The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● MT Redistricting: For the first time in 40 years, Montana enjoyed the right to draw a congressional map following the 2020 census, thanks to population growth that bumped up its representation in the House from one seat to two. But while that task was completed all the way back in November, the state still lacks new maps for its legislature—and won't have any until next year. In fact, Montana is the only state in the nation that hasn't finished legislative redistricting. So what gives?
Fortunately, law professor Quinn Yeargain has the answer. In 1972, Montana adopted a new constitution that gave power over redistricting to an evenly divided bipartisan commission, which is obligated to submit legislative maps to lawmakers "at the first regular session after its appointment or after the census figures are available." The problem, however, is that the constitution also mandates the legislature meet for just 90 days at a time in odd-numbered years, starting in early January and ending in late April.
Practically speaking, therefore, there's no way the redistricting commission could finish its work that quickly, and in 2021, that would have been literally impossible, since the Census Bureau didn't release the detailed data needed to draw new lines until August. Even in the previous decade, when the census wasn't hampered by a pandemic and presidential interference, Montana didn't receive the necessary data until mid-March.
Making matters even more absurd, as Yeargain points out, when lawmakers receive maps from the commission, they can only make "recommendations" for changes—recommendations the commissioners are free to ignore. The entire process, therefore, will be put off until the legislature's next session in 2023, simply to allow legislators to play an entirely advisory role that may have no impact whatsoever.
The practical consequences of this delay, however, are considerable. As shown in this map of Montana's state House, many districts are severely under- or over-populated, with 56 of 100 outside the 10% deviation between the smallest and largest districts that courts typically allow; the situation in the Senate is similar.
Under the longstanding constitutional doctrine of "one person, one vote," these imbalances make Montana ripe for a lawsuit demanding the state draw new districts immediately after each census, like every other state does. No one has brought such a case this time, though, and with the state's primary next week, it's now too late. But in the coming decade, such a challenge could very well succeed.
● OH-Sen: The first post-primary poll of Ohio's open Senate race finds Republican nominee J.D. Vance with a small 42-39 lead on Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, though 17% of voters have yet to make up their minds, according to Suffolk University. While Vance's 3-point margin might seem alluring, we always caution never to judge a race based on a single poll. That's all the more so when there's a sizable pile of undecideds, since they're more likely to lean Republican given Ohio's overall red tilt.
● GA-Gov: Democrat Stacey Abrams has launched her first TV ad since winning last month's primary, and the spot blasts Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for having "made it easier for criminals to carry guns in public," vowing to criminalize abortion, and providing "tax cuts for himself and his ultra-wealthy friends." Notably, this ad is from Abrams' One Georgia leadership committee, which can raise and spend unlimited contributions from donors now that the primaries are over thanks to a law that Kemp himself signed in 2021 in an attempt to gain his own fundraising advantage.
● FL-Gov: We're not quite sure what to make of this, but the Florida Education Association, which is the state's largest teachers union, says it's "backing" Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist's bid for governor but stresses that it's not giving Crist its "formal endorsement." We're accustomed to this sort of parsing from politicians, but we can't recall ever seeing a labor union—especially not one with 150,000 members—engage in this kind of hair-splitting.
● IL-Gov: Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who is Illinois' wealthiest resident, has given an additional $5 million to Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin's campaign for the June 28 GOP primary, bringing his investment up to a staggering $50 million thanks to Illinois' lack of contribution limits. Due in large part to the wealth of just three billionaires, candidates and outside groups in Illinois' upcoming primaries have spent an eye-popping $30 million on ads in May alone as Democrats have gotten involved in the GOP primary to try to stop Irvin and boost a more conservative opponent while Irvin's camp has spent heavily in response.
Irvin has expended $11.1 million while the Democratic Governors Association has dropped $6.5 million on a mix of ads attacking Irvin and boosting state Sen. Darren Bailey, who is running to Irvin's right and has spent $4.1 million with an additional $2.7 million in outside support from a PAC funded by right-wing billionaire Dick Uihlein. The final billionaire is Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker himself, who is extensively self-funding his campaign and has spent $4 million on ads mainly opposing Irvin. Lastly, venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan has spent $1.5 million on GOP primary ads.
● MI-Gov, MI-AG, MI-SoS: The general election portion of local pollster Target Insyght's recent survey for MIRS News finds statewide Democrats demolishing their GOP opponents by margins that simply look too good to be true. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer leads her five prospective Republican challengers by anywhere from 58-19 to 57-23, while Democratic state Attorney General Dana Nessel posts a similar 54-23 edge over Big Lie proponent Matthew DePerno and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson likewise prevails 56-23 over election conspiracy theorist Kristina Karamo.
Every other poll released this cycle has so far found Whitmer at or below 50% with considerably more support for her Republican challengers than Target Insyght has, and even during the blue wave of 2018, she only earned 53% of the vote. Though voters in recent years have been more apt to split their tickets in state races despite historically high levels of polarization in federal elections, Whitmer and her fellow Democrats in swingy Michigan are still likely to face strong headwinds this November thanks to Joe Biden's weak approval ratings and traditional midterm patterns that favor the out-party. We're therefore extremely skeptical of these numbers unless confirmed elsewhere.
Meanwhile, in the August GOP primary, the state Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that self-funding businessman Perry Johnson cannot appear on the ballot after he and several other GOP candidates were disqualified from running last week due to fraudulent voter petition signatures. Johnson didn't indicate whether he would appeal further to the state Supreme Court, but the state is set to finalize its primary ballot on Friday. The courts have yet to rule on a similar appeal by former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, but given the similar arguments in Craig's lawsuit, his prospects look poor.
● MN-Gov, MN-02, MN-01: Candidate filing closed on Tuesday, and the state has a list of who is running here for the August primary. For governor, far-right state Sen. Scott Jensen managed to avoid a competitive primary after winning the state GOP convention's endorsement last month. While it's commonplace for candidates to agree to drop out before the primary after they lose at the convention, former state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and dermatologist Neil Shah didn't appear to have confirmed they would until they declined to file. Lastly, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who had said he was unable to attend the convention due to injuries from a car crash, also dropped out by not filing.
On the Democratic side, Gov. Tim Walz faces only token opposition in his quest for a second term. Walz also got potential good news when former radio host Cory Hepola, who had announced he was running as a Forward Party candidate earlier this year on a platform that appeared more likely to take votes from Democrats than Republicans, also didn't file.
Unfortunately for Democrats, candidates from each of two pro-marijuana third parties qualified to run for governor and in the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts. However, the presence on the ballot of the Legal Marijuana Now Party and Grassroots - Legalize Cannabis Party has if anything had the opposite effect of their stated purpose by likely drawing votes disproportionately from the left, potentially depriving Democrats of enough support to cost them control of the state Senate in 2020 and let the narrow Republican majority block Democrats' legalization effort earlier this year.
Republicans themselves may have had a role in the pro-weed parties' success. Adam Weeks, who was Legal Marijuana Now' 2020 nominee in the 2nd District but died two months before Election Day, had told a friend in a voicemail recording that surfaced after his death that he'd been recruited by the GOP to run and "pull away votes" from Democratic Rep. Angie Craig to help GOP challenger Tyler Kistner. Although Craig won that contest by a 48-46 margin, that was a notable underperformance of Joe Biden's 52-46 victory in the district thanks in part to Weeks posthumously taking 6%.
Craig faces a rematch with Kistner this fall along with candidates from both cannabis parties, and Kistner himself released a mid-May poll from GOP firm Cygnal this week that showed him trailing Craig by a modest 43-38 margin, with Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Paula Overby taking 4%.
In the 1st District, former Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger faces little-known opponents in the regular Democratic primary after winning the nomination last month for the August special election to replace the late GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn. However, on the GOP side, former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad will face a rematch with far-right state Rep. Jeremy Munson after the more establishment-aligned Finstad beat him just 38-37 in last month's special primary; former Freeborn County GOP chair Matt Benda also filed to run in the regular GOP primary after taking only 7% in last month's contest.
● FL-13: Rep. Charlie Crist has endorsed former Defense Department official Eric Lynn in the race to succeed him in Florida's 13th Congressional District. Lynn is the only notable Democrat still running after Republicans gerrymandered the district to make it considerably redder, such that Donald Trump would have carried it 53-46, compared to Joe Biden's 52-47 margin under the previous lines.
Meanwhile, nonprofit founder Audrey Henson just dropped out of the GOP primary to run for the state House instead, though several other Republicans are still in the mix. The remaining field includes attorneys Amanda Makki and Kevin Hayslett as well as businesswoman Anna Paulina Luna, who was the GOP's unsuccessful nominee in 2020.
● IL-06: Rep. Marie Newman copies Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock's legendary ads featuring a pet beagle in a new spot attacking her opponent in next month's Democratic primary—right down to the starring breed of pooch. Walking a beagle of her own, Newman says that "unfortunately, you're going to hear a lot of sh*t about me from my opponent, Sean Casten" as her dog squats to do its business (the offending word is bleeped out). It's not clear what Newman might be referring to, however, as Casten has not aired any negative ads.
Calling herself a "lifelong progressive Democrat," Newman then castigates Casten for voting "for anti-choice Republicans like George Bush." (Casten cast his first vote in a presidential election for George H.W. Bush in 1992, when he was 20.) She also touts her rejection of "corporate money" while accusing Casten, a fellow member of Congress, of having "taken a million dollars from corporate PACs."
● MI-03: A new Public Policy Polling survey for Democrat Hillary Scholten finds her narrowly edging past Republican Rep. Peter Meijer 39-37 while leading conservative commentator John Gibbs, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, by a larger 44-35 margin. This is the first public poll of the race for Michigan's 3rd District, one of a handful of seats Democrats are hoping to flip in November.
● MN-03: In Minnesota's 3rd District, Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips and Navy veteran Tom Weiler, his Republican challenger, are the only candidates running here after businessman Mark Blaxill declined to continue on to the primary after losing to Weiler at the GOP convention.
● MN-04: Longtime Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum faces a primary challenge from the left by Saint Paul Department of Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity official Amane Badhasso, who has raised a competitive amount of money so far. A few other minor candidates are running in the Democratic and GOP primaries for this solidly blue seat.
● MN-05: Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is one of the most outspoken left-wing members of Congress, is running for a third term and faces a primary challenge from her right by former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels. Several other obscure candidates are running for both parties in this heavily Democratic district.
● NY-10: Former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman, who served as House Democrats' lead counsel during Donald Trump's first impeachment, has joined the crowded primary for New York's open 10th District, a safely blue district in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Goldman briefly ran for state attorney general last year but dropped out after incumbent Tish James abandoned her bid for governor and decided to run for re-election instead.
● NY-12: The Working Families Party, a labor-backed party that has often played an important role in New York politics over the last two decades, has endorsed Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler in his member-vs.-member primary against fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney. The WFP's backing serves as a progressive seal of approval and could also yield key on-the-ground support for Nadler if unions decide to deploy their membership on his behalf.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.