Morning Digest: A Georgia justice could be the first to lose in over a century

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

GA Supreme Court: If former Democratic Rep. John Barrow wins his bid for the Georgia Supreme Court later this month, he'll accomplish something no one in the state has managed in over 100 years: unseating an incumbent justice.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, such an event hasn't happened since Richard Russell Sr. beat Chief Justice William Fish back in 1922. (Russell was the father and namesake of the segregationist Sen. Richard Russell, who, as Robert Caro detailed in "Master of the Senate," was a key mentor to Lyndon Johnson.)

Not many justices, though, have ever even been in danger of losing, since it's rare for sitting Georgia judges to face any opponents at all. The AJC noted last month that conservative Justice Andrew Pinson was the only one of four Supreme Court justices and six Court of Appeals judges up this year who drew a challenger, while just five of 122 trial court judges across the state have any sort of opposition.

And most justices haven't even needed to win an election to earn a spot on the high court in the first place. Instead, the vast majority have been appointed to fill vacancies, making open-seat races as uncommon as contested elections.

Sometimes elections don't even happen at all, as Barrow found out the hard way not long ago. That's because justices can time their departure to make sure their successor doesn't even need to appear on the ballot for several years.

Barrow had launched a campaign in 2019 to succeed retiring Justice Robert Benham, who was the last Democratic appointee on the Supreme Court. That election was scheduled to take place the following year, but it was called off after Benham decided to resign rather than serve out his term, thanks to a Georgia law that allows newly appointed judges to spend at least six months on the bench before they have to face the voters.

But Barrow now has the chance to score a historic victory against Pinson on May 21, which is the same day that the Peach State will holds its primaries for other offices. No other candidates are running in this officially nonpartisan race, so this contest will be settled without a November runoff.

While Barrow was one of the more conservative Democrats during his time in the House, which ended following his loss Republican Rick Allen during the 2014 GOP wave, he's focused his comeback bid on his opposition to the state's six-week abortion ban.

"It’s the most important decision the Supreme Court of Georgia is going to make in the next 20 years," he told local Democrats of the ongoing legal challenges to the law. "Politicians shouldn’t be making your personal health care decisions."

Pinson, for his part, has argued he can't talk about issues like abortion that could come before the court. He notably declined to attend a recent debate by arguing his appearance could breach state judicial codes, an argument his opponent was not impressed with.

"The only thing worse than his record is that he’s too chicken to come here and stick up for himself," Barrow said at the event, which proceeded despite Pinson's absence.

A win for Barrow wouldn't change the ideological majority of the nine-person court, as Pinson and almost every other member were appointed by Republican governors. (The one exception is Justice John Ellington, who won a six-year term at the ballot box in 2018 with support from figures in both parties.) Should Barrow prevail, though, it would be another strong sign that Georgia's shift to the left during the last few years isn't over.

Senate

MD-Sen: Rep. David Trone has removed a put-down charging that the Senate "is not a place for training wheels" from a new negative ad attacking his opponent in the May 14 Democratic primary, Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, per a new report from Axios' Stephen Neukam.

Neukam notes that the edit came after more than 650 Black women signed a letter charging that the remark, which was uttered by Prince George's County Council member Edward Burroughs, was "not only disparaging and dismissive but also echoes tones of misogyny and racism." Trone, who is white, used the phrase himself in an NBC interview that aired earlier this week.

Trone's campaign claims the change to his commercial was made because his editors "chose to make a number of additional edits" after coming across other clips they found "compelling," according to Neukam.

MI-Sen: Wealthy businessman Sandy Pensler is returning to the airwaves and reportedly plans to continue advertising on TV through the Aug. 6 Republican primary. The Detroit News relays an AdImpact analysis finding that Pensler has spent at least $655,000 so far and reserved nearly $1 million more over the next three weeks.

Pensler's latest ad targets Rep. Elissa Slotkin, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, by trying to associate her with Squad member and fellow Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib. However, a senior adviser said Pensler also plans to "spend a serious amount" on commercials introducing himself and attacking former Rep. Mike Rogers, who is the favorite of national and state Republicans.

Pensler has raised almost nothing from donors but self-funded at least $3 million so far this cycle, much as he's used his personal wealth to fund prior campaigns for office. His latest financial disclosure forms indicated a net worth of anywhere from $80 million to $116 million, so there may be many more campaign ads to come.

House

CA-16: Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has publicized an early April internal from Lake Research Partners that shows him leading Assemblyman Evan Low 36-26 in the all-Democratic general election.

Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin notes that another question from this poll surfaced weeks ago when it looked as though there would be a three-way contest. That configuration saw Liccardo with a smaller 26-21 advantage over Low as another Democrat, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, took 20%.

A former Liccardo staffer named Jonathan Padilla, unexpectedly requested a recount shortly after that survey was concluded, and it ultimately resulted in Simitian failing to advance.

IN-03: The hardline Club for Growth is airing a commercial targeting former Judge Wendy Davis ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary that she argues violates a new Indiana law by "dub[bing] together words and unrelated statements … to form a sentence that fits their absurd claims."

The audience hears Davis ostensibly saying, "In our government, we lack diversity of ethnicity, diversity of different religions. We don't have enough inclusion that I believe the constitution, still a living and breathing and living document, requires." Davis' campaign quickly responded by declaring that what appears to be a single statement was "spliced" together from an hour-long event, and that she was trying to get the spot taken off the air.

Davis also cited a bill GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb signed in March that requires a continuous disclaimer to be on screen during ads that are altered in a way that "conveys a materially inaccurate depiction of the individual’s speech, appearance, or conduct as recorded in the unaltered recording."

Davis is one of eight Republicans competing in the expensive primary to succeed Rep. Jim Banks, who is unopposed for the GOP's Senate nod, in the 3rd District, a longtime conservative stronghold in the Fort Wayne area. Her main intra-party rivals appear to be former Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who is Banks' immediate predecessor; wealthy businessman Tim Smith; and state Sen. Andy Zay.

The Club has spent about $510,000 on messaging against Davis and Smith. While the group has not endorsed anyone, it was close to Stutzman during his previous stint in Congress—though not close enough to rescue his ailing Senate campaign ahead of his landslide 2016 primary loss to fellow Rep. Todd Young.

However, the Club has been far outspent by two super PACs that do not want to see Stutzman back in the lower chamber. One of them, America Leads Action, is working to defeat hardline candidates who could pose a headache for the House leadership and has deployed $1.6 million to thwart his comeback.

Stutzman demonstrated during the 2010s he was exactly the type of Republican congressman that ALA doesn't want more of. Among other things, he infamously said during the 2013 government shutdown, "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

A different group, Winning for Women, has spent another $1.1 million to promote Davis, who is the only woman in the race, and attack Stutzman.

The former congressman, though, has benefited from close to $700,000 in support from an array of groups tied to the House Freedom Caucus and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Zay, meanwhile, has mostly gone ignored, except for $100,000 that a super PAC called Honest Hoosiers has expended on his behalf.

MI-08: VoteVets has endorsed businessman Matt Collier, a former Flint mayor who served in the Army, in the Aug. 6 Democratic primary for this competitive open seat.

MI-13: Freshman Rep. Shri Thanedar's campaign announced Tuesday it was challenging the signatures of former state Sen. Adam Hollier, who is his main opponent in the August Democratic primary, because it believes he failed to turn in the requisite 1,000 valid signatures. Among other things, Thanedar's team alleges that 85 of Hollier's signatures were forged.

The Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer writes, "[I]t's hard to look at the signatures on nine of 10 petition pages provided to the Free Press by Thanedar and not conclude that they'd been written by the same person; that they're forgeries, and not very good ones, at that."

Kaffer also says that she noticed that one of those signatures ostensibly belonged to a Free Press colleague, Tresa Baldas, who responded, "That's not my signature." All of these questionable pages came from a single circulator named Londell Thomas, who did not respond to the paper's inquiry. Thanedar's team is asking election officials to throw out all petition pages from Thomas even if individual signatures aren't suspect on the basis that Thomas is a "Fradulent canvasser."

Hollier's team responded to questions about why Baldas' name was there by telling Kaffer, "Some issues have been brought to our attention related to a small number of the nomination signatures that were collected on behalf of our campaign." The campaign went on to express confidence that a "significant number of the challenges filed against our signatures are erroneous."

It's up to the elections commission in Wayne County, which makes up the entire 13th District, to decide on the validity of the challenged signatures, though its decision can be appealed to the Wayne County Circuit Court. Kaffer says the whole process may not be settled until early next month.

Forged signatures have ended the campaigns of several Michigan politicians. Republican Rep. Thad McCotter famously was thrown off the ballot in 2012 after his campaign handed in fraudulent signatures.

A decade later, five GOP candidates for governor, including nominal frontrunner James Craig, were similarly disqualified after they fell victim to a massive fraud scandal. McCotter remarked to Local 4 in response, "In the immortal words of Bill Clinton, ‘I feel your pain.'"

NC-13: Wealthy attorney Kelly Daughtry announced on Thursday that she was dropping out of the May 14 Republican primary runoff and endorsing her opponent, former federal prosecutor Brad Knott.

Before quitting the race, Daughtry had spent millions of her own money on her campaign, just as she did in her unsuccessful 2022 bid for the previous version of this seat. She took first place in the March primary with a 27-19 lead over Knott, but that was short of the 30% needed to avoid a runoff.

Daughtry released an internal poll giving her a 51-32 edge in early April, but Donald Trump endorsed Knott just days later, and Daughtry said upon her departure that Trump's involvement had foreclosed her path to victory.

Daughtry's exit virtually assures that Knott will win this seat and succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel thanks to the GOP's new gerrymander. That new map transformed Nickel's swingy seat in Raleigh and its southern suburbs into a solidly red district comprised of exurbs and rural areas outside of Raleigh.

Although Knott is a first-time candidate, he has extensive connections to state Republicans. His brother, Tucker Knott, is chief of staff for Sen. Ted Budd, who endorsed the candidate after the first round of voting, and the Knott family also funded a super PAC that spent heavily on his behalf.

Daughtry is the second North Carolina Republican to bail on a House runoff this year. In March, former Rep. Mark Walker abandoned his bid for the open 6th District after Trump promised him a job on his presidential campaign, putting his Trump-endorsed opponent, lobbyist Addison McDowell, on a glide path to victory in another newly gerrymandered district.

NJ-08: A super PAC called America's Promise is spending $100,000 on a TV ad opposing Rep. Rob Menendez in the June 11 Democratic primary by linking him to his father, Sen. Bob Menendez, who will go on trial for corruption charges starting May 13. The younger Menendez has not been implicated in any of his father's alleged crimes, but the ad attacks him for defending his father, refusing to return campaign donations from the senator's PAC, and accepting contributions from corporate interests.

NV-03: Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo has endorsed wealthy music composer Marty O'Donnell for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Susie Lee. As the Nevada Independent noted when O'Donnell joined the race two months ago, the first-time candidate is using some of the same consultants who helped Lombardo get elected governor in 2022.

O'Donnell faces a GOP field that includes former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, former state Sen. Elizabeth Hegelian, and conservative columnist Drew Johnson, but Schwartz has a weak electoral history while the other two Republicans have struggled to raise money. Establishment Republicans began looking for a viable candidate after Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama dropped out in January to seek reelection, so Lombardo's endorsement is a sign that O'Donnell may now be their man.

VA-05: Bloomberg reports that American Patriots PAC has booked a hefty $3 million to help state Sen. John McGuire deny renomination to Rep. Bob Good, the Freedom Caucus chair who was one of the eight House Republicans who voted to end Kevin McCarthy's speakership last year. Good also infuriated Donald Trump's network last year by endorsing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' White House bid, but Trump himself has not yet taken sides.

The reservation from American Patriots PAC, which is funded by Republican megadonors Ken Griffin and Paul Singer, represents by far the largest planned expenditure in what's already an expensive June 18 primary for Virginia's 5th Congressional District. This constituency, which stretches from the Charlottesville area to western Southside Virginia, backed Trump 53-45, so the GOP nominee will be favored in November.

A new super PAC called Virginians for Freedom has already deployed almost $500,000 to make sure that McGuire is that nominee. The group has received funding from the American Prosperity Alliance, which is run by McCarthy allies looking to punish the Republicans who deposed him.

On top of that, the Republican Main Street Partnership, an organization devoted to stopping Republicans who like to cause grief for party leaders, previously told the New York Times it planned to spend $500,000 to end Good's career, though the FEC doesn't yet record any independent expenditures from the PAC.

While Main Street Partnership for decades had a reputation for supporting moderate Republicans, it's shown a willingness in recent years to back election deniers like McGuire, who attended the Jan. 6 Donald Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol.

But Good, who himself is an ardent Big Lie believer, still has some well-heeled allies. Protect Freedom PAC, which is affiliated with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, has spent close to $500,000 on messaging promoting the incumbent as "the true constitutional conservative." Yet even though Good runs the Freedom Caucus, its political arm has laid out less than $100,000 to protect its chief. The organization has a history of spending large sums in races it cares about, though, and there's still time to pour in more resources.

Perhaps the biggest question still looming over the race, however, is whether the GOP's supreme leader will eventually get involved and punish Good for his disloyalty. Trump campaign manager Chris LaCivita previewed trouble to come back in January when he told Cardinal News, "Bob Good won’t be electable when we get done with him."

Over the ensuing months, Trump has targeted two other disloyal House members, Florida Rep. Laurel Lee and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, but he hasn't gone after Good—yet. Many of Good's GOP colleagues, however, would be quite happy if Trump eventually took out his wrath on this apostate.

Six sitting House members, including Virginia Rep. Jen Kiggans and House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers of Alabama, hosted a fundraiser for McGuire in March. Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales, meanwhile, made his hatred of Good known to a national audience last month when he went on CNN and took the Freedom Caucus chair to task for endorsing gun maker Brandon Herrera, who is Gonzales' opponent in the May 28 GOP runoff.

"Bob Good endorsed my opponent, a known neo-Nazi," the Texan declared, adding, "These people used to walk around with white hoods at night; now they’re walking around with white hoods in the daytime." (Herrera, who has made jokes about Nazis and the Holocaust, tweeted Sunday, "This should be obvious, but I am not, nor have I never been a neo-Nazi.")

Good, meanwhile, made news last month when he endorsed former West Virginia Del. Derrick Evans, who served 90 days in prison for his participation in the Jan. 6 riot, in his May 14 GOP primary challenge to Rep. Carol Miller. That move came after House Speaker Mike Johnson told CNN he was "vehemently opposed to member-on-member action in primaries," an admonition his caucus seems to have completely ignored.

Ballot Measures

SD Ballot: Abortion rights advocates in South Dakota announced Wednesday they'd submitted about 55,000 signatures to put a constitutional amendment before voters that would end the state's near-total ban on abortion, which is about 20,000 more than the minimum. Election officials have until Aug. 13 to verify that organizers submitted at least 35,017 valid signatures to place this amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot, where it would need a simple majority to pass.

The proposal would specifically bar the state from imposing regulations on abortion access during the first trimester of pregnancy. It also establishes that during the second trimester, "the State may regulate the pregnant woman's abortion decision and its effectuation only in ways that are reasonably related to the physical health of the pregnant woman." For the final trimester, the state would be permitted to retain the status quo.

Several pro-choice groups have taken issue with what they've argued is a weak amendment. The state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union put out a statement claiming the proposal "does not have the strongest legal standard by which a court must evaluate restrictions on abortion, and thereby runs the risk of establishing a right to abortion in name only." The regional Planned Parenthood affiliate has likewise declined to endorse the campaign.

Judges

LA Redistricting: Republican Gov. Jeff Landry has signed a bipartisan bill that revamps Louisiana's Supreme Court districts to create a second majority-Black district, the first redraw since earlier litigation prompted lawmakers to pass the current map in 1997. Louisiana is roughly one-third Black, but only one of the current seven districts, the New Orleans-based 7th, enables Black voters to elect their preferred candidate.

The new map creates a 2nd District that unites Baton Rouge with parishes along the Mississippi border and parts of central Louisiana. It replaces a majority-white and solidly Republican seat with a 55% Black district that would have favored Joe Biden 60-39 in 2020, according to VEST data from Dave's Redistricting App. Republican Justice Scott Crichton, who is white, isn't seeking reelection, and a Black Democrat will likely win this fall's contest to succeed him.

Landry and his fellow Republicans supported the new map to bring costly litigation to an end, an approach similar to the one they took when they redrew the state's congressional map earlier this year. However, a federal court overturned that map earlier this week for relying excessively on race. The new Supreme Court map could likewise be vulnerable to a lawsuit given the similarities of some districts, though an alternative map with a pair of more compact majority-Black districts is possible.

Mayors & County Leaders

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Former federal prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah announced Wednesday that he was dropping out of the May 14 Democratic primary and endorsing former Mayor Sheila Dixon.

Vignarajah, whose name will remain on the ballot, took a distant third place in a pair of independent surveys conducted in April, but his departure could help Dixon consolidate support against incumbent Brandon Scott. It only takes a simple plurality to win the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to election in this loyally blue city, and a large number of lesser-known candidates remain in the race.

Other Races

Miami-Dade, FL Elections Supervisor: Donald Trump on Tuesday night endorsed Republican state Rep. Alina Garcia, who is campaigning to be the top elections administrator for Florida's most populous county. But when asked about Trump's many election lies the follow day, Garcia declined to push back.

"In reference to the 2020 elections, I can only speak to how the elections were conducted in Florida and in Miami-Dade County, which were fair, transparent and the results reported timely," she told the Miami Herald's Douglas Hanks. Garcia previously told the paper that, while she believed most elections were "fair," many "don’t always feel that they’re fair, and perception is very important."

Garcia, who already had Sen. Marco Rubio's backing, faces attorney Megan Pearl in the Aug. 20 GOP primary, while attorney J.C. Planas has the Democratic side to himself. The field may not be set, though, because the deadline to run for county office in Florida doesn't pass until June 14. (Last Friday was the deadline to run for Congress and most other offices.)

The job this trio is seeking is currently held by an appointed incumbent, Christina White, a Democrat who unexpectedly announced last year that she would not run for a full term.

In 2018, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that requires every county to elect rather than appoint certain officers, including election supervisors, and 2024 is the first time that Miami-Dade County voters will pick their elections chief. (The post was previously filled by the county mayor.)

Last week, Trump also took sides in the primary for sheriff by backing Rosie Cordero-Stutz, an official with the Miami-Dade Police Department. Hanks earlier this week reported that Trump decided to support Cordero-Stutz after an April 7 meeting at his Doral compound during a golf tournament.

Trump also reportedly also told another local politician in attendance that she could call on him if she wanted his endorsement. But Doral City Council member Maureen Porras demurred, and not just because she's a Democrat.

"I said, ‘Well, thank you very much, but I’m not up for election,'" she recounted to Hanks. Porras is up again in 2026.

VA-LG: Democratic state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi announced Thursday that she would seek the post held by Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, a Republican whom local political observers anticipate will run for governor next year rather than seek reelection.

Hashmi, who immigrated from India as a child, won her current office in 2019 by unseating Republican state Sen. Glen Sturtevant 54-46 in a closely watched race in the Richmond area. That victory, which helped Democrats retake the state Senate, made Hashmi the first Muslim to serve in the upper chamber, as well as the first Muslim woman in the entire legislature.

Following the most recent round of redistricting, Hashmi's district was made safer, and she easily earned reelection last year as Sturtevant returned in a different seat. Because the entire 40-member state Senate won't be up against until 2027, Hashmi won't need to give up her current job in order to run next year.

Hashmi joins a primary that includes Prince William County School Board Chairman Babur Lateef, fellow state Sen. Aaron Rouse, and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. The lieutenant governor serves as the tiebreaker in the state Senate, where Hashmi and Rouse are part of a narrow 21-19 Democratic majority.

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: Congressman turned unsuccessful fast-food proprietor seeks comeback

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

The NRCC was recently bashing Democratic candidates who lost elections in previous years as "week old crusty lasagna," so surely that gustatory slur should apply to Republicans too, right? Ex-Rep. Denny Rehberg, once a touted recruit, was last on the ballot in 2012, when Sen. Jon Tester sent him packing. Since then, he's operated a bunch of fast-food restaurants, all of which have since shuttered. (What was that about past-their-prime vittles?) Oh, and he also became a lobbyist. Read more at Daily Kos Elections about Rehberg's quest to win eastern Montana's maybe-open House seat.

He may have co-founded No Labels, but now he wants to adopt at least one label: Former CNN anchor John "Fipp" Avlon just launched a campaign for Congress on Long Island under the banner of the Democratic Party. His problem is that he's not the only person with that idea, since he's joining a crowded primary that already has a frontrunner—and he'll have to explain to voters why a longtime Manhattanite who never voted in Suffolk County prior to 2020 is the right fit for the district. Jeff Singer handicaps the evolving Democratic primary to take on first-term Republican Nick LaLota.

The Downballot

The economy seems to be going great, but lots of voters still say they aren't feeling it. So how should Democrats deal with this conundrum? On this week's episode of "The Downballot," communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio tells us that the first step is to reframe the debate, focusing not on "the economy"—an institution many feel is unjust—but rather on voters' economic well-being. Shenker-Osorio advises Democrats to run on a populist message that emphasizes specifics, like delivering tangible kitchen-table economic benefits and protecting personal liberties, including the right to an abortion.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also investigate the new candidacy of rich guy Eric Hovde, the latest in a long line of GOP Senate candidates who have weak ties to the states they want to represent. Then it's on to redistricting news in two states: Wisconsin, which will have fair legislative maps for the first time in ages, and New York, where Democrats are poised to nuke a new congressional map that no one seems to like.

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

Senate

CA-Sen: Analyst Rob Pyers highlights that Fairshake, a super PAC funded by cryptocurrency firms, has deployed an additional $3.2 million against Democratic Rep. Katie Porter. This brings the group's total investment to $6.8 million with less than two weeks to go before the March 5 top-two primary.

MD-Sen: Former Gov. Larry Hogan has publicized an internal poll from Ragnar Research conducted about a week before the Republican unexpectedly entered the race, and it shows him far ahead of both of the major Democrats. The numbers, which were first shared with Punchbowl News, show Hogan outpacing Rep. David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks 49-33 and 52-29, respectively. The memo did not include numbers pitting Joe Biden against Donald Trump in this blue state.

MI-Sen: The Michigan-based pollster EPIC-MRA finds Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin narrowly edging out former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers 39-38 in a hypothetical general election as respondents favor Donald Trump 45-41 over Joe Biden. There is no word if the firm had a client for this survey, though The Detroit Free Press, which often employs EPIC-MRA and first reported these numbers, says that this poll was not conducted on its behalf.

House

AL-01: The Club for Growth has launched a $580,000 TV buy to help Rep. Barry Moore fend off fellow incumbent Jerry Carl in the March 5 Republican primary, an ad campaign that comes more than three months after Moore insisted he wouldn't "accept support" from the well-funded group. But Moore, as we explained at the time, may have issued this public disavowal to stay on the good side of Donald Trump, whose on-again, off-again feud with the Club was very much "on" last year.

Politico reported earlier this month that Club head David McIntosh and Trump have again made peace, though Moore doesn't appear to have said anything new about the Club. However, independent expenditure organizations like the Club's School Freedom Fund affiliate don't need a candidate's permission to get involved and in fact cannot legally seek it.

The Club, of course, is behaving like there never was any feud: Its opening commercial promotes Moore as an ardent Trump ally, complete with a clip of him proclaiming, "Go Trump!" Carl goes unmentioned in the script, though his image appears alongside Mitch McConnell's as the narrator attacks "weak-kneed RINOs." The buy comes shortly after another pro-Moore organization, the House Freedom Caucus, launched what AdImpact reported was a $759,000 buy targeting Carl.

CA-16: Primary School flags that a super PAC called Next Generation Veteran Fund has now spent close to $1.1 million to promote businessman Peter Dixon, who is one of the many Democrats competing in the March 5 top-two primary to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo in Silicon Valley. The organization, which says it is "exclusively supporting former U.S. Marine Peter Dixon," is connected to the With Honor Fund, a group co-founded by Dixon that backs military veterans in both parties.

Dixon is one of several well-funded Democrats on the ballot, but he's the only one who hasn't previously held elected office. His opponents include former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Assemblyman Evan Low, and Eshoo's endorsed candidate, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian. Palo Alto City Councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims is also competing, though she finished 2023 with considerably less money than the rest of the pack. (Updated fundraising reports covering Jan. 1 through Feb. 14 are due Thursday evening.)

Dixon's backers at Next Generation Veteran Fund, according to OpenSecrets, have also spent considerably more than any other outside group. Liccardo and Low have each received just over $300,000 in aid from allied super PACs, while about $250,000 has been spent to boost Simitian. None of these PACs have spent in any other contests this year.

Joe Biden carried the 16th District 75-22, so there's a good chance that two Democrats will advance to the Nov. 5 general election. Indeed, the Palo Alto Daily Post writes that one of the two Republican candidates, self-described "small business owner" Karl Ryan, appears to have done no campaigning and has an AI-generated website that "includes made-up quotes from made-up people, and a single photo of Ryan with what appears to be his family."

CO-04: Colorado Politics' Ernest Luning writes that most of the 11 Republicans campaigning to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ken Buck say they'll try to reach the June 25 primary ballot both by collecting signatures and by competing at the party convention. (We explain Colorado's complex ballot access process here.)

The only candidate who appears to have said he'll only take part in the convention, which usually occurs in early April, is former state Sen. Ted Harvey. Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg, meanwhile, said at a debate that he's currently only going the convention route but held open the possibility of also gathering signatures.

MN-03: Former state judge Tad Jude announced this week that he'd seek the GOP nod to replace Democratic Rep. Dean Philips, who is continuing on with his quixotic bid for president. But Jude, who has a political career stretching back five decades, may be tilting at windmills himself: While Republicans were the dominant party in this highly educated suburban Twin Cities seat before Donald Trump entered the White House, Joe Biden carried the 3rd District 60-39 in 2020.

Jude was elected to the legislature as a 20-year-old Democrat in 1972, and he still carried that party label in 1992 when he narrowly failed to unseat Rep. Gerry Sikorski in the primary for the 6th District. (Sikorski went on to badly lose reelection to Republican Rod Grams.) Jude soon switched parties and claimed the 1994 GOP nod to replace Grams, who left to wage a successful Senate campaign, but he lost a tight general election to Democrat Bill Luther.

After decisively losing a rematch against Luther two years later, Jude eventually returned to elected office by winning a packed 2010 race for a local judgeship. He left the bench ahead of the 2022 elections to campaign for attorney general, and he responded to his defeat at the GOP convention by switching to the race for Hennepin County prosecutor. That effort, though, also ended after Jude took fourth place in the nonpartisan primary.

MO-03: The Missouri Scout's Dave Drebes reports that state Rep. Justin Hicks has filed FEC paperwork for a potential campaign to replace his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer.

The site also has a candidate tracker for the August GOP primary, and it identifies three names we hadn't heard before as "considering": Cole County Prosecutor Locke Thompson, former state House Speaker Rob Vescovo, and state Rep. Tricia Byrnes. The Scout also lists in the "OUT" column state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer (whom Drebes has said is the congressman's cousin "of some indeterminate distance") and state Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden. The filing deadline is March 26.

NY-26: Republican leaders nominated West Seneca Supervisor Gary Dickson on Wednesday as their candidate for a difficult April 30 special election to succeed former Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins. Dickson, who was chosen a day before the deadline to pick nominees, will take on Democratic state Sen. Tim Kennedy in a Buffalo area constituency that Joe Biden carried 61-37 in 2020. (Democrats tapped Kennedy in mid-January.)

However, the two men may not have the ballot to themselves. Former Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, who was the Democrats' nominee three straight times in the now-defunct 27th District, is trying to collect enough signatures to appear on the ballot as an independent. McMurray previously announced that he would campaign for a full term in the June Democratic primary.

PA-10: EMILYs List on Wednesday endorsed former local TV anchor Janelle Stelson ahead of the six-way April 23 Democratic primary to take on far-right Rep. Scott Perry. Only one other Democrat, however, finished 2023 with a six-figure bank account. Marine veteran Mike O'Brien led Stelson $186,000 to $140,000 in cash on hand, while former local public radio executive Blake Lynch was far back with $22,000.

Perry, for his part, had $547,000 available to defend himself. This seat, which is based in the Harrisburg and York areas, favored Donald Trump 51-47 in 2020.

TN-07: Music video producer Robby Starbuck tells The Tennessee Journal's Andy Sher that he's interested in running to replace retiring Republican Rep. Mark Green in the 7th District, though whether he can even appear on the August GOP primary ballot may not be up to him.

Starbuck campaigned for the neighboring 5th District in 2022 three years after relocating from California to Tennessee, but party leaders ruled that he was not a "bona fide" Republican because he hadn't yet voted in enough primaries in his new home state.

Starbuck unsuccessfully went to court to challenge the GOP for keeping his name off the ballot, but that move may have ended his hopes for future cycles: The state Republican Party passed new by-laws last month stating that any person who's sued the party cannot appear on a primary ballot for the ensuing decade.

Party chair Scott Golden informs Sher that GOP leaders could grant Starbuck the waiver they denied him two years ago, which would allow him to compete in the primary for the 7th District. Still, Golden added that he believed the would-be candidate's primary voting record still prevented him from meeting the regular definition of a "bona fide" Republican.

Sher also reports that state Sen. Kerry Roberts is reportedly interested in seeking the GOP nod if her colleague, Bill Powers, stays out of the race. The candidate filing deadline is April 4.

WA-05: Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner, a Republican who previously said he was considering competing for this conservative open seat, tells the Washington State Standard he is "receiving overwhelming support to run and could likely make an announcement early next week." He even listed his campaign's likely co-chairs, including Dino Rossi, who was the unsuccessful GOP nominee for competitive races for governor, the Senate, and the 8th Congressional District over the past two decades.

Mayors & County Leaders

Maricopa County, AZ Board of Supervisors: Far-right Rep. Debbie Lesko confirmed Tuesday that she would run for the seat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors held by incumbent Clint Hickman, a fellow Republican who is retiring following years of harassment from Big Lie spreaders. We took a detailed look at the elections for the five-member body that leads Arizona's largest county in our story previewing a possible Lesko bid earlier this week.

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Morning Digest: North Carolina Democrats have a long but plausible path to retaking Supreme Court

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

NC Supreme Court: Longtime jurist Mike Morgan, one of the last two Democratic justices on North Carolina's Supreme Court, announced on Thursday that he would not seek reelection when his current eight-year term is up next year. His decision leaves open a critical seat that Democrats must defend as part of a long-term plan that represents their only realistic path toward rolling back the GOP's iron grip on state politics.

Morgan's 54-46 victory over Republican incumbent Robert Edmunds in 2016 gave Democrats control of the court for the first time since the late 1990s, putting it in a position to finally impose some curbs on GOP lawmakers. Those same lawmakers, however, reacted to Morgan's win by transforming what had previously been nonpartisan elections into partisan contests, meaning that Supreme Court candidates would be identified by their party labels on the ballot.

But that change failed to achieve the outcome Republicans wanted as Democrat Anita Earls flipped a second GOP seat in 2018. And thanks to the resignation of the Republican chief justice the following year, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper was able to appoint a replacement, extending Democrats' majority to 6-1. Under Democratic leadership, the court handed down rulings in many areas that clamped down on Republican power-grabs and efforts to undermine democracy, including a critical decision just last year holding that partisan gerrymandering violated the state constitution.

That era did not last long. Republicans narrowly won two Democratic seats in 2020, including one by just 401 votes, then won two more last year by margins of 4-5 points. That string of victories returned the GOP to the majority and left Morgan and Earls as the only Democrats and only Black justices on the court. It also immediately ushered in a series of decisions that saw the Republican justices overturn multiple rulings in favor of voting rights by the previous Democratic majority, including the case outlawing gerrymandering.

As a result, Republican legislators will once again be able to draw maps that favor them in the extreme, allowing them to lock in supermajorities despite North Carolina's perennial swing-state status. And the road back to fair maps is a narrow one. North Carolina doesn't allow its citizens to pass laws or amend their constitution through ballot initiatives, and the governor lacks the power to veto redistricting plans. With federal courts closing their doors to partisan gerrymandering challenges thanks to the far-right majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, the only option is for Democrats to focus all their energies on winning back the state Supreme Court.

The road, however, is a long one. It starts with defending Morgan's seat in 2024, though if Democrats are successful, his decision not to run again would come with a silver lining: Morgan would have faced mandatory retirement at the age of 72 in 2027, less than halfway through a second term. A younger justice, by contrast, would be able to serve the full eight years.

They'll then have to ensure Earls wins reelection in 2026 (she would not hit the mandatory retirement age until 2032). After that, they'd have to win two of the three Republican seats that will be up in 2028 for a 4-3 majority. It's also critical that they elect Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein to succeed Cooper next year, since he'd be able to fill any vacancies that arise, including when Republican Chief Justice Paul Newby turns 72 in 2027. A Stein victory would also prevent Republicans from adding two seats to the court that a GOP governor could fill, a plan Republicans have been contemplating for some time.

Republicans also have more immediate designs on changing the rules to benefit themselves. A Republican bill would raise the retirement age to 76, which would allow Newby to complete his term, which otherwise would conclude at the end of 2028, and even run for reelection that year. That would also prevent Stein, should he prevail, from naming a Democrat to Newby's seat in 2027. This retirement provision is included in the GOP's recently unveiled budget, suggesting it's likely to pass before the legislature adjourns this summer.

Yet while 2028 might seem far away, it's still within reach. North Carolina Democrats had to wait 18 years, from 1998 to 2016, to regain a court majority, while progressives in Wisconsin, another similarly swingy state, at last reclaimed control of their own high court earlier this year after a 15-year drought. The horizon this time is five years off. And given the new 12-week abortion ban Republicans just passed over Cooper's veto, Democrats will be able to highlight GOP extremism on the issue, an approach that proved very effective in Wisconsin. The path is not easy, but it is navigable, and it's the one Democrats must take.

Senate

MI-Sen: Michigan Board of Education President Pamela Pugh has filed FEC paperwork for a bid for the Democratic Senate nod. Pugh would be in for a challenging primary battle against Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA analyst and Department of Defense official who earned an endorsement this week from VoteVets.

Governors

KY-Gov: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is launching his first TV ad campaign on Monday, and the GOP firm Medium Buying says the incumbent is putting at least $454,000 behind it. The commercial does not mention Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who won Tuesday's GOP primary, and instead focuses on a first term where Beshear acknowledges, "We've been through a lot these past four years, and some days have been tougher than others."

The governor, who is seated in a church, continues by touting his record bringing jobs to Kentucky, establishing clean drinking water "to folks who've been overlooked and underserved," and working on disaster recovery. "My granddad and great-granddad were preachers in this church," he says before informing the audience, "It was flattened by the tornadoes. But when Kentuckians get knocked down, we get right back up again and we rebuild stronger and better than before."

LA-Gov: Republican Stephen Waguespack has launched what his team says is an opening "six-figure ad buy" for the October all-party primary less than two weeks after his super PAC allies began a $1.75 million campaign to get the first-time candidate's name out. Waguespack, who is a former head of the state's Chamber of Commerce affiliate, introduces himself as "Wags" before bemoaning the state's economic, education, and public safety struggles.

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

Northampton County, PA District Attorney: While Democratic incumbent Terry Houck almost certainly won the Republican nomination through a write-in campaign Tuesday, local Republican Party head Glenn Geissinger is making it clear that his organization won't do anything to help the district attorney in the general election. Instead, Geissinger tells LehighValleyNews.com that he's even spoken to an unidentified Republican interested in waging their own November write-in effort to compete with the incumbent and former local Judge Stephen Baratta, who beat Houck 54-46 for the Democratic nod. Biden won this Lehigh Valley county 50-49.

Obituaries

Charles Stenholm: Former Texas Rep. Charles Stenholm, a leader of the conservative "boll weevil" Democrats who lost his seat in rural West Texas in 2004 as a result of GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay's infamous gerrymander, died Wednesday at 84. The congressman, who was later a prominent Blue Dog Democrat, often frustrated his party during his 26-year career, though he always turned down GOP appeals to join their own ranks.  

Stenholm, who managed his family's cotton farm and was known as the "cotton farmer from Stamford" throughout his career, first got the chance to run for office in 1978 when his fellow Democrat, Rep. Omar Burleson, retired from what was then numbered the 17th District. While today the communities contained within the borders of that sprawling constituency, which included Abilene, are some of the most Republican places in America today, Democrats back then were still the dominant faction. Jimmy Carter, according to analyst Kiernan Park-Egan, had defeated President Gerald Ford 57-43 two years before, and Stenholm's decisive win in the primary runoff set him up for an easy victory in the fall.  

The new congressman was reelected without opposition in 1980 even as, per Park-Egan, Ronald Reagan triumphed 55-44 in his seat, and he quickly made himself an ally of the new administration. Stenholm was a prominent boll weevil, a faction that handed Reagan crucial victories on tax and budget bills in the Democratic-run House, and he even launched a doomed leadership challenge from the right against Speaker Tip O'Neil following Reagan's 1984 landslide. But the Texan thrived electorally during this era, and he didn't even face a single Republican foe for reelection until 1992―a campaign he won with 66%.

The incumbent experienced his first single-digit victory in 1994 when he prevailed 54-46 as the GOP was taking control of the House, a campaign that came weeks before Stenholm badly failed to unseat Michigan Rep. David Bonior as party whip, but he was still able to maintain more than enough crossover support to remain in office for another decade. Stenholm, whom Speaker Newt Gingrich unconvincingly dubbed "the most effective left-winger in Congress," experienced a closer scare in 1996 when he held on 52-47 against Republican Rudy Izzard as his constituents backed Bob Dole for president 50-39, but he won their rematch 54-45 the following cycle.

Stenholm was one of five Democrats to vote for three of the four articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton, but his area's increasing drift to the right made his political survival all the more difficult. In 2002 he secured another term 51-47 in a constituency that George W. Bush had won 72-28 two years prior (Donald Trump would have carried that version of the 17th 79-19 in 2020), a win that came the same day that Texas Republicans were taking full control of the legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.

DeLay soon engineered a gerrymandered map that led to a faceoff between Stenholm and Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer in a new 19th District that had favored Bush 75-25 and included far more of Neugebauer's territory, but the Democrat still fought to stay in office. Stenholm, who was the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, aired ads touting his seniority and "old-fashioned values," and he argued that he could do a better job providing for his district than his opponent. Stenholm, though, struggled to win crossover support from voters who didn't know him, especially with Bush himself touting Neugebauer, and he looked doomed well before Election Day.

Stenholm ran far ahead of John Kerry, but the new 19th was so red that it was far from enough: Bush took the new 19th 78-23, while Neugebauer toppled Stenholm 58-40. The Democrat, who went on to become a lobbyist and college instructor, did express optimism weeks after his defeat that four new Blue Dogs would be joining Congress, saying, "These Blue Puppies are very impressive. They will carry on the fight."

Morning Digest: Elections chief who advanced the Big Lie launches bid for West Virginia governor

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

WV-Gov, WV-Sen: Secretary of State Mac Warner, who runs West Virginia's elections even as he's helped spread election conspiracy theories, announced Tuesday that he was joining the 2024 primary to succeed his fellow Republican, termed-out Gov. Jim Justice.

Warner kicked off his campaign with a speech emphasizing service in the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps and declaring, "It is time to call-out the radical, woke, dangerous and ridiculous policies of the 'progressive' Administration in Washington, D.C." West Virginia Metro News' Brad McElhinny notes that in that address, the secretary of state "did not mention issues specific to West Virginia."

Warner, who won his job in 2016 by narrowly unseating Democratic incumbent Natalie Tennant, was respected by fellow election officials heading into the 2020 contest for his efforts to combat misinformation, but that very much changed after Election Day. That's because Warner, who had just decisively defeated Tennant in their rematch, spent the next weeks backing up lies about Donald Trump's defeat.

Warner appeared at a December "March for Trump" rally in the state, where he appeared to be holding up a "Stop the Steal" sign. He later said he didn't actually think he'd hoisted that particular banner, but there's no question the secretary of state told Trump's fans at that gathering that it was "so important to keep him in office."

Warner also supported Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's failed lawsuit to invalidate Joe Biden's win in four swing states. While he insisted he was concerned whether changes states made in how late mail-in ballots could be received were constitutional, Warner also spread lies alleging, "When cardboard is put over windows, when two cases of ballots come out, when ballots are pre-marked or don't have folds on it—there's all those things. Those are red flags that need to be looked at and not just discounted, and that's what the mainstream media wants us to do."

Warner the following year was the one person at the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting to vote against a bipartisan proposal by his colleagues to set a standard for election audits, and he soon withdrew from the group in protest. (Missouri's Jay Ashcroft, who is also likely to run in 2024 for governor of his own state, abstained.)

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Warner acknowledged Biden "was elected," but he still questioned if that contest was fairly run. He also argued that congressional Democrats' efforts to expand voting rights and the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear Paxton's suit are "what spurred on the Jan. 6 people."

Warner joins a GOP primary that includes Del. Moore Capito and auto dealer Chris Miller, both of who come from prominent Mountain State political families. Capito is the son of Sen. Shelly Moore Capito and grandson of the late Gov. Arch Moore, while Miller's mother is Rep. Carol Miller. Warner also has some notable relatives: His wife, Debbie Warner, was recently elected to the state House, while his brother Monty Warner badly lost the 2004 gubernatorial race to Democrat Joe Manchin. Another brother currently leads the West Virginia Economic Development Authority.

The contest to replace Justice could expand further, as Auditor JB McCuskey has talked about getting in. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who lost the 2018 Senate race to Manchin, also put out a video Tuesday reiterating he was "still evaluating my options as to whether I'm going to run for U.S. Senate or for governor … We're coming soon." While Morrisey didn't indicate which office he was leaning towards, McElhinny noted that the attorney general's message urging voters not to "settle for second best" went up as Warner was still delivering his announcement speech.

The Downballot

 Hell yeah! Election season is already here, and it's off to an amazing start with Democrats' huge flip of a critical seat in the Virginia state Senate, which kicks off this week's episode of The Downballot. Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard dissect what Aaron Rouse's victory means for November (abortion is still issue #1!) when every seat in the legislature will be on the ballot. They also discuss big goings-on in two U.S. Senate races: California, where Rep. Katie Porter just became the first Democrat to kick off a bid despite Sen. Dianne Feinstein's lack of a decision about her own future, and Michigan, which just saw veteran Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow announce her retirement.

The Davids also delve back into a topic that frequently came up last year: redistricting. Didn't every state just draw new maps? you might ask. Yes! But many have to do so again, thanks to court rulings. Unfortunately, this gives Republicans in North Carolina and Ohio the opportunity to gerrymander once more, though there's an outside chance some Southern states could be required to draw new congressional districts where Black voters can elect their candidates of choice.

New episodes of The Downballot come out every Thursday morning. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The Democratic firm Blueprint Polling has released numbers showing conspiracy theorist Kari Lake, who was the 2022 Republican nominee for governor, leading Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego 36-32 as independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema grabs 14%. None of these people have said they'll be running for the Senate in 2024, though Gallego has been hiring staff for a likely campaign. The firm says this poll was done "with no input or funding from any candidate, committee, or interest group."

CA-Sen: Multiple media outlets reported Wednesday that longtime Rep. Barbara Lee told the Congressional Black Caucus she planned to run for the Senate seat held by her fellow Democrat, incumbent Dianne Feinstein, but Lee herself did not commit to anything when reporters asked about her 2024 plans. "What I said was that I'm very sensitive and honoring Senator Feinstein," said Lee, who represents a heavily Democratic bastion that's home to Oakland and Berkeley. (Joe Biden performed better in Lee's new 12th District than he did in any of California's other 51 House seats.)

Lee, who has long been a national progressive favorite, told Politico in a separate interview she'd say what she's doing "when it's appropriate," adding, "I'm not really doing anything except letting colleagues know that there'll be a time to talk about the Senate race." The congresswoman also did not reveal if she was willing to challenge Feinstein if the 89-year-old incumbent surprised the political world and ran again. Rep. Katie Porter, a fellow Democrat who represents an Orange County seat, launched a bid on Tuesday and currently has the field to herself.

MD-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin tells Politico he'll decide "probably in February or March" if he'll seek a fourth term.

MI-Sen: Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson, a Republican who failed to make the Republican primary ballot for governor last year, confirms he's interested in running for this open seat but has no timeline for deciding. Johnson spent $7 million of his own money last cycle before election authorities disqualified him after he and several other GOP contenders fell victim to a fraudulent signature scandal, and he unsuccessfully sued to try to get his name included. The ever-modest Johnson then began talking about a 2024 run for president after he decided to pass on a write-in effort.

Former Rep. Fred Upton, who was not on the 2022 ballot for anything by choice, meanwhile didn't quite dismiss a Senate campaign but sounds unlikely to go for it. The Republican noted he was 69 in his interview with MSNBC's Andrew Mitchell (the relevant portion begins at the 4:45 point) and said he was "probably not a candidate." Mitchell responded by noting he hadn't ruled it out, to which Upton replied, "I'm glad to be out of the Congress this last week, haven't thought about my future quite yet ... I guess you could say I've not ruled it out, but I'm really probably most inclined not to do so."

For the Democrats, Rep. Elissa Slotkin on Tuesday publicly confirmed for the first time she was "seriously considering" running to succeed retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow, though she also didn't have a timeline to decide. Attorney General Dana Nessel, however, played down the possibility she'd run, declaring she believes she could "do the most good" in her current post. "That's where I intend to stay," said Nessel.

NE-Sen-B: Gov. Jim Pillen says he'll announce Thursday morning whom he'll appoint to succeed Ben Sasse, a fellow Republican who has resigned from the Senate to become president of the University of Florida.

Governors

KY-Gov: Former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, who currently has the airwaves to herself ahead of the May Republican primary, is running a new ad focused on combating fentanyl.

LA-Gov: East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore, a Democrat who is considering entering this year's race for governor, tells LaPolitics' Jeremy Alford, "I expect to have a decision in the next few weeks or sooner." Alford also writes that state Democratic chair Katie Bernhardt "sounds as serious as serious can get and will have something to say in a week or so." Bernhardt last week did not rule out a bid last week after her name was included in an unreleased poll.

House

CA-47: Former Rep. Harley Rouda, a Democrat who represented about two-thirds of this constituency from 2019 to 2021, announced Wednesday that he would run for the seat that Democratic incumbent Katie Porter is giving up to campaign for the Senate.

The only other declared candidate so far is former Orange County Republican Party chair Scott Baugh, who narrowly lost to Porter last cycle. This constituency, which includes coastal Orange County and Irvine, supported Biden 54-43, but this historically red area contains plenty of voters who are open to backing Republicans who aren’t named Donald Trump.

Rouda and Baugh previously faced off in the 2018 top-two primary to take on longtime Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the old 48th District in what turned out to be an expensive and consequential contest. Rouda and another first-time Democratic candidate, Hans Keirstead, spent months competing against the Putin-loving congressman, and it looked likely that one of them would advance to the general election. But everything changed just before the filing deadline when Baugh, who had previously served in the state Assembly in the 1990s, unexpectedly jumped in and threatened to lock Democrats out of the general election.

Baugh, though, was hardly running as a favor to Rohrabacher. The two Republicans used to be friends, and when Baugh began raising money in 2016 for a campaign, Rohrabacher initially took it in stride and said he was "just laying the foundation for a race for Congress when I am no longer a member ... but I don't know when that's going to be." Their relationship publicly collapsed, however, after Baugh refused to actually say he wouldn’t use that cash against the congressman.

Baugh didn’t run for anything in 2016, but he used the money he’d amassed that year for his last-second bid against Rohrabacher two years later. Democratic outside groups scrambled to make sure this nasty intra-party fight didn’t end up hurting their own chances to flip the seat, and the DCCC and House Majority PAC spent about $1.8 million on an effort mostly aimed at attacking Baugh. The DCCC, which supported Rouda, also made an effort to promote a third Republican, little-known candidate John Gabbard, to further splinter the vote.

This expensive undertaking proved to be just enough to avoid a disaster for Democrats in a contest where Rohrabacher, who was in no danger of being eliminated, grabbed first with 30%. Rouda edged out Keirstead 17.3-17.2, while Baugh was right behind with 16%; Gabbard finished with 3%, which may have been enough to hold back Baugh. Rouda went on to score a 54-46 victory over Rohrabacher, who never seemed to take his general election seriously.

Baugh unexpectedly turned down a rematch with Rouda in 2020, and Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel instead stepped up to take on the new congressman. Steel proved to be a much tougher foe than Rohrabacher, and she managed to secure enough voters who’d turned against Trump but still favored Republicans down the ballot: Biden took the 48th 50-48, but Steel unseated Rouda 51-49.

Rouda quickly began running against Steel again, but that was before redistricting scrambled California’s map at the end of 2021. Rouda and Porter initially both planned to run for the new 47th District, and while Rouda had represented considerably more of the redrawn constituency than his former colleague, Porter went into 2022 with a massive financial edge and a national progressive base that allowed her to bring in far more. Rouda soon announced he wouldn’t run for anything that cycle, and Porter went on to beat Baugh 52-48 after a very expensive battle.

NY-03: Prominent Nassau County Republican officials held a press conference Wednesday calling for GOP Rep. George Santos to resign only for the scandal-drenched freshman to immediately say, "I will not." The state Conservative Party, which usually backs Republicans in general elections, also told Santos to get lost; Nick Langworthy, the 23rd District congressman who still leads the state GOP, later said he supported the Nassau County party's anti-Santos declaration.

Still, while there was no reason to think Santos would heed the calls for his departure, his former allies used their gathering to make it clear just what they thought of him. Nassau County GOP chair Joseph Cairo, whose community forms three quarters of the 3rd District (the balance is in Queens) even said that the freshman congressman had personally lied to him about being "a star on the" volleyball team at Baruch College, an institution Santos never attended.

Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, who was elected to the neighboring 4th District last year on the same night as Santos, said he "will not associate with him in Congress and I will encourage other representatives in the House of Representatives to join me in rejecting him." The county GOP even added that it would direct any constituent calls from Santos' district to D'Esposito, while county Executive Bruce Blakeman called the 3rd District congressman "a stain on the House of Representatives."

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, though, showed no interest in pressuring Santos to resign or trying to organize two-thirds of the House to expel him. (The last time this happened was 2002, when Democratic Rep. James Traficant of Ohio was ejected by his colleagues three months after he was found guilty on corruption charges.) McCarthy instead said, "The voters elected him to serve," adding, "Is there a charge against him? In America today, you're innocent until proven guilty."

While McCarthy did declare that Santos, who backed him last week in each of the 15 speakership votes, would not be assigned to any of the top House committees, he made it clear that he'd get to sit on some panels. The speaker, when reminded how Santos had lied about his biography, responded, "Yeah, so did a lot of people here, in the Senate and others, but the one thing I think, it's the voters who made that decision. He has to answer to the voters and the voters can make another decision in two years."

Legislatures

MI State House: Democrats last November flipped the state House to win a 56-54 edge, but Gorchow News Service notes the chamber would become tied for a few months should two members from the Detroit suburbs win their respective mayoral elections this November. State Rep. Kevin Coleman said last month that he would run to lead Westland, while colleague Lori Stone recently filed paperwork for a potential bid for mayor of Warren.  

Democrats would be favored to keep both of their constituencies should any special elections take place. According to data from Dave's Redistricting App, President Joe Biden carried Coleman's 25th House District 59-40, while he racked up an even larger 64-35 margin in Stone's HD-13.

Mayors and County Leaders

Jacksonville, FL Mayor: The two leading Republicans are continuing to attack one another ahead of the March nonpartisan primary, with City Councilwoman LeAnna Gutierrez Cumber's PAC airing a commercial declaring that Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis was "ready to sell out" the city by supporting the privatization of the municipal utility JEA.

"As CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, Davis took over $300,000 from JEA to promote privatization," declares the narrator, who argues this would have raised energy bills. The ad then plays audio of Davis saying, "I think more privatization should take place in the city of Jacksonville." Davis' own PAC recently went up with a commercial labeling Cumber a "fake conservative."

Montgomery County, PA Board of Commissioners: Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro announced Wednesday that he was nominating Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Chair Valerie Arkoosh, a fellow Democrat who succeeded him in 2016 as head of the state's third-largest county, to become the new state human services secretary. Should Arkoosh, who ran an aborted 2022 campaign for the U.S. Senate, be confirmed by two-thirds of the state Senate, it would be up to the County Court judges to pick her replacement on the three-member body.

Arkoosh's planned departure comes ahead of this year's local elections in this suburban Philadelphia county. All three Commission seats are elected countywide, and voters in November can select up to two candidates. However, each party can only nominate two candidates this May, so the body will wind up with a 2-1 split no matter what.

Republicans spent generations as the dominant party in Montgomery County, and they continued to control the Commission into the 21st century even as local voters began favoring Democratic presidential candidates. In 2011, though, Shapiro led his party to its first-ever majority, and there's no reason to think they're in danger of losing it this fall in what's become a heavily blue area.  

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

Philadelphia, PA District Attorney: The Republican-led state Senate voted Wednesday to indefinitely postpone its impeachment trial against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a decision that came weeks after the state's Commonwealth Court ruled that state House Republicans failed to demonstrate any of the legally required standards for "misbehavior in office" in their articles of impeachment. That ruling did not order the upper chamber to halt the planned Jan. 18 trial, and the House GOP has not yet said if it will appeal the decision.

Morning Digest: Oregon Republicans threatens suit to overturn election results because of attack ad

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

Leading Off

OR-06: Here's something you don't see often—or ever: Republican Mike Erickson released an internal poll showing him leading his Democratic opponent, Andrea Salinas, the very same day that he filed a lawsuit demanding Salinas take down an attack ad by citing a law that he recently threatened to use to overturn the election should he lose.

To pick apart this strange turn of events, we'll start with Erickson's survey from Cygnal, which shows him beating Salinas 44-39 in Oregon's brand new 6th District, a seat Joe Biden would have taken 55-42. The last polls we saw out of this district, which is based in the Salem area and Portland's southwestern suburbs, were both from mid-August: The GOP firm Clout Research gave Erickson an even larger 43-34 advantage, while a GBAO internal for Salinas had her up 48-45.

Despite these optimistic numbers for Republicans, however, both the Congressional Leadership Fund and the NRCC have so far avoided spending here, even though their opponents at the DCCC and House Majority PAC have together dropped over $1.4 million. Given the district's lean, it's exceedingly unlikely that the GOP's two biggest House groups have steered clear of this race because they feel supremely confident, especially since a conservative organization called Take Back Oregon PAC just launched a $300,000 TV buy this week.

Salinas' side has run several commercials focusing both on allegations that Erickson paid for a girlfriend to have an abortion in 2000—years before Herschel Walker did the same—as well as stories around his 2016 arrest. The latter is the focus of his new lawsuit and a cease and desist notice he recently sent to Salinas. In that letter, Erickson threatened to invoke a state law that the Oregon Capitol Chronicle writes "prohibits knowingly making false statements about a candidate, political committee or ballot measure."

Reporter Julia Shumway explains, "If a judge determines that a candidate made a false statement that cost their opponent an election, the law states that the candidate will be removed as a nominee or elected official." But she adds, "Over several decades, Oregon courts have interpreted that law to exclude opinions or statements that could reasonably be interpreted as true." It's also not clear whether this law has ever been successfully employed to reverse the results of an election, and Erickson's attorney, Jill Gibson, cited no such examples in her letter.

In his newly filed lawsuit, Erickson didn't actually present any demands regarding overturning the upcoming election but instead asked a state court to order Salinas to stop airing the ads in question and "to retract the false statements by airing correction advertisements with the same frequency and broadcast location as the false advertisements." He is also seeking $800,000 in monetary damages, which he claims would cover the cost of "commercials to correct the false statements."

The complaint insists that Salinas' ads are "false" because Erickson "has never been charged with illegal possession of drug." To that end, Gibson's letter cited a recent story from The Oregonian in which Hood River County District Attorney Carrie Rasmussen said that the court documents that those allegations came from were incorrect.

Instead, Erickson's attorney from that case, Tara Lawrence, insisted that she'd made a "mistake" by filing a plea agreement stating that the Rasmussen's office had "agreed to dismiss felony possession of controlled substance upon tender of guilty plea." An attorney for Salinas, however, cited that very statement in support of the ad's truthfulness in a letter and argued that "a charge is a charge, whether or not the DA files it."

Before Erickson filed his lawsuit, Salinas' campaign shrugged off his threats, saying in a statement, "Mike Erickson's threats to overturn the election if he doesn't win should raise major concerns for Oregonians who cherish democracy."

The Downballot

After an eruption of even more scandals among Republican Senate candidates, FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich returns to The Downballot this week to discuss the effect these sorts of scandals can have on competitive races; whether Democrats stand a chance to keep the House; and the different ways pollsters create likely voter models.

Co-host David Beard and guest host Joe Sudbay also discuss Dr. Oz, puppy killer; the GOP's hypocrisy regarding Herschel Walker's ever-growing list of scandals; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s desperate attempts to avoid testifying in an abortion case; and Brazil's presidential runoff, where former President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva remains the favorite despite far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro's better-than-expected first-round showing.

Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also find a transcript for this week's episode right here.

3Q Fundraising

  • CO-Sen: Joe O'Dea (R): $2 million raised, additional $1 million self-funded
  • GA-Sen: Herschel Walker (R): $12 million raised, $7 million cash-on-hand
  • OH-Sen: Tim Ryan (D): $17.2 million raised
  • PA-Sen: John Fetterman (D): $22 million raised
  • WI-Sen: Mandela Barnes (D): $20 million raised
  • GA-Gov: Brian Kemp (R-inc): $29 million raised, $15.4 million cash-on-hand
  • OH-Gov: Mike DeWine (R-inc): $1.5 million raised (in September), $12.5 cash-on-hand; Nan Whaley (D): $1.2 million raised (in September), $3.9 million cash-on-hand
  • CA-22: Rudy Salas (D): $1.2 million raised
  • CO-08: Yadira Caraveo (D): $1.5 million raised, $550,000 cash-on-hand
  • FL-15: Alan Cohn (D): $400,000 raised
  • IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $1.25 million raised, $1.7 million cash-on-hand
  • IL-17: Eric Sorensen (D): $1.5 million raised
  • MT-01: Monica Tranel (D): $1.1 million raised
  • NH-02: Annie Kuster (D-inc): $1 million raised, $2.6 million cash-on-hand
  • NM-02: Gabe Vasquez (D): $1.55 million raised
  • NY-18: Pat Ryan (D-inc): $2.25 million raised, $600,000 cash-on-hand; Colin Schmitt (R): $500,000 raised, $500,000 cash-on-hand
  • PA-17: Chris Deluzio (D): $1.4 million raised
  • VA-02: Jen Kiggans (R): $1 million raised
  • VA-07: Abigail Spanberger (D-inc): $2.2 million raised

Senate

CO-Sen: Ron Hanks, a far-right state representative who lost the June Republican primary to Joe O'Dea 54-46, announced this week that he was endorsing Libertarian Brian Peotter as "the only conservative on the ballot." Hanks made it clear exactly what he thought of his former intra-party rival in his statement, declaring, "There is only a fake Republican, a pay-to-play opportunist with no conservative values or agenda. He merits no support, and he's not likely to get much." Hanks added, "Let the COGOP know we will have a party with conservative principles, not squishy candidates with a power fetish."

GA-Sen: While Republican Herschel Walker has spent days insisting that he did he not pay for his then-girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009 and that he also doesn't know who his accuser could be, the Daily Beast reported Wednesday night that the woman in question had a child with Walker a few years after her abortion. The woman, whose identity the publication has withheld, said of Walker's denials, "Sure, I was stunned, but I guess it also doesn't shock me, that maybe there are just so many of us that he truly doesn't remember." She continued, "But then again, if he really forgot about it, that says something, too."

The next day, Walker held a press conference where he again denied that he even knew who this woman was. However, the Daily Beast further reported that back in June, when the site first broke the news that Walker was father to three previously undisclosed children, the candidate himself had confirmed she was the mother of one of them.

Just before these latest developments, Walker released an ad against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock that played footage of a Democratic commercial focused on reports that the Republican had threatened to kill his ex-wife. "As everyone knows, I had a real battle with mental health—even wrote a book about it," Walker declared. CNN's Andrew Kaczynski quickly noted that this spot, which was aired "presumably in response to Daily Beast story," mentioned Walker's 2008 memoir, which was published the year before the candidate allegedly paid for the abortion.

NC-Sen: NBC reports that Senate Majority PAC has booked an additional $4 million to help Democrat Cheri Beasley, a move that will bring its total spending here to $10.5 million. The reservation comes at a time when Republican outside groups have been deploying considerably more money here than Democrats: While Politico reported Tuesday that Beasley has outspent Republican Ted Budd by $9 million in advertising, data from OpenSecrets shows that Budd's super PAC allies have outpaced Beasley’s supporters $34.9 million to $7.8 million.

NE-Sen: Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse announced on Thursday that he would resign to become president of the University of Florida, which has named the Republican as the sole finalist for the post. Multiple media outlets report that Sasse's departure will occur before the end of the year, which would allow Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who will leave office in early 2023, to appoint a successor. The Nebraska Examiner says that a special election would take place for the final two years of Sasse's term in 2024, when fellow GOP Sen. Deb Fischer will also be up.

Sasse held the post of president of Midland University in Nebraska when he entered the 2014 primary to succeed Sen. Mike Johanns, a fellow Republican who unexpectedly decided to retire after one term. Sasse had the backing of the deep-pocketed Club for Growth but still looked like the underdog for most of his campaign against former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, a retired Navy pilot who was detained by China in 2001 after his plane collided with a Chinese fighter.

Osborn's bid, however, began to fall apart weeks before the primary after the media reported that he'd distributed a bogus Navy memo to defend his decision to land in China. Sasse soon pulled ahead in the polls, while his allies took action late in the campaign to stop a third contender, wealthy banking executive Sid Dinsdale, from sneaking through. Ultimately, Sasse beat Dinsdale by a convincing 49-22 margin, and he easily won the general election in this red state.

The new senator became a media favorite in D.C., especially after he emerged as a loud Donald Trump critic during the 2016 campaign, saying at one point that "if the Republican Party becomes the party of David Duke, Donald Trump, I'm out." Sasse, though, was anything but out after Trump took the White House, and while he still vocally trashed him at times, the senator nevertheless loyally voted the administration's way.

There was talk in 2020 that Sasse could be on the receiving end of a Trump-inspired primary challenge, but no one serious emerged even before Trump himself endorsed the incumbent. Sasse had no trouble winning a second term, though he went on to become one of seven Senate Republicans to vote to convict Trump the next year following his second impeachment. The Nebraskan, though, still voted the party line on all other major issues.

UT-Sen: Put Utah First, a group funded by Democratic megadonor Reid Hoffman, has dropped another $900,000 to aid conservative independent Evan McMullin, which takes its total investment here to $2.65 million.

Polls:

  • AZ-Sen: SSRS for CNN: Mark Kelly (D-inc): 51, Blake Masters (R): 45
  • IA-Sen: Cygnal (R) for Iowans for Tax Relief: Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 54, Mike Franken (D): 40 (July: 52-43 Grassley)
  • NV-Sen: SSRS for CNN: Adam Laxalt (R): 48, Catherine Cortez Masto (D-inc): 46

Governors

OR-Gov: Republican Christine Drazan has debuted a commercial accusing Democrat Tina Kotek of blocking an investigation into sexual abuse allegations, but The Oregonian's Jamie Goldberg writes, "Even by the traditionally loosened standards for political ads, that assertion is untrue, according to independent investigations and news reports."

Drazan's commercial declares that as speaker of the state House, Kotek "blocked an investigation into repeated sexual abuse because she was worried about how it would make her look." The complaints in question were about Republican Jeff Kruse—a member of the state Senate, not the state House. Unsurpirsingly, the speaker noted after the allegations became public that she had no influence over members of the upper chamber and said she did not have knowledge of the complaints against Kruse.

Goldberg writes, "No subsequent news reporting has showed Kotek covered up sexual abuse, although she did provide privacy to some victims who spoke up after 2018 to allege harassment by House members." The speaker was one of several lawmakers who initially refused to comply when the state Labor Bureau issued subpoenas after legislative attorneys argued the requests documents could reveal the identity of Kruse's accusers, but Goldberg says that a court order ultimately led Kotek and others to comply.

Polls:

  • AZ-Gov: SSRS for CNN: Katie Hobbs (D): 49, Kari Lake (R): 46
  • IA-Gov: Cygnal (R) for Iowans for Tax Relief: Kim Reynolds (R-inc): 59, Deidre DeJear (D): 38 (July: 56-41 Reynolds)
  • MN-Gov: SurveyUSA for KSTP: Tim Walz (D-inc): 50, Scott Jensen (R): 40 (Sept.: 51-33 Walz)
  • NV-Gov: SSRS for CNN: Joe Lombardo (R): 48, Steve Sisolak (D-inc): 46

House

FL-13: Progress Pinellas has dropped another $2.2 million to support Democrat Eric Lynn, which takes its total investment here to $6.7 million. The Tampa Bay Times reported in April that the group is funded by hedge fund manager Justin Ishbia, a Lynn cousin who usually contributes to Republicans.

MI-07: The Congressional Leadership Fund is running a new ad attacking Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin over recent reports that she’s been leasing a condo from a donor named Jerry Hollister, who serves as director of government relations for a medical manufacturing company called Niowave. CLF cites a Detroit News story noting that Slotkin had signed a 2020 letter supporting a Department of Energy program that awarded a total of $28 million to Niowave in 2019 and 2021, which the narrator suggests is "shady."

Slotkin's campaign responded to the initial stories by noting that she never mentioned Niowave in that missive, and that the Republican she defeated in 2018, Rep. Mike Bishop, had previously signed a similar letter. Her team declared the congresswoman had "never done anything in Congress that inappropriately benefits his company" and that she was "paying market rate rent to a landlord, just like thousands of mid-Michiganders."

MN-02: The Minnesota Reformer's Deena Winter reported Wednesday that, while Republican Tyler Kistner spent his unsuccessful 2020 campaign suggesting that he'd been in combat, Marine records show that was never the case. Winter notes that Kistner, who is again the GOP nominee, would have received a combat action ribbon had he seen battle, which he's acknowledged he doesn't have.

Two years ago, Kistner was facing off against several fellow Republicans, including Air Force veteran Erika Cashin, ahead of the GOP party convention, where Minnesota nominations are often decided. Kistner said at the time he couldn't turn over documents about his service, but he declared in the lead up to the gathering that he'd put the enemy "six feet under" and had "been on the wrong end of a loaded weapon." The candidate also referenced the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and said, "I've been in such conflicts."

Cashin said in response at the time, "Tyler Kistner has said he is 'the most decorated military member in this race,' and has made multiple statements needing clarification." She also challenged him to release his records, arguing, "Tyler can put these questions to rest by simply releasing his DD 214 and proving what he has said is true." Kistner, though, won the party endorsement without publicizing those documents, and Cashin and his other foes dropped out afterwards rather than go on to the primary. Kistner ultimately lost the general election to Democratic Rep. Angie Craig 48-46.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is backing Kistner's second bid to unseat Craig, had been airing an ad saying he'd been in "four combat deployments." The progressive group VoteVets, though, asked stations to take down these spots because Kistner had actually served in Japan and Korea, which are not combat zones. CLF, for its part, claims it distributed an "incorrect version of the ad and fixed it ourselves on the same day."

A Kistner consultant named Billy Grant insisted his client had never lied during the 2020 race. Grant told Winter that the "six feet under" line referred to an operation where a "partner force effectively killed more than eight violent extremist organizations in the North African region," where Kistner helped coordinate the evacuation of seven injured soldiers. Grant also argues that Kistner had been telling the truth about being on the "wrong end of a loaded weapon" because he'd gotten into an argument with an allied commander who had pulled a gun on him before the matter was resolved.

NY-11, NY-19: Siena College is out with a pair of surveys for Spectrum News giving each party the lead in a New York House contest.

Over in the 11th District, which includes all of Staten Island and a portion of Brooklyn, freshman Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis enjoys a 49-43 edge in her rematch against Democrat Max Rose. The sample also finds Republican Lee Zeldin with a small 46-42 advantage against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul in a constituency Trump would have taken 53-46.

In the Hudson Valley-based 19th, meanwhile, Siena has Democrat Josh Riley beating Republican Marc Molinaro 46-41. The school also finds Zeldin ahead 46-45 in this swingy turf, which would have backed Biden 51-47.

Attorneys General & Secretaries of State

AZ-SoS, NV-SoS: SSRS, polling for CNN, finds election deniers with small leads in a pair of secretary of state races taking place in crucial swing states. Mark Finchem posts a 49-45 edge over Democrat Adrian Fontes in Arizona, while fellow Republican Jim Marchant enjoys a similar 46-43 edge against Cisco Aguilar in Nevada. Last week, the progressive group End Citizens United released internals from GSG showing Fontes ahead 46-44. Fontes is also getting some new outside support, as CNN reports that the Democratic organization iVote will spend $5 million to aid him.

IA-AG: The Republican firm Cygnal's new survey for the conservative Iowans for Tax Relief shows Republican Brenna Bird outpacing longtime Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller 46-43. Back in July, Cygnal found Miller, who is seeking a historic 11th term, ahead by a narrow 45-44 margin.

IN-SoS: IndyPolitics.com recently published a story in which two women charged that Diego Morales, who is the Republican nominee for secretary of state, sexually harassed and groped them. One said the incident took place in 2007, while the other said her encounter with Morales took place a few years later. Morales soon put out a statement saying, "The claims being made against me are false and I unequivocally deny all of them." He faces Democrat Destiny Wells in November.

Ad Roundup

Michigan Republican sends horrid anti-trans solicitation after fundraising shortfall

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.

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Leading Off

MI-07: Republican state Sen. Tom Barrett, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin in Michigan's new and competitive 7th Congressional District, recently sent out a fundraising appeal by text message falsely telling recipients that "your child's gender reassignment surgery has been booked," complete with a phony time for the appointment. Barrett, a far-right politician who has worn a "naturally immunized" wrist band and refused to say if he's vaccinated, deployed this tactic after David Drucker of the conservative Washington Examiner reported that he'd badly missed his own team's fundraising goals.

We know about Barrett's underperformance because a Democratic operative provided Drucker with a vivid recording of one of his top aides. "We announced just before Thanksgiving, you know, really, you know, we chained him to a desk and had him on the phones," said the staffer in February, "and he raised, you know, 310 grand. He's raising more money now—our goal is a million by the end of March." However, the senator hauled in only $456,000 during the first three months of 2022, which left him with $396,000 on hand. Slotkin, by contrast, took in $1.32 million during the first quarter and had a gigantic $5.5 million on hand.

One thing Barrett doesn't need to worry about, though, is the Aug. 2 primary. Candidate filing closed Tuesday, and the only other Republican to turn in paperwork was insurance agency owner Jacob Hagg, who hasn't reported raising any cash at all. This constituency in the Lansing area would have supported Joe Biden by a 50-49 margin, a small improvement for Slotkin from Trump's 50-49 edge in the old 8th District. But even an underfunded extremist like Barrett has an opening in a district this close.

Now that filing has passed in the Wolverine State, we'll be taking a look at Michigan's other big competitive races, starting with our MI-Gov item below. It's possible that some candidates who submitted signatures won't appear on the ballot, though, because election authorities in Michigan have disqualified contenders in past years for not meeting the state's requirements. In 2018, for instance, seven House hopefuls—including a few notable names—were thrown off the ballot after the secretary of state ruled that they'd failed to turn in the requisite number of acceptable petitions.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed his state's new congressional map—which he himself proposed—on Friday, following party-line votes that advanced the map in both chambers of the Republican-run legislature. (We previously detailed the map's impacts in this post.) The same day, several advocacy groups and Florida voters filed a lawsuit in state court alleging that the map violates the state constitution's prohibitions on partisan gerrymandering and diluting minority representation.

NY Redistricting: A five-judge panel on New York's Appellate Division, the state's intermediate appellate court, upheld a recent lower court ruling that the new congressional map drawn by Democrats violates the state constitution as an illegal partisan gerrymander and gave lawmakers until April 30 to craft a replacement. However, Democrats have already said they'll appeal to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, with oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday.

In its ruling, the Appellate Division also overturned the trial court's finding that the legislature lacked the power to draw new maps for the state Senate and Assembly, allowing those maps to be used. It's not yet clear whether Republicans plan to pursue their own appeal regarding this issue.

Senate

AR-Sen: We have yet to see any polls indicating whether former NFL player Jake Bequette poses a serious threat to Sen. John Boozman in the May 24 Republican primary, but the incumbent did recently air an ad taking a swipe at his foe. Most of Boozman's spot, which praises him as a "workhorse, not a show pony" is positive, though it employs a photo of Bequette as the narrator hits those last words.

Bequette's allies at Arkansas Patriots Fund, meanwhile, have been going directly at Boozman with a commercial faulting him for having "voted to confirm six in 10 Biden cabinet picks" in the first 40 days of the administration. The ad goes on to accuse the senator of backing "amnesty for illegals, tax dollars for abortions, bailouts for Wall Street, even allowed the feds to confiscate your firearm records." The super PAC received $1 million from conservative megadonor Dick Uihlein last year, which Politico's Alex Isenstadt says makes up most of its budget.

AZ-Sen: The NRSC is commencing what they call a "seven figure" ad buy that starts off with a spot attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly over immigration. This appears to be the first ad of the cycle going directly after a candidate from any of the "big four" party groups (which in addition to the NRSC includes the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC on the GOP side and the DSCC and Senate Majority PAC for Democrats).

CO-Sen: Wealthy construction company owner Joe O'Dea has announced he's spending $250,000 over three weeks to air an ad that touts his business record and portrays him as a conservative outsider. O'Dea faces state Rep. Ron Hanks in the June Republican primary.

NC-Sen: Former Gov. Pat McCrory has debuted a new commercial ahead of the May 17 GOP primary where he calls Rep. Ted Budd weak on Vladimir Putin before claiming that Budd is backed by billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Soros is a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor whom the far-right both here and abroad has frequently used as a target of and a stand-in for age-old conspiracy theories about wealthy Jews using their power to exert a nefarious influence over the world.

However, McCrory's accusation that Soros, who is well known for openly funding progressive causes, would secretly support Budd, who has compiled a hard-right voting record in his three terms in office, relies on very dubious facts. The Charlotte Observer reports that a Soros-affiliated investment firm once owned a 7.6% stake in a company led by Budd's father that filed for bankruptcy in 2000, and there's no indication the congressman even had any role in the company's day-to-day operations, which is a very far cry from Soros actually supporting his contemporary political activities.

Budd himself has launched a new ad that features footage of a rally where Trump effusively endorses Budd and McCrory goes unmentioned. While the two Republican front runners dominate the airwaves, the pro-Budd Club for Growth is notably training its focus on former GOP Rep. Mark Walker with an ad that criticizes him for frequently missing votes, including one involving Trump's impeachment. The polls have shown Walker in a distant third place, but the Club likely views his hard-right support base as overlapping with potential Budd supporters.

OH-Sen: Undeterred by Trump's recent endorsement of venture capitalist J.D. Vance in the May 3 Republican primary, the Club for Growth is once again running an ad that uses Vance's lengthy past history of anti-Trump statements against him. The ad campaign reportedly angered Trump so greatly that he had an aide text Club president David McIntosh, "Go f*^% yourself" (which presumably wasn't censored). A spokesperson for the Club, which is supporting former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, tersely responded to the news about Trump's message by saying, "We are increasing our ad buy."

Meanwhile, former state GOP chair Jane Timken has been struggling to gain traction in the polls, and she has reportedly been off of broadcast TV in much of the state for weeks and is only continuing to run limited cable ads on Fox News.

Governors

AL-Gov: Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has commissioned a poll from the Tarrance Group that shows her holding a dominant 57-14 lead over former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard ahead of the May 24 Republican primary, with businessman Tim James taking just 12%. There have only been a few polls here from reliable firms, but every one of them this year has found Ivey far ahead of her rivals and in good shape to surpass the simple-majority threshold needed to avoid a June runoff.

GA-Gov: A group called Take Back Georgia with ties to pro-Trump state Sen. Brandon Beach has unveiled a $2 million ad buy for a spot that goes all-in on 2020 election denial to highlight Trump's endorsement of former Sen. David Perdue ahead of the May 24 GOP primary against Gov. Brian Kemp. Perdue has only been running a modestly sized ad buy recently after struggling to keep up in fundraising with Kemp, whose allies at the RGA have also spent millions airing their first-ever ads backing an incumbent against a primary challenger.

It's unclear whether Trump himself, whose super PAC recently reported it had over $120 million on hand, will increase its support for Perdue beyond the meager $500,000 it allocated a few weeks ago toward backing his endorsee. However, with the polls showing Kemp in striking distance of the outright majority needed to avoid a June runoff, time is quickly running short for Perdue.

IL-Gov: Far-right billionaire Dick Uihlein has given another $2.5 million to the June primary campaign of Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey, bringing his total contributions to $3.5 million in addition to another $1 million that Uihlein gave to a third-party group opposing Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. In yet another election that has turned into a battle of rival billionaires thanks to Illinois being one of just a few states without any limits on direct contributions to candidates, Uihlein's involvement so far still trails far behind the $20 million that fellow billionaire Ken Griffin, a hedge fund manager who is Illinois' wealthiest resident, has given to Irvin's campaign.

MI-Gov: A total of 10 Republicans are competing to take on Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, which would make this the largest gubernatorial primary field in state history. The few polls that have been released show former Detroit Police Chief James Craig as Team Red's frontrunner, but he's had to deal with several major campaign shakeups: Craig, most notably, parted ways with his first campaign manager in December, and his second left last month.  

The August primary also includes two wealthy businessmen, Kevin Rinke and Perry Johnson. Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon doesn't have the same resources as her intra-party foes, but she sports endorsements from Reps. Bill Huizenga and Lisa McClain. Also in the running are chiropractor Garrett Soldano, Michigan State Police Captain Mike Brown, and five others.

OR-Gov: The May 17 primary is rapidly approaching, and the Portland Monthly's Julia Silverman has collected several TV spots from the candidates. On the Democratic side, former state House Speaker Tina Kotek talks about the progressive policies she helped pass, while state Treasurer Tobias Read's narrator argues that "Oregon has lost its way. It's time for a new approach." Silverman notes that this messaging is "all in keeping with Read's efforts to portray himself as a change agent, though he has been in state government about as long as Kotek."

For the Republicans, former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan declares that she's "led the fight against [Democratic Gov.] Kate Brown's radical agenda." Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, meanwhile, goes all-in with courting right-wing outrage with spots where he calls for getting "critical race theory out of our schools" and "not allow[ing] transgender athletes to compete in girls' sports." Former state Rep. Bob Tiernan uses his messaging to attack Brown and Kotek, saying that their approach is "bull****." (A different Republican, consultant Bridget Barton, also tried to stand out with some censored potty mouth.) Finally, 2016 nominee Bud Pierce alludes to the Big Lie with the mention of "broken elections."

House

AK-AL: The Alaska Republican Party has endorsed businessman Nick Begich III ahead of the top-four special election primary this June, where Begich has emerged as one of the leading Republicans in the crowded all-party contest alongside former Gov. Sarah Palin.

MI-03: Rep. Peter Meijer, who was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump, faces primary opposition from conservative commentator John Gibbs, who is Trump's endorsed candidate. (We recently took a closer look at this primary.) Little-known attorney Gabi Manolache is also running, though "MAGA bride" Audra Johnson did not end up filing. The winner will take on 2020 nominee Hillary Scholten, who faces no intra-party opposition for her second bid, in a Grand Rapids-based seat that redistricting transformed from a 51-47 Trump seat to one Joe Biden would have carried 53-45.

MI-04: Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga, who represents the existing 2nd District, has no primary opposition following fellow Rep. Fred Upton's retirement announcement earlier this month. This seat in southwestern Michigan would have favored Trump 51-47, and the one Democrat to file, Joseph Alfonso, has not reported raising any money.

MI-08: Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee is defending a seat in the Flint and Saginaw areas that would have favored Joe Biden only 50-48, a small but potentially important shift from Biden's 51-47 showing in Kildee's existing 5th District. The Republican frontrunner is former Trump administration official Paul Junge, who lost to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin 51-47 in the old 8th District in 2020. (The old and new 8th Districts do not overlap.) Former Grosse Pointe Shores Councilman Matthew Seely and businesswoman Candice Miller (not to be confused with the former congresswoman with the same name) are also in, but neither opened fundraising committees until recently.

MI-10: Five Democrats are competing to take on John James, who was Team Red's Senate nominee in 2018 and 2020, in an open seat in Detroit's northeastern suburbs that would have gone for Trump 50-49. James, who only has a little-known primary foe, had $1.25 million stockpiled at the end of March, which was considerably more than the Democrats had combined.

Warren Council member Angela Rogensues finished the quarter with $160,000 on hand, while attorney Huwaida Arraf and former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga were similarly situated with $145,000 and $135,000 to spend, respectively. Sterling Heights City Council member Henry Yanez, though, was far back with only $22,000 in the bank, while former Macomb County Health Department head Rhonda Powell had less than $5,000.

MI-11: The Democratic primary is a duel between Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin for a constituency in the Detroit northern suburbs that Biden would have won 59-39. Stevens' existing 11th District makes up 45% of the new seat, while Levin represents only 25%. (Several Democrats grumbled to Politico recently that Levin should have instead run for the new 10th, where he already serves most of the residents.)

Stevens has the support of retiring Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who represents the balance of this district, and EMILY's List, while the SEIU is in Levin's corner. The two have largely voted the same way in Congress, though while Levin has emphasized his support for Medicare for all and the Green New Deal, Stevens has portrayed herself as more pragmatic. Stevens ended March with a $2.79 million to $1.47 million cash-on-hand edge over her fellow incumbent.

MI-12: Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is one of the most prominent progressives in the House, faces three Democratic primary opponents in this safely blue Detroit-based seat. Tlaib, whose existing 13th District makes up 53% of the new 12th, ended March with a $1.62 million to $221,000 cash-on-hand lead over her nearest foe, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey; Winfrey, for her part, has faulted Tlaib for casting a vote from the left against the Biden administration's infrastructure bill. Also in the race are former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson and Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett, neither of whom reported raising any money during the last quarter.

MI-13: A total of 11 Democrats have filed to run to succeed retiring Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who is Michigan's only Black member of Congress, in this safely blue seat, which includes part of Detroit and its southern suburbs. Lawrence, who supports Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner Portia Roberson, has argued that it's vital to keep a "qualified, committed" African American representing the state, something that several other Black candidates have also emphasized.

However, the candidate who ended March with the most money by far is self-funding state Rep. Shri Thanedar, who is originally from India. (Thanedar, who lived in Ann Arbor when he unsuccessfully ran for governor, moved to Detroit ahead of his victorious bid for a state House seat in the city two years later.) Thanedar had over $5 million on hand, which was more than ten times as much as the $453,000 that his nearest foe, state Sen. Adam Hollier, had available.

Other candidates to watch include hedge fund manager John Conyers III, who is the son and namesake of the late longtime congressman; Detroit School Board member Sherry Gay-Dagnogo; Teach for America official Michael Griffie; former Detroit General Counsel Sharon McPhail; and Detroit city official Adrian Tonon, who is one of the few other non-Black contenders in the primary.

MN-01: In what appears to be the first TV ad from anyone ahead of the special May 24 Republican primary, former Freeborn County party chair Matt Benda plays up his farming background and pledges to "protect our children from indoctrination in the classroom [and] ensure election integrity."

NC-11: Axios reports that Results for North Carolina, a super PAC close to Sen. Thom Tillis, is spending $310,000 on an ad campaign against Rep. Madison Cawthorn, which makes this the first major outside spending of the May 17 Republican primary. The commercial focuses on reports that the incumbent "lied about being accepted to the Naval Academy" and declares he's "been caught lying about conservatives." The narrator, who brands the congressman "an attention-seeking embarrassment," does not mention Tillis' endorsed candidate, state Sen. Chuck Edwards.

TN-05: Tennessee has finalized its list of candidates for the Aug. 4 primary ballot now that each party has had the chance to eject contenders who did not meet their "bona fide" standards, an option the GOP utilized in the 5th District in order to bounce three notable candidates. The 5th will also likely be home to the only seriously contested House race, and we'll be taking a look at the field now that we know who's on the ballot.

There are nine Republicans remaining in the race to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper in the 5th, which GOP mapmakers transmuted from a 60-37 Biden district to a 54-43 Trump constituency by cracking the city of Nashville. The only three who appear to be serious contenders are former state House Speaker Beth Harwell, who took a disappointing fourth place in the 2018 primary for governor; Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles; and retired Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, who has the largest war chest by far, though it's possible another candidate will catch fire. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Heidi Campbell has the field to herself.

Ad Roundup

It's that time of the election cycle again when campaign ads have grown too numerous for us to detail every one, so we're bringing back a feature from past cycles where we'll round up any remaining ads that we don't have space to cover in greater depth. Today's list only has a few entries, but the roundup will be sure to grow longer as the year progresses:

Morning Digest: This race could give Texas Democrats their first statewide win in 26 years

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

TX Railroad Commission: As Lone Star Democrats seek their first statewide victory in more than a quarter century, their best hope may be Chrysta Castañeda, who's running for a spot on an agency many people haven't heard of: the Texas Railroad Commission.

Campaign Action

Despite the name, the commission doesn't actually oversee trains, but it does have jurisdiction over something even more important in Texas: the state's energy industry (oversight of the rails was handed to the state's Department of Transportation in 2005). The panel, often known as the "RRC," is made up of three members, each elected statewide for six-year terms.

The last time a Democrat won a seat on the board was in 1990, when former Rep. Bob Krueger beat a Republican opponent by 56-40 margin. Krueger wound up resigning to accept an appointment to the U.S. Senate when Lloyd Bentsen became Bill Clinton's Treasury secretary, and Republicans comfortably beat his appointed successor in 1994.

Ever since, the GOP has held all three seats, but Republicans were already preparing for a serious battle this year—which, ironically, might have made their situation even worse. Republican Ryan Sitton, who first won a slot on the RRC in 2014, had stockpiled $2 million in his war chest for the general election, but in March, he lost his primary in an absolute shocker to an unknown named Jim Wright, the owner of an oilfield waste disposal company who had raised less than $13,000.

The 55-45 loss was so inexplicable that some political observers wondered if Wright benefited from sharing a name with the one-time speaker of the House who hailed from Fort Worth, the late Democrat Jim Wright, who died in 2015. It's not such a crazy theory: Perennial candidate Gene Kelly won multiple Texas primaries in the previous decade because voters had him confused with the beloved dancer.

Whatever the explanation, though, Wright's victory has left Republicans with a suddenly open seat and a badly flawed candidate. The RRC—the very body that Wright wants to join—fined him $182,000 for improper storage of hazardous waste in 2017, and he's been sued by his former business partners for fraud stemming from the mess.

Castañeda, an oil and gas attorney, took aim at Wright for his record in her first ad of the race, which went up last month, but the main topic she's focusing on is the issue of "flaring." That refers to the practice of oil producers burning off unwanted natural gas from their wells rather than capturing it for later use, a process that is both environmentally harmful and economically wasteful.

It's also against the law—unless a driller is granted a special permit, of which 7,000 were handed out last year. As Castañeda notes, such permits can only be granted if all three members of the commission agree, meaning she could single-handedly put an end to flaring even if Republicans still hold a nominal 2-1 majority on the board next year.

With this backdrop, The New Republic recently called this race "this year’s most important election for American climate policy." It could also finally put an end to the longest statewide losing streak for Democrats anywhere in the nation, as Texas last voted Democratic for any statewide race in 1994.

3Q Fundraising

IA-Sen: Theresa Greenfield (D): $28.7 million raised

WV-Gov: Jim Justice (R-inc): $890,000 raised, $263,000 cash-on-hand; Ben Salango (D): $564,000 raised, $153,000 cash-on-hand

CA-25: Mike Garcia (R-inc): $3.2 million raised, $2 million cash-on-hand

CA-48: Michelle Steel (R): $1.8 million raised

MN-03: Kendall Qualls (R): $873,000 raised, $538,000 cash-on-hand

MN-08: Quinn Nystrom (D): $650,000 raised

NH-01: Chris Pappas (D-inc): $700,000 raised, $1.35 million cash-on-hand

NY-02: Andrew Garbarino (R): $771,000 raised

TX-10: Michael McCaul (R-inc): $870,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand

Senate

GA-Sen-A: A pro-Republican group called Georgia Action Fund says it is spending $5 million on digital ads supposedly aimed at swaying undecided voters in the race between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

LA-Sen: Democrat Adrian Perkins narrates much of his first TV ad, which focuses on his biography, including his graduation from West Point and his service in Afghanistan and Iraq that resulted in an award of the Bronze Star. A voiceover notes that after he fought overseas, "Harvard Law and big job offers came." But, says Perkins, "I chose to come home. To serve my community. Now I'm taking our mission to Washington to get things done for you."

At the end, text appears on-screen noting that Perkins has been endorsed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and Barack Obama, an effort to consolidate Democratic voters to ensure Perkins makes a December runoff against Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy.

NC-Sen: Republican Sen. Thom Tillis' new ad, unsurprisingly, goes after Democrat Cal Cunningham over the intimate text messages he shared with a woman who is not his wife. The spot mostly features clips of newscasters discussing various angles to the story, and during the "I approve this message" segment—not a section we discuss often—Tillis is shown hand-in-hand with his wife. Tillis' allies at the Senate Leadership Fund also recently went up with a similar ad.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that the DSCC is adding $3 million to their existing TV ad reservations for the last two weeks of the race.

Polls: If you click each race tag below, such as "MT-Sen," you'll be taken to the Daily Kos Elections poll aggregator for that race, which displays a trendline for all available public polls and the current polling average.

  • MT-Sen: Data for Progress (D) for Crooked Media and Indivisible: Steve Bullock (D): 48, Steve Daines (R-inc): 46 (49-43 Trump)
  • NC-Sen: Data for Progress (D) for Crooked Media and Indivisible: Cal Cunningham (D): 50, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 39 (51-44 Biden) (Aug.: 49-41 Cunningham)
  • SC-Sen: GBAO (D) for the DSCC: Jaime Harrison (D): 48, Lindsey Graham: (R-inc): 47, Bill Bledsoe (C): 3 (49-44 Trump)
  • TX-Sen: Crosswind Media (R) and Pulse Opinion Research: John Cornyn (R-inc): 48, MJ Hegar (D): 39 (51-44 Trump)
  • TX-Sen: Data for Progress (D) for Crooked Media and Indivisible: Cornyn (R-inc): 45, Hegar (D): 42 (47-45 Biden) (Sept.: 40-38 Cornyn)

MT-Sen: While there hasn't been a ton of polling in Montana—and what we have seen has almost all been very tight—Data for Progress' survey is the first to show Steve Bullock with a lead since an early July poll from PPP that had Bullock ahead 46-44.

NC-Sen: A number of polls taken since Labor Day have shown Cal Cunningham up by double digits, but what's notable about about this Data for Progress poll is that it was in the field from Weds, Sept. 30 through Monday, Oct. 5. That means half of it was conducted after news about Cunningham's affair broke on Friday night, Oct. 2.

SC-Sen: The DSCC's poll included Constitution Party candidate Bill Bledsoe, who dropped out of the race and endorsed Lindsey Graham a few days after the survey concluded. However, Bledsoe's name will still appear on ballots.

Gubernatorial

NC-Gov: Dan Forest is just the latest Republican trying to scare voters with ads showing footage of unrest, even starting his latest spot by saying, "Seems like the only people you see in downtown Asheville these days are rioters." Seems like he should try harder: According multiple local office-holders, including Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, Forest's clips don't show the city at all but instead were shot in other locales. When asked for comment, the Forest campaign didn't dispute the charge.

Polls:

  • WV-Gov: Strategies Unlimited (D) for WV First: Jim Justice (R-inc): 46, Ben Salango (D): 40, Daniel Lutz Jr. (Mountain Party): 5

This is the closest poll of the three we've seen to date in this race. According to the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, WV First is a group opposing Jim Justice's re-election bid, though it does not appear to have any presence the web. The same is true of the pollster, Strategies Unlimited.

House

IN-05: Indiana schools chief Jennifer McCormick has once again stuck her thumb in the eye of her own party by endorsing another Democrat, Christina Hale, who is seeking to flip the open 5th Congressional District. Though elected superintendent of public instruction as a Republican in 2016, McCormick has regularly feuded with the GOP and previously backed Democrat Woody Myers in his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, as well as Democrat Jonathan Weinzapfel, who is running for state attorney general. McCormick is not seeking re-election this year after Republicans turned her position into an appointed one starting after 2020.

MI-08: Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin's latest ad features footage from a recent debate that went viral after she shredded her Republican opponent, Paul Junge, on healthcare. Junge had sought to make an issue of a lapse in insurance coverage that befell Slotkin's mother, blaming "undue burdens and regulations." Slotkin's scathing response occupies the bulk of the ad:

"Please don't speak about my mother as if you understand what made her health care unaffordable to her. And I think it's crazy that every time we ask you specific details about the thing that really helps people know that they're going to be protected—their kids are going to be protected—you deflect and start attacking me. And raising my mother? Come on, Paul."

NE-02: Former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford has endorsed vulnerable Republican Rep. Don Bacon, who narrowly booted him after one term in the House in 2016. Ashford sought to reclaim his seat in 2018 but lost a tight the Democratic primary that year to nonprofit executive Kara Eastman, who herself lost a close contest with Bacon later that year—a race in which Ashford supported her.

Eastman sought the Democratic nomination again this year and this time handily defeated Ashford's wife, attorney Ann Ferlic Ashford. Ann Ashford angrily refused to endorse Eastman following the May primary, citing comments Eastman had made blaming Ashford's campaign-trail criticisms of her on "bad blood" stemming from her defeat of Ashford's husband two years earlier.

Bacon's past statements about Brad Ashford, however, have been far harsher. Among other things, Bacon accused Ashford of being soft on the Islamic State during their 2016 race, claiming in an ad, "If Brad Ashford doesn't know ISIS is targeting Nebraska, how can we trust him to keep us safe?"

VA-02: Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria's newest ad stars a COVID survivor named Fred Herrmann who excoriates Republican Scott Taylor for hosting a campaign event over the summer where attendees were maskless and greeted each other—including Taylor—with intimate hugs. Footage of the disturbing gathering rolls as Herrmann pours out his criticism. "Scott Taylor even compared coronavirus to the flu. It's not the flu," he says. "Mr. Taylor, I couldn't see my family while I thought I was going to die, because this virus is dangerous—and sending you back to Congress would be, too."

Polls:

CA-25: Smith's memo didn't include exact figures for the presidential race, but it did say that Joe Biden "is currently beating Trump by 4 points." That would represent the rare district-level poll where Biden's margin is narrower than Hillary Clinton's was in 2016 (she carried the 25th 50-44).

NY-22: Believe it or not, Siena's poll is the very first we've seen of this race, and the findings are a serious whoa-mama-joe moment for the GOP, particularly as regards the presidential race. Upstate New York's 22nd District was one of those rural white areas where the bottom really fell out for Democrats in 2016: While Barack Obama had lost to Mitt Romney by less than a point here, Trump crushed Clinton 55-39.

There's good reason to believe Siena, too. In 2016, the school's polling accurately forecast the district's big shift to Trump, both in late September and just before Election Day, when it had Trump up 14. If Republicans can't beat Brindisi, who exactly can they beat?

Mayoral

Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: The Democratic firm Bendixen & Amandi International's new poll for the Miami Herald gives Democrat Daniella Levine Cava a 45-35 lead over Republican Steve Bovo in next month's officially nonpartisan race, which is an improvement from the 39-32 edge it found last month. Levine Cava also released a Change Research survey in late September that showed her up 45-32, while Bovo's side has yet to publicize its own numbers.

Levine Cava would be the first Democrat to serve as the chief executive of Florida's largest county since Alex Penelas left office in 2004. Penelas himself waged a comeback campaign this year, but he took third in August's nonpartisan primary.

New York City, NY Mayor: Civil rights attorney Maya Wiley, a former counsel to term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio, entered next year's Democratic primary to succeed her old boss on Thursday. Wiley, who is Black, would be the first woman mayor in the city's history. In her kickoff, she took several jabs at the unpopular incumbent. "If I am mayor, you will never have to wonder who's in charge," she said. "You will never have to question ... whether the mayor even wants the job." She also ridiculed de Blasio's hapless presidential bid, saying, "You will never have to wonder whether I'm in Iowa."

Ad Roundup

They face their own tough races, but these House Democrats are working to flip more red districts

Swing-district House Democrats with military and national security backgrounds are teaming up to help flip some more congressional districts in 2020. Reps. Mikie Sherrill, Chrissy Houlahan, Jason Crow, and Max Rose will co-chair the “Second Service Coalition,” which has also been joined by Reps. Elissa Slotkin, Abigail Spanberger, Gil Cisneros, and Elaine Luria. 

While they’re not pushing the party to the left, each of these lawmakers flipped a red seat in 2018, and they’ve supported impeachment even though they risk their own political futures in doing so. Crow is even one of the House impeachment managers in the ongoing Senate trial of Donald Trump.

The group will raise money and offer campaign support and mentorship to candidates including Gina Ortiz Jones—who came heartbreakingly close to defeating Republican Rep. Will Hurd in 2018 and is running again as Hurd retires—and Kim Olson in Texas; Minnesota’s Dan Feehan, who also came close in 2018; Zahra Karinshak in Georgia; Jackie Gordon, running to replace the retiring Republican Rep. Peter King in New York; and Nikki Foster in Ohio.

It’s an ambitious plan for people who will be facing their own tough races—and that’s good. Democrats need to be ambitious and aggressive when it comes to defeating the relentlessly ruthless Republican Party.

You have a role to play, too. Can you chip in $1 to the Democratic nominee funds to win these flippable Republican seats?