Morning Digest: Why some rich GOP donors don’t want two ex-congressman making comebacks

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

Primary Night: Indiana on Tuesday plays host to a busy downballot primary night, and as always, Jeff Singer has put together an in-depth look at what to watch.

One of the most-watched races will take place in the central part of the state as no-longer-retiring Rep. Victoria Spartz tries to hold off self-funding state Rep. Chuck Goodrich in the GOP primary for the 5th District. But seven other candidates are also on the ballot, so their presence could help Spartz win the plurality she needs to avoid an involuntary retirement.

If Goodrich manages to get past Spartz, though, she'd be just the second House incumbent to lose renomination this cycle. Currently, the sole member of this unhappy group is Alabama Republican Jerry Carl, who lost an incumbent vs. incumbent primary two months ago after redistricting transformed his state's congressional map.

Meanwhile, two former House members―Marlin Stutzman and John Hostettler―are waging comeback bids for open seats on opposite ends of the state. Both men lost the 2010 Senate primary to eventual winner Dan Coats, but this time, they have a similar set of allies and enemies.

Some wealthy donors haven't forgotten how both Stutzman and Hostettler caused trouble for their party's leaders during their first stints in Congress and are hoping to make sure they don't get a second chance to cause chaos. However, one well-known senator from a neighboring state is working to help the two ex-congressmen advance through nasty and expensive primaries.

Check out our preview for much more on these contests and more. We'll be liveblogging all of these races at Daily Kos Elections on Tuesday night, starting when polls close in most of Indiana at 6 PM ET. Join us for our complete coverage!

Senate

MD-Sen: With just a week to go before Maryland's primaries, EMILYs List has come in with a major ad buy to boost Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks past Rep. David Trone for the Democratic nomination for Senate.

According to reports filed with the FEC, EMILYs is spending $1.6 million to air this ad on television and digital platforms, which makes this by far the largest outlay by a third-party group—though still just a fraction of what Trone has put in.

EMILYs' opening spot, which was obtained by Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin, hammers Trone "and his companies" for $500,000 in past donations to "extreme and MAGA Republicans to win their elections."

While the narrator doesn't mention any candidates by name, she specifically calls out Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, saying "the Trump-loving governor signed an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape and incest." She also references former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, noting the state Supreme Court's recent ruling that revived the state's 1864 abortion ban.

The ad goes on to reference a Washington Post article on Trone's history of giving to GOP candidates that was published shortly after he launched his first bid for the House in 2016. Trone, the wealthy founder of the alcoholic beverage chain Total Wine, was blunt in explaining his donations in that piece.

"I sign my checks to buy access," he told reporter Bill Turque. That quote is displayed on-screen as the narrator emphasizes it. In his interview with Turque, Trone added, "We disagree categorically with their political positions on everything social and economic." He responded to the new attack by arguing that EMILY is supported by a Republican donor.

In recent weeks, Trone dumped another $12 million into his own coffers, bringing his total self-funding to $54 million. That puts him second all-time among Senate candidates behind only Florida Republican Rick Scott, who spent $63 million on his successful 2018 bid. Trone, however, has self-funded more in a primary than anyone else on record.

MI-Sen: Self-funding businessman Sandy Pensler has launched his first negative ad in the Republican primary, attacking former Rep. Mike Rogers. Pensler's spot recycles a bogus GOP talking point from yesteryear to ... blame Hillary Clinton for the deaths of Americans in the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. The narrator claims that Rogers, who chaired the House Intelligence Committee from 2011 to 2015, "covered for Hillary then and covers for her now."

VT-Sen: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, announced on Monday that he'd seek a fourth term.

Sanders, 82, is unlikely to face any serious opposition as he's won his three previous campaigns with at least 65% of the vote. Sanders has also always easily prevailed in the Democratic primary before officially declining the nomination, a move that's allowed him to run in the general election without either a party label or a nominal Democratic opponent.

Sanders is the last incumbent senator up for reelection this year to confirm his plans except for New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, who goes on trial for federal corruption charges next week. Menendez declined to participate in the Democratic primary but has said he might run again as an independent.

Sanders was also one of two prominent Vermont incumbents who had yet to reveal if he'd run again in 2024. Local politicos are still waiting for GOP Gov. Phil Scott to announce his plans, though the VT Digger recently reported that he's "widely expected" to seek another two-year term. The filing deadline is May 30 for major-party candidates and Aug. 1 for independents.

WV-Sen: Research America finds Gov. Jim Justice demolishing Rep. Alex Mooney in a 67-23 landslide in its newest poll of next week's Republican Senate primary. But Mooney's prospects were dire even before the publication of this survey, which was conducted for MetroNews and a health insurance provider called The Health Plan, something even his biggest ally has now openly acknowledged.

Club for Growth head David McIntosh tells Politico's Burgess Everett that, while he still believes Mooney is the best choice for Republicans, Donald Trump's decision to endorse Justice in October meant "there wasn't a viable path forward" for the congressman.

The Club's pessimism has long been plain: Everett reports that, according to data from AdImpact, the organization has only spent $1.8 million of the $10 million it publicly promised to expend on Mooney's behalf a year ago.

Governors

DE-Gov: State House Minority Leader Mike Ramone announced Monday that he was seeking the Republican nomination for governor, prompting state GOP chair Julianne Murray to respond by ending her own brief campaign. Ramone is campaigning for an office that Republicans last won in 1988.

NJ-Gov: Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller hasn't entered the 2025 Democratic primary for governor just yet, but a nonprofit he runs called Protecting Our Democracy has begun spending $500,000 on a TV ad that suggests he might do so soon. The spot features Spiller extolling the benefits of democracy, calling it the foundation for "how we create solutions" for issues like investing in education, infrastructure, and housing affordability.

In addition to being mayor of a suburb of 40,000 residents near Newark, Spiller is president of the New Jersey Education Association, which the New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein says is "the state's largest public employee union." Spiller previously opted not to seek reelection in 2024.

UT-Gov: State Rep. Philip Lyman announced Saturday that attorney Natalie Clawson would be his new running mate for the June 25 GOP primary, a move that came one day after a state judge ruled that Lyman's original pick, former Trump administration official Layne Bangerter, did not meet Utah's residency requirements. The new Lyman-Clawson ticket is hoping to deny renomination to Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson.

House

CO-05: Retiring Rep. Doug Lamborn endorsed conservative radio host Jeff Crank on Monday in the June 25 Republican primary to replace him, a move that once would have seemed unthinkable given the nasty battles the pair went through in both 2006 and 2008.

But Lamborn has his own ugly—and far more recent—history with Crank's only intra-party foe, state GOP chair Dave Williams, who tried to unseat Lamborn just two years ago. Crank, meanwhile, sought to play down his past run-ins with the incumbent.

"We were primary foes 18 years ago, but Congressman Doug Lamborn and I became friends and joined forces to support our community," he tweeted.

NJ-10: Newark City Council President LaMonica McIver became the first major candidate to enter the July 16 special Democratic primary to succeed the late Democratic Rep. Don Payne, launching her bid on Monday with an endorsement from Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

The New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein also reports that two other powerful figures in Essex County, County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and party chair LeRoy Jones, agreed to back McIver on Friday. Essex County, which includes Newark, forms 58% of the safely blue 10th District; the balance is split between Hudson and Union counties.

Wildstein adds that Darryl Godfrey, who is the chief operations officer of the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority, is considering running and that a "formal announcement [is] expected to come within the next few days." Pastor Ronald Slaughter, however, said he was supporting McIver rather than running himself. The candidate filing deadline is Friday, so any potential contenders have only a short window to decide.

OR-05: With just two weeks to go before Oregon's primaries, the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer in the swingy 5th Congressional District has turned into a negative affair.

Mainstream Democrats PAC, a group funded by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, is spending at least $750,000 to air a new ad attacking attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who was the Democratic nominee in 2022. The spot focuses on reports that she mistreated her staff during previous bids for office and as the city manager for the small community of Phoenix.

"Fired by City Council for creating a toxic work environment, then five former campaign staffers described her as a 'nightmarish boss,'" says a narrator. "McLeod-Skinner's driver texted, 'I'm scared she's gonna hit me.'" The spot ends by praising state Rep. Janelle Bynum as someone who will "fight to restore abortion rights and restore decency to politics."

McLeod-Skinner is firing back with an attack ad of her own, claiming that Bynum "voted to cut teacher pensions" and says that in the legislature "she was the only vote against giving rape survivors more time to seek justice against their rapists." Regarding the latter vote, Bynum argued at the time, "It's not popular to protect the accused but it is our job."

The voice-over then says that McLeod-Skinner will "ban politicians from stock trading and "[s]tand up to anyone who'd outlaw abortion." There's no word on how much McLeod-Skinner is spending, though new fundraising reports due Thursday night will give us more insight into each campaign's finances.

TX-23: Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales is continuing his TV ad offensive against gun maker Brandon Herrera with a spot portraying his intra-party challenger as hostile to Trumps—yes, plural.

The ad utilizes footage from last year of Herrera saying that Donald Trump "messed up a lot of stuff" and predicting that he'd "win the primary by a landslide and lose the general" in 2024. The commercial then makes use of a March story from the Daily Beast detailing how Herrera mocked 18-year-old Barron Trump, complete with video of the candidate saying, "Daddy is coming, Daddy is angry."

Gonzales and Herrera face off in the May 28 GOP runoff, a contest that the elder Trump has not waded into.

WA-04: 2022 GOP Senate nominee Tiffany Smiley unexpectedly announced Monday that she would wage an intra-party challenge against Rep. Dan Newhouse, who voted to impeach Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 riot. Smiley launched her surprise effort a little more than two weeks after Trump himself endorsed a different challenger, former NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler, in the Aug. 6 top-two primary for Washington's conservative 4th District.

Newhouse himself on Monday made it clear he would seek a sixth term despite what the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner characterized in February as "rampant speculation" he'd retire. The incumbent both filed with the state and issued a statement announcing his reelection campaign while also faulting Smiley for racking up $1 million in campaign debt last cycle.

Smiley, a former nurse and motivational speaker, challenged Democratic Sen. Patty Murray in 2022 and attracted the attention of donors who believed a red wave could carry her to an upset. Smiley ultimately raised $20 million for a quest that, according to several conservative pollsters, had a real chance to succeed in an otherwise blue state.

However, while those GOP firms drowned out numbers from Democrats and non-aligned pollsters showing Murray well ahead, they didn't alter reality. Murray prevailed 57-43 against Smiley, who took to conservative media a few months later to announce that she was forming a new PAC to aid "political outsiders." Brunner reported months later that donations to the group were directed toward paying off the Republican's campaign debt.

Newhouse's 4th District, which is based in the central part of the state, favored Trump 57-40 in 2020; Smiley, according to data calculated by the state, carried it 66-34 two years later. However, it remains to be seen whether Democrats will field a single candidate who would have a strong shot to claim one of the two general election spots, which is what happened in 2022, or if the Democratic field will be split enough for two Republicans to advance. The candidate filing deadline is Friday.

WV-02: Politico highlights that Defend American Jobs, a super PAC with ties to the crypto industry, is spending at least $725,000 on a late ad buy to promote state Treasurer Riley Moore ahead of next week's Republican primary. This is the first major independent expenditure for the race to succeed Senate candidate Alex Mooney, who supports Moore, in West Virginia's 2nd District.

Moore, the grandson of the late Gov. Arch Moore and the nephew of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, is the frontrunner in the five-way primary for this safely red seat in the northern half of the state. (His cousin, former Del. Moore Capito, is taking part in the GOP primary for governor that same day.) However, at least one of Moore's intra-party opponents may be able to put up a fight on May 14.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Chris Walker launched his campaign in January, a kickoff that came well after Moore's entry in November of 2022. Walker, though, hauled in $620,000 from donors through April 24, a notable sum in a relatively short amount of time, while he self-funded another $70,000.

Moore, who had a 14-month head start, took in about $1 million during the entire campaign, but he enjoyed a big $400,000 to $100,000 cash advantage over Walker at the end of the most recent reporting period. A trio of other Republicans are also running, though, and their presence could make it tougher for Walker, who would be West Virginia's first Black member of Congress, to get past Moore.

Attorneys General

VA-AG: Democrat Steve Descano, the top prosecutor in Northern Virginia's populous Fairfax County, has opted against running for state attorney general next year and instead gave his endorsement to former Del. Jay Jones on Monday.

Jones himself has not announced a bid, but Virginia Scope's Brandon Jarvis says that "sources close to" the ex-lawmaker "say he will be running." Jones, who would be Virginia's first Black attorney general, challenged Democratic incumbent Mark Herring in the 2021 primary but lost 57-43. Herring in turn fell to Republican Jason Miyares that November in a nailbiter, losing his bid for a third term by a margin of 50.4 to 49.6.

Miyares is a potential candidate for governor in 2025, but he has not confirmed his plans and could seek reelection. Only one other Democratic name has surfaced so far as a possibility for the attorney general's race, Shannon Taylor, who is the prosecutor for Henrico County in the Richmond suburbs. Taylor had considered a bid in 2021 but opted out after Herring said he'd run again. She has yet to say anything publicly about next year's contest.

Poll Pile

  • CA-27: Impact Research (D) for George Whitesides: George Whitesides (D): 47, Mike Garcia (R-inc): 44

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: Why the field to replace Mitt Romney may soon get a lot smaller

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

UT-Sen: The Utah GOP's April 27 convention is coming up quickly, and a newly formed super PAC is trying to make sure Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs' campaign to succeed retiring Sen. Mitt Romney comes to an end at the event well before the June 25 primary.

The Deseret News' Brigham Tomco reports that Hometown Freedom Action Network has spent $17,000 on mailers and text messages to delegates portraying Staggs, who has emphasized his hard-right stances, as disloyal to conservatives. One message faults the mayor for initially supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president, declaring, "Betraying Trump is not MAGA." Another blasts Staggs as "woke" for instituting anti-bias training for police officers. It's not clear who is funding the group.

One delegate told Tomco he considers these kinds of attacks from outside groups "frustrating, annoying, and inappropriate." Staggs is hoping others agree because he needs to perform well with delegates if he's to keep his campaign going.

Utah allows candidates to reach the primary ballot by competing at their convention or by collecting signatures, and while candidates can pursue both routes, Staggs is only going with the first option. This means that, should he fail to win the support of at least 40% of the delegates on April 27, his campaign is over. Another hard-right candidate, conservative activist Carolyn Phippen, is also pursuing a convention-only strategy.

It's not clear yet, however, if a third candidate, attorney Brent Orrin Hatch, needs to rely on delegates to get onto the ballot. Hatch, who is the son and namesake of the late Sen. Orrin Hatch, submitted signatures ahead of the April 13 deadline, but election authorities have not yet verified if he turned in the requisite 28,000 valid petitions.

Hatch himself also sounded uncertain if he'd hit this goal at the start of the month. He previously told Tomco the task was "daunting," and that his status was "up in the air."

The convention is far less important for two other Republicans, Rep. John Curtis and former state House Speaker Brad Wilson. Election authorities have verified that each of them turned in enough signatures to make the ballot, though they're each still taking part in the convention.

Hometown Freedom Action Network sent out texts blasting Curtis, who appears to be the least doctrinaire of the candidates, as someone who was "never with President Trump, and never will be." However, it only spent $2,500 on this messaging against the congressman, who will be on the June ballot no matter how well he does at the April 27 gathering.

The Downballot

It's an old story, but it never gets old: Democrats just whooped Republicans in fundraising—again. This week on "The Downballot" podcast, we're running through some of the most eye-popping numbers Democrats hauled in during the first quarter of the year (Sherrod Brown! Jon Tester! Colin Allred!) and the comparatively weak performances we're seeing from Republicans almost across the board. The GOP hopes to make up the gap by relying on self-funders, but a campaign without a strong fundraising network can be dangerously hollow.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap the week's electoral action, starting with victories in a pair of special elections in Michigan that allowed Democrats to reclaim their majority in the state House, plus a noteworthy House runoff in Alabama that could lead to a Black Democrat representing Mobile for the first time since Reconstruction.

The Davids also explain why a surprise retirement from the Wisconsin Supreme Court means progressives need to be on guard against a top-two lockout in yet another critical battle for control of the court. And finally, there's the astonishing three-way House race in California that could soon turn into a humdrum two-way affair thanks to an unexpected recount.

1Q Fundraising

Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present brand-new charts rounding up first-quarter fundraising numbers for every incumbent and notable challenger running for the House and the Senate this year. The overarching story is a familiar one: Democrats in key races are outraising their Republican rivals almost across the board, sometimes by astonishing margins.

The lopsided Senate battlefield is particularly noteworthy. Compared to the same quarter six years ago, the two most endangered Democratic senators, Montana's Jon Tester and Ohio's Sherod Brown, raised four times as much as they did for their last campaigns. Meanwhile, in Texas, Rep. Colin Allred managed to exceed the already eye-popping records set by Beto O'Rourle in 2018. Check out our charts for the complete picture in both chambers of Congress.

Senate

MT-Sen: In a follow-up to her absolutely bonkers report about former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy last week, the Washington Post's Liz Goodwin pokes further holes in the Republican's claims about an alleged bullet wound he suffered.

Sheehy claims he lied about getting shot at a national park in 2015 in order to deter a military investigation into what he says was the true source of his injury—a possible incident of friendly fire in Afghanistan three years earlier—but new documents obtained by the Post include a report from an unnamed person visiting the park who reported "an accidental gun discharge" to the National Park Service.

An attorney for Sheehy disputed whether there had in fact been any such report by a park visitor. Sheehy's campaign previously said it was seeking to obtain copies of his hospital records from the 2015 incident, but the same attorney did not directly respond when asked whether those records had been received.

NJ-Sen: A three-judge federal appeals panel has upheld a ruling by a lower court last month that barred the use of New Jersey's "county line" system on the grounds that it violates the Constitution. However, that ruling remains in effect solely for the Democratic primary. Barring further legal action, Republicans will still be able to print ballots that give favorable placement to party-endorsed candidates. That state of affairs is likely temporary, though, as a similar ruling applying to Republican primaries is likely at some point.

Governors

MO-Gov: The Missouri Scout has rounded up campaign fundraising reports covering the first quarter of the year, and the overall story of the Aug. 6 Republican primary for governor remains the same as it's been throughout the entire cycle. Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe continues to dominate financially even though almost every released survey shows him trailing Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft by double digits. State Sen. Bill Eigel also brought in more money during the quarter than Ashcroft even those polls show him with little support.

Kehoe and his joint fundraising committee this time raised a combined $2.5 million and ended March with a total of $6.3 million. Eigel and his committee outraised Ashcroft and his allies $587,000 to $513,000, though it was Ashcroft's side that finished the quarter with a $2.6 million to $1.7 million cash on hand advantage.

On the Democratic side, state House Minority Leader Crystal Quade and her committee together raised $285,000 and had $391,000 available. Businessman Mike Hamra and his allies together brought in $690,000, which includes $250,000 from the candidate, and ended March with $1.1 million banked.  

House

CA-16: NBC Bay Area's Jocelyn Moran reports that a newly formed super PAC called Count the Vote is providing the money to finance the ongoing recount into the March 5 top-two primary. It's not clear who is funding the group, but Moran says that the address on its checks matches that of a law firm that used to work for former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Liccardo, who is assured a place in the Nov. 5 general election, has continued to deny he has anything to do with the recount even though the person who requested it, Jonathan Padilla, worked for his 2014 campaign and served in his administration. Two of Liccardo's fellow Democrats, Assemblyman Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, tied for second place last month, and they'd both advance to the general election unless the recount changes the results.

The recount process began Monday, and it's not clear how long it will take to conclude. While election officials in Santa Clara County, which makes up over 80% of the 16th District, initially told KQED they believed this would be a five-day undertaking, Moran writes that they now think it could last between one and two weeks. Personnel in San Mateo County, which forms the balance of the seat, separately tell ABC 7 they believe their retabulations will be done around April 24.

Officials in Santa Clara and San Mateo tell The Daily Journal that the daily cost in their respective counties is $16,000 and $5,000, though they add it would change depending on exactly what Padilla requests. The process would come to an end if Padilla missed a day's payment, and an incomplete recount would leave the certified results unchanged.

MD-02: AIPAC, the hawkish pro-Israel group, has endorsed Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski ahead of the May 14 Democratic primary, where his main rival for this open seat is Del. Harry Bhandari. Olszewski has been the frontrunner ever since he launched his bid in January, and he previously earned endorsements from retiring Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, longtime Rep. Steny Hoyer, and organized labor.

Olszewski also enjoys a large financial advantage over Bhandari. The executive raised $726,000 in the first quarter and finished March with $499,000 on hand, while Bhandari took in $134,000 during this time and ended the period with only $68,000 left to spend.

MD-03: Retired Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn has publicized an internal poll from Upswing Research and Strategy that shows him leading state Sen. Sarah Elfreth by 22-18, while a 44% plurality of voters undecided ahead of the May 14 Democratic primary for this safely blue open seat. State Sen. Clarence Lam was further back with 8%, while no other candidate in the crowded race exceeded 3%.

Dunn gained national visibility after he helped protect Congress during the Jan. 6 insurrection, and that fame helped him dominate the rest of the field in fundraising. Dunn raised a massive $3.7 million in the first quarter and finished March with $1.7 million on hand. That haul was the third-largest of any House candidate nationwide, and it also was more than the rest of his primary rivals combined.

By contrast, Elfreth raised $502,000 and had $569,000 left to spend. However, Elfreth has also received $1.4 million in outside support from the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC, while none of the other candidates have benefited from major outside spending.

Lam, for his part, raised $284,000 and had $505,000 remaining in the bank. Further back, Del. Mike Rogers raised $140,000 and had $171,000 left over, while labor lawyer John Morse raised $116,000 and finished March with $94,000. None of the other candidates took in six-figure sums.

ME-02: State Rep. Austin Theriault has unveiled an internal poll from Public Opinion Strategies that finds him leading fellow state Rep. Mike Soboleski by 30-7 ahead of the June 11 Republican primary, though a large majority of respondents are undecided. The poll's sample size was just 300 respondents, which is the bare minimum that Daily Kos Elections requires for inclusion in the Digest.

Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson are supporting Theriault for the nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, and their preferred candidate raised $655,000 in the first quarter to Soboleski's $43,000. Theriault also had $831,000 on hand compared to $48,000 for his rival. However, Golden's haul was even larger at $1 million raised, and he had $2.2 million on hand at the start of April.

NJ-10: The New Jersey Globe reports that Democratic Rep. Donald Payne has been unconscious and on a ventilator ever since he suffered a heart attack on April 6. The congressman's office on April 9 put out a statement that did not indicate Payne was not conscious, saying instead that his "prognosis is good and he is expected to make a full recovery."

NY-16: Politico's Jeff Coltin has obtained an internal for Rep. Jamaal Bowman that shows him edging out Westchester County Executive George Latimer 44-43 in the June 25 Democratic primary. The pollster, Upswing Research and Strategy, tells us the survey was conducted March 5 through March 10.

The only other numbers we've seen for this contest came from a late March poll for Latimer's allies at Democratic Majority for Israel, and it showed the executive with a wide 52-35 lead. Both DMFI and its pollster, the Mellman Group, are led by Mark Mellman.

SC-01, VA-05, AZ-02, OH-09: American Prosperity Alliance, a dark money group that is close to Kevin McCarthy, has begun running TV ads against three Republican incumbents who voted to oust McCarthy from the speakership last year. The ads, which, are focused on immigration, are also running against Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur in Ohio's 9th District.

According to AdImpact, the group has spent at least $330,000 against Rep. Nancy Mace, who is trying to fend off former state cabinet official Catherine Templeton in the June 11 primary for South Carolina's 1st District. AdImpact has also tracked another $160,000 that APA is deploying in Virginia's 5th District against Rep. Bob Good, who faces state Sen. John McGuire in the following week's primary.

Meanwhile in Arizona's 2nd District, the group has spent $218,000 so far to weaken incumbent Eli Crane ahead of his July 30 nomination battle against former Yavapai County Supervisor Jack Smith. APA additionally has dropped $150,000 on ads against Kaptur, who she faces a competitive general election against Republican state Rep. Derek Merrin.

Mayors & County Leaders

Raleigh, NC Mayor: Democratic Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin announced Tuesday that she would not seek reelection this year and would instead lead a nonprofit. Baldwin, who was successfully treated for breast cancer last year, added that her husband also had multiple surgeries, and that all this convinced her it was "time to devote my energies to myself and my family and to find other ways to serve."

The nonpartisan general election to succeed Baldwin will take place on Nov. 5, and since there's no runoff, it only takes a plurality to become mayor of North Carolina's capital city. Three notable candidates were already running, and they each identify as Democrats.

City Councilman Corey Branch, who describes himself as a "moderate Democrat," launched his campaign in October. He was joined in January by former state Treasurer Janet Cowell, who was once a rising star in North Carolina Democratic politics.

Terrance Ruth, a North Carolina State University professor who lost to Baldwin 47-41 in 2022, also kicked off a second bid a month before the incumbent announced her departure. Ruth argued last cycle that the mayor's administration hadn't done enough to make housing affordable or to listen to residents.

The field also includes mortgage broker Paul Fitts, who is the only Republican in the contest, and two other candidates. The candidate filing deadline is July 19.

Obituaries

Bob Graham: Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat who rose to prominence during his 26 years as governor and senator, died Tuesday at the age of 87. In our obituary, Jeff Singer recounts the many elections of Graham's long career, including how his famed "Workweeks" helped transform him from relative obscurity into a statewide powerhouse.

Poll Pile

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: Big Lie pushers aim to recall Wisconsin Republican for not pushing Big Lie enough

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

WI State Assembly: Far-right groups seeking to oust Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced Monday that they'd turned in about 10,700 signatures to recall the powerful Republican. The effort comes less than two years after Vos narrowly won renomination against an opponent backed by Donald Trump, who sought to punish the speaker for failing to do enough to advance the Big Lie.

If the recall campaign qualifies for the ballot, each party would hold separate primaries ahead of a general election. Vos' 63rd District in the Racine area is solidly Republican turf, so the best way for his conservative detractors to get rid of him may be to deny him the nomination. It only takes a simple plurality to win the primary, though, so a crowded field would likely benefit the incumbent.

Vos, whose 11 years in power makes him the longest-serving speaker in state history, has used his power to continuously block Democratic Gov. Tony Evers from implementing his agenda and responded to Joe Biden's tight 2020 win in Wisconsin by claiming that he believed there was "widespread fraud."

That pronouncement, however, was far from good enough for Trump. The two had a public falling out in 2022 after Vos told Congress that Trump had called him and urged him to retroactively decertify Biden's victory—a move the speaker said was legally impossible.

Trump retaliated by endorsing a previously little-known Republican named Adam Steen. The challenger came very close to defeating Vos, but the speaker hung on with a 51-49 win. (Steen's subsequent general election write-in campaign came nowhere close to succeeding.) While Vos has continued to frustrate Evers, the speaker antagonized election deniers again last year when he wouldn't advance an impeachment effort targeting Wisconsin's top elections official, Meagan Wolfe.

Vos argued in November that, while he wanted Wolfe removed, his party was "nowhere near a consensus" on how to do it. "We need to move forward and talk about the issues that matter to most Wisconsinites and that is not, for most Wisconsinites, obsessing about Meagan Wolfe," he said. But conspiracy theorists were far from done obsessing about Meagan Wolfe and quickly made good on their threats to launch a recall effort.

However, it's not clear exactly which voters would decide Vos' fate. Last month, Evers signed new legislative districts into law to replace gerrymandered Republican maps that the new liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down. (The court has yet to sign off on the new lines.) Last week, though, the justices declined Evers' request to clarify which set of maps would be used for any special elections or recalls that take place before November, when the new districts are otherwise set to go into effect.

Matt Snorek, who is leading the recall effort against Vos, acknowledged this uncertainty to WisPolitics even as he argued that the old boundaries should apply. "It's unconstitutional to allow folks who didn't vote for him in 2022 to remove him," Snorek said, but also noted that the recall campaign sought to collect signatures in both versions of the seat.

The partisan makeup of Vos' constituency didn't change dramatically, but it did become several points bluer: The old district favored Trump 58-40 in 2020, while the revamped version backed him 56-43.

If the previous lines are used, recall organizers will need 6,850 valid signatures, which represents 25% of the votes cast in the old 63rd District in the 2022 race for governor; the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes that it's not clear what this target would be under the new boundaries. Recall expert Joshua Spivak also added that an "unusual feature" in state law makes it easier to put a recall on the ballot: While most states require anyone who fills out a petition to be a registered voter in their district, the Badger State mandates only that signatories be "eligible" voters.

Vos, though, is hoping his enemies have failed to gather enough signatures and says his team plans to review each petition. Scott Bauer of the Associated Press writes that the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission has a total of 31 days to conduct its own review, though its decision can be challenged in court.

If the recall campaign qualifies, a primary would be held six weeks later, with a general election four weeks after that. (In the unlikely event that no primaries are necessary, the recall would take place on the day that primaries would have taken place.)

P.S. While Vos is on the outs with Big Lie spreaders now, the Republican has a long history of advancing conspiracy theories about elections. Vos responded to Democrat John Lehman's 819-vote victory over GOP state Sen. Van Wanggaard in a June 2012 recall by claiming, "Unfortunately, a portion of [the vote] was fraud." The soon-to-be speaker, though, acknowledged he "did not personally witness any voter fraud" in the campaign, which gave Democrats control of the upper chamber for a few months before Republicans won it back that fall.

Election Night

Mississippi: Tuesday is primary night in Mississippi, but none of the state's members of Congress appear to be in any danger of losing either renomination or the general election.

The most eventful race is the GOP primary for the 4th Congressional District, where self-funding perennial candidate Carl Boyanton has been airing animated ads depicting freshman Rep. Mike Ezell as a "busy bee" who's too close to special interests. (One even features a rhyming jingle.)

Boyanton, however, failed to break out of the single digits in either 2020 or 2022, so it would be a surprise if he gave Ezell a hard time on Tuesday. A third candidate, Michael McGill, is also in, though his presence would only matter if no one earned the majority of the vote needed to avert an April 2 runoff.

Senate

MI-Sen: Former Rep. Mike Rogers picked up the "Complete and Total Endorsement" of Donald Trump on Monday, a move that likely shortcircuits any prospect of a strong MAGA-flavored candidate entering the August GOP primary against the NRSC favorite. Rogers himself mulled challenging Trump in this year's presidential race, but the former congressman has spent his Senate bid cozying up to the man whose time he once said had "passed."

MN-Sen: SurveyUSA shows Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar with a 49-33 advantage over Republican Joe Fraser, a banker and Navy veteran who launched a campaign in January. This poll for the ABC affiliate KSTP, which is the first look we've had at this matchup, also shows Joe Biden ahead 42-38 in Minnesota.

NJ-Sen: Rep. Andy Kim won the Ocean County Democratic convention 86-13 on Saturday against former financier Tammy Murphy. Kim represented about half of this longtime GOP bastion under the congressional map that was in place when he won his first two terms in the House, though now it's split between two Republican-held districts, the 2nd and the 4th.

Senate: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC announced Monday that it has reserved a total of $239 million in TV advertising in four additional states:

  • Arizona: $23 million
  • Michigan: $14 million
  • Pennsylvania: $42 million
  • Wisconsin: $14 million

The super PAC also said it had booked $65 million to defend Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio, which is a bit more than the $61 million the GOP firm Medium Buying relayed last month. SMP previously reserved $45 million in Montana and $36 million in Nevada. All seven of these states are held by members of the Democratic caucus, including Arizona, where independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is not seeking reelection.

Governors

IN-Gov: Sen. Mike Braun has publicized a late February internal from Mark It Red that gives him a 41-12 advantage over Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch ahead of the May 7 Republican primary for governor, which is similar to the 40-13 spread the firm found in December.

House

AZ-02: Former Yavapai County Supervisor Jack Smith filed paperwork with the state on Friday for a potential August primary bid against freshman Rep. Eli Crane, who was one of the eight House Republicans who voted to end Kevin McCarthy's speakership last year. Smith, who does not have the most helpful name for a Republican candidate seeking office in 2024, has not said anything publicly about his plans. The filing deadline is April 1.

Politico reported last month that McCarthy's network planned to target Crane in northeastern Arizona's reliably red 1st District. There's no word yet, though, whether the former speaker sees Smith, who resigned from office in 2019 to become state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program, as a strong option.

CA-20: NBC projects that Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong has secured first place in last week's top-two primary to succeed his old boss, former Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Fong, who served as McCarthy's district director before winning a seat in the legislature in 2016, leads with 38% as of Tuesday morning. Another Republican, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, holds a 25-22 advantage over Democrat Marisa Wood for second.

It's not clear how many ballots remain to be tabulated, though. NBC estimates that 65% of the total vote has been counted, but the Associated Press places the proportion at just 62% reporting. The AP has almost 1,500 more votes tallied than NBC even as it reports that a lower percentage of the vote is in.

Note that the first round of the special election for the remaining months of McCarthy's term will take place on March 19. Donald Trump, who like McCarthy backs Fong, carried this Central Valley seat 61-36.

Georgia: Candidate filing closed Friday for Georgia's May 21 primaries, which will mark the first time that the state's new congressional map will be used, and you can find a list of contenders available here. A June 18 runoff will take place in contests where no candidate wins a majority of the vote. The state also conducts a general election runoff between the top two vote-getters on Dec. 3 if no candidate receives a majority on Nov. 5, though that's unlikely to come into play in any congressional races this year.

There was one notable development just ahead of the filing deadline when state Rep. Mandisha Thomas became the third and final Democrat to launch a campaign for the new 6th Congressional District, a safely blue seat in the western Atlanta suburbs. Thomas, though, will face a challenging battle against 7th District Rep. Lucy McBath, a nationally known gun safety activist who ended 2023 with $1 million at her disposal. Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson is also running, but she finished last year with a mere $4,000 banked.

MO-03: State Rep. Justin Hicks announced Monday that he was joining the August Republican primary to replace retiring GOP Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer. The launch comes several months after Max Calfo, a former Jim Jordan staffer who was challenging him for renomination, shared what he claimed were court documents from St. Louis County dating to 2010 in which a woman accused the then-17-year-old Hicks of trying to choke her.

"The restraining order's true," the woman, whose name has not been shared publicly, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Jack Suntrup in November. The county's Circuit Court would not confirm the existence of the records, however, though a spokesperson informed Suntrup that the forms posted by Calfo appeared to match those used by the court at the time. Hicks does not appear to have responded to the allegations, though Calfo claims the state representative is now suing him.

NY-03: Politico reports that the Nassau County Republican Committee has endorsed former Assemblyman Mike LiPetri, who does not appear to have shown any prior public interest in taking on Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi. LePetri ran for the open 2nd District in 2020 under a prior map but lost the primary 63-36 against Andrew Garbarino, his then-colleague and the eventual general election winner.

Politico says that, while the Nassau GOP only announced its support for LiPetri late Sunday, party chair Joe Cairo gave a heads-up to the other notable Republican running in the June primary, Air Force veteran Greg Hach. Hach quickly used that information to blast LiPetri on Friday as an "Anti-Trumper" who was "anointed by the local back-room political machine" and has "financial ties" to George Santos. But even though LiPetri fired off nine different tweets that same day, he only confirmed he was running to Newsday on Monday evening.

SC-01: Donald Trump on Saturday endorsed Rep. Nancy Mace, whom he'd unsuccessfully tried to defeat in the GOP primary last cycle. The congresswoman that Trump called "an absolutely terrible candidate" in 2022, however, has used the ensuing two years to remake herself into a diehard MAGA defender. Mace does not appear to have a similar reconciliation with Kevin McCarthy, whom she voted to oust as speaker in October.

Mace faces a June primary challenge from former state cabinet official Catherine Templeton, whom the incumbent labeled "McCarthy's puppet" last month. Dan Hanlon, who is Mace's former chief of staff, filed FEC paperwork in late January, but he still has not said anything publicly about this race. The candidate filing deadline is on April 1.

TX-23: Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales on Monday unveiled an endorsement from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, one of the most powerful far-right politicians in Texas, ahead of his May 28 primary runoff against gun maker Brandon Herrera, whom he led 45-25 in the first round of voting. Patrick's stamp of approval could be a welcome asset for Gonzales a year after the state party censured him for, among other things, voting to confirm Joe Biden's victory in the hours after the Jan. 6 attacks.

WA-06: State Sen. Emily Randall on Monday unveiled endorsements from two Democratic congresswomen who represent neighboring House seats, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of the 3rd District and Rep. Marilyn Strickland of the 10th. Retiring Rep. Derek Kilmer, whose seat Randall is seeking, previously endorsed the other major Democrat in the race, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

Ballot Measures

MO Ballot, MO-Sen, MO-Gov: A new poll from the GOP firm Remington Research Group for the local tip-sheet Missouri Scout finds a 42-26 plurality in favor of amending the state constitution "so that future constitutional amendments would need a statewide majority vote and a majority vote in a majority of congressional districts to take effect."

Note that this poll sampled November general election voters even though the proposed constitutional amendment would likely appear on the August primary ballot (should lawmakers actually pass the measure).

In the Senate race, Remington also finds GOP incumbent Josh Hawley outpacing the Democratic frontrunner, Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, 53-39. GOP Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft likewise holds a similar 53-36 advantage in a hypothetical race for governor against state House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, though both candidates face contested primaries this summer.

Prosecutors & Sheriffs

Cook County, IL State's Attorney: Attorney Clayton Harris has publicized an endorsement from Rep. Chuy Garcia, a high-profile progressive who is also one of the most prominent Latino politicians in the Chicago area, ahead of next week's Democratic primary.

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Morning Digest: How Trumpists could win a top elections post in a key swing state

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

From Daily Kos Elections' Jeff Singer:

The Downballot

The first downballot primaries of 2024 are here! We're previewing some of Tuesday's biggest races on this week's episode of "The Downballot" with Daily Kos Elections editor Jeff Singer. Singer highlights major elections in four states, including the battle for second place in California's Senate contest; whether Democrats will avoid a lockout in a critical California House district; if the worst Republican election fraudster in recent years will successfully stage a comeback in North Carolina; and how Alabama's new map will affect not one but two House races.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also shake their heads in dismay at New York Democrats, who just unilaterally disarmed in the face of extreme GOP gerrymandering nationwide by passing a new congressional map that barely makes any changes to the status quo. The Davids emphasize that as long as Republicans keep blocking Democratic efforts to ban gerrymandering, Democrats have no choice but to fight fire with fire. Yet in New York, they grabbed the fire extinguisher.

Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time. New episodes every Thursday morning!

Senate

KY-Sen: Sen. Mitch McConnell announced on Wednesday that he would relinquish his role as the GOP's Senate leader in November, ending his tenure as the chamber's longest-serving party leader.

The 82-year-old McConnell has faced questions about his health following two televised incidents in 2023 in which he froze while speaking publicly, but he indicated he intends to remain in the Senate until his term ends in 2027. Were McConnell to leave early, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear would be required to name another Republican in his seat after state lawmakers passed a law requiring same-party appointments in the event of vacancies in 2021.

First elected in 1984, McConnell has led Republicans in the upper chamber since early 2007, including six years as majority leader between 2015 and 2021. McConnell's tenure as leader coincided with a historic escalation in Republican obstruction tactics and norm-breaking.

But despite blockading Senate Democrats' agenda and enabling Donald Trump at nearly every step, McConnell earned the ire of diehard Trump supporters by blaming him for the Jan. 6 attack, though he ultimately voted not to convict Trump following his second impeachment. Nonetheless, McConnell won his final term as leader last year by a 37-10 margin among Senate Republicans.

MI-Sen: Great Lakes Conservative Fund, a super PAC that's supporting former Rep. Mike Rogers with a $2 million ad buy ahead of the Aug. 6 Republican primary, has released a poll from TargetPoint showing Rogers with a 32-12 lead against former Rep. Peter Meijer.

House

CO-08: Weld County Commissioner Scott James announced Tuesday that he was dropping out of the June GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo. James' departure leaves state Rep. Gabe Evans, who has the support of House Speaker Mike Johnson, as the Republican frontrunner. Thanks to self-funding, though, health insurance consultant Joe Andujo finished 2023 with a $203,000 to $186,000 cash on hand advantage over Evans.

Joe Biden would have carried Colorado's 8th District, which is based in the northern Denver suburbs and Greeley area, 51-46 in 2020, but Republicans are hoping that Caraveo's tight 48.4-47.7 win after the district was established following reapportionment foreshadows another close contest. Caraveo, though, ended last year with a hefty $1.4 million on hand to defend herself.

LA-03: The newsletter LaPolitics suggests that Rep. Garret Graves could try to extend his political career by challenging Rep. Clay Higgins, a fellow Republican, in the November all-party primary for Louisiana's 3rd District, though the item notes that such a notion is still "[s]peculation." The latest version of this constituency, which is based in the southwestern part of the state, would have supported Donald Trump 70-28.

Following court-ordered redistricting, Graves' 6th District became unwinnable for him, but the congressman has insisted he won't retire. However, he's all but ruled out running against Rep. Julia Letlow, another Republican, in the 5th District, and according to calculations from Daily Kos Elections, he currently represents just 10% of Higgins' revised 3rd.

MN-02: Marine veteran Tyler Kistner, who had already sounded unlikely to wage a third campaign against Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, has confirmed that he won't run again. Former federal prosecutor Joe Teirab and attorney Tayler Rahm are both still seeking the GOP nod, though Teirab ended 2023 with a notable $269,000 to $76,000 cash on hand advantage.

Craig finished the year with $2.2 million available to defend a suburban Twin Cities seat that favored Joe Biden 53-45 in 2020.

MT-02: Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale announced Wednesday that he would seek reelection to Montana's safely red 2nd District, a move that came two weeks after he dropped out of the June primary to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.

Eight Republicans had launched bids to replace Rosendale when it looked like he'd campaign for the Senate, and while several of them insisted earlier this month that they were willing to run against him, it remains to be seen how many of them will continue now that they know they'll have to take on an incumbent. It only takes a simple plurality to win the nomination, so a crowded field would likely benefit Rosendale.

House GOP leaders may, however, be hoping that someone puts up a strong fight against Rosendale, a Freedom Caucus member who was one of the eight House Republicans who voted to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Donald Trump, though, might still have his back: Trump wrote on Feb. 10 that, while he was backing wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy for Senate, "I always respect Matt Rosendale, and was very happy to Endorse him in the past and will Endorse him again in the future, should he decide to change course and run for his congressional seat."

The congressman used his Wednesday announcement to say that he was also supporting Sheehy, whom Rosendale attacked as a puppet of "the uniparty" and "a candidate who profited off Biden’s Green New Deal" during what turned out to be a seven-day Senate campaign.

NY Redistricting: Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a new congressional map into law on Wednesday, hours after Democratic lawmakers approved it. We recently detailed the likely partisan impacts of the new map, which closely resembles a proposal from the state's redistricting commission that Democratic legislators rejected earlier in the week.

While many observers had expected (or hoped) that Democrats would draw an aggressive gerrymander, their new map made only modest changes to the commission's map—so modest that state GOP chair Ed Cox said his party had "no need" to sue because the "lines are not materially different from" the court-drawn map used in 2022.

That sentiment was shared by former Rep. John Faso, who helped lead the successful legal challenge to the map that Democrats passed two years ago. The map even received votes from more than a dozen Republican lawmakers, including Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay.

Democrats also sent a bill to Hochul that would limit where redistricting lawsuits could be filed to just one of four blue counties—Albany, Erie, New York (Manhattan), or Westchester—to prevent Republicans from shopping for a favorable Republican judge, as they were accused of doing in their previous lawsuit. However, given the response from Republicans so far, that legislation may not ultimately matter for the new map.

NY-01: Former state Sen. Jim Gaughran has endorsed former CNN anchor John Avlon in the June Democratic primary for New York's 1st Congressional District, one day after Gaughran ended his own campaign. Two other notable Democrats are running to take on first-term GOP Rep. Nick LaLotta: Nancy Goroff, who was the party's nominee in 2020, and former congressional staffer Kyle Hill.

NY-03: Air Force veteran Kellen Curry tells Politico that he's considering running for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi. Curry spent months challenging then-Rep. George Santos and raised $432,000 from donors before party leaders tapped another Republican, Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip, for the Feb. 13 special election.

The GOP field already includes two other Republicans who originally campaigned against Santos, Air Force veteran Greg Hach and Security Traders Association president Jim Toes. Hach informs Politico that he's going to self-fund $1 million. There is no indication that Toes, who only raised $100,000 during his first effort, has similar abilities.

The November election will take place under slightly different lines than the recent special. New York's Democratic governor and legislature just approved a new congressional map that makes modest changes to the 3rd District, increasing Joe Biden's margin of victory from 54-45 to 55-44.

OH-09: J.R. Majewski announced Wednesday that he'd remain in the March 19 Republican primary, a move that came less than a day after the toxic 2022 nominee told Politico he was considering ending his second campaign to take on Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Majewski even titled his mid-week press release "J.R. Majewski (Almost) Suspends Campaign for Congress" while still expressing defiance toward the GOP establishment.

TX-32: The crypto-aligned PAC Protect Progress has spent close to $1 million to promote state Rep. Julie Johnson ahead of next week's Democratic primary, according to data from OpenSecrets. Johnson, who was the first Texas legislator with a same-sex spouse, has also benefited from $266,000 in support from Equality PAC, which is affiliated with the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus.

The only other candidate who's getting notable outside backing is trauma surgeon Brian Williams, an Air Force veteran who has received $210,000 in aid from the Principled Veterans Fund. Johnson and Williams have significantly outraised the other eight Democrats competing to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred in this safely blue Dallas seat.

TX-34: The Texas Tribune's Matthew Choi writes that Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez appears to be meddling in next week's GOP primary by sending out mailers labeling former Rep. Mayra Flores "the weakest Republican and the easiest to defeat this November" and calling little-known foe Greg Kunkle a supporter of the "MAGA AGENDA." However, neither the congressman nor any outside groups seem to be doing much else to boost Kunkle, who hasn't reported raising any money.

Two other Republicans are also on the ballot, though neither of them appears to be a serious threat to Flores. Gonzalez, for his part, insists to Choi that he genuinely believes that Flores, whom he beat 53-44 last cycle, would be his weakest possible foe.

Ballot Measures

AK Ballot: Alaska election officials said this week that the campaign to repeal the state's top-four primary system has collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot this year, though it's not yet clear when. The Alaska Beacon says that the timing of the vote will depend on whether the legislature adjourns before or after April 22. If lawmakers end their session before that date, the measure would appear on the Aug. 20 primary ballot, while a later adjournment would move the vote to Nov. 5.

Mayors & County Leaders

Bridgeport, CT Mayor: Mayor Joe Ganim won reelection Tuesday 59-38 against former city official John Gomes, a fellow Democrat who ran under the banner of the state Independent Party, in their fourth and final contest over the last six months. You can find the backstory to Bridgeport's prolonged election season here.

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Morning Digest: How Trumpists could win a top elections post in a key swing state

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

From Daily Kos Elections' Jeff Singer:

The Downballot

The first downballot primaries of 2024 are here! We're previewing some of Tuesday's biggest races on this week's episode of "The Downballot" with Daily Kos Elections editor Jeff Singer. Singer highlights major elections in four states, including the battle for second place in California's Senate contest; whether Democrats will avoid a lockout in a critical California House district; if the worst Republican election fraudster in recent years will successfully stage a comeback in North Carolina; and how Alabama's new map will affect not one but two House races.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also shake their heads in dismay at New York Democrats, who just unilaterally disarmed in the face of extreme GOP gerrymandering nationwide by passing a new congressional map that barely makes any changes to the status quo. The Davids emphasize that as long as Republicans keep blocking Democratic efforts to ban gerrymandering, Democrats have no choice but to fight fire with fire. Yet in New York, they grabbed the fire extinguisher.

Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time. New episodes every Thursday morning!

Senate

KY-Sen: Sen. Mitch McConnell announced on Wednesday that he would relinquish his role as the GOP's Senate leader in November, ending his tenure as the chamber's longest-serving party leader.

The 82-year-old McConnell has faced questions about his health following two televised incidents in 2023 in which he froze while speaking publicly, but he indicated he intends to remain in the Senate until his term ends in 2027. Were McConnell to leave early, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear would be required to name another Republican in his seat after state lawmakers passed a law requiring same-party appointments in the event of vacancies in 2021.

First elected in 1984, McConnell has led Republicans in the upper chamber since early 2007, including six years as majority leader between 2015 and 2021. McConnell's tenure as leader coincided with a historic escalation in Republican obstruction tactics and norm-breaking.

But despite blockading Senate Democrats' agenda and enabling Donald Trump at nearly every step, McConnell earned the ire of diehard Trump supporters by blaming him for the Jan. 6 attack, though he ultimately voted not to convict Trump following his second impeachment. Nonetheless, McConnell won his final term as leader last year by a 37-10 margin among Senate Republicans.

MI-Sen: Great Lakes Conservative Fund, a super PAC that's supporting former Rep. Mike Rogers with a $2 million ad buy ahead of the Aug. 6 Republican primary, has released a poll from TargetPoint showing Rogers with a 32-12 lead against former Rep. Peter Meijer.

House

CO-08: Weld County Commissioner Scott James announced Tuesday that he was dropping out of the June GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo. James' departure leaves state Rep. Gabe Evans, who has the support of House Speaker Mike Johnson, as the Republican frontrunner. Thanks to self-funding, though, health insurance consultant Joe Andujo finished 2023 with a $203,000 to $186,000 cash on hand advantage over Evans.

Joe Biden would have carried Colorado's 8th District, which is based in the northern Denver suburbs and Greeley area, 51-46 in 2020, but Republicans are hoping that Caraveo's tight 48.4-47.7 win after the district was established following reapportionment foreshadows another close contest. Caraveo, though, ended last year with a hefty $1.4 million on hand to defend herself.

LA-03: The newsletter LaPolitics suggests that Rep. Garret Graves could try to extend his political career by challenging Rep. Clay Higgins, a fellow Republican, in the November all-party primary for Louisiana's 3rd District, though the item notes that such a notion is still "[s]peculation." The latest version of this constituency, which is based in the southwestern part of the state, would have supported Donald Trump 70-28.

Following court-ordered redistricting, Graves' 6th District became unwinnable for him, but the congressman has insisted he won't retire. However, he's all but ruled out running against Rep. Julia Letlow, another Republican, in the 5th District, and according to calculations from Daily Kos Elections, he currently represents just 10% of Higgins' revised 3rd.

MN-02: Marine veteran Tyler Kistner, who had already sounded unlikely to wage a third campaign against Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, has confirmed that he won't run again. Former federal prosecutor Joe Teirab and attorney Tayler Rahm are both still seeking the GOP nod, though Teirab ended 2023 with a notable $269,000 to $76,000 cash on hand advantage.

Craig finished the year with $2.2 million available to defend a suburban Twin Cities seat that favored Joe Biden 53-45 in 2020.

MT-02: Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale announced Wednesday that he would seek reelection to Montana's safely red 2nd District, a move that came two weeks after he dropped out of the June primary to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.

Eight Republicans had launched bids to replace Rosendale when it looked like he'd campaign for the Senate, and while several of them insisted earlier this month that they were willing to run against him, it remains to be seen how many of them will continue now that they know they'll have to take on an incumbent. It only takes a simple plurality to win the nomination, so a crowded field would likely benefit Rosendale.

House GOP leaders may, however, be hoping that someone puts up a strong fight against Rosendale, a Freedom Caucus member who was one of the eight House Republicans who voted to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Donald Trump, though, might still have his back: Trump wrote on Feb. 10 that, while he was backing wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy for Senate, "I always respect Matt Rosendale, and was very happy to Endorse him in the past and will Endorse him again in the future, should he decide to change course and run for his congressional seat."

The congressman used his Wednesday announcement to say that he was also supporting Sheehy, whom Rosendale attacked as a puppet of "the uniparty" and "a candidate who profited off Biden’s Green New Deal" during what turned out to be a seven-day Senate campaign.

NY Redistricting: Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a new congressional map into law on Wednesday, hours after Democratic lawmakers approved it. We recently detailed the likely partisan impacts of the new map, which closely resembles a proposal from the state's redistricting commission that Democratic legislators rejected earlier in the week.

While many observers had expected (or hoped) that Democrats would draw an aggressive gerrymander, their new map made only modest changes to the commission's map—so modest that state GOP chair Ed Cox said his party had "no need" to sue because the "lines are not materially different from" the court-drawn map used in 2022.

That sentiment was shared by former Rep. John Faso, who helped lead the successful legal challenge to the map that Democrats passed two years ago. The map even received votes from more than a dozen Republican lawmakers, including Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay.

Democrats also sent a bill to Hochul that would limit where redistricting lawsuits could be filed to just one of four blue counties—Albany, Erie, New York (Manhattan), or Westchester—to prevent Republicans from shopping for a favorable Republican judge, as they were accused of doing in their previous lawsuit. However, given the response from Republicans so far, that legislation may not ultimately matter for the new map.

NY-01: Former state Sen. Jim Gaughran has endorsed former CNN anchor John Avlon in the June Democratic primary for New York's 1st Congressional District, one day after Gaughran ended his own campaign. Two other notable Democrats are running to take on first-term GOP Rep. Nick LaLotta: Nancy Goroff, who was the party's nominee in 2020, and former congressional staffer Kyle Hill.

NY-03: Air Force veteran Kellen Curry tells Politico that he's considering running for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi. Curry spent months challenging then-Rep. George Santos and raised $432,000 from donors before party leaders tapped another Republican, Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip, for the Feb. 13 special election.

The GOP field already includes two other Republicans who originally campaigned against Santos, Air Force veteran Greg Hach and Security Traders Association president Jim Toes. Hach informs Politico that he's going to self-fund $1 million. There is no indication that Toes, who only raised $100,000 during his first effort, has similar abilities.

The November election will take place under slightly different lines than the recent special. New York's Democratic governor and legislature just approved a new congressional map that makes modest changes to the 3rd District, increasing Joe Biden's margin of victory from 54-45 to 55-44.

OH-09: J.R. Majewski announced Wednesday that he'd remain in the March 19 Republican primary, a move that came less than a day after the toxic 2022 nominee told Politico he was considering ending his second campaign to take on Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Majewski even titled his mid-week press release "J.R. Majewski (Almost) Suspends Campaign for Congress" while still expressing defiance toward the GOP establishment.

TX-32: The crypto-aligned PAC Protect Progress has spent close to $1 million to promote state Rep. Julie Johnson ahead of next week's Democratic primary, according to data from OpenSecrets. Johnson, who was the first Texas legislator with a same-sex spouse, has also benefited from $266,000 in support from Equality PAC, which is affiliated with the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus.

The only other candidate who's getting notable outside backing is trauma surgeon Brian Williams, an Air Force veteran who has received $210,000 in aid from the Principled Veterans Fund. Johnson and Williams have significantly outraised the other eight Democrats competing to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred in this safely blue Dallas seat.

TX-34: The Texas Tribune's Matthew Choi writes that Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez appears to be meddling in next week's GOP primary by sending out mailers labeling former Rep. Mayra Flores "the weakest Republican and the easiest to defeat this November" and calling little-known foe Greg Kunkle a supporter of the "MAGA AGENDA." However, neither the congressman nor any outside groups seem to be doing much else to boost Kunkle, who hasn't reported raising any money.

Two other Republicans are also on the ballot, though neither of them appears to be a serious threat to Flores. Gonzalez, for his part, insists to Choi that he genuinely believes that Flores, whom he beat 53-44 last cycle, would be his weakest possible foe.

Ballot Measures

AK Ballot: Alaska election officials said this week that the campaign to repeal the state's top-four primary system has collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot this year, though it's not yet clear when. The Alaska Beacon says that the timing of the vote will depend on whether the legislature adjourns before or after April 22. If lawmakers end their session before that date, the measure would appear on the Aug. 20 primary ballot, while a later adjournment would move the vote to Nov. 5.

Mayors & County Leaders

Bridgeport, CT Mayor: Mayor Joe Ganim won reelection Tuesday 59-38 against former city official John Gomes, a fellow Democrat who ran under the banner of the state Independent Party, in their fourth and final contest over the last six months. You can find the backstory to Bridgeport's prolonged election season here.

Ad Roundup

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Morning Digest: Congressman turned unsuccessful fast-food proprietor seeks comeback

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

The NRCC was recently bashing Democratic candidates who lost elections in previous years as "week old crusty lasagna," so surely that gustatory slur should apply to Republicans too, right? Ex-Rep. Denny Rehberg, once a touted recruit, was last on the ballot in 2012, when Sen. Jon Tester sent him packing. Since then, he's operated a bunch of fast-food restaurants, all of which have since shuttered. (What was that about past-their-prime vittles?) Oh, and he also became a lobbyist. Read more at Daily Kos Elections about Rehberg's quest to win eastern Montana's maybe-open House seat.

He may have co-founded No Labels, but now he wants to adopt at least one label: Former CNN anchor John "Fipp" Avlon just launched a campaign for Congress on Long Island under the banner of the Democratic Party. His problem is that he's not the only person with that idea, since he's joining a crowded primary that already has a frontrunner—and he'll have to explain to voters why a longtime Manhattanite who never voted in Suffolk County prior to 2020 is the right fit for the district. Jeff Singer handicaps the evolving Democratic primary to take on first-term Republican Nick LaLota.

The Downballot

The economy seems to be going great, but lots of voters still say they aren't feeling it. So how should Democrats deal with this conundrum? On this week's episode of "The Downballot," communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio tells us that the first step is to reframe the debate, focusing not on "the economy"—an institution many feel is unjust—but rather on voters' economic well-being. Shenker-Osorio advises Democrats to run on a populist message that emphasizes specifics, like delivering tangible kitchen-table economic benefits and protecting personal liberties, including the right to an abortion.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also investigate the new candidacy of rich guy Eric Hovde, the latest in a long line of GOP Senate candidates who have weak ties to the states they want to represent. Then it's on to redistricting news in two states: Wisconsin, which will have fair legislative maps for the first time in ages, and New York, where Democrats are poised to nuke a new congressional map that no one seems to like.

Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show. You'll find a transcript of this week's episode right here by noon Eastern time. New episodes every Thursday morning!

Senate

CA-Sen: Analyst Rob Pyers highlights that Fairshake, a super PAC funded by cryptocurrency firms, has deployed an additional $3.2 million against Democratic Rep. Katie Porter. This brings the group's total investment to $6.8 million with less than two weeks to go before the March 5 top-two primary.

MD-Sen: Former Gov. Larry Hogan has publicized an internal poll from Ragnar Research conducted about a week before the Republican unexpectedly entered the race, and it shows him far ahead of both of the major Democrats. The numbers, which were first shared with Punchbowl News, show Hogan outpacing Rep. David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks 49-33 and 52-29, respectively. The memo did not include numbers pitting Joe Biden against Donald Trump in this blue state.

MI-Sen: The Michigan-based pollster EPIC-MRA finds Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin narrowly edging out former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers 39-38 in a hypothetical general election as respondents favor Donald Trump 45-41 over Joe Biden. There is no word if the firm had a client for this survey, though The Detroit Free Press, which often employs EPIC-MRA and first reported these numbers, says that this poll was not conducted on its behalf.

House

AL-01: The Club for Growth has launched a $580,000 TV buy to help Rep. Barry Moore fend off fellow incumbent Jerry Carl in the March 5 Republican primary, an ad campaign that comes more than three months after Moore insisted he wouldn't "accept support" from the well-funded group. But Moore, as we explained at the time, may have issued this public disavowal to stay on the good side of Donald Trump, whose on-again, off-again feud with the Club was very much "on" last year.

Politico reported earlier this month that Club head David McIntosh and Trump have again made peace, though Moore doesn't appear to have said anything new about the Club. However, independent expenditure organizations like the Club's School Freedom Fund affiliate don't need a candidate's permission to get involved and in fact cannot legally seek it.

The Club, of course, is behaving like there never was any feud: Its opening commercial promotes Moore as an ardent Trump ally, complete with a clip of him proclaiming, "Go Trump!" Carl goes unmentioned in the script, though his image appears alongside Mitch McConnell's as the narrator attacks "weak-kneed RINOs." The buy comes shortly after another pro-Moore organization, the House Freedom Caucus, launched what AdImpact reported was a $759,000 buy targeting Carl.

CA-16: Primary School flags that a super PAC called Next Generation Veteran Fund has now spent close to $1.1 million to promote businessman Peter Dixon, who is one of the many Democrats competing in the March 5 top-two primary to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo in Silicon Valley. The organization, which says it is "exclusively supporting former U.S. Marine Peter Dixon," is connected to the With Honor Fund, a group co-founded by Dixon that backs military veterans in both parties.

Dixon is one of several well-funded Democrats on the ballot, but he's the only one who hasn't previously held elected office. His opponents include former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Assemblyman Evan Low, and Eshoo's endorsed candidate, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian. Palo Alto City Councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims is also competing, though she finished 2023 with considerably less money than the rest of the pack. (Updated fundraising reports covering Jan. 1 through Feb. 14 are due Thursday evening.)

Dixon's backers at Next Generation Veteran Fund, according to OpenSecrets, have also spent considerably more than any other outside group. Liccardo and Low have each received just over $300,000 in aid from allied super PACs, while about $250,000 has been spent to boost Simitian. None of these PACs have spent in any other contests this year.

Joe Biden carried the 16th District 75-22, so there's a good chance that two Democrats will advance to the Nov. 5 general election. Indeed, the Palo Alto Daily Post writes that one of the two Republican candidates, self-described "small business owner" Karl Ryan, appears to have done no campaigning and has an AI-generated website that "includes made-up quotes from made-up people, and a single photo of Ryan with what appears to be his family."

CO-04: Colorado Politics' Ernest Luning writes that most of the 11 Republicans campaigning to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ken Buck say they'll try to reach the June 25 primary ballot both by collecting signatures and by competing at the party convention. (We explain Colorado's complex ballot access process here.)

The only candidate who appears to have said he'll only take part in the convention, which usually occurs in early April, is former state Sen. Ted Harvey. Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg, meanwhile, said at a debate that he's currently only going the convention route but held open the possibility of also gathering signatures.

MN-03: Former state judge Tad Jude announced this week that he'd seek the GOP nod to replace Democratic Rep. Dean Philips, who is continuing on with his quixotic bid for president. But Jude, who has a political career stretching back five decades, may be tilting at windmills himself: While Republicans were the dominant party in this highly educated suburban Twin Cities seat before Donald Trump entered the White House, Joe Biden carried the 3rd District 60-39 in 2020.

Jude was elected to the legislature as a 20-year-old Democrat in 1972, and he still carried that party label in 1992 when he narrowly failed to unseat Rep. Gerry Sikorski in the primary for the 6th District. (Sikorski went on to badly lose reelection to Republican Rod Grams.) Jude soon switched parties and claimed the 1994 GOP nod to replace Grams, who left to wage a successful Senate campaign, but he lost a tight general election to Democrat Bill Luther.

After decisively losing a rematch against Luther two years later, Jude eventually returned to elected office by winning a packed 2010 race for a local judgeship. He left the bench ahead of the 2022 elections to campaign for attorney general, and he responded to his defeat at the GOP convention by switching to the race for Hennepin County prosecutor. That effort, though, also ended after Jude took fourth place in the nonpartisan primary.

MO-03: The Missouri Scout's Dave Drebes reports that state Rep. Justin Hicks has filed FEC paperwork for a potential campaign to replace his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer.

The site also has a candidate tracker for the August GOP primary, and it identifies three names we hadn't heard before as "considering": Cole County Prosecutor Locke Thompson, former state House Speaker Rob Vescovo, and state Rep. Tricia Byrnes. The Scout also lists in the "OUT" column state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer (whom Drebes has said is the congressman's cousin "of some indeterminate distance") and state Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden. The filing deadline is March 26.

NY-26: Republican leaders nominated West Seneca Supervisor Gary Dickson on Wednesday as their candidate for a difficult April 30 special election to succeed former Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins. Dickson, who was chosen a day before the deadline to pick nominees, will take on Democratic state Sen. Tim Kennedy in a Buffalo area constituency that Joe Biden carried 61-37 in 2020. (Democrats tapped Kennedy in mid-January.)

However, the two men may not have the ballot to themselves. Former Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, who was the Democrats' nominee three straight times in the now-defunct 27th District, is trying to collect enough signatures to appear on the ballot as an independent. McMurray previously announced that he would campaign for a full term in the June Democratic primary.

PA-10: EMILYs List on Wednesday endorsed former local TV anchor Janelle Stelson ahead of the six-way April 23 Democratic primary to take on far-right Rep. Scott Perry. Only one other Democrat, however, finished 2023 with a six-figure bank account. Marine veteran Mike O'Brien led Stelson $186,000 to $140,000 in cash on hand, while former local public radio executive Blake Lynch was far back with $22,000.

Perry, for his part, had $547,000 available to defend himself. This seat, which is based in the Harrisburg and York areas, favored Donald Trump 51-47 in 2020.

TN-07: Music video producer Robby Starbuck tells The Tennessee Journal's Andy Sher that he's interested in running to replace retiring Republican Rep. Mark Green in the 7th District, though whether he can even appear on the August GOP primary ballot may not be up to him.

Starbuck campaigned for the neighboring 5th District in 2022 three years after relocating from California to Tennessee, but party leaders ruled that he was not a "bona fide" Republican because he hadn't yet voted in enough primaries in his new home state.

Starbuck unsuccessfully went to court to challenge the GOP for keeping his name off the ballot, but that move may have ended his hopes for future cycles: The state Republican Party passed new by-laws last month stating that any person who's sued the party cannot appear on a primary ballot for the ensuing decade.

Party chair Scott Golden informs Sher that GOP leaders could grant Starbuck the waiver they denied him two years ago, which would allow him to compete in the primary for the 7th District. Still, Golden added that he believed the would-be candidate's primary voting record still prevented him from meeting the regular definition of a "bona fide" Republican.

Sher also reports that state Sen. Kerry Roberts is reportedly interested in seeking the GOP nod if her colleague, Bill Powers, stays out of the race. The candidate filing deadline is April 4.

WA-05: Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner, a Republican who previously said he was considering competing for this conservative open seat, tells the Washington State Standard he is "receiving overwhelming support to run and could likely make an announcement early next week." He even listed his campaign's likely co-chairs, including Dino Rossi, who was the unsuccessful GOP nominee for competitive races for governor, the Senate, and the 8th Congressional District over the past two decades.

Mayors & County Leaders

Maricopa County, AZ Board of Supervisors: Far-right Rep. Debbie Lesko confirmed Tuesday that she would run for the seat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors held by incumbent Clint Hickman, a fellow Republican who is retiring following years of harassment from Big Lie spreaders. We took a detailed look at the elections for the five-member body that leads Arizona's largest county in our story previewing a possible Lesko bid earlier this week.

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Morning Digest: Ohio Republicans who collaborated with Democrats try to ward off primary challengers

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

Our two big stories at Daily Kos Elections on this Monday morning:

Ohio Republicans have been feuding for more than a year now, but with primaries just weeks away, hostilities between the warring factions have crescendoed to explosive levels. The official campaign arm of the state House GOP is spending heavily to protect a group of lawmakers loyal to Speaker Jason Stephens—who won his post thanks to the votes of Democrats. As you can imagine, the rest of the GOP is still furious and aims to take revenge. Get all the gory details on this major meltdown and how it could impact the next race for speaker.

A party's official endorsement can be a valuable seal of approval, but sometimes it's better not to seek it at all rather than lose badly. That, at least, seems to be the thinking of Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller, who is running for North Dakota's open governorship. She's decided to skip the GOP convention and head straight to the primary. Read more about Miller's conundrum—and some informative recent history that suggests she might be making the right choice.

Senate

CA-Sen: A group called Standing Strong PAC, which recently began running ads designed to help Republican Steve Garvey advance to the general election, has now spent at least $5.2 million, per analyst Rob Pyers. The super PAC, which is run by allies of Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, has followed the congressman's lead by ostensibly attacking Garvey as a Donald Trump backer who is "too conservative for California."

IN-Sen: Wealthy egg farmer John Rust's Senate campaign got some ominous news Thursday when the Indiana Supreme Court placed a stay on a December ruling by a lower court that gave him the chance to appear on the May 7 GOP primary ballot.

While the state's highest court hasn't issued an opinion on the merits of Rust's case, his attorney predicted that when it comes, it will be bad for the candidate. Rust's team, though, says it might appeal an unfavorable decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rust, who is waging a longshot primary challenge against Rep. Jim Banks, is in this situation because of a state law that only allows candidates to run with the party they belong to. Because there's no party registration in Indiana, the easiest way for Hoosiers to establish their affiliation is if by casting their last two voters in their party's primaries. But while Rust most recently participated in the 2016 GOP primary, his prior vote was in the 2012 Democratic race.

Rust sued to block this law, and a lower court judge sided with him in December. The state Supreme Court heard the state's appeal on Feb. 12, days after candidate filing closed. No other Republicans challenged Banks.

MI-Sen: Former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers on Friday publicized a list of 110 "financial supporters" that featured multiple members of the wealthy and influential DeVos family, including former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Also on the list is former Gov. John Engler, who served from 1991 to 2003 and later had a turbulent stint as interim president of Michigan State University that lasted just a year.

MT-Sen: In the first poll we've seen out of Montana this year, SurveyUSA finds Democratic Sen. Jon Tester with a 49-40 lead over his likely Republican foe, wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy. The survey, conducted for KULR-TV, was finished the day that Rep. Matt Rosendale abruptly ended his week-long Senate bid and shows the congressman losing by an identical 49-40 spread.

Nebraska: Thursday was the deadline for sitting elected officials in Nebraska to file for the May 14 primary, even if they're seeking a different post than the one they currently hold. The filing deadline for candidates not currently in office is March 1, though some non-incumbents have already submitted their names to election officials.

WI-Sen: Former GOP Gov. Scott Walker has endorsed wealthy businessman Eric Hovde ahead of his planned Senate launch this coming week.

Governors

NC-Gov: East Carolina University's newest general election poll shows a 41-41 deadlock between Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a small shift from Robinson's 44-40 advantage in December. The sample favors Donald Trump 47-44 over Joe Biden.

ECU also looks at both sides' March 5 primaries and finds Stein and Robinson far ahead of their respective intraparty rivals. The attorney general outpaces former state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan 57-7, while Robinson beats wealthy businessman Bill Graham 53-13.

WA-Gov: The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson leading former Republican Rep. Dave Reichert 46-42 in its new survey for the Northwest Progressive Institute. That's a turnaround from PPP's last poll, which put Reichert ahead 46-44 in November.

What hasn't changed, though, is that Ferguson and Reichert appear poised to easily advance out of the Aug. 6 top-two primary. PPP places Ferguson in first with 35% as Reichert leads his fellow Republican, former Richland school board member Semi Bird, 27-9 for the second general election spot. Another 4% opt for Democratic state Sen. Mark Mullet, while the remaining 25% are undecided.

House

CA-20: Republican businessman David Giglio announced Friday that he was ending his campaign and endorsing Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux in the March 5 top-two primary, though Giglio's name will remain on the ballot. Giglio made national news in October when he launched an intraparty challenge to then-Rep. Kevin McCarthy, but he finished the year with just $3,000 in the bank. Giglio also did not file to compete in the March 19 special election for the remainder of McCarthy's term.

CA-47: Jewish Insider's Matthew Kassel flags that AIPAC's United Democracy Project has spent an additional $700,000 in its bid to stop Democratic state Sen. Dave Min from advancing out of the March 5 top-two primary, which brings its total investment to $1.5 million.

NC-13: A woman named Angela McLeod Barbour has accused one of the Republicans competing in the busy March 5 primary for North Carolina's 13th Congressional District, businessman DeVan Barbour, of repeatedly propositioning her for sex through phone calls and text messages, according to a new report from journalist Bryan Anderson.

"He wanted me to drive to his house and have sex with him," she said of the married candidate, whom she also claims was "fully unclothed" and intoxicated in his communications with her on the night in question in 2021. (The two are not related.)

DeVan Barbour, who has promoted himself as a proud husband, told Anderson in response that "[t]hese accusations are 100% false." Last month, Anderson described Barbour as one of the four main Republicans running to succeed Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel, who did not seek reelection after the GOP legislature gerrymandered his seat. The other three are attorney Kelly Daughtry, former federal prosecutor Brad Knott, and businessman Fred Von Canon.

TN-07: Two Republicans tell the Tennessee Lookout's Sam Stockard that they're interested in running to succeed GOP Rep. Mark Green, who unexpectedly announced his retirement on Wednesday. One prospective candidate for the August primary is former state Rep. Brandon Ogles, whose cousin, Andy Ogles, represents the neighboring 5th District. The other is state Sen. Bill Powers, whom Stockard identifies as a car dealer.

Other GOP candidates Stockard mentions are physician Manny Sethi, who lost the 2020 Senate primary to eventual winner Bill Hagerty, and former Williamson County GOP chairman Omar Hamada. Political scientist Michael Bednarczuk separately name-drops state Sen. Kerry Roberts in a piece for The Tennessean.

Stockard also runs down a further list of Republicans he says were "mentioned on a conservative radio talk show," though some of these options seem completely unrealistic:

  • 2023 Franklin mayoral candidate Gabrielle Hanson
  • Former State Department official Morgan Ortagus
  • Conservative TV host Candace Owens
  • Singer John Rich
  • Singer Kid Rock
  • 2023 Nashville mayoral candidate Alice Rolli
  • Music video producer Robby Starbuck

Kid Rock (real name Robert James Ritchie) spent much of 2017 flirting with a Senate bid in Michigan against Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow, but he never went for it. He later told Howard Stern he wasn't ever serious about the idea either, recounting that he'd informed Eminem's manager, "I've got motherfuckers thinking I'm running for Senate.' People who are in on it are like, 'Are you really doing it?' I'm like: 'Dude, you're fucking in on the joke! Why you asking me if I'm doing it?'"

Meanwhile, both Ortagus and Starbuck tried to run against Andy Ogles in the 5th District last year, only to be denied a place on the ballot by party leaders for failing to meet the GOP's criteria for running in a primary. Starbuck unsuccessfully sued, which is a big problem for his future hopes for office: The state GOP last month passed new by-laws stating that any person who's sued the party cannot appear on a primary ballot for the ensuing decade.

At least one Republican is demurring, though: Stockard writes that state Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson has conveyed to sources that he's not at all interested.

On the Democratic side, former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry began running for this 56-41 Trump seat back in December. Stockard also writes that state Rep. Bo Mitchell is "rumored to be considering." The filing deadline is April 4.

VA-07: Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson publicized an endorsement on Friday from 2nd District Rep. Jen Kiggans ahead of the GOP nomination contest. Anderson already had the support of Speaker Mike Johnson in his quest to flip the competitive 7th, which Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger is giving up to concentrate on her 2025 bid for governor.

WA-05: Former Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich tells The Inlander's Nate Sanford he'll decide over the next two weeks whether he'll compete in the August top-two primary to succeed retiring Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a fellow Republican. Sanford notes that Knezovich, who did not seek reelection in 2022, relocated to Wyoming after leaving office.

On the Democratic side, both state Rep. Marcus Riccelli and state Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig tell Sanford they won't run for this 54-44 Trump seat.

Ballot Measures

NV Ballot: A Nevada state court has ruled that two proposed constitutional amendments that would establish a bipartisan redistricting commission cannot appear on the ballot because they would fail to raise the needed revenue. One of the proposals would take effect in 2027 and replace Nevada's current Democratic-drawn maps ahead of the 2028 elections, while the other would not come into force until 2031, following the next census.

Supporters have not yet indicated whether they will appeal or revise their proposals. However, they would have only until June 26 to submit the 102,362 voter signatures needed to qualify for November's ballot. Initiated amendments in Nevada must be approved by voters in two consecutive elections to become law.

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Michigan Republican who got booted from the 2022 ballot launches Senate bid

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig confirmed Tuesday that he would seek the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a declaration that comes the year after he was ejected from the 2022 primary ballot for governor of Michigan over fraudulent signatures. "I'm not doing it for ego," said Craig, whose last campaign experience would have humbled almost anyone else.

Protestors disrupted his 2021 kickoff rally for his quest to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and that was just the start of his troubles. Craig's campaign would experience several major shakeups, including the departure of two different campaign managers in less than four months, and it would also draw unfavorable press coverage for heavy spending.

The former chief also lost a high-profile endorsement from Rep. Jack Bergman, a northern Michigan Republican who griped that his former choice ignored his region "in favor of a self proclaimed Detroit-centric approach." Still, polls showed Craig well ahead in the primary as he sought to become the Wolverine State's first Black governor.

Everything changed in May, though, when election authorities disqualified Craig and four other contenders from the ballot after they fell victim to a huge fraudulent signature scandal and failed to turn in enough valid petitions. The former frontrunner decided to forge ahead with a write-in campaign to win the GOP nod, blustering, "I'm going to win." However, Craig instead became an afterthought even before far-right radio commentator Tudor Dixon emerged as the new frontrunner, and he ended up taking all of 2% of the vote.

Craig went on to endorse U.S. Taxpayers Party nominee Donna Brandenburg, who had also been ejected from the Republican primary, saying that Dixon's extreme opposition to abortion rights went too far even for him. (James himself was recorded the previous year responding in the affirmative when asked if he'd stop Democrats "from undoing the law that makes abortion illegal in Michigan.") Whitmer soon won 54-44, with Brandenburg in fourth with just 0.4%.

The former chief launched his new effort weeks after former Rep. Mike Rogers joined the nomination fight, and Craig has already worked to position himself as the Trumpiest candidate. The new contender published a pro-Trump op-ed last month in the far-right Daily Caller, and the GOP's supreme master responded by sharing it on social media.

Rogers, by contrast, has had a bumpier relationship with Trump. While the former congressman briefly served on Trump's 2016 transition team, he told the Washington Post last year that "Trump's time has passed." Rogers, who considered waging his own presidential bid, also said of the Jan. 6 riot, "There is never a time in American democracy when violence accomplishes what you want … It is giving up on our Constitution when you storm the Capitol to try to change an election."

But Rogers, whom multiple outlets say the NRSC recruited to run for the Senate, now seems to have realized that Trump's time very much has not passed for the primary voters who will be determining his fate next year. The former congressman echoed the far-right voices in his party last week in a video proclaiming, "[W]hat we are seeing right now is a politically motivated DOJ waging war against the leading Republican presidential candidate on behalf of President [Joe] Biden." "This is not the mike Rogers i knew," tweeted former Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment after Jan. 6. "How did you fall so far mike?"

The GOP field also includes state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, who struggled to raise money during the first half of the year, and it may swell still further. Former Rep. Peter Meijer, who lost renomination last year after voting for impeachment, formed an exploratory committee just before Labor Day. Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson, who got thrown off the 2022 gubernatorial ballot along with James, also said last week he was considering abandoning his doomed presidential bid to run for the Senate; the Detroit News also reported in August that another rich guy, 2018 primary loser Sandy Pensler, is thinking about another try, and the paper wrote Tuesday that he was still mulling it over.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Elissa Slotkin is the frontrunner in a field that includes actor Hill Harper, who launched his campaign in early July. Observers are waiting to learn if Harper or any of the other contenders raised a credible amount of money during the third quarter of the year or if Slotkin ended September as the only Democrat with enough money to run a serious operation.

Click here to stop Republicans from snatching the Senate!

Morning Digest: Kevin McCarthy has two months to decide if he’ll seek reelection to the House

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

CA-20: Kevin McCarthy's colleagues ousted him as speaker of the House on Tuesday, and if you're like us you have just one question: What's next for California's 20th District?

Ok, even the most hardcore among us may have a few other things on our minds right now, but California's early filing deadline means that McCarthy will have only a little more than two months to decide if he wants to seek a 10th term to the chamber where he was just humiliated. The congressman himself did nothing to dispel speculation that he might retire or resign when he responded to a question about whether he’d stay in office by answering, “I’ll look at that.” 

Candidates have until Dec. 8 to turn in paperwork if they want to compete in the Golden State's March 5 top-two primary, and, because hopefuls can pay a fee rather than submit signatures, major contenders can decide whether they'll run on the final day of qualifying. The state automatically extends the deadline to five days in contests where the incumbent chooses not to file for reelection, so the field might only take shape late if McCarthy doesn't end up running.

The current version of the 20th District, which includes parts of the Bakersfield and Fresno areas, supported Donald Trump 61-36, which makes this the most conservative of any of California's 52 congressional districts. The GOP likewise has a large bench of prospective candidates, and, because this area is so red, it's possible that two Republicans could advance to the general election. McCarthy has always easily prevailed in this area going back to his initial election in 2006, and it remains to be seen if any strong opponents would take him on even in his diminished state.

3Q Fundraising

  • OH-Sen: Bernie Moreno (R): $1 million raised, additional $3 million self-funded, $5 million cash on hand
  • CA-49: Margarita Wilkinson (R): $1 million raised (campaign did not respond to inquiry if this includes self-funding)
  • TX-18: Isaiah Martin (D): $307,000 raised (in 25 days)
  • TX-32: Julie Johnson (D): $300,000 raised

Senate

CA-Sen: Democratic Sen. Laphonza Butler was sworn in Tuesday to replace the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but she says she's unsure if she wants to enter the top-two primary for a full six-year term. "I have no idea. I genuinely don't know," she told the Los Angeles Times the previous day.

California's filing deadline is Dec. 8, but Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin notes that another important date will pass next week. Democratic candidates have until Oct. 13 to say that they want to compete for the party endorsement at the November convention, and no major candidate will want to pass up the opportunity to be listed by name in a special section of the voter guide that each county sends to all voters. As we've written before, this is a bit like having someone else pay for a mailer to every voter in the state, a real boon in an expensive contest like this one.

Meanwhile, Data Viewpoint finished a poll just before Butler's appointment was announced Sunday that did not include her as an option. It found Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter both advancing past the top-two primary with 19% each as Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee and Republican Eric Early took 6% apiece.

FL-Sen: The Messenger's Marc Caputo reports that businessman Stanley Campbell is interested in seeking the Democratic nomination to take on GOP incumbent Rick Scott even though former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell has emerged as the party's frontrunner. Campbell, who is the brother of 2 Live Crew's Luther Campbell, has not said anything publicly, though he quietly filed FEC paperwork last week.

Caputo writes that Campbell served in the Navy and went on to form multiple companies, including an artificial intelligence firm whose work helped lead to the 2005 apprehension of serial killer Dennis Rader. Campbell went on to become one of the few African Americans to own a golf course in 2021 when he purchased Martin Downs Golf Club in southeastern Florida's Treasure Coast region.

MI-Sen: Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig confirmed Tuesday that he would seek the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a declaration that comes the year after he was ejected from the 2022 primary ballot for governor of Michigan over fraudulent signatures. "I'm not doing it for ego," said Craig, whose last campaign experience would have humbled almost anyone else.

Protestors disrupted his 2021 kickoff rally for his quest to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and that was just the start of his troubles. Craig's campaign would experience several major shakeups, including the departure of two different campaign managers in less than four months, and it would also draw unfavorable press coverage for heavy spending.

The former chief also lost a high-profile endorsement from Rep. Jack Bergman, a northern Michigan Republican who griped that his former choice ignored his region "in favor of a self proclaimed Detroit-centric approach." Still, polls showed Craig well ahead in the primary as he sought to become the Wolverine State's first Black governor.

Everything changed in May, though, when election authorities disqualified Craig and four other contenders from the ballot after they fell victim to a huge fraudulent signature scandal and failed to turn in enough valid petitions. The former frontrunner decided to forge ahead with a write-in campaign to win the GOP nod, blustering, "I'm going to win." However, Craig instead became an afterthought even before far-right radio commentator Tudor Dixon emerged as the new frontrunner, and he ended up taking all of 2% of the vote.

Craig went on to endorse U.S. Taxpayers Party nominee Donna Brandenburg, who had also been ejected from the Republican primary, saying that Dixon's extreme opposition to abortion rights went too far even for him. (James himself was recorded the previous year responding in the affirmative when asked if he'd stop Democrats "from undoing the law that makes abortion illegal in Michigan.") Whitmer soon won 54-44, with Brandenburg in fourth with just 0.4%.

The former chief launched his new effort weeks after former Rep. Mike Rogers joined the nomination fight, and Craig has already worked to position himself as the Trumpiest candidate. The new contender published a pro-Trump op-ed last month in the far-right Daily Caller, and the GOP's supreme master responded by sharing it on social media.

Rogers, by contrast, has had a bumpier relationship with Trump. While the former congressman briefly served on Trump's 2016 transition team, he told the Washington Post last year that "Trump's time has passed." Rogers, who considered waging his own presidential bid, also said of the Jan. 6 riot, "There is never a time in American democracy when violence accomplishes what you want … It is giving up on our Constitution when you storm the Capitol to try to change an election."

But Rogers, whom multiple outlets say the NRSC recruited to run for the Senate, now seems to have realized that Trump's time very much has not passed for the primary voters who will be determining his fate next year. The former congressman echoed the far-right voices in his party last week in a video proclaiming, "[W]hat we are seeing right now is a politically motivated DOJ waging war against the leading Republican presidential candidate on behalf of President [Joe] Biden." "This is not the mike Rogers i knew," tweeted former Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment after Jan. 6. "How did you fall so far mike?"

The GOP field also includes state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, who struggled to raise money during the first half of the year, and it may swell still further. Former Rep. Peter Meijer, who lost renomination last year after voting for impeachment, formed an exploratory committee just before Labor Day. Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson, who got thrown off the 2022 gubernatorial ballot along with James, also said last week he was considering abandoning his doomed presidential bid to run for the Senate; the Detroit News also reported in August that another rich guy, 2018 primary loser Sandy Pensler, is thinking about another try, and the paper wrote Tuesday that he was still mulling it over.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Elissa Slotkin is the frontrunner in a field that includes actor Hill Harper, who launched his campaign in early July. Observers are waiting to learn if Harper or any of the other contenders raised a credible amount of money during the third quarter of the year or if Slotkin ended September as the only Democrat with enough money to run a serious operation.

UT-Sen: Republican Rep. John Curtis declared that he'd remain in the House rather than run for the Senate in a Deseret News op-ed that was published days after the congressman sounded very likely to seek a promotion. KSL NewsRadio asked him Thursday to rate his likelihood on a scale of one to 10, to which Curtis responded, "It's up there in the nine-plus region."

House

AL-02: Democratic state Rep. Juandalynn Givan told CBS 42 on Monday that she'd decide within the next two weeks if she'd run for the new 2nd District.

IL-04: Chicago Alderman Raymond Lopez, who the Chicago Sun-Times calls "one of the police union's staunchest City Council supporters," announced Tuesday that he'd challenge Rep. Chuy Garcia in the March Democratic primary for this safely blue constituency. Lopez, who the paper adds has a history of "anemic fundraising," previously entered the 2018 race for a previous version of this seat and this year's contest for mayor of Chicago, but he dropped out well before each primary.

Lopez ended up backing wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson for mayor over Garcia, incumbent Lori Lightfoot, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, and several other contenders. Neither Garcia nor Lightfoot ended up advancing past the nonpartisan primary, though, and Lopez supported former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas in the general election against Johnson. Garcia, for his part, endorsed fellow progressive Johnson, who went on to pull off a tight win.

PA-08: Businessman Rob Bresnahan, a Republican who Politico says is capable of self-funding, has filed FEC paperwork for a bid against Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright.

WI-03: State Rep. Katrina Shankland declared Tuesday that she was joining the Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Derrick Van Orden, who made national news in July when he reportedly screamed at teenage Senate pages.

Shankland, who was first elected to the legislature in 2012, won reelection in 2020 56-44 as Joe Biden was taking her seat by a smaller 53-45, and she touted herself as a candidate with "a proven track record of not only winning elections but outperforming the top of the ticket in those elections." Van Orden's southwestern Wisconsin constituency is significantly redder turf, though, as Donald Trump took it 51-47.

Shankland joins a nomination contest that includes businesswoman Rebecca Cooke and former La Crosse County Board chair Tara Johnson. Cooke, who took second in last year's primary, announced Tuesday that she'd raised $400,000 during the opening quarter of her new effort.

Legislatures

NH State House: State Rep. Maria Perez announced Monday she was leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent, a move that once again changes the math ahead of a series of upcoming special elections for this closely divided chamber.

Republicans currently hold a 198-196 edge in a 400-member body that includes Perez and two other nonaligned members. The final three seats are vacant, but while Joe Biden carried two of them by double digits, the final one favored Donald Trump 53-45: Voters go to the polls Nov. 7 to fill the bluest of these three constituencies, while the other two specials have not yet been scheduled. However, given how much volatility we've seen in the state House this year, it's anyone's guess what the membership rolls will look like by the time all three of these seats are occupied.

Mayors and County Leaders

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Goucher College's new poll with The Baltimore Banner shows former Mayor Sheila Dixon beating incumbent Brandon Scott 39-27 in the first survey we've seen of the May Democratic primary, with another 23% opting for "some other candidate." That latter group said they preferred Scott over his rival 36-33, though that would be far from enough to make up the deficit. The school also finds Dixon, who resigned in 2010 after she was convicted of stealing gift cards that were supposed to help needy families, with a narrow 47-45 favorable rating, which is far better than the 37-53 score that respondents give Scott.

Prosecutors and Sheriffs

Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff: Democratic Sheriff Paul Penzone announced Monday that, not only would he not run again in 2024, he would resign in January as the top lawman in America's fourth-largest county. Penzone implied he was quitting because another opportunity had presented itself, saying he wanted to avoid "distractions" during what would have been his final year in office.

State law requires the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to select another Democrat to succeed Penzone even though Republicans enjoy a 4-1 majority on the body. Supervisor Steve Gallardo, who is the only Democrat, tells the Arizona Republic he wants the new sheriff to be an "effective candidate" for next year's race.

Penzone first ran for this post in 2012 against Republican incumbent Joe Arpaio, who had spent decades as one of America's most venal and abusive law enforcement officials, but he lost 51-45. Their rematch four years later went very differently, though, and the department's racial profiling policies against Latinos finally caught up to the sheriff.

That October, just a month before his re-election campaign, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would charge Arpaio with criminal contempt of court for violating a judge's orders to curtail his department's unconstitutional profiling practices. Penzone ended up winning by a lopsided 56-44 even as Donald Trump, who would pardon Arpaio soon after the election, carried the county 48-45.

Penzone went on to secure reelection by that same 56-44 spread against Jerry Sheridan, a former Arpaio chief deputy who had just beaten his old boss in the primary, but the department still has a long way to go to excise Arpaio's legacy. Raul Piña, who serves on the court-appointed Community Advisory Board, told the Republic on Monday that "institutional racism in the Sheriff's Office" persists. Piña, while acknowledging that Penzone had made much-needed changes, said of the incumbent's legacy, "[T]here will always be an asterisk … because the racial profiling continued, and you can't run away from that."

Democratic elected officials were more complimentary, with Secretary of State Adrian Fontes saying, "Even on the hardest days when there were very serious threats being hurled at me and my staff, I always felt safe knowing Paul and his team were always watching out for us."

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Why this Nebraska district will host an even bigger barn-burner in ’24

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

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Leading Off

NE-02: Democratic state Sen. Tony Vargas announced Wednesday that he'd seek a rematch against Rep. Don Bacon, the Republican who beat him 51-49 in last year's expensive campaign for Nebraska's 2nd District. Vargas, who is the son of immigrants from Peru, would be the first Latino to represent the Cornhusker State in Congress. He currently faces no serious intra-party opposition as he seeks to avenge his 2022 defeat, and unnamed Democratic sources also the Nebraska Examiner they don't expect that to change.

This constituency, which includes Omaha and several of its suburbs, favored Joe Biden 52-46, but the four-term Republican has been tough to dislodge. Vargas and his allies ran ads last year emphasizing Bacon's supports for a bill banning abortion nationally after 15 weeks, something the congressman tried to pass off as a moderate option. The GOP, meanwhile, hit back with commercials accusing Vargas of voting "to release violent prisoners." Vargas, who favored bipartisan legislation that would have made prisoners eligible for parole after two years instead of halfway through their term, responded by stressing his support for law enforcement, but it wasn't enough.

Bacon's profile has risen nationally since that tight win, and he's emerged as one of Speaker Kevin McCarthy's most outspoken allies. The Nebraskan made news during the speakership vote when he suggested that members of both parties could unite behind one candidate as a "last resort," arguing that such an outcome would be the fault of "six or seven" far-right Republicans. Bacon has continued to denounce his colleagues in the Freedom Caucus, but while he continues to muse, "I'm of the position that at some point we gotta just do coalition government with the Democrats and cut these guys out," he's yet to take any obvious action to actually make that happen.

A few other things will be different for the 2024 cycle. Vargas' Republican colleagues in the officially nonpartisan legislature passed a bill in May banning abortion after 12 weeks. Vargas, who opposed the measure, used his kickoff to emphasize how he'd "work to protect abortion rights" in Congress. But rather than try to downplay the issue, as many other Republicans have, Bacon has responded by claiming that Vargas "wants zero restrictions" on the procedure. (Vargas argued last year that "elected officials like me should be playing absolutely no role" over women's health decisions.)

The presidential election could also complicate things, especially since Nebraska, along with Maine, is one of just two states that awards an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. Bacon ran well ahead of the top of the ticket in 2020 and prevailed 51-46 even as Donald Trump was losing the 2nd 52-46 (the presidential numbers were the same under both the old and new congressional maps thanks to GOP gerrymandering), but Democrats are hoping that he'll have a much tougher time winning over ticket-splitters next year.

2Q Fundraising

The second fundraising quarter of the year, covering the period of Apr. 1 through June 30, has come to an end, and federal candidates will have to file campaign finance reports with the FEC by July 15. But as per usual, campaigns with hauls they're eager to tout are leaking numbers early, which we've gathered below.

  • CA-Sen: Adam Schiff (D): $8.1 million raised
  • MD-Sen: Angela Alsobrooks (D): $1.6 million raised (in seven weeks), $1.25 million cash on hand
  • MO-Sen: Lucas Kunce (D): $1.2 million raised
  • PA-Sen: Bob Casey (D-inc): $4 million raised
  • TX-Sen: Colin Allred (D): $6.2 million raised (in two months)
  • WI-Sen: Tammy Baldwin (D-inc): $3.2 million raised
  • CA-47: Scott Baugh (R): $545,000 raised, $1 million cash on hand
  • NY-22: Sarah Klee Hood (D): $319,000 raised (in 10 weeks), $221,000 cash on hand
  • RI-01: Don Carlson (D): $312,000 raised, additional $600,000 self-funded, $750,000 cash on hand
  • TX-32: Julie Johnson (D): $410,000 raised (in 11 days), Brian Williams (D): $360,000 raised (in six weeks)

Ballot Measures

OH Redistricting: The U.S. Supreme Court vacated last year's ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that struck down the state's congressional map in a brief order issued just before the holiday weekend, directing the Ohio court to reconsider the case in light of the federal Supreme Court's recent decision in a related redistricting case out of North Carolina.

In the North Carolina case, known as Moore v. Harper, the Supreme Court rejected a radical argument by Republican legislators that would have allowed them to gerrymander without limits. Republicans claimed that the U.S. Constitution forbids state courts from placing any curbs on state lawmakers with regard to laws that concern federal elections, including the creation of new congressional maps. The supreme courts in both states had struck down GOP maps as illegal partisan gerrymanders, and in both cases, Republicans responded by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn those rulings.

The Supreme Court declined to do so in Moore, but a majority of justices in the North Carolina matter did embrace a more limited version of the GOP's argument, saying that "state courts may not transgress the ordinary bounds of judicial review" when assessing state laws that affect federal elections. The U.S. Supreme Court now is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to determine whether it did in fact transgress these bounds in its prior ruling.

The written opinion in Moore, however, declined to provide any guidance whatsoever as to what those bounds might be, or what transgressing them might look like. The Ohio Supreme Court, therefore, faces the awkward task of deciding whether to tattle on itself without really knowing what it might have done wrong. Still, it's hard to see how the court might have run afoul of this standard, even if interpreted loosely. But whatever it decides, the outcome likely won't make any difference.

That's because partisan Republicans took firm control of the state Supreme Court in November after moderate Republican Maureen O'Connor, who had sided with the court's three Democrats to block GOP gerrymanders, retired due to age limits. The new hardline majority would likely have overturned the court's previous rulings rejecting Republican maps regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court's new order. As a consequence, Ohio will likely be able to use the same tilted map next year, or possibly even a more egregiously slanted one, since Republicans recently said they might pass a new map this fall.

Senate

IN-Sen: Egg farmer John Rust, who is reportedly wealthy and could self-fund a bid for office, has filed paperwork to run in next year's GOP primary for Indiana's open Senate seat. Rust, however, has not yet commented publicly, so it's not clear what kind of opening he might see for himself, given that Republican leaders have almost universally rallied behind Rep. Jim Banks' campaign to succeed Sen. Mike Braun.

MI-Sen: Former Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, who previously said "never say never" in regard to a possible bid for Michigan's open Senate seat, is now "seriously weighing" a campaign, according to two unnamed sources cited by Politico's Burgess Everett. A consultant for Rogers, who's been weighing a hopeless campaign for president, also declined to rule out the possibility in a statement.

Meanwhile, Time's Mini Racker reports that John Tuttle, an executive with the New York Stock Exchange, "is likely to enter" the GOP primary, per an anonymous source, and could do so by the middle of this month. In May, NRSC chair Steve Daines praised Tuttle as "a strong potential recruit." Racker's source also says that former Rep. Peter Meijer is "seriously looking" at a campaign but "may wait months" to decide; earlier this year, Meijer would only say "no comment" when the New York Times asked about his interest.

The only noteworthy Republican in the race so far is state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder, though her presence hasn't deterred anyone else. Democrats, by contrast, have largely coalesced around Rep. Elissa Slotkin, though she faces a few opponents, most notably state Board of Education President Pamela Pugh.

MT-Sen: Rep. Ryan Zinke took himself out of the running for the right to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester by endorsing former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy for the GOP nomination instead. But while Sheehy is a favorite of D.C. Republicans, he's still likely to have company in the primary in the form of Montana's other congressman, the hard-right Matt Rosendale.

NV-Sen: The Nevada Independent's Gabby Birenbaum flags that Army veteran Sam Brown, who's reportedly a favorite of national Republicans, has a "special announcement" planned for Monday. So far, the only prominent Republican seeking to challenge first-term Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen is notorious election conspiracy theorist Jim Marchant, who came very close to winning last year's race for secretary of state.

OH-Sen: East Carolina University's new poll gives Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown small leads against a trio of Republican foes:

  • 45-44 vs. state Sen. Matt Dolan
  • 44-42 vs. Secretary of State Frank LaRose
  • 46-42 vs. businessman Bernie Moreno

LaRose hasn't announced yet, though he unsubtly tweeted a picture of an FEC statement of organization form dated July 15.

VA-Sen: Navy veteran Hung Cao, who was last year's GOP nominee against Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton, has filed FEC paperwork for what would be a longshot campaign against Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.

Governors

WA-Gov: Former Rep. Dave Reichert on Friday filed paperwork for a potential campaign for governor, which is the furthest the Republican has ever come to running for statewide office despite flirting with the idea several times during his career. Reichert, a former swing district congressman who is arguably his party's most formidable candidate, has yet to publicly commit to entering the top-two primary.

WV-Gov: 2020 Democratic nominee Ben Salango said Wednesday he's decided not to run to succeed termed-out Gov. Jim Justice, the Republican who beat him 63-30. No serious Democrats have entered the race to lead what has become an inhospitable state for their party especially over the last decade, though Huntington Mayor Steve Williams responded to the news by reaffirming his interest to MetroNews.

"I said at the Juneteenth that I intend to run, but that it won't be official until I intend to file and that wouldn't be until sometime in July or August" said Williams, who runs West Virginia's second-largest state. The mayor didn't commit to anything, adding, "It's never official until it's official."

House

AZ-06: Businessman Jack O'Donnell has quietly ended his month-old campaign for the Democratic nomination, a move the Arizona Republic says he made "without comment." O'Donnell's departure leaves former state Sen. Kirsten Engel without any intra-party opposition as she seeks a rematch against freshman Republican Rep. Juan Ciscomani, who beat her 51-49 last cycle.

CO-08: Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, who took second in last year's GOP primary, says she won't try again this cycle.

FL-11: While far-right troll Laura Loomer declared early this year that she'd be seeking a GOP primary rematch against veteran Rep. Daniel Webster, whom she held to a shockingly close 51-44 last cycle, she now tells Florida Politics she's still making up her mind about another try. "Right now, my entire focus is the re-nomination and reelection of President Donald J. Trump, and exposing Ron DeSantis for the con man that he is," she said, continuing, "I am preserving all of my options regarding a potential candidacy for U.S. Congress in Florida's 11th district."

Loomer also predicted that if she ran she'd "pulverize" both Webster and former state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who is the congressman's only notable declared intra-party foe in this conservative seat in the western Orlando suburbs. Sabatini, a hard-right extremist who lost last year's primary for the neighboring 7th District to now-Rep. Cory Mills, says he's raised $205,000 during the first three months in his campaign to replace Webster as the congressman for the gargantuan retirement community of The Villages.

IL-12: Darren Bailey, the far-right former state senator who was the GOP’s nominee for governor of Illinois last year, used a Fourth of July celebration at his family farm to announce that he’d challenge Rep. Mike Bost for renomination. Bost, who confirmed last month that he’d seek a sixth term in downstate Illinois' dark red 12th District, is himself an ardent Trumpist who voted to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the hours after the Jan. 6 attacks.

Bailey did not mention the incumbent in his kickoff or subsequent launch video, preferring instead to praise Trump and denounce “weak-kneed politicians who refuse to stand up and fight.” The also posted a picture on Facebook reading “Hands off my AR” on Tuesday—the first anniversary of the mass shooting in Highland Park. (The Chicago Tribune reminds us that last year, before the gunman was even caught, Bailey urged his followers to “move on and let’s celebrate — celebrate the independence of this nation.”)

The NRCC wasted no time making it clear that it was firmly in Bost's corner and previewed some of the material it might use. “Darren Bailey moved to a downtown Chicago penthouse to get blown out by JB Pritzker, now he’s back seeking another political promotion,” said in a statement. Bailey, who filed a 2019 bill to kick Chicago out of Illinois, sought to explain why he’d taken up residence in the Windy City last year. “You can’t deny there’s problems here," he argued. "And if we keep denying these problems, the problems are going to get worse.”

Just a day after 55-42 drubbing by Pritzker, the Tribune reported that Bost’s allies were worried the senator would turn around and take on the congressman—and they may have good reason to fret that he could put up a fight. According to an estimate from OurCampaigns, Bailey ran slightly ahead of Trump's 71-28 performance in the 12th District, carrying it 73-25 last year. Bost, though, also bested Trump's showing, winning his own race 75-25.

Trump has lent his support to both men in the past, so there's no telling whether he'll take sides this time. Just ahead of last year's primary, he endorsed Bailey—much to the delight of Democrats, who spent a fortune to help him win the nod in the ultimately correct belief he'd prove a weak opponent for Pritzker. Trump also headlined a rally for Bost in 2018, when the congressman was in the midst of a tough reelection battle. (Democrats later redrew the 12th District to make it much redder by packing in as many Republican voters as possible.)

MD-06: State House Minority Leader Jason Buckel tells Maryland Matters' Josh Kurtz that, while he's still considering a bid for the GOP nod, he's postponing his decision from late July to late August.

Former Del. Dan Cox, the election denier who cost the GOP any chance it had to hold Maryland's governorship last year, also says he remains undecided, but he adds that he had nothing to do with a "Dan Cox for U.S. Congress" FEC committee that was set up Monday. "I'd like to know who did this," Cox said of the committee, which ceased to exist the following day.

MI-07: Former state Sen. Curtis Hertel on Wednesday filed FEC paperwork for his long-anticipated campaign for this competitive open seat, a development that came days after the Democrat stepped down as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's director of legislative affairs.

NJ-07, NJ-Sen: Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello told the New Jersey Globe Monday that he's decided to end his longshot Democratic primary bid against Sen. Robert Menendez and instead challenge freshman GOP Rep. Tom Kean Jr. Signorello's entire 14,000-person community is located in Democratic Rep. Donald Payne's 10th District, but the mayor previously said he lives "five minutes away" from Kean's constituency.

The only other notable Democrat campaigning for the 7th is Working Families Party state director Sue Altman, who says she raised $200,000 during her first month in the primary. Former state Sen. Ray Lesniak has talked about getting in as well, while the Globe reported last week that former State Department official Jason Blazakis is also considering joining the race.

NY-17: Former Rep. Mondaire Jones announced on Wednesday that he'd seek the Democratic nomination to take on freshman Republican Rep. Mike Lawler in New York's 17th District, a lower Hudson Valley constituency that Joe Biden carried 54-44 in 2020. Jones, who unsuccessfully ran in New York City last year because of a strange set of redistricting-induced circumstances, used his intro video to emphasize his local roots in Rockland County and record securing funds for the area during his one term in D.C.

Before Jones can focus on reclaiming this seat, though, he has to get through what could be an expensive primary against local school board member Liz Gereghty, the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Gereghty, who launched her campaign in mid-May, announced this week that she'd raised $400,000 though the end of last month. The field also includes former Bedford Town Supervisor MaryAnn Carr, but it remains to be seen if she'll have the resources to run a strong campaign.

In the 2020 election cycle, Jones sought what was, at the time, a safely blue seat held by Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey. Lowey, however, retired soon after Jones launched his campaign, and he won a competitive, multi-way battle for the Democratic nomination. Jones made history with his comfortable victory that fall by becoming the first openly gay black member of Congress, a distinction he shared with fellow New York Democrat Ritchie Torres. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.)

Two years later, Jones seemed to be on track for another easy win, but everything changed after New York's highest court rejected state's new Democratic-drawn congressional map and substituted in its own lines. Fellow Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who represented a neighboring district and also chaired the DCCC, infuriated Jones and many local Democrats when he decided to seek reelection in the 17th District rather than defend the 18th, a slightly more competitive seat that included the bulk of his current constituents.

Jones decided to avoid a primary by campaigning for the open 10th District, an open seat based in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan that was far from his home turf, though he offered an explanation for his change of venue. "This is the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ rights movement," he tweeted, "Since long before the Stonewall Uprising, queer people of color have sought refuge within its borders."

But while Jones enjoyed the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he had a tough time in a primary dominated by politicians with far stronger ties to New York City. Former federal prosecutor Dan Goldman, a self-funder who served as House Democrats' lead counsel during Donald Trump's first impeachment, massively outspent the rest of the field and secured the influential support of the New York Times. Goldman ultimately beat Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou in a 25-24 squeaker, while Jones finished third with 18%.

Maloney, for his part, acknowledged months before his own general election that "there are a lot of strong feelings" among Democrats who felt he'd sent Jones packing. "I think I could've handled it better," he admitted. He'd soon have more reasons for regret: One local progressive leader would recount to Slate that volunteers canvassing for Maloney would be asked, "Isn't he the guy that pushed Mondaire out of this district?" Maloney ended up losing to Lawler 50.3-49.7 at the same time that Republican Lee Zeldin was beating Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul 52-48 in the 17th, according to Bloomberg's Greg Giroux. (Ironically, Democrat Pat Ryan held the 18th District that Maloney left behind.)

Jones soon made it clear that he was interested in returning to his home base to challenge Lawler, saying in December, "I've also learned my lesson, and that is home for me is in the Hudson Valley." (The Daily Beast reported in February that Jones hadn't ruled out waging a primary against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, but there was little indication he'd ever seriously considered the idea.)

The once and perhaps future congressman continues to express strong feelings about how the midterm elections went down. "I never imagined that I would wake up one day and would have to decide against primarying a member of the Democratic Party at a time when we were seeing an assault on our democracy," he told News12 Westchester on Wednesday. "To that extent, yeah, I do regret not being the Democratic nominee last cycle."

Gereghty's team, though, made it clear they'd use his campaign in New York City against him. "Liz Whitmer Gereghty has lived in the Hudson Valley for 20 years," her campaign said in a statement, "and the reason you'll never see her moving to Brooklyn to chase a congressional seat is because the only place and only people she wants to represent are right here in the Hudson Valley."

RI-01: Candidate filing closed Friday for the special election to succeed former Rep. David Cicilline, and 22 of his fellow Democrats are campaigning for this 64-35 Biden constituency. The notable candidates competing in the Sept. 5 Democratic primary appear to be (deep breath):

  • State Rep. Marvin Abney
  • former Biden administration official Gabe Amo
  • former state official Nick Autiello
  • Lincoln Town Councilor Pamela Azar
  • Navy veteran Walter Berbrick
  • State Sen. Sandra Cano
  • Businessman Don Carlson
  • State Rep. Stephen Casey
  • Providence City Councilman John Goncalves
  • Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos
  • Narragansett Aboriginal Nation tribal elder Bella Machado Noka
  • State Sen. Ana Quezada
  • former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg

The field isn't quite set, though, because candidates still need to turn in 500 valid signatures by July 14. The general election will be Nov. 7.

VA-02: Navy veteran Missy Cotter Smasal, reports Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin, is "moving toward" challenging freshman Republican Rep. Jen Kiggans in a competitive seat where Democrats are awaiting their first serious contender. Cotter Smasal previously lost an expensive race for the state Senate 52-48 against GOP state Sen. Bill DeSteph. (Donald Trump had carried that constituency 51-43 in 2016, though Joe Biden would take it 50-48 the year after Cotter Smasal's defeat.)

The current version of the 2nd Congressional District, which includes all of Virginia Beach and other Hampton Roads communities, also supported Biden 50-48. Kiggans last year went on to unseat Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria 52-48, and while Luria went on to form a PAC to help her party in this fall's state legislature contests, Rubashkin says she's "unlikely" to seek a rematch.

Ballot Measures

NY Ballot: New York could join the ranks of states whose constitutions protect the right to an abortion next year when voters decide whether to approve a far-reaching amendment placed on the ballot by lawmakers.

The amendment, which the legislature passed for the required second time in January, would outlaw discrimination based on a wide variety of factors, including race, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, religion, and sex. Under "sex," the measure further adds several more categories, including sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as "pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, and reproductive healthcare and autonomy."

It is that last grouping that proponents say will protect abortion rights, though the amendment doesn't actually reference the word "abortion" anywhere. State law expert Quinn Yeargain expressed concern about that omission in an essay earlier this year. While noting that the amendment "encompasses a number of really good ideas" that would put New York at the vanguard of prohibiting a number of types of discrimination, he opined that it "leaves a lot to be desired" if it's to be regarded as "an abortion-rights amendment."

Yeargain contrasted New York's approach with a much more explicit amendment that will appear on the Maryland ballot next year. That amendment guarantees "the fundamental right to reproductive freedom, including but not limited to the ability to make and effectuate decisions to prevent, continue, or end one's own pregnancy." Regarding the New York amendment, Yeargain concluded that if he lived in the state, "I'd enthusiastically vote for this measure next year—but I wouldn't do so with the assumption that it'll constitutionalize abortion rights."

OH Ballot: Activists seeking to enshrine abortion rights into the Ohio constitution submitted 710,000 signatures on Wednesday to place an amendment on the November ballot, far more than the 413,000 required by law. That figure gives organizers a sizable cushion should any petitions get thrown out after state officials review them, but a much more serious hurdle looms: Next month, voters will decide on a separate amendment approved by Republican lawmakers that would raise the threshold for passage for any future amendments from a simple majority to 60%.

Republicans have been explicit in explaining why they're pushing their measure. "This is 100% about keeping a radical, pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution," Secretary of State Frank LaRose said at an event in May, according to video obtained by News 5 Cleveland. "The left wants to jam it in there this coming November." A broad array of organizations are opposing the GOP amendment, which will go before voters in an Aug. 8 special election.