Morning Digest: Why Montana is the only state in the union without new legislative maps

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

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Leading Off

MT Redistricting: For the first time in 40 years, Montana enjoyed the right to draw a congressional map following the 2020 census, thanks to population growth that bumped up its representation in the House from one seat to two. But while that task was completed all the way back in November, the state still lacks new maps for its legislature—and won't have any until next year. In fact, Montana is the only state in the nation that hasn't finished legislative redistricting. So what gives?

Fortunately, law professor Quinn Yeargain has the answer. In 1972, Montana adopted a new constitution that gave power over redistricting to an evenly divided bipartisan commission, which is obligated to submit legislative maps to lawmakers "at the first regular session after its appointment or after the census figures are available." The problem, however, is that the constitution also mandates the legislature meet for just 90 days at a time in odd-numbered years, starting in early January and ending in late April.

Practically speaking, therefore, there's no way the redistricting commission could finish its work that quickly, and in 2021, that would have been literally impossible, since the Census Bureau didn't release the detailed data needed to draw new lines until August. Even in the previous decade, when the census wasn't hampered by a pandemic and presidential interference, Montana didn't receive the necessary data until mid-March.

Making matters even more absurd, as Yeargain points out, when lawmakers receive maps from the commission, they can only make "recommendations" for changes—recommendations the commissioners are free to ignore. The entire process, therefore, will be put off until the legislature's next session in 2023, simply to allow legislators to play an entirely advisory role that may have no impact whatsoever.

The practical consequences of this delay, however, are considerable. As shown in this map of Montana's state House, many districts are severely under- or over-populated, with 56 of 100 outside the 10% deviation between the smallest and largest districts that courts typically allow; the situation in the Senate is similar.

Under the longstanding constitutional doctrine of "one person, one vote," these imbalances make Montana ripe for a lawsuit demanding the state draw new districts immediately after each census, like every other state does. No one has brought such a case this time, though, and with the state's primary next week, it's now too late. But in the coming decade, such a challenge could very well succeed.

Senate

OH-Sen: The first post-primary poll of Ohio's open Senate race finds Republican nominee J.D. Vance with a small 42-39 lead on Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, though 17% of voters have yet to make up their minds, according to Suffolk University. While Vance's 3-point margin might seem alluring, we always caution never to judge a race based on a single poll. That's all the more so when there's a sizable pile of undecideds, since they're more likely to lean Republican given Ohio's overall red tilt.

Governors

GA-Gov: Democrat Stacey Abrams has launched her first TV ad since winning last month's primary, and the spot blasts Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for having "made it easier for criminals to carry guns in public," vowing to criminalize abortion, and providing "tax cuts for himself and his ultra-wealthy friends." Notably, this ad is from Abrams' One Georgia leadership committee, which can raise and spend unlimited contributions from donors now that the primaries are over thanks to a law that Kemp himself signed in 2021 in an attempt to gain his own fundraising advantage.

FL-Gov: We're not quite sure what to make of this, but the Florida Education Association, which is the state's largest teachers union, says it's "backing" Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist's bid for governor but stresses that it's not giving Crist its "formal endorsement." We're accustomed to this sort of parsing from politicians, but we can't recall ever seeing a labor union—especially not one with 150,000 members—engage in this kind of hair-splitting.

IL-Gov: Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who is Illinois' wealthiest resident, has given an additional $5 million to Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin's campaign for the June 28 GOP primary, bringing his investment up to a staggering $50 million thanks to Illinois' lack of contribution limits. Due in large part to the wealth of just three billionaires, candidates and outside groups in Illinois' upcoming primaries have spent an eye-popping $30 million on ads in May alone as Democrats have gotten involved in the GOP primary to try to stop Irvin and boost a more conservative opponent while Irvin's camp has spent heavily in response.

Irvin has expended $11.1 million while the Democratic Governors Association has dropped $6.5 million on a mix of ads attacking Irvin and boosting state Sen. Darren Bailey, who is running to Irvin's right and has spent $4.1 million with an additional $2.7 million in outside support from a PAC funded by right-wing billionaire Dick Uihlein. The final billionaire is Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker himself, who is extensively self-funding his campaign and has spent $4 million on ads mainly opposing Irvin. Lastly, venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan has spent $1.5 million on GOP primary ads.

MI-Gov, MI-AG, MI-SoS: The general election portion of local pollster Target Insyght's recent survey for MIRS News finds statewide Democrats demolishing their GOP opponents by margins that simply look too good to be true. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer leads her five prospective Republican challengers by anywhere from 58-19 to 57-23, while Democratic state Attorney General Dana Nessel posts a similar 54-23 edge over Big Lie proponent Matthew DePerno and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson likewise prevails 56-23 over election conspiracy theorist Kristina Karamo.

Every other poll released this cycle has so far found Whitmer at or below 50% with considerably more support for her Republican challengers than Target Insyght has, and even during the blue wave of 2018, she only earned 53% of the vote. Though voters in recent years have been more apt to split their tickets in state races despite historically high levels of polarization in federal elections, Whitmer and her fellow Democrats in swingy Michigan are still likely to face strong headwinds this November thanks to Joe Biden's weak approval ratings and traditional midterm patterns that favor the out-party. We're therefore extremely skeptical of these numbers unless confirmed elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in the August GOP primary, the state Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that self-funding businessman Perry Johnson cannot appear on the ballot after he and several other GOP candidates were disqualified from running last week due to fraudulent voter petition signatures. Johnson didn't indicate whether he would appeal further to the state Supreme Court, but the state is set to finalize its primary ballot on Friday. The courts have yet to rule on a similar appeal by former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, but given the similar arguments in Craig's lawsuit, his prospects look poor.

MN-Gov, MN-02, MN-01: Candidate filing closed on Tuesday, and the state has a list of who is running here for the August primary. For governor, far-right state Sen. Scott Jensen managed to avoid a competitive primary after winning the state GOP convention's endorsement last month. While it's commonplace for candidates to agree to drop out before the primary after they lose at the convention, former state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and dermatologist Neil Shah didn't appear to have confirmed they would until they declined to file. Lastly, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who had said he was unable to attend the convention due to injuries from a car crash, also dropped out by not filing.

On the Democratic side, Gov. Tim Walz faces only token opposition in his quest for a second term. Walz also got potential good news when former radio host Cory Hepola, who had announced he was running as a Forward Party candidate earlier this year on a platform that appeared more likely to take votes from Democrats than Republicans, also didn't file.

Unfortunately for Democrats, candidates from each of two pro-marijuana third parties qualified to run for governor and in the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts. However, the presence on the ballot of the Legal Marijuana Now Party and Grassroots - Legalize Cannabis Party has if anything had the opposite effect of their stated purpose by likely drawing votes disproportionately from the left, potentially depriving Democrats of enough support to cost them control of the state Senate in 2020 and let the narrow Republican majority block Democrats' legalization effort earlier this year.

Republicans themselves may have had a role in the pro-weed parties' success. Adam Weeks, who was Legal Marijuana Now' 2020 nominee in the 2nd District but died two months before Election Day, had told a friend in a voicemail recording that surfaced after his death that he'd been recruited by the GOP to run and "pull away votes" from Democratic Rep. Angie Craig to help GOP challenger Tyler Kistner. Although Craig won that contest by a 48-46 margin, that was a notable underperformance of Joe Biden's 52-46 victory in the district thanks in part to Weeks posthumously taking 6%.

Craig faces a rematch with Kistner this fall along with candidates from both cannabis parties, and Kistner himself released a mid-May poll from GOP firm Cygnal this week that showed him trailing Craig by a modest 43-38 margin, with Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Paula Overby taking 4%.

In the 1st District, former Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger faces little-known opponents in the regular Democratic primary after winning the nomination last month for the August special election to replace the late GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn. However, on the GOP side, former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad will face a rematch with far-right state Rep. Jeremy Munson after the more establishment-aligned Finstad beat him just 38-37 in last month's special primary; former Freeborn County GOP chair Matt Benda also filed to run in the regular GOP primary after taking only 7% in last month's contest.

House

FL-13: Rep. Charlie Crist has endorsed former Defense Department official Eric Lynn in the race to succeed him in Florida's 13th Congressional District. Lynn is the only notable Democrat still running after Republicans gerrymandered the district to make it considerably redder, such that Donald Trump would have carried it 53-46, compared to Joe Biden's 52-47 margin under the previous lines.

Meanwhile, nonprofit founder Audrey Henson just dropped out of the GOP primary to run for the state House instead, though several other Republicans are still in the mix. The remaining field includes attorneys Amanda Makki and Kevin Hayslett as well as businesswoman Anna Paulina Luna, who was the GOP's unsuccessful nominee in 2020.

IL-06: Rep. Marie Newman copies Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock's legendary ads featuring a pet beagle in a new spot attacking her opponent in next month's Democratic primary—right down to the starring breed of pooch. Walking a beagle of her own, Newman says that "unfortunately, you're going to hear a lot of sh*t about me from my opponent, Sean Casten" as her dog squats to do its business (the offending word is bleeped out). It's not clear what Newman might be referring to, however, as Casten has not aired any negative ads.

Calling herself a "lifelong progressive Democrat," Newman then castigates Casten for voting "for anti-choice Republicans like George Bush." (Casten cast his first vote in a presidential election for George H.W. Bush in 1992, when he was 20.) She also touts her rejection of "corporate money" while accusing Casten, a fellow member of Congress, of having "taken a million dollars from corporate PACs."

MI-03: A new Public Policy Polling survey for Democrat Hillary Scholten finds her narrowly edging past Republican Rep. Peter Meijer 39-37 while leading conservative commentator John Gibbs, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, by a larger 44-35 margin. This is the first public poll of the race for Michigan's 3rd District, one of a handful of seats Democrats are hoping to flip in November.

MN-03: In Minnesota's 3rd District, Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips and Navy veteran Tom Weiler, his Republican challenger, are the only candidates running here after businessman Mark Blaxill declined to continue on to the primary after losing to Weiler at the GOP convention.

MN-04: Longtime Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum faces a primary challenge from the left by Saint Paul Department of Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity official Amane Badhasso, who has raised a competitive amount of money so far. A few other minor candidates are running in the Democratic and GOP primaries for this solidly blue seat.

MN-05: Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is one of the most outspoken left-wing members of Congress, is running for a third term and faces a primary challenge from her right by former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels. Several other obscure candidates are running for both parties in this heavily Democratic district.

NY-10: Former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman, who served as House Democrats' lead counsel during Donald Trump's first impeachment, has joined the crowded primary for New York's open 10th District, a safely blue district in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Goldman briefly ran for state attorney general last year but dropped out after incumbent Tish James abandoned her bid for governor and decided to run for re-election instead.

NY-12: The Working Families Party, a labor-backed party that has often played an important role in New York politics over the last two decades, has endorsed Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler in his member-vs.-member primary against fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney. The WFP's backing serves as a progressive seal of approval and could also yield key on-the-ground support for Nadler if unions decide to deploy their membership on his behalf.

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Morning Digest: Democrat announces rematch against House Republican under fire for impeachment vote

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

MI-03: Attorney Hillary Scholten announced Tuesday that she would seek a rematch against Republican Rep. Peter Meijer in Michigan's 3rd Congressional District, a Grand Rapids-based constituency that the state's new map transformed from a 51-47 Trump seat to one Joe Biden would have carried 53-45. Meijer ran just ahead of the top of the ticket in his first bid for Congress in 2020 and beat Scholten 53-47 in a very expensive open seat race in this historically Republican area, but he has more immediate problems ahead of him before he can fully focus on another bout.

The incumbent was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, which is why Trump is backing conservative commentator John Gibbs' bid to deny Meijer renomination in the August primary. Gibbs, though, didn't do a particularly good job winning over furious MAGA donors during his opening quarter: Meijer outraised him $455,000 to $50,000, with Gibbs self-funding an additional $55,000. As a result, the congressman ended 2021 with a massive $1.2 million to $85,000 cash-on-hand lead. (A few other candidates are also competing in the GOP primary, but none of them had more than $3,000 to spend.)

Despite his huge financial advantage, however, Meijer will still need to watch his back in August. He currently represents just half of the revamped 3rd District, meaning there are many new voters he'll have to introduce himself to. Trump and his allies can also make plenty of trouble for Meijer over the next six months even if Gibbs' fundraising woes continue.

Campaign Action

Scholten, for her part, is Team Blue's first notable candidate in a region that, in more than a century, has only once sent a Democrat to the House. The story of that upset begins in 1948, when a Navy veteran named Gerald Ford decisively unseated Rep. Bartel Jonkman, an ally of the powerful political boss Frank McKay, in the GOP primary for what was numbered the 5th District at the time. Ford, who eventually rose to House minority leader, never fell below 60% of the vote in any of his general election campaigns. When Richard Nixon tapped him to replace the disgraced Spiro Agnew as vice president in 1973, Republicans there anticipated they'd have no trouble holding his seat.

The unfolding Watergate scandal, though, gave Democrats the chance to pull off an upset of the ages early the next year. The party nominated Richard Vander Veen, who had badly lost to Ford in 1958, while the GOP opted for state Senate Majority Leader Robert Vander Laan. Vander Veen, though, gained traction by focusing his campaign on the beleaguered Nixon, reminding voters that Ford would take over if Nixon left the White House. In one memorable newspaper ad, Vander Veen castigated Nixon while tying himself to Ford, arguing, "Our President must stand beyond the shadow of doubt. Our President must be Gerald Ford."

Ford himself put in just one appearance for Vander Laan in a campaign that almost every observer still expected him to win, even if only by a small margin. Vander Veen, however, pulled off a 51-44 victory in what is still remembered as one of the biggest special election upsets in American history. Ford did become president months later after Nixon resigned, but thanks to the Watergate wave, Vander Veen won a full term 53-43 in November.

His tenure would be short, however. In 1976, as Ford was carrying Michigan during his unsuccessful re-election campaign against Jimmy Carter, Republican Harold Sawyer unseated Vander Veen 53-46. Ever since then, the GOP has continued to win each incarnation of whichever congressional district has been centered around Ground Rapids. The region momentarily slipped from the GOP's grasp in 2019 when five-term Rep. Justin Amash left the GOP to become an independent (and later a Libertarian), but he ultimately retired the next year. Meijer's win over Scholten kept Team Red's long winning streak going, but a combination of redistricting, the area's ongoing shift to the left, and intra-GOP troubles could give Scholten the chance to score a historic win this fall.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: Lawmakers in Louisiana's Republican-run state Senate have introduced several different congressional redistricting proposals as well as one plan for the upper chamber ahead of a special legislative session that was set to begin on Tuesday evening. The plans will be made available here. No maps have yet been released for the state House.

NY Redistricting: New York's Democratic-run state legislature introduced new draft maps for both the state Senate and Assembly late on Monday, a day after releasing their proposal for the state's congressional districts. Lawmakers will reportedly take up the new maps this week.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The Republican firm OH Predictive Insights takes a look at the August GOP primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, and it shows Attorney General Mark Brnovich leading retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire 25-11. OH's last poll, conducted in November, had Brnovich up by a similar 27-12 spread. The new survey also includes a scenario where Gov. Doug Ducey runs, which finds him beating Brnovich by a 35-13 margin.

FL-Sen, FL-Gov: Suffolk University is out with its first poll of Florida's Senate and gubernatorial races, and it finds both Republicans starting out with the lead. Sen. Marco Rubio defeats Democratic Rep. Val Demings 49-41, which is similar to the 51-44 advantage St. Pete Polls found in late November. (Believe it or not, no one has released numbers during the intervening period.)

In the contest for governor, incumbent Ron DeSantis outpaces Rep. Charlie Crist and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 49-43 and 51-40, respectively. St. Pete Polls' last survey had DeSantis beating the pair 51-45 and 51-42; neither poll tested the third notable Democrat in the race, state Sen. Annette Taddeo.  

NM-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján's office put out a statement Tuesday revealing that the senator had "suffered a stroke" on Thursday and "subsequently underwent decompressive surgery to ease swelling." It continued, "He is currently being cared for at UNM Hospital, resting comfortably, and expected to make a full recovery."

PA-Sen: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has publicized a new poll from Data for Progress that shows him outpacing Rep. Conor Lamb 46-16 in the May Democratic primary, with state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta at 12%. Our last look at this contest came in the form of a mid-December GQR survey for Kenyatta that had him trailing Fetterman 44-20, though the poll argued the state representative would pick up more support after voters learned more about each candidate.

Governors

GA-Gov: Donald Trump stars in a rare direct-to-camera appeal for former Sen. David Perdue, who is spending $150,000 on this opening spot for the May Republican primary, and it's just pretty much the TV version of one of his not-tweets.

Trump immediately spews as much vitriol as he can at the man Perdue is trying to unseat as well as the all-but-certain Democratic nominee by claiming, "The Democrats walked over Brian Kemp. He was afraid of Stacey 'The Hoax' Abrams. Brian Kemp let us down. We can't let it happen again." He goes on to say, "David Perdue is an outstanding man. He's tough. He's smart. He has my complete and total endorsement."

MI-Gov: Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hauled in $2.5 million from Oct. 21 through Dec. 31 and had $9.9 million to spend at the close of 2021, which left her with a far larger war chest than any of her Republican foes.

The governor also transferred $3.5 million to the state Democratic Party, money she was able to raise without any contribution limits thanks to multiple Republican efforts to recall her from office. Because those recalls all failed to qualify for the ballot, Whitmer was required to disgorge those additional funds, though the party can use that money to boost her re-election campaign. (A GOP suit challenging Michigan's rule allowing recall targets to raise unlimited sums was recently rejected.)

Things didn't go nearly as well for former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who looked like the Republican frontrunner when he announced his campaign back in July. Craig raised $600,000 but spent $700,000, and he had $845,000 on-hand. Wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke, by contrast, raised a mere $5,000 from donors but self-funded $2 million, and his $1.5 million war chest was the largest of anyone running in the August GOP primary.

Two other Republicans, chiropractor Garrett Soldano and conservative radio host Tudor Dixon, took in $250,000 and $150,000, respectively, while Soldano led Dixon in cash-on-hand $315,000 to $96,000. A fifth GOP candidate, businessman Perry Johnson, entered the race last week after the new fundraising period began, but he's pledged to self-fund $2.5 million.

MN-Gov: Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek declared Tuesday that he would seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. He joins an intra-party battle that includes state Sen. Michelle Benson, former state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, former state Sen. Scott Jensen, dermatologist Neil Shah, and healthcare executive Kendall Qualls, who was the GOP's 2020 nominee for the 3rd Congressional District.

Minnesota Morning Take reports that Stanek, just like all the other notable GOP candidates, will, in local parlance, "abide" by the endorsement process at the Republican convention in May. That means that none intend to continue on to the party's August primary if someone else wins the support of 60% of delegates required to earn the official Republican stamp of approval. Stanek launched his campaign hours before the start of precinct caucuses, which are the first step towards selecting convention delegates, so it may be too late for any other Republicans to get in if they want a shot at the endorsement.

Stanek, who previously served in the Minneapolis Police Department, is a longtime politician who got his start in the state House in 1995 and resigned from the chamber in 2003 when Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed him state public safety commissioner. Stanek quit his new post the next year after acknowledging he'd used racial slurs during a 1989 deposition that took place after he was accused of police brutality (Minnesota Public Radio reported in 2004 that this was "one of three police brutality lawsuits brought against him"), but the scandal did not spell the end of his political career.

Stanek made a comeback by pulling off a landslide win in the officially nonpartisan 2006 race for sheriff of deep-blue Hennepin County (home of Minneapolis), and he had no trouble holding it in the following two elections. The sheriff's base in the state's most populous county made him an appealing candidate for governor in 2018, but Stanek opted to seek a fourth term instead. His luck finally ran out in that Democratic wave year, though, and he lost a very tight race for re-election.

OH-Gov: Former state Rep. Ron Hood, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nod in last year's special election for Ohio's 15th Congressional District, has now set his sights on the Buckeye State's gubernatorial race. Hood, described by cleveland.com as "among the most conservative lawmakers" in the legislature, joins former Rep. Jim Renacci in challenging Gov. Mike DeWine, potentially splitting the anti-incumbent vote in the race for the Republican nomination. He didn't make much of an impact running for Congress, though, finishing third with 13% in the primary.

Financially, though, DeWine doesn't have too much to worry about. New fundraising reports, covering the second half of 2021, show the governor raised $3.3 million and had $9.2 million in the bank. Renacci, meanwhile, brought in just $149,000 from donors, though he self-funded an additional $4.8 million and had $4.1 million left to spend.

On the Democratic side, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley outraised former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley $1.3 million to $1 million, but the two campaigns had comparable sums on hand: $1.8 million for Whaley and $1.9 million for Cranley.

RI-Gov: The declared candidates in Rhode Island's race for governor—all of whom, so far, are Democrats—just filed fundraising reports covering the final quarter of last year, showing Gov. Dan McKee with a narrow cash lead. McKee brought in $176,000 and finished with $844,000 banked. Figures for his three main opponents are below:

  • former CVS executive Helena Foulkes: $971,000 raised, $100,000 self-funded, $831,000 cash-on-hand
  • Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea: $162,000 raised, $770,000 cash-on-hand
  • former Secretary of State Matt Brown: $63,000 raised, $38,000 cash-on-hand

House

CO-07: State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who earned the backing of retiring Rep. Ed Perlmutter last week, now has endorsements from Colorado's other three Democratic U.S. House members: Reps. Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse, and Jason Crow.

GA-07: Rep. Lucy McBath's allies at Protect our Future, a new super PAC funded in part by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, have released a Data for Progress survey of the May Democratic primary that shows her with a 40-31 edge over fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux, with state Rep. Donna McLeod a distant third at 6%. The only other poll we've seen here was a mid-December McBath internal from 20/20 Insight that gave her a far larger 40-19 advantage over Bourdeaux.

This may end up being the most expensive incumbent-vs.-incumbent primary of the cycle, especially if it goes to a runoff. McBath outraised Bourdeaux $735,000 to $430,000 during the fourth quarter, but both had sizable campaign accounts at the end of 2021: $2.5 million for McBath and $2 million for Bourdeaux. McLeod did not have a fundraising report available on the FEC site as of Tuesday evening.

IN-09: State Rep. J. Michael Davisson declared Tuesday that he was joining the May Republican primary for this very red open seat. Davisson, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, was appointed to the legislature last fall to succeed his late father, and this appears to be his first run for office. Indiana's filing deadline is on Feb. 4, so the field will take final shape before long.

MI-04: State Rep. Steve Carra has decided to test how "Complete and Total" Donald Trump's endorsement really is by announcing a campaign for Michigan's new 4th District, a move that sets him up for a very different primary than the one he originally got into. Carra picked up Trump's support back in September when he was waging an intra-party campaign in the old 6th District against Rep. Fred Upton, who'd voted for impeachment months before. Upton still hasn't confirmed if he'll run in the new 4th, but fellow GOP Rep. Bill Huizenga very much has. Carra unsurprisingly focused on Upton in his relaunch, though he argued, "It doesn't matter whether there's one or two status quo Republicans in the race."

The state representative, for his part, says he grew up in the southwest Michigan district, which would have backed Trump 51-47, though his legislative district is entirely located in the new 5th District. (Republican Rep. Tim Walberg is campaigning there, and he's unlikely to face any serious intra-party opposition.) Carra himself has spent his first year in the GOP-dominated state House pushing bills that have gone nowhere, including a resolution demanding that the U.S. House "adopt a resolution disavowing the January 2021 impeachment of President Donald J. Trump or expel [California] U.S. Representative Maxine Waters for continuing to incite violence."

Upton, meanwhile, seems content to keep everyone guessing about whether he'll actually be on the ballot this year. The congressman initially said he'd decide whether to run once more in January, but the month ended without any resolution. Upton told a local radio station on Jan. 25 that he was looking to see if the new map survives a court challenge, but he also said to expect a decision "in the coming days."

If Upton does run, he'd begin with a modest edge over his fellow incumbent in the cash race. Upton took in $720,000 during the final quarter of 2021 compared to $395,000 for Huizenga and ended the year with a $1.5 million to $1.1 million cash-on-hand lead. Carra, meanwhile, raised $130,000 and had $205,000 available.

MI-11: Rep. Haley Stevens has released an internal poll from Impact Research that gives her a 42-35 lead over fellow incumbent Andy Levin in their August Democratic primary, the first numbers we've seen of the race. Stevens raised $625,000 in the fourth quarter compared to $335,000 for Levin (who self-funded another $30,000), and she went into the new year with nearly $2 million on-hand compared to $1.1 million for her opponent.

MS-04: State Sen. Chris McDaniel told the conservative site Y'All Politics on Monday that he still hasn't ruled out a primary challenge to Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo, who is facing an ethics investigation into charges that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes. The two-time U.S. Senate candidate argued, "My polling numbers are stronger than they've ever been, so I'm keeping all of my options open at this time."

Several other notable Republicans, including state Sen. Brice Wiggins, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell, and banker Clay Wagner, are already taking on Palazzo in the June 7 contest, where it takes a majority of the vote to avert a runoff that would be held three weeks later. The candidate filing deadline is March 1.

RI-02: Former state Sen. James Sheehan said Tuesday that he'd stay out of the Democratic primary for this open seat.

SC-07: Donald Trump on Tuesday threw his backing behind state Rep. Russell Fry's intra-party challenge to Rep. Tom Rice, who voted for impeachment after the Jan. 6 attack, in the crowded June Republican primary. The congressman responded, "I'm glad he's chosen someone. All the pleading to Mar-a-Lago was getting a little embarrassing." Rice continued, "I'm all about Trump's policy. But absolute pledge of loyalty, to a man that is willing to sack the Capitol to keep his hold on power is more than I can stomach."

TX-26: There's little indication that 10-term Rep. Michael Burgess, who is perhaps one of the most obscure members of Congress, is in any danger in his March 1 Republican primary for this safely red seat in Fort Worth's northern exurbs, but the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek notes that he does face an opponent with the ability to self-fund. Businesswoman Raven Harrison loaned herself $210,000, which represented every penny she brought in during the fourth quarter, and she ended 2021 with $127,000 on-hand. Burgess, meanwhile, took in just $150,000, and he finished the quarter with $290,000 available.

TX-35: Former San Antonio City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran has picked up the support of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who is retiring this year after more than two decades in charge of this populous county, ahead of the March 1 Democratic primary. ("County judges" in Texas are not judicial officials but rather are equivalent to county executives in other states.)