Morning Digest: A Supreme Court majority is on the line in Montana this fall

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

MT Supreme Court: Conservatives have a chance to take a majority on Montana's Supreme Court in November thanks to the retirements of two liberal justices. However, a high-profile battle looms as progressives seek to defend a court that has long stood as a defender of democracy and abortion rights.

The race to replace Mike McGrath as chief justice has drawn the most attention to date. Three candidates are running in Tuesday's officially nonpartisan primary, though each party has coalesced around a single choice. (The top two vote-getters will advance to a November faceoff.)

Democrats are united behind former federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Lynch while the Republican establishment is backing Broadwater County Attorney Cory Swanson. The third entrant, criminal defense attorney Doug Marshall, doesn't seem to be running a credible campaign (he's said he might vote for Swanson).

The contest to succeed Dirk Sandefur, an associate justice, is arrayed similarly. The two main candidates are both trial court judges: Judge Katherine Bidegaray, the consensus Democratic pick, serves five counties in the eastern part of the state, while Judge Dan Wilson, the top choice of Republicans, has jurisdiction in Flathead County in Montana's northwestern corner.

A former Republican state lawmaker, Jerry O'Neil, is also running, but he's currently challenging the state's eligibility rules because he's not a member of the bar.

The four top contenders have all banked similar sums, between about $80,000 and $100,000, as of the most recent fundraising reports that run through mid-May. (Marshall and O'Neil have reported raising almost nothing.) Those totals in part reflect Montana's relatively low donation caps, which top out at $790.

But outside spending is sure to dwarf whatever the candidates put in. In 2022, when just a single seat on the court was seriously contested, third parties on both sides combined to spend at least $3 million—a huge sum given the state's small population—and very likely more. (The Montana Free Press said that figure was "almost certainly an undercount" due to errors in campaign finance filings.)

In that race, Justice Ingrid Gustafson won reelection to an eight-year term by defeating conservative James Brown 54-46. That victory preserved the ideological balance on the court, which has generally been described as including three liberals, two conservatives, and two swing justices, including Gustafson.

Those two swing votes have played a crucial role in recent years, often joined with the liberal bloc. Most notably, in a 5-2 decision issued in 2022, the court barred Republican lawmakers from proceeding with a ballot measure that would have let them gerrymander the court itself.

The court has been more united on abortion rights, which are protected under a 1999 precedent known as the Armstrong decision. Two years ago, the justices unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that temporarily blocked a trio of anti-abortion bills passed by GOP lawmakers. And earlier this year, on a 6-1 vote, the court gave the green light to a ballot initiative that would enshrine the right to an abortion into the state constitution.

But a court with four conservatives could feel emboldened to revisit Armstrong, which is a major reason why reproductive rights advocates are pushing forward with their amendment.

The issue is also certain to be a focus in the races for both Supreme Court seats. Both Lynch and Bidegaray have spoken in favor of abortion rights, albeit less explicitly than some liberal judicial candidates in other states have.

At a campaign event last year, Lynch said that Montanans deserved to be "[f]ree from government interference, especially when it comes to reproductive rights." Bidegaray has been less direct, telling ABC News in March that she's running "to protect our democratic principles, which include the separation of powers and the unique rights provided by the 1972 Montana Constitution, including women's rights."

The leading conservatives, however, have sought to avoid the issue altogether. Wilson declined to comment to ABC, while Swanson demurred. "I don't believe it would be appropriate to discuss potential outcomes of future cases," he said.

The Downballot

It's right there in the name of the show, so yeah, of course we're gonna talk about downballot races on this week's episode of "The Downballot"! Specifically, we drill down into the top contests for attorney general and state supreme court taking place all across the country this year. Democrats and liberals are playing defense in Montana, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, but they have the chance to make gains in many states, including Michigan, Arizona, Ohio, and even Texas.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap Tuesday's runoffs in the Lone Star State, where a GOP congressman barely hung on against an odious "gunfluencer." They also dissect a new Supreme Court ruling out of South Carolina that all but scraps a key weapon Black voters have used to attack gerrymandering. And they preview New Jersey's first primaries in a post-"county line" world.

Subscribe to "The Downballot" wherever you listen to podcasts to make sure you never miss an episode. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by Thursday afternoon. New episodes come out every Thursday morning!

Senate

AZ-Sen: The Congressional Hispanic Caucus' Bold PAC announced this week that it has reserved $1.1 million in TV, radio, and digital advertising for September to aid Democrat Ruben Gallego. "The statewide investment represents the first Spanish language reservations in the general election in this race and is the largest single independent expenditure in BOLD PAC’s 23 year history," the group said.

WI-Sen: A Senate Majority PAC affiliate has debuted a TV ad that attacks Republican Eric Hovde as a rich CEO whose bank "makes millions at seniors' expense" and "owns a nursing home being sued for elder abuse and wrongful death," citing a story from last month that the New York Times had first reported.

The commercial then plays a clip from a right-wing talk show appearance earlier in April where Hovde told the host that "almost nobody in a nursing home is in a point to vote" and insinuated without evidence that there was widespread voter fraud at Wisconsin nursing homes in the 2020 election.

Hovde's campaign has also unveiled new ads, with one spot covering generic far-right themes and cultural grievances. His second ad highlights his upbringing and family ancestry in Wisconsin to hit back against Democratic claims that he has mostly lived out-of-state for decades and spent most of his time in California before joining the race.

However, Hovde doesn't actually rebut those claims. After noting he graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1986, he only says he's had a business in the Madison area "for over 20 years" and his family currently lives there.

House

MI-08, DCCC: The DCCC announced Wednesday that it was adding Michigan state Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet to its Red to Blue program for top candidates even though, unlike the other four new inductees, she still has a contested primary to get through.

McDonald Rivet's main opponent in the Aug. 6 Democratic primary for the open and swingy 8th District is businessman Matt Collier, a former Flint mayor and Army veteran who has VoteVets' support. State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh is also running to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee, but she's struggled to raise money.

But while this is the first time that national Democratic leaders have publicly taken sides in the primary for this seat, which is based in the Flint and Tri-Cities areas, there were already indications that they wanted McDonald Rivet as their nominee. In its January article covering her entry into the race, the Detroit News wrote that party strategists viewed the state senator as a top recruit" they'd hoped to land.

Last year, Democratic consultant Adrian Hemond described her to the Daily Beast as the type of "solidly center-left Democrat" who can "play nice" with the district's large Catholic electorate, adding, "In terms of people who have a track record of winning tough elections in this area, Kristen McDonald Rivet is probably top of the list." McDonald Rivet since then has earned endorsements from EMILYs List and powerful labor organizations like the United Auto Workers and the state AFL-CIO.

The DCCC rarely adds candidates to Red to Blue unless they've already won their primary or it's clear that they'll have no trouble doing so, and that's the case for the other four new names on the list. The committee is backing former U.S. Department of Justice official Shomari Figures, who secured the nomination in April for Alabama's revamped 2nd District.

Also in the program are a pair of Democratic nominees who are challenging Republican incumbents in Pennsylvania: retired Army pilot Ashley Ehasz, who is taking on Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in the 1st District, and former TV news anchor Janelle Stelson, who is going up against far-right incumbent Scott Perry in the 10th.

The final new name belongs to Wisconsin Democrat Peter Barca, who is trying to beat GOP Rep. Bryan Steil and reclaim the seat he last held three decades ago. Candidate filing doesn't close in the Badger State until June 3, but there's no indication that any other serious Democrats are interested in campaigning for the 1st District.

The only one of those seats with a contested GOP primary is also Michigan's 8th District, and the Republican nomination contest has already gotten nasty with more than two months to go.

Retired Dow Chemical Company executive Mary Draves on Tuesday began running ads attacking her main intra-party rival, 2022 nominee Paul Junge, about two weeks after he started airing commercials against her. Draves' narrator says that, while Junge publicly says he supports American jobs, he really "invested his inherited trust fund in, you guessed it, China. Not one dollar invested in Michigan jobs." The rest of the spot touts Draves as a loyal Donald Trump ally with a history of creating local jobs.

Junge has been promoting a very different narrative about Draves with advertising portraying her as a phony conservative who served on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's "climate change council to push her green agenda."

Draves was the subject of an unwelcome headline later in the month when the Detroit News reported both that she'd donated to Democratic Sen. Gary Peters' 2020 reelection committee and that she'd contributed last October to McDonald Rivet's own political action committee.

Draves defended herself by arguing that 99% of the political donations she's made in the last 18 years went to help conservatives and that she shouldn't be admonished for these two outliers. "I made a symbolic contribution to Peters as he was supportive of our work at Dow," she said in a statement, adding, "A friend of mine was hosting an event for Rivet's state Legislature leadership PAC and had asked me to buy a ticket, so I did but did not attend."

Republican leaders may be content if primary voters accept this argument so they can avoid having Junge as their standard bearer again. The 2022 nominee lost to Kildee by an unexpectedly wide 53-43 margin two years after Joe Biden carried the 8th District by a small 50-48 spread, and Democrats would likely once again hammer Junge over his weak ties to the region. Unlike the DCCC, however, national GOP leaders have yet to take sides in their nomination contest.

MI-13: Former state Sen. Adam Hollier announced Wednesday that he had filed an appeal with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson days after Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett determined that he'd failed to collect enough valid signatures to appear on the August Democratic primary ballot.

The Detroit News says it's not clear if the state Bureau of Elections will take up this matter before the Board of State Canvassers meets Friday to address the fate of other candidates who have been disqualified from the ballot. Hollier is Rep. Shri Thanedar's most serious intra-party opponent.

MO-01: AIPAC, the hawkish pro-Israel group, has launched its first TV ad to support St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell ahead of his Aug. 6 Democratic primary against Rep. Cori Bush. The commercial promotes Bell as a criminal justice reformer but does not mention Bush. AdImpact reports AIPAC has reserved at least $344,000 via its United Democracy Project super PAC.

NY-01: Former CNN anchor John Avlon has publicized endorsements from three members of New York's Democratic House delegation: Rep. Tom Suozzi, who represents a neighboring seat on Long Island, and New York City-based Reps. Dan Goldman and Greg Meeks. Avlon faces Nancy Goroff, who was the 2020 Democratic nominee for a previous version of the 1st District, in the June 25 primary to take on freshman GOP Rep. Nick LaLota.

NY-16: AIPAC's United Democracy Project has now spent roughly $8 million to support Westchester County Executive George Latimer's primary challenge against Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman, according to AdImpact data relayed by Politico's Emily Ngo. By contrast, Bowman's campaign has spent just $715,000 with just a month until the June 25 primary.

VA-07: Former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman has released an internal from Global Strategy Group that shows him decisively beating Prince William County Supervisor Andrea Bailey 43-10 in the June 18 Democratic primary for the open 7th District; another 32% are undecided, while the balance is split between three other candidates.

This is the first poll we've seen of the contest to succeed Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who is giving up this seat to concentrate on her 2025 run for governor. Vindman massively outraised the rest of the field through the end of March, and almost all of the outside spending on the Democratic side has been to support him.

WA-06: The Washington Public Employees Association this week endorsed state Sen. Emily Randall over the other leading Democrat, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, and its leaders made sure to highlight that it represents Franz's subordinates in the Department of Natural Resources.

The Washington Observer reported earlier this month that DNR staffers successfully urged another group, the Washington State Labor Council, to back Randall by citing "issues of worker safety and low morale" in their workplace. A third labor organization that represents DNR personnel, the Washington Federation of State Employees, also endorsed the state senator last month ahead of the Aug. 6 top-two primary.

Attorneys General

NC-AG, NC Supreme Court, NC Superintendent: The progressive group Carolina Forward has publicized the downballot portion of a mid-May poll it commissioned from Change Research, which finds narrow leads for Democratic candidates while many voters remain undecided.

In the race to succeed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Stein as attorney general, Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson posts a 43-40 edge over Republican colleague Dan Bishop. For the state Supreme Court, appointed Democratic Justice Allison Riggs is ahead 41-40 over Republican Jefferson Griffin, a judge on the state Court of Appeals.

For education superintendent, Democrat Moe Green is up by 42-39 over Republican Michele Morrow, a far-right conspiracy theorist who won her primary in an upset over GOP incumbent Catherine Truitt.

Carolina Forward had previously released the poll's results for the top of the ticket, where Trump led 45-43 in a two-way matchup and 41-38 in a three-way race with independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. taking 11%. Stein held a 44-43 edge over far-right Republican Mark Robinson for governor.

Ballot Measures

MO Ballot: Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday set Aug. 6 as the date for a re-do of a 2022 state constitutional amendment that empowered the state legislature to require Kansas City to spend at least 25% of its general revenue on its police. Parson's move comes even though the state Supreme Court explicitly ordered this amendment appear before voters on Nov. 5 rather than on the summer primary ballot.

Statewide voters last cycle approved Amendment 4 by 63-37 even though it only impacts Kansas City, which is the only major city in America that doesn't have control over its own police force. Last month, though, the state's highest court ruled that a new vote was required because election officials had included a misleading fiscal summary that said the amendment "would have no fiscal impact when the fiscal note identified a sizeable one."

Legislatures

TX State House: Six state House Republicans lost their runoffs Tuesday even as Speaker Dade Phelan won renomination in an upset, and GOP Gov. Greg Abbott was quick to insist that he "now has enough votes" to pass his stalled plan to use taxpayer money to pay for private schools.

Abbott didn't bother to acknowledge that there are general elections in November, and the Texas Tribune's Jasper Scherer noted that Democrats are hoping to flip at least one of the seats the governor is already counting as a pickup for his cause.

That constituency is the 121st District in San Antonio, where Marc LaHood defeated Rep. Steve Allison in the March GOP primary. Democrat Laurel Jordan Swift will face LaHood in a district that, according to VEST data from Dave's Redistricting App, favored Donald Trump by a small 50-48 spread in 2020.

Ultimately, 15 Republican representatives lost renomination this year, though Abbott wasn't happy to see them all go. Attorney General Ken Paxton also used this year's primaries and runoffs to punish members who voted to impeach him for corruption last year, and he was sometimes on the opposite side of Abbott in key races.

One member who escaped Paxton's wrath, though, was Phelan, who narrowly defeated former Orange County Republican Party chair David Covey 50.7-49.3 in a contest where Abbott didn't take sides. (The only other sitting GOP representative to get forced into a runoff but survive was Gary VanDeaver, who beat an Abbott-backed foe.)

The attorney general characteristically responded to the 366-vote loss for Covey, who also sported endorsements from Donald Trump and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, by accusing Phelan of having "blatantly stolen" the election by encouraging Democratic voters to back him. Texas, notes Axios' Asher Price, does not have party registration.

Paxton also called for Republican representatives, who are all but certain to maintain their hefty majority in the gerrymandered chamber, to end Phelan's speakership next year. Rep. Tom Oliverson, who avoided casting a vote in Paxton's impeachment, announced his own bid for speaker in March, and he responded to Phelan's victory on Wednesday by proclaiming, "Campaign For Speaker Begins In Ernest."

Prosecutors & Sheriffs

Hillsborough County, FL State Attorney: Former State Attorney Andrew Warren this week publicized endorsements from several Tampa-area Democrats including Rep. Kathy Castor, who represents about 40% of Hillsborough County, ahead of the Aug. 20 primary.

Warren is trying to regain his old office from Republican incumbent Suzy Lopez, whom Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed in 2022 after permanently suspending Warren. First, though, Warren needs to win the Democratic primary against attorney Elizabeth Martinez Strauss, who hails from a prominent local legal family.

Strauss has stated that she believes that Warren was unfairly removed for, among other things, refusing to prosecute people who obtain or provide abortions. However, she's also argued that Warren is "a risky candidate" because DeSantis could just suspend him all over again. "Voters should have a choice and they may want a state attorney who can hold the job for more than 24 hours," Strauss told Florida Politics last month.  

Poll Pile

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: Bookmark our new 2024 calendar of primary dates and filing deadlines

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

Primary Calendar: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to unveil our 2024 primary calendar, where you'll find a complete list of major-party filing deadlines, primaries, and runoffs for all 50 states. We also include the dates of each presidential primary, which often take place months before the state's downballot nomination contests. Sometimes, though, the two coincide, which frequently leads to higher-than-normal primary turnout.

One of the things we pay careful attention to at Daily Kos Elections is each state's candidate filing deadline, since it represents the point at which prospective candidates need to decide whether or not they'll actually run for office. The first deadline of the cycle was on Friday in Alabama, where a brand-new congressional map will be used for the first time.

That gives us the opportunity to run down the state of play for the state's key races, something we'll do as each state's filing deadline passes. And several are coming up soon: Arkansas is next on Nov. 14, while Illinois, California, Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio all have deadlines next month.

Filing season doesn't end, though, until July 19 in Louisiana, which traditionally brings up the rear. (Louisiana holds an all-party primary on Nov. 5, which is the date of the general election, rather than separate partisan primaries.) Some precise dates are not yet set such as the filing deadline for Georgia, which likely will be sometime in early March, so we'll update our calendar as soon as they are.

We also include important notes about those deadlines. Nebraska, for example, has a unique law that requires any incumbents, regardless of whether they are seeking reelection or another office, to file by Feb. 15; the deadline for everyone else is March 1. We also list states where party conventions are important for determining ballot access, winnowing the field, or officially picking nominees.

Finally, we provide details about which states require primary runoffs, including what percentage of the vote is needed in each state to trigger a second round of voting. For instance, in Georgia, a runoff is needed if no candidate takes a majority of the vote, while in North Carolina, runoffs are only conducted if no one takes more than 30%—and then only if the runner-up requests one.

The 2024 downballot primary season officially kicks off on March 5 (Super Tuesday), with Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas leading the way. Some primary dates could change, though. For instance, while Massachusetts is currently set for Sept. 17―the very last partisan primary in the nation―the state House passed a bill Wednesday to move it to Sept. 3.

The state Senate and Gov. Maura Healey still need to assent, but there's good reason to think they will. As the Boston Globe notes, the legislature has routinely bumped up the date over the last decade since late primaries interfere with federal laws that require mail ballots to be sent to overseas voters 45 days before a general election. (Legislation setting a permanent earlier date has yet to pass.) We'll update our calendar when Massachusetts finalizes its plans, and we'll do the same for any other adjustments to the calendar elsewhere.

There's a lot to explore, so you should check out—and bookmark—our calendar for all the details. You can also find a sortable version here.

Senate

NJ-Sen: The New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein writes that First Lady Tammy Murphy will announce in the coming week that she'll seek the Senate seat held by her fellow Democrat, indicted incumbent Bob Menendez. Murphy would join Rep. Andy Kim in the June 4 primary; Menendez, who is set to go on trial the month before, hasn't announced his plans yet, though Wildstein writes that "few expect" him to run again.

Wildstein also reports that longtime South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross will likely support Murphy. Norcross' brother, Rep. Donald Norcross, didn't rule out running himself in late September, but we can probably cross his name off the potential candidate list now.

OH-Sen: The liberal firm Data for Progress tests Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown against four Republican foes:

  • 46-46 vs. Secretary of State Frank LaRose
  • 47-46 vs. state Sen. Matt Dolan
  • 47-44 vs. businessman Bernie Moreno
  • 48-43 vs. Some Dude Joel Mutchler

DPF tells us it has no client for this survey.

WI-Sen: NRSC chair Steve Daines told Punchbowl News that rich guy Eric Hovde is his top choice to oppose Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin. No major candidates have launched bids here yet, and that may not change for a while: Unnamed sources predicted that Hovde would launch sometime next year.

House

AL-01: Due to the creation of Alabama's new 2nd Congressional District (see just below), two Republican incumbents will face off for the right to represent the neighboring 1st District, Reps. Barry Moore and Jerry Carl. The revised 1st, which stretches from the Gulf Coast in the west to Dothan in the east, is a deep red, heavily white district, so whoever survives the GOP primary will be assured of another term in the House. The loser will go home.

The two incumbents, who are both white, are both intensely conservative, though Moore may be even more extreme. While both men voted against certifying Joe Biden's victory over Donald Trump in 2020, Moore went even further in inflaming Trump supporters following the Jan. 6 attacks. [I]t was a Black police officer who shot the white female veteran," he tweeted of rioter Ashli Babbit, who was shot attempting to breach a hallway adjacent to the House chamber.

Moore, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, could also earn the backing of the deep-pocketed Club for Growth, which aided him in his initial bid for the prior version of the 2nd District in 2020 while also seeking to thwart Carl that same year. But Carl, who was elected to the old 1st District, does have one notable advantage: He represents 59% of the population of the redrawn 1st versus 41% for Moore, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections.

Alabama’s primary is March 5, though an April 2 runoff is required should no candidate win a majority of the vote. However, since Carl and Moore were the only two to file, their race will be settled in the first round.

AL-02: Alabama is poised to send two Black Democrats to Congress for the first time ever, thanks to a brand new court-ordered 2nd District that's designed to bring the state into compliance with the Voting Rights Act. The new open seat has inspired a large field of hopefuls to join the race, including 13 Democrats and eight Republicans, according to AL.com's Mike Cason.

One major name, however, had a last-minute change of heart. State Sen. Kirk Hatcher, who had announced a bid late last month, said on Friday that he would not file for the race after all. His decision means that the Democratic primary will feature no prominent candidates from the city of Montgomery, which anchors one end of the redrawn district. (The new-look 2nd runs east-west across the state to include most of the rural Black Belt, reaching down to take in Mobile along the Gulf Coast in Alabama's southwestern corner.)

That still leaves five Democratic lawmakers seeking the seat, including one who entered just before the filing deadline, state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels. Like several other contenders, Daniels represents a district a ways away from the one he's now hoping to represent: His Huntsville-based seat is nearly 200 miles from Montgomery. Daniels, however, grew up in Bullock County, one of the Black Belt counties now in the 2nd, which he has said gives him an understanding of rural communities that other candidates lack.

State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, meanwhile, represents Birmingham, which forms the heart of the state's other Black-majority district, the 7th. (There, veteran Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell faces minimal opposition in her bid for reelection; see more below.) Givan says that she, too, has ties to the district, though she seemed less concerned about the issue. "I feel I'm just as qualified to run for this seat as anybody else," Cason reports she said at her campaign kickoff, "whether I live here in Montgomery, or whether I live across the street, or up the street, or back the street, or anywhere else."

Another Birmingham-area legislator, state Sen. Merika Coleman, pointed to her itinerant upbringing as a child of a military veteran. Coleman said that although she was not "indigenous" to her district in the legislature, "most people would never know that because I have fought the good fight" for her constituents, according to AL.com's Roy Johnson.

The other two lawmakers in the mix do actually serve parts of the 2nd District. State Rep. Jeremy Gray, best known for spearheading the repeal of Alabama's ban on yoga in public schools, represents a seat at the far eastern end of the state, though his hometown of Opelika is just outside the 2nd. Finally, state Rep. Napoleon Bracy hails from Prichard, a city just outside of Mobile. That makes him the only elected official from the region in the primary.

But he's not the only notable Mobile-area Democrat in the race: Shomari Figures, who recently stepped down from a position with the Justice Department, joined the contest the day before the filing deadline. Figures is the son of state Sen. Vivian Figures, a prominent Mobile politician who has been in public office for three decades and had considered a bid herself.

The 2nd was created specifically to give African American voters the opportunity to elect their preferred candidate—almost certainly a Black Democrat, like all of the contenders mentioned above. To that end, the district is now home to a 51% Black majority and would have voted for Joe Biden by a 56-43 margin, according to Dave's Redistricting App. Given Alabama's history of racially polarized voting, that will make the Democratic nominee the heavy favorite in next year's general election.

But that hasn't stopped a number of Republicans from hoping they can pull off an unlikely upset. The GOP field includes two politicians, state Sen. Greg Albritton and former state Sen. Dick Brewbaker, both of whom are white. Another late entrant was former NFL defensive end Wallace Gilberry, who was a star for the University of Alabama's Crimson Tide before playing professionally for nine seasons; Gilberry is Black.

AL-07: State Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton has opted against a primary challenge to Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell in the 7th District, despite saying in September that he was "looking forward" to just such a campaign, according to AL.com's Roy Johnson. When he announced he was considering a bid, Singleton told the Alabama Daily News, "I want the big fish." But when the filing deadline came and went, Singleton's name was nowhere to be found on the menu. Sewell should have no problem winning another term in the majority-Black 7th, which would have voted for Joe Biden 64-35, per Dave's Redistricting App.

CO-04: State Rep. Richard Holtorf declared Thursday that he was entering the June GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ken Buck in this reliably red eastern Colorado constituency. Holtorf formed an exploratory committee back in September before the incumbent announced that he wouldn't run again, but the state representative isn't done trashing his would-be opponent. "Ken Buck let us down when he failed to push for the Trump agenda," declared Holtorf.

Holtorf, who cosponsored a resolution last year calling for a "full forensic audit of the 2020 and 2021 elections in Colorado," has also made it clear exactly what he thinks of Buck's anger with Republicans who refuse to accept Joe Biden's win. He previously took Buck to task for condemning a letter from local Republicans accusing the federal government of violating the rights of Jan. 6 defendants, as well as Buck's opposition to his party's fervor to impeach Biden. "Why is he on CNN and MSNBC?" Holtorf asked in September, "I don't think the message he is explaining represents the sentiment of the district."

Holtorf, by contrast, made national news in 2021 when he called a Latino colleague "Buckwheat," claiming later that he didn't know of the racist origins of the word. Holtorf again attracted unwanted attention again the next year when he accidentally dropped his gun in the state capitol while rushing to a vote, an episode that one observer called "reckless and scary."

FL-20: The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it was investigating Democratic Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, though it did not include any details about what it was looking into. A spokesman for Cherfilus-McCormick, who represents a safely blue seat in South Florida, only said the congresswoman was "committed to compliance and will work to see that the matter is resolved."

OH-02: Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup's Thursday evening retirement announcement unexpectedly set off an open-seat race for Ohio's 2nd District, a longtime conservative bastion in the eastern Cincinnati suburbs. Donald Trump took this constituency 72-27, so whoever wins a plurality in the March 19 GOP primary should have no trouble holding it. But because the filing deadline is Dec. 20, Wenstrup's potential successors have only a few weeks to make up their minds.

Wenstrup himself got to Congress after pulling off a major primary upset against the infamous Rep. Jean Schmidt in 2012, when he made his second bid for office. Wenstrup, who worked as an orthopedic surgeon, was awarded a Bronze Star by the Army for his service as a combat surgeon in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. He also had a small, albeit apolitical, fanbase back in southern Ohio: When Cincinnati Enquirer reporter John Kiesewetter asked which local physicians fit the nickname "Dr. McDreamy" from "Grey's Anatomy," some readers submitted Wenstrup's name.

Wenstrup entered the officially nonpartisan 2009 contest for mayor of Cincinnati but lost to Democratic incumbent Mark Malloy, albeit by a respectable 54-46 margin. Though he said he didn't have any plans to enter another race, he would later tell the Enquirer his feelings changed after a religious retreat in early 2011. "One of the themes of the retreat was, 'What are you going to do with the rest of your life?'" he'd recount the next year. "I felt Congress was the place to be. It was the place where I could make a difference, and I wanted to go for it."

The incumbent he decided to challenge in the 2012 primary, though, seemed secure despite a rough tenure in office. Schmidt had struggled to win her initial 2005 special election against Democrat Paul Hackett months, even though George W. Bush had decisively carried the 2nd District—a poor performance she followed up with weak victories in both the 2006 and 2008 general elections. However, the woman nicknamed "Mean Jean" by her many enemies finally had an easy time during the 2010 red wave, suggesting that she had at last turned a corner.

The ultraconservative Schmidt, though, managed to alienate her base when she gave President Barack Obama a kiss on the cheek at the president's State of the Union address in 2012, a gesture that played badly in the tea party era. The House Ethics Committee had also determined that Schmidt had improperly taken $500,000 in legal services from a Turkish group.

On top of that, redistricting left Schmidt with a seat that was about a quarter new to her. A new super PAC called the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which had the stated goal of denying renomination to incumbents from both parties, got involved with a $50,000 radio and phone campaign attacking the congresswoman.

But it was still a major surprise when Wenstrup, who didn't air a single TV ad, racked up a 49-43 win that March—a result that made Schmidt the first member of Congress to lose reelection that cycle. "Jean has always had some tough races, but she's always sort of hung on and won, so I guess I expected that again," fellow Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan told Roll Call after the votes were tallied. "It just wasn't on my radar screen."

Observers realized in retrospect that it hadn't been on Schmidt's radar screen either. The congresswoman had gone on the air only in the final days of the race and even spent the morning of the primary in D.C. rather than campaigning at home. "She just didn't work it or take this seriously," one national GOP source told Politico hours after the dust had settled. (Schmidt eventually resurrected her career by winning a state House seat in 2020.) Wenstrup, unlike the congresswoman he'd just beaten, had no trouble in the general election, and he never struggled to hold the 2nd.

Wenstrup attracted national attention in 2017, when he treated Rep. Steve Scalise immediately after a gunman shot the Louisianan at practice for that year's congressional baseball game. "Happened to have Brad Wenstrup on the field that day, and he was one of the first to come to my side," Scalise would say when he returned to Congress months later. "Who would've thought that God would've put Brad out there on that field with me because the tourniquet he applied―many will tell you―saved my life so that I could actually make it to the hospital in time with all the blood loss."

Wenstrup would later sign on to the lawsuit alleging "unconstitutional irregularities involved in the 2020 presidential election," though he'd ultimately vote to recognize Joe Biden's win in the hours after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. The congressman expressed interest a few weeks later in running to fill the seat held by retiring Sen. Rob Portman, but he ultimately decided to seek what would be his final term in the House.

WA-06, WA-Gov: Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz announced Friday that she was ending her uphill bid for governor and would instead run for the seat held by Rep. Derek Kilmer, a fellow Democrat who announced his retirement the day before. Franz served on the city council for Bainbridge Island, which is located in the 6th, from 2008 to 2011, though the Seattle Times writes that she's since registered to vote outside the district in Seattle. However, Franz's announcement says she lives in Kilmer's district in Grays Harbor County.

On the GOP side, state Sen. Drew MacEwen told the paper Friday that he was forming an exploratory committee. This seat backed Joe Biden 57-40, though Democrats will want to keep an eye out to make sure two Republicans don't advance past the August top-two primary.

Attorneys General

NC-AG: Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry unexpectedly announced Friday she would seek the Democratic nomination for attorney general. Deberry will take on Rep. Jeff Jackson, who until now had no serious opposition in the March primary to replace their fellow Democrat, gubernatorial candidate Josh Stein. The winner will likely take on far-right Rep. Dan Bishop, who still has no major opponents in the GOP contest.

Deberry was elected in 2018 to become the top prosecutor for Durham County, which is the bluest in the state, and she won again last year. Deberry, who would be the first Black woman to hold one of the 10 statewide offices that are part of the North Carolina Council of State, has touted herself as a "progressive prosecutor."

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

Snohomish County, WA Sheriff: Susanna Johnson declared victory Thursday evening over hard-right Sheriff Adam Fortney after more ballots were tabulated from Nov. 7's officially nonpartisan race. Johnson led 51-48, a margin of almost 5,400 votes, with heraldnet.com saying there just 500 ballots left "plus any mail-in ballots still en route." Fortney had the county GOP's support, while Johnson had the support of several Democratic groups.

Fortney was elected to this post in 2019, and he spent the first months of his tenure refusing to enforce Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's public health rules. He's also rehired deputies accused of wrongdoing, including one fired for an unjustified killing. Johnson, who would be the first woman to hold this post, told Bolts Magazine the return of these deputies inspired her to run, arguing it's led to constituents becoming "terrified of the cops."

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Former Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby was convicted Thursday evening on two counts of perjury, and each carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Mosby last year took third place in her Democratic primary against the eventual winner, Ivan Bates.

Prosecutors argued that Mosby lied when she submitted paperwork to withdraw $90,000 from Baltimore's Deferred Compensation Plan during the pandemic, as she checked the box saying she'd suffered "adverse financial consequences" when her salary actually rose. Mosby's team insisted that the travel business she founded had been forced to close, but prosecutors made the case that it never had any employees, clients, or income. Mosby still awaits trial for allegedly filing false mortgage applications.

Morning Digest: While Romney dithers, his rivals ramp up their campaigns

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

UT-Sen, UT-Gov: Mitt Romney tells the Wall Street Journal in a new interview that he remains undecided about seeking a second term as Utah's junior senator after spending the last few years as the Republican that MAGA world most loves to hate, and everyone's going to stay in suspense for a while longer. Romney reaffirmed his intention to make up his mind in the fall and added that the verdict could come, in the paper's words, "possibly around October."

As Romney deliberates, another prominent Republican, state House Speaker Brad Wilson, continues to raise money and secure endorsements for his own potential campaign, but Wilson is also keeping the Beehive State guessing as to whether he's actually willing to run against the incumbent. The speaker formed an exploratory committee in April—a move that the Salt Lake Tribune said infuriated Romney's camp—and his spokesperson now says that Wilson is "exploring his own potential race, irrespective of what other potential candidates may or may not do." However, the Journal writes that, according to unnamed sources, Wilson is indeed waiting to see what the senator will do.

Conservative hardliners, though, may not be satisfied if Wilson does end up taking on the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee. The speaker told Fox 13 in April that he was someone who could "get a lot of people with very differing opinions together and get them to work together on hard things and solve hard challenges," which is not what you'd normally expect to hear from a member of Trump's GOP.

Wilson's team does seem to realize that running as a bipartisan problem solver isn't a winning strategy, though: His campaign rolled out endorsements earlier this month from fellow legislators that featured testimonials calling him a "conservative champion" and someone who worked to "advance pro-life legislation." (Altogether, three-quarters of House Republicans and two-thirds of the Senate caucus backed him.) However, while Wilson has indeed helped pass anti-abortion legislation, the Associated Press also noted that he helped stop the legislature from formally rebuking none other than Romney in 2020 for his vote to convict Trump during his first impeachment trial.

Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs offered Romney haters a more ideologically pure option in May when he kicked off his challenge by proclaiming that "the only thing I've seen him fight for are the establishment, wokeness, open borders, impeaching President Trump, and putting us even deeper into debt." Staggs, though, turned in a weak opening fundraising quarter by bringing in just $170,000 through June and self-funding another $50,000; Wilson, by contrast, raised $1 million and threw down another $1.2 million of his own money. (Romney himself only raised $350,000 from donors while bringing in another $710,000 by renting out his fundraising list.)

Two other prominent hardliners have publicly or privately talked about taking on Romney, but neither appears excited about the idea. Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz told ABC News last week that, while he hasn't ruled out running for Romney's Senate seat, he's more interested in a bid for governor at some point. When the Deseret News inquired if he was thinking about waging a GOP primary battle this cycle against Gov. Spencer Cox, who like Romney wants the GOP to move on from Trump, Chaffetz replied, "Not making any decisions yet on anything. Some day, some time I am interested in running for governor."

Attorney General Sean Reyes, meanwhile, once looked like an all but certain Romney foe; Politico even reported in March of 2022 that Reyes was "preparing" a bid and would "make a final decision and likely announce his intentions" two months hence. Reyes, however, still has yet to say anything about his plans well over a year later, and he wouldn't offer a comment when ABC contacted him earlier this month.

But Romney himself may be his own biggest obstacle toward renomination, as a July survey from Noble Predictive Insights gave him an upside-down 43-54 favorable rating with Utah Republicans. (NPI, which sometimes works for conservative groups, sampled 301 Republicans, which is one more than the minimum that Daily Kos Elections requires before we'll write up a survey and analyze it; the firm did not mention a client.) The poll did show Romney beating Reyes 30-13 in a hypothetical seven-way matchup as Wilson grabbed at 5%, but that's still a weak position for any incumbent to find themselves in.

Senate

FL-Sen: State House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell announced Monday she would not challenge GOP Sen. Rick Scott, a move that will come as welcome news to national Democrats who want former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell as their standard bearer. We may be hearing more from Driskell next cycle, though, as the Palm Beach Post reported earlier this month that some prominent party members preferred she run for governor in 2026 rather than take on Scott: State Sen. Bobby Powell said as much to the paper, calling Driskell "the most qualified candidate" to win the party its first gubernatorial race since 1994.

Governors

LA-Gov: Republican Treasurer John Schroder has languished in the polls despite beating all his rivals to TV back in March, but he's hoping to change things with spots blasting each of his two most prominent intra-party rivals. The campaign tells the Shreveport Times this is the start of a $1.3 million TV buy that will last through the Oct. 14 all-party primary.

One ad begins by trashing Attorney General Jeff Landry for sending $420,000 in campaign contributions to the staffing company he owns, a move The Advocate in March called "an unusual arrangement that circumvents the common practice of political figures around the state and ensures the public does not know who he is paying to work on his campaign." The narrator continues by taking former state Chamber of Commerce head Stephen Waguespack to task for his service in then-Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration a decade ago, saying, "Waguespack and Jindal wrecked out public universities and our state budget."

The other piece argues that Landry and Waguespack are "political insiders" who would continue an unacceptable status quo, while Schroder would bring about "change." Schroder himself was elected to the state House in 2007 and won a promotion to statewide office a decade later, but he insists he's different by proclaiming, "As state treasurer, I beat the fat cats for you."

NC-Gov: HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery has unearthed some previously unknown and "unbelievably bonkers" conspiracy theory ramblings from Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, including a 2019 Facebook post declaring, "Beyoncé's songs sound like Satanic chants." Robinson wrote two years earlier on the platform, "I don't believe the Moon Landing was faked and I don't believe 9/11 was an 'inside job' but if I found both were true… I wouldn't be surprised."

WA-Gov: Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson last week gave up trying to contest a new policy from the state's Public Disclosure Commission, which determined earlier this year that the law barring individuals from contributing more than $2,400 to a candidate per election also counts toward donations he'd transferred from his account for past campaigns for attorney general into his new effort. Ferguson, with the permission of each donor, sent $1.2 million of these "surplus funds" to his exploratory campaign for governor just before the PDC's new directive was finalized, and he spent months arguing that those contributors were still free to give $2,400 more to his gubernatorial race.

The PDC disagreed and filed a complaint against him after he wouldn't identify how much money from the surplus fund came from each donor and instead classified the $1.2 million as "miscellaneous receipts." However, Ferguson ultimately provided this information last week: His team told the PDC it was taking this action to apply to its "new interpretation" of campaign finance law, adding that "we trust the [PDC] complaint will be dismissed and this matter concluded."

Ferguson, though, enjoys a massive financial edge over all his rivals ahead of next year's top-two primary. The attorney general, according to the Seattle Times, has taken in $3.6 million total, compared to $610,000 for state Sen. Mark Mullet; a third Democrat, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, has brought in $410,000. On the GOP side, former Rep. Dave Reichert has only taken in $240,000 for his comeback bid, while recently-recalled Richland school board member Semi Bird has raised $140,000.

House

IN-05: Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings announced last week that he was dropping out of the Republican primary for this gerrymandered seat, saying that "on June 15, I experienced a significant health event which has caused me to reconsider my candidacy."

Cummings' departure leaves a pair of self-funders, state Rep. Chuck Goodrich and trucking company owner Sid Mahant, as the only serious contenders running to succeed retiring Rep. Victoria Spartz, though the field may grow again soon. Howey Politics wrote last week that Max Engling, who is a former aide to Speaker Kevin McCarthy, is moving back to Indiana ahead of his own launch, while former state Sen. Mike Delph is also reportedly interested.

NV-03: Republican Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama on Monday announced that she would take on Democratic Rep. Susie Lee for a district in the southern Las Vegas area where the GOP previously lacked a viable candidate. Kasama, who is a former president of the Nevada REALTORS, won her spot in the legislature 54-44 in 2020 as Donald Trump was pulling off a smaller 50-48 victory in the old version of her seat, and she pulled off the same performance two years later in what was still a light red constituency.

Kasama joins a nomination contrast that already included former state Sen. Elizabeth Helgelien and conservative columnist Drew Johnson, but both of them struggled to raise money during their opening quarter. Lee, for her part, finished June with $810,000 banked to defend a seat that Joe Biden carried 52-46.

Legislatures

GA State Senate: Republican state Sen. Shawn Still, a fraudulent elector who was indicted last week alongside Donald Trump for his alleged role in attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, could get suspended from the Senate as a result of his legal woes, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David Wickert.

Under the state constitution, a three-person panel to be convened by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp must decide whether Still's indictment both "relates to and adversely affects the administration" of his office and "that the rights and interests of the public are adversely affected thereby." If the panel concludes the answer to both questions is yes, then Still would be suspended until "the final disposition of the case" or his term expires, whichever happens first.

It's unclear when the matter will be resolved, though legal experts believe the case is unlikely to go to trial in March, as requested by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. As a result, Still could find himself contemplating whether to seek reelection next year while he's under suspension. Undoubtedly, party leaders would prefer he not do so, particularly because his district in the Atlanta suburbs is vulnerable despite extensive GOP gerrymandering.

Incidentally, Still can thank former state Labor Commissioner Sam Caldwell for his latest predicament. In 1983, Caldwell was indicted by Fulton County prosecutors on a variety of charges, including allegations that he'd defrauded the state by demanding his employees perform extensive repairs on boats he owned. He resisted calls to resign and was only removed from office under threat of impeachment following his conviction the next year.

To avoid a similar spectacle in the future, Georgia lawmakers placed an amendment on the ballot in 1984 that would allow for the suspension of indicted public officials. It passed with 93% support. Shortly thereafter, Caldwell was also found guilty in federal court of deliberately sinking his yacht in order to collect insurance proceeds. Ironically, Caldwell's earlier conviction in state court centered around RICO charges—the very same statute Fulton County's current district attorney, Fani Willis, is relying on to prosecute Trump, Still, and their alleged co-conspirators.

NH State House: New Hampshire will hold a special election for the vacant 16th House District in Grafton County on Tuesday, which Democrats should easily hold. The race is significant, though, because it's one of three specials Democrats need to win between now and Nov. 7 in order to strip the GOP's majority in the state House and force the chamber into an exact tie.

At the moment, Republicans hold 199 seats in the House to 196 for Democrats, with two independents (one a former Democrat and one an ex-Republican) and three seats vacant. Those vacancies include Grafton's 16th, which covers the town of Enfield and became vacant in April after Democrat Joshua Adjutant resigned following a serious injury. Joe Biden carried the district by a wide 64-34 margin in 2020, according to Dave's Redistricting App, and Adjutant won without opposition last year, so Democrat David Fracht will be the heavy favorite against Republican John Keane on Tuesday.

If Fracht prevails, Democrats will also need to flip a swingy GOP-held seat in the 1st District in Rockingham County on Sept. 19 and then hold a seat in the solidly blue 3rd District in Hillsborough County on Nov. 7 to create a 199-199 tie in the House. If they do run the table, it's not clear exactly what might happen next, but at the very least, having more Democrats on the floor will make it harder for Republicans to pass their agenda, and it'll better position Democrats to retake the chamber next year.

Obituaries

Al Quie: Minnesota Republican Al Quie, who won his only term as governor in 1978 after spending just over two decades in the U.S. House, died Friday at the age of 99. Quie, who was elected to represent southern Minnesota in a tight 1958 special before quickly becoming entrenched, decided to campaign statewide in what proved to be a horrible year for the dominant Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

Gov. Wendell Anderson had responded to Sen. Walter Mondale's 1976 win as Jimmy Carter's running mate by resigning so that his elevated lieutenant governor, Rudy Perpich, could appoint him to the Senate. Republicans in 1978 were eager to ride the local backlash, which also took place as the nation was struggling with inflation, and the state party debuted a memorable slogan around Halloween, "Something scary is about to happen to the DFL. It’s called an election."

Quie unseated Perpich 52-45 as Republican Rudy Boschwitz was scoring a 57-40 victory over Anderson. The GOP also flipped Minnesota's other Senate seat that same night as David Durenberger, who had originally planned to run for governor himself, decisively won the special election to succeed the late Sen. Hubert Humphrey, and the Minneapolis Star's Austin Wehrwein immediately dubbed the Republican wave year "the Minnesota massacre."

Quie, though, would spend his four years in office dealing with a huge budget deficit, and he eventually made the unpopular decision to raise taxes to confront the crisis. The governor decided not to wage what would have been a difficult reelection bid, and Perpich went on to win back the governorship in a landslide. While Quie never again sought elected office, one of his Democratic successors, Mark Dayton, responded to his death by noting, "After leaving office, he lived his deep faith by mentoring men just released from prison. He accompanied one to the State Pardon Board during my service and personally gained him a pardon by his passionate advocacy."

Morning Digest: Sen. Ben Cardin isn’t running next year, but these Maryland Democrats might

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

MD-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin announced Monday that he would not seek a fourth term next year in Maryland, a decision that marks the beginning of the end for a political career that started in 1966 when he was still in law school. There's little question that Cardin's party will hold his seat in a state that favored Joe Biden 64-32 and where Republicans last won a Senate race in 1980, but there's already a great deal of interest among Old Line State Democrats in succeeding him.

Politico reported back in February that Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who would be the first Black woman to represent Maryland in the upper chamber, was already hiring people for a campaign, and she said that same month she would consider running if Cardin didn’t. The chatter only intensified Monday after the incumbent revealed his plans: Politico says she’d “almost certain” to jump in, while Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz anticipates she’ll launch “before the end of the month.” Alsobrooks was elected in 2018 to lead her populous and very blue community in the D.C. suburbs, and observers have credited her support for now-Gov. Wes Moore as an important factor in his close primary victory last year.

Another contender that Politico writes is all but assured to compete is Rep. David Trone, the Total Wine & More co-founder whom Insider ranked as the 17th wealthiest member of Congress in 2021. The moderate congressman, says the story, already knows who would likely be his campaign manager, and while Trone declined to answer Monday when asked if he intends to seek a promotion, Kurtz adds that his launch could come as soon as this week. Trone self-funded what was a record $13 million in his failed 2016 primary bid for the 8th Congressional District before pumping in a total of $33 million during his subsequent three victorious campaigns for the 6th, and Time Magazine reports he’s told allies he intends to deploy as much as $50 million of his own money to succeed Cardin.

Another name to watch is Rep. Jamie Raskin, a progressive favorite who defeated Trone in that 2016 primary. Raskin, who recently finished a successful treatment for diffuse large B cell lymphoma, said through his aides he was considering a statewide campaign. Kurtz, though, believes it’s more likely the congressman will stay in the lower chamber. 

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando, meanwhile, said two weeks ago he was thinking about a Senate bid, and Maryland Matters now writes he’s “preparing to run.” The councilmember, whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria, would be Maryland’s first Black senator. Jawando also competed in that 2016 primary for the 8th District and finished with just 5%, but he won his current countywide seat two years later; Kurtz predicts that, should Raskin go for Senate after all, Jawando would instead run for the 8th again.  

But wait, there’s more! Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski’s team also says their boss is interested, and unlike the aforementioned four officeholders, his geographic base of support comes from the Baltimore suburbs rather than the D.C. area. (Baltimore County is a separate jurisdiction from the neighboring city of Baltimore.) The executive, though, has also been eyeing a campaign for the 2nd District should veteran Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger retire; a spokesperson for the 77-year-old congressman said Ruppersberger “has not made any decisions about the next term, nor does he have a timeline to do so.”

Kurtz additionally names Rep. John Sarbanes as another person who is “expected to consider,” though there’s no word from the congressman. Sarbanes is the son of Cardin’s predecessor, the late Paul Sarbanes, and he mulled a bid for the state’s other Senate seat in 2015 before opting to stay put. The congressman, though, doesn’t appear to have been getting ready for a campaign for his father’s old seat, though, as he raised just $10,000 during the first three months of 2023.

FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley also offers former DNC chair Tom Perez, who narrowly lost this primary to Moore last year, as a possibility, though Perez doesn’t appear to have said anything about a bid. There’s additionally talk that Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous, who badly lost the 2018 race for governor to Republican incumbent Larry Hogan, could go for it, though a former Jealous aide tells Politico “he has made clear to them that his preference is for Jamie Raskin to run.”

The GOP wish list, by contrast, pretty much starts and ends with Hogan, who left office earlier this year, but he once again doesn’t sound at all likely to go for it. The party unsuccessfully recruited the outgoing governor to take on Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen last year, and a source told Politico that his response to their new charm offensive was to again say that “he has never been interested in the Senate.” On Monday, the head of Hogan’s political organization forwarded Maryland Matters that article when asked if the former governor was now thinking about making the race.

Whoever eventually wins will succeed a senator who, despite one tough race in 2006, never lost an election in a career that began when Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. Cardin grew up in a notable Baltimore political family that included his father, Meyer Cardin, who was elected to his sole four-year term state House in 1934 and later became a judge. An uncle, Maurice Cardin, enjoyed a 20-year career in the lower chamber, but he made it clear to his nephew that he wanted him as his successor when he retired.

That day came in 1966 when Ben Cardin was 23 and still a University of Maryland law student: Maurice Cardin himself recounted in 1982 that as the pair stood outside a polling place on Election Day voters went up to him rather than the soon-to-be-victorious candidate and said, "I voted for you again." The younger Cardin himself would say in 2006, "I worked hard in that [first] election, but I think it's fair to say that without the name, I wouldn't have won." But Cardin, with his uncle's encouragement, successfully sought a post on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and quickly became a respected member, and he went on to chair the body.

The delegate rose further in the state House by securing enough support to become speaker even before Election Day 1978, and the 35-year-old became the youngest person in state history up until that point to lead the chamber. Cardin, the Washington Post would write four years later, enjoyed "power [that] is almost absolute," and while there was talk he'd run as Gov. Harry Hughes running mate in 1982 to set himself up for a future bid for the top job, the speaker unsurprisingly opted to stay put. However, while Cardin said, "I would like to be governor some day," the paper noted that his name recognition was so low outside political circles that he'd had a tough time prevailing statewide.

While the speaker did eye a 1986 bid for governor, he instead ran that year to replace Rep. Barbara Mikulski when she left the safely Democratic 3rd District behind to wage a victorious Senate bid. Cardin easily claimed the nomination to replace her ahead of an overwhelming win, and he never had trouble holding his seat. The congressman, just like he did in the legislature, went on to become a member of the Ways & Means Committee and respected policy wonk, though essentially everyone agreed he was anything but a compelling orator. Cardin did spend much of 1997 mulling a primary campaign​ against Gov. Parris Glendening​, who suffered from low approval ratings, but the governor successfully maneuvered​ to keep him out​.  

Cardin finally got the chance to campaign statewide in the 2006 cycle when Maryland's other Democratic senator, Paul Sarbanes, retired, and what followed were the only seriously contested primary and general election campaigns he’d ever go through. His most prominent intra-party foe was former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, a former congressman who would have been the state's first Black senator.

Cardin enjoyed a big financial advantage and considerably more support from powerful state Democrats, but Mfume's charisma and deep ties with the state's large African American population made him a formidable opponent. Cardin won by a tight 44-41 margin but immediately had to prepare for an expensive showdown with Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who was Maryland’s first Black statewide elected official.

Democrats feared that, despite George W. Bush's horrible approval ratings, Steele could win enough African American support to pose a serious threat to Cardin. "The challenge of the opportunity is to build a bridge to communities the Democratic Party has taken for granted and has, by its choice of nominee," Steele declared on the campaign trail, while Mfume himself warned his party it wasn't doing enough to appeal to Black voters. This was another contest where Cardin, who joked in his own campaign ads, "Who says I'm not flashy?" faced a far more charismatic opponent, but he and his allies pushed back by tying Steele to Bush.

Cardin aired a spot late in the campaign where actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, told the audience that Steele wanted to "put limits on the most promising stem cell research." The Republican responded with his own commercial featuring his sister, a pediatrician who has multiple sclerosis, pushing back and condemning Cardin, but it wasn't enough. The Democrat prevailed 54-44, though Steele's losing effort helped launch him to a high-profile and turbulent career helming the Republican National Committee from 2009 to 2011; Mfume, for his part, returned to the House in a 2020 special election.

Cardin had a far easier time in 2012 when he turned back a primary challenge from state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, who had made a name for himself as a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage, 74-16. The incumbent went on to win a low-profile general election 56-26 against Republican Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who would almost win a House race two years later before reinventing himself as a Trumpian commentator.

The Cardin family suffered a political setback in the 2014 primary for attorney general when the senator's nephew, Del. Jon Cardin, took a distant second to eventual winner Brian Frosh, but Ben Cardin himself remained entrenched at home. In 2018 he won renomination in an 80-6 landslide over Chelsea Manning, the former Army soldier who was convicted of giving hundreds of thousands of classified military reports to the site Wikileaks, and he secured his final term with ease months later.

Election Night

Lincoln, NE Mayor: Republicans on Tuesday are hoping to oust Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, who is one of the few prominent Democrats who holds elected office in Nebraska, and the Flatwater Free Press' Ryan Hoffman reports that one family is spending huge to do it.

The Peed family, which owns the Lincoln-based information processing giant Sandhills Global, and their company together donated $1.1 million through April 17 to former Republican state Sen. Suzanne Geist's campaign, which Hoffman says represents about two-thirds of all the money that the candidate has received, and another $535,000 to her allied PAC. The Peeds have not revealed why they're hoping to unseat Gaylor Baird in the officially nonpartisan race, though they've become prolific GOP donors since 2020. Gaylor Baird, for her part, is hoping to portray Geist as "beholden" to her contributors.

Senate

MI-Sen: John Tuttle, who serves as vice chair of the New York Stock Exchange, is the newest Republican name to surface as a possible contender in a race where the party doesn't currently have any viable options. Politico's Ally Mutnick writes that Tuttle, who "splits his time" between New York and Michigan, is mulling over the idea, and NRSC chair Steve Daines praised him as "a strong potential recruit."

NJ-Sen: The New Jersey Globe writes that no notable Republicans appear interested in taking on Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez even as he's under federal investigation for corruption, though the article mentioned state Sen. Mike Testa, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, and Warren County Commissioner Lori Ciesla as possible just-in-case contenders.  

NY-Sen: A spokesperson for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played down talk that her boss could challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for renomination, telling Politico, "She is not planning to run for Senate in 2024. She is not planning to primary Gillibrand." That answer, as the story notes, isn't quite a no, but fellow Rep. Jamaal Bowman adds that he hasn't heard any discussion of AOC running "for months or weeks."

Politico adds that, while former Rep. Mondaire Jones mulled his own campaign against Gillibrand a while back, he's now decided not to go for it and is focusing on his likely bid to regain the 17th Congressional District from Republican incumbent Mike Lawler. Disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's camp, though, characteristically didn't comment when asked about his own interest in a Senate run, which at least keeps this bit of chatter alive.  

TX-Sen: Rep. Colin Allred, reports Politico, plans to announce "as soon as this week" that he'll challenge Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a development that would give Democrats a prominent candidate in a tough state.

WI-Sen: An unnamed source tells The Dispatch that businessman Kevin Nicholson is "keeping a close eye on" getting into the GOP primary to face Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin, a contest where the party is waiting for its first viable contender to step up. Nicholson is a former College Democrats of America president who lost the 2018 primary to face Baldwin and dropped out of last year's nomination contest for governor.

WV-Sen: The far-right Club for Growth has launched its first TV ad against Gov. Jim Justice ahead of next year's GOP primary for $10,000, which is about how much money its endorsed candidate, Rep. Alex Mooney, devoted to his first anti-Justice broadside. This minute-long spot, which like Mooney's offering seemed to be aimed more at attracting media attention than getting seen on TV, excoriates the governor as a greedy coal billionaire who "got filthy rich by stiffing working people and small businesses out of millions, leaving a trail of tears and broken promises on his way to the Fortune 400 list."

Governors

NH-Gov: Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig on Monday formed an exploratory committee, a step no other Democrats have taken yet as they wait to see if GOP Gov. Chris Sununu will seek another term next year. Craig, who didn't say how she'd be affected by the incumbent's deliberations, kicked off her effort with support from former Gov. John Lynch, who left office in 2013 after completing his fourth two-year term.

Later in the day 2022 nominee Tom Sherman said he would not be running again, but another Democrat isn't dismissing chatter she could campaign for governor. Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, who has reportedly been thinking about running, responded to Craig's announcement by saying, "There will be plenty of time for politics later."

WA-Gov: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared Monday that he wouldn't seek what would have been a historic fourth term as chief executive of the Evergreen State, a move that will set off a battle to succeed him next year. Under state election law all the candidates will run on one ballot rather than in separate party primaries, and the top two contenders, regardless of party, will advance to the general election. Republicans haven't won this office since the late John Spellman prevailed in 1980, though Inslee himself only narrowly prevailed the last time this post was open in 2012.

Two of Inslee's fellow Democrats, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, have long said they'd be interested in running whenever he retired, and the Seattle Times relays that each of them are "expected to quickly announce" their bids. King County Executive Dow Constantine, though, said in March he'd be staying put.

The GOP has a small bench in this longtime Democratic bastion, and it remains to be seen if the party will be able to mount a strong effort at a time when it has no statewide elected officials to turn to. The Dispatch reported in February that former Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was interested, though we haven't heard anything new since. Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, however, took his name out of contention over a month ago.

Inslee's departure marks the conclusion of a career that that's seen both plenty of triumphs and some big setbacks. The Democrat first won office in 1988 when he pulled off a close victory for the state House, and he sought a promotion four years later by running for the open 4th Congressional District in the rural central part of the state.

Inslee managed to advance to the general election by edging out Democratic state Sen. Jim Jesernig 23-22 in the blanket primary, a precursor to the modern top-two primary, but he faced a tough fight in the fall against Republican colleague Doc Hastings. Inslee won 51-49 at the same time that, according to analyst Kiernan Park-Egan, George H.W. Bush was carrying the seat 43-35 over Bill Clinton (independent Ross Perot secured another 22%), but he had little time to rest up.

Hastings came back for a rematch in 1994 and emphasized the incumbent's support for the Clinton administration's assault weapons ban, a vote the Democrat would acknowledge hurt him at home. The GOP wave hit Washington hard and Hastings unseated Inslee 53-47 at the same time that Speaker Tom Foley was losing re-election to George Nethercutt in the neighboring 5th District, and both constituencies have remained in GOP hands ever since. Another victor that year was Republican Rick White, who denied then-Rep. Maria Cantwell a second term in the 1st District near Seattle.

But while that disastrous cycle ended plenty of Democratic careers (though not Cantwell’s), Inslee was determined that his would not be one of them. The ousted congressman, who soon moved to the Puget Sound community of Bainbridge Island, announced a 1996 campaign for governor and said of his recent defeat, "What it showed was when you vote your convictions over political expediency, on occasion it's not good for your career." Inslee, though, struggled to gain traction in a field that included the eventual winner, Democratic King County Executive Gary Locke, as well as Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, and he finished fifth in the blanket primary with just 10%.

Inslee then set his sights on a 1998 House comeback bid against White in a constituency that, per Park-Egan, had supported Clinton 51-37 two years before. Inslee, who had no intra-party opposition this time, was in for a difficult fight in a seat both parties identified as a major battleground, and White's 50-44 lead in the blanket primary seemed to foreshadow another uphill race for the Democrat.

The incumbent, though, wasn't as strong as he appeared to be. White had just gone through a high-profile divorce, and he feared that the third-party candidacy of social conservative Bruce Craswell would cost him some much-needed support. Inslee, meanwhile, ran ads blasting the Republicans for waging a long impeachment battle against Clinton, which proved to be a compelling argument that year. Inslee got back to the House by winning 49.8-44.1, with Craswell taking the balance.

Inslee's second stint in Washington, D.C., went far better for him than his first, and he never failed to win re-election by double digits. The Democrat, however, decided to give up his secure seat in 2012 for another campaign for governor even though retiring incumbent Christine Gregoire's weak approval ratings presented a big opening for the GOP. Republicans quickly consolidated around Attorney General Rob McKenna, who had scored a 59-41 victory in 2008 during an awful year for his party, while Inslee also had no serious intra-party opposition.

Most polls through July showed McKenna in the lead but Inslee, who resigned his seat to focus on his statewide bid, worked hard to tie his opponent to unpopular national Republicans. The Democrat, in one debate, responded to the attorney general's declaration that he didn't want Washington to be a place where a third of residents were on Medicare by saying, "Remember when Mitt Romney talked about the 47% that just weren't sort of part of our family in a sense? And now my opponent says that this one out of three somehow should not have insurance." McKenna worked to win over enough Obama voters to prevail, but he wasn't able to take quite enough: Inslee instead scored a 52-48 victory at a time when the president was carrying Washington 56-41.

The new governor got a big setback before he took office when two renegade Democrats in the state Senate, Tim Sheldon and Rodney Tom, put the GOP minority in charge of the chamber even though Democrats nominally held a 26-23 edge. Inslee himself appeared to be a tempting target for 2016 after several polls showed him with an unimpressive approval rating, but potentially strong GOP foes like McKenna and Rep. Dave Reichert sat the race out. The Republican who eventually stepped forward, Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant, struggled with fundraising, and the governor beat him 54-46 as Hillary Clinton was scoring a 53-37 victory here.

Inslee had a better second term, especially after a 2017 special election put his party in control of the state Senate at long last, and in 2019 he joined a crowded presidential field. The governor's would-be successors, though, found themselves waiting for months to see if he'd turn around and seek a third term at home, which is exactly what happened when Inslee ended his White House quest in the face of poor polling. Inslee went on to become the first three-term governor since Dan Evans secured re-election in 1972 after he scored an easy 57-43 victory over far-right foe Loren Culp, a former small-town police chief who refused to recognize his landslide loss.

House

NY-03: Former state Sen. Anna Kaplan filed FEC paperwork Monday for a potential Democratic primary bid for the seat still held by scandal-drenched incumbent George Santos.

Kaplan, a Jewish refugee from Iran who came to the United States as a child, was a North Hempstead town councilwoman when she took fourth place in the 2016 nomination fight for a previous version of this seat. She had far more success two years later when she decisively unseated Republican state Sen. Elaine Phillips, but Kaplan went on to lose her 2022 general election to former state Sen. Jack Martins 53-47. Martins himself didn't rule out a campaign of his own against Santos in January, though he didn't sound likely to go for it.

WA-03: Camas City Councilor Leslie Lewallen announced last week that she'd run as a Republican in next year's top-two primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. Lewallen, whose city has a population of just over 27,000, argued, "We already have a plan to raise more than the $5 million it will take to win this seat." This southwestern Washington constituency favored Donald Trump 51-47.

Lewallen joins a field that already includes Joe Kent, the far-right Republican who announced in December that he'd run to avenge his 50.1-49.9 upset loss against Gluesenkamp Perez from the month before. The incumbent, though, massively outraised Kent $820,000 to $200,000 during the first quarter of 2023, and she finished March with a $660,000 to $210,000 cash-on-edge advantage.