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

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Downballot

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General

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

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

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

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

Ballot Measures

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

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

Legislatures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prosecutors & Sheriffs

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

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

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

Poll Pile

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: Democrats spend big to pick preferred GOP opponent in Montana primary

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

MT-Sen: Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale has now all but announced that he'll seek a rematch with the man who beat him in 2018, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester—news that brought smiles to Democrats and angst to the NRSC and its allies.

The GOP establishment is all-in for wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy, but Democrats have already spent millions on messaging designed either to knock Sheehy out in the June 4 primary or damage him for the general election.

But Sheehy might be his own worst enemy. News of a 2019 plane crash involving the death of a pilot and the injury of a teenager on the ground resurfaced Friday after Politico reported that someone identified as "Timothy Sheehy" listed "plane crasher" as his occupation when making political donations. And there's reason to think this wasn't the work of a troll with money to burn.

Read Jeff Singer's piece for much more on the unfolding race between two flawed Republicans—including why Rosendale's alliance with Florida's most infamous congressman helps explain why Democrats would still rather face him again.

4Q Fundraising

  • NE-02: Don Bacon (R-inc): $780,000 raised, $1.5 million cash on hand; Tony Vargas (D): $552,000 raised
  • PA-10: Janelle Stelson (D): $282,000 raised
  • NC-AG: Jeff Jackson (D): $2 million raised (in two months)

Senate

WV-Sen: Disgraced coal baron Don Blankenship decided to add "perennial candidate" to his résumé on Friday when he filed to run as a Democrat for West Virginia's open Senate seat.

The state Democratic Party quickly made it clear it wanted nothing to do with Blankenship, who spent a year in prison in connection to the 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at one of his properties. "Blankenship, or as he’ll forever be known, federal prisoner 12393-088, lost a previous race for U.S. Senate when he ran as a Republican," said chairman Mike Pushkin. "He followed that up with a failed race for president running on the Constitution Party ticket," Pushkin noted.

House

CO-05: Former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said on Friday that he would not enter the GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Doug Lamborn but would instead endorse conservative radio host Jeff Crank.

IN-08: State Sen. Mark Messmer on Thursday became the first elected official to announce a bid to replace retiring Rep. Larry Bucshon, a fellow Republican. Messmer previously served as the chamber's majority floor leader, but he set his sights higher in 2022 when he challenged Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray for the top job. Bray prevailed, though, and the Indiana Capital says that Messmer lost his leadership positions afterward.

MD-02: Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger on Friday became the first Democratic congressman to announce his retirement in the new year. His decision marks the close of a long career that saw Ruppersberger rise high in Old Line State politics―though not quite as high as he had envisioned.

  • Going Dutch. Ruppersberger was elected Baltimore County executive in 1994, and he seemed primed to run for governor in 2002. However, his troubles at home, including an embarrassing loss at the ballot box for a measure he'd supported, kept him out of the contest.
  • "Ruppersberger facing uphill battle." The termed-out executive still got his chance to run for higher office that same year after Democrats in the legislature redrew the congressional map, but he had to go through an unexpectedly bruising primary just two months before a general election showdown with former Republican Rep. Helen Bentley—one he was no longer expected to win.
  • Not going way down in the hole. It would take more than a decade before Ruppersberger finally put his gubernatorial ambitions to rest. However, he quickly became so secure in Congress that even the most famous politician on "The Wire" wouldn't challenge him.

Check out Jeff Singer's piece for more on Ruppersberger's career―and how one local Democrat has spent months laying the groundwork to succeed him.

NC-06: Journalist Bryan Anderson reported Thursday that Speaker Mike Johnson has yanked back his endorsement of former Rep. Mark Walker, though Walker claims the reversal actually happened several months ago.

The former congressman tells The News & Observer that Johnson backed him before becoming speaker in October but then notified him the following month that he would now be neutral in the March 5 Republican primary. Walker also showed the paper a text that reporter Danielle Battaglia says "seemingly confirms" he was Johnson's initial pick.

However, Johnson, at least, did in fact support Walker at some point. Not so, however, with another member of Congress whose endorsement Walker has claimed. Walker has posted on social media that he had the backing of Oklahoma Sen. Markwayne Mullin, but the senator's staff now tells N&O that no such endorsement ever happened. "I don’t know what’s going on," said Mullin's chief of staff.

NJ-07: Summit Councilman Greg Vartan announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the Democratic primary to take on Republican Rep. Tom Kean Jr. Vartan's departure leaves former Working Families Party state director Sue Altman and former State Department official Jason Blazakis as the only notable candidates competing in the June 4 nomination contest.

NY-16: The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it was ending its probe into Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman for pulling a fire alarm at the Capitol in September. The body said that it would not sanction the congressman even though it found his explanations about the incident "less than credible and otherwise misleading," adding that he "failed to take appropriate steps to mitigate the risk of unnecessary harm."

Bowman, who has insisted he believed the alarm would open a locked door as he was "rushing to a vote," pleaded guilty in October for "willfully or knowingly" instigating a false alarm. The case was dismissed Thursday after it was determined that Bowman had paid his $1,000 fine and apologized to the Capitol Police. The congressman faces serious opposition in the June 25 primary from Westchester County Executive George Latimer, though the challenger did not mention the fire alarm incident in his December launch video.

Ballot Measures

OH Ballot: Republican Attorney General Dave Yost has, for the second time, rejected the proposed ballot summary for an initiative that would enshrine extensive voting access protections and policies in Ohio's constitution, which we've previously detailed.

Yost claims that the measure's proposed title, which supporters have called the "Ohio Voters Bill of Rights," is misleading, even though the amendment would, among other things, establish voting as a "fundamental right" and prohibit "any means whatsoever" that have the intent or effect of denying or unreasonably burdening the right to vote.

Proponents can revise and resubmit their summary, but this rejection further delays the start of gathering voter signatures, which must be submitted by an initial July 3 deadline to qualify for November's ballot.

Legislatures

NC Redistricting: U.S. District Judge James Dever, a George W. Bush appointee, has rejected a request to block a pair of state Senate districts in northeastern North Carolina that Black plaintiffs alleged violate the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Black voters.

Plaintiffs quickly indicated they would appeal Dever's ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals while the case continues at the district court level. Republicans passed new gerrymanders last year and claimed the VRA no longer applied in North Carolina despite extensive evidence that voting patterns remain polarized along racial lines, particularly in rural regions such as those challenged in this case.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The Justice Department determined that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least 13 different women who worked in state government between 2013 and 2021, findings that were made public as part of a settlement with the governor's office. Investigators concluded that Cuomo, who resigned in disgrace amid the threat of impeachment in 2021, had created "a sexually hostile work environment" and engaged in "a pattern or practice of retaliation" after employees complained.

The agreement requires Cuomo's successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, to institute a number of reforms to prevent future civil rights violations. They include expanding her office's human resources department and implementing policies that require complaints against the governor and "high-level" aides to be reported and investigated externally. In response to the settlement, an attorney for Cuomo issued a statement denying her client had committed sexual harassment.

Cuomo has reportedly been considering bids for Senate and for New York City mayor.

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: Father of anti-trans ‘bathroom bill’ joins race for North Carolina attorney general

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

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Leading Off

NC-AG, NC-08: Far-right Rep. Dan Bishop, an election denier who rose to prominence after spearheading North Carolina's transphobic "bathroom bill" in 2016 while in the state Senate, announced Thursday that he'd run for state attorney general next year. The congressman quickly earned an endorsement from the well-funded Club for Growth for his bid to become the first Republican to hold this office since 1975, though he currently faces former state Rep. Tom Murry in the primary.

Bishop, however, may not be the only sitting congressman who ends up running to succeed incumbent Josh Stein, the Democratic frontrunner in next year's race for governor. The very same day, Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson declined to rule out a bid of his own. Jackson told the News & Observer's Danielle Battaglia that he'd only start thinking about a campaign after the state's Republican-run legislature passes a new congressional map sometime this fall, which could leave the freshman without a seat he can win.

Jackson, however, was quick to make clear how he'd go after Bishop. "I did hear his announcement," he said, "and as a prosecutor, I don't think that anyone who supported overturning an election should be talking about law and order." The Democratic field currently consists of Marine veteran Tim Dunn and Navy Reserve veteran Charles Ingram, but both reported having minimal cash stockpiles at the end of June.

Bishop did indeed vote to overturn Joe Biden's win in the hours following the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, a move the congressman justified by echoing Donald Trump's lies about mail-in votes. "In the 2020 election, the national Democratic Party carried out a highly coordinated, massively financed, nationwide campaign to displace state regulation of absentee ballots by means of a flood of election-year litigation," Bishop wrote just before the riot, and he's continued to spread the Big Lie since then. The congressman fired off an evidence-free tweet last year claiming that Jack Dorsey "and Twitter put their thumb on the scale in the last election to help Biden." (Unsurprisingly, Bishop has a far more favorable view of that site's new owner.)

Before Bishop devoted himself to enabling conservative extremists in Washington, D.C., he was a state lawmaker who indirectly helped cost the GOP the governorship in 2016. That year, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the Bishop-crafted House Bill 2, which required anyone using bathrooms at schools or public facilities to use the restroom associated with the sex on their birth certificate, regardless of their gender identity. That legislation sparked a national backlash that led several major corporations to cancel planned expansions in the state, and voters responded by narrowly booting McCrory in favor of then-Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Bishop's career, though, survived and thrived even after Cooper signed a law rolling back HB 2. The state senator unexpectedly got the chance to run for Congress in what was then numbered the 9th District in 2019 after the results of the previous year's election were voided because of election fraud carried out to assist Republican nominee Mark Harris. Bishop decisively won the primary and went on to narrowly defeat 2018 Democratic nominee Dan McCready 51-49 after an expensive campaign for a gerrymandered constituency that Trump had taken 54-43 in 2016.

But despite that underwhelming victory, as well as a new court-supervised map that made the 9th District a shade bluer, Bishop turned in an easy 2020 win in a contest that national Democrats didn't target. His constituency was soon renumbered the 8th District following the 2020 census and became safely red turf that Bishop had no trouble holding last year. The congressman then used the first days of the new Congress to cast 11 straight votes against making Kevin McCarthy speaker, but he eventually flipped; McCarthy rewarded Bishop afterward with a spot on the GOP's Orwellian-named "Weaponization of the Federal Government" subcommittee.

Republican legislators were recently given the green light to once again gerrymander to their hearts' content after the newly conservative state Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the court's previously Democratic majority that had banned the practice. They'll likely draw up another safe seat to replace the one Bishop currently represents, and there's already chatter about who could run to replace him.

An unnamed source tells the National Journal's James Downs that Harris and Dan Barry, who took a distant fifth in the 2012 primary for the 9th District several maps ago, are "names to watch." Harris chose not to run in the 2019 special election that Bishop ultimately won, but while the consultant responsible for the fraud that wrecked his campaign went to prison, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman announced the following year that she wouldn't charge the candidate as part of her probe.

P.S. While Bishop would be the first Republican to serve as attorney general in 50 years, the last member of his party to actually win this office was Zeb Walser all the way back in 1896. Republicans last held the attorney general's office in 1974 when GOP Gov. James Holshouser appointed James Carson to fill a vacancy, though Carson lost the ensuing special election a few months later to Democrat Rufus Edmisten.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Noble Predictive Insights, which until recently was known as OH Predictive Insights, has released a poll that finds Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego leading in six different general election scenarios:

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego (D): 33, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb (R): 25, Kyrsten Sinema (I-inc): 24
  • Gallego (D): 40, Lamb (R): 36
  • Gallego (D): 32, Sinema (I-inc): 28, 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters (R): 24
  • Gallego (D): 44, Masters (R): 36
  • Gallego (D): 34, Sinema (I-inc): 26, 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake (R): 25
  • Gallego (D): 45, Lake (R): 35

Gallego and Lamb are the only notable candidates who have announced they're running. NPI, which sometimes does work on behalf of GOP groups, is the very first poll we've seen from anyone since April.

ND-Sen: Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer told KUMV this week that he hasn't decided whether he'll seek reelection, though the incumbent sounds like he's leaning strongly towards another campaign. "A second term for me would mean greater clout, probably a chairmanship as well," Cramer said. "Seniority matters in the Senate. That's where my thinking is today without telling you exactly what I intend to do. I guess I would be surprised if I decided not to run for reelection." The senator does not appear to have indicated what factors would push him toward retirement.

WV-Sen: The Washington Post reports that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to direct money towards positive ads "to help prop up his poll numbers before he decides whether he'll run," but Manchin won't use his own $10.8 million war chest for this purpose because he "doesn't want to spark speculation that he's running for reelection by making an ad buy to boost his image." The Democratic group Duty and Honor did run commercials in the spring to counter a GOP offensive to damage the incumbent, but the paper says that Schumer doesn't want to make a big investment here before he knows if Manchin will actually run again.

Governors

MS-Gov: Republican incumbent Tate Reeves seems to agree with Democrats that the state's $77 million welfare funds scandal could hurt him even in this red state because he's already up with a response spot two days after Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley launched his first commercial on the topic. The challenger may not mind too much, though, because Reeves' ad makers adopt the dubious strategy of repeating some of the very attacks Presley is leveling against him.

"Have you seen this ad attacking our governor, Tate Reeves?" asks the narrator as footage fills the screen of Presley's earlier piece, complete with on-screen text reading, "REEVES … PLAGUED BY WELFARE FRAUD SCANDAL." Reeves' narrator isn't happy, saying, "Tate Reeves had nothing to do with the scandal … it all happened before he was governor." It's rarely a good move to put your candidate's name in the same sentence as "scandal," but Presley's team is also disputing the idea that Reeves isn't to blame for something that occurred while he occupied the powerful lieutenant governor's office.

"[T]he reality is Tate Reeves used to brag about his watchdog responsibilities and overseeing the state budget," the campaign said in a statement, which included a quote from a 2019 ad where Reeves proclaimed he was "managing the government's money like it's your money―because it is."

WA-Gov: Richland School Board member Semi Bird on Thursday pledged to continue his campaign for governor two days after the Republican appears to have lost a recall election along with two colleagues. The trio voted in February of 2022 to defy the state's COVID protocols and make it optional to wear masks in local public schools; school was canceled for two days as a result, and the group ultimately backed down.

Bird hasn't gained much traction ahead of a top-two primary contest where former Rep. Dave Reichert appears to be the GOP frontrunner, but he's hoping his likely ouster will change that. (The state is still counting ballots, but the pro-recall "yes" side was ahead 56-44 in Bird's race as of Thursday; the results were similar in the other two contests.) "The teachers unions and leftest activists may have won the recall battle, pouring 10's of thousands of dollars into the effort," Bird wrote Thursday in a fundraising email, "but when the people of Washington send me to Olympia, we will win the war."

House

DE-AL: EMILY's List on Thursday endorsed state Sen. Sarah McBride in the Democratic primary for this statewide seat, declaring that it "was proud to support McBride when she made history in 2020 as the first openly transgender state senator in the country — and we are thrilled to once again help her make history and become the first openly transgender member of Congress."

NC-??: State House Speaker Tim Moore announced last month that he will not seek another term leading the chamber after the 2024 elections, and he and his team are continuing to evade questions about whether he'd run for the U.S. House after his party passes a new gerrymander. Political advisor Paul Shumaker told the News & Observer, "We don't know what the maps are going to look like. We have all this speculation." Shumaker added that his client could also go into the private sector.

PA-01: Anti-abortion activist Mark Houck announced Wednesday that he'd run to deny renomination to Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in this competitive suburban Philadelphia seat, a declaration that comes months after he was found not guilty of allegedly violating a federal law designed to protect abortion clinics. Houck became a conservative celebrity in the leadup to that January trial, where he was accused of intimidation by twice shoving a 72-year-old Planned Parenthood volunteer in 2021; Houck never denied he'd done this, though he successfully claimed that he'd only become violent after his son was insulted.

Houck launched his campaign by telling the far-right website The Church Militant, "We're running to protect the rights of families and defend traditional family values in our district. Unfortunately, Brian doesn't represent that." Fitzpatrick, who has made a name for himself as a pragmatist, has always run well ahead of the top of the ticket during his four campaigns, and Democrats would be delighted if Houck gave him a hard time in this 52-47 Biden seat. The well-funded congressman turned back a little-known primary foe 66-34 last cycle before pulling off a 55-45 victory against Ashley Ehasz, a Democrat who is running again.

TX-28: Conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar on Thursday unveiled endorsements from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and the rest of the chamber's Democratic leadership, as well as Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, in what's likely a move to deter another primary challenge from the left. Cuellar narrowly fended off immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros in 2020 and 2022, and her former spokesperson told the Texas Tribune back in March that she hadn't ruled out a third try. The Lone Star State's downballot filing deadline is Dec. 11, which is one of the earliest in the nation.

Attorneys General

TX-AG: Thursday finally brought some action concerning Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton's long-stalled trial for securities fraud, with a state judge agreeing to a request from both prosecutors and the defense to delay scheduling anything until Paxton's separate impeachment trial concludes sometime next month. Both sides agreed that Paxton would be more likely to try to reach a deal concerning the eight-year-old security fraud indictment if two-thirds of the state Senate votes to remove him from office, with one of his attorneys explaining that this outcome would be "a kill shot to his political career, so it opens the door to a resolution that’s not open right now."

Ballot Measures

OH Ballot: A GOP consultant tells cleveland.com that groups looking to beat Issue 1, which would make it much harder to amend the state constitution, have added $2.5 million to their media buys for the final days of the Aug. 8 special election. The story says the conservative pro "yes" side enjoys a small $5.9 million to $5.3 million edge in ad spending for the last week of the race: The GOP firm Medium Buying also tweets that the "no" side has outspent its rivals $12.2 million to $9.7 million on TV and radio for the entire campaign.

Meanwhile, organizers seeking to place a statutory initiative on the November ballot to legalize recreational marijuana say they've submitted 6,500 additional signatures to the secretary of state, and they only need about 10% of them to be valid in order to qualify: The campaign fell just 679 petitions shy of the 124,000 minimum last month, but state law granted them 10 extra days to make up the shortfall.

Because this proposal would not amend the constitution, it would only need to win a majority no matter how the Issue 1 fight ends next week. Issue 1 would also not eliminate the 10-day grace period for statutory initiatives like this, though it would end this rule for future constitutional amendments. Polling from Civiqs shows that two-thirds of Ohio voters believe "the use of cannabis should be legal."

Morning Digest: He ranted about ‘European cheese weenies.’ Now he’s running for Congress

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

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Leading Off

CO-08: Weld County Commissioner Scott James announced Wednesday that he'd seek the Republican nomination to challenge freshman Rep. Yadira Caraveo in Colorado's 8th District, prompting Democrats to immediately blast him for an anti-abortion, Islamophobic rant he delivered as a talk radio host in 2007.

James, as Media Matters documented at the time, declared "the civilization that you know ... will be overtaken by those who would like you to practice Sharia law ... just by mass numbers" because "the European cheese weenies simply aren't breeding." James continued, "You can do the math and see the rapid decline of ... civilization," before saying of the United Kingdom, "Their birth rate declining, the abortion rate increasing. You do the math. You don't have the sanctity for the life like that, your society will simply extinguish."

Democrats also went after James, who remained on the radio after winning his seat on the county commission in 2018, for his vote the next year to designate Weld County as a "Second Amendment sanctuary." That action, which authorized the county sheriff to "exercise of his sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law," came in response to a new red flag law that allows family and household members, as well as law enforcement officials, to petition a judge to confiscate firearms from an individual they fear is dangerous. "Taking constitutional rights away from citizens under the guise that it is for the 'greater good' is a very dangerous path to walk down," James said at the time, "and one we do not support."

James launched his campaign to unseat Caraveo hours after fellow Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer, the GOP's nominee last year, announced that she would seek reelection to the state Senate rather than try to avenge her narrow 48.4-47.7 general election loss. The commissioner is the first notable Republican to join the contest for this constituency in the northern Denver suburbs and Greeley area, turf Joe Biden carried 51-46 in 2020, but he's not the only one who is thinking about running here.

State Rep. Gabe Evans reiterated his interest Tuesday to the Colorado Sun, while Weld County Commissioner Steve Moreno and former state Rep. Dan Woog both said they were mulling over the idea last month. Multiple publications also reported in June that Joe O'Dea, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet last year, is considering as well, though he's shown no obvious sign that he's preparing for another run.

Redistricting

NY Redistricting: A divided state appeals court ordered New York's redistricting commission to draw a new congressional map ahead of the 2024 elections on Thursday, overturning a lower court that had previously ruled in favor of retaining the state's current court-drawn boundaries. Republicans opposing the Democratic-backed lawsuit, however, immediately vowed to appeal in an effort to prevent the adoption of districts that would be less favorable to them.

The dispute wound up in court after the evenly divided bipartisan commission failed to reach an agreement on a single set of redistricting plans for Congress and the state legislature last year.  Instead, it forwarded dueling proposals—one batch supported by Democrats, the other by Republicans—to lawmakers, who rejected them both. After that failure, the commission refused to try again, which led the Democratic-run legislature to pass its own maps.

However, the state's highest court struck down that attempt last year in a 4-3 decision, saying that because the commission had never sent a second set of maps to the legislature as contemplated by the state constitution, lawmakers could not act on their own. As a remedy, an upstate trial court instead imposed maps drawn by an outside expert that saw Republicans make considerable gains in the November midterms.

A group of voters, though, filed a suit demanding that the commission be ordered back to work. While a lower court initially rejected that argument, the Appellate Division agreed with the plaintiffs. The commission still "had an indisputable duty under the NY Constitution to submit a second set of maps upon the rejection of its first set," wrote the majority in a 3-2 opinion, concluding that the court-ordered maps used in 2022 were interim in nature.

If New York's highest court, known as the Court of Appeals, upholds this decision, then the commission will again have to try to compromise on a new congressional map. If it again fails to produce an acceptable map, though, Democrats in the legislature—who enjoy two-thirds supermajorities in both chambers—would, this time, very likely be entitled to create new maps of their own design. That possibility could spur Republican commissioners to accept lines that tilt somewhat more in Democrats' favor than the current districts rather than face the alternative of an unfettered partisan gerrymander.

2Q Fundraising

The deadline to file fundraising numbers for federal campaigns is July 15. We'll have our House and Senate fundraising charts available soon afterwards.

  • AZ-Sen: Ruben Gallego (D): $3.1 million raised
  • CA-Sen: Katie Porter (D): $3.2 million raised, $10.4 million cash on hand
  • WV-Sen: Joe Manchin (D-inc): $1.3 million raised, $10.7 million cash on hand
  • LA-Gov: Jeff Landry (R): $4.5 million raised, $9 million cash on hand
  • NC-Gov: Mark Robinson (R): $2.2 million raised (in six months), $3.2 million cash on hand
  • AZ-06: Juan Ciscomani (R-inc): $815,000 raised, $1.6 million cash on hand
  • CA-45: Michelle Steel (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.7 million cash on hand
  • IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $690,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • IA-03: Zach Nunn (R-inc): $729,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • IL-17: Eric Sorensen (D-inc): $515,000 raised, $770,000 cash on hand
  • MI-10: John James (R-inc): $1.1 million raised, $1.7 million cash on hand
  • MT-01: Ryan Zinke (R-inc): $786,000 raised, $876,000 cash on hand
  • NC-14: Jeff Jackson (D-inc): $507,000 raised, $663,000 cash on hand
  • NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer (D-inc): $1.2 million raised, $15.1 million cash on hand
  • NJ-07: Tom Kean Jr. (R-inc): $860,000 raised, $1.47 million cash on hand
  • NY-02: Rob Lubin (D): $343,000 raised (in five weeks), additional $7,000 self-funded
  • NY-03: Anna Kaplan (D): $455,000 raised
  • OR-05: Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-inc): $717,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • TX-15: Monica De La Cruz (R-inc): $833,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • WA-03: Joe Kent (R): $245,000 raised, $392,000 cash on hand

Senate

FL-Sen: Politico reports that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the DSCC are trying to recruit former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to take on GOP incumbent Rick Scott, but another Democrat appears ready to launch his campaign before she makes up her mind.

Navy veteran Phil Ehr, who raised $2 million for his 2020 bid against the nationally infamous Rep. Matt Gaetz in the safely red 1st District, confirms he's interested and will decide in the coming weeks. An unnamed source, though, says that Ehr, who lost to Gaetz 65-34 as Trump was taking the old 1st by a similar 66-32 margin, is planning to get in "soon."

MI-Sen: The Daily Beast's Ursula Perano reports that, while actor Hill Harper says he's lived in Michigan for the last seven years, the new Democratic candidate's residency "may be more complicated." Perano uncovered a 2020 Seattle Times article saying that Harper moved to that city during the first season of production for his show, The Good Doctor, so his son could attend school there. (That season aired in 2017 and 2018.) That same story said that "Harper commutes from Seattle to the show’s set in Vancouver, British Columbia."

Perano also found a pair of websites used to book the actor for speaking engagements, both of which appear to have been in use in recent years: One said that Harper would be traveling from California, where he also owns a condo, while the other said he'd be coming from Seattle. "Hill Harper began spending time in Michigan because of work, but quickly realized the greatest people in the world live in Michigan and decided to move there full time," his campaign told the Daily Beast for the story, "Ever since moving to Michigan in 2016, he’s voted as a Michigander, paid taxes to the state, and runs a small business in Detroit."

Governors

IN-Gov: Howey Politics relays that there are still "rumors" that state Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers is considering seeking the GOP nod to succeed his boss, termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb and would likely self-fund. There is no other information about Chambers' interest.

MO-Gov: Businessman Mike Hamra, whose eponymous company operates almost 200 restaurants nationwide, tells the St. Louis Business Journal he's "seriously considering" seeking the Democratic nod and will "likely to have a final decision later in the fall." Hamra made his interest known days after state House Minority Leader Crystal Quade launched her own bid to lead what's become a tough state for Democrats.

MS-Gov: Republican incumbent Tate Reeves is airing a transphobic new TV ad where the governor, after praising his daughter for working to earn a soccer scholarship, declares, "Now, political radicals are trying to ruin women's sports, letting biological men get the opportunities meant for women." Reeves, as Mississippi Today notes, signed a 2021 law banning trans athletes from women's sports even though the bill's sponsor acknowledged she didn't know of this happening in the state.

House

AK-AL: Businessman Nick Begich on Thursday became the first notable Republican to announce a campaign against Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola, who twice beat him last year for Alaska's only House seat. But Begich is unlikely to have the top-four primary to himself, especially since many Republicans made it clear last fall that they still harbor a grudge over how he acquitted himself during the final months of longtime Rep. Don Young's life.

Begich, who is the rare Republican member of Alaska's most prominent Democratic family (his grandfather and namesake was Young's immediate predecessor, while his uncle Mark Begich served one term in the U.S. Senate), was initially a Young supporter, and he even co-chaired the congressman's 2020 campaign. But, as the Anchorage Daily News' Iris Samuels reported in April of 2022, Begich spent about a month working in the congressman's office the next year—at Young's invitation—only to launch a bid against Young soon afterward. "It was just such an invasion of our goodwill and the Congressman's goodwill," one unnamed staffer later told Insider's Bryan Metzger, adding, "We were completely hoodwinked and betrayed."    

Young, who'd represented the state in the House since 1973, died before that faceoff could occur, and Begich was one of the 48 candidates who filed to run in a special election that featured America's first-ever top-four primary. But after Begich advanced to the general against former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin and Peltola (a fourth finisher, independent Al Gross, dropped out), it looked likely that one of the two Republicans would prevail in a state Donald Trump took 53-43 in 2020.

Begich and Palin, though, instead went negative on one another while ignoring Peltola (that is, when they weren't smiling in selfies with her), which helped give the Democrat the opening she needed. Begich was only too happy to portray Palin as a disastrous governor who only cared about being a celebrity, while Palin hit back by castigating Begich for supporting his Democratic relatives.

An unscathed Peltola went into ranked-choice tabulations with 40% of first-choice votes, with Palin edging out Begich 31-28 for second. But following the fratricidal GOP campaign, Begich's backers only went for Palin by a 50-29 margin as a crucial 21% didn’t express a preference for either finalist. As a result, Peltola pulled off 51-49 upset.

All three candidates, plus Libertarian Chris Bye, competed again in November for a full two-year term, but things went even worse for the GOP this time. Begich and his allies pointed to data from the Alaska Division of Elections saying that he'd have defeated Peltola 52-48 had he come in second place in the special election to make his case that conservatives should choose him over Palin. But several of Young's former staffers not only endorsed Peltola, who had enjoyed a close relationship with the late congressman for decades, they also vocally aired their grievances against Begich for what they saw as his duplicity.

One particular incensed Young aide was a former communications director, Zack Brown, who posted a picture of Begich's congressional intern badge in a since-deleted tweet. "Begich was planning on primarying Young all along," he wrote. "He used DY & staff to secure inside info." Brown followed up, "According to FEC docs, he claimed campaign expenses BEFORE he came on as an INTERN in Don Young's office. He KNEW he was going to primary Young before he joined our office, but used the Congressman and staff for his own ends anyway. Disgraceful."

Peltola this time almost took a majority of first-choice ballots, scoring 49% of them as Palin once again staggered into second place, beating out Begich 26-23. Peltola then crushed Palin in a 55-45 drubbing after the instant-runoff process was finished. To add insult to injury for Begich, election data showed he would have lost by a slightly larger margin than Palin this time―just under 11 points―had he taken second.

Republicans are likely to make a priority of beating Peltola, who represents the reddest Democratic-held seat in the chamber, but it remains to be seen who else will join Begich in the top-four. The Anchorage Daily News writes that Palin, who rather prematurely named her congressional chief of staff the day after the November election [i]In anticipation of an announcement of victory," hasn't shown any sign she's thinking of trying a third time, though that hardly means she won't surprise everyone like she did when she decided to run last year.

MD-06: Hagerstown Mayor Tekesha Martinez on Wednesday joined the busy primary to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate candidate David Trone, for a seat based in western Maryland and the northwestern D.C. exurbs. Martinez, who was elected to the city council in 2020, became this northwestern Maryland community's first Black mayor in February after her colleagues appointed her to fill the vacant post. She joins Dels. Lesley Lopez and Joe Vogel, as well as think tank founder Destiny Drake West, in seeking the Democratic nod for this 54-44 Biden constituency.

NJ-07: Former state Sen. Ray Lesniak tells the New Jersey Globe he's "still waiting until this November" before deciding whether to seek the Democratic nod to take on GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr.

NY-22: New York State United Teachers, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, has endorsed Democratic state Sen. John Mannion's bid to take on GOP Rep. Brandon Williams. Mannion is a former public school teacher, and City & State says the labor group has enthusiastically backed him in past races.

RI-01: Lincoln Town Councilor Pamela Azar at some point quietly ended her campaign for the Democratic nod and endorsed one of her many former rivals, state Sen. Ana Quezada.

TX-34: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has endorsed former GOP Rep. Mayra Flores in her rematch effort with Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez.

UT-02: State election officials confirmed this week that both former RNC member Bruce Hough and former state Rep. Becky Edwards have turned in enough valid signatures to make the Sept. 5 special Republican primary to succeed outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart. The pair will face Celeste Maloy, a former Stewart aide who qualified for the ballot by winning last month's party convention. The winner will be favored on Nov. 7 against Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe in this gerrymandered 57-40 Trump seat.

WI-03: Both state Rep. Katrina Shankland and former La Crosse County Board chair Tara Johnson tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they're interested in joining the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Derrick Van Orden.

Mayors and County Leaders

Houston, TX Mayor: Former Republican City Councilmember Jack Christie tells the Houston Chronicle he's considering entering the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary to succeed termed-out Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner, though he said he was still "far from signing up." Attorney Tony Buzbee, an independent who lost the 2019 runoff to Turner 56-44 after spending $12 million, likewise says he hasn't ruled out another campaign even though he's representing Attorney General Ken Paxton at the Republican's upcoming impeachment trial. The filing deadline is Aug. 21, weeks before Paxton's Sept. 5 trial starts.

Indianapolis, IN Mayor: Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett has gone on TV well ahead of the Nov. 7 general with a spot hitting his wealthy foe, Republican Jefferson Shreve, that utilizes footage from the ads Shreve ran during his failed 2016 state Senate bid. "Jefferson Shreve will fight for the right to life," says Shreve's old narrator, "and our Second Amendment rights." Indianapolis backed Joe Biden 63-34, but Republicans are hoping Shreve's resources will help him argue that change is needed after Hogsett's two terms.

Nashville, TN Mayor: The Nashville Scene reports that a conservative group called Save Nashville PAC is spending $150,000 on TV ad campaign to help the one notable Republican in the race, party strategist Alice Rolli, advance past the Aug. 3 nonpartisan primary. The messaging, unsurprisingly, invokes the specter of crime in big cities … other big cities, that is. "How many once-great cities around the U.S. are now complete disasters?" asks the narrator, "Is Nashville next? Alice Rolli will protect Nashville and keep it a clean, safe city."

The offensive comes at a time when two wealthy Democrats, former AllianceBernstein executive Jim Gingrich and former economic development chief Matt Wiltshire, continue to dominate the airwaves in the contest to succeed retiring Democratic Mayor John Cooper. AdImpact relays that Gingrich and his allies have outspent Wiltshire's side $1.6 million to $1.2 million in advertising, while Democratic Metro Council member Freddie O'Connell is far back with just $190,000.

A firm called Music City Research, though, has released a survey showing that, despite being heavily outspent, O'Connell leads with 22% as Wiltshire outpaces Rolli 17-13 for the second spot in the likely Sept. 14 runoff. The pollster is affiliated with Harpeth Strategies, which is run by one of O'Connell's supporters, fellow Metro Council member Dave Rosenberg. Rosenberg tells us this poll was conducted for a "private entity and not a mayoral campaign or an organization associated with a mayoral campaign." He added that, as far as he is aware, the sponsor is not backing or opposing anyone.

The last poll we saw was over a month ago, and it showed a far more unsettled race. The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, working for real estate development group NAIOP Nashville, had O'Connell at 10% as two Democratic members of the state Senate, Jeff Yarbro and Heidi Campbell, respectively took 9% and 8%.

Morning Digest: Trump dumps on anti-Greitens alternative while hinting he might endorse Greitens

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

Leading Off

MO-Sen: Show Me Values PAC, a group that has spent $2 million so far to stop disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens from winning the Aug. 2 Republican primary, released an internal Friday from the Tarrance Group that found Attorney General Eric Schmitt leading Rep. Vicky Hartzler 28-24 as Greitens lagged in third with 16% and Rep. Billy Long struggled with just 6%. But if the super PAC was hoping that these numbers might inspire Donald Trump to join them in trashing Greitens, it quickly got a rude shock when the GOP master both declared that he won't back Hartzler and left open the possibility he'd endorse Greitens sometime in the next three weeks.

Trump, seemingly out of the blue, wrote that Hartzler "called me this morning asking for my endorsement, much as she has on many other occasions." He continued, "I was anything but positive in that I don't think she has what it takes to take on the Radical Left Democrats, together with their partner in the destruction of our Country, the Fake News Media and, of course, the deceptive & foolish RINOs." And in case that message was too subtle, he concluded, "I was very nice to Vicky on the call, but will NOT BE ENDORSING HER FOR THE SENATE!" Still, in perhaps a small relief to the congresswoman, the MAGA boss didn't actually implore his legions to vote against her in the race to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt.

Trump didn't elaborate on exactly what Hartzler, who sports an endorsement from Sen. Josh Hawley, had done to offend him, but a March Politico story sheds some light into their relationship. Trump, the story said, was told how she responded to the Jan. 6 attack by accusing him of "unpresidential remarks" and noting that "many" of the rioters "supported President Trump." Hartzler still joined the majority of her GOP colleagues in objecting to Joe Biden's victory, but that may not have been enough to get her back on Trump's good side.

Trump, though, has been far more forgiving when it comes to the scandal-plagued Greitens, whose ex-wife has accused of physically abusing both her and their children in 2018. Trump spoke to the far-right OAN over the weekend, where a host encouraged him to endorse Greitens because of the former governor's opposition to their shared intra-party nemesis, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump, in a very rare nod to political reality, acknowledged that Greitens is "the one the Democrats legitimately want to run against," but he quickly added, "Eric is tough and he's smart. A little controversial, but I've endorsed controversial people before. So we'll see what happens."

McConnell is one of those people who is waiting to see what happens, though the Kansas City Star notes that, despite his past aggressive efforts to stop unacceptable candidates from winning their primaries, he's "made no indication he would get involved" here. Indeed, McConnell has refrained from even discussing Greitens publicly even though the candidate can't stop talking about his would-be leader: Greitens has accused McConnell of being behind the abuse allegations, and he's also claimed that Show Me Values, which is funded largely by Schmitt ally Rex Sinquefield, is linked to McConnell.

Hartzler, for her part, is trying to make the best of her situation with a new commercial that dubs her two main foes, "Eric and Eric," as "too weak on China." The congresswoman then makes the case that "if you want a senator who fights China like President Trump did, stand with me," a statement that's accompanied by a photo of her shaking hands with Trump back in happier days. Both Schmitt and Greitens' allies have previously run commercials using anti-China messaging against the other, though they've yet to seriously target Hartzler this way yet.

Hartzler and the Erics, however, are united in ignoring Long, whose best moment in the race came in March when Trump not-tweeted, "Have the great people of Missouri been considering the big, loud, and proud personality of Congressman Billy Long for the Senate?," a question he added was "not an Endorsement, but I'm just askin'?" Every poll, though, has found that the answer to be a resounding no, which may be why Trump has stopped talking about Long. The congressman, who made news in 2019 by giving his colleagues fake $45 bills bearing Trump's face, hasn't given up trying to get his actual endorsement even as his campaign has struggled to raise real money.

2Q Fundraising

  • MO-Sen: Lucas Kunce (D): $1.1 million raised
  • NH-Sen: Don Bolduc (R): $85,000 raised
  • WA-Sen: Tiffany Smiley (R): $2.6 million raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand
  • CA-45: Jay Chen (D): $980,000 raised, $2.1 million cash-on-hand
  • NC-14: Jeff Jackson (D): $650,000 raised, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
  • NY-17: Sean Patrick Maloney (D-inc): $850,000 raised, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
  • NY-18: Colin Schmitt (R): $340,000 raised, $600,000 cash-on-hand
  • VA-02: Elaine Luria (D-inc): $1.8 million raised, $4.3 million cash-on-hand

senate

OH-Sen: Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan's newest ad will not only air exclusively on Fox News, it features multiples clip of high-profile Fox figures offering what passes for praise of the congressman, including Maria Bartiromo, Brett Baier, Peter Doocy, and even Tucker Carlson.

The chyron shown during the Carlson segment reads, "NOT EVERYONE IN THE DEM 2020 FIELD IS A LUNATIC," a reference to one of Ryan's two debate appearances during his short-lived presidential campaign. During that debate, Ryan agreed that Sen. Bernie Sanders' proposals would "incentivize undocumented immigrants to come into this country illegally" and said, "[I]f you want to come into the country, you should at least ring the doorbell."

OK-Sen-B: On Saturday, Donald Trump provided his "Complete and Total Endorsement" to Rep. Markwayne Mullin ahead of the August 23 Republican primary runoff. Mullin lapped former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon 44-18 in the first round of voting in late June.

Governors

AZ-Gov: The Republican firm HighGround Public Affairs, which says it sponsored this poll itself, finds former TV anchor Kari Lake leading Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson just 39-35 in the Aug. 2 Republican primary, while 4% went for another option. The survey was conducted July 2-7, with termed-out Gov. Doug Ducey backing Robson on that final day.

Lake, meanwhile, appears to be running the first, though probably far from the last, negative TV ad of the contest. After telling the audience that she's Trump's endorsed candidate, Lake goes on to label Robson, "a real RINO." Lake insists, "She gave illegals tuition discounts and made us pay for it. She voted for abortion and gun control and refused to vote to end vax and mask mandates on our children."

LA-Gov: New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno did not rule out a 2023 bid for governor over the weekend after state Democratic Party chair Katie Bernhardt mentioned her as a possible candidate. Moreno instead told NOLA.com, "People have been encouraging me for a statewide run for some time, but since last week the calls have increased from people, mostly women, who are liberal and conservative." Moreno has been talked about for years as a likely candidate for mayor in the 2025 race to succeed termed-out incumbent LaToya Cantrell, though she'd still be able to campaign for the Crescent City's top job if a statewide bid failed.  

NH-Gov: State Sen. Tom Sherman, who has the Democratic field to himself, has released an internal from Public Policy Polling that shows him trailing Republican Gov. Chris Sununu 43-33, with Libertarian Karlyn Borysenko grabbing 8%. This result, while still not close, is considerably better for Sherman than his 55-29 deficit in an April poll from the University of New Hampshire, which is the most recent survey we've seen until now. Sherman's poll also argues he'll make up ground once voters are reminded that Sununu signed an anti-abortion bill in 2021.

OR-Gov: Legislative Republicans have publicized numbers from Cygnal that show Republican Christine Drazan edging out Democrat Tina Kotek 32-31, with independent Betsy Johnson grabbing 24%. The survey comes days after Johnson released her own internal from GS Strategy that put Kotek ahead with 33% as Johnson and Drazan took 30% and 23%, respectively.

House

NE-02: Democrat Tony Vargas has released an internal from GBAO that shows him with a 48-47 edge over Republican incumbent Don Bacon in an Omaha-based seat Biden would have carried 52-46; the National Journal, which first publicized the poll, says it sampled 500 likely voters. The last survey we saw was a Change Research survey for Vargas' allies at 314 Action done days before his May primary win, and it found the Democrat ahead 42-39.

NY-03: Rep. Tom Suozzi has endorsed Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan in the five-way Aug. 23 Democratic nomination contest to succeed him, though the incumbent's influence at home may not be as strong as he'd like it to be. According to Newsday, Gov. Kathy Hochul defeated Suozzi 57-37 in the new boundaries of the 3rd District in last month's primary for governor; Suozzi lost by a slightly smaller 56-39 in the existing incarnation of this Long Island seat.

Ballot Measures

MI Ballot: Michigan activists seeking to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall that would guarantee the right to an abortion submitted more than 753,000 signatures to the secretary of state's office on Monday—far more than the 425,000 required by law, and the most collected for a ballot initiative in state history. Officials must first verify the petitions, but given the huge cushion of extra signatures, it's all but certain the measure will go before voters in November.

Ad Roundup

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Morning Digest: Trump’s forces take down Rep. Tom Rice in South Carolina, but Nancy Mace holds on

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

SC-01, SC-07: Two members of South Carolina’s U.S. House delegation went up against Trump-backed Republican primary opponents on Tuesday, but while 1st District Rep. Nancy Mace secured renomination, voters in the neighboring 7th District ejected pro-impeachment Rep. Tom Rice in favor of state Rep. Russell Fry. Mace turned back former state Rep. Katie Arrington, who was Team Red’s unsuccessful 2018 nominee, 53-45, which was just above the majority she needed to avoid a June 28 runoff. Fry also averted a second round in his six-way race by lapping Rice 51-25.

Mace, who was the first woman to graduate from the state’s famed military academy the Citadel, became one of the GOP’s most promising rising stars in 2020 when she unseated Democratic incumbent Joe Cunningham in a very expensive race. Mace, however, broke with Trump in the days after she was forced to barricade in her office during the Jan. 6 attack, saying, “I hold him accountable for the events that transpired.” She never backed impeachment and soon stopped trying to pick fights with Trump, but the GOP master still decided to repay her by endorsing Arrington, who had denied renomination in 2018 to then-Rep. Mark Sanford, in February.

Arrington, who launched her new campaign by blasting the incumbent as a "sellout" who "sold out the Lowcountry" and "sold out President Trump,” released a poll in early March arguing that her all-Trump all the time strategy would carry her to victory. Those Remington Research Group numbers showed Mace’s 50-35 lead transforming into a 51-33 Arrington advantage after respondents were informed she was the “Trump Endorsed America First Candidate,” which led the pollster to conclude that “there is no path to victory” for Mace.  

The congresswoman, though, worked to frame the primary as anything other than a fight between her and Trump. Shortly after Arrington’s kickoff, Mace posted a video shot across the street from Trump Tower where, after talking about her longtime Trump loyalty, she says, “If you want to lose this seat once again in a midterm election cycle to Democrats, then my opponent is more than qualified to do just that.” The GOP legislature did what it could to make sure that no one could lose this coastal South Carolina seat to Democrats by passing a map that extended Trump’s 2020 margin from 52-46 to 54-45, but that didn’t stop Mace from convincingly arguing that Arrington would be electoral Kryptonite against the Democrats’ well-funded candidate, pediatrician Annie Andrews.   

Rice, by contrast, went far further than Mace by actually voting for impeachment last year, a move so shocking that his own consultant initially assumed the five-term congressman had simply hit the wrong button. That vote instantly ensured that Rice, who had been easily renominated every cycle since he’d first won this safely red Myrtle Beach-area constituency in a competitive 2012 primary, would be in for an extremely difficult campaign, and several Republicans soon began challenging him.

Fry, though, cemented his status as the frontrunner after Trump backed him in February, and he soon earned national attention of his own with a truly strange ad depicting the apostate incumbent attending a touchy-feely "Villains Anonymous" meeting with the likes of the Joker, Lucifer, a pirate, Maleficent, and Delores Umbridge of the "Harry Potter" franchise. Rice and his remaining allies fought back by arguing that the congressman was too influential to fire and that Fry wasn't actually the conservative he presented himself as, but it was far from enough.

Rice himself argued to the end that he’d made the right decision by voting to impeach Trump over Jan. 6, saying, “He sat there and watched the Capitol get sacked and took pleasure in that … That’s what a dictator would do.” That didn’t prove to be a very compelling argument, though, and GOP primary voters responded by decisively nominating Fry in his place.

Election Recaps

TX-34 (special): Conservative activist Mayra Flores flipped this Rio Grande Valley constituency to the GOP on Tuesday by taking a majority of the vote in the all-party primary to succeed Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned earlier this year to take a job at a lobbying firm. (Vela announced his retirement last year but hadn’t previously indicated he’d leave Congress early.) Flores outpaced former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez, a Democrat who is not running for a full two-year term anywhere, 51-43 after a campaign where Republicans spent over $1 million while Democrats only began airing TV ads in the final week.

Flores was already the GOP nominee for the new version of the 34th District, where Republican mapmakers extended Joe Biden’s margin of victory from just 52-48 to 57-42 in order to strengthen their position in nearby seats. Her opponent will be Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who decided to run here because that very GOP gerrymander made his own 15th District more conservative: This will almost certainly be the only incumbent vs. incumbent general election of the cycle other than the race for Florida’s 2nd District between Democratic Rep. Al Lawson and Republican colleague Neal Dunn.

While Flores will be in for a difficult fight in November on more Democratic terrain, though, Republicans are hoping that her win Tuesday proves that the GOP can still secure further gains in heavily Latino areas. Flores also will have a geographic advantage, as she’ll spend the next several months representing 75% of the new 34th District; Gonzalez, by contrast, currently serves the remaining quarter.

Primary Night: Here’s a look at where Nevada’s key races for Senate, governor, and U.S. House stand as of Wednesday morning. Note that, because a large number of ballots remain untabulated, these margins could change before the results are certified:

  • NV-Sen (R): Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt turned back an unexpectedly well-funded campaign from Army veteran Sam Brown by a 56-34 margin. Laxalt, who was the 2018 nominee for governor, will go up against Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto in what will be one of the most competitive Senate races of the cycle.
  • NV-Gov (R): Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who like Laxalt had Trump’s endorsement, defeated attorney Joey Gilbert 38-28 for the right to take on Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Former Sen. Dean Heller, who lost re-election to Democrat Jacky Rosen in 2018, took a distant third with 14%; Heller never lost a race in his long career in Nevada politics until Rosen unseated him four years ago.
  • NV-01 (D): Rep. Dina Titus turned back progressive challenger Amy Vilela in an 82-18 landslide.
  • NV-01 (R): The Associated Press has not yet called this contest but with 89% of the estimated vote in, Army veteran Mark Robertson holds a 30-17 lead over conservative activist David Brog; former 4th District Rep. Crescent Hardy, who raised almost no money for his latest comeback, lags in fourth with just 12%. Democrats in the legislature, much to Titus’ frustration, made this seat in the eastern Las Vegas area considerably more competitive in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer, and Biden would have carried the new 1st 53-45.
  • NV-02 (R): Republican Rep. Mark Amodei secured renomination in this safely red northern Nevada seat by beating Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian 54-33. Tarkanian, who was a longtime resident of the Las Vegas area well to the south, finally ended his legendary losing streak in 2020 after moving to Douglas County, but he very much returned to form on Tuesday by failing to win a seat in Congress for the fifth time.
  • NV-03 (R): Attorney April Becker, who was the favored candidate of the GOP establishment, easily defeated self-funder John Kovacs 65-11. Becker will go up against Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in a southern Las Vegas area seat where Democrats extended Biden’s winning margin from just 49.1-48.9 to 52-46.
  • NV-04 (R): The AP hasn’t called this GOP primary yet but with 68% of the estimated vote in, Air Force veteran Sam Peters leads Assemblywoman Annie Black 48-41. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford, whose constituency in the northern Las Vegas area supported Biden 53-45 under the new map.

Senate

WA-Sen: NBC reports that the Democratic group Future Majority PAC has booked $860,000 for an ad campaign that will start in early July, which will make this the first major outside spending of the contest. Early this month the Northwest Progressive Institute released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling giving Democratic incumbent Patty Murray a 51-40 lead over her likely Republican opponent, motivational speaker Tiffany Smiley.

Governors

IL-Gov: The Republican firm Ogden & Fry's new look at the June 28 GOP primary finds state Sen. Darren Bailey leading Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin 31-17, with venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan at 11%. This is the third poll in a row we've seen showing Bailey defeating Irvin, an outcome that would greatly please Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his allies.  

OK-Gov: Amber Integrated (R): Kevin Stitt (R-inc): 47, Joy Hofmeister (D): 29 (March: 44-30 Stitt)

TX-Gov: The Democratic pollster Blueprint Polling's inaugural survey of Texas shows Republican incumbent Greg Abbott fending off Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke in a 56-37 landslide. This survey, which the firm says was done "with no input or funding from any candidate, committee, or interest group," comes a month after UT Tyler gave Abbott a considerably smaller 46-39 advantage.

House

CA-40: The Associated Press on Monday night projected that Rep. Young Kim had defeated her fellow Republican, Mission Viejo Councilman Greg Raths, for the second spot in the general election despite a late Democratic effort to boost Raths. Democrat Asif Mahmood took first in last week's top-two primary with 41%, while Kim beat Raths 34-23 after she and her allies launched a significant last-minute spending spree to turn back the perennial candidate. Biden would have carried this eastern Orange County constituency 50-48.

FL-10, FL-Sen: Former Rep. Alan Grayson, whom longtime readers will know is one of our least favorite Democrats in America, announced Tuesday that he was abandoning his little-noticed Senate campaign in favor of running to succeed his now-former intra-party rival, Rep. Val Demings, in the safely blue 10th District in the Orlando area. He joins an August primary that includes state Sen. Randolph Bracy; gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost; pastor Terence Gray; and civil rights attorney Natalie Jackson, all of whom, like Demings but unlike Grayson, are Black.

The Orlando Sentinel notes that several Florida Democrats have argued that this area should continue to be represented by an African American. Indeed, Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge notably said in April, "My intent is to try to keep it [a Black] access seat because it is important to our community," though he predicted, "But, you know, someone can show up at noon on the last day of qualifying with 10 grand in their pocket, and boom, they're on the ballot." Grayson himself had just over $240,000 on-hand at the end of March, a paltry sum for a statewide contest but enough to put up a fight in a House race.

IL-06: Rep. Sean Casten's office announced Monday evening that his 17-year-old daughter, Gwen Casten, had died that morning. Fellow Rep. Marie Newman, who is Sean Casten's opponent in the June 28 Democratic primary, said in response that her campaign "is working to cease all comparative paid communications immediately."    

IL-07: The Justice Democrats have launched a $120,000 ad buy supporting gun safety activist Kina Collins' bid against longtime Rep. Danny Davis in the June 28 Democratic primary, which makes this the first outside spending on Collins' side. (A group called Opportunity for All Action Fund has deployed a similar amount for the incumbent.) The spot, writes Primary School, faults Davis for missing House votes as crime and inflation remain a serious problem, and pledges that the challenger would be a more focused representative. Davis fended off Collins 60-14 two years ago in this safely blue Chicago seat.

VA-02: The Democratic group Patriot Majority has launched a commercial designed to help far-right activist Jarome Bell win next week's Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria, which makes this the latest contest where Democrats have tried to pick their opponents. The narrator tells the audience, "Bell is a Navy veteran who calls himself an 'America First conservative' … He supports Trump's election audit in all 50 states, and Bell wants to outlaw abortion." Unsubtly, the narrator concludes, "If Jarome Bell wins, Donald Trump wins too." There is no word on the size of the buy.

Trump himself has not made an endorsement here, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is all-in for one of Bell's intra-party rivals, state Sen. Jen Kiggans. A late May internal for a pro-Kiggans group showed her decisively beating another primary candidate, Air Force veteran Tommy Altman, 43-9, with Bell at 8%.

DCCC: The DCCC has added 11 more candidates to its Red to Blue program, which is the DCCC's top-tier list of races where it plans to be heavily involved this cycle: 

  • AZ-01: Jevin Hodge
  • FL-27: Annette Taddeo
  • NC-01: Don Davis
  • NC-13: Wiley Nickel
  • NC-14: Jeff Jackson
  • NY-01: Bridget Fleming
  • NY-22: Francis Conole
  • OR-04: Val Hoyle
  • OR-05: Jamie McLeod Skinner
  • OR-06: Andrea Salinas
  • PA-17: Chris Deluzio

Most of these candidates have already won the nomination or face little intra-party opposition, but the DCCC is taking sides in a few contested primaries. In Arizona’s 1st Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, is going up against former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf for the right to take on GOP Rep. David Schweikert. (A third Democrat, environmental consultant Ginger Sykes Torres, failed to collect enough signatures to continue her campaign.)

Taddeo, likewise, has to get past Miami Commissioner Ken Russell before she can focus on Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar in Florida's 27th. Finally, Conole faces Air Force veteran Sarah Klee Hood, Syracuse Common Council member Chol Majok, and former Assemblyman Sam Roberts in the primary for New York's open 22nd District.  

Ad Roundup

Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.

Morning Digest: Trio of Trump-endorsed Senate candidates gets swamped in primary fundraising

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

AK-Sen, AL-Sen, NC-Sen: While a trio of Republican Senate candidates have Donald Trump's coveted endorsement, Politico's James Arkin notes that each of them was still decisively outraised by an intra-party opponent during the second quarter of 2021.

We'll start in Alaska, where incumbent Lisa Murkowski outpaced former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka $1.1 million to $545,000. The senator, who has not yet confirmed if she'll run again, also ended June with a wide $2.3 million to $275,000 cash-on-hand edge. Murkowski famously lost the 2010 nomination only to win in the fall as a write-in candidate, but the Last Frontier voted last year to do away with partisan primaries and instead institute the new top-four system.

The GOP primary in Alabama, meanwhile, pits Trump-endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks against ex-Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt, a former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby who has her old boss' backing; a few other candidates are running as well. Britt entered the race in June and quickly hauled in $2.2 million compared to $820,000 for Brooks. And while Brooks, who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, enjoyed a big fundraising head start thanks to his April launch and his ability to transfer funds from his House account to his Senate campaign, it's Britt who enjoys a $2.2 million to $1.7 million cash-on-hand lead.

Campaign Action

Britt's strong opening quarter wasn't a huge surprise given her extensive connections in the state's business circles. CNN also reported in late May, just before she launched her campaign, that some unnamed Republicans feared that Brooks would be "an unreliable ally to the business community" and saw Britt as a good alternative.  

Both contenders, though, have far less money than former Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard, who has been self-funding most of her campaign. While Blanchard hauled in just $190,000 from donors from April to June, she's sitting on $5.2 million. Another Republican, businesswoman Jessica Taylor, entered the race in July after the new fundraising quarter began. A runoff would take place if no one takes a majority of the vote in the first round of the primary, and the GOP nominee will be the heavy favorite to prevail in the general election.

Trump, for his part, is doing what he can to make sure that Brooks’ underwhelming fundraising doesn't stop him from being that nominee. Earlier this month, he put out a not-Tweet slamming Britt and Shelby, who has been an ardent Trump ally, with the venom he usually only reserves for the likes of Murkowski and other politicians who have crossed him. "I see that the RINO Senator from Alabama, close friend of Old Crow Mitch McConnell, Richard Shelby, is pushing hard to have his 'assistant' fight the great Mo Brooks for his Senate seat," Trump declared, adding, "She is not in any way qualified and is certainly not what our Country needs or not what Alabama wants."

Britt responded, "I don't need anyone else to fight my battles, and as Alabama's next U.S. Senator, I won't be a rubber stamp for anyone." Trump has yet to publicly attack either Blanchard or Taylor.

Finally in North Carolina, another Trump-backed congressman, Ted Budd, got swamped in the money race by former Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory outpaced Budd $1.2 million to $700,000, though Budd self-funded an additional $250,000. Unlike Brooks, though, Budd's pre-existing war chest left him with a $1.7 million to $955,000 cash-on-hand lead over the former governor. Another Republican candidate, former Rep. Mark Walker, wasn't in such good shape, however: Walker raised a mere $190,000 for the quarter, and he had $925,000 in the bank.

The top fundraiser in this quarter wasn't any of the Republicans, though. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley finished just ahead of McCrory by bringing in $1.3 million during her first months in the contest, and she ended it with $835,000 on-hand.

State Sen. Jeff Jackson, who launched his campaign in January, brought in a smaller $720,000 this time, though his $865,000 war chest was slightly larger than Beasley's. Former state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost the 2020 primary, was a distant third for Team Blue with $115,000 raised and $55,000 on-hand, while Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton was even further behind. Primary runoffs only take place in the Tar Heel State if no one takes at least 30% of the vote.

Senate

OK-Sen: Republican Sen. James Lankford learned over the last few days both that he has a massive cash-on-hand edge over his intra-party rival, pastor Jackson Lahmeyer, and that he wouldn't be getting censured by the state party.

Lahmeyer's longshot campaign earned some attention a few weeks ago when party chair John Bennett announced that he was backing the challenger because of Lankford's refusal to object to certifying Joe Biden's electoral college majority in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack. That declaration came just before the conclusion of the second quarter, which saw the incumbent outraise Lahmeyer $780,000 to $210,000; Lankford also ended June with a $1.6 million to $135,000 cash-on-hand lead.

It remains to be seen if Oklahoma's conservative base will be open to firing Lankford, but so far, a majority of Bennett's colleagues at the state's Republican State Committee aren't. On Saturday, the body voted 122-93 against censuring both Lankford and fellow Sen. Jim Inhofe for recognizing Biden's win.

Governors

CA-Gov: Candidate filing closed Friday for the Sept. 14 recall election against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, and the secretary of state's office has a list of contenders available here. As we'll discuss, though, one notable Republican, conservative radio host Larry Elder, is disputing his omission from the document and has indicated he would sue to make the ballot.

Voters will be presented with two separate questions on the September ballot. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled, while the second will ask them to pick among the candidates vying to succeed him. The results of the second question will only matter if a majority vote "yes" on the first question; should this happen, the replacement candidate who wins a plurality of the vote will become California's new governor.

Newsom's party affiliation will not be listed on the ballot because his legal team didn't turn in required paperwork on time last year, though the replacement candidates will be identified by party. Polls have generally shown the recall question failing, though no numbers have been released since the election was scheduled early this month.

A total of 41 candidates have qualified for the ballot (there is no primary or general election here) which means that this field, while large, is nonetheless far smaller than the 135-person contest from 2003. And while Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger dominated the race 18 years ago when voters opted to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, there is no clear front runner on the GOP side this time. The notable contenders are:

  • 2018 nominee John Cox
  • Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer
  • Board of Equalization Member Ted Gaines
  • Reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner
  • Assemblyman Kevin Kiley
  • Former Rep. Doug Ose

Jenner’s campaign announced Friday that she had flown to Australia to take part in the filming of the TV show Big Brother VIP, though the candidate insisted she was still running.

One Republican who was not listed, though, was the aforementioned Elder, who is a regular Fox News guest. Election officials told him over the weekend that he hadn't submitted legally-required information about his tax history, though it's not clear yet what he didn't include. Elder shared the secretary of state's letter on Twitter on Sunday and added, "See you in court."

Another key difference from the state's last recall campaign is that, while eight Democrats filed to replace Newsom, none of them appear to be capable of running serious campaigns. That's welcome news for the governor and his allies, who strongly discouraged big-name contenders from getting in so they could avoid a repeat of the 2003 debacle.

In that race, Democrats rallied around Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante as their backup choice in case the recall succeeded with the awkward slogan of "no on recall, yes on Bustamante." That position became even more precarious when Bustamante started to criticize Davis in the evident hope that the recall would succeed and he'd reap the rewards. (He didn't.)

IL-Gov: Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday that he would seek a second term in 2022, and so far, none of his would-be Republican foes have raised the type of money they'll need to have a real chance to take him down in this very blue and very expensive state.

The GOP contender with the largest war chest is state Sen. Darren Bailey, a right-wing extremist who, among other things, was ejected from a House session last year for refusing to wear a face mask. Bailey raised only $165,000 but he still ended June with $490,000 in his campaign fund. Businessman Gary Rabine, who is self-funding much of his bid, hauled in a total of $345,000 and had $285,000 left over. A third candidate, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, raised just $85,000 and had $115,000 on-hand.

Pritzker, meanwhile, raised only $200,000 but, thanks to a massive personal investment in March, had $32.9 million in the bank. The governor has an estimated net worth of well over $3 billion, and he's more than capable of throwing down far more money if he wants to.

OR-Gov: New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof told Willamette Week's Rachel Monahan that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination in next year's open seat race.

Kristof, who has spent much of his career writing about global human rights issues, is originally from the Beaver State, and the Times says he returned two years ago when he became more involved with his family farm. A spokesperson for the paper also said, "Although Nick has not made up his mind about whether to pursue a political candidacy, we agreed he'd go on leave from The Times, in accordance with Times standards, after he brought this possibility to our attention last month."

VA-Gov: The conservative American Principles Project has released a survey from the Republican firm Spry Strategies that gives Democrat Terry McAuliffe a 46-41 lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin.

House

IL-17: Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said Monday that he would not run to succeed his fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Cheri Bustos.

SC-07: Republican Rep. Tom Rice faces a cavalcade of primary opponents thanks to his January vote to impeach Donald Trump, but surprisingly, the only one who brought in a large amount of money during the second quarter was a contender we hadn't previously mentioned. Graham Allen, an Army veteran and conservative media figure, hauled in $410,000 and self-funded another $92,000, and he ended June with $465,000 in the bank. Rice himself had a smaller $325,000 haul, though he had $1.6 million on-hand to defend himself.

The incumbent also had a considerably better quarter than two of his other noteworthy foes. Horry County School Board chair Ken Richardson raised a mere $25,000 but, thanks to some self-funding he did earlier in the year, had nearly $100,000 in the bank. Former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride, though, took in just over $3,000 during his first few weeks as a candidate.

TX-06: Former Rep. Joe Barton, who left Congress in 2019 after 34 years in office following a sex scandal, threw his support behind state Rep. Jake Ellzey on Monday ahead of July 27's all GOP-runoff. Barton said that both Ellzey and party activist Susan Wright, who is the widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright, would make good members of Congress, but that Ellzey was the best option "on the merits."

Barton's decision is a bit surprising because of his long relationship with Ron Wright, who served as his chief of staff and district director during his long tenure. Local politicos speculated for years that Wright would be Barton's heir apparent whenever he decided to call it a career: That retirement announcement came during the 2018 cycle after Barton apologized when a "graphic nude photo" of him circulated online and the public learned even more unsavory aspects of his personal life.

Wright ended up competing in the GOP primary runoff against none other than Ellzey, a campaign he ultimately won. Barton, for his part, said that while he planned to support his former employee, he was "not sure if anybody would want my endorsement, so I might come out against somebody if that helps them." The incumbent, though, ended up backing his protege the old-fashioned way by holding events for Wright in both Washington and in the district.

Mayors

St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: Outgoing Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Monday that he was backing former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, a fellow Democrat, in the Aug. 24 nonpartisan primary to succeed him.

Seattle, WA Mayor: The Northwest Progressive Institute, which says it does not take sides in elections, has released a survey of the Aug. 3 top-two primary from the Democratic firm Change Research that shows former City Council President Bruce Harrell ahead with 20%, while City Council President Lorena Gonzalez holds a 12-10 lead over nonprofit head Colleen Echohawk for the second place spot; two other contenders, former state Rep. Jessyn Farrell and architect Andrew Grant Houston, were behind with 6% each.

Toledo, OH Mayor: Democratic incumbent Wade Kapszukiewicz picked up a well-known opponent just before candidate filing closed on Friday when former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, a former Democrat and Republican who now identifies as an "independent-Democrat," entered this year's race to face him. Kapszukiewicz, Finkbeiner, and Republican Jan Scotland will face off in the Sept. 14 nonpartisan primary, and the top-two vote-getters will advance to the November general.

Finkbeiner led Toledo from 1994 to 2002 and from 2006 to 2010, and he attracted national attention early in his tenure by suggesting that the city could deal with airport noise by moving deaf people into the affected areas. Finkbeiner would continue to generate plenty of press throughout his two stints as mayor, including in 2009 when he personally broke up a fight in a park between two teenagers and labeled one "fatso" and "tubby."

Finkbeiner launched another campaign to return to office in a 2015 special election, but he finished in third place: Interim Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson beat another former mayor, Mike Bell, 36-17, while Finkbeiner was just behind with 16%. (That election required candidates to win just a plurality of the vote, so Finkbeiner didn't come close to winning.) Two years later, Kapszukiewicz defeated Hicks-Hudson 55-45 in the race for a regular four-year term.

Finkbeiner, who is 82, announced Friday that he would try again by going up against Kapszukiewicz. The challenger argued that he had the experience to deal with crime and blight, while Kapszukiewicz's campaign said in response that Finkbeiner had "laid off nearly 100 police officers and eliminated the gang task force" during his last term.

Other Races

Queens, NY Borough President: On Friday, former New York City Councilwoman Liz Crowley conceded defeat in the June 22 Democratic primary. Incumbent Donovan Richards fended off Crowley 50.3-49.7 after a nasty race, and he should have no trouble in the November general election in this very blue borough.  

Nassau County, NY Executive: Democratic incumbent Laura Curran begins the general election with a wide financial lead over her Republican foe, Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman, in this populous Long Island community. Curran, who was elected in a close 2017 race, outraised Blakeman $950,000 to $575,000 from mid-January to mid-July, and she has a $2.1 million to $550,000 cash-on-hand edge going into the November general election.

Morning Digest: GOP field slowly develops for 2022 race to break Dems’ single-party hold on Nevada

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

NV-Gov, NV-Sen: The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Rory Appleton takes a deep look at the developing Republican fields to take on the two leading Nevada Democrats up in this swing state in 2022, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Republicans seem to agree that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red’s 2018 nominee for governor, would have little trouble winning the Senate primary should he run, but the gubernatorial field appears to be wide open.

Sisolak, though, may have more immediate worries. Appleton reports that Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick is considering challenging the governor in the primary, though she has yet to confirm her interest. There’s no word on why Kirkpatrick might want to unseat a member of her own party, though Appleton says she’s come into conflict with the governor before.

No matter what, though, Democrats will need to prepare for a tough general election as they seek to hold the governor’s office. Until now, the only notable Republican who had publicly talked about running was Rep. Mark Amodei, who reaffirmed his interest this month. Appleton also says that former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who share a consultant, are considering; neither man has said anything publicly, though Amodei relays that he’s spoken to him about this contest recently.

Campaign Action

While things are unsettled now, there may be a Republican frontrunner before too long. Appleton writes, “The belief in Republican political circles is the potential candidates will come to an agreement in the next month and not compete against one another in a primary.”

Other Republicans, though, may decide to run no matter what any member of this trio does. Appleton notes that casino owner Derek Stevens, whom he describes as a “newcomer,” is thinking about getting in.

A few other Silver State politicos may also take their chances. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who previously served in the state Senate as a conservative Democrat, acknowledged he’s been “approached by different people in both parties” about switching to the GOP and running for governor. Lee didn’t rule the idea out, saying, “I’m flattered, but at this point, I’m still focused on some big projects in North Las Vegas, and I don’t want to be distracted.”

GOP state Sens. Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Gansert, whom Appleton characterizes as “wildcards,” also could run either against Sisolak or Cortez Masto. Kieckhefer said he was “still thinking about what a race for governor looks like” and “has had a few conversations about the Senate.” Kieckhefer, who portrayed himself as a moderate focused on “consensus building and problem solving in a bipartisan way,” said he hoped to make up his mind in June.

Gansert, for her part, was more evasive, but she did not reject the idea of a statewide campaign. Gansert, who is a former chief of staff to former Gov. Brian Sandoval, said, “I certainly see the growing frustration over the lack of checks and balances and the one-party rule in our government, but I have a lot to get done in the legislature.”

There are two big GOP names from yesteryear, though, who probably won’t run for anything in 2022. Appleton name-drops former Sen. Dean Heller as a possible gubernatorial candidate, though he writes that Amodei and most Republican operatives doubt he’ll campaign for anything this cycle “unless the waters change.”

Appleton also reports that, while both sides are watching to see if Sandoval will run for the Senate, few expect him to. Republicans tried hard to recruit him to run here six years ago, but he never seemed particularly interested in joining Congress. Sandoval is currently serving as president of the University of Nevada, Reno, and a spokesperson says that he “would prefer to keep his time and attention focused on that role.” Sandoval, who was a relative moderate during his time in office, could also be deterred from running by the threat of a difficult GOP primary against a possible conservative alternative.

1Q Fundraising

CA-Sen: Alex Padilla (D-inc): $2.6 million raised

NC-Sen: Jeff Jackson (D) $1.3 million raised

OH-Sen: Jane Timken (R): $2.1 million raised

PA-Sen: Chrissy Houlahan (D): $580,000 raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand (has not announced a bid); Jeff Bartos (R): $1.2 million raised

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R-inc): $700,000 raised

MI-03: Peter Meijer (R-inc): $500,000 raised

NC-11: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D): $380,000 raised (in one month)

OH-11: Nina Turner (D): $1.55 million raised; Shontel Brown (D): $640,000 raised, $550,000 cash-on-hand

OH-16: Max Miller (R): $500,000 raised

Senate

AK-Sen: Republican Kelly Tshibaka has released a new poll from Cygnal that shows her leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski 34-19 in a hypothetical all-party primary with three other undeclared candidates to argue that the incumbent is in a "weak" position, but it doesn't address Alaska's new instant runoff for general elections. Under this system, the top four vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance from the primary, then compete via ranked-choice voting in November. Without simulating a potential runoff, it's impossible to know any candidate's true strength.

CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna isn't ruling out a challenge next year to fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, whose appointment in January to succeed Kamala Harris made him the first Latino senator in California history. In new remarks to Politico, the Bay Area congressman said he's "keeping [his] options open" regarding a potential Senate bid.

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh kicked off a bid for the Senate on Monday, making her the third notable Democrat to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Arkoosh, a physician, unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2014 for what was then numbered the 13th District, finishing last in a four-way primary with 15% of the vote. (The nomination was won by Brendan Boyle, who now represents the redrawn and renumbered 2nd District.) The following year, though, Arkoosh was tapped to fill a vacancy on the commission in Montgomery County, a large suburban county just outside of Philadelphia, and won election in her own right that fall. In 2016, her fellow commissioners selected her as the board's first woman chair, and she easily won a second term in 2019.

If Arkoosh were to prevail in next year's race, she'd also be the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate. First, though, she'll have to get past a primary that already features Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with more poised to join.

UT-Sen: The Salt Lake Tribune's Bryan Schott runs down a whole host of possible primary challengers to Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who is largely drawing heat from those dismayed by his wholehearted embrace of Trumpism. In any other state, that would be unimaginable, but a sizable contingent of Mormon voters remain nonplussed with the GOP's direction over the last half-decade—enough, at least, to spur chatter about trying to take down Lee.

The roster of potential candidates includes former state Rep. Becky Edwards, whom we'd previously identified as running based on her statement that she was "all in"; Schott, however, says that she's "all in" on exploring a bid, which is really not a helpful use of the term. There's also businesswoman Ally Isom, who was previously reported to be interested but has now confirmed she's looking at the race. Isom quit the GOP in 2016 over Trump but re-registered as a Republican last year; like Edwards, she encouraged Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.

Meanwhile, real estate executive Thomas Wright, who ended up last with just 8% in last year's four-way Republican primary for governor, didn't rule out a bid, saying that "there continues to be a desire to serve." However, the third-place finisher in that race, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, flat-out said he wouldn't run and would back Lee for re-election.

Schott adds that there have been "persistent rumblings" that Tim Ballard, the head of a nonprofit that combats child trafficking, could run, but there's no word on his interest. As for former CIA officer Evan McMullin, who took 22% in Utah running as a conservative independent in 2016's presidential race, Schott says any hope he might enter is "probably more wishful thinking than reality at this point."

Governors

TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke pointedly did not rule out a bid for governor in new remarks on Friday, saying only, "I've got no plans to run." After lots of folks (who aren't wicked smart Digest readers like you) misinterpreted this statement to conclude that O'Rourke had closed the door on a challenge to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott next year (he hadn't), his team released a further statement to clarify. "I'm not currently considering a run for office," said O'Rourke. "I'm focused on what I'm doing now (teaching and organizing.) Nothing's changed and nothing I said would preclude me from considering a run in the future."

In November of 2018, O'Rourke said, "I will not be a candidate for president in 2020. That's I think as definitive as those sentences get." O'Rourke launched a bid for president in March of 2019.

VA-Gov: Former Democratic state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign for governor just received a $500,000 infusion from a political advocacy organization thanks to state laws that place no caps on political giving. The PAC that made the donation, Clean Virginia, was created by a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive named Michael Bills in an effort to oppose Dominion Energy, which the Virginia Mercury's Graham Moomaw describes as "the state-regulated utility many progressives see as exerting undue control" over state lawmakers.

Moomaw also notes that Clean Virginia had previously given $100,000 each to Foy and another rival in the June 8 Democratic primary, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. It does not appear that the group gave a comparable donation to McClellan this time.

Meanwhile, in an aside buried deep in a long profile piece, the New York Times indicates that former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman is still thinking about a bid. Riggleman, who lost renomination at a party convention last year and has since become a vocal critic of of Trump-fueled disinformation, has until June 8—the same day as the state's primaries—to file as an independent.

House

KS-03: Former state GOP chair Amanda Adkins, who'd reportedly been prepping for a rematch with Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, kicked off a second bid for Kansas' 3rd Congressional District on Monday. Davids beat Adkins by a convincing 54-44 margin last year, as the district, based in the Kansas City area, moved sharply to the left, going for Joe Biden by the same spread—just eight years after backing Mitt Romney by precisely that margin.

However, last year, then-state Senate President Susan Wagle specifically exhorted supporters to preserve the GOP's supermajorities in the legislature to ensure Republicans could draw a new congressional map that "takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd." Republicans were in fact successful keeping their two-thirds majorities while also purging some of the moderates in their caucus in last year's primaries, meaning they'd likely be able to override a veto of any new districts by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

LA-02: A newly created PAC named Progress for the People has begun what The Advocate's Tyler Bridges describes as a "six-figure ad buy" against state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson ahead of the April 24 all-Democratic runoff. This appears to be the first negative TV spot of the runoff, though Peterson's opponent, fellow state Sen. Troy Carter, went up with a spot directed against her just ahead of last month's all-party primary.

The PAC's commercial declares that Peterson accepted her taxpayer funded salary even though she "missed 85% of her votes in the legislature last year," including on "COVID guidelines, voting rights, [and] gun safety." Peterson said at the time that she didn't feel safe going to the Capitol in the early months of the pandemic, and she put out a statement this month blaming the legislature's GOP leaders for rejecting her call "for a mask mandate and social distancing to protect the hardworking staff at the Capitol."

MA-09: Peter Lucas of the conservative Boston Herald relays that some unnamed observers believe that Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito could challenge Democratic Rep. Bill Keating. Polito and Gov. Charlie Baker are up for a third term in 2022, and there's been plenty of speculation that Polito could run to succeed her boss should Baker retire.

Polito has said nothing about a potential bid for Congress, though she and her husband notably purchased a $1.8 million second home last month that's located in Keating's district. Polito, however, has continued to raise cash for her state campaign account, which is money she could not use on a federal campaign

Keating's constituency, which includes the South Shore region near Boston and stretches east to Cape Cod, is the most conservative of Massachusetts' nine congressional districts, though GOP presidential candidates have still struggled here. Joe Biden won 58-40 here last year, which was an improvement from Hillary Clinton's 52-41 victory in 2016. Legislative Democrats also have more than enough members to pass a new congressional map over Baker's veto, so it's unlikely this turf would dramatically change.

MI-06: Freshman state Rep. Steve Carra, who late last month posted on social media that "[i]t's time to replace Fred Upton with a proven conservative," says he's kicking off a campaign on Tuesday. He's by no means the only Republican elected official gunning for Upton over his vote to impeach Donald Trump, though: Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, who expressed interest in a primary challenge in January, has now filed paperwork with the FEC, though he hasn't launched a bid yet.

NY-23: Several more Republicans are talking about bids to succeed GOP Rep. Tom Reed, who recently announced his retirement after a lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct. The newest names are Steuben County Republican Party Chairman Joe Sempolinski and businessman Matthew Burr, who both say they're considering the race. In addition, Chemung County Executive Chris Moss reiterated that he's looking at the contest, but added that he wants to wait to see how redistricting unfolds. Moss said that for now, he plans to seek re-election to his current post next year.

OH-12, OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Turns out it's door number three for Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor: The central Ohio Democrat, who'd previously been considering bids for Senate or statewide executive office, will instead wage another campaign for the House. O'Connor narrowly lost two competitive races for the 12th Congressional District to Republican Troy Balderson in 2018—a special election and then, not long after, the November general election—though redistricting could pit him against someone else.

It doesn't sound, however, as though he'd challenge Rep. Joyce Beatty, a fellow Columbus-area Democrat whom he called "a champion for working families" and suggested was someone (along with Sen. Sherrod Brown) he'd want to emulate in Congress. O'Connor could, though, wind up facing off against Balderson's 2020 opponent, businesswoman Alaina Shearer, who said last month that she's running again but plans to re-evaluate once a new map is in place.

TN-05: On Monday, community activist Odessa Kelly launched a primary challenge against longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition who survived a primary last year by an underwhelming 57-40 margin. Kelly charged Cooper with failing to do enough for the city of Nashville, where Tennessee's 5th District is based, during his "decades in Congress," and identified Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as her top priorities.

If elected, Kelly would be the first Black woman to serve in the House from the Volunteer State and also the first openly gay Black woman in Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.) However, Tennessee Republicans could chop up Nashville in the coming round of redistricting, dividing it between the dark red surrounding districts to create another safe seat for the GOP.

TX-06: Former Trump official Sery Kim unleashed a racist anti-Chinese rant at a candidate forum in Texas' 6th Congressional District last week, prompting two Asian American Republicans in Congress to withdraw their endorsements.

In her opening remarks, Kim launched into a conspiracy theory about the COVID-19 pandemic, baselessly claiming, "We were lied to for the last one year and two months and stayed at home because China created coronavirus in a Wuhan lab." Later, when answering a question about immigration, Kim said of Chinese immigrants, "I don't want them here at all. They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don't hold themselves accountable." She added, "And quite frankly, I can say that because I'm Korean."

California Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel, who were the first Korean American Republican women to win seats in Congress with their victories last year, took sharp exception to Sery Kim's remarks. Saying that she'd refused their demands that she apologize, the two congresswomen said, "We cannot in good conscience continue to support her candidacy." Kim responded by claiming that "the liberal media is targeting me" and filing a lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages against the Texas Tribune for calling her statements "racist."

On an entirely unrelated note, Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez has launched her first TV ad ahead of the May all-party primary, which the Tribune's Patrick Svitek says is backed by a "six-figure buy on cable and satellite." The spot features some basic biographical details (she "put herself through college and started a business from scratch"), then bashes "Washington politicians like Ted Cruz" for opposing $1,400 relief checks. Displaying a photo of Cruz lugging his suitcase through an airport during his notorious trip to Mexico amid Texas' devastating ice storm last month, Sanchez adds, "They even abandoned us when the lights went out."

WA-04: Businessman and Navy veteran Jerrod Sessler is the latest Republican to launch a challenge to GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. He also describes himself as a "former NASCAR driver," but his competitive involvement was limited to local competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues, and his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Tuesday brings a packed slate of five special elections across four states:

CA-AD-79: This Democratic district in the eastern San Diego suburbs became vacant when former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber was appointed as California’s secretary of state in January. There are five candidates seeking this seat and if no one takes a majority Tuesday, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held on June 8.

Four of the candidates vying to replace Weber are Democrats: La Mesa City Council member Akilah Weber (who is a daughter of the former Assemblywoman), organizer Leticia Munguia, criminal justice reform advocate Aeiramique Glass Blake, and middle school teacher Shane Parmely. Businessman Marco Contreras is the lone Republican in the running.

The is a solidly blue seat that backed Hillary Clinton 64-30 in 2016 and is one of two vacancies in this chamber, which Democrats control 58-19 (with one independent member).

MO-HD-54: This Democratic seat in the Columbia area became vacant when former Rep. Kip Kendrick resigned to become chief of staff for state Sen. Greg Razer. No Republican opted to run for this solidly Democratic seat that supported Clinton 60-32, so attorney David Smith will represent Team Blue against Libertarian Glenn Nielsen. According to Columbia Daily Tribune, Smith would be the first Black Missouri legislator elected from outside of Kansas City or St. Louis.

Republicans control this chamber 114-48 with just this seat vacant.

OK-SD-22: This seat located northwest of Oklahoma City became vacant after former Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to the U.S. House last year. Speech pathologist Molly Ooten is the Democratic candidate taking on businessman Jake Merrick, a Republican. Merrick ran in the GOP primary for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District last year, a race Bice won, and took 3%.  

This is a strongly Republican district that backed Donald Trump 68-25 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 38-9 with just this seat vacant.

WI-SD-13: This Republican district in central Wisconsin, which takes in a slice of Madison’s suburbs, became vacant when former Sen. Scott Fitzgerald was elected to the U.S. House last year. The Democratic candidate is teacher Melissa Winker who is taking on Republican state Assemblyman John Jagler. Two candidates from obscure minor parties are also in the race: Businessman Ben Schmitz from the American Solidarity Party and chauffeur Spencer Zimmerman from the Trump Conservative Party.  

This is a solidly red district that supported Trump 58-37 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 20-12 with just this seat vacant.

WI-AD-89: This Republican district north of Green Bay became vacant when former Assemblyman John Nygren resigned last year. Democratic Marinette County Supervisor Karl Jaeger is facing businessman Elijah Behnke, a Republican. Jaeger ran for this seat last year, losing to Nygren by a 69-31 spread.  

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Trump 63-32 in 2016. Republicans hold this chamber 60-38 with just this seat vacant.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: State Rep. Jon Santiago earned an endorsement on Friday from the Laborers Local 223, a high-profile construction union that was led by Marty Walsh until he was elected mayor in 2013. The group is now run by Walsh's cousin, who also happens to be named Marty Walsh; the Boston Herald's Sean Philip Cotter tweets that the current union head is identified as "Big Marty" to distinguish him from his famous relative and the many other Marty Walshes in Boston politics.

P.S.: Marty Walsh, as in the former mayor turned U.S. secretary of labor, said last month that he would not be endorsing in this year's mayoral race.

New York City, NY Mayor: Politico reports that a PAC named New Start NYC has reserved $2.74 million on TV ads through early May in support of Shaun Donovan, a former director of the Obama-era Office of Management and Budget, ahead of the June Democratic primary. The group has received $1 million from the candidate's father, tech executive Michael Donovan.

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up is Ryan:

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislatures

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayors

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

Morning Digest: Jim Jordan, bellicose Trump defender, eyes a Senate bid in Ohio

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

OH-Sen: Several Ohio Republicans publicly expressed interest on Monday in running to succeed GOP Sen. Rob Portman in the hours following his surprise retirement announcement, and a few more are now making noises about getting in. The most prominent among them is the far-right extremist Rep. Jim Jordan, who infamously delivered a speech on the floor of the House just before the Jan. 6 terrorist riot where he repeated Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 presidential race and questioned how "somehow the guy who never left his house wins the election?"

Jordan did not rule out the idea of a Senate bid when asked this week, saying, "We'll see. I'm focused on my work on the Judiciary Committee ... and this crazy impeachment trial." Back in November, Cleveland.com reported that Jordan was considering a primary bid against Gov. Mike DeWine, who infuriated Trump by recognizing Joe Biden's victory. However, at least one consultant was very skeptical Jordan would run to lead the state, and we haven't heard anything new about a potential gubernatorial campaign in the ensuing two months.

Several more of Jordan's current or former House colleagues are also talking about seeking the GOP nod for Senate. Rep. Bill Johnson said, "I am seriously considering this opportunity and over the next few weeks, I will talk to my family, friends and supporters to determine if this is the right time and the right opportunity." Fellow Rep. Brad Wenstrup also said he would talk to people about his future, though he didn't lay out a timeline for when he'd decide

Campaign Action

Former Rep. Pat Tiberi, for his part, said Monday that "there will be a time and place to discuss his successor, but that day is not today." Tiberi considered running for the state's other Senate seat in 2017 against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, but he not only passed, he decided later that year to resign from Congress altogether to lead a business group. Tiberi, though, retains a $5 million war chest that he could use on another bid for federal office.

Another Republican who has expressed interest is state Sen. Matt Dolan, who is a co-owner of the Cleveland Indians team and whom Cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias describes as "a more-moderate, business friendly Republican." Tobias also says of the potential electoral effects of Dolan's status as a team owner, “[W]hether or not that's an advantage depends on what the front office is doing, so that's open to debate right now."

Two Republicans, though, have said no to a Senate campaign: Rep. Troy Balderson and Youngstown State President Jim Tressel. Tressel, who is widely known as the championship-winning former head football coach at the Ohio State University, has been mentioned as a potential statewide candidate for years but has never gone for it, and the 68-year-old university head seemed to definitively rule out running for office this week when he said, "Too busy here at YSU to run for the Senate … it is time for the young guys to step up."

On the Democratic side, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley acknowledged to the New York Times that she was considering both a Senate run or a campaign against DeWine for governor. Whaley didn't indicate which office she'd prefer but seemed especially motivated to stop Jordan from representing Ohio in the Senate, saying, "If Jim Jordan decides to run [for Senate], it is highly likely he will win that primary. We recognize that the soul of our state is at stake, and that's a motivation to all of us."

Senate

AZ-Sen: Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich was reportedly likely to run for Arizona's governorship, but with Gov. Doug Ducey's recent announcement that he won't try to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly next year, Brnovich isn't ruling out that race, either. "I'm too busy watching the Packers game, enjoying a beer and a brat with my wife's family, to think about the Senate or anything else political," said Brnovich, whose high-profile clashes with Ducey have led some Arizona politicos to speculate that the term-limited governor is backing state Treasurer Kimberly Yee as a way to block Brnovich from succeeding him.

But Yee hasn't committed to a gubernatorial bid, and in fact she's now also surfaced as a possible Senate candidate. So has Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, another would-be Republican contender for governor who promised an announcement last month but didn't follow through. Rep. David Schweikert, however, sounds unlikely. In his first public remarks on a potential promotion, the Republican congressman said he was likely to stay put, explaining, "I'm probably an election cycle away from getting at least a subcommittee in Ways and Means," the powerful House committee he currently sits on.

GA-Sen, GA-Gov: An aide to Doug Collins confirms the former congressman is considering either a primary challenge against Gov. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, or a second bid for the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-supporting former Democrat who joined the Republican Party this month, could also run for Senate. Jones made a bid for Senate once before when he was still a Democrat, losing the 2008 primary in a runoff to former state Rep. Jim Martin.

NC-Sen: State Sen. Jeff Jackson announced his entry into the race for North Carolina's open Senate seat on Monday, making him the most prominent Democrat to join the contest to date. Jackson, an attorney and Afghanistan war veteran with the Army Reserve, considered a Senate bid last cycle but declined, claiming Chuck Schumer derided his plan to kick off his campaign with "100 town halls in 100 days." Undeterred, Jackson pledged to visit all 100 North Carolina counties in his launch video "just as soon as it's safe."

Jackson, who is white, will face off against a one-time colleague, former state Sen. Erica Smith, with whom he has some unpleasant history. Smith unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Senate last cycle and subsequently appeared to endorse Jackson's Republican challenger, Sonja Nichols, in September. Smith, who is Black, later claimed she never backed Nichols, but when asked at the time on Facebook whether she'd requested that Nichols stop touting her as an endorser, she declined to answer and retorted, "you cannot see beyond your sexist male privilege."

NC-Sen, FL-Sen: The New York Times reports that the possibility that Lara Trump could run for Senate in North Carolina is looking "less clear" following the loss of her father-in-law, Donald Trump, in last year's election. The same piece also reports that rumors about a Senate campaign in Florida by Ivanka Trump, whose potential candidacy was based on the most gossamer of whispers, are "unlikely to develop further."

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has declined to rule out a bid for either Senate or governor next year, saying of his possible interest in running for higher office, "The plan right now is to do my job. Things happen." Recently, a spokesperson did not deny reports that Kenney, a Democrat, was considering both races.

Governors

AR-Gov: To no one's surprise, Donald Trump has endorsed his former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in her newly launched bid for governor of Arkansas. Trump's statement of support reads just like the cookie-cutter endorsements he'd issue from his former Twitter account, only this one came in the form of a press release from his "Save America PAC" and went on for the length of about 1.5 tweets.

Meanwhile, Republican state Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of term-limited Gov. Asa Hutchinson, says he'll announce whether he'll enter the GOP primary "in the coming weeks."

FL-Gov: The South Florida Sun-Sentinel adds one more name to the mix of possible Democratic contenders for governor next year, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. The aside comes amid a longer interview with former Republican Rep. David Jolly, who's talked about running statewide as an independent but now sounds more inclined to seek the governorship rather than launch a bid for Senate.

MD-Gov: Former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, who last month declined to rule out a bid for governor, has now confirmed he's considering the race. Perez was recently replaced at the DNC by former South Carolina Senate candidate Jaime Harrison, Joe Biden's pick to run the committee.

MN-Gov: MyPillow guy Mike Lindell, who was just kicked off Twitter for promoting lunatic election conspiracy theories, is now suggesting that he won't announce a bid for governor until he gets to the bottom of his investigation, telling Axios' Torey Van Oot, "Why would anybody want to run if they had the same machines with the election fraud?" As Van Oot notes, though, this might just be Lindell's way of clearing an escape path if in fact he's not interested in running after all.

Or maybe not! In an NPR interview later the same day that Axios published its report, Lindell tried to claim that (LOL) Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had taken control of his account to post "fake" information, "acting like they were me, putting out a narrative that was completely not me." In other words, Lindell has now found the real killer, thus rehabbing his sullied reputation and once more opening the door to a gubernatorial campaign, right? Right.

TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke said in a recent radio interview that a bid for governor next year is "something I'm gonna think about," though he added, "[W]hether I'm a candidate for governor or I support someone who's a candidate for governor, I want to make sure we have excellence in leadership." Last year, O'Rourke declined to rule out a run when asked.

VA-Gov: Wealthy investor Pete Snyder announced he would enter the race for governor on the GOP side on Tuesday, joining several other notable candidates who are seeking the Republican nomination this year. The Washington Post also reports that the GOP's convention will take place on May 1, though Republicans still have no idea how they'll host one amid the pandemic.

House

CA-22: 2020 Democratic nominee Phil Arballo launched a TV commercial Tuesday to announce a second campaign against Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who remains one of Donald Trump's most prominent toadies in Congress. Last year, Nunes won a very expensive campaign against Arballo 54-46 as Trump was carrying his Central Valley seat by a slightly smaller 52-46 margin.

This district, which is located near Fresno and Tulare, has long been reliably red turf, and any Democrat would have a very tough time unseating even a Republican as odious as Nunes. Arballo, though, told the Sacramento Bee that, while he didn't expect the state's independent redistricting commission to "dramatically change" the district lines, "we think they might be improved upon in terms of competitiveness." No one knows what the new map will look like, however, and Arballo acknowledged that he was starting his campaign now "to make sure we have the resources to roll out when the time comes."

Other Democrats might be interested in running if Nunes does become more vulnerable, but one familiar name has said no. 2018 nominee Andrew Janz, who lost to Nunes 53-47 and unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Fresno last year, told the paper that he was endorsing Arballo again.

NM-01: Democratic state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero has filed paperwork with the FEC for a possible bid in New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, though she doesn't appear to have said anything publicly about her interest yet. Leaders from both parties will pick their nominees in the likely special election to succeed Rep. Deb Haaland, whom Joe Biden has nominated to serve as his secretary of the interior.

OH-16, OH-13: Former Republican state Rep. Christina Hagan, who'd come up as a possible primary challenger to pro-impeachment Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, now says she'll wait until the redistricting process concludes before deciding whether she'll run. Depending on how the new map turns out, it also sounds like she might consider a rematch with Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who held her off 52-45 last fall in the 13th District.

SC-07: Republican state Rep. William Bailey says he's formed an exploratory committee to weigh a possible primary challenge to Rep. Tom Rice, one of 10 Republicans who recently voted to impeach Donald Trump. Bailey did not offer a specific deadline for when he might make a decision. Meanwhile, another possible GOP candidate, Horry County Schools Board chair Ken Richardson, says he'll wait until his school system is "through the pandemic" before making up his mind.

Mayors

Cincinnati, OH Mayor: Former Mayor Mark Mallory announced Tuesday that he would not run to regain his old post this year. Unnamed sources also tell the Cincinnati Business Courier that another Democrat, former state party chair David Pepper, also will sit the race out.

Data

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide goes to Tennessee, which once again was one of Donald Trump's strongest states. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Trump carried the Volunteer State last year 61-38, which wasn't much different from his 61-35 performance in 2016, and as before, he won seven of the state's nine congressional districts. Trump scored at least 64% of the vote in each of these seats, all of which have been in Republican hands since the 2010 GOP wave. Biden, meanwhile, won both Democratic-held districts, carrying Rep. Jim Cooper's Nashville-area 5th District 60-37 and Rep. Steve Cohen's Memphis-based 9th District 79-20.

Interestingly, the GOP-controlled seat that gave Trump his smallest margin was the one that hasn't elected a Democrat since 1852, before the Republican Party was even founded, though it was still far from close: Rep. Tim Burchett's 2nd District around Knoxville supported Trump 64-34, which was just a tick down from his 65-30 performance against Hillary Clinton.

At the heart of the 2nd District is Knox County, which has in fact been represented by a member of the nativist Know Nothing Party more recently than a Democrat, with William Henry Sneed taking it during President Franklin Pierce's 1854 midterm. Sneed was replaced two years later by fellow Know Nothing Horace Maynard, who, like many anti-secession politicians in the years before and during the Civil War, identified with a number of different political labels.

Sneed's East Tennessee base remained loyal to the Union during the conflict, though he temporarily left Congress in 1863 when he was appointed state attorney general by military governor Andrew Johnson. Sneed returned in 1866 when Tennessee was readmitted to the Union after Johnson was elevated to the presidency following Abraham Lincoln's assassination, this time as a full-fledged member of the Republican Party.

After the federal government abandoned Reconstruction, however, Republicans throughout the South quickly found themselves with little influence. Knox County, though, remained a durable exception: The GOP continued to represent the area in Congress during the entire era of Democratic dominance known as the "Solid South," and it remained in power as the rest of Tennessee and neighboring states began their broader migration toward the Republican Party in the wake of Richard Nixon's "Southern strategy."

Democrats hung on in Tennessee longer than in other corners of the South, but those days are long gone. Republicans gained control of redistricting in 2010 for the first time since Reconstruction, and they'll once again decide the new congressional map.