Morning Digest: Republican attacks primary rival for being too strict on abortion

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

SC-04: South Carolina Rep. William Timmons' newest ad accuses his primary opponent of being too hardline on abortion, a line of attack that GOP candidates almost never use against one another. Timmons, though, is betting that even Republican primary voters in the conservative Greenville area have limits on what they're willing to tolerate.

The spot shows footage of state Rep. Adam Morgan, who is challenging Timmons for renomination on June 11, raising his hand in support of what a female narrator describes as "legislation that would send rape and incest victims to jail for up to two years who ended their pregnancy."

"Adam," she continues, "being pro-life doesn’t mean you hurt women by jailing the victims of rape and incest. Your vote was shameful." Timmons himself closes out the commercial by saying he approves his message "because I am pro-life."

The Greenville News' Savannah Moss recently explained the context for the 2022 vote in question. At the time, the state House was debating a bill that would ban abortion unless the mother's life was at risk or the pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault.

But Republican Rep. Josiah Magnuson thought these restrictions still did not go far enough, so he proposed an amendment that would punish a woman who "intentionally commits abortion" with a misdemeanor with a maximum prison sentence of two years.

Morgan, who chairs the far-right Freedom Caucus that Magnuson is also a member of, voted for his ally's plan, but most lawmakers did not. The amendment failed 91 to 9, though the legislature went on to ban abortion in most cases after just six weeks.

Morgan defended himself at a candidate forum earlier this month by claiming that his vote was meant to close an alleged "loophole" by going after women "who performed abortions on themselves." He also snarked that the three-term congressman didn't understand the true purpose of the vote because he suffered from "reading comprehension issues."

Timmons stood his ground both on the amendment and his reading abilities. The incumbent shared his new ad on social media Monday, writing that Morgan had backed a measure that "was widely rejected by the national and state pro-life movement as not only harmful to women, but to the noble effort to protect the unborn."

Timmons, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, is facing off against Morgan in an increasingly ugly battle. During a debate last week, the congressman brought up a website his campaign had created to attack Morgan for missing votes in the legislature, prompting Morgan to respond by drawing attention to rumors that Timmons used the powers of his office to conceal an extra-marital affair.

"The fact that we’re at a place in our politics where somebody has to go and create a website about attacking their opponent and attacking their integrity," Morgan complained. "I have to say, you don’t want this election to be about integrity."

When the rumors first surfaced two years ago, Timmons denied he'd done anything illegal. He did not, however, address whether he'd been unfaithful to his wife, who filed for divorce several months later, with the estranged wife of a developer named Ron Rallis.

Rallis publicly accused Timmons of moral and legal wrongdoing at the time and has since kept up a public crusade against the incumbent. The developer sat in the audience at a late April candidate forum as another attendee asked Timmons about the scandal. The congressman, after what the Post & Courier described as "a moment that left the room in awkward silence and Timmons at a loss for words," avoided giving a direct answer.

Election Recaps

CA-20: Assemblyman Vince Fong beat Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux in Tuesday's all-Republican special election to replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Fong leads 60-40 as of Wednesday morning, with the Associated Press estimating that 87% of the vote has been tabulated. It's possible the margin may change as the remaining ballots are counted, but the outcome is not in doubt.

Fong and Boudreaux will face off one more time in November in the general election to represent California's conservative 20th District, which is based in the Central Valley, for a full term.

 GA-03 (R): Former Trump aide Brian Jack and former state Sen. Mike Dugan will face off in a June 18 primary runoff after no candidate won a majority of the vote in this five-person field. 

Jack took first with 47%, while Dugan outpaced former state Sen. Mike Crane 25-16 for second. The winner of next month's runoff should have no trouble in the general election to replace retiring GOP Rep. Drew Ferguson in Georgia's 3rd District, a reliably red seat based in the southwestern Atlanta exurbs.

Jack earned Trump's endorsement hours before he even announced he was running, and he also benefited from $1.5 million in spending from super PACs. (None of his opponents received any serious outside support.) It wasn't quite enough to secure an outright win for Jack on Tuesday, but it should give him a formidable advantage over Dugan in the second round.

 GA-06 (D): Rep. Lucy McBath handily won renomination in Georgia's revamped 6th District, setting her up for an easy November victory in this safely blue constituency. The well-known McBath took 85% while Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson finished with a distant 9% and state Rep. Mandisha Thomas ended up with 6%.

Thanks to multiple rounds of redistricting since she was first elected in 2018, McBath will have represented around 20% of the state once she's sworn in next year, according to analyst Varun Vishwanath.

GA-13 (D): Rep. David Scott defeated six challengers on Tuesday, clearing the way for the longtime congressman to win a 12th term in Georgia's redrawn 13th District in the fall. Despite serious concerns about his health, Scott won 57% of the vote while his nearest competitor, former South Fulton City Councilman Mark Baker, earned just 12%. Like McBath's 6th, this district is safely Democratic.

 GA Supreme Court: Conservative Justice Andrew Pinson fended off a late challenge to win a six-year term on Georgia's Supreme Court, turning back former Democratic Rep. John Barrow 55-45.

Barrow had hoped his vocal support for abortion rights would help make him the first challenger to unseat a sitting justice in more than a century. Pinson, however, benefitted from his status as an incumbent—he was even listed as such on the ballot—and outside support from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed him to the bench in 2022.

ID-02 (R): While Rep. Mike Simpson didn't come close to losing renomination, the 13-term incumbent took an unimpressive 56% of the vote against a pair of underfunded foes; his nearest intra-party opponent, 2022 independent Senate candidate Scott Cleveland, earned 35%. But Simpson, who considered retiring this cycle before opting to seek reelection, should have nothing to worry about in the fall in this dark red constituency.

OR-03 (D): State Rep. Maxine Dexter beat former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal in the primary to replace their fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Earl Blumenauer, in this safely blue seat in the eastern Portland area. Dexter leads Jayapal 51-29 as of Wednesday morning, with the AP estimating that 63% of the vote has been tabulated. 

Dexter benefited from more than $2 million in support from 314 Action, a group that promotes Democratic candidates with backgrounds in science (Dexter is a pulmonologist). She also decisively outraised her opponents late in the race thanks in part to a large infusion from donors with a history of also giving to the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC. 

While AIPAC did not officially endorse Dexter, it responded to her victory by tweeting that "AIPAC members were proud to support" her against Jayapal.  

Jayapal, who is the sister of Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, received no major outside support and was also on the receiving end of more than $3 million in attacks from a new super PAC called Voters for Responsive Government.

We still don't know who's funding the super PAC, though. VFRG was required on Monday to disclose any contributors it received through April 30, but the forms it submitted only revealed that all of its donations came after that date.

OR-05 (D): State Rep. Janelle Bynum defeated 2022 nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner for the right to take on freshman GOP Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer. Bynum leads 69-31 with 70% of the estimated vote in.

Bynum, who would be the first Black person to represent Oregon in Congress, benefited from the support of the DCCC and Gov. Tina Kotek. A mysterious super PAC, by contrast, launched a late ad campaign to boost McLeod-Skinner in what appears to have been an unsuccessful Republican attempt to meddle in the primary.

McLeod-Skinner spent the race dogged by allegations that she had mistreated her staff as a candidate and as a municipal official, which could help explain both why Republicans wanted her and why national Democrats wanted Bynum. The 5th District, which is based in Portland's southern suburbs and central Oregon, favored Joe Biden 53-44 in 2020. 

OR-SoS (D): State Treasurer Tobias Read defeated state Sen. James Manning in the primary to replace Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade, a fellow Democrat who did not run for a full term. Read leads 71-21 with the AP estimating that 71% of the vote has been counted.

Read will take on state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, who was one of the six Republican members of the upper chamber who were prohibited from seeking reelection this year because of a 2022 measure aimed at punishing legislators who take part in quorum-busting boycotts. Linthicum's advantage over his nearest opponent, businessman Brent Barker, stood at 66-20 on Wednesday morning with the AP estimating that 74% of the vote has been counted. 

Read will be favored in this blue state for a post that's both the state's chief elections officer and first in line to succeed the governor in case of a vacancy. That latter role will be a familiar one to Read: Oregon has no lieutenant governor, but because Griffin-Valade was appointed to her role after her predecessor, Shemia Fagan, resigned amid a scandal, Read is currently first in line.

Multnomah County, OR District Attorney: Longtime prosecutor Nathan Vasquez enjoys a big lead over District Attorney Mike Schmidt in the officially nonpartisan general election, though the AP has not yet called the race. Vasquez holds a 56-44 advantage with an estimated 63% of the vote tabulated as of Wednesday morning.  

Schmidt, whose decisive 2020 victory represented a big win for criminal justice reformers, identifies as a Democrat, while Vasquez left the Republican Party in 2017 to enroll with the Independent Party of Oregon. 

Vasquez ran ads arguing that under Schmidt, crime and homelessness have veered out of control in Portland. Schmidt tried to defend his record and highlighted Vasquez's past support for the policies he went on to attack, but the challenger's message appears to have won out.

Senate

MD-Sen: Former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has launched his first general election ad, which focuses on abortion and is part of a $1 million buy. The commercial, obtained by Politico, presents Hogan as an abortion rights supporter who claims he'll codify Roe v. Wade if elected.

Hogan had described himself as "pro-life" for years and notably vetoed a bill in 2022 that would have expanded abortion access, which Democratic lawmakers overrode. After kicking off his surprise bid for Senate in February, however, he began shifting his stance

That shift accelerated after Hogan won the GOP primary earlier this month, when he began calling himself "pro-choice" and endorsed the reproductive rights amendment that Democratic lawmakers placed on November's ballot following a party-line vote last year. But just days after he joined the race in February, Hogan told CNN's Dana Bash that abortion was an "emotional issue for women" and the ballot measure "wasn't really necessary."

While serving as governor, Hogan repeatedly claimed he wouldn't seek to restrict abortion access, but that prospect was always a nonstarter with Democrats dominating the state legislature. By contrast, if Hogan wins his Senate race, he would have the first chance in his career to restrict abortion rights by helping Republicans win a majority.

NV-Sen: A new internal poll finds Army veteran Sam Brown crushing former Ambassador to Iceland Jeff Gunter by 52-14 ahead of the June 11 Republican primary, with election conspiracy theorist Jim Marchant taking 7%.

The poll, obtained by the Nevada Independent, was conducted by the Tarrance Group for Brown and his supporters at the NRSC. Gunter has self-funded millions and has been advertising heavily in recent weeks, but it doesn't seem to have had a material impact. Last month, a survey from Tarrance for the same clients found Brown dominating 58-6 over Marchant while Gunter took 3%.

Governors

VT-Gov: Former Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced Monday that he wouldn't seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who said earlier this month that he would seek a fifth two-year term. Weinberger led Vermont's largest city for 12 years before leaving office earlier this year. With former Gov. Howard Dean also saying recently that he'd sit out the race, Democrats lack a prominent candidate ahead of the May 30 filing deadline.

House

LA-05: Gov. Jeff Landry endorsed Rep. Julia Letlow on Monday in a tweet that did not mention her colleague and potential opponent, fellow GOP Rep. Garret Graves. Landry's move is anything but a surprise, though, as he reportedly pushed for the congressional map that turned Graves' 6th District solidly blue.

Graves, who spent about a year considering whether to take on Landry in the 2023 race for governor, further alienated the eventual winner by recruiting a rival candidate. Democratic state Rep. Mandie Landry, who is not related to Jeff Landry, said last month in her testimony over the new boundaries, "The governor wanted Congressman Graves out … It was the one [map] we all understood would go through."

Jeff Landry also used his tweet to note that Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who represents Louisiana's 1st District, is likewise supporting Letlow in the 5th. Scalise, like Landry, did not say anything about Graves in his own message praising Letlow, but he has his own reasons to want him out of Congress.

Scalise told Politico last year that Graves sabotaged his bid for speaker by spreading false rumors about his health. Scalise said that, while his physicians had told him his battle with cancer was progressing well, an "unnamed member of Congress" had claimed Scalise was "going to die in six months." This "unnamed member," according to Politico, was Graves.

VA-07: VoteVets has launched what it says is a $400,000 TV ad buy to support former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman in the crowded Democratic primary on June 18. The spot notes that Vindman was fired for standing up to Donald Trump in the scandal that led to Trump's first impeachment, and it also touts the Washington Post's recent endorsement along with Vindman's support for abortion rights.

Attorneys General

VA-AG: Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe this week became the latest prominent Democrat to endorse former Del. Jay Jones for attorney general even though Jones himself hasn't announced his plans for next year's elections. The post is held by Republican Jason Miyares, who is a potential candidate for governor in 2025.

Ballot Measures

NV Ballot: Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom announced it had submitted more than 200,000 voter signatures for a ballot initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in Nevada's constitution. Amendment supporters need 102,362 of those signatures to be valid, including an amount in each congressional district equal to 10% of the votes cast for governor in the last election, a target supporters say they've also surpassed.

If the measure qualifies for the ballot and wins voter approval this fall, voters would have to pass it again in 2026 before it could take effect.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The National Rifle Association announced Monday that its new president would be former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, a Republican-turned-Libertarian-turned-Republican. The once mighty organization has seen its influence wane dramatically in recent years in large part due to a series of scandals, though Republican candidates still welcome its endorsement.

Barr, for his part, also saw his own power fade in the decades since he helped prosecute Bill Clinton as a manager during the president's 1999 impeachment trial. Peach State Democrats used the final congressional map they ever got to draw to pit Barr against fellow Rep. John Linder in the 2002 primary for the 7th District, a contest Linder won 64-36.

Barr went on to serve as the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nominee before rejoining the GOP a few years later. He sought a return to the House in 2014 when he campaigned for the open 11th District only to lose the primary runoff 66-34 to Barry Loudermilk, who still holds the seat.

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Morning Digest: A Georgia justice could be the first to lose in over a century

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

GA Supreme Court: If former Democratic Rep. John Barrow wins his bid for the Georgia Supreme Court later this month, he'll accomplish something no one in the state has managed in over 100 years: unseating an incumbent justice.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, such an event hasn't happened since Richard Russell Sr. beat Chief Justice William Fish back in 1922. (Russell was the father and namesake of the segregationist Sen. Richard Russell, who, as Robert Caro detailed in "Master of the Senate," was a key mentor to Lyndon Johnson.)

Not many justices, though, have ever even been in danger of losing, since it's rare for sitting Georgia judges to face any opponents at all. The AJC noted last month that conservative Justice Andrew Pinson was the only one of four Supreme Court justices and six Court of Appeals judges up this year who drew a challenger, while just five of 122 trial court judges across the state have any sort of opposition.

And most justices haven't even needed to win an election to earn a spot on the high court in the first place. Instead, the vast majority have been appointed to fill vacancies, making open-seat races as uncommon as contested elections.

Sometimes elections don't even happen at all, as Barrow found out the hard way not long ago. That's because justices can time their departure to make sure their successor doesn't even need to appear on the ballot for several years.

Barrow had launched a campaign in 2019 to succeed retiring Justice Robert Benham, who was the last Democratic appointee on the Supreme Court. That election was scheduled to take place the following year, but it was called off after Benham decided to resign rather than serve out his term, thanks to a Georgia law that allows newly appointed judges to spend at least six months on the bench before they have to face the voters.

But Barrow now has the chance to score a historic victory against Pinson on May 21, which is the same day that the Peach State will holds its primaries for other offices. No other candidates are running in this officially nonpartisan race, so this contest will be settled without a November runoff.

While Barrow was one of the more conservative Democrats during his time in the House, which ended following his loss Republican Rick Allen during the 2014 GOP wave, he's focused his comeback bid on his opposition to the state's six-week abortion ban.

"It’s the most important decision the Supreme Court of Georgia is going to make in the next 20 years," he told local Democrats of the ongoing legal challenges to the law. "Politicians shouldn’t be making your personal health care decisions."

Pinson, for his part, has argued he can't talk about issues like abortion that could come before the court. He notably declined to attend a recent debate by arguing his appearance could breach state judicial codes, an argument his opponent was not impressed with.

"The only thing worse than his record is that he’s too chicken to come here and stick up for himself," Barrow said at the event, which proceeded despite Pinson's absence.

A win for Barrow wouldn't change the ideological majority of the nine-person court, as Pinson and almost every other member were appointed by Republican governors. (The one exception is Justice John Ellington, who won a six-year term at the ballot box in 2018 with support from figures in both parties.) Should Barrow prevail, though, it would be another strong sign that Georgia's shift to the left during the last few years isn't over.

Senate

MD-Sen: Rep. David Trone has removed a put-down charging that the Senate "is not a place for training wheels" from a new negative ad attacking his opponent in the May 14 Democratic primary, Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, per a new report from Axios' Stephen Neukam.

Neukam notes that the edit came after more than 650 Black women signed a letter charging that the remark, which was uttered by Prince George's County Council member Edward Burroughs, was "not only disparaging and dismissive but also echoes tones of misogyny and racism." Trone, who is white, used the phrase himself in an NBC interview that aired earlier this week.

Trone's campaign claims the change to his commercial was made because his editors "chose to make a number of additional edits" after coming across other clips they found "compelling," according to Neukam.

MI-Sen: Wealthy businessman Sandy Pensler is returning to the airwaves and reportedly plans to continue advertising on TV through the Aug. 6 Republican primary. The Detroit News relays an AdImpact analysis finding that Pensler has spent at least $655,000 so far and reserved nearly $1 million more over the next three weeks.

Pensler's latest ad targets Rep. Elissa Slotkin, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, by trying to associate her with Squad member and fellow Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib. However, a senior adviser said Pensler also plans to "spend a serious amount" on commercials introducing himself and attacking former Rep. Mike Rogers, who is the favorite of national and state Republicans.

Pensler has raised almost nothing from donors but self-funded at least $3 million so far this cycle, much as he's used his personal wealth to fund prior campaigns for office. His latest financial disclosure forms indicated a net worth of anywhere from $80 million to $116 million, so there may be many more campaign ads to come.

House

CA-16: Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has publicized an early April internal from Lake Research Partners that shows him leading Assemblyman Evan Low 36-26 in the all-Democratic general election.

Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin notes that another question from this poll surfaced weeks ago when it looked as though there would be a three-way contest. That configuration saw Liccardo with a smaller 26-21 advantage over Low as another Democrat, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, took 20%.

A former Liccardo staffer named Jonathan Padilla, unexpectedly requested a recount shortly after that survey was concluded, and it ultimately resulted in Simitian failing to advance.

IN-03: The hardline Club for Growth is airing a commercial targeting former Judge Wendy Davis ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary that she argues violates a new Indiana law by "dub[bing] together words and unrelated statements … to form a sentence that fits their absurd claims."

The audience hears Davis ostensibly saying, "In our government, we lack diversity of ethnicity, diversity of different religions. We don't have enough inclusion that I believe the constitution, still a living and breathing and living document, requires." Davis' campaign quickly responded by declaring that what appears to be a single statement was "spliced" together from an hour-long event, and that she was trying to get the spot taken off the air.

Davis also cited a bill GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb signed in March that requires a continuous disclaimer to be on screen during ads that are altered in a way that "conveys a materially inaccurate depiction of the individual’s speech, appearance, or conduct as recorded in the unaltered recording."

Davis is one of eight Republicans competing in the expensive primary to succeed Rep. Jim Banks, who is unopposed for the GOP's Senate nod, in the 3rd District, a longtime conservative stronghold in the Fort Wayne area. Her main intra-party rivals appear to be former Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who is Banks' immediate predecessor; wealthy businessman Tim Smith; and state Sen. Andy Zay.

The Club has spent about $510,000 on messaging against Davis and Smith. While the group has not endorsed anyone, it was close to Stutzman during his previous stint in Congress—though not close enough to rescue his ailing Senate campaign ahead of his landslide 2016 primary loss to fellow Rep. Todd Young.

However, the Club has been far outspent by two super PACs that do not want to see Stutzman back in the lower chamber. One of them, America Leads Action, is working to defeat hardline candidates who could pose a headache for the House leadership and has deployed $1.6 million to thwart his comeback.

Stutzman demonstrated during the 2010s he was exactly the type of Republican congressman that ALA doesn't want more of. Among other things, he infamously said during the 2013 government shutdown, "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

A different group, Winning for Women, has spent another $1.1 million to promote Davis, who is the only woman in the race, and attack Stutzman.

The former congressman, though, has benefited from close to $700,000 in support from an array of groups tied to the House Freedom Caucus and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Zay, meanwhile, has mostly gone ignored, except for $100,000 that a super PAC called Honest Hoosiers has expended on his behalf.

MI-08: VoteVets has endorsed businessman Matt Collier, a former Flint mayor who served in the Army, in the Aug. 6 Democratic primary for this competitive open seat.

MI-13: Freshman Rep. Shri Thanedar's campaign announced Tuesday it was challenging the signatures of former state Sen. Adam Hollier, who is his main opponent in the August Democratic primary, because it believes he failed to turn in the requisite 1,000 valid signatures. Among other things, Thanedar's team alleges that 85 of Hollier's signatures were forged.

The Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer writes, "[I]t's hard to look at the signatures on nine of 10 petition pages provided to the Free Press by Thanedar and not conclude that they'd been written by the same person; that they're forgeries, and not very good ones, at that."

Kaffer also says that she noticed that one of those signatures ostensibly belonged to a Free Press colleague, Tresa Baldas, who responded, "That's not my signature." All of these questionable pages came from a single circulator named Londell Thomas, who did not respond to the paper's inquiry. Thanedar's team is asking election officials to throw out all petition pages from Thomas even if individual signatures aren't suspect on the basis that Thomas is a "Fradulent canvasser."

Hollier's team responded to questions about why Baldas' name was there by telling Kaffer, "Some issues have been brought to our attention related to a small number of the nomination signatures that were collected on behalf of our campaign." The campaign went on to express confidence that a "significant number of the challenges filed against our signatures are erroneous."

It's up to the elections commission in Wayne County, which makes up the entire 13th District, to decide on the validity of the challenged signatures, though its decision can be appealed to the Wayne County Circuit Court. Kaffer says the whole process may not be settled until early next month.

Forged signatures have ended the campaigns of several Michigan politicians. Republican Rep. Thad McCotter famously was thrown off the ballot in 2012 after his campaign handed in fraudulent signatures.

A decade later, five GOP candidates for governor, including nominal frontrunner James Craig, were similarly disqualified after they fell victim to a massive fraud scandal. McCotter remarked to Local 4 in response, "In the immortal words of Bill Clinton, ‘I feel your pain.'"

NC-13: Wealthy attorney Kelly Daughtry announced on Thursday that she was dropping out of the May 14 Republican primary runoff and endorsing her opponent, former federal prosecutor Brad Knott.

Before quitting the race, Daughtry had spent millions of her own money on her campaign, just as she did in her unsuccessful 2022 bid for the previous version of this seat. She took first place in the March primary with a 27-19 lead over Knott, but that was short of the 30% needed to avoid a runoff.

Daughtry released an internal poll giving her a 51-32 edge in early April, but Donald Trump endorsed Knott just days later, and Daughtry said upon her departure that Trump's involvement had foreclosed her path to victory.

Daughtry's exit virtually assures that Knott will win this seat and succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel thanks to the GOP's new gerrymander. That new map transformed Nickel's swingy seat in Raleigh and its southern suburbs into a solidly red district comprised of exurbs and rural areas outside of Raleigh.

Although Knott is a first-time candidate, he has extensive connections to state Republicans. His brother, Tucker Knott, is chief of staff for Sen. Ted Budd, who endorsed the candidate after the first round of voting, and the Knott family also funded a super PAC that spent heavily on his behalf.

Daughtry is the second North Carolina Republican to bail on a House runoff this year. In March, former Rep. Mark Walker abandoned his bid for the open 6th District after Trump promised him a job on his presidential campaign, putting his Trump-endorsed opponent, lobbyist Addison McDowell, on a glide path to victory in another newly gerrymandered district.

NJ-08: A super PAC called America's Promise is spending $100,000 on a TV ad opposing Rep. Rob Menendez in the June 11 Democratic primary by linking him to his father, Sen. Bob Menendez, who will go on trial for corruption charges starting May 13. The younger Menendez has not been implicated in any of his father's alleged crimes, but the ad attacks him for defending his father, refusing to return campaign donations from the senator's PAC, and accepting contributions from corporate interests.

NV-03: Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo has endorsed wealthy music composer Marty O'Donnell for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Susie Lee. As the Nevada Independent noted when O'Donnell joined the race two months ago, the first-time candidate is using some of the same consultants who helped Lombardo get elected governor in 2022.

O'Donnell faces a GOP field that includes former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, former state Sen. Elizabeth Hegelian, and conservative columnist Drew Johnson, but Schwartz has a weak electoral history while the other two Republicans have struggled to raise money. Establishment Republicans began looking for a viable candidate after Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama dropped out in January to seek reelection, so Lombardo's endorsement is a sign that O'Donnell may now be their man.

VA-05: Bloomberg reports that American Patriots PAC has booked a hefty $3 million to help state Sen. John McGuire deny renomination to Rep. Bob Good, the Freedom Caucus chair who was one of the eight House Republicans who voted to end Kevin McCarthy's speakership last year. Good also infuriated Donald Trump's network last year by endorsing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' White House bid, but Trump himself has not yet taken sides.

The reservation from American Patriots PAC, which is funded by Republican megadonors Ken Griffin and Paul Singer, represents by far the largest planned expenditure in what's already an expensive June 18 primary for Virginia's 5th Congressional District. This constituency, which stretches from the Charlottesville area to western Southside Virginia, backed Trump 53-45, so the GOP nominee will be favored in November.

A new super PAC called Virginians for Freedom has already deployed almost $500,000 to make sure that McGuire is that nominee. The group has received funding from the American Prosperity Alliance, which is run by McCarthy allies looking to punish the Republicans who deposed him.

On top of that, the Republican Main Street Partnership, an organization devoted to stopping Republicans who like to cause grief for party leaders, previously told the New York Times it planned to spend $500,000 to end Good's career, though the FEC doesn't yet record any independent expenditures from the PAC.

While Main Street Partnership for decades had a reputation for supporting moderate Republicans, it's shown a willingness in recent years to back election deniers like McGuire, who attended the Jan. 6 Donald Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol.

But Good, who himself is an ardent Big Lie believer, still has some well-heeled allies. Protect Freedom PAC, which is affiliated with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, has spent close to $500,000 on messaging promoting the incumbent as "the true constitutional conservative." Yet even though Good runs the Freedom Caucus, its political arm has laid out less than $100,000 to protect its chief. The organization has a history of spending large sums in races it cares about, though, and there's still time to pour in more resources.

Perhaps the biggest question still looming over the race, however, is whether the GOP's supreme leader will eventually get involved and punish Good for his disloyalty. Trump campaign manager Chris LaCivita previewed trouble to come back in January when he told Cardinal News, "Bob Good won’t be electable when we get done with him."

Over the ensuing months, Trump has targeted two other disloyal House members, Florida Rep. Laurel Lee and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, but he hasn't gone after Good—yet. Many of Good's GOP colleagues, however, would be quite happy if Trump eventually took out his wrath on this apostate.

Six sitting House members, including Virginia Rep. Jen Kiggans and House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers of Alabama, hosted a fundraiser for McGuire in March. Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales, meanwhile, made his hatred of Good known to a national audience last month when he went on CNN and took the Freedom Caucus chair to task for endorsing gun maker Brandon Herrera, who is Gonzales' opponent in the May 28 GOP runoff.

"Bob Good endorsed my opponent, a known neo-Nazi," the Texan declared, adding, "These people used to walk around with white hoods at night; now they’re walking around with white hoods in the daytime." (Herrera, who has made jokes about Nazis and the Holocaust, tweeted Sunday, "This should be obvious, but I am not, nor have I never been a neo-Nazi.")

Good, meanwhile, made news last month when he endorsed former West Virginia Del. Derrick Evans, who served 90 days in prison for his participation in the Jan. 6 riot, in his May 14 GOP primary challenge to Rep. Carol Miller. That move came after House Speaker Mike Johnson told CNN he was "vehemently opposed to member-on-member action in primaries," an admonition his caucus seems to have completely ignored.

Ballot Measures

SD Ballot: Abortion rights advocates in South Dakota announced Wednesday they'd submitted about 55,000 signatures to put a constitutional amendment before voters that would end the state's near-total ban on abortion, which is about 20,000 more than the minimum. Election officials have until Aug. 13 to verify that organizers submitted at least 35,017 valid signatures to place this amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot, where it would need a simple majority to pass.

The proposal would specifically bar the state from imposing regulations on abortion access during the first trimester of pregnancy. It also establishes that during the second trimester, "the State may regulate the pregnant woman's abortion decision and its effectuation only in ways that are reasonably related to the physical health of the pregnant woman." For the final trimester, the state would be permitted to retain the status quo.

Several pro-choice groups have taken issue with what they've argued is a weak amendment. The state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union put out a statement claiming the proposal "does not have the strongest legal standard by which a court must evaluate restrictions on abortion, and thereby runs the risk of establishing a right to abortion in name only." The regional Planned Parenthood affiliate has likewise declined to endorse the campaign.

Judges

LA Redistricting: Republican Gov. Jeff Landry has signed a bipartisan bill that revamps Louisiana's Supreme Court districts to create a second majority-Black district, the first redraw since earlier litigation prompted lawmakers to pass the current map in 1997. Louisiana is roughly one-third Black, but only one of the current seven districts, the New Orleans-based 7th, enables Black voters to elect their preferred candidate.

The new map creates a 2nd District that unites Baton Rouge with parishes along the Mississippi border and parts of central Louisiana. It replaces a majority-white and solidly Republican seat with a 55% Black district that would have favored Joe Biden 60-39 in 2020, according to VEST data from Dave's Redistricting App. Republican Justice Scott Crichton, who is white, isn't seeking reelection, and a Black Democrat will likely win this fall's contest to succeed him.

Landry and his fellow Republicans supported the new map to bring costly litigation to an end, an approach similar to the one they took when they redrew the state's congressional map earlier this year. However, a federal court overturned that map earlier this week for relying excessively on race. The new Supreme Court map could likewise be vulnerable to a lawsuit given the similarities of some districts, though an alternative map with a pair of more compact majority-Black districts is possible.

Mayors & County Leaders

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Former federal prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah announced Wednesday that he was dropping out of the May 14 Democratic primary and endorsing former Mayor Sheila Dixon.

Vignarajah, whose name will remain on the ballot, took a distant third place in a pair of independent surveys conducted in April, but his departure could help Dixon consolidate support against incumbent Brandon Scott. It only takes a simple plurality to win the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to election in this loyally blue city, and a large number of lesser-known candidates remain in the race.

Other Races

Miami-Dade, FL Elections Supervisor: Donald Trump on Tuesday night endorsed Republican state Rep. Alina Garcia, who is campaigning to be the top elections administrator for Florida's most populous county. But when asked about Trump's many election lies the follow day, Garcia declined to push back.

"In reference to the 2020 elections, I can only speak to how the elections were conducted in Florida and in Miami-Dade County, which were fair, transparent and the results reported timely," she told the Miami Herald's Douglas Hanks. Garcia previously told the paper that, while she believed most elections were "fair," many "don’t always feel that they’re fair, and perception is very important."

Garcia, who already had Sen. Marco Rubio's backing, faces attorney Megan Pearl in the Aug. 20 GOP primary, while attorney J.C. Planas has the Democratic side to himself. The field may not be set, though, because the deadline to run for county office in Florida doesn't pass until June 14. (Last Friday was the deadline to run for Congress and most other offices.)

The job this trio is seeking is currently held by an appointed incumbent, Christina White, a Democrat who unexpectedly announced last year that she would not run for a full term.

In 2018, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that requires every county to elect rather than appoint certain officers, including election supervisors, and 2024 is the first time that Miami-Dade County voters will pick their elections chief. (The post was previously filled by the county mayor.)

Last week, Trump also took sides in the primary for sheriff by backing Rosie Cordero-Stutz, an official with the Miami-Dade Police Department. Hanks earlier this week reported that Trump decided to support Cordero-Stutz after an April 7 meeting at his Doral compound during a golf tournament.

Trump also reportedly also told another local politician in attendance that she could call on him if she wanted his endorsement. But Doral City Council member Maureen Porras demurred, and not just because she's a Democrat.

"I said, ‘Well, thank you very much, but I’m not up for election,'" she recounted to Hanks. Porras is up again in 2026.

VA-LG: Democratic state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi announced Thursday that she would seek the post held by Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, a Republican whom local political observers anticipate will run for governor next year rather than seek reelection.

Hashmi, who immigrated from India as a child, won her current office in 2019 by unseating Republican state Sen. Glen Sturtevant 54-46 in a closely watched race in the Richmond area. That victory, which helped Democrats retake the state Senate, made Hashmi the first Muslim to serve in the upper chamber, as well as the first Muslim woman in the entire legislature.

Following the most recent round of redistricting, Hashmi's district was made safer, and she easily earned reelection last year as Sturtevant returned in a different seat. Because the entire 40-member state Senate won't be up against until 2027, Hashmi won't need to give up her current job in order to run next year.

Hashmi joins a primary that includes Prince William County School Board Chairman Babur Lateef, fellow state Sen. Aaron Rouse, and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. The lieutenant governor serves as the tiebreaker in the state Senate, where Hashmi and Rouse are part of a narrow 21-19 Democratic majority.

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Morning Digest: A right-wing darling wants a CNN gig. His enemies want his seat

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

CO-04: Colorado state Rep. Richard Holtorf announced Tuesday that he was forming an exploratory committee for a potential primary bid against Republican Rep. Ken Buck, a Freedom Caucus member who has improbably morphed into a vocal critic of extremists in his own party. Holtorf may not get his chance to take on Buck, though, as the congressman revealed that same day that he was interested in leaving the House to take an on-air cable news job.

Holtorf, who is the first notable Republican to publicly express interest in campaigning against the incumbent in the 4th District, told Colorado Public Radio he'd make up his mind in December. The state representative took Buck to task for condemning a letter from local Republicans accusing the federal government of violating the rights of Jan. 6 defendants, as well as Buck's opposition to his party's fervor to impeach Joe Biden. "Why is he on CNN and MSNBC?" asked Holtorf, "I don't think the message he is explaining represents the sentiment of the district."

But voters may soon see a whole lot more of their congressman on one of those networks than in eastern Colorado. The New York Post published a story shortly after the CPR interview went live in which Buck said, "I am interested in talking to folks at CNN and other news organizations—on the, I don't want to call them left, but sort of center-left—and having an opportunity to do that full-time or do that as a contributor would be great also."

Buck went on to inform the paper he was also eyeing similar roles at hard-right outlets like Fox News and Newsmax, though he added that he hasn't decided if he wants to leave the House just yet. And despite publishing a Washington Post piece titled, "My fellow Republicans: One disgraceful impeachment doesn't deserve another," Buck also said he hadn't actually ruled out voting to impeach Biden. "I am not opposed to impeachment, I'm opposed to the impeachment inquiry because I don't think it gives us any broader authority to investigate this," the congressman argued.

Until recently, it would have been tough to imagine Buck speaking out against his party's far-right elements. Buck, who previously served as Weld County district attorney, first emerged on the national scene as a prominent tea partier in the 2010 cycle when he challenged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. His hardline rhetoric, however, helped cost his party a pickup during what was otherwise a massive GOP wave.

Late in the campaign, Buck appeared on "Meet the Press" and said he stood by his 2005 declaration that he had refused to prosecute an alleged rape because "a jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer's remorse." He also argued that being gay was a choice. "I think birth has an influence over it," he said, "like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically you have a choice." Republicans quickly responded to Buck's narrow loss by citing him, along with Delaware's Christine O'Donnell and Nevada's Sharron Angle, as a cautionary example of what happens when the party chooses extremist nominees in crucial Senate races.

Unlike his fellow travelers, though, Buck actually had a future in elected office. For a time in 2014, he waged another Senate bid, but then switched places with Rep. Cory Gardner when the latter decided to wage a late campaign against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

Buck decisively won the primary for Gardner's seat by a 44-24 margin, and he's never had trouble holding his reliably red constituency. He went on to chair the state GOP ahead of a dispiriting 2020 cycle and has spent most of his tenure as an ardent conservative, though he broke from Freedom Caucus doctrine in 2021 when he became part of the minority of Republicans to vote to recognize Biden's win.

Holtorf, by contrast, likely has far more in common with most of Buck's colleagues on the extreme right. The state representative made national news in 2021 when he called a Latino colleague "Buckwheat," claiming later that he didn't know of the racist origins of the word. Holtorf again attracted unwanted attention again the next year when he accidentally dropped his gun in the state capitol while rushing to a vote, an episode that one observer called "reckless and scary."

The Downballot

 We did it! And it's all thanks to Molech! We're devoting this week's episode of "The Downballot" to giving praise to the dark god himself after New Hampshire Democrat Hal Rafter won a critical special election over Republican Jim Guzofski, the loony toons pastor who once ranted that liberals make "blood sacrifices to their god Molech." Democrats are now just one seat away from erasing the GOP's majority in the state House and should feel good about their chances in the Granite State next year. Republicans, meanwhile, can only stew bitterly that they lack the grassroots fundraising energy provided by Daily Kos, which endorsed Rafter and raised the bulk of his campaign funds via small donations.

We're also joined by Daily Kos Elections' own Stephen Wolf to update us on the ongoing litigation over Alabama's congressional map. In an unusual move, the court's appointed expert invited the public to submit their own proposals as he prepares replacement maps, so Wolf took him up on the offer and drew two plans of his own. Wolf describes those plans in detail and sings the praises of Dave's Redistricting App, the invaluable free tool that has allowed ordinary citizens to participate in the redistricting process in ways never before possible.

Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show—new episodes every Thursday! You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Politico reported Wednesday that Republican Kari Lake, who continues to challenge her defeat in last year's race for governor, will "almost certainly" announce in October that she'll run for the Senate, which is the same timeline Axios laid out last month. Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb has been campaigning for the GOP nod since April, but it remains to be seen if any other notable names will join in. While multiple publications said just before Labor Day that 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters had decided to get in, a separate Politico story from Wednesday says his entry is "now on hold as Kari Lake preps her entry."

IN-Sen: Wealthy businessman John Rust has filed a lawsuit to challenge the state law that would keep him off the GOP primary ballot, though he'd be the underdog against Rep. Jim Banks even if he succeeded in court.

The state only allows candidates to run with the party they belong to, and the easiest way for Hoosiers to establish party affiliation is to cast their two most recent primary votes in that side's nomination contests. (There is no party registration in Indiana.) But while Rust most recently participated in the 2016 GOP primary, his prior vote was in the 2012 Democratic race. Candidates can get an exemption if their local party chair certifies that they belong to the party, but Jackson County party head Amanda Lowery said last month she wouldn't do this.

Governors

KY-Gov: Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear has launched his most hard-hitting ad of the race, a spot where a rape survivor condemns Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron's ardent opposition to abortion rights.  "I was raped by my stepfather after years of sexual abuse," says a woman identified as Hadley. "I was 12."

Hadley continues, "Anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it's like to stand in my shoes. This is to you, Daniel Cameron: to tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather, who raped her, is unthinkable."

Beshear last month became probably the first statewide candidate to ever air a general election ad attacking the GOP's opposition to abortion rights, and Planned Parenthood has also launched digital ads on the topic. Cameron has defended the state's near-total ban, which has no exemptions for rape or incest, in court and on the campaign trail, telling LEX 18 News in April, "I'm not going to waiver in my position on this and we're going to continue to defend the law as is."

The attorney general seems to have finally recognized that that stance is toxic even in this conservative state, and he declared Monday, "If our legislature was to bring legislation before me that provided exceptions for rape and incest, I would sign that legislation."

Beshear's side quickly made it clear they wouldn't stop attacking his record in office, though. The state Democratic Party posted 2022 footage Tuesday where Cameron celebrated the end of Roe v. Wade by proclaiming, "Abortion is, for all intents and purposes, over here in the commonwealth, with the exemption of life [of the mother]. There is no rape and incest exemption." The governor's campaign debuted this new ad the following day.

LA-Gov: State Rep. Richard Nelson, who raised little money and barely registered in the polls, announced Wednesday that he was exiting the Oct. 14 all-party primary and endorsing his fellow Republican, far-right Attorney General Jeff Landry. Nelson said last month that he was interested in replacing another now-former GOP rival, Stephen Waguespack, as head of the state's Chamber of Commerce affiliate, but he also acknowledged Wednesday that the group had passed him over.

UT-Gov, UT-Sen: While former Rep. Jason Chaffetz still hasn't ruled out running for governor or Senate this cycle, the Republican acknowledged to KSL he's likely to remain a Fox News talking head instead. "That's not something I'm planning to do, challenging Gov. [Spencer] Cox is not in my plans," said Chaffetz, adding he's more interested in seeking the governorship in 2028. He also said of a campaign to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Mitt Romney, "I haven't fully closed the door on it, but it's not something I'm actively pursuing."

House

CA-40: EMILY's List has endorsed Tustin Unified School District trustee Allyson Muñiz Damikolas in the top-two primary to face GOP Rep. Young Kim in an eastern Orange County seat that Joe Biden carried 50-48. Damikolas' only notable intra-party foe is retired Orange County Fire Capt. Joe Kerr, who previously earned endorsements from four Southern California House Democrats: Senate candidates Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, plus Reps. Lou Correa and Mike Levin.

Ballot Measures

AZ Ballot: A campaign has launched in Arizona to place an amendment on next year's general election ballot to do away with the state's partisan primaries starting in 2026, an effort that comes months after Republican legislators placed their own amendment on the ballot to protect the status quo and ban instant-runoff voting. The Arizona Mirror says that if both amendments won next year, only the one with the most support would take effect.

However, even if voters opted to change how elections are conducted, it still wouldn't be up to voters what system they'd get to use. Axios' Jeremy Duda explains that, while all the candidates would run on one all-party primary ballot, it would be up to the legislature if anywhere between two and five contenders would advance to the general election for races where only one candidate can win.

Instant-runoff voting would be used for the second round of voting if more than two contenders are allowed to move forward, but the GOP's hatred of ranked-choice voting means that this almost certainly wouldn't happen as long as the party maintains its narrow majorities in both chambers. Should the legislature fail to reach an agreement, though, it would be up to the secretary of state―a post currently held by Democrat Adrian Fontes―to make this call.

In order to qualify for the ballot, the campaign must secure about 384,000 valid signatures by July 3. Republican leaders very much hope it fails to hit this target, with state party chair Jeff DeWit ardently condemning the effort.

OH Ballot: Ohio's Republican-led Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld most of the summary that the conservative Ohio Ballot Board crafted for the Nov. 7 proposed abortion rights amendment to replace the one drawn up by the amendment's backers, including text that substitutes the words "unborn child" in place of "fetus." The actual text of the amendment that would go into the state constitution remains unchanged.

One Republican on the seven-member body, Justice Pat Fischer, sided with the three Democrats to order the Ballot Board to swap the words "state of Ohio" out for "citizens of the state of Ohio" in a passage describing who had the power to limit access to the procedure. However, the summary that will go before voters will still declare that the amendment would "[a]lways allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability if, in the treating physician's determination, the abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant woman's life and health."

Mayors & County Leaders

Manchester, NH Mayor: Republican Jay Ruais and Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh advanced out of Tuesday's nonpartisan primary to the Nov. 7 general election to succeed retiring incumbent Joyce Craig, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, for a two-year term as leader of New Hampshire's largest city. Ruais secured 42% while Cavanaugh, a former state senator who went into the first round with endorsements from Craig and Sen. Maggie Hassan, beat out fellow Democratic Alderman Will Stewart 25-19 for second; a third Democratic alderman, June Trisciani, took the remaining 14% and quickly backed Cavanaugh.

While supporters of Ruais, who is a former congressional staffer, celebrated his first-place finish, at least one prominent Republican strategist noted that the three Democrats outpaced him 58-42. Michael Biundo tweeted that Ruais "will celebrate tonight and he should," but continued, "as someone that has spent a lot of time around Manchester politics, the fact the Democrats got a combined majority is a cautionary tale for the GOP. Lots of work ahead if Manchester is going to move in a better direction."

While Manchester, with a population of just over 110,000, isn't a particularly large city by American standards, its status as one of the few places with a sizable concentration of voters and activists in New Hampshire makes it an enticing place for presidential hopefuls to burnish their profiles—not to mention fill their favor banks. The mayor's office also is an attractive springboard to bigger things, particularly given the dearth of statewide elected positions in New Hampshire (only the governor and its two U.S. senators are elected by the entire state).

Republicans had held the mayor's office for more than a decade prior, but Craig broke their streak in 2017 by unseating incumbent Ted Gatsas. The GOP is now hoping to win this key city back even though Biden carried it by a 56-42 margin, which was the best performance by a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996.

San Mateo County, CA Board of Supervisors: Former Rep. Jackie Speier unexpectedly announced Tuesday that she would run for an open seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the five-member body the Democrat previously served on four decades ago. Speier first won that post in 1980, two years after she survived the 1978 Jonestown cult shooting that murdered her boss, Rep. Leo Ryan, by unseating a 20-year incumbent. She left after she was elected to the state Assembly in 1986, and she'd eventually serve close to 15 years in Congress.

Speier, who retired from the House last cycle, launched her new effort this week by declaring, "The people of District 1 know me, and I know them. I will use the skills I've honed, the relationships I've built, and the experiences I've earned to fix problems our community confronts." She should have a far easier time winning the officially nonpartisan race south of San Francisco than she did in 1980, as the two major contenders, Millbrae Councilmember Gina Papan and Burlingame Councilmember Emily Beach, both dropped out and endorsed her. The nonpartisan primary will be in March, with a November general if no one wins a majority.

P.S. Three of Speier's former House colleagues currently serve on the board of supervisors for other counties in California. Democrat Janice Hahn gave up her seat in 2012 to wage a successful bid in Los Angeles County, while Republican Paul Cook did the same thing in 2020 in San Bernardino County to the east. Another Democrat, Hilda Solis, left the House in 2009 to become U.S. secretary of labor, and she later won the 2014 race to join Hahn on the governing body for America's most populous county, whose five supervisors each represent nearly three times as many constituents as House members do.

This sort of career switch hasn't worked out for every House member, though. In 2014 freshman Democratic Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod left her safely blue seat to run for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors only to lose a tight race to Republican Assemblyman Curt Hagman, and their 2018 rematch went the same way.

Other Races

Los Angeles, CA City Council: City Councilmember Kevin de León announced Wednesday that he'd seek reelection, a development that comes almost a year after audio surfaced where he and two of his then-colleagues made racist comments about other councilmembers and Los Angeles residents. De León, who defied calls for his resignation from President Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats, told Politico, "I understood in a deeper way the relationship that I had with my community and how that motivates and drives me. That's why I'm still here."

De León, who is a former leader of the state Senate, rose to national prominence in the 2018 cycle when he waged an unsuccessful challenge from the left against Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but he returned to elected office in 2020 when he won a seat on the 15-member City Council in America's second-largest city.

De León went on to take a distant third place in the 2022 nonpartisan primary for mayor, but he had much bigger concerns a few months later when audio leaked of his 2021 conversation with City Council President Nury Martinez, City Councilman Gil Cedillo, and labor leader Ron Herrera. The quartet discussed how to use City Council redistricting to strengthen Latino representation and weaken their opponents, and Martinez also made bigoted remarks about Jews, Armenian Americans, African Americans, and Oaxacans.

At one point De León was recorded agreeing when Martinez described the Black adopted child of a white colleague, Mike Bonin, as "an accessory," with De León saying Bonin's decision to bring his son to political events was like "when Nury brings her Goyard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag." De León also described Bonin as the council's "fourth Black member," adding, "Mike Bonin won't fucking ever say peep about Latinos. He'll never say a fucking word about us."

The release of the recording turned into a national scandal, and both Martinez and Herrera ended up resigning; Cedillo, who had lost reelection months before, ended up staying until his term ended that December. But De León, who would call his insult about the younger Bonin as "a flippant remark," remained put. He argued to Politico this week that, while he should have called out Martinez and the others during their talk, "The context of our conversation was about redistricting and ensuring equal representation." He continued, "You have to look no further than the maps that were drawn. Are they fully reflective of the demographics of the city? Not really."

De León's many foes, though, aren't accepting any of his apologies or explanations. Two Democratic members of the California Assembly, Miguel Santiago and Wendy Carrillo, said that, while they didn't diverge with the incumbent on policy, he couldn't remain in office. Another contender, tenants rights attorney Ysabel Jurado, meanwhile argued she'd represent a change from the unacceptable status quo in city politics.

All of the candidates will face off on one nonpartisan ballot in March, which is the same day that California holds its federal and state primary, and a November runoff would take place unless someone secures a majority. However, several labor leaders argue to Politico that the incumbent is anything but doomed. "He's out in the community," said one unnamed source, while another said the crowded field could make it tougher to present a united front.

Where Are They Now?: Heading to the pokey. Former Rep. Steve Buyer, an Indiana Republican who served from 1993 until his 2011 retirement, was sentenced to 22 months in prison Tuesday for insider trading, and the judge ordered him to report to jail in late November.

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Morning Digest: Ohio Republicans once again grovel for Trump’s Senate endorsement

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

OH-Sen: While Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has experienced what could charitably be described as a rough August, he insists to Jewish Insider that he's "likely" to earn Donald Trump's endorsement in the Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Trump "wants to be with somebody who can win the race and also be a good ally of his in the Senate, which I would be," argued LaRose, despite the fact that he reportedly earned the wrong type of attention from the party's supreme leader two weeks ago after he appeared to defend Mike Pence's actions on Jan. 6.

That moment came when NBC's Chuck Todd asked the secretary if Pence had done the right thing by refusing to reject the results of the 2020 election. LaRose replied that Pence "made the best decision he could with the information in front of him." An unnamed source told the network, "The video was sent to Trump by multiple people, and he has watched it," though they didn't say how Trump had responded—though it isn't hard to guess.

LaRose's team, for its part, quickly tried to walk back the candidate's remarks. "His position is that a lot of people wish they'd done things differently on January 6th," said the campaign in a statement. "Mike Pence made decisions based on what he knew at the time. Not everyone agrees that he did, and that includes President Trump." LaRose, though, had more cleanup to perform just days later when he fired press secretary Rob Nichols after Trump allies uncovered anti-Trump tweets Nichols had penned. In one, he had told a MAGA fan, "[I]t's been an incredible indictments race to the bottom for your guys and hunter biden...the daytona 500 of felonies and misdemeanors."

All of this took place shortly after Ohio voters decisively refused to heed LaRose's calls to support Issue 1, the Republican-backed constitutional amendment that would have made it more difficult to change the state's governing document. "This is 100% about keeping a radical, pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution," LaRose told his fellow Republicans in comments that the "no" side plastered across the state in ads.

LaRose also tried to use his ardent support for Issue 1 to enhance his own standing in the Senate primary, declaring at one point that his two wealthy intra-party foes, state Sen. Matt Dolan and businessman Bernie Moreno, should each throw down $1 million to promote it. (Cleveland.com reports that Dolan owns assets worth at least $14.5 million, while Moreno's fortune is valued at a minimum of $25.5 million.) Moreno's team, though, responded to the measure's 57-43 loss by calling it "a preview of what would happen with Frank LaRose at the top of the ticket in 2024—a 14-point landslide loss that crushed conservatives."

Despite LaRose's protestations, Moreno has looked like the candidate with the best chance to secure Trump's endorsement; Trump himself told followers at a July gathering, "We love Ohio, and we love Bernie Moreno." (It also doesn't hurt that Moreno's son-in-law is Rep. Max Miller, a former White House aide who was so close to Trump that a source told Politico in 2021, "They had … kind of a unique 'bro' relationship.")

In his interview with Jewish Insider, LaRose seemed to bash Moreno in particular when he said it was possible to "be a great Trump supporter" without attempting "to be a cheap knockoff" of Trump. We can be pretty certain that he didn't have Dolan in mind: During his failed 2022 campaign for the state's other Senate seat, Dolan said that the GOP needed to move on from the Big Lie and Trump. Predictably, though, he hasn't actually ruled out backing Trump next year.

But Moreno, as the Daily Beast reported last week, has his own history of firing off tweets questioning Big Lie orthodoxy. In December of 2020, the now-candidate tried to argue that, while Democrats were wrong for accusing Trump of colluding with Russia, it was "just as bad for [Trump] to make claims of a fraudulent election without proof." He also condemned the Jan. 6 riots as they were happening and later liked a missive from Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw defending Liz Cheney's vote to impeach Trump. There's no sign yet, however, that Trump wants to punish Moreno, who now defends the Jan. 6 defendants as "political prisoners" and declared during his aborted 2022 Senate campaign, "President Trump says the election was stolen, and he's right."

Moreno still may need to be on guard, however, after what happened last cycle to former state party chair Jane Timken during the race to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman. Trump, reported Politico's Alex Isenstadt, had outright told Timken he'd endorse her only to abruptly change his mind when she initially defended another impeachment backer, Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez. Trump eventually endorsed J.D. Vance, who himself had transformed from a one-time critic into a MAGA lackey, a decision that helped the now-senator win the primary.

Just a few months ago, LaRose seemed determined to avoid humbling himself to win Trump's backing as most of the 2022 field had. The secretary, in a springtime "secret recording" obtained by Politico, instead told fellow Republicans that while Trump's support "matters," only 20% of the primary electorate would "vote for whoever" he endorsed. He added that, while he thought he'd win Trump's favor, he didn't think "begging for it" would work. But his decision to fire Nichols, who had a long history in state GOP politics, has some observers thinking that LaRose is now willing to do whatever it takes to secure Trump's approval.

"Is the Trump endorsement worth burning bridges and setting fire to friendships?" an unidentified strategist asked the conservative Washington Examiner. "Is the Trump endorsement worth that much?" In LaRose's case, the operative argued, it very much isn't. "It just appears unnatural. It's like he's twisting himself in knots. When you're not true to yourself, it shows."

The Downballot

Everyone always talks about redistricting, but what is it like to actually do it? Oregon political consultant Kari Chisholm joins us on this week's episode of The Downballot to discuss his experience as a member of Portland's new Independent District Commission, a panel of citizens tasked with creating the city's first-ever map for its city council. Kari explains why Portland wanted to switch from at-large elections to a district-based system; how new multi-member districts could boost diversity on the council; and the commission's surprisingly effective efforts to divide the city into four equal districts while heeding community input.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap yet another New Hampshire special election that saw Democrats overperform district baselines—and why Republicans should be worried about an even bigger special in September. They then discuss why a new Democratic recruit could help put Florida's Senate race in play and highlight another effort to put abortion on the ballot in 2024 in a very red state: Nebraska.

Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show—new episodes every Thursday! You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time.

Governors

LA-Gov: Faucheux Strategies finds GOP Attorney General Jeff Landry in strong shape in a survey conducted for several groups, including the state Urban League, the Public Affairs Research Council of Baton Rouge, and five media outlets. Landry and the one serious Democrat in the race, former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, respectively take 36% and 26% in the Oct. 14 nonpartisan primary, with wealthy independent Hunter Lundy a distant third with just 7%. Faucheux, which is run by veteran Louisiana pollster Ron Faucheux, also shows Landry beating Wilson 54-36 in a Nov. 18 runoff.

Almost every other firm has also shown Landry and Wilson advancing as all their opponents languished in the single digits. The only contrary numbers came in late June when a Remington Research poll for allies of former state Chamber of Commerce head Stephen Waguespack placed Wilson at 27% as Landry edged out its candidate 25-16. The only prior look at a runoff, by contrast, came from a July BDPC survey for the conservative group Citizens for a New Louisiana, and it had Landry edging Wilson just 45-40.

MS-Gov: Democrat Brandon Presley has launched a response spot days after Republican incumbent Tate Reeves debuted a transphobic ad insinuating that his foe opposed a new state law that banned gender-affirming care for minors. "I'm on the record saying I don't support gender surgery for minors or boys playing girls sports―never have," Presley tells the audience. "Truth is, Tate Reeves will say anything to protect his good ol' boy network work and hide the fact that he's caught up in the largest corruption scandal in the history of Mississippi."

House

MN-01: Democratic state Sen. Nick Frentz tells Axios that he's interested in challenging Republican Rep. Brad Finstad in what would be a difficult race for this 54-44 Trump seat in southern Minnesota, and he added that he has no timeline to decide. This area was swingy turf well into the 2010s, but it moved sharply to the right during the Trump era and has remained tough turf for Democrats.

Finstad himself last year won the August special election to succeed the late Jim Hagedorn just 51-47 against Democrat Jeff Ettinger, but he triumphed 54-42 in their rematch a few months later. (The special was conducted using the old congressional map, but the 1st didn't change much following redistricting.) Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, who represented previous versions of this seat for 12 years, also lost the constituency 52-45 against Republican Scott Jensen even as the governor was winning statewide by that same margin.

TX-23: Punchbowl News' Mica Soellner reports that several members of the hardline Freedom Caucus are "plotting behind the scenes" to deny renomination to GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales, but they've yet to consolidate behind any of his challengers. The state party censured the incumbent in March for defying the party line on multiple occasions, but he's remained defiant in a gerrymandered seat that spans from the San Antonio suburbs to El Paso and backed Donald Trump 53-46.

Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, who runs the Freedom Caucus, met with former ICE official Victor Avila in May, while 22nd District Rep. Troy Nehls later hosted an event that Avila addressed. But Avila, who finished a distant fifth place in last year's primary for land commissioner, has yet to earn endorsements from either representative, and he finished June with less than $20,000 available.

Soellner also writes that gun maker Brandon Herrera, who has 2.8 million subscribers on his "The AK Guy" YouTube channel, also had some favorable contact with Florida ​​Rep. Matt Gaetz as he wages his own bid to beat Gonzales. Gaetz last week used his guest-host slot on Newsmax to interview Herrera and call this contest "America's most exciting congressional Republican primary election." Herrera entered the race in July after the new fundraising quarter began.

The field also includes Medina County GOP chair Julie Clark, who kicked off her bid in March. Clark self-funded over $300,000 through June but raised little from donors, and she had only $3,000 left at the end of the last quarter. Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, says Soellner, has met with Clark as well as Avila. A runoff would take place if no one earned a majority of the vote in next March's primary, a scenario that Gonzales and his $1.6 million war chest would like to avert.

Gonzales defied his party's base by confirming Joe Biden's victory in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack and later supporting gun safety legislation after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde happened in his district. He responded to the censure vote in March in Spanish with what the Houston Chronicle calls "some words for the group that are probably too coarse for a family newspaper."

Legislatures

NH State House: Democrats racked up another big overperformance in New Hampshire on Tuesday night as David Fracht defeated Republican John Keane 72-28 in a special election for Grafton County's 16th District, 13 points better than Joe Biden's already sizable 64-34 margin. It's the third such result in as many tries this year: In May, Democrats ran 16 points ahead of Biden in another vacant seat in Hillsborough County, which followed a 7-point overperformance in February in a do-over election in Strafford County after November's contest ended in a tie.

Fracht's victory bumps up the Democratic caucus to 197 members, while Republicans have 199 (two more seats are held by independents). Next month, Democrats will try to flip a swingy Republican seat in Rockingham County. If they succeed and then hold another safely blue seat in Hillsborough County in November, then they'll strip away the GOP's majority by forcing the chamber into a 199-199 tie between the parties.

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

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

Legislatures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obituaries

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

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

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

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

Morning Digest: 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.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

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: GOP frets internal warfare will again cost it Louisiana governor’s race

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

LA-Gov: Republican infighting has suddenly escalated well ahead of Louisiana’s Oct. 14 all-party primary for governor, as a well-funded super PAC is already airing ads designed to deprive Attorney General Jeff Landry of his frontrunner status. This early offensive to help Stephen Waguespack, who is the former head of the state's Chamber of Commerce affiliate, comes unusually early, but his allies have the resources to ensure that voters see many more ads over the next four-and-a-half months.

Waguespack’s backers at Reboot Louisiana, which began a $1.75 million TV campaign in early May to boost the first-time candidate’s name recognition, launched a new spot on Wednesday hammering Landry on an issue he's sought to make his own. “Murder, rape, car jackings. Under Landry’s watch, Louisiana is the most dangerous state in America,” intones a narrator, who goes on to argue that Waguespack “has a plan to take Louisiana back from the criminals.” Landry himself has been emphasizing crime in his advertising, though he’s unsubtly blamed it on Black Democratic mayors and district attorneys.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who has not taken sides in the contest to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, responded to Reboot Louisiana’s commercial by calling for Waguespack to “denounce” the message. “We must learn from the mistakes of the 2015 and 2019 governor’s races, where Republican infighting ultimately squandered our opportunities to win the Governor’s mansion,” Scalise said in a statement referring to Edwards’ two wins in this red state.

Scalise might have also noted that Republicans only began hitting one another on the airwaves much later in those two contests. In 2015, the super PAC supporting frontrunner David Vitter only sprung into action around Labor Day by attacking his two main intra-party rivals, Jay Dardene and Scott Angelle, in a sign that Vitter wasn’t quite as strong as he looked. The scandal-tarred Vitter did indeed make it to the November general election against Edwards, but at great cost: Dardenne crossed party lines to endorse Edwards, who went on to score an upset win the next month, while Angelle remained neutral.

It took a bit longer four years later for the two leading Republicans, Rep. Ralph Abraham and wealthy businessman Eddie Rispone, to start attacking one another on the air, but once again, it hurt the party’s efforts against Edwards. Rispone began targeting his fellow Republican just three weeks before the first round of voting, and while the defeated Abraham did endorse Rispone for the second round, some of the damage was irreparable. Edwards worked hard to fan the flames of intraparty animosity by reminding Abraham’s constituents about the slams Rispone had leveled at their representative, a tactic that helped him perform significantly better in Abraham's district than Democrats usually do.

The Democrat who wants to benefit from this year’s early GOP clash is former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, who would be the first African American elected statewide since Reconstruction. Three other Republicans running for governor―Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, and state Rep. Richard Nelson―are meanwhile hoping that an ugly battle between Landry and Waguespack will give them the chance to establish themselves as an alternative conservative option.

The Downballot

Countless progressive organizations seek to engage and mobilize voters, but coordinating those efforts is a mighty task. On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we're joined by Sara Schreiber, the executive director of America Votes, which works with hundreds of partners at the national and state level to deploy the most effective means of urging voters to the polls. Schreiber walks us through how coalitions of like-minded groups are formed and how the work of direct voter contact is divvied up between them. A special focus is on "blue surge" voters—those who, in the Trump era, joined the rolls for the first time—and why ensuring they continue to participate in the political process is the key to progressive victories.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also take stock of recent developments in Pennsylvania and Ohio, two Rust Belt neighbors where Republicans—for once—are breathing a sigh of relief after a pair of disastrous 2022 candidates opted against repeat bids in 2024. They then dive into the extremely belated impeachment of Texas' corrupt attorney general by his fellow Republicans and remind listeners to mark their calendars for a major special election that just got scheduled in New Hampshire.

Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show—new episodes every Thursday! You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time.

Governors

WA-Gov: Former Gov. Christine Gregoire, who served from 2005 to 2013, has endorsed the “exploratory campaign for governor” of her fellow Democrat, Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

House

AZ-03: Phoenix City Councilmember Laura Pastor on Wednesday joined the busy Democratic primary to succeed Senate candidate Ruben Gallego in this dark blue seat. Pastor is the daughter of the late Rep. Ed Pastor, who represented previous versions of this constituency from 1991 until he retired in 2015, and she’s been talked about as a likely House candidate for years.

Chatter about her plans intensified in December of 2021 when she urged the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to revise its proposed congressional map to place a heavily Latino part of Phoenix in Gallego's seat, a change that would have made Republican Rep. David Schweikert's new 1st District reliably red. Pastor, who represented most of this area, said that she was acting to make sure the city's "historic core," heavily LGBTQ neighborhoods, and other locations weren't split; however, skeptics argued she was willing to protect Schweikert in order to boost her own prospects in a future contest to succeed Gallego. But the dramatic changes Pastor wanted didn't happen, and Schweikert went on to only narrowly win re-election.

CO-08: Weld County Commissioner Scott James, reports Inside Elections, is considering seeking the GOP nod to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo. Joe Biden carried this constituency in the northern Denver suburbs and Greeley area 51-46, while Caraveo won her seat 48.4-47.7 last year.

IN-05: While there was some talk during the winter that pastor Micah Beckwith could run to succeed retiring Rep. Victoria Spartz, who beat him in the 2020 GOP primary, Beckwith instead filed this week to campaign for lieutenant governor.

NJ-07: Working Families Party state director Sue Altman on Wednesday became the first major candidate to announce a bid for the Democratic nod to take on freshman GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr. Joe Biden took this North Jersey seat 51-47, while Kean flipped it last year by ousting Democratic incumbent Tom Malinowski by an unexpectedly small 51-49 margin.

Altman, as we recently wrote, is a first-time contender, but she became a prominent force in state politics over the last decade by challenging the power of longtime party boss George Norcross. (Her organization is the state affiliate of the national Working Families Party, which usually backs progressive Democrats rather than run its own general election candidates.) Altman, Politico detailed last year, has been a crucial backer of Gov. Phil Murphy, especially during his first term when he worked to pass his agenda over Norcross supporters in the legislature.

OH-09: J.R. Majewski, who was last year’s disastrous GOP nominee, said Tuesday night that he was ending his rematch campaign against Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur following his mother’s recent surgery. Majewski’s departure is a relief to Republicans, who did not look forward to the prospect of having him again as their standard bearer following his 57-43 landslide loss.

RI-01: Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien said Wednesday he would not enter the upcoming special Democratic primary.

UT-02: Republican Rep. Chris Stewart confirmed earlier reports on Wednesday that he would resign because of his wife's health, though he didn't specify a timeline, only saying he'd leave office "after an orderly transition can be ensured."

There's little question that whoever wins the GOP primary will prevail in the forthcoming special election: Republicans carefully gerrymandered Utah's congressional map, allowing Donald Trump to score a 57-40 victory in 2020 in the 2nd District, which includes the southwestern part of the state as well as a slice of Salt Lake City. Stewart's seat, though, could remain vacant until next year unless the legislature holds a special session specifically to appropriate funds to hold the special earlier.

That's because, under state law, special elections must coincide with regularly scheduled election dates. That means the earliest the primary could take place is Nov. 7, when several municipalities go to the polls. A general election, meanwhile, would not be possible until March of 2024, when Utah holds its presidential primaries. Without action by lawmakers, then, Stewart's constituents could go unrepresented for close to a year.

Stewart's eventual successor will succeed a hardliner who effectively won his seat in 2012 at a bitter party convention. Prior to seeking office, the future congressman made a name for himself in the Air Force by setting the record for the fastest uninterrupted flight across the world (36 hours and 13 minutes) and as the head of a consulting firm. He went on to co-write the memoir of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, though his main claim to fame in conservative circles came from his authorship of a six-part series of apocalyptic novels infused with Mormon theology. One prominent fan was Glenn Beck who, at the height of his influence, both touted Stewart's work on Fox and reissued revised versions of his books to make them palatable to what he called a "mainstream" Christian audience.

Stewart got his chance to run for Congress two years after the 2010 census awarded the Beehive State a new House seat. At the time, candidates could only make the primary ballot by taking at least 40% at their party convention (a 2014 law eventually allowed them to gather signatures), and Stewart's main foe in the 11-person field was former state House Speaker David Clark.

An anonymous mailer, as Mother Jones would recount later that year, made several attacks on Stewart, but it attracted little notice until the day of the convention when a little-known contender named Milt Hanks held it up as evidence that there was an "Anybody-But-Chris" group determined to make sure the author was defeated. Several other hopefuls did indeed endorse Clark, which led Stewart's backers to shout, "The prophecy has been fulfilled! The prophecy has been fulfilled!"

Fueled by this supposed conspiracy, more than 60% of convention delegates gave their backing to Stewart, allowing him to avoid a primary altogether since no other candidate could hit the necessary 40% threshold. But the gathering sparked plenty of angry feelings. Several defeated foes claimed that Stewart's team had produced the offending mailer precisely to cultivate a backlash, an allegation Stewart denied. But the ill will did nothing to stop him from easily prevailing in the general election, and he never struggled to hold his seat in ensuing years.

Soon enough, the congressman, whom one former GOP politician labeled "​​a certified nutcase" before he was even elected, made a name for himself as an ardent conservative. He became a Trump ally despite deriding him as "our Mussolini" during the 2016 primaries, prompting the new administration to consider him for secretary of the Air Force after the elections.

Stewart, however, remained in the House, and later joined the majority of his caucus in voting to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 win. He did break from party orthodoxy last year when he backed the Respect for Marriage Act to protect same-sex and interracial marriages, though he otherwise remained a supporter of far-right causes. He even appeared ready to consider a promotion earlier this year: In April, Stewart declined to rule out a primary challenge to Sen. Mitt Romney. His resignation, though, almost certainly ensures that won't happen.

Anyone hoping to succeed Stewart can try to follow in his footsteps by competing at their party convention for a spot on the primary, though they now also have the option of instead collecting 7,000 valid signatures. Under the state's special election law, though, only one candidate can advance out of the convention instead of the maximum of two that are normally allowed.

Attorneys General

TX-AG: Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday appointed former Secretary of State John Scott as interim attorney general to replace incumbent Ken Paxton, who was automatically suspended last week when the state House impeached him. Paxton, who like Abbott and Scott is a Republican, would resume his duties if he avoids being convicted by two-thirds of the state Senate, while we recently detailed what would happen to this office should he be removed.

Legislatures

NH State House: New Hampshire officials just scheduled a pivotal special election in the Republican-run state House that could see each party wind up with exactly 200 seats in the chamber and potentially put control of the body up for grabs.

The state Executive Council on Wednesday ordered that a primary for Rockingham County's 1st District take place on Aug. 1, with a general election on Sept. 19. If, however, only one Republican and one Democrat file by the June 9 deadline, then the primary would be skipped and the general election would get bumped up to the day that nominating contests would have otherwise been held.

The district in question became vacant after Republican Rep. Benjamin Bartlett, who also works for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, resigned in April, citing health issues. However, a report in the Boston Globe (building off a post by blogger Doug Bates) suggested that the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity, may have played a role.

Whatever the reason for his departure, Bartlett's district is a competitive one: Donald Trump carried it by less than a point in 2020, 49.1 to 48.7, and the trends appear to be favorable for Democrats, since Trump's margin in 2016 was more than 8 points. Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, meanwhile, won the district 50-48 during her successful campaign for reelection last year as Democrats fell just 10 votes shy of securing one of the district's three seats. (Only one seat will be up in the special.)

At the moment, Republicans hold 200 seats in the House and Democrats 198, with a separate special election for a safely blue seat likely this fall. If Democrats prevail in both, that would lead to an exact 200-all tie, though it's not clear whether control of the chamber would immediately be impacted. That's because at least five Democrats voted for Republican Sherman Packard as speaker, and they may or may not be interested in returning to the fold. (We don't know who those wayward Democrats are, by the way, because the speaker is elected via secret ballot.)

However, more specials are likely, particularly after the current legislative session adjourns on June 29, which is when a new budget must pass. Party leaders will undoubtedly try to forestall more resignations, but turnover is always high in the New Hampshire House, where lawmakers are paid just $100 a year. And given Democratic success in special elections both in the Granite State and nationwide this year, there's good reason to think they'll be able to increase their numbers as the opportunity arises.

Mayors and County Leaders

Denver, CO Mayor: Campaign finance reports show the super PAC supporting former state Sen. Mike Johnston is finishing with a huge financial lead over former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough's allies ahead of next week's general election between the two Democrats. Advancing Denver, according to the Colorado Gazette, outpaced A Better Denver $1.6 million to $380,000 from April 5 through May 30.

The pro-Johnston PAC's major donors, notes Colorado Newsline, are some of the same people who supported his unsuccessful 2018 campaign for governor: LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; former Davita CEO Kent Thiry; and hedge fund managers John Arnold and Steve Mandel. The largest funder for Brough's side for the general election Pete Coors, who was the 2004 GOP nominee for Senate.

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

San Francisco, CA District Attorney: Former District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who was recalled last year, said Wednesday he would not challenge incumbent Brooke Jenkins in the 2024 instant-runoff contest. Boudin will instead become the inaugural executive director for a new Criminal Law & Justice Center at the UC Berkeley School of Law, which he says “will serve as a national research and advocacy hub focused on critical law and policy changes to advance justice in the criminal legal system.”

Morning Digest: Here’s what comes next for Texas’ impeached attorney general

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

TX-AG: The Texas State Senate on Monday passed a resolution declaring that its trial for Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom the state House impeached over corruption allegations two days before, must begin by Aug. 28. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who like Paxton and every other statewide official is a Republican, is tasked with choosing the starting date and presiding over the tribunal. It would take two-thirds of the 31-member chamber, where the GOP holds a 19-12 majority, to convict Paxton and thus bar him from ever holding state office again.

Paxton will remain suspended until a verdict is reached, and Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster, who joined his boss in trying to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 win, automatically assumed the office. Gov. Greg Abbott has not yet said if he'd select someone to take over from Webster, a key Paxton ally who used his first day on the job to praise the scandal-ridden attorney general in an email to staffers.

If the Senate removed Paxton, though, election law professor Quinn Yeargain writes in Guaranteed Republics that Abbott would be tasked with picking a replacement, and that this person would require the support of two-thirds of the Senate in order to be confirmed. Yeargain adds that a November 2024 special election would take place for the final two years of Paxton's term should he be convicted.

This could be a consequential pick should Abbott get to make it, as political observers point out that whoever holds the powerful post of attorney general could be the frontrunner in 2026 to succeed the governor in the event that he doesn't seek a fourth term. (Abbott himself used this office as a springboard to the governorship in 2014.)

Yeargain, however, notes that, because Republicans are two seats shy of the two-thirds supermajority needed to unilaterally confirm a new attorney general, Democrats could try to pressure Abbott to pick someone who wouldn't run next year. If the Senate failed to oust Paxton, though, he'd be free to run for reelection or higher office three years down the line.

It also remains to be seen if two GOP senators, Angela Paxton and Bryan Hughes, will act as jurors, though the Houston Chronicle says that two-thirds of the total body would need to vote for conviction whether or not there are any recusals. Angela Paxton is Ken Paxton's wife, and she's remained his close ally even though he allegedly convinced a wealthy ally named Nate Paul to hire the woman that the attorney general was having an affair with. The House's articles of impeachment, meanwhile, accuse Paxton of utilizing Hughes as a "straw requestor" for a legal opinion used to aid Paul.

Patrick indicated that neither senator would be required to step aside, saying, "I will be presiding over that case and the senators—all 31 senators—will have a vote." Kenneth Williams, who is a professor of criminal procedure, told the Associated Press that there wasn't any way to prevent Angela Paxton from taking part in the proceedings, saying, "It's up to her ethical standards and compass, basically."

Until a week ago, it didn't look like Ken Paxton was in any immediate danger of losing the office he was reelected to twice while under felony indictment. The attorney general was charged with securities fraud all the way back in 2015, but that trial still has yet to be scheduled. In November of 2020, the AP reported that the FBI was probing him in an unrelated matter for allegedly using his office to help Paul in exchange for favors. Four of Paxton's former top aides also filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming that he'd retaliated against them for helping this investigation; their suit also alleges that Webster took part in this retaliation.

Paxton and his former personnel reached a tentative settlement in February that was contingent on the Texas legislature approving $3.3 million in state funds to the quartet, but it soon became apparent that House Speaker Dade Phelan and other fellow Republicans weren't keen to pay this. And while things seemed to stall, the House General Investigating Committee actually quietly began its own report into Paxton's alleged misbehavior.

Paxton made news Tuesday when he called for Phelan to resign for presiding over his chamber "in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication," but all that was overshadowed the next day when the committee unexpectedly released its report reiterating many of the allegations related to Paul. The committee, which recommended impeachment the next day, went on to say, "We cannot over-emphasize the fact that, but for Paxton's own request for a taxpayer-funded settlement . . . Paxton would not be facing impeachment."

On Saturday, the GOP-dominated House was presented with 20 counts of impeachment. Most of the charges accused Paxton of illegally using his powers to help Paul, though some said he'd tried to interfere in the securities fraud case. Donald Trump, who endorsed the attorney general in last year's primary, tried to pressure Republicans with a TruthSocial message threatening to "fight" anyone who voted for impeachment, while one Republican member of the General Investigating Committee claimed that Paxton himself had contacted representatives "threatening them with political consequences in their next election."

Ultimately, though, impeachment passed 121-23, with 60 Republicans joining 61 Democrats in the affirmative. All 23 noes came from Republicans, with one member from each party voting present: The lone Democrat to do this was Harold Dutton, who infuriated his party earlier this month by backing an anti-trans bill.

Paxton characteristically responded by writing, "Phelan's coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans is now in lockstep with the Biden Administration, the abortion industry, anti-gun zealots, and woke corporations to sabotage my work as Attorney General." He also predicted he'd be acquitted by the Senate where, as Yeargain writes, Angela Paxton would likely become the first person in American history to have the chance to vote on an impeached spouse's conviction.

Senate

MD-Sen: AdImpact tells Politico that Rep. David Trone has already reserved close to $2 million as he continues his TV ad campaign almost a year ahead of the Democratic primary. The congressman's newest commercial features him talking about his nephew's death after a long struggle with substance addiction.

NV-Sen: Nevada Newsmakers has released a survey from Vote TXT, a firm whose work we hadn't seen before, showing Democratic incumbent Jacky Rosen posting a 39-34 lead in a hypothetical general election over Jim Marchant, the election conspiracy theorist who was the 2022 GOP nominee for secretary of state. The survey also finds 2022 Senate nominee Adam Laxalt edging out Rosen 42-41, though Laxalt said all the way back in December that he didn't "see a scenario where I'm on the ballot in 2024."

OH-Sen: Republican Rep. Warren Davidson has announced he won't run for Senate against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown next year, avoiding a potential headache for establishment Republicans in one of their top pickup opportunities this cycle. The far-right Davidson had been urged to run by the anti-tax hardliners at the Club for Growth, who had reportedly promised to spend on his behalf if he had joined the Republican primary.

Davidson's decision to stay put helps ease the path for wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno to consolidate Trump-supporting primary voters, though Secretary of State Frank LaRose could still join the race and recently said he would decide "by the middle part of summer." Moreno has won praise from Trump himself and a recent endorsement from GOP Sen. J.D. Vance, and he currently faces wealthy state Sen. Matt Dolan, an avowed Trump critic who unsuccessfully ran against Vance in the primary for Ohio's other Senate seat when it was open last year.

PA-Sen: Politico relays that state Treasurer Stacy Garrity isn't ruling out running for the GOP nomination to face Democratic Sen. Bob Casey next year instead of seeking reelection, though Garrity acknowledged that taking on the three-term senator is "going to be tough no matter who runs against him." Garrity won her current office in 2020 when she unseated Democratic incumbent Joseph Torsella 49-48 in an upset even as Biden was pulling off his own close win, and she has gone on to endorse Trump's 2020 election conspiracy theories.

Politico also reports that Carla Sands, a wealthy donor who was Trump's ambassador to Denmark, isn't ruling out a run of her own, though she took a distant fourth place with only 5% when she ran in the primary for Pennsylvania's other Senate seat last year.

WV-Sen: East Carolina University has polled next year's Senate contest in West Virginia and finds Republican Gov. Jim Justice in a dominant position to win. Justice holds a 53-12 lead over Rep. Alex Mooney in the primary and would go on to trounce Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin 54-32 if he's the nominee next year. The poll also tested Mooney against Manchin and finds the congressman leading by a much smaller 41-40 spread.

Governors

IN-Gov: Disgraced former Attorney General Curtis Hill tells the Hamilton County Reporter that he is indeed considering running in next year's Republican primary for governor. Hill narrowly lost renomination at the 2020 convention to former Rep. Todd Rokita two years after multiple women accused the attorney general of groping them.

KY-Gov: The RGA's State Solutions affiliate has launched what the GOP firm Medium Buying says is a $325,000 opening general election ad campaign against Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear, though its first commercial is the same one it used against him in mid-April. The spot targets Beshear for vetoing a bill that bans gender-affirming care for young trans people, something the GOP-dominated legislature quickly overrode.

LA-Gov: Far-right state Attorney General Jeff Landry is running new ads with a tough-on-crime message that are anything but subtle in their racist appeals. Landry's ads tout his law enforcement background, and he claims he'll "hold everyone, and I mean everyone, accountable for violent crime." Yet somehow that means just focusing on local officials who are Black Democrats, not their white Democratic counterparts and certainly not any Republicans such as the one who has been the state's top law enforcement officer for the past eight years.

Indeed, Landry's campaign is running similar versions in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport areas, which are Louisiana's three biggest cities and each have large Black populations. As Gambit's Clancy DuBos notes, each version singles out local Black Democrats serving as mayor or district attorney to blame them for crime problems while ignoring white Democrats (let alone Republicans) in similar positions of power there or elsewhere in the state.

Medium Buying relays that Landry has thus far spent or reserved just $376,000 on ads, and it's notable that he's resorting to racist messaging right out of the gate in a race for governor where the lone major Democrat, former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, is Black.

ND-Gov, NH-Gov: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, whom multiple media outlets report has decided to wage a longshot GOP presidential bid, has “a special announcement” set for June 7, while New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Sunday he’d decide on his own White House plans “in the next week or two.” Both Republicans could seek reelection in 2024 should their presidential hopes fail, though Sununu sounds unlikely to run again for his current post.

WA-Gov: A bipartisan pair of political consultants mention 2022 GOP Senate nominee Tiffany Smiley as a possible candidate for governor to Crosscut, but there's no word if she's interested.

House

AZ-03: Phoenix City Councilmember Laura Pastor has filed FEC paperwork for a campaign to succeed her fellow Democrat, Senate contender Ruben Gallego, and ABC 15 says her announcement will take place Wednesday. Pastor is the daughter of Gallego’s immediate predecessor, the late Rep. Ed Pastor.

CA-12: Jennifer Tran, a professor at California State University East Bay who also serves as president of the Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce, is the latest Democrat to announce a campaign to succeed Senate candidate Barbara Lee in this dark-blue Oakland constituency.

Tran joins a race that includes BART board member Lateefah Simon and businessman Tim Sanchez. Simon has endorsements from EMILY's List and some prominent state and local Democrats, and the San Francisco Chronicle recently noted that the locally influential Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County is also behind her.

CA-47, CA-45: Board of Equalization member Mike Schaefer, a Democrat who has survived many scandals, tells the Orange County Register that he’ll run for the open 47th District to replace Democratic Senate candidate Katie Porter. Schaefer previously filed FEC paperwork to campaign for GOP Rep. Michelle Steel’s 45th District, but he tells the paper that he only did this because he didn’t know that Porter’s constituency no longer has this number under the new congressional map. “I’m trying to figure out how to unregister myself,” for the 45th, he says, adding, “I’m trying to get past that hurdle first.”

Schaefer, whose San Diego home isn’t in either of these Orange County constituencies, is 86, which would make him by far the oldest House freshman in American history; that record is currently held by Kentucky Republican William Lewis, who won his seat at age 79 in a 1948 special election and didn’t run for a full term later that year. Schaefer says he also doesn’t intend to seek reelection, though plenty of Democrats would prefer it if he doesn’t even get to serve that long. As the San Francisco Chronicle put it in a jaw-dropping paragraph during his reelection campaign last year:

He was accused — and eventually acquitted — in a 1970 Yellow Cab bribery scandal in San Diego, when he served on the City Council. He was convicted of misdemeanor spousal abuse and jailed in 1993, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, and was ordered by a jury in 1986 to pay $1.83 million to former tenants in Los Angeles who sued because they said their apartments, rented from Schaefer, were overrun with rats, cockroaches, sewage and street gangs, according to the Los Angeles Times. And in 2013, a Nevada court ordered him to stay at least 100 feet away from actor and comedian Brad Garrett, who played a cop and brother in "Everybody Loves Raymond," after he allegedly stalked the actor following a dispute over a complimentary ticket to a Las Vegas show.

Schaefer's team responded by insisting people should focus on his performance in office instead of his "colorful past," and voters supported him 59-41 over a fellow Democrat.  

Schaefer joins a contest that includes two fellow Democrats, state Sen. Dave Min and party activist Joanna Weiss, as well as 2022 GOP nominee Scott Baugh. Min, who has Porter’s endorsement, looked like the party’s frontrunner until he was arrested for drunk driving early this month, and one prominent California Democrat has made it clear he wants an alternative. Pete Aguilar, who is the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, told the state party convention over the weekend, “The filing deadline is in December.”

DE-AL, DE-Sen, DE-Gov: Bloomberg has the names of some more Democrats who could run for Delaware's top statewide offices if Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester decides to run for Senate following incumbent Tom Carper's retirement announcement. An adviser for Eugene Young, who is the director of the Delaware State Housing Authority, says his boss is considering running for House, and state Treasurer Colleen Davis gave an interview where she didn't rule out running for House, Senate, or to succeed term-limited Gov. John Carney.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that state Sen. Sarah McBride is "assembling plans" to run for House if Blunt Rochester goes for Senate. Lastly, unnamed insiders mentioned state Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro as a potential House candidate, though she doesn't appear to have said anything publicly yet.

IL-12: Darren Bailey, the far-right former state senator who was the GOP's nominee for governor of Illinois last year, did not rule out waging a primary bid against Rep. Mike Bost when KSDK asked him about it, a development that comes a month after Politico first reported that he was considering the idea. Bailey instead texted the station that he and his wife were praying about their next steps, adding, "As of right now there are no plans, but we will keep you up to date."  

MD-06: Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin reports that U.S. Commerce Department official April McClain-Delaney not only is considering a bid for the Democratic nod, she's also been speaking to campaign vendors. McClain-Delaney is the wife of former Rep. John Delaney, who won a previous version of this seat in 2012 and gave it up six years later to run for president.

MN-02: Attorney Tayler Rahm over the weekend announced he'd campaign as a Republican against Democratic incumbent Angie Craig. Biden carried this constituency, which is based in the southern Minneapolis-St. Paul suburbs, 53-45, while Craig won her third term 51-46 last year.  

NY-17: Former Bedford Town Supervisor MaryAnn Carr has filed FEC paperwork for a potential bid for the Democratic nod to take on GOP Rep. Mike Lawler. Carr's colleagues on the Town Board in early 2021 chose her to fill the vacant post as leader this community of 17,000, but she lost the primary for a full term later that year to Councilwoman Ellen Calves 67-33.

RI-01: Bella Machado Noka, who is a Narragansett Aboriginal Nation tribal elder, announced Thursday that she was joining the packed Democratic special election primary. Noka would be the first Native American to represent New England in Congress.

TX-32: Justin Moore, a civil rights attorney who previously served as a local prosecutor, has joined the Democratic primary to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred.

UT-02, UT-Sen: Republican Rep. Chris Stewart, multiple unnamed sources tell the Salt Lake Tribune, plans to resign from the House as soon as this week due to unknown "ongoing health issues with his wife." The departure of Stewart, who has been an ardent conservative hardliner during his decade in Congress, would set off a special election to succeed him in a constituency that Donald Trump carried 57-40. His exit from Congress also almost certainly means that he won't be challenging Sen. Mitt Romney despite not ruling out the idea last month.

International

Alberta, Canada: The governing United Conservative Party, led by the controversial Danielle Smith, secured a second consecutive term in the western Canadian province of Alberta on Monday by winning 49 seats in the provincial legislature, with the remaining 38 seats going to the left-leaning New Democratic Party under the leadership of Rachel Notley. While the NDP did manage to make major gains at the expense of the UCP by flipping 14 seats, the provincewide vote margin favored the ruling party 53-44. However, that margin understates how close the race really was: The UCP won their six most competitive seats in the cities of Calgary and Lethbridge by just over 2,600 votes collectively.

Morning Digest: These departing House members are already mulling comeback bids for 2024

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.

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Leading Off

House: Several outgoing House members from each party are showing at least some openness in trying to return to the lower chamber or run for a different office, though some soon-to-be-former representatives have already closed the door on a comeback. We'll start with a look at the Democrats and Michigan Rep. Andy Levin, who isn't dismissing talk about challenging Republican Rep.-elect John James in the 10th District.

"I'm definitely not shutting the door to running for office again, whether for Congress or something else," Levin told Politico's Ally Mutnick. This year the congressman turned down his party's pleas to run in the 10th, a suburban Detroit seat that Trump took by a tiny 50-49 margin and where Levin already represented two-thirds of the residents, and instead campaigned for the safely blue 11th. That was a bad decision for both him and for national Democrats: Levin ended up losing his primary to fellow Rep. Haley Stevens 60-40, while James beat Democrat Carl Marlinga just 48.8-48.3 a few months later in a race that Democratic outside groups spent nothing on.

Mutnick also relays that unnamed Democrats are urging New York Rep. Tom Suozzi to challenge Republican Rep.-elect George Santos in the 3rd District. There's no word, though, if Suozzi is interested in trying to regain the constituency he gave up to wage a disastrous primary bid against Gov. Kathy Hochul. While Biden prevailed 54-45 here, the GOP's strong performance on Long Island last month helped power Santos, who lost to Suozzi in 2020 and later attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, to a 54-46 win over Democrat Robert Zimmerman.

Another outgoing New York congressman, Mondaire Jones, also responded to questions about his future by telling Bloomberg, "I'm not closing the door to anything, other than doing nothing, these next two years … I'm always going to be fighting for the communities that I represent, even if I'm not formally their elected in the United States Congress these next two years."

Jones, though, did not elaborate on if he has a specific office in mind or where he'd run. Jones, who represents the Hudson Valley, decided to run in New York City in order to avoid a primary against DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney: Jones ended up taking third place in the 10th District primary won by Dan Goldman, while Maloney lost his general election to Republican Mike Lawler.

But New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires, who was not on the ballot anywhere this year, has made it clear he wants to run for a very different sort of office in May 2023. While Sires says he won't make an announcement until his term ends in early January, the congressman has said he's looking at a bid for mayor of West New York, which is the job he held from 1995 until he joined Congress in 2006; the New Jersey Globe reports that he'll enter the contest sometime next month.

However, there's no direct vote at the ballot box to determine who gets to succeed retiring Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez, a fellow Democrat who will likely campaign for the state Assembly next year, as leader of this 52,000-person community. Candidates will instead run on one nonpartisan ballot for a spot on the five-person Town Commission, and the winners will select one of their members for mayor. Anyone who wants the top job, though, will lead a slate of allied commission candidates, something that Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo has already put together.

We've also previously written about a few other departing House Democrats who may run for something in 2024. New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski hasn't ruled out another campaign against GOP Rep.-elect Tom Kean Jr. in the 7th, while retiring Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy likewise hasn't dismissed talk she could take on Republican Sen. Rick Scott. There's also been some chatter that Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb, who lost his primary for Senate, could campaign for attorney general, though he hasn't said anything publicly about the idea.

There is one Democrat who has already closed the door on a comeback, though. Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader, who refused to back Jamie McLeod-Skinner after she beat him in their primary, dismissed talk he could go up against GOP Rep.-elect Lori Chavez-DeRemer by telling Mutnick, "I've been there, done that—time for a young American to step up." Characteristically, the Blue Dog Democrat added, "It can't be a far-lefty. It has to be someone that cares about rural America."

We'll turn to the Republicans, where another Michigan congressman is keeping his options open after a primary defeat. When Politico asked if he was thinking about trying to regain the 3rd District, Rep. Peter Meijer responded, "I'm thinking about a lot of things." Meijer narrowly lost renomination to far-right foe John Gibbs after voting to impeach Donald Trump, while Democrat Hillary Scholten went on to defeat Gibbs in the fall.

Mutnick writes that another pro-impeachment Republican whom the base rejected, Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, is also considering a bid to get back her own 3rd District against Democratic Rep.-elect Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez. Extremist Joe Kent kept Herrera Beutler from advancing past the top-two primary, but he failed to defend the constituency against Gluesenkamp Pérez.

One member who could run for local office in 2023 is New York Rep. Chris Jacobs, a Republican who in October didn't rule out the idea that he could challenge Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, a Democrat, in next year's general election. Jacobs instead put out a statement saying he would "always give serious consideration to any opportunity to serve" the Buffalo area. The congressman decided not to seek a second full term to avoid a tough primary over his newfound support for an assault weapons ban and related gun safety measures in the wake of recent mass shootings, including one in Buffalo.

There are also a few other outgoing Republicans who previously have been talked about as contenders in 2024. The most serious appears to be New Mexico's Yvette Herrell, who filed new paperwork with the FEC for a potential rematch against Democrat Rep.-elect Gabe Vasquez; Herrell soon told supporters she was considering, though she didn't commit to anything.

Retiring Indiana Rep. Trey Hollingsworth also hasn't ruled out a Senate or gubernatorial bid, though Sen. Mike Braun was recently overheard saying that Hollingsworth would instead support him for governor. (See our IN-Gov item.) There's been some speculation as well that Lee Zeldin, who was the GOP's nominee for governor of New York, could run next year for Suffolk County executive, though Zeldin hasn't shown any obvious interest.

One person we won't be seeing more of, however, is Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot. While Chabot regained his seat in 2010 two years after losing re-election to Democrat Steve Driehaus, the congressman told Spectrum News last week that he wouldn't try the same maneuver against Democratic Rep.-elect Greg Landsman. "I was 26-years-old when I first ran for Cincinnati City Council. When this term ends in January, I'll be turning 70 in January," Chabot explained, adding, "Twenty-six to 70, that's long enough. It's somebody else's turn."

The Downballot

What better way to wrap up the year than by previewing the biggest contests of 2023 on this week's episode of The Downballot? Progressives will want to focus on a Jan. 10 special election for the Virginia state Senate that would allow them to expand their skinny majority; the April 4 battle for the Wisconsin Supreme Court that could let progressives take control from conservatives; Chicago's mayoral race; gubernatorial contests in Kentucky and Louisiana; and much, much more.

Of course, we might've thought we were done with 2022 after Georgia, but Kyrsten Sinema decided to make herself the center of attention again. However, co-hosts David Nir and David Beard explain why there's much less than meets the eye to her decision to become an independent: She can't take away the Democratic majority in the Senate, and her chances at winning re-election are really poor. In fact, there's good reason to believe she'd hurt Republicans more in a three-way race. The Davids also discuss the upcoming special election for Virginia's dark blue 4th Congressional District, where the key battle for the Democratic nomination will take place in less than a week.

Thank you to all our listeners for supporting The Downballot in our inaugural year. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show, and you'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time. We'll be taking a break for the holidays, but we'll be back on Jan. 5 with a brand new episode.

Governors

IN-Gov: While retiring Rep. Trey Hollingsworth has hinted that he's interested in campaigning for governor, one would-be Republican primary rival is going around saying he'll instead have the congressman's support. Politico's Adam Wren overheard Sen. Mike Braun on Tuesday night telling other Hoosier State notables, "Trey is gonna support me. I had a conversation with him first." While there's also been talk that Hollingsworth could run for the Senate, Braun also said he might give him a place in his administration should he win.  

KY-Gov: The biggest question looming over next year's Republican primary is whether former Gov. Matt Bevin gets in before filing closes on Jan. 6, and at least one would-be rival believes the answer will be yes. State Auditor Mike Harmon, who was the first notable candidate to launch a bid against Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear, tells the Lexington Herald Leader he's 90-to-95% sure Bevin runs, explaining, "Multiple times I've heard people say he's polling."

Harmon continued, "I can't say for sure 'oh, yes, he's getting in.' But I've had some conversations with different people and it's my belief he's going to." We could be in suspense for a while longer: Bevin in 2015 launched his ultimately successful bid on the very last day possible, and he only kicked off his failed 2019 re-election campaign days before the deadline.

If Bevin does dive in, he would be joining a crowded contest where it takes just a simple plurality to win the nomination. There's no obvious frontrunner, but there are arguably two candidates who may qualify for that distinction: Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, and self-funder Kelly Craft, who is Trump's former ambassador to the United Nations. In addition to Harmon the field also includes state Rep. Savannah Maddox, who is an ally of Rep. Thomas Massie; state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles; and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck.

There was some speculation that the legislature could pass a bill to require primary candidates win at least 40% to avoid a runoff, which was the law until 2008, but key lawmakers tell the Herald Leader there's no real energy behind this idea. "We did not talk about it at the (House GOP caucus) retreat, and I'm the chairman of [the] elections committee," said state Rep. Kevin Bratcher.

LA-Gov: Attorney General Jeff Landry on Wednesday unveiled an endorsement from Rep. Clay Higgins, a fellow far-right politician with a base in Acadiana, for next year's all-party primary. Higgins is the first member of the state's congressional delegation to take sides as everyone waits to see if another Republican, Sen. John Kennedy, enters the contest next month. Another one of his colleagues, Rep. Garret Graves, also has been considering running for governor, though he hasn't shown much obvious interest since he learned he'd be in the majority.

House

AZ-02: Outgoing Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, who lost re-election last month to opponent Buu Nygren 53-47, is not ruling out seeking the Democratic nomination to go up against Republican Rep.-elect Eli Crane, though Nez acknowledged a bid would be tough. "Of course, you keep your options open, you never say no to anything," he told Source NM before adding, "I hate to say it, but it's going to be very difficult for any Democrat to run for that position."

Trump carried this sprawling Northeastern Arizona seat 53-45, and Crane ousted Democratic incumbent Tom O'Halleran 54-46 in November. According to Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, Republican Blake Masters also beat Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly 51-47 here even as he was losing statewide by an identical margin.

VA-04: Sen. Tim Kaine has endorsed state Sen. Jennifer McClellan ahead of Tuesday's firehouse primary to select the Democratic nominee to succeed the late Rep. Donald McEachin.

The short contest leaves candidates essentially no time to raise the money they'd need to run TV ads, but another Democratic contender, Del. Lamont Bagby, is taking to radio to emphasize his own endorsements. Bagby's commercial features testimonials from Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Henrico County Supervisor Tyrone Nelson, who praise his record in the legislature and tout him as a worthy successor to McEachin.

Stoney also informs listeners, "Voting is at a special location, not your normal polling place," and advises them to go to Bagby's site to find out where to cast their ballot.

House: Politico's Ally Mutnick takes a detailed early look at the 2024 House battlefield and what candidates could end up running for key seats. For the Republicans, many of the names are familiar ones from the 2022 cycle. Mutnick relays that some strategists want a pair of defeated Senate nominees, Colorado's Joe O'Dea and Washington's Tiffany Smiley, to run for competitive House seats.

The only realistic target for O'Dea would be the 8th District, where Democratic Rep.-elect Yadira Caraveo pulled off a tough win, but Smiley is harder to place: She lives in Richland in the south-central part of Washington, which is located in GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse's 4th District and is at least a two hour drive from either the Democratic-held 3rd or 8th.

The Republican wishlist also includes a few candidates who lost House primaries this year to some disastrous nominees. One prospective repeat contender is Ohio state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, whose bid to challenge longtime Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur in the 9th ended with her taking third to QAnon ally J.R. Majewski. Kaptur beat Majewski 57-43 after national Republicans gave up on him, but the GOP's victories in this year's state Supreme Court contest could allow Gavarone and her colleagues to draw up a more favorable map for the state senator should she try again.

Another potential repeat is Keene Mayor George Hansel, a self-declared "pro-choice" candidate who wanted to take on Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster in New Hampshire's 2nd District. National Democrats very much didn't want that happening, though, as they ran ads promoting Hansel's underfunded opponent, former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns. The strategy worked as intended: Burns won the nomination 33-30, while Kuster defeated him 56-44 two months later.

Mutnick also writes that some Republicans are hoping to see another try from Derrick Anderson, a Green Beret veteran who wanted to challenge Rep. Abigail Spanberger in Virginia's 7th but lost the primary 29-24 to Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega. Democrats went on to focus on Vega's far-right views, including her comments falsely suggesting that it's unlikely for rape to result in pregnancy, and Spanberger prevailed 52-48.

Republicans have their eyes on a few Republicans who didn't run for Congress in 2022, too. Mutnick says that one possible recruit against Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee in Michigan's 8th is state Rep.-elect Bill Schuette, who is the son and namesake of the GOP's 2018 nominee for governor.

And while the GOP will soon be able to gerrymander North Carolina's new congressional map, Mutnick writes that some Republicans would prefer state Rep. Erin Paré go up against Democrat Wiley Nickel in the 13th rather than see another campaign by Bo Hines. Indeed, Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw trashed both Hines and Karoline Leavitt, who failed to win New Hampshire's 1st, when he told Politico, "We lost races we easily should have won. We elected two 25-year-olds to be our nominees. That's batshit crazy."

Democrats, meanwhile, have a few 2022 nominees they would like to run again:

  • AZ-01: Jevin Hodge
  • AZ-06: Kirsten Engel
  • CA-41: Will Rollins
  • CA-45: Jay Chen

There is no word from any of the once and potentially future candidates from either party about their 2024 plans.

Legislatures

PA State House: Allegheny County election officials say they plan to hold a trio of special elections in Democratic-held state House seats on Feb. 7, declaring, "While we await action by the Court, we will move forward with preparation and other work necessary to conduct the special elections, including confirming polling locations, scheduling poll workers and other administrative work."

Democrat Joanna McClinton scheduled these three contests for early February after she was sworn in as majority leader last week, citing the fact that Democrats won 102 of the 203 state House seats on Nov. 8. Republicans, though, have filed a lawsuit arguing that she did not have the authority to do this because the GOP will have more members when the new legislature meets Jan. 3 because of those vacancies.

VA State Senate: Democrat Aaron Rouse touts his time in the NFL and Virginia Beach roots in his opening TV ad ahead of the Jan. 10 special to succeed Republican Rep.-elect Jen Kiggans. Rouse faces Republican Kevin Adams, a Navy veteran and first-time office-seeker, in a contest that gives Democrats the chance to expand their narrow 21-19 majority in the upper chamber to a wider 22-18 advantage.

Rouse's spot opens with footage of the candidate in action as an announcer proclaims, "What a break on the football by Aaron Rouse!" The Democrat himself then appears on a football field where he talks about the Virginia Beach neighborhood he grew up in by saying, "Before I was Aaron Rouse, the NFL player… I was just Aaron, from Seatack. Mom raised us on her own."

Rouse, who now serves on the City Council, continues, "My granddad told me: I was man of the house. So I did whatever it took. Mowing lawns, pumping gas, cleaning buses." He concludes, "It's time for Richmond to get to work making life more affordable for Virginia families."

Mayors and County Leaders

Austin, TX Mayor: Former state Sen. Kirk Watson on Tuesday narrowly regained the office he held from 1997 to 2001 by defeating state Rep. Celia Israel 50.4-49.6 in the runoff to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out Mayor Steve Adler. Watson will serve an abbreviated two-year term because voters last year approved a ballot measure to move mayoral elections to presidential cycles starting in 2024.

Israel overcame Watson's big spending edge on Nov. 8 to lead him 41-35 in the first round of voting, but observers speculated that his base would be more likely to turn out for the runoff. Israel did best in South and East Austin, areas that have large populations of younger and more diverse voters, while Watson performed strongly in Northwest Austin, a more affluent and whiter area that's home to more longtime residents who were around when he was last mayor.

Watson also worked to appeal to supporters of conservative Jennifer Virden, who took 18%, by emphasizing tax cuts and crime. Virden never endorsed anyone for round two, but she did fire off some tweets favorable to Watson.

The city's high housing costs were one of the main issues in this contest. Watson argued that each of the 10 City Council districts should adopt their own plans, an approach Israel compared to the old racist practice of "redlining." Watson defended his plan, though, saying that there would still be citywide standards each district would need to meet and that individual communities are "going to be able to tell us where greater density can be used." He also argued that he'd have an easier time working with GOP legislators who have long had a hostile relationship with Austin's city government.