The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.
● CO-08: Weld County Commissioner Scott James announced Wednesday that he'd seek the Republican nomination to challenge freshman Rep. Yadira Caraveo in Colorado's 8th District, prompting Democrats to immediately blast him for an anti-abortion, Islamophobic rant he delivered as a talk radio host in 2007.
James, as Media Matters documented at the time, declared "the civilization that you know ... will be overtaken by those who would like you to practice Sharia law ... just by mass numbers" because "the European cheese weenies simply aren't breeding." James continued, "You can do the math and see the rapid decline of ... civilization," before saying of the United Kingdom, "Their birth rate declining, the abortion rate increasing. You do the math. You don't have the sanctity for the life like that, your society will simply extinguish."
Democrats also went after James, who remained on the radio after winning his seat on the county commission in 2018, for his vote the next year to designate Weld County as a "Second Amendment sanctuary." That action, which authorized the county sheriff to "exercise of his sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law," came in response to a new red flag law that allows family and household members, as well as law enforcement officials, to petition a judge to confiscate firearms from an individual they fear is dangerous. "Taking constitutional rights away from citizens under the guise that it is for the 'greater good' is a very dangerous path to walk down," James said at the time, "and one we do not support."
James launched his campaign to unseat Caraveo hours after fellow Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer, the GOP's nominee last year, announced that she would seek reelection to the state Senate rather than try to avenge her narrow 48.4-47.7 general election loss. The commissioner is the first notable Republican to join the contest for this constituency in the northern Denver suburbs and Greeley area, turf Joe Biden carried 51-46 in 2020, but he's not the only one who is thinking about running here.
State Rep. Gabe Evans reiterated his interest Tuesday to the Colorado Sun, while Weld County Commissioner Steve Moreno and former state Rep. Dan Woog both said they were mulling over the idea last month. Multiple publications also reported in June that Joe O'Dea, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet last year, is considering as well, though he's shown no obvious sign that he's preparing for another run.
● NY Redistricting: A divided state appeals court ordered New York's redistricting commission to draw a new congressional map ahead of the 2024 elections on Thursday, overturning a lower court that had previously ruled in favor of retaining the state's current court-drawn boundaries. Republicans opposing the Democratic-backed lawsuit, however, immediately vowed to appeal in an effort to prevent the adoption of districts that would be less favorable to them.
The dispute wound up in court after the evenly divided bipartisan commission failed to reach an agreement on a single set of redistricting plans for Congress and the state legislature last year. Instead, it forwarded dueling proposals—one batch supported by Democrats, the other by Republicans—to lawmakers, who rejected them both. After that failure, the commission refused to try again, which led the Democratic-run legislature to pass its own maps.
However, the state's highest court struck down that attempt last year in a 4-3 decision, saying that because the commission had never sent a second set of maps to the legislature as contemplated by the state constitution, lawmakers could not act on their own. As a remedy, an upstate trial court instead imposed maps drawn by an outside expert that saw Republicans make considerable gains in the November midterms.
A group of voters, though, filed a suit demanding that the commission be ordered back to work. While a lower court initially rejected that argument, the Appellate Division agreed with the plaintiffs. The commission still "had an indisputable duty under the NY Constitution to submit a second set of maps upon the rejection of its first set," wrote the majority in a 3-2 opinion, concluding that the court-ordered maps used in 2022 were interim in nature.
If New York's highest court, known as the Court of Appeals, upholds this decision, then the commission will again have to try to compromise on a new congressional map. If it again fails to produce an acceptable map, though, Democrats in the legislature—who enjoy two-thirds supermajorities in both chambers—would, this time, very likely be entitled to create new maps of their own design. That possibility could spur Republican commissioners to accept lines that tilt somewhat more in Democrats' favor than the current districts rather than face the alternative of an unfettered partisan gerrymander.
The deadline to file fundraising numbers for federal campaigns is July 15. We'll have our House and Senate fundraising charts available soon afterwards.
- AZ-Sen: Ruben Gallego (D): $3.1 million raised
- CA-Sen: Katie Porter (D): $3.2 million raised, $10.4 million cash on hand
- WV-Sen: Joe Manchin (D-inc): $1.3 million raised, $10.7 million cash on hand
- LA-Gov: Jeff Landry (R): $4.5 million raised, $9 million cash on hand
- NC-Gov: Mark Robinson (R): $2.2 million raised (in six months), $3.2 million cash on hand
- AZ-06: Juan Ciscomani (R-inc): $815,000 raised, $1.6 million cash on hand
- CA-45: Michelle Steel (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.7 million cash on hand
- IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $690,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
- IA-03: Zach Nunn (R-inc): $729,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
- IL-17: Eric Sorensen (D-inc): $515,000 raised, $770,000 cash on hand
- MI-10: John James (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.7 million cash on hand
- MT-01: Ryan Zinke (R-inc): $786,000 raised, $876,000 cash on hand
- NC-14: Jeff Jackson (D-inc): $507,000 raised, $663,000 cash on hand
- NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer (D-inc): $1.2 million raised, $15.1 million cash on hand
- NJ-07: Tom Kean Jr. (R-inc): $860,000 raised, $1.47 million cash on hand
- NY-02: Rob Lubin (D): $343,000 raised (in five weeks), additional $7,000 self-funded
- NY-03: Anna Kaplan (D): $455,000 raised
- OR-05: Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-inc): $717,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
- TX-15: Monica De La Cruz (R-inc): $833,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
- WA-03: Joe Kent (R): $245,000 raised, $392,000 cash on hand
● FL-Sen: Politico reports that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the DSCC are trying to recruit former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to take on GOP incumbent Rick Scott, but another Democrat appears ready to launch his campaign before she makes up her mind.
Navy veteran Phil Ehr, who raised $2 million for his 2020 bid against the nationally infamous Rep. Matt Gaetz in the safely red 1st District, confirms he's interested and will decide in the coming weeks. An unnamed source, though, says that Ehr, who lost to Gaetz 65-34 as Trump was taking the old 1st by a similar 66-32 margin, is planning to get in "soon."
● MI-Sen: The Daily Beast's Ursula Perano reports that, while actor Hill Harper says he's lived in Michigan for the last seven years, the new Democratic candidate's residency "may be more complicated." Perano uncovered a 2020 Seattle Times article saying that Harper moved to that city during the first season of production for his show, The Good Doctor, so his son could attend school there. (That season aired in 2017 and 2018.) That same story said that "Harper commutes from Seattle to the show’s set in Vancouver, British Columbia."
Perano also found a pair of websites used to book the actor for speaking engagements, both of which appear to have been in use in recent years: One said that Harper would be traveling from California, where he also owns a condo, while the other said he'd be coming from Seattle. "Hill Harper began spending time in Michigan because of work, but quickly realized the greatest people in the world live in Michigan and decided to move there full time," his campaign told the Daily Beast for the story, "Ever since moving to Michigan in 2016, he’s voted as a Michigander, paid taxes to the state, and runs a small business in Detroit."
● IN-Gov: Howey Politics relays that there are still "rumors" that state Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers is considering seeking the GOP nod to succeed his boss, termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb and would likely self-fund. There is no other information about Chambers' interest.
● MO-Gov: Businessman Mike Hamra, whose eponymous company operates almost 200 restaurants nationwide, tells the St. Louis Business Journal he's "seriously considering" seeking the Democratic nod and will "likely to have a final decision later in the fall." Hamra made his interest known days after state House Minority Leader Crystal Quade launched her own bid to lead what's become a tough state for Democrats.
● MS-Gov: Republican incumbent Tate Reeves is airing a transphobic new TV ad where the governor, after praising his daughter for working to earn a soccer scholarship, declares, "Now, political radicals are trying to ruin women's sports, letting biological men get the opportunities meant for women." Reeves, as Mississippi Today notes, signed a 2021 law banning trans athletes from women's sports even though the bill's sponsor acknowledged she didn't know of this happening in the state.
● AK-AL: Businessman Nick Begich on Thursday became the first notable Republican to announce a campaign against Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola, who twice beat him last year for Alaska's only House seat. But Begich is unlikely to have the top-four primary to himself, especially since many Republicans made it clear last fall that they still harbor a grudge over how he acquitted himself during the final months of longtime Rep. Don Young's life.
Begich, who is the rare Republican member of Alaska's most prominent Democratic family (his grandfather and namesake was Young's immediate predecessor, while his uncle Mark Begich served one term in the U.S. Senate), was initially a Young supporter, and he even co-chaired the congressman's 2020 campaign. But, as the Anchorage Daily News' Iris Samuels reported in April of 2022, Begich spent about a month working in the congressman's office the next year—at Young's invitation—only to launch a bid against Young soon afterward. "It was just such an invasion of our goodwill and the Congressman's goodwill," one unnamed staffer later told Insider's Bryan Metzger, adding, "We were completely hoodwinked and betrayed."
Young, who'd represented the state in the House since 1973, died before that faceoff could occur, and Begich was one of the 48 candidates who filed to run in a special election that featured America's first-ever top-four primary. But after Begich advanced to the general against former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin and Peltola (a fourth finisher, independent Al Gross, dropped out), it looked likely that one of the two Republicans would prevail in a state Donald Trump took 53-43 in 2020.
Begich and Palin, though, instead went negative on one another while ignoring Peltola (that is, when they weren't smiling in selfies with her), which helped give the Democrat the opening she needed. Begich was only too happy to portray Palin as a disastrous governor who only cared about being a celebrity, while Palin hit back by castigating Begich for supporting his Democratic relatives.
An unscathed Peltola went into ranked-choice tabulations with 40% of first-choice votes, with Palin edging out Begich 31-28 for second. But following the fratricidal GOP campaign, Begich's backers only went for Palin by a 50-29 margin as a crucial 21% didn’t express a preference for either finalist. As a result, Peltola pulled off 51-49 upset.
All three candidates, plus Libertarian Chris Bye, competed again in November for a full two-year term, but things went even worse for the GOP this time. Begich and his allies pointed to data from the Alaska Division of Elections saying that he'd have defeated Peltola 52-48 had he come in second place in the special election to make his case that conservatives should choose him over Palin. But several of Young's former staffers not only endorsed Peltola, who had enjoyed a close relationship with the late congressman for decades, they also vocally aired their grievances against Begich for what they saw as his duplicity.
One particular incensed Young aide was a former communications director, Zack Brown, who posted a picture of Begich's congressional intern badge in a since-deleted tweet. "Begich was planning on primarying Young all along," he wrote. "He used DY & staff to secure inside info." Brown followed up, "According to FEC docs, he claimed campaign expenses BEFORE he came on as an INTERN in Don Young's office. He KNEW he was going to primary Young before he joined our office, but used the Congressman and staff for his own ends anyway. Disgraceful."
Peltola this time almost took a majority of first-choice ballots, scoring 49% of them as Palin once again staggered into second place, beating out Begich 26-23. Peltola then crushed Palin in a 55-45 drubbing after the instant-runoff process was finished. To add insult to injury for Begich, election data showed he would have lost by a slightly larger margin than Palin this time―just under 11 points―had he taken second.
Republicans are likely to make a priority of beating Peltola, who represents the reddest Democratic-held seat in the chamber, but it remains to be seen who else will join Begich in the top-four. The Anchorage Daily News writes that Palin, who rather prematurely named her congressional chief of staff the day after the November election [i]In anticipation of an announcement of victory," hasn't shown any sign she's thinking of trying a third time, though that hardly means she won't surprise everyone like she did when she decided to run last year.
● MD-06: Hagerstown Mayor Tekesha Martinez on Wednesday joined the busy primary to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate candidate David Trone, for a seat based in western Maryland and the northwestern D.C. exurbs. Martinez, who was elected to the city council in 2020, became this northwestern Maryland community's first Black mayor in February after her colleagues appointed her to fill the vacant post. She joins Dels. Lesley Lopez and Joe Vogel, as well as think tank founder Destiny Drake West, in seeking the Democratic nod for this 54-44 Biden constituency.
● NY-22: New York State United Teachers, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, has endorsed Democratic state Sen. John Mannion's bid to take on GOP Rep. Brandon Williams. Mannion is a former public school teacher, and City & State says the labor group has enthusiastically backed him in past races.
● UT-02: State election officials confirmed this week that both former RNC member Bruce Hough and former state Rep. Becky Edwards have turned in enough valid signatures to make the Sept. 5 special Republican primary to succeed outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart. The pair will face Celeste Maloy, a former Stewart aide who qualified for the ballot by winning last month's party convention. The winner will be favored on Nov. 7 against Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe in this gerrymandered 57-40 Trump seat.
● WI-03: Both state Rep. Katrina Shankland and former La Crosse County Board chair Tara Johnson tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they're interested in joining the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Derrick Van Orden.
Mayors and County Leaders
● Houston, TX Mayor: Former Republican City Councilmember Jack Christie tells the Houston Chronicle he's considering entering the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner, though he said he was still "far from signing up." Attorney Tony Buzbee, an independent who lost the 2019 runoff to Turner 56-44 after spending $12 million, likewise says he hasn't ruled out another campaign even though he's representing Attorney General Ken Paxton at the Republican's upcoming impeachment trial. The filing deadline is Aug. 21, weeks before Paxton's Sept. 5 trial starts.
● Indianapolis, IN Mayor: Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett has gone on TV well ahead of the Nov. 7 general with a spot hitting his wealthy foe, Republican Jefferson Shreve, that utilizes footage from the ads Shreve ran during his failed 2016 state Senate bid. "Jefferson Shreve will fight for the right to life," says Shreve's old narrator, "and our Second Amendment rights." Indianapolis backed Joe Biden 63-34, but Republicans are hoping Shreve's resources will help him argue that change is needed after Hogsett's two terms.
● Nashville, TN Mayor: The Nashville Scene reports that a conservative group called Save Nashville PAC is spending $150,000 on TV ad campaign to help the one notable Republican in the race, party strategist Alice Rolli, advance past the Aug. 3 nonpartisan primary. The messaging, unsurprisingly, invokes the specter of crime in big cities … other big cities, that is. "How many once-great cities around the U.S. are now complete disasters?" asks the narrator, "Is Nashville next? Alice Rolli will protect Nashville and keep it a clean, safe city."
The offensive comes at a time when two wealthy Democrats, former AllianceBernstein executive Jim Gingrich and former economic development chief Matt Wiltshire, continue to dominate the airwaves in the contest to succeed retiring Democratic Mayor John Cooper. AdImpact relays that Gingrich and his allies have outspent Wiltshire's side $1.6 million to $1.2 million in advertising, while Democratic Metro Council member Freddie O'Connell is far back with just $190,000.
A firm called Music City Research, though, has released a survey showing that, despite being heavily outspent, O'Connell leads with 22% as Wiltshire outpaces Rolli 17-13 for the second spot in the likely Sept. 14 runoff. The pollster is affiliated with Harpeth Strategies, which is run by one of O'Connell's supporters, fellow Metro Council member Dave Rosenberg. Rosenberg tells us this poll was conducted for a "private entity and not a mayoral campaign or an organization associated with a mayoral campaign." He added that, as far as he is aware, the sponsor is not backing or opposing anyone.
The last poll we saw was over a month ago, and it showed a far more unsettled race. The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, working for real estate development group NAIOP Nashville, had O'Connell at 10% as two Democratic members of the state Senate, Jeff Yarbro and Heidi Campbell, respectively took 9% and 8%.