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

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

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Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judges

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

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

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

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

Ballot Measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Campaign Action

Morning Digest: New Jersey’s first lady enters Senate race, setting up a major showdown

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

NJ-Sen: Former financier Tammy Murphy, who had reportedly been preparing a Senate bid, kicked off her campaign on Wednesday, and she's already earned some important establishment support. But Murphy, the wife of Gov. Phil Murphy, was also greeted by a new poll that shows her trailing her chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Rep. Andy Kim.

That survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Kim campaign, finds the congressman beating Murphy 40-21 among primary voters, with indicted Sen. Bob Menendez scraping together just 5%. While Menendez has recently sounded as though he wants to run again, his share of the vote is one of the lowest we've ever seen for an incumbent—apart from a similar PPP poll taken last month that also had him at 5%.

Menendez also sports an atrocious favorability rating, with just 10% of respondents saying they have a positive view of the senator, compared to 68% who see him negatively. Murphy and Kim, by contrast, are both well-liked though not universally known, with scores of 50-9 and 45-5, respectively. If Menendez does seek reelection after all, he could plumb new depths at the ballot box, especially since his trial on federal corruption charges is set for May 6—just a month before the primary.

Whatever Menendez decides, the battle for his seat is likely to come down to Murphy and Kim. In a new interview with the New Jersey Globe, Murphy suggested that she doesn't have many ideological differences with Kim ("I suspect that Andy and I stand for a lot of the same policies"), but the two cut very different profiles politically.

Kim, who is the son of Korean immigrants and went on to work at the State Department, first won office in 2018 with the support of Joe Biden and Barack Obama but has portrayed himself as an outsider in this race—and is largely getting treated like one. Murphy, a former banker at Goldman Sachs, is a consummate insider.

And insiders have almost always had the advantage when seeking office in the Garden State, due in large part to its unique approach to ballot design. In 19 of the state's 21 counties, leaders of both parties can award special placement on the ballot to their preferred candidates, known as the "county line." These candidates appear together in a single column of the ballot, often the first one, that has a name on every line (you can see an example in column 1 of this sample ballot). Other hopefuls are relegated to more distant columns amid a sea of blank space.

Research has shown that the county line can confer a major benefit—often an enormous one: One forthcoming study finds that candidates with the line run on average 38 points ahead of those without it. Immediately after launching her bid, Murphy secured the county line in populous Hudson County, which also happens to be Menendez's home base. (Menendez slammed Hudson leaders in response. "At the end of the day, I don't need the party line to win in Hudson," he insisted, while also warning, "I know where all the skeletons in closets are.")

She also won the backing of the party chair in Somerset County, which doesn't guarantee she'll get the line there but is a strong signal that it'll go to her. Other counties are likely to follow suit. (Politico reported last month that "the state party establishment" was "miffed" by Kim's decision to jump into the race prior to the state's legislative elections, which concluded last week.) Kim, though, could potentially earn the line in the South Jersey counties that make up his district, even though he's said he thinks the practice should be abolished.

But the county line might not play as potent a role in this contest as it so often does in others. In many races further down the ballot, candidates tend to be little-known. In those less salient elections, voters have less incentive to go hunting across and down their ballot to find alternatives who lack official party blessing. In this high-profile showdown for the Senate, though, both Kim and Murphy will head into the primary with wide name recognition, and their supporters will know to look for those names wherever they might appear.

The Downballot

We talk about North Carolina non-stop on "The Downballot," so it's only natural that our guest on this week's episode is Anderson Clayton, the new chair of the state Democratic Party. Clayton made headlines when she became the youngest state party chair anywhere in the country at the age of 25, and the story of how she got there is an inspiring one. But what she's doing—and plans to do—is even more compelling. Her focus is on rebuilding the party infrastructure from the county level up, with the aim of reconnecting with rural Black voters who've too often been sidelined and making young voters feel like they have a political home. Plus: her long-term plan to win back the state Supreme Court.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard, meanwhile, turn to the avalanche of political developments that have followed last week's off-year elections, with big new candidate announcements in New Jersey's Senate race and Virginia's 2025 contest for governor. They also finally get to discuss the unusual Democratic primary unfolding in the nation's newest Black-majority House seat in Alabama. And then there are all the retirements to recap! So, so many retirements.

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

Governors

NJ-Gov, NJ-05: Politico reports that Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer has launched a "six-figure" digital ad buy that could serve as a prelude to a 2025 campaign for governor, which he's previously said he's considering. Gottheimer has no notable GOP challenger for 2024 in his 56-43 Biden district, but he did have an enormous $15.8 million in his campaign account at the end of September. It's unclear how much of that he could transfer to a state campaign, but spending it on what is nominally his House race is one way he could use those funds to increase his name recognition ahead of 2025.

VA-Gov: Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who launched her campaign for governor earlier this week, just secured an endorsement from the last Democrat who held the post, Ralph Northam.

House

AK-AL: Following Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom's Tuesday announcement that she will challenge Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola next year, national Republican groups have already signaled that they view her favorably. The NRCC's press secretary called Dahlstrom "a top-tier recruit," while the president of the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is the House GOP's main allied super PAC, called her candidacy a "recruiting coup" and a "[g]ame changer in Alaska."

Dahlstrom is competing to be the GOP's standard-bearer with businessman Nick Begich, who unsuccessfully ran for this seat last year. All candidates regardless of party will run on the same primary ballot, and the top four finishers will advance to a general election using ranked-choice voting.

IL-07: The Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday that the city's Board of Ethics found "probable cause" that city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin committed ethics violations by firing two aides who had accused her of abusing her powers. The Tribune writes that the board may not make a final decision for months, which could result in a fine, though the matter threatens to derail her challenge to longtime Rep. Danny Davis just four months before the March 19 Democratic primary in this dark blue district.

The allegations against Conyears-Ervin surfaced earlier this year when the city released a 2020 letter where two of her former top aides—Ashley Evans and Tiffany Harper—accused the treasurer of misusing government money and personnel. The pair claimed Conyears-Ervin hired an unqualified employee "for personal services;" used official resources for electoral matters, including sending money to religious organizations that supported her; and threatened to retaliate against any subordinates who wouldn't help her. Evans and Harper later received a total of $100,000 in a 2021 settlement after arguing they were fired in just such an act of illegal retaliation.

While that settlement was public knowledge, then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was a Conyears-Ervin ally, spent years trying to keep this letter from becoming public. However, new Mayor Brandon Johnson, a fellow Democrat who defeated Lightfoot and other challengers in elections earlier this year, released the letter earlier this month.

ME-02: Mortgage broker Rob Cross, who announced a campaign in April but reported raising just $20,000 in the third quarter of the year, has dropped out of the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Jared Golden. National Republicans won't be displeased, though: Just before the end of the quarter, they landed state Rep. Austin Thierault, who is reportedly their preferred choice.

NJ-03: State Senate Majority Whip Troy Singleton, a Democrat, has announced he won't run here to succeed Democratic Senate candidate Andy Kim next year.

NY-18: In a recent Digest, we incorrectly described a poll commissioned by the Congressional Leadership Fund, the top Republican super PAC involved in House races. That survey, conducted by the Republican pollster Cyngal, did not test Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan against Republican challenger Alison Esposito. Rather, it pitted Ryan against an unnamed Republican candidate. Such matchups do not reflect what voters will see when they cast their ballots and are therefore of limited analytical value.

For that reason, Daily Kos Elections seldom reports such polls, since they do not meet our standard for inclusion. We regret the error.

VA-05: Del. John McGuire, a Republican who just won a solidly red seat in the state Senate last week, has announced that he'll wage a primary challenge against far-right Rep. Bob Good in the 5th District. Although Good is a hard-liner and was one of the eight Republicans who voted to remove Kevin McCarthy from the speakership last month, McGuire appears to be challenging him from the right. In announcing his campaign, McGuire attacked Good for having insufficient fealty to Trump; the incumbent endorsed Ron DeSantis for president earlier this year.

VA-07: Semafor reported Wednesday that former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman, who is a retired Army colonel, will join the Democratic primary to succeed Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger and has already set up a fundraising page, though he had yet to officially declare he was running.

Vindman gained national attention in 2019 when he and his identical twin brother, former National Security Council official Alexander Vindman, helped blow the whistle on Donald Trump's attempt to extort Ukraine's government into undermining Joe Biden's presidential campaign. Alexander Vindman testified before Congress about Trump's abuse of power, which helped lead to his first impeachment by the House that year.

Eugene Vindman and his brother were both born in Ukraine in 1975 when it was under Soviet control, but they immigrated to the United States as young children and later served as career military officers. While the Washington Post described Vindman as a "newcomer to Virginia politics," his role in Trump's impeachment, along with growing hostility from congressional Republicans to providing funding for Ukraine's resistance against Russia's invasion, could give him the prominence needed to run a strong race.

VA-10: Del. Dan Helmer became the latest Democrat to announce he's running in the crowded primary to succeed retiring Rep. Jennifer Wexton next year. Helmer served as the campaign chair for the state House's Democratic caucus this year, which saw his party regain a majority last week.

Helmer ran for the previous version of the 10th District in 2018 but took a distant fourth place in the primary behind Wexton, who went on to oust Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock that fall. However, his political career bounced back the next year when he flipped a GOP-held state House seat, and Helmer won a third term by 59-41 last week.

Meanwhile, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall, a Democrat, has announced she won't run for Congress next year following her reelection victory last week. Several other Democrats had previously announced they were running, including former state House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Del. David Reid, and former state Education Secretary Atif Qarni.

Ballot Measures

NE Ballot: Abortion rights supporters have launched a ballot initiative effort to put a constitutional amendment before voters next year that would protect abortion rights in a state where Republicans this year enacted a ban on the procedure after 12 weeks of pregnancy. To get onto the ballot, supporters will need to gather signatures from 10% of registered voters, which is roughly 125,000 at present. However, the exact requirement won't be known until the July 5, 2024 filing deadline because it's based on the registration numbers at the time.

Importantly, supporters will also need to gather signatures from 5% of registered voters in at least two-fifths of the state's 93 counties. This requirement significantly hinders progressives—but not conservatives—because the “bluest” two-fifths of counties include ones that Donald Trump won by landslide margins of up to 78-19. However, abortion rights advocates were able to overcome a similar requirement this year in Ohio, where voters approved an abortion rights amendment by 57-43 earlier this month.

Legislatures

MI State House: Michigan Democrats, who just won control of the state House last year for the first time in more than a decade, have now lost their majority—and it will likely be some time before they get it back.

That's because two incumbents are about to depart after winning mayoral races in their hometowns in last week's local elections. As a result, the chamber will be tied at 54 seats for each party, and the prospect of quick special elections to fill the two vacancies appears to have faded, according to a new report from Bridge Michigan's Jonathan Oosting.

While Democrats would have liked to hold primaries in January and then general elections on Feb. 27, when the state will conduct its presidential primary, state House Speaker Joe Tate said this week that such a timetable would not be "feasible." It's not clear what the schedule will ultimately look like, though Tate says he's discussing a "spring timeframe" with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose responsibility it is to call the elections.

Whenever those specials do finally happen, both Democratic seats should remain blue. According to Dave's Redistricting App, Joe Biden carried Kevin Coleman's 25th District 59-40 and won Lori Stone's 13th District 64-35. One thing that won't happen in the interim, said Tate, is any sort of power-sharing agreement, pointing out that the chamber's rules for addressing ties only apply when there's a 55-55 split and all seats are filled.

NJ State Assembly: The New Jersey Globe reports that Democrat Anna Katz has ousted GOP Assemblyman Brandon Umbra in the 8th Legislative District following the counting of provisional ballots and mail ballots that were postmarked by Election Day but didn't arrive until days later. With Katz's victory, Assembly Democrats have flipped six seats and expanded their majority to 52-28.

VA State House: The race for Virginia's 82nd District in the state House may go to a recount after final tallies cut Republican Rep. Kim Taylor's lead over Democrat Kimberly Pope Adams to 74 votes. Including write-ins, the difference between the two candidates stands at 0.27%, which is below the 0.5% threshold that would allow Adams to request a recount paid for by the state. Adams, however, has not yet decided whether to ask for one, and despite the seemingly small margin, a recount would be unlikely to change the outcome.

In the 41st District, meanwhile, the spread between Republican Chris Obenshain and Democrat Lily Franklin tightened considerably, but the final margin of 0.74% left the race just outside of state-paid recount territory. That prompted Franklin to concede, though the result was much closer than most analysts had expected, particularly given Obenshain's name recognition as the cousin of state Sen. Mark Obenshain.

If the result in the 82nd District holds, Democrats would have a 51-49 majority in the House to go along with their 21-19 advantage in the state Senate when the legislature reconvenes in January.

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

Loudoun County, VA Commonwealth's Attorney: Final results of last week's elections confirm that Democrat Buta Biberaj, the top prosecutor in Virginia's third-largest county, has lost her bid for a second term to Republican Bob Anderson, who reclaimed the post he last held two decades ago. Anderson's 300-vote margin, equal to 0.2% of the vote, would have allowed Biberaj to seek a recount, but she said on Wednesday that she would not.

Biberaj had been attacked by conservatives for her reformist approach to certain criminal prosecutions, as many progressive prosecutors have. However, she had also come under fire for her day-to-day management of her office and had clashed with Loudoun County's Board of Supervisors, which is controlled by Democrats. Those conflicts helped spur a primary challenge from defense attorney Elizabeth Lancaster, who earned an endorsement from the Washington Post (an influential outlet in the area) and held the incumbent to a 55-45 win.

Biberaj was also likely hampered by the timing of her election and the lack of party labels on the ballot. Loudoun, which is home to more than 400,000 people in the highly educated Washington, D.C., suburbs, has been a key driver of Virginia's transformation from a red state to a blue one. Just two decades ago, it twice voted for George W. Bush by double digits. By 2020, however, it was supporting Joe Biden by a 62-37 margin. In off years, though, it's usually been much more favorable to Republicans.