Morning Digest: Trump backs far-right ex-cop who refuses to accept his own 2020 defeat

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

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Leading Off

WA-04: Donald Trump took sides in the August top-two primary on Wednesday evening by backing 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp's bid against Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is one of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment last year. Culp, by contrast, is very much the type of candidate Trump likes, as the far-right ex-cop responded to his wide 57-43 defeat against Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee by saying he'd "never concede." While Trump's endorsement likely will give Culp a lift, the top-two primary system complicates the effort to defeat Newhouse in a vast constituency based in the eastern part of Washington.

It would take a lot of bad fortune for Newhouse to take third place or worse, a result that would keep the incumbent off the November general election ballot. If Newhouse did advance, he'd be the heavy favorite against a Democrat in a sprawling eastern Washington seat that, according to Dave's Redistricting App, would have backed Trump 57-40, which would have made it the reddest of the state's 10 congressional districts. The dynamics would be different if Culp or another Republican got to face Newhouse in round two, but the congressman would have a good chance to survive if he overwhelmingly carried Democrats while still holding on to enough fellow Republicans.

Campaign Action

Past elections in the old 4th, which is similarly red at 58-40 Trump, show that either a traditional Democrat vs. Republican general or an all-GOP general race are possible. Newhouse won his first two general elections in 2014 and 2016 against fellow Republican Clint Didier, but he had a Democratic foe in 2018 and 2020.

A few other Republicans are already running who could cost Culp some badly needed anti-Newhouse votes on the right, and one of them, businessman Jerrod Sessler, actually had far more money at the end of 2021 than Culp. Culp did narrowly outraise him $40,000 to $25,000 in the fourth quarter, but thanks to self-funding, Sessler finished December with a $200,000 to $30,000 cash-on-hand lead. Newhouse, meanwhile, took in $270,000 for the quarter and had $855,000 to defend himself. The only Democrat who appears to be in, businessman Doug White, raised $105,000 and had $85,000 on hand.

But while Culp's fundraising has been extremely weak, he already had a base even before Trump chose him this week. He made a name for himself as police chief of Republic, a small community that remains in the neighboring 5th District following redistricting (he has since registered to vote in Moses Lake, which is in the 4th), in 2018 when he made news by announcing he wouldn't enforce a statewide gun safety ballot measure that had just passed 59-41. His stance drew a very favorable response from far-right rocker Ted Nugent, who posted a typo-ridden "Chief Loren Culp is an Anerican freedom warrior. Godbless the freedom warriors" message to his Facebook page.

Culp, who spent his final years in Republic as chief of a one-person police department, soon decided to challenge Inslee, and he quickly made it clear he would continue to obsessively cultivate the Trump base rather than appeal to a broader group of voters in this blue state. That tactic helped Culp advance through the top-two primary, an occasion he celebrated by reaffirming his opposition to Inslee's measures to stop the pandemic, including mask mandates. Unsurprisingly, though, it didn't help him avoid an almost 14-point defeat months later. Culp refused to accept that loss, and he filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a fellow Republican, that made baseless allegations of "intolerable voting anomalies" for a contest "that was at all times fraudulent."

But the state GOP did not enjoy seeing Culp, whose job in Republic disappeared shortly after the election because of budget cuts, refuse to leave the stage. Some Republicans also openly shared their complaints about Culp's campaign spending, including what the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner described as "large, unexplained payments to a Marysville data firm while spending a relatively meager sum on traditional voter contact." Republicans also griped that Culp had spent only about a fifth of his $3.3 million budget on advertising, a far smaller amount than what serious candidates normally expend.

Culp's attorney ultimately withdrew the suit after being threatened with sanction for making "factually baseless" claims. The defeated candidate himself responded to the news by saying that, while the cost of continuing the legal battle would have been prohibitive, "It doesn't mean that the war's over … It just means that we're not going to engage in this particular battle through the courts."

Culp, however, soon turned his attention towards challenging Newhouse, and Trump rewarded him Wednesday with an endorsement that promised he'd stand up for "Election Integrity." That same day, writes Brunner, Culp emailed supporters "suggest[ing] people follow his lead by paying a Florida telehealth clinic to mail treatments including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, drugs hyped by vaccine skeptics that have not been authorized for use in treating COVID-19."

Redistricting

CT Redistricting: The Connecticut Supreme Court formally adopted a new congressional map drawn by special master Nathan Persily on Thursday that makes only minimal changes to the current district lines in order to ensure population equality. As before, all five districts would have voted for Joe Biden. The court's intervention was necessary after the state's bipartisan redistricting commission failed to reach an agreement on a new map, just as it did a decade ago.

FL Redistricting: The Florida Supreme Court unanimously rejected Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' request that it issue an advisory opinion as to whether lawmakers can legally dismantle the plurality-Black 5th District in a decision issued Thursday, saying the governor's question was overly broad and lacked a sufficient factual record for the justices to rely on.

In response, GOP leaders in the state House released a congressional map that keeps the 5th largely untouched (albeit renumbered to the 3rd), just as the Senate did when it passed its own plan last month. In other respects, however, the two maps differ: The House's approach would lead to 18 districts that would have gone for Donald Trump and just 10 that would have voted for Joe Biden, while the Senate plan has a closer 16-12 split in favor of Trump.

The two chambers may yet hammer out their differences, but the real dispute is between lawmakers and DeSantis, who has been pushing for a base-pleasing maximalist gerrymander that his fellow Republicans in the legislature have shown no interest in. DeSantis' unusual level of interference in the map-making process has raised the prospect of a veto, but the Senate map passed with a wide bipartisan majority. If the House can bring Democrats on board as well, then Republican leaders may just tell DeSantis to suck it.

Senate

AK-Sen: State Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson on Wednesday became the first notable Democrat to enter the August top-four primary against the two main Republicans, incumbent Lisa Murkowski and former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka. Gray-Jackson was elected in 2018 in a blue state Senate seat in Anchorage, a win that made her the second Black woman to ever serve in the chamber, and the Anchorage Daily News says she's Alaska's first-ever Black U.S. Senate candidate.

Murkowski, for her part, has enjoyed a huge fundraising advantage over the Trump-endorsed Tshibaka for months, and that very much didn't change during the fourth quarter. The incumbent outraised Tshibaka $1.4 million to $600,000, and she ended December with a hefty $4.3 million to $635,000 cash-on-hand lead.

AZ-Sen: Wealthy businessman Jim Lamon's new spot for the August Republican primary, which NBC says is set to air during the Super Bowl, features him confronting "the D.C. gang" in an Old West-inspired setting. Lamon, dressed in a sheriff's costume, shoots the weapons out of the hands of his three masked enemies with Trump-sounding nicknames who are meant to resemble Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly, President Joe Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Yes, Lamon is depicting firing a gun at Kelly, whose wife, then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, was gravely wounded in a 2011 assassination attempt that killed six members of the public.) The campaign says the commercial is one of the spots running in an "upper six-figure campaign."

Lamon, thanks to a generous amount of self-funding, ended the last quarter with a wide cash-on-hand lead over his many rivals, though judging by this spot, very little of his war chest went towards paying an acting coach—or an ethics adviser. The quarterly numbers are below:

  • Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters: $1.4 million raised, $1.8 million cash-on-hand
  • Attorney General Mark Brnovich: $805,000 raised, $770,000 cash-on-hand
  • retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire: $245,000 raised, additional $25,000 self-funded, $225,000 cash-on-hand
  • Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson: $225,000 raised, $190,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Jim Lamon: $200,000 raised, additional $3 million self-funded, $5.9 million cash-on-hand

Kelly, though, ended 2021 with more than twice as much money on hand as all his rivals combined: The senator took in $8.8 million for the quarter and had $18.6 million available to spend.

Governors

AL-Gov: Businessman Tim James' new commercial for the May Republican primary declares that Gov. Kay Ivey could have used an "executive order" to prevent school children from having to wear masks, but "she refused." The National Journal notes, though, that the state's mask mandate expired in April of last year, while similar municipal requirements in Birmingham and Montgomery ended the following month.

MI-Gov: Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon this week earned an endorsement from Rep. Lisa McClain, whose old 10th District was Donald Trump's best congressional district in the state. (The new 9th, where McClain is seeking re-election, would have also been Michigan's reddest under the redrawn congressional map.) Another congressman, Bill Huizenga, backed Dixon a few weeks ago even though she's struggled to raise a credible amount of money.

WI-Gov: Republican state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, who is one of the loudest spreaders of the Big Lie in Wisconsin, filed paperwork Thursday for a potential campaign for governor the day after he took down a campaign website that, for a few hours, said he was running. We'll presumably know for sure Saturday after Ramthun's "special announcement" at a high school auditorium in Kewaskum, a small community to the north of Milwaukee, though the local superintendent said Tuesday that the space had yet to be reserved. (Ramthun also is a member of that school board.)

House

CA-15: The first poll we've seen of the June top-two primary in this open seat comes from the Democratic firm Tulchin Research on behalf of San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, which gives him the lead with 19% of the vote. A second Democrat, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, holds a 17-13 edge over Republican businessman Gus Mattamal for the other general election spot, while Democratic Burlingame Councilwoman Emily Beach takes 7%. This constituency, which includes most of San Mateo County as well as a portion of San Francisco to the north, would have backed Joe Biden 78-20, so it's very possible two Democrats will face off in November.

All the Democrats entered the race after Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier announced her retirement in mid-November, and Canepa outraised his rivals during their first quarter. Canepa outpaced Beach $420,000 to $275,000, and he held a $365,000 to $270,000 cash-on-hand lead. Mullin, who has Speier's endorsement, raised $180,000, self-funded another $65,000, and ended December with $230,000 on-hand. Mattamal, meanwhile, had a mere $15,000 to spend.

MI-11: Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence, whose current 14th Congressional District makes up 30% of the new 11th, on Thursday backed Haley Stevens in her August incumbent vs. incumbent primary against Andy Levin. Lawrence, who is not seeking re-election, actually represents more people here than Levin, whose existing 9th District includes 25% of the seat he's campaigning to represent; a 45% plurality of residents live in Stevens' constituency, which is also numbered the 11th.

NE-01: Indicted Rep. Jeff Fortenberry's second TV ad for the May Republican primary once again portrays state Sen. Mike Flood as weak on immigration, and it makes use of the same "floods of illegal immigrants" pun from his opening spot. This time, though, the incumbent's commercial uses 2012 audio of then-Gov. Dave Heineman telling Flood, "I am extraordinarily disappointed with your support of taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens." Heineman last month endorsed Flood over Fortenberry, whom the former governor called "the only Nebraska congressman that has ever been indicted on felony criminal charges."

OR-04: EMILY's List has endorsed state Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle in the May Democratic primary for this open seat.

PA-18: Last week, state Rep. Summer Lee earned an endorsement from the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council, which is made up of three prominent labor groups, ahead of the May Democratic primary for this open seat. TribLIVE.com notes that two of the unions took opposite sides in last year's Democratic primary for mayor of Pittsburgh: SEIU Healthcare supported Ed Gainey's victorious campaign, while SEIU 32 BJ stuck with incumbent Bill Peduto. (SEIU Local 668, the third member of the State Council, doesn't appear to have gotten involved in that contest.)

Lee, who also has the backing of now-Mayor Gainey, did, however, get outraised during her first quarter in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Mike Doyle. Attorney Steve Irwin, who is a former Pennsylvania Securities Commission head, outpaced Lee $340,000 to $270,000, and he ended December with a $295,000 to $200,000 cash-on-hand lead. Another candidate, law professor Jerry Dickinson, began running months before Doyle announced his departure in October, but he took in just $120,000 for the quarter and had $160,000 to spend. Nonprofit executive Stephanie Fox also kicked off her campaign in December, but she didn't report raising any money for the fourth quarter.

Redistricting is still in progress in Pennsylvania, but there's little question this will remain a safely blue Pittsburgh-based seat when all is said and done. What we know for sure, though, is that, because the state is dropping from 18 to 17 congressional districts, all of these candidates will be running for a constituency that has a different number than Doyle's existing one.

SC-01: Donald Trump on Wednesday night gave his "complete and total" endorsement to former state Rep. Katie Arrington's day-old campaign to deny freshman Rep. Nancy Mace renomination in the June Republican primary, and he characteristically used the occasion to spew bile at the incumbent. Trump not-tweeted, "Katie Arrington is running against an absolutely terrible candidate, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, whose remarks and attitude have been devastating for her community, and not at all representative of the Republican Party to which she has been very disloyal."

Trump previously backed Arrington's successful 2018 primary campaign against then-Rep. Mark Sanford about three hours before polls closed, and his statement continued by trying to justify her subsequent general election loss to Democrat Joe Cunningham. The GOP leader noted that Arrington had been injured in a car wreck 10 days after the primary, saying, "Her automobile accident a number of years ago was devastating, and made it very difficult for her to campaign after having won the primary against another terrible candidate, 'Mr. Argentina.'" It won't surprise you to learn, though, that a whole lot more went into why Cunningham, who suspended his campaign after his opponent was hospitalized, went on to defeat Arrington in one of the biggest upsets of the cycle.

Mace, as The State's Caitlin Byrd notes, spent most of the last several years as a Trump loyalist, and she even began working for his campaign in September of 2015 back when few gave him a chance. But that was before the new congresswoman, who won in 2020 by unseating Cunningham, was forced to barricade in her office during the Jan. 6 attack. "I can't condone the rhetoric from yesterday, where people died and all the violence," she said the next day, adding, "These were not protests. This was anarchy." She went even further in her very first floor speech days later, saying of Trump, "I hold him accountable for the events that transpired."

Still, Mace, unlike home-state colleague Tom Rice, refused to join the small group of Republicans that supported impeachment, and she stopped trying to pick fights with Trump afterwards. In a July profile in The Atlantic titled, "How a Rising Trump Critic Lost Her Nerve," the congresswoman said that intra-party attacks on him were an "enormous division" for the GOP. "I just want to be done with that," said Mace. "I want to move forward." Since then she has occasionally come into conflict with far-right party members like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but Mace has avoided messing with Trump directly.

Trump, though, very much isn't done with her, and Mace seems to have decided that the best way to fight back is to emphasize Arrington's loss. On Thursday, the incumbent posted a video shot across the street from Trump Tower where, after talking about her longtime Trump loyalty, she says, "If you want to lose this seat once again in a midterm election cycle to Democrats, then my opponent is more than qualified to do just that." The GOP legislature did what it could to make sure that no one could lose this coastal South Carolina seat to Democrats by passing a map that extended Trump's 2020 margin from 52-46 to 54-45, but that's not going to stop Mace from arguing that Arrington is electoral kryptonite.

While Trump, who The State says is planning to hold a rally in South Carolina as early as this month, has plenty of power to make the next several months miserable for Mace, the incumbent has the resources to defend herself: Mace raised $605,000 during the fourth quarter and ended December with $1.5 million on hand. The congressman also earned a high-profile endorsement of her own earlier this week from Nikki Haley, who resigned as governor in 2017 to become Trump's first ambassador to the United Nations.

TX-30: Protect our Future, a new super PAC co-funded by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, has announced that it will spend $1 million to boost state Rep. Jasmine Crockett in the March 1 Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. Web3 Forward, which the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek also says is "linked to the crypto industry," is reporting spending $235,000 on pro-Crockett media as well. Until now, there had been no serious outside spending in this safely blue Dallas seat.

Secretaries of State

GA-SoS: Republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger's refusal to participate in the Big Lie earned him a Trump-backed May primary challenge from Rep. Jody Hice, and the congressman ended January with more money despite heavy early spending. Hice outraised Raffensperger $1 million to $320,000 from July 1 to Jan. 31, and he had a $650,000 to $515,000 cash-on-hand lead. Former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who lost to Raffensperger in 2018, was far back with $210,000 raised, and he had $110,000 on hand.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Bee Nguyen took in $690,000 during this time and had $945,000 to spend. Her nearest intra-party foe, former Milledgeville Mayor Floyd Griffin, was well back with only $65,000 raised and $20,000 on hand.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Los Angeles' city clerk says that billionaire developer Rick Caruso has scheduled a Friday appointment to file for this open seat race, a move that comes one day ahead of the Feb. 12 filing deadline.

Morning Digest: Far-right ex-cop wages intraparty bid against pro-impeachment GOP congressman

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

WA-04: Far-right ex-cop Loren Culp announced Thursday that he would challenge Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January. Culp, who was the GOP’s 2020 nominee for governor, made it very clear he’d be making his campaign all about that vote: After accusing the incumbent of having a “spine made of jelly,” Culp, without offering any evidence, accused Newhouse of making “some kind of deal” with Democrats.

Newhouse was already facing intraparty challenges on his right from state Rep. Brad Klippert and businessman Jerrod Sessler in next year’s top-two primary, and more could still join. It’s possible that a crowded field of opponents could split the anti-Newhouse GOP vote in the 4th District and allow the congressman to advance to a general election with a Democrat, but that’s far from assured. This 58-40 Trump seat is red enough that Newhouse went up against a fellow Republican in both 2014 and 2016, and this eastern Washington seat will almost certainly remain very conservative turf after redistricting.

Campaign Action

Culp may also be prominent enough to emerge as Newhouse’s main foe, especially since Klippert did not report raising any money in the time between his January launch and the end of March. (Sessler entered the race in early April.) Culp himself served as mayor of the small community of Republic, which is located in the neighboring 5th District, in 2018 when he made news by announcing he wouldn't enforce a statewide gun safety ballot measure that had just passed 59-41.

Culp's stance drew a very favorable response from far-right rocker Ted Nugent, who posted a typo-ridden "Chief Loren Culp is an Anerican freedom warrior. Godbless the freedom warriors" message to his Facebook page.

Culp soon decided to challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, and he quickly made it clear he would continue to obsessively cultivate the Trump base rather than appeal to a broader group of voters in this blue state. That tactic helped Culp advance through the top-two primary, an occasion he celebrated by reaffirming his opposition to Inslee's measures to stop the pandemic, including mask mandates.

Inslee ended up winning by a wide 57-43, but Culp responded by saying he’d “never concede.” Instead, he filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a fellow Republican, that made baseless allegations of “intolerable voting anomalies” for a contest “that was at all times fraudulent.”

The state GOP did not welcome Culp’s refusal to leave the stage, though. Some Republicans also openly shared their complaints about Culp’s campaign spending, including what the Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner described as “large, unexplained payments to a Marysville data firm while spending a relatively meager sum on traditional voter contact.”

Culp also gave himself a total of $48,000 for lost wages and mileage reimbursement, a sum that Brunner said “appears to be the largest-ever for a candidate in Washington state.” Republicans also griped that Culp had spent only about a fifth of his $3.3 million budget on advertising, a far smaller amount than what serious candidates normally expend.

Culp’s attorney ultimately withdrew the suit after being threatened with sanction for making “factually baseless” claims. Culp himself responded to the news by saying that, while the cost of continuing the legal battle would have been prohibitive, “It doesn’t mean that the war’s over … It just means that we’re not going to engage in this particular battle through the courts.”

Newhouse, for his part, responded to Culp’s new campaign by reaffirming that he’ll be running for a fifth term next year. Newhouse brought in $288,000 during the first quarter for his campaign, and he ended March with $528,000 to defend himself.

Senate

AK-Sen: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the chamber, endorsed Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski. Manchin previously crossed party lines by backing Maine Sen. Susan Collins last cycle; neither Murkowski nor Collins supported Manchin during his 2018 reelection bid.

FL-Sen, FL-Gov: Democratic Rep. Val Demings on Thursday reiterated her interest in running for Senate or governor, adding, "It's next year, right, and so I'd need to make that decision soon for sure by mid-year. And we're almost there now." Demings did not indicate if she was leaning towards one statewide race over the other.

IA-Sen, IA-Gov: Democratic state Auditor Rob Sand recently told Iowa Press that he was thinking about running for the Senate, governor, or for reelection in 2022, and that he didn't have a timeline to decide. Sand won this post in 2018 by unseating a Republican incumbent 51-46 even as GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds was prevailing 50-48.

MO-Sen: The Kansas City Star recently asked former NASCAR driver Carl Edwards if he was interested in seeking the Republican nomination for this open seat, and he did not rule out the idea. Edwards said, "I don't have an active campaign going on," before he talked about his belief "in the founding principles and individual freedom and liberty and sustainability of our way of life." He added, "There might be a day when I'm able to help with that."

Governors

CA-Gov: Former reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner announced Friday that she would compete as a Republican in this year's likely recall election against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. In addition to Jenner, the GOP field includes former Rep. Doug Ose, 2018 nominee John Cox, and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and it could still expand further.

Jenner, who would be the first transgender person elected statewide anywhere, has not sought office before, though she's not completely new to politics. She was a vocal Donald Trump supporter in 2016, although Politico recently reported that she didn't cast a ballot at all that year; Jenner also did not vote in 2018 when Newsom was elected governor.

Jenner insisted in 2017 that, while Trump has "made some mistakes" on LGBTQ issues, she didn't regret backing him, but she finally acknowledged the following year that she'd been wrong. That public break, however, didn't stop Jenner from hiring multiple high-level Trump campaign personnel for her bid or accepting help from former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.

NH-Gov: 2020 Democratic nominee Dan Feltes told the Concord Monitor that he had "no intention right now of putting my name on the ballot in 2022," though he didn't rule out a second bid for governor.

Feltes, who was state Senate majority leader at the time, raised a credible $1.7 million last time for his bid against Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, but the popular incumbent defeated him in a 65-33 landslide. Sununu has yet to announce if he'll run for a fourth two-year term or challenge Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan instead.

House

FL-20: Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard said Thursday that he would not compete in the still-unscheduled special election for this safely blue seat.

KS-03: 2020 Republican nominee Amanda Adkins earned an endorsement Friday from 4th District Rep. Ron Estes for her second campaign against Democratic incumbent Sharice Davids.

ME-02: The Bangor Daily News takes a look at the potential Republican field to take on Rep. Jared Golden in this 52-45 Trump seat, a northern Maine constituency that is the reddest Democratic-held House district in America. So far, though, the only notable politician who appears to have publicly expressed interest is state Rep. Mike Perkins, who said Thursday he was forming an exploratory committee.

2020 nominee Dale Crafts, meanwhile, said he wasn't ruling out a second try. Crafts, who is a former state representative, was decisively outraised by Golden last time, and major outside groups on both sides dramatically cut their ad buys in the final weeks of the race in what Politico characterized at the time as "a sign of no confidence" in the Republican. Golden ended up prevailing 53-47, which was far closer than what almost any publicly released poll showed.

State Sen. Lisa Keim and former state Rep. Alex Willette said they wouldn't run, but the Bangor Daily News writes that former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who lost this seat to Golden in 2018, did not respond to questions about his plans. Poliquin spent much of 2019 talking about seeking a rematch against Golden, but he ultimately announced that, while he was "itching to run again," he had to skip that race to care for his elderly parents.

While Democrats control the governorship and both houses of the legislature, redistricting isn't likely to alter Maine's congressional boundaries all that much. The state requires two-thirds of each chamber to pass a new map, and there are more than enough Republicans to block any districts they view as unfavorable. If the legislature deadlocks, the state Supreme Court would take charge of redistricting.

NV-04: 2020 candidate Sam Peters has announced that he'll once again compete for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford. Peters, who is an Air Force veteran and businessman, lost last year's primary 35-28 to former Assemblyman Jim Marchant. Horsford went on to beat Marchant 51-46 as Joe Biden was carrying this northern Las Vegas area seat by a similar 51-47 spread.

OH-01: Franklin Mayor Brent Centers filed FEC paperwork Thursday for a potential campaign for the Cincinnati-area seat currently held by his fellow Republican, Rep. Steve Chabot. Centers previously said he planned to enter the race in early May.

TX-06: The progressive firm Data for Progress has released a survey of the May 1 all-party primary that shows Republican party activist Susan Wright, the wife of the late Rep. Ron Wright, in first with 22%.

2018 Democratic nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez leads Republican state Rep. Jake Ellzey by a small 16-13 margin in the contest for the second spot in an all-but-assured runoff, with a few other candidates from each party also in striking distance. Former Trump administration official Brian Harrison and Democrat Shawn Lassiter, who works as an education advocate, are both at 10%, while 2020 Democratic state House nominee Lydia Bean is at 9%.

The only other poll we've seen all month was a Meeting Street Research survey for the conservative blog the Washington Free Beacon from mid-April that showed a very tight four-way race. Those numbers had Sanchez and Wright at 16% and 15%, respectively, with Ellzey at 14% and Harrison taking 12%.

Data for Progress also polled a hypothetical runoff between Wright and Sanchez and found the Republican up 53-43. This seat, which includes part of Arlington and rural areas south of Dallas, supported Trump only 51-48 in 2020 after backing him 54-42 four years before, but Republicans have done better downballot.

TX-15: 2020 GOP nominee Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez's second campaign picked up an endorsement Friday from Sen. Ted Cruz. De La Cruz-Hernandez, who held Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez to a shockingly close 51-48 win last year, is the only notable Republican currently in the race for this Rio Grande Valley seat, which backed Joe Biden only 50-49 after supporting Hillary Clinton by a wide 57-40.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: The city Campaign Finance Board on Thursday approved former White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan for matching funds.

The board said the previous week that it was "deferring its decision" as it sought "further information" about a super PAC that has received at least $3 million from the candidate's father, but it cleared Donovan for public financing following its review. With this development, all of the notable Democrats competing in the June primary have received matching funds except former Citigroup executive Raymond McGuire, who is not taking part in the program.

Meanwhile, attorney Maya Wiley received an endorsement on Friday from EMILY's List. The field also includes two other pro-choice women, former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and nonprofit executive Dianne Morales.

Prosecutors

Manhattan, NY District Attorney: Former State Chief Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg recently picked up endorsements from two prominent labor groups ahead of the crowded June Democratic primary: the healthcare workers union 1199 SEIU and 32BJ, which represents building and airport employees.

Other Races

CA-AG: The state legislature on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to confirm Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta to replace Xavier Becerra, who resigned last month to become U.S. secretary of health and human services, as California attorney general. Bonta, who has made a name for himself as a criminal justice reformer, is also the first Filipino American to hold this post.

Bonta already faces a challenge from Republican Nathan Hochman, a former federal prosecutor, in his 2022 campaign for a full four-year term. The bigger threat in this very blue state, though, could come from Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a Republican-turned-independent who is publicly considering a bid.

Politico writes that Schubert, who attracted plenty of attention in 2016 after the Golden State Killer was apprehended, has also "hammered California's unemployment fraud failures and has excoriated [criminal justice] reformers." Schubert, though, would need to get through the top-two primary before she could focus on Bonta, and it's far from guaranteed that she'd be able to advance if Hochman or a different Republican emerges as Team Red's frontrunner.

Morning Digest: 17 districts flipped from Trump to Biden in 2020, while only two went the other way

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

House: Thanks to the recent completion of Daily Kos Elections' effort to calculate the 2020 presidential election results by congressional district, we now know that Joe Biden won 224 districts to Donald Trump's 211, a net increase of 15 seats for Democrats compared to the 2016 results under the same district lines. In a new story, Stephen Wolf has created maps and a chart showing the geography and electoral stats of the 19 districts that changed parties at the presidential level in 2020. Of those districts, 17 flipped from backing Trump in 2016 to Biden last year, while two districts switched from supporting Hillary Clinton four years ago to voting for Trump in 2020.

The districts that changed hands share some demographic commonalities, and many were competitive at the House level in November. Those that went from Trump to Biden include many historically red suburban seats with high levels of college education and voters who have grown increasingly hostile to the Republican Party under Trump. That's an extension of the pattern seen in 2016, when Clinton also flipped many historically red suburban seats.

Campaign Action

Unlike four years ago when Trump flipped many districts with large populations of white voters without a college degree, the two districts that Trump picked up this time both have large populations of Latino voters, a demographic that shifted sharply back toward Republicans in 2020 after giving Clinton historically high levels of support four years earlier.

Governors

CA-Gov: Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a vocal proponent of the effort to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, isn't so sure about running himself if the recall makes the ballot. "I'm not planning on it now," he told Politico this week, adding that he'll "look at how the field shapes up."

CO-Gov: Businessman Greg Lopez, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018, has announced that he'll try for the Republican nod to take on Democratic Gov. Jared Polis again next year. The little-known Lopez finished a surprising second at the state GOP's convention three years ago, which allowed him to move on to the party's primary, but his campaign was badly underfunded and he ended up a very distant third with just 13% of the vote.

KS-Gov: Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who'd reportedly been looking at a bid against Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, now confirms that he's "seriously considering" a campaign, though he did not offer a timetable for a decision.

MN-Gov: Unnamed GOP operatives tell the Minnesota Reformer that Republican state Sen. Michelle Benson could be a candidate for governor next year, when Democratic Gov. Tim Walz is up for re-election, though there's no word on whether she's interested. So far, no major Republican names have entered the race.

PA-Gov: The Cook Political Report adds former Lackawanna County Commissioner Laureen Cummings to the long list of Republicans who could run for governor next year, though she doesn't appear to have said anything publicly. Cummings briefly ran for the Senate in 2012 before dropping down to challenge Democrat Matt Cartwright for what was then the newly redrawn 17th Congressional District and got smooshed.

House

LA-02: Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter has released a mid-February internal survey conducted by veteran New Orleans pollster Silas Lee that finds him leading the March 20 all-party primary with 28% of the vote, which is below the majority he'd need to avoid an April runoff. The poll finds that Carter's most likely opponent is fellow state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who edges out a third Democrat, activist Gary Chambers, 19-6 for second place.

The only other poll we've seen of the contest for this safely blue seat was a late February survey conducted for Trust the People PAC, a group opposed to Carter, that also found the two state senators advancing. Unfortunately, the PAC did not reveal the name of its pollster, which is information we require for inclusion in the Digest.

NC-11: Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara just kicked off a bid against freshman Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, making her the first notable Democrat to do so. Beach-Ferrara, who described herself "a gay woman who's a Christian minister" in her announcement video, won a second four-year term on the commission last year. Buncombe, which is home to the college town of Asheville, makes up about a third of North Carolina's 11th District and is its bluest bastion. The district overall is quite red, though: According to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, it supported Donald Trump 55-43 last year.

OH-01: Ohio's 1st Congressional District may already be represented by a member of his own party, but Franklin Mayor Brent Centers is eagerly trying to elbow aside Republican Rep. Steve Chabot ahead of next year's midterms. That may not go so well, however: Centers says "my assumption and the assumption of a lot of people who are endorsing me" is that Chabot will retire, but a spokesperson for the congressman says he's running for a 14th term and pointed to an op-ed Chabot wrote immediately after winning his second straight difficult re-election campaign in November saying he'd be on the ballot in 2022.

According to Centers, though, that hasn't stopped a whole host of officials in his home base of Warren County from backing his would-be candidacy, which he says he plans to launch in early May. It's possible that some of these local pols think they're avoiding a direct conflict with Chabot because Warren could be drawn into another neighboring district, and Centers even hinted that could set him on a collision course with two other Republicans: Reps. Warren Davidson and Brad Wenstrup. But redistricting is still a long ways away, so if Centers is serious about kicking off a bid in just two months' time, he'll have to make it clear whether or not he's actually going to primary Chabot.

TX-06: There was a surprise less than an hour before candidate filing closed Wednesday when Dan Rodimer, who was the Republican nominee for Nevada's 3rd District last year, filled out paperwork to run in the May 1 special all-party primary. Rodmier's campaign didn't come completely out of nowhere, as the Dallas Morning News' Gromer Jeffers mentioned him as a possible contender last week, but the former WWE wrestler hadn't said anything publicly until now.

Rodimer, whose Twitter account still listed his location as Las Vegas even as he was filing to run in the Lone Star State, said, "We need fighters in Texas, and that's what I'm coming here for. I'm moving back to Texas." We'll have more about Rodimer and the rest of this crowded field in our next Digest.

Meanwhile, former Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson tweeted on Tuesday night that she'd be sitting the contest out. A third Republican, party activist Susan Wright, also earned an endorsement this week from 21st District Rep. Chip Roy in her quest to succeed her late husband, Rep. Ron Wright.

TX-13: The Department of Defense on Wednesday released its long-awaited inspector general’s report into allegations against freshman Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson from his time as chief White House physician, and it concluded that he displayed egregious behavior during his tenure.

The report concluded that Jackson “engaged in inappropriate conduct involving the use of alcohol” during two presidential trips; “disparaged, belittled, bullied, and humiliated” subordinates, which included “sexual and denigrating” comments against one; and “took Ambien during official travel, raising concerns about his potential incapacity to provide medical care during his travel.”

Jackson, who represents one of the most Republican seats in the nation, responded by once again declaring, “Democrats are using this report to repeat and rehash untrue attacks on my integrity.”

WA-04: Far-right ex-cop Loren Culp, who lost a bid for governor by a 57-43 margin to Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee last year, suggested this week that he might run against Rep. Dan Newhouse in Washington's 4th Congressional District next year. Newhouse, of course, is one of just 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, earning him the ire of local GOP officials and conservative activists alike.

However, a Culp campaign could actually benefit him. That's because Republican state Rep. Brad Klippert already launched a challenge in January, meaning that the high-profile Culp might only help fracture the disaffected Trumpist vote on the right. Klippert does have one advantage, though: His entire legislative district is contained in the 4th, while Culp, notes NCWLIFE's Jefferson Robbins, doesn't even live in Newhouse's district but rather in the 5th.

WI-03: Republican Derrick Van Orden, who previously had not ruled out a rematch against Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, says he is "very seriously considering" another bid, though he did not say when he might decide.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special elections:

AL-SD-26: Democrat Kirk Hatcher defeated Republican William Green 78-22 to hold this seat for his party. Hatcher's win was right in line with past Democratic performances in this district. According to FiveThiryEight's Nathaniel Rakich, Hillary Clinton won this district 77-20 in 2016 and former Sen. David Burkette won here 80-20 in 2018.

Republicans now have a 27-7 majority in this chamber with one other seat vacant.

CA-SD-10: As of early Wednesday, Democrat Sydney Kamlager was leading in this South Los Angeles-area district and is on track to easily avoid a runoff. Kamlager declared victory and was leading her closest competition, fellow Democrat Daniel Lee, 68-13.

As the likely outcome of this race is a Democratic hold, the composition of this chamber would return to a 31-9 lead for Team Blue.

CT-SD-27: Democrat Patricia Miller defeated Republican Joshua Esses to hold this seat for her party. The state of Connecticut has not released vote totals for this race yet, but according to the Stamford Advocate, Miller was leading by approximately 100 votes and Esses had conceded the race.  

This chamber will return to a 24-12 advantage for Democrats.

MA-HD-19th Suffolk: Former Winthrop Town Council president Jeffrey Turco won the Democratic primary in this reliably blue seat in the Winthrop area. Turco came out ahead of union representative Juan Jaramillo 36-30 in a contest where there were very sharp ideological contrasts between the two top contenders.

Jaramillo was endorsed by notable progressives such as Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and also had the backing of several labor groups, such as the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Turco, meanwhile, voted for Donald Trump in 2016, was supported by several police unions, and received backlash from groups such as NARAL for his stance on reproductive rights. Turco's support of GOP candidates extended into the 2020 cycle as well, when he donated to the re-election campaign of Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

Former Massachusetts House staffer Alicia DelVento, meanwhile, took third with 26% while Valentino Capobianco, who is chief of staff to state Sen. Paul Feeney, took 7%. Capobianco had the backing of establishment figures such as state Attorney General Maura Healey and former Rep. Joe Kennedy but lost their support when sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against him.

Turco will begin as the favorite over Republican Paul Caruccio in the March 30 general election in this district that supported Hillary Clinton 60-36 in 2016.

Mayors

 New York City, NY Mayor: On Wednesday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams earned an endorsement from the Hotel Trades Council, which is one of the major unions in city politics, for the June instant-runoff Democratic primary.

St. Louis, MO Mayor: St. Louis on Tuesday became the first large city in America to host a race using an "approval voting" system, which allows voters to cast as many votes in the primary as there are candidates, and City Treasurer Tishaura Jones and Alderman Cara Spencer advanced to next month's nonpartisan general election.

Tishaura Jones, who narrowly lost the 2017 Democratic primary to retiring incumbent Lyda Krewson under the old system, won support from 57% of voters, while 46% selected Cara Spencer as a choice. A third Democratic contender, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, earned the backing of 39% of voters, while 19% selected Republican Andrew Jones.

Tishaura Jones and Cara Spencer will compete again in the April 6 general election, where voters will only be able to select one of them. Tishaura Jones would be the city's first Black leader since 2001.

St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: St. Pete Polls, working on behalf of Florida Politics, surveys the August nonpartisan primary of its namesake city and finds three Democrats in a close fight for the two spots in a likely general election, though with a large plurality of voters still undecided. City Councilwoman Darden Rice leads with 15%, while former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and former state Rep. Wengay Newton are each just behind with 14%; another five candidates were tested, but none of them took more than 5% of the vote.

St. Pete also tests a hypothetical November matchup between Rice and Welch and finds Welch ahead 31-24.

Data

Pres-by-CD: We've made some minor adjustments to our calculations of the 2020 presidential election results by congressional district in Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York based on more precise data we've received since we initially published our findings for each state.

The largest shift came in New Jersey, which resulted in 427 votes moving between the 5th District to the 9th, with Donald Trump's margin increasing by that sum in the former and Biden's growing a corresponding amount in the latter. We also corrected a minor error in Oklahoma that resulted in a total of 484 votes shifting from the 4th District to the 5th with no change to the raw vote margin between the two candidates.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The district attorney’s office in Shawnee County, Kansas announced this week that it had reached a diversion agreement with former Republican Rep. Steve Watkins that would allow him to avoid trial over voter fraud charges. If Watkins follows the conditions, avoids breaking the law, and pays a $250 fine, the charges against him would be dropped in September.

Back in late 2019, the Topeka Capital-Journal first reported that Watkins may have committed voter fraud by listing a UPS store in Topeka as his home address on his voter registration form and then proceeding to cast a ballot the previous month as though he lived there. Watkins’ team insisted he’d made an "inadvertent" error and insisted he had "no improper purpose" because the UPS store and his supposed residence are both in the same county and congressional district. However, the locations are in different city council districts, and the contest Watkins cast his ballot in was decided by just 13 votes.

Local authorities began investigating Watkins for potential voter fraud soon afterwards, and they charged him the following July with three felonies, including lying to law enforcement. Watkins, who was already facing a tough intra-party challenge from state Treasurer Jake LaTurner even before the UPS story broke, argued he was the victim of a “hyper-political” attack, but LaTurner beat him by a blistering 49-34 margin that following month and went on to prevail in November. As part of Watkins’ diversion agreement, he acknowledged that he’d lied to a detective by claiming he hadn’t voted in that tight city council contest.

Morning Digest: GOP House candidate welcomes Trump endorsement. His district’s voters probably won’t

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-07: On Wednesday, Donald Trump endorsed Army veteran Westley Hunt, who is one of the national GOP’s favorite candidates, in the March 3 GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher. Hunt had already been running ads tying himself to Trump as well as Sen. Ted Cruz, who had already endorsed him, so he’ll certainly welcome this development.

However, Hunt is taking a big risk in the general election by embracing both the White House and Cruz in a West Houston seat that has been moving hard to the left in the Trump era. This seat swung from 60-39 Romney to 48.5-47.1 Clinton, and Beto O'Rourke beat Cruz here 53-46 last cycle. Fletcher also unseated longtime GOP incumbent John Culberson 52.5-47.5 in their very expensive 2018 race.

Hunt has been one of the GOP’s stronger House fundraisers this cycle, but he still faces a big cash disadvantage against Fletcher. The incumbent outraised him $545,000 to $343,000 during the final quarter of 2019, and she ended 2019 with a $1.8 million to $808,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Senate

AL-Sen: Mason-Dixon is out with a survey for the Alabama Daily News that finds Democratic Sen. Doug Jones trailing each of the three main GOP candidates in hypothetical general election matchups:

41-54 vs. Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

42-51 vs. Rep. Bradley Byrne

42-50 vs. former college football coach Tommy Tuberville

The only other general election poll we've seen was a late December survey from the GOP firm JMC Analytics. That poll, which JMC said they conducted independent of any client, found Jones in better shape in this very red state but still trailing each of these Republicans by 4-7 points.

Campaign Action

Mason-Dixon is also the first independent pollster to take a look at the March 3 GOP primary since Sessions entered the race in November to reclaim his old Senate seat. They find Sessions at 31%, which is well below the majority of the vote he'd need to avoid a March 31 runoff, while Tuberville leads Byrne 29-17 for the second place spot.

Roy Moore, who lost this seat to Jones in 2017, is a distant fourth with just 5%. The release didn't name state Rep. Arnold Mooney, though his support may have been included in the 2% that backed Other.

The firm also tested Sessions in potential primary runoff marches and finds him beating Tuberville and Byrne 49-42 and 48-35, respectively. Those are hardly secure leads, though, especially since Sessions' intra-party rivals haven't spent many resources yet attacking him over his terrible time as Trump's attorney general. If Sessions does get forced into a runoff, though, his opponent will only have four weeks to win over the defeated candidates' supporters.

Byrne also dropped his own primary survey from Harper Polling a day before the Mason-Dixon numbers were released that shows him in better shape to advance to a runoff with Sessions. Harper finds Sessions ahead with the same 31% of the vote, but they show Byrne narrowly leading Tuberville 26-24 for second place. Moore is again far behind with 5%, while Mooney also went unmentioned.

The memo also includes the numbers for a previously unreleased mid-December poll to argue that Byrne has picked up support over the last two months. Sessions led that survey with 36%, while Tuberville outpaced the congressman 29-16. The memo did not include runoff numbers.

The only other GOP primary we've seen this year was a late January poll for Sessions from On Message, and it also showed Byrne and Tuberville locked in a close race for second place. It gave Sessions the lead with 43% as Byrne edged the former coach 22-21.

AZ-Sen: GOP Sen. Martha McSally made plenty of headlines last month when she dismissed longtime CNN reporter Manu Raju as "a liberal hack," and she continues her trip through MAGA Land in her first TV spot of the race. The narrator declares, "The Washington liberals are obsessed with President Trump. They wasted three years and millions of dollars trying to overturn the last election and steal the next one." The commercial then says that Democrat Mark Kelly "supported their impeachment sham."

ME-Sen: The outside group Maine Momentum has launched another ad that features several people taking GOP Sen. Susan Collins to task for voting for a massive tax break that's "hurting everyday Mainers."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: High Point University is out with a survey of North Carolina's March 3 primaries which includes questions about the Democratic Senate primary and the GOP gubernatorial contest.

High Point finds former state Sen. Cal Cunningham leading state Sen. Erica Smith 29-10 among registered voters in the race to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, while none of the other contenders break 5%. A recent survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling also found Cunningham ahead by that exact 29-10 spread, while no one else has released numbers here this year.

In the GOP primary to face Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, High Point finds Lt. Gov. Dan Forest leading state Rep. Holly Grange by a massive 54-10 margin. This is the first poll we've seen of this contest in 2020, but the results are quite plausible. Grange, who has never run statewide before, almost certainly started the campaign with low name recognition over the summer, and she hasn't raised much money to get her message out since then.

P.S. High Point also included versions of these matchups using likely voters instead of registered voters. However, both likely voter questions sampled fewer than 300 people, which is the minimum that Daily Kos Elections requires in order to write up a poll.

Gubernatorial

WA-Gov: On behalf of KING-TV, SurveyUSA is out with a poll of the August top-two primary. It gives Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee the lead with 39%, while conservative independent Tim Eyman leads Republic police chief Loren Culp 11-5 for the second place spot. Two other Republicans, state Sen. Phil Fortunato and developer Joshua Freed, are each at 4%.

SurveyUSA also takes a look at Inslee's approval rating and gives him a narrow 41-39 score, while another 20% say they aren't sure how they feel about the incumbent after seven years in office. This isn't the only poll that's given Inslee only a slightly positive rating, though. A January survey from the local firm Elway Research found that 40% of registered voters gave Inslee an excellent or good score while 34% rated him as poor and another 22% ranked him as "only fair." Morning Consult also found him with a 44-38 job approval for the final quarter of 2019.

Democrats have controlled the governor's office since 1985, and it's possible that a strong opponent could make the argument that it's time for a change and give Inslee a serious challenge. However, it remains to be seen if any of Inslee's opponents will have the resources to get their name out and put a serious fight this fall, especially with Donald Trump likely to drag down the ticket in this blue state.

The GOP candidate with the most money at the end of January was Freed, who had just $62,000 on-hand; Freed had previously loaned his campaign $500,000 only to repay it in January. The candidate texted the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner this week that he "decided recently that I didn't need that liability on my campaign books" and would "put that amount… or more.. in as a direct contribution." Washington candidates regularly file campaign finance reports, so we'll see soon if Freed self-funds again. For his part, Inslee ended last month with $1.7 million in the bank.

House

CA-53: On behalf of KGTV-TV and the San Diego Union Tribune, SurveyUSA is out with the first poll we've seen of the March 3 top-two primary for this safely blue open seat.

Former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign policy adviser Sara Jacobs, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran in the nearby 49th District last cycle, leads with 23% as one of the Republicans, pilot Chris Stoddard, takes the second place general election spot with 10%. Republican Famela Ramos and Democrat Georgette Gómez, who is president of the San Diego City Council, are at 5% each, while no one else breaks 4%.

Gómez, who is the only local elected official in the race, has the support of the state Democratic Party, but she ended December with a bit less money than Jacobs. Gómez actually outraised Jacobs $263,000 to $141,000, but Jacobs self-funded an additional $530,000 and held a $471,000 to $349,000 cash-on-hand lead. Two other Democrats, Marine veteran Janessa Goldbeck and UC San Diego professor Tom Wong, had just over $100,000 to spend.

GA-09: State Rep. Matt Gurtler announced this week that he was joining the GOP primary for this safely red open seat.

Gurtler was elected to the legislature in 2016 at the age of 27, and he quickly made a name for himself by opposing GOP Speaker David Ralston. Gurtler, who describes himself as an advocate for limited government, also developed a habit of voting against all manner of bills that came before him, and by May of 2018 he had racked up more "no" votes than anyone else in the 236-person legislature.

Ralston responded by backing a 2018 primary challenge to Gurtler, but the incumbent won 60-40. Gurtler was already facing another primary opponent when he decided to call off his re-election bid and run for Congress.

NC-11: On Wednesday, retiring Rep. Mark Meadows endorsed businesswoman and party activist Lynda Bennett in the crowded March 3 GOP primary to succeed him. However, there are plenty of reasons to think that Meadows was pulling for Bennett before this week.

Meadows announced his departure in December one day before the filing deadline and after it was too late for anyone running for another office to switch to this race. Meadows' decision came as a shock to everyone except for maybe Bennett, who set up a Facebook campaign page five hours before the congressman broke his own news. Meadows, though, insisted to Roll Call this week, "It was my original intent to stay neutral in the race. However my silence in the primary was being misused by some candidates to present [an] inaccurate picture for political gain."

Meadows' endorsement did seem to take one of the contenders off guard. Wayne King, who resigned as Meadows' deputy chief of staff to run here, said, "Meadows told me he was not endorsing anybody in the race" when they spoke just a few weeks ago.

NY-16: Middle school principal Jamaal Bowman received an endorsement this week from the Working Families Party, a small but influential party with ties to labor groups, in his June Democratic primary against longtime Rep. Eliot Engel. Engel has consistently received the WFP’s support in past contests.

Bowman is one of a few candidates challenging Engel for renomination in this safely blue seat, a diverse district that includes southern Westchester County and the northern Bronx, and he was already looking like the congressman’s main opponent before this week. Bowman raised $162,000 during the fourth quarter of 2019 and had $186,000 in the bank, while none of the other candidates had more than $25,000 to spend. Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, brought in $630,000 during this time, and he had $806,000 on-hand.

Bowman has been arguing that voters should oust Engel because he’s too moderate and too close to special interests. The challenger used his kickoff to go after Engel for taking donations from lobbyists and voting for the Iraq War.

TX-12: Veteran Rep. Kay Granger is up with her first negative TV spot against businessman Chris Putnam ahead of their March 3 GOP primary. The narrator begins by describing Granger’s conservative record and reminds the audience that she has Donald Trump’s endorsement. The narrator then calls Putnam “a millionaire who moved here four months ago” and says that “[i]nvestors sued his company for fraud. And he voted to raise property taxes twice.”

The primary for this safely red Fort Worth seat has attracted heavy spending in recent weeks, with the anti-tax Club for Growth and their allies airing ads against Granger while the establishment-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund is supporting her. However, Putnam himself didn’t bring in much money during the final months of 2019. Granger outraised him $414,000 to $71,000 during the fourth quarter, and she ended the year with a $774,000 to $407,000 cash-on-hand lead.

TX-22: A recently formed super PAC called Texans Coming Together has launched an ad campaign in support of nonprofit CEO Pierce Bush in next month’s GOP primary, though there’s no word on the size of the buy. The group’s spot, it won’t shock you to learn, refers to Donald Trump four times while not mentioning anyone from the candidate’s famous family once.

TX-28: Conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar has launched a TV ad against immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros ahead of their March 3 Democratic primary showdown that could easily pass for a Republican campaign commercial.

The narrator begins by declaring, “Two candidates for Congress. One stands with families. One supports allowing minors to have an abortion without parents' knowledge.” The GOP frequently uses this line of attack against pro-choice candidates, and Cisneros responded to it in her fact-check of the spot by writing, “Jessica Cisneros supports allowing women to make their own healthcare decisions, not the government or politicians like Henry Cuellar.”

The commercial goes on to say that Cisneros is someone “who gets her money from outsiders, and who just moved here six months ago.” Cisneros, though, grew up in the Laredo area and even interned for none other than local congressman Henry Cuellar in 2014. The Cisneros camp also notes that, while Cuellar’s ad makes it sound like he’s being supported by local donors, he’s received more than half of his money from PACs and committees.

The commercial then takes one more page from the GOP playbook and insists that Cisneros, who backs the Green New Deal, wants to “shut down the oil and gas industry.”

WI-07: The special GOP primary is on Tuesday, and Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman reports that there’s been plenty of outside spending on behalf of both veteran Jason Church and state Sen. Tom Tiffany.

Church has received a total of about $1 million in support mostly from two groups, With Honor Fund and the newly formed Americans 4 Security PAC. Tiffany, meanwhile, has benefited from a total of $789,000 in spending largely from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth, two groups that are often on opposite sides in Republican primaries.

Both Church’s and Tiffany’s campaigns have spent comparable amounts, and since we haven’t seen any polls, there’s no indication which candidate is favored next week.