Morning Digest: The top GOP candidate to run Nevada’s elections is an antisemitic Big Lie proponent

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

NV-SoS: Both parties will be fighting hard to win the race to succeed termed-out Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who was the only Nevada Republican to prevail statewide during the 2018 Democratic wave, and with the close of candidate filing on Friday, we now know who all the contenders are. However, while former state Athletic Commission member Cisco Aguilar faces no opposition in the June 14 Democratic primary, Republicans have a seven-way contest that includes a well-connected election denier.

That conspiracy theorist is former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, who challenged Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford last cycle in the 4th District and lost by a 51-46 margin. Marchant, though, responded to that incontrovertible defeat by baselessly claiming he was the "victim of election fraud" and unsuccessfully suing to overturn the results. The ex-lawmaker, who has repeatedly addressed QAnon gatherings, has also said that he would not have certified Joe Biden's victory in the state had he been secretary of state at the time. And as for the endless string of courtroom losses Trump allies were dealt when they sought to undo the 2020 election, Marchant has an explanation for that, too: "A lot of judges were bought off too—they are part of this cabal."

Marchant continued to embrace the far-right last week by letting loose an antisemitic rant against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. "We need to support the people in Ukraine that are not the Biden, the Clintons, the cabal," said Marchant, continuing, "They have patriots like us … that have been oppressed by the cabal, the central bankers for centuries. And that's who we need to support people that were oppressed by the Soros cabal." Yet Marchant is anything but a pariah in today's GOP, as he has the backing of former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is the frontrunner to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Republicans have several other contenders, with the most formidable looking like Reno-area developer Jesse Haw. The Nevada Independent reported in January that Haw, who was appointed to fill a vacant state Senate seat for a few months in 2016, was "expected to bring at least half a million of dollars in campaign cash in the bank." The GOP field also includes Sparks City Councilman Kristopher Dahir, former TV anchor Gerard Ramalh, and former District Court Judge Richard Scotti.

Further below we'll be taking a look at Nevada's other competitive races now that filing has closed. Candidates running statewide or in constituencies containing multiple counties were required to file with the secretary of state, while candidates running for single-county seats, such as the 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts in Clark County, had to instead file with their local election officials.

Redistricting

OH Redistricting: A group of Ohio voters, with the support of Eric Holder's National Democratic Redistricting Committee, filed a new lawsuit on Monday challenging the replacement congressional map that Republicans passed earlier this month. The suit comes after the state Supreme Court ruled on Friday that it could not entertain plaintiffs' objections to the map in a pair of pending cases because it had issued a "final judgment" when it invalidated the GOP's original district lines in January.

In its decision, however, the court noted that plaintiffs were free to bring a new suit targeting the remedial map, which remains heavily gerrymandered in favor of the GOP. Meanwhile, the ACLU of Ohio, which served as counsel in the second case, said that it is "considering next steps."

Senate

IA-Sen: Candidate filing closed Friday for Iowa's June 7 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders here. The Hawkeye State has an unusual law that requires party conventions to select nominees in races where no candidate receives over 35% of the vote in the primary, but that provision is unlikely to come into play this year in any of the contests we'll be watching.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is one of the two longest-serving members of Congress following the death of Alaska Rep. Don Young (Grassley is tied with Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is retiring), is seeking an eighth term in a state that swung hard to the right during the Trump era. The incumbent's only primary foe is state Sen. Jim Carlin, a pro-Trump die-hard who has baselessly claimed the 2020 election was stolen and spouted antisemitic conspiracy theories blaming wealthy Jews like Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros for the outcome. Trump himself, though, is supporting Grassley over Carlin, who barely raised any money in 2021.

The frontrunner on the Democratic side looks like former Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who lost a tight battle for a second term last cycle in northeast Iowa. Also in the running are retired Vice Admiral Mike Franken, who lost the 2020 primary for the state's other Senate seat, and Minden City Councilman Glenn Hurst.

MO-Sen: Former Gov. Eric Greitens' ex-wife, Sheena Greitens, accused him of physically abusing both her and their children in 2018, as well as threatening to kill himself, in a court affidavit released Monday in the couple's ongoing child custody dispute. The former governor, who is competing in the August Republican primary for Missouri's open Senate seat, responded by calling the allegations "completely fabricated." His campaign manager also characterized the account as "clearly a politically-motivated attack against him."

In her filing, Sheena Greitens attested, "Prior to our divorce, during an argument in late April 2018, Eric knocked me down and confiscated my cell phone, wallet and keys so that I was unable to call for help or extricate myself and our children from our home." When her mother confronted the then-governor, Greitens continued, her husband said he'd sought "to prevent me from doing anything that might damage his political career."

The alleged incident occurred the month before Eric Greitens resigned as governor while under indictment for purportedly sexually assaulting a woman he was having an affair with and blackmailing her into silence, as well as unrelated charges of computer tampering involving his charity. The tampering charge was dropped in exchange for Greitens’ resignation, while Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker later abandoned the assault and blackmail case saying that, while she believed Greitens' accuser, she did not think she could prove the charges.

Sheena Greitens further said in her affidavit that, during "the spring and early summer of 2018," her husband had threatened to kill himself "unless I provided specific public political support." She continues that "multiple people other than myself were worried enough to intervene to limit Eric's access to firearms on at least three separate occasions, in February, April, and May 2018."

She also added that in June of 2018, the month following his resignation, "I became afraid for my safety and that of our children at our home, which was fairly isolated, due to Eric's unstable and coercive behavior. This behavior included physical violence toward our children, such as cuffing our then three-year-old son across the face at the dinner table in front of me and yanking him around by the hair."

Eric Greitens is currently competing against several other Republicans in the August primary. Donald Trump last week said, in the words of the Washington Examiner, that "Greitens is still in the running for his seal of approval."

NV-Sen: Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto will be a top GOP target in a state that both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden narrowly won, and eight Republicans have filed to go up against her.

The undisputed frontrunner is former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial race 49-45 against Democrat Steve Sisolak and now touts endorsements from Donald Trump and the Club for Growth for his latest bid. Laxalt so far has shown no interest in tacking to the center, and he's repeatedly accused Democrats and the media of exaggerating the Jan. 6 attack, saying in September, "What the media and their left wing allies have done to weaponize this against Republicans and Trump voters is reprehensible."

However, Laxalt still faces a surprisingly well-funded intra-party challenge from Army veteran Sam Brown, though it remains to be seen whether Brown will be able to put up a serious fight. None of the other six Republicans have attracted much attention.

PA-Sen: Self-funding attorney George Bochetto's new commercial for the May Republican primary is entirely devoted to attacking TV personality Mehmet Oz for his "pro-abortion views." Bochetto, who earned all of 1% in a recent Fox News survey, doesn't even appear at all except to provide the legally required "I approve this message" disclaimer at the very end.

WI-Sen: In her second commercial ahead of the August Democratic primary, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski bemoans how prescription drug costs keep rising and declares that it's "[b]ecause Republicans like [Sen.] Ron Johnson—and let's be honest, too many Democrats—don't have the guts to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies. I'm Sarah Godlewski and I will."

Governors

IA-Gov: Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds' sole Democratic foe is Deidre DeJear, who lost the 2018 general election for secretary of state 53-45 against incumbent Paul Pate. DeJear would be the first Black person elected statewide, but a recent poll from Selzer & Company gave Reynolds a 51-43 advantage.

NV-Gov: Steve Sisolak's 2018 win made him the Silver State's first Democratic governor in 20 years, and 16 different Republicans are campaigning to unseat him this year. Most of the field has little money or name recognition, but the Republican side does include a few familiar names.

One prominent contender is former Sen. Dean Heller, who lost re-election to Democrats Jacky Rosen during the 2018 blue wave. Heller, however, has struggled to raise money for his gubernatorial bid. There's also Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who is the top lawman in a county that's home to about three-quarters of Nevada's residents and was the field's best fundraiser in 2021.

Another notable candidate is North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, a longtime conservative Democrat who switched parties just before he launched his new bid. Other contenders to watch are venture capitalist Guy Nohra and attorney Joey Gilbert, who has bragged that he was "definitely on the Capitol steps" on Jan. 6. The only recent primary poll we've seen was an early March survey from the Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling on behalf of the DGA that gave Lombardo the lead with 26%, while Heller and Lee tied for second with 13% each.

NY-Gov: Empire Results, a dark money group run by a longtime consultant to Rep. Tom Suozzi, is running a new commercial for the June Democratic primary that once again amplifies the congressman's attacks against Gov. Kathy Hochul. This time it faults the incumbent for using "state aircraft to travel to fundraisers."

PA-Gov: Pennsylvania Works, which is funded by a DGA affiliate, recently began airing ads touting Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the size of the buy is $1 million.

House

FL-07: Democratic state Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil has announced that she'll run for the state Senate rather than for the open 7th Congressional District.

FL-22: Attorney Chad Klitzman, state Rep. David Silvers, and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis have each announced that they won't compete in the August Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Deutch. The only notable contender remains Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz, who earned Silvers' support.

IA-01: Freshman Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican who won the old 2nd District by all of six votes last cycle, faces Democratic state Rep. Christina Bohannan in a southwestern Iowa seat that Trump would have carried 50-48. Bohannan has no opposition in the primary, while Miller-Meeks should have no trouble getting past her one intra-party opponent.

IA-02: Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson, who unseated Democratic incumbent Abby Finkenauer last cycle in a close race for the old 1st District, now faces Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis in a northeast Iowa seat that Trump would have taken 51-47. Neither Hinson nor Mathis, who were once coworkers at the TV station KCRG (Hinson was a morning news anchor while Mathis hosted the evening news program) have any primary opposition.

IA-03: Three Republicans are competing to take on Rep. Cindy Axne, who emerged from the 2020 elections as Iowa's only Democratic representative, in a district based in Des Moines and southwestern Iowa that Trump would have carried by a tiny 49.2-48.9 edge. The only elected official in the primary is state Sen. Zach Nunn, who is going up against businesswoman Nicole Hasso and Gary Leffler; Leffler, who took part in the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, didn't report any fundraising during his first quarter in the race.

IL-01: While former 3rd District Rep. Dan Lipinski thankfully will not be on the ballot this year, he's endorsing pastor Chris Butler, who shares his anti-abortion views, in the June Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Bobby Rush. Lipinski represented about 10% of the new 1st until he left Congress early last year following his 2020 primary loss to Marie Newman.

NV-01: Democratic Rep. Dina Titus is defending a seat in the eastern Las Vegas area where her party, in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer, cut Biden's margin of victory from 61-36 to 53-45, and eight Republicans are now running against her. The most prominent name belongs to former 4th District Rep. Cresent Hardy, who launched a surprise bid just before filing closed on Friday; only 4% of the new 1st's residents live in the old 4th, but, because both seats are located in the Las Vegas media market, he should be a familiar presence here.

Hardy was a state assemblyman in 2014 when he waged what appeared to be a longshot campaign against Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in a seat that Barack Obama had carried 54-44. However, the GOP wave hit Nevada hard, and with a little-known Democrat leading the statewide ticket against popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, Team Blue's turnout was a disaster. Both parties began spending serious amounts of money in the final weeks of the race, but it was still a bit of a surprise when Hardy won 49-46.

Hardy was immediately a top Democratic target in 2016, and state Sen. Ruben Kihuen ended up unseating him 49-45 as Hillary Clinton was taking the 4th 50-45. Kihuen, though, didn't seek re-election after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, and both Hardy and Horsford ended up campaigning for the unexpectedly open seat. Both parties spent huge amounts of money for their rematch, but this time, a favorable political climate helped Horsford prevail 52-44.

Both Titus and Hardy have primaries ahead of them before they can fully focus on one another. Titus' only intra-party foe is progressive activist Amy Vilela, who also ran in the 4th in 2018 and took third place in the primary with 9%. The GOP field includes conservative activist David Brog, who previously ran a group funded by the late casino magnate Sheldon Adelson; Army veteran Mark Robertson; and former Trump campaign staffer Carolina Serrano.

NV-02: Republican Rep. Mark Amodei learned Friday that he'd have the pleasure of a primary fight against Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian, who ended his legendary losing streak last cycle after relocating from the Las Vegas area. Three other Republicans are also running for this northern Nevada constituency that would have backed Trump 54-43, and while none of them look formidable, they could cost Tarkanian some needed anti-incumbent votes.

Tarkanian previewed his strategy in a video posted just before he filed, saying that the incumbent has "voted for amnesty for illegal immigrants, for giving your money to Planned Parenthood, for voting for the $1.5 trillion budget which gave him a 20% increase." The challenger continued, "Mark Amodei was the first GOP congressman to join the Democrats in support[ing] President Trump's first impeachment inquiry, and he also blamed President Trump for Jan. 6."

Amodei, of course, never voted to impeach Trump, but he did piss off conservatives nationwide in September of 2019 when he became the first House Republican to identify as impeachment-curious, saying of the inquiry into Trump, "Let's put it through the process and see what happens." Hardliners immediately called for his ouster, and while the congressman soon protested that "[i]n no way, shape, or form, did I indicate support for impeachment," Trump's campaign notably snubbed the Silver State's only GOP member of Congress by leaving him off its list of state co-chairs for 2020.

Amodei avoided a serious primary fight, but he wasn't done inflaming Trumpists. Right after the Jan. 6 attacks, the congressman told Nevada Newsmakers, "Do I think he (Trump) has a responsibility for what has occurred? Yes." The congressman, though, this time used his interview to say upfront that he'd oppose any impeachment effort, and he soon joined most of his party colleagues in voting against impeachment. Tarkanian, however, is betting those anti-impeachment votes won't actually matter to a base looking to purge the party of anyone who's shown even a hint of disloyalty toward Trump.

NV-03: Democratic legislators sought to protect Rep. Susie Lee in this southern Las Vegas area seat by extending Joe Biden's margin of victory from just 49.1-48.9 to 52-46, but five Republicans are still campaigning against her. The frontrunner appears to be attorney April Becker, who narrowly failed to unseat state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro by a 50.5-49.5 margin last cycle; Becker then tried to challenge her 631-vote loss in court and demanded a "revote," but she failed to get what she wanted. None of the other four Republicans have generated much attention yet.

NV-04: Three Republicans are challenging Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford in a northern Las Vegas area seat where Democratic legislators doubled Biden's margin from 51-47 to 53-45. The only elected official of the trio is Assemblywoman Annie Black, who attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally the preceded the attack on the Capitol. She was later censured by her colleagues on a party-line vote for refusing to comply with the chamber's COVID mitigation rules.

Also in the running is Chance Bonaventura, who works as an aide to another far-right politician, Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore (Fiore herself recent ditched a longshot gubernatorial bid to run for state treasurer instead). Finally, there's Sam Peters, an Air Force veteran and businessman who took second place in the 2020 primary to face Horsford. However, while professional boxer Jessie Vargas announced he was running last year, the secretary of state doesn't list him as a candidate.

NY-01: 2020 2nd District nominee Jackie Gordon has earned an endorsement in the June Democratic primary from 4th District Rep. Kathleen Rice, who represents a seat on the other end of Long Island.

NY-04: Retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice has backed former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen in the June Democratic primary to succeed her in this Nassau County-based seat. The congresswoman's endorsement comes not long after Jay Jacobs, who chairs both the state and county parties, publicly talked down Gillen's chances, though he did not explain his rationale. Rice, though, has made it clear she's not at all a fan of Jacobs: Earlier this month, after the chair implored donors to refrain from contributing to anyone "until we have had an opportunity to discuss the complexities of the race," she responded by tweeting, "No wonder Democrats in Nassau county lose with this kind of leadership."

NY-16: Pastor Michael Gerald last week ended his nascent Democratic primary bid against freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman, telling Jewish Insider, "Rather than crash-landing, I think it was the best thing for me to do." Little-known opponent Manuel Casanova exited the race days later and endorsed Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi, who is now Bowman's only intra-party foe.

SC-07: On Monday, the State Law Enforcement Division confirmed it was investigating allegations leveled by former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride, who said that a blogger named David Hucks tried to bribe him to quit the June Republican primary at the behest of another candidate, Horry County school board chair Ken Richardson. Both McBride and Richardson are trying to deny renomination to Rep. Tom Rice, though they've each been overshadowed in recent weeks by Trump-endorsed state Rep. Russell Fry.

McBride claimed in early March that Hucks told him in a call, "There's an opportunity for you, there's a $70,000 job opportunity for you to step out of this race and support another candidate." Hucks responded both by denying the bribery allegation and that he'd "taken a cent from Ken Richardson." Richardson himself was asked about McBride's claims at a March 7 candidate forum and declared, "I didn't know anything about this until you dropped your bomb. I didn't know anything about it."

Attorneys General

IA-AG: Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat who is already the longest-serving state attorney general in American history, is seeking an 11th term this year. (Miller was elected in 1978, left in 1994 to unsuccessfully run for governor, and regained the post in 1998.) The one Republican taking him on is Guthrie County Attorney Brenna Bird, who previously worked as chief counsel to then-Gov. Terry Branstad.

NV-AG: Democrat Aaron Ford made history in 2018 when he became the first Black person elected to statewide office in Nevada, and two Republicans are now campaigning to unseat the attorney general. Until last month the only contender was Sigal Chattah, an attorney who has sued to try to undermine the state's pandemic response measures and who has complained that the attorney general has done a poor job investigating (baseless, of course) voter fraud allegations. February, though, saw the entrance of Tisha Black, who lost a 2018 race for Clark County Commission and whom the Nevada Independent identified as a former head of a cannabis industry trade group.

Secretaries of State

IA-SoS: Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate has no primary opposition in his bid for a third term, while the Democratic contest is a duel between Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker and Linn County Auditor Joel Miller.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Attorney: Republican Allister Adel announced Monday that she was resigning as the top prosecutor of America's fourth-most populous county, effective Friday, a move that the Arizona Republic writes came after negative attention "over her sobriety and absences from the office, which prompted investigations by the State Bar of Arizona and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors." Her situation grew worse last week when Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked her to provide more information about 180 misdemeanor cases that were dropped because Adel's office failed to file charges before it was too late.

The Board of Supervisors, which appointed Adel in 2019, must choose a fellow Republican to replace her. Adel herself won a four-year term in a close 2020 contest, but it's not clear if her soon-to-be-vacant post will be on this year's ballot or if voters will need to wait until 2024. The paper says that normally an appointed incumbent would be up whenever an election next takes place, but the deadline to turn in signatures for the 2022 cycle is fast approaching on April 5.

Suffolk County, MA District Attorney: Sen. Ed Markey on Monday endorsed Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo in the September Democratic primary, a development that came a week after Markey's home-state Senate colleague, Elizabeth Warren, also backed the city councilor. Arroyo is campaigning as a criminal justice reformer against appointed incumbent Kevin Hayden in a heavily blue county that's home to Boston and the nearby communities of Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop.

Morning Digest: Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania gets smaller as GOP’s gets uglier

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

Leading Off

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commission Chair Val Arkoosh announced Friday that she was dropping out of the May Democratic primary. Arkoosh, who was the only woman running a serious campaign, had the backing of EMILY's List, but she didn't attract much support in any released poll and ended 2021 with significantly less money than two of her intra-party foes. She acknowledged Friday to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "It's become increasingly clear over the last month or two that I'm unlikely to be the Democratic nominee."

Arkoosh's departure leaves three notable Democrats in the contest to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who has enjoyed a huge edge in every survey we've seen, has also continued to lead the money race in the fourth quarter by outpacing Rep. Conor Lamb $2.7 million to $1.3 million and ending with a $5.3 million to $3 million cash-on-hand lead. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta was far back with $335,000 raised and only $285,000 available.

The Republicans, meanwhile, already had a massively expensive and ugly contest even before Friday, when the Inquirer reported that Honor Pennsylvania, a super PAC funded by mega-donor Ken Griffin to support hedge fund manager David McCormick, had reserved $12 million for a six-week ad buy against TV personality Mehmet Oz.

Campaign Action

The two sides have been using anti-Chinese messaging to attack one another: Oz recently ran a commercial that employed stereotypical gong sounds to argue McCormick is "China's friend, not ours," while McCormick's team says of his main opponent, "Mehmet Oz—citizen of Turkey, creature of Hollywood—has spent the last 20 years making his fortune from syndicating his show in China, enriching itself through censorship and CCP propaganda … How can he claim to be America First when he has dual loyalties?"

McCormick, as well as attorney John Giordano, entered the primary after the start of the new quarter, but we have fundraising reports for the other GOP candidates:

  • TV personality Mehmet Oz: $670,000 raised, additional $5.2 million self-funded, $1 million cash-on-hand
  • 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Jeff Bartos: $435,000 raised, additional $10,000 self-funded, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
  • Author Kathy Barnette: $415,000 raised, $565,000 cash-on-hand
  • former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands: $160,000 raised, additional $500,000 self-funded, $1.5 million cash-on-hand

Barnette, Bartos, and Sands each entered the race several months ago, but they’ve largely been left out of the increasingly pricey feud between McCormick and Oz.

Redistricting

Stay on top of the map-making process in all 50 states by bookmarking our invaluable redistricting timeline tracker, updated daily.

KS Redistricting: As expected, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the new congressional map recently passed by Kansas Republicans. In a statement accompanying her veto on Thursday evening, Kelly specifically criticized the plan for splitting the Kansas City area between two districts, a move designed to undermine Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids by making her 3rd District redder.

The question now is whether Republicans can override Kelly's veto. On paper, they have the necessary two-thirds supermajorities to do so. However, neither chamber hit that threshold when approving the new boundaries due to absences. The map passed the House by a 79-37 vote, five short of the 84-vote supermajority needed. However, four Republicans were absent while two others voted "present" and just one voted against the final map. In the Senate, where 27 votes are necessary for an override, the map was approved 26-9, with two Republicans absent and one opposed.

NC Redistricting: On Friday evening, North Carolina's Supreme Court struck down the new congressional and legislative maps that Republicans passed last year, deeming them "unlawful partisan gerrymanders" that violated multiple provisions of the state constitution. The court, which broke down 4-3 along party lines, ordered lawmakers to come up with remedial maps in two weeks and specifically mandated that they detail the "methods they employed in evaluating the partisan fairness" of their new plans.

Republicans had drawn their now-invalidated congressional districts with the aim of giving themselves an 11-3 advantage in the state's House delegation, despite North Carolina's perpetual swing-state status. The legislative maps were likewise designed to lock in sizable GOP majorities. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper was unable to veto any of the maps because redistricting plans do not require the governor's approval under state law.

PA Redistricting: Pennsylvania's bipartisan redistricting commission approved final legislative maps in a 4-1 vote on Friday, though critics now have 30 days to challenge the plans before the state Supreme Court. The maps, which can be viewed here, vary somewhat from versions the commission introduced in December, but they still represent a major break from the past.

Under the lines used for the previous decade, Donald Trump carried 109 districts in the state House while Joe Biden won just 94, despite the fact that Biden beat Trump statewide in 2020. The new map, however, features 103 Biden districts and 100 Trump seats, giving Democrats a chance to make major inroads and, one day, potentially take a majority. The Senate plan, by contrast, largely maintains the status quo, with Biden and Trump each carrying 25 districts—the exact same split as before.

Republicans had long controlled the process for drawing legislative districts in the Keystone State, where the Supreme Court appoints a tiebreaking member to the panel responsible for drafting them. The court had been in GOP hands for many years, giving Republicans a lock on selecting that tiebreaker, but Democrats—with an eye on redistricting—made a major push to flip the court in 2015.

That effort culminated in the justices tapping former University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg, a registered Democrat who has described himself as "about as close to the middle as you probably could get." Nordberg voted with the commission's two Democrats and one of the Republicans in favor of the final maps, while another Republican dissented.

Senate

MO-Sen: Team PAC, a super PAC funded by mega-donor Richard Uihlein to aid disgraced Gov. Eric Greitens, is the latest group to try and use anti-China messaging to win a Republican primary. The TV spot accuses Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is a former state legislator, of having "sponsored a bill to spend $480 million of your tax dollars to create a cargo hub here for airlines owned by China's Communist Party. To flood Missouri dollars with cheap Chinese imports."

Schmitt's allies at Save Missouri Values quickly hit back with an ad of their own that uses footage of then-Gov. Greitens appearing on a Chinese TV program. After the interviewer says, "Your visit to China is like an old, beautiful story renewed," Greitens responds, "It really is. It's amazing to see the transformation that's taken place here." There is no word on the size of the buy for either commercial.

Governors

GA-Gov: Gov. Brian Kemp's allies at Georgians First Leadership Committee are running a new commercial that once again attempts to portray former Sen. David Perdue, who is Donald Trump's endorsed candidate in the May Republican primary, as downright unTrumpy. The spot opens with footage of Trump declaring, "I'm gonna bring jobs back from China" before the narrator declares that Perdue "sent American jobs to China. Over and over again. By the thousands." It goes on to use an infamous clip of Perdue from his successful 2014 campaign, saying of his past practice fo outsourcing jobs, "Defend it? I'm proud of it."

There is no word on how much this pro-Kemp group is spending, but as we've written before, a new law gives the PAC access to as much money as the governor's supporters care to fork over. That's because, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously noted, Georgians First Leadership Committee was created last year after Kemp signed into law a bill that lets the governor and certain other statewide candidates "create funds that don't have to adhere to contribution caps." Importantly, these committees will also be able to accept donations during the legislative session, when the governor and lawmakers are otherwise forbidden from fundraising.  

This legislation won't be any help for Perdue, though, unless and until he wrests the GOP nomination from Kemp. And while Stacey Abrams is the overwhelming favorite to be the Democratic standard-bearer again, she also won't be able to create this kind of committee until her primary is officially over.

OH-Gov: The Democratic Governors Association has released numbers from Public Policy Polling that show Gov. Mike DeWine only leading former Rep. Jim Renecci 38-33 in the May Republican primary, which is actually better for the incumbent than his 46-38 deficit in a recent Renacci poll. Neither of those surveys included Joe Blystone, a little-known farmer who has been running for months. Former state Rep. Ron Hood also made a late entry into the race on Feb. 1, which was after both polls were conducted.

PA-Gov: Campaign finance reports were due Monday covering all of 2021, and they give us our first real look into which of the many Republican candidates for governor have the resources to run a serious race in this very expensive state:

  • State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman: $3 million raised, $2.7 million cash-on-hand
  • 2018 Senate nominee Lou Barletta: $1.1 million raised, $245,000 cash-on-hand
  • U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain: $900,000 raised, additional $100,000 self-funded, $815,000 cash-on-hand
  • GOP strategist Charlie Gerow: $420,000 raised, $250,000 cash-on-hand
  • former Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry President Guy Ciarrocchi: $305,000 raised, $240,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Sen. ​​Scott Martin: $300,000 raised, $270,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Dave White: $350,000 raised, additional $3 million self-funded, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
  • Surgeon Nche Zama: $200,000 raised, $145,000 cash-on-hand
  • Attorney Jason Richey: $160,000 raised, additional $1.45 million self-funded, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
  • Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale: $40,000 raised

This is the first time we've mentioned Richey, who attracted little attention when he kicked off his bid in May.

The list does not include two other declared Republican candidates: former Rep. Melissa Hart, whose numbers were not available days after the deadline, and state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who announced last month.

The Philadelphia Inquirer writes of the latter, "After he set up an exploratory committee in the fall, he said he'd reached a fund-raising goal to enter the race. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, said Mastriano's Senate campaign typically files disclosures electronically, but the agency had no report available for his gubernatorial campaign." The story added, "If Mastriano filed the report on paper and mailed it to Harrisburg, that could account for the delay. Mastriano didn't respond to emails seeking comment."

While McSwain has significantly less money to spend than Corman and two self-funders, Richey and White, he does have one huge ally in his corner. Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, which is funded by conservative billionaire Jeff Yass, had $20 million on-hand at the end of the year, and it said in January that "all of that money is at our disposal" to help McSwain.

Whoever emerges from the busy May primary will be in for an expensive general election fight against Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who faces no serious intra-party opposition in his bid to succeed his fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. Tom Wolf. Shapiro hauled in $13.4 million in 2021, which his team says is a state record for a non-election year, and he had a similar $13.5 million to spend.

House

CO-03: State Senate President Leroy Garcia didn't show any obvious interest in challenging Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert after Colorado's new maps made the 3rd District even more conservative, but the Democrat fully took himself out of contention on Thursday when he announced he was resigning from the legislature in order to take a post in the Department of the Navy.

GA-06: Rich McCormick, who was the 2020 Republican nominee for the old 7th District, has dropped a Public Opinion Strategies internal arguing he's the frontrunner in the May primary for the new and safely red 6th District. McCormick takes first with 25%, while none of his four opponents secure more than 3% of the vote each.    

NE-01: Indicted Rep. Jeff Fortenberry recently went up with a commercial arguing that his May Republican primary opponent, state Sen. Mike Flood, was unacceptably weak on immigration, and Flood is now airing a response spot. Madison County Sheriff Todd Volk tells the audience, "Jeff Fortenberry is facing felony criminal charges, so he's lashing out at law enforcement and lying about Mike Flood." After praising Flood for having "opposed in-state tuition for illegal immigrants," the sheriff commends him for opposing the repeal of the death penalty, which is a topic Fortenberry's opening ad didn't touch on.

NY-01, NY-02: With the adoption of New York's new congressional map, a number of candidates have announced changes of plans in terms of which district they'll run in. One of the most notable is former Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon, who'd been seeking a rematch against Republican Rep. Andrew Garbarino in the old 2nd District after losing to him 53-46 in 2020 when the seat came open following GOP Rep. Peter King's retirement.

Democrats in the legislature, however, gerrymandered Long Island to make the new 2nd considerably redder while simultaneously turning the neighboring 1st District much bluer: The former would have voted for Donald Trump 56-42 while the latter would have gone for Joe Biden 55-44, according to Dave's Redistricting App. That naturally makes the 1st much more appealing for Gordon, who said on Thursday that she'll run there, adding that her home also got moved into the district.

However, Gordon will face a contested fight for the Democratic nomination, as two other candidates had already been running in the 1st, which is open because Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin is making a bid for governor. Bridget Fleming and Kara Hahn, both members of the Suffolk County Legislature, entered the race last spring and have stockpiled similar sums: $644,000 for Fleming and $575,000 for Hahn. Gordon, who launched her second effort in October, had just $134,000 in the bank, but she was a dominant fundraiser last cycle, taking in $4.4 million.

NY-03: A spokesperson for Democratic state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi says their boss is "seriously considering" a bid for New York's redrawn 3rd Congressional District, a blue-leaning Long Island-based seat that just picked up a slice of the Bronx and Westchester County in its latest incarnation. That sliver includes Biaggi's hometown of Pelham and also overlaps with her legislative district. Several notable Democrats are already running in the 3rd, which is open because Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi is running for governor, but Biaggi has experience prevailing in difficult primaries: In 2018, she won a stunning 54-46 upset over state Sen. Jeff Klein, who was the well-financed leader of the renegade faction of Democrats known as the IDC.

NY-11: Sigh: Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is reportedly considering a bid for the redrawn 11th Congressional District, which now includes his home in Park Slope.

NY-22, NY-23: Democrat Josh Riley, an attorney who'd been challenging Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney in the old 22nd District, says he'll continue his campaign in the new, Tenney-less version of the seat. Tenney herself previously announced she'd seek re-election in the open 23rd, a much redder seat than the new version of the 22nd, which in fact is really the successor to the old 24th.

The revamped 22nd, which recently came open after GOP Rep. John Katko announced his retirement, was already a Democratic target even before redistricting made it bluer (the latest iteration would have gone 58-40 for Joe Biden). As such, there are already several candidates vying for the nomination, the most notable among them Navy veteran Francis Conole, who raised $202,000 in the fourth quarter of last year and had $413,000 cash-on-hand. Riley, who launched his campaign in mid-November, brought in $410,000 and had the same amount banked.

As for Tenney, yet another would-be Republican opponent, Steuben County GOP chair Joe Sempolinski, has said he won't run against her in the new 23rd. However, state Sen. George Borrello wouldn't rule out a bid in recent comments, though he appears to be holding out the extremely slender hope that Republicans will successfully challenge the new map in court.

NY-24: Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs, who represents the old 27th District, says he will seek re-election in the new 24th, which shares much of its DNA with his current seat and is likewise deep red. However, he may not have a clear shot at the nomination: Attorney Todd Aldinger, who has repeatedly sued to overturn COVID mitigation measures, says he'll run here as well.

RI-02: Michael Neary, who worked as a staffer for then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich's 2016 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, has joined the September Democratic primary.

Mayors

Washington, D.C. Mayor: Mayor Muriel Bowser went into the new year with a huge fundraising lead over her two rivals in the June Democratic primary, a contest that is tantamount to election in the District of Columbia.

Bowser led Robert White, who holds an at-large post on the Council of the District of Columbia, $2.4 million to $555,000 in cash-on-hand; White, who like Bowser is utilizing the local public financing system, said that he would have a total of $910,000 to spend once matching funds are included, however. Another Council member, Trayon White (who is not related to Robert White), had less than $3,000 available.

Ed. note: In our previous newsletter, we reported erroneous cash-on-hand figures for several candidates running in incumbent-vs.-incumbent races for the House. We have since corrected those numbers.

Missouri’s three Republican Senate candidates are leading the race to be worse than Trump

At the end of the current term, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt has said he’ll end his run as the head of the Blunt Family Lobbying Enterprises. Which leaves an opening for a new senator in an increasingly red state that Trump took by over 15% in 2020. 

Back in 2012, Todd Akin led in the polls over Claire McCaskill until his comments about how women rarely get pregnant from "legitimate rape" generated a national firestorm. But that was 2012. It’s clear that a decade later, such a comment wouldn’t make a single Republican turn away. In fact, everything that Akin said could very well be a required Republican “wisdom” by the time the election rolls around.

In any case, the opportunity to slip into Blunt’s extraordinarily lucrative slot has Republicans scrambling out of the woodwork, and Missouri has already lined up three candidates who could not be better examples of a modern major Republican. Seriously. It’s a smorgasbord of choices that make the shrimp buffet at Mar-a-Lago seem insufficiently Trumptastic. Because those choices are: The ex-governor who resigned in the midst of a sex scandal, the attorney general who is suing China over COVID-19, and the guy whose fame entirely rests on waving around an AR-15 while wearing a pink polo shirt.

In the race to the bottom, Missouri has pulled out a really big shovel.

Not every candidate is officially in the running at this point, except that they’re all very much officially in the running when it comes to slapping palms, building up their war chests, and securing their place as the most GD ridiculous choices imaginable. Because in the GQP, candidates are scored on outrageousness.

First up is Eric Greitens. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Greitens already won the more-ridiculous-than-thou sweepstakes once. In 2016, Greitens jumped into the campaign for Missouri governor, lifting a list of donor names from a charity and knocking down the largest campaign donation in Missouri history—$1.97 million—from a super PAC that had been completely unknown until the moment it wrote that check. That super PAC turned out to be just a cover for another super PAC. And that super PAC turned out to be a front for wealthy Ohio attorney David Langdon, whose primary issues were, of course, blocking a woman’s right to choose and rolling back gay rights. None of this was revealed during the campaign, during which Greitens promised radical transparency while running commercials that featured blowing things up. And shooting things. Then blowing up more things. Really. 

But it wasn’t the multiple investigations into his charity or his extensive resume padding that ultimately brought down Greitens. That came courtesy of a scandal in which the governor admitted to having an extramarital affair with his hairdresser. During this affair he tied her up, blindfolded her, took nude photos, and threatened to reveal the photos if she ever went public. Greitens ended up being investigated by none other than then state attorney general Josh Hawley—showing that Missouri was already primed for a face-off of Republicans in the search for the limits of sanity. The charges against Greitens were eventually dropped after the photos could not be found, but an investigation by the Republican-dominated legislature led to Greitens getting out of Jefferson City just ahead of an impeachment that had been signed on to by three-quarters of each chamber.

The next choice for Republicans seeking a candidate in 2022 is another Eric: Missouri’s current attorney general, Eric Schmitt. Schmitt’s name may also be somewhat familiar to those outside the Show-me State became he was the head of the Republican Attorneys General Association. That would be the Republican Attorneys General Association that worked closely with Trump to undermine the results of the 2020 election. In fact, Schmitt’s name was one of those on the suit that the RAGA sent to the Supreme Court when it challenged the election results in Pennsylvania—an effort the Republican-heavy Court promptly swatted down. Schmitt was also on hand for multiple attempts to overturn Obamacare.

In the last few weeks, Schmitt had resigned his position with RAGA to concentrate on his Senate run. First task: doing something even more outrageous to solidify his position with the frothing Republican base. But what could he do that would be more foolish, more out there, and more slavishly Trump-worshipping than trying to directly intervene in the election? Well, how about launching a stunt lawsuit against China over the COVID-19 pandemic and hurting Asian Americans in the process? Schmitt dropped off his paperwork at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, claiming that Chinese authorities “deceived the public, suppressed information and permitted millions of people to be exposed to the virus.” It’s a suit that’s doing nothing other than allowing Schmitt to say “China virus” in every media appearance—but it is a solid way to harness taxpayer funds and xenophobic hate to bolster his chance in this three-way race.

The third (and for now, final) choice for Republicans is another name that’s been in the news before: Mark McCloskey. You may remember McCloskey for his role in standing behind his wife while they both waved guns at protesters who had the audacity to “walk past his house.” Or you may know this fabulously wealthy ambulance-chasing attorney from his lifetime role of being an absolutely massive a**hole. That includes the time that he smashed bee hives belonging to a Jewish synagogue, which had planned to use the honey for Rosh Hashanah.  (“The children were crying in school,” said Rabbi Susan Talve. “It was part of our curriculum.”) 

When Black Lives Matter protesters dared pass through his gated community on their way to the home of St. Louis’ mayor, McCloskey and his wife Patricia rushed out to turn this into a totally unnecessary confrontation. Though you would never know this from the way McCloskey has been feted on Fox News, or how the couple has become a right-wing symbol of standing their ground … against people who were not on their ground.

Of the three, McCloskey may be the only one who has already kicked out a campaign ad for his senatorial run, and it’s a doozy. “When the angry mob came to destroy my house and kill my family,” McCloskey says at the beginning of the ad, “I took a stand against them.”

Strangely enough, the “angry mob” didn’t destroy any homes, or kill anyone at all on their march through the city. But sure. That’s the kind of talk that earned McCloskey a guest role in several Trump rallies.

But that’s not even the best part of the ad. The best part has to be how America’s most infamous wearer of a too-small pink polo, a personal injury lawyer whose home is a baroque mansion so gaudy that it would make Gaudi scream, is featured in his ad driving a tractor and emerging from a tiny country home. It may seem counter to the intention of this article and site to actually run a Republican candidate’s campaign ad in full but hell … this one deserves to be seen. 

After all, Schitt’s Creek may be over. But with Schmitt, Greitens, and McCloskey, it’s clear that Missouri is really going down the toilet.

Morning Digest: Boston just elevated its first woman and first person of color to the city’s top job

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

Boston, MA Mayor: Boston City Council President Kim Janey made history on Monday when she ascended to the position of acting mayor following incumbent Marty Walsh's resignation that evening to become U.S. secretary of labor. Janey, who is Black, is the first person of color to lead one of America's oldest cities, as well as the first woman to serve as mayor.

Janey's elevation also comes at a time when she and other women and people of color have been making rapid electoral gains in a city that has long had a reputation for racism. Janey herself, at the age of 11, was riding a bus that was attacked by a mob when she was being driven to school in a heavily white neighborhood, an incident that took place in 1976, at the height of the city's infamous busing crisis.

It took another 33 years before Ayanna Pressley's victory made her the first-ever woman of color elected to the City Council in 2009. Change began to accelerate three years ago, though, when Pressley attracted national attention after defeating longtime Rep. Michael Capuano in the Democratic primary, an accomplishment that positioned her to become the first woman of color to ever represent Massachusetts in Congress a few months later.

Campaign Action

That same evening, another Black woman, Rachael Rollins, won the Democratic primary in the open-seat race for district attorney in Suffolk County, which includes all of Boston, and likewise prevailed that fall. Janey herself became the first African American woman to lead the City Council in 2020, a 13-member body that now includes a total of eight women and seven members of color.

Janey has not yet said if she'll seek a full four-year term as mayor this year, though the Boston Globe's James Pindell writes that "it would be surprising if she decided not to." We'll know the answer before too long, as the deadline to turn in the necessary 3,000 signatures to appear on the ballot is May 18.

All the candidates will face off in September in an officially nonpartisan race known locally as the "preliminary election." The two contenders with the most votes will then advance to a November face-off. There's little question that the eventual winner will identify as a Democrat in this very blue city; what's up for grabs is who that Democrat will be.

Boston hasn't ousted an incumbent mayor since 1949, when John Hynes defeated the legendary and controversial incumbent James Michael Curley. Only one acting mayor has sought a full term in the seven decades since, after another City Council president, Thomas Menino, assumed the top job in July of 1991 following Mayor Raymond Flynn's resignation to become Bill Clinton's ambassador to the Vatican. Menino took first place just two months later in the preliminary election amidst a crowded field, then decisively won the general election that year and left office in 2014 as the city's longest-serving mayor.

No matter what Janey decides, however, we're once again sure to see a busy race. Two of Janey's fellow city councilors, Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu, had each announced last year that they'd challenge Walsh, back when most politicos assumed he'd be seeking a third term. The dynamics dramatically changed in January, though, when Joe Biden nominated Walsh to lead the Department of Labor.

Following that development, three other notable candidates declared bids prior to Walsh's departure: City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, state Rep. Jon Santiago, and John Barros, the city's former economic development chief. In a sign of just how much politics have changed in Boston, all of these contenders are people of color. There's still a while to go before filing closes, though, and others could still join the contest.

Senate

GA-Sen: Banking executive Latham Saddler confirmed this week that he is considering seeking the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Saddler is a Navy SEAL veteran who went on to serve as a Trump White House fellow, and he does not appear to have run for office before.

Meanwhile, Politico has obtained a survey from the GOP firm OnMessage that tests several other prospective candidates in a hypothetical primary. Reporter Alex Isenstadt says that, while OnMessage advises the NRSC, it is not working for any of the possible contenders.

In a four-way match-up, OnMessage gives former Rep. Doug Collins a 35-27 lead over former NFL running back Herschel Walker. Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler takes third with 22%, while QAnon ally and freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is at 7%. In a two-way contest, Collins bests Loeffler 55-36.

Both Collins and Loeffler, who faced off last year in an all-party special election primary, are talking about running again. Donald Trump has publicly urged Walker to get in, but while he's reportedly thinking about it, many observers are skeptical the Texas resident will return to Georgia for a campaign. Greene has not shown any obvious interest in a statewide bid, but that hasn't stopped establishment Republicans from fretting about the idea.

MO-Sen: Former Gov. Eric Greitens on Monday became the first notable Missouri Republican to announce a bid to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, a deeply unwelcome development for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's hopes of reclaiming a majority next year.

As Politico reported earlier this month, a number of Republicans fear that Greitens, who left office in disgrace three years ago, could endanger Team Red's hold over Blunt's seat if he wins the primary. Some intra-party critics even compared Greitens to Todd Akin, whose "legitimate rape" debacle sunk the GOP's prospects in the Show Me State's 2012 Senate race.

It's easy to see why Greitens could be so toxic even in a state that's galloped away from Democrats over the last decade. Greitens' political career began with promise when he was first elected to the governorship in 2016, but it swiftly began to unravel early in 2018 in the face of allegations that he'd sexually assaulted a woman he was having an affair with and blackmailed her into silence.

Prosecutors soon wound up indicting Greitens not once but twice: First on allegations of first-degree felony invasion of privacy related to the assault scandal, and soon after on unrelated charges of computer tampering involving his charity for veterans (Greitens is a former Navy SEAL). The Republican-led state legislature, which had little love for the governor after spending a year feuding with him, also took steps toward removing him from office.

Greitens finally resigned at the end of May, a move that St. Louis prosecutor Kimberly Gardner claimed came in exchange for her decision to drop the tampering charges. A short while later, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker also abandoned the assault and blackmail case, saying that while she believed Greitens' accuser, she did not think she could prove the charges.

With that abrupt fall from grace, Greitens became the shortest-tenured governor in Missouri history. His time in politics appeared to be at an end, and he spent most of the following two years avoiding the media. However, he re-emerged in February of last year after getting some mostly welcome news from the Missouri Ethics Commission. The commission announced that it was fining Greitens $178,000 after ruling that his 2016 campaign had not disclosed its coordination with a federal PAC and a nonprofit. However, it also said there was "no evidence of any wrongdoing" by Greitens himself and forgave most of the fine.

Greitens immediately laundered those findings (which concerned only his campaign, not the assault allegations) to make a broad-based claim he'd just received a "total exoneration" (he hadn't). He also didn't rule out a 2020 primary bid for his old job as governor against his replacement, Gov. Mike Parson, though he ultimately backed off. However, he started talking up a challenge to Blunt earlier this month, arguing that the incumbent had shown insufficient fealty to Donald Trump. Just days later, Blunt ended up announcing his retirement, and Greitens kicked off his bid to succeed his would-be rival this week.

National Republicans, though, didn't wait for Greitens to announce before discussing ways to keep him from winning the primary. Politico's Alex Isenstadt recently reported that the Senate Leadership Fund, a major super PAC close to Mitch McConnell, "has been engaged in talks about how to keep the former governor from endangering [the GOP's] hold on what should be a safe seat," though no one has settled on any precise strategies yet—at least not publicly.

Isenstadt added that Republican operatives are aware that a crowded field could make it easier for Greitens to win the nomination, though unnamed "top Republicans" acknowledged that they haven't come up with a plan to stop him at this early point in the cycle.

But Greitens' potential Senate colleague, fellow Republican Josh Hawley, is already kicking the former governor in the shins. While the two are both ardent fans of Trump's favorite election conspiracy theories, they utterly despise one another. Hawley said Tuesday of his 2018 call for Greitens' resignation, "I wouldn't change any of that" and acknowledged he'd spoken to Trump about the race, ostensibly in the hope of dissuading him from backing Greitens. Hawley hedged, though, adding, "I'll support the Republican nominee" for this seat.

Governors

PA-Gov: Republican Rep. Dan Meuser acknowledged Monday that he was thinking about entering next year's open seat race for governor

Meuser, who represents a safely red seat located in the formerly coal-heavy region between Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg, said, "I plan on taking the next few months to have discussions with my fellow Pennsylvanians about ways I believe we can move our state forward towards a more prosperous future." Last month, PennLive also listed Meuser as one of the Republicans "widely believed to be looking at" running for Senate, but he didn't mention that contest this week.

House

TX-34: Former Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos told the Texas Tribune Monday that he wasn't ruling out seeking the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Filemón Vela.

Cascos previously served as county judge, a post that is similar to a county executive in other states, in Cameron County, which is home to more than half of the residents in the current 34th District. In 2015, Cascos resigned to accept an appointment as secretary of state, a stint that lasted for two years. Cascos tried to regain his old job as county judge from Democratic incumbent Eddie Treviño in 2018 but lost the general election 60-40.

Mayors

Cleveland, OH Mayor: Former City Councilman Zack Reed announced this week that he would mount a second bid this year for the post currently held by Mayor Frank Jackson, a fellow Democrat. Jackson has not yet said if he'll seek a fifth four-year term, though Cleveland.com's Seth Richardson says the incumbent "has not raised money or indicated he would do so." The filing deadline is in mid-June.

Reed challenged Jackson in 2017, arguing the mayor had not done enough to deal with the high crime rate and was too focused on improving downtown at the expense of the city's neighborhoods. Jackson went on to beat Reed 60-40, a solid showing that was still a significantly smaller margin than what he scored during his two previous re-election campaigns. Reed went on to work for Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose for two years as minority affairs coordinator, a job that Cleveland.com described as "help[ing] LaRose build bridges with minority voters and minority business groups across the state."

Reed joins nonprofit executive Justin Bibb in the mayoral contest to lead this very blue city, though other contenders will likely join no matter what Jackson does. Richardson writes that the list of other politicians "expected" to run include former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who served as mayor from 1977 to 1979; City Council President Kevin Kelley; and City Councilman Basheer Jones. The nonpartisan primary will take place in September, and the two candidates with the most votes will face off in the November general election.

Morning Digest: With Trump’s blessing, congressman seeks to oust Georgia’s GOP secretary of state

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-SoS, GA-10: Far-right Rep. Jody Hice announced Monday that he would challenge Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in next year's Republican primary rather than seek a fifth term in the safely red 10th Congressional District in the east-central part of the state. Hice immediately earned an endorsement from Donald Trump, who last year unsuccessfully pressured Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes" in order to overturn Joe Biden's win in the state.

Former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who lost the 2018 nomination fight to Raffensperger 62-38, also announced over the weekend that he would seek a rematch. Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-supporting ex-Democrat who joined the Republican Party right after the 2020 election, had also been mentioned, though he turned his gaze to the governor's race on Monday. Georgia requires a runoff in any primaries where no one takes a majority of the vote.

Campaign Action

Hice, though, will likely be Raffensperger's main foe thanks to Trump's endorsement and prominent position, but his many ugly views could also prove to be a liability in a general election in what's now become a swing state.

Hice, a pastor who worked as a conservative radio host before his 2014 election to Congress, made a name for himself with a 2012 book where he wrote, "Evidently there are many who believe a 'Gestapo-like' presence is needed by the government in order to corral and keep under control, all these 'dangerous' Christians." Hice also used that tome to attack LGBTQ people and Muslims, as well as compare supporters of abortion rights to Hitler.

Hice has remained a far-right favorite in Congress, especially this year. Hice posted on Instagram hours before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, "This is our 1776 moment." The message was quickly deleted after New York Times reporter Charles Bethea flagged it on Twitter in the midst of the assault on the building. Hice's spokesperson said the next day, "The 1776 post was our way of highlighting the electoral objection—we removed the post when we realized it could be misconstrued as supporting those acting violently yesterday and storming the Capitol."  

That violence was hardly enough to stop Hice from spreading conspiracy theories. Last month, the congressman used his CPAC panel titled "Who's Really Running the Biden Administration" to declare, "I guarantee you, Georgia is not blue, and what happened this election was solely because of a horrible secretary of state and horrible decisions that he made."

On the Democratic side, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that one of the "leaning potential candidates" for secretary of state is state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who is the first Vietnamese American to serve in the chamber. Nguyen has been in the news in recent days as she's spoken out against racism against Asian Americans following last week's lethal attack on Atlanta-area spas.

Meanwhile, Republicans are already eyeing the race to succeed Hice in Georgia's 10th Congressional District. This seat backed Donald Trump 60-39, and it will almost certainly remain safely red after the GOP devises new maps.

Two Republican members of the legislature, state Sen. Bill Cowsert and state Rep. Houston Gaines, expressed interest in recent days. The AJC also name-drops 2014 candidate Mike Collins, state Rep. Jodi Lott, and former state party chair John Padgett as possible candidates for Team Red.

Senate

AL-Sen: Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, a hard-right favorite who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, announced on Monday that he would compete in the Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. Brooks joins major GOP donor Lynda Blanchard, who served as ambassador to Slovenia, in a nomination fight that could attract more Republicans in this extremely red state.

Brooks previously competed in the 2017 special election for the Yellowhammer State’s other Senate seat in a race that turned out quite badly for him. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange and his allies at the Senate Leadership Fund aired ad after ad using footage from the previous year of Brooks, who had supported Ted Cruz in the presidential primary, attacking Donald Trump. One piece showed the congressman saying, "I don't think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says" before the narrator argued that Brooks sided with Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi against Trump.

The ad campaign worked, but not to the GOP’s benefit. Brooks took third place with 20%, but Roy Moore went on to defeat Strange in the runoff; Moore later went on to lose to Democrat Doug Jones after multiple women accused the Republican nominee of preying on them as teenagers.

Brooks, though, didn’t have to give up his House seat to run in that special, and he soon reinvented himself as one of Trump’s most ardent allies. Brooks proved to be an especially eager promoter of Trump’s election conspiracy theories, and in a speech delivered four hours before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, he told rally goers, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” CNN later reported that several Republicans later talked about ejecting him from his committee assignments after that day’s violence, though unsurprisingly, they didn’t actually do anything.

One Republican who was delighted by Brooks, though, was Trump, something that could go a long way towards helping the congressman avoid a repeat of his 2017 experience. Politico reports that Trump is leaning towards endorsing Brooks over Blanchard in part because of a major mistake from her campaign.

“The president doesn’t know Lynda all that well and it had gotten back to him and his team that people on her team had been overstating how close they supposedly are,” said one unnamed Trump ally, adding, “One of her aides was telling any donor who would listen that Trump was going to endorse her and that left him annoyed.” A Blanchard insider, naturally, countered, saying, “That’s bullshit. That’s somebody spinning someone to help Mo out. She would never oversell it, she’s not that kind of person.”

P.S. Brooks’ decision will open up the 5th Congressional District, a northern Alabama seat that backed Trump 63-37 in 2020.

AK-Sen, AK-Gov: Last week, the Associated Press' Mark Thiessen name-dropped a few Republicans as possible intra-party opponents for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has not yet said if she'll run again in 2022. The most familiar name is former Gov. Sarah Palin, who is perennially mentioned as a possible Murkowski foe even though she hasn't actually appeared on a ballot since her 2008 vice presidential bid.

Thiessen also lists Gov. Mike Dunleavy as a possibility, though he hasn't shown any obvious interest in doing anything other than run for re-election next year. Dunleavy hasn't announced his 2022 plans, though he said last week, "I enjoy the job and there's a lot of work to be done.

There's also Joe Miller, who beat Murkowski in a 2010 primary shocker but went on to lose to her that fall when the senator ran a write-in campaign. Miller, who unsuccessfully sought the 2014 GOP nod for Alaska's other Senate seat, campaigned against Murkowski as a Libertarian in 2016 and lost 44-29. Miller also does not appear to have said anything about another campaign.

MO-Sen: Less than three years after he resigned in disgrace, former Gov. Eric Greitens announced Monday that he would seek the Republican nomination for this open seat. We’ll have more in our next Digest.

NC-Sen: Meredith College takes a look at an extremely early Democratic primary scenario and finds former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and state Sen. Jeff Jackson tied 13-13. Former state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost the 2020 primary, takes 11%, while virologist Richard Watkins is at 4%. (Watkins ran in 2018 in the primary against veteran Rep. David Price and took just 6% of the vote.) Beasley is the only person tested who is not currently running.

Meredith also released numbers for the GOP primary but sampled just 217 respondents, which is below the 300-person minimum we require for inclusion in the Digest.

NV-Sen: The far-right anti-tax Club for Growth has released a survey from its usual pollster WPA Intelligence that finds its old ally, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt, leading former Sen. Dean Heller 44-25 in a hypothetical GOP primary. Heller, who lost Nevada's other Senate seat to Democrat Jacky Rosen in 2018, has not shown any obvious signs of interest in taking on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto.

Laxalt has not said anything about his 2022 plans, though CNN recently reported that he is considering a Senate bid. McClatchy, citing an unnamed GOP aide, also writes that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "is also said to favor Laxalt's candidacy."

OH-Sen: 314 Action, which is trying to recruit former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton to run for this open seat, has released a survey from Public Policy Polling that shows her outperforming her fellow Democrat, Rep. Tim Ryan, in hypothetical general election matchups against a trio of Republicans. First up are the Acton numbers:

  • 42-41 vs. former state Treasurer Josh Mandel
  • 40-40 vs. former state party chair Jane Timken
  • 40-38 vs. author J.D. Vance

Next up is Ryan:

  • 38-42 vs. Mandel
  • 38-41 vs. Timken
  • 37-39 vs. Vance

314 publicized another PPP poll last week that had Acton leading Ryan 37-32 in a potential primary. Both Democrats are publicly considering running, though neither of them has announced a bid.

Mandel and Timken currently have the GOP side to themselves, but plenty of others could get in. Vance, who is best known as the writer of "Hillbilly Elegy," has not said anything about his interest, but Politico reports that he recently met with people close to Trump. Last week, the Cincinnati Enquirer also revealed that far-right billionaire Peter Thiel had contributed $10 million to a super PAC set up to help Vance if he runs.

Governors

GA-Gov: Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, an ardent Trump fan who left the Democratic Party in January, tweeted Monday that he was "looking closely" at a GOP primary bid against Gov. Brian Kemp.

Jones, unsurprisingly, echoed his patron's lies about election fraud by insisting, "If it weren't for Brian Kemp, Donald Trump would still be President of these United States." Joe Biden, of course, would still have earned an electoral college majority even if Trump had carried Georgia, but that's hardly stopped Trump from targeting his one-time ally Kemp.

Jones had a long career in Democratic politics, though he'd struggled to win higher office under his old party. After a stint in the state House in the 1990s, Jones became the first African American to lead DeKalb County following his 2000 victory for CEO of this large Atlanta-area community. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that during his tenure, Jones "drew intense scrutiny for angry outbursts and an accusation of rape that he said was a consensual act between three partners." Jones, however, was never charged.

Jones tried to use his high-profile post as a springboard to statewide office, but he lost the 2008 primary runoff for Senate 60-40 to Jim Martin, who went on to lose to Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss. Jones then challenged Rep. Hank Johnson in the 2010 primary for the 4th Congressional District and lost 55-26.

In 2013, a grand jury probing Jones' time as DeKalb County CEO recommended he be investigated for what the AJC calls allegations of "bid-rigging and theft." The following year, his campaign for DeKalb County sheriff ended in a landslide 76-24 primary defeat.

Jones, though, resurrected his political career when he won the 2016 primary to return to the state House in a safely blue seat. Months later, DeKalb District Attorney Robert James announced that he wouldn't be charging a number of figures, including Jones, for lack of evidence.

Jones spent the next few years often voting with Republicans and tweeting favorably of Trump, but he only burned his last bridges with his party in 2020 when he endorsed Trump's re-election campaign. Jones, who was already facing a competitive primary, ultimately retired from the legislature (albeit after initially saying he'd be resigning), and he spent the rest of the campaign as a prominent Trump surrogate.

Jones finally switched parties in January, and he's been eyeing another statewide bid over the last few months. Jones has been mentioned as a prospective Senate candidate, and he reportedly eyed a primary campaign for secretary of state against Brad Raffensperger as recently as last week. Trump, though, has touted former NFL running back Herschel Walker as a prospective Senate candidate and endorsed Rep. Jody Hice's bid against Raffensperger on Monday (see our GA-SoS item), which may be why Jones is now talking about taking on Kemp instead.

MO-Gov, MO-Sen: Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe announced Monday that he would compete in the 2024 race to succeed Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who will be termed-out, rather than run in next year's open seat race for the Senate.

Kehoe's kickoff is extremely early, but while it's not unheard of for prominent gubernatorial candidates to enter the race well over three years before Election Day, that preparation doesn't always pay off. Then-California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom notably launched his successful 2018 gubernatorial campaign in February of 2015, while Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin announced his 2022 bid in August of 2019 only to drop down to attorney general last month after Donald Trump backed a rival Republican primary candidate.

NY-Gov: A ninth woman, Alyssa McGrath, has come forward to accuse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, making her the first current Cuomo employee to do so on the record. McGrath, an executive assistant in the governor's office, says Cuomo "would ogle her body, remark on her looks, and make suggestive comments to her" and a coworker. She also says Cuomo called her "beautiful" in Italian and on one occasion stared down her shirt.

Cuomo once again did not deny the interactions had taken place. Instead, a spokesperson insisted that "the governor has greeted men and women with hugs and a kiss on the cheek, forehead, or hand. Yes, he has posed for photographs with his arm around them. Yes, he uses Italian phrases like 'ciao bella.' None of this is remarkable, although it may be old-fashioned. He has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone."

PA-Gov, PA-Sen: Several more Republicans, including a few familiar names, have made their interest in running to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf known in recent days.

On Monday, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain formed a fundraising committee for a potential bid. That step came days after Rep. Mike Kelly said he was thinking about running either for governor or for the Senate. The Associated Press also writes that another congressman, Rep. Dan Meuser, "has said he is considering running" for governor, but there's no quote from him.

Former Rep. Lou Barletta, who badly lost the 2018 Senate general election, also acknowledged his interest in the gubernatorial race and pledged to decide over the next few weeks. Additionally, state Sen. Dan Laughlin said over the weekend that he was thinking about campaigning to replace Wolf. The Erie Times-News writes that Laughlin is one of the more moderate Republicans in the legislature, which could be helpful in a general but toxic in a primary.

VA-Gov: Wealthy businessman Pete Snyder has earned an endorsement from Rep. Bob Good ahead of the May 8 Republican nominating convention. Good himself won the GOP nomination last year through this system when he unseated incumbent Denver Riggleman.

House

LA-02: Two Democratic state senators from New Orleans, Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson (the two are not related), will face off in the April 24 runoff to succeed Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January to take a post in the Biden White House. Carter took first in Saturday's all-party primary with 36%, while Peterson edged out Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers by a surprisingly small 23-21 margin.

Carter has the backing of Richmond, the state AFL-CIO, and a high-profile Republican in the region, Cynthia Lee Sheng. On Monday, Carter also earned an endorsement from East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, whose constituency cast just under 10% of the vote. Peterson, for her part, has benefited from about $600,000 in outside spending from EMILY's List.

Both Carter and Peterson, who would be the first Black woman to represent Louisiana in Congress, have campaigned as ardent Democrats, though Peterson has argued she's the more progressive of the two. Notably, while Peterson and other contenders called for a Green New Deal, Carter merely characterized it as "a good blueprint" that won't be in place for a long time and that he doesn't support.

Both candidates also say they back Medicare for all, though only Peterson has run commercials focused on it. Carter, for his part, has insisted he'd have a far easier time working with Republicans than Peterson. Carter has additionally played up his relationship with Richmond, saying, "I would have the ear of the guy who has the ear of the president of the United States of America." Peterson, who is a former state party chair, has pushed back by saying she has her own ties to senior White House officials and does "not need to have the ear of the ear of the ear of the toe of the thumb of someone."

Peterson will likely need Chambers' supporters to disproportionately break for her in order for her to close the gap next month, and she may be better positioned to appeal to them than Carter. That's far from guaranteed to happen, though, and Chambers himself hasn't hinted if he's leaning towards supporting one of them over the other. Chambers, while acknowledging Sunday that his endorsement would be very valuable, said of the two runoff contenders, "I don't think either one of them is a true progressive."

Local politics in New Orleans, which is coterminous with Orleans Parish, also may impact this race, as the two state senators represent conflicting factions in local Democratic politics. Peterson is a leader in the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), a longtime power player in the Crescent City that has clashed with Richmond and his allies. Each side scored some big wins and losses in the 2019 legislative elections, and Clancy DuBos of the New Orleans weekly The Gambit recently noted, "Many see this contest as the latest bout between BOLD and Richmond."

In Orleans Parish, which cast just over half the vote on Saturday in this 10-parish district, it was Carter's side that very much came out on top in the first round. Carter led with 39%, while Chambers actually narrowly led Peterson 27-25 for second.

LA-05: University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow defeated Democrat Candy Christophe 65-27 in the all-party primary to succeed her late husband and fellow Republican, Luke Letlow, which was well more than the majority she needed to avoid a runoff. Luke Letlow won an open seat runoff for this safely red northeast Louisiana seat in December, but he died weeks later of complications from COVID-19 before he could take office.

Julia Letlow will be the first woman to represent Louisiana in Congress since Democrat Mary Landrieu left the Senate following her 2014 defeat, as well as the first Republican woman to ever serve in the state's delegation.

Letlow will also join Doris Matsui, a California Democrat, as the only member of Congress elected to succeed a late husband. (Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell won the 2014 contest to succeed John Dingell, which made her the first member elected to succeed a living spouse; John Dingell died in 2019.) Texas Republican Susan Wright is also currently running to succeed Rep. Ron Wright, who also died after contracting COVID-19.

NY-23: Chemung County Executive Chris Moss said Monday that he was interested in running to succeed Rep. Tom Reed, a fellow Republican who on Sunday apologized for sexually harassing a woman in 2017 as he announced he would not run for office in 2022. But Moss, who was the party's 2014 nominee for lieutenant governor, said that he would first run for re-election to his current office this year and would not decide on anything until he sees the new congressional map.

Moss has good reason to be wary, as no one knows what this 55-42 Trump seat, which currently includes Ithaca and southwestern New York, will look like next year. New York is very likely to lose at least one House seat, and Reed's departure could make it easier for mapmakers to eliminate this upstate New York seat.

It's also not clear, though, who those mapmakers will even be. An amendment to the state constitution backed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed in 2014 that, under the pretense of establishing an independent redistricting commission—a judge literally ordered that the word "independent" be stricken from the amendment's description because it was nothing of the sort—was actually designed to ensure Republican lawmakers would have a say in redistricting no matter if they lost their then-control over the state Senate. Legislative Democrats, though, now have the two-third supermajorities that would allow them to bypass this amendment―if they choose to try, that is.

All we know for now is that Reed's Sunday announcement will mark the end of a decade-long political career that included one unexpectedly competitive race. Reed was the mayor of Corning, a small city best known as the headquarters of the eponymous glassworks company, in 2008 when Democrat Eric Massa scored a pickup in what was numbered the 29th District at the time. The ancestrally red seat, though, had supported John McCain 51-48, and Republicans planned to make Massa a top target.

Reed entered the race to take on the freshman Democrat, but he never got the chance to take him on. Massa resigned in disgrace in March of 2010 after an aide accused him of sexual harassment, and Democrats had a very tough time finding a viable replacement candidate. Reed ultimately avoided any intra-party opposition and decisively outraised his Democratic foe, Afghanistan veteran Matthew Zeller. Major outside groups on both sides largely bypassed the race and Reed won 56-43; he also scored a similar win in a special election held that day for the final weeks of Massa's term.

Redistricting left Reed with a less conservative seat, but his huge financial advantage over Democratic Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa made him look like the heavy favorite to keep the new 23rd District red. It was therefore a big surprise when Reed only defeated Shinagawa 52-48 as Mitt Romney was carrying the seat 50-48, and Democrats were determined to give him a serious fight next time.

Fellow Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson stepped up for Team Blue, but 2014 proved to be a very difficult year for her party. Reed ran ad after ad portraying Robertson as an "extreme Ithaca liberal," including one commercial with a very strange cartoon of Robertson driving around in a hippie car as the narrator sarcastically threw in hippie slang.

Reed ended up winning 62-38, but Democrats hoped that the 2016 climate would revert back to something more like 2012. That's very much not what happened, though: Instead, Trump won 55-40 here, and Reed beat Democrat John Plumb 58-42. Reed had a closer 54-46 shave against cybersecurity expert Tracy Mitrano in 2018, but he won their 2020 rematch 58-41.

OH-16: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth has followed Donald Trump's lead and endorsed former Trump administration official Max Miller's Republican primary bid against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who voted to impeach the party's leader in January. The Club has also released a poll from WPA Intelligence that shows Miller beating Gonzalez 39-30, though no one knows what this district will look like after redistricting.

TX-06: 2020 state House candidate Lydia Bean has released a poll from the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group that shows her in contention to advance past the May 1 all-party primary:

  • GOP activist Susan Wright (R): 18
  • 2018 nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez (D): 9
  • State Rep. Jake Ellzey (R): 8
  • 2020 state House candidate Lydia Bean (D): 6
  • Former Trump administration official Brian Harrison (R): 6
  • Education activist Shawn Lassiter (D): 4
  • Former Homeland Security official Patrick Moses (D): 2
  • 2020 Nevada congressional candidate Dan Rodimer (R): 1

The only other poll we've seen was a Victoria Research survey for Sanchez released last week that showed Wright leading her 21-17, with Ellzey and Bean at 8% and 5%, respectively.

TX-34: In a surprise, Democratic Rep. Filemón Vela said Monday that he would not seek a sixth term in Texas' 34th Congressional District, a heavily Latino seat that snapped hard to the right last year. Vela is the second Democratic House member to announce his retirement following Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who made her 2022 plans known earlier this month.

This constituency, which includes Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley and rural counties to the north, went for Joe Biden 52-48 four years after it supported Hillary Clinton by a hefty 59-38 margin in 2016. This was the biggest shift toward Trump of any congressional district in Texas, and his third-largest improvement in the entire nation. Vela himself won re-election by a comfortable 55-42 against an underfunded Republican in a contest that attracted very little outside spending, but the dynamics of an open seat race could be very different.

Further muddling the picture for 2022 is redistricting. While Texas Republicans were ecstatic about their gains with Latino voters, they saw an even broader disintegration in their former suburban strongholds across the state that's left many of their incumbents on the brink. While the GOP will have full control over redistricting for the coming decade once again, Republicans in the legislature will have to make many hard choices about which districts to prop up and which to cut loose.  

Vela, for his part, has not had to worry about a competitive race since he won his first primary in 2012. Vela had never sought office before he entered that crowded contest for the newly-drawn 34th District, but his family had some very strong ties to the seat: His mother, Blanca Vela, was the first woman to serve as mayor of Brownsville while his father and namesake, Filemón Vela Sr., was a longtime federal judge who had a courthouse named for him in the city.

The younger Vela looked like the frontrunner especially after his most prominent opponent, Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, was indicted for racketeering weeks before the primary. (He was later sentenced to 13 years in prison.) Vela reached the runoff by taking 40%, while his opponent, former congressional staffer Denise Saenz Blanchard, was far behind with 13%.

Blanchard ran to Vela's left and portrayed her opponent, whose wife was a GOP member of the state Court of Appeals, as far too conservative. Blanchard hit Vela for having voted in GOP primaries in the past, and some Republicans even insisted that Vela himself had planned to run for Congress as a member of Team Red until he saw the new congressional map.

However, Blanchard had little money available in a contest that attracted very little outside attention (Daily Kos Elections at the time dubbed it, "The most under-watched nominating battle in the nation."), and Vela won 67-33. Vela had no trouble that fall or in any other campaigns.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Saturday's special election in Louisiana and a preview of Tuesday's race in Virginia:

LA-HD-82: An all-Republican runoff is on tap for April 24 after Eddie Connick and Laurie Schlegel were the top two vote-getters for this seat in the New Orleans suburbs. Connick led Schlegel 40-36 in the first round, while Democrat Raymond Delaney took third with 25%.

Despite some recent leftward movement in this solidly red district, the two Republican candidates outpaced the Democrat 75-25. The strong GOP performance here could partially be attributed to the Republican candidates' connections to well-known local political figures.

VA-SD-38: This Republican district in southwest Virginia became vacant after former Sen. Ben Chafin died earlier this year. Former Radford City Councilwoman Laurie Buchwald is the Democratic candidate taking on Republican Travis Hackworth, a Tazewell County supervisor.

Buchwald has run for office once before, losing a state House of Delegates race to GOP incumbent Joe Yost 58-42 in 2015.

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Donald Trump 75-22 in 2016, and according to The News and Advance, Trump took 78% of the vote here in 2020. This is the only vacancy in this chamber, which Democrats narrowly control 21-18.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Joe Biden will be hosting a Friday virtual fundraiser for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, which is the president's first such event for any candidate since he became president. Bottoms faces a potentially competitive re-election fight this fall against City Council President Felicia Moore, while others are also considering taking her on.

Morning Digest: Facing Trump venom and GOP censure, Murkowski goes wobbly on seeking re-election

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

Leading Off

AK-Sen: Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski unequivocally said back in January that she was running for re-election, but she's sounding a lot less certain now. When reporters recently asked her when she would decide, the 18-year incumbent noncommittally responded, "Well, I have to do it before 2022, right?" If Murkowski does choose to retire, it would mark the first time that an incumbent senator has not sought re-election in Alaska since it became a state in 1959.

One person who would be incredibly happy if Murkowski decided to call it a career is Donald Trump, who talked about trying to unseat her even before she voted to remove him from office in January. Trump has continued to make it clear he'd try to help defeat Murkowski if she ran again, though the Washington Post reported in March that some members of his inner circle are skeptical "that he will be as much of a potent force in the race because traveling to campaign against her would require such a long flight, which Trump generally avoids." The Alaska Republican Party's central committee, which has a much shorter commute, also piled on Saturday when it voted to censure the senator over her vote.

If Murkowski did seek a fourth full term, she would compete under very different electoral rules that could actually make it easier for her to fend off a hard-right challenger regardless of whether Trump actually schlepps out to Anchorage. Last year, Alaska voters approved a referendum that would require all parties to now run together on a single primary ballot, with the top four vote-getters advancing to November. Such a system would make it all but impossible to block Murkowski from the general election, when voters would then choose a winner by means of an instant runoff.

Campaign Action

Senate

AZ-Sen: Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said back in January that he would not challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but CNN reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell still hasn't given up trying to recruit him. There's no word whether the termed-out governor is listening to McConnell's entreaties, though, and some very loud voices closer to home would prefer he just leave the political scene altogether. The Arizona Republican Party censured Ducey over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic around the same time that the governor took his name out of contention, vividly demonstrating the kind of primary he'd have been in for.

GA-Sen: Lt. Gov Geoff Duncan said over the weekend that he would not seek the Republican nomination to face Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

KY-Sen: Former state Rep. Charles Booker said Sunday that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination to face Republican Sen. Rand Paul. Booker campaigned for Kentucky's other U.S. Senate seat last year and lost a surprisingly close primary to national party favorite Amy McGrath, who in turn went on to lose badly to Sen. Mitch McConnell.

MO-Sen: Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports that major GOP outside groups are open to spending in Missouri’s open seat primary to stop disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens if he runs. Isenstadt says that Senate Leadership Fund, a major super PAC close to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, "has been engaged in talks about how to keep the former governor from endangering their hold on what should be a safe seat," though no one has settled on anything yet.

Isenstadt adds that GOP operatives in the Show Me State are aware that a crowded field could make it easier for Greitens to win the nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, though unnamed "top Republicans" acknowledge that they haven't come up with a plan to stop him at this early point in the cycle.

NV-Sen: CNN says that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red's 2018 nominee for governor, is considering challenging Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto next year. The incumbent will be a top GOP target as she seeks re-election in a state that backed Joe Biden by a close 50-48 margin, but a bit surprisingly, we've heard very little about the prospective field to face her until now.

Laxalt, who unsuccessfully sued to overturn Biden's victory in the state, has not yet said anything publicly about his interest, though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly sees him as a Republican who "could bring together the warring wings of the party." Back in December, the Las Vegas Review-Journal also relayed "rumors" that Laxalt was thinking about seeking a rematch with Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who beat him 49-45, but we've heard nothing new since then.

OH-Sen: While "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance hasn't publicly expressed interest in seeking the Republican nomination for Ohio’s open seat, that hasn't stopped a group of far-right billionaires from pouring massive sums into a super PAC set up to aid him if he does. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Peter Thiel has given $10 million to a group called Protect Ohio Values, while the PAC’s spokesperson says that Robert Mercer's family has also made a "significant contribution."

On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan recently told CNN he would decide "in the next few weeks" if he'll campaign to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

UT-Sen: Former state Rep. Becky Edwards recently told Utah Policy that she was "all in" for a Republican primary campaign against Sen. Mike Lee, but she'll be in for an exceedingly difficult race: Edwards, who retired from the legislature in 2018, spent last year encouraging fellow Mormon women to vote against Donald Trump.  

Governors

CT-Gov: New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said Sunday that she would not seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, a move that the Hartford Courant writes "appeared to take both parties by surprise."

MD-Gov: Nonprofit executive Jon Baron told the Baltimore Sun's Bryn Stole that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s open governorship. Stole writes that Baron, who is a former official in the Clinton-era Department of Defense, currently serves as vice president of Arnold Ventures, a group supported by a billionaire couple that describes its mission as "invest[ing] in evidence-based solutions that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice."

MN-Gov: Republican Rep. Pete Stauber said Sunday that he would not challenge Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. KSTP’s Ricky Campbell reports that some GOP operatives “had considered Stauber a favorite,” while one top Republican, former state House Speaker Kurt Zellers, was openly dismayed. “I'm a little shocked and, honestly, disappointed," said Zellers. "I would have loved to see Congressman Stauber run. I don't know if there's a clear path right now for any candidate."

NE-Gov, NE-02: In a development that will almost certainly be a relief to House Republicans, Rep. Don Bacon announced Monday that he would run for re-election rather than campaign for governor. While Republicans are the heavy favorites to keep the governor's office in deep red Nebraska no matter whom they nominate next year, holding Bacon’s Omaha-based 2nd District would be a much more difficult task without him. In its current form, the seat swung from 48-46 Trump to 52-46 Biden last year, but the congressman ran far ahead of the ticket and won his third term 51-46.

 NY-Gov: On Friday, reporter Jessica Bakeman became the seventh woman to accuse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. Bakeman wrote that she attended a 2014 holiday party at the executive mansion where Cuomo had held her in place without her consent and refused to let go of her after taking a picture with her even as she “practically squirmed to get away from him.” She further described how Cuomo went on to make a joke about what had just happened in front of her colleagues, which Bakeman said left her in “stunned silence, shocked and humiliated.”

Two days after Bakeman’s allegations became public, the New York Times and Washington Post both reported that Larry Schwartz, a longtime Cuomo adviser tasked with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, had been contacting county executives over the last two weeks to assess their loyalty to the governor.

One unnamed Democratic executive reportedly filed an ethics complaint with the state attorney general’s office because, as the Post wrote, they “feared the county’s vaccine supply could suffer if Schwartz was not pleased with the executive’s response to his questions about support of the governor.” On Monday, Cuomo’s attorney put out a statement insisting that Schwartz “would never link political support to public health decisions,” though she didn’t deny the calls had taken place.

Both stories attracted attention days after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Thursday that state lawmakers would open an impeachment investigation into Cuomo, a development that came after a majority of legislators called for his resignation. Notably, if a majority of the Assembly votes to impeach Cuomo, his powers would temporarily be transferred to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. The governor would regain his powers if he manages to avoid conviction.

Cuomo has repeatedly said that he won’t step down, but now one of his longtime allies is reportedly considering running to replace him. The New York Daily News writes that Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a moderate Democrat, has been talking to donors and fundraisers about a possible bid, though he has not yet said anything publicly. There’s no word if Bellone would be willing to challenge Cuomo if the governor is in a position to seek re-election next year.

VA-Gov: On Friday evening, the Virginia Republican Party's State Central Committee opted to allow convention delegates who will be choosing the party's statewide nominees on May 8 to vote at one of roughly 37 locations across the state. The decision came weeks after the party originally opted to hold its gathering at Liberty University in Lynchburg, only for the school to announce the next day that it hadn’t in fact agreed to host the event at all.

But if you thought the intra-party bloodletting over this convention is finally over, think again. The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Patrick Wilson writes that, even after the party reached its decision, "the meeting veered into a bitter debate related to minutia over how people will file to become delegates." The GOP also won't finalize its list of voting locations until April 24, about two weeks before the event itself.

Democrats, meanwhile, will pick their candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general in a traditional June primary―an event that will be open to any eligible voter and feature far more than 37 voting locations.

House

 NM-01: The U.S. Senate confirmed Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland as secretary of the interior on Monday, making Haaland, who is a member of the federally recognized Laguna Pueblo tribe, the first Native American to ever run a cabinet-level department. The congresswoman's departure from the House will also set off a special election in New Mexico’s 1st District in the Albuquerque area, which supported Joe Biden 60-37 last year.

In anticipation of a vacancy, several candidates from both parties have been running here for some time, but there won't be any primaries. Instead, state law requires each party's central committee to pick their candidate: The Democrats’ body is made up of about 180 members, while Republicans put their own membership at 119. Lawmakers introduced a bill this year to institute traditional primaries instead, but it looks unlikely to win the support of the necessary two-thirds of each chamber before the legislature's session ends on Saturday.

We’ll have a look at both parties’ fields in a future Digest, but there was one notable development on the GOP side shortly before Haaland was confirmed when state Sen. Mark Moores announced he would run. Political observer Joe Monahan writes that while Moores, who is the only Republican in the chamber who represents any part of the city of Albuquerque, would have a tough time flipping this seat, even an unsuccessful House campaign could help raise his profile for a bid against Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham next year.

Haaland’s confirmation also ends, at least for now, her brief but historic time in elective office. Haaland, who was a longtime Democratic activist, first appeared on the ballot in 2014, when she was then-Attorney General Gary King’s running mate in that year's election for governor. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s strong poll numbers and the terrible political climate for Democrats made the race very challenging, though, and the King-Haaland ticket lost 57-43.

Haaland soon won the race to chair the state party during the 2016 cycle, an election that saw Democrats retake the state House after two years of GOP control. Haaland got a chance to run for the 1st District to succeed Lujan Grisham when the congresswoman ran for governor, but she had to get through an expensive primary. The contest effectively turned into a three-way race between Haaland, who earned the top place on the ballot by winning the state party convention; retired University of New Mexico law school professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez; and former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez.

Haaland ran commercials talking about how she'd put herself through college and law school as a single mom, noting that she “doesn't look like most people in Congress.” She also received outside help from a new group called 7Gen Leaders that ran ads that promoted her chance to make history as the first Native American woman elected to Congress. (The group's name refers to the philosophy, attributed to the Iroquois, that those living today should strive to work for the benefit of those who will live seven generations from now.)

Still, while Haaland looked like she had a real chance to win, there didn’t seem to be an obvious frontrunner heading into the primary. Sedillo Lopez spent more than any other candidate, while Martinez received considerable outside help. EMILY’s List, meanwhile, aired ads attacking Martinez even though it didn’t endorse either Sedillo Lopez or Haaland.

Ultimately, though, Haaland beat Martinez by a surprisingly wide 41-26, and she had no trouble in November. In January of 2019, Haaland and a fellow Democrat, Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids, together made history when they were sworn in as the first American Indian women to serve in Congress, which Haaland did while wearing traditional Native dress.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and nonprofit executive Dianne Morales have both announced that they've raised enough money from small donors to qualify for the city's matching funds program. The city's Campaign Finance Board, though, will need to verify that they've met all of the requirements before they can receive public money.

Other Races

King County, WA Executive: It's been over a decade since there was a competitive race for the top elected position in Washington's most populous county, but that could change this year. Incumbent Dow Constantine has had no trouble winning since he was first elected in 2009, but state Sen. Joe Nguyen, a fellow Democrat who has represented West Seattle in the legislature since 2018, is now saying he's seriously considering a run against him this fall. The filing deadline is in late May.

Constantine may be in for a tough race because the backlog at the very top of Washington's political pyramid—where Democrat Jay Inslee took the unusual step of running for and winning a third term as governor last year—is starting to have some trickle-down effects on the next tier of political positions. Constantine had looked like a probable candidate for governor in 2020, but he backed Inslee once it became clear the governor wasn’t going anywhere. (As it happens, fully one-third of all elected King County executives have gone on to the governorship, so it's a good stepping stone.) That’s left Nguyen, in turn, stuck in line behind Constantine.

With King County's Republican bench currently consisting of blowing tumbleweeds, it's likely that if Nguyen does run, he and Constantine would face each other in this November’s general election thanks to Washington’s top-two primary system. Nguyen would presumably stake out terrain to the left of the already-progressive Constantine, though note that this race is officially nonpartisan.

Morning Digest: A blue House district in Nebraska could open up if this Republican runs for governor

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

Leading Off

NE-Gov, NE-02: Rep. Don Bacon, who is one of just nine House Republicans to represent a Biden district, confirmed to the Omaha World-Herald over the weekend that he was considering running to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts. Bacon, who previously served in the Air Force as a brigadier general, said he would "be very cautious" as he mulls whether to run statewide, but he did not give a timeline for when he'd decide.

Republicans have held Nebraska's governorship since the 1998 elections, and that streak is likely to continue no matter who wins next year's primary. The bigger consequence of a Bacon gubernatorial campaign, though, would likely be in the battle for the House. The Omaha-based 2nd District swung from 48-46 Trump to 52-46 Biden last year, but Bacon ran far ahead of the ticket and won his third term 51-46.

It also remains to be seen if Republican mapmakers will get the chance to gerrymander Nebraska's congressional map to ensure that they can easily hold the 2nd District with or without Bacon. That's because Nebraska's unicameral legislature, which is formally nonpartisan but run by the GOP, offers lawmakers an uncommonly strong filibuster. Republicans weren't able to win the two-thirds majority it would need to overcome a Democratic filibuster aimed at stopping new maps (a job that would then likely fall to the courts), but the GOP retains the ability to end the filibuster rule with a simple majority.

Campaign Action

Senate

AL-Sen: Politico reports that former Trump administration official Clint Sims has "told the former president's inner circle recently he's not running" for the Republican nomination for this open seat.

IA-Sen: CNN mentions a few Democrats as possible candidates for the Senate seat currently held by Chuck Grassley, who has not yet said if he'll seek an eighth term next year:

  • Former Gov. Chet Culver
  • 2020 candidate Mike Franken
  • Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart
  • State Sen. Liz Mathis
  • State Auditor Rob Sand
  • State Rep. Ras Smith

There is no word yet if any of these people are interested.

The only notable Democrat who has publicly talked about a Senate run is Rep. Cindy Axne, who said in January that she wasn't ruling out a bid for the upper chamber or for governor.

MO-Sen: Several more Republicans have expressed interest in running to succeed Sen. Roy Blunt, who surprised observers Monday when he announced he would not seek a third term in this conservative seat. Former Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in disgrace in 2018, had been talking about challenging the incumbent for renomination before this week, and a spokesperson said Tuesday that Greitens was mulling a bid for this now-open seat.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Reps. Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler additionally confirmed they were thinking about entering the contest. Former U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison also did not rule it out, saying, "I think I'm going to keep my powder dry for the moment. I may have more to say a little bit later."

No notable Republicans have announced yet, but one might make the first move soon. Scott Charton, a former reporter who now runs a communications firm, tweeted that party sources have relayed that Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft "will run." Ashcroft is the son of John Ashcroft, a former governor and senator who was George W. Bush's first attorney general.

On the Democratic side, Marine veteran Lucas Kunce announced his bid Tuesday. The Huffington Post's Kevin Robillard writes that Kunce "now works at a think tank dedicated to battling corporate monopolies." Kunce joins former state Sen. Scott Sifton, who was already running before Blunt made his plans known.

Meanwhile, a prominent Democrat also is showing some interest in another campaign. Rep. Cori Bush tweeted Monday, "I was surprised to learn of Sen. Blunt's retirement. I'm grateful to everyone reaching out. As always, I'm focused on how best to deliver for St. Louis." Bush actually ran in the 2016 primary for this seat but brought in little money or outside attention and lost to establishment favorite Jason Kander 70-13. Bush went on to run an unexpectedly strong 2018 primary campaign against Rep. Lacy Clay before defeating him two years later.

Jeff Bernthal of St. Louis' Fox affiliate also writes that state Sen. Brian Williams is one of the Democrats who “shared messages indicating they will examine how they can best serve the state," though there's no quote from Williams.

Governors

KS-Gov: On Tuesday, Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced that he would seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Schmidt is the first major Republican to say he's in, though former Gov. Jeff Colyer began raising money last week for a very likely campaign.

Schmidt, who was elected to his third term 59-41 in 2018, entered the campaign with Trumpian rhetoric claiming, "The intolerant left with its cancel culture and big tech censorship is trying to shame and silence conservative voices." Schmidt has also spent the last year shoring up his far-right credentials with more than just words. As the pandemic worsened last spring, Schmidt told police not to enforce Kelly's executive order limiting the size of indoor religious services. In December, Schmidt also supported a lawsuit to overturn Joe Biden's victory.

However, Colyer already began working to portray his would-be foe as too close to moderates with a statement reading, "I started my public service working for President Reagan, a conservative hero. Derek Schmidt worked for two US Senators – one of whom served in the Obama Cabinet and the other endorsed Barbara Bollier last year and Laura Kelly before that."

As the Kansas City Star notes, those are references to former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, who did indeed support Democrat Barbara Bollier's unsuccessful 2020 campaign for her old Senate seat, and former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, who went on to serve as Barack Obama's secretary of defense and backed Biden over Donald Trump. Schmidt, for his part, responded to Colyer's jabs by saying that "it's time to move forward, not backwards."

P.S. Despite the common joke that "A.G." actually stands for "aspiring governor" (we didn't say the joke was funny), the last Kansas attorney general to successfully make the jump to the top office was Republican John Anderson in 1960.

MN-Gov: Former state Sen. Scott Jensen, who made a name for himself last year by suggesting that medical authorities were exaggerating the threat of COVID-19, revealed Tuesday that he would campaign for the Republican nomination to face Democratic incumbent Tim Walz.

That declaration came a bit sooner than he planned, though: The Star Tribune's Briana Bierschbach wrote, "Jensen announced his campaign for governor in a news release embargoed for next week, but the Star Tribune did not agree to the embargo. His campaign said he will not be commenting at this time." The only other declared contender is Mike Murphy, the mayor of the small community of Lexington, though a number of other Republicans are considering.

Jensen, who worked as a family physician, attracted the wrong kind of attention last year even before COVID-19 became serious in the United States when he came out in opposition to mandatory vaccinations for children. Jensen went on to national infamy in April when he argued that health officials were inflating the death toll of the pandemic: When a radio host asked him why they would "skew" mortality figures, Jensen responded, "Well, fear is a great way to control people."

Jensen revealed months later that his comments had prompted an investigation by the Minnesota State Board of Medical Practice for spreading misinformation and providing "reckless advice," but he later said the complaints against him were dismissed. That hardly stopped Jensen from spreading more conspiracy theories, though: Jensen has released TikTok videos captioned, "Family doctor EXPOSES double masking craziness," and "You are being played (by the CDC and WHO)."

What Republicans may care more about, though, is Jensen's past support for gun safety measures. In 2018, Jensen joined his Democratic colleagues to support bills to increase background checks and require any firearm owners to report lost or stolen weapons.

NY-Gov: A sixth woman has accused Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, saying he inappropriately touched her last year. According to the Albany Times Union's Brendan Lyons, the woman, whose name the paper is currently withholding, is a state government employee and alleges the incident took place at the governor's mansion in Albany, where she'd been "summoned to do work." Other staffers also reported the matter to Cuomo's counsel, says Lyons. Cuomo denied the allegations, saying at a Tuesday press conference, "I never touched anyone inappropriately."

At the same press event, when PBS reporter Dan Clark asked Cuomo if he would still run for a fourth term next year, Cuomo dodged the question. "Today is not a day for politics. I'm focusing on my job—my job is vaccines, getting a budget done,” he said. "You know allegations. You don't know facts. Let's operate on facts." That stands in contrast with remarks he made in 2019 when he said simply, "I plan to run for a fourth term."    

TX-Gov: Former state Sen. Don Huffines recently told the Houston Chronicle that he is considering challenging Gov. Greg Abbott in next year's Republican primary. Huffines has spent the past year attacking the pandemic restrictions from the man he's labeled "King Abbott," and he was hardly appeased by Abbott's decision last week to end Texas' mask mandate and business capacity limits. "It'll be great to have our freedoms back next week," Huffines tweeted before adding, "Unfortunately, we still live in a dictatorship where @GregAbbott_TX can yank those the next time it's politically convenient to him."

The wealthy Huffines, though, has flirted with running for higher office a few times in the past but never gone for it. In 2015, Huffines didn't rule out a primary bid against Rep. Pete Sessions in the 32nd Congressional District in the Dallas suburbs. Huffines decided instead to remain in the legislature, but his constituents weren't so willing to keep him around: Huffines ran for re-election in 2018 in a seat that had swung from 57-42 Romney to 50-45 Clinton, and he lost 54-46. (His identical twin brother, Phillip Huffines, was defeated in a primary that same year for another state Senate seat.)

Sessions also lost re-election after the 32nd District made a similar lurch to the left, but Huffines still mulled a 2020 bid against the new incumbent, Democrat Colin Allred. Huffines sat this contest out, though, while Sessions successfully returned to Congress by winning the far more conservative 17th District.

The Houston Chronicle, meanwhile, also mentions another vocal Abbott critic, 2020 state Senate candidate Shelley Luther, as a possible primary contender, but there's no word if she's interested.

House

LA-02: Campaign finance reports are in for the time from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 for the March 20 all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond, and Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter had a modest financial advantage over his colleague and main intra-party foe, Karen Carter Peterson.

Carter, who is backed by Richmond, outraised Peterson about $500,000 to $450,000 while outspending her $585,000 to $515,000; Carter also enjoyed a $290,000 to $210,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of February. A third Democratic candidate, activist Gary Chambers, hauled in $305,000, spent $265,000, and had $115,000 left. In the very likely event that no one wins a majority of the vote later this month, a runoff would take place April 24 between the top two contenders.

Clancy DuBos of the New Orleans weekly The Gambit also recently took a look at the divisions between the main Democratic candidates in this safely blue seat. DuBos wrote that Peterson, Chambers, and businesswoman Desiree Ontiveros, who has brought in little money so far, have been campaigning as ardent progressives, while Carter "offers general but nuanced support — depending on the issue."

Notably, while the other contenders have called for a Green New Deal, Carter called it "a good blueprint" that won't be in place for a long time. Peterson has also run commercials pledging to "make Medicare for all a reality," though she and Carter used similar language when talking about healthcare in interviews with the Gambit: Peterson acknowledged that she was "okay with it being phased in," while Carter said, "I'm for a public option and healthcare for all."

DuBos also notes that, while both Carter and Peterson are veteran New Orleans elected officials (Chambers hails from Baton Rouge at the other side of the district), they represent conflicting factions in local Democratic politics. Peterson is a leader in the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), a longtime power player in the Crescent City that has clashed with Richmond and his allies. Each side scored some big wins and losses in the 2019 legislative elections, and DuBos writes, "Many see this contest as the latest bout between BOLD and Richmond."

LA-05: University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow has always looked like the heavy favorite to succeed her late husband, Republican Luke Letlow, in this very red seat, and new campaign finance reports only underscore her advantage in the March 20 all-party primary. Letlow brought in $680,000 during the first two months of 2021, while Democrat Candy Christophe was a distant second with $70,000.

There are a total of 12 candidates on the ballot, though, so it's still very possible that Letlow won't be able to win the majority she'd need to avert an April runoff.

MD-05, MD-Sen: Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd announced Monday that he was ending his Democratic primary campaign against House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and would instead try to deny renomination to Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

NY-19, NY-Gov: Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said this week that he was mulling over a bid for Congress in addition to a second campaign for governor. House Republicans, though, may not be content to wait for him to make up his mind after the debacle they experienced last year when they tried to recruit him to take on Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado.

Molinaro was the 2018 Republican nominee against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a race he lost by a brutal 60-36 margin statewide. Molinaro, though, did carry the Hudson Valley-based 19th District by a wide 53-42 even as Delgado was unseating Republican Rep. John Faso, which made the county executive an attractive prospect for the NRCC.

The committee hoped that Molinaro would launch a House campaign after he was re-elected in November of 2019 as leader of Dutchess County, but it didn't have a viable backup candidate when he announced two months later that he would stay put. The nominee the GOP ended up with, Kyle Van De Water, raised very little money, and major outside groups on both sides ended up focusing their efforts elsewhere instead. Delgado ultimately won by a solid 54-43 as Joe Biden was carrying his seat by a much smaller 50-48 spread.

OH-12: 2020 Democratic nominee Alaina Shearer said Monday that she would run for Congress again. Last year, Shearer lost to Republican Rep. Troy Balderson 55-42 as Donald Trump was carrying this suburban Columbus seat 52-46.

TX-06: This week, Republican state Rep. Jake Ellzey earned an endorsement from his old ally, former Gov. Rick Perry, ahead of the May 1 all-party primary. Perry backed Ellzey during each of his previous campaigns, including his 2018 run for this seat.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on Monday publicized an endorsement from former Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel, a longtime power player in Harlem who served in Congress from 1971 until his retirement in 2017.

Other Races

New York City, NY Comptroller: City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced Tuesday that he was joining the crowded June Democratic primary for this open seat, which will be conducted using instant runoff voting.

Johnson, who is the first gay man to lead the New York City Council, was universally expected to run for mayor until he announced in September that he'd skip the contest in order to focus on his mental health. Johnson, though, began showing interest this year in campaigning for comptroller, a post that also has plenty of influence over the nation's largest city. Johnson said Tuesday, "I feel great. I feel better … Where I was in September is not where I am today."

Johnson raised $859,000 ahead of his anticipated mayoral bid, money that he can now use for the comptroller's race. WNYC's Gwynne Hogan reports that this puts him ahead of City Councilman Brad Lander, whose $816,000 haul had made him the fundraising leader in the contest.

SD-AG: On Monday, the state House overwhelmingly passed a resolution pausing impeachment proceedings against Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg as the criminal case against him proceeds. Ravnsborg was charged last month for striking and killing a man with his car in September.

Data

House: David Jarman takes a look at the last three cycles of Daily Kos Elections’ presidential results by congressional district, and finds that only 47 House districts flipped parties at least once in the last decade. That leaves 388 districts that stayed either Romney/Trump/Trump or Obama/Clinton/Biden.

Twelve districts went Romney/Clinton/Biden and 12 more went Romney/Trump/Biden; these, for the most part, are well-educated suburban districts. There are another 16 Obama/Trump/Trump districts, all in the Midwest or Northeast, many of which have below-median levels of college education.

There are also five perpetually swingy districts that went Obama/Trump/Biden. Finally, there are two interesting outliers: Florida's 26th went Obama/Clinton/Trump while Texas's 23rd went Romney/Clinton/Trump. These two seats are mostly-Latino districts where 2020's pro-Trump trend among Latino voters narrowly made the difference. You can find more on these seats, as well as some great maps, in Jarman’s post.

Morning Digest: Rhode Island has a new governor, but a hard fight looms if he wants to say in office

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

RI-Gov: On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to serve as secretary of commerce. Raimondo resigned and was succeeded by Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, a fellow Democrat who may need to get through tough primary and general election contests in order to keep his new job.

In January, WPRI's Eli Sherman wrote that McKee was "somewhat less liberal than Raimondo," who has had a rocky relationship of her own with labor and progressives at home ever since ushering through painful pension cuts in 2011 as state treasurer. Indeed, a number of labor groups, especially teachers unions, have clashed with McKee for over a decade because of his ardent support for charter schools.

In 2008, the National Education Association of Rhode Island, the state AFL-CIO, and Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals ran ads against McKee during his re-election bid as mayor of Cumberland, but he decisively won with 64% of the vote. Six years later, after McKee claimed the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, several unions decided to back his Republican opponent in the general election, but McKee prevailed 54-34.

Campaign Action

McKee, though, came close to losing renomination in 2018 to progressive state Rep. Aaron Regunberg. Regunberg, who accused the incumbent of accepting "dark money" from PACs, also benefited from the support of what Sherman described as "most of the state's unions." But McKee, who argued that he'd be better positioned to lead the state should Raimondo leave office early, still had the backing of most Ocean State politicos, and he held on 51-49 before decisively winning the general election.

It remains to be seen if McKee's longtime detractors will attempt to beat him in 2022, however. In January, right after Raimondo's nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Commerce was announced, the head of the state branch of the National Education Association praised McKee as someone who "will bring the perspective of local control being important." McKee and Raimondo's notoriously distant relationship may also not matter much to the new governor now that Raimondo is heading to D.C.

Of more immediate concern to McKee are the number of other Rhode Island Democrats who had planned to run in 2022, when Raimondo was to be termed-out, and may now decide to take on McKee. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea reaffirmed her interest in January, while Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and state Treasurer Seth Magaziner have both raised serious amounts of cash. A crowded field, though, would likely aid McKee in a state where conservative Democrats still retain plenty of influence in primaries.

Rhode Island, while a solidly blue state in federal elections, has also been willing to sending Republicans to the governor's office, and a bruising Democratic primary could give Team Red a larger opening. Former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung reportedly has been mulling a third bid for office: Raimondo beat Fung only 41-36 in the 2014 open seat race, though she prevailed by a decisive 53-37 in their 2018 rematch. There has also been speculation that state House Minority Leader Blake Filippi could also campaign for governor.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Rep. Andy Biggs, who hasn't previously spoken publicly about his interest in seeking a promotion to the upper chamber, confirms he's "looking at" taking on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly next year. Biggs, the extremist head of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, also appears to have leaked a very hypothetical primary poll that shows him leading a bunch of largely unknown potential rivals, though he didn't offer a timetable for making a decision.

Two of the names tested in Biggs' poll are new, though: Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, who is in charge of the Arizona National Guard, and businessman Jim Lehman.

MO-Sen: Disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, who last month declined to rule out a bid for Senate, now says in a new interview that he's "evaluating" a possible campaign against Sen. Roy Blunt in next year's GOP primary.

Greitens, who was pressured to leave office by members of his own party in 2018 after he was accused of sexual abuse, criticized Blunt for insufficient fealty to Trump and even attacked him for his role presiding over Joe Biden's inauguration. However, it's traditional for the chair of the Senate Rules Committee (which Blunt presided over until recently) to do so: In 1997, the last time the Senate and White House were held by opposite parties following a presidential election, Virginia Republican John Warner chaired the inaugural committee for Bill Clinton's second swearing-in.

Greitens didn't say when he might make a decision, but if he does go for it, he may not wind up squaring off against Blunt after all: While the 71-year-old senator has said he's "planning" to seek re-election, he's made some comments this year that suggest he might not go through with it.

Governors

FL-Gov: Mason-Dixon is out with the first poll we've seen of next year's race for governor of Florida, and it finds Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis leading two Democrats who are considering taking him on. DeSantis bests state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 51-42, while he enjoys a slightly-larger 52-41 edge against Rep. Charlie Crist.

House

AZ-01: Republican state Rep. Walt Blackman recently filed paperwork with the FEC for a possible bid against Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran in this swingy northern Arizona seat, though he doesn't appear to have said anything publicly about his interest yet.

Blackman, who earned a Bronze Star serving with the Army in Iraq, won a close race for the state House in 2018, which made him the legislature's first Black Republican member. While Blackman successfully passed a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill during his time in office, he's also made a name for himself by attacking Black Lives Matter as a "terrorist organization." Blackman also posted a video about George Floyd on Facebook that the state representative titled, "I DO NOT support George Floyd and I refuse to see him as a martyr. But I hope his family receives justice."

Blackman won re-election last year after another competitive contest, and he spent the next few months ardently echoing Donald Trump's lies about election fraud. Blackman at one point even suggested that the state legislature could try to overturn Joe Biden's victory in Arizona and instead award its 11 electoral votes to Trump, and he was one of three legislators to call for the U.S. Senate to reject the state's electors.

Another Republican, Williams Mayor John Moore, also filed with the FEC, but he's unlikely to make much of an impact if he gets in. The National Journal notes that Moore, whose community has a population of just over 3,000, ran here in 2020, but he ended his campaign before the primary.

According to new data from Daily Kos Elections, Arizona's 1st District swung to the left from 48-47 Trump to 50-48 Biden as O'Halleran was winning his third term 52-48. No one knows what the new congressional map would look like, though, especially since Republicans are continuing to do whatever they can to undermine or eliminate the state's independent redistricting commission.

LA-02: Both Democratic state senators competing in the March 20 all-party primary for this safely blue seat received a notable endorsement over the last few days. Troy Carter picked up the support of the SEIU, which joins the AFL-CIO in his corner, while Karen Carter Peterson earned the backing of the League of Conservation Voters.

MD-01: Foreign policy strategist Dave Harden announced this week that he would seek the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Rep. Andy Harris in Maryland's 1st District, a conservative seat that the Democratic legislature could dramatically redraw in the upcoming round of redistricting. Harden, who says he intends to "run down the middle," will face off in the primary against former Del. Heather Mizeur, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2014 as a progressive.

Harden previously served in the Foreign Service in the Middle East and other parts of Asia before taking a post in the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Obama administration. Harden left the Foreign Service in 2018 and went on to found a consulting group.

MS-04: The Office of Congressional Ethics this week released a report determining that it had "substantial reason to believe" that Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo impermissibly used campaign funds for personal purposes. Investigators also uncovered evidence that the congressman had asked government aides to perform tasks benefitting his political campaigns and himself. The OCE recommended that the House Ethics Committee probe Palazzo, who has represented a heavily Republican seat along Mississippi's Gulf Coast since 2011.

Palazzo's campaign revealed in November that it was under investigation by the OCE for allegedly misusing nearly $200,000 in campaign funds, though his treasurer argued at the time that the congressman had done nothing wrong. The newly published report, however, highlighted what it called a "concerning pattern of campaign expenditures" to pay for rent and repairs to "a large riverfront home which Rep. Palazzo owned and rented to Palazzo for Congress as an ostensible campaign headquarters." The OCE says its evidence "casts doubt on the extent to which the River House actually was used as a campaign headquarters."

OCE staffers also concluded that the congressman's brother, Kyle Palazzo, had been paid $23,000 by the campaign during the last election cycle for work that "may not have justified the salary he received." They further "found evidence that Rep. Palazzo may have used his official position and congressional resources to contact the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in order to assist his brother's efforts to reenlist in the military." According to a former staffer, Kyle Palazzo "was separated from the Navy for affecting a fraudulent enlistment."

TX-15: 2020 nominee Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez's new campaign earned an endorsement this week from Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a high-profile Republican whose Houston-area 2nd District is located far from this South Texas seat. Last year, De La Cruz-Hernandez held Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez to a shockingly close 51-48 win as this McAllen-based constituency snapped from 57-40 Clinton to just 50-49 Biden.

Mayors

Hialeah, FL Mayor: Republican Mayor Carlos Hernandez is termed-out this year as leader of Hialeah, a longtime GOP bastion that's home to the highest proportion of Cuban Americans in the country, and a familiar name is running to succeed him. Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Steve Bovo, a Republican who lost last year's race to lead the county 54-46 against Democrat Daniella Levine Cava, announced Monday that he would join the contest. He may have some big-name backing soon, as Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated last month that he'd support a Bovo campaign.

The field already includes two former city council members, Vivian Casáls-Muñoz and Isis Garcia-Martinez, as well as perennial candidate Juan Santana. All the candidates will compete in the Nov. 2 nonpartisan primary, and a runoff would take place two weeks later if no one contender received a majority of the vote.

Minneapolis, MN Mayor: Former state Rep. Kate Knuth announced Tuesday that she would challenge her fellow Democrat, Mayor Jacob Frey, in the November instant-runoff election.

Knuth left office in early 2013 and went on to serve as Minneapolis' chief resilience officer under Frey's predecessor, Betsy Hodges, but left soon after Frey's 2017 victory. Knuth joins community organizer Sheila Nezhad in the contest, though Nezhad raised a mere $5,100 last year for her campaign. Other contenders may also get in ahead of the August filing deadline.

Both Knuth and Nezhad have emphasized police reform in a campaign that will take place the year after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. (Chauvin is scheduled to go on trial for second-degree murder and manslaughter next week.) Knuth argued in her kickoff that the Minneapolis Police Department should be abolished and replaced by a "public safety department that includes multiple ways to create public safety, including first responders who can help solve problems," though unlike Nezhad, she avoided explicitly saying the department should be defunded.

Frey, for his part, was loudly booed in June when he told a crowd that he opposed an effort by the City Council to fully defund the police. The mayor told NPR afterwards, "We need to entirely shift the culture that has for years failed Black and brown people … We need a full structural revamp. But abolishing the police department? No, I think that's a bad idea."

Frey has also defended his handling of the unrest that followed Floyd's death and argued that he's put needed changes in place at the police department. The incumbent enjoys the backing of state Attorney General Keith Ellison, a former Minneapolis-area congressman and the first Black person to win a non-judicial statewide office in Minnesota.

Other Races

SD-AG: Former South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has announced a comeback bid for his old job next year against incumbent Jason Ravnsborg, who was criminally charged for striking and killing a man with his car late last month and now faces impeachment proceedings.

A nominee would not be chosen by voters in a primary but instead by Republican delegates at a state party convention. Jackley unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018 when he was term-limited out as attorney general, losing to now-Gov. Kristi Noem 56-44 (in a contest that was decided by a primary). Under state law, he can run again now that he's been out of office in the interim. Ravnsborg hasn't said anything about seeking re-election, though he's insisted he won't resign, even with fellow Republicans moving forward with impeachment proceedings in the state House.

Data

House: Using Daily Kos Elections' recently completed calculations of 2020 presidential election results by congressional district, Stephen Wolf looks at the districts that split their tickets last year for House and president, complete with maps and and a chart. Seven districts voted for a Democrat and Donald Trump while nine voted for Joe Biden and a Republican, and those 16 "crossover" districts represent the lowest number of split-ticket districts in a century, a result of historically high levels of partisan polarization.

Morning Digest: Georgia Republicans gird themselves for brutal 2022 primary battles

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, GA-Gov: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein takes a look at the developing Republican primary contests for U.S. Senate and for governor, which already are shaping up to be ugly affairs. Before we get to the potential candidate fields, though, we'll set the scene with this quip from conservative commentator Martha Zoller: "The Republican Party in Georgia right now is like a Jenga game where someone has pulled out the wrong block," said the 2012 House candidate, explaining, "It's unstable and a mess."

Team Red is hoping to defeat Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who will be up for a full six-year term next year, but there's no obvious frontrunner to take him on right now. Bluestein writes that former Sen. David Perdue, who lost to now-Sen. Jon Ossoff last month as Warnock was also unseating appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler, has "essentially frozen" the nomination contest as he deliberates whether to launch a comeback bid.

Bluestein relays that Perdue is "viewed as unlikely to run," but that his advisers haven't dismissed the idea. Indeed, just after the story went live, one of those Perdue advisers confidently tweeted, "He'd clear the field or crush anyone who was dumb enough to run against him in a primary."

Campaign Action

The AJC adds that Loeffler, who lost to Warnock 51-49, is also considering another try. That doesn't sit right with former Rep. Doug Collins, who lost the 2020 all-party primary to Loeffler and is considering another Senate bid, too. "Kelly can either be the person whose boredom costs Republicans the Senate twice or become a 'Jeopardy' answer that no one will remember the question to," said Collins' former spokesperson. Collins has also expressed interest in challenging Gov. Brian Kemp for renomination, but unnamed sources recently said he was leaning towards the Senate race.

Loeffler herself hasn't said if she's interested in trying to reclaim her former seat, but her allies are very interested in relitigating last year's intra-party fight. "Doug getting in the race muddied all that up," argued party operative and Loeffler ally Eric Tanenblatt. "It created a primary in a general election and caused a split in the party."

Bluestein also reports that a few other Republicans are considering entering the Senate race: state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, and former Ambassador to Luxembourg Randy Evans. None of this trio appears to have publicly expressed interest in this contest yet.

We'll turn now to the gubernatorial race. Both parties have long anticipated a rematch between 2018 Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, who has not announced her plans but is universally expected to run again, and Kemp, but the governor has more immediate worries.

Donald Trump torched his old ally last year for not seeking to overturn Joe Biden's victory in Georgia's presidential contest, and Bluestein writes that Kemp's camp is preparing for a tough renomination fight. The AJC adds that one of the possible opponents that Kemp's side is keeping an eye on is Burt Jones, a wealthy state senator and co-captain of the University of Georgia's football team when they won the 2003 Sugar Bowl.

Jones does not appear to have talked publicly about taking on Kemp, and he seems far angrier at the state's number-two. Last month, the aforementioned Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan stripped Jones and two other state senators of their committee chairmanships as punishment for trying to undermine the presidential results. Jones said shortly afterwards that Duncan's actions were "a cowardly way and kind of petty politics," and added, "What comes around goes around in this building."

Finally, Bluestein writes that state GOP leaders are "increasingly concerned" that the notorious Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene could run for statewide office, which echoes a fear that national GOP operatives expressed to the New York Times last month. Greene herself has not said anything yet about a run for Senate, governor, or a different office, though that silence doesn't seem to be calming Republicans who fear she'd bring the Jenga tower crashing down on the party's ticket.

Senate

MO-Sen: In a Thursday appearance on the far-right Newsmax TV, former Gov. Eric Greitens did not rule out a GOP primary bid against Sen. Roy Blunt.

When the disgraced ex-governor was directly asked if he had "any interest in running for Senate someday" (the relevant portion begins at the 3:08 mark), Greitens did not answer the question, but he did take the time to trash his would-be opponent. Greitens castigated Blunt for "criticizing President Trump, criticizing his administration, embracing Joe Biden," and argued that the incumbent didn't reflect Missouri Republicans.

That same day, former Democratic state Sen. Scott Sifton filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential campaign for this seat, though he did not say anything publicly about his plans. Two years ago, Sifton told the media that he was preparing for a bid for governor, but he ultimately deferred to the eventual nominee, state Auditor Nicole Galloway.

OH-Sen: Team Red may be getting its first declared Senate candidate before long, as Jane Timken announced Friday that she was stepping down as chair of the state Republican Party and would reveal her future plans "in the coming weeks." Timken was elected to another term leading the party weeks before Sen. Rob Portman surprised everyone by announcing his retirement, and she soon expressed interest in running to succeed him.

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: What does Donald Trump's legal team for his second impeachment trial have to do with next year's races for Senate or governor of Pennsylvania? Everything―if you ask Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, a Republican who seems to think one hiring decision is just about hurting him.

Gale told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Bruce Castor, a former Montgomery County commissioner who'd previously served as district attorney, had been brought on to defend Trump at the behest of "the Pennsylvania GOP swamp." Gale argued, "Political insiders are in panic-mode that I will run for Governor or U.S. Senate in 2022," and accused party leaders of "resurrecting" Castor to "offset my growing popularity." Castor himself was mentioned as a potential candidate for either statewide office after he signed on to help Trump, but he doesn't appear to have said anything about the idea yet.

Governors

FL-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo recently told Politico that she was considering a bid against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Taddeo, who is originally from Colombia, argued the party needed candidates who could appeal to Hispanic voters who swung hard towards Trump last year.

Taddeo herself was on the statewide ballot in 2014 as Democratic nominee Charlie Crist's running mate, but their ticket lost to Republican Gov. Rick Scott 48-47 during that year's GOP wave. Taddeo went on to lose a close primary for the 26th Congressional District, but she flipped a GOP-held state Senate seat in a closely-watched 2017 special election in the Miami area and was re-elected the following year.

A number of other Democrats are eyeing this race including now-Rep. Crist, who'd been elected to a single term as governor in 2006 when he was still a Republican. Crist also told Politico, "I am seriously considering at this point running for governor in 2022," a statement that came days after the congressman said he was merely "opening my brain to the idea a little bit more."

NY-Gov: Republican Rep. Tom Reed trashed Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, but the congressman refused to answer if he was considering a bid against the incumbent. New York hasn't elected a Republican to statewide office since George Pataki won his final term as governor in 2002, and Reed, who served as an honorary state chair of Donald Trump's 2020 campaign, would have a very difficult time breaking that streak.

House

GA-07: 2020 Republican nominee Rich McCormick recently sent out a fundraising email saying that he was considering a rematch against freshman Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux next year. McCormick told his would-be donors that he expected GOP mapmakers to create "a Republican-favored district," adding, "We are following the process closely and should be in a good position to take back the seat and help take back the Congressional House Majority in 2022."

NY-22: On Friday, Judge Scott DelConte ordered county and state election authorities to certify Republican Claudia Tenney, who leads Democrat Anthony Brindisi by 109 votes, as the winner in the November contest. The legal battle is not over, though, as Brindisi's team said earlier in the day that they would be appealing DelConte's decision to reject several hundred ballots that they're seeking to have tabulated.

Morning Digest: Daily Kos Elections presents our 2020 calendar of key elections across the country

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

2020 Elections: The presidential election and competitive races for the House and Senate may be generating most of the headlines, but there are many important contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year. From mayoral races to district attorney elections and contests for control of county boards of supervisors, 2020 will feature major battles in some of the country's largest cities and counties. Daily Kos Elections has compiled a calendar with all the key dates for this year's major local races, and there's a lot to keep track of.

Campaign Action

Wisconsin will be the site of the first big downballot election night of the year on Tuesday, when party primaries for the special election in the vacant 7th Congressional District will take place; the general election will follow on May 12. The main event, though, will be the primary for a seat on the state Supreme Court, while Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee will also be voting for county executive and mayor, respectively. Runoffs between the top two vote-getters in all three of these races will take place on April 7. You can find a preview of those races here.

It will be an interesting year on the mayoral front in particular. Of the 100 largest cities in the country, 29 will hold elections for mayor at some point during 2020. Yet even though Republicans hold less than a third of all big-city mayoralties, they're defending 15 seats this year, versus 12 for Democrats (two are held by independents).

The biggest city on the list is San Diego, California, where Democrats are hoping for a pickup, in part because Republican Kevin Faulconer is term-limited. The largest Democratic-held prizes are Portland, Oregon and Baltimore, Maryland, though Republicans have no shot at flipping either.

Further down the ballot, the three largest counties in California—Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange—will hold elections for their boards of supervisors, as will Maricopa County, Arizona. All except Los Angeles have a Republican majority, and control of each of those GOP-held bodies is on the line.

Meanwhile, the two largest counties in the entire country, Los Angeles and Cook County, Illinois (home of Chicago), will be selecting their district attorneys. Orleans Parish in Louisiana, which is coterminous with the city of New Orleans, will also vote for its top prosecutor; embattled incumbent Leon Cannizzaro is eligible for re-election.

2020 promises to be an active year and we may also see more contests come onto the radar as events develop. Bookmark our calendar to keep tabs on all the action. Also check out our separate calendar of congressional and state-level primaries for all 50 states.

Senate

KS-Sen: Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is out with a poll from the GOP firm McLaughlin & Associates that shows him leading Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier 47-38 in a hypothetical general election. Kobach released his survey from the less than reliable McLaughlin days after a poll from the Democratic firm DFM Research for the union SMART came out showing him tied with Bollier 43-43.

Despite this McLaughlin poll, national Republicans remain worried that Kobach, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial election to Democrat Laura Kelly, would put them in danger in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator since 1932. Senate Republicans made it clear before Kobach even announced his campaign that they'd take action to stop him from winning the August primary, and CNN reported over the weekend that they remained as opposed to him as ever.

However, one notable Republican isn't ready to strand Kris Kobach on the Isle of Misfit Senate Candidates. CNN writes that Donald Trump spoke to his old ally in person late last month, and that Jared Kushner is working with Kobach on a White House immigration plan. Trump's advisers reportedly "have gently pressed him" to back Rep. Roger Marshall, who is one of the many other Republican candidates here, but Trump doesn't seem to be in any hurry to decide.

Still, there is at least one indication that Trump may be listening. The Kansas City Star reports that Trump met with Marshall in the Oval Office in mid-January and tried to call Kobach up right then and there to convince him to drop out. Trump got Kobach's voicemail, though, and the two ended up speaking a few hours later after Marshall had left the White House. There's no word on what they said to one another, but Kobach remains in the race a month later.

TX-Sen: The University of Texas is out with a survey for the Texas Tribune of the March 3 Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn, and it's the first survey we've seen that shows a clear frontrunner. Air Force veteran MJ Hegar, who has the DSCC's endorsement, leads with 22%, which is still well below the majority she'd need to avoid a May runoff.

Nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez holds a 9-7 edge over former Rep. Chris Bell for second place, while former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards and state Sen. Royce West each are just behind with 6%. Two underfunded contenders, Annie "Mamá" Garcia and Sema Hernandez, each take 5%.

Gubernatorial

AK-Gov: The Alaska Supreme Court announced Friday that it would hear oral arguments on March 25 about the legality of the recall campaign against GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy. While the justices have not yet determined if Alaskans can vote whether to cut short Dunleavy's tenure, they also ruled last week that Recall Dunleavy is allowed to collect signatures to get a recall measure on the ballot.

As we've written before, an official in Alaska may only be recalled for "(1) lack of fitness, (2) incompetence, (3) neglect of duties, or (4) corruption." This provision, which recall expert Joshua Spivak calls a "malfeasance standard," differs from the practice in many other states, where only voters' signatures are needed for a recall to go forward.

Recall Dunleavy, the group that is seeking to fire the governor, is focusing on the first three grounds for recall. However, in an opinion for the state Division of Elections, Republican state Attorney General Kevin Clarkson argued that the stated allegations listed on the campaign's petitions "fail[ed] to meet any of the listed grounds for recall." Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth ruled in January, though, that the recall campaign could proceed because all but one of their stated grounds was valid.

However, in a confusing series of events, Aarseth soon issued a stay that prevented Recall Dunleavy from gathering signatures before the state Supreme Court heard the appeal, quickly said that the stay have been "inadvertently issued," then issued another stay a week later that once again halted the signature gathering. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled on Friday, though, that Aarseth "did not expressly consider the harm to Recall Dunleavy from a stay, and as a result it appears to have applied an incorrect analysis." This decision allows Recall Dunleavy to collect petitions even though its legal battle is far from over.

If Recall Dunleavy successfully convinces the justices that its campaign is valid under state law, organizers will need to collect another 71,000 signatures in order to place the recall on the ballot. There's no time limit for gathering petitions, and a recall election would take place 60 to 90 days after the Division of Elections verified that enough valid signatures have been turned in.

If the recall is successful, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who is also a Republican, would replace Dunleavy. No matter what, though, Alaska's regularly-scheduled gubernatorial election will take place in 2022.

MO-Gov: On Friday, former Gov. Eric Greitens declined to rule the idea that he’d challenge Gov. Mike Parson, who was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor in 2020 after Greitens resigned in disgrace, in the August GOP primary. People close to Greitens tell the Kansas City Star’s Jason Hancock that this comeback is unlikely to actually happen this year, but Parson’s allies are still taking the idea seriously. Missouri’s filing deadline is at the end of March.

Greitens has avoided the media since his departure from office, but he reemerged last week one day after he got some welcome news from the Missouri Ethics Commission. The body announced that it was fining Greitens $178,000 after it ruled that his 2016 campaign had not disclosed its coordination with a federal PAC and a nonprofit. However, the Commission said they had “found no evidence of any wrongdoing on part of Eric Greitens” and that most of the fine would be forgiven as long as he pays $38,000 and doesn’t incur any other violations over the next two years.

Greitens used the occasion to go on a conservative media tour and proclaim in Trump-like fashion that he had received a “total exoneration,” and he wasn’t just talking about the matters the Commission ruled on last week. Back in early 2018, his once promising political career began to unravel in the face of allegations that he'd sexually assaulted the woman he was having an affair with and blackmailed her.

Greitens ended up getting indicted by local prosecutors twice: Once on allegations of first-degree felony invasion of privacy related to this story, and once for unrelated charges of computer tampering involving his charity. The GOP-led state legislature, which had little love for Greitens after spending a year feuding with him, also began to move towards removing him from office.

Greitens eventually resigned in exchange for the tampering charges getting dropped. A short time later, the Jackson County Prosecutor's office also announced that it was dropping the charges in the sexual assault and blackmail case because it believed it was impossible to successfully prosecute Greitens.

Greitens declared on Friday that the GOP legislature’s old investigation was some “Joseph Stalin stuff,” but he wasn’t so vocal about his current plans. When host Jamie Allman asked him if he was considering a 2020 bid for his old office Greitens responded, “Anything is a possibility.” Greitens added that he’d be willing to reappear on Allman’s program later to talk about this contest, but he didn’t say anything else about it.

However, unnamed Greitens associates tell Hancock that the former governor is well aware that he’s still unpopular and that he’s not sure if he could raise enough money to compete. They didn’t dismiss the idea that he’d run against Parson, though, and neither did the incumbent’s allies. John Hancock, who runs the well-funded pro-Parson super PAC Uniting Missouri, said he didn’t expect Greitens to get in, “But we don’t take anything for granted in a political campaign.”

A Parson adviser put it more bluntly to the paper: “Will he run? I doubt it. Are we going to be haunted by his ghost until he declares or filing for the primary closes? Absolutely.”

House

AL-05: On Friday, Donald Trump tweeted out his endorsement for Rep. Mo Brooks ahead of the March 3 GOP primary. Brooks faces a challenge from retired Navy Cmdr. Chris Lewis, who earned the support of the Alabama Farmers Federation but has very little money.

NJ-03: Over the weekend, former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs received the recommendation of the Ocean County Republican Screening Committee, which puts her in a good position to win the county party’s backing at its March 4 convention.

As we’ve noted before, county party endorsements matter quite a bit in New Jersey, and Gibbs’ already has the support of the Burlington County GOP. Ocean County contains the somewhat larger share of Republican primary voters in this two-county district, though, which makes it a very important prize in the June GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim.

TX-18: On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich dismissed a lawsuit brought against Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee's office and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation by a former CBCF aide identified only as Jane Doe. Doe had alleged that she'd been fired by Jackson Lee in 2018 after she'd told the congresswoman's chief of staff, Glenn Rushing, that she would take legal action against the CBCF, which was led by Jackson Lee at the time.

Doe said in her suit that she had been raped by a CBCF supervisor in 2015 when she was interning there. She further said she'd told Rushing about the assault in 2018 after she learned that her alleged assailant was looking for a job in Jackson Lee's congressional office. The man was not hired, but Doe said she then told Rushing she planned to sue the foundation and wanted to speak to Jackson Lee about it. No meeting took place, and Doe said she was fired two weeks later, ostensibly for "budgetary issues."

Jackson Lee announced in January of last year that she was resigning as head of the CBCF and temporarily stepping aside from a House Judiciary subcommittee chairmanship as a result the lawsuit. Friedrich, though, ruled that Doe had not alleged any legally sufficient claims for which Jackson Lee's office or the CBCF could be held liable. Doe's attorney says that she's unsure if her client will appeal.

TX-28: Texas Forward, which is allied with EMILY's List, is out with a Spanish language TV spot ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary that argues that conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar has embraced Washington and is no longer “one of us.” Meanwhile, a large coalition of labor groups are spending $350,000 on radio and digital ads, as well as voter turnout operations, in support of immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros.

WA-05: Former Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase announced on Friday that he would challenge Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a fellow Republican, in the August top-two primary. Chase lost his 2018 bid for a seat on the county commission by a lopsided 61-39 margin to a fellow Republican, and he's unlikely to pose much of a threat to the well-funded incumbent.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Siena College announced on Friday that former GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, who represented a competitive seat in upstate New York from 2011 through 2017, would become its new president in July. Gibson is a Siena graduate, and he will be the first non-friar to lead the Franciscan college.

Gibson has been mentioned as a possible GOP statewide candidate in the past, though he surprised political observers when he decided to pass on a 2018 run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Gibson's new gig probably means that he won't be running for office anytime soon, though he'll still have a connection to the world of politics: Siena has a prolific polling arm that conducted the New York Times' famous (or infamous) live polls in 2018.