Morning Digest: Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania gets smaller as GOP’s gets uglier

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

Leading Off

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commission Chair Val Arkoosh announced Friday that she was dropping out of the May Democratic primary. Arkoosh, who was the only woman running a serious campaign, had the backing of EMILY's List, but she didn't attract much support in any released poll and ended 2021 with significantly less money than two of her intra-party foes. She acknowledged Friday to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "It's become increasingly clear over the last month or two that I'm unlikely to be the Democratic nominee."

Arkoosh's departure leaves three notable Democrats in the contest to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who has enjoyed a huge edge in every survey we've seen, has also continued to lead the money race in the fourth quarter by outpacing Rep. Conor Lamb $2.7 million to $1.3 million and ending with a $5.3 million to $3 million cash-on-hand lead. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta was far back with $335,000 raised and only $285,000 available.

The Republicans, meanwhile, already had a massively expensive and ugly contest even before Friday, when the Inquirer reported that Honor Pennsylvania, a super PAC funded by mega-donor Ken Griffin to support hedge fund manager David McCormick, had reserved $12 million for a six-week ad buy against TV personality Mehmet Oz.

Campaign Action

The two sides have been using anti-Chinese messaging to attack one another: Oz recently ran a commercial that employed stereotypical gong sounds to argue McCormick is "China's friend, not ours," while McCormick's team says of his main opponent, "Mehmet Oz—citizen of Turkey, creature of Hollywood—has spent the last 20 years making his fortune from syndicating his show in China, enriching itself through censorship and CCP propaganda … How can he claim to be America First when he has dual loyalties?"

McCormick, as well as attorney John Giordano, entered the primary after the start of the new quarter, but we have fundraising reports for the other GOP candidates:

  • TV personality Mehmet Oz: $670,000 raised, additional $5.2 million self-funded, $1 million cash-on-hand
  • 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Jeff Bartos: $435,000 raised, additional $10,000 self-funded, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
  • Author Kathy Barnette: $415,000 raised, $565,000 cash-on-hand
  • former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands: $160,000 raised, additional $500,000 self-funded, $1.5 million cash-on-hand

Barnette, Bartos, and Sands each entered the race several months ago, but they’ve largely been left out of the increasingly pricey feud between McCormick and Oz.

Redistricting

Stay on top of the map-making process in all 50 states by bookmarking our invaluable redistricting timeline tracker, updated daily.

KS Redistricting: As expected, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the new congressional map recently passed by Kansas Republicans. In a statement accompanying her veto on Thursday evening, Kelly specifically criticized the plan for splitting the Kansas City area between two districts, a move designed to undermine Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids by making her 3rd District redder.

The question now is whether Republicans can override Kelly's veto. On paper, they have the necessary two-thirds supermajorities to do so. However, neither chamber hit that threshold when approving the new boundaries due to absences. The map passed the House by a 79-37 vote, five short of the 84-vote supermajority needed. However, four Republicans were absent while two others voted "present" and just one voted against the final map. In the Senate, where 27 votes are necessary for an override, the map was approved 26-9, with two Republicans absent and one opposed.

NC Redistricting: On Friday evening, North Carolina's Supreme Court struck down the new congressional and legislative maps that Republicans passed last year, deeming them "unlawful partisan gerrymanders" that violated multiple provisions of the state constitution. The court, which broke down 4-3 along party lines, ordered lawmakers to come up with remedial maps in two weeks and specifically mandated that they detail the "methods they employed in evaluating the partisan fairness" of their new plans.

Republicans had drawn their now-invalidated congressional districts with the aim of giving themselves an 11-3 advantage in the state's House delegation, despite North Carolina's perpetual swing-state status. The legislative maps were likewise designed to lock in sizable GOP majorities. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper was unable to veto any of the maps because redistricting plans do not require the governor's approval under state law.

PA Redistricting: Pennsylvania's bipartisan redistricting commission approved final legislative maps in a 4-1 vote on Friday, though critics now have 30 days to challenge the plans before the state Supreme Court. The maps, which can be viewed here, vary somewhat from versions the commission introduced in December, but they still represent a major break from the past.

Under the lines used for the previous decade, Donald Trump carried 109 districts in the state House while Joe Biden won just 94, despite the fact that Biden beat Trump statewide in 2020. The new map, however, features 103 Biden districts and 100 Trump seats, giving Democrats a chance to make major inroads and, one day, potentially take a majority. The Senate plan, by contrast, largely maintains the status quo, with Biden and Trump each carrying 25 districts—the exact same split as before.

Republicans had long controlled the process for drawing legislative districts in the Keystone State, where the Supreme Court appoints a tiebreaking member to the panel responsible for drafting them. The court had been in GOP hands for many years, giving Republicans a lock on selecting that tiebreaker, but Democrats—with an eye on redistricting—made a major push to flip the court in 2015.

That effort culminated in the justices tapping former University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg, a registered Democrat who has described himself as "about as close to the middle as you probably could get." Nordberg voted with the commission's two Democrats and one of the Republicans in favor of the final maps, while another Republican dissented.

Senate

MO-Sen: Team PAC, a super PAC funded by mega-donor Richard Uihlein to aid disgraced Gov. Eric Greitens, is the latest group to try and use anti-China messaging to win a Republican primary. The TV spot accuses Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is a former state legislator, of having "sponsored a bill to spend $480 million of your tax dollars to create a cargo hub here for airlines owned by China's Communist Party. To flood Missouri dollars with cheap Chinese imports."

Schmitt's allies at Save Missouri Values quickly hit back with an ad of their own that uses footage of then-Gov. Greitens appearing on a Chinese TV program. After the interviewer says, "Your visit to China is like an old, beautiful story renewed," Greitens responds, "It really is. It's amazing to see the transformation that's taken place here." There is no word on the size of the buy for either commercial.

Governors

GA-Gov: Gov. Brian Kemp's allies at Georgians First Leadership Committee are running a new commercial that once again attempts to portray former Sen. David Perdue, who is Donald Trump's endorsed candidate in the May Republican primary, as downright unTrumpy. The spot opens with footage of Trump declaring, "I'm gonna bring jobs back from China" before the narrator declares that Perdue "sent American jobs to China. Over and over again. By the thousands." It goes on to use an infamous clip of Perdue from his successful 2014 campaign, saying of his past practice fo outsourcing jobs, "Defend it? I'm proud of it."

There is no word on how much this pro-Kemp group is spending, but as we've written before, a new law gives the PAC access to as much money as the governor's supporters care to fork over. That's because, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously noted, Georgians First Leadership Committee was created last year after Kemp signed into law a bill that lets the governor and certain other statewide candidates "create funds that don't have to adhere to contribution caps." Importantly, these committees will also be able to accept donations during the legislative session, when the governor and lawmakers are otherwise forbidden from fundraising.  

This legislation won't be any help for Perdue, though, unless and until he wrests the GOP nomination from Kemp. And while Stacey Abrams is the overwhelming favorite to be the Democratic standard-bearer again, she also won't be able to create this kind of committee until her primary is officially over.

OH-Gov: The Democratic Governors Association has released numbers from Public Policy Polling that show Gov. Mike DeWine only leading former Rep. Jim Renecci 38-33 in the May Republican primary, which is actually better for the incumbent than his 46-38 deficit in a recent Renacci poll. Neither of those surveys included Joe Blystone, a little-known farmer who has been running for months. Former state Rep. Ron Hood also made a late entry into the race on Feb. 1, which was after both polls were conducted.

PA-Gov: Campaign finance reports were due Monday covering all of 2021, and they give us our first real look into which of the many Republican candidates for governor have the resources to run a serious race in this very expensive state:

  • State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman: $3 million raised, $2.7 million cash-on-hand
  • 2018 Senate nominee Lou Barletta: $1.1 million raised, $245,000 cash-on-hand
  • U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain: $900,000 raised, additional $100,000 self-funded, $815,000 cash-on-hand
  • GOP strategist Charlie Gerow: $420,000 raised, $250,000 cash-on-hand
  • former Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry President Guy Ciarrocchi: $305,000 raised, $240,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Sen. ​​Scott Martin: $300,000 raised, $270,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Dave White: $350,000 raised, additional $3 million self-funded, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
  • Surgeon Nche Zama: $200,000 raised, $145,000 cash-on-hand
  • Attorney Jason Richey: $160,000 raised, additional $1.45 million self-funded, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
  • Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale: $40,000 raised

This is the first time we've mentioned Richey, who attracted little attention when he kicked off his bid in May.

The list does not include two other declared Republican candidates: former Rep. Melissa Hart, whose numbers were not available days after the deadline, and state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who announced last month.

The Philadelphia Inquirer writes of the latter, "After he set up an exploratory committee in the fall, he said he'd reached a fund-raising goal to enter the race. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, said Mastriano's Senate campaign typically files disclosures electronically, but the agency had no report available for his gubernatorial campaign." The story added, "If Mastriano filed the report on paper and mailed it to Harrisburg, that could account for the delay. Mastriano didn't respond to emails seeking comment."

While McSwain has significantly less money to spend than Corman and two self-funders, Richey and White, he does have one huge ally in his corner. Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, which is funded by conservative billionaire Jeff Yass, had $20 million on-hand at the end of the year, and it said in January that "all of that money is at our disposal" to help McSwain.

Whoever emerges from the busy May primary will be in for an expensive general election fight against Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who faces no serious intra-party opposition in his bid to succeed his fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. Tom Wolf. Shapiro hauled in $13.4 million in 2021, which his team says is a state record for a non-election year, and he had a similar $13.5 million to spend.

House

CO-03: State Senate President Leroy Garcia didn't show any obvious interest in challenging Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert after Colorado's new maps made the 3rd District even more conservative, but the Democrat fully took himself out of contention on Thursday when he announced he was resigning from the legislature in order to take a post in the Department of the Navy.

GA-06: Rich McCormick, who was the 2020 Republican nominee for the old 7th District, has dropped a Public Opinion Strategies internal arguing he's the frontrunner in the May primary for the new and safely red 6th District. McCormick takes first with 25%, while none of his four opponents secure more than 3% of the vote each.    

NE-01: Indicted Rep. Jeff Fortenberry recently went up with a commercial arguing that his May Republican primary opponent, state Sen. Mike Flood, was unacceptably weak on immigration, and Flood is now airing a response spot. Madison County Sheriff Todd Volk tells the audience, "Jeff Fortenberry is facing felony criminal charges, so he's lashing out at law enforcement and lying about Mike Flood." After praising Flood for having "opposed in-state tuition for illegal immigrants," the sheriff commends him for opposing the repeal of the death penalty, which is a topic Fortenberry's opening ad didn't touch on.

NY-01, NY-02: With the adoption of New York's new congressional map, a number of candidates have announced changes of plans in terms of which district they'll run in. One of the most notable is former Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon, who'd been seeking a rematch against Republican Rep. Andrew Garbarino in the old 2nd District after losing to him 53-46 in 2020 when the seat came open following GOP Rep. Peter King's retirement.

Democrats in the legislature, however, gerrymandered Long Island to make the new 2nd considerably redder while simultaneously turning the neighboring 1st District much bluer: The former would have voted for Donald Trump 56-42 while the latter would have gone for Joe Biden 55-44, according to Dave's Redistricting App. That naturally makes the 1st much more appealing for Gordon, who said on Thursday that she'll run there, adding that her home also got moved into the district.

However, Gordon will face a contested fight for the Democratic nomination, as two other candidates had already been running in the 1st, which is open because Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin is making a bid for governor. Bridget Fleming and Kara Hahn, both members of the Suffolk County Legislature, entered the race last spring and have stockpiled similar sums: $644,000 for Fleming and $575,000 for Hahn. Gordon, who launched her second effort in October, had just $134,000 in the bank, but she was a dominant fundraiser last cycle, taking in $4.4 million.

NY-03: A spokesperson for Democratic state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi says their boss is "seriously considering" a bid for New York's redrawn 3rd Congressional District, a blue-leaning Long Island-based seat that just picked up a slice of the Bronx and Westchester County in its latest incarnation. That sliver includes Biaggi's hometown of Pelham and also overlaps with her legislative district. Several notable Democrats are already running in the 3rd, which is open because Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi is running for governor, but Biaggi has experience prevailing in difficult primaries: In 2018, she won a stunning 54-46 upset over state Sen. Jeff Klein, who was the well-financed leader of the renegade faction of Democrats known as the IDC.

NY-11: Sigh: Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is reportedly considering a bid for the redrawn 11th Congressional District, which now includes his home in Park Slope.

NY-22, NY-23: Democrat Josh Riley, an attorney who'd been challenging Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney in the old 22nd District, says he'll continue his campaign in the new, Tenney-less version of the seat. Tenney herself previously announced she'd seek re-election in the open 23rd, a much redder seat than the new version of the 22nd, which in fact is really the successor to the old 24th.

The revamped 22nd, which recently came open after GOP Rep. John Katko announced his retirement, was already a Democratic target even before redistricting made it bluer (the latest iteration would have gone 58-40 for Joe Biden). As such, there are already several candidates vying for the nomination, the most notable among them Navy veteran Francis Conole, who raised $202,000 in the fourth quarter of last year and had $413,000 cash-on-hand. Riley, who launched his campaign in mid-November, brought in $410,000 and had the same amount banked.

As for Tenney, yet another would-be Republican opponent, Steuben County GOP chair Joe Sempolinski, has said he won't run against her in the new 23rd. However, state Sen. George Borrello wouldn't rule out a bid in recent comments, though he appears to be holding out the extremely slender hope that Republicans will successfully challenge the new map in court.

NY-24: Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs, who represents the old 27th District, says he will seek re-election in the new 24th, which shares much of its DNA with his current seat and is likewise deep red. However, he may not have a clear shot at the nomination: Attorney Todd Aldinger, who has repeatedly sued to overturn COVID mitigation measures, says he'll run here as well.

RI-02: Michael Neary, who worked as a staffer for then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich's 2016 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, has joined the September Democratic primary.

Mayors

Washington, D.C. Mayor: Mayor Muriel Bowser went into the new year with a huge fundraising lead over her two rivals in the June Democratic primary, a contest that is tantamount to election in the District of Columbia.

Bowser led Robert White, who holds an at-large post on the Council of the District of Columbia, $2.4 million to $555,000 in cash-on-hand; White, who like Bowser is utilizing the local public financing system, said that he would have a total of $910,000 to spend once matching funds are included, however. Another Council member, Trayon White (who is not related to Robert White), had less than $3,000 available.

Ed. note: In our previous newsletter, we reported erroneous cash-on-hand figures for several candidates running in incumbent-vs.-incumbent races for the House. We have since corrected those numbers.

Morning Digest: GOP field slowly develops for 2022 race to break Dems’ single-party hold on Nevada

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

Leading Off

NV-Gov, NV-Sen: The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Rory Appleton takes a deep look at the developing Republican fields to take on the two leading Nevada Democrats up in this swing state in 2022, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Republicans seem to agree that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red’s 2018 nominee for governor, would have little trouble winning the Senate primary should he run, but the gubernatorial field appears to be wide open.

Sisolak, though, may have more immediate worries. Appleton reports that Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick is considering challenging the governor in the primary, though she has yet to confirm her interest. There’s no word on why Kirkpatrick might want to unseat a member of her own party, though Appleton says she’s come into conflict with the governor before.

No matter what, though, Democrats will need to prepare for a tough general election as they seek to hold the governor’s office. Until now, the only notable Republican who had publicly talked about running was Rep. Mark Amodei, who reaffirmed his interest this month. Appleton also says that former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who share a consultant, are considering; neither man has said anything publicly, though Amodei relays that he’s spoken to him about this contest recently.

Campaign Action

While things are unsettled now, there may be a Republican frontrunner before too long. Appleton writes, “The belief in Republican political circles is the potential candidates will come to an agreement in the next month and not compete against one another in a primary.”

Other Republicans, though, may decide to run no matter what any member of this trio does. Appleton notes that casino owner Derek Stevens, whom he describes as a “newcomer,” is thinking about getting in.

A few other Silver State politicos may also take their chances. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who previously served in the state Senate as a conservative Democrat, acknowledged he’s been “approached by different people in both parties” about switching to the GOP and running for governor. Lee didn’t rule the idea out, saying, “I’m flattered, but at this point, I’m still focused on some big projects in North Las Vegas, and I don’t want to be distracted.”

GOP state Sens. Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Gansert, whom Appleton characterizes as “wildcards,” also could run either against Sisolak or Cortez Masto. Kieckhefer said he was “still thinking about what a race for governor looks like” and “has had a few conversations about the Senate.” Kieckhefer, who portrayed himself as a moderate focused on “consensus building and problem solving in a bipartisan way,” said he hoped to make up his mind in June.

Gansert, for her part, was more evasive, but she did not reject the idea of a statewide campaign. Gansert, who is a former chief of staff to former Gov. Brian Sandoval, said, “I certainly see the growing frustration over the lack of checks and balances and the one-party rule in our government, but I have a lot to get done in the legislature.”

There are two big GOP names from yesteryear, though, who probably won’t run for anything in 2022. Appleton name-drops former Sen. Dean Heller as a possible gubernatorial candidate, though he writes that Amodei and most Republican operatives doubt he’ll campaign for anything this cycle “unless the waters change.”

Appleton also reports that, while both sides are watching to see if Sandoval will run for the Senate, few expect him to. Republicans tried hard to recruit him to run here six years ago, but he never seemed particularly interested in joining Congress. Sandoval is currently serving as president of the University of Nevada, Reno, and a spokesperson says that he “would prefer to keep his time and attention focused on that role.” Sandoval, who was a relative moderate during his time in office, could also be deterred from running by the threat of a difficult GOP primary against a possible conservative alternative.

1Q Fundraising

CA-Sen: Alex Padilla (D-inc): $2.6 million raised

NC-Sen: Jeff Jackson (D) $1.3 million raised

OH-Sen: Jane Timken (R): $2.1 million raised

PA-Sen: Chrissy Houlahan (D): $580,000 raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand (has not announced a bid); Jeff Bartos (R): $1.2 million raised

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R-inc): $700,000 raised

MI-03: Peter Meijer (R-inc): $500,000 raised

NC-11: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D): $380,000 raised (in one month)

OH-11: Nina Turner (D): $1.55 million raised; Shontel Brown (D): $640,000 raised, $550,000 cash-on-hand

OH-16: Max Miller (R): $500,000 raised

Senate

AK-Sen: Republican Kelly Tshibaka has released a new poll from Cygnal that shows her leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski 34-19 in a hypothetical all-party primary with three other undeclared candidates to argue that the incumbent is in a "weak" position, but it doesn't address Alaska's new instant runoff for general elections. Under this system, the top four vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance from the primary, then compete via ranked-choice voting in November. Without simulating a potential runoff, it's impossible to know any candidate's true strength.

CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna isn't ruling out a challenge next year to fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, whose appointment in January to succeed Kamala Harris made him the first Latino senator in California history. In new remarks to Politico, the Bay Area congressman said he's "keeping [his] options open" regarding a potential Senate bid.

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh kicked off a bid for the Senate on Monday, making her the third notable Democrat to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Arkoosh, a physician, unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2014 for what was then numbered the 13th District, finishing last in a four-way primary with 15% of the vote. (The nomination was won by Brendan Boyle, who now represents the redrawn and renumbered 2nd District.) The following year, though, Arkoosh was tapped to fill a vacancy on the commission in Montgomery County, a large suburban county just outside of Philadelphia, and won election in her own right that fall. In 2016, her fellow commissioners selected her as the board's first woman chair, and she easily won a second term in 2019.

If Arkoosh were to prevail in next year's race, she'd also be the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate. First, though, she'll have to get past a primary that already features Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with more poised to join.

UT-Sen: The Salt Lake Tribune's Bryan Schott runs down a whole host of possible primary challengers to Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who is largely drawing heat from those dismayed by his wholehearted embrace of Trumpism. In any other state, that would be unimaginable, but a sizable contingent of Mormon voters remain nonplussed with the GOP's direction over the last half-decade—enough, at least, to spur chatter about trying to take down Lee.

The roster of potential candidates includes former state Rep. Becky Edwards, whom we'd previously identified as running based on her statement that she was "all in"; Schott, however, says that she's "all in" on exploring a bid, which is really not a helpful use of the term. There's also businesswoman Ally Isom, who was previously reported to be interested but has now confirmed she's looking at the race. Isom quit the GOP in 2016 over Trump but re-registered as a Republican last year; like Edwards, she encouraged Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.

Meanwhile, real estate executive Thomas Wright, who ended up last with just 8% in last year's four-way Republican primary for governor, didn't rule out a bid, saying that "there continues to be a desire to serve." However, the third-place finisher in that race, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, flat-out said he wouldn't run and would back Lee for re-election.

Schott adds that there have been "persistent rumblings" that Tim Ballard, the head of a nonprofit that combats child trafficking, could run, but there's no word on his interest. As for former CIA officer Evan McMullin, who took 22% in Utah running as a conservative independent in 2016's presidential race, Schott says any hope he might enter is "probably more wishful thinking than reality at this point."

Governors

TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke pointedly did not rule out a bid for governor in new remarks on Friday, saying only, "I've got no plans to run." After lots of folks (who aren't wicked smart Digest readers like you) misinterpreted this statement to conclude that O'Rourke had closed the door on a challenge to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott next year (he hadn't), his team released a further statement to clarify. "I'm not currently considering a run for office," said O'Rourke. "I'm focused on what I'm doing now (teaching and organizing.) Nothing's changed and nothing I said would preclude me from considering a run in the future."

In November of 2018, O'Rourke said, "I will not be a candidate for president in 2020. That's I think as definitive as those sentences get." O'Rourke launched a bid for president in March of 2019.

VA-Gov: Former Democratic state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign for governor just received a $500,000 infusion from a political advocacy organization thanks to state laws that place no caps on political giving. The PAC that made the donation, Clean Virginia, was created by a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive named Michael Bills in an effort to oppose Dominion Energy, which the Virginia Mercury's Graham Moomaw describes as "the state-regulated utility many progressives see as exerting undue control" over state lawmakers.

Moomaw also notes that Clean Virginia had previously given $100,000 each to Foy and another rival in the June 8 Democratic primary, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. It does not appear that the group gave a comparable donation to McClellan this time.

Meanwhile, in an aside buried deep in a long profile piece, the New York Times indicates that former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman is still thinking about a bid. Riggleman, who lost renomination at a party convention last year and has since become a vocal critic of of Trump-fueled disinformation, has until June 8—the same day as the state's primaries—to file as an independent.

House

KS-03: Former state GOP chair Amanda Adkins, who'd reportedly been prepping for a rematch with Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, kicked off a second bid for Kansas' 3rd Congressional District on Monday. Davids beat Adkins by a convincing 54-44 margin last year, as the district, based in the Kansas City area, moved sharply to the left, going for Joe Biden by the same spread—just eight years after backing Mitt Romney by precisely that margin.

However, last year, then-state Senate President Susan Wagle specifically exhorted supporters to preserve the GOP's supermajorities in the legislature to ensure Republicans could draw a new congressional map that "takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd." Republicans were in fact successful keeping their two-thirds majorities while also purging some of the moderates in their caucus in last year's primaries, meaning they'd likely be able to override a veto of any new districts by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

LA-02: A newly created PAC named Progress for the People has begun what The Advocate's Tyler Bridges describes as a "six-figure ad buy" against state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson ahead of the April 24 all-Democratic runoff. This appears to be the first negative TV spot of the runoff, though Peterson's opponent, fellow state Sen. Troy Carter, went up with a spot directed against her just ahead of last month's all-party primary.

The PAC's commercial declares that Peterson accepted her taxpayer funded salary even though she "missed 85% of her votes in the legislature last year," including on "COVID guidelines, voting rights, [and] gun safety." Peterson said at the time that she didn't feel safe going to the Capitol in the early months of the pandemic, and she put out a statement this month blaming the legislature's GOP leaders for rejecting her call "for a mask mandate and social distancing to protect the hardworking staff at the Capitol."

MA-09: Peter Lucas of the conservative Boston Herald relays that some unnamed observers believe that Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito could challenge Democratic Rep. Bill Keating. Polito and Gov. Charlie Baker are up for a third term in 2022, and there's been plenty of speculation that Polito could run to succeed her boss should Baker retire.

Polito has said nothing about a potential bid for Congress, though she and her husband notably purchased a $1.8 million second home last month that's located in Keating's district. Polito, however, has continued to raise cash for her state campaign account, which is money she could not use on a federal campaign

Keating's constituency, which includes the South Shore region near Boston and stretches east to Cape Cod, is the most conservative of Massachusetts' nine congressional districts, though GOP presidential candidates have still struggled here. Joe Biden won 58-40 here last year, which was an improvement from Hillary Clinton's 52-41 victory in 2016. Legislative Democrats also have more than enough members to pass a new congressional map over Baker's veto, so it's unlikely this turf would dramatically change.

MI-06: Freshman state Rep. Steve Carra, who late last month posted on social media that "[i]t's time to replace Fred Upton with a proven conservative," says he's kicking off a campaign on Tuesday. He's by no means the only Republican elected official gunning for Upton over his vote to impeach Donald Trump, though: Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, who expressed interest in a primary challenge in January, has now filed paperwork with the FEC, though he hasn't launched a bid yet.

NY-23: Several more Republicans are talking about bids to succeed GOP Rep. Tom Reed, who recently announced his retirement after a lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct. The newest names are Steuben County Republican Party Chairman Joe Sempolinski and businessman Matthew Burr, who both say they're considering the race. In addition, Chemung County Executive Chris Moss reiterated that he's looking at the contest, but added that he wants to wait to see how redistricting unfolds. Moss said that for now, he plans to seek re-election to his current post next year.

OH-12, OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Turns out it's door number three for Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor: The central Ohio Democrat, who'd previously been considering bids for Senate or statewide executive office, will instead wage another campaign for the House. O'Connor narrowly lost two competitive races for the 12th Congressional District to Republican Troy Balderson in 2018—a special election and then, not long after, the November general election—though redistricting could pit him against someone else.

It doesn't sound, however, as though he'd challenge Rep. Joyce Beatty, a fellow Columbus-area Democrat whom he called "a champion for working families" and suggested was someone (along with Sen. Sherrod Brown) he'd want to emulate in Congress. O'Connor could, though, wind up facing off against Balderson's 2020 opponent, businesswoman Alaina Shearer, who said last month that she's running again but plans to re-evaluate once a new map is in place.

TN-05: On Monday, community activist Odessa Kelly launched a primary challenge against longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition who survived a primary last year by an underwhelming 57-40 margin. Kelly charged Cooper with failing to do enough for the city of Nashville, where Tennessee's 5th District is based, during his "decades in Congress," and identified Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as her top priorities.

If elected, Kelly would be the first Black woman to serve in the House from the Volunteer State and also the first openly gay Black woman in Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.) However, Tennessee Republicans could chop up Nashville in the coming round of redistricting, dividing it between the dark red surrounding districts to create another safe seat for the GOP.

TX-06: Former Trump official Sery Kim unleashed a racist anti-Chinese rant at a candidate forum in Texas' 6th Congressional District last week, prompting two Asian American Republicans in Congress to withdraw their endorsements.

In her opening remarks, Kim launched into a conspiracy theory about the COVID-19 pandemic, baselessly claiming, "We were lied to for the last one year and two months and stayed at home because China created coronavirus in a Wuhan lab." Later, when answering a question about immigration, Kim said of Chinese immigrants, "I don't want them here at all. They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don't hold themselves accountable." She added, "And quite frankly, I can say that because I'm Korean."

California Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel, who were the first Korean American Republican women to win seats in Congress with their victories last year, took sharp exception to Sery Kim's remarks. Saying that she'd refused their demands that she apologize, the two congresswomen said, "We cannot in good conscience continue to support her candidacy." Kim responded by claiming that "the liberal media is targeting me" and filing a lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages against the Texas Tribune for calling her statements "racist."

On an entirely unrelated note, Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez has launched her first TV ad ahead of the May all-party primary, which the Tribune's Patrick Svitek says is backed by a "six-figure buy on cable and satellite." The spot features some basic biographical details (she "put herself through college and started a business from scratch"), then bashes "Washington politicians like Ted Cruz" for opposing $1,400 relief checks. Displaying a photo of Cruz lugging his suitcase through an airport during his notorious trip to Mexico amid Texas' devastating ice storm last month, Sanchez adds, "They even abandoned us when the lights went out."

WA-04: Businessman and Navy veteran Jerrod Sessler is the latest Republican to launch a challenge to GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. He also describes himself as a "former NASCAR driver," but his competitive involvement was limited to local competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues, and his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Tuesday brings a packed slate of five special elections across four states:

CA-AD-79: This Democratic district in the eastern San Diego suburbs became vacant when former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber was appointed as California’s secretary of state in January. There are five candidates seeking this seat and if no one takes a majority Tuesday, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held on June 8.

Four of the candidates vying to replace Weber are Democrats: La Mesa City Council member Akilah Weber (who is a daughter of the former Assemblywoman), organizer Leticia Munguia, criminal justice reform advocate Aeiramique Glass Blake, and middle school teacher Shane Parmely. Businessman Marco Contreras is the lone Republican in the running.

The is a solidly blue seat that backed Hillary Clinton 64-30 in 2016 and is one of two vacancies in this chamber, which Democrats control 58-19 (with one independent member).

MO-HD-54: This Democratic seat in the Columbia area became vacant when former Rep. Kip Kendrick resigned to become chief of staff for state Sen. Greg Razer. No Republican opted to run for this solidly Democratic seat that supported Clinton 60-32, so attorney David Smith will represent Team Blue against Libertarian Glenn Nielsen. According to Columbia Daily Tribune, Smith would be the first Black Missouri legislator elected from outside of Kansas City or St. Louis.

Republicans control this chamber 114-48 with just this seat vacant.

OK-SD-22: This seat located northwest of Oklahoma City became vacant after former Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to the U.S. House last year. Speech pathologist Molly Ooten is the Democratic candidate taking on businessman Jake Merrick, a Republican. Merrick ran in the GOP primary for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District last year, a race Bice won, and took 3%.  

This is a strongly Republican district that backed Donald Trump 68-25 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 38-9 with just this seat vacant.

WI-SD-13: This Republican district in central Wisconsin, which takes in a slice of Madison’s suburbs, became vacant when former Sen. Scott Fitzgerald was elected to the U.S. House last year. The Democratic candidate is teacher Melissa Winker who is taking on Republican state Assemblyman John Jagler. Two candidates from obscure minor parties are also in the race: Businessman Ben Schmitz from the American Solidarity Party and chauffeur Spencer Zimmerman from the Trump Conservative Party.  

This is a solidly red district that supported Trump 58-37 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 20-12 with just this seat vacant.

WI-AD-89: This Republican district north of Green Bay became vacant when former Assemblyman John Nygren resigned last year. Democratic Marinette County Supervisor Karl Jaeger is facing businessman Elijah Behnke, a Republican. Jaeger ran for this seat last year, losing to Nygren by a 69-31 spread.  

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Trump 63-32 in 2016. Republicans hold this chamber 60-38 with just this seat vacant.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: State Rep. Jon Santiago earned an endorsement on Friday from the Laborers Local 223, a high-profile construction union that was led by Marty Walsh until he was elected mayor in 2013. The group is now run by Walsh's cousin, who also happens to be named Marty Walsh; the Boston Herald's Sean Philip Cotter tweets that the current union head is identified as "Big Marty" to distinguish him from his famous relative and the many other Marty Walshes in Boston politics.

P.S.: Marty Walsh, as in the former mayor turned U.S. secretary of labor, said last month that he would not be endorsing in this year's mayoral race.

New York City, NY Mayor: Politico reports that a PAC named New Start NYC has reserved $2.74 million on TV ads through early May in support of Shaun Donovan, a former director of the Obama-era Office of Management and Budget, ahead of the June Democratic primary. The group has received $1 million from the candidate's father, tech executive Michael Donovan.

Morning Digest: Nephew of Arkansas’ GOP governor bails party to mull independent run for governor

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

Leading Off

AR-Gov: State Sen. Jim Hendren expressed interest only weeks ago in seeking the Republican nomination to succeed his uncle, termed-out GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson, but he instead shocked politicos on Thursday by announcing that he was leaving the party to become an independent. Hendren, who recently finished a stint leading the chamber, called the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol "the final straw," continuing, "I asked myself what in the world I would tell my grandchildren when they asked one day what happened and what did I do about it?"

Hendren said that he would form an organization to fund moderate candidates, and he also did not rule out running for governor himself without a party affiliation. "Right now, I've pushed that decision to the backburner because before anybody can win any serious race as an independent there has to be some sort of platform, some sort of foundation," he said, though he added that he might instead back a different independent contender.

Senate

AL-Sen: Wealthy businesswoman Lynda Blanchard entered the race for Alabama's open Senate seat on Thursday, seeding her campaign with what she described as "an initial $5 million deposit." In launching her bid, Blanchard made sure to emphasize that she "served as U.S. ambassador to First Lady Melania Trump's home country of Slovenia." Blanchard is the first notable Republican to join the contest, but many, many others are eyeing the race.

Campaign Action

FL-Sen: The New York Times reports that Ivanka Trump will not primary Republican Sen. Marco Rubio next year, according to unnamed "people close to her," and Rubio's office says that Trump herself has told the senator the same thing. In a statement, Trump didn't directly address the race but praised Rubio and called him "a good personal friend."

OH-Sen: Jane Timken, who recently stepped down as chair of the state Republican Party, announced Thursday that she would run to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman.

Timken joins former state Treasurer Josh Mandel in the primary, and he immediately tried to out-Trump his new opponent by tweeting out a picture of her embracing former Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who dynamited his last bridges with the party last year by endorsing Joe Biden. Kasich though, got into the trolling game by quickly sharing a photo of a smiling Mandel looking on as Kasich stumped for him during the former treasurer's failed 2012 Senate campaign. (The only commentary that accompanied Kasich's tweet was an eye-roll emoji.)

Timken herself emerged on the political scene in 2017 by unseating a Kasich ally as state party chair. Donald Trump publicly backed Timken in that contest and called about a dozen central committee members on her behalf. Timken is also part of a prominent donor family in state party politics, and the wealthy candidate already seems to have money available for her bid: Politico reports that Timken is launching a $263,000 buy on Fox.

PA-Sen: Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean recently attracted national attention as one of the managers of Donald Trump's second impeachment, and several of her allies are now publicly encouraging her to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican incumbent Pat Toomey. A spokesperson for Dean only told Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman in response that the congresswoman hasn't had time to consider, which very much isn't a no.

The most prominent Democrat to announce before this week was Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, but others may make their move no matter what Dean ends up doing. Bowman relays that two unnamed Democrats say that Montgomery County Commission chair Val Arkoosh "is expected to announce a Senate bid soon." Dean's 4th Congressional District includes just over 85% of this populous suburban Philadelphia community, so she and Arkoosh might end up competing over the same geographic base if they both ran.

Party strategist Mark Nevins also tells Bowman that for every "whisper you hear about Congresswoman Dean running for Senate, you also hear one about" other Democratic House members including Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, whom we hadn't previously heard mentioned for this race.

Governors

CA-Gov: A new poll from WPA Intelligence for Republican Kevin Faulconer, who recently left office as mayor of San Diego, says that California voters support recalling Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom by a 47-43 margin, with 10% undecided. A recent poll for UC Berkley found just the opposite, with voters opposing the idea 45-36. Faulconer's survey also included numbers for a horserace matchup pitting himself against several other potential candidates, but his proposed field is so deep into the realm of the hypothetical that the data isn't in any way useful.

OH-Gov: While Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor expressed interest in seeking the Democratic nod for the Senate last month, he also opened the door this week to a possible campaign against Republican Gov. Mike DeWine or for another statewide office. O'Connor, who lost two competitive 2018 races for the 12th Congressional District, said, "An executive office in a state like Ohio is always going to have more of an impact than legislative offices ... I love the thought of running across this state … and having conversations about the type of Democrat that I am."

O'Connor didn't give a timeline for when he'd decide, though the Columbus Dispatch noted that his wife is expected to give birth in May and "family matters are taking precedence over political aspirations for the moment."

VA-Gov: A new Global Strategy Group poll of Virginia's Democratic primary for governor conducted on behalf of former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy finds former Gov. Terry McAuliffe far out in front with 42% of the vote, with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax at 14%, Carroll Foy at 7%, and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan at 6% while 30% are undecided.

GSG argues, however, that Carroll Foy is best poised to grow, saying that she trails McAuliffe by a narrower 37-27 after respondents were read "evenhanded profiles and images of the four core candidates," with the other two Democrats still well behind. The memo did not include the text of the profiles.

House

CO-03: State Rep. Donald Valdez announced Thursday that he'd seek the Democratic nod to take on the 3rd District's extremist incumbent, freshman Republican Lauren Boebert. Valdez, a moderate who has often voted against his party in the legislature, ran for this western Colorado seat last cycle, but he dropped out after raising little money.

Legislatures

IL State House: Democratic state Rep. Mike Madigan announced Thursday that he was resigning from the state House, a move that concludes his 50-year career in the legislature one month after his record-breaking tenure as speaker came to an involuntary end. The still-powerful Madigan will remain state party chair, though, so he's far from done with Prairie State politics. Madigan is also the head of his local Chicago ward party, which allows him to pick his replacement in the House. (There are no special elections to the Illinois legislature.)

Data

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 House seats nationwide nears its end with Louisiana, which will host not one but two special elections on March 20. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Donald Trump's 58-40 victory in the Pelican State over Joe Biden was little different from his 58-38 showing against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Trump once again easily won five of Louisiana's six congressional districts. Trump scored at least 62% of the vote in each of these constituencies, all of which are held by Republicans.

The one blue seat is the 2nd District, which stretches from the New Orleans area west to Baton Rouge. Republican mapmakers drew this constituency to take in as many African American voters as possible to make the surrounding districts whiter, and Biden's 75-23 win was almost identical to Clinton's 75-22 performance. Several candidates are competing in next month's all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January to take a post in the Biden White House, and there's no question that the eventual winner will be a Democrat.

Louisiana has always had a district anchored by New Orleans, and Democrats have held it since the 1890 election—with one very unusual exception a little more than a decade ago. In 2008, Democratic Rep. Bill Jefferson lost re-election to Republican Joseph Cao in a huge upset thanks to a confluence of scandal, a major change in election law, and a hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast.

Perhaps most importantly, Jefferson was under indictment on corruption charges after he was filmed allegedly taking $100,000 in marked cash from a government informant, $90,000 of which was later discovered in his freezer. For a time, though, it seemed like Jefferson's electoral career would continue despite the scandal. The state temporarily abandoned its all-party primaries for congressional races in 2008 and 2010 and switched to the type of partisan primary-plus-runoff system that's used in neighboring Southern states. Jefferson won the first round of the primary with a 25% plurality, and he prevailed in the runoff 57-43.

But timing is everything in politics, and events outside of Jefferson's control dramatically altered the political calendar in Cao's favor. The primary was originally set for early September, but the state postponed the contest for a month when Hurricane Gustav threatened the Gulf Coast at the end of August. (The storm also led to the cancelation of the first night of the Republican National Convention.) Primary runoffs instead took place on Election Day in November, with the general election for those races pushed off until December.

Unfortunately for Jefferson, his contest was one of those affected. The congressman won the runoff as Barack Obama was carrying his seat 74-25, but he still needed to fend off Cao in December. Turnout would have almost certainly dropped no matter what, but the state's new election rules likely led many Democratic voters to mistakenly believe that they'd already re-elected Jefferson in November when they'd only renominated him. Other voters who might otherwise have voted Democratic also stayed home, or even backed Cao, out of disgust for the incumbent.

Still, it was a massive surprise when Cao defeated Jefferson 50-47, a victory that made him the first Vietnamese American to ever serve in Congress. Republicans were thrilled about their pickup after a second brutal cycle in a row, with Minority Leader John Boehner memorably putting out a memo afterwards proclaiming, "The future is Cao." Jefferson himself was convicted the next year and began serving a 13-year sentence in 2012, though he ended up leaving prison in late 2017.

Cao, meanwhile, struggled to repeat his shock win against a stronger opponent. While Republicans enjoyed a very strong election cycle in 2010, the 2nd reverted to form when state Rep. Cedric Richmond, who had unsuccessfully challenged Jefferson in the 2008 primary, unseated Cao 65-33. That victory restored the 2nd District's status as a safely blue seat, and even with Richmond's departure for a job in the Biden White House, that's not going to change in next month's special.

The other March 20 special will take place in the 5th District to succeed Republican Luke Letlow, who died from complications from the coronavirus just weeks after he won an open seat race against a fellow Republican but before he could be sworn in. This seat, which includes Monroe and Alexandria in the central part of the state, backed Trump 64-34, and Republicans should have little trouble keeping it.

This area, though, did send a Democrat to the House under the state's previous congressional map in 2002, but Team Blue's hold proved to be very brief. State Rep. Rodney Alexander won an open seat race 50.3-49.7 that year, and he looked like he'd be one of the most vulnerable members of the Democratic caucus in 2004. Alexander filed to run for re-election as a Democrat that year, but he refiled as a Republican two days later―on the final day of the candidate qualifying period.

The congressman's former party was infuriated, but Democrats were never able to take revenge. The incumbent won his 2004 race, as well as his next four campaigns, without any trouble. Alexander resigned in 2013 to take a position in Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, and, despite a high-profile scandal surrounding his immediate successor, Team Red has always easily held the seat.

Louisiana Republicans had control of the redistricting process in 2011 for the first time in living memory, but Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards may be able to block them from passing another gerrymander. The legislature has only ever overridden two gubernatorial vetoes in more than two centuries of statehood (the last was in 1993), and while Republicans have the two-thirds majority necessary to defy Edwards in the state Senate, they don't have quite the numbers on their own in the House.

That's because, while Republicans outnumber Democrats 68-35 in the lower chamber, the House crucially also contains two independents who often vote with the minority party. This means that, if no seats change hands before redistricting takes place, and no Democrats vote for a Republican map, GOP legislators would need to win over both independents to pass their own boundaries again.

P.S. Because Louisiana does not assign pre-Election Day votes to precincts, we have relied on the same method to estimate congressional district vote totals that we recently used in Alabama.

International

Israel: Israel will hold a general election on March 23 because the results of the 2020 election were inconclusive. That election was held because the results of the September 2019 election were inconclusive. And that election was held because the results of the April 2019 election were inconclusive. We'll give you one guess as to the likely result of this next election.

Through all of this turmoil one constant has remained: radical-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some parliamentary systems have a tradition of deploying a caretaker prime minister, who takes over if the current officeholder loses a no-confidence vote or resigns. The caretaker PM leads the government for a short time until elections are held or the crisis at hand has abated. This is common in Italy, and in fact just happened. There is no such tradition in Israel, however, and so Netanyahu sticks around not because a majority of any of these Knessets (the Israeli parliament) want him to, but because there's no majority for anyone else to take over.

In the April 2019 election, the pro-Netanyahu coalition won 60 of the chamber's 120 seats. In September of that year, it won just 56 seats, and in 2020 it won 58. For both the second and third elections in question, if a vote of confidence in Netanyahu had been taken, he would have lost. But the anti-Netanyahu side ranges from left-wing Arab-majority parties to right-wing secular nationalists, a disunified confederation at the best of times.

After the 2020 elections, the anti-Netanyahu faction managed to get 61 members of Parliament to recommend that Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White Party form the next government, but Gantz was unable to hold this disparate group together long enough to actually form a working coalition. He instead made a deal with Netanyahu in which each man would supposedly serve as prime minister for 18 months. Netanyahu went first, of course, and another election was scheduled before Gantz got his turn. This surprised exactly no one who has spent more than five minutes following Netanyahu's career.

So far, the upcoming election has largely followed the pattern of its recent predecessors. The new center-right hope to unseat Netanyahu is former fellow Likud MP Gideon Sa'ar, who left Likud as new elections were being called and has largely picked up the center-right anti-Netanyahu vote that had been going to Gantz's Blue and White Party. Also arrayed against Netanyahu are the right-wing secular nationalists, the centrists, the center-left, and the Arab-majority parties. On the pro-Netanyahu side, you've got his Likud Party, of course, as well as the Orthodox Haredi parties and the far-right extremists. You will be shocked to learn that recent polling puts each side at about 60 seats.

If Netanyahu's side wins a majority, however, he'll remain prime minister. If not, he'll probably remain in charge anyway while the opposition fails to unite behind a replacement. There is one entity that might prevent this outcome and end this stalemate, but it lies far outside the Knesset: the Israeli justice system. Netanyahu has been under investigation for corruption since 2016 and was indicted in 2019 for fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. His trial has been ongoing since May of last year, prolonged by many COVID-related delays. Prosecutors are finally slated to start providing evidence for their case within weeks, though that too could be delayed until after the election.

Even if Netanyahu were convicted, appeals would likely string the process along for years, though he could conceivably be forced to step down. However, barring significant voting shifts one way or another, there's no obvious alternative path out of this perpetual deadlock.

Kosovo: As in Israel, voters in Kosovo were just sent back to the ballot box earlier than normal, though with a very different outcome. The left-wing Vetevendosje (Albanian for "Self-Determination'') turned a small 2019 plurality victory into a landslide mandate to govern the country, skyrocketing from 26% of the vote to 48%, with the counting of overseas votes still ongoing.

The major leftist party in Kosovo, Vetevendosje had grown out of an anti-corruption protest movement in the 2000s and first contested parliamentary elections in 2010. The party is also the main proponent of ethnic Albanian nationalism, pushing for a referendum to unify Albanian-majority Kosovo with neighboring Albania itself. While the party placed first two years ago, its relatively small share of seats pushed it into an unstable coalition with the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK), which had narrowly finished second.

That coalition lasted less than four months as the DLK bolted over the handling of the pandemic and formed a new government with just 61 votes in the 120-seat chamber. However, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo later ruled that because one of the 61 members voting for the new government had been convicted of fraud, the vote creating the new government did not actually pass with the needed majority, leading to new elections on Feb. 14.

Vetevendosje had long campaigned as an anti-establishment and anti-corruption party, and years of problems came to a head as the pandemic caused a sharp downturn in the country's economic fortunes. The party was also boosted by acting President Vjosa Osmani, who took over after the previous president, Hashim Thaci, was indicted at The Hague for war crimes. Osmani was a DLK MP and was elevated to the position of speaker last year, which in turn led to her assuming the powers of the presidency after Thaci's departure. But Osmani soon left the DLK and campaigned with Vetevendosje during the election.

The party will likely fall just short of an outright majority but should be able to form a stable coalition with some of the smaller parties and the seats set aside for minority groups. Leaders have said that they will prioritize curbing corruption and tackling unemployment rather than negotiations with Serbia, from whom Kosovo declared independence back in 2008. Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo's independence, and their disputed diplomatic relations have often been the focus of other countries, but the issue repeatedly rates as a low priority both in polls and for the incoming Vetevendosje government itself.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?, NJ State Senate: Michael Pappas, a Republican who represented New Jersey in the U.S. House for a single term from 1997 to 1999, announced this week that he would run this year for an open seat in the state Senate in the west-central part of the state being vacated by retiring GOP incumbent Kip Bateman.

Pappas earned his brief moment in the political spotlight in 1998 when he took to the House floor to deliver an ode to the special prosecutor probing the Clinton White House that began, "Twinkle, twinkle, Kenneth Starr/ Now we see how brave you are." Politicos would later blame that bit of awful poetry for Pappas' 50-47 defeat against Democrat Rush Holt that fall.

Pappas, who quickly earned the support of influential party leaders for his new campaign, also scared off former Rep. Dick Zimmer, who had competed with Pappas in a 2000 primary that occurred when both of them were out of Congress. While Zimmer, who gave up this seat back in 1996 to unsuccessfully run for the Senate, decisively won that intra-party engagement, he went on to lose a very tight contest to Holt. Zimmer, though, endorsed Joe Biden last year, so he was very unlikely to pull off another victory against Pappas.

Pappas, however, is no sure bet to return to elected office. While we don't yet have the 2020 presidential results calculated for the New Jersey legislature, Hillary Clinton carried the 16th Legislative District 55-41 four years before.

Morning Digest: Scramble is on after unexpected retirement opens up Ohio Senate seat

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

Leading Off

 OH-Sen: In a big surprise, Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced Monday that he would not seek a third term next year in Ohio. Portman, who is 65, had not shown any obvious interest in retirement, and he had a large $4.6 million war chest at the end of September of 2020. The senator, though, explained his decision by saying, "I don't think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision."

Portman's departure will likely give Democrats a better shot at his Senate seat, but Ohio's rightward drift over the last few years will still make it difficult for Team Blue to score a win in this traditional swing state. Joe Biden targeted the Buckeye State hard in 2020, but Donald Trump still defeated him 53-45. However, Ohio isn't a place that Republicans can take victory for granted: Portman's Democratic colleague, Sen. Sherrod Brown, earned re-election 53-47 in 2018, and last year, Democrats won an officially nonpartisan race for the state Supreme Court.

Republicans, though, have the far larger bench in this state, and a number of them have publicly or privately expressed interest already. The following politicians have confirmed that they're looking at running to succeed Portman:

The only one of these politicians who laid out a timeline for when he expected to decide was Obhof, who said that "one who is considering it ought to take a deep breath and consider it over the course of days or a week or two."

A few other Republicans are also reportedly thinking about getting in, though we haven't heard anything directly from them yet:

Several more Republicans declined to rule out a bid when asked:

Several media outlets have mentioned a few others as possibilities:

One person who quickly took his name out of contention, though, was former Gov. John Kasich.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan quickly said he was thinking about a Senate run. Ryan is infamous for flirting with campaigns for higher office in Ohio but always running for re-election, though his calculations could change if Republicans leave him with a hostile House seat in the upcoming round of redistricting.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley hadn't ruled out a Senate bid before Portman retired, and she reiterated Monday that she wasn't closing the door. Whaley, who also has been eyeing bids for governor or the U.S. House, said after Portman's announcement that she'd be keeping an open mind about her future plans and would be "making a decision in the coming weeks."

Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor, who lost two tight races in the conservative 12th Congressional District in 2018, also didn't reject the idea of a Senate campaign when asked.

Other Democrats mentioned include:

In the no column are former state Sen. Nina Turner, who is running in the anticipated special election for the 11th Congressional District, and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, who is campaigning for mayor of Cincinnati.

Campaign Action

Portman's retirement also ends a long career in state and national politics. Portman got his start interning for his local GOP congressman, Cincinnati-area Rep. Bill Gradison, and working on George H.W. Bush's unsuccessful 1980 presidential campaign, and he went on to serve as a White House associate legal counsel in 1989 after Bush won on his second try. Portman, who became close to the president, quickly rose to become head of the Office of Legislative Affairs, and he returned home in 1991 a year ahead of Bush's defeat.

Portman soon got his own chance to run for office in 1993 when Gradison resigned to lead the Health Insurance Association of America and asked his former intern to run in the special election to succeed him. Portman also benefited from support from former First Lady Barbara Bush, who, as Politico would recount in 2012, "recorded a radio ad name-dropping Cincinnati's Skyline Chili and Portman in the same sentence." Portman won the primary by beating former Rep. Bob McEwen, who had lost re-election in 1992 largely due to redistricting, 36-30, and he had no trouble in the general election for the conservative 2nd District.

Portman quickly became entrenched in the House, but he resigned in 2005 to become United States Trade Representative under George W. Bush. (Portman's departure set off an unexpectedly competitive special election between Republican Jean Schmidt and Democrat Paul Hackett that Schmidt ended up winning just 52-48.) Portman later served as head of the White House's powerful Office of Management and Budget from 2006 to 2007, and he played Barack Obama in 2008 during John McCain's debate practice sessions.

Portman got another chance to run for office in early 2009 when Republican Sen. George Voinovich announced his retirement. Portman quickly launched his campaign and proved to be a very strong fundraiser from the jump, something that helped the political insider avoid any primary opposition even as the emerging tea party declared war on other party establishment figures.

Ohio had backed Obama 51-47 in 2008 and this looked like it would be a top tier Senate target for much of the cycle, but that's not how things turned out. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher won the Democratic nomination after a costly primary campaign, and he never was able to come close to matching Portman's financial resources. The Republican took a lead during the summer as the political climate got worse and worse nationally for Team Blue, and Democratic outside groups ended up concentrating on other races. Ultimately, Portman beat Fisher 57-39.

Portman's wide win in this battleground state made him an attractive vice presidential prospect in 2012, and Mitt Romney seriously considered him before opting instead for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan; while the senator wasn't on the ticket, he did reprise his role as Obama as Romney prepared to debate the real president. Portman later considered his own White House bid, but he announced in late 2014 that he'd instead seek re-election to the Senate.

National Democrats soon recruited former Gov. Ted Strickland, who had narrowly lost re-election during the 2010 wave, to take on Portman, and this again looked like it would be one of the most competitive races of the cycle. Unfortunately for Strickland, though, he suffered a similar fate in 2016 as Fisher had six years ago.

Portman and his allies spent heavily during the summer on ads blaming Strickland for job losses that took place during the Great Recession, when every state experienced painful job losses that had nothing to do with who was governor, and Strickland didn't have the resources to fight back in time. Portman once again built up a clear lead in the polls months before Election Day, and national Democrats pulled out of the state in mid-October. Portman ended up winning his final term 58-37 as Trump was carrying the state 51-43.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Term-limited Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who was NRSC chair Rick Scott's top choice to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly next year, unambiguously told the New York Times that he will not run. Ducey visited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last week and even tweeted a photo of their meeting, but over the weekend, the Arizona Republican Party censured him over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, vividly demonstrating the kind of primary he'd have been in for had he decided to make a bid for the Senate.

CO-Sen: Former state Rep. Joe Salazar says he's weighing a primary challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, complaining that Bennet is "so wishy-washy and so middle-of-the-road that we don't know which road he walks on." Salazar, a prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate in Colorado, specifically criticized Bennet for what he views as insufficiently progressive stances on healthcare and the environment.

Salazar served three terms in the state House before running for attorney general in 2018, losing the primary 50.4 to 49.6 to Phil Weiser, who went on to win the general election. He does not appear to be related to former Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar, Bennet's immediate predecessor in the Senate.

GA-Sen: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests that both former Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former Rep. Doug Collins could run against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock next year, though so far, the evidence for any sort of rematch is sketchy. The paper reports that backers of the two Republicans, who both ran in Georgia's recent special election, have "rumbled about a 2022 campaign," but mostly the rumbling seems confined to dueling statements issued by prominent supporters, each trying to blame the other side for the GOP's humiliating loss of a crucial Senate seat.

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: The Philadelphia Inquirer says that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who'd previously been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor, is also considering a bid for Senate, according to an unnamed source "with direct knowledge" of the mayor's thinking. A spokesman for Kenney wouldn't directly confirm the report but did acknowledge that a campaign for governor or the Senate "may be future considerations." One difficulty for Kenney, however, is that his city's charter would require him to give up his current post, to which he was just re-elected for another four years in 2019, if he were to seek another office.

The same article also reports that State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who'd also been mentioned before, is "said to be eyeing" the Senate race. Meanwhile, the paper suggests that former Republican Rep. Lou Barletta, who previously said he was considering a Senate bid, may instead be more interested in a bid for governor.

Governors

AR-Gov: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Donald Trump's second press secretary and the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, kicked off a long-anticipated bid for governor on Monday. She joins a heavyweight Republican primary that, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson term-limited, has been underway for quite some time: Attorney General Leslie Rutledge entered the race in the middle of last year while Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin has been running since 2019.

Sanders' bid will be a test of just how Trump-loving the Arkansas GOP remains, though Griffin also suggested that his new opponent's time spent out of state might be an issue as well. In her announcement video, Sanders said she would "prohibit" so-called "sanctuary cities"—something state lawmakers already did two years ago. "Her pledge to ban sanctuary cities would have been a great line in a speech back in 2019, but not in 2021," snarked Griffin. "It sounds like she needs to catch up on what's been going on in Arkansas."

NJ-Gov: Ocean County Commissioner Joseph Vicari, who just last week announced a weird "favorite son" bid for governor, has already yanked the plug on his effort. It appeared that Vicari, who said he wouldn't campaign elsewhere in the state, was hoping to secure Ocean County's powerful "organization line" in the June GOP primary, then trade his endorsement (likely to Republican frontrunner Jack Ciattarelli) in exchange for some sort of promise to focus on Vicari's pet issues. Evidently, Vicari quickly thought better of trying to press forward with his old-school brand of transactional politics in 2021.

NY-Gov: The New York Times reports that former Rep. Pete King "floated the idea" of Rep. John Katko running for governor in a recent interview on the GOP infighting that's crescendoed after Katko and nine other House Republicans voted to impeach Donald Trump. There's no word, however, about Katko's interest. One Republican who is looking at a possible bid against Gov. Andrew Cuomo is Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. If Molinaro, who passed on what turned out to be a potentially winnable House race last year, were to go for it, that could set up a rematch of New York's contest for governor three years ago, which Cuomo won 60-36.

SC-Gov: Wealthy businessman John Warren, who last year wouldn't rule out a second primary challenge to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, is once again saying the same thing. "I'm clearly not ruling it out," he said recently, though he declined to provide any sort of timetable except to note that he waited until just four months before the primary before launching his 2018 bid.

VA-Gov: A meeting of the Virginia GOP's governing body descended into acrimony for the second week in a row, with Republicans leaving in place a December decision to select nominees for statewide races through a party convention but failing to actually come up with a plan for conducting one during the pandemic.

Convention backers, per the Virginia Mercury, want to host "a remote event in which ballots would be collected at polling sites around the state" for the sake of safety, rather than the large, single convocation that a convention normally would involve. But such a move would require a 75% supermajority on the GOP's central committee, and it appears that supporters of a traditional state-run primary voted down the proposal for a distributed convention in the hopes of pushing party leaders toward their preferred option—to no avail.

Republicans have therefore put themselves in an impossible position: They're on track to hold a classic convention, but gatherings of such a size are forbidden by state rules aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. One option could be a drive-through convention, but when Republicans in the 5th Congressional District used exactly that method last year, vote-counting lasted deep into the night after an all-day convention, and the whole affair ended in bitter accusations that the vote had been rigged.

House

CO-03: State Rep. Donald Valdez is reportedly considering a bid against freshman Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, one of several Democrats who've surfaced as possible challengers. Last year, Valdez briefly sought the 3rd Congressional District (at the time represented by Republican Scott Tipton, whom Boebert upset in the GOP primary), but he dropped out after raising little money.

GA-01: In a recent interview, former Chatham County Commissioner Al Scott hinted he might challenge Republican Rep. Buddy Carter, a possibility that would give Democrats their most prominent candidate in southeastern Georgia's 1st District in quite some time. Scott launched his political career in the 1970s, serving 16 years in the state legislature, but after a long layoff following a couple of unsuccessful bids for statewide office, he was elected to the commission in Chatham County in 2012 and became known as a "political giant" in Savannah.

Facing term limits last year, Scott ran for county tax commissioner but lost the Democratic primary in an upset. At 73, most observers concluded that the defeat signaled the end of Scott's time in office, but on a local podcast earlier this month, he said, "The only thing I haven't done in my political life that I used to daydream about is go to Congress."

It's a dream that would be difficult to realize, though. Though the blue outpost of Savannah is by far the largest population center in the 1st District, it's surrounded by a sea of red: According to Daily Kos Elections' new calculations, it went 56-43 for Donald Trump in November, not much different from Trump's 56-41 showing four years earlier. While redistricting will scramble Georgia's map, Republican mapmakers will likely ensure Carter remains in a friendly district.

Louisiana: Candidate filing closed Friday for the March 20 special elections for Louisiana's 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts, and the secretary of state has a list of contenders for each contest available here. Under state law, all the candidates will face off in the all-party primary. If no one wins a majority of the vote, an April 24 runoff would take place between the top-two vote-getters, regardless of party.

LA-02: A total of eight Democrats, four Republicans, and three others are competing to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat who resigned earlier this month to take a post as head of the Biden White House's Office of Public Engagement.

GOP legislators gerrymandered this seat, which stretches from the New Orleans area west to Baton Rouge, to be safely blue turf in order to protect Republicans elsewhere, and there's little question that Richmond's replacement will take his place as the state's only Democratic member of Congress. It's also almost a certainty that the district's new representative will be only the fourth African American to represent Louisiana in D.C. since the end of Reconstruction.

The two frontrunners appear to be a pair of Democratic state senators from New Orleans, Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter. Peterson, who would be the first Black woman to represent the state, served as state party chair from 2012 through 2020, and she has the support of EMILY's List. Carter, for his part, has Richmond's backing.

Another Democratic candidate worth watching is activist Gary Chambers, who said last week that he'd already raised $250,000. Chambers ran for the state Senate in 2019 in a Baton Rouge-area seat but lost 74-26 to Democratic incumbent Regina Ashford Barrow.

Chambers attracted national attention the following year, though, when he gave a speech at an East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting where he advocated for a school named for the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to be renamed. (It was shortly afterwards.) Chambers then used his address to decry a school board member he said had been shopping online instead of listening to "Black folks speaking up passionately about what they feel."

However, as we've mentioned before, it will be difficult for a Baton Rouge-area candidate like Chambers to have an opening here. Orleans Parish, which is coterminous with the city of New Orleans, makes up 40% of the district, while another 26% lives in neighboring Jefferson Parish. East Baton Rouge Parish, by contrast, makes up only 14% of the seat, with the balance coming from the seven smaller parishes, which are known collectively as the River Parishes.

P.S. This will be the second time that Peterson and Carter have run against each other for this post. Back in 2006 under the previous version of the map, both Crescent City politicos challenged Democratic incumbent Bill Jefferson, who was under federal investigation for corruption: Jefferson led Peterson 30-22, while Carter finished in fifth place with 12%. Peterson looked like the favorite for the runoff, but Jefferson prevailed 57-43 after he tapped into voter resentment with the federal government that had failed them during and after Hurricane Katrina struck the previous year.

Louisiana briefly switched to a partisan primary system for the 2008 and 2010 cycles, and Carter sought a rematch with Jefferson. Richmond also competed in the Democratic primary and took third place with 17%, while Carter took sixth with 8%. Jefferson would go on to lose the general election to Republican Joe Cao, whom Richmond defeated two years later.

LA-05: Nine Republicans, two Democrats, and two others are running to succeed Luke Letlow, a Republican who was elected in December but died weeks later from complications of COVID-19 before he could take office. This northeast Louisiana seat, which includes Monroe and Alexandria in the central part of the state, is heavily Republican turf, and it's likely to remain red without much trouble.

The clear frontrunner appears to be the congressman-elect's widow, University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow. Letlow has the backing of Rep. Steve Scalise, the no. 2 House Republican and one of the most powerful GOP officials in Louisiana, and a number of other Republicans decided to defer to her rather than run themselves. None of Letlow's intra-party foes appears to have the name recognition or connections needed to put up a strong fight, but it's always possible one of them will turn out to be a surprisingly strong contender.

The Democratic field consists of Candy Christophe, who took third in last year's contest with 17%, and Jessica Honsinger Hollister.

TX-15: Republican Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez, who held Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez to a shockingly close 51-48 win last year, launched a rematch late last month just before Christmas, which might explain why her kickoff did not earn much in the way of local media attention at the time. Though Gonzales outspent his little-known opponent two-to-one, De La Cruz-Hernandez's strong performance came as a result of a dramatic Democratic collapse at the top of the ticket in southern Texas: According to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, Joe Biden carried the heavily Latino 15th District just 50-49, a steep drop from Hillary Clinton's 57-40 win four years earlier.

The picture for 2022, however, is quite muddled. While Texas Republicans were ecstatic about their gains with Latino voters, they saw an even broader disintegration in their former suburban strongholds across the state that’s left many of their incumbents on the brink. While the GOP will have full control over redistricting for the coming decade once again, Republicans in the legislature will have to make many hard choices about which districts to prop up and which to cut loose. As a result, a Democrat like Gonzalez might find himself inheriting some favorable turf that a Republican colleague would rather not have to represent.

Alternately, however, Politico’s Ally Mutnick notes that GOP lawmakers could re-use a tactic they effectively deployed in the 23rd District a decade ago. There, Republicans maintained the district’s overall majority-Latino character to avoid running afoul of the Voting Rights Act but replaced higher-propensity Latino voters with those less likely (or even unable) to vote. Democrats sought to litigate this maneuver but met with no success, so if Republicans try it again, they could gerrymander another winnable South Texas district for themselves.

WA-03, WA-04: The Seattle Times' Jim Brunner mentions former state Rep. Liz Pike as a potential primary challenger to 3rd District Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who made Republicans hopping mad as a result of her vote to impeach Donald Trump. He also caught up with Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier, who lost in both 2014 and 2016 to another pro-impeachment Republican, 4th District Rep. Dan Newhouse, and called his vote a "betrayal" while not saying anything that would rule out another bid.

Legislatures

Special Elections: We take a look at a special election happening Tuesday in Iowa, and recap a special election from Saturday in Texas:

IA-SD-41: Southeastern Iowa will be the site of one of the first big legislative special elections of the Biden era, where Democrat Mary Stewart will take on Republican Adrian Dickey. We had a preview of this race earlier this month, which you can find here.

TX-HD-68: The race to replace former Rep. Drew Springer is heading to a runoff after no candidate captured a majority of the vote. Republican David Spiller was far and away the leading vote-getter, taking 44%. Fellow Republican Craig Carter led a close race for second place, taking 18%, just ahead of John Berry and Jason Brinkley, who took 17% and 16%, respectively. Charles Gregory, the lone Democrat in the running, finished with 4%. Overall, Republican candidates outpaced Democrats 96-4, an astounding margin even for one of the reddest districts in Texas.

A date for the runoff between Spiller and Carter has not been selected yet, but Gov. Greg Abbott will make that decision in February. The all-GOP runoff assures that this chamber will return to 83-67 GOP control after the election.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: On Monday, Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore filed paperwork for a possible bid this November against Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Moore did not comment on her plans, much less say why the incumbent should be fired. However, local political observer Maria Saporta wrote that Bottoms could be vulnerable because of the city's "recent uptick in crime."

It will be difficult for anyone to oust Bottoms, who is one of the more prominent Democrats in Georgia, in the November nonpartisan primary. An Atlanta mayor hasn't lost re-election since 1973, when Maynard Jackson's victory over Sam Massell made him the city's first Black leader.

Moore herself was first elected to the City Council in 1997, and she was elected citywide in 2017 by beating an establishment-backed candidate by a 55-45 margin. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Bill Torpy wrote early this month that, while five Council presidents have unsuccessfully run for mayor over the last 25 years, Moore herself is "liked on both sides of town." He also noted that Moore did considerably better at the ballot box that year than Bottoms, who won an open seat race by beating former City Councilwoman Mary Norwood 50.4-49.6.

The filing deadline for the Nov. 2 nonpartisan primary does not appear to have been set yet, and it's quite possible that other candidates will get in. A runoff would take place the following month if no one won a majority in the first round.

One of the prospective contenders may be Norwood herself, who told Torpy, "Stay tuned" when he asked about her plans a few weeks ago. Norwood, who identifies as an independent, would be the city's first white or non-Democratic mayor in decades; she previously ran for this office in 2009 only to lose to Democrat Kasim Reed by that same 50.4-49.6 margin.

Despite those two very close defeats, though, Torpy points out that Norwood may have utterly torpedoed her future prospects in this heavily Democratic city by signing an affidavit for the Trump campaign's attempt to overturn Joe Biden's win in Georgia. Norwood herself didn't allege that she'd seen any fraud last year, but instead insisted that her own supporters had found evidence of wrongdoing in her 2017 race. Norwood previously accused Reed and his allies of using fraud to beat her in 2009 without offering a shred of proof.

Morning Digest: Ardent Trump ally will reportedly challenge GOP senator in Georgia special election

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

Leading Off

GA-Sen-B: On Monday evening, multiple media outlets reported that Georgia Rep. Doug Collins would challenge appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Republican, in this year’s special election, a move that would complicate GOP hopes of holding this key seat.

Collins himself has not publicly said anything about his plans, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that his launch is expected “soon.” (The New York Times said it would happen Tuesday, but that did not come to pass.) Collins is currently serving as one of Donald Trump’s designated surrogates during his impeachment trial, and the AJC writes that the congressman hopes to have Trump’s inner circle behind him.

Campaign Action

If Collins goes ahead with his bid, that would almost certainly crush GOP hopes of winning outright in November, at least under the state’s current election law. That's because all candidates from all parties will run together on a single ballot, and if no one takes a majority, a runoff between the top two vote-getters—regardless of party—would be held in January of next year.

However, neither Democrats nor Collins’ GOP allies in the state legislature are keen on this unusual law, and they’re currently working to change it. On Tuesday, the House Governmental Affairs Committee overwhelmingly advanced a bill (with a lone Republican voting “nay”) that would require a partisan primary in May and a general election in November, which are the same rules that govern the state’s regularly-scheduled Senate race.

However, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler over Collins despite Trump’s wishes, likes the status quo just fine. He’s said he’ll veto this legislation if it makes it to his desk, though if Democrats and Republicans unite behind the bill, they could overturn a Kemp veto with a two-thirds supermajority.

It’s not hard to see why Loeffler and her supporters don’t want to alter Georgia’s electoral calendar. A survey from the Democratic firm PPP taken just after Loeffler was selected in December showed Collins destroying her 56-16 in a hypothetical GOP primary. Collins’ bonafides with the Trumpist base would be hard to overcome if the primary took place less than four months from now, but Loeffler could benefit from an additional half year of incumbency, as well as the extra time to air ads.

It’s not just the far-right that would benefit from this proposed change—Democrats likely would, too. Right now, Team Blue’s only declared candidate is businessman Matt Lieberman, but former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver recently said that he planned to run while the Rev. Raphael Warnock is also reportedly going to get in soon. If all three Democrats wind up competing in an all-party primary in November, it will almost certainly be impossible for any of them to secure a majority. The prospect of a multi-way split on the left could also lead to the nightmare scenario of both Loeffler and Collins advancing to what would be an all-GOP runoff.

Thanks to her vast wealth, though, Loeffler doesn’t have to wait to see how things shake out to start upping her name recognition. She’s already up with a new TV spot that’s part of her opening $2.6 million buy that portrays her as (of course) a political outsider. The senator has reportedly pledged to spend $20 million of her own money, so Georgians will see a lot more from her no matter what Collins ends up doing.

Loeffler may also get some air support from outside groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the incumbent, as has the NRSC, though Senate Republicans may prefer to focus their attention on other races in a cycle when control of the chamber is on the line. It’s not clear who might come to Collins’ aid, but the anti-tax Club for Growth has already made it clear that he’s no friend of theirs. On Monday, the Club tweeted that the congressman “should start being more responsible with taxpayer dollars and improving the 57%” he received on its scorecard.

Trump, however, has yet to endorse Loeffler and has openly expressed his enthusiasm for Collins. Could the occupant of the White House side against a sitting senator from his own party? If anyone would do it, it’s Donald Trump.

4Q Fundraising

ME-Sen: Sara Gideon (D): $3.5 million raised, $2.8 million cash-on-hand

TX-Sen: MJ Hegar (D): $1.1 million raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

CA-21: David Valadao (R): $630,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

CA-39: Young Kim (R): $490,000 raised, $900,000 cash-on-hand

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R): $17,000 raised, additional $2,000 self-funded, $17,000 cash-on-hand

NY-24: John Katko (R-inc): $364,000 raised, $1.06 million cash-on-hand

WI-01: Bryan Steil (R-inc): $375,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AL-Sen: Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out with another poll of the March GOP primary from OnMessage that shows him well ahead of his many rivals but still short of the majority he needs to win without a runoff. The results are below with the numbers from Sessions' December poll in parentheses:

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions: 43 (44)

Rep. Bradley Byrne: 23 (14)

Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville: 22 (21)

2017 nominee Roy Moore: 8 (7)

The only big change between the two polls is that Byrne has gained several points and is now locked in a tight race with Tuberville for second.

Byrne has been running ads over the last few weeks, and he's now getting some air support from a super PAC called Fighting for Alabama Fund. The group's opening commercial praises Byrne as "one of President Trump's strongest defenders," and it features clips of the congressman denouncing impeachment. The conservative Yellowhammer News writes that the super PAC's "total buy will be in the six-figures across the Birmingham and Huntsville media markets."

WV-Sen: Candidate filing closed Saturday for West Virginia's May 12 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here.

GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito decisively won an open seat race in 2014, and there's no indication that she's in any trouble this cycle. Capito does face a primary challenge from Allen Whitt, the president of the social conservative group the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, but he doesn't appear to be much of a threat. Whitt raised less than $7,000 from donors during the final three months of 2019 and self-funded another $50,000, and he had $52,000 to spend at the end of December.

The most notable candidate on the Democratic side is former state Sen. Richard Ojeda, who lost the 2018 general election for the 3rd Congressional District and later launched a brief presidential bid. Also in the race is 2018 Senate candidate Paula Jean Swearengin, who challenged Sen. Joe Manchin from the left in the 2018 primary and lost 70-30.

Gubernatorial

WV-Gov: Gov. Jim Justice left the Democratic Party at a 2017 Trump rally months into his term, and he's competing in the GOP primary for the first time. Justice's main intra-party rival appears to be former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, whom Justice hired and later fired. Also in the running is former Del. Mike Folk, who hasn't brought in much money so far.

Thrasher, who has been self-funding most of his campaign, began airing TV ads in June and has continued to spend heavily on spots since then. However, even Thrasher seems to agree that he's trailing right now: A mid-December Thrasher poll showed Justice leading him 38-30, while Folk was a distant third with 6%.

Three notable Democrats are also running to take on Justice. Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango and state Sen. Ron Stollings each describe themselves as moderates, while community organizer Stephen Smith is appealing to progressive voters. Salango, who has also been self-funding much of his campaign, ended December with an enormous cash advantage over his two intra-party foes.

House

CA-22: Financial adviser Phil Arballo is out with his first TV spot ahead of the March top-two primary to face GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, and the Democrat's campaign says that it will run for six figures. The ad highlights Arballo's local roots and background and does not mention Nunes.

MA-03: Andover Selectman Dan Koh filed with the FEC on Friday for a potential Democratic primary rematch against incumbent Lori Trahan, but he says he's still deciding whether to run. Koh lost the 2018 open seat race to Trahan by just 145 votes, and he's been talking about running again for months. Back in December, the House Ethics Committee announced that it was furthering its investigation into Trahan over loans totaling $300,000 that she made to her campaign ahead of that primary.

MD-07: Campaign finance reports are in for all of the candidates competing in Tuesday's special Democratic primary to succeed the late Rep. Elijah Cummings in this safely blue seat. The numbers, which cover the period from Oct. 1 to Jan. 15, are below:

Del. Talmadge Branch: $54,000 raised, additional $4,000 self-funded, $14,000 spent, $44,000 cash-on-hand

State Sen. Jill Carter: $54,000 raised, $14,000 spent, $42,000 cash-on-hand

Former state party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings: $208,000 raised, $139,000 spent, $69,000 cash-on-hand

University of Baltimore Law School professor Michael Higginbotham: $108,000 raised, additional $509,000 self-funded, $407,000 spent, $209,000 cash-on-hand

Del. Terri Hill: $49,000 raised, $9,000 spent, $41,000 cash-on-hand

Del. Jay Jalisi: $43,000 raised, additional $75,000 self-funded, $0 spent, $118,000 cash-on-hand

Former Rep. Kweisi Mfume: $261,000 raised, additional $5,000 self-funded, $57,000 spent, $209,000 cash-on-hand

Business consultant Saafir Rabb: $217,000 raised, $144,000 spent, $73,000 cash-on-hand

Former Cummings aide Harry Spikes: $19,000 raised, $10,000 spent, $9,000 cash-on-hand

This is the first we've written about the two top spenders, Higginbotham and Rabb.

NY-27: Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw announced Monday that he'd compete in the June GOP primary for the full two-year term, a move that came two days after county party leaders passed him over for the party's nomination for upcoming special election in favor of state Sen. Chris Jacobs. Attorney and Fox News contributor Beth Parlato, who also lost on Saturday, had already launched a primary campaign for this 60-35 Trump seat.

Mychajliw, who was an ally of disgraced former Rep. Chris Collins, once again expressed his rage at how the special election nomination was "made behind closed doors by party bosses." And while Mychajliw was first elected as Erie County comptroller in 2012, he pitched himself as the anti-establishment candidate. Mychajliw rhetorically asked, "Can you imagine if Donald Trump listened to the establishment Republicans and let Jeb Bush run for the White House?" and concluded, "Hillary Clinton would be president right now."

Two other candidates who unsuccessfully sought the special election nod are also considering proceeding to the June primary. State Sen. Robert Ortt, who reportedly came close to beating Jacobs over the weekend, told the Buffalo Daily News on Monday that he'd decide in the next few days. White House aide Jeff Freeland, by contrast, said that he wouldn't be talking about his plans until impeachment is done.

However, as we've noted before, it's going to be tough to deny Jacobs the GOP nod in June, especially if so many other candidates run. The state attorney general's office told a court that Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to set the date for April 28, so if Jacobs wins that race, he'd have two months of incumbency before the primary.

SC-01: Freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham is out with his first TV spot of the campaign, and the Post & Courier reports that it's running for six figures.

The ad begins by referencing the commercials from GOP outside groups that have already run here and in other competitive seats across the country, with the narrator describing them as "[a]ttack ads so phony even late-night TV made fun of them." A clip then shows comedian Jimmy Kimmel mocking one Republican spot that starred a woman identified as Stacy by saying, "The problem is 'Stacy' is actually an actress … I bet her name's not even Stacy!"

Cunningham's narrator goes on to say that the congressman is the latest target. The commercial continues by praising Cunningham for keeping his word and passing a bipartisan bill to ban offshore oil drilling, working to aid local veterans, and stopping politicians who "tried to raise their own pay."

TX-13: Lobbyist Josh Winegarner is out with a TV spot ahead of the crowded March GOP primary where the narrator bemoans, "We have 15 candidates from Congress, many of them from out of district." He continues, "A Dallas millionaire's even trying to buy our seat." This person isn't mentioned by name, but it's almost certainly a reference to businessman Chris Ekstrom, who lived in Dallas as recently as May. (The city is located about 55 miles away from the border of this Texas Panhandle-based district.)

Winegarner's commercial goes on to praise the candidate as "a pro-life family man who cannot be bought." Winegarner appears at the end and says the district needs "one of our own."

Winegarner also got an endorsement this week from Rep. Mike Conaway, who is retiring from the neighboring 11th District.

WI-07: The anti-tax Club for Growth has launched its first TV spot in support of state Sen. Tom Tiffany ahead of the Feb. 18 special GOP primary, and Politico reports that the size of the buy is $130,000. The commercial argues that Tiffany will be a Trump ally who has "Wisconsin common sense."

Tiffany himself is also out with an ad where he tells the audience that, in addition to being a family man and a conservative, he's "the dam tender on the Willow Flowage. So, I know a thing or two about holding up under pressure." (We've seen a lot of political spots over the years, but we're quite sure this is the first time we've heard the words "dam tender" in one, much less from the candidate.) Tiffany goes on to say he'll be a Trump ally and that "nobody knows how to drain a swamp like a dam man."

DCCC: On Thursday, the DCCC unveiled the first round of its "Red to Blue" program for the 2020 election cycle, highlighting candidates whom the committee thinks has the strongest chance of picking up GOP-held districts or defending competitive open seats. The full list of candidates making the DCCC's initial roster are below:

AZ-06: Hiral Tipirneni CA-25: Christy Smith IA-02: Rita Hart IL-13: Betsy Dirksen Londrigan IN-05: Christina Hale MN-01: Dan Feehan MO-02: Jill Schupp NY-02: Jackie Gordon PA-10: Eugene DePasquale TX-21: Wendy Davis TX-23: Gina Ortiz Jones WA-03: Carolyn Long

Most of these candidates don't face any serious opposition in their primaries. The biggest exception is in California's 25th District where progressive commentator Cenk Uygur, who has long been a vocal opponent of national party leaders, is competing with Assemblywoman Christy Smith in March. The other is in Arizona's 6th District, where 2018 nominee Anita Malik is making a second run but has struggled to raise as much money as physician Hiral Tipirneni.

The DCCC's decision to back Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon in New York's 2nd District is also notable. Gordon launched a bid against GOP Rep. Peter King in the spring, but there was some talk of other Democrats getting in after King decided to retire in November. No other notable contenders have entered the Democratic primary, though, and it looks like the DCCC doesn't expect that to change.

The DCCC's counterparts at the NRCC have a similar program called Young Guns, but there are some key differences between them. When the DCCC adds a candidate to Red to Blue, it is declaring that this contender is the national party's choice in a key race. By contrast, the NRCC often will add multiple candidates running in the same race, as well as people running in safely red open seats.

Legislative

State Legislative Open Seat Watch: Just as we did in the 2018 cycle, Daily Kos Elections will be tracking open seat data for all state legislative chambers that will be holding regular elections in 2020. In seven states with closed filing deadlines, we've counted 70 Republican to 42 Democratic open seats. For individualized listings of each open seat, along with our calculations of their partisan data, check out this tab.

We'll also be keeping tabs on the number of uncontested seats in each chamber. So far, Republicans have failed to file candidates in 40% of Democratic-held districts, while Democrats have left 32% of Republican seats uncontested. However, these numbers are bound to change as more filing deadlines close across the country. (Note: West Virginia's filing deadline closed on January 25, but we are awaiting confirmation of the finalized candidate list from that state before updating our tracking.)

We'll be posting periodic updates on this project in the Daily Digest and on Twitter, but if you'd like to stay on top of every update as they happen, feel free to bookmark this Google Doc!