Morning Digest: GOP field slowly develops for 2022 race to break Dems’ single-party hold on Nevada

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

NV-Gov, NV-Sen: The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Rory Appleton takes a deep look at the developing Republican fields to take on the two leading Nevada Democrats up in this swing state in 2022, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Republicans seem to agree that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red’s 2018 nominee for governor, would have little trouble winning the Senate primary should he run, but the gubernatorial field appears to be wide open.

Sisolak, though, may have more immediate worries. Appleton reports that Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick is considering challenging the governor in the primary, though she has yet to confirm her interest. There’s no word on why Kirkpatrick might want to unseat a member of her own party, though Appleton says she’s come into conflict with the governor before.

No matter what, though, Democrats will need to prepare for a tough general election as they seek to hold the governor’s office. Until now, the only notable Republican who had publicly talked about running was Rep. Mark Amodei, who reaffirmed his interest this month. Appleton also says that former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who share a consultant, are considering; neither man has said anything publicly, though Amodei relays that he’s spoken to him about this contest recently.

Campaign Action

While things are unsettled now, there may be a Republican frontrunner before too long. Appleton writes, “The belief in Republican political circles is the potential candidates will come to an agreement in the next month and not compete against one another in a primary.”

Other Republicans, though, may decide to run no matter what any member of this trio does. Appleton notes that casino owner Derek Stevens, whom he describes as a “newcomer,” is thinking about getting in.

A few other Silver State politicos may also take their chances. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who previously served in the state Senate as a conservative Democrat, acknowledged he’s been “approached by different people in both parties” about switching to the GOP and running for governor. Lee didn’t rule the idea out, saying, “I’m flattered, but at this point, I’m still focused on some big projects in North Las Vegas, and I don’t want to be distracted.”

GOP state Sens. Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Gansert, whom Appleton characterizes as “wildcards,” also could run either against Sisolak or Cortez Masto. Kieckhefer said he was “still thinking about what a race for governor looks like” and “has had a few conversations about the Senate.” Kieckhefer, who portrayed himself as a moderate focused on “consensus building and problem solving in a bipartisan way,” said he hoped to make up his mind in June.

Gansert, for her part, was more evasive, but she did not reject the idea of a statewide campaign. Gansert, who is a former chief of staff to former Gov. Brian Sandoval, said, “I certainly see the growing frustration over the lack of checks and balances and the one-party rule in our government, but I have a lot to get done in the legislature.”

There are two big GOP names from yesteryear, though, who probably won’t run for anything in 2022. Appleton name-drops former Sen. Dean Heller as a possible gubernatorial candidate, though he writes that Amodei and most Republican operatives doubt he’ll campaign for anything this cycle “unless the waters change.”

Appleton also reports that, while both sides are watching to see if Sandoval will run for the Senate, few expect him to. Republicans tried hard to recruit him to run here six years ago, but he never seemed particularly interested in joining Congress. Sandoval is currently serving as president of the University of Nevada, Reno, and a spokesperson says that he “would prefer to keep his time and attention focused on that role.” Sandoval, who was a relative moderate during his time in office, could also be deterred from running by the threat of a difficult GOP primary against a possible conservative alternative.

1Q Fundraising

CA-Sen: Alex Padilla (D-inc): $2.6 million raised

NC-Sen: Jeff Jackson (D) $1.3 million raised

OH-Sen: Jane Timken (R): $2.1 million raised

PA-Sen: Chrissy Houlahan (D): $580,000 raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand (has not announced a bid); Jeff Bartos (R): $1.2 million raised

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R-inc): $700,000 raised

MI-03: Peter Meijer (R-inc): $500,000 raised

NC-11: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D): $380,000 raised (in one month)

OH-11: Nina Turner (D): $1.55 million raised; Shontel Brown (D): $640,000 raised, $550,000 cash-on-hand

OH-16: Max Miller (R): $500,000 raised

Senate

AK-Sen: Republican Kelly Tshibaka has released a new poll from Cygnal that shows her leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski 34-19 in a hypothetical all-party primary with three other undeclared candidates to argue that the incumbent is in a "weak" position, but it doesn't address Alaska's new instant runoff for general elections. Under this system, the top four vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance from the primary, then compete via ranked-choice voting in November. Without simulating a potential runoff, it's impossible to know any candidate's true strength.

CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna isn't ruling out a challenge next year to fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, whose appointment in January to succeed Kamala Harris made him the first Latino senator in California history. In new remarks to Politico, the Bay Area congressman said he's "keeping [his] options open" regarding a potential Senate bid.

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh kicked off a bid for the Senate on Monday, making her the third notable Democrat to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Arkoosh, a physician, unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2014 for what was then numbered the 13th District, finishing last in a four-way primary with 15% of the vote. (The nomination was won by Brendan Boyle, who now represents the redrawn and renumbered 2nd District.) The following year, though, Arkoosh was tapped to fill a vacancy on the commission in Montgomery County, a large suburban county just outside of Philadelphia, and won election in her own right that fall. In 2016, her fellow commissioners selected her as the board's first woman chair, and she easily won a second term in 2019.

If Arkoosh were to prevail in next year's race, she'd also be the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate. First, though, she'll have to get past a primary that already features Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with more poised to join.

UT-Sen: The Salt Lake Tribune's Bryan Schott runs down a whole host of possible primary challengers to Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who is largely drawing heat from those dismayed by his wholehearted embrace of Trumpism. In any other state, that would be unimaginable, but a sizable contingent of Mormon voters remain nonplussed with the GOP's direction over the last half-decade—enough, at least, to spur chatter about trying to take down Lee.

The roster of potential candidates includes former state Rep. Becky Edwards, whom we'd previously identified as running based on her statement that she was "all in"; Schott, however, says that she's "all in" on exploring a bid, which is really not a helpful use of the term. There's also businesswoman Ally Isom, who was previously reported to be interested but has now confirmed she's looking at the race. Isom quit the GOP in 2016 over Trump but re-registered as a Republican last year; like Edwards, she encouraged Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.

Meanwhile, real estate executive Thomas Wright, who ended up last with just 8% in last year's four-way Republican primary for governor, didn't rule out a bid, saying that "there continues to be a desire to serve." However, the third-place finisher in that race, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, flat-out said he wouldn't run and would back Lee for re-election.

Schott adds that there have been "persistent rumblings" that Tim Ballard, the head of a nonprofit that combats child trafficking, could run, but there's no word on his interest. As for former CIA officer Evan McMullin, who took 22% in Utah running as a conservative independent in 2016's presidential race, Schott says any hope he might enter is "probably more wishful thinking than reality at this point."

Governors

TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke pointedly did not rule out a bid for governor in new remarks on Friday, saying only, "I've got no plans to run." After lots of folks (who aren't wicked smart Digest readers like you) misinterpreted this statement to conclude that O'Rourke had closed the door on a challenge to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott next year (he hadn't), his team released a further statement to clarify. "I'm not currently considering a run for office," said O'Rourke. "I'm focused on what I'm doing now (teaching and organizing.) Nothing's changed and nothing I said would preclude me from considering a run in the future."

In November of 2018, O'Rourke said, "I will not be a candidate for president in 2020. That's I think as definitive as those sentences get." O'Rourke launched a bid for president in March of 2019.

VA-Gov: Former Democratic state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign for governor just received a $500,000 infusion from a political advocacy organization thanks to state laws that place no caps on political giving. The PAC that made the donation, Clean Virginia, was created by a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive named Michael Bills in an effort to oppose Dominion Energy, which the Virginia Mercury's Graham Moomaw describes as "the state-regulated utility many progressives see as exerting undue control" over state lawmakers.

Moomaw also notes that Clean Virginia had previously given $100,000 each to Foy and another rival in the June 8 Democratic primary, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. It does not appear that the group gave a comparable donation to McClellan this time.

Meanwhile, in an aside buried deep in a long profile piece, the New York Times indicates that former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman is still thinking about a bid. Riggleman, who lost renomination at a party convention last year and has since become a vocal critic of of Trump-fueled disinformation, has until June 8—the same day as the state's primaries—to file as an independent.

House

KS-03: Former state GOP chair Amanda Adkins, who'd reportedly been prepping for a rematch with Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, kicked off a second bid for Kansas' 3rd Congressional District on Monday. Davids beat Adkins by a convincing 54-44 margin last year, as the district, based in the Kansas City area, moved sharply to the left, going for Joe Biden by the same spread—just eight years after backing Mitt Romney by precisely that margin.

However, last year, then-state Senate President Susan Wagle specifically exhorted supporters to preserve the GOP's supermajorities in the legislature to ensure Republicans could draw a new congressional map that "takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd." Republicans were in fact successful keeping their two-thirds majorities while also purging some of the moderates in their caucus in last year's primaries, meaning they'd likely be able to override a veto of any new districts by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

LA-02: A newly created PAC named Progress for the People has begun what The Advocate's Tyler Bridges describes as a "six-figure ad buy" against state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson ahead of the April 24 all-Democratic runoff. This appears to be the first negative TV spot of the runoff, though Peterson's opponent, fellow state Sen. Troy Carter, went up with a spot directed against her just ahead of last month's all-party primary.

The PAC's commercial declares that Peterson accepted her taxpayer funded salary even though she "missed 85% of her votes in the legislature last year," including on "COVID guidelines, voting rights, [and] gun safety." Peterson said at the time that she didn't feel safe going to the Capitol in the early months of the pandemic, and she put out a statement this month blaming the legislature's GOP leaders for rejecting her call "for a mask mandate and social distancing to protect the hardworking staff at the Capitol."

MA-09: Peter Lucas of the conservative Boston Herald relays that some unnamed observers believe that Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito could challenge Democratic Rep. Bill Keating. Polito and Gov. Charlie Baker are up for a third term in 2022, and there's been plenty of speculation that Polito could run to succeed her boss should Baker retire.

Polito has said nothing about a potential bid for Congress, though she and her husband notably purchased a $1.8 million second home last month that's located in Keating's district. Polito, however, has continued to raise cash for her state campaign account, which is money she could not use on a federal campaign

Keating's constituency, which includes the South Shore region near Boston and stretches east to Cape Cod, is the most conservative of Massachusetts' nine congressional districts, though GOP presidential candidates have still struggled here. Joe Biden won 58-40 here last year, which was an improvement from Hillary Clinton's 52-41 victory in 2016. Legislative Democrats also have more than enough members to pass a new congressional map over Baker's veto, so it's unlikely this turf would dramatically change.

MI-06: Freshman state Rep. Steve Carra, who late last month posted on social media that "[i]t's time to replace Fred Upton with a proven conservative," says he's kicking off a campaign on Tuesday. He's by no means the only Republican elected official gunning for Upton over his vote to impeach Donald Trump, though: Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, who expressed interest in a primary challenge in January, has now filed paperwork with the FEC, though he hasn't launched a bid yet.

NY-23: Several more Republicans are talking about bids to succeed GOP Rep. Tom Reed, who recently announced his retirement after a lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct. The newest names are Steuben County Republican Party Chairman Joe Sempolinski and businessman Matthew Burr, who both say they're considering the race. In addition, Chemung County Executive Chris Moss reiterated that he's looking at the contest, but added that he wants to wait to see how redistricting unfolds. Moss said that for now, he plans to seek re-election to his current post next year.

OH-12, OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Turns out it's door number three for Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor: The central Ohio Democrat, who'd previously been considering bids for Senate or statewide executive office, will instead wage another campaign for the House. O'Connor narrowly lost two competitive races for the 12th Congressional District to Republican Troy Balderson in 2018—a special election and then, not long after, the November general election—though redistricting could pit him against someone else.

It doesn't sound, however, as though he'd challenge Rep. Joyce Beatty, a fellow Columbus-area Democrat whom he called "a champion for working families" and suggested was someone (along with Sen. Sherrod Brown) he'd want to emulate in Congress. O'Connor could, though, wind up facing off against Balderson's 2020 opponent, businesswoman Alaina Shearer, who said last month that she's running again but plans to re-evaluate once a new map is in place.

TN-05: On Monday, community activist Odessa Kelly launched a primary challenge against longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition who survived a primary last year by an underwhelming 57-40 margin. Kelly charged Cooper with failing to do enough for the city of Nashville, where Tennessee's 5th District is based, during his "decades in Congress," and identified Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as her top priorities.

If elected, Kelly would be the first Black woman to serve in the House from the Volunteer State and also the first openly gay Black woman in Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.) However, Tennessee Republicans could chop up Nashville in the coming round of redistricting, dividing it between the dark red surrounding districts to create another safe seat for the GOP.

TX-06: Former Trump official Sery Kim unleashed a racist anti-Chinese rant at a candidate forum in Texas' 6th Congressional District last week, prompting two Asian American Republicans in Congress to withdraw their endorsements.

In her opening remarks, Kim launched into a conspiracy theory about the COVID-19 pandemic, baselessly claiming, "We were lied to for the last one year and two months and stayed at home because China created coronavirus in a Wuhan lab." Later, when answering a question about immigration, Kim said of Chinese immigrants, "I don't want them here at all. They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don't hold themselves accountable." She added, "And quite frankly, I can say that because I'm Korean."

California Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel, who were the first Korean American Republican women to win seats in Congress with their victories last year, took sharp exception to Sery Kim's remarks. Saying that she'd refused their demands that she apologize, the two congresswomen said, "We cannot in good conscience continue to support her candidacy." Kim responded by claiming that "the liberal media is targeting me" and filing a lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages against the Texas Tribune for calling her statements "racist."

On an entirely unrelated note, Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez has launched her first TV ad ahead of the May all-party primary, which the Tribune's Patrick Svitek says is backed by a "six-figure buy on cable and satellite." The spot features some basic biographical details (she "put herself through college and started a business from scratch"), then bashes "Washington politicians like Ted Cruz" for opposing $1,400 relief checks. Displaying a photo of Cruz lugging his suitcase through an airport during his notorious trip to Mexico amid Texas' devastating ice storm last month, Sanchez adds, "They even abandoned us when the lights went out."

WA-04: Businessman and Navy veteran Jerrod Sessler is the latest Republican to launch a challenge to GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. He also describes himself as a "former NASCAR driver," but his competitive involvement was limited to local competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues, and his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Tuesday brings a packed slate of five special elections across four states:

CA-AD-79: This Democratic district in the eastern San Diego suburbs became vacant when former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber was appointed as California’s secretary of state in January. There are five candidates seeking this seat and if no one takes a majority Tuesday, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held on June 8.

Four of the candidates vying to replace Weber are Democrats: La Mesa City Council member Akilah Weber (who is a daughter of the former Assemblywoman), organizer Leticia Munguia, criminal justice reform advocate Aeiramique Glass Blake, and middle school teacher Shane Parmely. Businessman Marco Contreras is the lone Republican in the running.

The is a solidly blue seat that backed Hillary Clinton 64-30 in 2016 and is one of two vacancies in this chamber, which Democrats control 58-19 (with one independent member).

MO-HD-54: This Democratic seat in the Columbia area became vacant when former Rep. Kip Kendrick resigned to become chief of staff for state Sen. Greg Razer. No Republican opted to run for this solidly Democratic seat that supported Clinton 60-32, so attorney David Smith will represent Team Blue against Libertarian Glenn Nielsen. According to Columbia Daily Tribune, Smith would be the first Black Missouri legislator elected from outside of Kansas City or St. Louis.

Republicans control this chamber 114-48 with just this seat vacant.

OK-SD-22: This seat located northwest of Oklahoma City became vacant after former Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to the U.S. House last year. Speech pathologist Molly Ooten is the Democratic candidate taking on businessman Jake Merrick, a Republican. Merrick ran in the GOP primary for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District last year, a race Bice won, and took 3%.  

This is a strongly Republican district that backed Donald Trump 68-25 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 38-9 with just this seat vacant.

WI-SD-13: This Republican district in central Wisconsin, which takes in a slice of Madison’s suburbs, became vacant when former Sen. Scott Fitzgerald was elected to the U.S. House last year. The Democratic candidate is teacher Melissa Winker who is taking on Republican state Assemblyman John Jagler. Two candidates from obscure minor parties are also in the race: Businessman Ben Schmitz from the American Solidarity Party and chauffeur Spencer Zimmerman from the Trump Conservative Party.  

This is a solidly red district that supported Trump 58-37 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 20-12 with just this seat vacant.

WI-AD-89: This Republican district north of Green Bay became vacant when former Assemblyman John Nygren resigned last year. Democratic Marinette County Supervisor Karl Jaeger is facing businessman Elijah Behnke, a Republican. Jaeger ran for this seat last year, losing to Nygren by a 69-31 spread.  

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Trump 63-32 in 2016. Republicans hold this chamber 60-38 with just this seat vacant.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: State Rep. Jon Santiago earned an endorsement on Friday from the Laborers Local 223, a high-profile construction union that was led by Marty Walsh until he was elected mayor in 2013. The group is now run by Walsh's cousin, who also happens to be named Marty Walsh; the Boston Herald's Sean Philip Cotter tweets that the current union head is identified as "Big Marty" to distinguish him from his famous relative and the many other Marty Walshes in Boston politics.

P.S.: Marty Walsh, as in the former mayor turned U.S. secretary of labor, said last month that he would not be endorsing in this year's mayoral race.

New York City, NY Mayor: Politico reports that a PAC named New Start NYC has reserved $2.74 million on TV ads through early May in support of Shaun Donovan, a former director of the Obama-era Office of Management and Budget, ahead of the June Democratic primary. The group has received $1 million from the candidate's father, tech executive Michael Donovan.

GOP lawmaker’s tweet about Nancy Pelosi during riot at U.S. Capitol sparks calls for her resignation

Just over one week ago, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert went viral because of a video she sent out to Twitter in which she appeared to be strutting around Washington, D.C., with a Glock handgun. (A spokesperson for Boebert later clarified that the lawmaker was not actually carrying the gun throughout the video shoot.) Since then, the pro-Trump Colorado representative has gone viral for an even more nefarious reason. In fact, this isn’t even just a head-scratching digital ad. Many of her colleagues are calling for Boebert’s resignation over her behavior both before, and during, the pro-Trump insurgency against the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.

Now, as a quick review, Congress was set to vote to certify the Electoral College vote for President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Boebert, who has fully leaned into efforts to overturn the presidential election results, formally objected. That morning, before the insurgency, she tweeted: “Today is 1776.” What she tweeted while rioters were actually at the Capitol is what’s really chilling.

Here is the 1776 tweet.

Today is 1776.

— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) January 6, 2021

While pro-Trump insurgents were descending upon the Capitol, many lawmakers did take to Twitter. Boebert joined them … and decided to tweet out that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been removed from the House Chambers. Though she did not specify where Pelosi had been moved to, obviously this tweet stunned countless people. After all, the viral photo of a man with his foot up on Pelosi’s desk is not quick to leave any of our minds soon. Nor is the report of a man who traveled from Colorado to Washington, D.C. who was arrested for allegedly making threats against Pelosi. There are reports that some who invaded the Capitol were searching for not only Pelosi but also Vice President Mike Pence and Schumer. 

So it’s safe to say Boebert’s tweets were both chilling and concerning.

The Speaker has been removed from the chambers.

— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) January 6, 2021

Boebert, however, only doubled down in releasing a statement on the calls for her resignation, saying in part, “We should take Democrats at their word when they say never let a crisis go to waste. Their hypocrisy is on full display with talks of impeachment, censure and other ways to punish Republicans for false accusations of inciting the type of violence they have so frequently and transparently supported in the past.”

In terms of her choice to tweet about Pelosi, Boebert argued, “They accuse me of live-tweeting the Speaker’s presence after she had been safely removed from the Capitol, as if I was revealing some big secret, when in fact this removal was also being broadcast on TV.”

She suggested that “leading Democrats” have encouraged “mob violence,” including former President Barack Obama and President-elect Joe Biden. She also accused a number of celebrities of doing the same, for who knows what reason, including Madonna and Johnny Depp.

And earlier Tuesday, she’s back with a pseudo unity call on Twitter.

Calling 75,000,000 Americans domestic terrorists is not unity.

— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) January 12, 2021

There are currently 211 House members, and 28 senators who are on record supporting impeachment & removal, and over 200 House members have cosponsored the impeachment resolution. Regardless of where your members of Congress stand, please send them a letter.

Republicans helped Trump inspire a violent insurrection. They have done nothing to disavow it

In the wake of a deadly attack many of them helped incite, Republicans are only continuing their descent into ignominy. The only way out is for them to take responsibility for their actions and actually admit that they helped their mentally unhinged leader—Donald Trump—sic a mob of his foaming-at-the-mouth cultists on U.S. lawmakers at the Capitol last week. 

Instead, they have dug in their heels and unleashed a Gatling gun round of finger-pointing at Democrats, who are moving swiftly to hold Trump to account through impeachment charges. Democrats, they claim, are being divisive by trying to protect the country from further abuses by a madman.

The Washington Post writes:

Shortly before convening a conference call of House Republicans on Monday, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sent a missive asserting that “an impeachment at this time would have the opposite effect of bringing our country together when we need to get America back on a path towards unity and civility.” ...

“After the abhorrent violence we saw last week, our country desperately needs to heal and unify,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. “I have concerns that impeachment proceedings will only divide us further.”

McCarthy's empty rhetoric about "unity and civility" is particularly precious given his role in perpetrating Trump’s lie that the election was stolen. Not only did he sign on to the GOP legal challenge to the election results and vote to oppose congressional certification after the siege, he also used his platform to push Trump's baseless claims into the ecosphere.

.@GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy was laying the groundwork for the attack on the Capitol for months. 11/5/2020: “President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes... join together and let’s stop this.” pic.twitter.com/9Ys6elhUln

— Jesse Lee (@JesseCharlesLee) January 12, 2021

Immediately following the election, McCarthy started pumping Trump's crap to the GOP base. “President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet," McCarthy told Fox News viewers on Nov. 5. "We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes ... join together and let’s stop this.”

Other GOP lawmakers also bear unique responsibility for helping to foment the deadly violence:

  • Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama speaking at the MAGA rally last week: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass. ... Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?"
  • First-term Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado called the day Republicans’ “1776 moment.”
  • Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona repeatedly called Joe Biden an "illegitimate usurper" while promoting numerous "Stop the Steal" events. “Be ready to defend the Constitution and the White House,” Gosar counseled in an op-ed titled “Are We Witnessing a Coup d’État?” 

There's much much more, and The New York Times has a nice roundup of it

But the GOP, and particularly its leadership, is continuing to prove that there's no end to how morally bankrupt the party is—not even after they helped inspire a violent coup attempt that cost lives. Just like with Trump, there’s no bottom.

Morning Digest: Ardent Trump ally will reportedly challenge GOP senator in Georgia special election

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

GA-Sen-B: On Monday evening, multiple media outlets reported that Georgia Rep. Doug Collins would challenge appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Republican, in this year’s special election, a move that would complicate GOP hopes of holding this key seat.

Collins himself has not publicly said anything about his plans, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that his launch is expected “soon.” (The New York Times said it would happen Tuesday, but that did not come to pass.) Collins is currently serving as one of Donald Trump’s designated surrogates during his impeachment trial, and the AJC writes that the congressman hopes to have Trump’s inner circle behind him.

Campaign Action

If Collins goes ahead with his bid, that would almost certainly crush GOP hopes of winning outright in November, at least under the state’s current election law. That's because all candidates from all parties will run together on a single ballot, and if no one takes a majority, a runoff between the top two vote-getters—regardless of party—would be held in January of next year.

However, neither Democrats nor Collins’ GOP allies in the state legislature are keen on this unusual law, and they’re currently working to change it. On Tuesday, the House Governmental Affairs Committee overwhelmingly advanced a bill (with a lone Republican voting “nay”) that would require a partisan primary in May and a general election in November, which are the same rules that govern the state’s regularly-scheduled Senate race.

However, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler over Collins despite Trump’s wishes, likes the status quo just fine. He’s said he’ll veto this legislation if it makes it to his desk, though if Democrats and Republicans unite behind the bill, they could overturn a Kemp veto with a two-thirds supermajority.

It’s not hard to see why Loeffler and her supporters don’t want to alter Georgia’s electoral calendar. A survey from the Democratic firm PPP taken just after Loeffler was selected in December showed Collins destroying her 56-16 in a hypothetical GOP primary. Collins’ bonafides with the Trumpist base would be hard to overcome if the primary took place less than four months from now, but Loeffler could benefit from an additional half year of incumbency, as well as the extra time to air ads.

It’s not just the far-right that would benefit from this proposed change—Democrats likely would, too. Right now, Team Blue’s only declared candidate is businessman Matt Lieberman, but former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver recently said that he planned to run while the Rev. Raphael Warnock is also reportedly going to get in soon. If all three Democrats wind up competing in an all-party primary in November, it will almost certainly be impossible for any of them to secure a majority. The prospect of a multi-way split on the left could also lead to the nightmare scenario of both Loeffler and Collins advancing to what would be an all-GOP runoff.

Thanks to her vast wealth, though, Loeffler doesn’t have to wait to see how things shake out to start upping her name recognition. She’s already up with a new TV spot that’s part of her opening $2.6 million buy that portrays her as (of course) a political outsider. The senator has reportedly pledged to spend $20 million of her own money, so Georgians will see a lot more from her no matter what Collins ends up doing.

Loeffler may also get some air support from outside groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the incumbent, as has the NRSC, though Senate Republicans may prefer to focus their attention on other races in a cycle when control of the chamber is on the line. It’s not clear who might come to Collins’ aid, but the anti-tax Club for Growth has already made it clear that he’s no friend of theirs. On Monday, the Club tweeted that the congressman “should start being more responsible with taxpayer dollars and improving the 57%” he received on its scorecard.

Trump, however, has yet to endorse Loeffler and has openly expressed his enthusiasm for Collins. Could the occupant of the White House side against a sitting senator from his own party? If anyone would do it, it’s Donald Trump.

4Q Fundraising

ME-Sen: Sara Gideon (D): $3.5 million raised, $2.8 million cash-on-hand

TX-Sen: MJ Hegar (D): $1.1 million raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

CA-21: David Valadao (R): $630,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

CA-39: Young Kim (R): $490,000 raised, $900,000 cash-on-hand

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R): $17,000 raised, additional $2,000 self-funded, $17,000 cash-on-hand

NY-24: John Katko (R-inc): $364,000 raised, $1.06 million cash-on-hand

WI-01: Bryan Steil (R-inc): $375,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AL-Sen: Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out with another poll of the March GOP primary from OnMessage that shows him well ahead of his many rivals but still short of the majority he needs to win without a runoff. The results are below with the numbers from Sessions' December poll in parentheses:

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions: 43 (44)

Rep. Bradley Byrne: 23 (14)

Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville: 22 (21)

2017 nominee Roy Moore: 8 (7)

The only big change between the two polls is that Byrne has gained several points and is now locked in a tight race with Tuberville for second.

Byrne has been running ads over the last few weeks, and he's now getting some air support from a super PAC called Fighting for Alabama Fund. The group's opening commercial praises Byrne as "one of President Trump's strongest defenders," and it features clips of the congressman denouncing impeachment. The conservative Yellowhammer News writes that the super PAC's "total buy will be in the six-figures across the Birmingham and Huntsville media markets."

WV-Sen: Candidate filing closed Saturday for West Virginia's May 12 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here.

GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito decisively won an open seat race in 2014, and there's no indication that she's in any trouble this cycle. Capito does face a primary challenge from Allen Whitt, the president of the social conservative group the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, but he doesn't appear to be much of a threat. Whitt raised less than $7,000 from donors during the final three months of 2019 and self-funded another $50,000, and he had $52,000 to spend at the end of December.

The most notable candidate on the Democratic side is former state Sen. Richard Ojeda, who lost the 2018 general election for the 3rd Congressional District and later launched a brief presidential bid. Also in the race is 2018 Senate candidate Paula Jean Swearengin, who challenged Sen. Joe Manchin from the left in the 2018 primary and lost 70-30.

Gubernatorial

WV-Gov: Gov. Jim Justice left the Democratic Party at a 2017 Trump rally months into his term, and he's competing in the GOP primary for the first time. Justice's main intra-party rival appears to be former state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, whom Justice hired and later fired. Also in the running is former Del. Mike Folk, who hasn't brought in much money so far.

Thrasher, who has been self-funding most of his campaign, began airing TV ads in June and has continued to spend heavily on spots since then. However, even Thrasher seems to agree that he's trailing right now: A mid-December Thrasher poll showed Justice leading him 38-30, while Folk was a distant third with 6%.

Three notable Democrats are also running to take on Justice. Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango and state Sen. Ron Stollings each describe themselves as moderates, while community organizer Stephen Smith is appealing to progressive voters. Salango, who has also been self-funding much of his campaign, ended December with an enormous cash advantage over his two intra-party foes.

House

CA-22: Financial adviser Phil Arballo is out with his first TV spot ahead of the March top-two primary to face GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, and the Democrat's campaign says that it will run for six figures. The ad highlights Arballo's local roots and background and does not mention Nunes.

MA-03: Andover Selectman Dan Koh filed with the FEC on Friday for a potential Democratic primary rematch against incumbent Lori Trahan, but he says he's still deciding whether to run. Koh lost the 2018 open seat race to Trahan by just 145 votes, and he's been talking about running again for months. Back in December, the House Ethics Committee announced that it was furthering its investigation into Trahan over loans totaling $300,000 that she made to her campaign ahead of that primary.

MD-07: Campaign finance reports are in for all of the candidates competing in Tuesday's special Democratic primary to succeed the late Rep. Elijah Cummings in this safely blue seat. The numbers, which cover the period from Oct. 1 to Jan. 15, are below:

Del. Talmadge Branch: $54,000 raised, additional $4,000 self-funded, $14,000 spent, $44,000 cash-on-hand

State Sen. Jill Carter: $54,000 raised, $14,000 spent, $42,000 cash-on-hand

Former state party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings: $208,000 raised, $139,000 spent, $69,000 cash-on-hand

University of Baltimore Law School professor Michael Higginbotham: $108,000 raised, additional $509,000 self-funded, $407,000 spent, $209,000 cash-on-hand

Del. Terri Hill: $49,000 raised, $9,000 spent, $41,000 cash-on-hand

Del. Jay Jalisi: $43,000 raised, additional $75,000 self-funded, $0 spent, $118,000 cash-on-hand

Former Rep. Kweisi Mfume: $261,000 raised, additional $5,000 self-funded, $57,000 spent, $209,000 cash-on-hand

Business consultant Saafir Rabb: $217,000 raised, $144,000 spent, $73,000 cash-on-hand

Former Cummings aide Harry Spikes: $19,000 raised, $10,000 spent, $9,000 cash-on-hand

This is the first we've written about the two top spenders, Higginbotham and Rabb.

NY-27: Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw announced Monday that he'd compete in the June GOP primary for the full two-year term, a move that came two days after county party leaders passed him over for the party's nomination for upcoming special election in favor of state Sen. Chris Jacobs. Attorney and Fox News contributor Beth Parlato, who also lost on Saturday, had already launched a primary campaign for this 60-35 Trump seat.

Mychajliw, who was an ally of disgraced former Rep. Chris Collins, once again expressed his rage at how the special election nomination was "made behind closed doors by party bosses." And while Mychajliw was first elected as Erie County comptroller in 2012, he pitched himself as the anti-establishment candidate. Mychajliw rhetorically asked, "Can you imagine if Donald Trump listened to the establishment Republicans and let Jeb Bush run for the White House?" and concluded, "Hillary Clinton would be president right now."

Two other candidates who unsuccessfully sought the special election nod are also considering proceeding to the June primary. State Sen. Robert Ortt, who reportedly came close to beating Jacobs over the weekend, told the Buffalo Daily News on Monday that he'd decide in the next few days. White House aide Jeff Freeland, by contrast, said that he wouldn't be talking about his plans until impeachment is done.

However, as we've noted before, it's going to be tough to deny Jacobs the GOP nod in June, especially if so many other candidates run. The state attorney general's office told a court that Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to set the date for April 28, so if Jacobs wins that race, he'd have two months of incumbency before the primary.

SC-01: Freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham is out with his first TV spot of the campaign, and the Post & Courier reports that it's running for six figures.

The ad begins by referencing the commercials from GOP outside groups that have already run here and in other competitive seats across the country, with the narrator describing them as "[a]ttack ads so phony even late-night TV made fun of them." A clip then shows comedian Jimmy Kimmel mocking one Republican spot that starred a woman identified as Stacy by saying, "The problem is 'Stacy' is actually an actress … I bet her name's not even Stacy!"

Cunningham's narrator goes on to say that the congressman is the latest target. The commercial continues by praising Cunningham for keeping his word and passing a bipartisan bill to ban offshore oil drilling, working to aid local veterans, and stopping politicians who "tried to raise their own pay."

TX-13: Lobbyist Josh Winegarner is out with a TV spot ahead of the crowded March GOP primary where the narrator bemoans, "We have 15 candidates from Congress, many of them from out of district." He continues, "A Dallas millionaire's even trying to buy our seat." This person isn't mentioned by name, but it's almost certainly a reference to businessman Chris Ekstrom, who lived in Dallas as recently as May. (The city is located about 55 miles away from the border of this Texas Panhandle-based district.)

Winegarner's commercial goes on to praise the candidate as "a pro-life family man who cannot be bought." Winegarner appears at the end and says the district needs "one of our own."

Winegarner also got an endorsement this week from Rep. Mike Conaway, who is retiring from the neighboring 11th District.

WI-07: The anti-tax Club for Growth has launched its first TV spot in support of state Sen. Tom Tiffany ahead of the Feb. 18 special GOP primary, and Politico reports that the size of the buy is $130,000. The commercial argues that Tiffany will be a Trump ally who has "Wisconsin common sense."

Tiffany himself is also out with an ad where he tells the audience that, in addition to being a family man and a conservative, he's "the dam tender on the Willow Flowage. So, I know a thing or two about holding up under pressure." (We've seen a lot of political spots over the years, but we're quite sure this is the first time we've heard the words "dam tender" in one, much less from the candidate.) Tiffany goes on to say he'll be a Trump ally and that "nobody knows how to drain a swamp like a dam man."

DCCC: On Thursday, the DCCC unveiled the first round of its "Red to Blue" program for the 2020 election cycle, highlighting candidates whom the committee thinks has the strongest chance of picking up GOP-held districts or defending competitive open seats. The full list of candidates making the DCCC's initial roster are below:

AZ-06: Hiral Tipirneni CA-25: Christy Smith IA-02: Rita Hart IL-13: Betsy Dirksen Londrigan IN-05: Christina Hale MN-01: Dan Feehan MO-02: Jill Schupp NY-02: Jackie Gordon PA-10: Eugene DePasquale TX-21: Wendy Davis TX-23: Gina Ortiz Jones WA-03: Carolyn Long

Most of these candidates don't face any serious opposition in their primaries. The biggest exception is in California's 25th District where progressive commentator Cenk Uygur, who has long been a vocal opponent of national party leaders, is competing with Assemblywoman Christy Smith in March. The other is in Arizona's 6th District, where 2018 nominee Anita Malik is making a second run but has struggled to raise as much money as physician Hiral Tipirneni.

The DCCC's decision to back Babylon Town Councilor Jackie Gordon in New York's 2nd District is also notable. Gordon launched a bid against GOP Rep. Peter King in the spring, but there was some talk of other Democrats getting in after King decided to retire in November. No other notable contenders have entered the Democratic primary, though, and it looks like the DCCC doesn't expect that to change.

The DCCC's counterparts at the NRCC have a similar program called Young Guns, but there are some key differences between them. When the DCCC adds a candidate to Red to Blue, it is declaring that this contender is the national party's choice in a key race. By contrast, the NRCC often will add multiple candidates running in the same race, as well as people running in safely red open seats.

Legislative

State Legislative Open Seat Watch: Just as we did in the 2018 cycle, Daily Kos Elections will be tracking open seat data for all state legislative chambers that will be holding regular elections in 2020. In seven states with closed filing deadlines, we've counted 70 Republican to 42 Democratic open seats. For individualized listings of each open seat, along with our calculations of their partisan data, check out this tab.

We'll also be keeping tabs on the number of uncontested seats in each chamber. So far, Republicans have failed to file candidates in 40% of Democratic-held districts, while Democrats have left 32% of Republican seats uncontested. However, these numbers are bound to change as more filing deadlines close across the country. (Note: West Virginia's filing deadline closed on January 25, but we are awaiting confirmation of the finalized candidate list from that state before updating our tracking.)

We'll be posting periodic updates on this project in the Daily Digest and on Twitter, but if you'd like to stay on top of every update as they happen, feel free to bookmark this Google Doc!