School board forgets to vet newly sworn in school board member—uncover he was at the Jan. 6 rally

Jefferson Parish, the largest school district in Louisiana, must be desperate for board members.

Why in God’s name would they swear in a contractor from Metairie who has openly bragged about being at the “Stop the Steal” rally in D.C. on Jan. 6, called those who opposed the insurrection that followed—and pointed to former President Donald Trump as the inciter-in-chief—as “traitors,” and blamed teachers for “the fall of our young people in this country”?

Rafael Rafidi, who was sworn in during a special meeting on Wednesday, was obviously not very well-vetted for his new role.

According to Nola.com, seven of the nine board members voted for Rafidi, while board member Ricky Johnson voted against him and Simeon Dickerson abstained; the next day, Dickerson voted for Rafidi’s removal and wants Rafidi to resign. 

“I actually watched this guy take an oath to the Constitution, the very Constitution that he tried to overthrow just a year ago—the irony of it,” Dickerson told The Daily Beast. “He attended the insurrection and he marched on the Capitol.”

All it would have taken was a quick look into Rafidi’s social media to see what a complete and utter dumpster fire he was. 

In Feb. 2021, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu tweeted his praise for Sen. Bill Cassidy for voting to impeach Trump. Rafidi replied, calling  Sen. John Kennedy "an embarrassment" for voting against impeachment.

“Go f--k yourselves," Rafidi tweeted. And in another tweet, he called Cassidy a "piece of s—t" and Landrieu a "f-----g traitor.”

Although it isn’t clear from any of his social media whether Rafidi entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, on Jan. 13, he did tweet-brag about his time at the rally. 

"I was there, heard the entire speech, and walked peacefully with thousands singing God bless America and praying on the way to the capital. What's true now for sure is the FIX IS IN! And it's all of you in the media and government. What a shame!"

And long before the pandemic forced teachers into a virtual and unwieldy position of teaching from home, in 2018, Rafidi was attacking them on social media. 

"Teachers are the fall of our young people in this country. No values, no work ethic, and just suck as much as you can from those that work hard. Good job,” he tweeted. 

“I know some hard-working teachers in Jefferson Parish that bust their tills every day,” Dickerson told The Daily Beast. “It’s a direct slap in the face and he’s unfit to serve as a school board member. This is not what Jefferson Parish represents and this is not what a school board member represents.”

If all that isn’t enough, Rafidi has a serious racist streak. He recently tweeted his criticism about the NFL playing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem. 

Take note: the school district he’s been sworn into, according to its website, serves roughly 50,000 students—about 38% of its student population is Black. 

“This guy can do more damage in six months than all of us can do in eight years,” Dickerson told The Daily Beast. “He’s bad for the progression of race relations in Jefferson Parish.”

Morning Digest: Nephew of Arkansas’ GOP governor bails party to mull independent run for governor

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

AR-Gov: State Sen. Jim Hendren expressed interest only weeks ago in seeking the Republican nomination to succeed his uncle, termed-out GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson, but he instead shocked politicos on Thursday by announcing that he was leaving the party to become an independent. Hendren, who recently finished a stint leading the chamber, called the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol "the final straw," continuing, "I asked myself what in the world I would tell my grandchildren when they asked one day what happened and what did I do about it?"

Hendren said that he would form an organization to fund moderate candidates, and he also did not rule out running for governor himself without a party affiliation. "Right now, I've pushed that decision to the backburner because before anybody can win any serious race as an independent there has to be some sort of platform, some sort of foundation," he said, though he added that he might instead back a different independent contender.

Senate

AL-Sen: Wealthy businesswoman Lynda Blanchard entered the race for Alabama's open Senate seat on Thursday, seeding her campaign with what she described as "an initial $5 million deposit." In launching her bid, Blanchard made sure to emphasize that she "served as U.S. ambassador to First Lady Melania Trump's home country of Slovenia." Blanchard is the first notable Republican to join the contest, but many, many others are eyeing the race.

Campaign Action

FL-Sen: The New York Times reports that Ivanka Trump will not primary Republican Sen. Marco Rubio next year, according to unnamed "people close to her," and Rubio's office says that Trump herself has told the senator the same thing. In a statement, Trump didn't directly address the race but praised Rubio and called him "a good personal friend."

OH-Sen: Jane Timken, who recently stepped down as chair of the state Republican Party, announced Thursday that she would run to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman.

Timken joins former state Treasurer Josh Mandel in the primary, and he immediately tried to out-Trump his new opponent by tweeting out a picture of her embracing former Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who dynamited his last bridges with the party last year by endorsing Joe Biden. Kasich though, got into the trolling game by quickly sharing a photo of a smiling Mandel looking on as Kasich stumped for him during the former treasurer's failed 2012 Senate campaign. (The only commentary that accompanied Kasich's tweet was an eye-roll emoji.)

Timken herself emerged on the political scene in 2017 by unseating a Kasich ally as state party chair. Donald Trump publicly backed Timken in that contest and called about a dozen central committee members on her behalf. Timken is also part of a prominent donor family in state party politics, and the wealthy candidate already seems to have money available for her bid: Politico reports that Timken is launching a $263,000 buy on Fox.

PA-Sen: Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean recently attracted national attention as one of the managers of Donald Trump's second impeachment, and several of her allies are now publicly encouraging her to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican incumbent Pat Toomey. A spokesperson for Dean only told Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman in response that the congresswoman hasn't had time to consider, which very much isn't a no.

The most prominent Democrat to announce before this week was Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, but others may make their move no matter what Dean ends up doing. Bowman relays that two unnamed Democrats say that Montgomery County Commission chair Val Arkoosh "is expected to announce a Senate bid soon." Dean's 4th Congressional District includes just over 85% of this populous suburban Philadelphia community, so she and Arkoosh might end up competing over the same geographic base if they both ran.

Party strategist Mark Nevins also tells Bowman that for every "whisper you hear about Congresswoman Dean running for Senate, you also hear one about" other Democratic House members including Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, whom we hadn't previously heard mentioned for this race.

Governors

CA-Gov: A new poll from WPA Intelligence for Republican Kevin Faulconer, who recently left office as mayor of San Diego, says that California voters support recalling Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom by a 47-43 margin, with 10% undecided. A recent poll for UC Berkley found just the opposite, with voters opposing the idea 45-36. Faulconer's survey also included numbers for a horserace matchup pitting himself against several other potential candidates, but his proposed field is so deep into the realm of the hypothetical that the data isn't in any way useful.

OH-Gov: While Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor expressed interest in seeking the Democratic nod for the Senate last month, he also opened the door this week to a possible campaign against Republican Gov. Mike DeWine or for another statewide office. O'Connor, who lost two competitive 2018 races for the 12th Congressional District, said, "An executive office in a state like Ohio is always going to have more of an impact than legislative offices ... I love the thought of running across this state … and having conversations about the type of Democrat that I am."

O'Connor didn't give a timeline for when he'd decide, though the Columbus Dispatch noted that his wife is expected to give birth in May and "family matters are taking precedence over political aspirations for the moment."

VA-Gov: A new Global Strategy Group poll of Virginia's Democratic primary for governor conducted on behalf of former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy finds former Gov. Terry McAuliffe far out in front with 42% of the vote, with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax at 14%, Carroll Foy at 7%, and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan at 6% while 30% are undecided.

GSG argues, however, that Carroll Foy is best poised to grow, saying that she trails McAuliffe by a narrower 37-27 after respondents were read "evenhanded profiles and images of the four core candidates," with the other two Democrats still well behind. The memo did not include the text of the profiles.

House

CO-03: State Rep. Donald Valdez announced Thursday that he'd seek the Democratic nod to take on the 3rd District's extremist incumbent, freshman Republican Lauren Boebert. Valdez, a moderate who has often voted against his party in the legislature, ran for this western Colorado seat last cycle, but he dropped out after raising little money.

Legislatures

IL State House: Democratic state Rep. Mike Madigan announced Thursday that he was resigning from the state House, a move that concludes his 50-year career in the legislature one month after his record-breaking tenure as speaker came to an involuntary end. The still-powerful Madigan will remain state party chair, though, so he's far from done with Prairie State politics. Madigan is also the head of his local Chicago ward party, which allows him to pick his replacement in the House. (There are no special elections to the Illinois legislature.)

Data

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 House seats nationwide nears its end with Louisiana, which will host not one but two special elections on March 20. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Donald Trump's 58-40 victory in the Pelican State over Joe Biden was little different from his 58-38 showing against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Trump once again easily won five of Louisiana's six congressional districts. Trump scored at least 62% of the vote in each of these constituencies, all of which are held by Republicans.

The one blue seat is the 2nd District, which stretches from the New Orleans area west to Baton Rouge. Republican mapmakers drew this constituency to take in as many African American voters as possible to make the surrounding districts whiter, and Biden's 75-23 win was almost identical to Clinton's 75-22 performance. Several candidates are competing in next month's all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January to take a post in the Biden White House, and there's no question that the eventual winner will be a Democrat.

Louisiana has always had a district anchored by New Orleans, and Democrats have held it since the 1890 election—with one very unusual exception a little more than a decade ago. In 2008, Democratic Rep. Bill Jefferson lost re-election to Republican Joseph Cao in a huge upset thanks to a confluence of scandal, a major change in election law, and a hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast.

Perhaps most importantly, Jefferson was under indictment on corruption charges after he was filmed allegedly taking $100,000 in marked cash from a government informant, $90,000 of which was later discovered in his freezer. For a time, though, it seemed like Jefferson's electoral career would continue despite the scandal. The state temporarily abandoned its all-party primaries for congressional races in 2008 and 2010 and switched to the type of partisan primary-plus-runoff system that's used in neighboring Southern states. Jefferson won the first round of the primary with a 25% plurality, and he prevailed in the runoff 57-43.

But timing is everything in politics, and events outside of Jefferson's control dramatically altered the political calendar in Cao's favor. The primary was originally set for early September, but the state postponed the contest for a month when Hurricane Gustav threatened the Gulf Coast at the end of August. (The storm also led to the cancelation of the first night of the Republican National Convention.) Primary runoffs instead took place on Election Day in November, with the general election for those races pushed off until December.

Unfortunately for Jefferson, his contest was one of those affected. The congressman won the runoff as Barack Obama was carrying his seat 74-25, but he still needed to fend off Cao in December. Turnout would have almost certainly dropped no matter what, but the state's new election rules likely led many Democratic voters to mistakenly believe that they'd already re-elected Jefferson in November when they'd only renominated him. Other voters who might otherwise have voted Democratic also stayed home, or even backed Cao, out of disgust for the incumbent.

Still, it was a massive surprise when Cao defeated Jefferson 50-47, a victory that made him the first Vietnamese American to ever serve in Congress. Republicans were thrilled about their pickup after a second brutal cycle in a row, with Minority Leader John Boehner memorably putting out a memo afterwards proclaiming, "The future is Cao." Jefferson himself was convicted the next year and began serving a 13-year sentence in 2012, though he ended up leaving prison in late 2017.

Cao, meanwhile, struggled to repeat his shock win against a stronger opponent. While Republicans enjoyed a very strong election cycle in 2010, the 2nd reverted to form when state Rep. Cedric Richmond, who had unsuccessfully challenged Jefferson in the 2008 primary, unseated Cao 65-33. That victory restored the 2nd District's status as a safely blue seat, and even with Richmond's departure for a job in the Biden White House, that's not going to change in next month's special.

The other March 20 special will take place in the 5th District to succeed Republican Luke Letlow, who died from complications from the coronavirus just weeks after he won an open seat race against a fellow Republican but before he could be sworn in. This seat, which includes Monroe and Alexandria in the central part of the state, backed Trump 64-34, and Republicans should have little trouble keeping it.

This area, though, did send a Democrat to the House under the state's previous congressional map in 2002, but Team Blue's hold proved to be very brief. State Rep. Rodney Alexander won an open seat race 50.3-49.7 that year, and he looked like he'd be one of the most vulnerable members of the Democratic caucus in 2004. Alexander filed to run for re-election as a Democrat that year, but he refiled as a Republican two days later―on the final day of the candidate qualifying period.

The congressman's former party was infuriated, but Democrats were never able to take revenge. The incumbent won his 2004 race, as well as his next four campaigns, without any trouble. Alexander resigned in 2013 to take a position in Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, and, despite a high-profile scandal surrounding his immediate successor, Team Red has always easily held the seat.

Louisiana Republicans had control of the redistricting process in 2011 for the first time in living memory, but Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards may be able to block them from passing another gerrymander. The legislature has only ever overridden two gubernatorial vetoes in more than two centuries of statehood (the last was in 1993), and while Republicans have the two-thirds majority necessary to defy Edwards in the state Senate, they don't have quite the numbers on their own in the House.

That's because, while Republicans outnumber Democrats 68-35 in the lower chamber, the House crucially also contains two independents who often vote with the minority party. This means that, if no seats change hands before redistricting takes place, and no Democrats vote for a Republican map, GOP legislators would need to win over both independents to pass their own boundaries again.

P.S. Because Louisiana does not assign pre-Election Day votes to precincts, we have relied on the same method to estimate congressional district vote totals that we recently used in Alabama.

International

Israel: Israel will hold a general election on March 23 because the results of the 2020 election were inconclusive. That election was held because the results of the September 2019 election were inconclusive. And that election was held because the results of the April 2019 election were inconclusive. We'll give you one guess as to the likely result of this next election.

Through all of this turmoil one constant has remained: radical-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some parliamentary systems have a tradition of deploying a caretaker prime minister, who takes over if the current officeholder loses a no-confidence vote or resigns. The caretaker PM leads the government for a short time until elections are held or the crisis at hand has abated. This is common in Italy, and in fact just happened. There is no such tradition in Israel, however, and so Netanyahu sticks around not because a majority of any of these Knessets (the Israeli parliament) want him to, but because there's no majority for anyone else to take over.

In the April 2019 election, the pro-Netanyahu coalition won 60 of the chamber's 120 seats. In September of that year, it won just 56 seats, and in 2020 it won 58. For both the second and third elections in question, if a vote of confidence in Netanyahu had been taken, he would have lost. But the anti-Netanyahu side ranges from left-wing Arab-majority parties to right-wing secular nationalists, a disunified confederation at the best of times.

After the 2020 elections, the anti-Netanyahu faction managed to get 61 members of Parliament to recommend that Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White Party form the next government, but Gantz was unable to hold this disparate group together long enough to actually form a working coalition. He instead made a deal with Netanyahu in which each man would supposedly serve as prime minister for 18 months. Netanyahu went first, of course, and another election was scheduled before Gantz got his turn. This surprised exactly no one who has spent more than five minutes following Netanyahu's career.

So far, the upcoming election has largely followed the pattern of its recent predecessors. The new center-right hope to unseat Netanyahu is former fellow Likud MP Gideon Sa'ar, who left Likud as new elections were being called and has largely picked up the center-right anti-Netanyahu vote that had been going to Gantz's Blue and White Party. Also arrayed against Netanyahu are the right-wing secular nationalists, the centrists, the center-left, and the Arab-majority parties. On the pro-Netanyahu side, you've got his Likud Party, of course, as well as the Orthodox Haredi parties and the far-right extremists. You will be shocked to learn that recent polling puts each side at about 60 seats.

If Netanyahu's side wins a majority, however, he'll remain prime minister. If not, he'll probably remain in charge anyway while the opposition fails to unite behind a replacement. There is one entity that might prevent this outcome and end this stalemate, but it lies far outside the Knesset: the Israeli justice system. Netanyahu has been under investigation for corruption since 2016 and was indicted in 2019 for fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. His trial has been ongoing since May of last year, prolonged by many COVID-related delays. Prosecutors are finally slated to start providing evidence for their case within weeks, though that too could be delayed until after the election.

Even if Netanyahu were convicted, appeals would likely string the process along for years, though he could conceivably be forced to step down. However, barring significant voting shifts one way or another, there's no obvious alternative path out of this perpetual deadlock.

Kosovo: As in Israel, voters in Kosovo were just sent back to the ballot box earlier than normal, though with a very different outcome. The left-wing Vetevendosje (Albanian for "Self-Determination'') turned a small 2019 plurality victory into a landslide mandate to govern the country, skyrocketing from 26% of the vote to 48%, with the counting of overseas votes still ongoing.

The major leftist party in Kosovo, Vetevendosje had grown out of an anti-corruption protest movement in the 2000s and first contested parliamentary elections in 2010. The party is also the main proponent of ethnic Albanian nationalism, pushing for a referendum to unify Albanian-majority Kosovo with neighboring Albania itself. While the party placed first two years ago, its relatively small share of seats pushed it into an unstable coalition with the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK), which had narrowly finished second.

That coalition lasted less than four months as the DLK bolted over the handling of the pandemic and formed a new government with just 61 votes in the 120-seat chamber. However, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo later ruled that because one of the 61 members voting for the new government had been convicted of fraud, the vote creating the new government did not actually pass with the needed majority, leading to new elections on Feb. 14.

Vetevendosje had long campaigned as an anti-establishment and anti-corruption party, and years of problems came to a head as the pandemic caused a sharp downturn in the country's economic fortunes. The party was also boosted by acting President Vjosa Osmani, who took over after the previous president, Hashim Thaci, was indicted at The Hague for war crimes. Osmani was a DLK MP and was elevated to the position of speaker last year, which in turn led to her assuming the powers of the presidency after Thaci's departure. But Osmani soon left the DLK and campaigned with Vetevendosje during the election.

The party will likely fall just short of an outright majority but should be able to form a stable coalition with some of the smaller parties and the seats set aside for minority groups. Leaders have said that they will prioritize curbing corruption and tackling unemployment rather than negotiations with Serbia, from whom Kosovo declared independence back in 2008. Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo's independence, and their disputed diplomatic relations have often been the focus of other countries, but the issue repeatedly rates as a low priority both in polls and for the incoming Vetevendosje government itself.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?, NJ State Senate: Michael Pappas, a Republican who represented New Jersey in the U.S. House for a single term from 1997 to 1999, announced this week that he would run this year for an open seat in the state Senate in the west-central part of the state being vacated by retiring GOP incumbent Kip Bateman.

Pappas earned his brief moment in the political spotlight in 1998 when he took to the House floor to deliver an ode to the special prosecutor probing the Clinton White House that began, "Twinkle, twinkle, Kenneth Starr/ Now we see how brave you are." Politicos would later blame that bit of awful poetry for Pappas' 50-47 defeat against Democrat Rush Holt that fall.

Pappas, who quickly earned the support of influential party leaders for his new campaign, also scared off former Rep. Dick Zimmer, who had competed with Pappas in a 2000 primary that occurred when both of them were out of Congress. While Zimmer, who gave up this seat back in 1996 to unsuccessfully run for the Senate, decisively won that intra-party engagement, he went on to lose a very tight contest to Holt. Zimmer, though, endorsed Joe Biden last year, so he was very unlikely to pull off another victory against Pappas.

Pappas, however, is no sure bet to return to elected office. While we don't yet have the 2020 presidential results calculated for the New Jersey legislature, Hillary Clinton carried the 16th Legislative District 55-41 four years before.

Morning Digest: Scramble is on after unexpected retirement opens up Ohio Senate seat

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

Leading Off

 OH-Sen: In a big surprise, Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced Monday that he would not seek a third term next year in Ohio. Portman, who is 65, had not shown any obvious interest in retirement, and he had a large $4.6 million war chest at the end of September of 2020. The senator, though, explained his decision by saying, "I don't think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision."

Portman's departure will likely give Democrats a better shot at his Senate seat, but Ohio's rightward drift over the last few years will still make it difficult for Team Blue to score a win in this traditional swing state. Joe Biden targeted the Buckeye State hard in 2020, but Donald Trump still defeated him 53-45. However, Ohio isn't a place that Republicans can take victory for granted: Portman's Democratic colleague, Sen. Sherrod Brown, earned re-election 53-47 in 2018, and last year, Democrats won an officially nonpartisan race for the state Supreme Court.

Republicans, though, have the far larger bench in this state, and a number of them have publicly or privately expressed interest already. The following politicians have confirmed that they're looking at running to succeed Portman:

The only one of these politicians who laid out a timeline for when he expected to decide was Obhof, who said that "one who is considering it ought to take a deep breath and consider it over the course of days or a week or two."

A few other Republicans are also reportedly thinking about getting in, though we haven't heard anything directly from them yet:

Several more Republicans declined to rule out a bid when asked:

Several media outlets have mentioned a few others as possibilities:

One person who quickly took his name out of contention, though, was former Gov. John Kasich.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan quickly said he was thinking about a Senate run. Ryan is infamous for flirting with campaigns for higher office in Ohio but always running for re-election, though his calculations could change if Republicans leave him with a hostile House seat in the upcoming round of redistricting.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley hadn't ruled out a Senate bid before Portman retired, and she reiterated Monday that she wasn't closing the door. Whaley, who also has been eyeing bids for governor or the U.S. House, said after Portman's announcement that she'd be keeping an open mind about her future plans and would be "making a decision in the coming weeks."

Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor, who lost two tight races in the conservative 12th Congressional District in 2018, also didn't reject the idea of a Senate campaign when asked.

Other Democrats mentioned include:

In the no column are former state Sen. Nina Turner, who is running in the anticipated special election for the 11th Congressional District, and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, who is campaigning for mayor of Cincinnati.

Campaign Action

Portman's retirement also ends a long career in state and national politics. Portman got his start interning for his local GOP congressman, Cincinnati-area Rep. Bill Gradison, and working on George H.W. Bush's unsuccessful 1980 presidential campaign, and he went on to serve as a White House associate legal counsel in 1989 after Bush won on his second try. Portman, who became close to the president, quickly rose to become head of the Office of Legislative Affairs, and he returned home in 1991 a year ahead of Bush's defeat.

Portman soon got his own chance to run for office in 1993 when Gradison resigned to lead the Health Insurance Association of America and asked his former intern to run in the special election to succeed him. Portman also benefited from support from former First Lady Barbara Bush, who, as Politico would recount in 2012, "recorded a radio ad name-dropping Cincinnati's Skyline Chili and Portman in the same sentence." Portman won the primary by beating former Rep. Bob McEwen, who had lost re-election in 1992 largely due to redistricting, 36-30, and he had no trouble in the general election for the conservative 2nd District.

Portman quickly became entrenched in the House, but he resigned in 2005 to become United States Trade Representative under George W. Bush. (Portman's departure set off an unexpectedly competitive special election between Republican Jean Schmidt and Democrat Paul Hackett that Schmidt ended up winning just 52-48.) Portman later served as head of the White House's powerful Office of Management and Budget from 2006 to 2007, and he played Barack Obama in 2008 during John McCain's debate practice sessions.

Portman got another chance to run for office in early 2009 when Republican Sen. George Voinovich announced his retirement. Portman quickly launched his campaign and proved to be a very strong fundraiser from the jump, something that helped the political insider avoid any primary opposition even as the emerging tea party declared war on other party establishment figures.

Ohio had backed Obama 51-47 in 2008 and this looked like it would be a top tier Senate target for much of the cycle, but that's not how things turned out. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher won the Democratic nomination after a costly primary campaign, and he never was able to come close to matching Portman's financial resources. The Republican took a lead during the summer as the political climate got worse and worse nationally for Team Blue, and Democratic outside groups ended up concentrating on other races. Ultimately, Portman beat Fisher 57-39.

Portman's wide win in this battleground state made him an attractive vice presidential prospect in 2012, and Mitt Romney seriously considered him before opting instead for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan; while the senator wasn't on the ticket, he did reprise his role as Obama as Romney prepared to debate the real president. Portman later considered his own White House bid, but he announced in late 2014 that he'd instead seek re-election to the Senate.

National Democrats soon recruited former Gov. Ted Strickland, who had narrowly lost re-election during the 2010 wave, to take on Portman, and this again looked like it would be one of the most competitive races of the cycle. Unfortunately for Strickland, though, he suffered a similar fate in 2016 as Fisher had six years ago.

Portman and his allies spent heavily during the summer on ads blaming Strickland for job losses that took place during the Great Recession, when every state experienced painful job losses that had nothing to do with who was governor, and Strickland didn't have the resources to fight back in time. Portman once again built up a clear lead in the polls months before Election Day, and national Democrats pulled out of the state in mid-October. Portman ended up winning his final term 58-37 as Trump was carrying the state 51-43.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Term-limited Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who was NRSC chair Rick Scott's top choice to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly next year, unambiguously told the New York Times that he will not run. Ducey visited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last week and even tweeted a photo of their meeting, but over the weekend, the Arizona Republican Party censured him over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, vividly demonstrating the kind of primary he'd have been in for had he decided to make a bid for the Senate.

CO-Sen: Former state Rep. Joe Salazar says he's weighing a primary challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, complaining that Bennet is "so wishy-washy and so middle-of-the-road that we don't know which road he walks on." Salazar, a prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate in Colorado, specifically criticized Bennet for what he views as insufficiently progressive stances on healthcare and the environment.

Salazar served three terms in the state House before running for attorney general in 2018, losing the primary 50.4 to 49.6 to Phil Weiser, who went on to win the general election. He does not appear to be related to former Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar, Bennet's immediate predecessor in the Senate.

GA-Sen: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests that both former Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former Rep. Doug Collins could run against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock next year, though so far, the evidence for any sort of rematch is sketchy. The paper reports that backers of the two Republicans, who both ran in Georgia's recent special election, have "rumbled about a 2022 campaign," but mostly the rumbling seems confined to dueling statements issued by prominent supporters, each trying to blame the other side for the GOP's humiliating loss of a crucial Senate seat.

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: The Philadelphia Inquirer says that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who'd previously been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor, is also considering a bid for Senate, according to an unnamed source "with direct knowledge" of the mayor's thinking. A spokesman for Kenney wouldn't directly confirm the report but did acknowledge that a campaign for governor or the Senate "may be future considerations." One difficulty for Kenney, however, is that his city's charter would require him to give up his current post, to which he was just re-elected for another four years in 2019, if he were to seek another office.

The same article also reports that State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who'd also been mentioned before, is "said to be eyeing" the Senate race. Meanwhile, the paper suggests that former Republican Rep. Lou Barletta, who previously said he was considering a Senate bid, may instead be more interested in a bid for governor.

Governors

AR-Gov: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Donald Trump's second press secretary and the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, kicked off a long-anticipated bid for governor on Monday. She joins a heavyweight Republican primary that, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson term-limited, has been underway for quite some time: Attorney General Leslie Rutledge entered the race in the middle of last year while Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin has been running since 2019.

Sanders' bid will be a test of just how Trump-loving the Arkansas GOP remains, though Griffin also suggested that his new opponent's time spent out of state might be an issue as well. In her announcement video, Sanders said she would "prohibit" so-called "sanctuary cities"—something state lawmakers already did two years ago. "Her pledge to ban sanctuary cities would have been a great line in a speech back in 2019, but not in 2021," snarked Griffin. "It sounds like she needs to catch up on what's been going on in Arkansas."

NJ-Gov: Ocean County Commissioner Joseph Vicari, who just last week announced a weird "favorite son" bid for governor, has already yanked the plug on his effort. It appeared that Vicari, who said he wouldn't campaign elsewhere in the state, was hoping to secure Ocean County's powerful "organization line" in the June GOP primary, then trade his endorsement (likely to Republican frontrunner Jack Ciattarelli) in exchange for some sort of promise to focus on Vicari's pet issues. Evidently, Vicari quickly thought better of trying to press forward with his old-school brand of transactional politics in 2021.

NY-Gov: The New York Times reports that former Rep. Pete King "floated the idea" of Rep. John Katko running for governor in a recent interview on the GOP infighting that's crescendoed after Katko and nine other House Republicans voted to impeach Donald Trump. There's no word, however, about Katko's interest. One Republican who is looking at a possible bid against Gov. Andrew Cuomo is Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. If Molinaro, who passed on what turned out to be a potentially winnable House race last year, were to go for it, that could set up a rematch of New York's contest for governor three years ago, which Cuomo won 60-36.

SC-Gov: Wealthy businessman John Warren, who last year wouldn't rule out a second primary challenge to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, is once again saying the same thing. "I'm clearly not ruling it out," he said recently, though he declined to provide any sort of timetable except to note that he waited until just four months before the primary before launching his 2018 bid.

VA-Gov: A meeting of the Virginia GOP's governing body descended into acrimony for the second week in a row, with Republicans leaving in place a December decision to select nominees for statewide races through a party convention but failing to actually come up with a plan for conducting one during the pandemic.

Convention backers, per the Virginia Mercury, want to host "a remote event in which ballots would be collected at polling sites around the state" for the sake of safety, rather than the large, single convocation that a convention normally would involve. But such a move would require a 75% supermajority on the GOP's central committee, and it appears that supporters of a traditional state-run primary voted down the proposal for a distributed convention in the hopes of pushing party leaders toward their preferred option—to no avail.

Republicans have therefore put themselves in an impossible position: They're on track to hold a classic convention, but gatherings of such a size are forbidden by state rules aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. One option could be a drive-through convention, but when Republicans in the 5th Congressional District used exactly that method last year, vote-counting lasted deep into the night after an all-day convention, and the whole affair ended in bitter accusations that the vote had been rigged.

House

CO-03: State Rep. Donald Valdez is reportedly considering a bid against freshman Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, one of several Democrats who've surfaced as possible challengers. Last year, Valdez briefly sought the 3rd Congressional District (at the time represented by Republican Scott Tipton, whom Boebert upset in the GOP primary), but he dropped out after raising little money.

GA-01: In a recent interview, former Chatham County Commissioner Al Scott hinted he might challenge Republican Rep. Buddy Carter, a possibility that would give Democrats their most prominent candidate in southeastern Georgia's 1st District in quite some time. Scott launched his political career in the 1970s, serving 16 years in the state legislature, but after a long layoff following a couple of unsuccessful bids for statewide office, he was elected to the commission in Chatham County in 2012 and became known as a "political giant" in Savannah.

Facing term limits last year, Scott ran for county tax commissioner but lost the Democratic primary in an upset. At 73, most observers concluded that the defeat signaled the end of Scott's time in office, but on a local podcast earlier this month, he said, "The only thing I haven't done in my political life that I used to daydream about is go to Congress."

It's a dream that would be difficult to realize, though. Though the blue outpost of Savannah is by far the largest population center in the 1st District, it's surrounded by a sea of red: According to Daily Kos Elections' new calculations, it went 56-43 for Donald Trump in November, not much different from Trump's 56-41 showing four years earlier. While redistricting will scramble Georgia's map, Republican mapmakers will likely ensure Carter remains in a friendly district.

Louisiana: Candidate filing closed Friday for the March 20 special elections for Louisiana's 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts, and the secretary of state has a list of contenders for each contest available here. Under state law, all the candidates will face off in the all-party primary. If no one wins a majority of the vote, an April 24 runoff would take place between the top-two vote-getters, regardless of party.

LA-02: A total of eight Democrats, four Republicans, and three others are competing to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat who resigned earlier this month to take a post as head of the Biden White House's Office of Public Engagement.

GOP legislators gerrymandered this seat, which stretches from the New Orleans area west to Baton Rouge, to be safely blue turf in order to protect Republicans elsewhere, and there's little question that Richmond's replacement will take his place as the state's only Democratic member of Congress. It's also almost a certainty that the district's new representative will be only the fourth African American to represent Louisiana in D.C. since the end of Reconstruction.

The two frontrunners appear to be a pair of Democratic state senators from New Orleans, Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter. Peterson, who would be the first Black woman to represent the state, served as state party chair from 2012 through 2020, and she has the support of EMILY's List. Carter, for his part, has Richmond's backing.

Another Democratic candidate worth watching is activist Gary Chambers, who said last week that he'd already raised $250,000. Chambers ran for the state Senate in 2019 in a Baton Rouge-area seat but lost 74-26 to Democratic incumbent Regina Ashford Barrow.

Chambers attracted national attention the following year, though, when he gave a speech at an East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting where he advocated for a school named for the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to be renamed. (It was shortly afterwards.) Chambers then used his address to decry a school board member he said had been shopping online instead of listening to "Black folks speaking up passionately about what they feel."

However, as we've mentioned before, it will be difficult for a Baton Rouge-area candidate like Chambers to have an opening here. Orleans Parish, which is coterminous with the city of New Orleans, makes up 40% of the district, while another 26% lives in neighboring Jefferson Parish. East Baton Rouge Parish, by contrast, makes up only 14% of the seat, with the balance coming from the seven smaller parishes, which are known collectively as the River Parishes.

P.S. This will be the second time that Peterson and Carter have run against each other for this post. Back in 2006 under the previous version of the map, both Crescent City politicos challenged Democratic incumbent Bill Jefferson, who was under federal investigation for corruption: Jefferson led Peterson 30-22, while Carter finished in fifth place with 12%. Peterson looked like the favorite for the runoff, but Jefferson prevailed 57-43 after he tapped into voter resentment with the federal government that had failed them during and after Hurricane Katrina struck the previous year.

Louisiana briefly switched to a partisan primary system for the 2008 and 2010 cycles, and Carter sought a rematch with Jefferson. Richmond also competed in the Democratic primary and took third place with 17%, while Carter took sixth with 8%. Jefferson would go on to lose the general election to Republican Joe Cao, whom Richmond defeated two years later.

LA-05: Nine Republicans, two Democrats, and two others are running to succeed Luke Letlow, a Republican who was elected in December but died weeks later from complications of COVID-19 before he could take office. This northeast Louisiana seat, which includes Monroe and Alexandria in the central part of the state, is heavily Republican turf, and it's likely to remain red without much trouble.

The clear frontrunner appears to be the congressman-elect's widow, University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow. Letlow has the backing of Rep. Steve Scalise, the no. 2 House Republican and one of the most powerful GOP officials in Louisiana, and a number of other Republicans decided to defer to her rather than run themselves. None of Letlow's intra-party foes appears to have the name recognition or connections needed to put up a strong fight, but it's always possible one of them will turn out to be a surprisingly strong contender.

The Democratic field consists of Candy Christophe, who took third in last year's contest with 17%, and Jessica Honsinger Hollister.

TX-15: Republican Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez, who held Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez to a shockingly close 51-48 win last year, launched a rematch late last month just before Christmas, which might explain why her kickoff did not earn much in the way of local media attention at the time. Though Gonzales outspent his little-known opponent two-to-one, De La Cruz-Hernandez's strong performance came as a result of a dramatic Democratic collapse at the top of the ticket in southern Texas: According to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, Joe Biden carried the heavily Latino 15th District just 50-49, a steep drop from Hillary Clinton's 57-40 win four years earlier.

The picture for 2022, however, is quite muddled. While Texas Republicans were ecstatic about their gains with Latino voters, they saw an even broader disintegration in their former suburban strongholds across the state that’s left many of their incumbents on the brink. While the GOP will have full control over redistricting for the coming decade once again, Republicans in the legislature will have to make many hard choices about which districts to prop up and which to cut loose. As a result, a Democrat like Gonzalez might find himself inheriting some favorable turf that a Republican colleague would rather not have to represent.

Alternately, however, Politico’s Ally Mutnick notes that GOP lawmakers could re-use a tactic they effectively deployed in the 23rd District a decade ago. There, Republicans maintained the district’s overall majority-Latino character to avoid running afoul of the Voting Rights Act but replaced higher-propensity Latino voters with those less likely (or even unable) to vote. Democrats sought to litigate this maneuver but met with no success, so if Republicans try it again, they could gerrymander another winnable South Texas district for themselves.

WA-03, WA-04: The Seattle Times' Jim Brunner mentions former state Rep. Liz Pike as a potential primary challenger to 3rd District Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who made Republicans hopping mad as a result of her vote to impeach Donald Trump. He also caught up with Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier, who lost in both 2014 and 2016 to another pro-impeachment Republican, 4th District Rep. Dan Newhouse, and called his vote a "betrayal" while not saying anything that would rule out another bid.

Legislatures

Special Elections: We take a look at a special election happening Tuesday in Iowa, and recap a special election from Saturday in Texas:

IA-SD-41: Southeastern Iowa will be the site of one of the first big legislative special elections of the Biden era, where Democrat Mary Stewart will take on Republican Adrian Dickey. We had a preview of this race earlier this month, which you can find here.

TX-HD-68: The race to replace former Rep. Drew Springer is heading to a runoff after no candidate captured a majority of the vote. Republican David Spiller was far and away the leading vote-getter, taking 44%. Fellow Republican Craig Carter led a close race for second place, taking 18%, just ahead of John Berry and Jason Brinkley, who took 17% and 16%, respectively. Charles Gregory, the lone Democrat in the running, finished with 4%. Overall, Republican candidates outpaced Democrats 96-4, an astounding margin even for one of the reddest districts in Texas.

A date for the runoff between Spiller and Carter has not been selected yet, but Gov. Greg Abbott will make that decision in February. The all-GOP runoff assures that this chamber will return to 83-67 GOP control after the election.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: On Monday, Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore filed paperwork for a possible bid this November against Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Moore did not comment on her plans, much less say why the incumbent should be fired. However, local political observer Maria Saporta wrote that Bottoms could be vulnerable because of the city's "recent uptick in crime."

It will be difficult for anyone to oust Bottoms, who is one of the more prominent Democrats in Georgia, in the November nonpartisan primary. An Atlanta mayor hasn't lost re-election since 1973, when Maynard Jackson's victory over Sam Massell made him the city's first Black leader.

Moore herself was first elected to the City Council in 1997, and she was elected citywide in 2017 by beating an establishment-backed candidate by a 55-45 margin. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Bill Torpy wrote early this month that, while five Council presidents have unsuccessfully run for mayor over the last 25 years, Moore herself is "liked on both sides of town." He also noted that Moore did considerably better at the ballot box that year than Bottoms, who won an open seat race by beating former City Councilwoman Mary Norwood 50.4-49.6.

The filing deadline for the Nov. 2 nonpartisan primary does not appear to have been set yet, and it's quite possible that other candidates will get in. A runoff would take place the following month if no one won a majority in the first round.

One of the prospective contenders may be Norwood herself, who told Torpy, "Stay tuned" when he asked about her plans a few weeks ago. Norwood, who identifies as an independent, would be the city's first white or non-Democratic mayor in decades; she previously ran for this office in 2009 only to lose to Democrat Kasim Reed by that same 50.4-49.6 margin.

Despite those two very close defeats, though, Torpy points out that Norwood may have utterly torpedoed her future prospects in this heavily Democratic city by signing an affidavit for the Trump campaign's attempt to overturn Joe Biden's win in Georgia. Norwood herself didn't allege that she'd seen any fraud last year, but instead insisted that her own supporters had found evidence of wrongdoing in her 2017 race. Norwood previously accused Reed and his allies of using fraud to beat her in 2009 without offering a shred of proof.

Voting Rights Roundup: Georgia Senate wins pave way for Democrats to pass historic election reforms

Leading Off

Congress: With victories in Georgia's Senate runoffs, congressional Democrats now have the opportunity to pass the most important set of voting and election reforms since the historic Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965. These reforms face a challenging path to passage given Democrats' narrow majorities, but their adoption is critical for preserving American democracy amid unprecedented attacks upon it by Republican extremists both in and outside Congress.

Chief among these proposals is the reintroduction of H.R. 1, the "For the People Act," which House Democrats passed in 2019 and would enact groundbreaking reforms by (1) removing barriers to expanding access to voting and securing the integrity of the vote; (2) establishing public financing in House elections to level the playing field; and (3) banning congressional gerrymandering by requiring that every state create a nonpartisan redistricting commission subject to nonpartisan redistricting criteria.

Democrats have also called for enacting a new Voting Rights Act, which the House passed in 2019 and subsequently named after the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement who died last year. Finally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to bring a bill to the floor to finally end the disenfranchisement of 700,000 Americans by making Washington, D.C. a state, which House Democrats also approved last year. We'll detail each of these major reforms below.

Pelosi has indicated that passing H.R. 1, symbolically named as the first bill of the session, will be a top priority for the new Congress. This bill would adopt the following reforms for federal elections:

  • Establish automatic voter registration at an array of state agencies;
  • Establish same-day voter registration;
  • Allow online voter registration;
  • Allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so they'll be on the rolls when they turn 18;
  • Allow state colleges and universities to serve as registration agencies;
  • Ban states from purging eligible voters' registration simply for infrequent voting;
  • Establish two weeks of in-person early voting, including availability on Sundays and outside of normal business hours;
  • Standardize hours within states for opening and closing polling places on Election Day, with exceptions to let cities set longer hours in municipal races;
  • Require paper ballots filled by hand or machines that use them as official records and let voters verify their choices;
  • Grant funds to states to upgrade their election security infrastructure;
  • Provide prepaid postage on mail ballots;
  • Allow voters to turn in their mail ballot in person if they choose;
  • Allow voters to track their absentee mail ballots;
  • Require states to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting (likely not until 2030);
  • End prison gerrymandering by counting prisoners at their last address (rather than where they're incarcerated) for the purposes of redistricting;
  • End felony disenfranchisement for those on parole, probation, or post-sentence, and require such citizens to be supplied with registration forms and informed their voting rights have been restored;
  • Provide public financing for House campaigns in the form of matching small donations at a six-for-one rate;
  • Expand campaign finance disclosure requirements to mitigate Citizens United;
  • Ban corporations from spending for campaign purposes unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its shareholders; and
  • Make it a crime to mislead voters with the intention of preventing them from voting.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, meanwhile, would restore the protections that the Supreme Court's conservatives eviscerated in an infamous 2013 decision. That ruling removed a requirement for a number of largely Southern states and localities with a pervasive history of racial discrimination to "preclear" all efforts to change voting laws and procedures with the Justice Department. The VRAA would establish new criteria for deciding which jurisdictions would fall under the preclearance requirement after the 2013 court ruling struck down the old formula.​

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​Under the new setup, any state where officials have committed at least 15 voting rights violations over a 25-year period would be required to obtain preclearance for 10 years. If the state itself, rather than localities within the state, is responsible for the violations, it would take only 10 violations to place it under preclearance. In addition, any particular locality could individually be subjected to preclearance if it commits at least three violations.

Based on this formula, the VRAA would put 11 states back under preclearance: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. While most of these states are still in the South (and also under Republican control), the list also includes the two largest Democratic-leaning states in the country, California and New York.

Lastly, the bill to grant statehood to D.C. would shrink the federal District of Columbia down to a handful of important federal buildings surrounding the National Mall while admitting the rest of the district as a new state. All but one House Democrat (who is now no longer in Congress) voted for D.C. statehood last summer, and 46 of the 50 incoming members of the Democratic Senate caucus either sponsored last year's bill or have expressed public support, while the remaining four have yet to take a firm position.

While Democrats winning full control of Congress and the presidency makes it possible to pass the above reforms, their success is far from guaranteed. For starters, Democrats would need unanimous support in the Senate and near-unanimous backing in the House given that every Republican is likely to oppose these reforms.

The most important hurdle, however, is the legislative filibuster, and the fate of these reforms will depend on Senate Democrats either abolishing or curtailing it. Progressive activists have relaunched a movement to eliminate the filibuster entirely following the Georgia victories, while some experts have suggested that Democrats could carve out an exception for voting rights legislation. Either way, Democrats will need to address the filibuster in some fashion, since Senate Republicans have made it clear they will not provide the support necessary to reach a 60-vote supermajority on any of these measures.

Voting Access

Connecticut: Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill and legislative Democrats are pushing to pass a series of voting reforms, including the adoption of no-excuse absentee voting, early voting, and automatic voter registration. Last year, lawmakers passed a statute to temporarily expand the definition of illness to allow all voters to cast absentee ballots without needing a specific excuse, and Democrats are considering passing similar legislation this year for upcoming local and special elections with the pandemic still ongoing.

Democrats may also try to permanently remove the excuse requirement by passing a constitutional amendment, as well as once again approving an amendment they passed in 2019 to allow up to three days of early voting. Unless the GOP has a change of heart and supplies enough votes for a three-fourths supermajority, amendments must pass in two sessions with an election in between before going to a voter referendum.

Delaware: Democratic lawmakers in Delaware have introduced two constitutional amendments to expand voting rights: The first would remove the excuse requirement to vote absentee by mail while the second would enable same-day voter registration. Last year, the state temporarily waived the excuse requirement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Amendments in Delaware must pass the legislature with two-thirds supermajorities in two consecutive sessions, so lawmakers could enact the no-excuse absentee voting amendment this session since they passed it the first time in 2020. (The same-day registration amendment could not go into effect until the 2024 elections at the earliest.) However, since Democrats are just shy of the two-thirds mark in the state House, they will need at least two GOP votes in support. Uniquely among the 50 states, Delaware does not require constitutional amendments to be approved by voters.

District of Columbia: In late November, the Democratic-run Washington, D.C. Council advanced a bill to make permanent a measure temporarily adopted in 2020 that let voters cast ballots at any "vote center" citywide in 2020 instead of just their local polling place. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser has yet to sign the bill, which also requires a polling place at the city jail, into law.

Hawaii: Hawaii election chief Scott Nago plans to ask the Democratic-dominated legislature to pass legislation giving voters more time to complete their ballots and to expand the number of in-person "vote centers," where any voter in a county can cast their ballot, to better accommodate voters who can't readily vote by mail or don't want to.

Additionally, voting rights advocates have announced that they will renew their push to ask lawmakers to adopt a bill enacting automatic voter registration through the state's driver's licensing agency and potentially other state agencies, too. The state Senate and House each passed separate bills to adopt automatic registration in 2019, but the proposal failed to become law after the two chambers couldn't agree on a single version.

Illinois: State House Democrats have passed legislation in committee that would make permanent some of the reforms lawmakers adopted in 2020 due to the pandemic, including: counting absentee mail ballots without postage; allowing officials to set up drop boxes for mail ballots; and continuing curbside voting for mobility-limited voters. However, the bill wouldn't extend the practice of sending applications for mail ballots to all voters who have cast ballots in recent election years.

Louisiana: Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has proposed an emergency voting plan for lawmakers to approve for upcoming local elections and the March 20 special elections for the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts. Committees in the state Senate and House both advanced the proposal to their respective full chambers earlier this month.

The plan would let voters cast absentee ballots by mail if they are at higher risk for COVID-19, seeking a diagnosis for it, or are subject to a physician's isolation order or caring for someone under isolation. However, it would not waive the excuse requirement for all voters or expand the number of early voting days.

Maine: Democratic Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who was elevated to the post by Maine's state legislature last month, will push for lawmakers to adopt online voter registration and prepaid absentee ballot postage. Meanwhile, several Democratic legislators have introduced various bills to codify the use of drop boxes, implement a system for letting voters track their absentee ballots, and let absentee ballots be counted earlier.

Maryland: Maryland Democrats have introduced legislation intended to strengthen voting access on college campuses, military bases, retirement homes, and other "large residential communities." Sites like these would be able to request an in-person voting location, and colleges would also be required to establish voter registration efforts on campus and give students an excused absence to vote if needed. The bill would let military service members register online using their identification smart cards issued by the Defense Department.

New Jersey: Committees in both chambers of New Jersey's Democratic-run legislature have declined to advance a measure that would have adopted two weeks of early voting for this year's state-level general elections and some municipal races in May. The New Jersey Globe reported that it was unclear why the bill failed to move forward but also noted that legislative leaders have yet to reach an agreement on the specifics of early voting, including whether to extend it to primaries, despite supporting the idea in principle. Committees in both chambers also passed early voting bills last year, but they did not advance further in 2020.

New York: The past three weeks have been a busy period for voting rights expansions in New York, beginning when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law an automatic voter registration measure that will involve a variety of different state agencies. Democratic state senators also passed several other reforms this week, including measures to:

The proposals to enact same-day registration and permanently remove the absentee excuse requirement are constitutional amendments that previously passed both legislative chambers in 2019 and must pass again before they can appear on this November's ballot, while the other measures are all statutory and can become law if the Assembly and Cuomo sign off on them.

Oregon: Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has called for several voting reforms in her budget proposal to the Democratic legislature, including reinstituting same-day voter registration; counting mail ballots that are postmarked by Election Day instead of only those received by Election Day; increasing the number of mail ballot drop boxes; and expanding Oregon's automatic voter registration system from just the DMV to include other agencies.

Same-day voter registration would likely require lawmakers to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot thanks to an especially bizarre chapter in state history. Oregon previously offered same-day registration, but lawmakers amended the constitution to repeal it in 1986 after a religious cult called the Rajneeshees attempted large-scale voter fraud in concert with biological warfare that left hundreds of residents poisoned in their unsuccessful plot to take over rural Wasco County's commission in 1984. However, 21 states and D.C. use same-day registration today without problems.

Vermont: Both chambers of Vermont's Democratic-run legislature have passed a bill that lets municipalities decide whether to mail every active registered voter a ballot for the upcoming March 2 "Town Meeting Day" or let them postpone the elections to the spring if needed due to the pandemic. Town meetings are a form of direct democracy unique to New England, during which localities can hold public votes on budgetary and other matters.

Virginia: Virginia Democrats have introduced several major voting reforms, which would expand on the sweeping changes they passed in 2020. This year's measures include:

Democrats have full control of state government, but constitutional amendments must pass both legislative chambers in two consecutive sessions with a state election taking place in between before going to a voter referendum. The felony voter reforms, therefore, could not become law before 2022 at the soonest. While civil rights groups and progressive Democrats support the amendment that would outright abolish felony disenfranchisement, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam backs the competing amendment that would keep those who are in prison, on parole, or on probation unable to vote.

Voter Suppression

Georgia: Republican state House Speaker David Ralston says he is open to considering removing oversight of Georgia's elections from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office, and Ralston claims he wouldn't need a constitutional amendment to do it.

Raffensperger recently incurred the ire of fellow Republicans after he refused to go along with Trump's illegal efforts to steal the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, prompting Raffensperger to release a recording of an incriminating phone call early this month during which Trump had pressured him to "find" 12,000 fake votes that would allow Trump to claim victory. The New York Times reported on Friday that state prosecutors are increasingly likely to open a formal criminal investigation into Trump over the incident.

Separately, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has called for adding a voter ID requirement to absentee voting, which Republicans exempted when they initially adopted a voter ID law in the mid-2000s. Up until 2020, absentee voting was disproportionately used by elderly Republican voters, but the GOP's push for new voting restrictions on the practice comes after mail voting heavily favored Democrats, both in November and the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs.

Many Georgia Republicans also want to reinstate the requirement that voters present an excuse in order to request an absentee ballot, along with calling for banning mail ballot drop boxes and restricting who can send ballot applications to voters. Ralston, however, says he opposes eliminating excuse-free absentee voting.

Kansas: The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to take up Kansas Republicans' appeal of a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last year that had struck down a law requiring voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, effectively dooming the measure. The law was the signature legislative achievement of former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who rose to national notoriety as the leader of Trump's bogus "voter fraud" commission.

By the time it was blocked in 2016, the Kansas law had led to one in seven new voter registrations being suspended for lack of documentation, affecting 30,000 would-be registrants in total—a group that was disproportionately young and Latino. The lower court that eventually struck down the law also eviscerated Kobach's credibility and seriously undermined his reputation even among Republicans.

Separately, Kobach's successor as secretary of state, fellow Republican Scott Schwab, reportedly won't implement a bipartisan 2019 voting reform until 2023. That law allows counties to replace traditional local polling places with countywide "vote centers" where any voter in a county may cast their ballot. A provision of the law requires it to first take effect for odd-year local elections before it can be implemented for even-year federal and state elections, so if Schwab's foot-dragging delays it past this year, it couldn't take full effect until 2023.

North Carolina: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in December unanimously overturned a lower federal court ruling that had temporarily blocked a voter ID statute passed by North Carolina Republicans from taking effect last election cycle while the case proceeded on the merits. The appellate judges ruled that the lower court had "abused its discretion" by blocking the law.

The lower court had found that there were significant similarities between this law, which Republicans approved in a 2018 lame-duck session, and one they passed in 2013, which another federal court had struck down in 2016 for being part of a package of voting restrictions that they deemed had targeted Black voters "with almost surgical precision."

The 4th Circuit, however, held that the lower court had erred by not presuming that lawmakers had acted in "good faith" when passing the laws, despite the many times that Republican legislators have had their voting laws struck down in court for discrimination. The plaintiffs are in the process of filing a petition to ask the entire 4th Circuit to rehear their case over the preliminary injunction while the case proceeds on the merits.

However, even if they succeed at the 4th Circuit, there's a strong risk of the U.S. Supreme Court eventually reversing them, which is why voting rights advocates may have better odds of blocking the voter ID law in state court instead. Last year, in fact, a state court issued its own preliminary injunction that blocked the law for the November election, and that case is also still ongoing.

Unfortunately for voting advocates, though, the 2020 elections complicated their odds of success at the state level. Democrats suffered three close losses in last November's state Supreme Court elections, leaving them with a slim 4-3 advantage on the bench

The contest for control of the court and the narrowing of Democrats' majority may have implications not only for the voter ID dispute. It could also play a role in the resolution of ongoing litigation over a separate constitutional amendment that authorized the voter ID statute, as well as with cases over North Carolina's felony voter disenfranchisement law, and upcoming lawsuits over redistricting, where the court is the lone bulwark at the state level against renewed GOP gerrymandering.

Texas: The U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority has refused to take up state Democrats' appeal in a lawsuit that sought to overturn a Republican-backed restriction that's used in Texas and several other red states to require that only voters under the age of 65 must have an excuse to vote absentee by mail. By refusing to take up the case, the high court left in place a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the Texas law in defiance of the 26th Amendment's ban on age discrimination by using logic that if applied to race would effectively result in the revival of Jim Crow voting laws.

Meanwhile, in the Texas state Senate, several GOP senators have introduced a bill that would ban the mailing of unsolicited absentee ballots applications. Populous Democratic-run counties such as Houston's Harris County sought to send applications to all voters in 2020 due to the pandemic, but Republicans convinced the GOP-dominated state Supreme Court to block them.

Existing Senate rules required 19 votes to bring bills to the floor, but after Republicans were reduced to just 18 seats following the November elections, they lowered that threshold for the third time in recent years so that they can overcome Democratic objections and pass new voting restrictions and gerrymanders.

Post Office: One key consequence of Joe Biden's victory and Democrats winning the Senate is that Biden will be able to appoint members of his choosing to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, who in turn could fire Donald Trump's postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who was instrumental in Trump's attempt to sabotage mail voting last year. With Mitch McConnell unable to block him, Biden can now fill three vacancies on the nine-member board, which currently has four Republicans and two Democrats, thereby giving it a new Democratic majority that could sack DeJoy.

Felony Disenfranchisement

Alabama: Federal District Judge Emily Marks, a Trump appointee, granted Republican defendants' motion for summary judgment in December in a lawsuit where the plaintiffs had sought to strike down a state law that serves as a de facto poll tax by requiring people with felony convictions who have served their sentences to also pay off any court fines and fees before regaining the right to vote. The plaintiffs say they are considering whether to appeal.

Minnesota: The ACLU is now asking a state appellate court to overturn a lower court's dismissal last August of their lawsuit that sought to strike down Minnesota's ban on voting for people serving out parole or probation for a felony conviction. If the effort succeeds, only people who are currently incarcerated would remain unable to vote.

Tennessee: Voting rights advocates have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to simplify Tennessee's cumbersome process for people with felony convictions who have completed their sentences to regain their voting rights. Plaintiffs in particular object to the GOP's de facto poll tax requirement that requires affected individuals to first pay off all court fines and fees, which they argue violates state law.

Redistricting and Reapportionment

Illinois: Democratic legislators have passed a bill in both chambers that will end the practice of "prison gerrymandering" for state legislative redistricting, sending it to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The bill would count incarcerated people for redistricting purposes at their last known address instead of where they are imprisoned.

Iowa: The liberal blog Bleeding Heartland reports that top-ranking GOP state legislators won't rule out using their power to implement gerrymanders by amending the maps submitted to lawmakers by Iowa's nonpartisan redistricting agency. Republicans are in a position to do so because they hold unified control of state government in a redistricting year for the first time since the 1980s, when the nonpartisan agency first came into place.

Maryland: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has issued an executive order to create an advisory commission that will propose new congressional and legislative maps for the upcoming round of redistricting. The nine commissioners will include three Democrats, three Republicans, and three independents, three of whom will be chosen by Hogan while the other six will be ordinary citizens who can apply here.

Hogan has the power to submit legislative maps to the Democratic-run legislature at the start of the legislative session, but if Democrats pass their own maps within 45 days, Hogan can't veto them. The commission's congressional map, meanwhile, would be strictly advisory in nature. While Hogan could veto new congressional districts, Democrats have the numbers to override him. The commission's proposal could nevertheless influence a court in the event of litigation.

New York: In addition to the voting access measures in our New York item above, Senate Democrats also passed a third constitutional amendment that would make it easier for Democrats to gerrymander new maps next year by lowering the threshold for overriding the state's new bipartisan redistricting commission from a two-thirds supermajority to just three-fifths. Democrats already passed this amendment in 2020, and it would also appear on the November ballot if Assembly Democrats again follow suit. However, it's possible that the lowered threshold won't even matter for the upcoming round of redistricting, since Senate Democrats gained a two-thirds supermajority in November.

The amendment also includes some nonpartisan redistricting reforms, including enshrining in the constitution an existing statutory ban on "prison gerrymandering"; freezing the number of state senators at 63; sharply limiting how cities can be split among Senate districts to prevent a repeated of the anti-urban gerrymandering that occurred when the GOP drew the lines after 2010; and authorizing state to conduct its own census if the federal count is tainted.

Pennsylvania: State House Republicans have passed a constitutional amendment out of committee by a single vote that would effectively gerrymander the state Supreme Court and Pennsylvania's two intermediate appellate courts by ending statewide judicial elections and replacing them with elections based on districts that GOP legislators would draw.

This move comes as retaliation for the state Supreme Court's Democratic majority striking down the GOP's congressional gerrymander in 2018 and protecting voting rights in 2020. Republicans could place it on the May primary ballot if it passes in both chambers for the second required time after the GOP approved the amendment in 2020.

2020 Census: The Trump administration has confirmed in federal court amid ongoing litigation that it will not release key data needed for Donald Trump to implement his attempt to unconstitutionally remove undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census population counts that will be used to reapportion congressional seats and Electoral College votes among the states. The Census Bureau said that it had in fact stopped work on producing those counts altogether.

Instead, the bureau won't compile that data until at least after Biden is sworn in, meaning the incoming president will have a chance to reverse Trump's memo ordering its production and release. The U.S. Supreme Court in December had overturned one of the three lower federal court rulings that had blocked Trump's executive memo, holding that it wasn't yet ripe for adjudication, but the delays will likely moot that litigation.

In addition to the postponed release of reapportionment data, the more granular data needed to conduct actual redistricting itself will likely be delayed past the existing March 31 deadline set by federal law. That could in turn cause several states to delay or even entirely postpone redistricting for elections taking place this year. Some states, however, have deadlines for redistricting written into their constitutions, meaning that late-arriving data could cause unpredictable legal havoc.

Electoral College

Electoral College: Republicans in three key states have proposed altering how their states allocate Electoral College votes in different ways that would have each given Donald Trump more electoral votes in 2020. It's unclear whether these plans have widespread GOP support, and two of them face long odds of passage, but they're by no means the first time that Republicans have floated efforts to manipulate the Electoral College for short-term partisan advantage, and they raise the specter that the GOP will one day go through with it.

In Michigan, GOP Congressman Bill Huizenga called for switching his state from winner-take-all to allocating electoral votes by congressional district, which of course happens to be gerrymandered by the GOP in a way that would have resulted in an 8-8 split in 2020 despite Joe Biden winning the state (Michigan Democrats in fact did this very same scheme way back in the 1892 election cycle). Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could veto such a proposal if the GOP actually tries to pass it, but she faces a potentially competitive re-election contest in 2022 that could leave the GOP with full control of the state heading into the 2024 presidential election.

In Wisconsin, meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Gary Tauchen went further and actually introduced a bill that would similarly assign electoral votes by congressional districts that were gerrymandered by Republicans, a bill that would have given Trump a 6-4 majority in November even though Biden carried the state. As in Michigan, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers could veto the bill if the GOP were to make a serious push to pass it, but he could also be defeated next year, leaving Republicans with unfettered power.

Lastly, Republican state Sen. Julie Slama introduced a bill that would move Nebraska in the opposite direction by abolishing the allocation of electoral votes by congressional district after Joe Biden won the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District and its lone electoral vote. Unlike in the other two states, Republicans already have full control over state government, but they narrowly lack a filibuster-proof two-thirds supermajority. However, the GOP could eliminate the filibuster rule with a simple majority.

These schemes may or may not work as intended and could even backfire on Republicans in the long term, especially if Wisconsin and Michigan one day turn reliably red. However, these proposals are all motivated solely by partisan self-interest rather than any good-faith concerns about the fairness of the Electoral College.

This is in fact the third straight election to which Republicans have reacted by putting forth plans to tilt the Electoral College in their favor, even though they benefited more from its skew in both 2016 and 2020 than in any elections in a century, according to one analysis.

Two-thirds of Republicans in the U.S. House and several in the Senate unsuccessfully voted last week to overturn Biden's Electoral College victory and steal the 2020 election for Trump mere hours after far-right insurrectionists incited by Trump ransacked the Capitol building itself. That followed an unsuccessful effort by Trump and his allies to agitate for disenfranchising countless voters by asking state legislatures to reject Biden's win and use their gerrymandered majorities to directly install a slate of Trump electors instead.

If the GOP entirely gives up on trying to win the popular vote and instead focuses exclusively on translating its minority support into an Electoral College majority, it's likely only a matter of time before Republicans successfully overturn a Democratic presidential victory, whether through a vote in Congress or state-level schemes to manipulate electoral vote allocation even when Democrats win the popular vote. Doing so risks sparking a far worse crisis than the one America has been living through this past month.

Electoral Reform

Alaska: The Alaska Independence Party, a right-wing fringe party that advocates for the state to secede from the union, filed a lawsuit in state court last month seeking to overturn a statute enacted by voters at the ballot box in 2020 that replaces traditional party primaries with a "top-four" primary and instant-runoff general election. Republicans are considering whether to join the legal challenge.

New York City, NY: A state court rejected issuing a temporary restraining order last month that would have blocked the use of instant-runoff voting ahead of an upcoming City Council special election after opponents of the new law, approved in 2019, filed a lawsuit in early December. The plaintiffs have announced that they will appeal, arguing that the law will lead to confusion that disenfranchises voters in communities of color unless changes are made, a charge that other candidates of color dispute.

Elections

Pennsylvania: Democratic state Sen. Jim Brewster was finally seated by the Pennsylvania Senate's Republican majority after federal District Judge Nicholas Ranjan, a Trump appointee, upheld Brewster's narrow victory last year. Republicans sparked outrage after they had refused to let Brewster take the oath of office for another term even though election officials had certified his victory and the state Supreme Court had upheld it. GOP lawmakers even ejected Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman from presiding over the chamber after he had objected to their power grab.

Republicans rejected the legitimacy of several hundred mail ballots that lacked a handwritten date on the outer envelope, even though the Supreme Court said they were otherwise valid and should be counted. Mail ballots favored Democrats by a lopsided margin thanks to Trump's demagoguery against mail voting, even though it was Republican lawmakers who pushed for a state law that, among other things, removed the excuse requirement to vote by mail in 2019.

This ordeal is an example of state-level Republicans following the lead of Trump and their congressional counterparts in trying to reject the outcome of elections after they've lost. Particularly worrisome for the rule of law is that the GOP refused to abide by the decisions of Democratic state Supreme Court justices and election officials and only capitulated after a Trump-appointed judge rejected their ploy.

Morning Digest: Alaska’s bipartisan state House coalition is imperiled following GOP primary results

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

AK State House: A coalition of 15 Democrats, two independents, and five Republicans (known as the House Majority Caucus) currently run Alaska’s 40-person House of Representatives, but at least one of these renegade Republicans lost renomination on Tuesday while two others are in trouble. We won’t have complete results for a while, though, because the Alaska Division of Elections says it won’t “even start counting absentee ballots until Aug. 25.” Absentee ballots make up a large portion of the vote in Alaska, so several races could shift quite a bit when all is said and done.

Campaign Action

One Republican member of the coalition has definitely lost after being targeted by the Republican State Leadership Committee, which is the national GOP’s legislative campaign committee, and a second incumbent is badly trailing. The Associated Press has called the primary in House District 28 in Anchorage for James Kaufman, who unseated state Rep. Jennifer Johnston 73-27. This seat backed Trump 49-43, and Democrats are fielding Adam Lees.

A second GOP Majority Caucus member, state Rep. Chuck Kopp, is trailing challenger Thomas McKay 67-33 with 1,800 votes in, though the AP has not yet made a call here. HD-24, which is also in Anchorage, went for Trump by a 52-40 margin; the Democratic nominee is Sue Levi, who lost to Kopp 59-41 in 2016 and was defeated 60-39 two years later.

A third Republican member of the bipartisan alliance, state Rep. Steve Thompson, currently has a 51-49 edge over primary challenger Dave Selle with 700 votes tallied in another contest that the AP has not called. HD-02, which is located in Fairbanks, went for Trump 60-30, and the Democrats are running Jeremiah Youmans. The final two GOP coalition members, Bart Lebon and Louise Stutes, were renominated without any opposition.

National and state Republicans in the mainstream GOP caucus (the House Minority Caucus) also appear to have scored some other wins Tuesday that will make it easier for them to control the state House next year.

A sixth Republican, Gary Knopp, was part of the coalition, but he was killed last month in a mid-air collision. Knopp, who remained on the ballot, posthumously took third place with 14%; the winner with 61% of the vote is Ron Gillham, who earned the endorsement of the local GOP back in June. (If Knopp had won, Republicans would have been able to petition to choose a replacement nominee.) HD-30, which is located in Kenai is the south-central part of the state, backed Trump 71-21.

Republicans also appear to have denied renomination to state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, who isn’t part of any alliance. The AP hasn’t called this contest yet, but with 500 votes in, challenger David Nelson leads 79-21.

LeDoux was originally a member of the coalition, but she was stripped of her committee assignments in March of 2019 after she voted against the chamber’s leaders on the budget; LeDoux didn’t rejoin the regular GOP caucus afterwards, though. In March, LeDoux was charged with voter misconduct. HD-15, which is in Anchorage, backed Trump 52-38, and the Democratic primary has not yet been called.

Finally, national Republicans may have fallen just short in toppling state Rep. David Eastman, who is part of the House Minority Caucus but has been a pain for its leaders, though the contest has not yet been called. With 2,200 votes in, Eastman leads primary foe Jesse Sumner 52-48. HD-10, which is based in Sarah Palin’s old Wasilla stomping grounds, favored Trump 71-21, so it’s likely out of reach for Democrat Monica Stein-Olson no matter how this primary ends.

While Eastman never joined the coalition, his intra-party critics remember how, after the 2018 election, he said he wouldn’t back a GOP speaker without some preconditions. Eastman was supposed to be one of the 21 Republicans who was to form the new majority, and his enemies blame him for causing the deadlock that eventually led to the bipartisan alliance. Since then, Eastman has spoken against a number of his party’s priorities, and House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt announced in March that he was on “probation.”

Senate

GA-Sen-B: Pastor Raphael Warnock, who is supported by national Democrats, is launching his debut TV ad with a $400,000 buy ahead of the all-party first round in November. The minute-long spot starts off with Warnock speaking to the camera from the housing project where he grew up in Savannah. Warnock highlights his background coming from a large family that taught him the value of hard work, followed by a series of news clips touting his role as the lead pastor of the prominent Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, a position that Martin Luther King Jr. once held. Warnock emphasizes his efforts fighting for affordable health care and the right to vote.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Doug Collins is airing a new TV ad where he focuses on how he was supposedly "Trump's preferred pick" for the appointment to this seat, using a clip of Trump praising the congressman.

Polls:

  • AZ-Sen: OnMessage (R) for Heritage Action: Mark Kelly (D): 48, Martha McSally (R-inc): 48 (51-48 Trump)
  • GA-Sen-A: Garin-Hart-Yang (D) for Jon Ossoff: Jon Ossoff (D): 48, David Perdue (R-inc): 46 (July: 45-44 Ossoff)

OnMessage's survey for the conservative Heritage Action group is one of the very few polls we've seen all year that hasn't shown McSally trailing.

House

IA-01: Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer's newest commercial focuses on the derecho storm that hit Iowa earlier this month. Finkenauer, speaking from her backyard, talks about how neighbors have been helping each other in the aftermath, and she pledges not to "stop until Iowans get the resources we need."

Republican Ashley Hinson, meanwhile, is going in a more partisan direction in her newest spot. After talking about her previous career as a local TV newscaster, Hinson rattles off some of Donald Trump's favorite talking points about "socialists trying to abolish the police, radicals trying to tear down our country."

IN-05: The far-right Club for Growth's first general election ad accuses Democrat Christina Hale of voting for higher taxes before the narrator declares, "And, like Nancy Pelosi, Hale backs the kind of public option plan that would radically expand the government's role in healthcare."

MA-01: Democratic Majority for Israel has launched a $100,000 TV buy against Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse ahead of the Sept. 1 Democratic primary. We do not yet have a copy of the commercial.

MA-04: Data for Progress has released an in-house survey of the crowded Sept. 1 Democratic primary, and it finds a tight contest with no obvious frontrunner.

Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss: 14

Newton City Councilor Becky Walker Grossman: 13

Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell: 13

Former Wall Street regulator Ihssane Leckey: 9

Public health expert Natalia Linos: 9

City Year co-founder Alan Khazei: 7

Attorney Ben Sigel: 3

Businessman Chris Zannetos: 1

A 29% plurality are undecided, while 1% goes to former assistant state attorney general Dave Cavell, who dropped out last week and endorsed Mermell.

The only other recent numbers we've seen was an early August survey for Leckey from Frederick Polls. That poll showed Grossman leading Auchincloss 19-16, with Leckey and Mermell at 11% and 10%, respectively.

NJ-07: Republican Tom Kean uses his first TV commercial to portray himself as a bipartisan legislator.

OH-10: Longtime Rep. Mike Turner seems to be taking Democrat Desiree Tims seriously, since he just launched a commercial against her that highlights a massive scandal … involving Turner's fellow Ohio Republicans.

As the screen shows a newspaper headline about a $60 million bribery scheme, the narrator begins, "It's disgraceful. Lobbyists have bought seats in the Ohio State House." Last month, then-state House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested on federal corruption charges, and prosecutors accused the nuclear power company FirstEnergy of illegally funneling $61 million to a group controlled by Householder and his allies in order to pass and preserve a 2019 law that Leah Stokes described in Vox as "widely recognized as the worst energy policy in the country."

And what does this have to do with Tims? Nothing, but that’s not stopping Turner from attempting to connect her to the scandal anyway. After briefly talking about the scandal involving lobbyists and state Republicans, his narrator awkwardly transitions to attacking Timms by continuing, “Now Washington lobbyist Desiree Tims has moved back to Ohio and is trying to buy a seat in Congress" by accepting out-of-state contributions. Turner himself, though, does have a link to FirstEnergy: According to the Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay, the congressman has taken $20,000 in campaign contributions from the company during his career.

OK-05: The Club for Growth is running a new commercial against state Sen. Stephanie Bice ahead of next week's Republican primary runoff that begins with someone dancing while wearing a unicorn mask. The narrator responds, "Ok, that's just weird! Like when Stephanie Bice voted for the biggest tax increase in state history, but claims to care about taxpayers."

Our grooving half-unicorn friend (a reverse centaur, but a unicorn?) pops up again, and the narrator responds, "Really, a bit odd. Like how Bice denounced Trump in 2016, but now claims she'll stand with him." This process repeats one more time, with the ad volunteering the dancer is "strange," just like "Bice voting to weaken criminal penalties on looting, but claims she's a conservative." Bice faces businesswoman Terry Neese in next week's contest for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn.

VA-02: After former Republican Rep. Scott Taylor sent a cease-and-desist letter to Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria demanding that she stop making statements claiming that he is under investigation for ballot access fraud, the Roanoke prosecutor John Beamer's office announced that an investigation is still ongoing, stating, "The entire campaign is under investigation." Taylor's staff was exposed during his unsuccessful 2018 re-election campaign for forging signatures on behalf of Democrat-turned-independent Shaun Brown (who was booted off the ballot by a judge), and Democrats ran ads slamming Taylor's campaign for its illegal scheming.

The story surfaced again in March when a former Taylor staffer pleaded guilty for her part in the scheme, and Beamer's office now says that more indictments are possible. Taylor himself has consistently denied any knowledge of the scheme, but his staff had previously claimed the congressman was indeed aware of their plans.

WA-10: Democratic state Rep. Kristine Reeves, who finished in third place with 13% in this month's top-two primary, has endorsed former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland over state Rep. Beth Doglio in the all-Democratic November general election.

Primary Result Recaps

FL-03: Kat Cammack defeated 2018 candidate Judson Sapp 25-20 in the Republican primary to succeed her old boss, retiring Rep. Ted Yoho, in this 56-40 Trump seat in north-central Florida.

Cammack served as Yoho's campaign manager during his four bids for office, including his 2012 upset win against incumbent Cliff Stearns and his 2018 contest against Sapp, but Yoho was hardly in her corner. In a weird twist, Yoho, who did not endorse anyone, confirmed in June that he'd "demoted" Cammack seven years ago "from Chief of Staff in my Washington, DC office to Deputy Chief of staff and reassigned to the district in Florida for reasons not to be disclosed."

Yoho concluded, "She continued to work for our office in a satisfactory manner until she decided to run for Congress herself. No further comments are warranted." No more comments came, and Cammack is now poised to win the seat of the man who demoted her. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican.

FL-05: Democratic Rep. Al Lawson took just 56% of the vote in the primary against two unheralded opponents in this safely blue North Florida seat, which was not a strong performance for an incumbent. Chester Albert, whose old anti-LGBTQ writings surfaced weeks before the primary, was far behind with 28%. While Lawson didn't come close to losing, though, Tuesday's results indicate that he could be in trouble in the future against a stronger intra-party foe, especially with redistricting just around the corner.

FL-08: Republican Rep. Bill Posey won renomination 62-38 against Scott Caine, a Navy veteran who ran some anti-Posey TV ads in the final weeks of the contest for this safely red seat along Florida's Space Coast.

FL-13: Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna defeated attorney Amanda Makki, who had the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, 36-28 in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist. While both candidates campaigned as ardent Trump allies, Luna worked especially hard to foster a far-right image. Luna, who compared Hillary Clinton to "herpes," also enjoyed the support of Rep. Matt Gaetz, a rabid Trump fan who represents the 1st District well to the northwest.

This St. Petersburg seat went from 55-44 Obama to 50-46 Clinton, but neither party has been acting like Crist is in much danger. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Democratic.

FL-18: Navy veteran Pam Keith, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nod last cycle, defeated former state deputy solicitor general Oz Vazquez 80-20 in the primary to face Republican Rep. Brian Mast.

This seat, which includes the Palm Beach area and the Treasure Coast to the north, moved from 51-48 Romney to 53-44 Trump, and Mast doesn't look vulnerable. The incumbent won re-election 54-46 against a well-funded opponent, and he had a hefty $1.8 million on-hand in late July. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican, though things could get interesting if Trump truly wrecks his party down the ballot.

FL-19: State Rep. Byron Donalds appears to have claimed the GOP nomination for this safely red seat in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers area after a very tight expensive battle. The Associated Press has not called the contest as of Wednesday afternoon, but second place candidate House Majority Leader Dan Eagle, who trails 23-22 with 104,000 ballots counted, has conceded to Donalds. Two self-funders, businessman Casey Askar and urologist William Figlesthaler, finished just behind with 20% and 18%, respectively.

Askar and Figlesthaler decisively outspent the rest of the field, while Eagle had the support of Sen. Marco Rubio. Donalds, though, benefited from millions in spending from the anti-tax Club for Growth and like-minded groups. Donalds would be the second Black Republican to represent Florida in Congress since Reconstruction; the first was Allen West, who is now the chair of the Texas Republican Party.

Donalds ran here back in 2012 and took fifth place with 14% in what turned out to be the first of four open seat contests during the decade. The winner was Trey Radel, who was elected in the fall but arrested the next year by an undercover officer in D.C. after he attempted to buy cocaine, and he resigned months later under pressure from party leaders. Radel was succeeded in a 2014 special by Curt Clawson, who retired in 2016 and was replaced by Francis Rooney, who announced last year that he would not seek a third term.

FL State House: Two terrible Democratic state House members representing safely blue seats were ousted Tuesday by far more progressive opponents.

In Jacksonville’s HD-14, community organizer Angie Nixon defeated incumbent Kim Daniels by a 60-40 margin. Daniels, who has faced a number of serious questions about her ethics, defied her party this year by co-sponsoring a bill requiring parental consent for abortions, and an official with Equality Florida dubbed her “probably the most anti-LGBTQ Democrat in Tallahassee.”

Daniels also made a name for herself as a Trump loyalist, and in 2018, she delivered a prayer giving thanks to Donald Trump that also included attacks on witches. Daniels had the backing of charter school interests and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, while the local chamber and state AFL-CIO were for Nixon.

Meanwhile, in Palm Beach County’s HD-88, Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Omari Hardy beat state Rep. Al Jacquet 43-26. Jacquet has a long history of homophobia, and he used an anti-LGBTQ slur against Hardy during the campaign; Hardy responded, “While I am not gay, I was raised in a same-sex household by my two mothers, and I am offended for them and for the broader LGBTQ community here in Palm Beach County, where I serve.”

Jacquet said later, “I apologize for my words that have offended some of my colleagues.” That non-apology didn’t satisfy anyone, and Jacquet soon stepped down from his post as the top Democrat on the Rules Committee.

Broward County, FL State Attorney: Former prosecutor Harold Pryor won the eight-way Democratic primary to succeed incumbent Mike Satz, who is retiring after an astounding 44 years in office. Pryor, who would be the first African American to hold this office, defeated defense attorney Joe Kimok 21-20.

Pryor is the heavy favorite in the fall in this 66-31 Clinton county. However, Republicans do have a notable candidate in Gregg Rossman, who has prosecuted a number of high-profile murders; another local prosecutor, Sheila Alu, is also competing as an independent.

Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: Two county commissioners, Republican Steve Bovo and Democrat Daniella Levine Cava, will face off in November's nonpartisan general election to succeed termed-out incumbent Carlos Gimenez, who is the GOP nominee for Congress against Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Bovo took first place with 29.3%, while Levine Cava beat former Democratic Mayor Alex Penelas 28.8-24.5 for the second general election spot.

The following day, Levine Cava released an internal poll from Change Research taken in early August that showed her leading Bovo 39-28. However, while Miami-Dade County is solidly blue in presidential contests, a Bovo win is far from out of the question. Republicans often do very well in this area downballot, and it's hardly a certainty that supporters of Penelas, whom Al Gore dubbed "the single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with" due to his actions during the 2000 campaign, will overwhelmingly break for Levine Cava.

Miami-Dade County, FL State Attorney: Incumbent Katherine Fernández Rundle, who has been in office for 27 years, defeated progressive opponent Melba Pearson 61-39 in the Democratic primary. No other candidates filed for the general election, so Fernández Rundle's victory gives her another term by default.

Orange/Osceola Counties, FL State Attorney : Former defense attorney Monique Worrell, who campaigned as the most progressive candidate in the four-person Democratic primary, decisively won the nomination to succeed retiring incumbent Aramis Ayala as state attorney for the Ninth Circuit, which covers both Orlando's Orange County and neighboring Osceola County. Worrell, who had Ayala's endorsement and benefited from heavy spending by a group close to billionaire philanthropist George Soros, beat former judge Belvin Perry 43-31.

No Republicans are running in the November election, and Worrell will be the heavy favorite to defeat independent Jose Torroella.

WY-Sen: Former Rep. Cynthia Lummis, to no one's surprise, beat Converse County Commissioner Robert Short 60-13 in the Republican primary to succeed retiring Rep. Mike Enzi. Wyoming was Donald Trump's single best state in 2016, and Lummis should have no trouble in the fall in a contest Daily Kos Elections rates as Safe Republican.

Grab Bag

Deaths: It may be hard for younger people to believe, but for much of the second half of the 20th century, the states of the Pacific Northwest routinely elected center-right Republicans to higher office. One of the last remaining big names from that tradition died on Wednesday at the age of 92: Washington's former Sen. Slade Gorton.

Gorton spent nearly 40 years in elective office, getting his start representing a north Seattle state House seat in the 1960s. Gorton then was elected in 1968 to his first of three terms as state attorney general, where he engaged in a long fight with the state's Native American tribes over fishing treaty rights.

Gorton went on have two separate tenures in the U.S. Senate. He was first elected in 1980 with some help from Ronald Reagan's coattails in a 54-46 upset victory against local institution Warren Magnuson, a Democrat who served in the chamber since 1944. Like a number of Senate Republicans elected in 1980, though, he found himself bounced out in the 1986 midterm, losing to former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams, who had previously been a Democratic congressman, 51-49.

Gorton, however, quickly won the state's other Senate seat in 1988, prevailing 51-49 against Democratic Rep. Mike Lowry in the contest to succeed retiring Republican incumbent Dan Evans. (Lowry would win his single term as governor four years later.) Gorton was re-elected in 1994 fairly easily against the backdrop of a good Republican year over then-King County Councilor Ron Sims, who would later become the executive of Washington's largest county.

Gorton's political career, though, didn’t survive the state's gradual move toward the Democrats in 2000. Gorton ended up being unseated by former Rep. Maria Cantwell in an extremely close race, losing by only 2,200 votes after an automatic recount.

Gorton was a largely party-line vote in the Senate though with occasional deviations, of which one of the most notable was his decision to vote against the perjury charge in Bill Clinton's impeachment (though he did vote to convict on the obstruction of justice charge). One of Gorton's notable post-Senate achievements will survive him for a few more years: He was the chief Republican member of Washington's redistricting commission in 2011, which is generally regarded as having produced mildly Republican-favorable maps.

Incidentally, thanks to the longevity of Cantwell and fellow Democratic Sen. Patty Murray (and the even greater longevity of Magnuson and Henry Jackson before them), Gorton's passing means that Washington is in the unusual position of having only one living ex-senator: Dan Evans, still going at 94.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete summary of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to elections and voting procedures as a result of the coronavirus.

Delaware: Republicans have filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to overturn a new law passed by Democratic lawmakers earlier this year that loosened Delaware's excuse requirement to enable everyone to vote by mail this November due to the pandemic. The law also directed officials to mail an application for an absentee mail ballot to all voters in the Sept. 15 downballot primary and November general election.

Louisiana: Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards says he won't sign a new election plan proposed by Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin that would keep in place the state's requirement that voters under age 65 present a specific excuse to request an absentee ballot and would only expand eligibility to those who have documentation that they have tested positive for COVID-19 (note that we previously said incorrectly that Edwards did not have the power to veto this plan). The latest GOP plan is more limited than the exceptions that Ardoin backed in the state's July primary, and the Republican legislature is set to take up the plan this week.

New Jersey: The Trump campaign and national and state GOP organizations have filed a federal lawsuit aiming to overturn Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's recent executive order adopting a full vote-by-mail system for November, where every voter will be mailed a ballot directly and in-person voting will still be available on a limited basis of at least one location in each of the state's 565 municipalities.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: In primary delayed by chaos, Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood party dumps governor

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

PR-Gov: Puerto Rico's gubernatorial primaries finally came to an end on Sunday, and former Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi ousted Gov. Wanda Vázquez 58-42 to win the nomination of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. Vázquez did not endorse Pierluisi, declaring instead, "I say to Pedro Pierluisi, that it is the thousands and thousands of people who supported me, and gave me their vote ... it is those people whose endorsement he should be seeking." Pierluisi, for his part, said that statehood would be one of his top goals if elected.

Meanwhile, Isabela Mayor Carlos Delgado decisively won the contest to lead the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party by defeating Puerto Rico Sen. Eduardo Bhatia 63-24. Pierluisi and Delgado will face off in the November general election for a four-year term along with Alexandra Lúgaro of the Citizens' Victory Movement, a party that NPR describes as "promoting anti-colonialism and a constitutional assembly to make a final decision on Puerto Rico's political relationship with the United States."

Campaign Action

The primary was originally set for June, but Vázquez signed legislation postponing it to Aug. 9 because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, ballots arrived late, or did not arrive at all, at a majority of voting centers that day, and the commonwealth's major political parties postponed voting a week. On Thursday, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled that voting would take place on Sunday in any precinct that was not open for the legally required eight hours last week.

The second round of voting mostly proceeded as planned, but not everyone who wanted to vote ended up being able to cast a ballot. Many people left closed polling places on Aug. 9 only to eventually learn that their precinct had opened later in the day for the prescribed eight hours, but that it was now too late for them to vote.

Pierluisi, who represented Puerto Rico in the U.S. House as a non-voting member from 2009 to 2017, briefly served as governor last year under some very unusual circumstances. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who had narrowly defeated Pierluisi in the 2016 primary, was badly damaged after a series of online chats between the governor and his allies leaked in which participants lobbed violent, misogynist, and homophobic insults at their enemies and joked about Puerto Ricans who died during Hurricane Maria. Mass protests soon broke out calling for Rosselló to quit, and the legislature began laying the groundwork to impeach him.

After two weeks of protests, Rosselló announced on July 24 that he would resign nine days hence, but it was unclear who would succeed him. Normally the commonwealth's secretary of state would take over, but Luis Rivera Marin had previously resigned from that very post because of his own role in the chat scandal. Vázquez, who was justice minister, was next in the line of succession, but she said on July 28―less than a week before Rosselló's Aug. 2 departure―that she hoped that Rosselló would pick a new secretary of state, and that this new person would be governor instead of her.

Rosselló tried to do just that, and he announced on July 31 that he was appointing his old rival Pierluisi. However, the commonwealth's constitution requires the secretary of state to be confirmed by both Puerto Rico's House and Senate, but Pierluisi was sworn into that job that very evening before any legislators had a chance to vote.

The House gave Pierluisi an affirmative vote on Aug. 2 about an hour before Rosselló's departure took effect, but the Senate postponed their own hearings until the following week. However, that didn't stop Pierluisi from being sworn in as governor right after Rosselló left office. Pierluisi cited a 2005 law that said that the secretary of state didn't need to have received legislative confirmation from both chambers if they need to take over as governor to make his case that he was indeed Puerto Rico's legitimate leader.

However, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ruled that this provision was unconstitutional days later in the decision that ousted Pierluisi from the governor's office and put Vázquez in charge. While Vázquez said she hadn't wanted to be governor, she soon quashed speculation that she would only stay long enough to appoint a new secretary of state who would then take over as the commonwealth's leader, and she announced in December that she'd seek a full term.

Pierluisi argued during his campaign that Vázquez wasn't fixing mistakes made by her administration during the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the special independent prosecutor's office announced that it had launched a criminal investigation into allegations that Vázquez and her administration had mismanaged emergency supplies after Puerto Rico was struck by earthquakes in January.

Primary Preview

Primary Night: The One Where Ross Tries Not To Get Fired: Primaries are concluding on Tuesday in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming for congressional and state offices, and as always, we've put together our preview of what to watch.

We'll be keeping a close eye on the GOP primary for Florida's 15th District, where freshman Republican Rep. Ross Spano, who is under federal investigation for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his successful 2018 bid, faces a serious intra-party threat from Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. We'll also be watching the GOP primaries for the open 3rd and 19th Districts, as well as the contest to face Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist in the 13th District.

And the action isn't confined to the Lower 48. In Alaska, national Republicans are spending to deny renomination to members of the Democratic-led cross-partisan coalition that runs the state House. Check out our preview for more on these contests.

Our live coverage will begin at 7 PM ET Tuesday night at Daily Kos Elections when the polls close in most of Florida. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates. And you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates of the cycle's remaining down-ballot primaries, as well as our separate calendar tracking key contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year.

Senate

CO-Sen: Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who has long had a dismal record on climate issues, is continuing to pitch himself as a supporter of the environment in his advertising campaign. Gardner's newest commercial features two conservationists praising him for securing "permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund."

GA-Sen-A, IA-Sen, MT-Sen: The Democratic group Duty and Honor is out with ads against three Republican incumbents:  Georgia's David Perdue, Iowa's Joni Ernst, and Montana's Steve Daines.

While Perdue has been running spots claiming he wants to cover pre-existing conditions, Duty and Honor takes him to task for trying to take those protections away. The Iowa commercial, meanwhile, goes after Ernst for "calling for Iowa schools to reopen, trying to score political points instead of prioritizing our kids' health and safety."

Finally, the Montana ad argues that Daines voted to give drug companies huge tax breaks when they're causing the opioid crisis and "raised their prices so high that nearly two-in-five Montanans can't afford their prescriptions."

GA-Sen-B: Sen. Kelly Loeffler uses her newest commercial to accuse Rep. Doug Collins, a fellow Republican, of working with Democrats to undermine her. The narrator begins, "The Trump Justice Department says Kelly Loeffler did nothing wrong," a reference to how the DOJ dropped its investigation into her sale of millions in stock just before the markets tanked due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ad then goes on to say that Collins "voted with Stacey Abrams in the legislature and Nancy Pelosi in Congress," though it doesn't actually mention anything that Collins saw eye-to-eye with either Democrat on. The spot later features a clip of Donald Trump praising Loeffler for being "so supportive of me and the agenda." Trump hasn't taken sides in the November all-party primary, and he's also talked up Collins.

IA-Sen: The conservative group One Nation's newest commercial declares, "As an assault survivor and military veteran herself, Sen. Joni Ernst is standing up to sexual assault in the military." It goes on to show a clip of Ernst saying, "Abuse is not something you can simply forget."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: East Carolina University has released a new survey of its home state:

  • NC-Sen: Cal Cunningham (D): 44, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 40 (June: 41-41 tie)
  • NC-Gov: Roy Cooper (D-inc): 52, Dan Forest (R): 38 (June: 49-38 Cooper)

The sample finds a 47-47 tie in the presidential race, which is a very small shift from Joe Biden's 45-44 edge in June.

TX-Sen: YouGov has released a new survey for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and Rice University that finds Republican Sen. John Cornyn leading Democrat MJ Hegar 44-37, while Donald Trump holds a 48-41 edge in Texas. YouGov's July survey for CBS, which was taken just before Hegar won the Democratic primary runoff, had Cornyn up by a similar 44-36 margin, though Trump was ahead only 45-44.

WY-Sen: Last week, Donald Trump backed former Rep. Cynthia Lummis in Tuesday's GOP primary for this open seat. The former congresswoman has a few intra-party opponents in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Enzi in this extremely red state, but none of them appear to be very strong.

Lummis' most notable foe is Converse County Commissioner Robert Short, a self-described "centrist Republican." Lummis outspent Short, who has self-funded almost his entire campaign, $725,000 to $255,000 from July 1 to July 29, which is the time the FEC defines as the pre-primary period.

Gubernatorial

MO-Gov: The Republican firm Remington Research's newest poll for the Missouri Scout newsletter finds Republican incumbent Mike Parson leading Democrat Nichole Galloway 50-43, which is a small shift from Parson's 50-41 edge in June. The release did not include presidential numbers.

VT-Gov: Attorney John Klar announced Friday that he was endorsing Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who defeated him 73-22 in last week's primary, and would not run as a conservative independent in the general election.

House

MA-01: Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has released a new survey from Beacon Research that finds Rep. Richie Neal, his opponent in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary, ahead by just a 46-41 margin. The poll was conducted over the weekend, after Morse accepted an apology from the Massachusetts College Democrats for the harm that followed the release of the organization's letter accusing Morse of inappropriate conduct toward students.

Meanwhile, the Justice Democrats, which said late last week that it was resuming its support for Morse, is spending another $150,000 on TV ads attacking Neal. Their newest spot says that "last year, Neal took more money from corporations than any other member of Congress—almost $2 million" while at the same time he "hasn't held a town hall in years."

MA-04: Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell is airing her first TV spot ahead of the Sept. 1 Democratic primary. Mermell, who appears to be recording the ad using her smartphone, says that voters struggling to pick between the many candidates could opt for "the one who protected abortion and birth control coverage at Planned Parenthood."

To underscore just how crowded the race is, the audience sees several other copies of Mermell gradually appear in the shot to talk about her support for Medicare for all and the Green New Deal and her endorsements from "[Rep.] Ayanna Pressley, [state Attorney General] Maura Healey, Planned Parenthood, Mass Teachers, Mass Nurses, SEIU." Mermell, who by this time has three other images of herself behind her, concludes, "We approve this message because you got some good options, but one clear choice."

Meanwhile, businessman Chris Zannetos is trying to distinguish himself from his rivals by running to the center. In his new commercial, the narrator touts Zannetos as the one candidate opposed to "eliminat[ing] private health insurance." Zannetos goes on to say he backs Joe Biden's plan and says, "Let's expand Obamacare and lower the cost of prescription drugs."

MO-02: House Majority PAC has released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that shows Democrat Jill Schupp leading Republican Rep. Ann Wagner 48-45. The sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 48-46 in a suburban St. Louis seat that supported Donald Trump 53-42 but has been moving to the left in recent years. This is the first survey we've seen here since February, when the GOP firm Remington Research's poll for the Missouri Scout newsletter had Wagner up 50-40.

NH-01: On Monday, former state GOP vice chair Matt Mayberry earned an endorsement in the Sept. 8 Republican primary from former Sen. John Sununu, who represented a previous version of this seat before he was elected to his one term in the Senate in 2002.

Mayberry faces a challenging battle against former White House aide Matt Mowers, who has Donald Trump's backing, for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in this swing seat. Mowers ended June with a wide $440,000 to $73,000 cash-on-hand lead over his intra-party rival, while Pappas had a far-larger $1.5 million campaign account.

NJ-07: In his opening commercial, freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski decries, "Some people just want to divide us, even over wearing a mask. It's exhausting." Malinowski goes on to call for "getting things done" instead, and continues, "I passed a bill to fix America's stockpile of critical medical equipment."

Other Races

Broward County, FL State's Attorney: Eight Democrats are competing in Tuesday's primary to succeed Mike Satz, who is retiring after 44 years as Broward County's top prosecutor, and most of the outside money has favored one candidate.

George Soros, the billionaire progressive donor who has poured millions into backing criminal justice reformers in many recent key races around the country in recent years, has been funding a group called the Florida Justice & Public Safety PAC that has raised $750,000 to support defense attorney Joe Kimok. Kimok, who had planned to challenge Satz before the incumbent decided not to seek re-election, is the one candidate who has pledged not to seek the death penalty if elected.

Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that a group known as Victims Have Rights has raised a considerably smaller $110,000 to help veteran prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy, who has Satz's endorsement. The PAC has run mailers against Kimok and another contender, Coconut Creek City Commissioner Joshua Rydell.

Orange/Osceola Counties, FL State's Attorney: State Attorney Aramis Ayala is retiring as state's attorney for the Ninth Circuit, which covers both Orlando's Orange County and neighboring Osceola County, and four fellow Democrats are competing in Tuesday's party primary to succeed her. No Republicans are running in the November election, and the winner will be the heavy favorite to defeat independent Jose Torroella.

The Appeal's Samantha Schuyler writes that the one candidate who has pledged to keep Ayala's criminal justice reforms in place is former defense attorney Monique Worrell, and she's getting some major late support from like-minded allies.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Our Vote Our Voice, a group funded in part by a group founded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, launched a $1.5 million ad campaign in the last two weeks in the contest to help Worrell. Some of the group's commercials have gone towards promoting Worrell while others have gone after attorney Belvin Perry, who served as the judge during the high-profile Casey Anthony murder trial that took place here in 2011.

The other two Democratic candidates are Deb Barra, who serves as chief assistant state attorney, and former prosecutor Ryan Williams. Ayala initially backed Barra, but the incumbent later threw her support to Worrell after she launched her own campaign.

Barra, Perry, and Williams are all arguing that Ayala's decision never to seek the death penalty has harmed the office; Williams even resigned in 2017 over this policy. This trio has pointed to Ayala's struggles against the GOP-led state government to make their case. After Ayala announced that her office would not seek the death penalty, then-Gov. Rick Scott transferred 23 first-degree murder cases to a considerably more conservative state's attorney in another jurisdiction. The Florida Supreme Court sided with Scott after Ayala sued over this, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has continued to remove first-degree murder cases from her jurisdiction.

Worrell herself has said of the Republican governors' actions, "It put me on notice that the rules of the game have changed significantly … And those opposed [to criminal justice reform] will use any means necessary." However, Schuyler writes that even Worrell "is running on a platform that is significantly less assertive than Ayala's and has backed away from Ayala's death penalty position."

Election Changes

 Indiana: Republicans on the Indiana Election Commission have blocked a proposal by Democrats that would have allowed all voters to request an absentee ballot for the November general election without needing an excuse. The measure failed after the bipartisan panel deadlocked, with both Republican members voting against the plan and both Democrats voting for it. The Commission had unanimously waived the excuse requirement for the state's June primary.

Voting rights advocates filed a federal lawsuit challenging the requirement in late April, and briefing on their request concluded at the end of last month, so a ruling may be imminent.

 Kentucky: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams have reached an agreement that will permit Kentucky voters to cite concerns about the coronavirus to request an absentee ballot for the November general election.

Beshear had wanted to waive the excuse requirement altogether, as the state had done for its June primary. However, a law passed earlier this year by Kentucky's Republican-run legislature required the governor to obtain approval for such a change from Adams, who had resisted a wider expansion of mail voting. The difference may nonetheless be minimal, as many other states have relaxed their own excuse requirements by allowing concerns about COVID to qualify and seen a surge in mail ballots.

 Louisiana: Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has proposed a plan to Louisiana's Republican-run legislature that would keep in place the state's requirement that voters present an excuse to request an absentee ballot and would expand eligibility only to those who have tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved a plan put forth by Ardoin that offered a limited expansion of absentee voting for the state's July primary for those at heightened risk from the coronavirus after Republicans rejected a broader proposal.

Legislators are slated to take up Ardoin's latest plan this week, and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards says he is reviewing it. Before it was released, Edwards said he hoped it "would look substantially similar to the one" put in place for the primaries. However, that earlier plan did not require the governor's approval, nor does the new one. Voting rights advocates, including the NAACP, filed a suit challenging Louisiana's excuse requirement in federal court earlier this month.

 New York: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will sign a measure passed by New York's Democratic-run legislature to allow all voters to cite concerns about the coronavirus in order to request an absentee ballot. Cuomo had signed an executive order earlier this year making the same allowance ahead of the state's June primary.

Last month, lawmakers passed several other bills to improve voting access, which the governor must sign or veto soon. Another measure that would allow county election officials to deploy ballot drop boxes has yet to come up for a vote, but Cuomo says he supports the idea.

grab bag

 Deaths: Former Illinois Gov. James Thompson, a moderate Republican whose tenure from 1977 to 1991 was the longest in state history, died Friday at the age of 84. We take a look at his lengthy and eventful career in our obituary, which features appearances by Spiro Agnew, Lyndon LaRouche, the founder of Weight Watchers, and Lenny Bruce.

Thompson successfully won four terms as governor, but his last two campaigns were quite eventful. In 1982, Thompson defeated former Democratic Sen. Adlai Stevenson III by just over 5,000 votes in a contest that wasn’t resolved until days before he was inaugurated for a third term.

Thompson and Stevenson faced off again four years later in a rematch that became infamous for reasons that had nothing to do with either man. While Stevenson easily earned the nomination, a candidate affiliated with the fringe political activist Lyndon LaRouche won the primary to become his running mate. Stevenson opted to run as an independent rather than “run on a ticket with candidates who espouse the hate-filled folly of Lyndon LaRouche.” You can find out more about this campaign, as well as the rest of Thompson’s career, in our obituary.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Flipping the Senate is within reach as three key race ratings shift toward Democrats

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

Race Ratings: As the battle for control of the Senate grows more competitive, Daily Kos Elections is moving a trio of contests in the Democrats’ direction, though all three Republican incumbents very much remain in the fight. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s race moves from Likely to Lean Republican, while Maine Sen. Susan Collins' and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis’ seats have gone from Lean Republican to Tossup.

With these changes, we now rate three Republican-held seats as Tossups (the two above plus Arizona) and one as Lean Democratic (Colorado). If Democrats can sweep these races and retake the White House, they'll win back control of the Senate even in the likely event that Alabama Sen. Doug Jones loses his bid for re-election.

Campaign Action

Iowa (Likely Republican to Lean Republican). At the start of the cycle, it wasn’t clear whether Joni Ernst would be a serious target, but of late, both parties have begun treating the Hawkeye State as a major battleground. Ernst’s allies at the NRSC and the Senate Leadership Fund have reserved a total of $15.2 million in ad time, while the DSCC and the Senate Majority PAC have booked $20.4 million to unseat her. Businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, who has the support of national Democrats in the June 2 primary, has also proven to be a strong fundraiser, though Ernst still had considerably more money to spend at the end of March.

Still, while Ernst is in for a tougher race than she may have anticipated even a few months ago, she remains the favorite thanks to Iowa’s swing to the right over the last few years. Though the Hawkeye State had been competitive turf for generations, Ernst won by a surprisingly lopsided 52-44 margin in 2014, and Donald Trump did even better there two years later. Iowa did shift back towards Democrats last cycle when Democrats unseated two Republican House incumbents, but Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds still won a full term 50-48 in a bad year for her party.

Maine (Lean Republican to Tossup): Susan Collins has pulled off lopsided wins during all three of her re-election contests, and she remained very popular in her home state of Maine as recently as a couple of years ago. However, the incumbent’s numbers took a dive after she provided the decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, something that she seemed to acknowledge last summer.

We’ve only seen two polls this year, but they both showed Collins narrowly losing to state House Speaker Sara Gideon, who has the backing of national Democrats in the July primary and swamped Collins on the money front in the most recent quarter. Maine only narrowly backed Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Collins has a strong shot of winning a fifth term if Trump can come close again. But Collins, whose once-moderate veneer helped her win many Democratic votes in years past, is unused to having her fate tied to the top of the ticket and can no longer count on crossover support now that her extremism has been exposed.

North Carolina (Lean Republican to Tossup): Thom Tillis is another GOP incumbent who seemed to have the edge just a few months ago, but things have improved for Democrats since Cal Cunningham won his primary in early March. Cunningham decisively outraised Tillis over the following weeks, and multiple polls have shown Tillis trailing. North Carolina did back Trump 50-46, but if this swing state ends up in Joe Biden’s column this fall, Tillis will have a tough time hanging on.

Election Changes

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

California: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an order directing that all California voters be sent a mail-in ballot for the November general election, though in-person voting will still remain an option. Leaders in the Democratic-run legislature plan to pass a bill that would do the same thing, but they had asked Newsom to issue this order so that election officials could begin making the necessary preparations immediately.

Delaware: Democratic Gov. John Carney has postponed Delaware's presidential primary a second time, from June 2 to July 7. The delay will give the state more time to send absentee ballots applications to all registered Democrats and Republicans who have not yet requested one, a move that Carney also just announced. Carney's order also postpones all school board elections, which previously were moved from May 12 to June 16, until July 21.

Louisiana: Voting rights advocates, including the NAACP, have filed a federal lawsuit asking that Louisiana's requirement that voters present an excuse in order to vote absentee be waived for all elections that take place during the coronavirus pandemic. The suit also seeks to waive the requirement that absentee voters obtain a witness' signature for their ballots. In addition, plaintiffs want the early voting period extended from seven days to 14.

Michigan: Michigan officials have accepted a federal judge's original plan for easing ballot access requirements for congressional and judicial candidates despite an appeals court ruling that overturned that plan. As a result, the filing deadline for such candidates was extended from April 21 to May 8, the number of signatures required was halved, and candidates were allowed to collect and file signatures electronically.

Minnesota: Democrats in the Minnesota House have given up on a plan to conduct the state's elections by mail after the Republican-run state Senate refused to consider it. Instead, both chambers passed a compromise bill that appropriates federal funds to promote absentee voting, help process an expected surge of mail ballots, and open more polling places to reduce crowding.

Senate

MI-Sen: Advertising Analytics reports that Republican John James has launched a new $800,000 buy that will last for two weeks. The commercial touts James' time in the Army and in business and does not mention Democratic incumbent Gary Peters.

House

IN-01: The Congressional Hispanic Caucus' BOLD PAC has spent about $150,000 on mailers supporting state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon in the June 2 Democratic primary.

Candelaria Reardon is one of several candidates competing to succeed retiring Rep. Pete Visclosky in this reliably blue seat in the northwestern corner of the state, and there's no clear frontrunner at this point. Attorney and environmental advocate Sabrina Haake, who has self-funded most of her campaign, ended March with a $237,000 to $161,000 cash-on-hand lead over Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, who considered challenging the incumbent before Visclosky decided not to seek re-election.

Candelaria Reardon wasn't far behind with $146,000 available, while 2018 Secretary of State nominee Jim Harper had $81,000 to spend. North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan, who has Visclosky's endorsement, had just $43,000 on-hand, while businesswoman Melissa Borom did not report raising anything.

NJ-03: Defending Main Street, a super PAC that backs establishment Republicans in primaries, has spent $100,000 on mailers boosting former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs and opposing wealthy businessman David Richter in the July GOP primary.

While Republicans reportedly recruited Gibbs to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, her fundraising has been very disappointing in this very expensive district. Gibbs outraised Richter $71,000 to $19,000 during the first quarter of 2020, but Richter self-funded another $100,000 and ended March with a large $462,000 to $112,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Kim hauled in $760,000 during this time and had a hefty $2.7 million available. However, despite the GOP's fundraising woes, this is still tough turf for Democrats: This seat, which includes the Philadelphia suburbs and central Jersey Shore, swung from 52-47 Obama to 51-45 Trump.

TX-03: Attorney Lulu Seikaly picked up an endorsement on Friday from Rep. Marc Veasey, who serves as a regional DCCC vice chair, in the July Democratic runoff to take on freshman GOP Rep. Van Taylor.