Morning Digest: Jeff Merkley slams top super PAC’s spending in House primary as ‘flat-out wrong’

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.

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

OR-06: In an unprecedented move that was greeted with instant fury by local and national Democrats alike, the House Majority PAC began spending at least $1 million this week on TV ads promoting the campaign of Carrick Flynn, one of seven Democrats seeking to represent Oregon's brand-new 6th Congressional District.

The other six candidates released an unusual joint statement condemning the move on Monday, calling out the fact that four of the contenders are women, including three women of color. (Flynn is a white man.) "This effort by the political arm of the Democratic establishment to buy this race for one candidate is a slap in the face to every Democratic voter and volunteer in Oregon," read the press release, "and is especially concerning in a year when all resources must go to protecting the Democratic majority."

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, who hasn't backed anyone in the race, piled on as well, calling HMP's actions "flat-out wrong". Meanwhile, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's BOLD PAC, which has endorsed state Rep. Andrea Salinas, also excoriated HMP, arguing that "Democrats should be doubling-down on their investments to empower Latino and Latina candidates" and pointing out that no Hispanic person has ever represented Oregon in Congress. (One unnamed operative wondered aloud to The Hill's Rafael Bernal whether HMP's decision might "affect[] the relationship where Bold PAC is no longer a large donor to HMP like they've been in the past." The CHC has given more than $6 million to HMP since 2012.)

Campaign Action

In response, a spokesperson for HMP offered a spectacularly unconvincing explanation for the group's new spending. "House Majority PAC is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to secure a Democratic House majority in 2022, and we believe supporting Carrick Flynn is a step towards accomplishing that goal," said communications director CJ Warnke in a statement. "Flynn is a strong, forward-looking son of Oregon who is dedicated to delivering for families in the 6th District."

There's nothing so special about Flynn that he's a must-have nominee—and if there were, he wouldn't need all this help. As Merkley says, Democrats "have multiple strong candidates" who could all win the 6th District, a newly created seat in the Portland suburbs that Joe Biden would have carried by a 55-42 margin.

But what really makes HMP's claim impossible to believe is that the PAC, in its decade-long existence, has never before involved itself in a primary like this. Virtually all of the organization's spending since inception has been devoted to winning general elections. Just twice has HMP reported spending anything to support Democratic candidates in primaries, and in both cases, they were seeking open seats in California where Democrats were worried about getting locked out of the November election due to the state's top-two primary rules: Julia Brownley in the old 26th District in 2012 and then Salud Carbajal in the old 24th in 2016—ironically, a joint effort with the CHC. The PAC has never simply taken sides in a traditional partisan primary.

So why now? Flynn has already been the beneficiary of a $5 million TV and radio ad campaign by another super PAC called Protect Our Future, which is funded by a free-spending 30-year-old billionaire named Sam Bankman-Fried, who made his fortune in cryptocurrency and has lately been seeking to influence policy-making on that front in D.C. (Forbes says he's worth $24 billion. Incidentally, the CEO of the crypto exchange Bankman-Fried founded, Ryan Salame, just this week announced the formation of a similar super PAC aimed at Republicans.)

Bankman-Fried's interest in Flynn is unclear—the candidate claims he has "never met or talked to" his benefactor, and any coordination between the two would be illegal—but Protect Our Future's involvement in the race has prompted a great deal of speculation. As the campaign manager for engineer Matt West, one of the other Democratic hopefuls, put it to OPB's Dirk VanderHart, "Do I know exactly what was exchanged by [Bankman-Fried's] people and [House Majority PAC's] people? No, but I can speculate, as can everyone, that promises have been made."

In other words, goes this line of thinking, HMP is breaking with 10 years of tradition to help Flynn in the expectation that Bankman-Fried will come through with a presumably larger donation to the PAC, which in 2020 eclipsed the DCCC as the largest outside spender on House races on the Democratic side. But if this theory is true, what makes things even more bizarre is that Bankman-Fried could easily dump as much money as he'd like to boost Flynn through his own super PAC. Why go through HMP, then, unless this is a play for winning influence within a major arm of the Democratic Party?

It'll likely be a while before we find out the full story, though. HMP files financial reports with the FEC every month, but the report detailing any transactions in the month of April won't be available until May 20—three days after the Oregon primary.

As for the ad itself, it's narrated by small businessman Quandray "Q" Robertson, who says, "As an owner of a boxing gym, I know a fighter when I see one." Though Robertson is shown prepping and later sparring with a boxer, he means it metaphorically, as the athlete on-screen is not actually Flynn. Instead, says Robertson, Flynn will "stand up to the Trump Republicans" while tackling climate change and prescription drug costs.

Meanwhile, Salinas has also released her first TV ad of the race, which she narrates herself. She says her father "started working the fields" but found a "path to citizenship, and a better life" thanks to his military service in Vietnam. With his experience as inspiration, she says she "passed the country's strongest reproductive rights law," fought for lower drug prices, and "took on polluters to combat climate change."

Redistricting

NH Redistricting: The New Hampshire Supreme Court has appointed Stanford Law professor Nathan Persily as a special master to draw a new congressional map for the state in the event that a deadlock between the Republican-run legislature and GOP Gov. Chris Sununu remains unresolved. The court, however, cautioned that it was only taking "preliminary steps … in the event that the legislative process fails to produce a fully enacted congressional redistricting plan."

NY Redistricting: A New York appellate judge has kept in place a stay of a recent lower court ruling that struck down the state's new congressional and legislative maps, allowing this year's elections to proceed under the new lines, for now. However, Appellate Division Judge Stephen Lindley did say that the trial court judge, Patrick McAllister, could proceed with hiring a special master to draw a new congressional map, which could be used in the event that the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, upholds McAllister's decision.

1Q Fundraising

  • AZ-Sen: Mark Brnovich (R): $765,000 raised  
  • OH-Sen: Tim Ryan (D): $4.1 million raised, $6.4 million cash-on-hand
  • UT-Sen: Mike Lee (R-inc): $1.35 million raised, $2.42 million cash-on-hand
  • WI-Sen: Mandela Barnes (D): $1.7 million raised
  • NE-Gov: Jim Pillen (R): $2.3 million raised (through April 5), $2.9 million cash-on-hand
  • CA-27: Quaye Quartey (D): $320,000 raised  
  • IA-02: Liz Mathis (D): $715,000 raised, $1.3 million cash-on-hand
  • NJ-07: Tom Malinowski (D-inc): $1.06 million raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand; Tom Kean Jr. (R): $840,000 raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
  • NV-01: Carolina Serrano (R): $275,000 raised, $250,000 cash-on-hand
  • OR-06: Andrea Salinas (D): $340,000 raised  
  • PA-12: Steve Irwin (D): $600,000 raised  
  • PA-17: Jeremy Shaffer (R): $670,000 raised, $615,000 cash-on-hand
  • SC-01: Katie Arrington (R): $307,000 raised (in 52 days), additional $500,000 self-funded, $750,000 cash-on-hand

Senate

AZ-Sen: Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly's new spot features footage of the former astronaut in zero-g as he tells the audience, "Compared to Congress, the way NASA operates might seem kind of upside down. Putting the mission first. Working as a team. And getting the job done —no matter what." The senator proclaims that he's "doing things differently" than the rest of the D.C. crowd and will "put aside the party politics so we can accomplish results, together."

NC-Sen: SurveyUSA takes a look at the May 17 Republican primary on behalf of WRAL and finds Rep. Ted Budd beating former Gov. Pat McCrory 33-23, with just 7% going to former Rep. Mark Walker. Several other recent polls have also given Budd the lead.

NV-Sen, NV-Gov: The Reno Gazette-Journal has released a poll from Suffolk University testing several different hypothetical general election scenarios for Senate and governor, and it finds things close overall. Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt posts a 43-40 advantage over Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, while Army veteran Sam Brown, who is the underdog in the June Republican primary, edges her out 40-39.

Turning to the governor's race, Suffolk pits Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak against five different Republicans:

41-29 vs. venture capitalist Guy Nohra

39-35 vs. attorney Joey Gilbert

39-39 vs. former Sen. Dean Heller

37-39 vs. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo

37-40 vs. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee

PA-Sen: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has publicized an internal from GBAO that finds him leading Rep. Conor Lamb 44-19 in the May 17 Democratic primary, while state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta takes 17.

On the GOP side, TV personality Mehmet Oz is trumpeting his endorsement from Trump in his new ad, and he also gets in a swipe at former hedge fund manager David McCormick. "Trump knows who the real conservative is who's gonna shake up Washington," says the narrator. "It's not David McCormick, the liberal pro-Biden, pro-China, Wall Street insider."

Governors

GA-Gov: Gov. Brian Kemp's allies at Hardworking Georgians are out with a Cygnal poll arguing that he's in a strong position both to claim the Republican nod and defeat Democrat Stacey Abrams in the fall. The survey shows Kemp taking 49% of the vote on May 24, which is tantalizingly close to the majority he needs to avoid a July runoff, while former Sen. David Perdue is well behind with 33%; Cygnal also finds the incumbent ahead 52-37 in a two-person contest. The general election portion gives Kemp a 50-44 lead in a rematch with Abrams even as she edges out Perdue 48-47.

Abrams, for her part, is continuing to run positive spots to reintroduce herself to voters. One ad is based around a testimonial from Lara Hodgson, an independent who describes how she partnered with Abrams to build a successful small business. The spot briefly alludes to the candidate's recent cameo on "Star Trek: Discovery" when Abrams explains that she and her co-star are a bit different: "Laura's more Star Wars," says Abrams, to which Hodgson responds, "Stacey's … Star Trek." Another commercial features a Macon restaurateur crediting Abrams for helping her and her community during the pandemic.

MN-Gov: State Sen. Paul Gazelka has picked up an endorsement from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, which is the largest police union in the state, in his quest for the Republican nomination for governor. The Minnesota Reformer described the development as a "blow to former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek," who is one of the many other Republicans who is competing for the state party endorsement at the May 13-14 convention.

OK-Gov: While Gov. Kevin Stitt had looked secure ahead of his June Republican primary, NBC reports that two dark money groups have together spent a hefty $3.3 million to derail him. The incumbent is now firing back with an ad declaring, "The insiders and casino bosses are spending millions to attack Kevin Stitt because he won't do their bidding, resorting to lies, smears, even actors." The story says that Stitt has spent a total of $468,000 on ads so far, while his allies at the RGA are deploying another $577,000 to support him.

Stitt only picked up a notable intra-party challenger last month when Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director Joel Kintsel launched his bid to unseat his boss, but the offensive against the governor began well before then. All the way back in December, an organization called Conservative Voice of America began running ads attacking Stitt for approving the 2020 release of an inmate named Lawrence Anderson, who was charged the next year with murdering three people, while another group called Sooner State Leadership has deployed similar messaging. (Public Radio Tulsa said Anderson's release was "apparently recommended by the state pardon and parole board by mistake.")

CVA, per NBC, has spent $1.7 million so far, while SSLF has dropped a similar $1.6 million. A third outfit, The Oklahoma Project, said in December that it would spend $500,000 total to thwart Stitt. The group's messaging has been different from that of the other two, though, as its ads have argued that the governor has failed to achieve results.

Last month, Fox 23 sought to learn more about Stitt's critics. It traced TOP's donations back to George Krumme, an oilman and longtime member of the Democratic National Committee. SSLF, meanwhile, was formed by former GOP state Rep. Trebor Worthen, but the organization is not required to divulge its donors. Worthen, in the words of KOCO, said his group "is made up of business and community leaders dedicated to encouraging strong leadership in Oklahoma," adding that it planned to spend a total of $10 million. There's even less information available about CVA except that it's run by longtime lobbyist and Republican staffer Mike Cys.

PA-Gov: Tuesday was a truly chaotic day in Pennsylvania's Republican primary for governor that began with Donald Trump urging voters, "Do not vote for Bill McSwain, a coward, who let our Country down." Multiple media sources reported minutes later that state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman was about to drop out of the race, but while Corman himself essentially confirmed those stories in the afternoon by asking that his name be removed from the May 17 ballot, there was one last twist left: Corman announced in the early evening that he'd decided to stay in the contest because of "President Trump's statement on the race and my conversation directly with the president."

We'll start with McSwain, who appeared to be in a good position until Trump declared he'd never endorse the man he'd once appointed as U.S. attorney for the eastern portion of the state. Trump reiterated the Big Lie to pummel the candidate, claiming that McSwain "did absolutely nothing on the massive Election Fraud that took place in Philadelphia and throughout the commonwealth."

That was dismaying news for McSwain, who had in fact tried to use the Big Lie to gain, rather than lose, Trump's support. His efforts included a letter to Trump last year claiming that his office had "received various allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities" and alleging that "Attorney General Barr, however, instructed me not to make any public statements or put out any press releases regarding possible election irregularities."

Trump was all too happy at the time to use McSwain's missive to backup his own lies and bludgeon Barr, who responded by saying his old subordinate "wanted to not do the business of the department, which is to investigate cases, but instead go out and flap his gums about what he didn't like about the election overall." On Tuesday, though, McSwain got to be the victim of his own words when Trump claimed he "knew what was happening and let it go. It was there for the taking and he failed so badly."

All of this drama inspired Corman to continue a once-promising campaign that he was about to end after several major setbacks. Corman was arguably the primary frontrunner when he entered the race to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf back in November, and he raised more money than any of his intra-party rivals in 2021. However, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that his team initially believed they would bring in considerably more during that time: The state Senate leader seemed to agree as he soon went through an intense staff shakeup, but he never managed to fix things.

Corman ended late March with just over $270,000 left in his campaign coffers, and McSwain ominously didn't even bother to mention him in a recent ad targeting three other opponents. Corman himself seemed to recognize he was doomed on Tuesday when he formally sought to have a state court remove his name from the ballot, but hours later he filed a new petition asking the body to ignore that first request. He explained that he'd spoken to Trump, who "encouraged me to keep fighting, and that's what I'm going to do – keep fighting for the people of Pennsylvania." This saga may not be quite over, though, as ABC27 writes, "It is not guaranteed Corman will be able to remain in the race after his first petition was filed."

VT-Gov: Republican Gov. Phil Scott reiterated this week that he wouldn't announce whether he'll seek a fourth two-year term until Vermont's legislative session adjourns May 20, and he insisted to NBC 5 that he was truly undecided. "I think a lot depends on what happens in the next month with the Legislature in this legislative session—what we accomplish and what we don't," said the governor, who currently faces no serious opposition from either party. The filing deadline is May 26, so a Scott retirement would give other candidates very little time to make up their minds if he does indeed wait as long as he says he will to make up his mind.

House

MN-01: Former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad has earned endorsements from Reps. Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber, who represent the 7th and 8th Districts in the northern part of the state, ahead of the May 24 special Republican primary.

MT-01: In her opening ad for the June Democratic primary, public health expert Cora Neumann stands in front of her modest childhood home in Bozeman and tells the audience, "But now, houses like this are surrounded by mansions like this. And everyone is paying more." She continues, "In Congress, I'll go after rich outsiders driving up costs, take on price gougers, and fight for housing we can actually afford."

NC-13: Former state Sen. Sam Searcy says in his inaugural spot for next month's Democratic primary that his family's job and housing struggles motivated him "to help folks." Searcy continues by saying that in the legislature he "fought like hell to expand Medicaid, and stood with Gov. Cooper to stop Republicans from restricting voting rights and a woman's right to choose."

PA-12: EMILY's List, which is supporting state Rep. Summer Lee in next month's Democratic primary, is out with a poll from GQR that shows her outpacing attorney Steve Irwin 38-13. This is the first survey we've seen of the contest for this open seat.

WV-02: Rep. Alex Mooney has released a new internal from Public Opinion Strategies that gives him a 42-31 lead over fellow incumbent David McKinley ahead of the May 10 GOP primary. The last survey we saw was a March poll for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce that put McKinley ahead 38-33; the organization had not yet endorsed anyone when that poll was released, but it and the West Virginia Manufacturing Association both backed McKinley this week.

CLF: The Congressional Leadership Fund, the well-funded super PAC aligned with the Republican House leadership, has endorsed seven more House candidates challenging Democratic incumbents:

  • AZ-04: Tanya Wheeless
  • NV-03: April Becker
  • NY-18: Colin Schmitt
  • NY-19: Marc Molinaro
  • PA-08: Jim Bognet
  • TX-28: Cassy Garcia
  • TX-34: Mayra Flores

Two of these candidates face notable intra-party opposition: Wheeless has to get past Chandler City Councilman Rene Lopez before she can take on Arizona Rep. Greg Stanton, while Garcia faces a May 24 runoff against 2020 nominee Sandra Whitten in Texas' 28th District. (Democrats have a far more high-profile contest that day between conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar and attorney Jessica Cisneros.) Flores, meanwhile, is already the GOP nominee, while the other four contenders should have little trouble in their own primaries.

Attorneys General

SD-AG: South Dakota's Republican-run state House voted to impeach state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg by a 36-31 margin on Tuesday, a move that temporarily suspends Ravnsborg from his job while he awaits trial in the state Senate.

Last year, Ravnsborg, a Republican, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for striking and killing a man with his car in September of 2020 but avoided jail time. A special investigative committee recommended against impeaching Ravnsborg last month, saying he had not committed a "crime or other wrongful act involving moral turpitude by virtue or authority of his office" because he wasn't on duty as attorney general at the time of the accident.

However, a majority of lawmakers disagreed with that interpretation, noting among other things that Ravnsborg had identified himself as attorney general in a call to 911 the night of the crash. All eight Democrats were joined by 28 Republicans in favor of impeachment, while 31 Republicans voted against. Ravnsborg would be permanently removed from office if two-thirds of the Senate, which can commence a trial no sooner than May 2, votes to convict him.

Other Races

NY-LG: Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin resigned Tuesday afternoon hours after he was indicted on federal bribery charges, but because it's notoriously difficult to get off the ballot in New York, he will likely still be listed as a nominal candidate in the June Democratic primary. All of this presents a major complication for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who appointed Benjamin to succeed her as lieutenant governor last year and now faces the prospect of winding up with a running mate she's at odds with.

That's because candidates for governor and lieutenant governor compete in separate nomination contests before running as a ticket in the general election, though Hochul and Benjamin had been running together and urging voters to select them both. The remaining candidates for lieutenant governor have likewise each linked themselves with one of the governor's primary foes: former New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna is allied with Rep. Tom Suozzi, while activist Ana María Archila is running alongside New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

The candidate filing deadline passed last week, so it's too late for Hochul to recruit a new number two. It's possible that Hochul could decide to support one of the two remaining candidates for lieutenant governor, though Archila responded to Benjamin's arrest by saying, "The governor announced that she would bring a new day, and I'm not sure that's the case." Hochul to date has been the frontrunner in her own race from day one, as every poll has found her far ahead of Williams and Suozzi, though both of her rivals are hoping that Benjamin's downfall will change the calculus.

Benjamin, for his part, has far more than electoral chemistry to worry about. Federal prosecutors allege that, in his previous position as a state senator, he steered taxpayer money to real estate investor Gerald Migdol in exchange for political contributions. The authorities say that Migdol faked the origins of dozens of donations to Benjamin's 2021 bid for New York City comptroller so that Benjamin could more easily qualify for public financing.

Benjamin badly lost that primary, but his career was temporarily revived months later when Hochul, who had ascended to the governorship after Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace, picked him as the new lieutenant governor. Hochul, a white Democrat from upstate New York, sought proverbial "balance" on her ticket by tapping a Black politico from New York City, though questions had been swirling about Benjamin's campaign finances well before he was selected.

P.S. Hochul will once again be able to fill the now-vacant lieutenant governorship, just as she did when she herself ascended to the top job after Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace. Notably, she can do so unilaterally, with no confirmation vote from the legislature required.

Morning Digest: Trump’s ‘bro’ now frontrunner following Ohio Republican’s unexpected retirement

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.

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

OH-07: Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs said Wednesday that he was ending his re-election bid for Ohio's 7th Congressional District, a surprising announcement that came well after candidate filing closed and days following the start of early voting for the state's May 3 primary. The six-term congressman's abrupt retirement leaves former Trump aide Max Miller as the frontrunner to claim a seat in the Canton area and Akron suburbs that Trump would have carried 54-45. Gibbs' name will remain on the ballot, but the secretary of state's office says that any votes cast for him will not be counted.

Gibbs used his statement to express his anger at the state Supreme Court, which is not scheduled to rule on the fate of the new GOP-drawn congressional map until well after the primary. "It is irresponsible to effectively confirm the congressional map for this election cycle seven days before voting begins," said the incumbent, "especially in the Seventh Congressional District, where almost 90 percent of the electorate is new and nearly two-thirds is an area primarily from another district, foreign to any expectations or connection to the current Seventh District." To put it another way, a mere 9% of the residents of the new 7th are already Gibbs' constituents, so he would have been campaigning in largely unfamiliar turf.

Miller, by contrast, began the cycle by running against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in a primary for the old 16th District, which makes up 65% of the new 7th. Miller, who was one of Trump's favorite aides (an unnamed source told Politico that the two "had … kind of a unique 'bro' relationship") received his old boss' backing last year against Gonzalez, who voted for impeachment and later decided to retire.

Miller ended up taking on Gibbs, who was far more loyal to the MAGA movement, after redistricting led them to seek the same seat, and Trump's spokesperson said last month that the endorsement carried over to Miller's new campaign. Miller last year also filed a defamation lawsuit against his ex-girlfriend, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, after she accused him of physically attacking her in 2020.

Gibbs himself got his start in elected office in 2002 when he won a seat in the Ohio state House, and he won a promotion six years later to the state Senate. Gibbs in 2009 set his sights on challenging Democratic Rep. Zack Space in the now-defunct 18th Congressional District, a historically red area in the eastern part of the state that had favored John McCain 52-45, but he had to get past seven fellow Republicans in the following year's primary first.

Gibbs (who happened to share a name with the Obama White House's first press secretary), had the support of the party establishment, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, and he benefited after tea party activists failed to back a single alternative. The state senator ultimately beat 2008 nominee Fred Dailey, who had lost to Space 60-40, in a 20.9-20.7 squeaker, though it took another month to confirm Gibbs' 156-vote victory.

The general election turned out to be a far easier contest for Gibbs in what was rapidly turning into a GOP wave year. Space went on the offensive early by portraying his opponent as a tax hiker and a supporter of free trade agreements, but Gibbs ended up unseating him in a 54-40 landslide. Redistricting two years later left the freshman congressman with a new district, now numbered the 7th, that was largely unfamiliar to him, but unlike in 2022, he faced no serious intra-party opposition in this red constituency. Democrats in 2018 hoped that well-funded Navy veteran Ken Harbaugh could give Gibbs a serious fight, but the incumbent decisively turned him back 59-41.

The Downballot

On this week's episode of The Downballot, we're joined by Ali Lapp, the founder of the House Majority PAC—the largest super PAC devoted to helping Democrats win House races nationwide. Lapp discusses HMP's role in the broader Democratic ecosystem, how the organization decides which districts to target, and promising research showing the positive impacts of a new ad touting Democrats' record on the economy.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap elections this week in California and Wisconsin; explain why Republicans are finally turning on Madison Cawthorn (it's not really about cocaine and orgies); pick apart a huge blunder that led to the first attack ad in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary for Senate getting yanked off the air the very day it debuted; and provide updates on international elections in Hungary and France. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you'll find a transcript right here by noon Eastern Time.

1Q Fundraising

Senate

AL-Sen: The first half of Army veteran Mike Durant's ad details his near-death experience during the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" incident in Somalia, with the narrator declaring, "Mike Durant was saved by his brothers. His life spared by the grace of God." The spot then abruptly changes tone as the voice says the GOP primary candidate "believes the unborn deserve the same."

GA-Sen: Banking executive Latham Saddler is using his opening spot to contrast his service in the military with GOP primary frontrunner Herschel Walker's time as a football star. Saddler begins by acknowledging, "Herschel Walker was my childhood sports hero," before continuing, "I also wore a uniform: I ran on the battlefield as a Navy SEAL." He concludes that he's in the race "so that you can choose between a war fighter and a celebrity."

NC-Sen: The Republican firm Cygnal, which did not identify a client, has a new general election survey that finds GOP Rep. Ted Budd leading Democrat Cheri Beasley 45-43 as former Gov. Pat McCrory ties her 41-41.

NH-Sen: The NH Journal's Michael Graham writes that many GOP insiders believe that two-time New York Senate nominee Wendy Long will join the Republican primary to challenge Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan, though there's no word from her. Long earned just over one-quarter of the vote back in the Empire State against Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer in 2012 and 2016, respectively, and she's since moved to New Hampshire. Those showings didn't impress many people except perhaps off-and-on Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski, who has claimed with "100%" certainty that an unnamed woman will join the primary to take on Hassan.

Graham adds that Vikram Mansharamani, who is an author and lecturer at Harvard, "has been making media appearances and is reportedly speaking with potential campaign strategists and advisors," though he also hasn't said anything about his 2022 plans. The filing deadline isn't until June 10.

OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance's allies at Protect Ohio Values PAC have released a new poll from Fabrizio Lee & Associates that shows an 18-18-18 deadlock between Vance, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, and businessman Mike Gibbons in the May 3 GOP primary, with former state party chair Jane Timken at 9%. The firm warned back in January that Vance's numbers were in a "precipitous decline," but they're now crediting the PAC's ad campaign with propelling him forward.

Timken, for her part, has dropped a Moore Information survey that finds Gibbons leading Mandel 20-16, with her just behind at 15%; state Sen. Matt Dolan takes 13%, while Vance brings up the rear with 10%.  

PA-Sen: TV personality Mehmet Oz has publicized a survey from Basswood Research that shows him edging out former hedge fund manager David McCormick 25-22 in the May 17 GOP primary, with former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands at 13%. Oz released the poll on Trump's disastrous Truth Social platform, which may make him its most prolific user by default.

Governors

MI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson's new spot for the August GOP primary blames Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, Joe Biden, and the state's former governor, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, for high gas prices. The narrator goes after Whitmer for wanting to close Enbridge Line 5, which The Washington Post explains is "a 69-year old petroleum pipeline that runs under the Great Lakes" that is in danger of spillage.

PA-Gov: The very first negative TV ad of next month's packed GOP primary comes from former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, who manages to fit in attacks on wealthy businessman Dave White, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, and former Rep. Lou Barletta into just 30 seconds. The spot does not mention state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman or any of McSwain's other four opponents.

The narrator begins by declaring that White, who is a former member of the Delaware County Council, "is a career politician who voted to raise property taxes." She then goes after Mastriano for supporting what she calls "the unconstitutional mail-in voting law," which passed in 2019 before Trump and his allies started to wage war on vote-by-mail: The Philadelphia Inquirer explains that a state judge ruled the legislation unconstitutional earlier this year, but that the state Supreme Court has stayed the decision.

Finally, the narrator argues Barletta "supported higher gas taxes and approved Obama's budgets." The rest of the commercial touts McSwain as a "Trump-appointed prosecutor" who has "never run for office and will permanently cut the gas tax."

House

CA-22 (special): Former Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway took first place in Tuesday's special all-party primary to succeed her fellow Republican, former Rep. Devin Nunes, but she may need to wait a while to learn the identity of her opponent in the June 7 general election. (Whether Nunes will still have his gig running Trump's disastrous social media platform by June is a separate question.) With 64,000 votes counted Conway leads with 35%, while Democrat Lourin Hubbard, who is an official at the California Department of Water Resources, is in second with 20%; just behind with 15% each are GOP businessman Matt Stoll and another Democrat, Marine veteran Eric Garcia.

It is not clear how many votes are left to tabulate, but the Los Angeles Times says that any mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday have until April 12 to arrive. Neither Conway nor Hubbard are running for a full term in Congress anywhere, while Stoll and Garcia are challenging Democratic Rep. Jim Costa in the new 21st District.

CO-07: State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who already had the backing of retiring Rep. Ed Perlmutter and the rest of the state's Democratic delegation, will have the June Democratic primary to herself following her decisive win against minor opposition at Tuesday's party convention.

Colorado, as we've written before, allows candidates to advance to the primary either by turning in the requisite number of signatures or by taking at least 30% of the vote at their party convention, and no other Democratic contenders successfully pursued either route. Republicans, who are the underdogs in a seat that Biden would have carried 56-42, have not yet held their party gathering yet.

CO-08: State Rep. Yadira Caraveo became the sole Democratic contender for this new swing seat on Tuesday, while at least four Republicans will be competing in the June party primary. Caraveo took 71% of the delegate votes at her party's convention (also known as the party assembly), while Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco fell just short of the 30% he needed to appear on the primary ballot. Tedesco, like Caraveo, had originally planned to both collect signatures and take part in the assembly, but because he failed to turn in enough petitions ahead of last month's deadline, his showing Tuesday marked the end of his campaign.  

On the other side, Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine was the only major candidate to compete at Team Red's assembly on Saturday, and her easy victory earned her the top spot on the June ballot. Republican conventions often favor extreme contenders, and Saine offered just that with a video where she declared she "ran to expose, stop, and destroy the anti-family, anti-America, anti-God agenda" the Democrats presented; she also used her message to decry "weak, whiney moderates" in the GOP.

Unlike Caraveo, though, Saine's convention win doesn't ensure her the nomination. That's because state Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer, Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, and retired Army Green Beret Tyler Allcorn previously turned in the requisite 1,500 signatures they needed to make the ballot, so they did not need to take part in the assembly. A fifth Republican, business owner Jewels Gray, is still waiting to hear from election officials if she submitted enough petitions to make the ballot after she failed to win 30% of the vote at the convention. Biden would have carried this new seat, which includes Denver's northern suburbs, 51-46.

FL-22: Commercial airline pilot Curtis Calabrese announced this week that he would join the August Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Deutch. Calabrese, who is a first-time candidate, will take on Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz, who had the field to himself up until now. Calabrese, who would be the state's first openly gay member of Congress, served as a Navy combat aviator before working for the FAA, including as a labor official. Florida Politics writes it was in that capacity that he made several media appearances, including on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," to explain how the 2018-2019 government shutdown was impacting him and his colleagues.

GA-07: Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath has earned the support of the American Federation of Government Employees for next month's primary against fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux.

IL-15: Politico reports that the anti-tax Club for Growth is spending $400,000 on an ad campaign touting Mary Miller ahead of her June Republican primary showdown against fellow Rep. Rodney Davis. The commercial reminds viewers that Miller is Trump's choice and pledges she'll "never compromise on election integrity."

NJ-02: Monday was the filing deadline for New Jersey's June 7 primary, and the state has a list of contenders for the U.S. House available here.

Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew won a competitive re-election campaign in 2020 the year after he defected from the Democratic Party, and the state's new congressional map extended Trump's margin of victory in this South Jersey shore seat from 51-48 to 52-47. Civil rights attorney Tim Alexander has the backing of the local Democratic establishment and faces no serious intra-party opposition, but he struggled to raise money during 2021.

NJ-03: Redistricting transformed Democratic Rep. Andy Kim's South Jersey seat from a constituency Trump narrowly carried to one that Biden would have won 56-42, though it's possible this district could still be in play in a tough year for Team Blue. The most serious Republican contender appears to be wealthy yacht manufacturer Robert Healey, who is also a former punk rock singer.

NJ-05: Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who is one of the most prominent moderate Democrats in the House, got some welcome news when filing closed and he learned he had no primary opposition in this North Jersey constituency. Five Republicans, though, are competing here even though the new map extended Biden's margin from 52-47 to 56-43.

The most prominent challenger appears to be Marine veteran Nick De Gregorio, who has the influential GOP party endorsement in populous Bergen County. (We explain the importance of county party endorsements in New Jersey here.) Also in the mix are 2020 nominee Frank Pallotta, who lost to Gottheimer 53-46, and businessman Fred Schneiderman, who recently began airing his opening TV ad.

NJ-06: Longtime Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone faces his first notable Republican opposition in some time in the form of Monmouth County Commissioner Sue Kiley, but she's still very much the underdog in a seat that would have backed Biden 59-40. (Redistricting even made this seat, which includes northern Middlesex County and the northern Jersey Shore, slightly bluer.) A few other Republicans are also in including former RNC staffer Tom Toomey and Rik Mehta, who was Team Red's doomed 2020 Senate nominee.

NJ-07: Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski is defending a North Jersey seat where redistricting shrunk Biden's margin of victory from 54-44 to 51-47, and he's likely to face a familiar opponent in the fall. Former state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. is running again after losing to Malinowski just 51-49 in 2020, and he has the influential party endorsement in all six of the district's counties. Kean's most notable intra-party foe is Assemblyman Erik Peterson, but there are five other candidates, including Fredon Mayor John Flora and 2021 gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo, who could split whatever anti-Kean vote there is.

NJ-08: Democratic leaders responded to Rep. Albio Sires' retirement announcement in December by immediately consolidating behind Port Authority Commissioner Robert Menendez Jr., who is the son and namesake of New Jersey's senior U.S. senator. Four other Democrats are running in this safely blue seat in the Jersey City area, but there's no indication that any of them are capable of giving Menendez a serious fight.

NJ-11: The state's new congressional map augmented Biden's margin in this North Jersey seat from 53-46 all the way up to 58-41, but five Republicans are still hoping that Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill is vulnerable. The frontrunner looks like Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen, who sports important GOP county party endorsements; also in the race are Army veteran Toby Anderson and former prosecutor Paul DeGroot.

OR-06: Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that she was endorsing state Rep. Andrea Salinas in the crowded May 17 Democratic primary for this new seat.

TX-34 (special): Former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez announced Wednesday that he was entering the June special all-party primary with endorsements from former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela and 15th District Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who is Team Blue's nominee for a full term in the new version of the 34th.

Attorneys General

MD-AG: Former Judge Katie Curran O'Malley has picked up the support of former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who served from 1987 until 2017, for the July Democratic primary for this open seat. Rep. Anthony Brown, meanwhile, has received endorsements from 32BJ SEIU, which represents property service workers, and 1199SEIU, which is for health care employees: Maryland Matters writes that these groups represent a total of 30,000 Marylanders.

Legislatures

Special Elections: We have a recap of Tuesday's all-party primary in Georgia followed by a preview of a rare Thursday contest in New York:

GA HD-45: A runoff will take place May 3 between Republican Mitch Kaye and Democrat Dustin McCormick for the final months of former GOP state Rep. Matt Dollar's term. Kaye led McCormick 42-40, while the balance went to two other Republicans. Kaye is not running for a full term, while McCormick faces no intra-party opposition in the regular May primary to take on Republican state Rep. Sharon Cooper in the new version of HD-45.

NY AD-20: We have a special election in Nassau County to succeed Republican Melissa Miller, who resigned in February after she was appointed to the Hempstead Town Board, in a seat Trump carried 52-47 in 2020. The GOP is fielding Cedarhurst Deputy Mayor Eric Ari Brown while the Democratic nominee is David Lobl, a former advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Mayors

Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson decisively won Tuesday's special election to succeed his fellow Democrat, Tom Barrett, by beating conservative Bob Donovan 72-28. Johnson, who made history as the first Black person elected to lead Milwaukee, will be up for a full four-year term in 2024. He could also be in office for quite a long time to come, as Johnson is now only the fifth person elected to this post since 1945.

Morning Digest: Longtime congressman will retire rather than face Trump-backed colleague in primary

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

MI-04: Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who was one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump last year, announced Tuesday that he would not seek a 19th term this fall. In an email to supporters, Upton said he believed "it is time to pass the torch," though the person who will most likely be claiming that beacon in the new 4th Congressional District is his colleague and would-be primary foe, Trump-backed Rep. Bill Huizenga.

While it's possible that Upton's departure will entice someone else to run against Huizenga in the August GOP primary, they'd need to collect at least 1,000 valid signatures by the April 19 filing deadline. No notable Democrats have entered the race so far for the new version of the 4th, a southwestern Michigan seat Trump would have carried 51-47 in 2020.

Huizenga announced back in December, right after the state's new congressional maps were completed, that he'd be seeking re-election in the new 4th, and he earned an endorsement from Trump last month. Upton, by contrast, spent months keeping the political world guessing as to whether he'd go up against Huizenga in the primary or retire, though until Tuesday, it seemed that he had one more race in him: In February, Upton launched a $400,000 ad campaign in which he told viewers, "If you want a rubber stamp as your congressman, I'm the wrong guy. But if you want someone committed to solving problems, putting policy over politics, then I'm asking for your support."

Upton, though, said at the time that he was still undecided about 2022, and his retirement announcement proves he wasn't just playing coy. On Tuesday, he insisted that redistricting mattered more to him than any backlash from his impeachment vote, saying, "My district was cut like Zorro—three different ways." However, it was Huizenga who, at least on paper, was more disadvantaged by the new map: While about two-thirds of the residents of the new 4th are currently Upton's constituents, Huizenga represents only about a quarter of the seat he's now the frontrunner to claim.

Upton's decision ends a long career in politics that began in the late 1970s when he started working for local Rep. David Stockman, and he remained on his staff when Stockman became Ronald Reagan's first director of the Office of Management and Budget. In 1986, Upton decided to seek elected office himself when he launched a primary challenge to Rep. Mark Siljander, who had succeeded Stockman in the House in 1981, in an earlier version of the 4th District.

Siljander was an ardent social conservative well to the right of even Reagan: Among other things, he'd unsuccessfully tried to torpedo Sandra Day O'Connor's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1981 because he didn't feel she was sufficiently conservative, and he even threatened to vote against the White House's priorities in an attempt to thwart O'Connor. Siljander, though, had taken just 58% of the vote in his 1984 primary, which suggested that a significant number of primary voters were unhappy with him.

Upton argued that, while both he and Siljander were "conservative Republican[s]," the incumbent had ignored his constituents to focus on international issues. Upton, by contrast, insisted that he'd work better with the party's leadership and seek committee assignments that would allow him to direct his energies to domestic concerns. The race took a dark turn late in the campaign when audio leaked of Siljander telling local clergy members to aid him in order to "break the back of Satan," arguing that his loss "would send a shock wave across America that Christians can be defeated in Congress by impugning their integrity and smear tactics."

Upton ended up dispatching the congressman 55-45, a convincing thumping that both sides attributed to Siljander's comments. Upton's team, while denying that the outcome represented a loss for the religious right, predicted, "Fred's tactics will be much more moderate and more reasonable." Upton easily prevailed in the general election and had no trouble winning for decades; Siljander, for his part, was last in the news in late 2020 when Trump pardoned what an angry Upton described as "a series of federal crimes including obstruction of justice, money laundering and lobbying for an international terrorist group with ties to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban."

In 2002, Upton easily turned back a primary campaign from state Sen. Dale Shugars 66-32 in what was now numbered the 6th District, but when the burgeoning tea party turned its wrath on establishment figures in 2010, the longtime congressman had become much more vulnerable to intra-party challenges. His opponent that year was former state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, who had badly failed in his quest to unseat Democratic Sen. Carl Levin two years earlier but argued that Upton was insufficiently conservative. The congressman outspent Hoogendyk by an 18-to-1 margin but prevailed only 57-43, which enticed Hoogendyk to try again in 2012.

However, while the anti-tax Club for Growth ran commercials this time against Upton, who by now was chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the incumbent worked hard to emphasize his opposition to the Obama administration and won by a larger 67-33 margin. That was the last time he faced a serious primary challenge at the ballot box, but in 2014 he went through his first expensive general election campaign when law professor Larry Lessig directed his Mayday PAC, which he called his "super PAC to end super PACs," to target Upton.

Mayday spent over $2 million to aid a previously unheralded Democrat named Paul Clements, and while Upton didn't come close to losing in that red wave year, Democrats hoped his 56-40 showing meant he could be beaten in a better political climate. Clements sought a rematch in 2016, but Upton won by a 59-36 spread.

In 2018, though, the congressman faced a considerably tougher battle against physician Matt Longjohn at a time when the GOP was on the defensive nationwide. Upton got some surprising help during that campaign when Joe Biden delivered a speech in his district that was paid in part by an Upton family foundation; Biden, who was apparently motivated to praise Upton because of the congressman's work on a bill called the 21st Century Cures Act, declared the congressman was "one of the finest guys I've ever worked with" and "the reason we're going to beat cancer." Ultimately, the congressman prevailed 50-46 in what was by far the closest race of his career. Afterwards, Longjohn’s campaign manager said Biden’s involvement was "brutal at the time and stings even more today."

Democrats hoped they could finally take Upton down in 2020, but Upton returned to form and beat state Rep. Jon Hoadley 56-40 as Trump was carrying his district 51-47. Two months later, Upton responded to the Jan. 6 attack by voting for impeachment, a vote that arguably did more than anything else to close out his lengthy time in Congress.

1Q Fundraising

  • PA-Sen: John Fetterman (D): $3.1 million raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
  • NH-Sen: Kevin Smith (R): $410,000 raised (in nine weeks)
  • FL-07: Rusty Roberts (R): $173,000 raised (in 10 days)
  • MI-12: Janice Winfrey (D): $200,000 raised (in six weeks)
  • OH-13: Emilia Sykes (D): $350,000 raised
  • RI-02: Joy Fox (D): $175,000 raised (in two months)
  • SC-01: Nancy Mace (R-inc): $1.2 million raised, $2.3 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AZ-Sen: Monday was the deadline for candidates to file for Arizona's Aug. 2 primary, and the state has a list of contenders here. We run down all the major contests in their respective sections of the Morning Digest, starting with the Senate race.

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly won a tight 2020 election for the final two years of the late John McCain's term, and he'll be a top GOP target this fall as he seeks re-election. Five Republicans are running to take him on (though Gov. Doug Ducey, to the frustration of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is not one of them), and polls show that a large plurality of primary voters is undecided.

The most prominent contender may be state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, though he attracted heaps of abuse last year from Trump for not doing enough to advance the Big Lie. The only other current elected official is state Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson, but he's struggled to attract attention. The field also includes self-funding businessman Jim Lamon; former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, whose former boss is heavily financing a super PAC to boost him; and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire.

OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel are each running commercials for the May 3 Republican primary espousing ultra-conservative ideas as they attack the very idea that their beliefs could be racist.

Vance is pushing that message in what the GOP firm Medium Buying says is his first-ever TV ad, though his allies at Protect Ohio Values PAC have already spent over $6 million promoting him. "Are you a racist?" Vance begins as he points right at the camera, "Do you hate Mexicans? The media calls us racist for wanting to build Trump's wall." The Hillbilly Elegy author continues by accusing the media of censorship before proclaiming, "Joe Biden's open border is killing Ohioans with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country." Mandel, meanwhile, exclaims, "There's nothing racist about stopping critical race theory and loving America."

On the Democratic side, former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official Morgan Harper has launched what her campaign says is a six-figure opening ad buy. Harper describes her local roots and service in the Obama administration before trying to contrast herself with Rep. Tim Ryan, the frontrunner for the nod, by declaring, "I'm the only Democrat for Senate who's always supported Medicare for All and a $15 living wage, who's always been pro-choice, and supports expanding the Supreme Court to protect women's rights."

PA-Sen: Allies of Rep. Conor Lamb at a super PAC called Penn Progress just dropped the first negative TV ad of Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary, but there's a huge problem with the spot.

The narrator begins by asking, "Who can Democrats trust in the race for Senate?" and contrasts Lamb—"a former prosecutor and Marine"—with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, "a self-described democratic socialist." The ad cites an NPR segment from 2020 for that claim about Fetterman, but at the bottom of the piece are not one but two correction notices that both read, "This story wrongly states that Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is a 'self-described democratic socialist.' He is not." Citing those corrections, attorneys for Fetterman's campaign sent a letter to TV stations demanding they take down the spot, calling it "false and defamatory."

Penn Progress responded by pointing to other news articles that have also called Fetterman a "self-described democratic socialist," but no one seems to have found a quote from Fetterman actually referring to himself this way. That's because, according to his campaign, no such quote exists. In their letter, Fetterman's lawyers say the candidate "has never described himself as a 'democratic socialist'" and link to a 2016 interview in which Fetterman says, "No, I don't label myself a democratic socialist."

Fetterman's team is seeking to have this advertisement bumped from the airwaves because TV and radio stations can be held liable for defamatory content in third-party ads. (Because they're obligated under federal law to run candidate ads so long as they're paid for, broadcasters aren't liable for the content of such spots.) On Tuesday evening, the Fetterman campaign said that one station, WPVI in Philadelphia, had complied with its request.

Aside from the factual blunder, Lamb's supporters may be making a political mistake as well: Attacking a rival as too liberal in a Democratic primary is rarely a winning move. If Penn Progress' ad gets bounced, it may actually be a blessing in disguise for the super PAC.

Separately, a new poll of the GOP primary from Public Opinion Strategies for Honor Pennsylvania finds hedge funder David McCormick (whom the group is backing) leading TV personality Mehmet Oz 22-16. In a previously unreleased POS poll from January, Oz enjoyed a 31-13 advantage, but both sides—and other candidates as well—have unleashed millions in attack ads since then.

SD-Sen: Candidate filing closed March 29 for South Dakota's June 7 primaries, and we'll be taking a look at the fields for any notable 2022 contests now that the Secretary of State's office has had a week to receive "the official certification(s) from county central committees or state political parties"; you can find a list of contenders here. A runoff would be required on Aug. 16 in the races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and governor if no candidate wins at least 35% of the vote, but there aren't enough contenders in any of those races to make this a possibility. Note also that the parties hold nominating conventions (typically later in June) instead of primaries for several offices, including attorney general.

Donald Trump used the last days of his time on Twitter to rant in late 2020 that Republican Sen. John Thune "will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!" but the Senate minority whip's political career seems like it will continue just fine. Only two little-known Republicans, Oglala Sioux tribal administrator Bruce Whalen and rancher Mark Mowry, ended up filing to take him on, despite Thune's long dalliance with retirement, and there's no indication that either poses a threat. Attorney Brian Bengs has the Democratic primary to himself in this very red state.

Ad Reservations: Last week we got preliminary information about the first fall TV bookings from the Democratic group Senate Majority PAC, and AdImpact now has full details about how much money is going into each reservation:

  • Arizona: $22.4 million
  • Georgia: $24.6 million
  • Nevada: $14.1 million
  • Pennsylvania: $25.8 million
  • Wisconsin: $11.7 million

Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada are Democratic-held, while SMP is going on the offensive in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These are the first general election reservations we've seen from any major outside groups on the Senate side.

Governors

AL-Gov: Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard is running more ads ahead of the May 24 Republican primary arguing that Gov. Kay Ivey is insufficiently conservative. One spot focuses entirely on attacking the governor, including a clip of her saying last year, "It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks." The other commercial tries to use the Big Lie against Ivey, with the narrator proclaiming, "Lindy believes the election was stolen from Trump. Kay Ivey thinks Biden's victory was legitimate."

Ivey, meanwhile, is running her own ads playing up her own far-right credentials. "The fake news, big tech, and blue state liberals stole the election from President Trump," says the governor, "but here in Alabama, we are making sure that never happens. We have not, and will not, send absentee ballots to everyone and their brother."

AZ-Gov: Both sides have competitive primaries to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Doug Ducey in swingy Arizona. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has long looked like the frontrunner on the Democratic side, and she picked up an endorsement Tuesday from the state branch of the American Federation of Teachers. Her two intra-party foes are former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman and former Homeland Security official Marco López, who is a one-time mayor of Nogales.

Republicans, meanwhile, have six contenders. Trump has thrown his endorsement behind Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned conservative conspiracy theorist. The only current elected official, by contrast, is Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who is backed by former Govs. Jan Brewer and Fyfe Simington.

Another name to watch is former Rep. Matt Salmon, who narrowly lost the 2002 general election to Democrat Janet Napolitano; his second bid has the support of the Club for Growth as well as Reps. Andy Biggs and David Schweikert. There's also self-funding businessman Steve Gaynor, who narrowly lost the open-seat race for secretary of state to Hobbs in 2018. Businesswoman Paola Tulliani Zen, who founded a biscotti company, also attracted attention earlier this year when politicos learned she'd self-funded $1.2 million, but she hasn't otherwise generated much press. Neither has the sixth GOP candidate, Scott Neely.

NM-Gov: Former Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block uses his first spot for the June Republican primary to proclaim that he was "a day-one supporter of President Donald J. Trump," who badly lost New Mexico twice. The ad goes on to tout Block's conservative ideas, including his desire to "finish the border wall" and "block the COVID mandates," though at times the narrator's message almost gets drowned out by the commercial's loud music.

SD-Gov: Gov. Kristi Noem faces a Republican primary challenge from state Rep. Steve Haugaard, a former state House speaker who, believe it or not, is trying to run to the incumbent's right. Noem, though, has a massive financial edge over the challenger, as well as Trump's endorsement, and there's no indication yet that she's vulnerable. The winner will take on state House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, who faces no opposition in the Democratic primary.

TX-Gov: YouGov's new poll for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation shows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O'Rourke 50-42 among likely voters.

House

AK-AL: 314 Action Fund, a group that supported independent Al Gross in his 2020 Senate race, has released a survey from the Democratic pollster Change Research that finds him locked in a close special election against former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin in the instant-runoff general election in August.

It's impossible to know which of the 48 candidates competing in the June top-four primary might advance to the general, but we know the final matchup will be different than the one Change polled because one of the candidates it included, Republican state Sen. Lora Reinbold, did not end up running; the survey was also conducted days before either Palin or the final Republican candidate tested, state Sen. Josh Revak, announced they were in.

The firm initially finds Gross leading Palin 33-30 in a hypothetical general election, with Revak and Reinbold at 9% and 8%, respectively. After the instant runoff process is simulated, not much changes, as Gross and Palin tie with 35% apiece, while 30% are undecided. In a separate question pitting the two head-to-head, however, Palin edges out Gross 42-40.

314 Action hasn't made an endorsement yet, but the organization made it clear it wanted Gross to win in its release, saying, "Dr. Al Gross has dedicated his life to improving health outcomes for Alaskans, and if elected to Congress he'll have a platform to craft policy that will do just that."

AZ-01: Republican Rep. David Schweikert is running for re-election in the revamped 1st District, a seat in eastern Phoenix and its eastern suburbs that's changed quite a bit from the 6th District he currently represents: While Trump would have carried his existing constituency 51-47, it’s Biden who would have taken the new 1st 50-49. (We explain the many changes to Arizona's congressional map here.)

Before he can focus on the general election, though, Schweikert needs to get past self-funder Elijah Norton in the primary. Norton has been attacking the ethics of the incumbent, who in 2020 agreed to pay a $50,000 fine, accept a formal reprimand, and admit to 11 different violations of congressional rules and campaign finance laws in a deal with the bipartisan House Ethics Committee to conclude a two-year investigation. Schweikert, though, has made it clear he'll focus on Norton's turbulent departure from his insurance company. The field also includes Josh Barnett, who badly lost to Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego last cycle in the safely blue 7th District.

Three Democrats are also competing for this competitive seat. The field consists of Jevin Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors; former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf; and environmental consultant Ginger Sykes Torres, who has the backing of southern Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

AZ-02: Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran is defending a seat in northern and eastern rural Arizona that would have backed Trump 53-45, which is a significant shift from Biden's 50-48 win in the 1st District that he currently holds.

Seven Republicans are competing to take him on, and there's no obvious frontrunner at this point. The two elected officials in the running are state Rep. Walt Blackman and John Moore, the mayor of the tiny community of Williams. Also in the running are Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane; Ron Watkins, the reputed founder of the QAnon conspiracy cult; and three others. Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer had announced he was running last month, but his name was not on the state’s final list of candidates.

AZ-04: Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton is defending the 4th District in the southern Phoenix suburbs that, at 54-44 Biden, is considerably less safe than the 9th District it replaces. Six Republicans are competing to take him on, including Tanya Wheeless, who served as a staffer to then-Sen. Martha McSally, and Chandler City Councilman Rene Lopez.

AZ-06: Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced her retirement last year before Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission drew up a new 6th District in the Tucson area that Biden would have carried by a tiny 49.3-49.2 margin—a sizable drop from Biden’s 55-44 win in the old 2nd District.

The Democratic contest pits former state Rep. Daniel Hernández, who as an intern helped save then-Rep. Gabby Giffords after she was shot in 2011, against state Sen. Kirsten Engel; a third candidate, engineer Avery Anderson, hasn't earned much attention so far. The GOP frontrunner is Juan Ciscomani, a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, though it remains to be seen if any of his four intra-party rivals can give him a serious fight.

FL-13: 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, who has Trump's endorsement, has released a Spry Strategies poll that shows her again winning the August Republican primary. The firm gives Luna the lead with 35%, while prosecutor Kevin Hayslett and 2020 candidate Amanda Makki are tied for second with 9% each.

GA-07: NBC reports that Rep. Lucy McBath is spending $74,000 on her first TV ad for the May 24 Democratic primary, which features her visiting the grave of her son, Jordan Davis, as she describes how he was murdered by a gunman. (The commercial features surveillance footage from the gas station where Davis was killed, with someone responding to the sounds of gunfire, "Oh my God. Somebody's shooting!") McBath tells the audience, "My tragedy turned to purpose. In Congress, I'm fighting to protect voting rights, to lower prescription drug costs, and to prevent gun violence."

McBath's longtime allies at Everytown for Gun Safety are also spending $1 million to help her, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says will come in the form of digital and radio ads and a mail campaign. McBath has already benefited from $1 million in advertising from another group, Protect Our Future PAC, while fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux has not yet received any major outside support.

MD-01: Former Del. Heather Mizeur says she'll continue her campaign for the Democratic nod to take on Republican Rep. Andy Harris even though Trump would have carried the newest version of this seat by a tough 56-42 margin. Foreign policy strategist Dave Harden, who is the underdog in the July primary, also made it clear he'd remain in the race.

NH-01: The Associated Press reports that former Trump administration official Matt Mowers, one of the leading GOP candidates for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, voted twice in the 2016 primaries, which would be a violation of federal law.

According to the AP, Mowers cast a ballot in New Hampshire's primary in February, when he was working for Chris Christie's presidential campaign. (Christie finished sixth with just 7% of the vote and quit the race the next day.) Mowers then voted in the June primary in his home state of New Jersey, a month after Donald Trump became the GOP's de facto nominee, though there were other races on the ballot that day as well.

Any statute of limitations has long run out, so Mowers—who has a page devoted to "election integrity" on his campaign website—would be able to evade any legal ramifications. Politically, though, it's a different story, as his rivals for the nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas immediately went on the attack. Mowers' campaign has so far declined to respond directly to the story.

SD-AL: Rep. Dusty Johnson faces a Republican primary challenge from state Rep. Taffy Howard, a Big Lie supporter who launched her bid last year insisting, "I believe there was fraud in the last election that needs to be investigated. Our current congressman is not willing to admit that there was an issue." No Democrat ended up filing to run for the state's only House seat.

TX-15: EMILY's List has endorsed businesswoman Michelle Vallejo in the May 24 Democratic primary runoff for this open seat. Vallejo will face Army veteran Ruben Ramirez, who led her 28-20 last month in the first round of the nomination contest.

TX-34 (special): Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has scheduled the special all-party primary to succeed former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela for June 14, with the filing deadline set for April 13. A runoff date would only be scheduled if no one earns a majority of the vote in the first round.

Attorneys General

AZ-AG: Republicans have a six-way primary to succeed termed-out Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is seeking Team Red's nod for U.S. Senate, and this is another nominating contest without an obvious frontrunner. The only Democrat, by contrast, is former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes.

One familiar GOP contender is Tiffany Shedd, who lost a close general election last cycle in the 1st Congressional District against Rep. Tom O'Halleran. Another 2020 loser is Rodney Glassman, who narrowly failed to unseat the Maricopa County assessor in the primary; Glassman was the 2010 Democratic nominee against Sen. John McCain, but he now sports an endorsement from far-right Rep. Paul Gosar. The field also consists of two former prosecutors, Lacy Cooper and Abe Hamadeh; former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould; and manufacturing executive Dawn Grove.

TX-AG: YouGov surveys the May 24 Republican primary runoff for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and shows incumbent Ken Paxton fending off Land Commissioner George P. Bush 65-23, which is even larger than the 59-30 lead that CWS Research found in its recent poll for a pro-Paxton group. YouGov also has former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza beating former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski 46-31 for the Democratic nod.

YouGov tests hypothetical general election scenarios as well and finds that, despite his myriad of scandals, Paxton outperforms Bush. The attorney general leads Garza and Jaworski 48-42 and 48-41, respectively, while Jaworski edges out Bush 39-38 and Garza ties him at 39-all.

Secretaries of State

AZ-SoS: Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is running for governor, and four Republicans and two Democrats are running to replace her as this swing state's chief elections officer.

Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, has taken a strong interest in this contest and endorsed state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol. Team Red's field also includes state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, who championed a bill that would have allowed the state legislature to decertify the state's presidential results at any point before Inauguration Day, and state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who has sponsored some of the most aggressive new voting restrictions in Arizona. The final Republican contender is advertising executive Beau Lane.

Democrats, meanwhile, have a duel between state House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding and Adrian Fontes, who narrowly lost re-election in 2020 as Maricopa County clerk, the post responsible for election administration in the county.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Prosecutor: Republican incumbent Alistair Adel resigned late last month as the top prosecutor of America's fourth-largest county over serious questions about her ability to manage her office, and one Democrat and three Republicans quickly collected the requisite signatures needed to compete in the special election to succeed her. The partisan primary and general elections will take place on the same days as the state's regularly scheduled statewide contests, and the winner will be up for a full term in 2024.

The only Democrat in the race is 2020 nominee Julie Gunnigle, who lost to Adel by a close 51-49. The GOP field consists of Anni Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel; City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere; and prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, whom Senate Republicans hired in 2018 as a "female assistant" to question Brett Kavanaugh and accuser Christine Blasey Ford. A fourth Republican, attorney James Austin Woods, does not appear to have filed.

Morning Digest: Oregon’s new congressional district brings some old characters out of the woodwork

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.

Check out our podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

OR-06: Two Oregon Republicans from yesteryear launched campaigns for the brand-new 6th Congressional District, a seat in the mid-Willamette Valley that Joe Biden would have carried 55-42, just ahead of Tuesday night's candidate filing deadline: former Rep. Jim Bunn, who was elected to his only term in a previous version of the 5th District during the 1994 red wave, and Mike Erickson, who was the 2006 and 2008 nominee for the next incarnation of the 5th. Bunn and Erickson join five fellow Republicans in the May 17 primary, while nine Democrats are also running here.

Bunn, who joined the state Senate in 1987, won a promotion to the U.S. House by winning a close open seat race as a "family values" candidate, but this victory proved to be the highlight of his political career. The new congressman married one of his aides just months after divorcing his wife of 17 years, and he soon promoted his new spouse to chief of staff and gave her a larger salary than any other Oregon congressional aide.

All of this made Bunn an appealing foil for Clackamas County Commissioner Darlene Hooley, a Democrat who also took the incumbent to task for his ardent opposition to abortion and gun safety. Hooley unseated the Republican 51-46; years later, he acknowledged that his brothers and even his soon-to-be-wife had cautioned him that the marriage could badly harm him politically, but that "I wasn't a bright enough person to listen and understand."

Bunn soon returned home and took a job as a prison guard at the Yamhill County Jail, which is one of the more unusual post-congressional career paths we've seen (though one dude served as a Capitol Hill elevator operator in the late 1930s), but he wasn't quite done trying to get back into office. In 2008 he ran for a state House seat, but he took third place in the primary with only 21%. Bunn last year applied to fill a vacant seat back in the state Senate, but party leaders chose someone else.

Erickson also has had a long career in Beaver State politics, though he's had even less success than Bunn. He lost general elections for the state House in 1988 and 1992, and his victorious opponent that second time was none other than now-Gov. Kate Brown. Erickson went on to challenge Hooley in 2006 but lost 54-43, and he tried again two years later when she retired from her swing seat.

First, though, he had to get through an ugly primary against 2002 gubernatorial nominee Kevin Mannix, who sent out mailers late in the race accusing Erickson of impregnating a girlfriend in 2000 and paying for her subsequent abortion. Erickson called these "unsubstantiated and untrue allegations," though he admitted he'd given the woman $300 and taken her to a doctor. Erickson narrowly won the primary but lost the general election 54-38 to Democrat Kurt Schrader. (And because this seems to be the year of Republican comeback campaigns in Oregon, Mannix is currently running for the state House.)

Given those histories it's likely that plenty of Republicans hope someone will beat Bunn and Erickson in the primary, but it remains to be seen if any of the other five primary candidates, all of whom began running last year, will emerge as the frontrunner. The contender who ended 2021 with the most money by far is Army veteran Nate Sandvig, though his $101,000 war chest wasn't very impressive. Well behind with $31,000 on-hand was state Rep. Ron Noble, who is a relative moderate. Also in the race are former Keizer city councilor Amy Ryan Courser, who challenged Schrader in 2020 in the 5th and lost 52-45; Dundee Mayor David Russ; and Air Force veteran Angela Plowhead.

Things are also far from defined on the Democratic side. The field includes state Reps. Teresa Alonso León and Andrea Salinas, who would each be the first Latina to represent the state in Congress; Alonso Leon would also be Oregon's first indigenous member. Salinas, for her part, has an endorsement from 1st District Rep. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who currently represents just over 40% of this new seat.

Also in the running are Cody Reynolds, a self-funder who has unsuccessfully run for office several times as an independent or third-party candidate (he was also once convicted of smuggling weed); economic development adviser Carrick Flynn; Oregon Medical Board member Kathleen Harder; former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, who would Oregon's first Black representative; cryptocurrency developer Matt West; and two others who have attracted little attention so far.

Most of these contenders were also running last year. Reynolds finished 2021 with $1.96 million on-hand that came entirely from himself. West, who has also self-funded a large portion of his campaign, had $476,000 compared to $159,000 for Salinas, while Harder and Smith had $123,000 and $86,000, respectively. Alonso Leon and Flynn entered the race in the new year, and Flynn has already benefited from $1.4 million in outside spending from Protect Our Future, a super PAC backed by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried.

There are several other races to watch in Oregon this year, and now that filing has closed, we'll be running down the state of those contests below starting with OR-Gov. You can find a list of 2022 candidates from the state here.

The Downballot

On this week's episode of The Downballot, we talk with Amanda Litman, the co-founder of Run for Something, an organization she formed in the wake of the 2016 elections to help young, diverse progressives run for office across the country at all levels of the ballot. Litman tells us about the resources they offer to first-time candidates, some of Run for Something's biggest success stories, and her favorite obscure post that you might not even know is an elected position in many states.

We also spend time exploring a trio of different stories out of North Carolina—one concerning Madison Cawthorn, one about redistricting, and one, believe it or not, about Vladimir Putin—and bring you up to speed on the just-concluded presidential election in South Korea. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.

Senate

GA, OH, PA: Fox News has released new polls of Republican primaries in three states that are hosting races for both Senate and governor this year: Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. All the data, which was collected by the Democratic firm Beacon Research and the Republican pollster Shaw & Company, is below:

  • GA-Sen: Herschel Walker: 66, Gary Black: 8
  • GA-Gov: Brian Kemp (inc.): 50, David Perdue: 39
  • OH-Sen: Mike Gibbons: 22, Josh Mandel: 20, J.D. Vance: 11, Jane Timken: 9, Matt Dolan: 7
  • OH-Gov: Mike DeWine (inc.): 50, Joe Blystone: 21, Jim Renacci: 18
  • PA-Sen: David McCormick: 24, Mehmet Oz: 15, Kathy Barnette: 9, Jeff Bartos: 9, Carla Sands: 6, George Bochetto: 1, Everett Stern: 1
  • PA-Gov: Lou Barletta: 19, Doug Mastriano: 18, Dave White: 14, Bill McSwain: 11, Jake Corman: 6, Scott Martin: 3, Nche Zama: 1

All of these numbers are in line with other polling of each of these races, though DeWine's showing is the best he's posted to date. This is also the first survey from a reputable source to include Blystone, a farmer and first-time candidate running a chaotic campaign animated by the usual far-right grievances who could actually help DeWine by splitting the anti-incumbent vote with Renacci, a former congressman. It’s also worth noting that this poll did not include former Rep. Ron Hood as an option, while the Pennsylvania governor survey did not list former Rep. Melissa Hart and a few other minor contenders.

GA-Sen: A new survey from Democratic pollster Blueprint Polling finds Republican Herschel Walker leading Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock 49-45, which is the largest advantage for Walker anyone has found to date.

NC-Sen: Ruh-roh! Once again, Donald Trump is reportedly unhappy with a high-profile Senate candidate he's endorsed—in this case, North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, who continues to trail in polls of the GOP primary despite almost $4 million in outside spending on his behalf from the Club for Growth. Politico reports that those close to Trump speculate he's "grown to regret his early endorsement" and relays new audio of Trump asking state GOP chair Michael Whatley about the health of Budd's campaign—from the stage, in the midst of a delirious 84-minute speech at a recent RNC fundraiser in New Orleans.

"How's Ted Budd doing? OK?" Trump queried, before demanding, "All right, we gotta get Walker out of that race. Get him out of the race, Michael, right?" There's no word on whether Whatley shouted back from his spot in the audience, but Walker would be former Rep. Mark Walker, who's been floundering in third place, behind both Budd and the frontrunner, former Gov. Pat McCrory. Trump previously tried to lure Walker away from the Senate race with a reported offer to endorse him if he instead made a comeback bid for the House, but Walker didn't bite, and that ship has since sailed, as North Carolina's filing deadline closed last week.

Despite the former congressman's struggles, though, there's still (rather amazingly) a pro-Walker PAC called Awake Carolina that recently produced a poll of the race, which in turn fell into Politico's hands. The new numbers, from Ingress Research, show McCrory taking 29% of the vote to 18 for Budd and 11 for Walker, which is more or less where other surveys have shown the race.

Given the Club's massive spending—Politico says the group is increasing its pledge from $10 million to $14 million—it seems unlikely that Walker could catch Budd and become McCrory's main threat. That's doubly so given Walker's own poor fundraising and Trump's apparent antipathy for him. But if Trump grows as disillusioned with Budd as he has with Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, he could always switch horses.

The one trotter we can be pretty certain he'll never back, though, is McCrory, who just dropped a new ad that bashes Budd for praising Vladimir Putin—a man Trump continues to worship. This is both McCrory's first television spot of the race and one of the first we've seen raising the issue of GOP slavishness toward the Russian dictator: In the spot, McCrory charges, "As Ukrainians bled and died, Congressman Budd excused their killer," as footage of Russian destruction rolls.

Interspersed are clips of Budd calling Putin "a very intelligent actor" in a recent TV interview and saying, "There are strategic reasons why he would want to protect his southern and western flank—we understand that." McCrory then attacks Budd for voting against sanctions on Russia and adds, "I don't compliment our enemies."

OH-Sen: State Sen. Matt Dolan's latest commercial for the May GOP primary features Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn and a retired police sergeant praising him as a friend of law enforcement.  

OK-Sen-B: Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin's opening spot touts him as a conservative "fighter" and ends with an old clip of Donald Trump (from his infamous 2020 Tulsa rally no less) exclaiming that "you don't want to fight with him." Surprisingly, the ad doesn't actually touch on the congressman's time as a MMA fighter, though viewers will probably learn all about that before the June primary is over.

Governors

MD-Gov: Maryland Matters says that former nonprofit head Wes Moore is spending six figures on the first TV buy from anyone running in the June Democratic primary. The 30-second ad features the candidate telling the audience about his tough upbringing, saying, "When I was three, I watched my father die. I got handcuffs to my wrists by the time I was 11." He continues by talking about how he later became a Rhodes Scholar, an "Army captain in Afghanistan," and head of an influential anti-poverty group.

The 60-second spot has Moore discussing how much education mattered to his life and declaring, "Maryland has some of the nation's best public schools, but also some of its most neglected. We can't settle for that."  

ME-Gov: The RGA has given $3.87 million to the Maine Republican Party, which has reserved that same amount for fall TV time.

OR-Gov: Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is termed-out of an office her party has held since the 1986 elections, and both parties have competitive races to succeed her. The eventual nominees will face an expensive general election against former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, a conservative Democrat-turned-independent who has the most money of anyone the race.

There are 17 people competing for the Democratic nod, but only former state House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read appear to be running serious efforts. Kotek, who would be the first lesbian elected governor anywhere (Massachusetts Democrat Maura Healey would also have that distinction if she won this year) has the backing of EMILY's List and several unions, including the SEIU and Oregon Education Association. Reed, who is the only candidate in the entire race who has been elected statewide, meanwhile is running as more of a moderate.

The 19-person GOP field is similarly crowded, but considerably more contenders appear to have a shot at winning the plurality needed to secure the nod. Former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan has raised considerably more money from donors than anyone else, while former state Rep. Bob Tiernan, who served two terms in the 1990s, entered the race last month by self-funding $500,000 and receiving another $500,000 in donations from a California-based real estate company.

The field also includes two former nominees, Bill Sizemore and Bud Pierce. Sizemore, who lost in a 1998 landslide and performed poorly in the 2010 primary, still has not reported any fundraising, though. Pierce, for his part, challenged Brown in a 2016 special election and lost 51-43. Also in the running are consultant Bridget Barton; businesswoman Jessica Gomez; Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten; and Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, who made news last month when he acknowledged that he and his wife "explored mutual relationships with other couples."

House

CA-13: Agribusinessman John Duarte has announced that he'll compete as a Republican in the June top-two primary for this open seat in the mid-Central Valley, which Joe Biden would have carried 54-43.

CA-41: Former federal prosecutor Will Rollins' campaign against Republican incumbent Ken Calvert has earned an endorsement from Democratic Rep. Mark Takano, who is seeking re-election in the neighboring new 39th District. (Only about 2% of Takano's existing 41st District is located in the new seat with that number.)

FL-22: Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis says he hopes to decide by the end of the month if he'll seek this open seat. Another local Democrat, Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen, has decided not to run, however.

MD-01: Former Del. Heather Mizeur now has the support of all seven members of Maryland's Democratic House delegation in the June primary to take on Republican incumbent Andy Harris.

MN-05: Former Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels has announced that he'll challenge incumbent Ilhan Omar in the August Democratic primary for this safely blue seat centered around the city. Samuels, who previously considered running as an independent, argued that he and Omar are "both Democrats, but very often you wouldn't know it. When you build an infrastructure of contrarian divisiveness, even when you have good ideas, you can't get it passed because you don't have friends."

Samuels, who is originally from Jamaica, ran for mayor in the crowded 2013 instant-runoff election; he initially took third place with 11%, and he didn't rise much beyond that before he was eliminated in the penultimate 32nd round of tabulations. He returned to elected office the next year when he won a seat on the school board, and he retired in 2018.

Samuels, though, was far from done with politics. In 2020 he supported Antone Melton-Meaux, who went on to lose an expensive primary to Omar 58-39. Samuels last year was also one of the most high-profile opponents of Question 2, a ballot measure that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new department of public safety, while Omar was one of its most prominent backers. City voters rejected Question 2 by a 56-44 margin, and Samuels is now arguing that the congresswoman's stance demonstrates that "she's out of touch" with her constituents.

NC-11: State Sen. Chuck Edwards' opening spot for the May Republican primary focuses on his business background, conservative record, and "mountain values," which is a not-so-subtle swipe at Rep. Madison Cawthorn's failed attempt to district hop. In case that was too subtle, Edwards concludes that "this is my home, and it's worth the fight."

NY-24: Attorney Todd Aldinger has ended his Republican primary campaign against Rep. Chris Jacobs in this safely red seat in the Buffalo suburbs. A few other Republicans are still challenging the incumbent, but there's no indication that any of them are capable of putting up a serious fight.

OH-13: Gov. Mike DeWine has appointed former state Rep. Christina Hagan to the Ohio Elections Commission, a move that almost certainly means that the two-time GOP congressional candidate won't run again this year in the event that the state Supreme Court again orders new U.S. House boundaries.

OR-04: Veteran Rep. Peter DeFazio is retiring, and eight fellow Democrats are campaigning to succeed him in a seat where legislative Democrats extended Joe Biden's margin of victory from 51-47 to 55-42. The primary frontrunner in this constituency, which covers the southern Willamette Valley and Oregon's south coast, appears to be state Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, who has endorsements from DeFazio, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and EMILY's List.

Another contender to watch is former Airbnb executive Andrew Kalloch; Hoyle ended 2021 with a $205,000 to $148,000 cash-on-hand advantage over Kalloch, though candidates had just weeks to raise money following the congressman's early December departure announcement. Corvallis school board Chair Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, who took 16% in a 2016 state House race as a third-party candidate, entered the Democratic primary in January, and he would be the state's first Muslim member of Congress.

The only Republican in the running is 2020 nominee Alek Skarlatos, a National Guard veteran whose 52-46 loss last cycle was the closest re-election contest of DeFazio's career. Skarlatos ended December with $348,000 to spend.

OR-05: Rep. Kurt Schrader, who has long been one of the loudest moderates in the Democratic caucus (last January, he had to apologize after comparing the idea of impeaching Donald Trump to a "lynching") faces a primary challenge from the left in the form of attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner. There are no other Democrats running for this seat in the Portland southern suburbs and central Oregon, so she won't need to worry about splitting the anti-incumbent vote with other challengers.

McLeod-Skinner, who was Team Blue's 2018 nominee for the old and safely red 2nd District, would be Oregon's first LGBTQ member of Congress, and she also sports an endorsement from the Oregon Education Association. Schrader, for his part, represents just under half of the new 5th District, but the well-funded incumbent ended December with a massive $3.6 million to $208,000 cash-on-hand edge.

Six Republicans are also running for this constituency, which would have backed Joe Biden 53-44. The two most prominent contenders appear to be former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who lost two competitive races for the state House in 2016 and 2018, and businessman Jimmy Crumpacker, who took fourth place in the 2020 primary for the old 2nd District. Chavez-DeRemer finished last year with a $226,000 to $186,000 cash-on-hand lead.

PA-17: Allegheny County Council member Sam DeMarco, who also chairs the county Republican Party, has joined the race for Pennsylvania's open 17th Congressional District. Under a local "resign to run" law, DeMarco will have to quit his current post by March 23.

TN-07, TN-05: Community activist Odessa Kelly, who'd been challenging Rep. Jim Cooper in the Democratic primary in Tennessee's 5th District, has announced that she'll instead run in the redrawn 7th against Republican Rep. Mark Green, following an extensive GOP gerrymander that cracked Nashville to make the 5th much redder and prompted Cooper to retire. Both seats now tilt heavily to the right, though the 7th is actually the tougher district: It would have voted 56-41 for Donald Trump, compared to a 55-43 Trump margin in the revamped 5th.

Secretaries of State

CO-SoS: Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who has been one of the far-right's most prominent election deniers, was indicted by a state grand jury on Tuesday on felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly breaching the county's election systems during her attempt to demonstrate fraud in 2020. State GOP leaders responded by calling for Peters to suspend her campaign to take on Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

Redistricting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayors

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

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

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

Morning Digest: Ohio Supreme Court strikes down GOP’s legislative gerrymander

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

Leading Off

OH Redistricting: The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the new Republican-drawn state House and Senate maps as an unconstitutional gerrymander and ordered the state's Ohio Redistricting Commission to adopt new lines within 10 days. This decision does not apply to the Republican-drafted new congressional map, which is the subject of a separate case that the justices have yet to issue a decision in.

Republican Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor joined the three Democrats in Wednesday's 4-3 ruling, which blasted just how much the lines drawn by the GOP majority on the bipartisan Redistricting Commission benefited Republican candidates. As we've written before, a voter-approved constitutional amendment requires maps to not unfairly benefit one party or the other compared to their statewide support, which Republicans acknowledged was roughly 54% Republican and 46% Democratic according to an average of the last decade's statewide elections.

The justices, though, noted that the state House map favored GOP candidates in 67 of the 99 seats―which would give Team Red the edge in 68% of the districts―while Republicans likewise enjoyed an advantage in 23 of the 33 state Senate constituencies.

Campaign Action

The Redistricting Commission, which has a 5-2 GOP majority, will now need to redraw the lines, and the justices said they retained jurisdiction "to review the plan that the commission adopts for compliance with our order." Ohio's candidate filing deadline is currently set for Feb. 2, though lawmakers can alter that date.

Redistricting

MO Redistricting: The state House's redistricting committee voted Wednesday to advance a congressional map aimed at preserving the Republicans' current 6-2 majority in the delegation.

MS Redistricting: The state Senate on Wednesday approved a new GOP-drawn congressional map, which now goes to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves for his signature.

NC Redistricting: The Wake County Superior Court on Tuesday upheld the new Republican-drawn congressional and legislative maps. Plaintiffs immediately made it clear that they'd appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court, where Democrats have a 4-3 majority.  

PA Redistricting: The Republican-controlled state House has passed a new congressional map that would almost certainly be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf should it reach his desk.

SC Redistricting: The GOP-run state House Judiciary Committee has advanced a new congressional map aimed at shoring up Republican Rep. Nancy Mace in the 1st District. Last month, the chamber introduced a different map that would have actually made the 1st more competitive, but Republicans seem to have reversed course since then. State Senate Republicans previously proposed boundaries that also would have strengthened Team Red in the 1st District.

TN Redistricting: The state House's redistricting committee on Wednesday advanced a congressional map that, as Democrats have long feared, aims to turn the 5th District red. The blue bastion of Nashville, which is coterminous with Davidson County, is currently entirely located in longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper's 5th District, but these proposed boundaries would split the city between the 5th, 6th, and 7th Districts. This map would leave the Memphis-based 9th District as the only Democratic-friendly seat in Tennessee.

4Q Fundraising

  • CO-SenMichael Bennet (D-inc): $2.1 million raised, $4.7 million cash-on-hand; Gino Campana (R): $450,000 raised, additional $500,000 self-funded, $760,000 cash-on-hand
  • NE-GovJim Pillen (R): $5.4 million raised (since April), $4.1 million cash-on-hand
  • FL-10Maxwell Frost (D): $407,000 raised
  • IL-14Michael Koolidge (R): $100,000 raised (in six weeks)
  • MN-02Angie Craig (D-inc): $875,000 raised, $2.9 million cash-on-hand
  • NH-01Matt Mowers (R): $400,000 raised, $600,000 cash-on-hand
  • NJ-05Nick De Gregorio (D): $403,000 raised, $375,000 cash-on-hand
  • NV-04Steven Horsford (D-inc): $478,000 raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • OR-06Matt West (D): $600,000 raised, $480,000 cash-on-hand

Senate

MD-Sen: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan once again declined to rule out a bid against Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen on Wednesday one day after the Associated Press detailed national Republicans' ongoing efforts to convince him to run. Hogan downplayed his interest when asked but didn't do anything to take his name out of contention, saying, "I don't have much desire to be in the US Senate." The filing deadline is Feb. 22.

OH-Sen: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth has launched what NBC's Henry Gomez reports is a $750,000 TV and digital buy attacking former state Republican Party chair Jane Timken ahead of the May primary. The Club, which backs ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel, had been training its fire on venture capitalist J.D. Vance, but it recently released a poll finding that Timken is now Mandel's main threat.

The narrator declares, "Timken claimed she didn't know how she would have voted on Trump's impeachment while passionately defending her RINO congressman after he voted to impeach Trump." That last bit is a reference to retiring Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year. Timken initially said that the congressman had a "rational reason why he voted that way. I think he's an effective legislator, and he's a very good person." While she soon backtracked and called for Gonzalez's resignation, she didn't do it fast enough to insulate her from attacks like this one.

VT-Sen: Former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan last week filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential run for the Republican nod, and she now tells VTDigger, "I am definitely exploring the possibility, but I am not yet ready to announce a formal decision or make a formal announcement."

The last time Green Mountain Republicans won a federal election was 2000, when moderate Sen. Jim Jeffords easily secured another term; Jeffords famously abandoned the GOP (and his all-Republican barbershop quartet, the Singing Senators) the following year to caucus with the Democrats as an independent, a move that handed Team Blue control of the upper chamber.

PA-Sen: Ad Impact tells Politico that American Leadership Action, a super PAC set up to aid TV personality Mehmet Oz in the Republican primary, has booked $550,000 in TV time for a negative campaign aimed at former hedge fund manager David McCormick that will begin this month. McCormick is still officially in exploratory mode, but there's little question that he's planning to run especially now that he's resigned from the hedge fund giant Bridgewater Associates.

House

CA-15: While Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale had mulled campaigning for this safely blue open seat last year, the Democrat announced this week that she would run for the state Assembly instead.

CA-37: Former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry has filed FEC paperwork for a potential campaign to succeed Rep. Karen Bass, a fellow Democrat who is leaving to run for mayor of L.A., in the June top-two primary for this safely blue seat. Perry would be the first member of Congress who is both Black and Jewish.

Perry ran for the city's top job in 2013 and ultimately placed fourth in the nonpartisan primary with 16%. She went on to endorse Eric Garcetti in the second round, who named her head of his administration’s Economic Development Department following his victory. Perry stepped down in 2018 and ran for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors two years later, but she took a distant third with just 12%.

The only notable Democrat who has announced a campaign for the 37th District, which includes Central Los Angeles, is Culver City Vice Mayor Daniel Lee. State Sen. Sydney Kamlager, who decisively won her current post last year by beating Lee in a special election, also filed FEC paperwork in late November, but she still hasn't said if she's running.

FL-07: Businessman Scott Sturgill, who lost the 2018 Republican primary for the old version of this seat, has announced a bid to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in a state where redistricting is still underway. Sturgill self-funded $150,000 for his last campaign but still lost the primary 54-30 to state Rep. Mike Miller, whom Murphy beat months later.

FL-20: Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick pulled off a 79-20 victory over Republican Jason Mariner in this 77-22 Biden seat in a contest that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis infamously scheduled to take place a whole nine months after the death of longtime Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings. Cherfilus-McCormick, who beat now-former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness by five votes in the very crowded November primary, will be the first-ever Haitian American member of Congress.

The new congresswoman, though, will likely need to prepare for another serious nomination fight. Holness, who never conceded defeat, filed paperwork for another bid last month, and The Sun Sentinel reported at the time that he planned to seek a rematch. Former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, who earned third place, also told the paper for that article that she was "more than likely" to run again but was "waiting to see what the districts look like."

IN-09: Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth announced Thursday that he would not seek a fourth term in Indiana's safely red 9th District in a very unexpected move that bookends what has been a short but surprising congressional career. The revised version of this southeastern Indiana seat, which includes Bloomington, backed Donald Trump 63-35, and Republicans should have no trouble holding onto it.

Hollingsworth had given no obvious indication that he was looking to hit the eject button, especially since he had no serious primary or general election opponent on the horizon. The congressman, though, used an op-ed for IndyStar to remind readers that he'd pledged to only serve four terms total, continuing, "I want to be the change I want to see in this world, so, as I contemplate how I can work for you in new and better ways in the future, I won't run for reelection this year." Hollingsworth added, "I ran for Congress to return this government to the people from the career politicians who had broken it, and I will be damned if I become one in the process."

Hollingsworth began running for Congress in the 2016 cycle very soon after the Tennessee businessman, who had ties to several other states that weren't named Indiana, moved to the Hoosier State. He initially seemed like an afterthought in the Republican primary to succeed now-Sen. Todd Young, but he attracted attention after he used his personal fortune to finance a huge early ad campaign at a time when his more established but cash-poor rivals couldn't get on TV. He also got help from his wealthy father, who financed a super PAC that aired commercials praising the younger Hollingsworth and attacking the presumed frontrunner, Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

Another candidate, state Sen. Erin Houchin, saw where things were going and eventually went up with her own spot warning viewers that Hollingsworth was "a Tennessee millionaire who just moved here to try and buy our seat in Congress," but she lacked the resources to sufficiently blast her opponent. Republicans said just before the primary that Hollingsworth had little ground game and few, if any, local allies, but that didn't stop him from defeating Houchin by a convincing 34-25.

Republican gerrymandering and southern Indiana's continued shift to the right made Hollingsworth the clear favorite in a district that had supported Mitt Romney 57-41 in 2012, but Democrats hoped that a weak GOP nominee would give Monroe County Councilor Shelli Yoder an opening. And for a long time, it seemed like it was possible that Hollingsworth's flaws could indeed sink him, especially after the DCCC released an October poll giving him just a 44-42 edge.

National Democrats backed up their talk with action in the final weeks, and they ultimately spent $1.8 million compared to $1.3 million from their GOP counterparts. Hollingsworth also earned some ugly headlines in the final days when the Associated Press reported that legal papers he filed to serve as a "registered agent" for his real estate business obligate him to simultaneously reside in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Ohio. The Republican blamed it all on a clerical error, though he didn't help things when, after acknowledging he'd lived in South Carolina, he refused to say where else he'd resided.

All of this, though, was far from enough in a seat as red as the 9th District. Donald Trump carried the seat 61-34, and while Hollingsworth badly trailed the top of the ticket, his 54-40 victory was still far from close. Democrats still hoped that the new congressman could be vulnerable in a very different political climate, but he won by a similar 56-44 spread in 2018 and had no trouble taking what would ultimately be his final term.

MO-04: Retired Navy SEAL Bill Irwin announced this week that he was joining the crowded Republican primary for this safely red open seat.

NE-01: The Omaha World-Herald's Don Walton recently asked state Sen. Mike Flood if he had anything to do with a reported poll testing him in a hypothetical May Republican primary against indicted Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, to which Flood notably responded, "No comment."

Flood previously served as speaker of Nebraska's unicameral state legislature from 2007 until he was termed out in 2013, and he returned to the chamber last year. (Nebraska forbids legislators from serving more than two consecutive terms, but they can come back after a break.) The senator is also the owner of News Channel Nebraska, which Walton describes as "a network of radio and television stations that combine into a statewide media network."

Fortenberry, whom federal prosecutors have charged with lying to investigators as part of a probe into a foreign billionaire who used straw donors to illegally funnel $180,000 to four different GOP candidates, has a trial date tentatively set for Feb. 15, which coincidentally is the day that Flood would need to make a final decision by. That's because Nebraska has a unique law that sets up two filing deadlines, one for current elected officials and one for everyone else. All office-holders who want to be on the 2022 ballot need to file by Feb. 15, even if they're seeking a different post than the one they currently have, while the deadline for everyone else comes two weeks later on March 1.

Whoever emerges with the GOP nod will likely go up against state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, a Democrat who currently faces no serious intra-party opposition. The new version of the 1st District, which includes Lincoln and rural areas in the eastern part of the state, supported Donald Trump 54-43.

NJ-07, NJ-11: Phil Rizzo, a Republican who took a distant second in last year's gubernatorial primary, announced Wednesday that he was switching from the 11th to 7th Districts following redistricting and would now take on Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski. Rizzo will have a very tough task ahead of him, though, if he's to defeat the local and national establishment favorite, former state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., in a June nomination contest that also includes Assemblyman Erik Peterson.

VA-07: The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Del. Elizabeth Guzman and Prince William School Board Chair Babur Lateef are each considering challenging Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger for renomination now that redistricting has relocated a majority of populous Prince William County to the new 7th District. However, two other Northern Virginia Democrats, state Sen. Jeremy McPike and Del. Luke Torian, say they won't campaign here, while county party chair Tonya James relays that former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy has also told her she won't run.

On the Republican side, 2020 candidate Tina Ramirez announced this week that she was ending her campaign now that redistricting has moved her out of the 7th. Ramirez will instead challenge state Sen. Amanda Chase, who also dropped out of the congressional race this month, for renomination in 2023.

Ballot Measures

San Jose, CA Ballot: The San Jose City Council on Tuesday voted to place a measure on the June ballot that would move mayoral contests from midterm to presidential years. This year's open seat mayor race would only be for a two-year term if voters approved this measure, but the winner would be allowed to seek two additional four-year terms.

The City Council is also reviewing other ideas, such as adopting instant-runoff voting, that could go on the November ballot. However, an earlier proposal to greatly enhance the mayor's power appears to be off the table for now.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's contest in Maine:

ME-HD-27: Former state Sen. James Boyle held this seat for the Democrats by beating Republican Timothy Thorsen 57-38. Hillary Clinton won 53-40 here, and preliminary numbers from Daily Kos Elections have Joe Biden prevailing by a larger 60-37 spread in 2020.

Democrats are back to a enjoy an 81-64 majority in a 151-person chamber that also includes three independents, one Libertarian, and one member of the Independent for Maine Party; one Republican-held district, the very red HD-145, is open.

Mayors

Austin, TX Mayor: Democratic state Rep. Celia Israel announced Tuesday that she would compete in this year's race to succeed termed-out Mayor Steve Adler as the head of Texas' famously liberal capital city; Israel would be Austin's first gay or Latina mayor.

Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for the special election to succeed Tom Barrett, who resigned last month to become ambassador to Luxembourg. All the candidates will face off on one nonpartisan ballot on Feb. 15, and the top-two vote-getters will advance to the April 5 general; the winner will be up for a regular four-year term in 2024.

The only surprise on filing day came when Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer, who had previously announced a campaign, did not submit any signatures. The candidates who turned in the required amount of petitions are:

  • Alderman Marina Dimitrijevic
  • Former Alderman Bob Donovan
  • Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson
  • Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas
  • Businessman Michael Sampson
  • State Sen. Lena Taylor

Most of the field to lead this very blue city identify as Democrats, though Donovan, who badly lost to Barrett in 2016, is active in conservative groups.