Morning Digest: You’ve got to try hard to raise as little as this Republican

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

NY-03: Thanks to a series of signature challenges, Republicans now know that their hopes of avenging their loss in February's special election for New York's 3rd District will rest with former Assemblyman Mike LiPetri. But even though supporters of LiPetri were behind those challenges, there's good reason to wonder whether he can pose a serious threat to Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi.

LiPetri's campaign has denied involvement in the efforts to boot four other candidates, including Air Force veteran Greg Hach and businessman Jim Toes, from the June 25 primary ballot. But Hach and Toes were quick to accuse the Nassau County Republican Party, which has endorsed LiPetri and seldom brooks dissent in nominating contests, of trying to pre-ordain the outcome in comments to the Long Island Herald's Will Sheeline.

Hach and Toes also pointed out the disastrous fates of the Nassau GOP's last two hand-picked choices for this seat: George Santos, who was expelled from Congress last year, and Mazi Pilip, who got crushed by Suozzi in the special to replace Santos.

Republicans should be concerned about LiPetri, too: After announcing his campaign on March 11, he raised all of $52 for the rest of the month—a sum so small that you'd almost have to make an effort not to raise more. Suozzi, by contrast, still had $1.1 million banked at the end of March, despite his heavy spending on the special. (Hach at least had self-funded almost $700,000, and both he and Toes managed to bring in about $100,000 from donors.)

There's still time for LiPetri to turn things around, but since this Long Island-based district is contained entirely inside the ultra-expensive New York City media market, he'll need lots of dough to get his name out, especially given how well-known his Democratic rival is. And LiPetri can't count on outside GOP groups to make up the difference, as Pilip hoped they would, since third parties pay much higher advertising rates than candidates.

Senate

 AZ-Sen: A new report from Politico points out that national Republican groups have yet to make ad reservations for Arizona's Senate race despite the eight-figure sums Democrats have already booked, and it's almost certainly because of their likely nominee's never-ending record of self-sabotage.

Perhaps no incident better sums up the problem posed by Kari Lake, the far-right former TV anchor who narrowly lost her bid for governor in 2022, than her incoherent response to a recent state Supreme Court ruling upholding an 1864 law banning nearly all abortions.

Following that ruling, Lake reportedly urged state lawmakers to repeal the ban, according to multiple media reports. But just days later, on a trip to Idaho—Lake has a penchant for out-of-state travel—she reversed herself completely.

"The Arizona Supreme Court said this is the law of Arizona, but unfortunately, the people running our state have said we're not going to enforce it," she told a conservative outlet called the Idaho Dispatch. "So it's really political theater." (The state did ultimately undo the ban earlier this month.)

Episodes like this have made many Republicans wary of Lake, including Mitch McConnell. As Politico points out, the minority leader recently failed to mention Arizona when listing the GOP's top four targets this year, which he gave as Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

Lake is also getting swamped by her likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has raised $21 million this cycle compared with just $5.5 million for the Republican. In addition, Gallego has been on TV continuously since March while Lake has barely advertised.

Lake may be getting some help soon, though: Politico reports that the NRSC "is preparing to launch a joint TV ad buy" with the candidate. However, any such coordinated expenditures would be limited to about $720,000 in total, since it's unlikely that hybrid ads would be effective in swingy Arizona.

 NV-Sen, OH-Sen, PA-Sen, WI-Sen: More big ad reservations from both sides are flooding into a quartet of top-tier Senate races.

AdImpact reports that Duty and Honor, a Democratic super PAC affiliated with the Senate Majority PAC, has booked at least $7 million to start running ads in Ohio later this month. Meanwhile, the firm says that the GOP group One Nation has reserved $8.5 million in Pennsylvania, almost $4 million in Wisconsin, and $1.5 million in Nevada. These spots are set to begin sometime this summer.

Governors

 WV-Gov: With just days to go before West Virginia's primaries, the Club for Growth has started airing ads attacking Secretary of State Mac Warner, who has been mired in fourth place in the polls and had been ignored by outside groups until now.

The new spots, from the Club's affiliated Black Bear PAC, slam Warner for failing to endorse Donald Trump's third bid for president (and par for the course for this race, it also manages to throw in a transphobic jab). It's not clear how much the Club is putting into this latest offensive, but the GOP firm Medium Buying points out that Warner's campaign has spent a measly $17,000 on TV and radio so far.

Early on in the contest, the Club, which is hoping to see Attorney General Patrick Morrisey secure the Republican nod for the open governorship, focused its fire on businessman Chris Miller, apparently seeing him as the biggest threat. But several weeks ago, it began hammering former Del. Moore Capito, who recently earned the endorsement of term-limited Gov. Jim Justice.

According to 538's polling average, Morrisey remains the frontrunner with the support of 33% of primary voters with Capito not far behind at 26. Miller is further back at 20 while Warner brings up the year with just 12% of the vote.

House

 NJ-10: New Jersey Redevelopment Authority COO Darryl Godfrey and Shana Melius, who worked as a staffer for the late Democratic Rep. Don Payne, each joined the July 16 special Democratic primary election to succeed Payne before filing closed Friday

Godfrey is a top official at an independent state agency that describes its mission as "transform[ing] urban communities through direct investment and technical support." The New Jersey Globe says that Godfrey, who previously worked in banking, says he's willing to do some self-funding, though it remains to be seen to what extent.

Godfrey grew up in the 10th District in Newark, but he currently lives in Morristown in Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill's neighboring 11th District. The candidate, writes the Globe, intends to move back to this constituency. (Members of Congress do not need to live in the district they represent.) He does not appear to have sought office before. 

Melius, meanwhile, spent three years in Payne's office, and she also co-founded a group to improve "diversity and social equity within the cannabis industry." Melius is a first-time candidate.

Godfrey and Melius are two of the 11 Democrats competing in the special election for this safely blue Newark-area seat. The other main contenders are all current or former elected officials: Newark City Council President LaMonica McIver, who has the backing of several influential figures in populous Essex County; Linden Mayor Derek Armstead; Hudson County Commissioner Jerry Walker; and former East Orange City Councilwoman Brittany Claybrooks, who worked as North Jersey political director for Rep. Andy Kim's Senate campaign.

Kim's Senate campaign was part of a successful lawsuit that barred Democrats from utilizing the county line system in this year's primaries, a ruling that applies to this contest. That's a big difference from the 2012 special election to Payne's father and namesake, where the younger Payne's favorable ballot position, as well as name identification, helped him easily beat several opponents.

Whoever secures a plurality in the July 16 primary should have no trouble beating Carmen Bucco, a perennial candidate who has the Republican side to himself, in the Sept. 18 general election.

Payne's name remains on the ballot for the regularly scheduled June 4 primary, where he's the only candidate listed. Local Democratic leaders will be tasked with selecting a new nominee sometime after results are certified on June 17. The New Jersey Globe previously reported that party officials "are not expected" to act until after the special Democratic primary.

 NY-16: Westchester County Executive George Latimer is airing what appears to be his first negative ad targeting Rep. Jamaal Bowman ahead of next month's Democratic primary, featuring several people who castigate Bowman's record and views.

"One of only six Democrats to oppose the historic infrastructure bill," says one woman. "Just to stick it to President Biden," adds another in disgust.

Bowman said in 2021 that he'd voted against the infrastructure bill because it had been severed from a climate change and healthcare reform measure known as Build Back Better, though many of those priorities became law thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed in 2022. (Bowman voted for the latter bill.)

The spot then shifts to address reports from earlier this year about the congressman's questionable beliefs.

"Bowman even promoted dangerous conspiracy theories about 9/11," says another woman. "That's a disgrace."

In January, the Daily Beast's Will Bredderman revealed that Bowman had written a "free verse" poem embracing conspiracies about the attacks in 2011, which Bowman sought to dismiss as an old attempt at intellectual exploration. Just days, ago, however, Bredderman also reported that Bowman had subscribed to all manner of fringe channels on his YouTube account, including some operated by flat earthers and UFO obsessives.

The ad concludes with various individuals praising Latimer for "modernizing our infrastructure" and "protecting our reproductive rights."

 OR-03: State Rep. Maxine Dexter reported raising more than $218,000 on a single day recently, a haul that OPB's Dirk VanderHart says "appears" to be linked to the prominent pro-Israel group AIPAC.

Federal candidates normally report fundraising data on a quarterly basis, but in the 20 days prior to an election, FEC rules give them just 48 hours to declare any new donations of $1,000 or more. With Oregon's primary looming on May 21, that accelerated reporting period began earlier this month, prompting Dexter's disclosure.

VanderHart says that the "vast majority" of donors who gave to Dexter on May 7 "have a history of giving to AIPAC," though AIPAC itself did not comment. Dexter's campaign also noted that the group has not issued an endorsement in the Democratic primary for Oregon's 3rd District, a safely blue open seat based in Portland.

Dexter faces two notable rivals in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Earl Blumenauer: former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, who is the sister of Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales.

Jayapal had led the pack in fundraising through the end of March, but a different set of reports that were due at the FEC on Thursday showed Dexter surging during the month of April. (Twelve days before their primaries, candidates must also file a pre-election report that details all fundraising from the end of the previous quarter through the 20th day before the primary. After that point, the 48-hour reporting rule for large donations goes into effect.)

In her pre-primary filing, Dexter reported raising $575,000 while Jayapal took in $160,000 and Morales pulled down $112,000. Dexter also outspent her opponents in April and entered the stretch run with more cash on hand. That advantage has only grown since then, though: While both Jayapal and Morales had each filed one 48-hour report through Friday, their total hauls were a more modest $18,000 and $8,000 respectively.

 TX-13, TX-22, TX-38: It's Texas Week for the House Ethics Committee, which issued announcements concerning inquiries into three different Lone Star Republicans on Thursday and Friday.

The committee revealed in a press release that it's investigating Rep. Ronny Jackson, who two years ago was the subject of a report by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics concerning alleged improper spending.

That earlier report, which the Ethics Committee did not reference in its release, concluded there was "substantial" evidence that Jackson had spent campaign money for membership at a private social club, which is prohibited by federal law.

At the time, an attorney for Jackson, who had refused to cooperate with the OCE's investigation, said the congressman had sought to use the membership for campaign events. In response to the latest developments, a spokesperson called the accusations "baseless," though she claimed that Jackson had "fully complied" with the committee.

Separately, the committee said it would extend a previously announced probe into Rep. Troy Nehls that began in March. It also released a report from the OCE saying there was "probable cause to believe" that Nehls had made personal use of campaign funds and had failed to provide required information on the annual financial disclosure forms that all members of Congress must file.

The OCE's report focuses on payments from Nehls' campaign to a company he owns called Liberty 1776, ostensibly to rent office space to run his campaign. However, Nehls listed a property run by an entity called Z-Bar as his headquarters on his FEC filings, though he never recorded paying any rent to Z-Bar and only made irregular payments to Liberty 1776.

An attorney for Nehls denied the OCE's allegations, and Nehls, like Jackson, has refused to cooperate with the office's investigation. He said, however, that he would cooperate with the Ethics Committee.

Finally, the committee acknowledged it's looking into Rep. Wesley Hunt, though there's been no reporting as to what this investigation might concern. A spokesperson for Hunt told the Dallas Morning News that the congressman was cooperating with the committee and was "extremely confident that the matter will be dismissed shortly."

All three Republicans secured renomination two months ago, and all of them are defending reliably red seats this fall.

 UT-03: Sen. Mitt Romney has endorsed attorney Stewart Peay in the race for Utah's open 3rd District, where he's one of five candidates hoping to succeed Rep. John Curtis, who himself is running to replace Romney. Peay's wife, Misha, is a niece of Romney's wife, Ann.

Ballot Measures

 FL Ballot, FL-Sen: A new survey of Florida from a Republican pollster finds an amendment to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution passing despite strong numbers for Republican candidates at the top of the ticket.

The poll, conducted by Cherry Communications for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, shows Amendment 4 earning the support of 61% of voters while just 29% are opposed; to become law, it needs to win a 60% supermajority. A separate measure known as Amendment 3 that would legalize recreational marijuana is just short of the threshold at 58-37.

In the race for Senate, though, Republican incumbent Rick Scott holds a wide 54-39 lead over his likely Democratic opponent, former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, while Donald Trump is up 51-42 against Joe Biden.

 NV Ballot: The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld a February ruling by a lower court that blocked a pair of amendments that would establish a bipartisan redistricting commission from appearing on the ballot this fall. That earlier ruling disallowed the amendments because they would not raise the revenue needed to operate the commission they sought to create.

Obituaries

 Chris Cannon: Former Utah Rep. Chris Cannon, an ardent conservative who lost renomination to Jason Chaffetz in the 2008 Republican primary, died Wednesday at age 73.

Cannon served six terms in Congress and compiled a very conservative voting record, but he also supported a pathway to citizenship and government benefits for some undocumented immigrants. His decisive defeat foreshadowed the direction his party was heading in a full eight years before the ascendence of Donald Trump was complete.

Cannon first won his seat in 1996 by unseating Democratic Rep. Bill Orton 51-47 in the 3rd District, and he went on to serve as one of 13 House managers in the 1999 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. However, while Cannon never had trouble turning back Democrats, his views infuriated the GOP's nativist base.

"We love immigrants in Utah. We don’t make distinctions between legal and illegal," he said in 2002—comments that would be unthinkable for a Republican now.

Cannon passed his first major test in the 2004 primary when he held off former state Rep. Matt Throckmorton 58-42. Two years later, his 56-44 triumph over developer John Jacob in the primary was viewed by national observers as a major win for George W. Bush's immigration goals. (Jacob infamously told the Salt Lake Tribune ahead of that race, "There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C. It's the devil is what it is.")

However, Cannon's victories proved misleading. Chaffetz, a former chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman, made a nativist pitch similar to that of Cannon's prior opponents while arguing that the party as a whole had "lost its way." Chaffetz won in a 60-40 landslide that presaged years of turbulence and waning influence for the old GOP establishment.

Ad Roundup

Mitch McConnell will stop at nothing to regain Senate majority

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Sunday airwaves to pat himself on the back for getting Ukraine aid passed, and promptly reverted back to his old ways. Bipartisanship is in the rear view mirror now and McConnell is still intent on the GOP winning at all costs, no matter what damage is done to the country.

In lengthy interviews on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’s “Face the Nation,” McConnell dodged the most critical issues of the day in furtherance of his primary goal. 

“I think the single most important thing I can do is make sure my successor is the majority leader, no matter how the presidential election comes out,” he told CBS’s Margaret Brennan. "What I want to do and what I'm focused on is not the presidential race, but getting the Senate back. I've been the majority leader, I've been the minority leader. Majority is better."

McConnell said he intends to "get ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us, rather than just looking backward." The nation’s biggest challenge ahead is Donald Trump and his threat to democracy, and that’s what McConnell is refusing to look back on.

When asked about Trump’s claims of immunity from prosecution, McConnell insisted he “stands by what he said” after Jan. 6, namely that “[t]here is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of [Jan. 6]” and the attack on the Capitol “was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.” 

That faux-righteous diatribe came after McConnell voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment, the one fail-safe opportunity he and his fellow senators had to ensure Trump could never run for office again. He failed then, just like he failed when he gave Trump his endorsement earlier this year. Now he insists that he has to support Trump, telling Brennan “[a]s the Republican leader of the Senate, obviously, I’m gonna support the nominee of our party.” 

And that support doesn’t even really mean anything, he claimed. 

“The issue is, what kind of influence, even if I had chosen to get involved in the presidential election, what kind of influence would I have had?” McConnell mused.

He had enough influence to make sure Trump would not be barred from running again. On top of that, the Supreme Court McConnell stole for Trump seems intent on clearing Trump’s path back to the White House.

Saving democracy wasn’t the only big issue McConnell tried to dodge on Sunday. NBC’s Kristen Welker asked him whether he supports a national abortion ban, and he refused to answer. 

“I don’t think we’ll get 60 votes in the Senate for any kind of national legislation,” McConnell said, not-so-deftly avoiding the question. 

He deflected instead, using the standard GOP rationalization.

“It seems to me views about this issue at the state level vary depending where you are. And we get elected by states,” McConnell said. “And my members are smart enough to figure out how they want to deal with this very divisive issue based upon the people who actually send them here.” 

Welker pushed McConnell, asking him to explain his celebratory remarks in 2022, after the Supreme Court he built overturned Roe v. Wade and he said a “national ban is possible.” Now that the political blowback of that decision has hit Republicans hard when it comes to election results, McConnell once again obfuscated. 

“I said it was possible. I didn’t say that was my view,” he claimed. “I just said it was possible.”

Once again, McConnell’s eye is on that ultimate prize of a Republican Senate majority, no matter what he has to do or lie about. If reclaiming that majority means a second term for Trump, so be it.

Stop McConnell in his tracks. Donate now to stop Republicans from snatching the Senate!  

RELATED STORIES:

Delusional Senate Republicans still believe they can control Trump

Mitch McConnell tries to cling to power by bending the knee to Trump

The 17 worst things Mitch McConnell did to destroy democracy

Other democracies prosecute their ex-leaders. Trump should be no exception

Donald Trump believes he shouldn’t be held accountable for any crimes he’s been accused of before, during, or after his presidency. But on Monday, he found himself sitting in a courtroom as the first former U.S. president ever to go on trial for criminal charges. It’s the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accusing Trump of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.  

But while this might be unprecedented in U.S. history, other democracies, including France, South Korea, and Israel have charged, convicted, and even jailed former presidents and prime ministers. So why are we having such a hard time wrapping our head around this as a country?

RELATED STORY: Donald Trump's first criminal trial, Day One

Two previous U.S. presidents were in danger of facing criminal charges. President Warren G. Harding died in office in August 1923 and thus avoided being implicated in the notorious Teapot Dome oil lease bribery scandal and other corruption cases involving top administration officials.

Harding was also a notorious womanizer who had a child born out of wedlock. During the 1920 presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee gave Harding’s long-time mistress a monthly $2,000 stipend as hush money and paid $25,000 to send her on a cruise to Japan and China before the election. 

President Richard Nixon came very close to being indicted for his role in the Watergate scandal that led to his resignation in August 1974. Nixon could have faced charges of bribery, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and obstruction of a criminal investigation, CNN reported. But Nixon’s successor and vice president, Gerald Ford, granted Nixon a full pardon, justifying his decision by claiming that long drawn-out litigation would arouse “ugly passions” and “our people would again be polarized  in their opinions.”

As The Washington Post wrote last week:

In the half-century since Ford announced that pardon, other nations have charted a different path, prosecuting former presidents or prime minsters in France, Brazil, South Korea, Israel and elsewhere for numerous alleged crimes, among them embezzlement, corruption, election interference and bribery.

Some cases have illustrated the virtues of trying to hold the most powerful political officials accountable under the rule of law — as well as the formidable challenges that arise when prosecuting such figures. These former leaders can rely on ample bully pulpits to assail the process, maintain influence, shore up support and, in some cases, reclaim power.

Trump has certainly used his “bully” pulpit to assail the process by attacking judges, prosecutors, and witnesses and claiming that putting him on trial would be ruinous for the country. Here’s what Trump posted on his Truth Social platform on the eve of the start of his trial in which prosecutors claim Trump paid hush money to Daniels to avoid a scandal that could have hurt his 2016 campaign:

Tomorrow morning I’ll be in Criminal Court, before a totally conflicted Judge, a Corrupt Prosecutor, a Legal System in CHAOS, a State being overrun by violent crime and corruption, and Crooked Joe Biden’s henchmen “Rigging the System” against his Political Opponent, ME! I will be fighting for myself but, much more importantly, I will be fighting for our Country. Election Interference like this has never happened in the USA before and, hopefully, will never happen again. We are now a Nation in serious Decline, a Failing Nation, but we will soon be a Great Nation Again. November 5th will be the most important day in the History of the United States. MAGA2024! SEE YOU TOMORROW.

Republicans seem to be in a certain state of denial regarding the upcoming trial. The Daily Beast conducted interviews with more than 20 Republican lawmakers over the past week. They made clear that they were supporting Trump even if he is a convicted felon.

“I don’t think that it matters to the American people, because they don’t believe it to be a fair trial,” North Carolina Sen. Ted Budd, a strong MAGA acolyte, told the Daily Beast. “They believe that all these trials are completely unfair against him to drain him of his resources and it’s completely done the opposite thing, it’s rallied the American people behind him.”

And Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a more establishment Republican who recently became chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said he will continue to support Trump even if he’s convicted.

“First of all, I don't think that’s going to happen,” Cole said. “But second, I think some of these prosecutions are simply ridiculous on their face, and some of them are clearly harassment.”

Trump is also trying to rebrand himself as the victim of political persecution, even having the temerity to compare himself to former South African President Nelson Mandela. Trump somehow connected the anti-apartheid icon’s 27 years spent in prison to the possibility that he could be jailed by Judge Juan Merchan for violating a gag order in the hush money case.

“If this Partisan Hack wants to put me in the ‘clink’ for speaking the open and obvious TRUTH, I will gladly become a Modern Day Nelson Mandela—It will be my GREAT HONOR,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

Mandela’s grandson told the Times of London that Trump is “definitely delusional.”

Trump probably wishes that he could be like Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2020, Putin signed legislation that grants former presidents immunity from prosecution for any crimes committed during their lifetime. Trump has argued for presidential immunity repeatedly without success.

RELATED STORY: Make America like Russia: Trump wants same presidential immunity as Putin

Trump also shares much in common with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has used a similar strategy of “delay, deny, deflect” after he was charged in 2019 with fraud, breach of trust, and bribery while still in office. Netanyahu has also accused prosecutors of waging a “witch hunt” against him.

Netanyahu left office in 2021 after losing a vote of confidence in the parliament, but returned to power in December 2022 as the head of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. Netanyahu and his allies then tried to overhaul the judicial system to give ruling parties more power to override Supreme Court decisions and select judges. Under the proposed legislation, courts would no longer have been allowed to bar politicians convicted of crimes from holding top government posts. These proposals triggered mass protests, and may have helped distract the government from warning signs about Hamas’s plans for a major attack.

But two other Israeli leaders ended up serving prison sentences. Former President Moshe Katsav was sentenced in 2011 after being convicted of rape and other sexual offenses against subordinates, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted in 2015 of fraud, breach of trust, and tax evasion.

In France, two former presidents were convicted of criminal charges. Jacques Chirac was convicted in 2011 of influence peddling, breach of trust, and embezzlement during his time as the mayor of Paris and received a two-year suspended jail sentence. In 2021, former President Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted of corruption and influence peddling. An appeals court spared him from serving any time in prison. In a separate case, Sarkozy is to go on trial in 2025 on charges or corruption and illegal financing related to alleged Libyan funding of his successful 2007 presidential campaign.

South Korea remains one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies even though four ex-presidents have  been jailed for corruption since the 1980s. Another ex-president committed suicide in 2009 while under investigation. Most recently, President Park Geun-hye was impeached in 2017, and convicted of abuse of power, bribery, and coercion the following year. She was sentenced to 22 years in prison, but received a presidential pardon in 2021 due to poor health.

South Koreans ousted a military dictatorship in the 1980s. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2023, South Korea is a top-tier democracy, ranked 22nd in the world—seven spots ahead of the United States, which was labeled a “flawed democracy.”

Trump has been charged with 88 criminal offenses in four criminal cases. But former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who died last year, also had quite the rap sheet. Berlusconi faced 35 criminal court cases since entering politics in 1994, but only one of his trials resulted in a conviction, Reuters reported. Berlusconi was convicted in 2013 for tax fraud, false accounting, and embezzlement related to his media empire, but what was originally a four-year prison sentence ended up being reduced to a year of community service.

And that brings us to former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing populist known as the “Trump of the Tropics.” Bolsonaro cast doubts over the results of the 2022 presidential election which he narrowly lost to left-wing former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, claiming without evidence that the country’s electronic voting machines were prone to fraud.

Then on Jan. 8, 2023, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the Congress and other government buildings in the capital Brasilia in a scene mirroring that of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Security forces regained control and arrested several hundred people.

Bolsonaro has been charged by Brazilian authorities with forging a coronavirus vaccine card before he traveled to Florida in late 2022 after his election loss. Authorities are also investigating whether Bolsonaro was involved in plotting a coup to remove Lula from power.

But last July, judges on Brazil’s highest electoral court barred Bolsonaro from running for office again until 2030, making it unlikely that he will ever return to the presidency.

That’s something the U.S. Senate could have done by convicting Trump in his second impeachment trial. At the time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, but it was more appropriate for the former president to be held accountable by the criminal justice system and civil litigation. Maybe some GOP senators thought Trump would just go away, but he’s now their presumptive presidential nominee, and McConnell and most other GOP senators have bent the knee and endorsed Trump.

So now as Trump’s first trial begins, our country is rated a “flawed democracy.” Trump and his MAGA cultists have tried to undermine our justice system, the rule of law, and the public’s faith in democracy. The Washington Post reports:

“The notion that not just charges would be brought, but that a former president and possibly future president might be convicted and sent to jail is truly extraordinary,” said William Howell, an American politics professor at the University of Chicago. “How the system and how the American public will respond is going to be really revealing about the nature of our democratic commitments.”
If other democracies can hold their leaders accountable, there’s no reason why we can’t do the same.

McConnell stepping down is the death rattle of the GOP’s establishment wing

When long-serving Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday he would step aside from his Senate leadership post in November, it may have seemed like a natural passing of the baton by a physically frail 82-year-old man. McConnell experienced several public health episodes last fall after suffering a concussion in early 2023. 

But in truth, McConnell's surrender is less of a baton-passing than it is a death rattle of the so-called establishment wing of the Republican Party. Ever since Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination in 2016, McConnell believed he could control Trump, using him as a tool to pack the Supreme Court with conservative extremists and pass the 2017 tax cuts, which have overwhelmingly boosted the bottom line of America's wealthiest households. 

But while McConnell was giddily ticking off his goals, Trump was stealing the party right out from under the veteran leader's nose. By the time Trump lost his November 2020 reelection bid, McConnell, facing two January runoffs in Georgia, realized that he likely couldn't save his Senate majority without Trump's army of MAGA foot soldiers. 

So McConnell began a years-long walk down the plank, fatefully embracing Trump in the Georgia Senate runoffs that resulted in twin losses to Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock and McConnell’s demotion from Senate majority leader to minority Leader. As many predicted, Trump's incessant grousing about the supposedly stolen election helped suppress Republican turnout in the runoffs, ultimately reducing McConnell's final years in leadership to permanent minority status.   

McConnell had several golden opportunities to write a different epitaph for his career. On Jan. 6, 2021—the day after Georgia voters handed McConnell his walking papers as Senate leader—Trump and his followers executed a deadly attack on the U.S. seat of government, providing McConnell a fresh chance to nail shut Trump's future in U.S. politics. 

But McConnell, the highly vaunted political tactician, misread the politics, believing Trump to be "a fading brand," according to reporting by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book, “Peril.”

“There is a clear trend moving,” McConnell predicted, toward a Republican Party that isn't dominated by Trump. “Sucking up to Donald Trump is not a strategy that works,” he added.

But suck up he did. After House Democrats impeached Trump with seven days left in his term, McConnell, still majority leader, delayed the Senate impeachment trial until after Jan. 20, when Democrats took control of the White House and the upper chamber, with the vice president giving Democrats the tie-breaking vote.

McConnell, who didn't lift a finger to help end the country's long national nightmare, reportedly reveled in the idea that Republicans could just follow Democrats' lead. “The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us,” McConnell told two of his Kentucky confidants on Jan. 11.

Of course, Trump's conviction would take 17 Republican votes in addition to the 50 that Senate Democrats provided. And while McConnell eventually paid lip service to the idea that Trump was "practically and morally responsible" for the Jan. 6 riot, he cravenly declined to twist enough arms to muster GOP support for Trump's conviction. The fact that McConnell himself ended up voting to acquit Trump was just icing on the cake. 

McConnell likely figured he could live with one more humiliation on the way to reclaiming the Senate majority in the 2022 midterms, where Republicans had several good pick-up opportunities and history suggested Democrats, with unilateral control of Washington, were doomed. 

In fact, at the same confab where McConnell dubbed Trump a "fading brand," he also imagined mounting fierce opposition to his arch rival if he supported a crop of unelectable losers.

“The only place I can see Trump and me actually at loggerheads would be if he gets behind some clown who clearly can’t win,” McConnell said. “To have a chance of getting the Senate back, you have to have the most electable candidates possible.”

But by October 2021, McConnell would find himself eagerly endorsing the laughably unfit former Georgia football star Herschel Walker as "the only one who can unite the party, defeat Senator Warnock, and help us take back the Senate." 

McConnell and his allies had mounted a feeble public campaign to encourage Walker to sit the cycle out. But in the end, they folded to Trump and embraced his guy, who proved to be an electoral loser alongside a handful of other Trump picks for Senate. 

After entering the midterm cycle with a lot of hope and bluster, Senate Republicans not only failed to pick up a single seat in the supposed year of the "red wave," they actually lost a seat when another MAGA extremist fell short of keeping an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania. 

Fast-forward to today, and Trump's takeover of the Republican Party is nearly complete. Trump is set to handily win the Republican nomination with the steadfast support of his MAGA base. He effectively owns the Republican National Committee, recently engineering the ouster of chair Ronna McDaniel and pushing for his own daughter-in-law to take the helm. He has sucked up the party's small-dollar donations while hobbling the party committees' fundraising appeals to big-dollar donors. He has overtaken the infrastructure of state parties, even as some continue to be consumed by internecine warfare.

All the while, McConnell's resistance to Trump has faded. When Trump recently attacked a bipartisan border deal negotiated by a close McConnell ally, the minority leader acquiesced, helping to kill the deal himself

And despite McConnell's avid support of Ukraine’s fight for sovereignty against Russia, Trump and his congressional allies have so far succeeded in blocking and indefinitely delaying a new round of U.S. aid for the effort.

What is perhaps most clear as McConnell prepares to hand the reins to a new generation of leaders is that Senate Republicans, the last bastion of the old GOP guard, are now on a glide path to resembling House Republicans. Not only have many Senate Republicans embraced MAGA policy tenets such as isolationism, they are adopting MAGA tactics, making the caucus more ungovernable with each passing month. In essence, the less McConnell has led, the less his conference has become capable of being led. 

When veteran Democratic leader and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced late last year that she and her leadership team would step down, she left House Democrats in very good hands—with a succession plan, a capable leadership team on deck, and a wealth of legislative accomplishments to campaign on as they fight to win back the majority in November. 

Pelosi not only left her conference better off, she had done her level best to safeguard the institution of which the leadership had been entrusted to her. And when Democrats are in charge, the House is still functional, even with the slimmest of majorities. 

When McConnell steps aside later this year, he will leave behind a conference, an institution, and a party in disarray—and he will be complicit in having either actively or passively gutted the integrity of all three. 

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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.

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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.

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The 17 worst things Mitch McConnell did to destroy democracy

Mark Sumner also contributed to this story.

Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday that he will be stepping down as Republican leader of the Senate in November. And, for the sake of the democracy he’s spent decades trying to destroy, that moment can’t come soon enough.

Here are just a few of his career lowlights.

1. He stole a Supreme Court seat from President Barack Obama. 

When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, McConnell insisted that the seat would remain empty because it was an election year and, according to a rule he created, the seat could therefore not be filled.  

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice," he said. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.” He refused to even give Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing much less a vote.

But three years later, asked what he would do if the same situation arose in 2020 under President Donald Trump?

"Oh, we'd fill it," he said. And that’s just what he did.

2. He stole a Supreme Court seat from future President Joe Biden.

And he did this after changing his “no new Supreme Court justice in the last year of a president’s term” rule—to install the ultra-conservative Amy Coney Barrett on the court eight days before the 2020 election.

The night Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in the fall of 2020, according to McConnell’s former chief of staff, McConnell told Trump he would absolutely fill the vacancy just weeks out from the election, “and you’ve gotta nominate Amy Coney Barrett.”

3. He packed the federal judiciary for Trump with white men, many of them unqualified

While the Supreme Court seats may be the most visible part of McConnell’s stacking of the judiciary, his goal went further. As Frontline noted, that meant he wanted his legacy to be one of “filling the federal judiciary with conservative judges.”

4. He vowed to obstruct Obama. 

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” he told the National Journal in 2010.

5. He vowed to obstruct Biden. 

“One hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” he said in 2021.

6. He made the debt ceiling a permanent hostage starting in 2011. 

McConnell may not have invented the government shutdown, but he made sure that shutdown threats were a regular part of American politics while shutting down efforts to fix the problem. "I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting,” McConnell said before a vote in 2011. “Most of us didn't think that. What we did learn is this—it's a hostage that's worth ransoming."  

7. He turned the filibuster into a weapon

McConnell used the filibuster “more than ever in history” during the Obama administration to try to deny Obama any legislative victories, just as he’d threatened to do. And he kept using it long after Obama left office, including to block a 9/11-style Jan. 6 committee

McConnell reportedly worked the phones to be sure the commission bill died, asking some Republican senators to join the filibuster as “a personal favor” to him despite the appeal from the mother of fallen Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick to support the commission. 

8. He voted to acquit Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

And, just like when he blocked the nomination of Garland to the Supreme Court, he blamed it on the timing. 

As The Washington Post described it, “We witnessed a historic confession of hypocrisy and deceit on Saturday when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went to the floor after voting to acquit Donald Trump in the former president’s Senate impeachment trial.” That came after McConnell had given a speech calling Trump’s actions “a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty” and saying that  Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”

But McConnell had an excuse: timing. He claimed it was too late to convict Trump. For McConnell, it’s always too late to do something. Unless it isn’t.

9. He built a career, and a big campaign nest egg, fighting gun safety regulations

That includes pulling down $1.3 million in donations from the NRA while blocking efforts to address mass shootings. No single individual may be completely responsible for America’s failure to address gun violence, including school shootings, but McConnell comes close.

10. He destroyed campaign finance reform and filibustered any effort to get money out of politics. 

He may have called money in politics “a cancer” at the start of his career, but once he was in the Senate, he devoted himself to protecting that cancer. And spreading it.

11. He blocked votes to save the Voting Rights Act. 

That included refusing to hold hearings on an amendment named in honor of the great congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. McConnell claimed he was a supporter of the VRA at the beginning of his career, but as Senate leader, he weakened the act at every turn. This, along with his other moves to make it more difficult to vote, earned McConnell the nickname “the gravedigger of American democracy.”

12. He tried to kill Obamacare—and failed.

"This is clearly a disappointing moment," he said after the repeal attempt failed 51-49. "I regret that our efforts simply were not enough this time."

13. He blew off coal miners with black lung disease from his own state

That included giving a group of miners who drove from Kentucky to meet with him just two minutes of his time, but McConnell always found time to help mine owners prop up the dying industry.

He failed to support legislation that would reclaim mine land for economic development. He shied away from a bipartisan coalition in his state that is nurturing tech, medical, and even solar jobs. He led the Republican effort to cut taxes on the coal companies—taxes that would help struggling miners. And he has not pushed to shore up a badly underfunded miners’ pension fund.

14. He’s working with the Trump campaign right now to endorse Trump for another term. 

Sources involved in the negotiations give a weak explanation. “We’ve reached the part of the primary where the party is coming together,” one source told The Hill. “The absolute worst thing that can happen to this country is electing Joe Biden for four more years, and you can expect to coalesce around that point over the next nine months,” the source continued. So much for protecting our institutions from the guy who tried to “torch” them.

15. He named himself the “Grim Reaper.” 

He vowed to kill—literally kill—progressive legislation to address climate change and expand Medicare.

“Are we going to turn this into a socialist country? Don’t assume it cannot happen,” he said in 2019. “If I’m still the majority leader of the Senate, think of me as the Grim Reaper. None of that stuff is going to pass. None of it.”

16. He took this infamous picture in front of a Confederate flag.

He said the photo of him beaming in front of the racist flag was taken when he was a freshman senator, at a meeting of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. And no, he isn’t sorry.

"I don't regret going to speak to a group which at the time was not being considered, you know, a pariah in our society,” he said years later. “I, over the years, have probably been to plenty of groups and shaken hands with a whole lot of people who didn’t agree with me."

17. He tried to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren. It backfired.

During a floor speech against the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as Trump’s attorney general in 2017, the Massachusetts senator read—or tried to read—a damning letter from Coretta Scott King, written in 1986, which blasted Sessions for “the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens” while serving as a United States attorney in Alabama.” 

McConnell didn’t like that and insisted Warren had violated a rule against demeaning a fellow senator. And he cut her off.

“She was warned,” McConnell said. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

The joke’s on McConnell, though, because his tsk-tsking of Warren became a meme. And a hashtag. And a tattoo. And a fundraiser. And a rallying cry. 

So long, Mitch. And good riddance.  

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McConnell will step down as the Senate Republican leader in November

Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in history who maintained his power in the face of dramatic convulsions in the Republican Party for almost two decades, will step down from that position in November.

McConnell, who turned 82 last week, was set to announce his decision Wednesday in the well of the Senate, a place where he looked in awe from its back benches in 1985 when he arrived and where he grew increasingly comfortable in the front row seat afforded the party leaders.

“One of life’s most underappreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter,” he said in prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press. “So I stand before you today ... to say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate.”

His decision punctuates a powerful ideological transition underway in the Republican Party, from Ronald Reagan’s brand of traditional conservatism and strong international alliances, to the fiery, often isolationist populism of former President Donald Trump.

McConnell said he plans to serve out his Senate term, which ends in January 2027, “albeit from a different seat in the chamber.” Aides said McConnell’s announcement about the leadership post was unrelated to his health. The Kentucky senator had a concussion from a fall last year and two public episodes where his face briefly froze while he was speaking.

“As I have been thinking about when I would deliver some news to the Senate, I always imagined a moment when I had total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work,” McConnell said in his prepared remarks. “A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. It arrived today.”

The senator had been under increasing pressure from the restive, and at times hostile wing of his party that has aligned firmly with Trump. The two have been estranged since December 2020, when McConnell refused to abide Trump’s lie that the election of Democrat Joe Biden as president was the product of fraud.

But while McConnell's critics within the GOP conference had grown louder, their numbers had not grown appreciably larger, a marker of McConnell’s strategic and tactical skill and his ability to understand the needs of his fellow Republican senators.

McConnell gave no specific reason for the timing of his decision, which he has been contemplating for months, but he cited the recent death of his wife's youngest sister as a moment that prompted introspection. “The end of my contributions are closer than I’d prefer,” McConnell said.

But his remarks were also light at times as he talked about the arc of his Senate career.

He noted that when he arrived in the Senate, “I was just happy if anybody remembered my name.” During his campaign in 1984, when Reagan was visiting Kentucky, the president called him “Mitch O’Donnell.”

McConnell endorsed Reagan’s view of America’s role in the world and the senator has persisted in face of opposition, including from Trump, that Congress should include a foreign assistance package that includes $60 billion for Ukraine.

“I am unconflicted about the good within our country and the irreplaceable role we play as the leader of the free world," McConnell said.

Against long odds he managed to secure 22 Republican votes for the package now being considered by the House.

“Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time. I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them," McConnell said. "That said, I believe more strongly than ever that America’s global leadership is essential to preserving the shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan discussed. For as long as I am drawing breath on this earth I will defend American exceptionalism.”

Trump has pulled the party hard to the ideological right, questioning longtime military alliances such as NATO, international trade agreements, and pushing for a severe crackdown on immigration, all the while clinging to the falsehood that the election was stolen from him in 2020.

McConnell and Trump had worked together in Trump’s first term, remaking the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary in a far more conservative image, and on tax legislation. But there was also friction from the start, with Trump frequently sniping at the senator.

Their relationship has essentially been over since Trump refused to accept the results of the Electoral College. But the rupture deepened dramatically after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. McConnell assigned blame and responsibility to Trump and said that he should be held to account through the criminal justice system for his actions.

McConnell’s critics insist he could have done more, including voting to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial. McConnell did not, arguing that since Trump was no longer in office, he could not be subject to impeachment.

Rather than fade from prominence after the Capitol riot, Trump continued to assert his control over the party, and finds himself on a clear glidepath to the Republican nomination. Other members of the Republican Senate leadership have endorsed Trump. McConnell has not, and that has drawn criticism from other Republican senators.

McConnell’s path to power was hardly linear, but from the day he walked onto the Senate floor in 1985 and took his seat as the most junior Republican senator, he set his sights on being the party leader. What set him apart was that so many other Senate leaders wanted to run for president. McConnell wanted to run the Senate. He lost races for lower party positions before steadily ascending, and finally became party leader in 2006 and has won nine straight elections.

He most recently beat back a challenge led by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida last November.

McConnell built his power base by a combination of care and nurturing of his members, including understanding their political imperatives. After seeing the potential peril of a rising Tea Party, he also established a super political action committee, The Senate Leadership Fund, which has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Republican candidates.

Despite the concerns about his health, colleagues have said in recent months that they believe he has recovered. McConnell was not impaired cognitively, but did have some additional physical limitations.

“I love the Senate,” he said in his prepared remarks. “It has been my life. There may be more distinguished members of this body throughout our history, but I doubt there are any with more admiration for it.”

But, he added, "Father Time remains undefeated. I am no longer the young man sitting in the back, hoping colleagues would remember my name. It is time for the next generation of leadership.”

There would be a time to reminisce, he said, but not today.

“I still have enough gas in the tank to thoroughly disappoint my critics and I intend to do so with all the enthusiasm which they have become accustomed.”

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Mitch McConnell tries to cling to power by bending the knee to Trump

House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have a long-standing mutual loathing, but that apparently won’t stop McConnell from bowing to Trump. The two men’s political teams have been in talks for McConnell’s endorsement, a reflection of just how desperate McConnell is to keep his weakening hold on his leadership position.

This is the same McConnell who blistered Trump in a floor speech after the Kentucky senator voted to acquit Trump in the impeachment proceedings after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He accused Trump of “a disgraceful dereliction of duty” and said, “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of [Jan. 6].” McConnell accurately said the crowd was worked up with “an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”

The attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, he said, “was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.” 

So let’s just give him another shot at it, McConnell has apparently decided. 

Sources involved in the negotiations give a weak explanation. “We’ve reached the part of the primary where the party is coming together,” one source told The Hill. “The absolute worst thing that can happen to this country is electing Joe Biden for four more years, and you can expect to coalesce around that point over the next nine months,” the source continued. So much for protecting our institutions from the guy who tried to “torch” them.

The likelier explanation is that McConnell’s grasp on his leadership position is weakening as the MAGA contingent in the Senate chips away at him. They have blocked his No. 1 priority—Ukraine funding—for months. They rebelled against him to kill the border deal that would have secured that funding.

Earlier this month, the Senate’s answer to the House Freedom Caucus held a press conference during which Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was asked if he thought it was time for McConnell to step aside. “I think it is,” Cruz replied.

“Everyone here also supported to the leadership challenge to Mitch McConnell in November [2022,]” he continued. By “everyone,” he meant Sens. Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, J.D. Vance of Ohio, Roger Marshall of Kansas, and Eric Schmitt of Missouri. “I think a Republican leader should actually lead this conference and should advance the priorities of Republicans,” Cruz continued. 

Chances are pretty good that a Trump endorsement won’t be good enough to stop them. After all, House Speaker Mike Johnson has been in Trump’s pocket since he was elected to the position, and that hasn’t smoothed his way with the MAGA contingent of the GOP conference. 

Trump is relishing the chance to humiliate his old foe McConnell, gloating, “I don’t know if he’s going to endorse me, I just heard he wants to endorse me. … Everybody’s getting in line, they’re all getting on board.”

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