Morning Digest: Wisconsin court picks Democratic House map, but it still heavily favors Republicans

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

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Leading Off

WI Redistricting: In a surprising turn of events, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the adoption of congressional and legislative maps proposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday after he and the Republican-run legislature deadlocked last year. The move was unexpected because, in a 4-3 ruling handed down in late November, the court's conservative majority decreed that it would adopt "least-change" maps that would, in effect, enshrine the GOP's existing gerrymanders.

However, one of those conservative justices, Brian Hagedorn, sided with the court's three liberals in Thursday's decision. The outcome doesn't favor Democrats, though, since the new congressional map looks very similar to the extremely tilted one it's replacing: The new lines would continue to feature six districts won by Donald Trump and just two carried by Joe Biden, despite the fact that Biden carried Wisconsin in 2020.

But in the future, one of those Trump districts could be winnable for Democrats. The 1st, in southeastern Wisconsin, was one of just two districts whose partisan makeup changed by more than a negligible amount: It would have gone for Trump by just a 50-48 margin, compared to Trump's 54-45 margin under the old map. (The neighboring 5th, a safely Republican seat, grew correspondingly redder).

This shift is the result of the district gaining a larger slice of the Milwaukee suburbs and shedding its portion of conservative Waukesha County. The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Bryan Steil, who succeeded former House Speaker Paul Ryan in 2018. Given the difficult midterm environment Democrats face, it's unlikely Steil will be seriously threatened this year, but he could be down the line.

It also bears noting that thanks to the constraints imposed by the court—constraints Republicans advocated for—the plan preferred by the GOP does not differ all that much from the Evers map. The Republican proposal, which was the same one passed by GOP lawmakers and vetoed by Evers, would also have featured a 6-2 split in Trump's favor. The 1st, however, would have remained unchanged on a partisan basis, while the 3rd, held by retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, would have gotten several points redder, shifting from a 51-47 win for Trump to a 53-45 Trump margin.

The court said it chose Evers' approach because his map moved the fewest number of people to new districts: 324,000, or 5.5% of the state's total population. The GOP's map would have moved 60,000 more people, or 6.5% in total.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: The Florida Supreme Court has approved the new legislative districts passed by lawmakers last month as part of a mandatory review under the state constitution. As the justices noted in their ruling, however, no party opposed the maps in this proceeding, and a traditional lawsuit challenging the lines could yet be forthcoming.

Senate

AR-Sen: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Arkansas' May 24 primary, and Arkansas Online has a list of contenders. A runoff would take place June 21 for any contests where no one earns a majority of the vote.

We'll start with the Senate race, where Republican incumbent John Boozman, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, faces three intra-party opponents. The only high-profile challenger is Army veteran Jake Bequette, a former football player who had a successful stint as a defensive end with the University of Arkansas in the 2011 season but didn't do nearly so well in a brief career with the New England Patriots. Boozman has enjoyed a huge fundraising advantage, but Arkansas Patriots Fund, a super PAC that received $1 million from conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, has been running commercials promoting Bequette. The winner should have no trouble in the general election in this very red state.

NM-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján returned to the Senate on Thursday, one month after he suffered a stroke. In a statement, Lujan did not comment directly on his health but said, "I am back in the Senate and eager to get the job done for New Mexicans."

AZ-Sen: Gov. Doug Ducey once again said Thursday that he would not enter the Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but this time, everyone seems to be accepting his latest "no" as final. The governor made his declaration in a letter to donors, which is about the last group any politician would want to play games with. Arizona's April 4 filing deadline is also rapidly approaching, so this declaration carries more weight than those in the past.

A crowded field took shape after Ducey first said no all the way back in January of last year, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and NRSC chair Rick Scott refused to give up trying to get him to change his mind because of what the Arizona Republic characterized as "the perceived weakness of the existing GOP field." They had some big-named backup, as the New York Times now reports that George W. Bush, among others, tried to appeal to the governor. An about-face would have put Ducey on the receiving end of more abuse from Donald Trump, who has never forgiven him for accepting Joe Biden's victory, but the paper writes that recruiters tried to woo him with polling that found Trump's "declining influence in primaries."

The story says that anti-Trump Republicans hoped that a Ducey nomination "would also send a message about what they believe is Mr. Trump's diminishing clout." McConnell, the Times said last month, wanted to land Ducey for non-electoral reasons as well in order to stop the GOP caucus from filling up with even more Trump minions. The minority leader had unsuccessfully tried to convince two other governors, Maryland's Larry Hogan and New Hampshire's Chris Sununu, to run for the Senate, but he still hoped to get his man in Arizona.

That didn't happen. Ducey, in his letter to his donors, wrote, "If you're going to run for public office, you have to really want the job," adding that "by nature and by training I'm an executive." South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who flirted with leaving the upper chamber earlier this year, responded to the governor's refusal to join him there by telling NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell, "That's a sad story." When she followed up by asking if Ducey's refusal was a sign that the GOP had had a tough time recruiting electable candidates, Thune responded, "That is the existential question." It's also a question that McConnell and his allies will have plenty of time to mull over as the August primary draws ever closer.

Governors

AR-Gov: While state politicos originally expected a very competitive Republican primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders essentially cleared the field last year and now faces just one unheralded opponent. Five Democrats are campaigning in this conservative state, including physicist Chris Jones, who generated national attention over the summer with an announcement video that went viral. A new poll from the GOP firm Remington Research finds Sanders leading Jones 58-28 in a hypothetical general election.

CO-Gov: The Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group's newest general election numbers for ProgressNow Colorado show Democratic incumbent Jared Polis beating University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl 53-37, which is similar to his 52-35 advantage in October.

The firm also tested real estate broker Danielle Neuschwanger for the first time and found her trailing Polis 51-40, which, surprisingly, is better than Ganahl's performance. Neuschwanger, a far-right activist who has been running a longshot bid for the Republican nod, made news in December when, among many other things, she absurdly accused the governor of being "not gay" and being in "a sham" marriage after previously being "married to a woman, who he used to abuse the heck out of." As Advocate put it of these looney tunes claims, "There is absolutely no evidence that Polis was ever married to a woman or that he ever sexually assaulted anyone."

GA-Gov: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gov. Brian Kemp has booked $4.2 million in TV time from March 30 until the May 24 Republican primary. That reservation is more than four times the amount that his intra-party foe, former Sen. David Perdue, had on hand at the end of January.

IL-Gov: State Sen. Darren Bailey, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, earned an endorsement this week from former state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a far-right politician who almost wrested the Republican nomination from then-Gov. Bruce Rauner four years ago. Politico says of this news, "Ives' support in the governor's race gives Bailey an edge that could only be upped if Donald Trump were to endorse."

NE-Gov: Tuesday was also the second and final filing deadline for Nebraska candidates looking to compete in the May 10 primary (any sitting office holders had to turn in their paperwork two weeks earlier on Feb. 15, regardless of whether they were seeking re-election or another office), and the state has a list of contenders here.

Nine Republicans are competing to succeed termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts, though only three of them appear to be running serious campaigns. Donald Trump is supporting agribusinessman Charles Herbster, a self-funder who attended the infamous Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol, though the candidate claims he left before insurrectionists began their violent assault. Ricketts, however, has long had an ugly relationship with Herbster, and the outgoing governor is backing one of his rivals, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen.

State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who has parted with conservative orthodoxy at times, has also brought in a credible amount of money, but he doesn't have much big-name support so far. The field also includes former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau, who was briefly Herbster's candidate for lieutenant governor, but she hasn't raised much. The only notable candidate on the Democratic side is state Sen. Carol Blood, who is trying to win an office the GOP has held since the 1998 elections.

House

AR-01: Rep. Rick Crawford faces opposition in the Republican primary from state Rep. Brandt Smith and attorney Jody Shackelford, but neither of them look like they'll give him a tough time in this eastern Arkansas seat. Smith launched his campaign in August but ended the year with just over $7,000 on hand, while Shackelford didn't start fundraising until this year. The only Democrat is state Rep. Monte Hodges, who faces a very tough task in a district Trump would have carried 69-28.

AZ-02: Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer announced this week that he was joining the August Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran, who is defending a sprawling constituency in northeastern Arizona that would have backed Trump 53-45. Lizer was elected to his current post as the running mate of Jonathan Nez, who identifies as a Democrat, but the VP was an ardent Trump supporter in 2020. Last week, he also defied the Navajo Nation's strict masking requirements when he appeared maskless to greet the so-called "People's Convoy" and told them, "The People are rising up. The People are dissatisfied."

CO-05: State Rep. Dave Williams, who is challenging Rep. Doug Lamborn in the June Republican primary for this safely red seat, has announced that he'll try to make the ballot by competing at the April 8 party convention. U.S. House candidates in Colorado can advance to the primary either by turning in 1,500 valid signatures or by winning at least 30% of the delegates' support at their party gatherings, which are also known locally as assemblies.

While Lamborn has struggled in the past to reach the primary, state officials say he's already turned in the requisite number of petitions. The incumbent, though, says he'll still take part in the convention. Candidates are allowed to try both routes, and while anyone who takes less than 10% of the vote at the assembly is automatically disqualified no matter how many signatures they've gathered, there's probably little chance Lamborn fails to clear this very low bar.

CO-08: State Rep. Yadira Caraveo has earned a Democratic primary endorsement from 1st District Rep. Diana DeGette in her bid for the all-new 8th District in the northern Denver suburbs. Caraveo faces Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco and former Commerce City Councilman Steve Douglas in the June nomination contest. All three say they'll both collect signatures and take part in their party conventions in order to make the ballot.

FL-10: Democrat Aramis Ayala, who is the former state's attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, announced Wednesday that she was ending her congressional campaign and would instead challenge Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody.

FL-22: Two more local Democrats say they're considering running to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Deutch: state Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, who served as mayor of Parkland when the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre occurred in 2018, and attorney Chad Klitzman, who lost a tight 2020 primary for Broward County supervisor of elections. On the Republican side, Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer has taken his name out of contention.

MS-04: Mississippi's filing deadline for its June 7 primary passed Tuesday, and the state has a list of candidates here. Candidates must win a majority of the vote in order to avoid a June 28 runoff.

The only major race this year is the Republican primary for the safely red 4th Congressional District along the Gulf Coast. The holder of that seat, Rep. Steven Palazzo, is facing an ethics investigation into charges that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes. The incumbent has six intra-party opponents, and no candidate has emerged as his chief challenger at this point. The only poll we've seen was a December Palazzo internal from Public Opinion Strategies that showed him in strong shape with 65% of the vote.

Four of the congressman's rivals, though, have the resources to make their case against him. The candidate who ended 2021 with the most money is self-funder Carl Boyanton, who had $525,000 to spend; Boyanton, however, ran in 2020 as well and took fourth with a mere 9%. Banker Clay Wagner, who has also poured his own money into his campaign, had $305,000 to spend while two elected officials, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell and state Sen. Brice Wiggins, had $155,000 and $123,000 on hand, respectively, while the remaining two had less than $5,000. Palazzo himself had $385,000 available to defend himself.

NC-04: Singer Clay Aiken has filed to seek the Democratic nomination for this open seat, which puts an end to what reporter Colin Campbell said was "speculation about whether he'd still run" after state courts ordered the adoption of a map that differed considerably from the one in place when Aiken first announced his campaign. North Carolina's filing deadline is Friday at noon local time, so we'll have a full candidate list soon.

NC-13: Law student Bo Hines and Army veteran Kent Keirsey have each announced that they'll seek the Republican nomination for this competitive open seat. We hadn't previously mentioned Keirsey, who ended 2021 with $323,000 on hand thanks in part to self-funding.

NE-01: Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry seemed to be on track for another easy win until he was indicted in October. The congressman was charged with allegedly lying to federal investigators as part of a probe into a foreign billionaire who used straw donors to illegally funnel $180,000 to four different GOP candidates, including $30,000 to his own campaign, and his trial is currently set to start March 15. Four candidates are competing against him in the primary, but the only notable contender is state Sen. Mike Flood, a former speaker of the state's unicameral legislature who has endorsements from Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman.

Fortenberry began running commercials in late January attacking his rival on immigration, and he's arguing his efforts have worked. The congressman recently publicized a Moore Information internal, which is the only poll we've seen here so far, showing him leading Flood 36-25; 36% of the vote, however, is still a dangerous place for any incumbent to find themselves. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks faces only one little-known opponent in an eastern Nebraska seat that would have favored Trump 54-43.

NE-02: Rep. Don Bacon, who is one of nine House Republicans who won election in 2020 in a district Joe Biden carried, is defending a redrawn Omaha-area seat that, just like his existing constituency, would have favored Biden 52-46. (It's still very much a gerrymander, though, as the GOP mapmakers grafted on rural Saunders County, a piece of deep-red turf that has little in common with Omaha, to keep the seat from getting bluer.) His lone intra-party foe is roofer Steve Kuehl, who only jumped in on Friday.

It remains to be seen if Kuehl can run a serious campaign with just over two months to go before the primary, but one prominent Republican may end up rooting for him: Donald Trump responded to Bacon's vote last year for the Biden administration's infrastructure bill by not-tweeting, "Anyone want to run for Congress against Don Bacon in Nebraska?" Bacon concluded last year with $978,000 to spend to protect himself.

Two Democrats are also campaigning to take on the incumbent. State Sen. Tony Vargas ended 2021 with a $440,000 to $89,000 cash-on-hand lead over mental health counselor Alisha Shelton, who lost the 2020 Senate primary but now has EMILY's List in her corner. Vargas would be the state's first Latino member of Congress, while Shelton would be Nebraska's first Black representative.

NY-11, NY-12: The Working Families Party has endorsed Army veteran Brittany Ramos DeBarros in the June Democratic primary for the Staten Island-based (but now much bluer) 11th District and nonprofit founder Rana Abdelhamid for Team Blue's nod in the safely blue 12th in Manhattan.

NY-16: Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi has confirmed to Jewish Insider's Matthew Kassel that he'll challenge freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the June Democratic primary for the safely blue 16th District, which includes part of Westchester County and the Bronx. Gashi took issue with Bowman for casting a vote on the left against the Biden administration's infrastructure bill, saying, "I've been frustrated that the Democrats control the House, the Senate and the presidency, and we're not able to get as much done as we can because of two senators and a handful of congresspeople who are furthering a more extremist agenda."

Kassel also reports that pastor Michael Gerald, who is a deputy commissioner at the Westchester County Department of Correction, is gathering signatures to appear on the primary ballot.

NY-22: Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler, whom The Ithaca Voice identifies as a "moderate Republican," announced last week that he would campaign for the open 22nd District, which Joe Biden would have won 58-40. Another new GOP candidate is Navy veteran Brandon Williams, who has the backing of several county-level Conservative Parties. Williams, unsurprisingly, is campaigning as anything but a moderate, baselessly claiming that Democrats used the pandemic to "drive through mandates that were meant to reinforce the fear."

NY-23: While Republican state Sen. George Borrello last month declined to rule out running for Congress based on an extremely slender hope that the GOP will successfully challenge the new map in court, he seems to have since committed to running for re-election. Earlier this week, the Chautauqua County Republican Committee endorsed Borrello's bid for another term in the legislature at the same time it was backing Rep. Claudia Tenney in the redrawn 23rd Congressional District.

TX-08: The Associated Press on Thursday called the March 1 Republican primary for Navy SEAL veteran Morgan Luttrell, who secured an outright win by taking 52% of the vote in an expensive 11-way contest. Political operative Christian Collins, who is a former campaign manager for retiring Rep. Kevin Brady, was a distant second with 22%. This seat, which includes the northern Houston area and nearby rural counties, is safely red.

The frontrunners, who both stressed their conservative credentials and loyalty to Trump, disagreed on little, but they had the support of very different factions within the party. Luttrell had in his corner House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which aired ads for him, as well as former Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Collins, meanwhile, had the support of Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies in the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus, while a Cruz buddy, banker Robert Marling, financed several super PACs that have spent heavily here. Luttrell far outspent Collins, and while Collins' outside allies deployed $1.4 million compared to $1 million for Luttrell's side, it wasn't enough to even force a second round of voting.

Mayors

San Jose, CA Mayor: City Councilmember Raul Peralez has dropped a Tulchin Research poll of the June nonpartisan primary for San Jose mayor that shows Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez leading with 28% while Peralez edges out fellow Councilmember Matt Mahan 13-7 for the second spot in a likely November general election; a third councilmember, Dev Davis, takes 6%. The poll was released one day before the influential South Bay Labor Council, which Chavez used to lead, backed the county supervisor. That was unwelcome news for Peralez, who was hoping the organization would issue a dual endorsement or an open endorsement that would have allowed individual unions to choose whom to support.

In San Jose, local elections for decades have been skirmishes between labor and business: Both Chavez and Peralez fall in the former camp, while termed-out Mayor Sam Liccardo, Mahan, and Davis are business allies. Liccardo's team has made it clear that they very much prefer Mahan over Davis, though the incumbent hasn't yet made an endorsement. Liccardo's official backing could mean quite a lot if it eventually materializes, though: He recently formed a super PAC that reportedly raised $400,000 in just a day.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Michael Madigan, a Democrat whose nearly four decades as the powerful speaker of the Illinois state House came to an involuntary end last year, was indicted Wednesday on 22 counts of racketeering and bribery. Federal prosecutors allege that Madigan, who also gave up his post as state party chair after he was ousted as speaker, illegally used his many influential positions "to preserve and to enhance [his] political power and financial well-being" and "reward [his] political allies." Madigan responded by proclaiming his innocence.

Morning Digest: Cuomo impeachment vote might not happen until September at the soonest

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

Leading Off

NY-Gov: The New York Times, citing an unnamed source, reports that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie believes "he has the support from most, if not all, of the Democratic majority" to impeach Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though at a Monday news conference, he was hazy about the timeline for proceeding. Heastie told reporters he thinks that lawmakers' impeachment investigation will be "dealt with in weeks, and not months," though it would then be some time before articles of impeachment could be drafted and voted on.

To get a sense of just how vague Heastie's guidance was, North Country Public Radio suggested that articles "could come as early as this month," while the Times said they "might not be considered until early September," and the Albany Times Union went with "mid-September." If and when the Assembly does impeach Cuomo (and for what it's worth, every Republican in the chamber is in favor), a trial could not take place in the Senate any sooner than 30 days later. All told, a vote on whether to convict Cuomo and remove him from office—assuming he doesn't resign first—may therefore not happen until October at the earliest.

Campaign Action

Cuomo has also been trying to convince legislative leaders not to impeach him in exchange for him not running for a fourth term, The City reported, but Heastie shot down the idea at Monday's press event. In the now-likely event of a Cuomo-less Democratic primary next year (or one featuring a deranged and mortally wounded ex-governor), our old friend the Great Mentioner is warming up for a very busy season of would-be candidacies. Politico starts us off with an extremely long and detailed list of potential successors, including a number of names we haven't previously cited, though there's pretty much no word yet as to whether any are interested. Don't worry, though: There will be, soon.

Senate

CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna, who'd been the lone holdout among California House Democrats in not yet backing Sen. Alex Padilla for re-election, has at last endorsed the incumbent for a full six-year term. Khanna had previously declined to rule out a challenge to Padilla, who was appointed to replace Vice President Kamala Harris in January, but with no major opponents in sight, the senator should be a lock next year.

MD-Sen: If Republican Gov. Larry Hogan wanted to put to rest any speculation that he might run against Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen next year, he could simply crib from ol' William Tecumseh Sherman, whose famous Statement™ they teach on the first day of politician school. Instead, he's continued to keep the door open just a crack, most recently telling Maryland Matters, "I've said like a million times I haven't really expressed any interest whatsoever in that." Added Hogan, "Van Hollen should not lay awake at night, every night, worrying about me." Precisely what Hogan would like—a complacent opponent! Seriously, though, this is getting silly, but it can end if Hogan wishes it to.

NY-Sen: When asked by CNN's Dana Bash whether she might challenge Sen. Chuck Schumer in next year's Democratic primary, sophomore Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn't rule out the possibility but also did not sound particularly interested in the prospect. The congresswoman insisted that she hasn't seriously considered the race, saying, "I can't operate the way that I operate and do the things that I do in politics while trying to be aspiring to other things or calculating to other things." She also added that she and Schumer "have been working very closely on a lot of legislation and that, to me, is important."

Ocasio-Cortez did not offer any sort of timetable for making a decision, however, and her comments were made in late June as part of a taping for a CNN special, so it's possible her stance has shifted since then.

Governors

CA-Gov: California Republicans aren't endorsing anyone in next month's gubernatorial recall election … and neither are California Democrats. Well, sort of, for the latter: Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday encouraged supporters to leave the second question on the recall ballot blank rather than choose a replacement candidate, saying his team is "just focusing on 'no' " on the first question, which asks voters whether they want to recall Newsom from office.

That's in keeping with Newsom's strategy all along, which was to discourage any high-profile Democrats from entering the race and unite the party behind him and him alone. Whether that'll work, though, is the number one question facing Democrats, especially since at least one pollster has suggested that the variety of options open to Republican voters on question two has generated enthusiasm on the GOP side that Team Blue lacks.

But that wide-open field has created its own problem for Republicans, who voted not to back any candidate at a state party gathering over the weekend. With several welterweights running, that could lead to a split vote among the various GOP choices and possibly allow a little-known Democrat like Kevin Paffrath to prevail on the second question—an outcome that a recent independent poll suggested could indeed come to pass.

That survey—which was the first to show the recall succeeding, by a 51-40 margin—also found Paffrath with a 27-23 edge on conservative radio host Larry Elder, though Paffrath was the only Democrat named along with six Republicans. Elder has emerged as the top Republican fundraiser in the race after he reported raising $4.5 million since kicking off his campaign last month, though Newsom has amassed 10 times as much, bringing in $46 million through the end of July, and has been spending heavily on ads.

CO-Gov: Jason Salzman of the Colorado Times Recorder writes that Republican state Sen. John Cooke, who is also the assistant minority leader of the chamber, did a radio interview last Thursday and shared some unflattering thoughts on his own party's outlook in next year's governor's race.

Cooke said he did not think Democratic Gov. Jared Polis could be beaten and even praised the governor as "smart and popular." He did name-check businessman Greg Lopez, the only officially announced candidate so far for the GOP but bemoaned his lack of money and name recognition.

Cooke also mentioned former state Sen. Ellen Roberts as someone who could give his party a chance in the race, but he said she told him she's not interested in running. Roberts thought about a statewide bid in 2016 for Senate but decided against it after receiving backlash from some Republicans for not being sufficiently conservative.

House

AR-01: State Rep. Brandt Smith kicked off a Republican primary bid against Rep. Rick Crawford, who's represented eastern Arkansas' 1st Congressional District since 2011. Smith claimed Crawford's lack of accessibility and responsiveness to his constituents, rather than any specific policy disagreements, as his reasons for taking on the incumbent, a lower-profile Trumpnik who voted to overturn the results of last year's election.

MO-04: Former Republican state Sen. Ed Emery died last Friday at age 71, just a few days after collapsing at a campaign event. Emery had launched a bid for Missouri's open 4th Congressional District in June.

Lieutenant Governors

GA-LG, GA-Gov, GA-Sen: As expected, Republican state Sen. Burt Jones will seek Georgia's lieutenant governorship, rather than run for Senate or governor. Jones is a wealthy businessman who was booted as chair of a key legislative committee by fellow Republicans for leading an effort to overturn last year's election, a demotion he refashioned as a badge of honor in his campaign kickoff.

Another state senator, Butch Miller, is already running for the GOP nod, but Donald Trump dumped on him last month, saying he "will not be supporting or endorsing" Miller "because of his refusal to work with other Republican Senators on voter fraud and irregularities in the State." Two notable Democrats, state Reps. Erick Allen and Derrick Jackson, are in the race, which is open because Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan chose not to seek re-election after disputing Trump's false claims that the election was stolen.

Morning Digest: 17 districts flipped from Trump to Biden in 2020, while only two went the other way

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

House: Thanks to the recent completion of Daily Kos Elections' effort to calculate the 2020 presidential election results by congressional district, we now know that Joe Biden won 224 districts to Donald Trump's 211, a net increase of 15 seats for Democrats compared to the 2016 results under the same district lines. In a new story, Stephen Wolf has created maps and a chart showing the geography and electoral stats of the 19 districts that changed parties at the presidential level in 2020. Of those districts, 17 flipped from backing Trump in 2016 to Biden last year, while two districts switched from supporting Hillary Clinton four years ago to voting for Trump in 2020.

The districts that changed hands share some demographic commonalities, and many were competitive at the House level in November. Those that went from Trump to Biden include many historically red suburban seats with high levels of college education and voters who have grown increasingly hostile to the Republican Party under Trump. That's an extension of the pattern seen in 2016, when Clinton also flipped many historically red suburban seats.

Campaign Action

Unlike four years ago when Trump flipped many districts with large populations of white voters without a college degree, the two districts that Trump picked up this time both have large populations of Latino voters, a demographic that shifted sharply back toward Republicans in 2020 after giving Clinton historically high levels of support four years earlier.

Governors

CA-Gov: Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a vocal proponent of the effort to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, isn't so sure about running himself if the recall makes the ballot. "I'm not planning on it now," he told Politico this week, adding that he'll "look at how the field shapes up."

CO-Gov: Businessman Greg Lopez, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018, has announced that he'll try for the Republican nod to take on Democratic Gov. Jared Polis again next year. The little-known Lopez finished a surprising second at the state GOP's convention three years ago, which allowed him to move on to the party's primary, but his campaign was badly underfunded and he ended up a very distant third with just 13% of the vote.

KS-Gov: Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who'd reportedly been looking at a bid against Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, now confirms that he's "seriously considering" a campaign, though he did not offer a timetable for a decision.

MN-Gov: Unnamed GOP operatives tell the Minnesota Reformer that Republican state Sen. Michelle Benson could be a candidate for governor next year, when Democratic Gov. Tim Walz is up for re-election, though there's no word on whether she's interested. So far, no major Republican names have entered the race.

PA-Gov: The Cook Political Report adds former Lackawanna County Commissioner Laureen Cummings to the long list of Republicans who could run for governor next year, though she doesn't appear to have said anything publicly. Cummings briefly ran for the Senate in 2012 before dropping down to challenge Democrat Matt Cartwright for what was then the newly redrawn 17th Congressional District and got smooshed.

House

LA-02: Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter has released a mid-February internal survey conducted by veteran New Orleans pollster Silas Lee that finds him leading the March 20 all-party primary with 28% of the vote, which is below the majority he'd need to avoid an April runoff. The poll finds that Carter's most likely opponent is fellow state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who edges out a third Democrat, activist Gary Chambers, 19-6 for second place.

The only other poll we've seen of the contest for this safely blue seat was a late February survey conducted for Trust the People PAC, a group opposed to Carter, that also found the two state senators advancing. Unfortunately, the PAC did not reveal the name of its pollster, which is information we require for inclusion in the Digest.

NC-11: Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara just kicked off a bid against freshman Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, making her the first notable Democrat to do so. Beach-Ferrara, who described herself "a gay woman who's a Christian minister" in her announcement video, won a second four-year term on the commission last year. Buncombe, which is home to the college town of Asheville, makes up about a third of North Carolina's 11th District and is its bluest bastion. The district overall is quite red, though: According to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, it supported Donald Trump 55-43 last year.

OH-01: Ohio's 1st Congressional District may already be represented by a member of his own party, but Franklin Mayor Brent Centers is eagerly trying to elbow aside Republican Rep. Steve Chabot ahead of next year's midterms. That may not go so well, however: Centers says "my assumption and the assumption of a lot of people who are endorsing me" is that Chabot will retire, but a spokesperson for the congressman says he's running for a 14th term and pointed to an op-ed Chabot wrote immediately after winning his second straight difficult re-election campaign in November saying he'd be on the ballot in 2022.

According to Centers, though, that hasn't stopped a whole host of officials in his home base of Warren County from backing his would-be candidacy, which he says he plans to launch in early May. It's possible that some of these local pols think they're avoiding a direct conflict with Chabot because Warren could be drawn into another neighboring district, and Centers even hinted that could set him on a collision course with two other Republicans: Reps. Warren Davidson and Brad Wenstrup. But redistricting is still a long ways away, so if Centers is serious about kicking off a bid in just two months' time, he'll have to make it clear whether or not he's actually going to primary Chabot.

TX-06: There was a surprise less than an hour before candidate filing closed Wednesday when Dan Rodimer, who was the Republican nominee for Nevada's 3rd District last year, filled out paperwork to run in the May 1 special all-party primary. Rodmier's campaign didn't come completely out of nowhere, as the Dallas Morning News' Gromer Jeffers mentioned him as a possible contender last week, but the former WWE wrestler hadn't said anything publicly until now.

Rodimer, whose Twitter account still listed his location as Las Vegas even as he was filing to run in the Lone Star State, said, "We need fighters in Texas, and that's what I'm coming here for. I'm moving back to Texas." We'll have more about Rodimer and the rest of this crowded field in our next Digest.

Meanwhile, former Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson tweeted on Tuesday night that she'd be sitting the contest out. A third Republican, party activist Susan Wright, also earned an endorsement this week from 21st District Rep. Chip Roy in her quest to succeed her late husband, Rep. Ron Wright.

TX-13: The Department of Defense on Wednesday released its long-awaited inspector general’s report into allegations against freshman Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson from his time as chief White House physician, and it concluded that he displayed egregious behavior during his tenure.

The report concluded that Jackson “engaged in inappropriate conduct involving the use of alcohol” during two presidential trips; “disparaged, belittled, bullied, and humiliated” subordinates, which included “sexual and denigrating” comments against one; and “took Ambien during official travel, raising concerns about his potential incapacity to provide medical care during his travel.”

Jackson, who represents one of the most Republican seats in the nation, responded by once again declaring, “Democrats are using this report to repeat and rehash untrue attacks on my integrity.”

WA-04: Far-right ex-cop Loren Culp, who lost a bid for governor by a 57-43 margin to Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee last year, suggested this week that he might run against Rep. Dan Newhouse in Washington's 4th Congressional District next year. Newhouse, of course, is one of just 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, earning him the ire of local GOP officials and conservative activists alike.

However, a Culp campaign could actually benefit him. That's because Republican state Rep. Brad Klippert already launched a challenge in January, meaning that the high-profile Culp might only help fracture the disaffected Trumpist vote on the right. Klippert does have one advantage, though: His entire legislative district is contained in the 4th, while Culp, notes NCWLIFE's Jefferson Robbins, doesn't even live in Newhouse's district but rather in the 5th.

WI-03: Republican Derrick Van Orden, who previously had not ruled out a rematch against Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, says he is "very seriously considering" another bid, though he did not say when he might decide.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special elections:

AL-SD-26: Democrat Kirk Hatcher defeated Republican William Green 78-22 to hold this seat for his party. Hatcher's win was right in line with past Democratic performances in this district. According to FiveThiryEight's Nathaniel Rakich, Hillary Clinton won this district 77-20 in 2016 and former Sen. David Burkette won here 80-20 in 2018.

Republicans now have a 27-7 majority in this chamber with one other seat vacant.

CA-SD-10: As of early Wednesday, Democrat Sydney Kamlager was leading in this South Los Angeles-area district and is on track to easily avoid a runoff. Kamlager declared victory and was leading her closest competition, fellow Democrat Daniel Lee, 68-13.

As the likely outcome of this race is a Democratic hold, the composition of this chamber would return to a 31-9 lead for Team Blue.

CT-SD-27: Democrat Patricia Miller defeated Republican Joshua Esses to hold this seat for her party. The state of Connecticut has not released vote totals for this race yet, but according to the Stamford Advocate, Miller was leading by approximately 100 votes and Esses had conceded the race.  

This chamber will return to a 24-12 advantage for Democrats.

MA-HD-19th Suffolk: Former Winthrop Town Council president Jeffrey Turco won the Democratic primary in this reliably blue seat in the Winthrop area. Turco came out ahead of union representative Juan Jaramillo 36-30 in a contest where there were very sharp ideological contrasts between the two top contenders.

Jaramillo was endorsed by notable progressives such as Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and also had the backing of several labor groups, such as the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Turco, meanwhile, voted for Donald Trump in 2016, was supported by several police unions, and received backlash from groups such as NARAL for his stance on reproductive rights. Turco's support of GOP candidates extended into the 2020 cycle as well, when he donated to the re-election campaign of Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

Former Massachusetts House staffer Alicia DelVento, meanwhile, took third with 26% while Valentino Capobianco, who is chief of staff to state Sen. Paul Feeney, took 7%. Capobianco had the backing of establishment figures such as state Attorney General Maura Healey and former Rep. Joe Kennedy but lost their support when sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against him.

Turco will begin as the favorite over Republican Paul Caruccio in the March 30 general election in this district that supported Hillary Clinton 60-36 in 2016.

Mayors

 New York City, NY Mayor: On Wednesday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams earned an endorsement from the Hotel Trades Council, which is one of the major unions in city politics, for the June instant-runoff Democratic primary.

St. Louis, MO Mayor: St. Louis on Tuesday became the first large city in America to host a race using an "approval voting" system, which allows voters to cast as many votes in the primary as there are candidates, and City Treasurer Tishaura Jones and Alderman Cara Spencer advanced to next month's nonpartisan general election.

Tishaura Jones, who narrowly lost the 2017 Democratic primary to retiring incumbent Lyda Krewson under the old system, won support from 57% of voters, while 46% selected Cara Spencer as a choice. A third Democratic contender, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, earned the backing of 39% of voters, while 19% selected Republican Andrew Jones.

Tishaura Jones and Cara Spencer will compete again in the April 6 general election, where voters will only be able to select one of them. Tishaura Jones would be the city's first Black leader since 2001.

St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: St. Pete Polls, working on behalf of Florida Politics, surveys the August nonpartisan primary of its namesake city and finds three Democrats in a close fight for the two spots in a likely general election, though with a large plurality of voters still undecided. City Councilwoman Darden Rice leads with 15%, while former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and former state Rep. Wengay Newton are each just behind with 14%; another five candidates were tested, but none of them took more than 5% of the vote.

St. Pete also tests a hypothetical November matchup between Rice and Welch and finds Welch ahead 31-24.

Data

Pres-by-CD: We've made some minor adjustments to our calculations of the 2020 presidential election results by congressional district in Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York based on more precise data we've received since we initially published our findings for each state.

The largest shift came in New Jersey, which resulted in 427 votes moving between the 5th District to the 9th, with Donald Trump's margin increasing by that sum in the former and Biden's growing a corresponding amount in the latter. We also corrected a minor error in Oklahoma that resulted in a total of 484 votes shifting from the 4th District to the 5th with no change to the raw vote margin between the two candidates.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The district attorney’s office in Shawnee County, Kansas announced this week that it had reached a diversion agreement with former Republican Rep. Steve Watkins that would allow him to avoid trial over voter fraud charges. If Watkins follows the conditions, avoids breaking the law, and pays a $250 fine, the charges against him would be dropped in September.

Back in late 2019, the Topeka Capital-Journal first reported that Watkins may have committed voter fraud by listing a UPS store in Topeka as his home address on his voter registration form and then proceeding to cast a ballot the previous month as though he lived there. Watkins’ team insisted he’d made an "inadvertent" error and insisted he had "no improper purpose" because the UPS store and his supposed residence are both in the same county and congressional district. However, the locations are in different city council districts, and the contest Watkins cast his ballot in was decided by just 13 votes.

Local authorities began investigating Watkins for potential voter fraud soon afterwards, and they charged him the following July with three felonies, including lying to law enforcement. Watkins, who was already facing a tough intra-party challenge from state Treasurer Jake LaTurner even before the UPS story broke, argued he was the victim of a “hyper-political” attack, but LaTurner beat him by a blistering 49-34 margin that following month and went on to prevail in November. As part of Watkins’ diversion agreement, he acknowledged that he’d lied to a detective by claiming he hadn’t voted in that tight city council contest.

Morning Digest: Two Jersey Democrats who flipped Trump seats in 2018 now represent Biden turf

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

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide takes the turnpike through New Jersey, which is home to a number of competitive House seats. 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.

Joe Biden's 57-41 victory in the Garden State was only slightly larger than Hillary Clinton's 55-41 performance in 2016, an improvement due in part to the decline in third-party voting, but there were plenty of big changes below the surface. Biden captured nine of the state's twelve House seats, which was two more than Clinton took last time, while Donald Trump held onto the remaining three seats. All of the Biden districts are controlled by Democrats, while Republican representatives prevailed in two of the trio of Trump seats.

We'll start with a look at the one Democratic-held Trump seat, Rep. Andy Kim's 3rd District, which was also the state's closest district in the 2020 presidential race by far. Barack Obama had carried this South Jersey constituency, which is located in the Philadelphia suburbs and central Jersey Shore, 52-47 days after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area in 2012, but it swung hard to the right four years later and backed Trump 51-45. This time, the 3rd settled between those poles and supported Trump 49.4-49.2, a margin of about 800 votes.

Campaign Action

Local Republicans in past years have run well ahead of the top of the ticket here, but the opposite happened in 2020. Kim won a second term by beating Republican David Richter 52-45, a result that was considerably wider than his 50-49 victory against Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur in 2018.

GOP outside groups opted not to spend to boost Richter, a decision that may have had to do with the sheer cost of running for office in what may be the most expensive in the nation to advertise in: About 57% of the 3rd is in the pricey Philadelphia media market, while the balance is in the very expensive New York City market. To reach all voters on television, it's necessary to blanket both—an extremely costly proposition. Kim's mammoth fundraising made that heavy lift possible, but Richter's weak finances put such an undertaking out of reach.

Republicans, however, had more success in the 2nd District just to the south. This coastal seat swung from 54-45 Obama to 51-46 Trump in 2016, and it favored Trump again last year, though by a smaller 51-48 margin. National Democrats worked hard last year to deny a second term to Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who had switched from the Democrats to the GOP in late 2019 after opposing Trump's first impeachment. But Congress' most infamous turncoat ran ahead of the man he'd pledged his "undying support" to and defeated Democrat Amy Kennedy 52-46.

Trump's best seat by far, unsurprisingly, was once again the 4th District to the north in the Monmouth County area, though he did drop from 56-41 in 2016 to 55-44 last year. This constituency is held by 21-term Rep. Chris Smith, who was the only Republican in the state's delegation from Jan. 2019 until Van Drew switched parties nearly a year later.

We'll now move up north and hit the two Trump/Biden seats, both of which began the decade as conservative turf. The 5th District in northern Bergen County and more distant exurban areas had lurched slightly to the left, going from 51-48 Romney to 49-48 Trump in 2016, but Trump's toxicity in the suburbs helped propel Biden to a 52-47 win. The seat is held by Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a moderate who unseated arch-conservative Scott Garrett in 2016 and secured his third term 53-46 last year.

The swing to the left was even more pronounced in the neighboring 11th District in the Morris County area. This ancestrally red region had gone from 52-47 Romney to 49-48 Trump in 2016, but Biden took it 53-46 this time. Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill flipped this seat in 2018 by winning the race to succeed longtime Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen and successfully defended it 53-47 in 2020.

Trump also bombed in the 7th District just to the south, though the GOP showed signs of life downballot. This seat, which includes Hunterdon County and New York City's western exurbs, had already swung hard from 52-46 Romney to 49-48 Clinton, and Biden's margin ballooned to 54-44. Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, though, won his second term by a considerably smaller 51-49 margin in a very expensive race against state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., who is the son and namesake of well-regarded former Gov. Tom Kean Sr.

While Trump's margin took a nose dive in all of New Jersey's competitive seats, he did make gains in a trio of safely blue constituencies in the northern part of the state. Rep. Albio Sires' 8th District in Jersey City dropped from 76-21 Clinton to 73-26 Biden, which fits with the pattern we've seen in other seats with large Latino electorates. Rep. Donald Payne's heavily Black 10th District in Newark, likewise, ticked down from 85-13 Clinton 83-16 Biden. Finally, Rep. Bill Pascrell's diverse 9th District, which is home to Paterson and some of New York City's closer-in suburbs, shifted from 64-33 Clinton to 62-37 Biden.

Democrats have full control of the New Jersey state government, but that doesn't guarantee that they'll get a favorable congressional map for the coming decade. That's because a 1995 state constitutional amendment created a bipartisan redistricting commission consisting of six Democrats, six Republicans, and a tiebreaking member. Last time, the crucial 13th member favored GOP-drawn boundaries over those proposed by Democrats, though Republican mapmakers didn't anticipate the leftward swing that would later unfold in the state's northern suburbs.

Senate

CO-Sen: Republican Rep. Ken Buck announced on Friday that he would not run against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet next year and indicated he would instead seek re-election to the House. The decision was something of a surprise as Buck had stepped down as chair of the Colorado GOP in December, a move that appeared to presage a bid for statewide office. A number of Republican names have been mentioned as possible Senate contenders but so far no notable candidates have entered the race, and in fact Colorado Politics' Ernest Luning reports that his sources tell him that "no other Republicans have been talking about challenging Bennet."

GA-Sen: The Washington Examiner's David Drucker reports that both David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler "are possible candidates and are keeping their options open" with regard to a possible comeback bid against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock next year. Neither, however, has commented about their possible interest.

OH-Sen: Former Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman tweeted on Wednesday night that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

Coleman, whose 1999 election made him the first Black mayor of Ohio's capital city, has shown some interest in seeking higher office over the years, but it's yet to work out. Coleman entered the race for governor in 2005, but he ended up dropping out later that year. Coleman, who did not seek a fifth term as mayor in 2015, also showed some early interest in competing in the following year's Senate race, but he opted not to go for it.

Meanwhile, an unnamed source tells Buzzfeed's Henry Gomez that they anticipate another Democrat, former state health director Amy Acton, to "formalize her interest in some fashion" sometime over the next week. Acton has not said anything publicly about this contest, but Gomez relays that she's being encouraged to run by people close to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Brown himself says he's not backing anyone yet, and he used an interview with WKYC to name-drop some other potential candidates. Brown said, "I think Congresswoman (Joyce) Beatty has shown interest," though the congresswoman herself hasn't made any deliberations public yet. The senator also added Rep. Marcy Kaptur as a possibility, though he adds that he hasn't spoken to her; this is the first time we've heard Kaptur, who was first elected to the House in 1982, so much as mentioned for this race.

Governors

CO-Gov: The Colorado Sun's Jesse Paul reports that University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl "is seen as a likely candidate" to challenge Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, who is up for re-election next year. Ganahl was elected to one of two at-large seats on the Board of Regents in 2016, making her the last Republican to hold statewide office in Colorado. Republicans have not won the governorship since 2002, when Bill Owens won a second term.

TX-Gov: Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, who last year didn't rule out seeking the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, now says it's "very unlikely" he'll run for any office in 2022.

House

WY-AL: Air Force veteran Bryan Miller, who also chairs the Sheridan County GOP, tells CNN that he plans to run against Rep. Liz Cheney in next year's Republican primary. If he follows through, he'd be the second challenger to do so, along with state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, who recently announced a campaign following Cheney's vote to impeach Donald Trump. Miller has twice run for Senate, in both 2020 and 2014, and took 10% of the vote in the GOP primary each time.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: City Council President Felicia Moore announced Thursday that she would challenge incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms in November's nonpartisan contest. While Moore did not mention the mayor in her kickoff, she made it clear that she'd be focusing on the city's crime rate and local income inequality as she argues for a change of leadership

If Moore wins, she'd need to overcome two unfavorable trends in Atlanta politics. Local voters haven't ousted an incumbent mayor since 1973, when Maynard Jackson's victory over Sam Massell made him the city's first Black leader. And while the City Council president has the advantage of being elected citywide, the post has not proven to be a good launching pad: Five previous council presidents have run for mayor over the last 25 years, and each of them has lost.

Other local pols could join the contest including former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen, who told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she's thinking of running. Another prospective contender is former City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, an independent who lost to Bottoms 50.4-49.6 in 2017 but has refused to recognize the legitimacy of her defeat three years later. A December runoff would take place if no one wins a majority in the first round of voting.

Boston, MA Mayor: Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George on Thursday became the first major candidate to enter the mayoral race since Joe Biden nominated incumbent Marty Walsh to serve as secretary of labor. Essaibi-George, whose father is originally from Tunisia, would be the first woman or person of color to be elected to this post.

Essaibi-George joins two of her colleagues, Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu, each of whom would also achieve this historic milestone. City Council President Kim Janey would become acting mayor following Walsh's departure, which would make her the first Black woman to lead the city; Janey has not yet announced if she'll run in her own right.

Essaibi-George has focused on mental health and homelessness on the Council, and those were among the issues she highlighted in her kickoff. The Boston Globe's Danny McDonald also notes that there are some clear policy differences between Essaibi-George, whom he writes "is seen as something of a centrist," and her two current rivals.

Notably, Essaibi-George was part of the Council majority that passed Walsh's budget last year, while Campbell and Wu opposed it. Campbell and Wu argued that the mayor's plan didn't do enough to combat racial or economic inequality, while Essaibi-George said that it would have been fiscally irresponsible to defeat the budget and that it contained vital funding for programs.

A number of other others are eyeing this contest, but one big name recently took himself out of contention in an unexpected way. Boston Police Commissioner William Gross had expressed interest earlier in January, with one unnamed source saying he was "90%" likely to run. Gross then announced Thursday that he would resign from his post, a move that briefly looked like a precursor to a mayoral bid. However, Gross said hours later that he would not be running for mayor.

One other major question looming over the race is whether there will be a special election this year for the final months of Walsh's term in addition to the regularly-scheduled contest this fall. If Walsh resigns before March 5, which seems very likely, the city charter would require a special take place 120 to 140 days after his departure.

The City Council, however, is scheduled to vote on Wednesday on a home rule petition that would cancel the special election. The legislature and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker would need to sign off afterwards, though their recent move to quickly approve a similar petition in Lawrence indicates that they'd let it go forward.

Cincinnati, OH Mayor: Physicist and businessman Gavi Begtrup announced Wednesday that he would join this year's open seat race for mayor. Begtrup, who said he'd already raised $65,000 for his efforts, identifies as a Democrat, and he previously served as an advisor to Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords when she served in Congress.

Begtrup founded a local business called Eccrine in 2013, which the Cincinnati Business Courier described as "once one of the region's most-promising startups." Eccrine failed last year, though, which Begtrup said was a result of it losing vital funding after the pandemic devastated the economy.

Other Races

CA-SoS: Both chambers of California's legislature unanimously confirmed Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber as secretary of state to fill the vacancy left by Alex Padilla, who was appointed to Vice President Kamala Harris' seat in the Senate. A special election will now be held for Weber's seat in the Assembly, a safely blue district in San Diego.

Morning Digest: Maine’s Jared Golden ran 13 points ahead of the top of the ticket

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

Leading Off

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide goes to Maine, where Democratic Rep. Jared Golden won a second term even as Donald Trump once again carried his 2nd Congressional District. We'll also be taking a look at the seven states that are home to only one U.S. House seat. You can find our complete data set here, which we're updating continuously as the precinct-level election returns we need for our calculations become available.

Joe Biden carried Maine, which has backed every Democratic presidential nominee since 1992, by a 53-44 margin, which was a notable improvement on Hillary Clinton's 48-45 performance there in 2016. Maine, however, gives an electoral vote to the winner of each of its congressional districts (the only other state to do this is Nebraska), and for the second cycle in a row, the 2nd District went to Trump. This seat in the northern part of the state supported Trump 52-45, a somewhat smaller margin compared to his 51-41 performance there four years ago but still a clear win. You can find a larger version of our map here.

Campaign Action

Despite Trump's victory at the top of the ticket, though, Golden defeated Republican Dale Crafts 53-47. At the start of the cycle, Republicans had planned to target Golden, who had flipped this seat in a tight 2018 race, but major outside groups on both sides dramatically cut their ad buys in the final weeks of the race in what Politico characterized at the time as "a sign of no confidence" in Crafts.

Biden took the 1st District, meanwhile, by a 60-37 margin, which was also a big shift from Clinton's 54-39 win. This seat, which contains Portland, has been solidly blue turf for decades, and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree won her seventh term 62-38.

While Democrats control the governorship and both houses of the legislature, redistricting isn't likely to alter Maine's congressional boundaries all that much. The state requires two-thirds of each chamber to pass a new map, and there are more than enough Republicans to block any districts they view as unfavorable. If the legislature deadlocks, the state Supreme Court would take charge of redistricting.

We'll now take a look at the nation's seven at-large congressional districts. Alaska supported Donald Trump 53-43, a smaller margin than his 53-38 showing in 2016. This was the closest a Democrat's come to winning the Last Frontier's three electoral votes since 1992, when George H.W. Bush edged out Bill Clinton 39-30 as Ross Perot was taking 28%. Biden's 43% was also the highest for Team Blue since 1964, when Lyndon Johnson became the only Democratic candidate to ever carry Alaska.

Rep. Don Young, a Republican whose nearly 48 years in office makes him the House's longest serving current member, faced a rematch this year against Alyse Galvin, an independent who won the Democratic nomination. While outside groups for both parties spent heavily, Young won 54-45, an improvement from his 53-47 showing in 2018.

Democrats also made a serious effort to flip Montana's open House seat but came up short. Trump's 57-41 margin of victory was smaller than his 56-36 showing four years ago, but the state still wasn't close. Republican Matt Rosendale beat Democrat Kathleen Williams 56-44, a win that came two years after Rosendale lost his challenge to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester by a 50-47 margin. It was also a much bigger defeat for Williams than in her previous attempt for this seat in 2018, when she fell to now-Gov.-elect Greg Gianforte 51-45.

Biden, meanwhile, improved on Clinton's performance in his home state of Delaware and in Vermont, where Democratic Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Peter Welch, respectively, also had no trouble winning re-election. North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming remained safely red turf up and down the ballot. Wyoming, which backed Trump 70-27, also gave him his largest margin of victory in any state for the second cycle in a row.

Congressional redistricting hasn't been a factor in any of these seven states in some time, but there's a very good chance that Montana could regain the second House seat that it lost after the 1990 census. However, while Gianforte's win in this year's gubernatorial race gives Team Red the trifecta it lost in the 2004 elections, state law grants a bipartisan commission responsibility over redistricting matters. Rhode Island, meanwhile, could soon join the list of at-large states, as population growth patterns suggest its two seats will shrink to one following reapportionment.

Georgia Runoffs

GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: A new poll from RMG Research, the firm run by Scott Rasmussen, finds Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly leading Republican Sen. David Perdue 48-47 while Democrat Raphael Warnock holds a similar 48-46 edge over Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

Ossoff excoriates Perdue in a new ad for "doing nothing" to alleviate the pandemic and "blocking relief for the rest of us." Warnock, meanwhile, holds aloft a photo of his father, an Army veteran born in 1917 who served in World War II, calling him his "hero." Warnock blasts Loeffler for "taking my words out of context to try and fool you into believing that I don't respect members of the military, like my own father."

Finally, AdImpact reports that total ad spending across both runoffs has reached $315 million, with $170 million of that devoted to the special election. In that contest, Warnock has outspent Loeffler $60 million to $45 million so far, but outside GOP groups have spent $53 million versus just $13 million for Democrats.

However, as AdImpact notes, the difference between the third-party spenders is "misleading." That's because at least one large Republican super PAC, American Crossroads, has spent $44 million on ads that will run straight through Jan. 5. Democratic groups, by contrast, have all booked airtime on a week-by-week basis.

Senate

CO-Sen, CO-Gov: Outgoing Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who just lost to Democrat John Hickenlooper 54-44 last month, has declined to rule out bids against either Sen. Michael Bennet or Gov. Jared Polis, two Democrats who are both up for re-election in 2022.

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: Republican Rep. Glenn Thompson, who recently said he'd "like to be the first member of Congress from Pennsylvania in 202 years to chair the House Agriculture Committee" in describing his feelings about a bid for Senate or governor, was elevated to the post of "ranking member" on the committee by his GOP colleagues this week. That makes him the most senior Republican on the committee and puts him in line to chair it in two years' time should the GOP win back the House in 2022.

Gubernatorial

IL-Gov: State Rep. Darren Bailey, who wouldn't rule out a run for governor in a radio interview over the summer, just decided to pick a Facebook fight with Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a fellow Republican whom Capitol Fax's Rich Miller says is "widely rumored" to also be considering a bid against Democratic Gov. J. B. Pritzker.

Kinzinger has been just about the only congressional Republican to explicitly call out Donald Trump's "baseless conspiracies" about the election, as he put it, earning the ire of true believers like Bailey, who termed Kinzinger's view that Trump should accept reality and stop undermining democracy "appalling."

NV-Gov: Republican Rep. Mark Amodei says in a new interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Colton Lochhead that he's "gonna look at" a challenge to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who's up for re-election in 2022. For almost six years, Amodei's half-heartedly sought an escape from Washington, D.C., whose culture, he said at a 2015 town hall, "sucks." Not long after, he began mooting a bid for governor in 2018 but ultimately declined—and then said he might run for state attorney general that year … but ultimately declined.

In fact, Amodei even suggested he might retire that cycle, though he wound up seeking another term and winning comfortably in northern Nevada's rural 2nd District, which twice backed Donald Trump by double digits, according to new Daily Kos Elections calculations. Perhaps as a consequence, he was dogged by retirement rumors last year, though he pushed back against them firmly early on and easily won again.

However, he nearly courted electoral disaster when he expressed the slightest openness to impeaching Trump and inspired the Club for Growth to push for former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt to challenge Amodei in the GOP primary. Amodei had earlier accused Laxalt of coveting his seat and fomenting the chatter that he might quit, but in the end, Laxalt left the congressman alone.

Things might play out differently in a gubernatorial race, though. Lochhead says that Laxalt and former Sen. Dean Heller are both "rumored" to be considering bids against Sisolak, who defeated Laxalt 49-45 in 2018. Neither man, however, has publicly said anything about their interest.

House

NJ-03: Republican Assemblyman Ryan Peters sounds as though he's considering a bid against Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, who just won re-election to a second term by a surprisingly hale 53-45 margin. Insider NJ says that Peters is "not ready yet to say he's running for Congress," but he also disparaged the idea of running against Democratic state Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego next year (a race he's been rumored to be interested in) by saying, "Do I want to be in the minority again? I really don't have a burning desire to do that."

Called Races

NY-01, NY-02: With New York finally certifying the results of last month's elections, the AP called the race for 1st Congressional District for Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin on Friday, a day after Democrat Nancy Goroff conceded; Zeldin defeated Goroff by a 55-45 margin. The AP also called the contest in the neighboring 2nd District, which Democrat Jackie Gordon conceded to Republican Andrew Garbarino a couple of weeks ago. Final tallies there show Garbarino winning 53-46.

That leaves just two unresolved House races, Iowa's 2nd and New York's 22nd, both of which are subject to ongoing legal challenges.