Morning Digest: Supreme Court blocks ruling that ordered Alabama to draw a second Black district

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

Leading Off

AL Redistricting: The Supreme Court stayed a lower court ruling that stuck down Alabama's new congressional map for violating Section Two of the Voting Rights Act on Monday, ensuring that the November election will take place using the map Republicans passed late last year.

Two weeks ago, a panel of three federal judges ruled that lawmakers were required to draw a second district where Black voters would be likely to elect their preferred candidates, determining that Black Alabamians are "sufficiently numerous" and "sufficiently geographically compact" to allow the creation of a second "reasonably configured" district with a voting-age Black majority.

Without issuing a written opinion explaining its rationale, the Supreme Court blocked that order from taking effect pending final resolution of the case, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's three liberal members to oppose the stay. In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh claimed a stay was necessary because the lower court issued its ruling too close the 2022 elections.

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Justice Elena Kagan responded in a dissent that Alabama's primary is not until May 24 and that the court has in the past declined to stay redistricting decisions issued on similar timelines. Kagan further chastised the majority for failing to identify any way in which the three-judge panel might have erred, saying the only way its ruling could be reversed is if the Supreme Court were to adopt a brand-new requirement advocated by the Republican defendants that a computer, programmed to ignore race entirely, must automatically generate an unspecified number of maps that would yield a second Black district.

As a result, Alabama will use the GOP's preferred map, which features six majority-white districts and just one majority-Black district, despite the fact that African Americans make up 27% of the state's population. While it's possible that the lower court's ruling could eventually be sustained by the Supreme Court, the majority's move—and the high court's long hostility toward the Voting Rights Act—is a poor augur for the case's future.

Redistricting

Stay on top of the map-making process in all 50 states by bookmarking our invaluable redistricting timeline tracker, updated daily.

NJ Redistricting: New Jersey's Legislative Apportionment Commission has released two draft maps for the state legislature, which uses the same map to elect both chambers (each district elects one senator and two assemblymembers). The panel is evenly divided between the parties, with a tiebreaking member, retired appellate judge Philip Carchman, who was appointed by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. Carchman has his roots in Democratic politics, though he was first named to the bench in 1986 by Republican Gov. Tom Kean.

The commission must complete its work by March 1. Because New Jersey elects its legislature in odd-numbered years, new maps will not be used until 2023 (elections last year were held under the old maps because of delays in receiving data from the Census Bureau).

LA Redistricting: A committee in Louisiana's Republican-run state Senate has advanced a new congressional map that would not create a second district where Black voters could elect their preferred candidate, instead maintaining the status quo of a single Black district. A committee in the state House also passed a similar plan. Given the ease with which a second such district could be drawn—Democrats submitted several maps that would have done so—the state could be at risk of seeing its map overturned on the grounds that it violates the Voting Rights Act, though the U.S. Supreme Court gave voting rights advocates discouraging news Monday with its move in Alabama.

A more immediate question is whether Democrats can sustain a potential veto by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. In the Senate, Republicans hold 27 of 39 seats, one more than the 26 needed to muster a two-thirds supermajority. The picture is cloudier in the House, where Republicans have 68 seats but would need 70 votes to override Edwards. The chamber is home to three independents who have sometimes sided with Democrats, but one independent and one Democrat voted for the GOP's plan in the House (the Senate vote broke along party lines).

OH Redistricting: The Ohio Supreme Court once again ruled that legislative maps passed by the state's Republican-dominated redistricting commission violate the state constitution, ordering the panel to convene for a third time to produce a compliant plan by Feb. 17.

In a 4-3 opinion released Monday evening, the court chastised commissioners for merely tweaking the invalid maps rather than starting afresh as they had been ordered to do. The majority also said that the commission failed to meet a constitutional requirement that the number of districts that favor each party must "correspond closely" to voters' statewide preferences, improperly classifying tossup districts as tilting toward Democrats.

"Bluntly, the commission's labeling of a district with a Democratic vote share between 50 and 51 percent (in one case, a district having a 50.03 percent vote share) as 'Democratic-leaning' is absurd on its face," wrote Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican who joined with the court's three Democrats.

The justices once more noted, as they did in their initial ruling, that they "retain jurisdiction for the purpose of reviewing the new plan." They also advised state lawmakers to delay the upcoming May 3 primary "should that action become necessary."

PA Redistricting: Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, who last week was tasked by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court with recommending a new congressional map, has selected the plan passed by Republican lawmakers but vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in January. However, the Supreme Court, which has a 5-2 Democratic majority, is all but certain to reject the advice of McCullough, a conservative Republican who herself ran for the top court last year by pitching herself as "the ONLY Judge in America to order the 2020 Presidential Election results not be certified." (She lost the primary 52-33 to the eventual winner, Kevin Brobson.)

The justices will hold oral arguments on Feb. 18 and will likely settle on a final map soon after.

TN Redistricting: Republican Gov. Bill Lee has signed Tennessee's new congressional and legislative maps, which Republicans in the legislature recently passed. The congressional plan dismembered the 5th District, splitting the blue city of Nashville between three solidly red seats and prompting Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper to retire.

Senate

AK-Sen: Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski earned an endorsement over the weekend from Joe Manchin, her Democratic colleague from West Virginia, in the August top-four primary.  

Alabama: While a panel of three federal judges last month moved Alabama's filing deadline for U.S. House races from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11, the earlier date still applied to candidates for all other offices on the May 24 primary ballot. WHNT has put together a list of statewide contenders; a runoff would take place June 21 for any contests where no one secured a majority of the vote.  

AL-Sen: Six Republicans are facing off in a closely watched primary to succeed their fellow Republican, retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, in this dark red state. Rep. Mo Brooks, who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, has endorsements from Donald Trump and the Club for Growth, while Shelby is pulling for his one-time chief of staff, former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt.

Army veteran Mike Durant, who was held as a prisoner of war in Somalia for 11 days in 1993 after his helicopter was shot out of the sky in the incident later depicted in the book and film "Blackhawk Down," doesn't have the same big-named allies, but he's using his personal wealth to get his name out. Three little-known Republicans are also competing in a race that Democrats aren't seriously targeting.

While Brooks looked like the frontrunner after winning the support of his party’s supreme leader, even Trump has reportedly been complaining that he’s running a weak campaign. One of the biggest gripes about the congressman for months has been his underwhelming fundraising, and the fourth quarter numbers only led to a fresh round of skepticism about his abilities:

  • Britt: $1.2 million raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
  • Brooks: $380,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand
  • Durant: $165,000 raised, additional $4.2 million self-funded, $2.5 million cash-on-hand

The Club has already spent $1.4 million to boost Brooks, and it recently released a poll putting him in the lead with 35% as Durant led Britt 30-25 for second. However, that’s a big drop from its October survey, which was done before Durant entered the race, which gave Brooks a dominant 55-12 advantage over Britt. Shelby, for his part, reportedly plans to send $5 million of his campaign funds to a pro-Britt super PAC.

Indiana: The filing deadline to appear on Indiana's May 3 candidate filing deadline was Friday, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Alabama’s U.S. House deadline is Friday while the state to watch afterwards will be Maryland, where major party contenders have until Feb. 22 to submit their paperwork.

IN-Sen: Even though the Hoosier State has hosted several competitive and expensive Senate races over the last decade, Republican incumbent Todd Young is the overwhelming favorite to win a second term in a state that Donald Trump took 57-41. Young outraised his most prominent Democratic foe, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, $1.5 million to $75,000 during the fourth quarter, and he ended December with a $6.2 million to $50,000 cash-on-hand lead.  

ND-Sen: Republican state Rep. Rick Becker, a far-right lawmaker with a history of trying to undermine public health during the pandemic, launched a long-shot primary campaign against Sen. John Hoeven on Sunday. Becker, who previously was best known for trying to curtail the use of surveillance drones by police, campaigned for governor in 2016 but dropped out before the primary following a disappointing showing at the state party convention. There is no indication that Hoeven, who ended 2021 with $3.1 million on-hand, is vulnerable in the June nomination contest.

OH-Sen: You know things are bad when your own allies are talking about how your poll numbers are in a "precipitous decline," but that's exactly where venture capitalist J.D. Vance finds himself with about three months to go before the Republican primary. Politico's Alex Isenstadt obtained a 98-page report from Fabrizio Lee for Protect Ohio Values, the super PAC funded by megadonor Peter Thiel, that found the "Hillbilly Elegy" author in fifth place in mid-January with just 9%.

Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel edged out businessman Mike Gibbons 15-14, while former state party chair Jane Timken took a close third with 13%. Vance was even behind businessman Bernie Moreno―a self-funder who has since exited the race―who was at 11%. To make matters worse, Fabrizio Lee's October poll had Vance trailing Mandel only 19-16.

The pollster was blunt about why Vance could soon be authoring his own political elegy. While the one-time Trump critic has tried to refashion himself as an all-out MAGA champion, Mandel's allies at the Club for Growth and USA Freedom Fund spent last fall running ads based around 2016 footage of Vance saying, "I'm a Never Trump guy," as well as a screenshot of him tweeting about his party's nominee, "My god what an idiot."

Those attacks seem to have done exactly what they were intended to do: Fabrizio Lee now says that Vance's "association as a Never Trumper has only grown since November," and "being anti-Trump is the #1 reason voters do not like Vance." It adds, "The groups where Vance has improved are those we don't want him doing better with: Trump disapprovers and moderate/liberals." The presentation, of course, argued that Vance still had a path, but it didn't hide how bad things are for him at the moment: "Vance needs a course correction ASAP that will resolidify him as a true conservative. He has a ton of strong messaging to make that happen and he should push it hard."

Governors

AL-Gov: Gov. Kay Ivey faces an expensive Republican primary battle against former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard and businessman Tim James, who took a tight third in the 2010 nomination battle for this post. Six other Republicans, including nonprofit director Lew Burdette, are also in, but none of them have emerged as serious intra-party threats to the governor yet. The eventual nominee should have no trouble in the general election.

AdImpact reported Friday that the self-funding Blanchard, who dropped out of the Senate race to run here, is spending $4.1 million on advertisements compared to $2.6 million for Ivey. James, who is the son of two-time former Gov. Fob James, is far behind right now with $705,000.

James, though, did debut a new TV ad this week that tries to stoke as much conservative fury as he can. "Our leaders tell us that our country is racist to the core, that looting and burning down cities is normal and there are 50 genders," says the candidate, who does not mention Ivey.

GA-Gov, GA-10, GA-06: Former state Rep. Vernon Jones announced Monday that he was exiting the Republican primary for governor and would instead run for Congress in an as-of-yet unnamed constituency. Jones, a Trump-obsessed Democrat-turned-Republican, also endorsed former Sen. David Perdue's campaign to deny renomination to Gov. Brian Kemp in May.

As for what's next for Jones, unnamed allies tell the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he plans to seek the 10th District instead of the 6th, another open and safely red seat. CNN previously reported that Donald Trump had offered to endorse the former Democrat if he dropped down to a House race.

NE-Gov: Agribusinessman Charles Herbster has an almost-painfully generic ad for the May Republican primary that informs the audience that the contender, whom the narrator claims is "not a politician," is also "the only candidate endorsed by President Trump."

NY-Gov, NY-AG: In a long interview with Bloomberg published Monday, disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeatedly refused to directly address whether he was interested in running for office in 2022, while CNN reported hours later that he was "seriously considering a political comeback as early as this year." Cuomo's allies, said CNN, "have called to solicit opinions about his prospects should he decide to challenge New York Attorney General Letitia James in a Democratic primary." The candidate filing deadline is about two months away.

PA-Gov: State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman's campaign describes his opening spot for the May Republican primary as a piece starring "Corman, his daughter, Bella, and a 1990s hair-band rocker," and let's just say it probably played better on paper than it does on TV.

House

CA-15: AFSCME Local 829 has endorsed David Canepa, a Democrat who serves on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, in the June top-two primary for this safely blue seat.

IA-02: State Sen. Liz Mathis has released the first survey we've seen of the race for this northeastern Iowa seat, and her internal from Public Policy Polling shows her trailing Republican incumbent Ashley Hinson only 43-42.

IN-01: Freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan faces several Republicans in the redrawn 1st District, a northwestern Indiana constituency that would have backed Joe Biden 53-45, though only former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo looks like a serious opponent at this point. Mrvan finished December with $330,000 on-hand, while Milo launched her campaign in the following month.

IN-09: Rep. Trey Hollingsworth surprised just about everyone last month when he announced he would not seek a fourth term in the 9th District, a southeastern Indiana constituency that would have backed Donald Trump 63-35, and nine fellow Republicans are campaigning to succeed him. Only four of these contenders look serious, though Hollingsworth himself initially looked like just Some Dude in 2015 before the recent Tennessee transplant used his fortune to get his name out.

Perhaps the most familiar name is former Rep. Mike Sodrel, who is trying to return to the House after a 16-year absence. Sodrel ran five consecutive campaigns for a previous version of this southeastern Indiana seat—four of which were against Democrat Baron Hill—starting from 2002, but his one and only win came in 2004. After losing to Hill in 2006 and 2008, Sodrel's last campaign came to an unceremonious end in 2010 when he took third in a tight three-way primary against Todd Young, who went on to unseat Hill in the fall. While the one-term congressman has been out of the game for some time, his personal wealth gives him the resources to reintroduce himself to voters.

Another notable name is state Sen. Erin Houchin, who ran in 2016 when Young left to campaign for the Senate seat but she lost the primary to Hollingsworth 34-25. Houchin's second bid has the support of Rep. Larry Bucshon of the neighboring 8th District, as well as 2nd District Rep. Jackie Walorski. Rounding out the field are state Rep. J. Michael Davisson and Army veteran Stu Barnes-Israel.

KY-03: Retiring Rep. John Yarmuth on Monday endorsed state Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey in the May Democratic primary to succeed him in what remains a reliably blue seat. McGarvey faces state Rep. Attica Scott, who launched her campaign in July well before the incumbent announced his departure; McGarvey, by contrast, kicked off his own bid in October less than 10 minutes after Yarmuth said he wouldn't be seeking re-election.

Despite Scott's head start, though, McGarvey went into the new year with a massive financial lead. The minority leader outraised her $795,000 to $80,000 during the fourth quarter, and he concluded the period with a $700,000 to $20,000 cash-on-hand lead.

While Democrats initially feared that Republicans would try to gerrymander this Louisville seat, they ended up making only very minor alterations to the 3rd: We've crunched the 2020 presidential results here, and like the old district, the new one would have voted for Joe Biden by a 60-38 margin.

We're also pleased to present the results of the 2020 presidential election for Kentucky's other five new congressional districts: You haven't previously seen this data because last cycle, all but one county in the state reported returns solely at the county-wide level. (This was the consequence of a pandemic-related decision to establish large "vote centers" where any eligible voter can vote, rather than require them to cast ballots at their own specific precinct.) That means there's insufficient precinct-level data available, so systems that use precinct results to calculate district-level results have nothing to work with.

Fortunately, there's a workaround. Only six counties are split between districts on Kentucky's new map, and one of them is Jefferson. Not only is it the largest in the state (it's the home of Louisville), it's also the one place that provided precinct results for 2020, letting us calculate results for the districts it encompasses in the traditional manner.

The other five, meanwhile, are relatively small, ranging from Bath County (pop. 13,000) to Nelson County (pop. 47,000). That allows us to treat each of them as, in essence, one giant precinct that we can divide proportionally between districts based on population. That's not ideal, and it means some district-level calculations will have error bars. Luckily, though, these five counties only amount to 3% of the state's total population, and they're also fairly homogenous: All are heavily white and voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. What's more, precinct results from 2016 show the Trump vote was evenly distributed throughout these counties.

Ultimately, the new boundaries changed very little. Kentucky Republicans notably drew an extended tongue from the rural 1st District, which starts at the Kentucky Bend in the far western reaches of the state, to absorb the state capital of Frankfort—an appendage that is more vividly seen than described. The maneuver was designed to shore up Republican Rep. Andy Barr, whose 6th District was the site of a competitive election in 2018, but the toplines did not shift much: The old 6th voted for Trump by a 54-44 margin (about 9 points without rounding), while the revamped district would have gone for Trump 55-44.

MI-11: The local pollster Target Insyght finds Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens deadlocked 41-41 in their August Democratic primary showdown. Last week, Stevens released an Impact Research internal giving her a 42-35 advantage in this incumbent vs. incumbent race.  

NC-11: Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning declared Friday morning she was "planning on running," and she correctly predicted that the state Supreme Court would strike down a GOP gerrymander. Had that map stood, Manning would have most likely gone up against Republican incumbent Virginia Foxx for a 57-42 Trump seat.

NY-03: State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi announced Monday that she would compete in the June Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District, an open Long Island-based seat that just picked up a slice of her base in the Bronx and Westchester County in its latest incarnation. Data from Dave's Redistricting App shows that the revamped 3rd, which is open because Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi is waging a long-shot bid for governor, would have supported Joe Biden 56-42, which makes it a hair bluer than his 55-44 showing in the old version.  

Biaggi is the granddaughter of the late Rep. Mario Biaggi, who was elected to a Bronx-based seat in 1968 and resigned in 1988 after becoming ensnared in a tangle of several different corruption cases. The younger Biaggi, who worked as an attorney for then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a staffer on Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, first sought elected office in 2018 when she launched a primary campaign against state Sen. Jeff Klein, the well-financed leader of the renegade faction of Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference.

While Klein and the rest of the IDC were despised by the party's grassroots for helping Republicans stay in control of the state Senate even when Democrats held a majority of the seats, the incumbent easily defeated a prominent intra-party foe in 2014 and very much looked like the frontrunner to hold on again. Biaggi, though, quickly consolidated support from notable mainstream Democrats; Klein was also on the defensive after a former Senate staffer accused him of forcibly kissing her in 2015.

Ultimately, Biaggi defeated Klein 54-46 as five of his seven IDC allies were also going down, an outcome that helped Democrats months later secure their first stable majority in the chamber since World War II. Biaggi quickly established herself as a progressive star who was talked about as a possible candidate for higher office: In early 2021 she didn't rule out running against Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and she reportedly considered challenging her old boss, Cuomo, just before he resigned in disgrace.

While Biaggi enters the race with experience winning a tough primary, the new 3rd Congressional District's shape still poses a potentially big obstacle for her. Only about 6% of the seat's denizens are currently her constituents, so the state senator starts out without much of a geographic base. Still, a total of 18% of the seat lives in Westchester County with another 5% in the Bronx, and Biaggi may be able to appeal to these voters especially if she's the only serious contender from the northern part of the district.

However, the bulk of the 3rd is still based in or near Long Island: 36% of its residents live in Nassau County compared to another 29% in Suffolk County to the east, with the remaining 11% in Queens. Several Long Island-based politicians are already seeking the Democratic nod including Deputy Suffolk County Executive Jon Kaiman, who lost to Suozzi in 2016 when the 3rd was last open; Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan; DNC member Robert Zimmerman; and Melanie D'Arrigo, a progressive activist who lost to Suozzi in the 2020 primary. Lafazan outraised D'Arrigo $455,000 to $80,000 during the fourth quarter and held a $405,000 to $115,000 cash-on-hand lead, while Kaiman and Zimmerman entered in the new year.

Whoever wins the Democratic nod will be favored in November, though Republicans are hoping that their good showing in last year's local elections in Nassau and Suffolk counties mean they'll have an opening. Team Red's only notable contender is 2020 nominee George Santos, who lost to Suozzi 56-43; Santos raised $250,000 for the quarter and had $320,000 on-hand.

NY-16: Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said last week he was "looking at" challenging Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the June Democratic primary, though the "hardcore moderate in the middle" seemed more interested in backing the bid that Westchester Public Works Commissioner Tom Meier is reportedly planning in what remains a safely blue seat. Spano was far more direct about what he thought of the congressman, who was arrested last month at a pro-voting rights protest: The mayor declared that "they should have arrested him for his vote on the infrastructure bill," with the local NAACP quickly responding, “To call for the arrest of a congressman, the first Black one to represent us in the 16th Congressional District, was intentional and we are outraged.”

NY-22: Former Assemblyman Sam Roberts announced Monday that he was joining the Democratic primary for the new 22nd District, an open Syracuse area seat that would have supported Joe Biden 58-40. (About 70% of the new 22nd's residents live in the old 24th, where Republican Rep. John Katko is retiring.) Roberts made history in 2010 when he became the first Black person elected to represent Central New York in the legislature, and he resigned in 2015 to lead the state's Office of Temporary Assistance and Disability.

TN-05, TN-07: Former State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Monday that she would compete in the August Republican primary for the newly-gerrymandered 5th District, an announcement that came less than two weeks after Donald Trump pre-endorsed her.

Several MAGA talking heads have already expressed their disappointment that Trump didn't instead back music video producer Robby Starbuck, who was running even before the new map transformed this from a 60-37 Biden district to a 54-43 Trump constituency, but it remains to be seen if primary voters will care. Other Republicans could also get in including attorney Kurt Winstead, a retired brigadier general in the Tennessee National Guard who filed FEC paperwork on Monday.  

On the Democratic side, community activist Odessa Kelly's team acknowledged that she could switch to the 7th District and take on Republican Rep. Mark Green. Trump would have prevailed 56-41 here, which makes it on paper even less friendly turf than the 5th.

TX-28: For the first time, attorney Jessica Cisneros is running a TV ad focused on the recent FBI raid on conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar's home and campaign headquarters ahead of their March 1 Democratic primary rematch. The spot begins with several news reports about Cuellar's troubles before the narrator promotes Cisneros as "a better choice."

TX-35: State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez's first TV spot ahead of next month's Democratic primary parodies the old Dos Equis "most interesting man in the world" ad campaign with a narrator proclaiming near the end, "He is … the most interesting candidate for Congress." Before that, the commercial commends Rodriguez for being one of the rare state legislators to cast a vote against a pro-Iraq War resolution, defending an Austin Planned Parenthood clinic from Republicans, and helping "Democrats escape on a plane to protest voter suppression" while remembering "a case of beer."

TX-37: Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett's new spot promotes him as a "true blue progressive."

McConnell and Republicans can only sweep away the Jan.6 insurrection with Manchin’s help

Generations of senators who came before us put their heads down and their pride aside to solve the complex issues facing our country. We must do the same. The issues facing our democracy today are not insurmountable if we choose to tackle them together.

That's Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat arguing in a Washington Post op-ed that the filibuster must be preserved because ... reasons. Those reasons being something about how senators are better than everyone else and know better than anyone else and how dare any lesser being question that. I might be exaggerating a bit. But not much.

Manchin expanded on those deep thoughts the next day, on CNN. "January 6 changed me," Manchin said. "I never thought in my life, I never read in history books to where our form of government had been attacked, at our seat of government, which is Washington, D.C., at our Capitol, by our own people." Gosh, life-changing stuff. It must have really made him focus on how to secure our fragile democracy.

So after experiencing that life-changing day, when that institution he so reveres was attacked, and sharing it with those Republican colleagues he says are worthy of so much trust and respect, what must he think now that they're all lining up to oppose the bipartisan Jan. 6 commission? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who absolutely controls his conference, officially trashed the bill Wednesday, effectively killing it in the Senate. As long as the filibuster stands, anyway.

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"After careful consideration," (yeah, right) "I've made the decision to oppose the House Democrats slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January 6th. As everybody surely knows, I repeatedly made my views about the events of January 6th very clear. I spoke clearly and left no doubt about my conclusions," McConnell said Wednesday morning. Never mind that McConnell's remarks on Jan. 6 came when he was defending his refusal to hold Donald Trump accountable for instigating the attack by voting to convict him in an impeachment.

And never mind that the agreement reached between House Homeland Security leaders Democrat Benny Thompson and Republican John Katko is scrupulously bipartisan—to a fault, considering how much leeway it gives McConnell and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy to sabotage it.

Even with that, McConnell has decided to kill the commission directly. Not just McConnell, either. Look at supposedly moderate Republican Sen. Rob Portman. "We have plenty of resources," he said Wednesday. "We had all of our investigative staff involved in both committees. They’re all cleared and up to speed… it’s faster to do something in Congress than to set up a commission where you have to get the staff hired and get them their clearances."

What about Manchin's great "moderate" friend, Sen. Susan Collins? She told reporters that she might deign to vote for it, provided that it has an artificial end date before the 2022 election year. That would give ample opportunity for McConnell and McCarthy, should it actually pass (which it won't), to drag their feet on naming commission members and ensuring that it can't even get to work before fall. They really don't want this to happen. They really don't want accountability.

They don't want to keep this from happening again.

So back to Manchin and what happened on Jan. 6 and what has happened since. Here's how it "changed" him, he wrote in that op-ed. "Our ultimate goal should be to restore bipartisan faith in our voting process by assuring all Americans that their votes will be counted, secured and protected." By not passing S. 1, the bill that would ensure every American's access to the ballot and ensure that elections are held with the highest degree of transparency and security possible. That's because he thinks the people spouting the Big Lie should be listened to, catered to.

Manchin is insisting that the rights of the rioters, the insurrectionists, and the seditionists receive equal deference to the rights of law-abiding American citizens whose votes the seditionists were trying to nullify. Seditionists who stormed the Capitol, threatening the life of then-Vice President Mike Pence and any member of Congress who crossed their path that day.

Now Republicans who aren't actively trying to rewrite the history of that day are trying to cover up what led to that day and what happened on that day, and trying to prevent a reckoning. They'll be able to do so. Joe Manchin, and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for that matter, are granting them that ability by refusing to end the filibuster.

Morning Digest: Far-right ex-cop wages intraparty bid against pro-impeachment GOP congressman

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

Leading Off

WA-04: Far-right ex-cop Loren Culp announced Thursday that he would challenge Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January. Culp, who was the GOP’s 2020 nominee for governor, made it very clear he’d be making his campaign all about that vote: After accusing the incumbent of having a “spine made of jelly,” Culp, without offering any evidence, accused Newhouse of making “some kind of deal” with Democrats.

Newhouse was already facing intraparty challenges on his right from state Rep. Brad Klippert and businessman Jerrod Sessler in next year’s top-two primary, and more could still join. It’s possible that a crowded field of opponents could split the anti-Newhouse GOP vote in the 4th District and allow the congressman to advance to a general election with a Democrat, but that’s far from assured. This 58-40 Trump seat is red enough that Newhouse went up against a fellow Republican in both 2014 and 2016, and this eastern Washington seat will almost certainly remain very conservative turf after redistricting.

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Culp may also be prominent enough to emerge as Newhouse’s main foe, especially since Klippert did not report raising any money in the time between his January launch and the end of March. (Sessler entered the race in early April.) Culp himself served as mayor of the small community of Republic, which is located in the neighboring 5th District, in 2018 when he made news by announcing he wouldn't enforce a statewide gun safety ballot measure that had just passed 59-41.

Culp's stance drew a very favorable response from far-right rocker Ted Nugent, who posted a typo-ridden "Chief Loren Culp is an Anerican freedom warrior. Godbless the freedom warriors" message to his Facebook page.

Culp soon decided to challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, and he quickly made it clear he would continue to obsessively cultivate the Trump base rather than appeal to a broader group of voters in this blue state. That tactic helped Culp advance through the top-two primary, an occasion he celebrated by reaffirming his opposition to Inslee's measures to stop the pandemic, including mask mandates.

Inslee ended up winning by a wide 57-43, but Culp responded by saying he’d “never concede.” Instead, he filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a fellow Republican, that made baseless allegations of “intolerable voting anomalies” for a contest “that was at all times fraudulent.”

The state GOP did not welcome Culp’s refusal to leave the stage, though. Some Republicans also openly shared their complaints about Culp’s campaign spending, including what the Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner described as “large, unexplained payments to a Marysville data firm while spending a relatively meager sum on traditional voter contact.”

Culp also gave himself a total of $48,000 for lost wages and mileage reimbursement, a sum that Brunner said “appears to be the largest-ever for a candidate in Washington state.” Republicans also griped that Culp had spent only about a fifth of his $3.3 million budget on advertising, a far smaller amount than what serious candidates normally expend.

Culp’s attorney ultimately withdrew the suit after being threatened with sanction for making “factually baseless” claims. Culp himself responded to the news by saying that, while the cost of continuing the legal battle would have been prohibitive, “It doesn’t mean that the war’s over … It just means that we’re not going to engage in this particular battle through the courts.”

Newhouse, for his part, responded to Culp’s new campaign by reaffirming that he’ll be running for a fifth term next year. Newhouse brought in $288,000 during the first quarter for his campaign, and he ended March with $528,000 to defend himself.

Senate

AK-Sen: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the chamber, endorsed Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski. Manchin previously crossed party lines by backing Maine Sen. Susan Collins last cycle; neither Murkowski nor Collins supported Manchin during his 2018 reelection bid.

FL-Sen, FL-Gov: Democratic Rep. Val Demings on Thursday reiterated her interest in running for Senate or governor, adding, "It's next year, right, and so I'd need to make that decision soon for sure by mid-year. And we're almost there now." Demings did not indicate if she was leaning towards one statewide race over the other.

IA-Sen, IA-Gov: Democratic state Auditor Rob Sand recently told Iowa Press that he was thinking about running for the Senate, governor, or for reelection in 2022, and that he didn't have a timeline to decide. Sand won this post in 2018 by unseating a Republican incumbent 51-46 even as GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds was prevailing 50-48.

MO-Sen: The Kansas City Star recently asked former NASCAR driver Carl Edwards if he was interested in seeking the Republican nomination for this open seat, and he did not rule out the idea. Edwards said, "I don't have an active campaign going on," before he talked about his belief "in the founding principles and individual freedom and liberty and sustainability of our way of life." He added, "There might be a day when I'm able to help with that."

Governors

CA-Gov: Former reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner announced Friday that she would compete as a Republican in this year's likely recall election against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. In addition to Jenner, the GOP field includes former Rep. Doug Ose, 2018 nominee John Cox, and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and it could still expand further.

Jenner, who would be the first transgender person elected statewide anywhere, has not sought office before, though she's not completely new to politics. She was a vocal Donald Trump supporter in 2016, although Politico recently reported that she didn't cast a ballot at all that year; Jenner also did not vote in 2018 when Newsom was elected governor.

Jenner insisted in 2017 that, while Trump has "made some mistakes" on LGBTQ issues, she didn't regret backing him, but she finally acknowledged the following year that she'd been wrong. That public break, however, didn't stop Jenner from hiring multiple high-level Trump campaign personnel for her bid or accepting help from former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.

NH-Gov: 2020 Democratic nominee Dan Feltes told the Concord Monitor that he had "no intention right now of putting my name on the ballot in 2022," though he didn't rule out a second bid for governor.

Feltes, who was state Senate majority leader at the time, raised a credible $1.7 million last time for his bid against Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, but the popular incumbent defeated him in a 65-33 landslide. Sununu has yet to announce if he'll run for a fourth two-year term or challenge Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan instead.

House

FL-20: Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard said Thursday that he would not compete in the still-unscheduled special election for this safely blue seat.

KS-03: 2020 Republican nominee Amanda Adkins earned an endorsement Friday from 4th District Rep. Ron Estes for her second campaign against Democratic incumbent Sharice Davids.

ME-02: The Bangor Daily News takes a look at the potential Republican field to take on Rep. Jared Golden in this 52-45 Trump seat, a northern Maine constituency that is the reddest Democratic-held House district in America. So far, though, the only notable politician who appears to have publicly expressed interest is state Rep. Mike Perkins, who said Thursday he was forming an exploratory committee.

2020 nominee Dale Crafts, meanwhile, said he wasn't ruling out a second try. Crafts, who is a former state representative, was decisively outraised by Golden last time, and major outside groups on both sides dramatically cut their ad buys in the final weeks of the race in what Politico characterized at the time as "a sign of no confidence" in the Republican. Golden ended up prevailing 53-47, which was far closer than what almost any publicly released poll showed.

State Sen. Lisa Keim and former state Rep. Alex Willette said they wouldn't run, but the Bangor Daily News writes that former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who lost this seat to Golden in 2018, did not respond to questions about his plans. Poliquin spent much of 2019 talking about seeking a rematch against Golden, but he ultimately announced that, while he was "itching to run again," he had to skip that race to care for his elderly parents.

While Democrats control the governorship and both houses of the legislature, redistricting isn't likely to alter Maine's congressional boundaries all that much. The state requires two-thirds of each chamber to pass a new map, and there are more than enough Republicans to block any districts they view as unfavorable. If the legislature deadlocks, the state Supreme Court would take charge of redistricting.

NV-04: 2020 candidate Sam Peters has announced that he'll once again compete for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford. Peters, who is an Air Force veteran and businessman, lost last year's primary 35-28 to former Assemblyman Jim Marchant. Horsford went on to beat Marchant 51-46 as Joe Biden was carrying this northern Las Vegas area seat by a similar 51-47 spread.

OH-01: Franklin Mayor Brent Centers filed FEC paperwork Thursday for a potential campaign for the Cincinnati-area seat currently held by his fellow Republican, Rep. Steve Chabot. Centers previously said he planned to enter the race in early May.

TX-06: The progressive firm Data for Progress has released a survey of the May 1 all-party primary that shows Republican party activist Susan Wright, the wife of the late Rep. Ron Wright, in first with 22%.

2018 Democratic nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez leads Republican state Rep. Jake Ellzey by a small 16-13 margin in the contest for the second spot in an all-but-assured runoff, with a few other candidates from each party also in striking distance. Former Trump administration official Brian Harrison and Democrat Shawn Lassiter, who works as an education advocate, are both at 10%, while 2020 Democratic state House nominee Lydia Bean is at 9%.

The only other poll we've seen all month was a Meeting Street Research survey for the conservative blog the Washington Free Beacon from mid-April that showed a very tight four-way race. Those numbers had Sanchez and Wright at 16% and 15%, respectively, with Ellzey at 14% and Harrison taking 12%.

Data for Progress also polled a hypothetical runoff between Wright and Sanchez and found the Republican up 53-43. This seat, which includes part of Arlington and rural areas south of Dallas, supported Trump only 51-48 in 2020 after backing him 54-42 four years before, but Republicans have done better downballot.

TX-15: 2020 GOP nominee Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez's second campaign picked up an endorsement Friday from Sen. Ted Cruz. De La Cruz-Hernandez, who held Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez to a shockingly close 51-48 win last year, is the only notable Republican currently in the race for this Rio Grande Valley seat, which backed Joe Biden only 50-49 after supporting Hillary Clinton by a wide 57-40.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: The city Campaign Finance Board on Thursday approved former White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan for matching funds.

The board said the previous week that it was "deferring its decision" as it sought "further information" about a super PAC that has received at least $3 million from the candidate's father, but it cleared Donovan for public financing following its review. With this development, all of the notable Democrats competing in the June primary have received matching funds except former Citigroup executive Raymond McGuire, who is not taking part in the program.

Meanwhile, attorney Maya Wiley received an endorsement on Friday from EMILY's List. The field also includes two other pro-choice women, former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and nonprofit executive Dianne Morales.

Prosecutors

Manhattan, NY District Attorney: Former State Chief Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg recently picked up endorsements from two prominent labor groups ahead of the crowded June Democratic primary: the healthcare workers union 1199 SEIU and 32BJ, which represents building and airport employees.

Other Races

CA-AG: The state legislature on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to confirm Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta to replace Xavier Becerra, who resigned last month to become U.S. secretary of health and human services, as California attorney general. Bonta, who has made a name for himself as a criminal justice reformer, is also the first Filipino American to hold this post.

Bonta already faces a challenge from Republican Nathan Hochman, a former federal prosecutor, in his 2022 campaign for a full four-year term. The bigger threat in this very blue state, though, could come from Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a Republican-turned-independent who is publicly considering a bid.

Politico writes that Schubert, who attracted plenty of attention in 2016 after the Golden State Killer was apprehended, has also "hammered California's unemployment fraud failures and has excoriated [criminal justice] reformers." Schubert, though, would need to get through the top-two primary before she could focus on Bonta, and it's far from guaranteed that she'd be able to advance if Hochman or a different Republican emerges as Team Red's frontrunner.

Republicans just proved it: If the filibuster doesn’t end, we cannot restore our democracy

The founding fathers, chafing under the malign thumb of Britain's monarchy, most definitely envisioned the potential for a Donald Trump. Alexander Hamilton pretty much nailed Trump in 1792: "When a man unprincipled in private life[,] desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper … despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may 'ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.'"

Thus we have the tool of impeachment and the checks and balances of a legislative, executive, and judicial system. What the founders apparently didn't account for in their careful crafting of the three branches was a Mitch McConnell, a lawmaker so unprincipled that he would enter into a bargain with Trump to enhance his personal power at the expense of the whole Senate, and use that power to subvert the third branch—the judiciary. The reasonable "cooling saucer" of the Senate created to counterbalance the rabble in the House of Representatives wasn't supposed to become a tool of the corrupt, but here we are—and not for the first time. There's a throughline in all of American history for the fight against majority rule democracy: white supremacy. Every sustained backlash against progress has come from privileged whites. We saw its violent and very public resurgence in Trumpism, a storm Republicans have been happy to ride. There are myriad reforms the country has to undertake to beat that back down again, but it has to start now and in the Senate, with the filibuster.

Campaign Action

The vehicle for that is singular: H.R.1, the For the People Act of 2021, and its companion in the Senate, S.1. The House bill, first passed in 2019 and subsequently ignored by McConnell, would enact substantial and groundbreaking electoral reforms. It would remove existing barriers to voting, secure the elections processes to secure the integrity of the vote, expand public financing to fight the pernicious entrenched and monied interests, and ban congressional gerrymandering to ensure equal and fair representation in the House of Representatives. It would also start to chip away at the imbalance of representation in the Senate—where states like Wyoming have a fraction of the population of the nation's largest cities—by granting statehood to the District of Columbia.

That bill is not going to pass the Senate if the filibuster holds, nor is any of President Joe Biden's agenda. Senate Republicans made that abundantly clear from Biden's first day in office, and even before. When the Senate flipped into Democratic hands on Jan. 5 with the runoff results in Georgia, McConnell started in, refusing to bring the Senate out of recess until Jan. 19. (That also built in his excuse for not voting to convict Donald Trump in his impeachment—he could say then, duplicitously, that a former president couldn't be convicted.) McConnell then spent three weeks refusing to allow Biden to form a complete Cabinet by blocking an organizing resolution for the Senate, the necessary piece of business for all of the committees assignments be made and the committees to start serious business, like considering legislation referred to them and processing Biden's nominees.

McConnell—with the tacit support of 49 Republican senators—insisted that this was all in the name of "unity," just like Biden wanted. His stance was that Democrats had to prove that they wanted unity by capitulating to his demand that they promise not to get rid of the filibuster and let him continue to block Biden's agenda and his nominees. To Schumer's credit, he didn't get that. To Joe Manchin's and Kyrsten Sinema's discredit, they agreed with McConnell. Sinema, in fact, has continued to do so.

Sinema is insisting that she'll oppose a minimum wage increase in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that Democrats are pushing through using budget reconciliation, a limited tool that isn't subject to the 60-vote majority rule and thus can't be filibustered. More than that, Sinema says: "I want to restore the 60-vote threshold for all elements of the Senate's work." That would mean handing a veto of every Biden nominee—including potentially to the Supreme Court—to McConnell.

Sinema is undoubtedly trying to hedge her bets just in case Republicans retake the Senate in 2022, trying to worm her way into their good graces. As if McConnell and team would reward a Democrat for anything. As if it wasn't a betrayal of her own constituents, who support a minimum wage increase. As if it wasn't a betrayal of the LBGTQ community in which Sinema claims membership. She's expressed her willingness to help Republicans filibuster the Equality Act, which bans discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. She's saying that she'll reimpose the 60-vote threshold to block Biden's pro-equality judges after Trump appointed so many anti-equality judges, needing just 51 votes.

She somehow believes that this can be put in the hands of Senate Republicans, only seven of whom voted to convict the guy who incited and directed an insurrection against them, a mob that was primed quite literally for their blood—and very nearly got it.  So, sure, these will be the people who will provide the 10 votes necessary to help Biden save the nation from COVID-19, provide health care to everyone in the aftermath of this pandemic, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform to help border states like Arizona.

Which takes us back to the For the People Act. The events of Jan. 6 and the Senate Republicans' acquittal of Trump underline just how critical it is that Democrats respond forcefully and quickly to stamp down the radicalized Republican Party, to end its ability to maintain outsized power while representing the minority of the nation's population. It means, particularly for the likes of Manchin and Sinema, realizing that the Republicans they pal around with everyday are not their friends. That they would perhaps lament their deaths at the hands of a violent mob, but aren't going to act to prevent it from happening. It means ending the filibuster.

The For the People Act is the vehicle to use to do just that, because it would level the playing field for Democrats. More than that, it would allow for actual majority rule—for the majority of voters to have their will enacted. To have universal accessible and affordable health care. To have an economic system that's not weighted against them. To not have their families living in fear of separation. To have a government taking on the changes in the climate that threaten to make living in their home regions impossible.

None of that happens without a profound change in our electoral system, and H.R.1/S.1 would start that process. It's also where to dare Sinema and Manchin to thwart the will of the majorities who elected them, to dare them to stand with the white supremacist Republican Party that is fighting to keep whole communities of color disenfranchised.

Morning Digest: Progressive Marie Newman unseats anti-choice Rep. Dan Lipinski in Democratic primary

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

Illinois held its downballot primaries on Tuesday, and you can find the results here. We’ll have a rundown in our next Morning Digest.

Leading Off

IL-03: In a huge win for progressives, businesswoman Marie Newman defeated eight term Rep. Dan Lipinski, who has long been one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus. With 99% of precincts in, Newman’s lead stands at 47-45 in their expensive primary rematch in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District. While Newman had to fight hard to beat the powerful incumbent on Tuesday after narrowly losing to him two years ago, she shouldn’t have any trouble prevailing in the general election in this 55-40 Clinton seat in the Chicago area.

Lipinski made a name for himself during his nearly 16 years in Congress as a loud opponent of abortion rights and same sex-marriage, but he proved to be very tough to dislodge. Lipinski’s father, Bill Lipinski, represented this area from 1983 until 2005, and plenty of primary voters still supported the family and shared their conservative views. The younger Lipinski received the Democratic nomination in 2004 from party leaders after his father dropped his re-election campaign after winning the primary, and much of the old Chicago machine remained loyal to him throughout the years.

Lipinski turned back a well-funded primary challenge in 2008 by a 54-25 margin, and he didn’t face another serious threat for the next decade. During that time the congressman repeatedly voted to defund Planned Parenthoodopposed the Affordable Care Act, and refused to endorse Barack Obama's re-election campaign in 2012—despite the fact that his district is solidly blue.

Newman challenged Lipinski from the left in 2018, and while she looked very much like a longshot against the well-funded and entrenched incumbent for most of the race, she ended up holding him to a 51-49 win. Lipinski, though, quickly proved that he wasn’t going to change his conservative ways after that near-loss by headlining the anti-abortion “March for Life” in early 2019, an event he’d skipped the previous year when he was fighting to win renomination. Lipinski also signed onto an amicus brief alongside more than two hundred Republican Congress members asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Newman launched her second bid for this seat in May of 2019, and this time, it was clear to everyone from the beginning that she was a serious threat to Lipinski. While the incumbent enjoyed a massive financial advantage during his last campaign, the two candidates ended up spending a comparable amount this time. EMILY’s List also deployed $1 million on Newman’s behalf, while major outside groups didn’t do much to help Lipinski this time. Newman also picked up a high-profile endorsement in February from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who memorably took Lipinski to task by declaring, “[I]f it were up to Dan Lipinski, I wouldn't be able to marry my wife.”

Still, Lipinski had some strong advantages for his second campaign. The congressman still enjoyed the support of much of the Chicago Democratic establishment, including powerful state House Speaker Mike Madigan, and many labor unions. Two other candidates, activist Rush Darwish and underfunded perennial candidate Charles Hughes, were also on the ballot, and there was a real possibility that they could take enough support from Newman to allow Lipinski to win with just a plurality of the vote. However, this time it was Newman who ended the primary night as the victor.

Election Changes

Alaska: Alaska Democrats had already switched to mail balloting for their April 4 presidential primary before the coronavirus outbreak, so the election is proceeding as planned. Party officials say they haven't yet changed their plans to offer in-person voting at a limited number of sites, but they're exhorting voters to postmark their ballots by the March 27 deadline in case that changes.

Connecticut: Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill says discussions are underway about delaying the state's April 28 presidential primary, which the CT Mirror says Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has the power to unilaterally move. Merrill says she will issue a recommendation to Lamont but added, "We don’t need to make that decision now." In addition, because Connecticut's constitution requires voters to have an excuse to vote absentee, Merrill has asked Lamont to declare that all voters may request an absentee ballot due to the pandemic. While lawmakers have passed an amendment to change this provision, they need to do so a second time after 2020 before it can come into an effect.

Delaware: Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence, an appointee of Democratic Gov. John Carney, says there's no provision in state law allowing Delaware to postpone its April 28 presidential primary, though presumably the legislature could pass a bill changing the date. Delaware's constitution also currently requires an excuse to vote absentee. While lawmakers have passed an amendment to change this provision, they need to do so a second time after 2020 before it can come into effect like in Connecticut.

Florida: A federal judge rejected a last-minute request filed late on Monday night to extend the absentee deadline for Florida's presidential primary, which took place on Tuesday, until March 27. However, the judge did not rule on the underlying merits of the lawsuit but rather on plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order, so it's possible absentee balloting could be re-opened when a final ruling is issued.

Georgia: Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says his office is contemplating a plan to mail absentee ballot applications to the 2 million Georgia voters over the age of 60, and possibly to all 7.2 million registered voters regardless of age. Voting rights advocates, however, want Raffensperger to skip the application step and instead simply mail out ballots to all voters, but the secretary of state's office claims it cannot afford to administer an all-mail election.

Hawaii: Like their counterparts in Alaska, Hawaii Democrats are conducting their April 4 presidential primary largely by mail, but party officials say the fate of 21 in-person polling locations remains uncertain at this time.

Maryland: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has moved the date of Maryland's presidential and downballot primaries from April 28 to June 2. The special election for the state's vacant 7th Congressional District will still go forward on April 28, but it will be conducted entirely by mail.

Minnesota: Democrats in Minnesota have canceled their upcoming local and congressional district-level conventions, which had been scheduled throughout April and May, and will instead issue endorsements by online vote. No decision has yet been made about the party's statewide convention, which is set for May 30-31. Republicans, meanwhile, have postponed their local and district-level conventions through April 15.

Minnesota's primary for downballot offices is not until Aug. 11, and party conventions don't impact ballot access. However, candidates who fail to win their party's official endorsement during convention season often drop out rather than continue on to the primary.

New Mexico: Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says she plans to conduct "a heavy push toward absentee balloting" ahead of New Mexico's June 2 primary for the presidential race and downballot offices. She also says that any adjustments to in-person polling sites are "still under consideration," but it doesn't sound like a discussion of changing the date of the election is underway.

Texas: According to the Houston Chronicle, election officials in Texas are exploring a move to all-mail balloting for the state's May 26 runoffs, though the secretary of state's office would not confirm whether it's considering the idea.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Politico reports that the conservative group One Nation is spending $700,000 on a TV, radio, and digital ad campaign that commends GOP Sen. Martha McSally's work to expand mental health care for veterans.

GA-Sen-A: On behalf of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the University of Georgia is out with the first poll we've seen of the May Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. David Perdue. 2017 House nominee Jon Ossoff is in first with 31%, while former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson edges out 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico 16-15 for the second spot in a likely July runoff.

Maine: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Maine's June 9 party primaries, and the state has a list of contenders that can be downloaded on this page. Both the primary and general elections for downballot offices will be held using instant-runoff voting.  

ME-Sen: GOP Sen. Susan Collins easily won re-election in 2014, but her bid for a fifth term has already turned into a very expensive affair. The Bangor Daily News reports that, in the past week alone, Senate Majority PAC spent $600,000 against Collins, while the conservative 1820 PAC deployed $1 million against Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will also benefit from about $4 million that several organizations, including Daily Kos, raised after Collins became the decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.

Four Democrats filed to take on Collins, who does not face an intra-party challenger. Gideon has the support of prominent national Democratic groups, including the DSCC, and she's raised far more money than any of her primary rivals. Former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse has been doing some self-funding, though, and he launched a $200,000 ad buy at the start of March. The other two candidates are 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet and attorney Bre Kidman.

This will almost certainly be the most competitive re-election contest of Collins' career, and even the senator didn't dispute the idea that her once mighty approval rating had taken a dive when she was asked about it back in July. Polling has been infrequent, though, so we don't fully know the extent to which Collins has damaged her reputation with swing voters. Maine also moved sharply to the right in 2016 thanks to its large population of white voters without college degrees. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican, but this is one we'll be watching closely.

Gubernatorial

NJ-Gov: Assemblyman Jamel Holley said on Friday that he'd been approached about challenging Gov. Phil Murphy in next year's Democratic primary by unnamed "[e]lected officials, community-based people, clergy." Holley continued, "I have no immediate plans. I haven't considered it. I haven't given any thought to it. But there are conversations."

Holley has been a prominent opponent of an unsuccessful bill to remove religious exemptions for school vaccinations. This attracted the attention of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is notorious for spreading misinformation about vaccines, and he headlined a fundraiser for the assemblyman in January. While scientists overwhelmingly agree that vaccines are safe, Holley argued in February that he'd seen children who had been "injured from vaccines."

WV-Gov: On Tuesday, Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango received an endorsement from Sen. Joe Manchin, who is the most prominent Democrat in West Virginia politics. Salango is competing in the May primary to take on GOP Gov. Jim Justice.

House

CA-50: Former GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison on Tuesday, and he was ordered to surrender to the authorities by May 29. Hunter pleaded guilty last year to a single charge of conspiracy to convert campaign funds to personal use, and he resigned from Congress in January. Hunter's wife and former campaign manager, Margaret Hunter, pleaded guilty to her role in the scandal several months before as part of a deal with prosecutors, and she is set to be sentenced in April.

When prosecutors first indicted the Hunters, they alleged the couple had spent a total of $250,000 in campaign money on tuition to their children's private school, oral surgery, and vacations in Italy and Hawaii. In a later filing, however, they also said the congressman had used campaign cash to "pursue a series of intimate personal relationships" with at least five different women, including lobbyists and congressional aides. Margaret Hunter also admitted in her guilty plea that over $500 in campaign funds had been used to fly a pet rabbit on a plane.

FL-15: On Monday, Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential campaign against freshman Rep. Ross Spano in the August GOP primary. Spano is under federal investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his 2018 primary.

House

ME-02: Three Republicans are competing to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden in a northern Maine seat that swung from 53-44 Obama to 51-41 Trump.

The Republican with the most money at the end of 2019 was 2018 Senate nominee Eric Brakey, a former state senator who has the endorsement of the anti-tax Club for Growth. Also in the contest are former state Rep. Dale Crafts, who has the support of former Gov. Paul LePage, and real estate agent Adrienne Bennett. A fourth Republican, Penobscot County Treasurer John Hiatt, entered and exited the race in December.

Brakey ended 2019 with a $252,000 to $134,000 cash-on-hand lead over Crafts, while Bennett had just $37,000 to spend. Golden had $1.3 million available to defend this seat.

Mayoral

San Diego, CA Mayor: On Monday evening, Democrat Barbara Bry took a 9-vote lead over Republican Scott Sherman, a fellow member of the City Council, for the second-place spot in the November general election. More ballots were counted the following night, and Bry’s advantage widened to 169 votes. Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria secured first place in the March 3 nonpartisan primary, so if Bry maintains her edge over Sherman, Team Blue would be guaranteed to pick up this mayor's office.

Grab Bag

Deaths: Former GOP Rep. Richard Hanna, who represented a seat in upstate New York from 2011 until 2017, died Sunday at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer. Hanna was one of the few relatively moderate Republicans in the caucus during his tenure, and he famously endorsed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016.

Hanna, who had become wealthy in the construction business, sought elected office for the first time when he challenged freshman Democratic Rep. Michael Arcuri in 2008 in what was then numbered the 24th District. While Barack Obama only ended up carrying the historically red seat 51-48, it was still a surprise when Hanna held Arcuri to a surprisingly small 52-48 win in what was a terrible year for the GOP.

Hanna sought a rematch the following cycle and unseated Arcuri 53-47. However, the new congressman quickly proved to be very different than his many tea party-aligned fellow freshman. At a 2012 rally supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, Hanna notably advised women to donate to Democrats, saying, "Contribute your money to people who speak out on your behalf, because the other side—my side—has a lot of it." Hanna was also the rare congressional Republican to support same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Hanna had no trouble winning in 2012 in the redrawn 22nd District, but he faced a serious primary challenge from the right two years later from Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney. Hanna decisively outspent Tenney and received air support from a group dedicated to electing pro-same-sex marriage Republicans, but he only turned her back by a modest 54-46 margin.

Hanna announced in December of 2015 that he would not run for a fourth term, a move he insisted had nothing to do with Tenney's decision to seek a rematch a few weeks earlier. Tenney won the GOP nod this time against a candidate backed by Hanna, and the outgoing congressman never supported her for the general election. Hanna later mulled a 2018 run for governor or an independent bid for his old seat, but he ended up endorsing Democrat Anthony Brindisi's successful bid to oust Tenney.

Voter Registration: As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc with the administration of U.S. elections, experts are exhorting states to switch to voting by mail to keep the public and poll workers safe—and to ensure democracy carries on.

For safety’s sake, it’s also critical that every state offers residents the opportunity to register to vote online, or to update their existing registration records. However, as the map seen here shows, 10 states currently do not allow online registration for the November general election:

Arkansas Maine Mississippi Montana New Hampshire North Carolina Oklahoma (passed by lawmakers but still not fully implemented) South Dakota Texas Wyoming

Collectively, these 10 states account for 17% of the U.S. population, or one in six Americans. Americans must have the option to register safely and securely online when in-person opportunities will be limited for the foreseeable future. Each of these states must immediately enact online voter registration. If they do not, Congress has the power to mandate and fund the shift to online voter registration to ensure the November general elections can still proceed amid this historic global crisis.

Sen. Manchin calls for censure of Trump. Bet you Senate Republicans are too weak to even do that

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia called for a censure vote of Donald Trump on Monday from the well of the Senate floor. It's nowhere near as good as removal from office, to be sure. And under any normal circumstances, it could be seen as a gift to Senate Republicans, giving those who are bear hugging Trump a chance to vote against it while offering GOP members who need to signal disapproval for electoral reasons a way to claim they held Trump accountable.

But guess what? This is going to squeeze all the GOP squishes who have spun their no-witness vote by saying what Trump did was inappropriate but not impeachable. Okay, then: Put your money where your mouth is.

Just off the top, that list of GOP senators includes Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Marco Rubio of Florida, and perhaps others. 

Sen. Alexander, for instance, led the way in justifying his vote against hearing witness testimony in the Senate trial by admitting that Trump's actions were improper but asserting they didn't rise to the level of removing him from office. “I think he shouldn't have done it. I think it was wrong,” Alexander told Meet The Press Sunday. "I don't think it's the kind of inappropriate action that the framers would expect the Senate to substitute its judgment for the people in picking a president,” he added, saying voters should make the final determination this November.

Great! If it's wrong and Trump shouldn't have done it, let's make that crystal clear, amiright?

Manchin has already written the resolution, but he will need agreement from GOP Leader Mitch McConnell to put it to a vote. In theory, this should be a no-brainer for Senate Republicans. They would all get to vote their conscience without a total governmental disruption, and it could help insulate some vulnerable GOP senators that are up for reelection this fall. But in practice, this Republican Party is just too subservient to Trump. Trump insists his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was a "perfect call" and he would blow a gasket if any Republican senators voted to censure him (immediate enemies list status!).

So go ahead and watch Republicans squirm out of this one. In all likelihood, McConnell will kill it as soon as possible, so no one in his caucus has to answer for it.