Morning Digest: Trump’s ‘bro’ now frontrunner following Ohio Republican’s unexpected retirement

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

OH-07: Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs said Wednesday that he was ending his re-election bid for Ohio's 7th Congressional District, a surprising announcement that came well after candidate filing closed and days following the start of early voting for the state's May 3 primary. The six-term congressman's abrupt retirement leaves former Trump aide Max Miller as the frontrunner to claim a seat in the Canton area and Akron suburbs that Trump would have carried 54-45. Gibbs' name will remain on the ballot, but the secretary of state's office says that any votes cast for him will not be counted.

Gibbs used his statement to express his anger at the state Supreme Court, which is not scheduled to rule on the fate of the new GOP-drawn congressional map until well after the primary. "It is irresponsible to effectively confirm the congressional map for this election cycle seven days before voting begins," said the incumbent, "especially in the Seventh Congressional District, where almost 90 percent of the electorate is new and nearly two-thirds is an area primarily from another district, foreign to any expectations or connection to the current Seventh District." To put it another way, a mere 9% of the residents of the new 7th are already Gibbs' constituents, so he would have been campaigning in largely unfamiliar turf.

Miller, by contrast, began the cycle by running against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in a primary for the old 16th District, which makes up 65% of the new 7th. Miller, who was one of Trump's favorite aides (an unnamed source told Politico that the two "had … kind of a unique 'bro' relationship") received his old boss' backing last year against Gonzalez, who voted for impeachment and later decided to retire.

Miller ended up taking on Gibbs, who was far more loyal to the MAGA movement, after redistricting led them to seek the same seat, and Trump's spokesperson said last month that the endorsement carried over to Miller's new campaign. Miller last year also filed a defamation lawsuit against his ex-girlfriend, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, after she accused him of physically attacking her in 2020.

Gibbs himself got his start in elected office in 2002 when he won a seat in the Ohio state House, and he won a promotion six years later to the state Senate. Gibbs in 2009 set his sights on challenging Democratic Rep. Zack Space in the now-defunct 18th Congressional District, a historically red area in the eastern part of the state that had favored John McCain 52-45, but he had to get past seven fellow Republicans in the following year's primary first.

Gibbs (who happened to share a name with the Obama White House's first press secretary), had the support of the party establishment, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, and he benefited after tea party activists failed to back a single alternative. The state senator ultimately beat 2008 nominee Fred Dailey, who had lost to Space 60-40, in a 20.9-20.7 squeaker, though it took another month to confirm Gibbs' 156-vote victory.

The general election turned out to be a far easier contest for Gibbs in what was rapidly turning into a GOP wave year. Space went on the offensive early by portraying his opponent as a tax hiker and a supporter of free trade agreements, but Gibbs ended up unseating him in a 54-40 landslide. Redistricting two years later left the freshman congressman with a new district, now numbered the 7th, that was largely unfamiliar to him, but unlike in 2022, he faced no serious intra-party opposition in this red constituency. Democrats in 2018 hoped that well-funded Navy veteran Ken Harbaugh could give Gibbs a serious fight, but the incumbent decisively turned him back 59-41.

The Downballot

On this week's episode of The Downballot, we're joined by Ali Lapp, the founder of the House Majority PAC—the largest super PAC devoted to helping Democrats win House races nationwide. Lapp discusses HMP's role in the broader Democratic ecosystem, how the organization decides which districts to target, and promising research showing the positive impacts of a new ad touting Democrats' record on the economy.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap elections this week in California and Wisconsin; explain why Republicans are finally turning on Madison Cawthorn (it's not really about cocaine and orgies); pick apart a huge blunder that led to the first attack ad in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary for Senate getting yanked off the air the very day it debuted; and provide updates on international elections in Hungary and France. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you'll find a transcript right here by noon Eastern Time.

1Q Fundraising

Senate

AL-Sen: The first half of Army veteran Mike Durant's ad details his near-death experience during the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" incident in Somalia, with the narrator declaring, "Mike Durant was saved by his brothers. His life spared by the grace of God." The spot then abruptly changes tone as the voice says the GOP primary candidate "believes the unborn deserve the same."

GA-Sen: Banking executive Latham Saddler is using his opening spot to contrast his service in the military with GOP primary frontrunner Herschel Walker's time as a football star. Saddler begins by acknowledging, "Herschel Walker was my childhood sports hero," before continuing, "I also wore a uniform: I ran on the battlefield as a Navy SEAL." He concludes that he's in the race "so that you can choose between a war fighter and a celebrity."

NC-Sen: The Republican firm Cygnal, which did not identify a client, has a new general election survey that finds GOP Rep. Ted Budd leading Democrat Cheri Beasley 45-43 as former Gov. Pat McCrory ties her 41-41.

NH-Sen: The NH Journal's Michael Graham writes that many GOP insiders believe that two-time New York Senate nominee Wendy Long will join the Republican primary to challenge Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan, though there's no word from her. Long earned just over one-quarter of the vote back in the Empire State against Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer in 2012 and 2016, respectively, and she's since moved to New Hampshire. Those showings didn't impress many people except perhaps off-and-on Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski, who has claimed with "100%" certainty that an unnamed woman will join the primary to take on Hassan.

Graham adds that Vikram Mansharamani, who is an author and lecturer at Harvard, "has been making media appearances and is reportedly speaking with potential campaign strategists and advisors," though he also hasn't said anything about his 2022 plans. The filing deadline isn't until June 10.

OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance's allies at Protect Ohio Values PAC have released a new poll from Fabrizio Lee & Associates that shows an 18-18-18 deadlock between Vance, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, and businessman Mike Gibbons in the May 3 GOP primary, with former state party chair Jane Timken at 9%. The firm warned back in January that Vance's numbers were in a "precipitous decline," but they're now crediting the PAC's ad campaign with propelling him forward.

Timken, for her part, has dropped a Moore Information survey that finds Gibbons leading Mandel 20-16, with her just behind at 15%; state Sen. Matt Dolan takes 13%, while Vance brings up the rear with 10%.  

PA-Sen: TV personality Mehmet Oz has publicized a survey from Basswood Research that shows him edging out former hedge fund manager David McCormick 25-22 in the May 17 GOP primary, with former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands at 13%. Oz released the poll on Trump's disastrous Truth Social platform, which may make him its most prolific user by default.

Governors

MI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson's new spot for the August GOP primary blames Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, Joe Biden, and the state's former governor, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, for high gas prices. The narrator goes after Whitmer for wanting to close Enbridge Line 5, which The Washington Post explains is "a 69-year old petroleum pipeline that runs under the Great Lakes" that is in danger of spillage.

PA-Gov: The very first negative TV ad of next month's packed GOP primary comes from former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, who manages to fit in attacks on wealthy businessman Dave White, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, and former Rep. Lou Barletta into just 30 seconds. The spot does not mention state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman or any of McSwain's other four opponents.

The narrator begins by declaring that White, who is a former member of the Delaware County Council, "is a career politician who voted to raise property taxes." She then goes after Mastriano for supporting what she calls "the unconstitutional mail-in voting law," which passed in 2019 before Trump and his allies started to wage war on vote-by-mail: The Philadelphia Inquirer explains that a state judge ruled the legislation unconstitutional earlier this year, but that the state Supreme Court has stayed the decision.

Finally, the narrator argues Barletta "supported higher gas taxes and approved Obama's budgets." The rest of the commercial touts McSwain as a "Trump-appointed prosecutor" who has "never run for office and will permanently cut the gas tax."

House

CA-22 (special): Former Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway took first place in Tuesday's special all-party primary to succeed her fellow Republican, former Rep. Devin Nunes, but she may need to wait a while to learn the identity of her opponent in the June 7 general election. (Whether Nunes will still have his gig running Trump's disastrous social media platform by June is a separate question.) With 64,000 votes counted Conway leads with 35%, while Democrat Lourin Hubbard, who is an official at the California Department of Water Resources, is in second with 20%; just behind with 15% each are GOP businessman Matt Stoll and another Democrat, Marine veteran Eric Garcia.

It is not clear how many votes are left to tabulate, but the Los Angeles Times says that any mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday have until April 12 to arrive. Neither Conway nor Hubbard are running for a full term in Congress anywhere, while Stoll and Garcia are challenging Democratic Rep. Jim Costa in the new 21st District.

CO-07: State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who already had the backing of retiring Rep. Ed Perlmutter and the rest of the state's Democratic delegation, will have the June Democratic primary to herself following her decisive win against minor opposition at Tuesday's party convention.

Colorado, as we've written before, allows candidates to advance to the primary either by turning in the requisite number of signatures or by taking at least 30% of the vote at their party convention, and no other Democratic contenders successfully pursued either route. Republicans, who are the underdogs in a seat that Biden would have carried 56-42, have not yet held their party gathering yet.

CO-08: State Rep. Yadira Caraveo became the sole Democratic contender for this new swing seat on Tuesday, while at least four Republicans will be competing in the June party primary. Caraveo took 71% of the delegate votes at her party's convention (also known as the party assembly), while Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco fell just short of the 30% he needed to appear on the primary ballot. Tedesco, like Caraveo, had originally planned to both collect signatures and take part in the assembly, but because he failed to turn in enough petitions ahead of last month's deadline, his showing Tuesday marked the end of his campaign.  

On the other side, Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine was the only major candidate to compete at Team Red's assembly on Saturday, and her easy victory earned her the top spot on the June ballot. Republican conventions often favor extreme contenders, and Saine offered just that with a video where she declared she "ran to expose, stop, and destroy the anti-family, anti-America, anti-God agenda" the Democrats presented; she also used her message to decry "weak, whiney moderates" in the GOP.

Unlike Caraveo, though, Saine's convention win doesn't ensure her the nomination. That's because state Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer, Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, and retired Army Green Beret Tyler Allcorn previously turned in the requisite 1,500 signatures they needed to make the ballot, so they did not need to take part in the assembly. A fifth Republican, business owner Jewels Gray, is still waiting to hear from election officials if she submitted enough petitions to make the ballot after she failed to win 30% of the vote at the convention. Biden would have carried this new seat, which includes Denver's northern suburbs, 51-46.

FL-22: Commercial airline pilot Curtis Calabrese announced this week that he would join the August Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Deutch. Calabrese, who is a first-time candidate, will take on Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz, who had the field to himself up until now. Calabrese, who would be the state's first openly gay member of Congress, served as a Navy combat aviator before working for the FAA, including as a labor official. Florida Politics writes it was in that capacity that he made several media appearances, including on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," to explain how the 2018-2019 government shutdown was impacting him and his colleagues.

GA-07: Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath has earned the support of the American Federation of Government Employees for next month's primary against fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux.

IL-15: Politico reports that the anti-tax Club for Growth is spending $400,000 on an ad campaign touting Mary Miller ahead of her June Republican primary showdown against fellow Rep. Rodney Davis. The commercial reminds viewers that Miller is Trump's choice and pledges she'll "never compromise on election integrity."

NJ-02: Monday was the filing deadline for New Jersey's June 7 primary, and the state has a list of contenders for the U.S. House available here.

Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew won a competitive re-election campaign in 2020 the year after he defected from the Democratic Party, and the state's new congressional map extended Trump's margin of victory in this South Jersey shore seat from 51-48 to 52-47. Civil rights attorney Tim Alexander has the backing of the local Democratic establishment and faces no serious intra-party opposition, but he struggled to raise money during 2021.

NJ-03: Redistricting transformed Democratic Rep. Andy Kim's South Jersey seat from a constituency Trump narrowly carried to one that Biden would have won 56-42, though it's possible this district could still be in play in a tough year for Team Blue. The most serious Republican contender appears to be wealthy yacht manufacturer Robert Healey, who is also a former punk rock singer.

NJ-05: Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who is one of the most prominent moderate Democrats in the House, got some welcome news when filing closed and he learned he had no primary opposition in this North Jersey constituency. Five Republicans, though, are competing here even though the new map extended Biden's margin from 52-47 to 56-43.

The most prominent challenger appears to be Marine veteran Nick De Gregorio, who has the influential GOP party endorsement in populous Bergen County. (We explain the importance of county party endorsements in New Jersey here.) Also in the mix are 2020 nominee Frank Pallotta, who lost to Gottheimer 53-46, and businessman Fred Schneiderman, who recently began airing his opening TV ad.

NJ-06: Longtime Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone faces his first notable Republican opposition in some time in the form of Monmouth County Commissioner Sue Kiley, but she's still very much the underdog in a seat that would have backed Biden 59-40. (Redistricting even made this seat, which includes northern Middlesex County and the northern Jersey Shore, slightly bluer.) A few other Republicans are also in including former RNC staffer Tom Toomey and Rik Mehta, who was Team Red's doomed 2020 Senate nominee.

NJ-07: Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski is defending a North Jersey seat where redistricting shrunk Biden's margin of victory from 54-44 to 51-47, and he's likely to face a familiar opponent in the fall. Former state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. is running again after losing to Malinowski just 51-49 in 2020, and he has the influential party endorsement in all six of the district's counties. Kean's most notable intra-party foe is Assemblyman Erik Peterson, but there are five other candidates, including Fredon Mayor John Flora and 2021 gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo, who could split whatever anti-Kean vote there is.

NJ-08: Democratic leaders responded to Rep. Albio Sires' retirement announcement in December by immediately consolidating behind Port Authority Commissioner Robert Menendez Jr., who is the son and namesake of New Jersey's senior U.S. senator. Four other Democrats are running in this safely blue seat in the Jersey City area, but there's no indication that any of them are capable of giving Menendez a serious fight.

NJ-11: The state's new congressional map augmented Biden's margin in this North Jersey seat from 53-46 all the way up to 58-41, but five Republicans are still hoping that Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill is vulnerable. The frontrunner looks like Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen, who sports important GOP county party endorsements; also in the race are Army veteran Toby Anderson and former prosecutor Paul DeGroot.

OR-06: Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that she was endorsing state Rep. Andrea Salinas in the crowded May 17 Democratic primary for this new seat.

TX-34 (special): Former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez announced Wednesday that he was entering the June special all-party primary with endorsements from former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela and 15th District Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who is Team Blue's nominee for a full term in the new version of the 34th.

Attorneys General

MD-AG: Former Judge Katie Curran O'Malley has picked up the support of former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who served from 1987 until 2017, for the July Democratic primary for this open seat. Rep. Anthony Brown, meanwhile, has received endorsements from 32BJ SEIU, which represents property service workers, and 1199SEIU, which is for health care employees: Maryland Matters writes that these groups represent a total of 30,000 Marylanders.

Legislatures

Special Elections: We have a recap of Tuesday's all-party primary in Georgia followed by a preview of a rare Thursday contest in New York:

GA HD-45: A runoff will take place May 3 between Republican Mitch Kaye and Democrat Dustin McCormick for the final months of former GOP state Rep. Matt Dollar's term. Kaye led McCormick 42-40, while the balance went to two other Republicans. Kaye is not running for a full term, while McCormick faces no intra-party opposition in the regular May primary to take on Republican state Rep. Sharon Cooper in the new version of HD-45.

NY AD-20: We have a special election in Nassau County to succeed Republican Melissa Miller, who resigned in February after she was appointed to the Hempstead Town Board, in a seat Trump carried 52-47 in 2020. The GOP is fielding Cedarhurst Deputy Mayor Eric Ari Brown while the Democratic nominee is David Lobl, a former advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Mayors

Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson decisively won Tuesday's special election to succeed his fellow Democrat, Tom Barrett, by beating conservative Bob Donovan 72-28. Johnson, who made history as the first Black person elected to lead Milwaukee, will be up for a full four-year term in 2024. He could also be in office for quite a long time to come, as Johnson is now only the fifth person elected to this post since 1945.

Morning Digest: MAGA House hopeful bails after Trump memory-holes endorsement and backs someone else

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.

Check out our podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

MI-04: State Rep. Steve Carra on Tuesday ended his August Republican primary campaign against Reps. Bill Huizenga and Fred Upton days after he learned the hard way that Donald Trump's "Complete and Total Endorsement" isn’t actually complete and total when redistricting is involved. Carra on his way out joined Trump in supporting Huizenga's intra-party bid against Upton, who voted to impeach Trump and still hasn't confirmed if he'll even be running for a 14th term.

Carra last year had picked up Trump's backing when he was taking on Upton in the old 6th District, but that was before the new map ensured that Huizenga and Upton would be running for the same new 4th District if they each wanted to remain in the House. Carra himself eventually decided to run for the 4th even though it didn't include a shred of his legislative seat, and for more than a month he was able to take advantage of the GOP leader’s silence about where things stood post-redistricting and continue to run as the only Trump-backed candidate.

Huizenga himself acknowledged weeks ago that he wasn’t sure if Trump’s earlier endorsement of Carra in the 6th still applied, saying, “I'm aware that there are people within the organization that are looking at it and are trying to figure that one out.” Those calls seemed to have worked because on Friday, Trump announced that Huizenga was his man in southwestern Michigan. Carra, who is now seeking re-election, said Tuesday that he’d spoken to Trump’s people and learned that "[t]he key decision maker that led to this was the fact that I don't live in the district."

Upton, for his part, began a $213,000 ad campaign last month that seemed to confirm he'd be running again, but his camp insisted at the time that he still hadn't made a decision. We don't know if Upton was just being cute or really is still making up his mind, though prolonged public deliberations from him are nothing new. Last cycle the longtime congressman kept everyone guessing about his plans even after he handed out "Upton 2020!" buttons at a September 2019 party gathering; it was only the following February that he finally said he'd be running again.

We'll finally have our answer for 2022 before too long, though. Michigan's filing deadline is April 19, and since House candidates need to turn in at least 1,000 valid signatures to make the primary ballot, Upton would need to get moving before then if he's to go up against Huizenga. How long it would take for "Upton 2022!" buttons to roll off the printer, though, we can't say.

Redistricting

KS Redistricting: Kansas' Republican-run state House has introduced a new map for its own districts, following the same action in the upper chamber the other day. Just two states have failed to unveil any sort of legislative maps at all: Mississippi and Montana.

Senate

OH-Sen: Former state GOP chair Jane Timken's latest commercial for the May primary has her proclaiming that "border security is national security" and dubbing herself "the real Trump conservative." The spot ends with old footage of Trump, who is still making Timken and her many opponents grovel for his endorsement, calling her "unbelievable."      

OK-Sen-B: Former Rep. Kendra Horn, who represented Oklahoma's 5th District for one term, announced on Tuesday that she'll run in the November special election to replace departing GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe. Horn's entry gives Democrats an unusually credible candidate for a Senate race in Oklahoma, but it's still … Oklahoma. Democrats haven't prevailed in a race for statewide office since 2006, and they haven't won a Senate contest since David Boren's last re-election campaign in 1990 (which saw him romp in a remarkable 83-17 landslide).

Horn won the most astonishing upset of the 2018 midterms when she unseated Republican Rep. Steve Russell in a 51-49 squeaker for an Oklahoma City-based district that Donald Trump had carried by a wide 53-40 spread two years earlier. Russell had run a disastrous campaign—after his loss, he compared the people who'd voted him out to "a dog lapping up antifreeze"—but long-term suburban trends and outgoing Gov. Mary Fallin’s horrible numbers in the area were also working against him.

Unfortunately for Horn, though, those trends weren't enough to keep her in Congress: Even though Trump's margin shrank to 51-46, she lost her bid for a second term to Republican Stephanie Bice 52-48. And to win statewide, especially in a difficult midterm environment, would require an even more herculean feat than the one Horn managed four years ago, seeing as Trump carried Oklahoma 65-32 in 2020, making it his fourth-best state in the nation.

That makes Inhofe's seat a particularly attractive prize to Republicans, though one potential contender is reportedly staying out. Politico says that Rep. Kevin Hern, who had been considering a bid, won't run, though Hern himself has not yet confirmed the news.

Governors

GA-Gov: While Stacey Abrams faces no competition in the May Democratic primary, the once and future nominee is launching its opening $1 million TV and digital ad buy. The first spot features Abrams saying, "When I didn't win the governor's race, not getting the job didn't exempt me from the work. And so I didn't quit." She continues by talking about how her organization last year "paid off the medical debt of 68,000 Georgians," and how she aided small businesses. "I was raised that when you don't get what you want, you don't give up," Abrams says, "You try again. You try because it's how things get better, it's how the world moves forward."

IL-Gov: Candidate filing closed Monday for Illinois' June 28 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Not everyone who filed may make the ballot, though, because it's very common for candidates in the Prairie State to challenge their opponents' petitions to try to get them disqualified. Indeed, Barack Obama himself won his state Senate seat in 1996 by getting all his Democratic primary foes—including incumbent Alice Palmer—thrown off the ballot for a lack of sufficient signatures.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is seeking a second term in this very blue state, but Republicans are hoping they'll still have an opening in the fall. A total of eight GOP contenders are running, and the best-funded will almost certainly be Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. Irvin, who would be the state's first Black governor, has the support of billionaire Ken Griffin, and the state's wealthiest man has already given him $20 million. (Illinois has notoriously lax campaign finance regulations.) The mayor, though, has participated in several Democratic primaries in the past and has sometimes voiced moderate views, which could be a big liability in the primary.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, meanwhile, has received $1 million from a different conservative megadonor, Richard Uihlein, and he also has the backing of far-right Rep. Mary Miller. Another well-connected contender is venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, who launched his bid over the summer with $11 million in donations mostly from four California tech titans. Businessman Gary Rabine and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, who badly lost the 2014 general election for attorney general, are also in, but they haven't attracted much outside support yet.

NH-Gov: State Sen. Tom Sherman announced a bid against Republican Gov. Chris Sununu this week, making him the first notable Democrat to join the race. After serving two terms in the state House, Sherman, a physician, challenged Republican state Sen. Dan Innis in 2016 but lost 52-46. Two years later, he tried again, this time prevailing 53-47; he went on to win re-election in 2020. Sununu is seeking to become just the second person to win a fourth two-year term as governor in state history, following Democrat John Lynch, who left office in 2013.

OH-Gov: Former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is spending $280,000 on his opening spot for the May Democratic primary. The candidate is shown inspecting an abandoned factory as he declares that "Ohio deserves a comeback. I know it won't be easy, but I've faced long odds before." Cranley continues, "When we started the Ohio Innocence Project, they said it was impossible. It has freed 34 innocent people. When I became mayor of Cincinnati, they said the city would never grow again. We defied the odds."

House

FL-07: Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani, who previously hadn't ruled out a bid for Florida's open 7th Congressional District, announced on Tuesday that she'd seek re-election to the legislature.

FL-15: Former Rep. Dennis Ross announced Tuesday that he'd try to return to the House after a four-year absence by seeking the Republican nomination for the newly drawn 15th District in the Tampa area. GOP state Rep. Jackie Toledo is also campaigning for what would be an open seat even though Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has pledged to veto the congressional map that she and her colleagues passed.

Ross was elected in the 2010 tea party wave to succeed Adam Putnam, a fellow Republican who left to successfully run for state agriculture commissioner (he later lost the 2018 primary to none other than DeSantis) in what was then numbered the 12th District. Ross, whose reliably red constituency was redubbed the 15th two years later, rose to become senior deputy majority whip, but he rarely attracted much attention otherwise; indeed, national observers sometimes referred to him as the other Dennis Ross when they referred to him at all.

The congressman unexpectedly announced in 2018 that he would not seek a fifth term, though characteristically, his declaration was vastly overshadowed by Speaker Paul Ryan's own retirement that same day. (The Florida Man said he learned of Ryan's parallel departure as he was telling his own staff about his decision and happened to look at a TV tuned to Fox.) Ross explained his decision by saying, "Eight years takes its toll on you. When you feel like a stranger in your hometown, it's time to say, 'There's got to be an exit strategy at some point.'"

However, Ross now very much is looking for a re-entry strategy, declaring, "Seeing what's happened in the last few years has just forced me to get off the sidelines and get back in the game, and that's exactly the way I feel. And I feel compelled to do that in, I think, a very statesmanlike fashion (that) I think the voters are craving for."

GA-10: Marine veteran Mitchell Swan earned a mere 4% in the 2014 Republican primary for a previous version of this seat, but he seems to have decided that anti-trans bigotry will help him stand out this time. Swan is running a TV spot for the May primary where he declares, "I oppose transgenders in our ranks."  

IL-01: Rep. Bobby Rush is retiring after 15 terms, and a massive field of 20 fellow Democrats have filed to succeed him in a safely blue seat based in the South Side of Chicago and the city's southwestern suburbs. Rush himself is supporting Karin Norington-Reaves, who is a former CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. Another well-connected contender is construction contracting firm owner Jonathan Jackson, who is the son of two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and the brother of former 2nd District Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

The race also includes two sitting elected officials, state Sen. Jacqueline Collins and Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell. Another notable name is former Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority official Charise Williams, who lost a 2018 primary for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Also in the mix is businessman Jonathan Swain, real estate executive Nykea Pippion McGriff, and activist Jahmal Cole, who was running a long-shot campaign against Rush before the incumbent retired; it's possible one of the other 12 candidates could also attract attention in the two-and-a-half weeks ahead of the primary.  

IL-03: Legislative Democrats created a new seat based in heavily Latino areas in southwestern Chicago and the western suburbs, and four Democrats are competing for this safely blue constituency. The two frontrunners appear to be Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas, a Marine veteran backed by VoteVets, and state Rep. Delia Ramirez, who has EMILY's List in her corner. Ramirez has earned the backing of several progressive groups while Villegas, who has emphasized public safety, is campaigning more as a moderate.

Villegas ended 2021 with a wide cash-on-hand lead, while Ramirez has since picked up the support of 4th District Rep. Chuy Garcia, who currently represents 43% of the new 3rd. The only poll we've seen was a recent Lake Research Partners survey for the pro-Ramirez Working Families Party that showed her leading Villegas 19-11; a mere 1% went to Iymen Chehade, a history professor at the center of an ethics probe involving Rep. Marie Newman (who is seeking re-election in the 6th District). A fourth candidate, Juan Aguirre, has attracted little attention.

IL-06: Redistricting has led to an incumbent vs. incumbent Democratic primary between Marie Newman and Sean Casten in a seat in Chicago's western inner suburbs that would have favored Joe Biden 55-44.

Newman's existing 3rd District makes up 41% of this new seat while Casten's current 6th District forms just 23%. However, Newman also faces an ethics investigation into charges she sought to keep a potential primary opponent out of the race when she ran in 2020 by offering him a job as a top aide if she won. The only poll we've seen was a mid-February Newman internal from Victoria Research that showed a 37-37 deadlock.

Six Republicans are also campaigning here including two mayors of small communities: Keith Pekau of Orland Park and Gary Grasso of Burr Ridge, who has the support of state House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and DuPage County Board Chair Dan Cronin.

IL-07: Longtime Rep. Danny Davis faces a rematch against anti-gun-violence activist Kina Collins, whom he beat 60-14 in the 2020 Democratic primary for this reliably blue seat. Two other Democrats have also filed for this district, which includes Chicago's West Side and downtown.

IL-08: There's little indication that Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi has much to worry about in his primary, but he does face a notable intra-party opponent in the form of Junaid Ahmed, who runs a technology consulting firm. Ahmed, who is portraying himself as a progressive alternative to the incumbent, ended 2021 with $421,000 on hand, a credible sum that was still utterly dwarfed by Krishnamoorthi's $11.55 million war chest. No other Democrats filed for this seat in the Chicago western outer suburbs, which would have supported Biden 57-41.

IL-13: Republican Rep. Rodney Davis decided to run in the 15th District after Democratic mapmakers transformed the 13th into a seat that now stretches from East St. Louis northeast through Springfield to the college towns of Champaign and Urbana and would have backed Biden 54-43.

Three Democrats are campaigning here, but former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski quickly emerged as the clear frontrunner after raising a serious amount of money and consolidating support from Sen. Dick Durbin, much of the state's House delegation, and several unions. The field also includes financial planner David Palmer and progressive activist Ellis Taylor, but neither of them have picked up any major endorsements yet.

Four Republicans are campaigning here with the hope that the new 13th isn't as blue as it looks. The two main contenders seem to be former federal prosecutor Jesse Reising and activist Regan Deering, whose family ran the agribusiness giant Archer-Daniels-Midland for more than 40 years.

IL-14: Democratic mapmakers sought to protect Rep. Lauren Underwood in this seat in Chicago's western exurbs by augmenting Biden's margin of victory from 50-48 to 55-43, but six Republicans are still betting she's vulnerable. Team Red's field includes Kendall County Board Chair Scott Gryder, former Kane County Board member Susan Starrett, and conservative radio host Michael Koolidge.  

IL-15: Republican Reps. Rodney Davis and Mary Miller are facing off in a safely red seat in rural central Illinois, and both have powerful allies.

Donald Trump and the anti-tax Club for Growth are pulling for Miller, a far-right extremist who declared last year during her first days in office, "Hitler was right on one thing. He said, 'Whoever has the youth has the future.'" Davis, who has to present himself as a moderate in order to win under the previous map, has the Illinois Farm Bureau on his side, and he also ended 2021 with a huge financial edge. Miller's current 15th District makes up 31% of this constituency, while Davis' existing 13th forms 28%.

IL-17: Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos announced her retirement months before her party transformed this constituency in the state's northwest corner from a 50-48 Trump seat to one that would have favored Biden 53-45, and seven fellow Democrats are campaigning to succeed her.

Team Blue's field consists of Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann; Rockford Alderwoman Linda McNeely; Rock Island County Board member Angie Normoyle; former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen; former state Rep. Litesa Wallace; and two others. A January survey from Public Policy Polling for 314 Action, which has since endorsed Sorensen, gave him a 13-11 edge over Wallace in a race where most respondents were undecided. Things are far clearer on the Republican side where 2020 nominee Esther Joy King, who lost to Bustos 52-48, faces just one unheralded opponent.

MT-01, MT-02: Filing also closed Monday for Montana's June 7 primary, and the state has its list of candidates here. Big Sky Country has regained the second congressional district it lost after the 1990 Census, and all the action this year will almost certainly be in the new 1st District, a seat in the western part of the state that would have supported Trump 52-45.

The frontrunner among the five Republicans very much looks like Ryan Zinke, who resigned as the state's only House member in 2017 to serve as secretary of the interior. Trump endorsed Zinke's return to Congress last summer, a development that came about two and a half years after Trump reportedly pressured him to leave the cabinet in the face of 18 federal investigations.

Zinke since then has earned bad headlines over how much more time he's spent in Santa Barbara, California compared to his home state. Last month, federal investigators also released a report concluding that he violated federal ethics rules while in the cabinet by taking part in talks with developers about a project involving land owned by his foundation and then lying about his involvement in the negotiations. And while most of the probes into Zinke ended after investigators concluded he hadn't committed wrongdoing or because Interior Department staffers didn't cooperate, one matter looking into whether he lied about why he denied two tribes permission to operate a casino in Connecticut is still unresolved.

However, it remains to be seen if any of Zinke's four intra-party foes are strong enough to take advantage of his problems. The most notable of the group appears to be former state Sen. Al Olszewski, but he finished last in both the four-way primary for Senate in 2018 and the three-way nomination fight for governor two years later.

Meanwhile, three Democrats are campaigning here, all of whom also unsuccessfully sought office in 2020. Public health expert Cora Neumann left the Senate primary when then-Gov. Steve Bullock launched his bid, while attorney Monica Tranel, who rowed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, lost a close general election for a seat on the Public Service Commission. The third contender is former state Rep. Tom Winter, who ran for the at-large U.S. House seat that year but lost the primary to 2018 nominee Kathleen Williams in a 89-11 landslide; Williams went on to lose to Republican Matt Rosendale.

Rosendale, for his part, is running in the new 2nd, a 62-35 Trump seat in the eastern portion of the state, and there's no indication that any of his three intra-party foes are ready to give him a serious fight.

NC-13: Donald Trump has joined his one-time enemies at the Club for Growth in endorsing Bo Hines, a 26-year-old law student who previously played as a wide receiver at North Carolina State in 2014 before transferring to Yale, in the packed May primary for this competitive open seat in Raleigh's southern suburbs.

OR-05: Moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader is spending a reported $200,000 on his first TV ad for the May Democratic primary, which features the seven-term incumbent talking about his veterinary career while surrounded by cute animals. "In Congress, I'm making a real difference for their owners too," he says, before he talks about working to lower insulin costs and drug prices.

PA-17: Allegheny County Council member Sam DeMarco announced hours before candidate filing ended on Tuesday that he was abandoning his week-old campaign for the Republican nomination for this competitive open seat. DeMarco cited his duties as county party chair and argued that it "needs a full-time chairman who will devote himself 24/7 to making certain that the Republicans recapture the office of governor, secure a U.S. Senate seat and maintain control of the general assembly."

Morning Digest: New House fundraising reports shed light on incumbent-vs.-incumbent races

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

Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present our comprehensive roundups of fundraising data for the final three months of 2021 for both the House and the Senate.

With redistricting underway—and complete in many states—many sitting representatives have now found themselves paired with colleagues in redrawn House districts. These new reports are the first to give us insight into these incumbent-vs.-incumbent matchups, which at the moment number seven in total.

The first to come online was the contest in the deeply conservative 2nd District in West Virginia, which completed the remapping process in October. Thanks to the loss of a seat in reapportionment, two Republicans, Alex Mooney and David McKinley, got thrown together in the northern half of the state. McKinley swamped Mooney in the fourth quarter, outraising him $599,000 to $199,000 and self-funding another half-million for good measure. But because Mooney had stockpiled much more money prior to the start of most recent fundraising period, he still finished with a cash lead of $2.4 million to $1.6 million.

Campaign Action

McKinley, however, has an important advantage: He currently represents two-thirds of the new district, with Mooney representing the remaining third. Mooney, conversely, won Donald Trump's seal of approval in November … but he's under investigation for allegedly misusing campaign funds. How these factors will all balance out is hard to say, though, as the two sides have released competing polls showing them each with fairly modest leads. It'll all get settled soon enough, though, as the primary is on May 10.

Here's how things stack up in the other half-dozen similarly situated races:

  • GA-07: Lucy McBath beat out Carolyn Bourdeaux $736,000 to $400,000 and had $3.2 million on-hand versus $2.4 million in this safely blue seat in the Atlanta suburbs. A third candidate in the Democratic primary, state Rep. Donna McLeod, raised just $22,0000. Bourdeaux represents 57% of the district and McBath just 12%. The primary is May 24, with a June 21 runoff if no one takes a majority. Polling for McBath and her allies has found her leading by about 10 to 20 points.
  • IL-06: Sean Casten more than doubled up fellow Democrat Marie Newman, taking in $699,000 to her $337,000. He also has almost twice the bankroll: $1.9 million to $1 million for Newman. But Newman represents 41% of this solidly blue seat in the Chicago area while Casten represents 23%. However, she also faces an ethics investigation into charges she sought to keep a potential primary opponent out of the race when she ran in 2020 by offering him a job as a top aide if she won. The two will face off on June 28.
  • IL-15: Rodney Davis, the more moderate of the two Republicans running in this deep red district in central Illinois, raised $410,000 compared to $164,000 for Mary Miller, who has Trump's endorsement. Davis also has $1.8 million saved up while Miller had just $783,000 at her disposal. Both are encountering a lot of new turf, though: Miller represents 31% of the new district and Davis 28%.
  • MI-04: This matchup hasn't yet firmed up: Bill Huizenga, a Trump loyalist, has said he'll seek re-election in this red-tilting district in southwestern Michigan, but Fred Upton, who voted for impeachment, has yet to announce his plans. Upton certainly keeps bringing in the bucks like he expects to run again, though: He raised $719,000 to Huizenga's $396,000 and has a $1.6 million to $1.2 million cash edge. A third candidate, state Rep. Steve Carra, recently switched districts to run here but raised just $129,000. However, Trump did endorse him when he was running one-on-one against Upton, who represents 64% of this seat; Huizenga represents 25%. The primary is not until Aug. 2.
  • MI-11: Haley Stevens outraised Andy Levin $627,000 to $335,000 in this blue district in the Detroit suburbs, and also has much more money to spend: $2.6 million versus $1.3 million. In addition, Stevens represents 45% of the district while Levin represents 25%. Levin could still change course and run in the open 10th—a much swingier seat, but one he already represents two-thirds of. A recent Stevens internal showed her up 7 points.
  • NC-11: This solidly red district in the Greensboro region is the only one that's lumped together members of opposite parties: Democrat Kathy Manning, who raised $280,000 and had $1.1 million left over, and Republican Virginia Foxx, who took in $231,000 and finished with $957,000 in her war chest. Manning represents 42% of the redrawn 11th and Foxx 30%, but it would have voted 57-42 for Trump, making Foxx the overwhelming favorite. Manning, however, hasn't yet said whether she'll seek re-election, likely because a lawsuit challenging the GOP's new map is pending before the state Supreme Court.

The number of intramural battles could grow or shrink in the coming months as the remapping process continues to unfold and various members settle on their plans or alter them. In the meantime, you can dig deeper into all of these numbers and many, many more for both the House and the Senate by checking out our new charts.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Both chambers of Florida's Republican-run legislature have passed new legislative maps, which Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis does not have the power to either sign or veto. However, the state constitution requires the new maps to first be reviewed by the state's conservative Supreme Court to determine their "validity" before they can become law. Whatever the justices decide, litigation is likely, as critics have charged that the maps fail to adequately increase representation for communities of color even though most of the state's growth has come from Black and Latino residents.

Meanwhile, congressional redistricting is now paused as DeSantis has asked the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion as to whether a new map can legally dismantle the plurality-Black 5th District, held by Democrat Al Lawson. A map that ignored DeSantis' wishes and left the 5th largely intact passed the state Senate last month, but the House says it will wait until the justices rule before proceeding further.

NY Redistricting: Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed new congressional and legislative maps on Thursday evening, just hours after lawmakers in the Democratic-run legislature completed work on new districts for their own chambers. The congressional plan, if it works as Democrats intend, could bump their advantage in the state’s delegation from 19-8 to 22-4.

WA Redistricting: Washington's Democratic-run state House approved congressional and legislative maps drawn by the state's bipartisan redistricting commission with minor tweaks in a wide bipartisan vote on Wednesday. The plans now head to the state Senate, which must act by Feb. 8.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth has endorsed Blake Masters, a top aide to conservative megadonor Peter Thiel who also has the support of a super PAC funded by his boss, in the crowded August Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.

Ohio: Candidate filing closed on Wednesday for most of the offices that will be on Ohio's May 3 primary ballot, but the legislature previously moved the deadline for U.S. House races to March 4. That delay came about because the state Supreme Court struck down the Republican-drawn congressional map as an illegal partisan gerrymander in mid-January, and new boundaries have yet to be approved.

But the situation is also unclear for candidates for the state legislature, who still had to file Wednesday. The state's highest court likewise threw out the GOP's legislative maps last month, and Republicans on Ohio's bipartisan redistricting commission approved new ones on Jan. 22―just eight days before the filing deadline. The court has said it would "retain jurisdiction for the purpose of reviewing the new plan adopted by the commission," so no one knows yet if these new districts will be final.

Some legislative candidates responded to the uncertainty by simply ending their campaigns, though one congressional contender tried something different. Attorney Shay Hawkins, a Republican who last year announced a bid for the 13th District, filed Tuesday for a seat in the legislature and said he'd make an ultimate decision about which office to seek once congressional districts are in place. (Based on state deadlines, that might not be until March or later.)

A list of statewide candidates can be found at the secretary of state's site, but anyone looking for a list of legislative candidates won't be able to find them all from a single official source. That's because candidates for district-level office file with the county that makes up the largest proportion of their district rather than with the state, so lists of contenders can only be found on county election sites. Below we'll run down the fields in the Buckeye State's marquee statewide races for Senate and governor.

OH-Sen: On Thursday evening, one day after candidate filing closed, wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno announced that he was dropping out of what’s now an eight-person Republican primary to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. Moreno, who kicked off a $4 million TV ad campaign in December, said, “After talking to President Trump we both agreed this race has too many Trump candidates and could cost the MAGA movement a conservative seat.” 

The development came one day after another Republican contender, former state Treasurer, Josh Mandel, released a WPA Intelligence poll arguing that he has the lead in this extremely expensive primary. The toplines are below, with the numbers from an early January WPA survey for Mandel's allies at the Club for Growth in parenthesis:

former state Treasurer Josh Mandel: 28 (26)

Businessman Mike Gibbons: 17 (14)

Venture capitalist J.D. Vance: 13 (10)

former state party chair Jane Timken: 9 (15)

Businessman Bernie Moreno: 6 (7)

State Sen. Matt Dolan: 5 (4)

Three other Republicans are also in, but none of them have been making a serious effort.

Timken, Moreno, and Gibbons have themselves released polls this year, each arguing that neither Mandel nor anyone else has a decisive lead. (Though Moreno’s subsequent departure indicates that he didn’t feel good about his own path to victory.) What every survey we've seen agrees on, however, is that Dolan is in last place. That's not a surprise, though: In September, Donald Trump blasted the state senator, who co-owns Cleveland's Major League Baseball team, over its plans to change its name, snarling, "I know of at least one person in the race who I won't be endorsing."

Dolan is trying to better his fortunes by using personal wealth to go on TV, but he's far from alone: The Republican firm Medium Buying reports that close to $24 million has already been spent or reserved to air ads. The GOP primary will likely get far more expensive still, as all six of these contenders ended 2021 with at least $1 million in the bank. Their fourth quarter fundraising numbers are below:

  • Timken: $595,000 raised, additional $1.5 million self-funded, $3.6 million cash-on-hand
  • Vance: $530,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
  • Mandel: $370,000 raised, $6 million cash-on-hand
  • Dolan: $360,000 raised, additional $10.5 million self-funded, $10.4 million cash-on-hand
  • Gibbons: $70,000 raised, additional $3.5 million self-funded, $6.4 million cash-on-hand

Things are far less chaotic on the Democratic side, where Rep. Tim Ryan is the likely nominee. He faces Morgan Harper, a former advisor to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Joyce Beatty for renomination in 2020, as well as two little-known candidates. Ryan outraised Harper $2.9 million to $335,000 in the most recent quarter, and he held a $5 million to $435,000 cash-on-hand edge.

Team Blue's eventual nominee will face a tough task in November in a longtime swing state that lurched hard to the right in the Trump era, but Democrats are hoping that a bloody GOP primary will give them a larger opening.

Governors

FL-Gov: Rep. Charlie Crist has released a GBAO Strategies survey giving him a 54-28 lead over state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the August Democratic primary, with state Sen. Annette Taddeo at 7%. We haven't seen any other surveys of the contest to face Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis since well before Taddeo entered the race last October.

GA-Gov: Democrat Stacey Abrams announced she raised a massive $9.2 million in the month since she kicked off her second bid for governor and says she ended January with $7.2 million in the bank. Her red-hot pace outstripped Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who brought in $7.4 million in the second half of 2021, though he has a considerably larger $12.7 million war chest. Kemp, however, will have to spend much of that money in his already bitter primary feud with former Sen. David Perdue, who has yet to say how much he's raised and "has tried to downplay expectations," according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Greg Bluestein.

HI-Gov: Hawaii News Now has gathered the fundraising reports for the second half of 2021, and the numbers for the three major Democrats are below:

  • Lt. Gov. Josh Green: $775,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
  • Businesswoman Vicky Cayetano: $475,000 raised, additional $350,000 self-funded, $655,000 cash-on-hand
  • former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell: $345,000 raised, $720,000 cash-on-hand

None of the Republicans currently in the race have reported raising a notable amount.

IA-Gov: The Des Moines Register's Brianne Pfannenstiel relays that some Iowa Democrats are seeking an alternative to Deidre DeJear, the 2018 secretary of state nominee who ended last year with less than $10,000 on-hand, though there's no sign anyone else is looking to take on Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Pfannenstiel writes that some of "the names being floated" are 2018 nominee Fred Hubbell, state Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and state Reps. Chris Hall and Todd Prichard, but none of them have shown any obvious interest in getting in ahead of the March 18 filing deadline.

ME-Gov: Former state Sen. Tom Saviello said this week that he would not run as an independent. That's probably welcome news for Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, whom Saviello backed in 2018.

MD-Gov: The Democratic Governors Association is out with new numbers from Public Policy Polling arguing that Del. Dan Cox, a Trump-endorsed candidate who played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a busload of people to attend the rally that preceded it, is well-positioned in the June Republican primary in this dark blue state.

Cox leads former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, who has termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan's backing, 20-12, with a huge 68% majority undecided. (The poll did not include Robin Ficker, a perennial candidate who has self-funded $1.1 million.) But after respondents are told that Trump is supporting Cox while Schulz is backed by termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan, the delegate's margin balloons to 52-18. This is the very first poll we've seen of this primary.

MN-Gov: SurveyUSA, polling on behalf of a trio of Minnesota TV stations, tests Democratic Gov. Tim Walz against six different Republican foes, and it finds things considerably closer than when it went into the field in December. The results are below, with the firm's earlier numbers in parentheses:

  • 43-40 vs. former state Sen. Scott Jensen (48-36)
  • 42-37 vs. state Sen. Paul Gazelka (47-34)
  • 45-37 vs. state Sen. Michelle Benson (47-35)
  • 43-35 vs. healthcare executive Kendall Qualls
  • 44-35 vs. Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy (47-36)
  • 45-34 vs. physician Neil Shah (48-31)

The earlier numbers did not include Qualls, who launched his bid last month. Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who announced this week, was also not asked about in either poll.

Even though SurveyUSA shows Walz losing ground since December, he still posts a 45-37 favorable rating, which is the same margin as his 47-39 score from last time. His many opponents, by contrast, remain pretty anonymous: Even Jensen, who comes the closest in the head-to-heads, only sports a 18-12 favorable image.

NE-Gov: The Nebraska Examiner has collected all the 2021 fundraising numbers for the Republicans competing in the May primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts:

  • University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen: $4.4 million raised, additional $1 million self-funded, $4.2 million cash-on-hand
  • State Sen. Brett Lindstrom: $1.6 million raised, $1.4 million cash-on-hand
  • Agribusinessman Charles Herbster: $200,000 raised, additional $4.7 million self-funded, $637,000 cash-on-hand
  • former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau: $106,000 raised, additional $7,000 self-funded, $87,000 cash-on-hand

Amusingly, Ricketts, who poured $12 million of his money into his unsuccessful 2006 campaign against Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, pooh-poohed Herbster's personal investment to the Examiner, saying that self-funding looks like "you're trying to buy the race." Ricketts, who is backing Pillen, added, "You want to engage Nebraskans across the state to invest in your campaign. And clearly Charles Herbster is not getting Nebraskans to invest in his campaign."

The only notable Democrat in the race, state Sen. Carol Blood, took in $76,000 and had $37,000 to spend.

NY-Gov: Rep. Lee Zeldin's first TV spot ahead of the June Republican primary features several photos of Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul with her disgraced predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, as the narrator argues that the state is in poor shape. The ad goes on to exalt Zeldin as a veteran who has "won seven tough elections" and a "tax-fighting, trusted conservative." There is no word on the size of the buy.

OH-Gov: Republican Gov. Mike DeWine faces three intra-party foes, but only former Rep. Jim Renacci appears to have the resources to make trouble for him. Renacci has filled his coffers with millions from his own wallet, though skeptical Republicans remember that he barely used any of the money he loaned himself for his 2018 Senate campaign, which ended in a 53-47 loss to Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. Also in the running are farmer Joe Blystone and former state Rep. Ron Hood, who badly lost last year's special election primary for the 15th Congressional District.

Renacci, who has spent his time trashing DeWine's handling of the pandemic, last week dropped a poll showing him leading the incumbent 46-38 in a two-way race. A Renacci win would represent a major upset, but no one else has responded with contradictory numbers.

The Democratic primary is a duel between two former mayors who each left office at the start of the year: Cincinnati's John Cranley and Dayton's Nan Whaley. The only poll we've seen was a Whaley internal she publicized last week giving her a 33-20 edge, but with a 48% plurality undecided. The former mayors both ended 2021 with close to $2 million to spend apiece.

OK-Gov: Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt outraised Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, a Republican-turned-Democrat, $1.2 million to $540,000 during the fourth quarter, and he ended 2021 with a $2.3 million to $435,000 cash-on-hand lead.

House

IL-03: State Rep. Delia Ramirez has picked up the support of the Illinois Federation of Teachers in the June Democratic primary for this safely blue open seat. Ramirez's main intra-party opponent is Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas, who outraised her $385,000 to $115,000 during the fourth quarter of 2021 (the first in the race for both candidates) and ended December with a $375,000 to $110,000 cash-on-hand.

MI-10: Eric Esshaki, who was the 2020 Republican nominee in the old 11th District, announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the August primary for the new (and open) 10th District and would instead endorse two-time Senate nominee John James. James, who launched his House bid on Monday, currently is the only notable Republican seeking this suburban Detroit seat, which Donald Trump would have carried 50-49.

OR-06: Carrick Flynn, who has worked as a University of Oxford associate researcher, announced Tuesday that he was entering the Democratic primary for Oregon’s brand-new 6th District. Flynn filed FEC paperwork on Jan. 21 and said he had $430,000 banked after 10 days.

RI-02: State Rep. Teresa Tanzi said Thursday that she would not compete in the September Democratic primary for this open seat.

TX-08: The March 1 Republican primary to succeed retiring Rep. Kevin Brady has turned into what the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek characterizes as an expensive "proxy war" between retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell, who has the House GOP leadership in his corner, and Christian Collins, a former Brady campaign manager backed by Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies in the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus.

Luttrell far outraised Collins during the fourth quarter, $1.2 million to $335,000, and ended 2021 with a $1.6 million to $290,000 cash-on-hand lead. Collins, however, is getting some serious reinforcements: Svitek reports that three super PACs almost entirely funded by a Cruz ally, banker Robert Marling, have spent $800,000 for Collins while Luttrell has yet to benefit from any outside money.

The story notes that the two leading candidates for this safely red suburban Houston district don't seem to actually disagree on anything substantive, but Collins has been trying hard to frame the race as a battle between D.C. power players and "those who are the tip of the spear." He's also been seeking to use Luttrell's connections against him, including the $5,000 donation the SEAL veteran received from the PAC of Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who voted to impeach Donald Trump. Luttrell distanced himself from the congressman in January, saying he "didn't know the check was cashed," but a Kinzinger spokesperson told the Tribune that the donation was made "because it was solicited."

Luttrell, who is a close ally of former Gov. Rick Perry, has been focusing far more on his own military background, with his first ad talking about his recovery after a devastating helicopter crash. Luttrell also enjoys the backing of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is one of the most powerful far-right politicians in Texas, as well as 13th District Rep. Ronny Jackson, who was Trump's failed nominee for secretary of veteran's affairs in 2018. Nine other candidates are on the ballot, and while none of them have attracted much attention, they could keep Luttrell or Collins from winning the majority of the vote needed to avert a runoff.

TX-15: Insurance agent Monica De La Cruz's newest TV ad for the March 1 Republican primary features her flying over the border with Mexico as she bemoans how "socialists are ruining our border security, our values, and our economy." She concludes by pledging to "finish what Trump started."

VA-07: Spotsylvania County Supervisor David Ross said this week that he was joining the June Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Los Angeles Magazine has summarized fundraising reports spanning the second half of 2021, which show Rep. Karen Bass went into the new year with a sizable financial edge over her many opponents in the June nonpartisan primary to lead this very blue city:

  • Rep. Karen Bass: $1.9 million raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • City Councilmember Kevin de León: $1.2 million raised, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
  • Central City Association head Jessica Lall: $405,000 raised, $265,000 cash-on-hand
  • City Councilmember Joe Buscaino: $375,000 raised, $575,000 cash-on-hand
  • City Attorney Mike Feuer: $245,000 raised, $525,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Ramit Varma: $180,000 raised, additional $1.5 million self-funded, $1.7 million cash-on-hand
  • Real estate broker Mel Wilson: $141,000 raised, $37,000 cash-on-hand

Perhaps the biggest question looming over the race ahead of the Feb. 12 filing deadline is whether real estate developer Rick Caruso, who has flirted with running before, gets in this time. Caruso recently changed his voter registration from unaffiliated to Democratic, a move that came almost a decade after he left the GOP. The developer now describes himself as a "pro-centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat."