Morning Digest: Three pro-impeachment Republicans have landed primary challenges—and more could soon

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

Leading Off

Impeachment: Following the House's recent move to impeach Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection, the 10 Republicans who voted in favor of holding Trump accountable for his actions are now almost all facing intense intra-party anger—including, in many cases, talk of potential primary challenges. Here's the latest on each:

CA-21: Republican leaders in Fresno County are enraged with Rep. David Valadao, with the local party's chair saying his organization wouldn't support the congressman "if the election were held today." But Valadao is at least somewhat insulated thanks to California's top-two primary system, which makes it exceedingly hard for partisans to oust incumbents in a primary since they'd have to finish third to miss out on the November general election—something that's never happened in a congressional race.

IL-16: Gene Koprowski, a former official with a conservative think tank called the Heartland Institute, recently told the New York Times that he was raising money for a potential campaign against Rep. Adam Kinzinger, but Koprowski​ added that he wouldn't enter the race until the Democratic-led state legislature finishes the redistricting process. Koprowski​ earned some very unfavorable notice in 2018 when HuffPost reported that he'd been charged with stalking a female colleague, and that senior Heartland officials sought to protect him.

Campaign Action

MI-03: Army National Guard veteran Tom Norton, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nod in Michigan's 3rd District last year when it was an open seat last year, is running against Rep. Peter Meijer once again. Norton raised very little and finished a distant third with just 16% of the vote. His Twitter feed is filled with remarks like, "If there is no such thing as gender, how can @KamalaHarris be a historic female?" and "If your gay go be gay that is your right. But when you remove a body part your not a woman your still a man.  We are normalizing crazy."

MI-06: Veteran Rep. Fred Upton was censured over the weekend​ by the Republican Party​ of Allegan County​, which is one of the six counties​ in his southwest Michigan seat. Upton, a relative pragmatist in today's GOP, has often been targeted in primaries for his previous apostasies, and last year, he turned in a relatively soft 63-37 win over businesswoman Elena Oelke, who appears to have raised no money at all.

NY-24: Local Republican and Conservative Party officials are quite pissed at Rep. John Katko, though there's been no real talk of a primary challenge yet. However, Katko was already on thin ice with the Conservative Party, whom he infuriated last cycle when he cosponsored a bill that condemned Trump's ban on transgender Americans serving in the armed forces. Some (but not all) of the damage was later repaired, but loss of Conservative support could prove very dangerous: In 2018, Katko defeated Democrat Dana Balter by 13,694 votes while earning 16,972 votes on the Conservative Party line. New York's 24th is one of just two districts Joe Biden won on this list (along with California's 21st), so defections on Katko's right flank could cause him serious trouble in the general election as much as in a primary.

OH-16: Former state Rep. Christina Hagan, who sought Ohio's 16th District once before, "is not ruling out" a challenge to Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, says Politico. Hagan lost to Gonzalez 53-41 in the GOP primary in 2018, when the 16th had become open, then ran unsuccessfully in the neighboring 13th District last year, falling 52-45 to Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan.

SC-07: We've previously written about two Republicans who are considering challenges to Rep. Tom Rice, but now a third is threatening to enter the fray. Former NYPD officer John Cummings, who raised $11 million in a futile bid against AOC last year, is reportedly thinking about taking his grift show down South for a potential primary bid. Rice may be the most vulnerable Republican on this list because South Carolina, alone among these nine states, requires runoffs if no candidate secures a majority, meaning Rice can't pin his hopes of survival on winning renomination with a mere plurality.

WA-03, WA-04: Republican leaders in Washington's 3rd and 4th Districts are hopping mad and say they expect both Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse to face primary challenges, though no names have emerged yet. However, like Valadao, both enjoy a measure of protection thanks to Washington's top-two primary system, which works just like California's.

WY-AL: Politico reports that Air Force veteran Bryan Miller is "expected" to run against Rep. Liz Cheney, though in a brief quote, he doesn't say anything about his plans. If he does enter, however, that might paradoxically be good news for Cheney, since she already landed one credible opponent, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, just the other day. Contra Tom Rice in South Carolina, Cheney could escape with a plurality because Wyoming has no runoffs.

Senate

GA-Sen: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests that former Republican state Rep. Earl Ehrhart might be considering a bid against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is up for re-election for a full six-year term in 2022. Ehrhart served in the state House for 30 years before retiring in 2018, making him the longest-serving Republican in the lower chamber, though he's still only 61 years old.

WI-Sen: Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who previously had not ruled out a bid against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson next year, now confirms he's "given consideration" to a possible campaign, though he hasn't offered a timetable for a decision. Barnes, a former state representative, was elected on a ticket with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in 2018 and would be Wisconsin's first Black senator.

Governors

RI-Gov: With Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee set to replace Gov. Gina Raimondo if she's confirmed as Joe Biden's new Commerce secretary, we were curious to know how well people who've ascended to the governorship in this manner fare when they choose to seek election in their own right. Fortunately, the University of Minnesota's Eric Ostermeier has answered this question in depth.

Since 1900, 174 second-in-command office-holders (including not only lieutenant governors but also—depending on the state—secretaries of state, state senate presidents, and state house speakers) have become governor in their own right, though only 128 were eligible to run in the following election (some, for instance, were only elevated after relevant primaries had passed). Of these, 109 chose to do so, but only a little more than half—59, or 54%—succeeded: 21 failed to win their party's nomination, while 29 lost general elections.

That's considerably lower than the overall re-election rate for governors, which from 1963 through 2013 was 75%, according to an earlier Ostermeier analysis. However, that figure includes these "elevated governors," so the actual re-election rate for governors first elected in their own right is even higher. That'll be something for McKee to think about both in terms of the Democratic primary and, should he prevail, next year's general election as well.

VA-Gov: Bob McDonnell, who was the last Republican to serve as governor of Virginia, has endorsed Del. Kirk Cox, who is hoping to break the GOP's long losing streak this fall. When McDonnell won office in 2009, that was in fact the last time any Republican won a statewide race in Virginia.

Mayors

Cincinnati, OH Mayor: Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus, a Democrat, said on Friday that she would not run for mayor this year.

Furious Trumpists are already lining up to primary Republicans who voted for impeachment

Following the House's recent move to impeach Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection, the 10 Republicans who voted in favor of holding Trump accountable for his actions are now almost all facing intense intra-party anger—including, in many cases, talk of potential primary challenges. Here's the latest on each:

CA-21: Republican leaders in Fresno County are enraged with Rep. David Valadao, with the local party's chair saying his organization wouldn't support the congressman "if the election were held today." But Valadao is at least somewhat insulated thanks to California's top-two primary system, which makes it exceedingly hard for partisans to oust incumbents in a primary since they'd have to finish third to miss out on the November general election—something that's never happened in a congressional race.

IL-16: Politico reports that Gene Koprowski, a former official with a conservative think tank called the Heartland Institute, "is already running" against Rep. Adam Kinzinger, but he doesn't appear to have done anything more than file paperwork with the FEC. Koprowski appears to have no social media presence, and if he did launch a campaign, he managed to earn zero attention from local press. He did, however, gain some notice in 2018 when HuffPost reported that he'd been charged with stalking a female colleague, and that senior Heartland officials sought to protect him.

MI-03: Army National Guard veteran Tom Norton, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nod in Michigan's 3rd District last year when it was an open seat last year, is running against Rep. Peter Meijer once again. Norton raised very little and finished a distant third with just 16% of the vote. His Twitter feed is filled with remarks like, "If there is no such thing as gender, how can @KamalaHarris be a historic female?" and "If your gay go be gay that is your right. But when you remove a body part your not a woman your still a man.  We are normalizing crazy."

MI-06: There hasn't been any reporting yet about backlash directed at veteran Rep. Fred Upton, but that doesn't mean there isn't any. Upton, a relative pragmatist in today's GOP, has often been targeted in primaries for his previous apostasies, and last year, he turned in a relatively soft 63-37 win over businesswoman Elena Oelke, who appears to have raised no money at all.

NY-24: Local Republican and Conservative Party officials are quite pissed at Rep. John Katko, though there's been no real talk of a primary challenge yet. However, Katko was already on thin ice with the Conservative Party, whom he infuriated last cycle when he cosponsored a bill that condemned Trump's ban on transgender Americans serving in the armed forces. Some (but not all) of the damage was later repaired, but loss of Conservative support could prove very dangerous: In 2018, Katko defeated Democrat Dana Balter by 13,694 votes while earning 16,972 votes on the Conservative Party line. New York's 24th is one of just two districts Joe Biden won on this list (along with California's 21st), so defections on Katko’s right flank could cause him serious trouble in the general election as much as in a primary.

OH-16: Former state Rep. Christina Hagan, who sought Ohio's 16th District once before, "is not ruling out" a challenge to Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, says Politico. Hagan lost to Gonzalez 53-41 in the GOP primary in 2018, when the 16th had become open, then ran unsuccessfully in the neighboring 13th District last year, falling 52-45 to Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan.

SC-07: We've previously written about two Republicans who are considering challenges to Rep. Tom Rice, but now a third is threatening to enter the fray. Former NYPD officer John Cummings, who raised $11 million in a futile bid against AOC last year, is reportedly thinking about taking his grift show down South for a potential primary bid. Rice may be the most vulnerable Republican on this list because South Carolina, alone among these nine states, requires runoffs if no candidate secures a majority, meaning Rice can't pin his hopes of survival on winning renomination with a mere plurality.

WA-03, WA-04: Republican leaders in Washington's 3rd and 4th Districts are hopping mad and say they expect both Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse to face primary challenges, though no names have emerged yet. However, like Valadao, both enjoy a measure of protection thanks to Washington's top-two primary system, which works just like California's.

WY-AL: Politico reports that Air Force veteran Bryan Miller is "expected" to run against Rep. Liz Cheney, though in a brief quote, he doesn't say anything about his plans. If he does enter, however, that might paradoxically be good news for Cheney, since she already landed one credible opponent, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, just the other day. Unlike Tom Rice in South Carolina, Cheney could escape with a plurality because Wyoming has no runoffs.

Morning Digest: In primary delayed by chaos, Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood party dumps governor

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

Leading Off

PR-Gov: Puerto Rico's gubernatorial primaries finally came to an end on Sunday, and former Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi ousted Gov. Wanda Vázquez 58-42 to win the nomination of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. Vázquez did not endorse Pierluisi, declaring instead, "I say to Pedro Pierluisi, that it is the thousands and thousands of people who supported me, and gave me their vote ... it is those people whose endorsement he should be seeking." Pierluisi, for his part, said that statehood would be one of his top goals if elected.

Meanwhile, Isabela Mayor Carlos Delgado decisively won the contest to lead the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party by defeating Puerto Rico Sen. Eduardo Bhatia 63-24. Pierluisi and Delgado will face off in the November general election for a four-year term along with Alexandra Lúgaro of the Citizens' Victory Movement, a party that NPR describes as "promoting anti-colonialism and a constitutional assembly to make a final decision on Puerto Rico's political relationship with the United States."

Campaign Action

The primary was originally set for June, but Vázquez signed legislation postponing it to Aug. 9 because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, ballots arrived late, or did not arrive at all, at a majority of voting centers that day, and the commonwealth's major political parties postponed voting a week. On Thursday, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled that voting would take place on Sunday in any precinct that was not open for the legally required eight hours last week.

The second round of voting mostly proceeded as planned, but not everyone who wanted to vote ended up being able to cast a ballot. Many people left closed polling places on Aug. 9 only to eventually learn that their precinct had opened later in the day for the prescribed eight hours, but that it was now too late for them to vote.

Pierluisi, who represented Puerto Rico in the U.S. House as a non-voting member from 2009 to 2017, briefly served as governor last year under some very unusual circumstances. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who had narrowly defeated Pierluisi in the 2016 primary, was badly damaged after a series of online chats between the governor and his allies leaked in which participants lobbed violent, misogynist, and homophobic insults at their enemies and joked about Puerto Ricans who died during Hurricane Maria. Mass protests soon broke out calling for Rosselló to quit, and the legislature began laying the groundwork to impeach him.

After two weeks of protests, Rosselló announced on July 24 that he would resign nine days hence, but it was unclear who would succeed him. Normally the commonwealth's secretary of state would take over, but Luis Rivera Marin had previously resigned from that very post because of his own role in the chat scandal. Vázquez, who was justice minister, was next in the line of succession, but she said on July 28―less than a week before Rosselló's Aug. 2 departure―that she hoped that Rosselló would pick a new secretary of state, and that this new person would be governor instead of her.

Rosselló tried to do just that, and he announced on July 31 that he was appointing his old rival Pierluisi. However, the commonwealth's constitution requires the secretary of state to be confirmed by both Puerto Rico's House and Senate, but Pierluisi was sworn into that job that very evening before any legislators had a chance to vote.

The House gave Pierluisi an affirmative vote on Aug. 2 about an hour before Rosselló's departure took effect, but the Senate postponed their own hearings until the following week. However, that didn't stop Pierluisi from being sworn in as governor right after Rosselló left office. Pierluisi cited a 2005 law that said that the secretary of state didn't need to have received legislative confirmation from both chambers if they need to take over as governor to make his case that he was indeed Puerto Rico's legitimate leader.

However, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ruled that this provision was unconstitutional days later in the decision that ousted Pierluisi from the governor's office and put Vázquez in charge. While Vázquez said she hadn't wanted to be governor, she soon quashed speculation that she would only stay long enough to appoint a new secretary of state who would then take over as the commonwealth's leader, and she announced in December that she'd seek a full term.

Pierluisi argued during his campaign that Vázquez wasn't fixing mistakes made by her administration during the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the special independent prosecutor's office announced that it had launched a criminal investigation into allegations that Vázquez and her administration had mismanaged emergency supplies after Puerto Rico was struck by earthquakes in January.

Primary Preview

Primary Night: The One Where Ross Tries Not To Get Fired: Primaries are concluding on Tuesday in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming for congressional and state offices, and as always, we've put together our preview of what to watch.

We'll be keeping a close eye on the GOP primary for Florida's 15th District, where freshman Republican Rep. Ross Spano, who is under federal investigation for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his successful 2018 bid, faces a serious intra-party threat from Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. We'll also be watching the GOP primaries for the open 3rd and 19th Districts, as well as the contest to face Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist in the 13th District.

And the action isn't confined to the Lower 48. In Alaska, national Republicans are spending to deny renomination to members of the Democratic-led cross-partisan coalition that runs the state House. Check out our preview for more on these contests.

Our live coverage will begin at 7 PM ET Tuesday night at Daily Kos Elections when the polls close in most of Florida. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates. And you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates of the cycle's remaining down-ballot primaries, as well as our separate calendar tracking key contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year.

Senate

CO-Sen: Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who has long had a dismal record on climate issues, is continuing to pitch himself as a supporter of the environment in his advertising campaign. Gardner's newest commercial features two conservationists praising him for securing "permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund."

GA-Sen-A, IA-Sen, MT-Sen: The Democratic group Duty and Honor is out with ads against three Republican incumbents:  Georgia's David Perdue, Iowa's Joni Ernst, and Montana's Steve Daines.

While Perdue has been running spots claiming he wants to cover pre-existing conditions, Duty and Honor takes him to task for trying to take those protections away. The Iowa commercial, meanwhile, goes after Ernst for "calling for Iowa schools to reopen, trying to score political points instead of prioritizing our kids' health and safety."

Finally, the Montana ad argues that Daines voted to give drug companies huge tax breaks when they're causing the opioid crisis and "raised their prices so high that nearly two-in-five Montanans can't afford their prescriptions."

GA-Sen-B: Sen. Kelly Loeffler uses her newest commercial to accuse Rep. Doug Collins, a fellow Republican, of working with Democrats to undermine her. The narrator begins, "The Trump Justice Department says Kelly Loeffler did nothing wrong," a reference to how the DOJ dropped its investigation into her sale of millions in stock just before the markets tanked due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ad then goes on to say that Collins "voted with Stacey Abrams in the legislature and Nancy Pelosi in Congress," though it doesn't actually mention anything that Collins saw eye-to-eye with either Democrat on. The spot later features a clip of Donald Trump praising Loeffler for being "so supportive of me and the agenda." Trump hasn't taken sides in the November all-party primary, and he's also talked up Collins.

IA-Sen: The conservative group One Nation's newest commercial declares, "As an assault survivor and military veteran herself, Sen. Joni Ernst is standing up to sexual assault in the military." It goes on to show a clip of Ernst saying, "Abuse is not something you can simply forget."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: East Carolina University has released a new survey of its home state:

  • NC-Sen: Cal Cunningham (D): 44, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 40 (June: 41-41 tie)
  • NC-Gov: Roy Cooper (D-inc): 52, Dan Forest (R): 38 (June: 49-38 Cooper)

The sample finds a 47-47 tie in the presidential race, which is a very small shift from Joe Biden's 45-44 edge in June.

TX-Sen: YouGov has released a new survey for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and Rice University that finds Republican Sen. John Cornyn leading Democrat MJ Hegar 44-37, while Donald Trump holds a 48-41 edge in Texas. YouGov's July survey for CBS, which was taken just before Hegar won the Democratic primary runoff, had Cornyn up by a similar 44-36 margin, though Trump was ahead only 45-44.

WY-Sen: Last week, Donald Trump backed former Rep. Cynthia Lummis in Tuesday's GOP primary for this open seat. The former congresswoman has a few intra-party opponents in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Enzi in this extremely red state, but none of them appear to be very strong.

Lummis' most notable foe is Converse County Commissioner Robert Short, a self-described "centrist Republican." Lummis outspent Short, who has self-funded almost his entire campaign, $725,000 to $255,000 from July 1 to July 29, which is the time the FEC defines as the pre-primary period.

Gubernatorial

MO-Gov: The Republican firm Remington Research's newest poll for the Missouri Scout newsletter finds Republican incumbent Mike Parson leading Democrat Nichole Galloway 50-43, which is a small shift from Parson's 50-41 edge in June. The release did not include presidential numbers.

VT-Gov: Attorney John Klar announced Friday that he was endorsing Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who defeated him 73-22 in last week's primary, and would not run as a conservative independent in the general election.

House

MA-01: Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has released a new survey from Beacon Research that finds Rep. Richie Neal, his opponent in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary, ahead by just a 46-41 margin. The poll was conducted over the weekend, after Morse accepted an apology from the Massachusetts College Democrats for the harm that followed the release of the organization's letter accusing Morse of inappropriate conduct toward students.

Meanwhile, the Justice Democrats, which said late last week that it was resuming its support for Morse, is spending another $150,000 on TV ads attacking Neal. Their newest spot says that "last year, Neal took more money from corporations than any other member of Congress—almost $2 million" while at the same time he "hasn't held a town hall in years."

MA-04: Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell is airing her first TV spot ahead of the Sept. 1 Democratic primary. Mermell, who appears to be recording the ad using her smartphone, says that voters struggling to pick between the many candidates could opt for "the one who protected abortion and birth control coverage at Planned Parenthood."

To underscore just how crowded the race is, the audience sees several other copies of Mermell gradually appear in the shot to talk about her support for Medicare for all and the Green New Deal and her endorsements from "[Rep.] Ayanna Pressley, [state Attorney General] Maura Healey, Planned Parenthood, Mass Teachers, Mass Nurses, SEIU." Mermell, who by this time has three other images of herself behind her, concludes, "We approve this message because you got some good options, but one clear choice."

Meanwhile, businessman Chris Zannetos is trying to distinguish himself from his rivals by running to the center. In his new commercial, the narrator touts Zannetos as the one candidate opposed to "eliminat[ing] private health insurance." Zannetos goes on to say he backs Joe Biden's plan and says, "Let's expand Obamacare and lower the cost of prescription drugs."

MO-02: House Majority PAC has released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that shows Democrat Jill Schupp leading Republican Rep. Ann Wagner 48-45. The sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 48-46 in a suburban St. Louis seat that supported Donald Trump 53-42 but has been moving to the left in recent years. This is the first survey we've seen here since February, when the GOP firm Remington Research's poll for the Missouri Scout newsletter had Wagner up 50-40.

NH-01: On Monday, former state GOP vice chair Matt Mayberry earned an endorsement in the Sept. 8 Republican primary from former Sen. John Sununu, who represented a previous version of this seat before he was elected to his one term in the Senate in 2002.

Mayberry faces a challenging battle against former White House aide Matt Mowers, who has Donald Trump's backing, for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in this swing seat. Mowers ended June with a wide $440,000 to $73,000 cash-on-hand lead over his intra-party rival, while Pappas had a far-larger $1.5 million campaign account.

NJ-07: In his opening commercial, freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski decries, "Some people just want to divide us, even over wearing a mask. It's exhausting." Malinowski goes on to call for "getting things done" instead, and continues, "I passed a bill to fix America's stockpile of critical medical equipment."

Other Races

Broward County, FL State's Attorney: Eight Democrats are competing in Tuesday's primary to succeed Mike Satz, who is retiring after 44 years as Broward County's top prosecutor, and most of the outside money has favored one candidate.

George Soros, the billionaire progressive donor who has poured millions into backing criminal justice reformers in many recent key races around the country in recent years, has been funding a group called the Florida Justice & Public Safety PAC that has raised $750,000 to support defense attorney Joe Kimok. Kimok, who had planned to challenge Satz before the incumbent decided not to seek re-election, is the one candidate who has pledged not to seek the death penalty if elected.

Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that a group known as Victims Have Rights has raised a considerably smaller $110,000 to help veteran prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy, who has Satz's endorsement. The PAC has run mailers against Kimok and another contender, Coconut Creek City Commissioner Joshua Rydell.

Orange/Osceola Counties, FL State's Attorney: State Attorney Aramis Ayala is retiring as state's attorney for the Ninth Circuit, which covers both Orlando's Orange County and neighboring Osceola County, and four fellow Democrats are competing in Tuesday's party primary to succeed her. No Republicans are running in the November election, and the winner will be the heavy favorite to defeat independent Jose Torroella.

The Appeal's Samantha Schuyler writes that the one candidate who has pledged to keep Ayala's criminal justice reforms in place is former defense attorney Monique Worrell, and she's getting some major late support from like-minded allies.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Our Vote Our Voice, a group funded in part by a group founded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, launched a $1.5 million ad campaign in the last two weeks in the contest to help Worrell. Some of the group's commercials have gone towards promoting Worrell while others have gone after attorney Belvin Perry, who served as the judge during the high-profile Casey Anthony murder trial that took place here in 2011.

The other two Democratic candidates are Deb Barra, who serves as chief assistant state attorney, and former prosecutor Ryan Williams. Ayala initially backed Barra, but the incumbent later threw her support to Worrell after she launched her own campaign.

Barra, Perry, and Williams are all arguing that Ayala's decision never to seek the death penalty has harmed the office; Williams even resigned in 2017 over this policy. This trio has pointed to Ayala's struggles against the GOP-led state government to make their case. After Ayala announced that her office would not seek the death penalty, then-Gov. Rick Scott transferred 23 first-degree murder cases to a considerably more conservative state's attorney in another jurisdiction. The Florida Supreme Court sided with Scott after Ayala sued over this, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has continued to remove first-degree murder cases from her jurisdiction.

Worrell herself has said of the Republican governors' actions, "It put me on notice that the rules of the game have changed significantly … And those opposed [to criminal justice reform] will use any means necessary." However, Schuyler writes that even Worrell "is running on a platform that is significantly less assertive than Ayala's and has backed away from Ayala's death penalty position."

Election Changes

 Indiana: Republicans on the Indiana Election Commission have blocked a proposal by Democrats that would have allowed all voters to request an absentee ballot for the November general election without needing an excuse. The measure failed after the bipartisan panel deadlocked, with both Republican members voting against the plan and both Democrats voting for it. The Commission had unanimously waived the excuse requirement for the state's June primary.

Voting rights advocates filed a federal lawsuit challenging the requirement in late April, and briefing on their request concluded at the end of last month, so a ruling may be imminent.

 Kentucky: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams have reached an agreement that will permit Kentucky voters to cite concerns about the coronavirus to request an absentee ballot for the November general election.

Beshear had wanted to waive the excuse requirement altogether, as the state had done for its June primary. However, a law passed earlier this year by Kentucky's Republican-run legislature required the governor to obtain approval for such a change from Adams, who had resisted a wider expansion of mail voting. The difference may nonetheless be minimal, as many other states have relaxed their own excuse requirements by allowing concerns about COVID to qualify and seen a surge in mail ballots.

 Louisiana: Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has proposed a plan to Louisiana's Republican-run legislature that would keep in place the state's requirement that voters present an excuse to request an absentee ballot and would expand eligibility only to those who have tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved a plan put forth by Ardoin that offered a limited expansion of absentee voting for the state's July primary for those at heightened risk from the coronavirus after Republicans rejected a broader proposal.

Legislators are slated to take up Ardoin's latest plan this week, and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards says he is reviewing it. Before it was released, Edwards said he hoped it "would look substantially similar to the one" put in place for the primaries. However, that earlier plan did not require the governor's approval, nor does the new one. Voting rights advocates, including the NAACP, filed a suit challenging Louisiana's excuse requirement in federal court earlier this month.

 New York: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will sign a measure passed by New York's Democratic-run legislature to allow all voters to cite concerns about the coronavirus in order to request an absentee ballot. Cuomo had signed an executive order earlier this year making the same allowance ahead of the state's June primary.

Last month, lawmakers passed several other bills to improve voting access, which the governor must sign or veto soon. Another measure that would allow county election officials to deploy ballot drop boxes has yet to come up for a vote, but Cuomo says he supports the idea.

grab bag

 Deaths: Former Illinois Gov. James Thompson, a moderate Republican whose tenure from 1977 to 1991 was the longest in state history, died Friday at the age of 84. We take a look at his lengthy and eventful career in our obituary, which features appearances by Spiro Agnew, Lyndon LaRouche, the founder of Weight Watchers, and Lenny Bruce.

Thompson successfully won four terms as governor, but his last two campaigns were quite eventful. In 1982, Thompson defeated former Democratic Sen. Adlai Stevenson III by just over 5,000 votes in a contest that wasn’t resolved until days before he was inaugurated for a third term.

Thompson and Stevenson faced off again four years later in a rematch that became infamous for reasons that had nothing to do with either man. While Stevenson easily earned the nomination, a candidate affiliated with the fringe political activist Lyndon LaRouche won the primary to become his running mate. Stevenson opted to run as an independent rather than “run on a ticket with candidates who espouse the hate-filled folly of Lyndon LaRouche.” You can find out more about this campaign, as well as the rest of Thompson’s career, in our obituary.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Ardent Trump ally will reportedly challenge GOP senator in Georgia special election

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

Leading Off

GA-Sen-B: On Monday evening, multiple media outlets reported that Georgia Rep. Doug Collins would challenge appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Republican, in this year’s special election, a move that would complicate GOP hopes of holding this key seat.

Collins himself has not publicly said anything about his plans, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that his launch is expected “soon.” (The New York Times said it would happen Tuesday, but that did not come to pass.) Collins is currently serving as one of Donald Trump’s designated surrogates during his impeachment trial, and the AJC writes that the congressman hopes to have Trump’s inner circle behind him.

Campaign Action

If Collins goes ahead with his bid, that would almost certainly crush GOP hopes of winning outright in November, at least under the state’s current election law. That's because all candidates from all parties will run together on a single ballot, and if no one takes a majority, a runoff between the top two vote-getters—regardless of party—would be held in January of next year.

However, neither Democrats nor Collins’ GOP allies in the state legislature are keen on this unusual law, and they’re currently working to change it. On Tuesday, the House Governmental Affairs Committee overwhelmingly advanced a bill (with a lone Republican voting “nay”) that would require a partisan primary in May and a general election in November, which are the same rules that govern the state’s regularly-scheduled Senate race.

However, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler over Collins despite Trump’s wishes, likes the status quo just fine. He’s said he’ll veto this legislation if it makes it to his desk, though if Democrats and Republicans unite behind the bill, they could overturn a Kemp veto with a two-thirds supermajority.

It’s not hard to see why Loeffler and her supporters don’t want to alter Georgia’s electoral calendar. A survey from the Democratic firm PPP taken just after Loeffler was selected in December showed Collins destroying her 56-16 in a hypothetical GOP primary. Collins’ bonafides with the Trumpist base would be hard to overcome if the primary took place less than four months from now, but Loeffler could benefit from an additional half year of incumbency, as well as the extra time to air ads.

It’s not just the far-right that would benefit from this proposed change—Democrats likely would, too. Right now, Team Blue’s only declared candidate is businessman Matt Lieberman, but former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver recently said that he planned to run while the Rev. Raphael Warnock is also reportedly going to get in soon. If all three Democrats wind up competing in an all-party primary in November, it will almost certainly be impossible for any of them to secure a majority. The prospect of a multi-way split on the left could also lead to the nightmare scenario of both Loeffler and Collins advancing to what would be an all-GOP runoff.

Thanks to her vast wealth, though, Loeffler doesn’t have to wait to see how things shake out to start upping her name recognition. She’s already up with a new TV spot that’s part of her opening $2.6 million buy that portrays her as (of course) a political outsider. The senator has reportedly pledged to spend $20 million of her own money, so Georgians will see a lot more from her no matter what Collins ends up doing.

Loeffler may also get some air support from outside groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the incumbent, as has the NRSC, though Senate Republicans may prefer to focus their attention on other races in a cycle when control of the chamber is on the line. It’s not clear who might come to Collins’ aid, but the anti-tax Club for Growth has already made it clear that he’s no friend of theirs. On Monday, the Club tweeted that the congressman “should start being more responsible with taxpayer dollars and improving the 57%” he received on its scorecard.

Trump, however, has yet to endorse Loeffler and has openly expressed his enthusiasm for Collins. Could the occupant of the White House side against a sitting senator from his own party? If anyone would do it, it’s Donald Trump.

4Q Fundraising

ME-Sen: Sara Gideon (D): $3.5 million raised, $2.8 million cash-on-hand

TX-Sen: MJ Hegar (D): $1.1 million raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

CA-21: David Valadao (R): $630,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

CA-39: Young Kim (R): $490,000 raised, $900,000 cash-on-hand

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R): $17,000 raised, additional $2,000 self-funded, $17,000 cash-on-hand

NY-24: John Katko (R-inc): $364,000 raised, $1.06 million cash-on-hand

WI-01: Bryan Steil (R-inc): $375,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AL-Sen: Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out with another poll of the March GOP primary from OnMessage that shows him well ahead of his many rivals but still short of the majority he needs to win without a runoff. The results are below with the numbers from Sessions' December poll in parentheses:

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions: 43 (44)

Rep. Bradley Byrne: 23 (14)

Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville: 22 (21)

2017 nominee Roy Moore: 8 (7)

The only big change between the two polls is that Byrne has gained several points and is now locked in a tight race with Tuberville for second.

Byrne has been running ads over the last few weeks, and he's now getting some air support from a super PAC called Fighting for Alabama Fund. The group's opening commercial praises Byrne as "one of President Trump's strongest defenders," and it features clips of the congressman denouncing impeachment. The conservative Yellowhammer News writes that the super PAC's "total buy will be in the six-figures across the Birmingham and Huntsville media markets."

WV-Sen: Candidate filing closed Saturday for West Virginia's May 12 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here.

GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito decisively won an open seat race in 2014, and there's no indication that she's in any trouble this cycle. Capito does face a primary challenge from Allen Whitt, the president of the social conservative group the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, but he doesn't appear to be much of a threat. Whitt raised less than $7,000 from donors during the final three months of 2019 and self-funded another $50,000, and he had $52,000 to spend at the end of December.

The most notable candidate on the Democratic side is former state Sen. Richard Ojeda, who lost the 2018 general election for the 3rd Congressional District and later launched a brief presidential bid. Also in the race is 2018 Senate candidate Paula Jean Swearengin, who challenged Sen. Joe Manchin from the left in the 2018 primary and lost 70-30.

Gubernatorial

WV-Gov: Gov. Jim Justice left the Democratic Party at a 2017 Trump rally months into his term, and he's competing in the GOP primary for the first time. Justice's main intra-party rival appears to be former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, whom Justice hired and later fired. Also in the running is former Del. Mike Folk, who hasn't brought in much money so far.

Thrasher, who has been self-funding most of his campaign, began airing TV ads in June and has continued to spend heavily on spots since then. However, even Thrasher seems to agree that he's trailing right now: A mid-December Thrasher poll showed Justice leading him 38-30, while Folk was a distant third with 6%.

Three notable Democrats are also running to take on Justice. Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango and state Sen. Ron Stollings each describe themselves as moderates, while community organizer Stephen Smith is appealing to progressive voters. Salango, who has also been self-funding much of his campaign, ended December with an enormous cash advantage over his two intra-party foes.

House

CA-22: Financial adviser Phil Arballo is out with his first TV spot ahead of the March top-two primary to face GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, and the Democrat's campaign says that it will run for six figures. The ad highlights Arballo's local roots and background and does not mention Nunes.

MA-03: Andover Selectman Dan Koh filed with the FEC on Friday for a potential Democratic primary rematch against incumbent Lori Trahan, but he says he's still deciding whether to run. Koh lost the 2018 open seat race to Trahan by just 145 votes, and he's been talking about running again for months. Back in December, the House Ethics Committee announced that it was furthering its investigation into Trahan over loans totaling $300,000 that she made to her campaign ahead of that primary.

MD-07: Campaign finance reports are in for all of the candidates competing in Tuesday's special Democratic primary to succeed the late Rep. Elijah Cummings in this safely blue seat. The numbers, which cover the period from Oct. 1 to Jan. 15, are below:

Del. Talmadge Branch: $54,000 raised, additional $4,000 self-funded, $14,000 spent, $44,000 cash-on-hand

State Sen. Jill Carter: $54,000 raised, $14,000 spent, $42,000 cash-on-hand

Former state party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings: $208,000 raised, $139,000 spent, $69,000 cash-on-hand

University of Baltimore Law School professor Michael Higginbotham: $108,000 raised, additional $509,000 self-funded, $407,000 spent, $209,000 cash-on-hand

Del. Terri Hill: $49,000 raised, $9,000 spent, $41,000 cash-on-hand

Del. Jay Jalisi: $43,000 raised, additional $75,000 self-funded, $0 spent, $118,000 cash-on-hand

Former Rep. Kweisi Mfume: $261,000 raised, additional $5,000 self-funded, $57,000 spent, $209,000 cash-on-hand

Business consultant Saafir Rabb: $217,000 raised, $144,000 spent, $73,000 cash-on-hand

Former Cummings aide Harry Spikes: $19,000 raised, $10,000 spent, $9,000 cash-on-hand

This is the first we've written about the two top spenders, Higginbotham and Rabb.

NY-27: Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw announced Monday that he'd compete in the June GOP primary for the full two-year term, a move that came two days after county party leaders passed him over for the party's nomination for upcoming special election in favor of state Sen. Chris Jacobs. Attorney and Fox News contributor Beth Parlato, who also lost on Saturday, had already launched a primary campaign for this 60-35 Trump seat.

Mychajliw, who was an ally of disgraced former Rep. Chris Collins, once again expressed his rage at how the special election nomination was "made behind closed doors by party bosses." And while Mychajliw was first elected as Erie County comptroller in 2012, he pitched himself as the anti-establishment candidate. Mychajliw rhetorically asked, "Can you imagine if Donald Trump listened to the establishment Republicans and let Jeb Bush run for the White House?" and concluded, "Hillary Clinton would be president right now."

Two other candidates who unsuccessfully sought the special election nod are also considering proceeding to the June primary. State Sen. Robert Ortt, who reportedly came close to beating Jacobs over the weekend, told the Buffalo Daily News on Monday that he'd decide in the next few days. White House aide Jeff Freeland, by contrast, said that he wouldn't be talking about his plans until impeachment is done.

However, as we've noted before, it's going to be tough to deny Jacobs the GOP nod in June, especially if so many other candidates run. The state attorney general's office told a court that Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to set the date for April 28, so if Jacobs wins that race, he'd have two months of incumbency before the primary.

SC-01: Freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham is out with his first TV spot of the campaign, and the Post & Courier reports that it's running for six figures.

The ad begins by referencing the commercials from GOP outside groups that have already run here and in other competitive seats across the country, with the narrator describing them as "[a]ttack ads so phony even late-night TV made fun of them." A clip then shows comedian Jimmy Kimmel mocking one Republican spot that starred a woman identified as Stacy by saying, "The problem is 'Stacy' is actually an actress … I bet her name's not even Stacy!"

Cunningham's narrator goes on to say that the congressman is the latest target. The commercial continues by praising Cunningham for keeping his word and passing a bipartisan bill to ban offshore oil drilling, working to aid local veterans, and stopping politicians who "tried to raise their own pay."

TX-13: Lobbyist Josh Winegarner is out with a TV spot ahead of the crowded March GOP primary where the narrator bemoans, "We have 15 candidates from Congress, many of them from out of district." He continues, "A Dallas millionaire's even trying to buy our seat." This person isn't mentioned by name, but it's almost certainly a reference to businessman Chris Ekstrom, who lived in Dallas as recently as May. (The city is located about 55 miles away from the border of this Texas Panhandle-based district.)

Winegarner's commercial goes on to praise the candidate as "a pro-life family man who cannot be bought." Winegarner appears at the end and says the district needs "one of our own."

Winegarner also got an endorsement this week from Rep. Mike Conaway, who is retiring from the neighboring 11th District.

WI-07: The anti-tax Club for Growth has launched its first TV spot in support of state Sen. Tom Tiffany ahead of the Feb. 18 special GOP primary, and Politico reports that the size of the buy is $130,000. The commercial argues that Tiffany will be a Trump ally who has "Wisconsin common sense."

Tiffany himself is also out with an ad where he tells the audience that, in addition to being a family man and a conservative, he's "the dam tender on the Willow Flowage. So, I know a thing or two about holding up under pressure." (We've seen a lot of political spots over the years, but we're quite sure this is the first time we've heard the words "dam tender" in one, much less from the candidate.) Tiffany goes on to say he'll be a Trump ally and that "nobody knows how to drain a swamp like a dam man."

DCCC: On Thursday, the DCCC unveiled the first round of its "Red to Blue" program for the 2020 election cycle, highlighting candidates whom the committee thinks has the strongest chance of picking up GOP-held districts or defending competitive open seats. The full list of candidates making the DCCC's initial roster are below:

AZ-06: Hiral Tipirneni CA-25: Christy Smith IA-02: Rita Hart IL-13: Betsy Dirksen Londrigan IN-05: Christina Hale MN-01: Dan Feehan MO-02: Jill Schupp NY-02: Jackie Gordon PA-10: Eugene DePasquale TX-21: Wendy Davis TX-23: Gina Ortiz Jones WA-03: Carolyn Long

Most of these candidates don't face any serious opposition in their primaries. The biggest exception is in California's 25th District where progressive commentator Cenk Uygur, who has long been a vocal opponent of national party leaders, is competing with Assemblywoman Christy Smith in March. The other is in Arizona's 6th District, where 2018 nominee Anita Malik is making a second run but has struggled to raise as much money as physician Hiral Tipirneni.

The DCCC's decision to back Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon in New York's 2nd District is also notable. Gordon launched a bid against GOP Rep. Peter King in the spring, but there was some talk of other Democrats getting in after King decided to retire in November. No other notable contenders have entered the Democratic primary, though, and it looks like the DCCC doesn't expect that to change.

The DCCC's counterparts at the NRCC have a similar program called Young Guns, but there are some key differences between them. When the DCCC adds a candidate to Red to Blue, it is declaring that this contender is the national party's choice in a key race. By contrast, the NRCC often will add multiple candidates running in the same race, as well as people running in safely red open seats.

Legislative

State Legislative Open Seat Watch: Just as we did in the 2018 cycle, Daily Kos Elections will be tracking open seat data for all state legislative chambers that will be holding regular elections in 2020. In seven states with closed filing deadlines, we've counted 70 Republican to 42 Democratic open seats. For individualized listings of each open seat, along with our calculations of their partisan data, check out this tab.

We'll also be keeping tabs on the number of uncontested seats in each chamber. So far, Republicans have failed to file candidates in 40% of Democratic-held districts, while Democrats have left 32% of Republican seats uncontested. However, these numbers are bound to change as more filing deadlines close across the country. (Note: West Virginia's filing deadline closed on January 25, but we are awaiting confirmation of the finalized candidate list from that state before updating our tracking.)

We'll be posting periodic updates on this project in the Daily Digest and on Twitter, but if you'd like to stay on top of every update as they happen, feel free to bookmark this Google Doc!