The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.
● PA-Sen: The Associated Press' Brian Slodysko reported Monday that the Senate GOP's top choice to run in Pennsylvania, former hedge fund manager David McCormick, lives in a $16 million Connecticut mansion that "features a 1,500-bottle wine cellar, an elevator and a 'private waterfront resort' overlooking Long Island Sound."
McCormick listed the rented property in Westport, which is in the heart of the Nutmeg State's affluent "Gold Coast" region, as his address on both a January document selling his $13.4 million Manhattan condo and a March campaign contribution. Slodysko notes that McCormick's children also attend private school in Connecticut. The story further observes that McCormick carried out virtual interviews earlier this year from his New England mansion, a fact the reporter was able to ascertain because "[d]istinguishing features in the background match pictures that were posted publicly before the McCormicks moved in."
That last detail may give the GOP some unwelcome déjà vu after the disastrous candidacy of Mehmet Oz, who lost last year's race for Pennsylvania's other Senate seat from his own mansion in New Jersey. Oz, after narrowly defeating none other than McCormick by 950 votes in the GOP primary, even filmed some of ads from his palatial home overlooking the Manhattan skyline—a blunder that Democrat John Fetterman's campaign discovered and blasted out far and wide.
Fetterman was able to identify the location of his opponent's shoot because People magazine had helpfully profiled the house a few years earlier, complete with a six-minute video revealing distinctive decorative elements—including a candlestick—similarly found peeking out from behind Oz.
McCormick, unlike Oz, actually grew up in Pennsylvania, but he lived in Connecticut from 2009 until he sold a different mansion there in late 2021 ahead of his first campaign. The candidate, who purchased a home in Pittsburgh, argued at the time he'd never really left behind his native state and pointed to his continued ownership of his family's Christmas tree farm in Bloomsburg as evidence.
McCormick, whose 2022 primary vote for himself marked the first time in 16 years that he'd cast a ballot in the Keystone State, sought to play up his Pennsylvania roots even after his tight loss to Oz. "We're not going anywhere," he insisted. "This is my home." Political observers immediately began to speculate that he could challenge Sen. Bob Casey in 2024, an idea that delighted the GOP establishment. But McCormick has played coy all year: NRSC chair Steve Daines, according to The Dispatch, joked to a room full of donors this spring that they should "beg" him to run.
The once and perhaps future candidate, for his part, declared in March, "People want to know that the person that they're voting for 'gets it.' And part of 'getting it' is understanding that you just didn't come in yesterday." A spokesperson told Slodysko that McCormick "maintains a residence in Connecticut as his daughters finish high school" but his "home is in Pittsburgh."
McCormick's team, however, declined to answer questions about how much of his time he spends in Connecticut. It's also not clear how long he's occupied the Westport mansion, though Slodysko writes that it went off the market in January of last year, at about the same time that McCormick was selling his other property in the state.
Both parties have long expected McCormick to take on Casey, though multiple Republicans recently indicated to the Philadelphia Inquirer that they didn't think he'd made up his mind. "I was told he stuck his toe in the Atlantic Ocean and the temperature's not where he needs it to be right now," said one party official, adding, "I think at some point, we will just go ahead and plunge in, but I dunno when that day will be." (You can't actually tip your toe into the Atlantic from anywhere in Pennsylvania―but you sure can off the Gold Coast.) If McCormick does surprise everyone and sits out the race, it's not clear who, if anyone, the NRSC has in mind as a backup option.
P.S. McCormick may have one other argument he can use to defend his Keystone State bona fides that Oz couldn't use. "There are parts of Northern PA that were claimed by Connecticut at the time of the nation's founding," snarked Willamette University history professor Seth Cotlar, "so maybe McCormick is claiming PA residence on originalist grounds?"
● NJ-Sen: Politico's Matt Friedman writes that, despite the ongoing federal investigation into Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, no serious intra-party foes are anywhere in sight. Indeed, Friedman says that the one and only Democrat "who was willing to say anything that Menendez could possibly construe as disloyal" was former Sen. Bob Torricelli, and Torricelli (who himself left office in disgrace two decades ago) has made it clear he's done running for office.
● UT-Sen: Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz tells the National Journal's Sydney Kashiwagi that he remains interested in running for the Senate seat held by fellow Republican Mitt Romney, and he adds that he's likely to make up his mind in the fall. Romney himself said last month that he'd also "wait 'til the fall" before deciding whether to seek a second term.
● WA-Gov: The state GOP chose state Rep. Jim Walsh as its new chairman on Saturday, a move that likely means he won't run for governor next year. Walsh, who had to apologize in 2021 for comparing COVID mitigation policies to the Holocaust, initially expressed interest in seeking the governorship right after Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee announced his retirement in May, but he doesn't appear to have said anything publicly about running since then. Walsh told the Seattle Times over the weekend that he wasn't even sure if he'd seek reelection to the state House, though he said he was "inclined to."
● AZ-03: Duane Wooten, a pediatrician who has been quoted by the local news concerning medical issues, tells the Arizona Republic he's filed FEC paperwork for this safely blue open seat and anticipates joining the Democratic primary later in the month.
● CA-41: The prominent labor group SEIU California has endorsed former federal prosecutor Will Rollins, a Democrat who faces only a few underfunded intra-party foes as he seeks a rematch against Republican Rep. Ken Calvert.
● FL Redistricting, FL-05: Plaintiffs challenging Florida's GOP-drawn congressional map before a state court reached an agreement with defendants on Friday to narrow their claims to just a single seat in the northern part of the state, dropping arguments concerning several other districts.
As a result of that deal, the case will now focus solely on whether Republicans violated the state constitution's prohibition on diminishing the ability of racial or language minorities to elect their preferred candidates when they dismantled the 5th District in redrawing Florida's map last year. That district, which was created in 2016 in response to a previous round of litigation, was home to a 46% Black plurality and elected Al Lawson, a Black Democrat, three times in a row.
But after Republicans sliced the 5th down the middle to wring out a new, solidly red seat in north Florida, Lawson was left with the choice of either retiring or running in the revamped 2nd District, which contained his Tallahassee base. That district, though, was home to a 63% white majority and would have voted for Donald Trump by a 55-44 margin. It also was home to GOP Rep. Neal Dunn, though Lawson forged ahead nonetheless, losing in a 60-40 landslide.
That reality, however, seems to have informed the new agreement between the parties. In exchange for plaintiffs consenting to limit the scope of the case, defendants stipulated that "none of the enacted districts in North Florida are districts in which Black voters have the ability to elect their preferred candidates." That admission should boost plaintiffs' chances of success when the case proceeds to trial, which both sides have asked take place on Aug. 24.
In response to the development, Lawson told Politico that he said he'd consider a comeback if a version of his old district were restored. "It's almost like they have no representation there," Lawson said, relaying the concerns of former constituents who've said their pleas for assistance from Republican members of Congress have gone unheeded.
Disappointed Democrats in the rest of the state, however, may not get a shot at redemption. The plaintiffs, who are backed by national Democrats, had also alleged that a large number of districts ran afoul of the state constitution's ban on partisan gerrymandering, including not just the 5th but also the 4th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 26th, and 27th.
Those claims have now been abandoned, though it's conceivable different plaintiffs could raise them in a new suit. Given the sharp right turn Florida's Supreme Court has taken in recent years—five of its seven members were appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis—it's likely that the plaintiffs in the present suit believed their best hope lies in focusing on the 5th District and dispensing with their partisan gerrymandering arguments.
● GA-13: The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that "rumors persist" that Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Waites will seek a rematch with veteran Rep. David Scott after falling short in the 2020 Democratic primary in 2020, and Waites herself did nothing to dispel the chatter.
While saying that she had nothing to announce at the moment, Waites highlighted concerns from fellow Democrats about the 78-year-old Scott's ability to effectively do his job. "The point of sending our representatives to Washington is to be our voice," Waites argued, "and if their capacity is limited due to illness or whatever the case may be, I think it puts us at a disservice." Scott recently reaffirmed that, despite rumors to the contrary, he'll seek reelection. "Age happens," he declared. "As long I'm doing the job, I'm going to do it."
Waites previously served in the state House from 2012 until she resigned to wage a failed 2017 bid for chair of the Fulton County Commission, and she was out of office when she joined the 2020 primary to take on Scott. She raised virtually nothing in her bid to beat one of the more conservative Democrats in the chamber and lost 53-25, though she came unexpectedly close to forcing Scott into a runoff. She had better luck the following year when she won an at-large seat on the Atlanta City Council, but only about 700 of Scott's constituents live within the city limits.
● IN-06, IN-LG: GOP Rep. Greg Pence tells The Republic that he plans to file for reelection in his reliably conservative seat, though he doesn't appear to have addressed the possibility that he could instead serve as Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch's running mate should she win the Republican primary for governor. Nominees for lieutenant governor are chosen by convention delegates rather than primary voters a month or more after the primary, so it's possible Pence could hedge his bets and simultaneously run for Congress and statewide office.
● MD-03, MD-Sen: While Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes raised all of $15,000 during the first six months of the year, Maryland Matters writes that the nine-term congressman "says he isn't going anywhere."
There's no direct quote from Sarbanes announcing that he'll seek reelection in his safely blue seat, though the incumbent said, "I always come off each cycle looking forward to the next campaign." He added of his meager fundraising, "I typically give my individual supporters a break to catch their breath. I think the constant barrage of fundraising appeals do wear them out." Sarbanes, who is the son of the late Sen. Paul Sarbanes, also revealed he won't join the race for Maryland's open Senate seat or run for the upper chamber at any point in the future. "I decided a few years back that was something that I wasn't drawn to," said the congressman.
● MT-02, MT-Sen: Two Republicans, Auditor Troy Downing and Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, announced Monday that they were forming exploratory committees in case Rep. Matt Rosendale decides to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, though both said they have no wish to challenge the incumbent in this dark red seat should he instead seek reelection.
Downing, who took third place against Rosendale in the 2018 Senate primary, praised his former rival to KURL and added, "If Congressman Rosendale decides to pursue the US Senate seat, I will discuss with my family and prayerful consideration running for the second congressional district." Arntzen, meanwhile, would be the first woman to represent Montana in Congress since the trailblazing Jeannette Rankin, who was herself the first woman ever elected to Congress in 1916 and voted against involving America in both world wars during her two nonconsecutive terms. She went further than Downing and made it clear she'd endorse a Rosendale reelection bid.
Pluribus News also takes a look at the many other Republicans who are waiting to see whether Rosendale will give up his eastern Montana constituency, though per our usual practice, we'll wait to see whether he seeks a promotion before running down the potential field to succeed him. But we may be waiting a while longer to see if the congressman will defy Senate GOP leaders, who have consolidated behind wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy. "Montana voters will make their decision over the next few months over who will replace" Tester, a Rosendale spokesperson told KURL, "not Mitch McConnell and the DC cartel."
● NH-01: 2022 GOP nominee Karoline Leavitt dispelled whatever talk there was about a rematch against Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas Monday, saying, "I have decided not to put my name on the ballot in the next election." Leavitt, a Big Lie spreader who now works for a pro-Trump super PAC, lost that campaign 54-46.
● RI-01: EMILY's List and its allies at Elect Democratic Women are spending $400,000 on a TV buy to support Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, whom WPRI says doesn't have the resources to air her own spots ahead of the Sept. 5 special Democratic primary. The spot, which comes a week after the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC deployed $300,000 on its own pro-Matos ad campaign, touts her record on reproductive rights.
Businessman Don Carlson, meanwhile, is airing his own commercial that begins with footage of gunshots and the sounds of people panicking during a shooting, both of which the on-screen text says are dramatizations. Carlson, whose daughter spent the night in lockdown after a man fired gunshots into a hallway at Colby College (only the shooter was injured), tells the audience, "That was the scene at my daughter's college a few months ago. We were lucky that night, but no parent should ever have to wait by the phone to find out if their child was a victim of gun violence."
● VA-07: Two Republicans who served in different branches of the armed forces, retired Marine Jon Myers and Navy SEAL veteran Cameron Hamilton, have each filed FEC paperwork for the seat that Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger reportedly plans to retire from. Myers' site says he's raising money for an "exploratory committee," while we're still waiting to hear directly from Hamilton.
● WA-03: The Washington Republican Party on Saturday endorsed election conspiracy theorist Joe Kent in his bid for a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, despite the mess Kent unleashed less than a year ago. Kent's extremism, which included his belief that the Jan. 6 rioters were "political prisoners," helped Gluesenkamp Perez pull off a 50.1-49.9 upset in a southwestern Washington seat that Trump took 51-47 in 2020. That win helped ensure that House Democrats now represent every district that touches the Pacific Ocean, a feat they hadn't accomplished since before Washington became a state in 1889.
GOP donors so far don't seem happy with the idea of a second Kent campaign, but they're also not rallying behind his only notable intra-party foe. Kent outraised Camas City Councilmember Leslie Lewallen $185,000 to $135,000 during the second quarter of 2023, and he finished June with a $371,000 to $124,000 cash-on-hand advantage. There was briefly some chatter last year that Tiffany Smiley, who was the party's Senate nominee last year, could run, but the Northwest Progressive Institute says she's backing Lewallen. Gluesenkamp Perez, for her part, hauled in $665,000 during the last quarter and had $1.2 million banked to defend herself.
● WI Supreme Court: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos warned in a new interview with WSAU on Friday that Wisconsin's Republican-run legislature might impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz, the newest member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, if she does not recuse herself from cases where "she has prejudged" the dispute.
Vos specifically objected to Protasiewicz's condemnation of the state's GOP-drawn legislative district as "rigged" on the campaign trail earlier this year. Those districts are now the subject of a new lawsuit filed by voting rights advocates. But lawmakers, Vos said, might seek to remove Protasiewicz from office because "she bought into the argument" that Republicans have been successful at the ballot box due to gerrymandering, "not the quality of our candidates," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Molly Beck.
Republicans can easily make good on these threats, at least in terms of raw numbers. It only takes a simple majority in the Assembly to impeach, and thanks to those gerrymandered maps, Republicans have the necessary two-thirds supermajority to secure Protasiewicz's removal in the state Senate. The greater worry, though, is that Republicans simply stall.
If Protasiewicz were to actually be removed from her post, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would be able to appoint a replacement. However, the act of impeaching a state official strips them of their powers until a trial can be held. Republicans could therefore try to indefinitely delay a trial, to keep the court divided between three conservatives and the remaining three liberals.
But as state law expert Quinn Yeargain explains in a detailed post at Guaranteed Republics, the state legislature might not actually have the power to impeach a Supreme Court justice. He also points out that any attempt to slow-walk an impeachment trial could run afoul of the state constitution, saying that in such a scenario, Protasiewicz could sue to demand that the Senate take action.
● OH Ballot: Activists in Ohio have begun collecting signatures to place an amendment on next year's ballot that would establish an independent commission to draw election maps in place of the state's current GOP-dominated redistricting board, WOSU's George Shillcock reports. Organizers must first gather 1,000 voter signatures and submit their petition to state officials for their approval before they can amass the 413,487 total signatures they need to put their measure before voters in 2024.
The proposal would create a 15-member panel made up of five Democrats, five Republicans, and five independents, with a ban on politicians or lobbyists serving. The commission would be prohibited from taking incumbents' residency into account and would be required to draw congressional and legislative maps that closely reflect the statewide partisan preferences of Ohio voters. (In light of a similar provision in Ohio's current constitution, the parties in redistricting litigation last year agreed that Republican candidates had, on average, won 54% of the two-party vote in statewide elections over the previous decade while Democrats had won 46%.)
● NJ State Senate: A long chapter in New Jersey politics is coming to a close following Monday's retirement announcement from Democratic state Sen. Richard Codey, whose record 50 years in the legislature includes the 14 months he spent as acting governor from 2004 to 2006.
- Popular, but not where it counted. Codey became acting governor in 2004 after incumbent Jim McGreevey announced he would resign over an affair with an aide. But while Codey's high approval numbers would have made him the favorite to win a full term the next year in almost any other state, powerful party leaders mobilized behind wealthy Sen. Jon Corzine.
- From governor to backbencher. Codey had the honor of being designated the state's full governor at the end of his tenure, but entrenched powerbrokers like George Norcross spent 2009 preparing a successful coup to give the state Senate's top job to Steve Sweeney.
- Not one to "back off from a fight." Codey nonetheless remained in the state Senate for 14 years, and he got to witness almost all of his major intra-party foes, including Corzine and Norcross, lose elections and influence. Codey himself won his final contest months ago by beating a colleague for renomination.