Morning Digest: Trump’s man in Georgia keeps flogging election conspiracies as his campaign craters

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

GA-Gov, GA-Sen, GA-SoS: A new survey from the University of Georgia for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the latest poll to find Gov. Brian Kemp cruising to renomination in the May 24 GOP primary, with Kemp holding a 53-27 lead over Big Lie proponent David Perdue and earning the majority needed to avoid a June primary runoff against the former senator. This latest survey is one of Kemp's best results so far from any pollster and marks a significant improvement for him from UGA's last poll taken in late March and early April, which found Kemp ahead 48-37. Still, every other recent poll here has also found Kemp with a sizable lead.

Perdue has failed to gain traction in the polls despite Donald Trump's endorsement, but that hasn't stopped his zealotry for spreading Trump's 2020 election conspiracy theories from shaping the race. Perdue and his allies have run ad after ad spreading the Big Lie that Trump was cheated in 2020 and chastising Kemp for failing to help Trump steal the contest, and Perdue's opening statement in Sunday's debate reiterated his bogus accusation of election theft. Kemp, meanwhile, has focused his campaign message on reminding voters that Perdue's re-election defeat makes him a proven loser and touting the governor's record on bread and butter conservative issues such as immigration, crime, and taxes.

In the Senate primary, UGA's poll does have unambiguously good news for the Trump-backed candidate: Former NFL star Herschel Walker has a 66-7 edge over his closest rival, state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, which is little different than his 64-8 lead in their previous poll.

Looking further downballot in the GOP primary for secretary of state, another of Trump's endorsees running a campaign focused on 2020 election denial has found more success than in the governor's race, but UGA's latest poll finds it is no sure thing. Their survey shows incumbent Brad Raffensperger holding a 28-26 lead over Rep. Jody Hice, who has Trump's backing, which marks an improvement for the incumbent from Hice's 30-23 advantage in UGA's prior poll. However, Hice has done significantly better in one of the few other credible polls here from GOP firm Landmark Communications, which had Raffensperger trailing by a wide 35-18 earlier this month.

Trump's election lies almost certainly aren't going anywhere as a campaign topic regardless of the outcome of the primaries for secretary of state. One of the leading Democratic contenders, state Rep. Bee Nguyen, has focused her initial ad on her support for protecting voting rights against Trump's attacks and previews what the general election message may look like.

Senate

AL-Sen: Alabama Patriots PAC, which is backing Army veteran Mike Durant in the May 24 GOP primary, has reported spending more than $3 million on his behalf thus far.

FL-Sen: Former Donald Trump operative Roger Stone, whom Trump pardoned in December 2020 after he was convicted on several felony charges of obstructing Congress' investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, said he isn't ruling out a primary bid against GOP Sen. Marco Rubio over the latter's vote against overturning the 2020 election outcome. Stone, however, hardly looks like a serious candidate: even he conceded that he wasn't the ideal challenger and implored someone else to run. Stone had also mulled running for governor as an independent to stymie Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis before acknowledging he was barred from doing so by state law preventing recent party switchers from running for office.

OH-Sen: Democratic firm Blueprint Polling has released a poll finding that the May 3 GOP primary is still up in the air with 33% undecided and no candidate topping 20%. The pollster, who did not disclose who, if anyone, was their client, shows state Sen. Matt Dolan with a slim 18-17 lead over venture capitalist J.D. Vance, while businessman Mike Gibbons earns 13%, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel takes 12%, and former state party chair Jane Timken wins just 7%.

This is the first survey from any outfit this cycle showing Dolan in first, but with all three other polls disclosed this month from reputable firms each finding three different leaders and many voters still undecided, it's another sign of just how uncertain the outcome of next week's vote is.

Governors

MI-Gov: Republican Rep. Jack Bergman, whose 1st District covers the Upper Peninsula and northernmost portion of the Lower Peninsula, has switched his endorsement in the August GOP primary from former Detroit Police Chief James Craig to self-funding businessman Perry Johnson. In doing so, Bergman complained that Craig ignored "campaigning in Northern Michigan and the U.P. in favor of a self proclaimed Detroit-centric approach."

NE-Gov: The Republican firm Data Targeting has conducted a survey of the May 10 GOP primary for Neilan Strategy Group, which says it's not working on behalf of any candidate or allied group, that shows state Sen. Brett Lindstrom taking a narrow lead for the first time in a very expensive and ugly race where he'd largely been overshadowed.

The firm shows Lindstrom edging out Trump-backed agribusinessman Charles Herbster 28-26, with University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, who is termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts' endorsed candidate, just behind with 24%; former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau lags far behind in fourth with 6%. Back in mid-February, the firm showed Herbster edging out Pillen 27-26, with Lindstrom taking third with 21%.

This new poll is the first we've seen conducted since the Nebraska Examiner published an April 14 story where Republican state Sen. Julie Slama and seven other women accused Herbster of groping and other forms of sexual assault; Herbster denied the allegations and soon went up with a commercial claiming "the establishment" was lying about him just like they supposedly did with Trump. Unsurprisingly, Trump himself has stuck behind his man, and he's scheduled to hold a rally with him on Friday.

While no other polls have found Lindstrom in first place, there were previously signs that his detractors were treating him as a serious threat even though he lacked the money and big-named endorsements that Pillen and Herbster have available. (Lindstrom's most prominent supporter is arguably Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.) A group called Restore the Good Life began running ads against the state senator weeks ago that portrayed him as wrong on taxes, while another outfit called Say No to RINOs launched its own spots in mid-April saying, "Liberal Brett Lindstrom is no conservative, he just plays one on TV."

But perhaps most tellingly, Conservative Nebraska, a super PAC funded in part by Ricketts, recently began running its own spots using similar arguments against Lindstrom after it previously focused on attacking Herbster only. The termed-out governor himself joined in the pile-on, characterizing Lindstrom as "a liberal (who) does not have a conservative voting record in the Legislature." The state senator, for his part, said last week that he wouldn't be running negative ads against Pillen and Hebster.

PA-Gov: State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is unopposed in the May 17 Democratic primary, has laid out $950,000 of the $16 million his campaign recently had on hand to air his first two ads. The first commercial is a minute-long spot that devotes its first half to Shapiro's biography, referencing his Pennsylvania roots, family values, and the importance of his Jewish faith, while the second part highlights his record of keeping taxes low when serving in local office and how he has "taken on powerful institutions" as attorney general.

The second spot expands on the latter theme, featuring a nurse praising Shapiro's work going after predatory student loan companies like the one that she says tried to rip her off.

WI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Tim Michels, who announced a sizable ad buy when he joined the GOP primary over the weekend, will spend $980,000 on his initial ads, though no copy of a spot is available yet.

House

FL-04: Navy veteran Erick Aguilar this week became the first notable Republican to announce a bid for the new 4th District, a Jacksonville area constituency that would be open should incumbent John Rutherford run for the 5th as fellow Republicans expect. The new 4th would have supported Trump 53-46.

Aguilar himself had been waging a second primary bid against Rutherford, who beat him in an 80-20 landslide two years before, before redistricting changed things. But while Aguilar's doomed first campaign brought in all of $16,000, his second try is a far better-funded affair: Aguilar raised $320,000 during the first quarter of 2022, and he ended March with a hefty $812,000 on hand thanks in part to earlier self-funding.

FL-23: Republican state Rep. Chip LaMarca has announced that he won't run to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch in the new 23rd District, which contains most of Deutch's existing 22nd District.

IL-03: SEIU Local 1, which represents maintenance workers, has backed Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas in the June Democratic primary.

IL-17: SEIU Illinois, which represents more than 170,000 public sector employees and workers in private service sectors statewide, has endorsed former state Rep. Litesa Wallace in the June Democratic primary, which has no clear frontrunner yet. Wallace faces a field that includes former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen, Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann, and Rockford Alderwoman Linda McNeely.

OH-11: Democratic Majority for Israel is airing its first negative spot of the year against former state Sen. Nina Turner ahead of her Democratic primary rematch next week against Rep. Shontel Brown. The narrator faults Turner for not supporting Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016 before declaring that the challenger "said voting for Biden was like eating ****." (The screen flashes the words "EATING S**T.") The super PAC, which recently began running positive commercials for Brown, has spent close to $600,000 so far.    

OR-06: In an effort to unravel why billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried's super PAC, Protect Our Future, has spent more than $7 million so far boosting first-time candidate Carrick Flynn's quest for the Democratic nomination in Oregon's brand-new 6th Congressional District, OPB's Dirk VanderHart dives deep into the possible ties between the two men.

Most notably, Flynn's wife, Kathryn Mecrow-Flynn, worked at an organization called the Center for Effective Altruism in 2017—the same time that Bankman-Fried served as the group's director of development. Flynn has maintained he "has never met or talked to Sam Bankman-Fried"—by law, super PACs are forbidden from coordinating with campaigns they're seeking to boost—and in response to VanderHart's reporting, he said of his wife, "If she's met him she hasn't said anything. I think she would have said something."

VanderHart also points out that Bankman-Fried's younger brother, Gabe Bankman-Fried, runs yet another super PAC called Guarding Against Pandemics that has likewise endorsed Flynn; it so happens that the president of Protect Our Future, Michael Sadowsky, also works for Guarding Against Pandemics. Gabe Bankman-Fried offered effusive praise for Flynn in remarks to VanderHart, though he insisted he "could not comment" on the interest shown in Flynn by his older sibling, who has not said anything about the candidate publicly.

TX-28: Attorney Jessica Cisneros is focusing on abortion rights in her first spot for the May 24 Democratic primary runoff against conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar, a topic the Texas Tribune says she didn't run many spots on during the first round. The narrator declares that Cuellar sided with Texas Republicans when they "passed the most extreme abortion ban in the country," characterizing the incumbent as "the lone Democrat against a woman's right to make her own decisions, even opposing life-saving care."

Cuellar's new ad, meanwhile, features people praising him for having "kept our businesses open during the pandemic and reduced taxes" and funding law enforcement and border security, language that's usually more at home in GOP ads. The commercial then pivots to the left by commending him as a champion of healthcare and affordable college. One elderly woman goes on to make the case that he's vital for the district, saying, "Henry helps us with prescriptions and Social Security benefits. If we lose him in Congress, we lose everything."

Cuellar goes into the final weeks of the runoff with a cash-on-hand lead over Cisneros, but she's managed to close much of what had been a massive gap. Cuellar ended March with a $1.4 million to $1 million edge, while he enjoyed a $2.3 million to $494,000 advantage three months before.

TX-30: The cryptocurrency-aligned group Web3 Forward has reported a $250,000 ad buy ahead of the May 24 Democratic primary runoff to support state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, who came just shy of winning the nomination outright last month with a 48-17 lead over party operative Jane Hamilton. Web3 Forward may have more where that came from if the initial primary, where they and another crypto-oriented group had already spent over $2 million aiding Crockett, was any indication.

Attorneys General

KS-AG: Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach has released a survey from WPA Intelligence arguing that he's well-positioned to win the August Republican primary for attorney general and revive his career following his disastrous bids for governor and Senate. The firm shows Kobach taking 52% in the race to succeed Derek Schmidt, who is leaving to run for governor, with state Sen. Kellie Warren and former federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi far behind with 12% and 7%, respectively. The Democrats are fielding attorney Chris Mann, a former prosecutor who currently faces no serious intra-party opposition.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: City Attorney Mike Feuer is spending about $1 million on an opening TV and digital buy for the June nonpartisan primary, which his strategist acknowledges to the Los Angeles Times is "pretty close" to all they have available. The spot features the candidate, who took just 2% in a recent UC Berkeley poll, walking a dachshund (who at one point rides a skateboard while leashed) through the city as a song proclaims him the "underdog." Feuer tells the audience, "Even with the most experience, being outspent 30 to 1 could make the odds of becoming mayor … well, long. But L.A.'s a city of underdogs."

Billionaire developer Rick Caruso, who had the airwaves to himself until now, has run numerous ads focused on crime without mentioning any of his rivals, but one of his most prominent allies will soon be going after his main competitor. The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which is the city's well-funded police union, has so far given $500,000 to a new super PAC opposed to Democratic Rep. Karen Bass.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Attorney: Anni Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel, has dropped out of the August special Republican primary and endorsed Rachel Mitchell, who was appointed interim county attorney last week. The nomination contest still includes Gina Godbehere, who recently announced that she was stepping down as prosecutor for the City of Goodyear in order to concentrate on her campaign.

Ad Roundup

Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.

Morning Digest: The year’s biggest special election so far is on Saturday

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

Leading Off

TX-06: Texas' 6th Congressional District will kick off this year's first competitive special election for the House on Saturday, though we'll almost certainly have to wait until an as-yet-unscheduled runoff before we know the winner. That's because, under state law, all candidates from all parties are running together on a single ballot. In the event that no one captures a majority—which is all but certain, given the enormous 23-person field—the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to a second round.

Exactly who that lucky twosome might be is difficult to say, given the paucity of recent polling and, in any event, the difficulty of accurately surveying the electorate in a special election like this one. The few polls we have seen have all found the same two contenders at the top of the heap: Republican Susan Wright, the widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright (whose death in February triggered this election), and Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez, the party's 2018 nominee who lost to the former congressman by a closer-than-expected 53-45 margin.

The numbers have all been extremely tight, however, and "undecided" has always remained the most popular choice, while several other candidates have trailed closely behind the frontrunners. On the Republican side, the more notable names include state Rep. Jake Ellzey, former Trump administration official Brian Harrison, and former WWE wrestler Dan Rodimer (who lost a bid for Congress in Nevada last year). For Democrats, also in the mix are educator Shawn Lassiter and businesswoman Lydia Bean, who unsuccessfully ran for a nearby state House district in 2020.

Campaign Action

Wright earned what's typically the most important endorsement in GOP circles these days when Donald Trump gave her his blessing on Monday, which could be enough to propel her to the runoff on its own. However, early voting had already been underway for a week, potentially blunting the announcement's effectiveness. What's more, Wright's top Republican rivals, led by Ellzey, have all outraised her. The top outside spender in the race, the Club for Growth, also seems to view Ellzey as a threat, since it's put at least $260,000 into TV ads attacking him. Two other super PACs, meanwhile, have spent $350,000 to boost Ellzey.

There's been less third-party activity on the Democratic side, with two groups spending about $100,000 on behalf of Sanchez, who raised $299,000 in the first quarter, compared to $322,000 for Lassiter and $214,000 for Bean. The biggest concern for Democrats right now may be making the runoff altogether, since there's a chance two Republicans could advance. It's theoretically possible the reverse could happen, but overall, Republicans have dominated in fundraising, collectively taking in $1.7 million to just $915,000 for Democrats.

That disparity may reflect the traditionally conservative lean of the 6th District, which covers much of the city of Arlington but juts out to take in rural areas south of Dallas. The area has always voted Republican, though in 2020, Trump's 51-48 win was by far the closest result the district has produced in a presidential race in many years. Ron Wright, however, ran well ahead of the top of the ticket, defeating Democrat Stephen Daniel 53-44.

To have a chance at flipping this seat, Democrats will need the district's overall trend to the left to continue, though first, of course, they'll need to make sure one of their candidates gets to the runoff. Exactly when that second round might happen is unknown, though, because Texas law only permits runoffs to be scheduled after an initial election takes place.

Governors

FL-Gov, FL-Sen: An unnamed source tells Politico that Democratic Rep. Val Demings is "more likely than not" to seek statewide office next year, adding that "if she does, it's almost definitely running for governor" against Republican Ron DeSantis rather than for Senate against Marco Rubio.

MD-Gov: Nonprofit head Wes Moore, who said in February that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, has filed paperwork with state election officials to create a fundraising committee. Maryland Matters reports that Moore is likely to make an announcement "within the next few weeks."

NJ-Gov: Though New Jersey's primary is not until June, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli is acting as though he already has the nomination in the bag, judging by his TV ads attacking Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. His latest slams Murphy for ordering a shutdown of businesses at the start of the coronavirus pandemic—without actually mentioning the pandemic, making it sound like Murphy just arbitrarily forced pizza places to close their doors. Perhaps this kind of messaging will work as the worst of the pandemic begins to fade, but voters are apt to recall just how terrifying the virus' devastation was.

One person trying to remind voters of precisely this is none other than … Jack Ciattarelli. In an ad he released last month, he berated Murphy for nursing home deaths that happened on his watch, saying that 8,000 seniors and veterans died "scared and alone."

VA-Gov: Former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign has announced that it's spending $450,000 on a new TV buy in the Washington, D.C. media market, which is home to a little more than a third of the state's residents, ahead of the June 8 Democratic primary.

Carroll Foy also has a new spot where she talks about how, after her grandmother had a stroke, "we were forced to choose between her mortgage and medicine." She continues, "So when my babies were born early, I was grateful to have healthcare that saved their lives and mine." Carroll Foy concludes, "I've been a foster mom, public defender, and delegate who expanded Medicaid. Now, I'm running for governor to bring affordable healthcare to all of us."

House

MT-02: Former Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke has filed paperwork with the FEC to create a campaign committee that would allow him to run in Montana's as-yet-undrawn—and entirely new—2nd Congressional District. (Yes, that was weird to type. We're still writing "MT-AL" on our checks.) Zinke previously served as the state's lone member of the House after winning an open-seat race in 2014 but resigned not long after securing a second term to serve as Donald Trump's interior secretary.

It was a promotion that worked out very poorly. Like many Trump officials, Zinke was beset by corruption allegations, including charges that he'd spent tens of thousands in taxpayer funds on personal travel and used public resources to advance a private land deal with the chair of the oil services company Halliburton.

In all, he was the subject of at least 15 investigations, but what appears to have finally done him in was Democrats' victory in the 2018 midterms, which would have exposed him to congressional subpoenas. The White House, the Washington Post reported, told Zinke "he had until the end of the year to leave or be fired." He resigned in mid-December.

Zinke's old seat is now occupied by Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale, who won his first term last year after Zinke's successor, Greg Gianforte, decided to run for governor. Fortunately for Zinke, he and Rosendale are from opposite ends of the state: Rosendale lives in the small town of Glendive, not far from the North Dakota border, while Zinke's from Whitefish, another small town located in Montana's northwestern corner. It's impossible to say, of course, when the next map will look like, but these two burghs almost certainly won't wind up in the same district.

We also don't know if Zinke will in fact seek a comeback, since he hasn't yet spoken publicly about his intentions (and as we like to remind folks, it's easy to file some forms with the FEC—it's a lot harder to actually run a campaign). But whether or not he does, it's very likely that other ambitious Montana pols will also want to kick the tires on this brand-new district.

NC-13: The conservative site Carolina Journal reports that some Republicans have already begun to express interest in running for North Carolina's 13th District, just a day after GOP Rep. Ted Budd kicked off a bid for Senate.

Former Davidson County Commissioner Zak Crotts, who's also treasurer of the state Republican Party, says he's "thinking about" the race, though he cautioned that "we have to see what the district looks like" following redistricting. Meanwhile, law student Bo Hines, who's been challenging Rep. Virginia Foxx in the GOP primary in the 5th District (which doesn't currently neighbor the 13th), didn't rule out the possibility of switching races, saying he's keeping "all options open."

Mayors

Three of Texas' 10 largest cities, Arlington, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, are holding mayoral races on Saturday, and we preview each of them below. All races are officially nonpartisan and all candidates compete on one ballot. In any contest where one candidate does not win a majority of the vote, a runoff will be held at a later date that has yet to be determined.

Arlington, TX Mayor: Arlington, home to Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers and the iconic Dallas Cowboys football team, is hosting an open-seat contest to replace termed-out Republican incumbent Jeff Williams. Business owner and former police officer Jim Ross has raised by far the most money of any candidate, having spent $311,000 so far, and has the support of Williams and former Mayor Richard Greene. Other prominent candidates include City Councilman Marvin Sutton and former City Councilman Michael Glaspie. Sutton is backed by former Mayor Elzie Odom, who was the first (and so far only) Black mayor in Arlington history.

Five other candidates are also on the ballot. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes that most of the contenders are people of color, with one longtime observer, local columnist O.K. Carter, calling it the most diverse field he's ever seen in the city.

One of the lesser-known candidates, talent purchasing agent Jerry Warden, was declared ineligible to run because of his status as a convicted sex offender. Due to Texas' election laws, however, Warden will still appear on the ballot, which could have an unpredictable impact as his name will be listed first.

Economic issues, particularly those affecting small businesses, have dominated this contest. Ross has spoken about the need to focus on Black businesses, saying, "When we have a 23% African American community and 1% of our businesses are owned by African Americans, there's a disparity there." Sutton has also discussed equity issues and the need to address economic disparities, while Glaspie has focused on helping Arlington businesses recover from the pandemic.

Fort Worth, TX Mayor: This is another open-seat contest to replace outgoing Republican Mayor Betsy Price, who is retiring as the longest-serving mayor in the city's history.

Eleven candidates have lined up to succeed Price, including her chief of staff, Mattie Parker, who has received the mayor's backing along with the support of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association. Parker also sports the biggest fundraising haul in the field, with $1 million raised. Also on the GOP side is City Councilman Brian Byrd, who is endorsed by Rep. Kay Granger. Byrd has raised $324,00 for this race and injected an additional $310,000 into his campaign via a personal loan.

Fort Worth is one of the country's largest cities with a Republican mayor, but Democrats are making a strong push to change that this year. Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairwoman Deborah Peoples and City Councilwoman Ann Zadeh are Team Blue's top contenders. Peoples has been endorsed by Dallas-area Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks, and state Sen. Royce West. Additionally, Rep. Marc Veasey, whose district takes in part of Fort Worth, reportedly will endorse one of these two progressives if either wins a spot in the runoff. Neither Peoples nor Zadeh have been as prolific fundraisers as their GOP counterparts, with the candidates reporting hauls of $286,000 and $128,000, respectively.

Diversity and equality has also emerged as a top issue in this campaign, even among Republicans. Peoples has made focusing on the needs of people of color and improving relations between police and communities of color a central focus of her campaign. There have been multiple incidents of police violence targeting Black residents of Fort Worth in recent years, and even Price acknowledged this issue was among the most challenging to deal with during her time in office.

Byrd has also spoken on racial issues, kicking off his campaign in a historically Black neighborhood in the city. However, Byrd, who is white, has sent out mailers with racial overtones that emphasized his support for police and commitment to "public safety," while another specifically targeted Peoples, who is Black.

San Antonio, TX Mayor: Incumbent Ron Nirenberg is seeking a second term as mayor of Texas' second-largest city and faces a rematch against a familiar foe. Nirenberg, a progressive independent, won a 51-49 contest over conservative Greg Brockhouse in 2019. Brockhouse is back again, and the pair are the top contenders in a wide field of 15 candidates.

Nirenberg, who has been endorsed by former Mayor Julián Castro, has a wide advantage in fundraising over Brockhouse, beating him $218,000 to $14,000 in the last fundraising period. Additionally, local pollster Bexar Facts, polling on behalf of KSAT and San Antonio Report, released a survey earlier this month that showed Nirenberg leading Brockhouse 56-21. Nirenberg's underlying numbers appeared strong in this poll as well, as he boasted a 67% approval rating.

Observers have noted this race has been a departure from the intense tone of 2019's contest, though issues surrounding police and firefighters unions have remained contentious. Brockhouse, a former consultant for both the city's police and firefighter unions, received strong support in his last bid from both labor groups, which deployed a combined $530,000 on Brockhouse' behalf—more than twice what the candidate himself spent.

This time around, though, the two unions have stayed neutral, as Nirenberg has successfully managed to navigate thorny issues with them. Nirenberg and the city negotiated a new deal with the firefighters union while also sidestepping questions about Proposition B, a measure that would repeal the right of the police union to engage in collective bargaining. Nirenberg has not taken a stance on the proposition and claims his focus is on the current round of negotiations with the union.

Other Races

KS-AG: We thought we were done with Kris Kobach, but we thought wrong. The notorious voter suppression zealot and former Kansas secretary of state kicked off a campaign for state attorney general on Thursday, following a failed bid for the Republican nomination for Senate in 2020 and a disastrous turn as the GOP's gubernatorial nominee two years earlier that handed the governorship to the Democrats.

Team Blue would certainly love another shot at Kobach, since his too-many-to-mention failings could once again put a statewide race in play. There's one we certainly have to note, though, since it directly impacts his qualifications to serve as Kansas' top law enforcement official: that time three years ago when a federal judge found Kobach in contempt for failing to comply with her orders in a suit that struck down a law he championed requiring new voters to provide proof of citizenship, then made him take a remedial legal education class titled "Civil Trial: Everything You Need to Know."

Of course, Republicans would like to avoid one more go-round with Kobach as much as Democrats would enjoy one. The GOP successfully kept Kobach at bay in last year's Senate race (which Republican Roger Marshall went on to win), though so far, he's the only notable candidate to announce a bid for the attorney general's post, which is open because Republican incumbent Derek Schmidt is running for governor. The Kansas City Star says that state House Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch and state Sen. Kellie Warren could run for Republicans, while no Democratic names have surfaced yet. With Kobach now in the mix, that will likely change.

VA-LG: EMILY's List has endorsed Del. Hala Ayala, who also recently earned the backing of Gov. Ralph Northam, in the June 8 Democratic primary. The six-person field also includes another pro-choice woman, Norfolk City Council member Andria McClellan.

Morning Digest: Justin Amash’s presidential bid opens up potentially competitive Michigan House seat

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

Leading Off

MI-03: On Tuesday evening, Republican-turned-independent Rep. Justin Amash announced that he was forming an exploratory committee to run for president as a member of the Libertarian Party. Michigan doesn't allow candidates to run for president and for Congress at the same time, and Amash soon confirmed that he was giving up his seat in the Grand Rapids area. Amash, who left the GOP last year, also said that he'd be informing the House clerk that he's now a Libertarian, which would give the party its first-ever member of Congress.

The Libertarian Party is scheduled to award its presidential nomination in late May, so Amash will soon know if he'll be its standard bearer. However, he does have a backup option if delegates reject him: While Michigan's filing deadline for major party candidates is May 8, everyone else has until July 16 to turn in their paperwork.

Campaign Action

For now, though, we have an open seat race in an area that's been friendly to the GOP for a long time. Gerald Ford himself represented Grand Rapids for decades, and the current 3rd District went from 53-46 Romney to 52-42 Trump. However, Democrats may still have an opening if 2020 turns out to be a favorable year. 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Schuette took the seat by a very slim 48.6-48.2 margin while he was losing statewide 53-44, while GOP Senate nominee John James carried the district by a modest 51-47 that same year while he was going down 52-46.

Several candidates were already running against Amash, and while the deadline to run in the August primary isn't until next month, it's unlikely the field will expand. Congressional candidates need to turn in 1,200 valid signatures to make the ballot this year, and social distancing makes that task especially difficult. The main GOP candidates are Army veteran and wealthy businessman Peter Meijer and state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, while attorney Hillary Scholten has the Democratic side to herself.

Amash's decision to leave Congress will mark the end of a 10-year career defined by fights with GOP leaders. Amash first ran for the House in 2010 as a first-term state representative who had already established a reputation for libertarian principles: Notably, Amash was the only state lawmaker to oppose 59 different bills, and he posted explanations for each negative vote on his Facebook page. Amash was one of several Republicans to campaign to succeed retiring Rep. Vern Ehlers, and he earned the support of the anti-tax Club for Growth and local conservative powerplayers Dick and Betsy DeVos. Amash won the primary 40-26, and he had no trouble in November.

Amash brought to D.C. his habit of voting no on any bills that didn't pass his personal purity test, as well as a reputation for being difficult to work with. In late 2012, Amash was one of three GOP House members who were removed from their committees for, as one unnamed member put it, being "the most egregious a—holes" in the caucus. Amash refused to vote for John Boehner in the following year's speakership election, and he opposed him again two years later. Amash had more success with the GOP's emerging tea party wing, though, and he was one of the founding members of the nihilist House Freedom Caucus.

Amash's establishment enemies backed wealthy businessman Brian Ellis in the 2014 primary in what turned into an expensive and nasty race. Ellis attempted to portray Amash as weak on abortion issues and even labeled Amash, who is of Palestinian and Syrian descent, as "Al Qaeda's best friend in Congress," while the Club for Growth spent heavily to defend the incumbent. Amash won 57-43, though, and he was never again seriously threatened.

Amash's final break with the GOP came from his frustration with Donald Trump. Amash was the rare Republican who never fell into line with the administration, and he openly started musing about a third-party or independent presidential bid in March of last year.

Two months later, Amash took to social media and wrote that, after reading the Mueller Report he believed that Trump "has engaged in impeachable conduct." That attracted a typically belligerent response from Trump, and a number of candidates soon entered the GOP primary against Amash as his old allies almost all abandoned him. Amash announced on July 4 that he was leaving the GOP to become an independent, and he voted to impeach Trump at the end of last year.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, both of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.

California: The Board of Supervisors in Los Angeles County, which is the largest county in the nation, has voted to mail a ballot to every voter for the November general election. The county is home to more than 10 million people and has more than 5.5 million registered voters. While voting by mail is very popular in California, it's been less so in Los Angeles: 45% of L.A. voters cast ballots by mail in 2018, compared to 72% in the rest of the state.

New York: Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang has sued the New York State Board of Elections, asking that New York's June 23 Democratic primary for president be reinstated. Earlier this week, the board canceled the presidential primary (but downballot primaries remain scheduled that day).

Rhode Island: Democratic Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea says every voter will be sent an absentee ballot application for Rhode Island's June 2 presidential primary. The effort does not appear to apply to the state's downballot primaries, which will not take place until Sept. 8.

South Carolina: Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has postponed a number of local elections that were set to take place on May 5 and May 12. New dates have not yet been set.

Texas: A group of Texas voters, supported by the National Redistricting Foundation, have filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the state's practice of allowing all voters 65 or older to cast absentee ballots without an excuse while requiring an excuse for anyone younger violates the Constitution. Specifically, the suit charges that the law in question violates the 26th Amendment, which guarantees that the right to vote "shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age." Six other conservative states have similar provisions in place, all but one of which is also located in the South.

Two other cases on the issue of Texas' excuse requirement are still pending. In one, filed in state court, a judge ruled that all voters can cite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to request an absentee ballot, though Republicans have said they will appeal. A second similar case in federal court awaits a ruling.

Separately, commissioners in Harris County have allocated $12 million in new election funds, which would allow the county to mail ballots to every voter for the November general election. Harris is home to Houston and is the largest county in the state, with more than 2.3 million registered voters.

Senate

CO-Sen: On Tuesday, Denver District Court Judge Christopher Baumann ruled against placing climate activist Diana Bray in on the June Democratic primary ballot. Bray had only turned in just over 2,700 of the necessary 10,500 signatures, and Baumann argued that she had not demonstrated a "significant modicum of support" from the state's voters.

KS-Sen: Rep. Roger Marshall's allies at Keep Kansas Great PAC recently ran a spot against former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach ahead of the August GOP primary, and Advertising Analytics reports that the size of the buy was at least $35,000.

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: SurveyUSA is out with a poll for WRAL-TV that has some good news for Team Blue. Democrat Cal Cunningham posts a small 41-39 lead over GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, while Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper leads Republican Dan Forest by a massive 57-30. This sample also shows Joe Biden leading Donald Trump 50-45.

April polls have consistently shown Cooper, who has received strong marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, leading Forest by double digits, but there's less agreement on the state of the Senate race. The conservative Civitas Institute released numbers two weeks ago from the GOP firm Harper Polling that showed Tillis ahead 38-34, while the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found Cunningham ahead 47-40 around that same time.

Senate: On Tuesday, the DSCC announced its first wave of TV and digital ad reservations for the fall. The Democratic group's initial bookings consists of $30.6 million in four GOP-held Senate seats:

Arizona (Martha McSally): $6.4 Million Iowa (Joni Ernst): $7.3 Million Montana (Steve Daines): $5.2 Million North Carolina (Thom Tillis): $11.7 Million

The DSCC's reservations come weeks after its allies at Senate Majority PAC, as well as the GOP organizations NRSC and Senate Leadership Fund, made their own first wave of bookings.

All four groups made their largest reservations in North Carolina, a race that could very well decide control of the U.S. Senate in 2020. What's more surprising, though, is that all four organizations also booked millions for Iowa, which has long looked like a reach target for Democrats. The state swung hard to the right in 2014 and 2016, and while Democrats did considerably better last cycle, GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds still won a close contest for a full term.

We haven't seen a single poll of the Senate race since December, so we don't have a good sense for how vulnerable incumbent Joni Ernst is. However, this quartet of well-funded groups is at least acting like this race is very much in play.

House

CA-25: Democrat Christy Smith is out with what Politico describes as her "closing TV spot" ahead of the May 12 special election. The narrator goes after Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis and argues that Republican Mike Garcia "attacks anyone who doesn't agree with Trump." The commercial then shows a clip of Garcia saying that "everyone should have to figure out how to fend for themselves." The rest of the spot praises Smith's work during the pandemic.

GA-09: State Rep. Matt Gurtler picked up an endorsement this week from the radical anti-tax Club for Growth ahead of the crowded June GOP primary for this safely red seat. Gurtler has spent his two terms in the legislature fighting with party leaders, which makes him an ideal candidate for the Club.

IA-04: State Sen. Randy Feenstra is out with a poll from American Viewpoint that shows him trailing white supremacist Rep. Steve King by a modest 41-34 in the June 2 GOP primary; another 8% opt for another candidate. While Feenstra is down, the memo says that this is a big shift in his favor from late January, when a previously-unreleased poll found King up 53-22. We haven't seen any other surveys of the contest for this rural western Iowa seat all year.

Feenstra is using his huge financial edge over King to air a spot contrasting the two candidates. The narrator declares, "Steve King couldn't protect our farmers, and couldn't defend President Trump from impeachment." He continues, "King lost his congressional committees, can't do his job, can't protect us." The rest of the commercial praises Feenstra as an effective and pro-Trump conservative.  

Election Result Recaps

MD-07: The almost all-mail general election for the final months of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings' term took place on Tuesday, and former Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume won 73-27 in a seat that Hillary Clinton carried 76-20. Mfume represented a previous version of this Baltimore-based seat from 1987 until he resigned in 1996 to lead the NAACP. However, former Rep. Rick Nolan still holds the record for the longest gap in congressional service: The Minnesota Democrat retired in 1981 and returned 32 years later in 2013.

Mfume does have one more contest in his near future, but it doesn't look very competitive. The primary for the full two-year term is on June 2, and Mfume faces former state party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who is Elijah Cummings' widow, state Sen. Jill Carter, and Del. Jay Jalisi. This group faced off in the February special election primary, which ended with Mfume decisively defeating Rockeymoore Cummings 43-17; Carter and Jalisi took 16% and 2%, respectively.

P.S. In a tweet encouraging people to vote on Tuesday, Rockeymoore Cummings wrote, "A lot of people have asked me if you can write my name in. The answer is yes." Only about 1% of voters ended up writing in another candidate's name, though, and it's not clear how many of them selected Rockeymoore Cummings.

Ohio: After an abrupt cancellation, Ohio's primaries, originally scheduled for March 17, took place on Tuesday. The election took place almost entirely by mail, and only voters with disabilities or those who lacked a home address were allowed to vote in person. Ballots will still be accepted through May 8 as long as they were postmarked by Monday, so the margin may shift in some races.

OH-01: Former healthcare executive Kate Schroder defeated retired Air Force pilot Nikki Foster by a decisive 68-32 margin in the Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Steve Chabot. This seat in the Cincinnati area was heavily gerrymandered to keep Chabot from losing again after he had lost re-election in a bluer previous version of this district in 2008 (Chabot returned two years later). However, Donald Trump only carried the current 1st District by a modest 51-45 margin, and Chabot himself won an expensive re-election campaign 51-47 in 2018.

Chabot's campaign was also thrown into turmoil last summer when the FEC sent a letter asking why the congressman's first-quarter fundraising report was belatedly amended to show $124,000 in receipts that hadn't previously been accounted for. From there, a bizarre series of events unfolded.

First, Chabot's longtime consultant, Jamie Schwartz, allegedly disappeared after he shuttered his firm, called the Fountain Square Group. Then Schwartz's father, Jim Schwartz, told reporters that despite appearing as Chabot's treasurer on his FEC filings for many years, he had in fact never served in that capacity. Chabot's team was certainly bewildered, because it issued a statement saying, "As far as the campaign was aware, James Schwartz, Sr. has been the treasurer since 2011." Evidently there's a whole lot the campaign wasn't aware of.

The elder Schwartz also claimed of his son, "I couldn't tell you where he's at" because "he's doing a lot of running around right now." Well, apparently, he'd run right into the arms of the feds. In December, local news station Fox19 reported that Jamie Schwartz had turned himself in to the U.S. Attorney's office, which, Fox19 said, has been investigating the matter "for a while."

Adding to the weirdness, it turned out that Chabot had paid Schwartz's now-defunct consultancy $57,000 in July and August for "unknown" purposes. Yes, that's literally the word Chabot's third-quarter FEC report used to describe payments to the Fountain Square Group no fewer than five times. (Remember how we were saying the campaign seems to miss quite a bit?)

We still don't know what those payments were for, or what the deal was with the original $124,000 in mystery money that triggered this whole saga. Chabot himself has refused to offer any details, insisting only that he's been the victim of an unspecified "financial crime." There haven't been any public developments since December, but until there's a resolution, this story always has the potential to resurface at exactly the wrong time for Chabot.

OH-03: Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty won renomination in this safely blue Columbus seat by defeating Morgan Harper, a former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau adviser, 68-32.

Harper, who is 36 and a first-time candidate, had contrasted herself against Beatty, who is 69 and has held elected office for two decades, by calling for generational change. However, while Harper raised a credible amount of money, she was always at a big disadvantage against the well-funded incumbent. Beatty also had considerably more cash left to use than Harper when the race was unexpectedly extended, and the incumbent kept up her spending advantage over the final weeks.

OH State House, Where Are They Now?: Former GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt, who lost renomination in a 2012 upset against now-Rep. Brad Wenstrup, looks to be on-track to return to her old stomping grounds in the Ohio state House.

Schmidt ended Tuesday evening with a 44-42 lead―a margin of 287 votes―in the GOP primary for House District 65, which is based in Clermont County to the east of Cincinnati. There are close to 3,000 absentee ballots left to tally countywide (HD-65 makes up just over 60% of the county), so it may be a little while before we have a resolution. This seat backed Donald Trump 66-29, so the GOP nominee should have little trouble in November.

Morning Digest: Daily Kos Elections presents our 2020 calendar of key elections across the country

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

Leading Off

2020 Elections: The presidential election and competitive races for the House and Senate may be generating most of the headlines, but there are many important contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year. From mayoral races to district attorney elections and contests for control of county boards of supervisors, 2020 will feature major battles in some of the country's largest cities and counties. Daily Kos Elections has compiled a calendar with all the key dates for this year's major local races, and there's a lot to keep track of.

Campaign Action

Wisconsin will be the site of the first big downballot election night of the year on Tuesday, when party primaries for the special election in the vacant 7th Congressional District will take place; the general election will follow on May 12. The main event, though, will be the primary for a seat on the state Supreme Court, while Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee will also be voting for county executive and mayor, respectively. Runoffs between the top two vote-getters in all three of these races will take place on April 7. You can find a preview of those races here.

It will be an interesting year on the mayoral front in particular. Of the 100 largest cities in the country, 29 will hold elections for mayor at some point during 2020. Yet even though Republicans hold less than a third of all big-city mayoralties, they're defending 15 seats this year, versus 12 for Democrats (two are held by independents).

The biggest city on the list is San Diego, California, where Democrats are hoping for a pickup, in part because Republican Kevin Faulconer is term-limited. The largest Democratic-held prizes are Portland, Oregon and Baltimore, Maryland, though Republicans have no shot at flipping either.

Further down the ballot, the three largest counties in California—Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange—will hold elections for their boards of supervisors, as will Maricopa County, Arizona. All except Los Angeles have a Republican majority, and control of each of those GOP-held bodies is on the line.

Meanwhile, the two largest counties in the entire country, Los Angeles and Cook County, Illinois (home of Chicago), will be selecting their district attorneys. Orleans Parish in Louisiana, which is coterminous with the city of New Orleans, will also vote for its top prosecutor; embattled incumbent Leon Cannizzaro is eligible for re-election.

2020 promises to be an active year and we may also see more contests come onto the radar as events develop. Bookmark our calendar to keep tabs on all the action. Also check out our separate calendar of congressional and state-level primaries for all 50 states.

Senate

KS-Sen: Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is out with a poll from the GOP firm McLaughlin & Associates that shows him leading Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier 47-38 in a hypothetical general election. Kobach released his survey from the less than reliable McLaughlin days after a poll from the Democratic firm DFM Research for the union SMART came out showing him tied with Bollier 43-43.

Despite this McLaughlin poll, national Republicans remain worried that Kobach, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial election to Democrat Laura Kelly, would put them in danger in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator since 1932. Senate Republicans made it clear before Kobach even announced his campaign that they'd take action to stop him from winning the August primary, and CNN reported over the weekend that they remained as opposed to him as ever.

However, one notable Republican isn't ready to strand Kris Kobach on the Isle of Misfit Senate Candidates. CNN writes that Donald Trump spoke to his old ally in person late last month, and that Jared Kushner is working with Kobach on a White House immigration plan. Trump's advisers reportedly "have gently pressed him" to back Rep. Roger Marshall, who is one of the many other Republican candidates here, but Trump doesn't seem to be in any hurry to decide.

Still, there is at least one indication that Trump may be listening. The Kansas City Star reports that Trump met with Marshall in the Oval Office in mid-January and tried to call Kobach up right then and there to convince him to drop out. Trump got Kobach's voicemail, though, and the two ended up speaking a few hours later after Marshall had left the White House. There's no word on what they said to one another, but Kobach remains in the race a month later.

TX-Sen: The University of Texas is out with a survey for the Texas Tribune of the March 3 Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn, and it's the first survey we've seen that shows a clear frontrunner. Air Force veteran MJ Hegar, who has the DSCC's endorsement, leads with 22%, which is still well below the majority she'd need to avoid a May runoff.

Nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez holds a 9-7 edge over former Rep. Chris Bell for second place, while former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards and state Sen. Royce West each are just behind with 6%. Two underfunded contenders, Annie "Mamá" Garcia and Sema Hernandez, each take 5%.

Gubernatorial

AK-Gov: The Alaska Supreme Court announced Friday that it would hear oral arguments on March 25 about the legality of the recall campaign against GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy. While the justices have not yet determined if Alaskans can vote whether to cut short Dunleavy's tenure, they also ruled last week that Recall Dunleavy is allowed to collect signatures to get a recall measure on the ballot.

As we've written before, an official in Alaska may only be recalled for "(1) lack of fitness, (2) incompetence, (3) neglect of duties, or (4) corruption." This provision, which recall expert Joshua Spivak calls a "malfeasance standard," differs from the practice in many other states, where only voters' signatures are needed for a recall to go forward.

Recall Dunleavy, the group that is seeking to fire the governor, is focusing on the first three grounds for recall. However, in an opinion for the state Division of Elections, Republican state Attorney General Kevin Clarkson argued that the stated allegations listed on the campaign's petitions "fail[ed] to meet any of the listed grounds for recall." Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth ruled in January, though, that the recall campaign could proceed because all but one of their stated grounds was valid.

However, in a confusing series of events, Aarseth soon issued a stay that prevented Recall Dunleavy from gathering signatures before the state Supreme Court heard the appeal, quickly said that the stay have been "inadvertently issued," then issued another stay a week later that once again halted the signature gathering. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled on Friday, though, that Aarseth "did not expressly consider the harm to Recall Dunleavy from a stay, and as a result it appears to have applied an incorrect analysis." This decision allows Recall Dunleavy to collect petitions even though its legal battle is far from over.

If Recall Dunleavy successfully convinces the justices that its campaign is valid under state law, organizers will need to collect another 71,000 signatures in order to place the recall on the ballot. There's no time limit for gathering petitions, and a recall election would take place 60 to 90 days after the Division of Elections verified that enough valid signatures have been turned in.

If the recall is successful, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who is also a Republican, would replace Dunleavy. No matter what, though, Alaska's regularly-scheduled gubernatorial election will take place in 2022.

MO-Gov: On Friday, former Gov. Eric Greitens declined to rule the idea that he’d challenge Gov. Mike Parson, who was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor in 2020 after Greitens resigned in disgrace, in the August GOP primary. People close to Greitens tell the Kansas City Star’s Jason Hancock that this comeback is unlikely to actually happen this year, but Parson’s allies are still taking the idea seriously. Missouri’s filing deadline is at the end of March.

Greitens has avoided the media since his departure from office, but he reemerged last week one day after he got some welcome news from the Missouri Ethics Commission. The body announced that it was fining Greitens $178,000 after it ruled that his 2016 campaign had not disclosed its coordination with a federal PAC and a nonprofit. However, the Commission said they had “found no evidence of any wrongdoing on part of Eric Greitens” and that most of the fine would be forgiven as long as he pays $38,000 and doesn’t incur any other violations over the next two years.

Greitens used the occasion to go on a conservative media tour and proclaim in Trump-like fashion that he had received a “total exoneration,” and he wasn’t just talking about the matters the Commission ruled on last week. Back in early 2018, his once promising political career began to unravel in the face of allegations that he'd sexually assaulted the woman he was having an affair with and blackmailed her.

Greitens ended up getting indicted by local prosecutors twice: Once on allegations of first-degree felony invasion of privacy related to this story, and once for unrelated charges of computer tampering involving his charity. The GOP-led state legislature, which had little love for Greitens after spending a year feuding with him, also began to move towards removing him from office.

Greitens eventually resigned in exchange for the tampering charges getting dropped. A short time later, the Jackson County Prosecutor's office also announced that it was dropping the charges in the sexual assault and blackmail case because it believed it was impossible to successfully prosecute Greitens.

Greitens declared on Friday that the GOP legislature’s old investigation was some “Joseph Stalin stuff,” but he wasn’t so vocal about his current plans. When host Jamie Allman asked him if he was considering a 2020 bid for his old office Greitens responded, “Anything is a possibility.” Greitens added that he’d be willing to reappear on Allman’s program later to talk about this contest, but he didn’t say anything else about it.

However, unnamed Greitens associates tell Hancock that the former governor is well aware that he’s still unpopular and that he’s not sure if he could raise enough money to compete. They didn’t dismiss the idea that he’d run against Parson, though, and neither did the incumbent’s allies. John Hancock, who runs the well-funded pro-Parson super PAC Uniting Missouri, said he didn’t expect Greitens to get in, “But we don’t take anything for granted in a political campaign.”

A Parson adviser put it more bluntly to the paper: “Will he run? I doubt it. Are we going to be haunted by his ghost until he declares or filing for the primary closes? Absolutely.”

House

AL-05: On Friday, Donald Trump tweeted out his endorsement for Rep. Mo Brooks ahead of the March 3 GOP primary. Brooks faces a challenge from retired Navy Cmdr. Chris Lewis, who earned the support of the Alabama Farmers Federation but has very little money.

NJ-03: Over the weekend, former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs received the recommendation of the Ocean County Republican Screening Committee, which puts her in a good position to win the county party’s backing at its March 4 convention.

As we’ve noted before, county party endorsements matter quite a bit in New Jersey, and Gibbs’ already has the support of the Burlington County GOP. Ocean County contains the somewhat larger share of Republican primary voters in this two-county district, though, which makes it a very important prize in the June GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim.

TX-18: On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich dismissed a lawsuit brought against Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee's office and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation by a former CBCF aide identified only as Jane Doe. Doe had alleged that she'd been fired by Jackson Lee in 2018 after she'd told the congresswoman's chief of staff, Glenn Rushing, that she would take legal action against the CBCF, which was led by Jackson Lee at the time.

Doe said in her suit that she had been raped by a CBCF supervisor in 2015 when she was interning there. She further said she'd told Rushing about the assault in 2018 after she learned that her alleged assailant was looking for a job in Jackson Lee's congressional office. The man was not hired, but Doe said she then told Rushing she planned to sue the foundation and wanted to speak to Jackson Lee about it. No meeting took place, and Doe said she was fired two weeks later, ostensibly for "budgetary issues."

Jackson Lee announced in January of last year that she was resigning as head of the CBCF and temporarily stepping aside from a House Judiciary subcommittee chairmanship as a result the lawsuit. Friedrich, though, ruled that Doe had not alleged any legally sufficient claims for which Jackson Lee's office or the CBCF could be held liable. Doe's attorney says that she's unsure if her client will appeal.

TX-28: Texas Forward, which is allied with EMILY's List, is out with a Spanish language TV spot ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary that argues that conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar has embraced Washington and is no longer “one of us.” Meanwhile, a large coalition of labor groups are spending $350,000 on radio and digital ads, as well as voter turnout operations, in support of immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros.

WA-05: Former Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase announced on Friday that he would challenge Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a fellow Republican, in the August top-two primary. Chase lost his 2018 bid for a seat on the county commission by a lopsided 61-39 margin to a fellow Republican, and he's unlikely to pose much of a threat to the well-funded incumbent.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Siena College announced on Friday that former GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, who represented a competitive seat in upstate New York from 2011 through 2017, would become its new president in July. Gibson is a Siena graduate, and he will be the first non-friar to lead the Franciscan college.

Gibson has been mentioned as a possible GOP statewide candidate in the past, though he surprised political observers when he decided to pass on a 2018 run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Gibson's new gig probably means that he won't be running for office anytime soon, though he'll still have a connection to the world of politics: Siena has a prolific polling arm that conducted the New York Times' famous (or infamous) live polls in 2018.