The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.
● NC-AG, NC-08: Far-right Rep. Dan Bishop, an election denier who rose to prominence after spearheading North Carolina's transphobic "bathroom bill" in 2016 while in the state Senate, announced Thursday that he'd run for state attorney general next year. The congressman quickly earned an endorsement from the well-funded Club for Growth for his bid to become the first Republican to hold this office since 1975, though he currently faces former state Rep. Tom Murry in the primary.
Bishop, however, may not be the only sitting congressman who ends up running to succeed incumbent Josh Stein, the Democratic frontrunner in next year's race for governor. The very same day, Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson declined to rule out a bid of his own. Jackson told the News & Observer's Danielle Battaglia that he'd only start thinking about a campaign after the state's Republican-run legislature passes a new congressional map sometime this fall, which could leave the freshman without a seat he can win.
Jackson, however, was quick to make clear how he'd go after Bishop. "I did hear his announcement," he said, "and as a prosecutor, I don't think that anyone who supported overturning an election should be talking about law and order." The Democratic field currently consists of Marine veteran Tim Dunn and Navy Reserve veteran Charles Ingram, but both reported having minimal cash stockpiles at the end of June.
Bishop did indeed vote to overturn Joe Biden's win in the hours following the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, a move the congressman justified by echoing Donald Trump's lies about mail-in votes. "In the 2020 election, the national Democratic Party carried out a highly coordinated, massively financed, nationwide campaign to displace state regulation of absentee ballots by means of a flood of election-year litigation," Bishop wrote just before the riot, and he's continued to spread the Big Lie since then. The congressman fired off an evidence-free tweet last year claiming that Jack Dorsey "and Twitter put their thumb on the scale in the last election to help Biden." (Unsurprisingly, Bishop has a far more favorable view of that site's new owner.)
Before Bishop devoted himself to enabling conservative extremists in Washington, D.C., he was a state lawmaker who indirectly helped cost the GOP the governorship in 2016. That year, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the Bishop-crafted House Bill 2, which required anyone using bathrooms at schools or public facilities to use the restroom associated with the sex on their birth certificate, regardless of their gender identity. That legislation sparked a national backlash that led several major corporations to cancel planned expansions in the state, and voters responded by narrowly booting McCrory in favor of then-Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Bishop's career, though, survived and thrived even after Cooper signed a law rolling back HB 2. The state senator unexpectedly got the chance to run for Congress in what was then numbered the 9th District in 2019 after the results of the previous year's election were voided because of election fraud carried out to assist Republican nominee Mark Harris. Bishop decisively won the primary and went on to narrowly defeat 2018 Democratic nominee Dan McCready 51-49 after an expensive campaign for a gerrymandered constituency that Trump had taken 54-43 in 2016.
But despite that underwhelming victory, as well as a new court-supervised map that made the 9th District a shade bluer, Bishop turned in an easy 2020 win in a contest that national Democrats didn't target. His constituency was soon renumbered the 8th District following the 2020 census and became safely red turf that Bishop had no trouble holding last year. The congressman then used the first days of the new Congress to cast 11 straight votes against making Kevin McCarthy speaker, but he eventually flipped; McCarthy rewarded Bishop afterward with a spot on the GOP's Orwellian-named "Weaponization of the Federal Government" subcommittee.
Republican legislators were recently given the green light to once again gerrymander to their hearts' content after the newly conservative state Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the court's previously Democratic majority that had banned the practice. They'll likely draw up another safe seat to replace the one Bishop currently represents, and there's already chatter about who could run to replace him.
An unnamed source tells the National Journal's James Downs that Harris and Dan Barry, who took a distant fifth in the 2012 primary for the 9th District several maps ago, are "names to watch." Harris chose not to run in the 2019 special election that Bishop ultimately won, but while the consultant responsible for the fraud that wrecked his campaign went to prison, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman announced the following year that she wouldn't charge the candidate as part of her probe.
P.S. While Bishop would be the first Republican to serve as attorney general in 50 years, the last member of his party to actually win this office was Zeb Walser all the way back in 1896. Republicans last held the attorney general's office in 1974 when GOP Gov. James Holshouser appointed James Carson to fill a vacancy, though Carson lost the ensuing special election a few months later to Democrat Rufus Edmisten.
● AZ-Sen: Noble Predictive Insights, which until recently was known as OH Predictive Insights, has released a poll that finds Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego leading in six different general election scenarios:
- Rep. Ruben Gallego (D): 33, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb (R): 25, Kyrsten Sinema (I-inc): 24
- Gallego (D): 40, Lamb (R): 36
- Gallego (D): 32, Sinema (I-inc): 28, 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters (R): 24
- Gallego (D): 44, Masters (R): 36
- Gallego (D): 34, Sinema (I-inc): 26, 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake (R): 25
- Gallego (D): 45, Lake (R): 35
● ND-Sen: Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer told KUMV this week that he hasn't decided whether he'll seek reelection, though the incumbent sounds like he's leaning strongly towards another campaign. "A second term for me would mean greater clout, probably a chairmanship as well," Cramer said. "Seniority matters in the Senate. That's where my thinking is today without telling you exactly what I intend to do. I guess I would be surprised if I decided not to run for reelection." The senator does not appear to have indicated what factors would push him toward retirement.
● WV-Sen: The Washington Post reports that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to direct money towards positive ads "to help prop up his poll numbers before he decides whether he'll run," but Manchin won't use his own $10.8 million war chest for this purpose because he "doesn't want to spark speculation that he's running for reelection by making an ad buy to boost his image." The Democratic group Duty and Honor did run commercials in the spring to counter a GOP offensive to damage the incumbent, but the paper says that Schumer doesn't want to make a big investment here before he knows if Manchin will actually run again.
● MS-Gov: Republican incumbent Tate Reeves seems to agree with Democrats that the state's $77 million welfare funds scandal could hurt him even in this red state because he's already up with a response spot two days after Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley launched his first commercial on the topic. The challenger may not mind too much, though, because Reeves' ad makers adopt the dubious strategy of repeating some of the very attacks Presley is leveling against him.
"Have you seen this ad attacking our governor, Tate Reeves?" asks the narrator as footage fills the screen of Presley's earlier piece, complete with on-screen text reading, "REEVES … PLAGUED BY WELFARE FRAUD SCANDAL." Reeves' narrator isn't happy, saying, "Tate Reeves had nothing to do with the scandal … it all happened before he was governor." It's rarely a good move to put your candidate's name in the same sentence as "scandal," but Presley's team is also disputing the idea that Reeves isn't to blame for something that occurred while he occupied the powerful lieutenant governor's office.
"[T]he reality is Tate Reeves used to brag about his watchdog responsibilities and overseeing the state budget," the campaign said in a statement, which included a quote from a 2019 ad where Reeves proclaimed he was "managing the government's money like it's your money―because it is."
● WA-Gov: Richland School Board member Semi Bird on Thursday pledged to continue his campaign for governor two days after the Republican appears to have lost a recall election along with two colleagues. The trio voted in February of 2022 to defy the state's COVID protocols and make it optional to wear masks in local public schools; school was canceled for two days as a result, and the group ultimately backed down.
Bird hasn't gained much traction ahead of a top-two primary contest where former Rep. Dave Reichert appears to be the GOP frontrunner, but he's hoping his likely ouster will change that. (The state is still counting ballots, but the pro-recall "yes" side was ahead 56-44 in Bird's race as of Thursday; the results were similar in the other two contests.) "The teachers unions and leftest activists may have won the recall battle, pouring 10's of thousands of dollars into the effort," Bird wrote Thursday in a fundraising email, "but when the people of Washington send me to Olympia, we will win the war."
● DE-AL: EMILY's List on Thursday endorsed state Sen. Sarah McBride in the Democratic primary for this statewide seat, declaring that it "was proud to support McBride when she made history in 2020 as the first openly transgender state senator in the country — and we are thrilled to once again help her make history and become the first openly transgender member of Congress."
● NC-??: State House Speaker Tim Moore announced last month that he will not seek another term leading the chamber after the 2024 elections, and he and his team are continuing to evade questions about whether he'd run for the U.S. House after his party passes a new gerrymander. Political advisor Paul Shumaker told the News & Observer, "We don't know what the maps are going to look like. We have all this speculation." Shumaker added that his client could also go into the private sector.
● PA-01: Anti-abortion activist Mark Houck announced Wednesday that he'd run to deny renomination to Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in this competitive suburban Philadelphia seat, a declaration that comes months after he was found not guilty of allegedly violating a federal law designed to protect abortion clinics. Houck became a conservative celebrity in the leadup to that January trial, where he was accused of intimidation by twice shoving a 72-year-old Planned Parenthood volunteer in 2021; Houck never denied he'd done this, though he successfully claimed that he'd only become violent after his son was insulted.
Houck launched his campaign by telling the far-right website The Church Militant, "We're running to protect the rights of families and defend traditional family values in our district. Unfortunately, Brian doesn't represent that." Fitzpatrick, who has made a name for himself as a pragmatist, has always run well ahead of the top of the ticket during his four campaigns, and Democrats would be delighted if Houck gave him a hard time in this 52-47 Biden seat. The well-funded congressman turned back a little-known primary foe 66-34 last cycle before pulling off a 55-45 victory against Ashley Ehasz, a Democrat who is running again.
● TX-28: Conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar on Thursday unveiled endorsements from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and the rest of the chamber's Democratic leadership, as well as Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, in what's likely a move to deter another primary challenge from the left. Cuellar narrowly fended off immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros in 2020 and 2022, and her former spokesperson told the Texas Tribune back in March that she hadn't ruled out a third try. The Lone Star State's downballot filing deadline is Dec. 11, which is one of the earliest in the nation.
● TX-AG: Thursday finally brought some action concerning Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton's long-stalled trial for securities fraud, with a state judge agreeing to a request from both prosecutors and the defense to delay scheduling anything until Paxton's separate impeachment trial concludes sometime next month. Both sides agreed that Paxton would be more likely to try to reach a deal concerning the eight-year-old security fraud indictment if two-thirds of the state Senate votes to remove him from office, with one of his attorneys explaining that this outcome would be "a kill shot to his political career, so it opens the door to a resolution that’s not open right now."
● OH Ballot: A GOP consultant tells cleveland.com that groups looking to beat Issue 1, which would make it much harder to amend the state constitution, have added $2.5 million to their media buys for the final days of the Aug. 8 special election. The story says the conservative pro "yes" side enjoys a small $5.9 million to $5.3 million edge in ad spending for the last week of the race: The GOP firm Medium Buying also tweets that the "no" side has outspent its rivals $12.2 million to $9.7 million on TV and radio for the entire campaign.
Meanwhile, organizers seeking to place a statutory initiative on the November ballot to legalize recreational marijuana say they've submitted 6,500 additional signatures to the secretary of state, and they only need about 10% of them to be valid in order to qualify: The campaign fell just 679 petitions shy of the 124,000 minimum last month, but state law granted them 10 extra days to make up the shortfall.
Because this proposal would not amend the constitution, it would only need to win a majority no matter how the Issue 1 fight ends next week. Issue 1 would also not eliminate the 10-day grace period for statutory initiatives like this, though it would end this rule for future constitutional amendments. Polling from Civiqs shows that two-thirds of Ohio voters believe "the use of cannabis should be legal."