters went up to him rather than the soon-to-be-victorious candidate and said, "I voted for you again." The younger Cardin himself would say in 2006, "I worked hard in that [first] election, but I think it's fair to say that without the name, I wouldn't have won." But Cardin, with his uncle's encouragement, successfully sought a post on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and quickly became a respected member, and he went on to chair the body.

The delegate rose further in the state House by securing enough support to become speaker even before Election Day 1978, and the 35-year-old became the youngest person in state history up until that point to lead the chamber. Cardin, the Washington Post would write four years later, enjoyed "power [that] is almost absolute," and while there was talk he'd run as Gov. Harry Hughes running mate in 1982 to set himself up for a future bid for the top job, the speaker unsurprisingly opted to stay put. However, while Cardin said, "I would like to be governor some day," the paper noted that his name recognition was so low outside political circles that he'd had a tough time prevailing statewide.

While the speaker did eye a 1986 bid for governor, he instead ran that year to replace Rep. Barbara Mikulski when she left the safely Democratic 3rd District behind to wage a victorious Senate bid. Cardin easily claimed the nomination to replace her ahead of an overwhelming win, and he never had trouble holding his seat. The congressman, just like he did in the legislature, went on to become a member of the Ways & Means Committee and respected policy wonk, though essentially everyone agreed he was anything but a compelling orator. Cardin did spend much of 1997 mulling a primary campaign​ against Gov. Parris Glendening​, who suffered from low approval ratings, but the governor successfully maneuvered​ to keep him out​.  

Cardin finally got the chance to campaign statewide in the 2006 cycle when Maryland's other Democratic senator, Paul Sarbanes, retired, and what followed were the only seriously contested primary and general election campaigns he’d ever go through. His most prominent intra-party foe was former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman who would have been the state's first Black senator.

Cardin enjoyed a big financial advantage and considerably more support from powerful state Democrats, but Mfume's charisma and deep ties with the state's large African American population made him a formidable opponent. Cardin won by a tight 44-41 margin but immediately had to prepare for an expensive showdown with Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who was Maryland’s first Black statewide elected official.

Democrats feared that, despite George W. Bush's horrible approval ratings, Steele could win enough African American support to pose a serious threat to Cardin. "The challenge of the opportunity is to build a bridge to communities the Democratic Party has taken for granted and has, by its choice of nominee," Steele declared on the campaign trail, while Mfume himself warned his party it wasn't doing enough to appeal to Black voters. This was another contest where Cardin, who joked in his own campaign ads, "Who says I'm not flashy?" faced a far more charismatic opponent, but he and his allies pushed back by tying Steele to Bush.

Cardin aired a spot late in the campaign where actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, told the audience that Steele wanted to "put limits on the most promising stem cell research." The Republican responded with his own commercial featuring his sister, a pediatrician who has multiple sclerosis, pushing back and condemning Cardin, but it wasn't enough. The Democrat prevailed 54-44, though Steele's losing effort helped launch him to a high-profile and turbulent career helming the Republican National Committee from 2009 to 2011; Mfume, for his part, returned to the House in a 2020 special election.

Cardin had a far easier time in 2012 when he turned back a primary challenge from state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, who had made a name for himself as a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage, 74-16. The incumbent went on to win a low-profile general election 56-26 against Republican Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who would almost win a House race two years later before reinventing himself as a Trumpian commentator.

The Cardin family suffered a political setback in the 2014 primary for attorney general when the senator's nephew, Del. Jon Cardin, took a distant second to eventual winner Brian Frosh, but Ben Cardin himself remained entrenched at home. In 2018 he won renomination in an 80-6 landslide over Chelsea Manning, the former Army soldier who was convicted of giving hundreds of thousands of classified military reports to the site Wikileaks, and he secured his final term with ease months later.

Election Night

Lincoln, NE Mayor: Republicans on Tuesday are hoping to oust Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, who is one of the few prominent Democrats who holds elected office in Nebraska, and the Flatwater Free Press' Ryan Hoffman reports that one family is spending huge to do it.

The Peed family, which owns the Lincoln-based information processing giant Sandhills Global, and their company together donated $1.1 million through April 17 to former Republican state Sen. Suzanne Geist's campaign, which Hoffman says represents about two-thirds of all the money that the candidate has received, and another $535,000 to her allied PAC. The Peeds have not revealed why they're hoping to unseat Gaylor Baird in the officially nonpartisan race, though they've become prolific GOP donors since 2020. Gaylor Baird, for her part, is hoping to portray Geist as "beholden" to her contributors.

Senate

MI-Sen: John Tuttle, who serves as vice chair of the New York Stock Exchange, is the newest Republican name to surface as a possible contender in a race where the party doesn't currently have any viable options. Politico's Ally Mutnick writes that Tuttle, who "splits his time" between New York and Michigan, is mulling over the idea, and NRSC chair Steve Daines praised him as "a strong potential recruit."

NJ-Sen: The New Jersey Globe writes that no notable Republicans appear interested in taking on Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez even as he's under federal investigation for corruption, though the article mentioned state Sen. Mike Testa, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, and Warren County Commissioner Lori Ciesla as possible just-in-case contenders.  

NY-Sen: A spokesperson for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played down talk that her boss could challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for renomination, telling Politico, "She is not planning to run for Senate in 2024. She is not planning to primary Gillibrand." That answer, as the story notes, isn't quite a no, but fellow Rep. Jamaal Bowman adds that he hasn't heard any discussion of AOC running "for months or weeks."

Politico adds that, while former Rep. Mondaire Jones mulled his own campaign against Gillibrand a while back, he's now decided not to go for it and is focusing on his likely bid to regain the 17th Congressional District from Republican incumbent Mike Lawler. Disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's camp, though, characteristically didn't comment when asked about his own interest in a Senate run, which at least keeps this bit of chatter alive.  

TX-Sen: Rep. Colin Allred, reports Politico, plans to announce "as soon as this week" that he'll challenge Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a development that would give Democrats a prominent candidate in a tough state.

WI-Sen: An unnamed source tells The Dispatch that businessman Kevin Nicholson is "keeping a close eye on" getting into the GOP primary to face Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin, a contest where the party is waiting for its first viable contender to step up. Nicholson is a former College Democrats of America president who lost the 2018 primary to face Baldwin and dropped out of last year's nomination contest for governor.

WV-Sen: The far-right Club for Growth has launched its first TV ad against Gov. Jim Justice ahead of next year's GOP primary for $10,000, which is about how much money its endorsed candidate, Rep. Alex Mooney, devoted to his first anti-Justice broadside. This minute-long spot, which like Mooney's offering seemed to be aimed more at attracting media attention than getting seen on TV, excoriates the governor as a greedy coal billionaire who "got filthy rich by stiffing working people and small businesses out of millions, leaving a trail of tears and broken promises on his way to the Fortune 400 list."

Governors

NH-Gov: Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig on Monday formed an exploratory committee, a step no other Democrats have taken yet as they wait to see if GOP Gov. Chris Sununu will seek another term next year. Craig, who didn't say how she'd be affected by the incumbent's deliberations, kicked off her effort with support from former Gov. John Lynch, who left office in 2013 after completing his fourth two-year term.

Later in the day 2022 nominee Tom Sherman said he would not be running again, but another Democrat isn't dismissing chatter she could campaign for governor. Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, who has reportedly been thinking about running, responded to Craig's announcement by saying, "There will be plenty of time for politics later."

WA-Gov: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared Monday that he wouldn't seek what would have been a historic fourth term as chief executive of the Evergreen State, a move that will set off a battle to succeed him next year. Under state election law all the candidates will run on one ballot rather than in separate party primaries, and the top two contenders, regardless of party, will advance to the general election. Republicans haven't won this office since the late John Spellman prevailed in 1980, though Inslee himself only narrowly prevailed the last time this post was open in 2012.

Two of Inslee's fellow Democrats, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, have long said they'd be interested in running whenever he retired, and the Seattle Times relays that each of them are "expected to quickly announce" their bids. King County Executive Dow Constantine, though, said in March he'd be staying put.

The GOP has a small bench in this longtime Democratic bastion, and it remains to be seen if the party will be able to mount a strong effort at a time when it has no statewide elected officials to turn to. The Dispatch reported in February that former Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was interested, though we haven't heard anything new since. Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, however, took his name out of contention over a month ago.

Inslee's departure marks the conclusion of a career that that's seen both plenty of triumphs and some big setbacks. The Democrat first won office in 1988 when he pulled off a close victory for the state House, and he sought a promotion four years later by running for the open 4th Congressional District in the rural central part of the state.

Inslee managed to advance to the general election by edging out Democratic state Sen. Jim Jesernig 23-22 in the blanket primary, a precursor to the modern top-two primary, but he faced a tough fight in the fall against Republican colleague Doc Hastings. Inslee won 51-49 at the same time that, according to analyst Kiernan Park-Egan, George H.W. Bush was carrying the seat 43-35 over Bill Clinton (independent Ross Perot secured another 22%), but he had little time to rest up.

Hastings came back for a rematch in 1994 and emphasized the incumbent's support for the Clinton administration's assault weapons ban, a vote the Democrat would acknowledge hurt him at home. The GOP wave hit Washington hard and Hastings unseated Inslee 53-47 at the same time that Speaker Tom Foley was losing re-election to George Nethercutt in the neighboring 5th District, and both constituencies have remained in GOP hands ever since. Another victor that year was Republican Rick White, who denied then-Rep. Maria Cantwell a second term in the 1st District near Seattle.

But while that disastrous cycle ended plenty of Democratic careers (though not Cantwell’s), Inslee was determined that his would not be one of them. The ousted congressman, who soon moved to the Puget Sound community of Bainbridge Island, announced a 1996 campaign for governor and said of his recent defeat, "What it showed was when you vote your convictions over political expediency, on occasion it's not good for your career." Inslee, though, struggled to gain traction in a field that included the eventual winner, Democratic King County Executive Gary Locke, as well as Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, and he finished fifth in the blanket primary with just 10%.

Inslee then set his sights on a 1998 House comeback bid against White in a constituency that, per Park-Egan, had supported Clinton 51-37 two years before. Inslee, who had no intra-party opposition this time, was in for a difficult fight in a seat both parties identified as a major battleground, and White's 50-44 lead in the blanket primary seemed to foreshadow another uphill race for the Democrat.

The incumbent, though, wasn't as strong as he appeared to be. White had just gone through a high-profile divorce, and he feared that the third-party candidacy of social conservative Bruce Craswell would cost him some much-needed support. Inslee, meanwhile, ran ads blasting the Republicans for waging a long impeachment battle against Clinton, which proved to be a compelling argument that year. Inslee got back to the House by winning 49.8-44.1, with Craswell taking the balance.

Inslee's second stint in Washington, D.C., went far better for him than his first, and he never failed to win re-election by double digits. The Democrat, however, decided to give up his secure seat in 2012 for another campaign for governor even though retiring incumbent Christine Gregoire's weak approval ratings presented a big opening for the GOP. Republicans quickly consolidated around Attorney General Rob McKenna, who had scored a 59-41 victory in 2008 during an awful year for his party, while Inslee also had no serious intra-party opposition.

Most polls through July showed McKenna in the lead but Inslee, who resigned his seat to focus on his statewide bid, worked hard to tie his opponent to unpopular national Republicans. The Democrat, in one debate, responded to the attorney general's declaration that he didn't want Washington to be a place where a third of residents were on Medicare by saying, "Remember when Mitt Romney talked about the 47% that just weren't sort of part of our family in a sense? And now my opponent says that this one out of three somehow should not have insurance." McKenna worked to win over enough Obama voters to prevail, but he wasn't able to take quite enough: Inslee instead scored a 52-48 victory at a time when the president was carrying Washington 56-41.

The new governor got a big setback before he took office when two renegade Democrats in the state Senate, Tim Sheldon and Rodney Tom, put the GOP minority in charge of the chamber even though Democrats nominally held a 26-23 edge. Inslee himself appeared to be a tempting target for 2016 after several polls showed him with an unimpressive approval rating, but potentially strong GOP foes like McKenna and Rep. Dave Reichert sat the race out. The Republican who eventually stepped forward, Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant, struggled with fundraising, and the governor beat him 54-46 as Hillary Clinton was scoring a 53-37 victory here.

Inslee had a better second term, especially after a 2017 special election put his party in control of the state Senate at long last, and in 2019 he joined a crowded presidential field. The governor's would-be successors, though, found themselves waiting for months to see if he'd turn around and seek a third term at home, which is exactly what happened when Inslee ended his White House quest in the face of poor polling. Inslee went on to become the first three-term governor since Dan Evans secured re-election in 1972 after he scored an easy 57-43 victory over far-right foe Loren Culp, a former small-town police chief who refused to recognize his landslide loss.

House

NY-03: Former state Sen. Anna Kaplan filed FEC paperwork Monday for a potential Democratic primary bid for the seat still held by scandal-drenched incumbent George Santos.

Kaplan, a Jewish refugee from Iran who came to the United States as a child, was a North Hempstead town councilwoman when she took fourth place in the 2016 nomination fight for a previous version of this seat. She had far more success two years later when she decisively unseated Republican state Sen. Elaine Phillips, but Kaplan went on to lose her 2022 general election to former state Sen. Jack Martins 53-47. Martins himself didn't rule out a campaign of his own against Santos in January, though he didn't sound likely to go for it.

WA-03: Camas City Councilor Leslie Lewallen announced last week that she'd run as a Republican in next year's top-two primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. Lewallen, whose city has a population of just over 27,000, argued, "We already have a plan to raise more than the $5 million it will take to win this seat." This southwestern Washington constituency favored Donald Trump 51-47.

Lewallen joins a field that already includes Joe Kent, the far-right Republican who announced in December that he'd run to avenge his 50.1-49.9 upset loss against Gluesenkamp Perez from the month before. The incumbent, though, massively outraised Kent $820,000 to $200,000 during the first quarter of 2023, and she finished March with a $660,000 to $210,000 cash-on-edge advantage.