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.
● MD Redistricting: Want to know why Maryland Democrats pulled their punches when it came to targeting the state's lone Republican congressional seat? Slate's Jim Newell has an excellent new piece detailing which politicians were obstacles to an 8-0 Democratic map, and why.
At the top of the list are Rep. Jim Sarbanes and Kweisi Mfume. Sarbanes, as the lead sponsor of H.R. 1, the bill to ban congressional gerrymandering nationwide, was reportedly reluctant to support a maximalist map that would ensure Republican Rep. Andy Harris would lose re-election. Maryland's new map, however, is still very much a Democratic gerrymander—half-hearted though it may be—so it's not as though Sarbanes can pitch himself as above the partisan fray, especially since he declined to criticize the map after it passed.
Mfume, meanwhile, outright embraced unilateral disarmament. "I mean, if it were the other way around, and Democrats were one-third of the population, and they put forth maps or started moving toward an 8–0 representation, we'd be up jumping up and down in arms," he said, ignoring the fact that Republicans in many more states than Democrats are doing everything they can to maximize their advantage in redistricting. But, says Newell, Mfume also didn't want to take in conservative white voters from Harris' district, concerned that doing so "would distract from his representation of majority-minority communities in Baltimore," and therefore "was adamant against suggested changes, like stretching his district north to the Pennsylvania border."Campaign Action
A couple of less well-known Democrats figure in this story, too. In our examination of the new map, we noted that the revamped 1st District now leaps across Chesapeake Bay to take in the areas around Annapolis but not the very blue state capital itself. Why not? Newell reports that state Sen. Sarah Elfreth, whose district includes the city, "didn't want a competitive congressional district like the 1st layered atop hers." Elfreth's staff claim the senator "had no role" in drawing the maps.
Finally, Newell points a finger at state Senate President Bill Ferguson, who reportedly "was never comfortable" with an 8-0 map due to his own high-minded sensibilities and feared unspecified "blowback" from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. But Hogan vetoed the map that Democrats did pass anyway (a veto they instantly overrode), and a group closely connected to the governor has threatened to file suit, so what greater blowback could Ferguson possibly have feared?
Newell's entire article is worth a read, but the last word belongs to one Maryland Democrat who did favor an 8-0 plan. In light of extreme Republican gerrymandering across the country, said Rep. Jamie Raskin, "[W]e have not only a political right, but I would argue an ethical duty, to do whatever we can to fight fire with fire, and try to defend democratic values and democratic process in America."
● CT Redistricting: The Connecticut Supreme Court has granted a request from the state's bipartisan redistricting commission for additional time to complete work on a new congressional map, setting a deadline of Dec. 21. Under state law, the panel was required to produce a new map by Nov. 30 but was unable to. The court also ordered commissioners to provide the names of three potential special masters by Wednesday to assist the justices in drawing a new map in the event that the commission misses its new deadline.
● NC-Sen, NC-07: Former Rep. Mark Walker said Thursday that he would continue his uphill bid for the Republican Senate nomination through the rest of the year as he considers whether to switch to the open 7th Congressional District. Walker made this declaration one day after the state Supreme Court temporarily stayed candidate filing for all races and moved the primary from March to May due to a pair of lawsuits challenging the state's new congressional and legislative maps that are currently pending.
● PA-Sen: George Bochetto, a longtime Republican attorney in Philadelphia, said Thursday it was "very likely" he runs for the Senate next year. Bochetto has talked about running for mayor of his heavily Democratic city plenty of times and even waged a brief campaign in 1999, but he ended up dropping out before the primary. (The eventual nominee, Sam Katz, ended up losing the general election 51-49 to Democrat John Street, which is likely to remain Team Red's high-water mark for decades to come.)
More recently, Bochetto aided Donald Trump's defense team in his second impeachment trial. In August, he also persuaded a judge to stop Philadelphia's city government from removing a prominent Christopher Columbus statue.
Meanwhile on the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has publicized a poll from Data for Progress that shows him outpacing TV doctor Mehmet Oz 44-42 in a hypothetical general election. The release did not include any other matchups.
● MA-Gov: While Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll was mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate for governor following Republican incumbent Charlie Baker's retirement, Politico reports that the post she's interested in campaigning for is lieutenant governor. In Massachusetts, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are nominated in separate primaries before competing as a ticket in the general election.
● CA-22: Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez's spokesperson tells GV Wire's David Taub that the Democrat is thinking about running to succeed outgoing Republican Rep. Devin Nunes in this still-unfinalized Central Valley constituency.
Taub also relays that the DCCC has met with 2018 nominee Andrew Janz, who lost to Nunes 53-47, but that he has yet to comment on his own plans. Janz last year ran for mayor of Fresno but lost the officially nonpartisan race 52-40 to Republican Jerry Dyer; Janz back in January endorsed 2020 nominee Phil Arballo's second campaign against Nunes, though his calculations appear to have changed now that the incumbent is resigning. Arballo, for his part, has confirmed that he'll be competing in the upcoming special election to succeed Nunes in addition to the race for the regular two-year term.
Finally, Taub reports that Democratic Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula is also thinking about running. Arambula, a physician and the son of a former local assemblyman, himself considered running against Republican Rep. David Valadao back in 2015 in the neighboring 21st District but decided not to do it. Instead, Arambula won his current post in a low-turnout 2016 special election for a seat around Fresno, and he quickly established himself as one of the leaders of the chamber's moderate Democratic faction.
Arambula's career seemed to be in real danger after he was arrested in late 2018 after one of his daughters accused him of abuse, but a jury found him not guilty months later. (Arambula, who maintained his innocence, argued that conservative prosecutors were targeting him for political reasons.) The incumbent went on to win re-election 62-38 as Joe Biden was taking his 31st Assembly seat by a similar 62-36 spread.
● IL-13: The state AFL-CIO has endorsed former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski in next year's Democratic primary for this newly drawn open seat.
● MD-06: Former Del. Aruna Miller closed the door on another run for Congress on Thursday when she announced that she would run for lieutenant governor on author Wes Moore's ticket. Miller had filed FEC paperwork back in January for the 6th District in case Rep. David Trone, who defeated her in the 2018 Democratic primary, left to run for governor. Trone ultimately announced that he'd stay put, and while Miller didn't confirm this meant she wasn't going to campaign here, she made no obvious moves to prepare for a second bid.
● TX-27: Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback announced Friday that he would challenge Rep. Michael Cloud in the March Republican primary for the new and safely red 27th District, a gerrymandered constituency that stretches from Corpus Christi along the Gulf Coast north to the outskirts of the Austin area.
Louderback's tiny county, with a population of just 15,000 people, is home to just 2% of the district's residents, so the challenger starts with almost no geographic base of support. Cloud, by contrast, already represents over 85% of the new seat, and he's done everything he can to ingratiate himself to his party's ascendant far-right wing.
Back in March, Cloud was even one of just 12 House members to vote against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to members of the U.S. Capitol Police for their work combating the Jan. 6 insurrection. He defended himself with a statement saying he couldn't support a resolution because it included text that "refers to the Capitol as the temple of democracy – simply put, it's not a temple and Congress should not refer to it as one." Cloud added, "The federal government is not a god."
Louderback himself also doesn't appear to have laid out an argument for why primary voters should fire Cloud. He instead kicked off his bid by declaring, "This campaign will be based on national security issues, oil and gas issues, Medicare issues and a lot of things that are threats to Texas and the United States." He continued, "I look forward to a really good race where competitive styles in management can be examined by the public."
● WA-03: State Rep. Vicki Kraft has confirmed that she'll challenge her fellow Republican, incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler, in the August top-two primary. Kraft joins a GOP field that includes Army veteran Joe Kent, who is Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, as well as evangelical author Heidi St. John.
Kraft used her kickoff to take Herrera Beutler to task for her "extremely unfortunate" vote to impeach Trump, but she mostly emphasized her own opposition to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's pandemic safety measures. Kraft declared, "Whether it's fighting for parents' rights, and against controversial mandates in schools such as comprehensive sex education or COVID-19 masks; or fighting for individuals' rights, and against the COVID-19 vaccine mandates, I will continue fighting for the people and will make sure their voice is heard in Washington, D.C."
● MN-AG: On Thursday, business attorney Jim Schultz became the fourth Republican to announce a bid against Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose 2018 victory made him the first Muslim elected statewide anywhere in America. Ellison was already facing a rematch against 2018 opponent Doug Wardlow, who lost 49-45 and now serves as general counsel for MyPillow, the company led by election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. Also in the running are former state Rep. Dennis Smith and attorney Lynne Torgerson.
Minnesota is far from a safe state for Democrats, but Republicans haven't held the attorney general's post since Douglas Head left office in early 1971. The last time Team Red won any statewide races at all, meanwhile, was 2006, when Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty narrowly earned a second term, though they've come very close to breaking that streak a few times since then.