Morning Digest: We’re looking back on Harry Reid’s long and storied career on the campaign trail

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.

Leading Off

Deaths: Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who died Dec. 28 at the age of 82, is lying in state at the Capitol today. As his former colleagues honor his singular career, we've put together an obituary taking a look back at his long electoral history—a path that dealt Reid several setbacks on his way to the pinnacle of American politics.

Reid won elected office for the first time in 1968 when he took a seat in the Nevada state Assembly at the age of 28, and he made the jump to statewide office two years later when he was elected lieutenant governor. Reid’s career stalled, though, after he lost an extremely close 1974 Senate race to former Republican Gov. Paul Laxalt, and he hit his nadir the next year after he failed to win the mayor’s office in Las Vegas.

Of course, that was far from the end for Reid, who had several more competitive Senate races ahead of him beginning with his 1986 triumph in the open seat contest to succeed Laxalt. Reid went on to pull off an extremely tight 1998 win against his future GOP colleague, then-Rep. John Ensign, in a race that took over a month to resolve.

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The majority leader later looked like an all-but-inevitable loser ahead of his 2010 bid for a fifth term, but Reid, in the words of longtime Nevada political chronicler Jon Ralston, displayed a “Terminator-like single-mindedness, relentlessness and discipline turned preparation” that helped him upset former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle. We detail all those campaigns and more in our obituary.

Redistricting

CT Redistricting: Stanford Law School professor Nathan Persily, the special master appointed by the Connecticut Supreme Court to assist it in drawing a new congressional map, has asked the state's deadlocked redistricting commission to try to reach a compromise once more. The panel failed to settle on a final map last month, despite receiving a three-week extension from the court, prompting the justices to take over the process and tap Persily to help them. Commissioners have until Wednesday at 12 PM ET to submit a new map "or at least report progress," per the CT Mirror, while Persily himself must furnish a map to the court by Jan. 18.

NY Redistricting: As expected, New York lawmakers have rejected dueling sets of maps put forth by the state's bipartisan redistricting commission after the panel failed to agree on a single group of plans for Congress and the legislature. Because of that failure, legislators were under no obligation to consider the maps that the commission forwarded to them, one batch of which was produced by Republicans and the other by Democrats.

Commissioners have until Feb. 28 to take one more shot at reaching a deal, but such a deal looks unlikely. Even if they were to strike a compromise, though, legislative Democrats would still be able to override the commission thanks to their two-thirds supermajorities.

4Q Fundraising

  • NC-SenCheri Beasley (D): $2.1 million raised, $2.8 million cash-on-hand
  • UT-SenEvan McMullin (I): $1 million raised
  • WA-SenPatty Murray (D-inc): $1.5 million raised, $7 million cash-on-hand
  • GA-GovBrian Kemp (R-inc): $7 million raised (between July 1 and Jan. 9), $12 million cash-on-hand
  • KS-GovLaura Kelly (D-inc): $2 million raised (in 2021), $1.9 million cash-on-hand; Derek Schmidt (R): $1.6 million raised (in 2021), $1.3 million cash-on-hand
  • MN-GovTim Walz (D-inc): $3.6 million raised (in 2021), $3.6 million cash-on-hand; Paul Gazelka (R): $545,000 raised (since August)
  • NV-GovJoe Lombardo (R): $3.1 million raised (since late June)
  • SC-GovHenry McMaster (R-inc): $909,000 raised, $3 million cash-on-hand; Joe Cunningham (D): $343,000 raised, $422,000 cash-on-hand
  • IA-02Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $809,000 raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • KY-06Andy Barr (R-inc): $538,000, $1.9 million cash-on-hand
  • NE-01Patty Pansing Brooks (D): $210,000 raised (in six weeks)
  • NY-24Francis Conole (D): $202,000 raised, $280,000 cash-on-hand

Senate

AZ-Sen: Ugh. Rich guy Jim Lamon is dropping a reported $1 million on a TV buy to air the first—but undoubtedly not the last—ad we've seen featuring a candidate bleat, "Let's go, Brandon!" If for some reason you have no idea what this is all about, consider yourself blessed. Meanwhile, the super PAC run by zillionaire Peter Thiel that's supporting another rich guy, Blake Masters, is spending another $1.1 million, per Politico, to run a new spot tying Masters to Donald Trump.

NH-Sen: Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith resigned his post this week, saying that "it is my intent to formally announce my candidacy for the United States Senate in the not too distant future." Smith sought the GOP nod for governor in 2012 but lost badly in the primary.

PA-Sen: George Bochetto, a longtime Republican attorney in Philadelphia who also served as state boxing commissioner from 1995 to 2002, has joined the packed May primary and says he'll self-fund $1 million.

Bochetto recently attracted attention when he aided Donald Trump's defense team in his second impeachment trial. In August, he persuaded a judge to stop Philadelphia's city government from removing a prominent Christopher Columbus statue. Bochetto is also the leader in a lawsuit alleging that Mayor Jim Kenney's executive order replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day discriminates against Italian Americans.

Bochetto in the past has talked about running for mayor of his heavily Democratic city plenty of times and even waged a brief campaign in 1999, but he ended up dropping out before the primary; the eventual nominee, Sam Katz, ended up losing the general election 51-49 to Democrat John Street, which is likely to remain Team Red's high-water mark for decades to come.

Governors

MA-Gov: Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who'd been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor, instead announced a bid for lieutenant governor on Tuesday. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run in separate primaries but run together on a single ticket in the general election.

MI-Gov: The Glengariff Group's first survey of this year's contest, conducted on behalf of WDIV and the Detroit News, finds Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer well ahead of four potential Republican foes:

49-39 vs. former Detroit Police Chief James Craig

50-33 vs. chiropractor Garrett Soldano

50-33 vs. businessman Kevin Rinke

50-31 vs. conservative radio host Tudor Dixon

Polling from reliable firms has been rare here so far. A Strategic National survey for Craig from all the way back in September found him trailing Whitmer 47-46 (Craig and Strategic National have since parted ways). An independent poll from EPIC-MRA for the Detroit Free Press released the previous month had Whitmer ahead of Craig by the same 44-45 spread, while no other matchups were tested.

NY-Gov: Rep. Jerry Nadler, who as House Judiciary Committee chair is one of the most senior House Democrats from New York, has endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul's bid for a full term. Two upstate representatives, Brian Higgins and Joe Morelle, previously backed Hochul.

RI-Gov: Cranston Mayor Kenneth Hopkins said Tuesday that he's "forming an exploratory committee [to] possibly run for governor." Hopkins, who was first elected to his post in 2020, would be the most prominent Republican to enter the race to date should he decide to get in.

WI-Gov: Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who is resigning as interim president of the University of Wisconsin System in March, declined to rule out running for a fifth term as governor at the age of 80 in a new interview on Tuesday. "I'm not saying it's in the cards. But I'm physically and mentally capable of doing anything," insisted Thompson, who served as governor from 1987 to 2001 before stepping down to serve as George W. Bush's HHS secretary.

At a GOP debate in 2007 during his short-lived presidential campaign, Thompson had to apologize repeatedly after saying he thought employers should be allowed to fire gay workers, alternately blaming his response on needing to go to the bathroom and on a malfunctioning hearing aid. In 2012, Thompson ran for Senate but lost to Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin 51-46 after narrowly winning a bruising GOP primary with just 34% of the vote.

House

CO-07: State Sen. Britney Pettersen became the first Democrat to kick off a bid for Colorado's open 7th Congressional District on Tuesday, a day after Rep. Ed Perlmutter announced his retirement. Pettersen sought this seat once before in 2017 when Perlmutter ran for governor, but after the congressman abandoned his bid and later decided to seek re-election, she dropped out of the primary (as did every other notable Democrat).

Pettersen is unlikely to be the last contender to emerge, though. The Denver Post mentions two other Democrats as possible candidates, state Rep. Chris Kennedy and Jefferson County Commissioner Andy Kerr, who also ran in 2017. Kerr did not respond to a request for comment from Colorado Politics.

MN-03: Businessman Mark Blaxill, a former treasurer for the state GOP, announced a bid for Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District against Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips on Tuesday morning. He joins Navy veteran Tom Weiler in the Republican primary. Redistricting has yet to take place but will likely be handled by the courts due to a deadlock between the Republican-run state Senate and the Democratic-held state House.

NJ-11: Lobbyist Rosemary Becchi, who was the GOP's nominee against Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill in 2020, has closed her campaign committee with the FEC, a likely signal that she does not intend to seek a rematch. While Becchi could of course form a new committee, the New Jersey Globe notes she still owes $6,000 to a fundraising consultant, who previously filed a claim over the unpaid debt. Democrats also made the 11th District considerably bluer in redistricting.

Morning Digest: The next stop on our tour of 2020’s presidential results by district: South Carolina

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

Leading Off

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide makes its second stop in South Carolina, where Team Red enjoyed a stronger-than-expected year. You can find our complete data set here, which we're updating continuously as the precinct-level election returns we need for our calculations become available. You can also click here to learn more about why this data is so difficult to come by.

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While most Palmetto State polls showed Donald Trump running well behind his 55-41 2016 margin of victory, Trump ended up taking South Carolina by only a slightly smaller 55-43 last week. Trump once again carried six of the state's seven congressional districts, with Joe Biden winning House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn's heavily Democratic 6th District.

The closest constituency, not surprisingly, was the 1st District along the coast, where Trump moved downward from 53-40 to only 52-46. This shift to the left, though, wasn't quite enough for freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham, who lost re-election 51-49 against Republican Nancy Mace.

Trump carried his other five seats by double digits. The closest was the 2nd District in the Augusta and Columbia suburbs, which supported him 56-39 in 2016 but by a smaller 55-44 in 2020. Democrats hoped before Election Day that veteran Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican who infamously screamed "You lie!" at Barack Obama during a congressional address in 2009, could be vulnerable there against well-funded Democrat Adair Ford Boroughs, but Wilson won by a comparable 56-43. The 6th District, meanwhile, moved from 67-30 Clinton to 67-32 Biden.

Georgia Runoffs

GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: Though the Georgia runoffs are little more than a week old, Advertising Analytics reports that $45 million has already been spent on the airwaves in both races, with $31 million coming from the campaigns themselves.

Republicans so far make up most of that spending: David Perdue has shelled out $19 million and Kelly Loeffler $6 million, while Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have spent $4 million and $2 million, respectively. Meanwhile, two super PACs aligned with Mitch McConnell, the Senate Leadership Fund and American Crossroads, are each reportedly putting in $4.5 million.

Loeffler, unsurprisingly, is using her airtime to launch attacks against Warnock, who largely avoided getting targeted with negative ads during the first round of voting since Loeffler was pre-occupied with staving off fellow Republican Doug Collins. Now she's amping the usual GOP playbook to 11.

The first of her two new spots starts with a shot of young school kids (all but one of whom are white) with hands on hearts, presumably reciting the pledge of allegiance. A scary-sounding narrator declares, "This is America—but will it still be if the radical left controls the Senate?"

It gets predictably worse from there. Among other things, the ad claims Warnock "hosted a rally for communist dictator Fidel Castro" while showing some grainy footage from 1995. Warnock doesn't appear in the clip, though: His campaign says he was only a junior member of the staff at the church where Castro spoke and wasn't involved in the decision to invite the late Cuban leader.

The second ad resurfaces Jeremiah Wright, the former Chicago pastor whose incendiary sermons attracted great scrutiny during Barack Obama's first presidential campaign in 2008. It features footage of Wright angrily orating from the pulpit, interspersed with clips of Warnock defending Wright. The spot concludes with the narrator spitting, "Raphael Warnock: a radical's radical."

Warnock was one of several Black clergyman who spoke out on Wright's behalf at the time, saying his most inflammatory remarks had been divorced from the full context of the sermons from which they were drawn. Earlier this year, he stood by his past statements, saying, "Any fair-thinking person would recognize that everything a government does, even the American government, is not consistent with God's dream for the world."

Uncalled Races

Quite a few contests remain uncalled, but we’re tracking all of them on our continually updated cheat-sheet, and of course we’ll cover each of them in the Digest once they’re resolved.

IA-02: Democrat Rita Hart announced Thursday that she'd seek a recount in this open seat contest; Hart trailed Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks by 47 votes as of Thursday afternoon. Miller-Meeks, for her part, has declared victory while refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden's win.

NJ-07: While the Associated Press called this contest for freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski just after Election Day, the race has dramatically tightened over the following week and plenty more ballots remain to be counted.

Malinowski went from holding a 28,400 vote lead over Republican Tom Kean Jr. on Nov. 4 to an edge of 6,275 as of Thursday afternoon. The New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein projects that there are close to 38,800 ballots left to count at the very minimum, and "that number could be as high as around 60,000." The AP, though, has not retracted its call.

Called Races

IL-14: On Thursday, the Associated Press called the race for this seat in Chicago's western exurbs for freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood. The congresswoman's victory also means that Republican Jim Oberweis has yet another high-profile defeat in his ledger.  

NY-11: Republican Nicole Malliotakis reclaimed this Staten Island-based seat for her party, and freshman Democratic Rep. Max Rose conceded on Thursday.

CA Ballot: The Associated Press has called a victory for Proposition 19, known as the Property Tax Transfers, Exemptions, and Revenue for Wildfire Agencies and Counties Amendment. CBS San Francisco describes Prop. 19, which passed 51-49, as a measure that "gives exemptions to older homeowners, the disabled and wildfire victims and strips breaks from people who inherit homes but don't live in them."

Maricopa County, AZ Recorder: Republican Stephen Richer reclaimed this post for his party by unseating Democratic incumbent Adrian Fontes 50.1-49.9, and Fontes conceded on Thursday. The recorder is tasked with administering elections in Maricopa County, which is home to more than 60% of the state's population and whose 4.5 million residents make it the fourth-largest county nationally. However, Republican county Board of Supervisors members took control of key powers from Fontes' office following his 2016 victory.

NC Auditor: The AP has called this race for Democratic incumbent Beth Wood, who turned back Republican Anthony Street 51-49.

Gubernatorial

AR-Gov: Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson is termed-out in 2022, and the GOP primary to succeed him has been underway for well over a year now. Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who previously represented central Arkansas in the U.S. House from 2011 to 2015, announced that he was running all the way back in August of 2019. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, whose 2014 victory made her the first woman and the first Republican to ever hold this post, also entered the contest in July of this year.

There may also be more takers for Team Red before too long. The potential candidate who has generated the most chatter for years is former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee: When Sanders was asked about her interest in this post in a September appearance on "Good Morning America," she only replied, "We'll see."

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren was more direct this month, and he acknowledged he was considering a gubernatorial bid on election night. Political columnist Steve Brawner recently wrote that Hendren could be a hard sell for GOP primary voters, though, saying he "made the career-killing mistake of trying to craft workable bipartisan solutions to challenging problems."

AZ-Gov: Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is ineligible to run for a third term in 2022, and this swing state is very likely to be a major battleground. One Democrat who has gotten plenty of attention as a possible candidate is Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and she expressed interest in running at the end of 2019. Hobbs also predicted at the time she'd decide "probably in early '21."

On the Republican side, the Arizona Republic's Laurie Roberts wrote last month that state Treasurer Kimberly Yee seemed to be positioning herself for a bid. Yee, Roberts noted, appeared in commercials this year opposing Proposition 208, a ballot measure to create a new tax on high earners to fund schools.

Prop. 208 ultimately passed 52-48, but Yee's campaign against it may have boosted her name recognition. Indeed, Roberts notes that then-state Treasurer Doug Ducey himself increased his profile in 2012 by chairing the successful campaign against a referendum to fund education, a campaign that took place two years before Ducey was elected governor. Republican politicos also speculated last month that Ducey was behind Yee's anti-Prop. 208 campaign, with one consultant saying, "It's Ducey's attempt to anoint somebody in the next cycle because we know he's not happy with other elected officials in this state."

Roberts added that the Republican that Ducey seems to want to block is state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, whom she says is "expected to make a run" for governor in 2022. Brnovich, who will be termed-out of his current post that year, has repeatedly clashed with Ducey; in September, Brnovich notably challenged Ducey's order closing bars in order to stop the spread of the pandemic.  

MN-Gov: Republicans have struggled statewide in recent years in Minnesota, which Joe Biden took 52-45 last week, but they're hoping that Democratic Gov. Tim Walz will be vulnerable in two years. Retiring state Sen. Scott Jensen recently told the Star Tribune's Patrick Condon that he was thinking about running, and Condon adds that state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka is "seen as a likely candidate."

A few other Republicans aren't closing the door. Rep. Pete Stauber responded to speculation by saying he was flattered but focused on his current job, which is not a no. State Sen. Carla Nelson, who lost the 2018 GOP primary for Congress to now-Rep. Jim Hagedorn, also said when asked if she was interested in running for a statewide post, "I never closed any doors." Last week, Minnesota Morning Take also relayed, "Other names from solid sources on the 2022 Republican short list for Governor" include state Rep. Barb Haley and NBC sportscaster Michele Tafoya as possibilities, though there's no word if either are actually thinking about it.

Finally, it seems we're in for another cycle of trying to decipher My Pillow founder Mike Lindell's political intentions. A reporter tweeted last month that Lindell had told the crowd at a Trump event that he'd run, but KTTC quoted him at the time as saying, "Absolutely, if the president wins I'm gonna run." (Emphasis ours.)

Later on Nov. 4, Lindell told the Minnesota Reformer he had planned to run if Trump carried Minnesota, something that the far-right pillow salesman acknowledged at the time didn't end up happening. Lindell added, "But now I've gotta debate and I've gotta pray about it and see what happens with the presidential election. (They) might need me now more than ever." Days later, Lindell baselessly accused Joe Biden of only winning Minnesota through fraud.

NE-Gov: There will be a wide-open race to succeed GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts in 2022, and there are plenty of Republicans who could campaign in this very red state. The only one we've heard publicly express interest so far is state Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who acknowledged he was considering in November of last year.

On the Democratic side, 2018 nominee Bob Krist announced in April of 2019 that he was running again, a move that came months after he lost to Ricketts 59-41. Krist went on to endorse Republican Rep. Don Bacon in his successful re-election campaign this year.

PA-Gov: While there are plenty of Democrats who could run to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Sen. Bob Casey said this week that he'd stay out of the 2022 contest.

SC-Gov: Republican Gov. Henry McMaster's campaign chief said in May of 2019 that the incumbent would seek a second full term in 2022. McMaster was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor in 2017 when Nikki Haley resigned to become Donald Trump's first ambassador to the United Nations, and he was elected in his own right the following year.