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

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ballot Measures

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

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

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

Judges

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

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

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

Mayors & County Leaders

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

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

Other Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: Trump targets one of last two pro-impeachment House Republicans

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

WA-04: Donald Trump on Friday endorsed former NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler's intra-party bid against Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is one of the two remaining House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 riot.

Trump's backing makes Sessler, who waged an unheralded campaign two years ago, Newhouse's only notable foe in what had been a quiet Aug. 6 top-two primary for Washington's conservative 4th District. However, it remains to be seen whether Democrats will once again consolidate behind a single candidate as they did in 2022, a development that could make it tougher for one of the two Republicans to reach the November general election.

Newhouse's own plans are also uncertain. Two months ago, the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner relayed that there had been "rampant speculation in state Republican circles that Newhouse may be the next to announce his retirement." The incumbent doesn't appear to have confirmed his 2024 plans yet, though he tweeted out an endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Business on Monday. The candidate filing deadline isn't until May 10, so it may still be a few weeks before the roster is set here.

Newhouse, who was elected to represent central Washington in 2014, attracted little attention during his first three terms in Congress, but all of that changed early in 2021 when he responded to the Jan. 6 attack riot by voting to impeach Trump.

"A vote against this impeachment is a vote to validate the unacceptable violence we witnessed in our nation's capital," he said in a statement. "It is also a vote to condone President Trump's inaction."

Sessler, who had raced in local NASCAR competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues (his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.info), was one of several hard-right politicians who reacted by launching campaigns against the congressman. Trump, however, was far more impressed by 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, a former cop who refused to recognize his decisive loss to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

Trump's endorsement, though, didn't do much to help Culp augment his weak fundraising numbers hauls. Newhouse's allies at Defending Main Street, which is aligned with the GOP leadership, also spent over $1 million to boost the incumbent while the challenger received no major outside help. Sessler, who self-funded about $400,000 but raised little from donors, attracted comparatively little attention.

The 4th District had favored Trump 57-40 in 2020, but businessman Doug White benefited from being the only Democrat on the ballot in a top-two primary that featured seven Republicans. Newhouse and White took 25% apiece, while Culp and Sessler respectively grabbed 22% and 12%. That victory made Newhouse and California Rep. David Valadao the only two pro-impeachment Republicans to win renomination in a cycle that saw their eight fellow travelers either opt to retire or lose their own primaries.

Newhouse went on to easily beat White 66-31 in the general election (Valadao narrowly won in a more competitive seat), and he resumed his former role as a quiet conservative vote. The congressman even made it clear earlier this month that, despite saying three years ago that Trump "failed to fulfill his oath of office," he'd support his return to the White House. Trump repaid him Friday with a Truth Social missive branding Newhouse "a weak and pathetic RINO named Newhouse, who voted to, for no reason, Impeach me."

Trump, as he almost always does, also extolled his newest endorsee as someone who will "stand for the Rule of Law," though Sessler had a recent run-in with authorities. In September of 2022, a month after Sessler's first congressional campaign came to an end, a code enforcement officer in Benton County named Dale Wilson said that he'd investigated a complaint that someone was living on Sessler's property without the proper permits. Wilson said that Sessler confronted him and threatened to retrieve a gun and "deal with him" if Wilson returned.

County commissioners sent the once and future candidate a letter a few months later telling him that the actions described by Wilson constituted a felony, adding, "If you continue to threaten Benton County employees, the county will involve law enforcement to conduct a full investigation." There do not appear to have been any public developments since then.

Another Washington Republican who voted to impeach Trump, former Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, will also be on the Aug. 6 top-two primary ballot as she campaigns for the open post of state lands commissioner. Herrera Beutler's career representing the 3rd District came to an end two years ago when her Trump-backed foe, Joe Kent, edged her out in the first round, though Kent went on to suffer an upset general election loss to Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez.

Herrera Beutler faces one fellow Republican, Sue Kuehl Pederson, who badly lost the 2020 general election for lands commissioner, along with several Democrats. Kent, meanwhile, needs to get past Camas City Councilmember Leslie Lewallen to set up a rematch with Gluesenkamp Perez. Trump has not yet endorsed in either contest.

Election Night

AL-02: The downballot primary season picks back up on Tuesday in Alabama's revamped 2nd District, which is the only place in America that's hosting a congressional nominating contest this week. Whoever wins the Democratic primary runoff will be favored in November to claim a constituency that, under the new map drawn by a federal court, is now a plurality Black district that would have backed Joe Biden 56-43.

Former Justice Department official Shomari Figures led state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels 43-22 in the first round of voting on March 5. While Figures' share of the vote was below the majority needed to win the Democratic nod outright, his performance established him as the frontrunner for the runoff.

Subsequent developments have only underscored the perception that Figures is the one to beat. State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, who took third place with 16%, went on to endorse him, and a late March Impact Research poll for an unknown client showed Figures beating Daniels 59-24.

Figures has once again gotten a major assist from Protect Progress, a super PAC with ties to the cryptocurrency industry that spent heavily on him ahead of the primary and has poured in another $900,000 for the runoff. The only pro-Daniels outside spending, by contrast, is about $50,000 from Progress for Alabama, a super PAC that Politico reports is run by Republican operative David Driscoll. Driscoll did not comment when Politico asked him about his interest in the race.

Each Democrat is arguing that the other has weak ties to this district, which now takes in Mobile, Montgomery, and the eastern Black Belt. Figures, who hails from a prominent political family in Mobile, has highlighted the fact that Daniels represents a legislative seat in Huntsville, far off in the northern part of the state.

Daniels, however, has emphasized his roots in the Montgomery area and pointed out that Figures only recently returned to Alabama after spending his career in and around the nation's capital.

The GOP runoff pits former state Sen. Dick Brewbaker and attorney Caroleene Dobson. Brewbaker led Dobson 40-26 on March 5.

MI State House: Two special elections taking place in the Detroit suburbs on Tuesday would allow Democrats to regain the majority they earned in the state House in 2022 if they prevail in both. The contests are being held to succeed a pair of Democrats who resigned to become mayor of their respective communities, Kevin Coleman of Westland and Lori Stone of Warren.

The election to replace Coleman in the 25th District pits his cousin and fellow Democrat, Westland City Councilman Peter Herzberg, against Republican businessman Josh Powell. Joe Biden, according to data from Dave's Redistricting App, carried this seat 59-40 in 2020.

The race to succeed Stone, meanwhile, is between Democrat Mai Xiong, a member of the Macomb County Commission, and Republican Ronald Singer, a perennial candidate. Xiong, who would be the first Hmong American elected to the state House, should have little trouble Tuesday in a seat that favored the president 64-35

However, November's contest for a full term would likely be more difficult. That's because, under the replacement map that Michigan's independent redistricting commission recently passed pursuant to a court order, the redrawn 13th would have backed Biden just 50-48.

Senate

KY-Sen & Louisville, KY Mayor: Kentucky's Republican-dominated legislature overrode vetoes by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of two election-related bills, one that will have an impact statewide and one more local.

The first bill prohibits the governor from appointing anyone to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat. This legislation replaces a 2021 law that required the governor to pick from a three-person list submitted by the party of the person who last held the Senate seat.

The new bill's sponsor, state House Majority Floor Leader Steven Rudy, denied that these new changes have anything to do with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's health. McConnell himself expressed support for the legislation even as he once again reiterated that he'd serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in early 2027.

The legislature, which only requires a simple majority in each chamber to override vetoes, also defied Beshear by approving a new law that, among other things, makes elections for Louisville's local government officially nonpartisan starting next year. All the candidates would face off on one ballot, and the top two vote-getters would advance to the general election.

Kentucky's largest city, which was consolidated with the rest of Jefferson County in 2003, favored Joe Biden 59-39 in 2020, so this switch could make it easier for Republicans to win races now that party affiliation won't be included on the ballot.

State Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, however, told Louisville Public Media last month he was supporting the legislation "out of respect for" Mayor Craig Greenberg, a Democrat whom he says was involved in discussions about the law. Greenberg, who is up for reelection in 2026, didn't answer when LPM asked him about the bill when it was first introduced earlier this year.

MD-Sen: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has publicized an internal from Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group that shows her trailing Rep. David Trone by a small 43-40 spread ahead of the May 14 Democratic primary. It's the first data that Alsobrooks has shared since launching her campaign, and it's also the first internal poll of the race we've seen since Trone shared a Hickman Analytics internal two months ago that had him up 49-32.

In between, two March polls conducted by Braun Research for separate clients found Trone ahead by larger margins: An early March poll for the Washington Post and the University of Maryland gave the congressman a 34-27 edge, while its subsequent numbers for Goucher College and the Baltimore Banner showed him leading 42-33.

NJ-Sen: Fairleigh Dickinson University shows Democratic Rep. Andy Kim posting 9-point leads over his two most notable Republican rivals, developer Curtis Bashaw and Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner. Were Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez to run as an independent, Kim would still defeat both Republicans by a 6-point margin:

  • Kim (D): 48, Bashaw (R): 39
  • Kim (D): 47, Glassner (R): 38
  • Kim (D): 44, Bashaw (R): 38, Menendez (I-inc), 6
  • Kim (D): 45, Glassner (R): 39, Menendez (I-inc): 7

Presidential numbers were not included in this release.

Governors

WV-Gov: The Club for Growth, which supports Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the May 14 Republican primary, has launched what appears to be the first TV ad from anyone attacking former Del. Moore Capito. Morrisey and his allies until now had focused on tearing down businessman Chris Miller, but this shift in strategy suggests they think Capito has now emerged as a threat as well.

The Club's ad declares that Capito, who is the son and namesake of Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, was "born with a silver spoon in his mouth," though the commercial doesn't reference the senator by name. Instead, it features several animations of Capito accompanied by spoons (maybe the ad maker is a fan of "The Room") as the narrator accuses him of repeatedly voting to raise taxes.

Capito, meanwhile, has launched a spot in which his narrator declares, "Moore Capito wrote the bill blocking puberty blockers for children while Morrisey got rich lobbying for the puberty blocker companies." Miller recently used a similar line of attack against Morrisey, who has run his own transphobic ad campaign.

Capito ends his ad by portraying Morrisey as an outsider, though strangely, he doesn't actually bring up the state the attorney general is originally from. "California's that way," Capito tells the New Jersey-reared attorney general, who ran for Congress in the Garden State back in 2000 only to finish last in a four-way primary.

House

CA-16: Election officials in California's 16th Congressional District began the process for a machine recount of the March 5 top-two primary on Monday, but there are still big questions over just what will happen next in this wild race.

The Mercury News reports that Jonathan Padilla, who was a 2020 Biden delegate, paid the county a $12,000 deposit to start the recount. However, election administrators in Santa Clara County, which makes up over 80% of this Silicon Valley-based seat, tell KQED's Guy Marzorati that it will cost $16,800 per day for what they estimate will be a five-day undertaking.

Their counterparts in San Mateo, which forms the balance of the 16th District, say it will take another $4,550 per day to recount its ballots, though they told Marzorati they hadn't received a deposit as of Monday morning.

Marzorati writes that if Padilla misses a day's payment, the recount would end and the results certified by the state earlier this month would stand. A second voter, Dan Stegink, had sought a recount as well, but he withdrew his request and did not put down the requisite deposit.

Padilla's own plans have also changed somewhat, as he said he originally intended to seek a manual recount before opting for a machine recount. A manual recount is more likely to catch errors, but it's also far more expensive.

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, whom Padilla worked for in 2014, is guaranteed a spot in the November general election, while two other Democrats, Assemblyman Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, would both advance if they remain tied for second. Should a recount shift the results even a single vote for either runner-up, however, then Liccardo would face the second-place finisher in a one-on-one matchup.

FL-15: Far-right social media troll Rogan O'Handley told the conservative site The Floridian over the weekend that he's decided not to challenge freshman Rep. Laurel Lee in the Aug. 20 Republican primary. The candidate filing deadline is April 26.

IN-03: Winning for Women, a conservative super PAC largely funded by megadonor Ken Griffin, has launched a commercial accusing former Rep. Marlin Stutzman of being weak on border security. The spot does not mention former Judge Wendy Davis, whom Politico says the group supports in the May 7 Republican primary for this safely red seat in northeastern Indiana. According to reports filed with the FEC, WFW has spent $414,000 so far.

The offensive comes at a time when another super PAC, America Leads Action, is spending a similar amount to derail Stutzman's comeback campaign. The former congressman's allies at the far-right House Freedom Caucus have deployed $110,000 to return him to Congress after an eight-year absence, but most of that spending came last year.

IN-05: State Rep. Chuck Goodrich's new commercial for next month's GOP primary utilizes material from a 2022 Politico article to argue that Rep. Victoria Spartz is an abusive boss. "Manic behavior," says the narrator, continuing, "She yells and curses, calling them morons and idiots." The spot goes on, "Victoria Spartz's behavior is embarrassing. We don't need politicians who lie and disrespect employees and lack the temperament for public service."

IN-08: Former Rep. John Hostettler is getting some welcome outside support from Protect Freedom PAC, which is airing commercials starring Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. There is no word yet as to how much the PAC is spending to promote Hostettler, who has been on the receiving end of at least $1.75 million in attacks from a trio of super PACs. Hostettler's campaign, according to AdImpact data from Howey Politics, had not run any TV ads for the May 7 GOP primary as of April 5.

Paul uses the ad to tout Hostettler as someone who will resist "the politicians that are destroying America," a crowd that, according to footage shown on-screen, includes Paul's home state colleague, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Paul was elected to the upper chamber four years after Hostettler lost reelection in the 2006 blue wave, but his father, then-Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and Hostettler were part of a small group of House Republicans who opposed the Iraq War. The elder Paul went on to endorse Hostettler's failed 2010 Senate primary campaign.

NH-02: State Sen. Becky Whitley announced Sunday that she would run to succeed retiring Rep. Annie Kuster, a fellow Democrat. Whitley says she's raised $100,000 for her bid in her first week since forming an exploratory committee earlier this month.

Whitley, who has worked as a disability rights lawyer, joined the legislature in 2020 after winning a safely blue Senate seat, but she first had to get past a familiar name in the primary. To earn the nomination, she scored a 41-33 victory over former Rep. Paul Hodes, who was seeking a comeback a decade after his failed bid for the U.S. Senate.

WMUR wrote earlier this month that Whitley, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, has since "been on the legislative front lines" in battles to safeguard abortion rights. She joins a September primary that includes former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, who has Kuster's endorsement.

But two would-be Democratic candidates, state Reps. Angela Brennan and Rebecca McWilliams, each said this week they'd seek to replace Whitley in the state Senate rather than run for Congress.

Mayors & County Leaders

Baltimore, MD Mayor: OpinionWorks shows incumbent Brandon Scott edging out former Mayor Sheila Dixon 38-35 in the May 14 Democratic primary, with former federal prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah far back at 10%. The survey was conducted for FOX45 News, the Baltimore Sun, and the University of Baltimore.

The only other independent poll we've seen of Baltimore's mayoral race this year was a Braun Research survey released last week on behalf of Goucher College and The Baltimore Banner, which gave Scott a larger 40-32 edge over Dixon. (Vignarajah was similarly situated at 11%.) It only takes a plurality to secure the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to election in this dark blue city.

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Morning Digest: Why Montana is the only state in the union without new legislative maps

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.

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Leading Off

MT Redistricting: For the first time in 40 years, Montana enjoyed the right to draw a congressional map following the 2020 census, thanks to population growth that bumped up its representation in the House from one seat to two. But while that task was completed all the way back in November, the state still lacks new maps for its legislature—and won't have any until next year. In fact, Montana is the only state in the nation that hasn't finished legislative redistricting. So what gives?

Fortunately, law professor Quinn Yeargain has the answer. In 1972, Montana adopted a new constitution that gave power over redistricting to an evenly divided bipartisan commission, which is obligated to submit legislative maps to lawmakers "at the first regular session after its appointment or after the census figures are available." The problem, however, is that the constitution also mandates the legislature meet for just 90 days at a time in odd-numbered years, starting in early January and ending in late April.

Practically speaking, therefore, there's no way the redistricting commission could finish its work that quickly, and in 2021, that would have been literally impossible, since the Census Bureau didn't release the detailed data needed to draw new lines until August. Even in the previous decade, when the census wasn't hampered by a pandemic and presidential interference, Montana didn't receive the necessary data until mid-March.

Making matters even more absurd, as Yeargain points out, when lawmakers receive maps from the commission, they can only make "recommendations" for changes—recommendations the commissioners are free to ignore. The entire process, therefore, will be put off until the legislature's next session in 2023, simply to allow legislators to play an entirely advisory role that may have no impact whatsoever.

The practical consequences of this delay, however, are considerable. As shown in this map of Montana's state House, many districts are severely under- or over-populated, with 56 of 100 outside the 10% deviation between the smallest and largest districts that courts typically allow; the situation in the Senate is similar.

Under the longstanding constitutional doctrine of "one person, one vote," these imbalances make Montana ripe for a lawsuit demanding the state draw new districts immediately after each census, like every other state does. No one has brought such a case this time, though, and with the state's primary next week, it's now too late. But in the coming decade, such a challenge could very well succeed.

Senate

OH-Sen: The first post-primary poll of Ohio's open Senate race finds Republican nominee J.D. Vance with a small 42-39 lead on Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, though 17% of voters have yet to make up their minds, according to Suffolk University. While Vance's 3-point margin might seem alluring, we always caution never to judge a race based on a single poll. That's all the more so when there's a sizable pile of undecideds, since they're more likely to lean Republican given Ohio's overall red tilt.

Governors

GA-Gov: Democrat Stacey Abrams has launched her first TV ad since winning last month's primary, and the spot blasts Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for having "made it easier for criminals to carry guns in public," vowing to criminalize abortion, and providing "tax cuts for himself and his ultra-wealthy friends." Notably, this ad is from Abrams' One Georgia leadership committee, which can raise and spend unlimited contributions from donors now that the primaries are over thanks to a law that Kemp himself signed in 2021 in an attempt to gain his own fundraising advantage.

FL-Gov: We're not quite sure what to make of this, but the Florida Education Association, which is the state's largest teachers union, says it's "backing" Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist's bid for governor but stresses that it's not giving Crist its "formal endorsement." We're accustomed to this sort of parsing from politicians, but we can't recall ever seeing a labor union—especially not one with 150,000 members—engage in this kind of hair-splitting.

IL-Gov: Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who is Illinois' wealthiest resident, has given an additional $5 million to Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin's campaign for the June 28 GOP primary, bringing his investment up to a staggering $50 million thanks to Illinois' lack of contribution limits. Due in large part to the wealth of just three billionaires, candidates and outside groups in Illinois' upcoming primaries have spent an eye-popping $30 million on ads in May alone as Democrats have gotten involved in the GOP primary to try to stop Irvin and boost a more conservative opponent while Irvin's camp has spent heavily in response.

Irvin has expended $11.1 million while the Democratic Governors Association has dropped $6.5 million on a mix of ads attacking Irvin and boosting state Sen. Darren Bailey, who is running to Irvin's right and has spent $4.1 million with an additional $2.7 million in outside support from a PAC funded by right-wing billionaire Dick Uihlein. The final billionaire is Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker himself, who is extensively self-funding his campaign and has spent $4 million on ads mainly opposing Irvin. Lastly, venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan has spent $1.5 million on GOP primary ads.

MI-Gov, MI-AG, MI-SoS: The general election portion of local pollster Target Insyght's recent survey for MIRS News finds statewide Democrats demolishing their GOP opponents by margins that simply look too good to be true. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer leads her five prospective Republican challengers by anywhere from 58-19 to 57-23, while Democratic state Attorney General Dana Nessel posts a similar 54-23 edge over Big Lie proponent Matthew DePerno and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson likewise prevails 56-23 over election conspiracy theorist Kristina Karamo.

Every other poll released this cycle has so far found Whitmer at or below 50% with considerably more support for her Republican challengers than Target Insyght has, and even during the blue wave of 2018, she only earned 53% of the vote. Though voters in recent years have been more apt to split their tickets in state races despite historically high levels of polarization in federal elections, Whitmer and her fellow Democrats in swingy Michigan are still likely to face strong headwinds this November thanks to Joe Biden's weak approval ratings and traditional midterm patterns that favor the out-party. We're therefore extremely skeptical of these numbers unless confirmed elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in the August GOP primary, the state Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that self-funding businessman Perry Johnson cannot appear on the ballot after he and several other GOP candidates were disqualified from running last week due to fraudulent voter petition signatures. Johnson didn't indicate whether he would appeal further to the state Supreme Court, but the state is set to finalize its primary ballot on Friday. The courts have yet to rule on a similar appeal by former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, but given the similar arguments in Craig's lawsuit, his prospects look poor.

MN-Gov, MN-02, MN-01: Candidate filing closed on Tuesday, and the state has a list of who is running here for the August primary. For governor, far-right state Sen. Scott Jensen managed to avoid a competitive primary after winning the state GOP convention's endorsement last month. While it's commonplace for candidates to agree to drop out before the primary after they lose at the convention, former state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and dermatologist Neil Shah didn't appear to have confirmed they would until they declined to file. Lastly, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who had said he was unable to attend the convention due to injuries from a car crash, also dropped out by not filing.

On the Democratic side, Gov. Tim Walz faces only token opposition in his quest for a second term. Walz also got potential good news when former radio host Cory Hepola, who had announced he was running as a Forward Party candidate earlier this year on a platform that appeared more likely to take votes from Democrats than Republicans, also didn't file.

Unfortunately for Democrats, candidates from each of two pro-marijuana third parties qualified to run for governor and in the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts. However, the presence on the ballot of the Legal Marijuana Now Party and Grassroots - Legalize Cannabis Party has if anything had the opposite effect of their stated purpose by likely drawing votes disproportionately from the left, potentially depriving Democrats of enough support to cost them control of the state Senate in 2020 and let the narrow Republican majority block Democrats' legalization effort earlier this year.

Republicans themselves may have had a role in the pro-weed parties' success. Adam Weeks, who was Legal Marijuana Now' 2020 nominee in the 2nd District but died two months before Election Day, had told a friend in a voicemail recording that surfaced after his death that he'd been recruited by the GOP to run and "pull away votes" from Democratic Rep. Angie Craig to help GOP challenger Tyler Kistner. Although Craig won that contest by a 48-46 margin, that was a notable underperformance of Joe Biden's 52-46 victory in the district thanks in part to Weeks posthumously taking 6%.

Craig faces a rematch with Kistner this fall along with candidates from both cannabis parties, and Kistner himself released a mid-May poll from GOP firm Cygnal this week that showed him trailing Craig by a modest 43-38 margin, with Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Paula Overby taking 4%.

In the 1st District, former Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger faces little-known opponents in the regular Democratic primary after winning the nomination last month for the August special election to replace the late GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn. However, on the GOP side, former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad will face a rematch with far-right state Rep. Jeremy Munson after the more establishment-aligned Finstad beat him just 38-37 in last month's special primary; former Freeborn County GOP chair Matt Benda also filed to run in the regular GOP primary after taking only 7% in last month's contest.

House

FL-13: Rep. Charlie Crist has endorsed former Defense Department official Eric Lynn in the race to succeed him in Florida's 13th Congressional District. Lynn is the only notable Democrat still running after Republicans gerrymandered the district to make it considerably redder, such that Donald Trump would have carried it 53-46, compared to Joe Biden's 52-47 margin under the previous lines.

Meanwhile, nonprofit founder Audrey Henson just dropped out of the GOP primary to run for the state House instead, though several other Republicans are still in the mix. The remaining field includes attorneys Amanda Makki and Kevin Hayslett as well as businesswoman Anna Paulina Luna, who was the GOP's unsuccessful nominee in 2020.

IL-06: Rep. Marie Newman copies Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock's legendary ads featuring a pet beagle in a new spot attacking her opponent in next month's Democratic primary—right down to the starring breed of pooch. Walking a beagle of her own, Newman says that "unfortunately, you're going to hear a lot of sh*t about me from my opponent, Sean Casten" as her dog squats to do its business (the offending word is bleeped out). It's not clear what Newman might be referring to, however, as Casten has not aired any negative ads.

Calling herself a "lifelong progressive Democrat," Newman then castigates Casten for voting "for anti-choice Republicans like George Bush." (Casten cast his first vote in a presidential election for George H.W. Bush in 1992, when he was 20.) She also touts her rejection of "corporate money" while accusing Casten, a fellow member of Congress, of having "taken a million dollars from corporate PACs."

MI-03: A new Public Policy Polling survey for Democrat Hillary Scholten finds her narrowly edging past Republican Rep. Peter Meijer 39-37 while leading conservative commentator John Gibbs, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, by a larger 44-35 margin. This is the first public poll of the race for Michigan's 3rd District, one of a handful of seats Democrats are hoping to flip in November.

MN-03: In Minnesota's 3rd District, Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips and Navy veteran Tom Weiler, his Republican challenger, are the only candidates running here after businessman Mark Blaxill declined to continue on to the primary after losing to Weiler at the GOP convention.

MN-04: Longtime Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum faces a primary challenge from the left by Saint Paul Department of Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity official Amane Badhasso, who has raised a competitive amount of money so far. A few other minor candidates are running in the Democratic and GOP primaries for this solidly blue seat.

MN-05: Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is one of the most outspoken left-wing members of Congress, is running for a third term and faces a primary challenge from her right by former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels. Several other obscure candidates are running for both parties in this heavily Democratic district.

NY-10: Former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman, who served as House Democrats' lead counsel during Donald Trump's first impeachment, has joined the crowded primary for New York's open 10th District, a safely blue district in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Goldman briefly ran for state attorney general last year but dropped out after incumbent Tish James abandoned her bid for governor and decided to run for re-election instead.

NY-12: The Working Families Party, a labor-backed party that has often played an important role in New York politics over the last two decades, has endorsed Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler in his member-vs.-member primary against fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney. The WFP's backing serves as a progressive seal of approval and could also yield key on-the-ground support for Nadler if unions decide to deploy their membership on his behalf.

Ad Roundup

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Morning Digest: Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania gets smaller as GOP’s gets uglier

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

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.

Redistricting

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.

Senate

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.

Governors

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.

House

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-11: Sigh: Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is reportedly considering a bid for the redrawn 11th Congressional District, which now includes his home in Park Slope.

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.

RI-02: Michael Neary, who worked as a staffer for then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich's 2016 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, has joined the September Democratic primary.

Mayors

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.