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.

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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.

Morning Digest: Texas’ suburbs zoomed left in 2020, but Democrats failed to make gains in the House

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

Leading Off

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide goes to Texas, where the GOP gerrymander helped the party hold on to 23 of the state's 36 U.S. House seats despite several Republican retirements. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden in Texas 52-46 four years after he beat Hillary Clinton 52-43 in the Lone Star State, a shift due in part to a decline in third-party voting. Trump once again carried 22 congressional districts while the remaining 14 constituencies backed Biden, but as we've seen in so many states, these seemingly stable toplines mask considerable churn just below the surface, which we'll explore below. To help you follow along, we've put together a sheet that compares the 2016 and 2020 presidential results by district and also includes the results for the 2020 House races.

Two districts did in fact flip on the presidential level: Trump lost the 24th District in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs while recapturing the 23rd District along the border with Mexico. Biden, however, made major gains in a number of other suburban districts and nearly won no fewer than seven of them. Trump, meanwhile, surged in many heavily Latino areas and likewise came close to capturing three, but except for the 24th, every Trump seat is in GOP hands and every Biden seat is represented by Democrats.

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The 24th, which includes the suburbs north of Dallas and Fort Worth, is in fact a good place to start because it saw one of the largest shifts between 2016 and 2020. The district began the decade as heavily Republican turf—it backed Mitt Romney 60-38—but Trump carried it by a substantially smaller 51-44 margin four years later. Biden continued the trend and racked up a 52-46 win this time, but the area remained just red enough downballot to allow Republican Beth Van Duyne to manage a 49-47 victory in an expensive open-seat race against Democrat Candace Valenzuela.

Biden fell just short of winning seven other historically red suburban seats: the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 10th, 21st, 22nd, and 31st, where Trump's margins ranged from just one to three points, and where the swings from 2016 ranged from seven points in the 22nd all the way to 13 points in the 3rd, the biggest shift in the state. However, as in the 24th, Biden's surge did not come with sufficient coattails, as Republicans ran well ahead of Trump in all of these seats (you can check out our guide for more information about each district).

Two seats that Democrats flipped in 2018 and stayed blue last year also saw large improvements for Biden. The 7th District in west Houston, parts of which were once represented by none other than George H.W. Bush from 1967 to 1971, had swung from 60-39 Romney to 48-47 Clinton, and Biden carried it 54-45 in 2020. Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher won by a smaller 51-47 spread against Wesley Hunt, who was one of the House GOP's best fundraisers. The 32nd District in the Dallas area, likewise, had gone from 57-41 Romney to 49-47 Clinton. This time, Biden took it 54-44 as Democratic Rep. Colin Allred prevailed 52-46.

Biden's major gains in the suburbs, though, came at the same time that Trump made serious inroads in predominantly Latino areas on or near the southern border with Mexico. That rightward shift may have cost Team Blue the chance to flip the open 23rd District, which stretches from San Antonio west to the outskirts of the El Paso area.

Romney carried this seat 51-48 before Clinton took it 50-46, but Trump won it 50-48 this time. That makes the 23rd the first Romney/Clinton/Trump seat we've found anywhere in the country, and it may in fact be the only one. Amid Trump's rise here, Republican Tony Gonzales beat Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones 51-47 to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Will Hurd, who had held off Ortiz Jones only 49.2-48.7 in 2018.

Trump also fell just short in three other seats along the Rio Grande Valley. The 15th District, which includes McAllen, had supported Clinton by a 57-40 margin, but Biden prevailed only 50-49 here. Democratic Rep. Vicente González, who had won his first two general elections with ease, likewise came shockingly close to losing his bid for a third term, fending off Republican Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez, who didn't raise much money, just 51-48 in a contest that attracted minimal outside spending from either party.

The 34th Congressional District around Brownsville similarly moved from 59-38 Clinton to 52-48 Biden, though Democratic Rep. Filemón Vela ran well ahead of the top of the ticket and prevailed 55-42. Finally, the Laredo-based 28th District went from 58-38 Clinton to 52-47 Biden. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who has long been one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, won 58-39 several months after he came close to losing renomination against a progressive opponent.

Governors

NJ-Gov: Democratic Assemblyman Jamel Holley, a notorious anti-vaxxer, last year did not rule out a primary challenge to Gov. Phil Murphy, but he's reportedly taken that option off the table and will instead run against state Sen. Joe Cryan, another fellow Democrat.

PA-Gov: Former healthcare executive Daniel Hilferty is reportedly considering a bid for governor as a Republican, but as the Philadelphia Inquirer's Andrew Seidman notes, he'd start off with a serious liability: Hilferty served on the host committee for Joe Biden's very first fundraising event for his presidential campaign, and he went on to donate more than $85,000 to help elect him.

TX-Gov: It's almost inevitable that, every four years, there's talk of a primary challenge to Texas' governor, and sometimes they even happen (see 2010), so why should this cycle be any different? The Dallas Morning News' Robert Garrett suggests Rep. Dan Crenshaw and former state Sen. Don Huffines as the latest possibilities, and an unnamed Crenshaw aide would only say that their boss is "not thinking about running." That places Crenshaw in the ranks of two other Republicans, both fanatical extremists, who previously did not rule out bids of their own: state party chair Allen West and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

Texas, however, has an early primary and consequently an early filing deadline, typically in December. What's more, Abbott already has $38 million in his campaign account, so any would-be primary opponents will need to engage soon.

House

LA-05: Julia Letlow, whose late husband, Luke Letlow, died last month from COVID-19 after winning an all-GOP runoff in Louisiana's 5th Congressional District, has announced that she will run in the March 20 special election for the now-vacant seat. Rep. Steve Scalise, the no. 2 House Republican and one of the most powerful GOP officials in Louisiana, also offered his endorsement.

In response, a number of fellow Republicans said they would defer to Letlow, including state Sen. Stewart Cathey, state Rep. Michael Echols, state Rep. Mike Johnson, and Ouachita Parish Police Juror Scotty Robinson. However, state Rep. Lance Harris, who lost the December runoff, hasn't commented about his plans following Letlow's decision, nor has another potential candidate, state Rep. Chris Turner.

Votes: David Jarman takes a look at four consequential votes within the last couple weeks — the second impeachment of Donald Trump, the vote to challenge Pennsylvania’s electors, the vote to provide $2,000 stimulus checks, and the vote to override the veto of the National Defense Authorization Act — and finds that when the votes are aggregated, House Republicans are genuinely in some disarray. Their votes fall into 11 different permutations, which show some interesting fissures not just on the usual moderate-to-hard-right spectrum but also some other, harder-to-describe axes.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: City Council President Kim Janey, who would become mayor should incumbent Marty Walsh be confirmed as U.S. secretary of labor, confirmed this week that she was considering running in her own right this year. State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz meanwhile, announced Thursday that he wouldn't enter the race.

Cincinnati, OH Mayor, OH-Sen: Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, who was the 2018 Democratic nominee for Ohio's 1st Congressional District, announced Thursday that he would run to succeed termed-out Democratic incumbent John Cranley this year. Pureval, who is of Indian and Tibetan ancestry, would be the first Asian American elected to this post.

Pureval challenged Republican Rep. Steve Chabot a little more than two years ago for a seat that includes about three-quarters of Cincinnati (the balance is in the 2nd District) and lost the very expensive campaign 51-47. Pureval decided to run for re-election last year rather than seek a rematch against Chabot, and he beat his Republican foe 57-43 as Joe Biden was carrying Hamilton County by a similar 57-41 margin. Pureval hadn't ruled out a 2022 bid against Republican Sen. Rob Portman when he was asked about it back in October, but his mayoral campaign means we can cross him out for that race.

Pureval joins a May 4 nonpartisan primary that already includes a number of fellow Democrats, and more could enter the race ahead of the Feb. 18 filing deadline. Former Mayor Mark Mallory, who served from 2005 to 2013, and City Councilman Chris Seelbach have each been gathering petitions, though neither has announced that they're in yet.

The Cincinnati Business Courier's Chris Wetterich also reports that two other Democrats, Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus and former County Commissioner David Pepper, who also recently stepped down as state party chair, are also considering.

Fort Worth, TX Mayor: Nonprofit head Mattie Parker, who served as chief of staff for the mayor and council under retiring GOP incumbent Betsy Price, said this week that she was considering a bid for mayor.

New York City, NY Mayor: Businessman Andrew Yang, who waged an unsuccessful bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, announced Wednesday that he would run for mayor. Yang would be the city's first Asian American mayor.

Yang, who launched his campaign by pledging to implement the universal basic income plan locally that he championed during his White House bid, entered the contest with the backing of freshman Rep. Ritchie Torres, who represents a seat located in the Bronx. Yang joins a number of other candidates in the June 22 Democratic primary, which will be conducted using instant-runoff voting.

Yang has lived in New York City since 1996, but he's had little involvement in city politics until now: Indeed, City & State reported last month that he had not even voted in any of the last four mayoral elections.

Yang also attracted some bad press this week when he explained that he'd temporarily relocated to upstate New York last year as the pandemic worsened by saying, "We live in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. And so, like, can you imagine trying to have two kids on virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment, and then trying to do work yourself?" That remark quickly drew plenty of scorn from his rivals, who didn't hesitate to portray him as out-of-touch with regular New Yorkers.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now: Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged on Thursday with two misdemeanor counts of "willful neglect of duty" stemming from his role in the Flint water crisis, and eight other state and local officials were also indicted Thursday by Attorney General Dana Nessel. Snyder, who pleaded not guilty, could be punished with up to a year in prison on each charge.