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.
● PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commission Chair Val Arkoosh announced Friday that she was dropping out of the May Democratic primary. Arkoosh, who was the only woman running a serious campaign, had the backing of EMILY's List, but she didn't attract much support in any released poll and ended 2021 with significantly less money than two of her intra-party foes. She acknowledged Friday to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "It's become increasingly clear over the last month or two that I'm unlikely to be the Democratic nominee."
Arkoosh's departure leaves three notable Democrats in the contest to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who has enjoyed a huge edge in every survey we've seen, has also continued to lead the money race in the fourth quarter by outpacing Rep. Conor Lamb $2.7 million to $1.3 million and ending with a $5.3 million to $3 million cash-on-hand lead. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta was far back with $335,000 raised and only $285,000 available.
The Republicans, meanwhile, already had a massively expensive and ugly contest even before Friday, when the Inquirer reported that Honor Pennsylvania, a super PAC funded by mega-donor Ken Griffin to support hedge fund manager David McCormick, had reserved $12 million for a six-week ad buy against TV personality Mehmet Oz.Campaign Action
The two sides have been using anti-Chinese messaging to attack one another: Oz recently ran a commercial that employed stereotypical gong sounds to argue McCormick is "China's friend, not ours," while McCormick's team says of his main opponent, "Mehmet Oz—citizen of Turkey, creature of Hollywood—has spent the last 20 years making his fortune from syndicating his show in China, enriching itself through censorship and CCP propaganda … How can he claim to be America First when he has dual loyalties?"
McCormick, as well as attorney John Giordano, entered the primary after the start of the new quarter, but we have fundraising reports for the other GOP candidates:
- TV personality Mehmet Oz: $670,000 raised, additional $5.2 million self-funded, $1 million cash-on-hand
- 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Jeff Bartos: $435,000 raised, additional $10,000 self-funded, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
- Author Kathy Barnette: $415,000 raised, $565,000 cash-on-hand
- former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands: $160,000 raised, additional $500,000 self-funded, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
Barnette, Bartos, and Sands each entered the race several months ago, but they’ve largely been left out of the increasingly pricey feud between McCormick and Oz.
Stay on top of the map-making process in all 50 states by bookmarking our invaluable redistricting timeline tracker, updated daily.
● KS Redistricting: As expected, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the new congressional map recently passed by Kansas Republicans. In a statement accompanying her veto on Thursday evening, Kelly specifically criticized the plan for splitting the Kansas City area between two districts, a move designed to undermine Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids by making her 3rd District redder.
The question now is whether Republicans can override Kelly's veto. On paper, they have the necessary two-thirds supermajorities to do so. However, neither chamber hit that threshold when approving the new boundaries due to absences. The map passed the House by a 79-37 vote, five short of the 84-vote supermajority needed. However, four Republicans were absent while two others voted "present" and just one voted against the final map. In the Senate, where 27 votes are necessary for an override, the map was approved 26-9, with two Republicans absent and one opposed.
● NC Redistricting: On Friday evening, North Carolina's Supreme Court struck down the new congressional and legislative maps that Republicans passed last year, deeming them "unlawful partisan gerrymanders" that violated multiple provisions of the state constitution. The court, which broke down 4-3 along party lines, ordered lawmakers to come up with remedial maps in two weeks and specifically mandated that they detail the "methods they employed in evaluating the partisan fairness" of their new plans.
Republicans had drawn their now-invalidated congressional districts with the aim of giving themselves an 11-3 advantage in the state's House delegation, despite North Carolina's perpetual swing-state status. The legislative maps were likewise designed to lock in sizable GOP majorities. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper was unable to veto any of the maps because redistricting plans do not require the governor's approval under state law.
● PA Redistricting: Pennsylvania's bipartisan redistricting commission approved final legislative maps in a 4-1 vote on Friday, though critics now have 30 days to challenge the plans before the state Supreme Court. The maps, which can be viewed here, vary somewhat from versions the commission introduced in December, but they still represent a major break from the past.
Under the lines used for the previous decade, Donald Trump carried 109 districts in the state House while Joe Biden won just 94, despite the fact that Biden beat Trump statewide in 2020. The new map, however, features 103 Biden districts and 100 Trump seats, giving Democrats a chance to make major inroads and, one day, potentially take a majority. The Senate plan, by contrast, largely maintains the status quo, with Biden and Trump each carrying 25 districts—the exact same split as before.
Republicans had long controlled the process for drawing legislative districts in the Keystone State, where the Supreme Court appoints a tiebreaking member to the panel responsible for drafting them. The court had been in GOP hands for many years, giving Republicans a lock on selecting that tiebreaker, but Democrats—with an eye on redistricting—made a major push to flip the court in 2015.
That effort culminated in the justices tapping former University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg, a registered Democrat who has described himself as "about as close to the middle as you probably could get." Nordberg voted with the commission's two Democrats and one of the Republicans in favor of the final maps, while another Republican dissented.
● MO-Sen: Team PAC, a super PAC funded by mega-donor Richard Uihlein to aid disgraced Gov. Eric Greitens, is the latest group to try and use anti-China messaging to win a Republican primary. The TV spot accuses Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is a former state legislator, of having "sponsored a bill to spend $480 million of your tax dollars to create a cargo hub here for airlines owned by China's Communist Party. To flood Missouri dollars with cheap Chinese imports."
Schmitt's allies at Save Missouri Values quickly hit back with an ad of their own that uses footage of then-Gov. Greitens appearing on a Chinese TV program. After the interviewer says, "Your visit to China is like an old, beautiful story renewed," Greitens responds, "It really is. It's amazing to see the transformation that's taken place here." There is no word on the size of the buy for either commercial.
● GA-Gov: Gov. Brian Kemp's allies at Georgians First Leadership Committee are running a new commercial that once again attempts to portray former Sen. David Perdue, who is Donald Trump's endorsed candidate in the May Republican primary, as downright unTrumpy. The spot opens with footage of Trump declaring, "I'm gonna bring jobs back from China" before the narrator declares that Perdue "sent American jobs to China. Over and over again. By the thousands." It goes on to use an infamous clip of Perdue from his successful 2014 campaign, saying of his past practice fo outsourcing jobs, "Defend it? I'm proud of it."
There is no word on how much this pro-Kemp group is spending, but as we've written before, a new law gives the PAC access to as much money as the governor's supporters care to fork over. That's because, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously noted, Georgians First Leadership Committee was created last year after Kemp signed into law a bill that lets the governor and certain other statewide candidates "create funds that don't have to adhere to contribution caps." Importantly, these committees will also be able to accept donations during the legislative session, when the governor and lawmakers are otherwise forbidden from fundraising.
This legislation won't be any help for Perdue, though, unless and until he wrests the GOP nomination from Kemp. And while Stacey Abrams is the overwhelming favorite to be the Democratic standard-bearer again, she also won't be able to create this kind of committee until her primary is officially over.
● OH-Gov: The Democratic Governors Association has released numbers from Public Policy Polling that show Gov. Mike DeWine only leading former Rep. Jim Renecci 38-33 in the May Republican primary, which is actually better for the incumbent than his 46-38 deficit in a recent Renacci poll. Neither of those surveys included Joe Blystone, a little-known farmer who has been running for months. Former state Rep. Ron Hood also made a late entry into the race on Feb. 1, which was after both polls were conducted.
● PA-Gov: Campaign finance reports were due Monday covering all of 2021, and they give us our first real look into which of the many Republican candidates for governor have the resources to run a serious race in this very expensive state:
- State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman: $3 million raised, $2.7 million cash-on-hand
- 2018 Senate nominee Lou Barletta: $1.1 million raised, $245,000 cash-on-hand
- U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain: $900,000 raised, additional $100,000 self-funded, $815,000 cash-on-hand
- GOP strategist Charlie Gerow: $420,000 raised, $250,000 cash-on-hand
- former Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry President Guy Ciarrocchi: $305,000 raised, $240,000 cash-on-hand
- State Sen. Scott Martin: $300,000 raised, $270,000 cash-on-hand
- Businessman Dave White: $350,000 raised, additional $3 million self-funded, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
- Surgeon Nche Zama: $200,000 raised, $145,000 cash-on-hand
- Attorney Jason Richey: $160,000 raised, additional $1.45 million self-funded, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
- Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale: $40,000 raised
This is the first time we've mentioned Richey, who attracted little attention when he kicked off his bid in May.
The list does not include two other declared Republican candidates: former Rep. Melissa Hart, whose numbers were not available days after the deadline, and state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who announced last month.
The Philadelphia Inquirer writes of the latter, "After he set up an exploratory committee in the fall, he said he'd reached a fund-raising goal to enter the race. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, said Mastriano's Senate campaign typically files disclosures electronically, but the agency had no report available for his gubernatorial campaign." The story added, "If Mastriano filed the report on paper and mailed it to Harrisburg, that could account for the delay. Mastriano didn't respond to emails seeking comment."
While McSwain has significantly less money to spend than Corman and two self-funders, Richey and White, he does have one huge ally in his corner. Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, which is funded by conservative billionaire Jeff Yass, had $20 million on-hand at the end of the year, and it said in January that "all of that money is at our disposal" to help McSwain.
Whoever emerges from the busy May primary will be in for an expensive general election fight against Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who faces no serious intra-party opposition in his bid to succeed his fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. Tom Wolf. Shapiro hauled in $13.4 million in 2021, which his team says is a state record for a non-election year, and he had a similar $13.5 million to spend.
● CO-03: State Senate President Leroy Garcia didn't show any obvious interest in challenging Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert after Colorado's new maps made the 3rd District even more conservative, but the Democrat fully took himself out of contention on Thursday when he announced he was resigning from the legislature in order to take a post in the Department of the Navy.
● GA-06: Rich McCormick, who was the 2020 Republican nominee for the old 7th District, has dropped a Public Opinion Strategies internal arguing he's the frontrunner in the May primary for the new and safely red 6th District. McCormick takes first with 25%, while none of his four opponents secure more than 3% of the vote each.
● NE-01: Indicted Rep. Jeff Fortenberry recently went up with a commercial arguing that his May Republican primary opponent, state Sen. Mike Flood, was unacceptably weak on immigration, and Flood is now airing a response spot. Madison County Sheriff Todd Volk tells the audience, "Jeff Fortenberry is facing felony criminal charges, so he's lashing out at law enforcement and lying about Mike Flood." After praising Flood for having "opposed in-state tuition for illegal immigrants," the sheriff commends him for opposing the repeal of the death penalty, which is a topic Fortenberry's opening ad didn't touch on.
● NY-01, NY-02: With the adoption of New York's new congressional map, a number of candidates have announced changes of plans in terms of which district they'll run in. One of the most notable is former Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon, who'd been seeking a rematch against Republican Rep. Andrew Garbarino in the old 2nd District after losing to him 53-46 in 2020 when the seat came open following GOP Rep. Peter King's retirement.
Democrats in the legislature, however, gerrymandered Long Island to make the new 2nd considerably redder while simultaneously turning the neighboring 1st District much bluer: The former would have voted for Donald Trump 56-42 while the latter would have gone for Joe Biden 55-44, according to Dave's Redistricting App. That naturally makes the 1st much more appealing for Gordon, who said on Thursday that she'll run there, adding that her home also got moved into the district.
However, Gordon will face a contested fight for the Democratic nomination, as two other candidates had already been running in the 1st, which is open because Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin is making a bid for governor. Bridget Fleming and Kara Hahn, both members of the Suffolk County Legislature, entered the race last spring and have stockpiled similar sums: $644,000 for Fleming and $575,000 for Hahn. Gordon, who launched her second effort in October, had just $134,000 in the bank, but she was a dominant fundraiser last cycle, taking in $4.4 million.
● NY-03: A spokesperson for Democratic state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi says their boss is "seriously considering" a bid for New York's redrawn 3rd Congressional District, a blue-leaning Long Island-based seat that just picked up a slice of the Bronx and Westchester County in its latest incarnation. That sliver includes Biaggi's hometown of Pelham and also overlaps with her legislative district. Several notable Democrats are already running in the 3rd, which is open because Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi is running for governor, but Biaggi has experience prevailing in difficult primaries: In 2018, she won a stunning 54-46 upset over state Sen. Jeff Klein, who was the well-financed leader of the renegade faction of Democrats known as the IDC.
● NY-22, NY-23: Democrat Josh Riley, an attorney who'd been challenging Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney in the old 22nd District, says he'll continue his campaign in the new, Tenney-less version of the seat. Tenney herself previously announced she'd seek re-election in the open 23rd, a much redder seat than the new version of the 22nd, which in fact is really the successor to the old 24th.
The revamped 22nd, which recently came open after GOP Rep. John Katko announced his retirement, was already a Democratic target even before redistricting made it bluer (the latest iteration would have gone 58-40 for Joe Biden). As such, there are already several candidates vying for the nomination, the most notable among them Navy veteran Francis Conole, who raised $202,000 in the fourth quarter of last year and had $413,000 cash-on-hand. Riley, who launched his campaign in mid-November, brought in $410,000 and had the same amount banked.
As for Tenney, yet another would-be Republican opponent, Steuben County GOP chair Joe Sempolinski, has said he won't run against her in the new 23rd. However, state Sen. George Borrello wouldn't rule out a bid in recent comments, though he appears to be holding out the extremely slender hope that Republicans will successfully challenge the new map in court.
● NY-24: Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs, who represents the old 27th District, says he will seek re-election in the new 24th, which shares much of its DNA with his current seat and is likewise deep red. However, he may not have a clear shot at the nomination: Attorney Todd Aldinger, who has repeatedly sued to overturn COVID mitigation measures, says he'll run here as well.
● Washington, D.C. Mayor: Mayor Muriel Bowser went into the new year with a huge fundraising lead over her two rivals in the June Democratic primary, a contest that is tantamount to election in the District of Columbia.
Bowser led Robert White, who holds an at-large post on the Council of the District of Columbia, $2.4 million to $555,000 in cash-on-hand; White, who like Bowser is utilizing the local public financing system, said that he would have a total of $910,000 to spend once matching funds are included, however. Another Council member, Trayon White (who is not related to Robert White), had less than $3,000 available.
Ed. note: In our previous newsletter, we reported erroneous cash-on-hand figures for several candidates running in incumbent-vs.-incumbent races for the House. We have since corrected those numbers.