Morning Digest: Federal judges let Ohio GOP run out the clock and use illegal gerrymandered maps

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

OH Redistricting: A three-judge federal court has hijacked Ohio's legislative redistricting process and rewarded Republican obstructionism by announcing on Wednesday that if the state's GOP-dominated redistricting commission fails to produce constitutional maps by May 28, it will implement maps that the state Supreme Court previously ruled were unconstitutional instead.

The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected four different sets of maps in a row for the state House and state Senate drawn by the commission, all for the same reason: They violated a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution barring partisan gerrymandering. That same amendment, however, forbid state courts from ordering the adoption of judicially crafted maps, leaving the Supreme Court with the power merely to order the commission—which consists of five Republicans and just two Democrats—to keep trying again.

But now Republicans have no incentive to try a fifth time, as the Supreme Court recently ordered, because if they fail to do so, the federal court will simply impose their third set of maps. In a 2-1 decision, two judges appointed by Donald Trump said they'd adopt those maps—despite the fact the Supreme Court found they violated the state constitution "beyond a reasonable doubt"—simply because Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is one of the five Republicans on the commission, told local election officials to prepare to use them before the justices had a chance to rule on their validity.

Federal courts cannot be barred by the Ohio constitution from imposing their own maps to remedy violations of the U.S. Constitution, and in fact they must do so in the event of an impasse to ensure that elections can be held using legal maps. (The GOP-drawn maps the state used for the last decade are now badly malapportioned in addition to being gerrymandered.) But in a dissent, Judge Algenon Marbley, who was named to the bench by Bill Clinton, castigated the majority for failing to "respect[] state policies to the maximum extent" by settling on plans that are "irredeemably flawed."

Instead, said Marbley, the state should use a plan crafted by a pair of outside map-drawers hired by the commission, which expert witnesses who testified before the federal court said "satisfies all constitutional requirements" with minor changes. The commission claimed it abandoned that plan because it was incomplete—a reason the majority cited for spurning it—but Marbley noted that an expert for opponents of the GOP's maps completed the necessary adjustments in a matter of hours.

Yet with the majority's decision, "Republican Commissioners will benefit directly from a crisis they created," wrote Marbley, "and which the Ohio Supreme Court has attributed squarely to them." And because the GOP's maps would only take effect for 2022, the same situation could unfold in future years. As Marbley explained, "The 2024 Commission, faced with the options of ceding political power or simply waiting out adverse court decisions, likely will be tempted to take the same course."

Unmentioned by the dissent is that Republicans are trying to wait out the state Supreme Court in another way as well: Republican Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, who sided with the court's three Democrats over her three GOP colleagues to strike down the maps, cannot run again in November due to age limits. If Republicans who oppose the redistricting ruling win her open seat and hold onto the other two GOP-held seats up this year, they would gain a 4-3 majority willing to uphold future GOP gerrymanders.

Democrats and redistricting reformers are essentially out of options for 2022 at this point. While an appeal of the federal court's ruling is possible, any such appeal would go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, where challengers would expect a very unfriendly reception. The Ohio Supreme Court, meanwhile, has contemplated holding commissioners in contempt. To date it's declined to do so, but even if it does, there's no reason to think Republicans would produce constitutional maps since they'll get exactly what they want as long as they hold out until May 28.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Florida's Republican-run state House approved Gov. Ron DeSantis' new congressional map in a party-line vote on Thursday, following a similar vote in the state Senate a day earlier. The map, which would establish 20 districts Donald Trump would have carried and just eight that would have gone for Joe Biden, now goes to DeSantis for his signature, though litigation challenging the plan is a certainty.

Senate

MO-Sen: Marine veteran Lucas Kunce has released a Public Policy Polling survey of the August Democratic primary that finds him leading philanthropist Trudy Busch Valentine by 25-18 with a substantial 56% of voters undecided. This is the first publicly available poll we've seen from anyone so far.

NH-Sen, NH-Gov: The University of New Hampshire has tested some potential matchups between Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and a few of her Republican challengers, and their new poll finds Hassan in a very tight race this fall:

47-46 vs. 2020 candidate and retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc

44-46 vs. state Senate President Chuck Morse

45-44 vs. former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith

46-40 vs. Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton

UNH also tested the Republican primary in September and found Bolduc with a large 33-4 lead over the nearest contender, but with 58% of voters undecided and Bolduc having significantly higher name recognition than his rivals thanks in part to his 2020 bid, that advantage could dwindle as his opponents become better known and more voters pick a candidate to support.

The GOP primary grew larger still on Thursday when author and investor Vikram Mansharamani kicked off his campaign. Vikram, who is also a lecturer at Harvard and the son of Indian immigrants, does not appear to have run for office before.

The UNH poll above also surveyed the election for governor, but the results are much less competitive than in the Senate contest. They have Republican Gov. Chris Sununu cruising to a 55-29 lead over state Sen. Tom Sherman, who is the only notable Democrat challenging the three-term incumbent so far.

OH-Sen: Protect Our Values PAC, which is supporting venture capitalist J.D. Vance in the May 3 Republican primary, has publicized a Fabrizio, Lee & Associates poll that finds Vance pulling into a 25-18 lead over former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, with investment banker Mike Gibbons taking 13%, former state party chair Jane Timken earning 11%, and state Sen. Matt Dolan winning 9%. Those numbers are an improvement for Vance since their March survey, which had Vance, Mandel, and Gibbons in a three-way tie with 18% each followed by Timken at 11% and Dolan at 9%.

This is Fabrizio, Lee & Associates' first poll since Donald Trump endorsed Vance on April 15, and it's undoubtedly intended to support the idea that Trump's support is helping put Vance ahead. However, it's worth noting that nearly every other poll here in recent months has found Vance stuck further back in third or fourth place, though no other pollster has released a survey yet since Trump made his endorsement.

Meanwhile, Buckeyes for a Strong Ohio PAC, which is supporting Gibbons, has released a new ad calling Mandel a career politician and a "total fraud." The spot disingenuously blasts Mandel for having supported Mitt Romney and former Gov. John Kasich without noting that Mandel did so when Romney at least was the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, not more recently when both he and Kasich have been among the few Republican Trump critics. The ad finishes by praising Gibbons as a businessman.

OK-Sen-B: Friday was also the filing deadline for Oklahoma's June 28 primaries, and the state has its candidate list here. A runoff would take place Aug. 23 for any contest where no one earned a majority of the vote.

Longtime Sen. Jim Inhofe announced in late February that he would resign, effective ​​when the current Congress ends, and 13 fellow Republicans are competing for the final two years of his term in this dark-red state. Inhofe is pulling for his former chief of staff, Luke Holland, and a new super PAC called OkieWay has spent $475,000 on ads starring the outgoing senator praising his would-be successor. The GOP side, though, includes several contenders who start out with more name recognition than Holland, who is a first-time candidate.

One familiar name is Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who represents a seat in the eastern part of Oklahoma. There's also former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who ran in the 2014 special election for the Sooner State's other Senate seat but lost the primary to then-Rep. James Lankford by a surprisingly wide 57-34 margin: Both Mullin and Shannon would be the first Native Americans to serve in the upper chamber since Colorado Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell retired in 2005, while Shannon would also be Oklahoma's first Black senator. Another prominent contender is former state Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who later served as Trump's first head of the EPA and resigned in the face of numerous scandals.

Also in the running is state Sen. Nathan Dahm, who took a close fourth in the 2018 primary for the Tulsa-based 1st Congressional District; Dahm, who was waging a longshot bid against Lankford before Inhofe announced his departure, has benefited from about $155,000 in TV ads so far from Protect Freedom PAC, which is allied with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Rounding out the field is former Trump White House staffer Alex Gray, while the other seven contenders don't appear to be serious.

Pruitt only entered the race just before filing closed last week so there are no fundraising reports available for him, but we have first quarter numbers from the rest of the GOP field:

  • Holland: $620,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $773,000 cash-on-hand
  • Mullin: $385,000 raised, additional $1 million self-funded, $1.96 million cash-on-hand
  • Shannon: $245,000 raised, additional $150,000 self-funded, $392,000 cash-on-hand
  • Dahm: $147,000 raised, $170,000 cash-on-hand
  • Gray: $132,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $299,000 cash-on-hand

The only Democrat in the race is former Rep. Kendra Horn, who raised $343,000 and had $369,000 available.

Governors

AZ-Gov: First quarter fundraising reports are available for candidates seeking to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, with the primaries for both parties taking place in August:

  • Former TV news anchor Kari Lake (R): $970,000 raised, $701,000 cash-on-hand
  • Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson (R): $718,000 raised, additional $2 million self-loaned, $357,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former Rep. Matt Salmon (R): $469,000 raised, $703,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Steve Gaynor (R): $35,000 raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand (thanks to prior self-funding)
  • Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D): $748,000 raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • Former homeland security official Marco López (D): $305,000 raised, additional $150,000 self-loaned, $450,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman (D): $275,000 raised, $759,000 cash-on-hand

FL-Gov: Sachs Media has conducted a Democratic primary poll on behalf of Florida Politics that shows Rep. Charlie Crist holding a 35-20 lead over state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, while state Sen. Annette Taddeo is far behind with 4%. This is Sachs' first publicly available poll; the few other pollsters who have released surveys here in recent months have also found Crist ahead but with a large share of voters still undecided with four months to go until the August primary.

GA-Gov: Former Sen. David Perdue is running a new GOP primary ad, which is backed by a modest $320,000 buy that his campaign says will grow to $500,000, that embraces the Big Lie and various other far-right themes. Perdue hits Gov. Brian Kemp for letting radicals "steal the election," by which he really means Kemp not helping Trump to actually steal it, and because of this he blames Kemp for inflation and other problems under Biden. Perdue touts Trump's endorsement and vows to eliminate the state income tax.

IL-Gov: Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin's latest GOP primary ad tries to portray state Rep. Darren Bailey as a phony conservative by highlighting how Bailey said last month that, "I might have voted for Biden," while the rest of the spot hits Bailey for having supported property tax increases while he was on a local school board.

However, the ad omits how Bailey was speaking about voting in the 2008 Democratic primary, which he claimed he had done as a way to stop Hillary Clinton, not the more recent 2020 general election. The Chicago Tribune noted that Irvin himself had refused to say whether he voted for Trump shortly after joining the race and that he had voted in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries, which Irvin justified by saying he was voting for conservative Democrats in local races.

MD-Gov: The filing deadline for Maryland's July 19 primary passed Friday, and the state has a list of contenders available here. (Both dates were twice postponed because of legal challenges to congressional and legislative maps.) The congressional and state legislative lists aren't quite final, though, as the State Board of Elections says, "These candidates are listed in the district where they live now. After election officials make changes to County, State, and Congressional districts based on final redistricting plans, some candidates may be assigned to a different district." The BoE adds that this will be finished "in late May or early June."  

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is termed out, and 10 Democrats and four Republicans are competing to succeed him in a state that Joe Biden carried 65-32. The only sitting elected official on either side is state Comptroller Peter Franchot, a moderate Democrat who has enjoyed a good relationship with Hogan. Team Blue's field also includes two former members of the Obama cabinet: former Secretary of Education John King and former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who later went on to head up the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic side also consists of two contenders who took second place in primaries for governor during the last decade: former Attorney General Doug Gansler, who lost in 2014, and former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, who unsuccessfully campaigned four years later and is now the only candidate taking part in Maryland's public financing system. Also in the contest are former nonprofit leaders Jon Baron and Wes Moore as well as Ashwani Jain, a one-time Obama administration official who lost a 2018 primary for the Montgomery County Council; two little-known candidates round out the list.

The only recent poll we've seen was a March internal for Baker that showed him trailing Franchot 23-15, with Perez and Moore at 11% and 10%, respectively. New campaign finance reports aren't due until mid-June (the last available numbers are from mid-January), so it will be a while before we get a fresh look at everyone's financial strength.

On the GOP side, Hogan is backing Kelly Schulz, whom he previously appointed as state Commerce Secretary. Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, meanwhile, is Del. Dan Cox, who played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a busload of people to attend the rally that preceded it. Also in the race are wealthy perennial candidate Robin Ficker, who decided to continue his bid despite getting disbarred, and Some Dude Joe Werner.

NE-Gov: State Sen. Brett Lindstrom's newest ad ahead of the May 10 Republican primary shows the candidate talking up his record of cutting taxes, and he says he's "just getting started."

OK-Gov: Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has three intra-party foes, with Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director Joel Kintsel looking like the most serious of the challengers. The Trump-endorsed incumbent's biggest threat, though, likely comes from a pair of dark money groups that together have spent at least $3.3 million on negative ads. Stitt has fired back with his own messaging arguing he's the victim of a smear campaign by "insiders and casino bosses," and he's also received $577,000 in help from the RGA. The Democratic side is a duel between Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who left the GOP last year, and former state Sen. Connie Johnson, who lost the 2018 primary for this office.

House

AZ-06: EMILY's List has endorsed state Sen. Kirsten Engel ahead of the August Democratic primary.

Engel raised $225,000 in the first quarter and finished March with $639,000 on hand compared to her other notable primary opponent, state Rep. Daniel Hernández, who raised $154,000 and had $447,000 in the bank. On the Republican side is Juan Ciscomani, a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, who raised $443,000 and had $1.1 million in cash-on-hand.

FL-04, FL-05: Republican state Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean says he is "still exploring" a congressional run, which Florida Politics indicates would likely be in the new 4th District.

Republican legislators passed a new congressional map this week (see our FL Redistricting item above) that carves up Jacksonville to create two Republican-leaning districts by dismantling the existing 5th District, which is a predominantly Black and safely Democratic seat stretching to Tallahassee, but the redrawn 5th District corresponds more closely to GOP Rep. John Rutherford's existing 4th District and contains most of his current turf. Florida Politics treats it as a given that Rutherford would run there instead, meaning the new 4th is effectively the closest successor to the old 5th even though it's a very different constituency.

State Rep. Jason Fischer and Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond have both previously said they were also considering running, and Florida Politics says they would also run in the 4th if they join the August GOP primary. One Republican who won't be running for either seat, though, is term-limited Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who said he will finish out the rest of his term through 2023.

IL-01: SEIU Local 1, which says it represents 30,000 members across Illinois, has endorsed Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell ahead of the crowded Democratic primary in June.

Dowell led the pack in fundraising, raising $382,000 in the first three months of 2022, and he held $297,000 on hand at the start of April. Close behind was businessman Jonathan Swain, who reported $356,000 in donations, an additional $19,000 in self-funding, and $322,000 in cash-on-hand. Former Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin Norington-Reaves raised $291,000 and had $237,000 leftover to spend, while construction company owner Jonathan Jackson raised $145,000 and had $130,000 in the bank.

Four other candidates reported raising less than $100,000: Real estate executive Nykea Pippion McGriff raised $85,000, self-funded an additional $3,000, and had $79,000 remaining; former Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority official Charise Williams took in $83,000 and had $44,000 left in the bank; state Sen. Jacqueline Collins raised $69,000, self-funded an additional $10,000, and had $62,000 left to spend; and Pastor Stephany Rose Spaulding, whom we hadn't previously mentioned, raised a mere $50,000, self-funded $23,000, and had $27,000 on hand.

IL-15: Rep. Mary Miller has launched an ad going after fellow GOP Rep. Rodney Davis for voting to create the Jan. 6 investigation committee. The spot calls Davis a "RINO" while noting that Miller has Trump's endorsement.

Davis held a sizable edge over Miller in first quarter fundraising, though, raising $923,000 and finishing March with $1.9 million in cash-on-hand. By contrast, Miller brought in just $335,000 and had $511,000 left over at the start of April.

IN-01: Air Force veteran Jennifer-Ruth Green has debuted a GOP primary ad that portrays former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo as a "Never Trump liberal" who refused to back Trump in 2016 and criticized his immigration policies. Green touts her own support from Indiana Right to Life and her top rating from the NRA.

Milo led Green $208,000 to $155,000 in first quarter fundraising, but she had just $111,000 on hand compared to Green's $151,000 at the end of the quarter. The primary is on May 3.

IN-09: American Dream Federal Action, a cryptocurrency-aligned PAC on the Republican side, has reported spending at least $387,000 on GOP primary ads for former state Sen. Erin Houchin.

Houchin raised the most money of any Republican candidate from donors in the first quarter, having brought in $377,000 and holding $250,000 on hand. Army veteran Stu Barnes-Israel raised $264,000, self-funded an additional $101,000, and had $232,000 left to spend. Former Rep. Mike Sodrel took in just $38,000 from donors but self-funded an additional $429,000, almost all of which he spent to end up with only $58,000 on hand. Lastly, businessman Jim Baker, whom we hadn't previously mentioned, raised $64,000 and had $40,000 remaining on hand.

MD-01: Rep. Andy Harris, who is one of the Republican party's ​​leading election deniers, is defending a seat along the Eastern Shore that would have backed Donald Trump 56-42, which is considerably more conservative than the seat Democrats drew up last year for a map that was ultimately struck down in state court.

Harris still faces a well-funded Democratic challenger in the form of former Del. Heather Mizeur, who took third place in the 2014 primary for governor and would be the first lesbian to represent the state in Congress. Harris outraised Mizeur $468,000 to $372,000 during the first quarter of 2022, and he finished March with a $1.88 million to $1.12 million cash-on-hand edge. Foreign policy strategist Dave Harden is also competing in the Democratic primary, but he's raised little so far.

MD-04: Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown is leaving this safely blue seat, which is based around Prince George's County in the D.C. suburbs, to run for attorney general, and three notable candidates from the county are competing to succeed him.

One well-established contender is Brown's predecessor, former Rep. Donna Edwards, a progressive who left the House in 2016 to unsuccessfully run for the Senate; Edwards later waged a 2018 comeback campaign for county executive, but she lost that primary by a wide 62-24 margin to Angela Alsobrooks. Another familiar name is former county State's Attorney Glenn Ivey, whom Brown beat 42-34 in the 2016 primary to replace Edwards. Another person to watch is former Del. Angela Angel, who lost her 2018 primary for a state Senate seat 55-37.

Edwards, who entered the race this year and has EMILY's List's support, raised $612,000 during her opening quarter and self-funded another $13,000, and she finished March with $460,000 on hand. Ivey, meanwhile, took in $294,000 from donors and provided another $150,000, which left him with a larger $584,000 war chest. Angel, finally, raised $54,000, self-funded $45,000 more, and was left with $95,000 on hand.

MD-06: Democratic Rep. David Trone faces a potentially tough general election now that redistricting has cut Joe Biden's margin of victory from 61-38 to 54-44 (Hillary Clinton would have carried this version of the 6th just 47-46), though the extremely wealthy incumbent has proven in the past that he's more than willing to make generous use of his own wealth. Indeed, Trone self-funded $2 million during the first quarter, which was far more than the $41,000 he took in from donors, and ended March with just over $2 million on hand.

The most prominent Republican in the contest for this redrawn constituency, which includes western Maryland and the D.C. exurbs, is Del. Neil Parrott, whom Trone turned back 59-39 last cycle. Parrott raised just $25,000 during the first three months of 2022 and had $262,000 in the bank, though contributors may take more of an interest in this race now that the 6th has become more competitive. State House Minority Leader Jason Buckel briefly considered running here as well before filing closed, but he decided to seek re-election instead.

NC-01: The state AFL-CIO has endorsed state Sen. Don Davis in the May 17 Democratic primary for this open seat.

NC-04: Protect Our Future PAC, the group funded by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, is spending at least $771,000 to boost state Sen. Valerie Foushee in next month's Democratic primary for this safely blue seat.

NH-02: Brewery owner Jeff Cozzens announced Thursday that he was exiting the August Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster.  

OK-02: Republicans have a huge 14-person lineup to succeed Senate candidate Markwayne Mullin in an eastern Oklahoma seat that Trump would have carried 76-22, and there's no obvious frontrunner at this point. One contender, though, ended March with a big financial lead over their many foes:

  • Economy Pharmacy CEO Chris Schiller: $257,000 raised, additional $250,000 self-funded, $501,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Sen. Marty Quinn: $106,000 raised, additional $27,000 self-funded, $129,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Rep. Dustin Roberts: $83,000 raised, additional $25,000 self-funded, $105,000 cash-on-hand
  • Muskogee Chief of Police Johnny Teehee: $42,000 raised, additional $210,000 self-funded, $250,000 cash-on-hand
  • State party chair John Bennett: $27,000 raised, $23,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Rep. Avery Frix: $15,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $215,000 cash-on-hand

The race includes several other politicians who joined the race after the new fundraising quarter began:

  • businessman Guy Barker
  • former state Sen. Josh Brecheen
  • former state Rep. David Derby
  • former defense contractor Pamela Gordon
  • Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Wes Nofire

The remaining three Republicans don't appear to be serious contenders, though it's always possible one of them could advance to a runoff in this outsized field.

OR-06: Protect Our Future PAC has dropped an additional $1.9 million to aid economic development adviser Carrick Flynn in the May 17 Democratic primary for this newly created seat, which brings its total investment here to a staggering $7 million.

PA-08: 2020 Republican nominee Jim Bognet has launched the first ad for his rematch against Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, and he quickly makes it clear what kind of campaign he'll be running when he opens, "In 2020, President Trump endorsed me for Congress. But that election was stolen from us."

RI-02: Former state Rep. David Segal declared Wednesday that he was joining the September Democratic primary for this open seat, an announcement that came almost two months after he began raising money for a potential campaign to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Langevin.

Segal, as we've written before, was active in Providence progressive politics in 2002 when he was elected to the City Council as a member of the Green Party, and he briefly served as the chamber's minority leader. After joining the Democrats and winning a seat in the state House, Segal ran for the 1st District in 2010, which was the last time Rhode Island had an open-seat race for Congress. He campaigned to the left of his many primary foes and ended up in third place with 20%; the winner, with 37%, was Providence Mayor David Cicilline, who still holds the district today. Segal didn't seek elected office in the ensuing decade, though he did found the national liberal organization Demand Progress.

SC-01: Big Lie enthusiast Katie Arrington has earned an endorsement from 2nd District Rep. Joe Wilson, who infamously shouted, "You lie!" at Barack Obama during a 2009 presidential address to Congress, for her campaign to beat incumbent Nancy Mace in the June Republican primary.  

VA-02: Candidate filing closed on April 7 for Virginia's June 21 primaries, and we'll be taking a look at the state of play in each competitive congressional race now that first quarter fundraising numbers are in; you can find a list of contenders here.

Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria is defending a Virginia Beach-based seat where, following redistricting, Joe Biden's margin of victory was halved from 51-47 to 50-48. National Republicans, including the deep-pocketed Congressional Leadership Fund, have consolidated behind state Sen. Jen Kiggans, who won her seat in a close 2019 general election campaign. Luria outraised Kiggans $1.2 million to $435,000 during the first three months of 2022 and ended March with a huge $3.16 million to $593,000 cash-on-hand.

Before she can go up against Luria, Kiggans needs to get past high school football coach Jarome Bell, a Big Lie fanatic who has the backing of 5th District Rep. Bob Good. Bell, who earned last place in the 2020 three-way primary with 23%, had a mere $9,000, though, so he may not be much of an obstacle for Kiggans, who has been happy to entertain election conspiracies herself.

VA-07: While some Northern Virginia Democrats initially expressed interest in waging a primary bid against Rep. ​​Abigail Spanberger after the new congressional map replaced much of her suburban Richmond base with turf in populous Prince William County, Spanberger will face no intra-party opposition. Those dramatic changes boosted Biden's margin from just 50-49 to 52-46, but six Republicans are hoping to take her on.

Both state Sen. Bryce Reeves and Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson were running against Spanberger before the remap, and they've continued their campaigns here: Reeves outraised Anderson $269,000 to $232,000 during the most recent fundraising quarter, and he finished March with a small $390,000 to $371,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega, meanwhile, entered the race shortly after redistricting was completed, and she raised $357,000 in her first three months and had $294,000 to spend. Another new arrival, Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chair Crystal Vanuch, took in $82,000 but self-funded $402,000, which left her with $468,000 to spend. Spotsylvania County Supervisor David Ross, likewise, raised $42,000 and provided $101,000 more, which left him with a $121,000 war chest. The final Republican, 2021 state House nominee Gina Ciarcia, had less than $15,000 to spend. Spanberger herself raised $1.13 million to defend herself, and she finished March with $3.89 million in the bank.

ECU: The progressive group End Citizens United has endorsed six Democratic House contenders:

Attorneys General

ID-AG: While the Club for Growth doesn’t appear to have endorsed its old ally, former Rep. Raúl Labrador, in the May 17 Republican primary for attorney general, the group is spending nearly $300,000 to weaken five-term incumbent Lawrence Wasden. The commercial attacks Wasden for refusing to join 13 other GOP attorneys general in suing to overturn the Biden administration’s COVID relief bill, with the narrator arguing he “allowed Washington to shove their woke agenda down our throats.” The ad also goes after him for refusing to join the 2020 lawsuit aimed at overturning Biden’s win, saying he “looked the other way when election integrity hung in the balance.”

MD-AG: The Democratic primary to succeed retiring Democratic incumbent Brian Frosh is a duel between two well-connected candidates: Rep. Anthony Brown, who was the party's 2014 nominee for governor, and former Baltimore Judge Katie Curran O'Malley, who is the wife of former Gov. Martin O'Malley. The winner will be the heavy favorite in November for an office that the GOP last won in 1918.

MI-AG, MI-SoS: Michigan Republicans will hold a convention Saturday to choose their candidates to take on Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, races that Donald Trump has intervened in as he seeks to install adherents of the Big Lie into key offices like these nationwide. However, the weekend's results may not bring about a definitive resolution because the party's endorsement can be overturned in August with an affirmative vote of three-fourths of delegates, and at least one candidate hasn't ruled out pursuing this option if he loses.

MLive.com explains this strange state of affairs came about because, as GOP consultant John Sellek puts it, these springtime gatherings are "completely made up by the parties." Indeed, state law requires that the parties, rather than primary voters, pick their nominees for these offices (as well as for lieutenant governor) at conventions that take place in the "fall" (which has been interpreted, for some reason, to include August).

Democrats, though, decided several years ago that they wanted to choose their candidates far earlier in order to give them a head start for the general election. That's why they came up with the idea of the April endorsement convention, with the later event serving only to make the results official. (Michigan voters will select nominees in all other races in the state's Aug. 2 primary.)

Republicans decided to try this approach out themselves for the first time this cycle, but Trump's interventions have, unsurprisingly, complicated things. While many GOP leaders want their nominee for attorney general to be former state House Speaker Tom Leonard, who lost to Nessel by a close 49-46 margin in 2018, Trump has instead backed Matthew DePerno, an attorney who's made a name for himself advancing the conspiracy theories about the 2020 elections and recently called for the arrest of Nessel, Benson, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The GOP field also includes state Rep. Ryan Berman, who has tried to position himself as an alternative to Leonard and DePerno but has been willing to call out DePerno's lies. In the race for secretary of state, Trump is similarly pulling for Kristina Karamo, who has called the Jan. 6 insurrectionists "​​totally antifa posing as Trump supporters," to beat state Rep. Beau LaFave and Chesterfield Township Clerk Cindy Berry.

Sellek predicted that DePerno, who earlier this month called for his supporters to "storm" the county-level meetings where party activists pick delegates for the endorsement convention, would respond to a defeat on Saturday by trying to get the results overturned in August. Berman, though, was the only one who publicly addressed the idea, telling MLive, "It depends on what happens this weekend. We'll see how it plays out." Still, it would take quite a lot to convince 75% of the August delegates to adopt what Sellek called a "smash-glass-in-case-of-emergency" option.

And the glass may remain intact no matter what these insurgents might want. GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, who backs Trump's picks, predicted, "The party as a whole is going to coalesce around this team, starting Saturday afternoon," adding, "I will work my tail off for whatever candidates come out of this convention."

Former state party executive director Jason Roe, though, struck a very different tone when describing the stakes of the endorsement convention. "We're going to find out if we're going to be held hostage to second-tier candidates who can't win general elections in pursuit of genuflecting to the dear leader," he said, "or if we're going to focus on winning elections and making sure that conservatives control state government and make the policies that we all have to live under."

Morning Digest: GOP primary for open Ohio Senate seat grows larger and could get even more crowded

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

OH-Sen: The Republican field for Ohio's open Senate seat swelled to four on Tuesday when Mike Gibbons, an investment banker who lost the 2018 primary, announced that he would launch a second bid.

Gibbons joins former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, ex-state party chair Jane Timken, and fellow businessman Bernie Moreno in what could be a crowded race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman. Several other Republicans are also talking about running including venture capitalist J.D. Vance and Reps. Bill Johnson, Steve Stivers, and Mike Turner, so this contest will likely become even larger.

Gibbons hoped to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in the 2018 contest for the Buckeye State's other Senate seat, but he spent much of the primary looking like the clear underdog against Mandel. The race took a shocking turn early that year, though, when Mandel, citing his then-wife's health, suddenly dropped out.

Campaign Action

Gibbons briefly had the contest to himself, but if he was hoping he'd emerge as the party's default nominee, he soon got a rude awakening. Rep. Jim Renacci switched from the governor's race to the Senate contest, and he quickly emerged as Team Red's new frontrunner even before he received Donald Trump's endorsement. Gibbons ended up self-funding $2.8 million, which represented more than 80% of his campaign's total haul, but Renacci beat him by a wide 47-32 margin; Renacci ultimately lost to Brown that fall.

Gibbons is hoping that he'll be the one to receive Trump's backing this time, and Politico reported last month that he joined each of his now-rivals in Florida as they each made their case for an endorsement. Gibbons, however, acknowledged to the Cincinnati Enquirer this week that he doesn't "expect" to receive Trump's coveted not-tweet.

That pessimism may at least prevent Gibbons from the kind of embarrassing headlines that Mandel received over the weekend. Axios' Alayna Treene reports that Mandel made another trip to Florida to attend the Republican National Committee's donor retreat, an event that Trump addressed on Saturday. Mandel didn't get the chance to hobnob with his party's leader, though, as he was told to leave the previous day because he hadn't been invited in the first place. Timken, by contrast, was a credentialed attendee on account of her major donor status.

1Q Fundraising

IL-Sen: Tammy Duckworth (D-inc): $3.7 million raised, $1.8 million cash-on-hand

CA-25: Mike Garcia (R-inc): $650,000 raised

MA-04: Jake Auchincloss (D-inc): $460,000 raised, $850,000 cash-on-hand

NY-11: Nicole Malliotakis (R-inc): $358,000 raised, $338,000 cash-on-hand

NY-24: John Katko (R-inc): $436,000 raised, $586,000 cash-on-hand

Senate

IA-Sen, IA-Gov: For the first time since early this year, Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne has spoken about her plans for 2022, saying she'd be "interested in doing a job for Iowa that improves people's lives." That, Axne, said, could mean running for Senate or governor, or seeking re-election to the House. The Storm Lake Times, which reported Axne's remarks, incorrectly concluded that the congresswoman had listed those offices in order of preference; her communications team, however, clarified she'd done no such thing, saying that "all three options are on the table." In an interview in January, Axne declined to rule out bids for either statewide office.

Governors

IL-Gov: Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, who previously hadn't ruled out a run for governor, now says that his preference is to seek re-election but, depending on the upcoming round of redistricting, he could opt for a gubernatorial bid instead. Illinois is one of the few states where Democrats will have unfettered control of the mapmaking process this decade, and they could make Davis' 13th Congressional District considerably bluer.

MD-Gov: Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, who was reported to be weighing a bid for governor, publicly confirmed for the first time on Sunday that he's "considering" entering the Democratic primary. John Olszewski didn't offer a timetable for making a decision, but he noted that he'd be introducing a budget on Thursday and said he would "take the time necessary to ensure its passage." In recent years, county budgets have passed sometime in May.

VA-Gov: Term-limited Gov. Ralph Northam, who just endorsed former Gov. Terry McAuliffe last week, now stars in his predecessor's newest TV ad. Northam praises McAuliffe for having "the experience and vision to lead Virginia into a stronger and more equitable future."

House

CA-39: Former Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros, who had expressed some interest in a rematch after losing his first bid for re-election last fall, has been nominated by Joe Biden to run the Defense Department's personnel office. If Cisneros, a veteran who served in the Navy at the rank of lieutenant commander, is confirmed by the Senate, that presumably would take him out of the running for another congressional campaign.

Following the Cisneros news, Rep. Ted Lieu endorsed the lone notable Democrat running against freshman Republican Rep. Young Kim, community college trustee Jay Chen. Lieu, who was one of the House managers of Donald Trump's second impeachment, represents a Los Angeles-area district not far from California's 39th, which is based in Orange County.

FL-20: Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness kicked off a campaign for Florida's vacant 20th Congressional District on Monday with the backing of Alcee Hastings II, who'd been mentioned as a possible candidate for the seat that had been held by his late father. Holness joins state Sen. Perry Thurston and Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief among the notable Democrats running in the as-yet unscheduled special election to replace the elder Hastings, who died earlier this month at the age of 84.

Sharief had in fact filed paperwork to run in the 20th District back in December, months before Hastings died, but she hasn't used that extra time to build up much of a donor base: In her first quarterly fundraising report, she brought in just $13,000 from individuals during the first three months of the year, though she also loaned her campaign another $100,000 on top of that.

GA-06, GA-07: Army veteran Harold Earls, who recently became the first notable Republican to launch a challenge to Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, says he might change races depending on how redistricting turns out. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Earls says he might switch to the neighboring 7th District, represented by freshman Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, "if her district was made more friendly to the GOP."

LA-02: State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson earned an endorsement Tuesday from the progressive group End Citizens United ahead of the April 24 all-Democratic runoff.

Meanwhile, campaign finance reports covering the time between March 1 and April 4 are out (the March 24 all-party primary fell in the middle of this period), and they show that fellow state Sen. Troy Carter maintains a financial advantage. Carter outraised Peterson about $610,000 to $363,000 (Peterson self-funded an additional $10,000) and outspent her $676,000 to $444,000. Carter held a $223,000 to $138,000 edge in cash-on-hand for the final weeks of the campaign.

NY-24: Public policy professor Dana Balter, who lost two straight campaigns to Republican Rep. John Katko in 2018 and 2020, says she won't be back for a third try next year. However, Navy veteran Francis Conole, who lost last year's Democratic nomination to Balter by a 63-37 margin, says he's considering another campaign. Meanwhile, Roger Misso, another Navy veteran who also ran last cycle but dropped out a few months before the primary, says he "has no plans to seek office," according to syracuse.com.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams picked up an endorsement Tuesday from the city firefighters’ union, the Uniformed Firefighters Officers Association, for the June Democratic primary.

Morning Digest: Virginia GOP congressman who officiated same-sex wedding gets denied renomination

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

VA-05: Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good won the Republican nomination on Saturday by defeating freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman at the party convention by 58-42, a result that ends Riggleman’s brief career in Congress. While Riggleman had Donald Trump’s endorsement, Good and his allies portrayed the congressman as insufficiently conservative. Riggleman notably pissed off the base last summer when he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers, a move that quickly led to a homophobic backlash at home.

Good will now be Team Red’s standard bearer in a district which includes Charlottesville and south-central Virginia, and that moved from 53-46 Romney to 53-42 Trump. Riggleman, though, only won 53-47 in 2018, and Good could be vulnerable in the fall. Democrats, who opted to hold a traditional party primary, will choose their nominee to take on Good on June 23 in a contest that features several well-funded contenders. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this contest as Likely Republican.

Campaign Action

Riggleman’s loss comes after a short and at times bizarre career in politics that began with a 2017 run for governor. Riggleman, a distillery owner and former Air Force intelligence officer, pitched himself as an aggravated outsider and focused his anger at the utility giant Dominion Energy, which had tried to route a natural gas pipeline through his property. However, Riggleman dropped out of the contest after a few months of weak fundraising, declaring that he'd sadly learned that "money seems to be the most important part of a campaign."

Riggleman surprisingly got another chance to run for office the following year, though, after first-term GOP Rep. Tom Garrett unexpectedly dropped out in bizarre fashion after winning renomination. The 5th District Republican Committee was tasked with picking a new nominee, and Riggleman ended up defeating Republican National Committee member Cynthia Dunbar, who had lost a convention for the neighboring 6th District just weeks prior, on the fourth and final ballot.

This race always looked like a longshot for Democrats, but the contest attracted national attention. Riggleman’s opponent was journalist Leslie Cockburn, the mother of actress Olivia Wilde, and Cockburn ended up raising a credible amount of money. And perhaps more importantly, Riggleman himself turned out to be an aficionado of Bigfoot erotica.

National Republicans ended up spending $600,000 in the final weeks of the campaign to aid Riggleman, which was a costly rescue mission at a time when the GOP was on the defensive in numerous other House seats. Riggleman won, though, and he showed up to his first day in Congress wearing … Bigfoot socks.

Riggleman soon had a more human political concern, though. After the congressman officiated a same-sex wedding over the summer, local Republican Parties in three small 5th District counties each passed anti-Riggleman motions. Good, who worked as an athletics official at Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University, soon launched his campaign against Riggleman, whom he'd describe as “out of step with the base of the party on life. He's out of step on marriage. He's out of step on immigration. He's out of step on health care.”

Falwell himself backed Riggleman, but local party leaders weren’t so supportive. The 5th District Committee voted to decide its nominee through a convention, a gathering that tends to be dominated by conservative activists, rather than a primary. It also didn’t escape Riggleman’s attention that the convention was taking place at Good’s own church.

Riggleman himself publicly bashed the 5th District Committee’s handling of the nominating contest, especially after the coronavirus pandemic indefinitely delayed the convention. Chairman Melvin Adams also didn’t hide his frustration with the congressman, telling Roll Call, “I know the congressman and some of his staff and other people have been putting out false information, or at least implying this committee is trying to rig things. This committee is not trying to rig things.”

The party ended up holding its convention in the parking lot of Good’s church, an event that allowed 2,537 delegates to eject Riggleman from Congress from the comfort of their cars. Riggleman claimed that “[v]oting irregularities and ballot stuffing” took place, insinuating that it decided the outcome, and he said his campaign is evaluating its options, which could include legal action.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete compilation of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to election and voting procedures.

Iowa: Iowa's Republican-run state House has almost unanimously approved a bipartisan compromise that would require Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate to seek approval from a special panel of lawmakers to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters. A day earlier, the state Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans, passed a bill that would forbid Pate from sending out applications altogether, as he did before the state's June 2 primary.

Under the House measure, Pate would have to get the sign-off of Iowa's Legislative Council, which describes itself as a "steering committee" that, explains the Quad-City Times, is empowered to act on behalf of the full legislature when it's not in session. The 20-member panel includes 11 Republicans and nine Democrats. It would have to approve any emergency changes Pate might propose, including mailing applications or altering the absentee voting period (something Pate also did before the primary, increasing it from 29 days to 40).

It's not clear whether the Senate will concur with the House, though, and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has not expressed a view on either bill.

North Carolina: Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has signed a bill that will make mail voting easier by reducing the requirement that voters have two witnesses or a notary sign their ballots, instead requiring just a single witness. However, the legislation also prevents local election officials from conducting all-mail elections, and it contains a provision that could help Republicans revive their voter ID law, which two separate courts have blocked from taking effect.

Tennessee: A state court judge warned Tennessee officials that they could be held in criminal contempt for their refusal to follow an order she recently issued instructing them to provide absentee ballots to all voters during the pendency of the coronavirus pandemic. "Shame on you for not following that procedure and just taking matters into your own hands," Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle told the defendants, who emailed local officials after Hobbs' initial ruling and told them to "hold off" on sending out absentee applications.

A spokesperson for Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett said the office was "working on complying" with Lyle's latest instructions, according to Courthouse News Service.

Vermont: Vermont's Democratic-run legislature has passed a bill that would remove Republican Gov. Phil Scott's power to block Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos from ordering that the November general election be conducted by mail. Scott has said that he doesn't oppose the measure, which passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities. Condos has for months promoted a plan for holding nearly all-mail elections this year.

Senate

NH-Sen, NH-01: Donald Trump has waded into two Republican primaries in New Hampshire, which doesn't hold nominating contests until Sept. 8. In the race to take on Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Trump's given his backing to wealthy attorney Corky Messner, despite the fact that retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc has claimed the NRSC supports his candidacy (the committee has, however, declined to confirm).

Meanwhile, in the 1st Congressional District, where the GOP is trying to unseat freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas, Trump has endorsed Matt Mowers—an unsurprising move, given that Mowers previously worked as a Trump aide. Mowers faces former state party vice chair Matt Mayberry in the primary. Republicans are underdogs in both contests: Daily Kos Elections rates the Senate race as Likely Democratic and the 1st District as Lean Democratic.

House

GA-13: The Associated Press has now called the Democratic primary in Georgia's 13th District for Rep. David Scott outright, after first saying that Scott had been forced into an Aug. 11 runoff but then later retracting that call. Scott was leading former state Rep. Keisha Waites 51-27 on Friday afternoon, just over the 50% mark needed to avoid a second round. Waites entered the race late and spent virtually nothing, suggesting that the veteran Scott could be very vulnerable to a more aggressive challenger if he seeks another term in 2022.

NY-01: A Global Strategy Group poll for chemistry professor Nancy Goroff finds her trailing businessman Perry Gershon by a small 29-27 margin ahead of the June 23 Democratic primary in New York's 1st Congressional District, with Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming at 17. GSG says that the numbers represent a substantial shift from a previously unreleased early April survey that gave Gershon, who was the party's 2018 nominee against GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, a 33-16 lead over Fleming, with Goroff at just 11.

Thanks to a $1 million personal loan, Goroff was able to outspend Gershon $1.1 million to $453,000 during April and May (Gershon self-funded extensively last time but hasn't materially done so this cycle). Fleming was not far behind, spending $405,000 in the same timeframe. Goroff had a large $758,000 to $190,000 cash edge over Gershon for the final three weeks of the race, with Fleming sitting on $112,000, though presumably the wealthy Gershon could once again dip into his own bank account if he wanted to.

NY-16: Former principal Jamaal Bowman outraised Rep. Eliot Engel during April and May in new reports filed with the FEC, though Engel held a cash edge as of June 3, the close of the "pre-primary" filing period. Bowman brought in $431,000 versus $389,000 for Engel, but Engel had $826,000 left to spend in the final weeks compared to $345,000 for his challenger. However, Bowman finished the period strong, thanks to Engel's viral "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care" blunder on June 2, and that surge appears to have continued past the FEC's reporting deadline, as the Bowman campaign says it raised $345,000 in the week following the gaffe.

Bowman has sought to further capitalize on Engel's misstep. A few days ago, Bowman released his first TV ad, which features a clip of Engel's now-infamous gaffe. The second half is more positive and shows images of Bowman alongside his would-be constituents, while a voiceover of the candidate himself proclaims, "We need a representative that cares about our communities year-round, not just during election season."

NY-17: End Citizens United, which has a track record of both spending and fundraising for its endorsees, has backed attorney Mondaire Jones in the June 23 Democratic primary for New York's open 17th Congressional District. Candidates also just filed so-called "pre-primary" fundraising reports with the FEC on Thursday, covering the period of April 1 through June 3. During that timeframe, Jones reported raising $295,000 and spending $500,000, leaving him with $339,000 for the stretch run.

In terms of spending, which is probably the most important metric at this late stage of the campaign, that puts Jones in the middle of the pack among notable contenders:

  • Adam Schleifer: $62,000 raised (plus $2.1 million loan), $3.3 million spent, $369,000 cash-on-hand
  • Evelyn Farkas: $340,000 raised, $787,000 spent, $242,000 cash-on-hand
  • David Buchwald: $47,000 raised (plus $300,000 loan), $329,000 spent, $514,000 cash-on-hand
  • Allison Fine: $53,000 raised, $100,000 spent, $29,000 cash-on-hand
  • David Carlucci: $89,000 raised, $86,000 spent, $101,000 cash-on-hand

UT-01: A poll of the GOP primary from Dan Jones & Associates on behalf of former U.S. Foreign Service officer Blake Moore in Utah's open 1st Congressional District finds an unsettled race, with Moore tying Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson at 16 apiece, former state Agriculture Commissioner Kerry Gibson taking 13, and Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt bringing up the rear with 7. That leaves a giant 48% undecided ahead of the June 30 primary.

Oddly, Moore is an employee of the consulting firm Cicero Group, which just so happens to be the parent company of Dan Jones. A memo from Dan Jones says that Moore was not involved "in poll gathering," but unsurprisingly, rival campaigns took shots at Moore over his connection to the pollster and questioned the results, though none offered alternate numbers.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Alabama Republicans air each other’s dirty laundry ahead of nasty Senate primary

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

AL-Sen: Two Republican firms are out with new polls from Alabama of the March 3 GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, and they both show former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville advancing to a runoff.

WT&S Consulting, which tells us that their poll was not done for any client, gives Sessions the lead with 32% as Tuberville leads Rep. Bradley Byrne 30-22 for the second spot in a likely March 31 runoff. Roy Moore, who lost this seat to Jones in 2017, is a distant fourth with 7%, while state Rep. Arnold Mooney takes 3%. This is the first poll that WT&S, which is run by state party official John Wahl, has released of this contest.

Campaign Action

The anti-tax Club for Growth, which has been running ads against Byrne, is also out with another survey from WPA Intelligence that shows the congressman failing to advance to a second round. WPA gives Tuberville the lead with 32%, which makes this the first time we've seen him in first place since Sessions entered the race for his old seat in November. Sessions outpaces Byrne 29-17 for second, while Moore barely registers with 5% and no one else breaks 1%.

These results show some small improvements for Tuberville at Sessions' expense from the poll the Club released one week ago. That WPA survey found Sessions edging Tuberville 34-29, while Byrne was in third place with the same 17% he takes in the new poll.

The new numbers come as Sessions, Tuberville, and Byrne and their allies have been launching negative ad after negative ad at one another while ignoring the other contenders. Sessions' new spot declares that Tuberville and Byrne "are desperate, telling lies about Jeff Sessions." The narrator then reminds the audience that Sessions was the one senator to back Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries, which is true.

The ad glosses over Sessions' miserable tenure as Trump's attorney general, which ended with Trump unceremoniously firing him, and instead continues to rehash the 2016 election. The narrator argues, "Byrne stood with the liberals, said Trump was 'not fit' to be president and stabbed Trump in the back right before the election."

Byrne did indeed say after the Access Hollywood tape was released a month before Election Day that Trump, who was recorded bragging about sexually assaulting women, was "not fit to be president of the United States and cannot defeat Hillary Clinton." The congressman also called for Trump to "step aside" and allow Mike Pence to lead the GOP ticket.

Byrne, like almost everyone in the Republican Party, fell in line right after Trump won a month later, though, and like all of his primary opponents, he's been emphasizing his unquestioning loyalty to the White House. Byrne recently addressed his 2016 remarks in an interview with the New York Times Magazine's Jason Zengerle by saying that Trump has never mentioned them because, "He just doesn't care. He's more interested in what we're doing now." Sessions cares, though, and he's betting that GOP primary voters do too.

Sessions is also hoping that his party will care about some of Tuberville's non-Trump issues. His ad continues by calling the former Auburn coach "a tourist in Alabama. He lives, votes, and pays taxes in Florida." Tuberville is originally from Arkansas, and he coached at the University of Mississippi until he arrived at Auburn in 1998. Tuberville had a mostly successful tenure, but he resigned in 2008 after a bad season and went on to coach out of state at Texas Tech and Cincinnati. During those years he unsuccessfully tried to sell his home near Auburn multiple times.

Tuberville later moved to Florida as Sessions' ad alleges. The former coach did say that he'd relocated to Alabama in August 2018 as he considered a Senate run, though he remained registered to vote in the Sunshine State that year and cast his ballot in Florida's elections.

Sessions also released a new TV ad on Wednesday that targets just Tuberville. After declaring that the former coach is "shameful" for lying about Sessions, the narrator says, "Tuberville is trying to trick you, hiding his support for immigration amnesty." An audio clip then plays where Tuberville is heard saying, "There are people coming across the border that need jobs … And we want them to come over here." He continues, "And we let 'em come in and become citizens like we all became citizens." The rest of the commercial again casts Tuberville as a Floridian who is in Alabama as a tourist.

Tuberville, meanwhile, is out with his own ad attacking both Sessions and Byrne. The commercial begins by going after Byrne for calling Trump "not fit" to serve before the narrator declares that Sessions "deserted President Trump, sticking us with the Russian witch hunt." The spot then throws in a shot at Sen. Mitt Romney, who is … not running for Senate in Alabama, by saying he "voted for the liberal impeachment sham." Tuberville appears and promises he'll be a Trump ally while "weak-kneed career politicians aren't tough enough to stand with President Trump."

Tuberville's allies at GRIT PAC are also running a commercial that casts both of his intra-party adversaries as "two career politicians who are out of touch with Alabama." The narrator also declares that Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation while serving as attorney general was a betrayal of Trump, while Byrne "didn't even want Trump in the White House."

Two cows then appear on screen along with a picture of Romney in the shape of manure as the narrator explains, "In a place where Mitt happens, we need to watch our step." Perhaps fearing that that joke was too subtle, the narrator declares, "No bull," which is followed by a censor's beep, "no weak knees. It's Tommy Tuberville time for U.S. Senate."

Byrne, it will not shock you to learn, is also out with an ad that hits both Sessions and Tuberville. The commercial features a trio of actors interviewing the Senate candidates, and they begin by giving this negative rating: "Tommy Tuberville? Says he wants illegals here. Paid him not to work. He can't keep a job." An actor portraying Tuberville then angrily slams down his clipboard and walks out, and the committee stamps his resume with the word "Fired."

A Sessions look-alike then arrives sporting a red cap without anything written on it. The committee is no more impressed with him than they were with Tuberville and says, "He let the president down and got fired. And Hillary still ain't in jail." The committee, which apparently believes that Sessions' refusal to send political adversaries to prison without a trial is a massive character flaw, also delivers the dreaded failure stamp to his file.

The rest of the ad shows Byrne, whom the committee actually allows to talk, talking about his conservative pro-Trump record. The trio is pleased, though his resume goes unstamped. Byrne is also the only one in any of these commercials to mention Jones, saying that he should be the next one to get fired.

Byrne's allies at Fighting for Alabama Fund also are up on the air with a spot that ignores Sessions and just tears into Tuberville. After showing clips of Trump thanking Byrne, the narrator argues that Tuberville "attacked Trump's agenda. Even attacked Trump's immigration plan." The same audio of Tuberville from the Sessions commercial then plays where Tuberville sounds happy to welcome "people coming from across the border that need jobs."    

Senate

AZ-Sen: Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who faces no serious Democratic primary opposition, is up with his first TV commercial. The minute-long spot features Kelly working on his motorcycle and talking about his struggles in school and career in the Navy and NASA.

Kelly continues, "My parents didn't have a lot of extra money, but you could comfortably raise a family on a middle-class income, and it doesn't work so well today." He declares, "Now my hope for Arizona is that everybody has the conditions and an environment that allows anybody to accomplish anything they want, if they're just willing to work hard at it." Kelly does not mention appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally, who recently began airing negative spots against him.

GA-Sen-B: Former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver kicked off his long-awaited campaign on Wednesday, a move that makes him the third noteworthy Democrat to enter the November all-party primary.

Tarver, who pitched himself as a moderate, represented a state Senate seat in the Augusta area until he became the first black U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia in 2009. Tarver remained at his post until early March of 2017, when Donald Trump ordered him and another 45 Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys to resign.

National Democrats have consolidated behind pastor Raphael Warnock, who like Tarver would also be Georgia's first black senator, while businessman Matt Lieberman is also running. Appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins are duking it out on the GOP side, and there's a risk that they could both advance to a January 2021 runoff if the three Democrats split Team Blue's vote enough.  

ME-Sen: GOP Sen. Susan Collins is up with another TV ad against state House Speaker Sara Gideon, who is the favored candidate of national Democrats, and the Bangor Daily News reports that she's putting at least $90,000 behind the buy.

The narrator argues that Gideon is a hypocrite for saying she's rejecting corporate PAC money while "taking tens of thousands from groups funded by corporate PACs." The commercial also tries to stir up some trouble on Gideon's left by featuring photos of two of her June primary foes, attorney Bre Kidman and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet, and saying that her opponents "criticized Gideon for laundering corporate money into her own campaign. And Maine's Ethics Commission fined Gideon for breaking campaign finance laws."

The paper took a look at the backstory to this ad back in December. Gideon has accepted contributions from groups like Senate Majority PAC that take money from corporations, but only about 2% of her total donations came from PACs as of the end of the third quarter. Collins, by contrast, received 22% of her donations from PACs through late September.

The part about the Maine Ethics Commission is from a completely separate matter. The commission fined Gideon's now-defunct PAC in December all of $500 for reimbursing her that same amount for donations Gideon made to two state-level political committees in 2016.

As we wrote back then, reimbursements like these run afoul of federal and state laws that forbid anyone from making campaign contributions in another person's name. Gideon, however, didn't try to conceal her efforts; rather, they were discovered because her PAC publicly disclosed the reimbursements. For that reason, the commission declined to investigate further, concluding Gideon's disclosure meant it was unlikely she had knowingly sought to violate the law.

MI-Sen: Quinnipiac University is out with a poll giving Democratic Sen. Gary Peters a 45-39 lead over 2018 GOP nominee John James. The margin is very similar to the 44-40 Peters edge that the local Glengariff Group found in early January, though Baldwin Wallace University gave the incumbent a larger 42-32 lead last month.

Gubernatorial

UT-Gov: Salt Lake County Council chair Aimee Winder Newton announced this week that she would try to gain enough support at the April state GOP convention to advance to the June primary rather than continue to gather signatures. One other Republican, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, is competing at the convention and not collecting petitions to make the primary ballot, but the two candidates made this choice under very different circumstances.

Winder Newton acknowledged that she couldn't afford to hire a firm to collect the 28,000 valid signatures she needed, an undertaking she estimates could cost more than $200,000, and that her volunteer-led effort wouldn't be able to gather enough petitions in time. Hughes, though, has access to plenty of money, but he still decided to focus on the convention in January.

House

CA-16: Democratic Rep. Jim Costa is out with an ad ahead of the March 3 top-two primary that features old footage of his intra-party rival, Fresno City Councilor Esmeralda Soria, praising him.

CA-25, TX-02: The progressive group End Citizens United has endorsed Assemblywoman Christy Smith in California and attorney Sima Ladjevardian in Texas, who each face notable intra-party opposition in their March 3 races.

Progressive political commentator Cenk Uygur, who is Smith's main intra-party rival in California's 25th District, is also out with a new ad where he proclaims he's "new to politics." Uygur continues, "They say it's rude for me to say that other politicians are corrupt. They say it's rude to point out that lobbyists don't give money to politicians for charity, they give it to bribe them." He then implores the audience, "Send me to Washington, so I could be rude to more lobbyists and politicians."

MN-01: Freshman GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn announced on Wednesday that he has been receiving treatment for Stage 4 kidney cancer over the last year, but that this would not prevent him from running for re-election this year.  

NY-02: Suffolk County Board of Elections member Nick LaLota announced this week that he was dropping out of the June GOP primary and would instead challenge Democratic state Sen. John Brooks. LaLota made his decision a few weeks after local party leaders, including retiring Rep. Peter King, threw their support behind Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino's bid for this open seat.

The only other Republican who is still running an active campaign for this competitive Long Island district is fellow Assemblyman Mike LiPetri. Another local elected official, Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, announced she was running back in November but didn't report raising any money through 2019 and still doesn't appear to have a campaign website or social media account. On the Democratic side, Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon doesn't face any serious opposition.

OH-01: Air Force veteran Nikki Foster and former healthcare executive Kate Schroder are each up with new TV spots ahead of the March 17 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Steve Chabot.

Foster tells the audience she's not once backed down from a fight from "serving as a combat pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan to fighting for my son's life in the intensive care unit." Foster declares that her next fight is making health care more affordable, and that Donald Trump and Chabot would "slash coverage for people with pre-existing conditions" like her son.

Schroder uses her commercial to talk about solving problems she's told are impossible. She describes how she helped expand dental care while she was on the Cincinnati Board of Health and dramatically reduced drug prices while working abroad. "As a cancer survivor," Schroder continues, "healthcare is personal."  

OH-03: The progressive group End Citizens United is supporting Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty in her March 17 primary against former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advisor Morgan Harper.

Harper has proven to be an unexpectedly strong fundraiser for someone challenging an uncontroversial incumbent, though Beatty still holds a huge financial advantage here. Beatty outraised Harper $315,000 to $221,000 during the fourth quarter, and the incumbent ended 2019 with a $1.7 million to $273,000 cash-on-hand lead. Whoever wins the Democratic nod will have no trouble prevailing in November in this safely blue Columbus seat.

PA-01: Pennsbury school board member Debbie Wachspress announced Thursday that she was dropping out of the April Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a development that could have very bad implications for Team Blue's attempts to put up a serious fight in this 49-47 Clinton seat, one of just two districts nationally that voted for Clinton in 2016 and has a Republican incumbent seeking re-election.

Wachspress made her decision two days after candidate filing closed and one day after LevittownNow.com reported that she'd been accused in a lawsuit against the school district of using racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic language at a meeting. Wachspress responded by saying that she had been recounting when she was subjected to an anti-Semitic slur decades ago, but that “[n]ever in my life have I denigrated anyone with words like that.”

Wachspress put out a statement the following day saying she "now find[s] myself in a situation where my family is going to suffer - with this recent offensive and completely false narrative of who I am - and my candidacy will also. It is clear to me that these lies and distortions will be too big a distraction to overcome."

Wachspress exited the race by endorsing Bucks County housing department official Christina Finello, who faces businessman Skylar Hurwitz in the primary. Unfortunately, though, both Finello and Hurwitz each had less than $12,000 on-hand at the end of December compared to the $355,000 that Wachspress had available. Democrats will need to hope that one of their two remaining candidates can bring in a whole lot more cash now that the apparent frontrunner is out if they want to have a real chance at beating the well-funded Fitzpatrick in this swing seat.

TX-12: Businessman Chris Putnam is up with another TV spot against Rep. Kay Granger ahead of their March 3 GOP primary showdown. Putnam tells the audience, "President Trump, he drives liberals nuts. And I drive Kay Granger nuts." Putnam, though, does not get around to informing the viewer that Trump is actually supporting Granger.

Putnam continues by accusing Granger of lying about him and "even making fun of my cowboy hat—but that's what we wear in Texas, Kay." The challenger mystifyingly never bothers to actually put on a cowboy hat during this commercial (so much for Chekov's Hat), though the ad shows pictures of two of Putnam's most prominent supporters, the sheriffs of Tarrant and Wise Counties, decked in some massive headwear.  

TX-23: Future Leaders Fund, an organization started by retiring GOP Rep. Will Hurd, is up with a TV commercial supporting Navy veteran Tony Gonzales ahead of the March 3 primary. Politico reports that this is a "five-figure buy" on Fox News.

VA-05: EMILY's List has endorsed Marine veteran Claire Russo in the June Democratic primary for this 52-41 Trump seat. The GOP nomination will be decided at an April 25 party convention, where freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman is trying to fend off a challenge from Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good.

Morning Digest: Anti-impeachment Trump surrogate launches bid against GOP senator in Georgia special

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

Leading Off

GA-Sen-B: On Wednesday morning, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins announced that he would challenge appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Republican, in this year’s special election. Collins is currently serving as one of Donald Trump’s designated surrogates during his impeachment trial, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that the congressman hopes to have Trump’s inner circle behind him.

Campaign Action

As we recently noted, Collins’ decision to run almost certainly crushes the GOP’s hopes of winning outright in November, at least under the state’s current election law. That's because all candidates from all parties will run together on a single ballot, and if no one takes a majority, a runoff between the top two vote-getters—regardless of party—would be held in January of next year.

Collins’ run could be a mixed blessing for Democrats, though. While Team Blue would very much like a bloody intra-party battle between the Republicans, it’s possible that Loeffler and Collins could each secure enough support to lock Democrats out of a January runoff.

While there’s a chance that Democrats could instead secure both runoff spots and automatically flip this seat from red to blue, it’s not a good one. Businessman Matt Lieberman is the party’s only declared candidate so far, but former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver recently said that he planned to run while the Rev. Raphael Warnock is also reportedly going to get in soon.

This lineup would mean that Georgia’s Democratic voters would be dividing their support among a trio of candidates while Republicans would have just a pair to choose from—a scenario that would give the GOP a very real shot to take the top two spots in the all-party primary.

However, it’s possible that this special election law will change soon. Both Collins’ allies in the state legislature as well as Democrats are backing a bill that would require a partisan primary in May and a general election in November, which are the same rules that govern the state’s regularly scheduled Senate race. Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler, has said he’d veto this legislation if it makes it to his desk, though Democrats and Republicans could override him with a two-thirds supermajority.

While it remains to be seen when Loeffler and Collins will compete, it’s clear that the congressman is a serious threat to her chances. While Collins has made a name for himself with the Trump fans across the state by loudly defending the White House from impeachment, Loeffler had very little name recognition when she was appointed in December. A survey from the Democratic firm PPP taken just after Loeffler was selected in December even showed Collins destroying her 56-16 in a hypothetical GOP primary.

However, Loeffler very much has the resources to get her name out and attack Collins. The wealthy senator recently launched a $2.6 million ad campaign to introduce herself to voters and declare her fealty to Trump, and she’s reportedly pledged to spend a total of $20 million of her own money on this race. While Collins might be able to raise a serious amount of cash for this contest, he’s probably going to have a tough time bringing in anywhere near enough to match Loeffler’s self-funding.

Two prominent GOP groups are also making it clear that they’re going to support Loeffler. The NRSC, which endorsed the incumbent right after Kemp appointed her, put out a statement right after Collins announced that contained this angry, though rather ungrammatical, pair of phrases: “Doug Collins’ selfishness will hurt David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and President Trump. Not to mention the people of Georgia who stand to bear the burden of it for years to come.”

The Senate Leadership Fund, a well-funded super PAC run by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also blasted Collins as “selfish” and praised Loeffler as “a warrior for the President.” It remains to be seen how much each group will be willing to spend here in a cycle when control of the Senate is on the line, but the SLF said of Loeffler, “We’ll have her back if she needs us.”

The biggest player in GOP politics, though, has not yet taken sides. The White House reportedly made an unsuccessful push to convince Kemp to appoint Collins instead of Loeffler, and Trump no doubt is still happily watching the congressman’s frequent appearances on his behalf on Fox News. (It’s almost certainly no accident that Collins launched his campaign on Wednesday on Trump’s beloved “Fox & Friends.”)

However, while Trump may be inclined to support Collins, Loeffler is doing whatever she can to quickly get into his good graces. She may already be succeeding: Hours after Collins entered the contest, Trump singled Loeffler out at a bill signing and said, “Congratulations, Kelly. They really like you a lot. That’s what the word is.” McConnell, who is arguably both the White House and Loeffler’s most important ally, may also be able to persuade Trump to at least stay out of this contest.

Of course, there’s never any telling what Donald Trump will or won’t do, so both Loeffler and Collins may be kept in suspense for a long time to come.

4Q Fundraising

NH-Sen: Corky Messner (R): $51,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $1.07 million cash-on-hand

TX-Sen: John Cornyn (R-inc): $2.75 million raised, $12.1 million cash-on-hand

ME-02: Dale Crafts (R): $128,000 raised, additional $47,000 self-funded, $134,000 cash-on-hand

MI-03: Lynn Afendoulis (R): $112,000 raised

NV-04: Jim Marchant (R): $156,000 raised, $209,000 cash-on-hand

NY-24: Dana Balter (D): $205,000 raised, $220,000 cash-on-hand; Francis Conole (D): $250,000 cash-on-hand; Roger Misso (D): $120,000 raised, $130,000 cash-on-hand

WA-03: Carolyn Long (D): $498,000 raised

Senate

MA-Sen: Sen. Ed Markey picked up a Democratic primary endorsement this week from former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who was the party's 1988 presidential nominee. Dukakis left office in 1991, though he's occasionally been in the news in recent years as he's pushed for a rail link between Boston's two major train stations. You can stop leaving your leftover Thanksgiving turkey carcasses outside his house, though.

TX-Sen: Every poll we've seen of the March Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn has found a large plurality of voters undecided, and new surveys from the nonpartisan nonprofit Texas Lyceum and the progressive group Data for Progress each are no different.

Texas Lyceum's poll gives 2018 House nominee MJ Hegar the lead with 11% of the vote while state Sen. Royce West edges nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez 8-7 for the second spot in the likely runoff. Former Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards is just behind with 6 while a group of other candidates, including former Rep. Chris Bell and 2018 Senate candidate Sema Hernandez, take 5% each. The firm finds that 42% are undecided in a contest where no one has aired many ads yet.

Data for Progress' survey finds that more voters have chosen one of the candidates, but 34% are still undecided. The poll has Hegar ahead with 18%, while both West and Ramirez take 13%. Bell is at 8%, while none of the other contenders take more than 4%.

The survey also tests Hegar out in three different primary runoff scenarios:

32-33 vs. Ramirez 42-16 vs. Edwards 48-19 vs. West

On Tuesday, West also picked up an endorsement from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who leads Texas' largest city.

Gubernatorial

AK-Gov: On Wednesday, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth issued a stay preventing the committee trying to recall GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy from gathering signatures. Aarseth had taken this very action last week only to reverse himself the following day because that stay had been "inadvertently issued." However, Aarseth now says that the Alaska Supreme Court should rule on the constitutionality of the recall campaign before it is allowed to collect signatures to reach the ballot.

MO-Gov: Uniting Missouri, which is the main super PAC supporting GOP Gov. Mike Parson, is out with a poll from the Republican firm American Viewpoint that gives the incumbent a 54-36 lead over Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway. The only other survey of this contest we've seen over the last several months was a November PPP poll for the Democratic Governors Association that gave Parson a smaller 45-36 edge.

House

FL-26: While Donald Trump endorsed Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez last week, both former Miami-Dade County firefighters union president Omar Blanco and restaurateur Irina Vilariño say they plan to keep campaigning for the GOP nomination. However, neither of them looks like they'll be much of a threat to Giménez in the August primary to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Vilariño didn't even commit to staying in the race, since The Miami Herald writes that "she's evaluating her options." The paper writes that Vilariño raised just $70,000 during the most recent quarter, so she may not be able to put up much of a fight even if she opts to keep running.

Blanco also acknowledged that Giménez has harmed his fundraising, though he hasn't revealed how much he brought in during the last months of 2019. It may not matter much, though, since Blanco said that he didn't plan to go negative on Giménez, who is actually his boss: The mayor oversees the county fire department, where Blanco serves as a lieutenant.

GA-09: GOP Rep. Doug Collins' decision to run for the Senate opens up Georgia's 9th District in the rural northeastern part of the state. This seat backed Donald Trump 78-19, which was his best performance in any of the state's 14 congressional districts, and there's no question that whoever wins the GOP nod will prevail with ease in the general election.

The primary will take place in mid-May, and there would be a runoff in July if no one takes a majority of the vote. The filing deadline is March 6, so potential candidates have about five weeks to decide whether or not to run.

State Sen. John Wilkinson didn't need anywhere near that long to make up his mind, though, and he entered the race right after Collins announced that he was leaving to run for the Senate. Wilkinson has represented the 50th Senate District, which makes up about a quarter of this seat, since late 2011, and he's spent the last eight years as chair of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.

Several other Republicans are eyeing this contest, including one familiar name. Former 10th District Rep. Paul Broun confirmed that he was considering a comeback here, and Lauren Souther of the local news site Fetch Your News writes that he "indicated" that he'd decide this week. Broun was elected to the House in a 2007 special election, and he quickly emerged as the go-to guy for far-right quips, including his infamous 2012 proclamation that "[a]ll that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell."

It was Broun's career that soon descended into the pit of hell, though. In 2014, Broun gave up his seat representing the neighboring 10th District to run for an open Senate seat, but he finished a weak fifth in the primary with just 10% of the vote. Two years later, Broun relocated to the 9th District and challenged Collins for renomination, but the former congressman failed to raise much money and lost by a lopsided 61-22 margin.

State Rep. Kevin Tanner is also talking about running, and he told Fetch Your News on Wednesday that he would decide in "the next few days." Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeff Langley called a congressional race "an intriguing possibility" and said he hadn't decided anything yet, but he also said he was very happy at his current post. In addition, Fetch Your News writes that fellow state Rep. Matt Gurtler is reportedly mulling it over, but Gurtler didn't respond for comment. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentioned fellow state Rep. Emory Dunahoo as a possibility, though there's no word on his interest.

Another group of Republicans sounds unlikely to run, though they didn't outright say no. Conservative radio host Martha Zoller, who lost the 2012 open seat primary runoff to Collins 55-45, said, "I am certainly going to consider running for this position, but I, at this time, am leaning toward not running."

Chris Riley, a longtime aide to former Gov. Nathan Deal, said Tuesday that, while he wasn't saying no, he was focused on "helping our friends who are seriously considering and helped make the Deal Administration successful." State Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller sounded even less enthusiastic, and he told the AJC that "the likelihood of me running for Congress is very low."

By contrast, Enotah Judicial Circuit Court Judge Stan Gunter and state Sen. Steve Gooch each made it clear that they would sit this race out.

MD-07: Former state Democratic Party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is out with her first TV ad ahead of Tuesday's crowded special primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Rockeymoore Cummings begins by telling the audience, "Elijah worked hard, especially for children and youth. I know because I was right there with him." The candidate continues, "Together, we worked for social and economic justice, and we were in the trenches side by side fighting for Baltimore." Rockeymoore Cummings then says she's running "to continue that fight—for more affordable healthcare and prescription drugs, and an end to the gun violence and trauma that is wiping out a generation of black talent."

NC-11: GOP state Sen. Jim Davis uses his first TV spot for the crowded March GOP primary for this open seat in Appalachian North Carolina to express his hatred for Mondays liberals. Davis, who is situated between a table with a huge plate of cheeseburgers and a black backdrop, begins the commercial wielding a handgun in what could easily be mistaken for an ad for the world's most terrifying fast-food restaurant.

But of course, this is really a political spot, and Davis continues by loading his weapon and telling the audience that liberals want to make his nine-millimeter gun illegal. He then drags his platter of burgers to him and repeats one of the GOP's favorite Trump-era lies by saying that liberals also want to outlaw cheeseburgers. That idea comes from conservatives' deliberate misreading of the Green New Deal, and a similar falsehood has already appeared in ads attacking Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in Michigan.

Davis then goes on a rant about how the left "want[s] to tell us how to live, how to worship, even how to eat." Davis never fires his gun during the spot, but he does end it by taking a hardy bite out of Chekov's cheeseburger. Wisely, though, the senator leaves the other dozen or so patties on the table uneaten.

NY-15: End Citizens United has endorsed New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres in the crowded Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. José Serrano.

NY-22: Freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi uses his first TV spot of the cycle to stress how he's worked across party lines in Congress. The commercial features several clips of news people talking about his accomplishments, including how he got four bills signed by Donald Trump. The ad does not mention the conservative TV commercials that have already run here attacking the congressman, though Brindisi told Politico he was going on the air early "to set the record straight."

TX-07: Army veteran Wesley Hunt, who is the national GOP's favored candidate in the March primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, is out with a TV spot where he declares that Donald Trump is right to call drug cartels "terrorist organizations." The candidate calls for building the border wall before the narrator notes that Hunt has the endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz.

TX-22: Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star CEO Pierce Bush is out with a GOP primary ad starring his wife, Sarahbeth Bush. She tells the audience how her father developed a drug addiction when she was 10 and that "[d]rugs smuggled across the border ruin lives and shatter families." Sarahbeth Bush then praises the candidate as someone who understands the border crisis.

WA-10: Democratic state Rep. Beth Doglio, who'd previously said she'd decide on whether to seek Washington's open 10th Congressional District after the legislature's session ends on March 12, has now filed paperwork to create a campaign committee with the FEC. Several notable Democrats are already running, and a number of others are considering. However, no prominent Republicans have expressed interest in seeking this seat, which voted 51-40 for Hillary Clinton.

Legislative

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's four special elections:

TX-HD-28: Republican Gary Gates defeated Democrat Eliz Markowitz 58-42 to hold this suburban Houston district for his party. The result is disappointing for Democrats, who aggressively targeted this race as part of a larger effort to flip the Texas House later this year, as Markowitz's performance in this district lagged behind Hillary Clinton's 10-point loss in 2016 and Beto O'Rourke's narrow 3-point loss in 2018.

Democrats will now ask themselves why Markowitz fell well short of what the fundamentals of this district would have augured. One key reason may have been the wealthy Gates' heavy self-funding, which totaled at least $1.5 million. In addition, younger voters and Latinos, who are among Democrats' most important constituencies in Texas, are less apt to turn out for an unusually timed special election as opposed to a November general election.

Markowitz and Gates will likely face off again in the fall, but one important reminder for Democrats is this district is not a prerequisite for taking the state House. The Texas Democratic Party recently ranked this district as its 16th-most attractive pickup opportunity on an initial target list of 22 seats, ranked by O'Rourke's 2018 margins.

TX-HD-100: Democrat Lorraine Birabil defeated fellow party member James Armstrong 66-34 to hold this deep blue Dallas seat.

TX-HD-148: Democrat Anna Eastman defeated Republican Luis LaRotta 65-35 to hold this seat for her party. These three special elections in Texas return this chamber to full strength, with Republicans in control 83-67.

GA-HD-171: Republican Joe Campbell took 58% of the vote in this three-way race to avoid a runoff and hold this south Georgia seat for the GOP. Democrat Jewell Howard was the runner-up with 33%, while Republican Tommy Akridge rounded out the voting with 8%.

This result moves the makeup of the Georgia state House to 105-74 in favor of Republicans with one seat vacant.