Morning Digest: Liz Cheney goes down in defeat, but Sarah Palin’s comeback campaign is unresolved

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

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Leading Off

WY-AL, AK-AL: Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney lost Tuesday’s Republican primary 66-29 to Trump-backed attorney Harriet Hageman, but we’re going to need to wait another two weeks to learn who prevailed in Alaska’s instant-runoff special election to succeed the late Republican Rep. Don Young.

With 150,000 ballots tabulated early Wednesday, which the Associated Press estimates represents 69% of the total vote, former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola leads with 38% as two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich III, grab 32% and 29%, respectively; the balance is made up of write-in votes.

The Last Frontier allows mail-in ballots postmarked by election day to be counted if they're received through the end of the month, so these margins may shift: State election officials say they plan to have updated results on Aug. 23 and Aug. 26, with final numbers on Aug. 31. After all the votes are tabulated, officials will conduct an instant runoff to reallocate the third-place finisher's votes to the two remaining candidates.

No matter what, though, Peltola, Palin, and Begich will all be on the ballot again in the November instant-runoff election for a full two-year term along with one other competitor. (This special election only had three candidates because independent Al Gross dropped out shortly after taking third in the June special top-four primary.)

Tuesday was also the day that Alaska held its top-four primaries for statewide and legislative offices, and the results of the House race so far closely resemble the special tallies: Peltola is in first with 35%, Palin second with 31%, and Begich third at 27%. Another Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, leads Libertarian Chris Bye 4-1 for fourth, but the AP has not called the final spot in the general.

While it will take some time to know the winner in Alaska, though, there was no suspense about what would happen with Cheney in dark-red Wyoming. The congresswoman just two years ago was the third-ranking member of the House GOP leadership and a strong contender to become the first Republican woman to serve as speaker, but she instantly became a national party pariah when she voted to impeach Trump; Cheney went on to serve on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack along with just one other Republican, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Trump and his allies made defeating Cheney a top priority, and his “Bachelor” style endorsement process eventually resulted in him supporting Hageman, who had placed third in the 2018 primary for governor. (Politico relays that Trump’s team originally considered backing her in a prospective rematch against Gov. Mark Gordon.) House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Club for Growth went on to fall in line behind Hageman, a one-time Trump skeptic who now embraces the Big Lie.

Cheney’s defeat makes her the eighth House Republican to lose renomination this year compared to four Democrats so far. The Wyoming result also means that at least eight of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment will not be going back to Congress next year because of primary losses and retirements: Only California Rep. David Valadao and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse advanced through their respective top-two primaries, though Valadao still has to win his competitive general election against Democrat Rudy Salas.

But Cheney didn’t show any regret about what happened to her once promising career in Republican politics. She proclaimed in her concession speech that “now, the real work begins” and pledged she “will do whatever it takes to ensure Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office.”

election recaps

 AK-Sen: Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her fellow Republican, former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka, advanced through the top-four primary as expected, though the AP has not yet called the other two spots for the November instant-runoff general election. Murkowski holds a 44-40 edge over her Trump-backed foe as of Wednesday morning, while Democrat ​​Pat Chesbro, who is a member of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission, is well behind with 6%. A pair of little-known Republicans, Buzz Kelley and Pat Nolin, are taking 2% and 1%, respectively.

 AK-Gov: Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy will face former Democratic state Rep. Les Gara and independent former Gov. Bill Walker in the fall, but it remains to be seen who will be the fourth general election candidate. Dunleavy is in first with 42%, while Gara and Walker are grabbing 22% each. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce holds a 7-4 edge for fourth over state Rep. Christopher Kurka in a race where both Republicans are each positioning themselves to the right of the ardently conservative governor.

 WY-Gov: Gov. Mark Gordon didn’t come close to losing his Republican primary, but he still scored an unimpressive 62-30 victory over Brent Bien, a retired Marine colonel who campaigned against the incumbent’s pandemic health measures. Gordon should have no trouble in the fall against the Democratic nominee, retired U.S. Bureau of Land Management employee Theresa Livingston.

 WY-SoS: State Rep. Chuck Gray, a Trump-endorsed election conspiracy theorist who has insisted the 2020 vote was “clearly rigged,” beat state Sen. Tara Nethercott 50-41 in the Republican primary to serve as secretary of state. Wyoming Democrats did not field a candidate here.

Senate

FL-Sen: The University of North Florida’s newest survey finds Democratic Rep. Val Demings leading Republican Sen. Marco Rubio 48-44, which is actually better for Team Blue than the tie that two different pro-Demings polls recently showed. This is the first independent survey we’ve seen since winter, and quite a departure from the 46-34 Rubio advantage UNF had in February. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn notes that the school obtained its sample by emailing a list of registered voters, which he calls a “​​pretty unusual design.”

NH-Sen, NH-01, NH-02: Saint Anselm College gives us a rare look at the Sept. 13 Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, which is the last competitive Senate primary in the nation, as well as Team Red's nomination contests for New Hampshire's two Democratic-held congressional districts. Before we get into the results, though, we need to note that the school asked several issue questions about abortion before it got to the horserace: We always encourage pollsters to ask these sorts of questions after the horserace to avoid "priming" voters to lean one way or the other.

We'll begin with the Senate question, where Donald Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who lost the 2020 nomination for New Hampshire's other Senate seat, posts a 32-16 advantage against state Senate President Chuck Morse. Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton and former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith are far back with just 4% each, while author Vikram Mansharamani notches 2%; a 39% plurality remains undecided with less than a month to go.

This is the first poll we've seen here since April, when the University of New Hampshire had Bolduc beating Smith 33-4. Prominent national groups haven't taken sides here, but Bolduc so far has not run a particularly impressive campaign two years after his 50-42 loss. The frontrunner had a mere $70,000 in the bank at the end of June, and he spent last year accusing Gov. GOP Chris Sununu of being a "Chinese communist sympathizer" with a family business that "supports terrorism."

Bolduc also has ardently embraced the Big Lie, saying at a recent debate, "I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn it, I stand by [it]." He has plenty of company, though, as Morse is the one GOP candidate who acknowledged that Joe Biden is the president when asked Tuesday if the 2020 election was stolen. Bolduc would also prefer this be the last New Hampshire Senate election in history: Both he and Fenton have called for repealing the 17th Amendment, which gave voters the right to elect their senators in 1913.

Bolduc's many rivals, though, have considerably more resources available as they try to get their names out in the final weeks of the campaign. Fenton finished the second quarter with a $1.63 million war chest, though almost all of that was self-funded. Morse and Mansharamani had $980,000 and $790,000, respectively, with Smith holding $350,000.

Turning to the 1st District, Saint Anselm College shows 2020 nominee Matt Mowers edging out former White House staffer Karoline Leavitt 25-21 in his bid for a rematch against Democratic incumbent Chris Pappas. Former TV reporter Gail Huff Brown and state Rep. Tim Baxter are well behind with 9% and 8%, respectively, with former Executive Councilor Russell Prescott clocking in at 2%. The lead still goes to unsure, though, as 33% did not select a candidate.

Mowers has the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and he finished June with a modest $820,000 to $670,000 cash-on-hand edge over Leavitt. Biden carried both the old and new version of this eastern New Hampshire constituency 52-46 (the court-drawn congressional map made only tiny changes to both of the state's districts after Sununu thwarted efforts by his fellow Republicans in the legislature to make the 1st considerably redder), while Pappas defeated Mowers 51-46 last time.

Finally in the 2nd District, the school finds a hefty 65% undecided in the GOP primary to go up against Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. Former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns leads Keene Mayor George Hansel just 12-10 while another 8% goes to Lily Tang Williams, who was the 2016 Libertarian Party nominee for Senate in Colorado. (She earned 4% against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet.)

Hansel has the backing of Sununu, and he ended the last quarter with a $300,000 to $130,000 cash-on-hand edge over Williams, with Burns holding $100,000. Biden would have prevailed 54-45 here.

Governors

FL-Gov: The University of North Florida finds Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried beating Rep. Charlie Crist 47-43 in next week's Democratic primary, which makes this the first poll to give her the edge all year. Crist quickly responded by releasing a Change Research survey that gave him a 47-37 advantage, which is only a little larger than the 42-35 Crist lead that Fried's own internal from Public Policy Polling showed just last week. An early August St. Pete Polls survey for Florida Politics had Crist up 56-24.

UNF also takes a look at the general election and has Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis outpacing Crist and Fried 52-40 and 50-43, respectively.

NH-Gov: Saint Anselm College also surveyed the general election for governor, and it finds Republican incumbent Chris Sununu beating Democratic state Sen. Tom Sherman 48-29. An early July Sherman internal from Public Policy Polling put the governor's lead at a smaller, though still wide, 43-33. The school looks at the Sept. 13 GOP primary as well, but it shows Sununu with a huge 68-6 lead over perennial candidate Karen Testerman.

House

NY-10: Rep. Mondaire Jones has launched the first negative TV spot of next week's Democratic primary against attorney Dan Goldman, a self-funder who is the only other candidate with the resources to air television ads; Jones' team tells Politico that he's putting $500,000 into this late effort.

The commercial frames the crowded contest as a straight-up choice between "conservative Dan Goldman" or "progressive Mondaire Jones." The narrator goes on to contrast the two, saying, "Dan Goldman has dangerous views on abortion; Mondaire Jones is 100% pro-choice, the best record in Congress." She goes on to argue that Goldman "profited off gun manufacturers" and "made money off FOX News," while the 17th District congressman stood up to the NRA and Republicans.

The spot doesn't go into detail about its charges against Goldman, but Politico provides some background. The candidate last month sat down for an interview with Hamodia's Reuvain Borchardt and was asked, "Should there be any limitation whatsoever on the right to terminate a pregnancy at any point in the pregnancy?" Goldman responded, "I do think, generally speaking, I agree with the break-point of viability, subject to exceptions."

Goldman later said he "would not object" when Borchardt inquired if he'd be alright with a state law that would ban abortion if "there is a perfectly healthy fetus, and the mother just decides after viability that she wants to terminate the pregnancy." However, the candidate then had a conversation with an aide who was also present at the interview, and Borchardt writes that "from that point forward Goldman's responses switched from a post-viability limitation to no limitations at all."

Jones and Goldman's other rivals were quick to go on the attack after the article was published, while Goldman himself insisted he'd "misspoke" and "unequivocally support[s] a woman's right to choose."

As for this ad's charges that Goldman "profited off gun manufacturers" and "made money off FOX News," the New York Daily News recently explained that he has stock in, among many other companies, Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, and News Corp. A spokesperson said, "Dan does not manage his money … It is handled by a broker, and is designed to mirror the S&P 500."

NY-19 (special): DCCC Analytics has dropped an internal showing Republican Marc Molinaro edging out Democrat Pat Ryan 46-43 in next week's special election. The last poll we saw was a late July Triton Polling & Research survey for Molinaro's allies at the right-wing Freedom Council USA, and it gave their man a larger 50-40 advantage.

PA-08: Democratic incumbent Matt Cartwright is out with an internal from GQR Research that shows him defeating Republican Jim Bognet 52-46 in their rematch for a northeastern Pennsylvania constituency that would have supported Trump 51-48. The only other poll we've seen here was a late June survey for Bognet and the NRCC that put the Republican ahead 46-45.

Cartwright held off Bognet 52-48 last cycle as Trump was prevailing in the old 8th District 52-47, a win that made him one of just seven House Democrats to hold a Trump district. The congressman has taken to the airwaves early for 2022, and Politico's Ally Mutnick relays that he's already spent $415,000 on TV for the general election. Bognet, by contrast, on Tuesday began running his first spot since he won the May primary, a joint ad with the NRCC that ties Cartwright to Scranton native Joe Biden.

Secretaries of State

MA-SoS: MassInc has surveyed the Sept. 6 Democratic statewide primaries for Responsible Development Coalition, and it finds longtime Secretary of State Bill Galvin leading Boston NAACP head Tanisha Sullivan 43-15, which is larger than the 38-25 advantage he posted in a late June poll from YouGov for UMass Amherst. Responsible Development Coalition is funded in part by the Carpenters Union, which backs Galvin.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The FBI on Tuesday arrested former Rep. TJ Cox, a California Democrat who won his sole term in a huge 2018 upset, for "15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud." Politico says that these charges carry a combined 20-year maximum prison sentence and $250,000 fine.

Prosecutors allege that from 2013 through 2018 Cox "​​illicitly obtained over $1.7 million in diverted client payments and company loans and investments he solicited and then stole." They also say that he broke campaign finance laws by funneling money to friends and family and having them contribute it to his campaign as "part of a scheme and plan to demonstrate individual campaign donations as preferred over the candidate's personal loans or donations to his campaign."

Cox narrowly unseated Republican Rep. David Valadao in 2018 in the 21st Congressional District in the Central Valley, but he lost their tight rematch two years later. Cox initially announced in December of 2020 that he'd run again, but, in a development that now comes as a massive relief for his party, he ultimately decided not to go for it.

Ad Roundup

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Morning Digest: Termed-out Maryland governor dumps on new GOP nominee seeking to replace him

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

Leading Off

MD-Gov: Termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday responded to Trump-backed Del. Dan Cox's victory in the previous evening's Republican primary by tweeting that Trump has "selfishly colluded with national Democrats to cost us a Governor's seat in Maryland," a fatalistic take that came even though it remained unclear who Cox's Democratic foe would be. Hogan's spokesperson also confirmed that the outgoing incumbent would not cast a general election vote for the man he'd labeled a "conspiracy-theory-believing QAnon whack-job."

Cox was outpacing Hogan's candidate, former state cabinet official Kelly Schulz, 56-40 as of Wednesday; the state will not begin tabulating mail-in ballots until Thursday so this margin may shift, but the Associated Press called the contest for Cox on election night. The AP, however, has not yet made a projection in the Democratic primary, where former nonprofit head Wes Moore leads former DNC chair Tom Perez 37-27 with 358,000 votes counted—a margin of 35,000 ballots.

It's not clear exactly how many votes still remain to be counted. Maryland Matters writes that election officials had received 168,000 mail-in ballots from Democratic voters through Monday, while "[m]any additional mail ballots were likely returned on Tuesday." Moore, who is also a nonfiction author, himself held off on declaring victory in his election night speech, while Perez expressed optimism he'd do significantly better with the remaining votes. Moore would be the Old Line State's first Black governor, while Perez would be Maryland's first Latino chief executive.

Hogan pulled off a 2014 general election upset against then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in this very blue state by arguing that Democrats badly ran and overtaxed Maryland, but Cox has made it clear he'll be a very different candidate. The new nominee played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a busload of people to attend the rally that preceded it, and he tweeted later in the day that Mike Pence was a "traitor" for recognizing Biden's win.

The delegate has continued to emphasize his fealty to the Big Lie since then. In April, Cox attended a QAnon-aligned conference in Pennsylvania where he delivered an address alleging he'd seen election fraud in that state and questioning Biden's heavy 65-32 win in Maryland. Afterwards, the candidate came back on stage for a prayer led by a self-proclaimed prophet who had just told the audience that "the real president" was "coming back." Cox has no love for Hogan either, and he introduced a hopeless impeachment resolution against him this year that accused the governor of "malfeasance in office."

National Democrats, eager to avoid a repeat of the 2014 debacle, took action to ensure that the far-right Cox, rather than Schulz, would be the GOP nominee. The Democratic Governors Association spent $2 million on an ad campaign that, while nominally attacking the delegate, tried to make him more appealing to conservatives by emphasizing his Trump connections; Cox, by contrast, deployed only about $20,000 on ads for himself. Schulz tried to warn primary voters that Cox was a "nut" and a "pathological liar" who would cost the party the governorship, but it wasn't enough to overcome Trump's pitch that Republicans "don't want Hogan's anointed successor."

Cox, for his part, responded to his win by making it clear he'd continue to run as a proud Trumpian in the fall in a state that, despite his conspiracy theories, Trump lost in a landslide. The new nominee repeatedly thanked Trump in his victory speech, and he said the next day, "The freedom movement is strong and the MAGA movement is here in Maryland."

The Downballot

Our guest on this week's episode of The Downballot is former Missouri state Sen. Jeff Smith, who spent a year in federal prison stemming from a campaign finance violation and devoted himself to criminal justice reform upon his release. Smith tells us about the grave problems his experience behind bars showed him are in desperate need of redress and why reformers have zero margin for error. He also dives into Missouri's midterm elections to explain why Eric Greitens—whom he's known since childhood—is such a dangerous candidate, and why he can win despite his staggering flaws.

Co-host David Beard recaps Maryland's primaries, some of which still haven't been called, and dissects the House vote recognizing same-sex marriage as a fundamental right, which saw a number of telling Republican votes both for and against. David Nir, meanwhile, examines the huge second-quarter fundraising gap that still favors Democrats despite the pro-GOP political environment and also looks at the first poll of a key abortion rights ballot measure in Kansas that will go before voters on Aug. 2.

Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.

Senate

OH-Sen: Democrat Tim Ryan's new commercial declares that, while Republican J.D. Vance set up a nonprofit ostensibly to combat the state's opioid crisis, it "failed to fund a single addiction program." Instead, the narrator charges, the money went towards Vance's political advisor and toward polling.

Last year, Insider reported that, according to the group's first year of tax filings, Vance's group "spent more on 'management services' provided by its executive director — who also serves as Vance's top political advisor — than it did on programs to fight opioid abuse." Why only look at one year of filings, though? Insider explains, "The nonprofit raised so little in each of the last three years — less than $50,000 a year — that it wasn't even required by the IRS to disclose its activities and finances."

Governors

AK-Gov: The Alaska Beacon has collected the fundraising reports from the period from Feb. 2 to July 15 for all the leading candidates competing in the Aug. 19 top-four primary.

  • Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-inc): $925,000 raised, $768,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former Gov. Bill Walker (I): $832,000 raised, $751,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former state Rep. Les Gara (D): $575,000 raised, $656,000 cash-on-hand
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce (R): $64,000 raised, $22,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Rep. Christopher Kurka (R): $12,000 raised, $3,000 cash-on-hand

The RGA previously donated another $3 million to aid Dunleavy, money the Beacon says has not yet been spent.

Unlike in past cycles, the candidates are allowed to accept unlimited donations. That's because a federal court last year struck down a 2006 ballot measure that capped donations at $500 a year, and the legislature adjourned this spring without adopting a new law.  

NV-Gov: Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak outraised Republican Joe Lombardo $1.7 million to $822,000 during the second quarter, which ended two weeks after Lombardo won his primary. Sisolak finished June with a huge $10.7 million to $1.2 million cash-on-hand lead.

OR-Gov: Rep. Kurt Schrader announced Tuesday that he was endorsing independent Betsy Johnson for governor, a declaration that came about two months after the Blue Dog Democrat decisively lost renomination to Jamie McLeod-Skinner. 

House

AZ-04, WA-03: Winning For Women Action Fund, a Republican group funded in part by the Congressional Leadership Fund, is getting involved in two very different Aug. 2 contests.

The PAC has deployed $450,000 in Arizona's 4th District to support Republican Tanya Wheeless, a onetime aide to former Sen. Martha McSally, in her bid to take on Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton in a seat Biden would have taken 54-44. Wheeless faces an expensive intra-party battle against restaurant owner Kelly Cooper, a self-funder who ended June with a wide $1.2 million to $500,000 lead. CLF endorsed Wheeless back in April before it was clear that Cooper, a first-time candidate who only registered to vote as a Republican last year, would have the resources to run a serious campaign.

Over in the top-two primary for Washington's 3rd, meanwhile, Winning For Women is dropping $800,000 against Trump-endorsed Army veteran Joe Kent. The super PAC does not appear to have endorsed incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler, who is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump.

WA-08: The Washington Observer reports that a new group called Lead The Way PAC is spending $250,000 to boost 2020 Republican nominee Jesse Jensen while attacking one of his intra-party rivals, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, ahead of next month's top-two primary to face Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier. The TV commercial declares that Dunn "voted to cut law enforcement by nearly $100 million" and touts Jensen's time as an Army Ranger.

The PAC's mailers go much further and sum up Dunn with the words, "DUI. Binge Drinking. Relapses. Empty Promises." The mail pieces also say, "The Dunn's marriage councilor also reported Dunn had acknowledged grabbing his wife by the shoulders and pushing her against a wall multiple times." The candidate was the subject of a detailed March profile in the Seattle Times about his struggles with alcoholism, including his relapse after swearing off drinking following a 2014 DUI. Dunn told the paper that he's been sober for over four years, and he produced regular lab reports to confirm he's stayed away from alcohol.

Ballot Measures

KS Ballot: With two weeks to go before the Aug. 2 vote, the Republican pollster co/efficient finds a small 47-43 plurality in support of the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the GOP-dominated legislature to ban abortion in Kansas. This survey, which the firm says it paid for itself, is the first we've seen of what's become a closely watched and very expensive referendum campaign.

FiveThirtyEight, in its detailed look at the contest, lays out the messaging strategies both sides are using in this conservative state. Value Them Both, which is the group supporting the anti-abortion "yes" side, has highlighted how abortions have increased in Kansas since 2019, when the state Supreme Court ruled that the procedure is protected by the state constitution. (FiveThirtyEight notes that this is "due largely to Texas and Oklahoma residents who can no longer get abortions in their home states.")

The campaign has also tried to frame the vote as something other than a straight up question about whether to ban abortion. Instead, Value Them Both says a "yes" win would just let the legislature impose "common-sense abortion limits" like parental notification―something that is already state law. The group, though, has also seized on partisan talking points about "unelected liberal judges" and told voters that under the status quo, Kansas has abortion laws similar to blue states like California.

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which is the vehicle of the "no" side, has tried to appeal to conservatives in a different way. As we wrote earlier this month, the campaign recently ran a spot in the very red Wichita media market that didn't mention abortion at all; instead, it framed the ballot measure as "a strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions," a statement followed by images reminding viewers of pandemic face mask requirements and the cancellation of in-person religious services.

In the Democratic-leaning Kansas City media market, by contrast, one ad featured a mother describing how she needed an abortion in order to remain alive for her husband and three-year-old son, and that the ballot measure "could ban any abortion with no exceptions, even in cases like mine." Kansans for Constitutional Freedom has also aired commercials informing viewers that "abortion is highly regulated" already, but the amendment "could lead to a full ban of any abortion in Kansas, with no exceptions for rape, incest or a mother's life."

The "yes" side decisively outraised its opponents last year, but there's been a big shift since 2022 began. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom outpaced Value Them Both $6.5 million to $4.7 million from January 1 to July 18, and it enjoyed a smaller $5.8 million to $5.4 million spending advantage.

San Francisco, CA Ballot: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to place a referendum on the November ballot that would move the city's next set of local elections from 2023 to 2024 and keep them in presidential cycles going forward. Mayor London Breed, who would be up for re-election next year under the current law, has ardently opposed such a shift, arguing that "a group of democratic socialists" are seeking to "have more control and power of being able to get more of their people elected."

Election Recaps

Maryland: What follows is a look at where the state's major races stood as of Wednesday. The state will not begin to tabulate mail-in ballots until Thursday, so the margins may shift after all the votes are counted.

MD-04: Glenn Ivey, who is the former state's attorney for Prince George's County, beat former Rep. Donna Edwards 51-35 to win the Democratic nomination to succeed outgoing Rep. Anthony Brown in one of the bluest House districts in America.

The race was defined by a massive $6 million campaign by the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC―its largest investment in any contest to date―that argued Edwards did a poor job serving her constituents during her time in office from 2008 to 2017. (Edwards left to wage an unsuccessful campaign for the Senate, and Brown beat Ivey in the 2016 race to replace her.) J Street, a progressive pro-Israel organization that often finds itself at odds with AIPAC, responded with a considerably smaller $730,000 offensive portraying Ivey as a lobbyist for "big business," but it wasn't enough.

MD-06: Del. Neil Parrott earned his rematch against Democratic Rep. David Trone by defeating Matthew Foldi, a 25-year-old former writer for the conservative Washington Free Beacon, 64-15 in the Republican primary. Foldi sported endorsements from both Gov. Larry Hogan and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, but Parrott's supporters castigated him as "a wealthy elitist" and a "kid."

Trone beat Parrott 59-39 last cycle as Biden was carrying the old version of the seat by a similar 61-38 spread, but this contest will be fought on very different turf. Parrott sued after Democrats passed another map to protect Trone, and his efforts were rewarded after a judge threw out those boundaries earlier this year. Legislative Democrats and Hogan agreed on new lines soon after that created a 6th based in western Maryland and the D.C. exurbs that Biden would have won only 54-44, and the incumbent quickly emerged as a major GOP target. The wealthy Trone has been preparing for a tough fight, though, and he recently loaned his campaign $10 million.

MD-AG: Rep. Anthony Brown beat former Judge Katie O'Malley 60-40 in the primary to succeed their fellow Democrat, retiring incumbent Brian Frosh, a win that puts him on course to become the state's first Black attorney general. Brown lost the 2014 race for governor to Republican Larry Hogan, but he should have no trouble in the fall against Republican nominee Michael Peroutka, a former board member of the neo-Confederate League of the South who prevailed 58-42.

Peroutka, among many other things, has called the separation of church and state a "great lie;" dismissed public education as "the 10th plank in the Communist Manifesto;" and insisted that abortion and same-sex marriage both defy "God's law." And while Peroutka left the League of the South before it helped organize the infamous 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, he's still refused to denounce the group. The GOP last won the attorney general's office in 1918.

Baltimore, MD State's Attorney: Defense attorney Ivan Bates holds a 41-32 lead over incumbent Marilyn Mosby with 48,000 votes counted in the Democratic primary, but the AP has not called the race. Prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah, who sported a cross-party endorsement from GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, has the remaining 27%. The winner will have no trouble in the fall in this reliably blue city.

Mosby, who rose to national prominence in 2015 just months into her first term when she charged six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, was indicted in January for allegedly filing false mortgage applications and lying to federal prosecutors. Bates lost to Mosby 49-28 in 2018, but this time, he benefited from heavy spending from a super PAC funded by 2020 mayoral candidate Mary Miller.

Baltimore County, MD State's Attorney: Attorney Robbie Leonard holds a tiny 51-49 edge against four-term incumbent Scott Shellenberger with 49,000 ballots tabulated in the Democratic primary, but it will likely take a while to determine the winner here. The eventual nominee will be favored in a county that supported Biden 62-35.

Shellenberger, whose jurisdiction includes many of Baltimore's suburbs (the city of Baltimore and Baltimore County have been separate jurisdictions since 1851), was on the receiving end of heavy spending by a super PAC affiliated with philanthropist George Soros. Leonard, for his part, positioned himself as a criminal justice reformer while also arguing that Shellenberger has done a poor job dealing with the local murder rate.

Montgomery County, MD Executive: Wealthy businessman David Blair has a 40-38 lead against incumbent Marc Elrich with 73,000 ballots counted in the Democratic primary to lead this populous and dark blue suburban D.C. community, but this is another contest that will likely take a while to settle. Four years ago, it was Elrich who beat Blair in a 77-vote cliffhanger.

Blair, who spent around $5 million on his second campaign, argued that Elrich had done a poor job making the county more affordable or dealing with crime; the challenger also benefited from $900,000 in spending by a super PAC funded in part by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz as well as developers and business groups. Bethesda Magazine writes that Elrich, whose "political base among civic and neighborhood groups often made him an outlier in three terms on the County Council on planning and development issues," has also clashed repeatedly with business groups.

The incumbent, for his part, focused on his work during the pandemic while also accusing Blair and County Council Member Hans Riemer, who is in third with 21%, of supporting policies that were "very Koch brothers [and] Reaganesque—like let the private sector solve everything."

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Termed-out Maryland governor dumps on new GOP nominee seeking to replace him

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

Leading Off

MD-Gov: Termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday responded to Trump-backed Del. Dan Cox's victory in the previous evening's Republican primary by tweeting that Trump has "selfishly colluded with national Democrats to cost us a Governor's seat in Maryland," a fatalistic take that came even though it remained unclear who Cox's Democratic foe would be. Hogan's spokesperson also confirmed that the outgoing incumbent would not cast a general election vote for the man he'd labeled a "conspiracy-theory-believing QAnon whack-job."

Cox was outpacing Hogan's candidate, former state cabinet official Kelly Schulz, 56-40 as of Wednesday; the state will not begin tabulating mail-in ballots until Thursday so this margin may shift, but the Associated Press called the contest for Cox on election night. The AP, however, has not yet made a projection in the Democratic primary, where former nonprofit head Wes Moore leads former DNC chair Tom Perez 37-27 with 358,000 votes counted—a margin of 35,000 ballots.

It's not clear exactly how many votes still remain to be counted. Maryland Matters writes that election officials had received 168,000 mail-in ballots from Democratic voters through Monday, while "[m]any additional mail ballots were likely returned on Tuesday." Moore, who is also a nonfiction author, himself held off on declaring victory in his election night speech, while Perez expressed optimism he'd do significantly better with the remaining votes. Moore would be the Old Line State's first Black governor, while Perez would be Maryland's first Latino chief executive.

Hogan pulled off a 2014 general election upset against then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in this very blue state by arguing that Democrats badly ran and overtaxed Maryland, but Cox has made it clear he'll be a very different candidate. The new nominee played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a busload of people to attend the rally that preceded it, and he tweeted later in the day that Mike Pence was a "traitor" for recognizing Biden's win.

The delegate has continued to emphasize his fealty to the Big Lie since then. In April, Cox attended a QAnon-aligned conference in Pennsylvania where he delivered an address alleging he'd seen election fraud in that state and questioning Biden's heavy 65-32 win in Maryland. Afterwards, the candidate came back on stage for a prayer led by a self-proclaimed prophet who had just told the audience that "the real president" was "coming back." Cox has no love for Hogan either, and he introduced a hopeless impeachment resolution against him this year that accused the governor of "malfeasance in office."

National Democrats, eager to avoid a repeat of the 2014 debacle, took action to ensure that the far-right Cox, rather than Schulz, would be the GOP nominee. The Democratic Governors Association spent $2 million on an ad campaign that, while nominally attacking the delegate, tried to make him more appealing to conservatives by emphasizing his Trump connections; Cox, by contrast, deployed only about $20,000 on ads for himself. Schulz tried to warn primary voters that Cox was a "nut" and a "pathological liar" who would cost the party the governorship, but it wasn't enough to overcome Trump's pitch that Republicans "don't want Hogan's anointed successor."

Cox, for his part, responded to his win by making it clear he'd continue to run as a proud Trumpian in the fall in a state that, despite his conspiracy theories, Trump lost in a landslide. The new nominee repeatedly thanked Trump in his victory speech, and he said the next day, "The freedom movement is strong and the MAGA movement is here in Maryland."

The Downballot

Our guest on this week's episode of The Downballot is former Missouri state Sen. Jeff Smith, who spent a year in federal prison stemming from a campaign finance violation and devoted himself to criminal justice reform upon his release. Smith tells us about the grave problems his experience behind bars showed him are in desperate need of redress and why reformers have zero margin for error. He also dives into Missouri's midterm elections to explain why Eric Greitens—whom he's known since childhood—is such a dangerous candidate, and why he can win despite his staggering flaws.

Co-host David Beard recaps Maryland's primaries, some of which still haven't been called, and dissects the House vote recognizing same-sex marriage as a fundamental right, which saw a number of telling Republican votes both for and against. David Nir, meanwhile, examines the huge second-quarter fundraising gap that still favors Democrats despite the pro-GOP political environment and also looks at the first poll of a key abortion rights ballot measure in Kansas that will go before voters on Aug. 2.

Please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern Time.

Senate

OH-Sen: Democrat Tim Ryan's new commercial declares that, while Republican J.D. Vance set up a nonprofit ostensibly to combat the state's opioid crisis, it "failed to fund a single addiction program." Instead, the narrator charges, the money went towards Vance's political advisor and toward polling.

Last year, Insider reported that, according to the group's first year of tax filings, Vance's group "spent more on 'management services' provided by its executive director — who also serves as Vance's top political advisor — than it did on programs to fight opioid abuse." Why only look at one year of filings, though? Insider explains, "The nonprofit raised so little in each of the last three years — less than $50,000 a year — that it wasn't even required by the IRS to disclose its activities and finances."

Governors

AK-Gov: The Alaska Beacon has collected the fundraising reports from the period from Feb. 2 to July 15 for all the leading candidates competing in the Aug. 19 top-four primary.

  • Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-inc): $925,000 raised, $768,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former Gov. Bill Walker (I): $832,000 raised, $751,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former state Rep. Les Gara (D): $575,000 raised, $656,000 cash-on-hand
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce (R): $64,000 raised, $22,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Rep. Christopher Kurka (R): $12,000 raised, $3,000 cash-on-hand

The RGA previously donated another $3 million to aid Dunleavy, money the Beacon says has not yet been spent.

Unlike in past cycles, the candidates are allowed to accept unlimited donations. That's because a federal court last year struck down a 2006 ballot measure that capped donations at $500 a year, and the legislature adjourned this spring without adopting a new law.  

NV-Gov: Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak outraised Republican Joe Lombardo $1.7 million to $822,000 during the second quarter, which ended two weeks after Lombardo won his primary. Sisolak finished June with a huge $10.7 million to $1.2 million cash-on-hand lead.

OR-Gov: Rep. Kurt Schrader announced Tuesday that he was endorsing independent Betsy Johnson for governor, a declaration that came about two months after the Blue Dog Democrat decisively lost renomination to Jamie McLeod-Skinner. 

House

AZ-04, WA-03: Winning For Women Action Fund, a Republican group funded in part by the Congressional Leadership Fund, is getting involved in two very different Aug. 2 contests.

The PAC has deployed $450,000 in Arizona's 4th District to support Republican Tanya Wheeless, a onetime aide to former Sen. Martha McSally, in her bid to take on Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton in a seat Biden would have taken 54-44. Wheeless faces an expensive intra-party battle against restaurant owner Kelly Cooper, a self-funder who ended June with a wide $1.2 million to $500,000 lead. CLF endorsed Wheeless back in April before it was clear that Cooper, a first-time candidate who only registered to vote as a Republican last year, would have the resources to run a serious campaign.

Over in the top-two primary for Washington's 3rd, meanwhile, Winning For Women is dropping $800,000 against Trump-endorsed Army veteran Joe Kent. The super PAC does not appear to have endorsed incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler, who is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump.

WA-08: The Washington Observer reports that a new group called Lead The Way PAC is spending $250,000 to boost 2020 Republican nominee Jesse Jensen while attacking one of his intra-party rivals, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, ahead of next month's top-two primary to face Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier. The TV commercial declares that Dunn "voted to cut law enforcement by nearly $100 million" and touts Jensen's time as an Army Ranger.

The PAC's mailers go much further and sum up Dunn with the words, "DUI. Binge Drinking. Relapses. Empty Promises." The mail pieces also say, "The Dunn's marriage councilor also reported Dunn had acknowledged grabbing his wife by the shoulders and pushing her against a wall multiple times." The candidate was the subject of a detailed March profile in the Seattle Times about his struggles with alcoholism, including his relapse after swearing off drinking following a 2014 DUI. Dunn told the paper that he's been sober for over four years, and he produced regular lab reports to confirm he's stayed away from alcohol.

Ballot Measures

KS Ballot: With two weeks to go before the Aug. 2 vote, the Republican pollster co/efficient finds a small 47-43 plurality in support of the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the GOP-dominated legislature to ban abortion in Kansas. This survey, which the firm says it paid for itself, is the first we've seen of what's become a closely watched and very expensive referendum campaign.

FiveThirtyEight, in its detailed look at the contest, lays out the messaging strategies both sides are using in this conservative state. Value Them Both, which is the group supporting the anti-abortion "yes" side, has highlighted how abortions have increased in Kansas since 2019, when the state Supreme Court ruled that the procedure is protected by the state constitution. (FiveThirtyEight notes that this is "due largely to Texas and Oklahoma residents who can no longer get abortions in their home states.")

The campaign has also tried to frame the vote as something other than a straight up question about whether to ban abortion. Instead, Value Them Both says a "yes" win would just let the legislature impose "common-sense abortion limits" like parental notification―something that is already state law. The group, though, has also seized on partisan talking points about "unelected liberal judges" and told voters that under the status quo, Kansas has abortion laws similar to blue states like California.

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, which is the vehicle of the "no" side, has tried to appeal to conservatives in a different way. As we wrote earlier this month, the campaign recently ran a spot in the very red Wichita media market that didn't mention abortion at all; instead, it framed the ballot measure as "a strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions," a statement followed by images reminding viewers of pandemic face mask requirements and the cancellation of in-person religious services.

In the Democratic-leaning Kansas City media market, by contrast, one ad featured a mother describing how she needed an abortion in order to remain alive for her husband and three-year-old son, and that the ballot measure "could ban any abortion with no exceptions, even in cases like mine." Kansans for Constitutional Freedom has also aired commercials informing viewers that "abortion is highly regulated" already, but the amendment "could lead to a full ban of any abortion in Kansas, with no exceptions for rape, incest or a mother's life."

The "yes" side decisively outraised its opponents last year, but there's been a big shift since 2022 began. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom outpaced Value Them Both $6.5 million to $4.7 million from January 1 to July 18, and it enjoyed a smaller $5.8 million to $5.4 million spending advantage.

San Francisco, CA Ballot: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to place a referendum on the November ballot that would move the city's next set of local elections from 2023 to 2024 and keep them in presidential cycles going forward. Mayor London Breed, who would be up for re-election next year under the current law, has ardently opposed such a shift, arguing that "a group of democratic socialists" are seeking to "have more control and power of being able to get more of their people elected."

Election Recaps

Maryland: What follows is a look at where the state's major races stood as of Wednesday. The state will not begin to tabulate mail-in ballots until Thursday, so the margins may shift after all the votes are counted.

MD-04: Glenn Ivey, who is the former state's attorney for Prince George's County, beat former Rep. Donna Edwards 51-35 to win the Democratic nomination to succeed outgoing Rep. Anthony Brown in one of the bluest House districts in America.

The race was defined by a massive $6 million campaign by the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC―its largest investment in any contest to date―that argued Edwards did a poor job serving her constituents during her time in office from 2008 to 2017. (Edwards left to wage an unsuccessful campaign for the Senate, and Brown beat Ivey in the 2016 race to replace her.) J Street, a progressive pro-Israel organization that often finds itself at odds with AIPAC, responded with a considerably smaller $730,000 offensive portraying Ivey as a lobbyist for "big business," but it wasn't enough.

MD-06: Del. Neil Parrott earned his rematch against Democratic Rep. David Trone by defeating Matthew Foldi, a 25-year-old former writer for the conservative Washington Free Beacon, 64-15 in the Republican primary. Foldi sported endorsements from both Gov. Larry Hogan and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, but Parrott's supporters castigated him as "a wealthy elitist" and a "kid."

Trone beat Parrott 59-39 last cycle as Biden was carrying the old version of the seat by a similar 61-38 spread, but this contest will be fought on very different turf. Parrott sued after Democrats passed another map to protect Trone, and his efforts were rewarded after a judge threw out those boundaries earlier this year. Legislative Democrats and Hogan agreed on new lines soon after that created a 6th based in western Maryland and the D.C. exurbs that Biden would have won only 54-44, and the incumbent quickly emerged as a major GOP target. The wealthy Trone has been preparing for a tough fight, though, and he recently loaned his campaign $10 million.

MD-AG: Rep. Anthony Brown beat former Judge Katie O'Malley 60-40 in the primary to succeed their fellow Democrat, retiring incumbent Brian Frosh, a win that puts him on course to become the state's first Black attorney general. Brown lost the 2014 race for governor to Republican Larry Hogan, but he should have no trouble in the fall against Republican nominee Michael Peroutka, a former board member of the neo-Confederate League of the South who prevailed 58-42.

Peroutka, among many other things, has called the separation of church and state a "great lie;" dismissed public education as "the 10th plank in the Communist Manifesto;" and insisted that abortion and same-sex marriage both defy "God's law." And while Peroutka left the League of the South before it helped organize the infamous 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, he's still refused to denounce the group. The GOP last won the attorney general's office in 1918.

Baltimore, MD State's Attorney: Defense attorney Ivan Bates holds a 41-32 lead over incumbent Marilyn Mosby with 48,000 votes counted in the Democratic primary, but the AP has not called the race. Prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah, who sported a cross-party endorsement from GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, has the remaining 27%. The winner will have no trouble in the fall in this reliably blue city.

Mosby, who rose to national prominence in 2015 just months into her first term when she charged six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, was indicted in January for allegedly filing false mortgage applications and lying to federal prosecutors. Bates lost to Mosby 49-28 in 2018, but this time, he benefited from heavy spending from a super PAC funded by 2020 mayoral candidate Mary Miller.

Baltimore County, MD State's Attorney: Attorney Robbie Leonard holds a tiny 51-49 edge against four-term incumbent Scott Shellenberger with 49,000 ballots tabulated in the Democratic primary, but it will likely take a while to determine the winner here. The eventual nominee will be favored in a county that supported Biden 62-35.

Shellenberger, whose jurisdiction includes many of Baltimore's suburbs (the city of Baltimore and Baltimore County have been separate jurisdictions since 1851), was on the receiving end of heavy spending by a super PAC affiliated with philanthropist George Soros. Leonard, for his part, positioned himself as a criminal justice reformer while also arguing that Shellenberger has done a poor job dealing with the local murder rate.

Montgomery County, MD Executive: Wealthy businessman David Blair has a 40-38 lead against incumbent Marc Elrich with 73,000 ballots counted in the Democratic primary to lead this populous and dark blue suburban D.C. community, but this is another contest that will likely take a while to settle. Four years ago, it was Elrich who beat Blair in a 77-vote cliffhanger.

Blair, who spent around $5 million on his second campaign, argued that Elrich had done a poor job making the county more affordable or dealing with crime; the challenger also benefited from $900,000 in spending by a super PAC funded in part by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz as well as developers and business groups. Bethesda Magazine writes that Elrich, whose "political base among civic and neighborhood groups often made him an outlier in three terms on the County Council on planning and development issues," has also clashed repeatedly with business groups.

The incumbent, for his part, focused on his work during the pandemic while also accusing Blair and County Council Member Hans Riemer, who is in third with 21%, of supporting policies that were "very Koch brothers [and] Reaganesque—like let the private sector solve everything."

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: With Trump’s blessing, congressman seeks to oust Georgia’s GOP secretary of state

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

Leading Off

GA-SoS, GA-10: Far-right Rep. Jody Hice announced Monday that he would challenge Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in next year's Republican primary rather than seek a fifth term in the safely red 10th Congressional District in the east-central part of the state. Hice immediately earned an endorsement from Donald Trump, who last year unsuccessfully pressured Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes" in order to overturn Joe Biden's win in the state.

Former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who lost the 2018 nomination fight to Raffensperger 62-38, also announced over the weekend that he would seek a rematch. Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-supporting ex-Democrat who joined the Republican Party right after the 2020 election, had also been mentioned, though he turned his gaze to the governor's race on Monday. Georgia requires a runoff in any primaries where no one takes a majority of the vote.

Campaign Action

Hice, though, will likely be Raffensperger's main foe thanks to Trump's endorsement and prominent position, but his many ugly views could also prove to be a liability in a general election in what's now become a swing state.

Hice, a pastor who worked as a conservative radio host before his 2014 election to Congress, made a name for himself with a 2012 book where he wrote, "Evidently there are many who believe a 'Gestapo-like' presence is needed by the government in order to corral and keep under control, all these 'dangerous' Christians." Hice also used that tome to attack LGBTQ people and Muslims, as well as compare supporters of abortion rights to Hitler.

Hice has remained a far-right favorite in Congress, especially this year. Hice posted on Instagram hours before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, "This is our 1776 moment." The message was quickly deleted after New York Times reporter Charles Bethea flagged it on Twitter in the midst of the assault on the building. Hice's spokesperson said the next day, "The 1776 post was our way of highlighting the electoral objection—we removed the post when we realized it could be misconstrued as supporting those acting violently yesterday and storming the Capitol."  

That violence was hardly enough to stop Hice from spreading conspiracy theories. Last month, the congressman used his CPAC panel titled "Who's Really Running the Biden Administration" to declare, "I guarantee you, Georgia is not blue, and what happened this election was solely because of a horrible secretary of state and horrible decisions that he made."

On the Democratic side, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that one of the "leaning potential candidates" for secretary of state is state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who is the first Vietnamese American to serve in the chamber. Nguyen has been in the news in recent days as she's spoken out against racism against Asian Americans following last week's lethal attack on Atlanta-area spas.

Meanwhile, Republicans are already eyeing the race to succeed Hice in Georgia's 10th Congressional District. This seat backed Donald Trump 60-39, and it will almost certainly remain safely red after the GOP devises new maps.

Two Republican members of the legislature, state Sen. Bill Cowsert and state Rep. Houston Gaines, expressed interest in recent days. The AJC also name-drops 2014 candidate Mike Collins, state Rep. Jodi Lott, and former state party chair John Padgett as possible candidates for Team Red.

Senate

AL-Sen: Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, a hard-right favorite who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, announced on Monday that he would compete in the Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. Brooks joins major GOP donor Lynda Blanchard, who served as ambassador to Slovenia, in a nomination fight that could attract more Republicans in this extremely red state.

Brooks previously competed in the 2017 special election for the Yellowhammer State’s other Senate seat in a race that turned out quite badly for him. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange and his allies at the Senate Leadership Fund aired ad after ad using footage from the previous year of Brooks, who had supported Ted Cruz in the presidential primary, attacking Donald Trump. One piece showed the congressman saying, "I don't think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says" before the narrator argued that Brooks sided with Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi against Trump.

The ad campaign worked, but not to the GOP’s benefit. Brooks took third place with 20%, but Roy Moore went on to defeat Strange in the runoff; Moore later went on to lose to Democrat Doug Jones after multiple women accused the Republican nominee of preying on them as teenagers.

Brooks, though, didn’t have to give up his House seat to run in that special, and he soon reinvented himself as one of Trump’s most ardent allies. Brooks proved to be an especially eager promoter of Trump’s election conspiracy theories, and in a speech delivered four hours before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, he told rally goers, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” CNN later reported that several Republicans later talked about ejecting him from his committee assignments after that day’s violence, though unsurprisingly, they didn’t actually do anything.

One Republican who was delighted by Brooks, though, was Trump, something that could go a long way towards helping the congressman avoid a repeat of his 2017 experience. Politico reports that Trump is leaning towards endorsing Brooks over Blanchard in part because of a major mistake from her campaign.

“The president doesn’t know Lynda all that well and it had gotten back to him and his team that people on her team had been overstating how close they supposedly are,” said one unnamed Trump ally, adding, “One of her aides was telling any donor who would listen that Trump was going to endorse her and that left him annoyed.” A Blanchard insider, naturally, countered, saying, “That’s bullshit. That’s somebody spinning someone to help Mo out. She would never oversell it, she’s not that kind of person.”

P.S. Brooks’ decision will open up the 5th Congressional District, a northern Alabama seat that backed Trump 63-37 in 2020.

AK-Sen, AK-Gov: Last week, the Associated Press' Mark Thiessen name-dropped a few Republicans as possible intra-party opponents for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has not yet said if she'll run again in 2022. The most familiar name is former Gov. Sarah Palin, who is perennially mentioned as a possible Murkowski foe even though she hasn't actually appeared on a ballot since her 2008 vice presidential bid.

Thiessen also lists Gov. Mike Dunleavy as a possibility, though he hasn't shown any obvious interest in doing anything other than run for re-election next year. Dunleavy hasn't announced his 2022 plans, though he said last week, "I enjoy the job and there's a lot of work to be done.

There's also Joe Miller, who beat Murkowski in a 2010 primary shocker but went on to lose to her that fall when the senator ran a write-in campaign. Miller, who unsuccessfully sought the 2014 GOP nod for Alaska's other Senate seat, campaigned against Murkowski as a Libertarian in 2016 and lost 44-29. Miller also does not appear to have said anything about another campaign.

MO-Sen: Less than three years after he resigned in disgrace, former Gov. Eric Greitens announced Monday that he would seek the Republican nomination for this open seat. We’ll have more in our next Digest.

NC-Sen: Meredith College takes a look at an extremely early Democratic primary scenario and finds former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and state Sen. Jeff Jackson tied 13-13. Former state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost the 2020 primary, takes 11%, while virologist Richard Watkins is at 4%. (Watkins ran in 2018 in the primary against veteran Rep. David Price and took just 6% of the vote.) Beasley is the only person tested who is not currently running.

Meredith also released numbers for the GOP primary but sampled just 217 respondents, which is below the 300-person minimum we require for inclusion in the Digest.

NV-Sen: The far-right anti-tax Club for Growth has released a survey from its usual pollster WPA Intelligence that finds its old ally, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt, leading former Sen. Dean Heller 44-25 in a hypothetical GOP primary. Heller, who lost Nevada's other Senate seat to Democrat Jacky Rosen in 2018, has not shown any obvious signs of interest in taking on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto.

Laxalt has not said anything about his 2022 plans, though CNN recently reported that he is considering a Senate bid. McClatchy, citing an unnamed GOP aide, also writes that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "is also said to favor Laxalt's candidacy."

OH-Sen: 314 Action, which is trying to recruit former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton to run for this open seat, has released a survey from Public Policy Polling that shows her outperforming her fellow Democrat, Rep. Tim Ryan, in hypothetical general election matchups against a trio of Republicans. First up are the Acton numbers:

  • 42-41 vs. former state Treasurer Josh Mandel
  • 40-40 vs. former state party chair Jane Timken
  • 40-38 vs. author J.D. Vance

Next up is Ryan:

  • 38-42 vs. Mandel
  • 38-41 vs. Timken
  • 37-39 vs. Vance

314 publicized another PPP poll last week that had Acton leading Ryan 37-32 in a potential primary. Both Democrats are publicly considering running, though neither of them has announced a bid.

Mandel and Timken currently have the GOP side to themselves, but plenty of others could get in. Vance, who is best known as the writer of "Hillbilly Elegy," has not said anything about his interest, but Politico reports that he recently met with people close to Trump. Last week, the Cincinnati Enquirer also revealed that far-right billionaire Peter Thiel had contributed $10 million to a super PAC set up to help Vance if he runs.

Governors

GA-Gov: Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, an ardent Trump fan who left the Democratic Party in January, tweeted Monday that he was "looking closely" at a GOP primary bid against Gov. Brian Kemp.

Jones, unsurprisingly, echoed his patron's lies about election fraud by insisting, "If it weren't for Brian Kemp, Donald Trump would still be President of these United States." Joe Biden, of course, would still have earned an electoral college majority even if Trump had carried Georgia, but that's hardly stopped Trump from targeting his one-time ally Kemp.

Jones had a long career in Democratic politics, though he'd struggled to win higher office under his old party. After a stint in the state House in the 1990s, Jones became the first African American to lead DeKalb County following his 2000 victory for CEO of this large Atlanta-area community. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that during his tenure, Jones "drew intense scrutiny for angry outbursts and an accusation of rape that he said was a consensual act between three partners." Jones, however, was never charged.

Jones tried to use his high-profile post as a springboard to statewide office, but he lost the 2008 primary runoff for Senate 60-40 to Jim Martin, who went on to lose to Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss. Jones then challenged Rep. Hank Johnson in the 2010 primary for the 4th Congressional District and lost 55-26.

In 2013, a grand jury probing Jones' time as DeKalb County CEO recommended he be investigated for what the AJC calls allegations of "bid-rigging and theft." The following year, his campaign for DeKalb County sheriff ended in a landslide 76-24 primary defeat.

Jones, though, resurrected his political career when he won the 2016 primary to return to the state House in a safely blue seat. Months later, DeKalb District Attorney Robert James announced that he wouldn't be charging a number of figures, including Jones, for lack of evidence.

Jones spent the next few years often voting with Republicans and tweeting favorably of Trump, but he only burned his last bridges with his party in 2020 when he endorsed Trump's re-election campaign. Jones, who was already facing a competitive primary, ultimately retired from the legislature (albeit after initially saying he'd be resigning), and he spent the rest of the campaign as a prominent Trump surrogate.

Jones finally switched parties in January, and he's been eyeing another statewide bid over the last few months. Jones has been mentioned as a prospective Senate candidate, and he reportedly eyed a primary campaign for secretary of state against Brad Raffensperger as recently as last week. Trump, though, has touted former NFL running back Herschel Walker as a prospective Senate candidate and endorsed Rep. Jody Hice's bid against Raffensperger on Monday (see our GA-SoS item), which may be why Jones is now talking about taking on Kemp instead.

MO-Gov, MO-Sen: Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe announced Monday that he would compete in the 2024 race to succeed Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who will be termed-out, rather than run in next year's open seat race for the Senate.

Kehoe's kickoff is extremely early, but while it's not unheard of for prominent gubernatorial candidates to enter the race well over three years before Election Day, that preparation doesn't always pay off. Then-California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom notably launched his successful 2018 gubernatorial campaign in February of 2015, while Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin announced his 2022 bid in August of 2019 only to drop down to attorney general last month after Donald Trump backed a rival Republican primary candidate.

NY-Gov: A ninth woman, Alyssa McGrath, has come forward to accuse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, making her the first current Cuomo employee to do so on the record. McGrath, an executive assistant in the governor's office, says Cuomo "would ogle her body, remark on her looks, and make suggestive comments to her" and a coworker. She also says Cuomo called her "beautiful" in Italian and on one occasion stared down her shirt.

Cuomo once again did not deny the interactions had taken place. Instead, a spokesperson insisted that "the governor has greeted men and women with hugs and a kiss on the cheek, forehead, or hand. Yes, he has posed for photographs with his arm around them. Yes, he uses Italian phrases like 'ciao bella.' None of this is remarkable, although it may be old-fashioned. He has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone."

PA-Gov, PA-Sen: Several more Republicans, including a few familiar names, have made their interest in running to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf known in recent days.

On Monday, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain formed a fundraising committee for a potential bid. That step came days after Rep. Mike Kelly said he was thinking about running either for governor or for the Senate. The Associated Press also writes that another congressman, Rep. Dan Meuser, "has said he is considering running" for governor, but there's no quote from him.

Former Rep. Lou Barletta, who badly lost the 2018 Senate general election, also acknowledged his interest in the gubernatorial race and pledged to decide over the next few weeks. Additionally, state Sen. Dan Laughlin said over the weekend that he was thinking about campaigning to replace Wolf. The Erie Times-News writes that Laughlin is one of the more moderate Republicans in the legislature, which could be helpful in a general but toxic in a primary.

VA-Gov: Wealthy businessman Pete Snyder has earned an endorsement from Rep. Bob Good ahead of the May 8 Republican nominating convention. Good himself won the GOP nomination last year through this system when he unseated incumbent Denver Riggleman.

House

LA-02: Two Democratic state senators from New Orleans, Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson (the two are not related), will face off in the April 24 runoff to succeed Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January to take a post in the Biden White House. Carter took first in Saturday's all-party primary with 36%, while Peterson edged out Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers by a surprisingly small 23-21 margin.

Carter has the backing of Richmond, the state AFL-CIO, and a high-profile Republican in the region, Cynthia Lee Sheng. On Monday, Carter also earned an endorsement from East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, whose constituency cast just under 10% of the vote. Peterson, for her part, has benefited from about $600,000 in outside spending from EMILY's List.

Both Carter and Peterson, who would be the first Black woman to represent Louisiana in Congress, have campaigned as ardent Democrats, though Peterson has argued she's the more progressive of the two. Notably, while Peterson and other contenders called for a Green New Deal, Carter merely characterized it as "a good blueprint" that won't be in place for a long time and that he doesn't support.

Both candidates also say they back Medicare for all, though only Peterson has run commercials focused on it. Carter, for his part, has insisted he'd have a far easier time working with Republicans than Peterson. Carter has additionally played up his relationship with Richmond, saying, "I would have the ear of the guy who has the ear of the president of the United States of America." Peterson, who is a former state party chair, has pushed back by saying she has her own ties to senior White House officials and does "not need to have the ear of the ear of the ear of the toe of the thumb of someone."

Peterson will likely need Chambers' supporters to disproportionately break for her in order for her to close the gap next month, and she may be better positioned to appeal to them than Carter. That's far from guaranteed to happen, though, and Chambers himself hasn't hinted if he's leaning towards supporting one of them over the other. Chambers, while acknowledging Sunday that his endorsement would be very valuable, said of the two runoff contenders, "I don't think either one of them is a true progressive."

Local politics in New Orleans, which is coterminous with Orleans Parish, also may impact this race, as the two state senators represent conflicting factions in local Democratic politics. Peterson is a leader in the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), a longtime power player in the Crescent City that has clashed with Richmond and his allies. Each side scored some big wins and losses in the 2019 legislative elections, and Clancy DuBos of the New Orleans weekly The Gambit recently noted, "Many see this contest as the latest bout between BOLD and Richmond."

In Orleans Parish, which cast just over half the vote on Saturday in this 10-parish district, it was Carter's side that very much came out on top in the first round. Carter led with 39%, while Chambers actually narrowly led Peterson 27-25 for second.

LA-05: University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow defeated Democrat Candy Christophe 65-27 in the all-party primary to succeed her late husband and fellow Republican, Luke Letlow, which was well more than the majority she needed to avoid a runoff. Luke Letlow won an open seat runoff for this safely red northeast Louisiana seat in December, but he died weeks later of complications from COVID-19 before he could take office.

Julia Letlow will be the first woman to represent Louisiana in Congress since Democrat Mary Landrieu left the Senate following her 2014 defeat, as well as the first Republican woman to ever serve in the state's delegation.

Letlow will also join Doris Matsui, a California Democrat, as the only member of Congress elected to succeed a late husband. (Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell won the 2014 contest to succeed John Dingell, which made her the first member elected to succeed a living spouse; John Dingell died in 2019.) Texas Republican Susan Wright is also currently running to succeed Rep. Ron Wright, who also died after contracting COVID-19.

NY-23: Chemung County Executive Chris Moss said Monday that he was interested in running to succeed Rep. Tom Reed, a fellow Republican who on Sunday apologized for sexually harassing a woman in 2017 as he announced he would not run for office in 2022. But Moss, who was the party's 2014 nominee for lieutenant governor, said that he would first run for re-election to his current office this year and would not decide on anything until he sees the new congressional map.

Moss has good reason to be wary, as no one knows what this 55-42 Trump seat, which currently includes Ithaca and southwestern New York, will look like next year. New York is very likely to lose at least one House seat, and Reed's departure could make it easier for mapmakers to eliminate this upstate New York seat.

It's also not clear, though, who those mapmakers will even be. An amendment to the state constitution backed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed in 2014 that, under the pretense of establishing an independent redistricting commission—a judge literally ordered that the word "independent" be stricken from the amendment's description because it was nothing of the sort—was actually designed to ensure Republican lawmakers would have a say in redistricting no matter if they lost their then-control over the state Senate. Legislative Democrats, though, now have the two-third supermajorities that would allow them to bypass this amendment―if they choose to try, that is.

All we know for now is that Reed's Sunday announcement will mark the end of a decade-long political career that included one unexpectedly competitive race. Reed was the mayor of Corning, a small city best known as the headquarters of the eponymous glassworks company, in 2008 when Democrat Eric Massa scored a pickup in what was numbered the 29th District at the time. The ancestrally red seat, though, had supported John McCain 51-48, and Republicans planned to make Massa a top target.

Reed entered the race to take on the freshman Democrat, but he never got the chance to take him on. Massa resigned in disgrace in March of 2010 after an aide accused him of sexual harassment, and Democrats had a very tough time finding a viable replacement candidate. Reed ultimately avoided any intra-party opposition and decisively outraised his Democratic foe, Afghanistan veteran Matthew Zeller. Major outside groups on both sides largely bypassed the race and Reed won 56-43; he also scored a similar win in a special election held that day for the final weeks of Massa's term.

Redistricting left Reed with a less conservative seat, but his huge financial advantage over Democratic Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa made him look like the heavy favorite to keep the new 23rd District red. It was therefore a big surprise when Reed only defeated Shinagawa 52-48 as Mitt Romney was carrying the seat 50-48, and Democrats were determined to give him a serious fight next time.

Fellow Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson stepped up for Team Blue, but 2014 proved to be a very difficult year for her party. Reed ran ad after ad portraying Robertson as an "extreme Ithaca liberal," including one commercial with a very strange cartoon of Robertson driving around in a hippie car as the narrator sarcastically threw in hippie slang.

Reed ended up winning 62-38, but Democrats hoped that the 2016 climate would revert back to something more like 2012. That's very much not what happened, though: Instead, Trump won 55-40 here, and Reed beat Democrat John Plumb 58-42. Reed had a closer 54-46 shave against cybersecurity expert Tracy Mitrano in 2018, but he won their 2020 rematch 58-41.

OH-16: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth has followed Donald Trump's lead and endorsed former Trump administration official Max Miller's Republican primary bid against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who voted to impeach the party's leader in January. The Club has also released a poll from WPA Intelligence that shows Miller beating Gonzalez 39-30, though no one knows what this district will look like after redistricting.

TX-06: 2020 state House candidate Lydia Bean has released a poll from the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group that shows her in contention to advance past the May 1 all-party primary:

  • GOP activist Susan Wright (R): 18
  • 2018 nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez (D): 9
  • State Rep. Jake Ellzey (R): 8
  • 2020 state House candidate Lydia Bean (D): 6
  • Former Trump administration official Brian Harrison (R): 6
  • Education activist Shawn Lassiter (D): 4
  • Former Homeland Security official Patrick Moses (D): 2
  • 2020 Nevada congressional candidate Dan Rodimer (R): 1

The only other poll we've seen was a Victoria Research survey for Sanchez released last week that showed Wright leading her 21-17, with Ellzey and Bean at 8% and 5%, respectively.

TX-34: In a surprise, Democratic Rep. Filemón Vela said Monday that he would not seek a sixth term in Texas' 34th Congressional District, a heavily Latino seat that snapped hard to the right last year. Vela is the second Democratic House member to announce his retirement following Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who made her 2022 plans known earlier this month.

This constituency, which includes Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley and rural counties to the north, went for Joe Biden 52-48 four years after it supported Hillary Clinton by a hefty 59-38 margin in 2016. This was the biggest shift toward Trump of any congressional district in Texas, and his third-largest improvement in the entire nation. Vela himself won re-election by a comfortable 55-42 against an underfunded Republican in a contest that attracted very little outside spending, but the dynamics of an open seat race could be very different.

Further muddling the picture for 2022 is redistricting. 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.  

Vela, for his part, has not had to worry about a competitive race since he won his first primary in 2012. Vela had never sought office before he entered that crowded contest for the newly-drawn 34th District, but his family had some very strong ties to the seat: His mother, Blanca Vela, was the first woman to serve as mayor of Brownsville while his father and namesake, Filemón Vela Sr., was a longtime federal judge who had a courthouse named for him in the city.

The younger Vela looked like the frontrunner especially after his most prominent opponent, Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, was indicted for racketeering weeks before the primary. (He was later sentenced to 13 years in prison.) Vela reached the runoff by taking 40%, while his opponent, former congressional staffer Denise Saenz Blanchard, was far behind with 13%.

Blanchard ran to Vela's left and portrayed her opponent, whose wife was a GOP member of the state Court of Appeals, as far too conservative. Blanchard hit Vela for having voted in GOP primaries in the past, and some Republicans even insisted that Vela himself had planned to run for Congress as a member of Team Red until he saw the new congressional map.

However, Blanchard had little money available in a contest that attracted very little outside attention (Daily Kos Elections at the time dubbed it, "The most under-watched nominating battle in the nation."), and Vela won 67-33. Vela had no trouble that fall or in any other campaigns.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Saturday's special election in Louisiana and a preview of Tuesday's race in Virginia:

LA-HD-82: An all-Republican runoff is on tap for April 24 after Eddie Connick and Laurie Schlegel were the top two vote-getters for this seat in the New Orleans suburbs. Connick led Schlegel 40-36 in the first round, while Democrat Raymond Delaney took third with 25%.

Despite some recent leftward movement in this solidly red district, the two Republican candidates outpaced the Democrat 75-25. The strong GOP performance here could partially be attributed to the Republican candidates' connections to well-known local political figures.

VA-SD-38: This Republican district in southwest Virginia became vacant after former Sen. Ben Chafin died earlier this year. Former Radford City Councilwoman Laurie Buchwald is the Democratic candidate taking on Republican Travis Hackworth, a Tazewell County supervisor.

Buchwald has run for office once before, losing a state House of Delegates race to GOP incumbent Joe Yost 58-42 in 2015.

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Donald Trump 75-22 in 2016, and according to The News and Advance, Trump took 78% of the vote here in 2020. This is the only vacancy in this chamber, which Democrats narrowly control 21-18.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Joe Biden will be hosting a Friday virtual fundraiser for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, which is the president's first such event for any candidate since he became president. Bottoms faces a potentially competitive re-election fight this fall against City Council President Felicia Moore, while others are also considering taking her on.

Morning Digest: How Ossoff and Warnock ran up the score to turn Georgia blue and flip the Senate

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

Senate-by-CD: With Democrats officially regaining control of the Senate on Wednesday, Daily Kos Elections is pleased to release the results of Georgia's Jan. 5 regular and special Senate runoffs, as well as the contest that same day for state Public Service Commission, for each of the state's 14 congressional districts. To help you follow along, we've put together a sheet with the results of each of these contests, as well as the 2020 presidential race.

Raphael Warnock defeated appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler 51.0-49.0 in a special election for the final two years of former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson's term, while fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff beat Republican Sen. David Perdue by a slightly narrower 50.6-49.4 in the contest for a regular six-year term. At the same time, though, Republican incumbent Bubba McDonald won re-election to the Public Service Commission by fending off Democrat Daniel Blackman 50.4-49.6.

Warnock, Ossoff, and McDonald each won the same six Democratic-held House seats that now-President Joe Biden took two months before when he was winning 49.5-49.3, while the remaining eight Republican-controlled constituencies voted for all of the GOP's statewide candidates. However, there were some notable differences in how each of these four Democrats performed that we'll briefly discuss.

Campaign Action

Ossoff ran ahead of Biden's November margin in 10 of the 14 seats, while Warnock outran Biden in 11, though in the runoffs, of course, there were no third-party candidates. The one seat where Warnock did better than Biden by margin but Ossoff didn't is the Atlanta-based 5th District, which is held by freshman Democratic Rep. Nikema Williams, though the differences were extremely small.

Ossoff and Warnock's biggest overperformance compared to Biden was in Democratic Rep. David Scott's 13th District in the southwestern Atlanta suburbs, where the two ran about 4-5 points ahead of the top of the ticket. Interestingly, both Senate candidates also eclipsed Biden in the 7th District, a historically red seat in the northeast Atlanta area that Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux flipped last year.

A bit surprisingly, both Ossoff and Warnock did a little better in the 7th than in Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath's 6th District, another former conservative stronghold in the Atlanta suburbs that has swung hard to the left in recent years. This seat also represented the largest underperformance for both Senate candidates compared to Biden, just as it did in November, despite the fact that Ossoff ran in the famous 2017 special election here; on Jan. 5, Ossoff trailed Biden by 6 points and Warnock trailed him by five.

Warnock also ran ahead of Ossoff in all 14 congressional districts. The largest gap was in the 6th District, where, as noted just above, Warnock did two points better, while the smallest was in Republican Rep. Buddy Carter's 1st District in the Savannah area, which saw almost no difference.

One important reason the two Democrats prevailed is that, while turnout unsurprisingly dropped from November to January in every congressional district, Team Blue was better able to mobilize its voters for the second round. As our map shows, Perdue hemorrhaged votes in heavily Republican seats, while Ossoff's dropoff was smaller in the very blue districts that ring Atlanta.

In fact, the site of Perdue's second-worst falloff (by just a hair) was rural northwest Georgia's 14th District, the new home of notorious insurrectionist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—and the site of an election eve rally by a certain resident of Mar-a-Lago. There, in what should have been the heart of GOP country, Perdue's turnout plummeted 12.5%.

Turning briefly to the race for Public Service Commission, Blackman ran behind Biden in 11 districts. The largest source of Democratic downballot underperformance was again in the 6th District, which may indicate that this area has plenty of voters who have turned against the GOP in presidential races but are still open to supporting Republicans in other races. Blackman's best seat compared to Biden was, like Warnock's and Ossoff's, also the 13th District.

Senate

CA-Sen, GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: In one of her first acts after being sworn in on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris in turn administered the oath of office to the Senate's three newest Democratic members: Alex Padilla of California and Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia. With that act, the Senate returned to full strength, with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, but because of Harris' tie-breaking vote, Democrats retook control of the chamber. As a result, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer was elevated to the post of majority leader, making him the first Jewish person to hold the job.

Both Padilla and Warnock will go before voters again in 2022, while Ossoff will not face re-election until 2026.

FL-Sen, FL-01: Rep. Matt Gaetz, a leading insurrectionist and peddler of the lie that left-wing forces were responsible for the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, says he has "no interest" in running against Sen. Marco Rubio in next year's Republican primary after a GOP official at the other end of the state talked up the idea to a local reporter. However, Gaetz added that he "would consider running" for state Agriculture Commissioner, a post currently held by Democrat Nikki Fried. If Gaetz were to seek a promotion, that would prompt an open-seat race for his heavily red 1st District, located in the Florida panhandle.

NC-Sen: The New York Times reported on Tuesday that, just hours before the new administration took office, the Justice Department told Republican Sen. Richard Burr that it would drop an investigation into allegations that he engaged in insider trading last year after receiving classified briefings as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The paper says, however, that a parallel SEC inquiry may still be ongoing. Burr long ago announced that he would retire next year, but last month he ever-so-slightly re-opened the door to a bid for a fourth term.

Governors

AK-Gov: Activists seeking to recall Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who put their campaign on hold last year when the coronavirus made signature-gathering very difficult, say they plan to restart their effort with vaccination now underway. Organizers say they will seek to collect petitions both by mail and safely in person.

Before pausing, recall proponents said they'd obtained almost 50,000 signatures, meaning they'd need at least 22,000 more to hit the threshold required to commence a recall election. If successful, officials would have to schedule an election 60 to 90 days after all signatures are verified, a process that can take up to 30 days. A bipartisan coalition kicked off the process in 2019, furious with Dunleavy's draconian budget cuts, including a retaliatory reduction in funds for the Alaska Supreme Court after it ruled against him in an abortion rights case.

While Dunleavy is on the ballot in 2022, one organizer explained the renewed push by saying, "There's so many things, so many reasons why two more years is way too long." If Dunleavy is ultimately removed from office, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, a fellow Republican, would take his place.

NE-Gov: State Sen. Brett Lindstrom recently told the Lincoln Journal Star that he was leaning towards running to succeed his fellow Republican, termed-out-Gov. Pete Ricketts, but that he wouldn't be making any announcements until the legislative session ends in late May.

Lindstrom, who played as a walk-on for the University of Nebraska's football team in the early 2000s, got his start in electoral politics in 2012 when he ran against then-Rep. Lee Terry in the GOP primary for the 2nd Congressional District, a contest where Terry prevailed 59-23. Lindstrom successfully won an Omaha area state Senate seat two years later, and as the online magazine Ozy wrote in a 2017 profile, he's occasionally defied his party's far-right orthodoxy.

Lindstrom was the crucial vote to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska during his first year in office, a stance that led to at least one death threat. (Ricketts and his allies successfully promoted a ballot measure to reinstate capital punishment.) Lindstrom also backed workplace protections for LGBTQ people and voted to override Ricketts' veto of a gas tax.

House

OH-11: Former state Sen. Shirley Smith announced this week that she would enter the Democratic primary if there's a special election to succeed Rep. Marcia Fudge, who is President Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Smith joins ex-state Sen. Nina Turner, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown, and former Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson in the contest for this safely blue seat which, according to new Daily Kos Elections data, backed Biden 80-19.

Smith has a long career in Cleveland politics going back to her 1998 election to the state House and her subsequent service in the upper chamber. Smith was termed-out in 2014 and ran for Cuyahoga County executive, but she lost the Democratic primary to the eventual winner, Armond Budish, by a 56-20 margin.

WY-AL: Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, just earned a primary challenge from state Sen. Anthony Bouchard as a result of her vote to impeach Donald Trump last week. Bouchard slammed Cheney in his kickoff, saying her "long-time opposition to President Trump and her most recent vote for impeachment shows just how out of touch she is with Wyoming."

The Casper Star-Tribune describes Bouchard as a gun activist and says he's "built a reputation in the Wyoming Legislature as one of its most conservative members." Politics1 also reports that on social media, Bouchard has been "a vocal fan" of two of the most extreme Republican members of the House, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert.

Legislative

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Alabama:

AL-HD-33: Republican Ben Robbins defeated Democrat Fred Crum 68-32 to hold this Sylacauga-area seat for the GOP. This district became vacant when former Rep. Ron Johnson died last year. Robbins' victory was a very slight improvement for Team Red from Johnson's 67-33 win in his final race in 2018.

This makeup of this chamber is now 76-28 in favor of Republicans with one other seat vacant.

Prosecutors

Criminal Justice: 2021 will feature contests for district attorney and sheriff in a number of major counties, and the Appeal's Daniel Nichanian is out with a detailed preview of what to watch this year as criminal justice reformers look to make more inroads and defend influential allies.

One early test will take place on May 18 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where one of the most prominent reformers in the country, District Attorney Larry Krasner, faces a challenge in the Democratic primary from former prosecutor Carlos Vega. Vega has been a loud critic of the incumbent, whom he argues has been running "an experiment that is costing the lives of our children." The winner of the Democratic nomination should have no trouble in the November general election in this heavily blue city.

Another very high-profile race is also underway in Manhattan, where the winner of the June 22 Democratic primary will also be the heavy favorite. Incumbent Cy Vance has yet to announce if he'll seek a fourth term, but New York City politicos almost universally expected him to retire even before they learned he'd raised just $2,000 during the second half of 2020.

Eight fellow Democrats are currently competing to replace Vance, and with the exception of attorney and former prosecutor Liz Crotty, all of them have pitched themselves as progressives who will bring much needed changes to the office. There's no obvious frontrunner at the moment in what's already an expensive race.  

There's plenty more to watch across the country this year, and you'll want to check out Nichanian's preview of this year's major criminal justice contests.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Defense One reported Tuesday that former Rep. Max Rose, a Democrat who lost his bid for a second term last year in New York's 11th District, would take a job in the Biden Defense Department as an advisor on COVID-19. Rose, who previously served in the Army in Afghanistan, does not require Senate confirmation.  

Where Are They Now?: On his way out the door, Donald Trump issued pardons to three former Republican congressmen who had been convicted in a trio of unrelated public corruption scandals: Arizona's Rick Renzi, California's Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and North Carolina's Robin Hayes. Trump also commuted the sentence of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a Democrat who had served six years of a 28-year sentence for corruption.

Morning Digest: Progressives can flip a key seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court this April

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

WI Supreme Court: The battle lines for a crucial race for Wisconsin's Supreme Court have now been set following the results of Tuesday's primary, with incumbent Justice Dan Kelly facing off against Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky on April 7.

The officially nonpartisan election featured three candidates running on the same ballot: Kelly, a conservative appointed to his post by former Gov. Scott Walker in 2016, as well two progressives, Karofsky and law professor Ed Fallone. Kelly took 50.1% of the vote and Karofsky 37.2%, advancing both of them to the general election; Fallone, who was badly outspent, finished a distant third with just 12.7%. Combined, however, Karofsky and Fallone were less than 2,000 votes behind Kelly.

Campaign Action

That tight outcome suggests another very close contest in April. Last year, in a race for a Supreme Court seat held by a retiring liberal justice, conservative Brian Hagedorn slipped past progressive Lisa Neubauer by just 6,000 votes out of 1.2 million cast overall. It was a painful loss for the left, as Hagedorn's win shifted the court from a 4-3 majority in favor of conservatives to a 5-2 advantage.

Karofsky now has the chance to slim that back down to a one-vote edge for conservatives and put liberals in a position to flip the court in 2023, when Chief Justice Patience Roggensack's current term ends. April's vote will coincide with the Democratic primary for president, which could give Karofsky a boost. In fact, Republicans had sought to move the presidential primary during the lame-duck session of the legislature after Walker lost to Democrat Tony Evers in 2018, precisely to help Kelly, though they ultimately abandoned the idea despite passing legislation to grab power from Evers before he took office.

But by no means will the GOP give up on Kelly, who so far has outraised Karofsky $988,000 to $414,000. In last year's race, the Republican State Leadership Committee, which aids candidates in state races at all levels of the ballot, parachuted in at the last minute with a seven-figure expenditure on behalf of Hagedorn that may have proved critical to his victory. While some progressive groups stepped up for Neubauer, Democrats lack an equivalent "DSLC"—there's no formal party organization devoted to winning state supreme court elections—so they'll need to find a way to match resources with the right if Karofsky is to win.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The GOP pollster HighGround Public Affairs is out with a poll of their home state that gives Democrat Mark Kelly a 46-39 lead over appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally. The only other poll we've seen of this race this year was a January survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had Kelly ahead by a smaller 46-42 margin. HighGround did not identify a client for this poll.

McSally recently began running TV ads ahead Kelly, and she's now up with another spot. The commercial is titled "Bernie Bro," which pretty much tells you all you need to know about its content.

KY-Sen: Retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath launched her first TV ads of the year last week well ahead of the May Democratic primary to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the Democratic firm Amplify Media reports that she's spending another $418,000 from Feb. 18 through Feb. 24.

ME-Sen: On behalf of Colby College, SocialSphere is out with the first poll we've seen here in months, and they give Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon a narrow 43-42 edge over GOP Sen. Susan Collins. SocialSphere also takes a look at the June primary and finds Gideon, who has the support of the DSCC and other national Democratic groups, leading 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet by a 60-8 margin.

The last poll we saw testing Collins against Gideon was a July survey for the AARP from the GOP firm Fabrizio Ward that had the incumbent up 52-35, but no one is acting like Collins is well ahead. Both the Collins and Gideon campaigns, as well as outside groups from both sides, have already spent heavily on ads, and they don't show any sign of stopping. Indeed, Majority Forward has launched a new three-week $550,000 TV ad campaign, and they're out with another commercial hitting Collins for refusing to vote for legislation to lower prescription drug costs.

Collins herself also didn't dispute the idea that her once mighty approval rating has taken a dive back in July, and more recent polls have continued to show her struggling. Morning Consult gave Collins an underwater 42-52 approval rating for the final quarter of 2019, which was worse than any senator in the country but Mitch McConnell himself, while SocialSphere put her favorable rating at 42-54.

NC-Sen: On behalf of WRAL-TV, SurveyUSA is out with a poll off the March 3 Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, and they give former state Sen. Cal Cunningham a 42-17 lead over state Sen. Erica Smith. This result is considerably better for Cunningham than the 29-10 lead he posted in separate February surveys by High Point University and from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

The poll comes as the GOP-connected super PAC Faith and Power has been running a $2.9 million ad campaign praising Smith, who doesn't have much money to get her name out. National Democrats, who are supporting Cunningham, very much believe that Faith and Power is getting involved because they think Smith will be much easier for Tillis to beat, and they're devoting more money towards helping Cunningham.

Carolina Blue, a super PAC that was only recently created, has reserved over $3 million in ads, and Advertising Analytics reports that its first commercials began airing on Wednesday. Politico reports that VoteVets is also spending an additional $1.5 million on pro-Cunningham ads: The group's new commercial praises Cunningham's record in the legislature and progressive agenda and declares he "won't let anyone repeal Obamacare."

TX-Sen: The newly-formed Lone Star Forward PAC has launched a TV spot in support of nonprofit head Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary to face GOP Sen. John Cornyn, and the group says that the initial buy is in the "low six figures." The ad tells the audience that Tzintzún Ramirez is "running to be our first Latina senator" and will be a progressive voice on healthcare and gun safety issues.

Gubernatorial

AK-Gov: Stand Tall With Mike, the main group fighting to prevent GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy from being removed from office, announced on Tuesday that it would drop its legal opposition to the recall campaign. However, the Alaska Division of Elections is still challenging a lower court ruling that allowed the recall to proceed, and the state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on March 25.

Dunleavy's allies, though, say that they very much expect the justices to allow the recall campaign to reach the ballot. Stand Tall With Mike put out a Trumpy statement declaring that "it is clear that the Court is determined to let the recall effort go forward before it has even reviewed the parties' legal briefings."

While the Alaska Supreme Court has yet to rule on the legality of the recall, it has allowed Recall Dunleavy to collect the petitions they need to get a recall measure on the ballot. If Recall Dunleavy prevails in court, it will have to collect more than 71,000 signatures, which is 25% of the votes cast in 2018, to advance to the ballot. There's no time limit for gathering petitions, and a recall election would take place 60 to 90 days after the Division of Elections verified that enough valid signatures have been turned in.

If Dunleavy is removed from office, he would be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, a fellow Republican. No matter what, though, Alaska's regularly-scheduled gubernatorial election will take place in 2022.

NC-Gov: SurveyUSA is out with a poll of the March 3 GOP primary on behalf of WRAL-TV, and it gives Lt. Gov. Dan Forest a hefty 60-8 lead over state Rep. Holly Grange. High Point University also recently found Forest ahead by a similar 54-10 spread in the contest to take on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

House

IA-02: State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks picked up an endorsement this week from Sen. Joni Ernst ahead of the June GOP primary for this open southeastern Iowa seat. Miller-Meeks also recently earned the support of a number of state legislators including fellow state Sen. Chris Cournoyer, who talked about running here in April, and Roby Smith, who was also once mentioned as a prospective candidate.

Miller-Meeks announced in early October that she would run to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack, who beat her in 2008, 2010, and 2014. Her main opponent in the primary is Bobby Schilling, a former one-term congressman from across the Mississippi River in Illinois who has struggled to raise money for his first Iowa race. Miller-Meeks outpaced Schilling $250,000 to $26,000 during her opening quarter, and she ended December with a $215,000 to $50,000 cash-on-hand lead.

National Democrats are backing former state Sen. Rita Hart, who doesn't face any serious intra-party opposition, in the race to hold this 49-45 Trump seat. Hart raised $336,000 during the last quarter, and she closed the year with $648,000 in the bank.

NY-02: Suffolk County Director of Health Education Nancy Hemendinger announced on Wednesday that she was dropping out of the June GOP primary and endorsing Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino.

NY-27: On Tuesday, Donald Trump tweeted out his "Complete Endorsement" for state Sen. Chris Jacobs for the April 28 special election. Normally it wouldn't be remotely newsy that Trump is supporting the GOP nominee in an election, but this is an odd case.

That's because Jacobs, whose detractors fault him for refusing to back Trump in the 2016 general election, faces opposition in the June primary from both attorney Beth Parlato and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. While Trump's tweet explicitly referred to the April special, his message will allow Jacobs to tell voters he's the White House's pick from now until late June.

Pennsylvania: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Pennsylvania's April 28 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. However, challenges to nominating petitions are common in the Keystone State, and candidates are sometimes knocked off the ballot, so expect some changes.

PA-01: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick prevailed last cycle 51-49 in a Bucks County seat that Hillary Clinton had carried 49-47 in 2016, and he's now just one of two Republicans seeking re-election in a Clinton district (the other is New York Rep. John Katko). Fitzpatrick is a strong fundraiser, and he ended December with $1.4 million in the bank.

Three Democrats filed to take him on, but Pennsbury school board member Debbie Wachspress was the only one who had brought in a credible amount of money at the end of 2019. Wachspress had $355,000 on-hand while her intra-party opponents, Bucks County housing department official Christina Finello and businessman Skylar Hurwitz, each had less than $12,000 in the bank.

Fitzpatrick does face a primary challenge of his own from businessman Andrew Meehan, but Meehan had a tiny $6,000 war chest at the end of last year. Fitzpatrick's allies at EDF Action also released a poll on Wednesday from the GOP firm WPA Intelligence that showed the incumbent beating Meehan 59-19.

PA-06: Democrat Chrissy Houlahan easily flipped this 53-43 Clinton seat last cycle after GOP incumbent Ryan Costello dropped out after the filing deadline, and the GOP doesn't seem to be making much of an effort to take it back. The only Republican who ended up filing is businessman John Emmons, who has been self-funding almost his entire campaign but still trailed Houlahan in cash-on-hand by a wide $2.1 million to $221,000 at the end of 2019.

PA-07: Democrat Susan Wild decisively won an open seat race last cycle after national Republicans abandoned their nominee, but 2020 could be a more difficult year for her. This Lehigh Valley seat shifted from 53-46 Obama to just 49-48 Clinton, and this time, national Republicans have a candidate they're more excited about.

Former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller entered the race in October and quickly earned an endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Scheller has already begun self-funding. Wild outraised Scheller $516,000 to $250,000 during the final three months of 2019, but Scheller poured in an additional $300,000 of her own money. Wild ended the year with a $1.06 million to $432,000 cash-on-hand lead over Scheller.

Two other Republicans who have previously run for Congress are also campaigning here. Former Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning narrowly lost the 2018 primary despite being badly outspent, and he had $225,000 available at the end of December after self-funding a little more than half of his campaign. Race car driver Matt Connolly, a perennial candidate who most recently lost a 2016 contest to Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright in the old 17th District by a 54-46 margin, had only $4,000 to spend.

PA-08: This seat in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area swung from 55-43 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright turned back a self-funding opponent last cycle by a convincing 55-45 margin. Republicans are hoping that Cartwright will be in much more danger with Trump on the ballot, though, and six candidates have filed to take him on.

Earl Granville, an Army veteran who lost part of his left leg in Afghanistan, entered the race in mid-December and earned an endorsement the following month from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Granville only had $5,000 on-hand at the end of 2019, though his other rivals weren't exactly drowning in cash either. Former police officer Teddy Daniels had $65,000 to spend, while Luzerne County Councilor Harry Haas had just $8,000 available. Cartwright, by contrast, had $1.3 million on-hand to defend his seat.

Jim Bognet, who served in the Trump administration as a senior vice president for communications for the Export-Import Bank, entered the GOP primary in January after the new fundraising quarter ended. Two other Republicans, 24-year-old businessman Mike Cammisa and former Hazelton Mayor Mike Marsicano, are also in. Marsicano is a former Democrat who lost re-election all the way back in 1999 and has unsuccessfully run for office as a Democrat several times since then.

PA-10: This Harrisburg-based seat backed Trump 52-43, but GOP Rep. Scott Perry only won re-election last cycle 51-49 in an unexpectedly expensive contest. Democrats are talking Perry, who is a prominent member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, and the DCCC is supporting state Auditor Eugene DePasquale.

The other Democrat running here is attorney Tom Brier, who trailed DePasquale $468,000 to $203,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of December. DePasquale recently released a primary poll that showed him beating Brier 68-16, while Brier has not yet responded with better numbers. Perry had $622,000 available at the close of 2019 to defend his seat.

PA-16: GOP Rep. Mike Kelly won re-election last cycle just 52-47 even though Donald Trump carried this Erie-area seat by a strong 58-39 margin two years before, and he's repeatedly been busted by the local media since then for selling used cars that were subject to safety recalls. However, the only Democrat who ended up filing to run here, teacher Kristy Gnibus, only had a mere $15,000 available at the end of 2019, so it's not clear if Team Blue can take advantage of Kelly's weaknesses. Two other Democrats who previously announced bids, customer service supervisor Daniel Smith and auto salesman Edward DeSantis, did not end up filing.

PA-17: Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb decisively beat Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus 56-44 after court-ordered redistricting threw the two incumbents into the same suburban Pittsburgh seat, but Republicans are hoping to target Lamb this year in this 49-47 Trump district.

Trump has endorsed Army veteran Sean Parnell, an author who frequently appears on Fox News, and Parnell brought in a credible $255,000 during his opening quarter. Lamb still raised a considerably larger $585,000, though, and he ended 2019 with a $979,000 to $219,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Only one other Republican, businessman Jesse Vodvarka, is running, and he's unlikely to put up much of a fight. Vodvarka has served as campaign manager for his father, Joe Vodvarka, during his four forgettable Senate bids as both a Republican and a Democrat. Another Republican, Green Beret veteran Brian Thomsen, announced he was running last year but didn't end up filing.

TX-07: Army veteran Wesley Hunt is up with a new TV spot telling GOP voters that he has Donald Trump's endorsement (true), and that socialists "have a Green New Deal that would ban Texas oil and gas" (a lie). Politico reports that this is part of a new $100,000 buy from Hunt ahead of the March 3 primary to face Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher.

VA-05: Republican officials decided last year to nominate their candidate through a party convention rather than through a primary, and we now know that the gathering will take place on April 25. Freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman faces a notable intra-party challenge from Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good, and he could end up having trouble winning.

GOP conventions tend to be dominated by delegates who prize ideology above all else, and Riggleman infuriated plenty of social conservatives at home in July when he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers. This quickly resulted in a homophobic backlash against the congressman, and local Republican Parties in three small 5th District counties each passed anti-Riggleman motions.

This seat, which includes Charlottesville and south-central Virginia, backed Trump 52-41, and Riggleman defeated a well-funded Democrat 53-47 last cycle. A few Democrats are campaigning here already, though, and a messy GOP fight could give the eventual nominee more of an opening. While Team Blue also held a convention to pick its nominee last year, this time around, Democrats have opted to hold a traditional primary in June.

WI-07: On Tuesday, state Sen. Tom Tiffany defeated Army veteran Jason Church 57-43 to win the GOP nod for the May 12 special election for this conservative northwestern Wisconsin seat. On the Democratic side, Wausau School Board president Tricia Zunker, who would be the state's first Native American member of Congress, defeated underfunded businessman Lawrence Dale 89-11.

Tiffany had the support of former Rep. Sean Duffy, who resigned from this seat last year, as well as former Gov. Scott Walker. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth, two groups that often end up on opposite sides in GOP primaries, also both spent plenty of money to back Tiffany. Church raised a comparable amount of money as Tiffany and benefited from heavy spending from With Honor Fund and newly formed Americans 4 Security PAC, but the first-time candidate still fell short.

This seat was competitive turf a decade ago, but it's been moving sharply to the right ever since thanks to a high proportion of white voters without a college degree. Barack Obama actually carried the 7th (adjusting for redistricting) in 2008 by a 53-45 margin, but four years later, Mitt Romney won it 51-48. The bottom did not truly fall out until 2016, though, when Donald Trump prevailed by a giant 58-37 margin.

Things didn't get much better for Democrats in 2018 despite the blue wave: Walker carried the 7th 57-41 despite narrowly losing statewide, and even Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin lost it 52-48 while cruising to a 55-45 re-election victory. Given the trends in the 7th District, Tiffany will be favored in May, but as Nathan Gonzales put it after Duffy announced his resignation in August, it's "another potential special election for Republicans to mess up."

Mayoral

Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Wisconsin's largest city held its nonpartisan primary on Tuesday, and incumbent Tom Barrett and Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor advanced to the April 7 general election. Barrett, who has served as mayor since 2004 and was Team Blue's nominee for governor in 2010 and 2012, took first with 50%, while Taylor beat self-funding Alderman Anthony Zielinski 31-16 for second.

Barrett has argued that the city has made progress during his tenure and that he can continue to improve things. But Taylor, who would be the city's first woman or African American mayor, is insisting that Barrett is "disconnected" from issues like race and jobs. Barrett held a massive $896,000 to $7,000 cash-on-hand lead over Taylor on Feb. 3.

Other Races

Milwaukee County, WI Executive: Milwaukee County also held its nonpartisan primary on Tuesday for the race to succeed retiring incumbent Chris Abele, and two Democratic state legislators advanced to the April 7 general election. State Sen. Chris Larson took first with 37%, and state Rep. David Crowley led Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb Sr., who doesn't affiliate with either major party, 34-17 for second place. The balance went to businesswoman Purnima Nath, a self-described conservative.

Both general election candidates have very different relationships with Abel, a Democrat who has often worked with the GOP legislature. Abel is supporting Crowley, who would be Milwaukee County's first black executive, and the incumbent's Leadership MKE group has spent $240,000 on ads for him. Larson, by contrast, challenged Abel in 2016 and lost 56-44. Larson held a $56,000 to $30,000 cash-on-hand lead over Crowley on Feb. 3.

Grab Bag

Demographics: We're about to enter a vexing new stage in the Democratic presidential primary: a whole lot of states having elections where we have little or no polling data. Knowing which states are demographically similar to each other can help fill in some of those data gaps, though, and David Jarman has put together a state similarity index using "nearest neighbor" analysis to guide that conversation. (In case you were wondering whether this year's candidates will play in Peoria, that's actually a good question, because Illinois is the nation's most demographically average state!

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

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

Leading Off

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gubernatorial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grab Bag

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

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

Morning Digest: Anti-impeachment Trump surrogate launches bid against GOP senator in Georgia special

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

Leading Off

GA-Sen-B: On Wednesday morning, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins announced that he would challenge appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Republican, in this year’s special election. Collins is currently serving as one of Donald Trump’s designated surrogates during his impeachment trial, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that the congressman hopes to have Trump’s inner circle behind him.

Campaign Action

As we recently noted, Collins’ decision to run almost certainly crushes the GOP’s hopes of winning outright in November, at least under the state’s current election law. That's because all candidates from all parties will run together on a single ballot, and if no one takes a majority, a runoff between the top two vote-getters—regardless of party—would be held in January of next year.

Collins’ run could be a mixed blessing for Democrats, though. While Team Blue would very much like a bloody intra-party battle between the Republicans, it’s possible that Loeffler and Collins could each secure enough support to lock Democrats out of a January runoff.

While there’s a chance that Democrats could instead secure both runoff spots and automatically flip this seat from red to blue, it’s not a good one. Businessman Matt Lieberman is the party’s only declared candidate so far, but former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver recently said that he planned to run while the Rev. Raphael Warnock is also reportedly going to get in soon.

This lineup would mean that Georgia’s Democratic voters would be dividing their support among a trio of candidates while Republicans would have just a pair to choose from—a scenario that would give the GOP a very real shot to take the top two spots in the all-party primary.

However, it’s possible that this special election law will change soon. Both Collins’ allies in the state legislature as well as Democrats are backing a bill that would require a partisan primary in May and a general election in November, which are the same rules that govern the state’s regularly scheduled Senate race. Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler, has said he’d veto this legislation if it makes it to his desk, though Democrats and Republicans could override him with a two-thirds supermajority.

While it remains to be seen when Loeffler and Collins will compete, it’s clear that the congressman is a serious threat to her chances. While Collins has made a name for himself with the Trump fans across the state by loudly defending the White House from impeachment, Loeffler had very little name recognition when she was appointed in December. A survey from the Democratic firm PPP taken just after Loeffler was selected in December even showed Collins destroying her 56-16 in a hypothetical GOP primary.

However, Loeffler very much has the resources to get her name out and attack Collins. The wealthy senator recently launched a $2.6 million ad campaign to introduce herself to voters and declare her fealty to Trump, and she’s reportedly pledged to spend a total of $20 million of her own money on this race. While Collins might be able to raise a serious amount of cash for this contest, he’s probably going to have a tough time bringing in anywhere near enough to match Loeffler’s self-funding.

Two prominent GOP groups are also making it clear that they’re going to support Loeffler. The NRSC, which endorsed the incumbent right after Kemp appointed her, put out a statement right after Collins announced that contained this angry, though rather ungrammatical, pair of phrases: “Doug Collins’ selfishness will hurt David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and President Trump. Not to mention the people of Georgia who stand to bear the burden of it for years to come.”

The Senate Leadership Fund, a well-funded super PAC run by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also blasted Collins as “selfish” and praised Loeffler as “a warrior for the President.” It remains to be seen how much each group will be willing to spend here in a cycle when control of the Senate is on the line, but the SLF said of Loeffler, “We’ll have her back if she needs us.”

The biggest player in GOP politics, though, has not yet taken sides. The White House reportedly made an unsuccessful push to convince Kemp to appoint Collins instead of Loeffler, and Trump no doubt is still happily watching the congressman’s frequent appearances on his behalf on Fox News. (It’s almost certainly no accident that Collins launched his campaign on Wednesday on Trump’s beloved “Fox & Friends.”)

However, while Trump may be inclined to support Collins, Loeffler is doing whatever she can to quickly get into his good graces. She may already be succeeding: Hours after Collins entered the contest, Trump singled Loeffler out at a bill signing and said, “Congratulations, Kelly. They really like you a lot. That’s what the word is.” McConnell, who is arguably both the White House and Loeffler’s most important ally, may also be able to persuade Trump to at least stay out of this contest.

Of course, there’s never any telling what Donald Trump will or won’t do, so both Loeffler and Collins may be kept in suspense for a long time to come.

4Q Fundraising

NH-Sen: Corky Messner (R): $51,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $1.07 million cash-on-hand

TX-Sen: John Cornyn (R-inc): $2.75 million raised, $12.1 million cash-on-hand

ME-02: Dale Crafts (R): $128,000 raised, additional $47,000 self-funded, $134,000 cash-on-hand

MI-03: Lynn Afendoulis (R): $112,000 raised

NV-04: Jim Marchant (R): $156,000 raised, $209,000 cash-on-hand

NY-24: Dana Balter (D): $205,000 raised, $220,000 cash-on-hand; Francis Conole (D): $250,000 cash-on-hand; Roger Misso (D): $120,000 raised, $130,000 cash-on-hand

WA-03: Carolyn Long (D): $498,000 raised

Senate

MA-Sen: Sen. Ed Markey picked up a Democratic primary endorsement this week from former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who was the party's 1988 presidential nominee. Dukakis left office in 1991, though he's occasionally been in the news in recent years as he's pushed for a rail link between Boston's two major train stations. You can stop leaving your leftover Thanksgiving turkey carcasses outside his house, though.

TX-Sen: Every poll we've seen of the March Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn has found a large plurality of voters undecided, and new surveys from the nonpartisan nonprofit Texas Lyceum and the progressive group Data for Progress each are no different.

Texas Lyceum's poll gives 2018 House nominee MJ Hegar the lead with 11% of the vote while state Sen. Royce West edges nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez 8-7 for the second spot in the likely runoff. Former Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards is just behind with 6 while a group of other candidates, including former Rep. Chris Bell and 2018 Senate candidate Sema Hernandez, take 5% each. The firm finds that 42% are undecided in a contest where no one has aired many ads yet.

Data for Progress' survey finds that more voters have chosen one of the candidates, but 34% are still undecided. The poll has Hegar ahead with 18%, while both West and Ramirez take 13%. Bell is at 8%, while none of the other contenders take more than 4%.

The survey also tests Hegar out in three different primary runoff scenarios:

32-33 vs. Ramirez 42-16 vs. Edwards 48-19 vs. West

On Tuesday, West also picked up an endorsement from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who leads Texas' largest city.

Gubernatorial

AK-Gov: On Wednesday, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth issued a stay preventing the committee trying to recall GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy from gathering signatures. Aarseth had taken this very action last week only to reverse himself the following day because that stay had been "inadvertently issued." However, Aarseth now says that the Alaska Supreme Court should rule on the constitutionality of the recall campaign before it is allowed to collect signatures to reach the ballot.

MO-Gov: Uniting Missouri, which is the main super PAC supporting GOP Gov. Mike Parson, is out with a poll from the Republican firm American Viewpoint that gives the incumbent a 54-36 lead over Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway. The only other survey of this contest we've seen over the last several months was a November PPP poll for the Democratic Governors Association that gave Parson a smaller 45-36 edge.

House

FL-26: While Donald Trump endorsed Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez last week, both former Miami-Dade County firefighters union president Omar Blanco and restaurateur Irina Vilariño say they plan to keep campaigning for the GOP nomination. However, neither of them looks like they'll be much of a threat to Giménez in the August primary to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Vilariño didn't even commit to staying in the race, since The Miami Herald writes that "she's evaluating her options." The paper writes that Vilariño raised just $70,000 during the most recent quarter, so she may not be able to put up much of a fight even if she opts to keep running.

Blanco also acknowledged that Giménez has harmed his fundraising, though he hasn't revealed how much he brought in during the last months of 2019. It may not matter much, though, since Blanco said that he didn't plan to go negative on Giménez, who is actually his boss: The mayor oversees the county fire department, where Blanco serves as a lieutenant.

GA-09: GOP Rep. Doug Collins' decision to run for the Senate opens up Georgia's 9th District in the rural northeastern part of the state. This seat backed Donald Trump 78-19, which was his best performance in any of the state's 14 congressional districts, and there's no question that whoever wins the GOP nod will prevail with ease in the general election.

The primary will take place in mid-May, and there would be a runoff in July if no one takes a majority of the vote. The filing deadline is March 6, so potential candidates have about five weeks to decide whether or not to run.

State Sen. John Wilkinson didn't need anywhere near that long to make up his mind, though, and he entered the race right after Collins announced that he was leaving to run for the Senate. Wilkinson has represented the 50th Senate District, which makes up about a quarter of this seat, since late 2011, and he's spent the last eight years as chair of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.

Several other Republicans are eyeing this contest, including one familiar name. Former 10th District Rep. Paul Broun confirmed that he was considering a comeback here, and Lauren Souther of the local news site Fetch Your News writes that he "indicated" that he'd decide this week. Broun was elected to the House in a 2007 special election, and he quickly emerged as the go-to guy for far-right quips, including his infamous 2012 proclamation that "[a]ll that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell."

It was Broun's career that soon descended into the pit of hell, though. In 2014, Broun gave up his seat representing the neighboring 10th District to run for an open Senate seat, but he finished a weak fifth in the primary with just 10% of the vote. Two years later, Broun relocated to the 9th District and challenged Collins for renomination, but the former congressman failed to raise much money and lost by a lopsided 61-22 margin.

State Rep. Kevin Tanner is also talking about running, and he told Fetch Your News on Wednesday that he would decide in "the next few days." Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeff Langley called a congressional race "an intriguing possibility" and said he hadn't decided anything yet, but he also said he was very happy at his current post. In addition, Fetch Your News writes that fellow state Rep. Matt Gurtler is reportedly mulling it over, but Gurtler didn't respond for comment. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentioned fellow state Rep. Emory Dunahoo as a possibility, though there's no word on his interest.

Another group of Republicans sounds unlikely to run, though they didn't outright say no. Conservative radio host Martha Zoller, who lost the 2012 open seat primary runoff to Collins 55-45, said, "I am certainly going to consider running for this position, but I, at this time, am leaning toward not running."

Chris Riley, a longtime aide to former Gov. Nathan Deal, said Tuesday that, while he wasn't saying no, he was focused on "helping our friends who are seriously considering and helped make the Deal Administration successful." State Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller sounded even less enthusiastic, and he told the AJC that "the likelihood of me running for Congress is very low."

By contrast, Enotah Judicial Circuit Court Judge Stan Gunter and state Sen. Steve Gooch each made it clear that they would sit this race out.

MD-07: Former state Democratic Party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is out with her first TV ad ahead of Tuesday's crowded special primary to succeed her late husband, Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Rockeymoore Cummings begins by telling the audience, "Elijah worked hard, especially for children and youth. I know because I was right there with him." The candidate continues, "Together, we worked for social and economic justice, and we were in the trenches side by side fighting for Baltimore." Rockeymoore Cummings then says she's running "to continue that fight—for more affordable healthcare and prescription drugs, and an end to the gun violence and trauma that is wiping out a generation of black talent."

NC-11: GOP state Sen. Jim Davis uses his first TV spot for the crowded March GOP primary for this open seat in Appalachian North Carolina to express his hatred for Mondays liberals. Davis, who is situated between a table with a huge plate of cheeseburgers and a black backdrop, begins the commercial wielding a handgun in what could easily be mistaken for an ad for the world's most terrifying fast-food restaurant.

But of course, this is really a political spot, and Davis continues by loading his weapon and telling the audience that liberals want to make his nine-millimeter gun illegal. He then drags his platter of burgers to him and repeats one of the GOP's favorite Trump-era lies by saying that liberals also want to outlaw cheeseburgers. That idea comes from conservatives' deliberate misreading of the Green New Deal, and a similar falsehood has already appeared in ads attacking Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in Michigan.

Davis then goes on a rant about how the left "want[s] to tell us how to live, how to worship, even how to eat." Davis never fires his gun during the spot, but he does end it by taking a hardy bite out of Chekov's cheeseburger. Wisely, though, the senator leaves the other dozen or so patties on the table uneaten.

NY-15: End Citizens United has endorsed New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres in the crowded Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. José Serrano.

NY-22: Freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi uses his first TV spot of the cycle to stress how he's worked across party lines in Congress. The commercial features several clips of news people talking about his accomplishments, including how he got four bills signed by Donald Trump. The ad does not mention the conservative TV commercials that have already run here attacking the congressman, though Brindisi told Politico he was going on the air early "to set the record straight."

TX-07: Army veteran Wesley Hunt, who is the national GOP's favored candidate in the March primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, is out with a TV spot where he declares that Donald Trump is right to call drug cartels "terrorist organizations." The candidate calls for building the border wall before the narrator notes that Hunt has the endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz.

TX-22: Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star CEO Pierce Bush is out with a GOP primary ad starring his wife, Sarahbeth Bush. She tells the audience how her father developed a drug addiction when she was 10 and that "[d]rugs smuggled across the border ruin lives and shatter families." Sarahbeth Bush then praises the candidate as someone who understands the border crisis.

WA-10: Democratic state Rep. Beth Doglio, who'd previously said she'd decide on whether to seek Washington's open 10th Congressional District after the legislature's session ends on March 12, has now filed paperwork to create a campaign committee with the FEC. Several notable Democrats are already running, and a number of others are considering. However, no prominent Republicans have expressed interest in seeking this seat, which voted 51-40 for Hillary Clinton.

Legislative

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

TX-HD-28: Republican Gary Gates defeated Democrat Eliz Markowitz 58-42 to hold this suburban Houston district for his party. The result is disappointing for Democrats, who aggressively targeted this race as part of a larger effort to flip the Texas House later this year, as Markowitz's performance in this district lagged behind Hillary Clinton's 10-point loss in 2016 and Beto O'Rourke's narrow 3-point loss in 2018.

Democrats will now ask themselves why Markowitz fell well short of what the fundamentals of this district would have augured. One key reason may have been the wealthy Gates' heavy self-funding, which totaled at least $1.5 million. In addition, younger voters and Latinos, who are among Democrats' most important constituencies in Texas, are less apt to turn out for an unusually timed special election as opposed to a November general election.

Markowitz and Gates will likely face off again in the fall, but one important reminder for Democrats is this district is not a prerequisite for taking the state House. The Texas Democratic Party recently ranked this district as its 16th-most attractive pickup opportunity on an initial target list of 22 seats, ranked by O'Rourke's 2018 margins.

TX-HD-100: Democrat Lorraine Birabil defeated fellow party member James Armstrong 66-34 to hold this deep blue Dallas seat.

TX-HD-148: Democrat Anna Eastman defeated Republican Luis LaRotta 65-35 to hold this seat for her party. These three special elections in Texas return this chamber to full strength, with Republicans in control 83-67.

GA-HD-171: Republican Joe Campbell took 58% of the vote in this three-way race to avoid a runoff and hold this south Georgia seat for the GOP. Democrat Jewell Howard was the runner-up with 33%, while Republican Tommy Akridge rounded out the voting with 8%.

This result moves the makeup of the Georgia state House to 105-74 in favor of Republicans with one seat vacant.