Morning Digest: Investment in GOP primary for Illinois governor pays dividends … for Democrats

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

IL-Gov: Democrats looking to prevent Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin from winning the June 28 GOP primary got some very welcome news Friday when the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling finding far-right state Sen. Darren Bailey ahead 32-17, with another 11% going to venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan. The poll came shortly after a conservative PAC called People Who Play by the Rules PAC, which has been attacking Irvin, publicized its own numbers from Fabrizio, Lee & Associates giving Bailey a smaller 27-20 edge over the mayor.

Irvin in late May had unveiled his own numbers showing himself ahead 31-25, but he didn't have anything to offer Friday when reporters asked him about his underwhelming showing from PPP. Instead, the one-time frontrunner said there were "two and a half weeks left" before primary day and that "that's a lifetime in politics." Those comments came a day after Irvin's campaign confirmed they had cut planned advertising in southern Illinois, which led observers to wonder if the mayor was running out of the $50 million he'd received from billionaire Ken Griffin.

But Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker's allies at the DGA are still pouring it on with another ad designed to make Bailey, who among other things once pushed a hopeless bill to kick Chicago out of Illinois, more appealing to GOP voters. Just like the group's previous spots, the narrator asks, "Are pro-Trump conservative Darren Bailey's policies too conservative for Illinois?" The spot goes on to remind viewers that Bailey "sued to stop J. B. Pritzker's Covid mandates" before showing footage of the state senator using a firearm.

election recaps

 AK-AL: Almost 110,000 votes have been counted in Saturday’s special top-four primary for the final months of the late GOP Rep. Don Young’s term, and while the Associated Press has not yet called any of the four spots in the Aug. 16 instant runoff general election, three contenders have established clear leads over the other 45 candidates. Two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich III, are taking 30% and 19%, respectively; independent Al Gross, who was the 2020 Democratic Senate nominee, is in third with 12%.

The battle for the fourth and final spot is tight, with former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola holding a 7-5 edge over a third Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney; not far behind with 4% is North Pole City Council member Santa Claus, a self-described "independent, progressive, democratic socialist" who previously had his name changed from Thomas O'Connor. 

It’s not clear how many votes are left since mail-in ballots received though June 21 will be tabulated as long as they were postmarked by Saturday, though election authorities say that a total of 139,000 votes have been received thus far. The state, writes the Alaska Beacon, plans to count more ballots on Wednesday, Friday, and June 21, with certification to follow four days later.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: A panel of judges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday issued a short-term "administrative stay"​ for a lower court ruling that struck down Louisiana's GOP-drawn congressional map for racial discrimination, but the stay was lifted Sunday​​. Arguments over the case are set to take place in early July, though, so this is far from the final word on the future of the maps. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has reiterated that a special redistricting session will begin Wednesday.

NY Redistricting: A state appellate court has struck down New York's Democratic-drawn Assembly map on the grounds that the legislature lacked the authority to draw its own map after the state's bipartisan commission failed to pass anything of its own. However, the ruling won't take effect until after this year's elections, since the court ruled that the Republican plaintiffs had waited too late into the election cycle to bring their lawsuit, meaning the upcoming June 28 primary will proceed using the Democratic-drawn districts and the courts will oversee the redrawing of the map for the 2024 elections.

Senate

GA-Sen: The progressive group VoteVets has launched a TV commercial as part of a $1.5 million ad buy that accuses Republican Herschel Walker of using his supposed charity to prey upon veterans to his own financial benefit of $331,000 last year alone, noting that prosecutors charged the charity with defrauding the federal government. As the Associated Press has reported, Walker served as a celebrity spokesperson for Patriot Support, which is actually a for-profit program marketed to veterans by the large hospital chain Universal Health Services.

A civil lawsuit against Universal by the Justice Department and a number of state governments alleged that the company aggressively pushed veterans into inpatient mental health care facilities, often via misdiagnosis and fraudulent documents, to take advantage of how government-sponsored insurance plans don't limit the duration of psychiatric hospital stays under certain conditions, unlike private insurance plans. Universal ultimately reached a $122 million settlement with the federal government and various states in 2020 but denied any wrongdoing.

NV-Sen, NV-Gov: The nonpartisan Nevada Independent has once more released a survey from the GOP firm OH Predictive Insights of Tuesday's Republican primaries, and it finds the Trump-backed Senate and gubernatorial frontrunners, former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, maintaining double-digit leads in their respective contests.

In the contest to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Laxalt posts a 48-34 edge over Sam Brown, an Army veteran who has run a surprisingly well-funded campaign. One month before, the firm showed Laxalt up by a similar 45-30 edge, and we haven't seen any reliable polling in the intervening time. The former attorney general's allies at the Club for Growth and its School Freedom Fund affiliate aren't taking any chances, though, as they've continued to spend on advertising in the closing days of the contest.

Meanwhile in the race to go up against Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, Lombardo outpaces attorney Joey Gilbert, a former professional boxer who has bragged that he was "definitely on the Capitol steps" on Jan. 6, 34-21, which puts things a bit closer than Lombardo's 35-15 edge the previous month. Two other Republicans, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee and former Sen. Dean Heller, tie for third with 10% each, which is about where they each were in May.

NBC reported Wednesday that Lee, a former conservative Democrat who defected to the GOP last year, has actually outspent Lombardo $2 million to $1.2 million on advertising, but that a group called Better Nevada PAC has deployed an additional $2.9 million to help the sheriff. The DGA-affiliated A Stronger Nevada, meanwhile, has poured $2.5 million into ads largely attacking Lombardo as "more worried about his public image than public safety" in an effort to try to derail the frontrunner.

OH-Sen: The Democratic group Innovation Ohio has publicized an internal from GrowProgress that shows Democrat Tim Ryan leading Republican J.D. Vance 44-41, little different from his 43-41 edge in a late April poll taken just before both men won their primaries. The only other recent general election survey we've seen was a late May Suffolk University poll that put Vance ahead 42-39.

Governors

MD-Gov: Former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker announced Friday that he was suspending his campaign, saying that he didn't have the money to win the Democratic nomination on July 19. Baker, who took second in the 2018 primary, said he'd consider restarting his efforts if he received substantially more donations in the next month, but he acknowledged this was very unlikely to happen.    

MI-Gov: Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who was the Republican primary frontrunner before he was disqualified last month for fraudulent voter petition signatures, announced Thursday that he'd wage a write-in campaign to secure the nomination in August. "I got emails, text messages through my campaign that says: 'Chief, we know you were robbed," insisted Craig. "And you know what? I'm not going to roll over. Because this is not about me as a candidate."

Craig made his announcement on the local station Fox 2 along with self-funding businessman Perry Johnson, who is suing in federal court to get back on the ballot himself. However, while Johnson, whose campaign also fell victim to a fraudulent signature scandal, is going to federal court to try to get back on the ballot, he sounded skeptical about running his own write-in effort.

Johnson, while not explicitly ruling out the idea, acknowledged it would be "very, very difficult" for anyone to pull off and estimated the effort would take $22 million. Craig, who had $1.2 million on-hand at the end of 2021, suggested that he and his wealthy former rival "should be partners," but Johnson quickly said he didn't want to be his running mate.

MN-Gov, MN-AG: The Democratic firm Change Research's new survey for the nonpartisan MinnPost shows Democratic Gov. Tim Walz leading his likely Republican rival, Scott Jensen, just 42-40, but there's an important caveat.

The firm found that 7% of respondents chose, "The candidate from either one of the legalize marijuana parties (Legal Marijuana Now or Grassroots Legalize Cannabis)," but the poll didn't name any candidates by name or even separate the two parties. This is a potential issue because, by presenting the two options this way, Change is not replicating how these choices will actually be presented on the ballot. (Independence-Alliance Party Hugh McTavish, who was indeed asked about by name, snagged an additional 3%.)

The poll also finds Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison locked in a tight race against both of the Republicans competing in the August primary. Attorney Jim Schultz, who won the party convention last month, edges out Ellison 45-44, while the incumbent deadlocks 44-44 in a rematch against 2018 rival Doug Wardlow.

House

FL-07: Several Orlando-area Democratic elected officials have endorsed state party official Karen Green's campaign to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in a constituency that the new GOP gerrymander transformed from a 55-44 Biden seat into one Trump would have taken 52-47. One of the pols backing Green, whom we hadn't previously mentioned, is state Rep. Carlos Guillermo, who didn't quite rule out a bid of his own right after Murphy retired. Florida's filing deadline is June 17, so the field will be set very soon.

FL-23: Airline pilot Curtis Calabrese has filed paperwork with the FEC terminating his campaign for the Democratic nomination for this open seat. Calabrese only switched his party registration from Republican to Democratic in March even though state law requires candidates be registered with their party at least a year before the start of candidate filing, so he likely would have faced serious legal opposition had he continued on.

GA-10: There haven't been many negative ads in the leadup to the June 21 GOP primary runoff, but former state Rep. Vernon Jones is going up with one that portrays his opponent, trucking executive Mike Collins, as a little boy who can only explain his rationale for running with, "My daddy was in Congress." After the actor playing "Little Mike" repeats this line, Jones tells the audience, "My daddy wasn't in Congress, but he was a veteran and he fought for this country."

MT-01: The Associated Press on Thursday evening called the June 7 Republican primary for former Rep. Ryan Zinke, who outpaced former state Sen. Al Olszewski by a surprisingly slim 41-40 margin. But despite his name recognition, support from Trump, and financial advantage, Zinke faced serious scrutiny for reportedly spending more time in his wife's hometown of Santa Barbara, California rather than in Montana, as well as over his myriad of ethics issues from his time as Trump's secretary of the interior.

Zinke will go up against Democratic nominee Monica Tranel, an attorney and former Olympic rower, for a western Montana seat that Trump carried 52-45.

NY-23: State Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy said Friday morning that he would indeed run to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Chris Jacobs, a decision Langworthy revealed hours before candidate filing closed.

NY-23 (special): Republican leaders on Thursday chose Steuben County party chair Joe Sempolinski as their nominee in the Aug. 23 special election for the final months of former GOP Rep. Tom Reed's term. Sempolinski, who is not seeking a full term in Congress this year, will go up against Democrat Max Della Pia in a constituency Trump took 55-43.

TN-05: The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled that music video producer Robby Starbuck would stay off the August Republican primary ballot for this open seat, a move that reverses a lower-court decision that briefly resurrected his campaign.

Starbuck, who was booted by the state GOP failing to meet its opaque "bona fide" standard​, responded by​ tweeting Sunday​, "I have 3 days to decide if I’ll run write in for the primary or general (I have to pick 1). Problem is, if I win the primary, TNGOP can ignore it and pick the person who came in 2nd." He added that he'd told party leaders​, "If they agree to honor the results of the primary election and support the winner, even if it’s a write-in, then I’ll run in the primary as a write-in and not in the general. The ball is in their court now."

Secretaries of State

NV-SoS: The GOP firm OH Predictive Insights surveys Tuesday's Republican primary for secretary of state for the nonpartisan Nevada Independent and finds a 21-21 deadlock between former Assemblyman Jim Marchant and developer Jesse Haw. Marchant, a QAnon ally who has said he would not have certified Joe Biden's 2020 victory, has attracted attention by grouping with other conspiracist candidates running to become their state's chief election official. Haw, though, has himself winked at the Big Lie by saying that last election "had a lot of shenanigans and potential fraud."

The eventual nominee will go up against former state Athletic Commission member Cisco Aguilar, who faces no Democratic primary opposition in the race to succeed termed-out Republican incumbent Barbara Cegavske.

Morning Digest: Why Montana is the only state in the union without new legislative maps

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

MT Redistricting: For the first time in 40 years, Montana enjoyed the right to draw a congressional map following the 2020 census, thanks to population growth that bumped up its representation in the House from one seat to two. But while that task was completed all the way back in November, the state still lacks new maps for its legislature—and won't have any until next year. In fact, Montana is the only state in the nation that hasn't finished legislative redistricting. So what gives?

Fortunately, law professor Quinn Yeargain has the answer. In 1972, Montana adopted a new constitution that gave power over redistricting to an evenly divided bipartisan commission, which is obligated to submit legislative maps to lawmakers "at the first regular session after its appointment or after the census figures are available." The problem, however, is that the constitution also mandates the legislature meet for just 90 days at a time in odd-numbered years, starting in early January and ending in late April.

Practically speaking, therefore, there's no way the redistricting commission could finish its work that quickly, and in 2021, that would have been literally impossible, since the Census Bureau didn't release the detailed data needed to draw new lines until August. Even in the previous decade, when the census wasn't hampered by a pandemic and presidential interference, Montana didn't receive the necessary data until mid-March.

Making matters even more absurd, as Yeargain points out, when lawmakers receive maps from the commission, they can only make "recommendations" for changes—recommendations the commissioners are free to ignore. The entire process, therefore, will be put off until the legislature's next session in 2023, simply to allow legislators to play an entirely advisory role that may have no impact whatsoever.

The practical consequences of this delay, however, are considerable. As shown in this map of Montana's state House, many districts are severely under- or over-populated, with 56 of 100 outside the 10% deviation between the smallest and largest districts that courts typically allow; the situation in the Senate is similar.

Under the longstanding constitutional doctrine of "one person, one vote," these imbalances make Montana ripe for a lawsuit demanding the state draw new districts immediately after each census, like every other state does. No one has brought such a case this time, though, and with the state's primary next week, it's now too late. But in the coming decade, such a challenge could very well succeed.

Senate

OH-Sen: The first post-primary poll of Ohio's open Senate race finds Republican nominee J.D. Vance with a small 42-39 lead on Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, though 17% of voters have yet to make up their minds, according to Suffolk University. While Vance's 3-point margin might seem alluring, we always caution never to judge a race based on a single poll. That's all the more so when there's a sizable pile of undecideds, since they're more likely to lean Republican given Ohio's overall red tilt.

Governors

GA-Gov: Democrat Stacey Abrams has launched her first TV ad since winning last month's primary, and the spot blasts Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for having "made it easier for criminals to carry guns in public," vowing to criminalize abortion, and providing "tax cuts for himself and his ultra-wealthy friends." Notably, this ad is from Abrams' One Georgia leadership committee, which can raise and spend unlimited contributions from donors now that the primaries are over thanks to a law that Kemp himself signed in 2021 in an attempt to gain his own fundraising advantage.

FL-Gov: We're not quite sure what to make of this, but the Florida Education Association, which is the state's largest teachers union, says it's "backing" Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist's bid for governor but stresses that it's not giving Crist its "formal endorsement." We're accustomed to this sort of parsing from politicians, but we can't recall ever seeing a labor union—especially not one with 150,000 members—engage in this kind of hair-splitting.

IL-Gov: Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who is Illinois' wealthiest resident, has given an additional $5 million to Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin's campaign for the June 28 GOP primary, bringing his investment up to a staggering $50 million thanks to Illinois' lack of contribution limits. Due in large part to the wealth of just three billionaires, candidates and outside groups in Illinois' upcoming primaries have spent an eye-popping $30 million on ads in May alone as Democrats have gotten involved in the GOP primary to try to stop Irvin and boost a more conservative opponent while Irvin's camp has spent heavily in response.

Irvin has expended $11.1 million while the Democratic Governors Association has dropped $6.5 million on a mix of ads attacking Irvin and boosting state Sen. Darren Bailey, who is running to Irvin's right and has spent $4.1 million with an additional $2.7 million in outside support from a PAC funded by right-wing billionaire Dick Uihlein. The final billionaire is Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker himself, who is extensively self-funding his campaign and has spent $4 million on ads mainly opposing Irvin. Lastly, venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan has spent $1.5 million on GOP primary ads.

MI-Gov, MI-AG, MI-SoS: The general election portion of local pollster Target Insyght's recent survey for MIRS News finds statewide Democrats demolishing their GOP opponents by margins that simply look too good to be true. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer leads her five prospective Republican challengers by anywhere from 58-19 to 57-23, while Democratic state Attorney General Dana Nessel posts a similar 54-23 edge over Big Lie proponent Matthew DePerno and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson likewise prevails 56-23 over election conspiracy theorist Kristina Karamo.

Every other poll released this cycle has so far found Whitmer at or below 50% with considerably more support for her Republican challengers than Target Insyght has, and even during the blue wave of 2018, she only earned 53% of the vote. Though voters in recent years have been more apt to split their tickets in state races despite historically high levels of polarization in federal elections, Whitmer and her fellow Democrats in swingy Michigan are still likely to face strong headwinds this November thanks to Joe Biden's weak approval ratings and traditional midterm patterns that favor the out-party. We're therefore extremely skeptical of these numbers unless confirmed elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in the August GOP primary, the state Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that self-funding businessman Perry Johnson cannot appear on the ballot after he and several other GOP candidates were disqualified from running last week due to fraudulent voter petition signatures. Johnson didn't indicate whether he would appeal further to the state Supreme Court, but the state is set to finalize its primary ballot on Friday. The courts have yet to rule on a similar appeal by former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, but given the similar arguments in Craig's lawsuit, his prospects look poor.

MN-Gov, MN-02, MN-01: Candidate filing closed on Tuesday, and the state has a list of who is running here for the August primary. For governor, far-right state Sen. Scott Jensen managed to avoid a competitive primary after winning the state GOP convention's endorsement last month. While it's commonplace for candidates to agree to drop out before the primary after they lose at the convention, former state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and dermatologist Neil Shah didn't appear to have confirmed they would until they declined to file. Lastly, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who had said he was unable to attend the convention due to injuries from a car crash, also dropped out by not filing.

On the Democratic side, Gov. Tim Walz faces only token opposition in his quest for a second term. Walz also got potential good news when former radio host Cory Hepola, who had announced he was running as a Forward Party candidate earlier this year on a platform that appeared more likely to take votes from Democrats than Republicans, also didn't file.

Unfortunately for Democrats, candidates from each of two pro-marijuana third parties qualified to run for governor and in the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts. However, the presence on the ballot of the Legal Marijuana Now Party and Grassroots - Legalize Cannabis Party has if anything had the opposite effect of their stated purpose by likely drawing votes disproportionately from the left, potentially depriving Democrats of enough support to cost them control of the state Senate in 2020 and let the narrow Republican majority block Democrats' legalization effort earlier this year.

Republicans themselves may have had a role in the pro-weed parties' success. Adam Weeks, who was Legal Marijuana Now' 2020 nominee in the 2nd District but died two months before Election Day, had told a friend in a voicemail recording that surfaced after his death that he'd been recruited by the GOP to run and "pull away votes" from Democratic Rep. Angie Craig to help GOP challenger Tyler Kistner. Although Craig won that contest by a 48-46 margin, that was a notable underperformance of Joe Biden's 52-46 victory in the district thanks in part to Weeks posthumously taking 6%.

Craig faces a rematch with Kistner this fall along with candidates from both cannabis parties, and Kistner himself released a mid-May poll from GOP firm Cygnal this week that showed him trailing Craig by a modest 43-38 margin, with Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Paula Overby taking 4%.

In the 1st District, former Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger faces little-known opponents in the regular Democratic primary after winning the nomination last month for the August special election to replace the late GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn. However, on the GOP side, former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad will face a rematch with far-right state Rep. Jeremy Munson after the more establishment-aligned Finstad beat him just 38-37 in last month's special primary; former Freeborn County GOP chair Matt Benda also filed to run in the regular GOP primary after taking only 7% in last month's contest.

House

FL-13: Rep. Charlie Crist has endorsed former Defense Department official Eric Lynn in the race to succeed him in Florida's 13th Congressional District. Lynn is the only notable Democrat still running after Republicans gerrymandered the district to make it considerably redder, such that Donald Trump would have carried it 53-46, compared to Joe Biden's 52-47 margin under the previous lines.

Meanwhile, nonprofit founder Audrey Henson just dropped out of the GOP primary to run for the state House instead, though several other Republicans are still in the mix. The remaining field includes attorneys Amanda Makki and Kevin Hayslett as well as businesswoman Anna Paulina Luna, who was the GOP's unsuccessful nominee in 2020.

IL-06: Rep. Marie Newman copies Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock's legendary ads featuring a pet beagle in a new spot attacking her opponent in next month's Democratic primary—right down to the starring breed of pooch. Walking a beagle of her own, Newman says that "unfortunately, you're going to hear a lot of sh*t about me from my opponent, Sean Casten" as her dog squats to do its business (the offending word is bleeped out). It's not clear what Newman might be referring to, however, as Casten has not aired any negative ads.

Calling herself a "lifelong progressive Democrat," Newman then castigates Casten for voting "for anti-choice Republicans like George Bush." (Casten cast his first vote in a presidential election for George H.W. Bush in 1992, when he was 20.) She also touts her rejection of "corporate money" while accusing Casten, a fellow member of Congress, of having "taken a million dollars from corporate PACs."

MI-03: A new Public Policy Polling survey for Democrat Hillary Scholten finds her narrowly edging past Republican Rep. Peter Meijer 39-37 while leading conservative commentator John Gibbs, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, by a larger 44-35 margin. This is the first public poll of the race for Michigan's 3rd District, one of a handful of seats Democrats are hoping to flip in November.

MN-03: In Minnesota's 3rd District, Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips and Navy veteran Tom Weiler, his Republican challenger, are the only candidates running here after businessman Mark Blaxill declined to continue on to the primary after losing to Weiler at the GOP convention.

MN-04: Longtime Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum faces a primary challenge from the left by Saint Paul Department of Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity official Amane Badhasso, who has raised a competitive amount of money so far. A few other minor candidates are running in the Democratic and GOP primaries for this solidly blue seat.

MN-05: Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is one of the most outspoken left-wing members of Congress, is running for a third term and faces a primary challenge from her right by former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels. Several other obscure candidates are running for both parties in this heavily Democratic district.

NY-10: Former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman, who served as House Democrats' lead counsel during Donald Trump's first impeachment, has joined the crowded primary for New York's open 10th District, a safely blue district in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Goldman briefly ran for state attorney general last year but dropped out after incumbent Tish James abandoned her bid for governor and decided to run for re-election instead.

NY-12: The Working Families Party, a labor-backed party that has often played an important role in New York politics over the last two decades, has endorsed Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler in his member-vs.-member primary against fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney. The WFP's backing serves as a progressive seal of approval and could also yield key on-the-ground support for Nadler if unions decide to deploy their membership on his behalf.

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Georgia incumbents fend off Trump’s Big Lie slate in Tuesday Republican primaries

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

 Primary Night: We had another packed primary night on Tuesday, and below is a summary of where things stood as of 8 AM ET in the big contests. You can also find our cheat-sheet here.

  • AL-Sen (R): Former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Britt took first place with 45% in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, who is ardently supporting his one-time chief of staff, though it was still a few points below the majority she needed to win outright. Rep. Mo Brooks, whom Donald Trump dramatically unendorsed back in March, earned the second spot in the June 21 runoff by turning back Army veteran Mike Durant 29-23.

  • GA-Sen (R): Former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker, in what proved to be one of Tuesday’s rare statewide victories for a Donald Trump-endorsed candidate in Georgia, defeated Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black 68-13. Walker will now go up against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock in what will be one of the most competitive Senate contests in the nation.

  • GA-Gov (R): Gov. Brian Kemp turned in a landslide 74-22 win against former Sen. David Perdue, whom Trump recruited last year after the governor refused to help steal Georgia’s electoral votes following the 2020 election. Perdue played up his support from the MAGA master but offered little else beyond Big Lie conspiracy theories, and one party strategist memorably summed up the challenger’s effort as “a boring Trump video over and over again.” Kemp will now face a rematch against 2018 Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, who had no intra-party opposition in her second campaign.

  • GA-07 (D): Rep. Lucy McBath defeated her fellow incumbent, the more moderate Carolyn Bourdeaux, 63-31 in what is now a safely blue seat in Atlanta's northeastern suburbs. Bourdeaux is at least the third House member to lose renomination this cycle following West Virginia Republican David McKinley and North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn, though Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader badly trails in a May 17 Democratic primary that has not yet been called.

  • TX-28 (D): With just over 45,200 ballots tallied, conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar holds a 50.2-49.8 edge over Jessica Cisneros―a margin of 177 votes. Cuellar has declared victory, but Cisneros has not conceded in a contest that the Associated Press has also not called.

  • TX-28 (R): Cassy Garcia, who is a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz, defeated 2020 nominee Sandra Whitten 57-43. Republicans are hoping for an opening in a Laredo-area seat that Biden would have carried 53-46.

  • GA-AG (R): Incumbent Chris Carr decisively fended off Trump-supported foe John Gordon, a previously little-known attorney who renewed his law license last year so that he could help Trump undo his Georgia defeat, 74-26. Carr will go up against state Sen. Jen Jordan, who claimed the Democratic nod 78-22.

  • GA-SoS (R): Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who refused to go along with Trump’s 2020 demand to "find 11,780 votes," won renomination outright by beating Trump-endorsed Rep. Jody Hice 52-33.

  • GA-SoS (D): State Rep. Bee Nguyen took first with 44%, which was below the majority she needed to avert a June 21 runoff. The Associated Press has not yet called the second runoff spot: With 681,000 votes in, former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler holds a 19-16 edge over former Cobb County Democratic Party Chairman Michael Owens.

There were more big contests on the ballot Tuesday, and we’ll be summarizing the outcomes in our next Digest. For now, you can find real-time results at the following links for Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, and the special election primary for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District.

Redistricting

AK Redistricting: The Alaska Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that found the state's Republican-dominated redistricting board had illegally gerrymandered its map for the state Senate a second time and also affirmed the court's decision to order an alternate map for this year's elections. As a result, Democrats will have a better shot at gaining a seat in the 20-member Senate, which is the smallest legislative chamber in the nation. Republicans currently hold a 13-7 majority, but one Democrat caucuses with the GOP.

Senate

OK-Sen-B: Physician Randy Grellner, a Republican who so far hasn't attracted much attention in the crowded June 28 GOP primary, has launched a $786,000 ad buy for a cheaply produced spot with choppy editing that features the candidate speaking directly to the camera. Grellner rattles off various right-wing themes and boasts that he refuses to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

WA-Sen: Candidate filing closed Friday for Washington's Aug. 2 top-two primaries, and the state has a list of contenders here. Just like in California, the state requires all candidates running for Congress and for state office to compete on a single ballot rather than in separate party primaries. The two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, will then advance to the Nov. 8 general election—a rule that sometimes results in two candidates from the same party facing off against one another. Note that candidates cannot win outright in August by taking a majority of the vote.

Unlike in the Golden State, though, contenders don't need to restrict themselves to running as Democrats, Republicans, third-party candidates, or without a party affiliation at all. Instead, as the state explains, anyone on the ballot gets "up to 18 characters to describe the party" they prefer. For example, the U.S. Senate race features one candidate running as a "JFK Republican" while a secretary of state hopeful is identified with an "America First (R)" even though neither is actually a political party in Washington.

While Democratic Sen. Patty Murray faces 17 opponents in her bid for a sixth term, her only serious foe is motivational speaker Tiffany Smiley, who is designated on the ballot as a standard-issue "Republican." The Evergreen State supported Joe Biden 58-39 and it would take a lot for Murray to lose even in a GOP wave year, though Republicans remember their near-miss in 2010. Murray ended March with a $7.9 million to $2.5 million cash-on-hand lead.

Governors

MI-Gov: In a stunning development, the Michigan Bureau of Elections announced Monday evening that five of the 10 Republicans running for governor have failed to qualify for the August primary ballot because thousands of the signatures they submitted were invalid. Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who has led in the polls, and self-funding businessman Perry Johnson are among those disqualified, along with state police Capt. Mike Brown, financial adviser Michael Markey, and businesswoman Donna Brandenburg. Brown has already dropped out, while Craig said he wasn't ready to do so and urged the state attorney general to open a criminal investigation.

Following the bureau's recommendations, the Board of State Canvassers will meet Thursday to consider them, and the board could reject the bureau's findings to allow a candidate with insufficient signatures to appear on the ballot. However, such action would require three of the four board members' approval, and the body is equally divided between two Democrats and two Republicans.

While it's common for at least some modest percentage of signatures to be found invalid for various reasons every cycle, something that well-run campaigns plan for by submitting more than the minimum, the issue here goes well beyond that. The bureau indicated that at least 68,000 signatures were invalid across all 10 campaigns, many of which included obvious forgeries, duplicates, and signatures from dead people among other issues aside from mere voter error.

Among the 21,000 signatures that Craig submitted, just shy of 11,000 were deemed invalid, leaving him with roughly 10,000 of the 15,000 needed to qualify. Similarly, more than 9,000 of Johnson's 23,000 signatures were invalidated, giving him just under 14,000 valid signatures. There's no indication yet that any of the campaigns themselves were behind the apparent signature fraud rather than the paid circulators they had hired to gather signatures, and multiple campaigns such as Johnson's said they were considering whether to go to court and contest their disqualification if need be.

Should these disqualifications hold up, though, it would completely shake up the GOP's primary for governor in a key swing state. Craig had appeared to be the frontrunner since he announced last summer, while Johnson had vowed to spend "whatever it takes" to win the primary and already deployed millions of his wealth to do so.

If Craig and Perry are ultimately kept off the ballot, some of the currently lesser-known candidates could gain an opening, including right-wing radio host Tudor Dixon, chiropractor and anti-lockdown activist Garrett Soldano, and wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke, who had previously said he would self-fund at least $10 million.

MN-Gov: Rep. Pete Stauber has endorsed former state Sen. Scott Jensen after the latter won the state GOP convention earlier this month. Meanwhile, former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek's campaign says he's still considering whether to continue on to the August primary, with the filing deadline quickly approaching on May 31. Stanek had beforehand vowed to abide by the state GOP's convention process and withdraw should he not win the endorsement, but he ended up not placing his name before delegates, saying injuries from a car accident in April prevented him from attending.

House

CA-37: The cryptocurrency-aligned Web3 Forward is spending $317,000 on a media buy to aid Democratic state Sen. Sydney Kamlager ahead of the top-two primary on June 7. Kamlager has previously gotten support from Protect Our Future PAC, which is funded by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried.

CA-40: Rep. Young Kim is running a commercial attacking her fellow Republican, Mission Viejo Councilman ​Greg Raths, a move that comes as Democrat Asif Mahmood is running his own ads designed to help Raths beat the incumbent in the June 7 top-two primary. According to Democratic operative Nathan Click, Kim is spending at least $500,000 in the ultra-expensive Los Angeles media market to air this spot on broadcast television.

Kim's narrator compares Raths to Joe Biden and other Democrats by arguing that the candidate has hiked up taxes and fees "[e]ight times in a row" and wanted to increase his own salary. The second half of the piece praises the congresswoman as a loyal conservative who is "fighting Raths and the liberals."

FL-10: The crypto-aligned Protect Our Future PAC says it will spend $1 million for progressive activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost ahead of the Democratic primary in August. Frost has led the field in fundraising here in both the last two quarters, bringing in $350,000 during the first three months of 2022 while none of his rivals cracked six figures in either quarter.

IL-03: VoteVets has launched a $360,000 buy to promote Chicago Alderman Gil Villegas, which makes this the first outside spending on his side ahead of the June 28 Democratic primary. The commercial touts Villegas' time in the Marines and work on the Chicago City Council. Villegas' main intra-party rival is state Rep. Delia Ramirez, who has so far benefited from $200,000 in support from the Working Families Party and another $70,000 from EMILY's List.

NC-11, TX-13, WV-02: The nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics announced it had referred two cases to the House Ethics Committee for further investigation on Monday, recommending the committee look into possible violations by two Republicans, Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson and West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney. The committee said it would do so and also separately announced that it had opened an investigation into Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who lost in last week's Republican primary but still has seven months of lame-duck service left.

Cawthorn faces scrutiny over two separate matters: whether he "improperly promoted a cryptocurrency in which he may have had an undisclosed financial interest," per the committee, and whether he had an "improper relationship" with an aide. The relationship in question may involve a staffer named Stephen L. Smith, to whom Cawthorn allegedly provided undisclosed loans, gifts, travel, and housing.

Cawthorn also hyped a "Let's Go Brandon" cryptocurrency late last year while possibly being privy to inside information about the coin's future prospects. It surged the following day when NASCAR driver Brandon Brown announced the coin would sponsor his upcoming season, but it's now worthless.

Mooney, meanwhile, is accused of accepting a free family vacation to Aruba from a direct-mail firm his campaign has paid tens of thousands of dollars to in recent years and also having congressional staffers walk his dog and take his laundry to the cleaners. Mooney is already under investigation for allegedly using campaign funds on personal expenses and possibly for obstructing that initial investigation as well.

Finally, the OCE said that Jackson may have spent campaign money for membership at a private social club in Amarillo, Texas, which is prohibited by federal law. Both Jackson and Mooney have refused to cooperate with their respective investigations, according to the committee.

NY-03: The progressive Working Families Party has endorsed healthcare advocate Melanie D'Arrigo, who previously waged an unsuccessful Democratic primary challenge from the left against departing Rep. Tom Suozzi in 2020. D'Arrigo may have a better shot this time without an incumbent in the August primary, which includes DNC member Robert Zimmerman, deputy Suffolk County Executive Jon Kaiman, and Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan. State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi's departure on Monday to instead run in the redrawn 17th District could also help D'Arrigo consolidate progressive voters here.

NY-12: A spokesperson for nonprofit founder Rana Abdelhamid says she's considering whether to continue in the Democratic primary after court-ordered redistricting significantly scrambled the lines here. Abdelhamid is based in Queens, but the portions of that borough that were previously in the 12th were removed under the court's reconfiguration of the district, which is now contained solely in Manhattan.

NY-18: State Sen. James Skoufis has announced that he won't run for Congress after previously considering a bid, leaving Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan as the only notable Democrat in the race so far.

NY-22: Businessman Steve Wells announced over the weekend that he would seek the Republican nomination for the open 22nd District, a constituency in the Syracuse and Utica areas that Biden would have won 53-45. Wells ran in 2016 for the old 22nd District, which makes up just under 40% of this new seat, when moderate Rep. Richard Hanna retired; however, while Wells enjoyed a financial advantage and an endorsement from the departing incumbent, he lost the primary 41-34 to eventual winner Claudia Tenney.

Wells will again have intra-party opposition in August as Navy veteran Brandon Williams says he'll continue for his campaign to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. John Katko. Williams, though, had less than $100,000 in the bank at the end of March, while Wells proved in 2016 he was capable of self-funding. Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler, meanwhile, has dropped out and endorsed Wells, a decision he made after the new court-drawn map relocated his community to the 19th District. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente also has made it clear he won't be running for Congress.

On the Democratic side, nonprofit executive Vanessa Fajans-Turner has ended her campaign. Both Syracuse Common Councilor Chol Majok and Navy veteran Francis Conole, who lost the 2020 primary to take on Katko, have announced that they remain in the race for the newest incarnation of the seat, however.

WA-03: Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler earned herself a prominent place on Donald Trump's shitlist after she voted for impeachment, and she now faces four fellow Republicans, two Democrats, and two unaffiliated candidates. Trump himself is supporting Joe Kent, an Army veteran who has defended Putin's invasion of Ukraine and who has outraised the other challengers. The GOP side also includes evangelical author Heidi St. John, who has brought in a notable amount of money, and state Rep. Vicki Kraft, who hasn't.

The Democratic field, meanwhile, consists of 2020 candidate Davy Ray and auto repair shop owner Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. Neither has brought in much cash, but it's possible one will advance to the general election in this 51-46 Trump seat in southwestern Washington.

WA-04: Six Republicans have lined up to challenge GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, who also voted to impeach Donald Trump, while businessman Doug White is the one Democrat campaigning for this 57-40 Trump constituency in eastern Washington. Trump is all-in for 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, though the far-right ex-cop has struggled to bring in money for his new bid. The GOP field also includes businessman Jerrod Sessler, who has self-financed most of his campaign, and underfunded state Rep. Brad Klippert.

WA-08: Three notable Republicans are challenging Democratic incumbent Kim Schrier in a suburban Seattle seat that, just like her current constituency, would have supported Joe Biden 52-45. Schrier's most familiar foe is 2020 nominee Jesse Jensen, who unexpectedly held her to a 52-48 win last time despite bringing in little money and is proving to be a considerably stronger fundraiser this time.

Another well-established Republican is King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who lost the 2012 open seat race for attorney general 53-47 to Democrat Bob Ferguson; Dunn is the son of the late Rep. Jennifer Dunn, who represented previous versions of this constituency from 1993 to 2005. Team Red's field also includes 2020 attorney general nominee Matt Larkin, who lost to Ferguson 56-43 and has been self-funding much of his newest bid. The field includes an additional two Republicans, a pair of Democrats, and a trio of third-party candidates.

Attorneys General

MI-AG, MI-SoS: EPIC-MRA, surveying for WOOD-TV, shows Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel leading Big Lie booster Matthew DePerno just 43-41 in the first general election poll we've seen here. Nessel's fellow Democrat, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, holds a larger 47-38 edge in her re-election bid against another conspiracy theorist, Kristina Karamo.

Secretaries of State

WA-SoS: Steve Hobbs became the first Democrat to hold this post since 1965 when Gov. Jay Inslee appointed him last year to succeed Kim Wyman, a Republican who resigned to join the Biden administration, and he faces seven opponents in the special election for the final two years of Wyman's term.

The GOP side includes two election conspiracy theorists, including former state Sen. Mark Miloscia, a one-time Democratic state representative who recently resigned as head of a social conservative organization. Another notable Republican is state Sen. Keith Wagoner, who has not called Biden's win into question. Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party, is also in, as are three little-known candidates.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Rep. Karen Bass and her allies at Communities United for Bass have each released a survey showing her and billionaire Rick Caruso advancing to a November general election, though they disagree which candidate is ahead in the June 7 nonpartisan primary.

David Binder Research's internal for Bass has the congresswoman at 34%, which is well below the majority needed to win outright, while Caruso beats out City Councilman Kevin de León 32-7 for second. FM3's poll for a pro-Bass committee, meanwhile, has Caruso in the lead with 37% with the congresswoman at 35%; in a distant third with 6% each are de León and City Attorney Mike Feuer, who recently dropped out and endorsed Bass. FM3, though, has Bass beating Caruso 48-39 in a head-to-head matchup.

Communities United for Bass, which is funded in large part by labor groups and film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, is also spending at least $1 million on an ad campaign that quotes the Los Angeles Times in calling Caruso "the Donald Trump of Los Angeles." The narrator goes on to fault the former Republican for his donations to GOP candidates like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell before arguing that "Caruso himself has opposed abortion." Caruso, who has dominated the airwaves for weeks, quickly hit back with an ad defending his pro-choice credentials while portraying Bass as an ally of "special interests."

Prosecutors

King County, WA Prosecutor: Incumbent Dan Satterberg, a former Republican who joined the Democratic Party in 2018, is not running for re-election as the top prosecutor of Washington's most-populous county, and two candidates are competing to succeed him in an officially nonpartisan race. In one corner is Leesa Manion, who is Satterberg's chief of staff and would be both the first woman and person of color to serve here. Her opponent is Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell, who is a former prosecutor.

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Jeff Merkley slams top super PAC’s spending in House primary as ‘flat-out wrong’

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

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Leading Off

OR-06: In an unprecedented move that was greeted with instant fury by local and national Democrats alike, the House Majority PAC began spending at least $1 million this week on TV ads promoting the campaign of Carrick Flynn, one of seven Democrats seeking to represent Oregon's brand-new 6th Congressional District.

The other six candidates released an unusual joint statement condemning the move on Monday, calling out the fact that four of the contenders are women, including three women of color. (Flynn is a white man.) "This effort by the political arm of the Democratic establishment to buy this race for one candidate is a slap in the face to every Democratic voter and volunteer in Oregon," read the press release, "and is especially concerning in a year when all resources must go to protecting the Democratic majority."

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, who hasn't backed anyone in the race, piled on as well, calling HMP's actions "flat-out wrong". Meanwhile, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's BOLD PAC, which has endorsed state Rep. Andrea Salinas, also excoriated HMP, arguing that "Democrats should be doubling-down on their investments to empower Latino and Latina candidates" and pointing out that no Hispanic person has ever represented Oregon in Congress. (One unnamed operative wondered aloud to The Hill's Rafael Bernal whether HMP's decision might "affect[] the relationship where Bold PAC is no longer a large donor to HMP like they've been in the past." The CHC has given more than $6 million to HMP since 2012.)

Campaign Action

In response, a spokesperson for HMP offered a spectacularly unconvincing explanation for the group's new spending. "House Majority PAC is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to secure a Democratic House majority in 2022, and we believe supporting Carrick Flynn is a step towards accomplishing that goal," said communications director CJ Warnke in a statement. "Flynn is a strong, forward-looking son of Oregon who is dedicated to delivering for families in the 6th District."

There's nothing so special about Flynn that he's a must-have nominee—and if there were, he wouldn't need all this help. As Merkley says, Democrats "have multiple strong candidates" who could all win the 6th District, a newly created seat in the Portland suburbs that Joe Biden would have carried by a 55-42 margin.

But what really makes HMP's claim impossible to believe is that the PAC, in its decade-long existence, has never before involved itself in a primary like this. Virtually all of the organization's spending since inception has been devoted to winning general elections. Just twice has HMP reported spending anything to support Democratic candidates in primaries, and in both cases, they were seeking open seats in California where Democrats were worried about getting locked out of the November election due to the state's top-two primary rules: Julia Brownley in the old 26th District in 2012 and then Salud Carbajal in the old 24th in 2016—ironically, a joint effort with the CHC. The PAC has never simply taken sides in a traditional partisan primary.

So why now? Flynn has already been the beneficiary of a $5 million TV and radio ad campaign by another super PAC called Protect Our Future, which is funded by a free-spending 30-year-old billionaire named Sam Bankman-Fried, who made his fortune in cryptocurrency and has lately been seeking to influence policy-making on that front in D.C. (Forbes says he's worth $24 billion. Incidentally, the CEO of the crypto exchange Bankman-Fried founded, Ryan Salame, just this week announced the formation of a similar super PAC aimed at Republicans.)

Bankman-Fried's interest in Flynn is unclear—the candidate claims he has "never met or talked to" his benefactor, and any coordination between the two would be illegal—but Protect Our Future's involvement in the race has prompted a great deal of speculation. As the campaign manager for engineer Matt West, one of the other Democratic hopefuls, put it to OPB's Dirk VanderHart, "Do I know exactly what was exchanged by [Bankman-Fried's] people and [House Majority PAC's] people? No, but I can speculate, as can everyone, that promises have been made."

In other words, goes this line of thinking, HMP is breaking with 10 years of tradition to help Flynn in the expectation that Bankman-Fried will come through with a presumably larger donation to the PAC, which in 2020 eclipsed the DCCC as the largest outside spender on House races on the Democratic side. But if this theory is true, what makes things even more bizarre is that Bankman-Fried could easily dump as much money as he'd like to boost Flynn through his own super PAC. Why go through HMP, then, unless this is a play for winning influence within a major arm of the Democratic Party?

It'll likely be a while before we find out the full story, though. HMP files financial reports with the FEC every month, but the report detailing any transactions in the month of April won't be available until May 20—three days after the Oregon primary.

As for the ad itself, it's narrated by small businessman Quandray "Q" Robertson, who says, "As an owner of a boxing gym, I know a fighter when I see one." Though Robertson is shown prepping and later sparring with a boxer, he means it metaphorically, as the athlete on-screen is not actually Flynn. Instead, says Robertson, Flynn will "stand up to the Trump Republicans" while tackling climate change and prescription drug costs.

Meanwhile, Salinas has also released her first TV ad of the race, which she narrates herself. She says her father "started working the fields" but found a "path to citizenship, and a better life" thanks to his military service in Vietnam. With his experience as inspiration, she says she "passed the country's strongest reproductive rights law," fought for lower drug prices, and "took on polluters to combat climate change."

Redistricting

NH Redistricting: The New Hampshire Supreme Court has appointed Stanford Law professor Nathan Persily as a special master to draw a new congressional map for the state in the event that a deadlock between the Republican-run legislature and GOP Gov. Chris Sununu remains unresolved. The court, however, cautioned that it was only taking "preliminary steps … in the event that the legislative process fails to produce a fully enacted congressional redistricting plan."

NY Redistricting: A New York appellate judge has kept in place a stay of a recent lower court ruling that struck down the state's new congressional and legislative maps, allowing this year's elections to proceed under the new lines, for now. However, Appellate Division Judge Stephen Lindley did say that the trial court judge, Patrick McAllister, could proceed with hiring a special master to draw a new congressional map, which could be used in the event that the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, upholds McAllister's decision.

1Q Fundraising

  • AZ-Sen: Mark Brnovich (R): $765,000 raised  
  • OH-Sen: Tim Ryan (D): $4.1 million raised, $6.4 million cash-on-hand
  • UT-Sen: Mike Lee (R-inc): $1.35 million raised, $2.42 million cash-on-hand
  • WI-Sen: Mandela Barnes (D): $1.7 million raised
  • NE-Gov: Jim Pillen (R): $2.3 million raised (through April 5), $2.9 million cash-on-hand
  • CA-27: Quaye Quartey (D): $320,000 raised  
  • IA-02: Liz Mathis (D): $715,000 raised, $1.3 million cash-on-hand
  • NJ-07: Tom Malinowski (D-inc): $1.06 million raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand; Tom Kean Jr. (R): $840,000 raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
  • NV-01: Carolina Serrano (R): $275,000 raised, $250,000 cash-on-hand
  • OR-06: Andrea Salinas (D): $340,000 raised  
  • PA-12: Steve Irwin (D): $600,000 raised  
  • PA-17: Jeremy Shaffer (R): $670,000 raised, $615,000 cash-on-hand
  • SC-01: Katie Arrington (R): $307,000 raised (in 52 days), additional $500,000 self-funded, $750,000 cash-on-hand

Senate

AZ-Sen: Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly's new spot features footage of the former astronaut in zero-g as he tells the audience, "Compared to Congress, the way NASA operates might seem kind of upside down. Putting the mission first. Working as a team. And getting the job done —no matter what." The senator proclaims that he's "doing things differently" than the rest of the D.C. crowd and will "put aside the party politics so we can accomplish results, together."

NC-Sen: SurveyUSA takes a look at the May 17 Republican primary on behalf of WRAL and finds Rep. Ted Budd beating former Gov. Pat McCrory 33-23, with just 7% going to former Rep. Mark Walker. Several other recent polls have also given Budd the lead.

NV-Sen, NV-Gov: The Reno Gazette-Journal has released a poll from Suffolk University testing several different hypothetical general election scenarios for Senate and governor, and it finds things close overall. Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt posts a 43-40 advantage over Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, while Army veteran Sam Brown, who is the underdog in the June Republican primary, edges her out 40-39.

Turning to the governor's race, Suffolk pits Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak against five different Republicans:

41-29 vs. venture capitalist Guy Nohra

39-35 vs. attorney Joey Gilbert

39-39 vs. former Sen. Dean Heller

37-39 vs. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo

37-40 vs. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee

PA-Sen: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has publicized an internal from GBAO that finds him leading Rep. Conor Lamb 44-19 in the May 17 Democratic primary, while state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta takes 17.

On the GOP side, TV personality Mehmet Oz is trumpeting his endorsement from Trump in his new ad, and he also gets in a swipe at former hedge fund manager David McCormick. "Trump knows who the real conservative is who's gonna shake up Washington," says the narrator. "It's not David McCormick, the liberal pro-Biden, pro-China, Wall Street insider."

Governors

GA-Gov: Gov. Brian Kemp's allies at Hardworking Georgians are out with a Cygnal poll arguing that he's in a strong position both to claim the Republican nod and defeat Democrat Stacey Abrams in the fall. The survey shows Kemp taking 49% of the vote on May 24, which is tantalizingly close to the majority he needs to avoid a July runoff, while former Sen. David Perdue is well behind with 33%; Cygnal also finds the incumbent ahead 52-37 in a two-person contest. The general election portion gives Kemp a 50-44 lead in a rematch with Abrams even as she edges out Perdue 48-47.

Abrams, for her part, is continuing to run positive spots to reintroduce herself to voters. One ad is based around a testimonial from Lara Hodgson, an independent who describes how she partnered with Abrams to build a successful small business. The spot briefly alludes to the candidate's recent cameo on "Star Trek: Discovery" when Abrams explains that she and her co-star are a bit different: "Laura's more Star Wars," says Abrams, to which Hodgson responds, "Stacey's … Star Trek." Another commercial features a Macon restaurateur crediting Abrams for helping her and her community during the pandemic.

MN-Gov: State Sen. Paul Gazelka has picked up an endorsement from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, which is the largest police union in the state, in his quest for the Republican nomination for governor. The Minnesota Reformer described the development as a "blow to former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek," who is one of the many other Republicans who is competing for the state party endorsement at the May 13-14 convention.

OK-Gov: While Gov. Kevin Stitt had looked secure ahead of his June Republican primary, NBC reports that two dark money groups have together spent a hefty $3.3 million to derail him. The incumbent is now firing back with an ad declaring, "The insiders and casino bosses are spending millions to attack Kevin Stitt because he won't do their bidding, resorting to lies, smears, even actors." The story says that Stitt has spent a total of $468,000 on ads so far, while his allies at the RGA are deploying another $577,000 to support him.

Stitt only picked up a notable intra-party challenger last month when Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director Joel Kintsel launched his bid to unseat his boss, but the offensive against the governor began well before then. All the way back in December, an organization called Conservative Voice of America began running ads attacking Stitt for approving the 2020 release of an inmate named Lawrence Anderson, who was charged the next year with murdering three people, while another group called Sooner State Leadership has deployed similar messaging. (Public Radio Tulsa said Anderson's release was "apparently recommended by the state pardon and parole board by mistake.")

CVA, per NBC, has spent $1.7 million so far, while SSLF has dropped a similar $1.6 million. A third outfit, The Oklahoma Project, said in December that it would spend $500,000 total to thwart Stitt. The group's messaging has been different from that of the other two, though, as its ads have argued that the governor has failed to achieve results.

Last month, Fox 23 sought to learn more about Stitt's critics. It traced TOP's donations back to George Krumme, an oilman and longtime member of the Democratic National Committee. SSLF, meanwhile, was formed by former GOP state Rep. Trebor Worthen, but the organization is not required to divulge its donors. Worthen, in the words of KOCO, said his group "is made up of business and community leaders dedicated to encouraging strong leadership in Oklahoma," adding that it planned to spend a total of $10 million. There's even less information available about CVA except that it's run by longtime lobbyist and Republican staffer Mike Cys.

PA-Gov: Tuesday was a truly chaotic day in Pennsylvania's Republican primary for governor that began with Donald Trump urging voters, "Do not vote for Bill McSwain, a coward, who let our Country down." Multiple media sources reported minutes later that state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman was about to drop out of the race, but while Corman himself essentially confirmed those stories in the afternoon by asking that his name be removed from the May 17 ballot, there was one last twist left: Corman announced in the early evening that he'd decided to stay in the contest because of "President Trump's statement on the race and my conversation directly with the president."

We'll start with McSwain, who appeared to be in a good position until Trump declared he'd never endorse the man he'd once appointed as U.S. attorney for the eastern portion of the state. Trump reiterated the Big Lie to pummel the candidate, claiming that McSwain "did absolutely nothing on the massive Election Fraud that took place in Philadelphia and throughout the commonwealth."

That was dismaying news for McSwain, who had in fact tried to use the Big Lie to gain, rather than lose, Trump's support. His efforts included a letter to Trump last year claiming that his office had "received various allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities" and alleging that "Attorney General Barr, however, instructed me not to make any public statements or put out any press releases regarding possible election irregularities."

Trump was all too happy at the time to use McSwain's missive to backup his own lies and bludgeon Barr, who responded by saying his old subordinate "wanted to not do the business of the department, which is to investigate cases, but instead go out and flap his gums about what he didn't like about the election overall." On Tuesday, though, McSwain got to be the victim of his own words when Trump claimed he "knew what was happening and let it go. It was there for the taking and he failed so badly."

All of this drama inspired Corman to continue a once-promising campaign that he was about to end after several major setbacks. Corman was arguably the primary frontrunner when he entered the race to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf back in November, and he raised more money than any of his intra-party rivals in 2021. However, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that his team initially believed they would bring in considerably more during that time: The state Senate leader seemed to agree as he soon went through an intense staff shakeup, but he never managed to fix things.

Corman ended late March with just over $270,000 left in his campaign coffers, and McSwain ominously didn't even bother to mention him in a recent ad targeting three other opponents. Corman himself seemed to recognize he was doomed on Tuesday when he formally sought to have a state court remove his name from the ballot, but hours later he filed a new petition asking the body to ignore that first request. He explained that he'd spoken to Trump, who "encouraged me to keep fighting, and that's what I'm going to do – keep fighting for the people of Pennsylvania." This saga may not be quite over, though, as ABC27 writes, "It is not guaranteed Corman will be able to remain in the race after his first petition was filed."

VT-Gov: Republican Gov. Phil Scott reiterated this week that he wouldn't announce whether he'll seek a fourth two-year term until Vermont's legislative session adjourns May 20, and he insisted to NBC 5 that he was truly undecided. "I think a lot depends on what happens in the next month with the Legislature in this legislative session—what we accomplish and what we don't," said the governor, who currently faces no serious opposition from either party. The filing deadline is May 26, so a Scott retirement would give other candidates very little time to make up their minds if he does indeed wait as long as he says he will to make up his mind.

House

MN-01: Former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad has earned endorsements from Reps. Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber, who represent the 7th and 8th Districts in the northern part of the state, ahead of the May 24 special Republican primary.

MT-01: In her opening ad for the June Democratic primary, public health expert Cora Neumann stands in front of her modest childhood home in Bozeman and tells the audience, "But now, houses like this are surrounded by mansions like this. And everyone is paying more." She continues, "In Congress, I'll go after rich outsiders driving up costs, take on price gougers, and fight for housing we can actually afford."

NC-13: Former state Sen. Sam Searcy says in his inaugural spot for next month's Democratic primary that his family's job and housing struggles motivated him "to help folks." Searcy continues by saying that in the legislature he "fought like hell to expand Medicaid, and stood with Gov. Cooper to stop Republicans from restricting voting rights and a woman's right to choose."

PA-12: EMILY's List, which is supporting state Rep. Summer Lee in next month's Democratic primary, is out with a poll from GQR that shows her outpacing attorney Steve Irwin 38-13. This is the first survey we've seen of the contest for this open seat.

WV-02: Rep. Alex Mooney has released a new internal from Public Opinion Strategies that gives him a 42-31 lead over fellow incumbent David McKinley ahead of the May 10 GOP primary. The last survey we saw was a March poll for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce that put McKinley ahead 38-33; the organization had not yet endorsed anyone when that poll was released, but it and the West Virginia Manufacturing Association both backed McKinley this week.

CLF: The Congressional Leadership Fund, the well-funded super PAC aligned with the Republican House leadership, has endorsed seven more House candidates challenging Democratic incumbents:

  • AZ-04: Tanya Wheeless
  • NV-03: April Becker
  • NY-18: Colin Schmitt
  • NY-19: Marc Molinaro
  • PA-08: Jim Bognet
  • TX-28: Cassy Garcia
  • TX-34: Mayra Flores

Two of these candidates face notable intra-party opposition: Wheeless has to get past Chandler City Councilman Rene Lopez before she can take on Arizona Rep. Greg Stanton, while Garcia faces a May 24 runoff against 2020 nominee Sandra Whitten in Texas' 28th District. (Democrats have a far more high-profile contest that day between conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar and attorney Jessica Cisneros.) Flores, meanwhile, is already the GOP nominee, while the other four contenders should have little trouble in their own primaries.

Attorneys General

SD-AG: South Dakota's Republican-run state House voted to impeach state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg by a 36-31 margin on Tuesday, a move that temporarily suspends Ravnsborg from his job while he awaits trial in the state Senate.

Last year, Ravnsborg, a Republican, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for striking and killing a man with his car in September of 2020 but avoided jail time. A special investigative committee recommended against impeaching Ravnsborg last month, saying he had not committed a "crime or other wrongful act involving moral turpitude by virtue or authority of his office" because he wasn't on duty as attorney general at the time of the accident.

However, a majority of lawmakers disagreed with that interpretation, noting among other things that Ravnsborg had identified himself as attorney general in a call to 911 the night of the crash. All eight Democrats were joined by 28 Republicans in favor of impeachment, while 31 Republicans voted against. Ravnsborg would be permanently removed from office if two-thirds of the Senate, which can commence a trial no sooner than May 2, votes to convict him.

Other Races

NY-LG: Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin resigned Tuesday afternoon hours after he was indicted on federal bribery charges, but because it's notoriously difficult to get off the ballot in New York, he will likely still be listed as a nominal candidate in the June Democratic primary. All of this presents a major complication for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who appointed Benjamin to succeed her as lieutenant governor last year and now faces the prospect of winding up with a running mate she's at odds with.

That's because candidates for governor and lieutenant governor compete in separate nomination contests before running as a ticket in the general election, though Hochul and Benjamin had been running together and urging voters to select them both. The remaining candidates for lieutenant governor have likewise each linked themselves with one of the governor's primary foes: former New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna is allied with Rep. Tom Suozzi, while activist Ana María Archila is running alongside New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

The candidate filing deadline passed last week, so it's too late for Hochul to recruit a new number two. It's possible that Hochul could decide to support one of the two remaining candidates for lieutenant governor, though Archila responded to Benjamin's arrest by saying, "The governor announced that she would bring a new day, and I'm not sure that's the case." Hochul to date has been the frontrunner in her own race from day one, as every poll has found her far ahead of Williams and Suozzi, though both of her rivals are hoping that Benjamin's downfall will change the calculus.

Benjamin, for his part, has far more than electoral chemistry to worry about. Federal prosecutors allege that, in his previous position as a state senator, he steered taxpayer money to real estate investor Gerald Migdol in exchange for political contributions. The authorities say that Migdol faked the origins of dozens of donations to Benjamin's 2021 bid for New York City comptroller so that Benjamin could more easily qualify for public financing.

Benjamin badly lost that primary, but his career was temporarily revived months later when Hochul, who had ascended to the governorship after Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace, picked him as the new lieutenant governor. Hochul, a white Democrat from upstate New York, sought proverbial "balance" on her ticket by tapping a Black politico from New York City, though questions had been swirling about Benjamin's campaign finances well before he was selected.

P.S. Hochul will once again be able to fill the now-vacant lieutenant governorship, just as she did when she herself ascended to the top job after Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace. Notably, she can do so unilaterally, with no confirmation vote from the legislature required.

Morning Digest: A day after being forced into surprise runoff, Texas congressman quits amid scandal

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

Check out our new podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

TX-03: Republican Rep. Van Taylor shocked Texas politicos Wednesday by announcing that he was ending his re-election campaign because of an affair the married congressman had with a woman who had fled her ISIS terrorist husband years ago, a move that came hours after he was forced into a primary runoff against former Collin County Judge Keith Self. Taylor said he would be taking his name off the May runoff ballot, which will automatically make Self the GOP nominee. Self will now be the clear favorite to win the general election in a Plano-based seat the GOP legislature aggressively gerrymandered: While Trump took the old version just 50-49, the new 3rd District would have supported him 56-42.

In the primary that took place only the day before, Taylor took 49% of the vote―just below the majority he needed to win outright―while Self beat out businesswoman Suzanne Harp 27-21 for what turned out to be a very important second runoff spot. Self, who was badly outspent, used the campaign to bash Taylor for voting to accept Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the hours after the attack on the Capitol and for supporting the creation of a Jan. 6 commission, but there was no talk from him about any personal scandal involving his opponent.

Taylor’s allies, including the Congressional Leadership Fund, also didn’t know what was about to come: The groups spent a combined $800,000 in the weeks after a new super PAC called Defeating Communism PAC dropped $435,000 against him, but surprisingly, their intervention wasn’t quite enough to get the not-yet-scandal-ridden incumbent a majority on Tuesday.

However, whispers about the story that would end the two-term congressman's career began to circulate on far-right sites two days before the March 1 primary when the National File posted audio of a Plano resident named Tania Joya, who escaped Syria with her children in 2013 weeks after her now-dead husband brought them there, talking about their affair. The white supremacist site Breitbart published its own account on Monday, but mainstream outlets didn't pick it up before the primary (the Texas Tribune says it wasn't able to independently verify the story).

On election eve, though, Harp insisted the allegations made it "dangerous to have compromised and corrupt representation in Washington," and this wasn't her first encounter with the story. That's because Harp, reports the Dallas Morning News, sent one of her supporters to do the interview with Joya that National File ran days later, after Joya contacted the candidate on Thursday. Joya, who lives in Plano and works to rehabilitate ex-terrorists, said she had met Taylor through her work and the two became "very close" before the relationship, which she said spanned October 2020 through June of last year, ended. Joya also said that, as the affair concluded, she asked Taylor to pay her $5,000 to pay off her bills. She declared, "For him, it was like, 'Okay, on the condition you don't tell anyone.' ... I didn't want to tell anybody anything."

Unfortunately for Taylor, things didn't remain amicable between the two. Joya said she didn't even know his primary was about to take place when she went to Harp, but she grew tired of seeing his face on billboards across her community. "All I wanted was for Suzanne Harp to just say, 'Hey, I know your little scandal with Tania Joya," she said, adding, "'Would you like to resign before we embarrass you?' But it didn't happen like that."

The story only became widely known Wednesday when Taylor emailed his supporters to tell them he was exiting the race. "About a year ago, I made a horrible mistake that has caused deep hurt and pain among those I love most in this world," he wrote, continuing, "I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was the greatest failure of my life."

Taylor's admission concludes what had been a promising political career. The Republican, who is descended from the founder of the giant Humble Oil, served with the Marines in Iraq and first sought elected office in 2006 by taking on Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards in the 17th District, a Waco-based seat located over 100 miles from Plano. Edwards, though, had survived a GOP gerrymander two years before by winning re-election even as George W. Bush was carrying his constituency in a 70-30 landslide, and Taylor struggled to gain traction in what was rapidly turning into an awful year for his party. Edwards went after his opponent for only recently moving to the district and won 58-40, but Taylor was far from done with politics.

Taylor soon relocated to Collin County and won a 2010 runoff against Mabrie Jackson to succeed state Rep. Brian McCall in a state House seat that Democrats weren't contesting. (Edwards that same year lost re-election to Republican Pete Flores.) In a strange set of circumstances, though, McCall resigned early to become chancellor of the Texas State University System, and Jackson beat Taylor in the special election for the final months of his term even though she'd already dropped out. But Taylor still won the special by default and any embarrassment was brief, as he won a promotion to the state Senate in 2014 without any serious opposition.

The same thing happened in 2018 when longtime Republican Rep. Sam Johnson retired and Taylor, who self-funded $3 million, easily prevailed in the primary and general elections for a historically red seat. The incumbent had a tougher fight in 2020 when Democratic attorney Lulu Seikaly ran a credible campaign against him at a time when Team Blue hoped that Trump's toxicity in the suburbs would drag down Republicans like Taylor. But it wasn't enough: While Trump's margin of victory crashed from 55-41 in 2016 to just 50-49, the congressman ran well ahead and prevailed 55-43. The GOP legislature didn't want to take any chances with that trend, however, which is why they implemented an even stronger gerrymander this cycle.

The beneficiary of that new map and Taylor's failure to claim a majority on Tuesday is Self, a hardline conservative who has his own long record in local politics. Self ran for Congress all the way back in 2002 for the 26th District, but physician Michael Burgess beat him 22.5-22.2 to claim the second spot in the runoff (Burgess won the nod in an upset and remains in the House). Self bounced back in 2006 by winning the race for Collin County judge, an executive post that's the rough equivalent of a county executive, and he quickly established a reputation for picking fights with other members of the local government.

Self faced a serious renomination fight in 2010 from Plano School Board member John Muns, who tried to portray himself as the true conservative in the race. The judge, who had his own ardent right-wing support, again made headlines during that campaign when he pushed back on a Muns attack by quoting the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels saying, "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." Self defended his actions by insisting that, while he wasn't linking Muns to the Nazis, "I said he was using the method. There's a huge difference. This is one of those things where the PC police immediately go crazy."

Self prevailed 58-42 ahead of an easy general election win (Muns himself was elected mayor of Plano last year), and while he considered running for the 3rd in 2018, he retired that year instead. He looked like a longshot when he announced his own primary bid against Taylor in October, whom he went after for accepting Biden's victory, and he still seemed to be the clear underdog after the incumbent only narrowly failed to win a majority on Tuesday. The congressman's self-destruction, though, now puts Self on a glide path to win a House seat 20 years after his first attempt.

The Downballot

● On the latest episode of The Downballot, David Nir and David Beard recap the action from Texas' Tuesday primaries, including the runoff between conservative Democrat Henry Cuellar and progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros; the demise of Louie Gohmert's political career; and the shocking developments in Texas' 3rd Congressional District, where a scandal derailed an unexpected runoff.

The co-hosts also embark on a deep dive into the world of Democratic open seats in the House, discussing the role of redistricting in prompting retirements and the many ways in which primaries this year have the chance to move the party in a more progressive direction and increase its diversity. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.

Redistricting

OH Redistricting: Ohio's Republican-dominated redistricting commission passed a new congressional map on a 5-2 party-line vote on Wednesday, but it still faces review by the state Supreme Court, which isn't apt to like it. The map contains 10 safely Republican seats and just three solidly Democratic districts, with two more nominally competitive seats that could easily go to the GOP given the likely midterm environment this year. The justices struck down the GOP's previous map as an illegal partisan gerrymander that violated the state constitution for its excessive Republican skew.

Senate

AZ-Sen: Wealthy businessman Jim Lamon's new spot for the August Republican primary rhetorically asks how Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly, who has only been in office since December of 2020, can run "to solve the problems you've created?" The only mention of Lamon is his brief appearance at the beginning giving his required approval to his commercial.

OH-Sen: NBC's Henry Gomez reports that former state party chair Jane Timken, who has mostly directed her TV ads at Fox News until now, is spending six figures on her first broadcast spot for the May Republican primary. The ad dubs Timken "the real Trump conservative" running against the "pretenders" and shows a long clip of Trump praising her. As Gomez notes, "If you didn't know any better, you might think Trump has endorsed her."

OK-Sen-B: A former campaign manager for former Rep. J.C. Watts tells Read Oklahoma that his old boss is considering entering the June Republican primary to succeed outgoing Sen. Jim Inhofe. Watts, a one-time University of Oklahoma football star who was one of the most prominent African American Republicans in the nation during his eight years in Congress, retired in 2003, but he's remained an active media presence. That's not necessarily an asset, though, as Politico's Burgess Everett notes that Watts was a vocal Trump critic well into his administration.

UT-Sen: The Republican firm OH Predictive Insights finds Republican Sen. Mike Lee leading independent Evan McMullin by double digits in a pair of hypothetical three-way general election matchups.

Lee bests McMullin 34-24, with Democrat Kael Weston taking 12%. When former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt is substituted in as Team Blue's candidate, Lee's edge over McMullin grows to 36-23, with 11% going to the Democrat. Weston, who was the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Congressional District last cycle, is running, while Schmidt, who left the GOP during the Trump era, hasn't shown any obvious interest in getting in since November of 2020. OH Predictive Insights also takes a look at the June GOP primary and shows Lee beating former state Rep. Becky Edwards in a 51-5 landslide.

McMullin, for his part, is going up with what appears to be the first campaign ad anywhere based around Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "As the world rallies around Ukraine, Mike Lee was only one of two senators to oppose sanctions on Putin," says the candidate, "then he flew to the Kremlin and discussed dropping sanctions." He continues, "Lee even opposed arming Ukrainians fighting for their lives." McMullin concludes by talking about his "decade protecting America from dictators and terrorists." Lee ended 2021 with a $2.17 million to $703,000 cash-on-hand lead over McMullin, who ran for president in 2016 as an anti-Trump conservative.

WI-Sen, WI-Gov: Marquette University has released the first independent poll of either the August Democratic primary to face Republican Sen. Ron Johnson or the GOP contest to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. In the Senate contest, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes outpaces Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry 23-13, with Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson at 5%; a recent Lasry internal from Normington Petts found him trailing Barnes 35-27.

Over in the GOP gubernatorial primary, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch leads businessman Kevin Nicholson 30-8, while state Rep. Timothy Ramthun grabs 5%. A January Kleefisch poll from the Tarrance Group, which was taken before either of her intra-party foes announced, showed her defeating Nicholson 61-8, while Ramthun was not tested.

Governors

MN-Gov: Former TV and radio host Cory Hepola announced Tuesday that he would run for governor under the banner of the newly established Forward Party. Hepola avoided saying much about his actual political beliefs other than that he's pro-choice, though he volunteered that in 2018 he voted for the man he's now trying to unseat, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, as well as for Joe Biden two years later.

Democrats seem to think Hepola is more of a threat to Walz than to the eventual Republican nominee, as state party chair Ken Martin warned, "A vote for Cory Hepola is a vote to help the GOP cut taxes for the rich, defund public schools, and force their anti-choice agenda on Minnesotans." Republican operatives, by contrast, took to social media to celebrate his entrance.

NY-Gov: Rep. Lee Zeldin earned the support of 85% of delegates at the state GOP convention on Tuesday, making him the only candidate to secure an automatic spot on the June 28 primary ballot. Because the other Republican hopefuls failed to win at least 25% of the vote, they'll all have to collect 15,000 signatures statewide in order to run in the primary. All of them, including businessman Harry Wilson, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and former Trump White House staffer Andrew Giuliani, have said they'll do so.

House

CA-40: Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, who currently represents almost two-thirds of California's new 40th Congressional District, has endorsed physician Asif Mahmood's bid against Republican Rep. Young Kim. Porter is seeking re-election in the neighboring 47th District.

FL-13: EMILY's List has endorsed Democratic state Rep. Michele Rayner in her campaign for Florida's open 13th Congressional District.

FL-22: Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg says he's considering a bid for Florida's 22nd District, which recently became open after Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch announced he'd resign later this year. Jewish Insider also drops the name of another potential Democrat, former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, though there's no word on whether he's interested. Meanwhile, on the GOP side, former state Rep. George Moraitis says he too is thinking about the race.

MI-13: Former Detroit General Counsel Sharon McPhail, a Democrat who served a single term on the City Council in the 2000s, tells MIRS News in a paywalled report that she's "going to be on the ballot" for the August primary in Michigan's safely blue 13th District. McPhail ran for mayor three times (in 1993, 2005, and 2009) but fared poorly on each occasion. However, a new poll from Target-Insyght taken for the state Democratic Party's Black Caucus shows that she'd start off in first place with 24% of the vote while state Rep. Shri Thanedar takes 12 and former Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee is at 11, with all other candidates in single digits and 31% undecided.

MN-01: Former Republican state Rep. Brad Finstad, who'd been mentioned as a possible candidate, confirms he's considering running in the Aug. 9 special election for Minnesota's vacant 1st District.

NC-01: Democratic state Rep. James Gailliard, who had announced a bid for Congress in November after North Carolina Republicans passed their first gerrymander—which was since struck down by the courts and replaced with a much fairer map—has instead filed for re-election.

NY-03: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has endorsed Jon Kaiman, one of his deputy executives, in the Democratic primary for New York's open 3rd Congressional District. Meanwhile, former Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party in 2016, says he won't run.

NY-04: Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages, who recently filed paperwork with the FEC, has announced a bid for New York's open 4th Congressional District.

OK-02: State Sen. Marty Quinn on Wednesday became the first notable candidate to announce a bid to succeed Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a fellow Republican who is giving up this safely red seat in eastern Oklahoma to run for the Senate. The filing deadline is April 15, so other potential contenders have about a month-and-a-half to mull over their options.

OR-06: State Rep. Andrea Salinas has earned an endorsement from 1st District Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who currently represents just over 40% of this new seat, in the May Democratic primary.

PA-10: Carlisle School Board member Rick Coplen, a Democrat who had announced a state Senate bid last week, declared Tuesday that he would instead challenge Republican Rep. Scott Perry. Coplen, who is an Army veteran and professor at the U.S. Army War College, said he made his decision after 2020 nominee Eugene DePasquale said Monday that he wouldn't seek a rematch against Perry, who heads the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus. The redrawn version of this Harrisburg-based seat would have favored Trump 51-47.

Attorneys General

TX-AG: Land Commissioner George P. Bush spent the first hours of his Republican primary runoff campaign against scandal-plagued incumbent Ken Paxton by publicly appealing to Donald Trump to unendorse the attorney general ahead of the May 24 second round. The Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek relays that Bush, who is the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, told conservative radio host Mark Davis that he wanted to "re-establish those lines of communication and say, 'Look, Mr. President, I believe you made a mistake on this one.'" The Land Commissioner continued, "There's great conservatives that have also won without the endorsement. I'm giving you a chance to reassess ... because there's a lot at stake here."

Bush tried hard last year to win Trump's support, a charm offensive that famously involved him creating beer koozies dissing his family: That merchandise depicted outlines of Bush and Trump shaking hands above a Trump quote reading, "This is the only Bush that likes me! This is the Bush that got it right. I like him." But Trump soon demonstrated that he liked Paxton, who spearheaded an unsuccessful lawsuit aimed at overturning Joe Biden's victory, a whole lot more by backing him for renomination.

CNN wrote all the way back in July that even Bush's allies correctly predicted this would happen and "warned him not to publicly play up to the former President because Trump would once again take glee in embarrassing the Bush family." One source even said then that "Trump endorsing Paxton is like Lucy and the football and Charlie Brown." Bush, though, seems to be quite content to take more kicks at the pigskin.  

Paxton, for his part, also previewed his runoff strategy against Bush earlier on Wednesday by telling Davis, "If conservatives unite ... we can end the Bush dynasty." The attorney general added that his opponent "has got personal issues too that I can bring up that I've never brought up. ... I don't want to do that." Paxton didn't hint what he meant, though he predicted that Bush "knows it's gonna change the dynamic of the race."

Paxton outpaced Bush on Tuesday 43-23, with former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Rep. Louie Gohmert taking 17% each. Neither defeated candidate, though, seems interested in helping Bush unite anti-Paxton voters right now: Gohmert also told Davis, "I see myself just completely staying out of" the runoff, while Guzman put out a statement that didn't mention either runoff contender.  

On the Democratic side, former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza took first place in the primary with 43%, while the second runoff spot has not yet been decided. With 989,000 votes counted, former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski, who is the grandson of Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski, held a tiny 19.6-19.5 edge over civil rights attorney Lee Merritt.

Election Recaps

TX-Gov: Gov. Greg Abbott took 66% of the vote in Tuesday's Republican primary, while former state Sen. Don Huffines and former state party chair Allen West were far behind with 12% each. That huge win for the incumbent wasn't a surprise to anyone except maybe West, as the one-time Florida congressman released several polls from Paradigm Partners showing him in contention―including a late January survey that found him beating Abbott 43-34. The governor will face former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, the 2018 Senate nominee who easily won his own Democratic primary, in November.  

TX-01: Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran won 63% of the vote in the Republican primary to succeed Rep. Louie Gohmert, who gave up this safely red seat in northeast Texas to wage a failed bid for attorney general. Far behind in second place with 24% was Joe McDaniel, who lives far from the 1st District in Dallas.

TX-04: Republican Rep. Pat Fallon ended up defeating former TV anchor Dan Thomas by an unimpressive 59-30 in this safely red seat in east Texas, though that was more than enough for him to win the primary outright. Thomas, who was fired in October as News 12 anchor for refusing to get vaccinated for what he claimed were health reasons, may have benefited from his existing name recognition even though he raised little for his campaign.

Fallon himself also was waging his very first congressional primary because party leaders awarded him the nod in 2020 when incumbent John Ratcliffe resigned after securing the nomination in order to become Trump's director of national intelligence. The congressman only represents about 55% of this new seat, which may also explain why he didn't do better.

TX-08: With 65,000 votes counted in the 11-way Republican primary to succeed retiring Rep. Kevin Brady, retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell is in first with 52%, a little over the majority he'd need to win this very expensive race outright, but the AP has not yet made a call. Political operative Christian Collins, who is a former Brady campaign manager, is well behind with 22%. This seat, which includes the northern Houston area and nearby rural counties, is safely red.

TX-15: 2020 nominee Monica De La Cruz secured the Republican nod again with 57% of the vote in her bid to succeed Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who decided to run for the considerably safer 34th District rather than defend a redrawn Rio Grande Valley constituency that would have favored Trump 51-48. De La Cruz sported endorsements from Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and she enjoyed a big financial lead over Mauro Garza, a self-funder who was a distant second with 15%.

On the Democratic side, Army veteran Ruben Ramirez, who has Gonzalez's endorsement, took first with 28% of the vote. Businesswoman Michelle Vallejo edged out attorney John Rigney 20-19 for the second runoff spot, and Rigney conceded Wednesday afternoon.

TX-23: Marine veteran John Lira beat social worker Priscilla Golden 56-44 in the Democratic primary, but national Democrats haven't signaled much interest yet in his campaign to challenge freshman Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales. The GOP legislature extended Trump's margin of victory in this west Texas seat from 50-48 to 53-46, and Lira so far has struggled with fundraising.

TX-26: Rep. Michael Burgess took 67% in his latest Republican primary for a safely red seat in Fort Worth's northern exurbs, while self-funder Raven Harrison ended up taking last place in the five-way race with just 5%.

TX-27: Republican incumbent Michael Cloud defeated A.J. Louderback, who recently left office as the sheriff of tiny Jackson County, 72-12 in this 60-37 Trump seat in the Corpus Christi area.

TX-28: While the Democratic primary runoff between conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar and immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros will generate the most attention on May 24, the Republican contest will also be going into a second round. Cassy Garcia, a former Ted Cruz staffer who is campaigning with his support, took first with 23%. Her opponent will be 2020 nominee Sandra Whitten, who lost to Cuellar 58-39 last time; Whitten took 18% on Tuesday, which put her a few points ahead of four other contenders. None of the Republicans have brought in much money so far, but Team Red is hoping they'll have an opening in a Laredo seat that would have gone for Biden 53-46.

TX-30: State Rep. Jasmine Crockett took first place in the nine-way Democratic primary with 48%, just below the majority she needed to win outright. Party operative Jane Hamilton secured second by defeating Cedar Hill Independent School District Trustee Keisha Lankford 17-8. Crockett has the backing of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who is retiring after 30 years representing a safely blue Dallas district, while two groups affiliated with the cryptocurrency industry together expended a massive $2.15 million to boost her. Hamilton, who didn't benefit from any major outside spending, has the support of neighboring Rep. Marc Veasey and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.

TX-35: Former Austin City Council member Greg Casar took 61% of the vote in the Democratic primary for this open and safely blue seat, which the GOP once again gerrymandered to connect the Austin area with San Antonio by means of a pencil-thin corridor along Interstate 35; two other candidates, state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former San Antonio City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, were far behind with 16% each. Casar, who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, enjoyed the support of Mayor Steve Adler as well as a number of prominent national progressive organizations, and he also had a big financial edge over Rodriguez.

TX-37: Rep. Lloyd Doggett had no trouble defeating Donna Imam, who lost to Republican Rep. John Carter in 2020 in the old 31st District, 79-18 in the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat centered around his longtime Austin base.

TX-38: Army veteran Wesley Hunt beat former State Republican Executive Committee member Mark Ramsey 55-30 in the Republican primary for this new and reliably red seat in the Houston suburbs. The well-funded Hunt impressed Republican leaders last cycle with his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher in the 7th District, which helped make him the overwhelming frontrunner to prevail here.

Tarrant County, TX District Attorney: Tarrant County Criminal Court Judge Phil Sorrells, who picked up Donald Trump's endorsement weeks ahead of the Republican primary for this GOP-held open seat, took first with 41%, while state Rep. Matt Krause edged out Criminal District Court Judge Mollee Westfall 31-29 for the second runoff spot. On the Democratic side, Tiffany Burks won the nomination outright by beating her fellow former prosecutor, Albert John Roberts, 61-29.  

Morning Digest: New House fundraising reports shed light on incumbent-vs.-incumbent races

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

Leading Off

Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present our comprehensive roundups of fundraising data for the final three months of 2021 for both the House and the Senate.

With redistricting underway—and complete in many states—many sitting representatives have now found themselves paired with colleagues in redrawn House districts. These new reports are the first to give us insight into these incumbent-vs.-incumbent matchups, which at the moment number seven in total.

The first to come online was the contest in the deeply conservative 2nd District in West Virginia, which completed the remapping process in October. Thanks to the loss of a seat in reapportionment, two Republicans, Alex Mooney and David McKinley, got thrown together in the northern half of the state. McKinley swamped Mooney in the fourth quarter, outraising him $599,000 to $199,000 and self-funding another half-million for good measure. But because Mooney had stockpiled much more money prior to the start of most recent fundraising period, he still finished with a cash lead of $2.4 million to $1.6 million.

Campaign Action

McKinley, however, has an important advantage: He currently represents two-thirds of the new district, with Mooney representing the remaining third. Mooney, conversely, won Donald Trump's seal of approval in November … but he's under investigation for allegedly misusing campaign funds. How these factors will all balance out is hard to say, though, as the two sides have released competing polls showing them each with fairly modest leads. It'll all get settled soon enough, though, as the primary is on May 10.

Here's how things stack up in the other half-dozen similarly situated races:

  • GA-07: Lucy McBath beat out Carolyn Bourdeaux $736,000 to $400,000 and had $3.2 million on-hand versus $2.4 million in this safely blue seat in the Atlanta suburbs. A third candidate in the Democratic primary, state Rep. Donna McLeod, raised just $22,0000. Bourdeaux represents 57% of the district and McBath just 12%. The primary is May 24, with a June 21 runoff if no one takes a majority. Polling for McBath and her allies has found her leading by about 10 to 20 points.
  • IL-06: Sean Casten more than doubled up fellow Democrat Marie Newman, taking in $699,000 to her $337,000. He also has almost twice the bankroll: $1.9 million to $1 million for Newman. But Newman represents 41% of this solidly blue seat in the Chicago area while Casten represents 23%. However, she also faces an ethics investigation into charges she sought to keep a potential primary opponent out of the race when she ran in 2020 by offering him a job as a top aide if she won. The two will face off on June 28.
  • IL-15: Rodney Davis, the more moderate of the two Republicans running in this deep red district in central Illinois, raised $410,000 compared to $164,000 for Mary Miller, who has Trump's endorsement. Davis also has $1.8 million saved up while Miller had just $783,000 at her disposal. Both are encountering a lot of new turf, though: Miller represents 31% of the new district and Davis 28%.
  • MI-04: This matchup hasn't yet firmed up: Bill Huizenga, a Trump loyalist, has said he'll seek re-election in this red-tilting district in southwestern Michigan, but Fred Upton, who voted for impeachment, has yet to announce his plans. Upton certainly keeps bringing in the bucks like he expects to run again, though: He raised $719,000 to Huizenga's $396,000 and has a $1.6 million to $1.2 million cash edge. A third candidate, state Rep. Steve Carra, recently switched districts to run here but raised just $129,000. However, Trump did endorse him when he was running one-on-one against Upton, who represents 64% of this seat; Huizenga represents 25%. The primary is not until Aug. 2.
  • MI-11: Haley Stevens outraised Andy Levin $627,000 to $335,000 in this blue district in the Detroit suburbs, and also has much more money to spend: $2.6 million versus $1.3 million. In addition, Stevens represents 45% of the district while Levin represents 25%. Levin could still change course and run in the open 10th—a much swingier seat, but one he already represents two-thirds of. A recent Stevens internal showed her up 7 points.
  • NC-11: This solidly red district in the Greensboro region is the only one that's lumped together members of opposite parties: Democrat Kathy Manning, who raised $280,000 and had $1.1 million left over, and Republican Virginia Foxx, who took in $231,000 and finished with $957,000 in her war chest. Manning represents 42% of the redrawn 11th and Foxx 30%, but it would have voted 57-42 for Trump, making Foxx the overwhelming favorite. Manning, however, hasn't yet said whether she'll seek re-election, likely because a lawsuit challenging the GOP's new map is pending before the state Supreme Court.

The number of intramural battles could grow or shrink in the coming months as the remapping process continues to unfold and various members settle on their plans or alter them. In the meantime, you can dig deeper into all of these numbers and many, many more for both the House and the Senate by checking out our new charts.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Both chambers of Florida's Republican-run legislature have passed new legislative maps, which Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis does not have the power to either sign or veto. However, the state constitution requires the new maps to first be reviewed by the state's conservative Supreme Court to determine their "validity" before they can become law. Whatever the justices decide, litigation is likely, as critics have charged that the maps fail to adequately increase representation for communities of color even though most of the state's growth has come from Black and Latino residents.

Meanwhile, congressional redistricting is now paused as DeSantis has asked the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion as to whether a new map can legally dismantle the plurality-Black 5th District, held by Democrat Al Lawson. A map that ignored DeSantis' wishes and left the 5th largely intact passed the state Senate last month, but the House says it will wait until the justices rule before proceeding further.

NY Redistricting: Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed new congressional and legislative maps on Thursday evening, just hours after lawmakers in the Democratic-run legislature completed work on new districts for their own chambers. The congressional plan, if it works as Democrats intend, could bump their advantage in the state’s delegation from 19-8 to 22-4.

WA Redistricting: Washington's Democratic-run state House approved congressional and legislative maps drawn by the state's bipartisan redistricting commission with minor tweaks in a wide bipartisan vote on Wednesday. The plans now head to the state Senate, which must act by Feb. 8.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth has endorsed Blake Masters, a top aide to conservative megadonor Peter Thiel who also has the support of a super PAC funded by his boss, in the crowded August Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.

Ohio: Candidate filing closed on Wednesday for most of the offices that will be on Ohio's May 3 primary ballot, but the legislature previously moved the deadline for U.S. House races to March 4. That delay came about because the state Supreme Court struck down the Republican-drawn congressional map as an illegal partisan gerrymander in mid-January, and new boundaries have yet to be approved.

But the situation is also unclear for candidates for the state legislature, who still had to file Wednesday. The state's highest court likewise threw out the GOP's legislative maps last month, and Republicans on Ohio's bipartisan redistricting commission approved new ones on Jan. 22―just eight days before the filing deadline. The court has said it would "retain jurisdiction for the purpose of reviewing the new plan adopted by the commission," so no one knows yet if these new districts will be final.

Some legislative candidates responded to the uncertainty by simply ending their campaigns, though one congressional contender tried something different. Attorney Shay Hawkins, a Republican who last year announced a bid for the 13th District, filed Tuesday for a seat in the legislature and said he'd make an ultimate decision about which office to seek once congressional districts are in place. (Based on state deadlines, that might not be until March or later.)

A list of statewide candidates can be found at the secretary of state's site, but anyone looking for a list of legislative candidates won't be able to find them all from a single official source. That's because candidates for district-level office file with the county that makes up the largest proportion of their district rather than with the state, so lists of contenders can only be found on county election sites. Below we'll run down the fields in the Buckeye State's marquee statewide races for Senate and governor.

OH-Sen: On Thursday evening, one day after candidate filing closed, wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno announced that he was dropping out of what’s now an eight-person Republican primary to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. Moreno, who kicked off a $4 million TV ad campaign in December, said, “After talking to President Trump we both agreed this race has too many Trump candidates and could cost the MAGA movement a conservative seat.” 

The development came one day after another Republican contender, former state Treasurer, Josh Mandel, released a WPA Intelligence poll arguing that he has the lead in this extremely expensive primary. The toplines are below, with the numbers from an early January WPA survey for Mandel's allies at the Club for Growth in parenthesis:

former state Treasurer Josh Mandel: 28 (26)

Businessman Mike Gibbons: 17 (14)

Venture capitalist J.D. Vance: 13 (10)

former state party chair Jane Timken: 9 (15)

Businessman Bernie Moreno: 6 (7)

State Sen. Matt Dolan: 5 (4)

Three other Republicans are also in, but none of them have been making a serious effort.

Timken, Moreno, and Gibbons have themselves released polls this year, each arguing that neither Mandel nor anyone else has a decisive lead. (Though Moreno’s subsequent departure indicates that he didn’t feel good about his own path to victory.) What every survey we've seen agrees on, however, is that Dolan is in last place. That's not a surprise, though: In September, Donald Trump blasted the state senator, who co-owns Cleveland's Major League Baseball team, over its plans to change its name, snarling, "I know of at least one person in the race who I won't be endorsing."

Dolan is trying to better his fortunes by using personal wealth to go on TV, but he's far from alone: The Republican firm Medium Buying reports that close to $24 million has already been spent or reserved to air ads. The GOP primary will likely get far more expensive still, as all six of these contenders ended 2021 with at least $1 million in the bank. Their fourth quarter fundraising numbers are below:

  • Timken: $595,000 raised, additional $1.5 million self-funded, $3.6 million cash-on-hand
  • Vance: $530,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
  • Mandel: $370,000 raised, $6 million cash-on-hand
  • Dolan: $360,000 raised, additional $10.5 million self-funded, $10.4 million cash-on-hand
  • Gibbons: $70,000 raised, additional $3.5 million self-funded, $6.4 million cash-on-hand

Things are far less chaotic on the Democratic side, where Rep. Tim Ryan is the likely nominee. He faces Morgan Harper, a former advisor to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Joyce Beatty for renomination in 2020, as well as two little-known candidates. Ryan outraised Harper $2.9 million to $335,000 in the most recent quarter, and he held a $5 million to $435,000 cash-on-hand edge.

Team Blue's eventual nominee will face a tough task in November in a longtime swing state that lurched hard to the right in the Trump era, but Democrats are hoping that a bloody GOP primary will give them a larger opening.

Governors

FL-Gov: Rep. Charlie Crist has released a GBAO Strategies survey giving him a 54-28 lead over state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the August Democratic primary, with state Sen. Annette Taddeo at 7%. We haven't seen any other surveys of the contest to face Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis since well before Taddeo entered the race last October.

GA-Gov: Democrat Stacey Abrams announced she raised a massive $9.2 million in the month since she kicked off her second bid for governor and says she ended January with $7.2 million in the bank. Her red-hot pace outstripped Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who brought in $7.4 million in the second half of 2021, though he has a considerably larger $12.7 million war chest. Kemp, however, will have to spend much of that money in his already bitter primary feud with former Sen. David Perdue, who has yet to say how much he's raised and "has tried to downplay expectations," according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Greg Bluestein.

HI-Gov: Hawaii News Now has gathered the fundraising reports for the second half of 2021, and the numbers for the three major Democrats are below:

  • Lt. Gov. Josh Green: $775,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
  • Businesswoman Vicky Cayetano: $475,000 raised, additional $350,000 self-funded, $655,000 cash-on-hand
  • former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell: $345,000 raised, $720,000 cash-on-hand

None of the Republicans currently in the race have reported raising a notable amount.

IA-Gov: The Des Moines Register's Brianne Pfannenstiel relays that some Iowa Democrats are seeking an alternative to Deidre DeJear, the 2018 secretary of state nominee who ended last year with less than $10,000 on-hand, though there's no sign anyone else is looking to take on Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Pfannenstiel writes that some of "the names being floated" are 2018 nominee Fred Hubbell, state Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and state Reps. Chris Hall and Todd Prichard, but none of them have shown any obvious interest in getting in ahead of the March 18 filing deadline.

ME-Gov: Former state Sen. Tom Saviello said this week that he would not run as an independent. That's probably welcome news for Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, whom Saviello backed in 2018.

MD-Gov: The Democratic Governors Association is out with new numbers from Public Policy Polling arguing that Del. Dan Cox, a Trump-endorsed candidate who played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a busload of people to attend the rally that preceded it, is well-positioned in the June Republican primary in this dark blue state.

Cox leads former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, who has termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan's backing, 20-12, with a huge 68% majority undecided. (The poll did not include Robin Ficker, a perennial candidate who has self-funded $1.1 million.) But after respondents are told that Trump is supporting Cox while Schulz is backed by termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan, the delegate's margin balloons to 52-18. This is the very first poll we've seen of this primary.

MN-Gov: SurveyUSA, polling on behalf of a trio of Minnesota TV stations, tests Democratic Gov. Tim Walz against six different Republican foes, and it finds things considerably closer than when it went into the field in December. The results are below, with the firm's earlier numbers in parentheses:

  • 43-40 vs. former state Sen. Scott Jensen (48-36)
  • 42-37 vs. state Sen. Paul Gazelka (47-34)
  • 45-37 vs. state Sen. Michelle Benson (47-35)
  • 43-35 vs. healthcare executive Kendall Qualls
  • 44-35 vs. Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy (47-36)
  • 45-34 vs. physician Neil Shah (48-31)

The earlier numbers did not include Qualls, who launched his bid last month. Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who announced this week, was also not asked about in either poll.

Even though SurveyUSA shows Walz losing ground since December, he still posts a 45-37 favorable rating, which is the same margin as his 47-39 score from last time. His many opponents, by contrast, remain pretty anonymous: Even Jensen, who comes the closest in the head-to-heads, only sports a 18-12 favorable image.

NE-Gov: The Nebraska Examiner has collected all the 2021 fundraising numbers for the Republicans competing in the May primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts:

  • University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen: $4.4 million raised, additional $1 million self-funded, $4.2 million cash-on-hand
  • State Sen. Brett Lindstrom: $1.6 million raised, $1.4 million cash-on-hand
  • Agribusinessman Charles Herbster: $200,000 raised, additional $4.7 million self-funded, $637,000 cash-on-hand
  • former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau: $106,000 raised, additional $7,000 self-funded, $87,000 cash-on-hand

Amusingly, Ricketts, who poured $12 million of his money into his unsuccessful 2006 campaign against Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, pooh-poohed Herbster's personal investment to the Examiner, saying that self-funding looks like "you're trying to buy the race." Ricketts, who is backing Pillen, added, "You want to engage Nebraskans across the state to invest in your campaign. And clearly Charles Herbster is not getting Nebraskans to invest in his campaign."

The only notable Democrat in the race, state Sen. Carol Blood, took in $76,000 and had $37,000 to spend.

NY-Gov: Rep. Lee Zeldin's first TV spot ahead of the June Republican primary features several photos of Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul with her disgraced predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, as the narrator argues that the state is in poor shape. The ad goes on to exalt Zeldin as a veteran who has "won seven tough elections" and a "tax-fighting, trusted conservative." There is no word on the size of the buy.

OH-Gov: Republican Gov. Mike DeWine faces three intra-party foes, but only former Rep. Jim Renacci appears to have the resources to make trouble for him. Renacci has filled his coffers with millions from his own wallet, though skeptical Republicans remember that he barely used any of the money he loaned himself for his 2018 Senate campaign, which ended in a 53-47 loss to Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. Also in the running are farmer Joe Blystone and former state Rep. Ron Hood, who badly lost last year's special election primary for the 15th Congressional District.

Renacci, who has spent his time trashing DeWine's handling of the pandemic, last week dropped a poll showing him leading the incumbent 46-38 in a two-way race. A Renacci win would represent a major upset, but no one else has responded with contradictory numbers.

The Democratic primary is a duel between two former mayors who each left office at the start of the year: Cincinnati's John Cranley and Dayton's Nan Whaley. The only poll we've seen was a Whaley internal she publicized last week giving her a 33-20 edge, but with a 48% plurality undecided. The former mayors both ended 2021 with close to $2 million to spend apiece.

OK-Gov: Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt outraised Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, a Republican-turned-Democrat, $1.2 million to $540,000 during the fourth quarter, and he ended 2021 with a $2.3 million to $435,000 cash-on-hand lead.

House

IL-03: State Rep. Delia Ramirez has picked up the support of the Illinois Federation of Teachers in the June Democratic primary for this safely blue open seat. Ramirez's main intra-party opponent is Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas, who outraised her $385,000 to $115,000 during the fourth quarter of 2021 (the first in the race for both candidates) and ended December with a $375,000 to $110,000 cash-on-hand.

MI-10: Eric Esshaki, who was the 2020 Republican nominee in the old 11th District, announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the August primary for the new (and open) 10th District and would instead endorse two-time Senate nominee John James. James, who launched his House bid on Monday, currently is the only notable Republican seeking this suburban Detroit seat, which Donald Trump would have carried 50-49.

OR-06: Carrick Flynn, who has worked as a University of Oxford associate researcher, announced Tuesday that he was entering the Democratic primary for Oregon’s brand-new 6th District. Flynn filed FEC paperwork on Jan. 21 and said he had $430,000 banked after 10 days.

RI-02: State Rep. Teresa Tanzi said Thursday that she would not compete in the September Democratic primary for this open seat.

TX-08: The March 1 Republican primary to succeed retiring Rep. Kevin Brady has turned into what the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek characterizes as an expensive "proxy war" between retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell, who has the House GOP leadership in his corner, and Christian Collins, a former Brady campaign manager backed by Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies in the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus.

Luttrell far outraised Collins during the fourth quarter, $1.2 million to $335,000, and ended 2021 with a $1.6 million to $290,000 cash-on-hand lead. Collins, however, is getting some serious reinforcements: Svitek reports that three super PACs almost entirely funded by a Cruz ally, banker Robert Marling, have spent $800,000 for Collins while Luttrell has yet to benefit from any outside money.

The story notes that the two leading candidates for this safely red suburban Houston district don't seem to actually disagree on anything substantive, but Collins has been trying hard to frame the race as a battle between D.C. power players and "those who are the tip of the spear." He's also been seeking to use Luttrell's connections against him, including the $5,000 donation the SEAL veteran received from the PAC of Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who voted to impeach Donald Trump. Luttrell distanced himself from the congressman in January, saying he "didn't know the check was cashed," but a Kinzinger spokesperson told the Tribune that the donation was made "because it was solicited."

Luttrell, who is a close ally of former Gov. Rick Perry, has been focusing far more on his own military background, with his first ad talking about his recovery after a devastating helicopter crash. Luttrell also enjoys the backing of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is one of the most powerful far-right politicians in Texas, as well as 13th District Rep. Ronny Jackson, who was Trump's failed nominee for secretary of veteran's affairs in 2018. Nine other candidates are on the ballot, and while none of them have attracted much attention, they could keep Luttrell or Collins from winning the majority of the vote needed to avert a runoff.

TX-15: Insurance agent Monica De La Cruz's newest TV ad for the March 1 Republican primary features her flying over the border with Mexico as she bemoans how "socialists are ruining our border security, our values, and our economy." She concludes by pledging to "finish what Trump started."

VA-07: Spotsylvania County Supervisor David Ross said this week that he was joining the June Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Los Angeles Magazine has summarized fundraising reports spanning the second half of 2021, which show Rep. Karen Bass went into the new year with a sizable financial edge over her many opponents in the June nonpartisan primary to lead this very blue city:

  • Rep. Karen Bass: $1.9 million raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • City Councilmember Kevin de León: $1.2 million raised, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
  • Central City Association head Jessica Lall: $405,000 raised, $265,000 cash-on-hand
  • City Councilmember Joe Buscaino: $375,000 raised, $575,000 cash-on-hand
  • City Attorney Mike Feuer: $245,000 raised, $525,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Ramit Varma: $180,000 raised, additional $1.5 million self-funded, $1.7 million cash-on-hand
  • Real estate broker Mel Wilson: $141,000 raised, $37,000 cash-on-hand

Perhaps the biggest question looming over the race ahead of the Feb. 12 filing deadline is whether real estate developer Rick Caruso, who has flirted with running before, gets in this time. Caruso recently changed his voter registration from unaffiliated to Democratic, a move that came almost a decade after he left the GOP. The developer now describes himself as a "pro-centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat."

Morning Digest: Democrat announces rematch against House Republican under fire for impeachment vote

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

Leading Off

MI-03: Attorney Hillary Scholten announced Tuesday that she would seek a rematch against Republican Rep. Peter Meijer in Michigan's 3rd Congressional District, a Grand Rapids-based constituency that the state's new map transformed from a 51-47 Trump seat to one Joe Biden would have carried 53-45. Meijer ran just ahead of the top of the ticket in his first bid for Congress in 2020 and beat Scholten 53-47 in a very expensive open seat race in this historically Republican area, but he has more immediate problems ahead of him before he can fully focus on another bout.

The incumbent was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, which is why Trump is backing conservative commentator John Gibbs' bid to deny Meijer renomination in the August primary. Gibbs, though, didn't do a particularly good job winning over furious MAGA donors during his opening quarter: Meijer outraised him $455,000 to $50,000, with Gibbs self-funding an additional $55,000. As a result, the congressman ended 2021 with a massive $1.2 million to $85,000 cash-on-hand lead. (A few other candidates are also competing in the GOP primary, but none of them had more than $3,000 to spend.)

Despite his huge financial advantage, however, Meijer will still need to watch his back in August. He currently represents just half of the revamped 3rd District, meaning there are many new voters he'll have to introduce himself to. Trump and his allies can also make plenty of trouble for Meijer over the next six months even if Gibbs' fundraising woes continue.

Campaign Action

Scholten, for her part, is Team Blue's first notable candidate in a region that, in more than a century, has only once sent a Democrat to the House. The story of that upset begins in 1948, when a Navy veteran named Gerald Ford decisively unseated Rep. Bartel Jonkman, an ally of the powerful political boss Frank McKay, in the GOP primary for what was numbered the 5th District at the time. Ford, who eventually rose to House minority leader, never fell below 60% of the vote in any of his general election campaigns. When Richard Nixon tapped him to replace the disgraced Spiro Agnew as vice president in 1973, Republicans there anticipated they'd have no trouble holding his seat.

The unfolding Watergate scandal, though, gave Democrats the chance to pull off an upset of the ages early the next year. The party nominated Richard Vander Veen, who had badly lost to Ford in 1958, while the GOP opted for state Senate Majority Leader Robert Vander Laan. Vander Veen, though, gained traction by focusing his campaign on the beleaguered Nixon, reminding voters that Ford would take over if Nixon left the White House. In one memorable newspaper ad, Vander Veen castigated Nixon while tying himself to Ford, arguing, "Our President must stand beyond the shadow of doubt. Our President must be Gerald Ford."

Ford himself put in just one appearance for Vander Laan in a campaign that almost every observer still expected him to win, even if only by a small margin. Vander Veen, however, pulled off a 51-44 victory in what is still remembered as one of the biggest special election upsets in American history. Ford did become president months later after Nixon resigned, but thanks to the Watergate wave, Vander Veen won a full term 53-43 in November.

His tenure would be short, however. In 1976, as Ford was carrying Michigan during his unsuccessful re-election campaign against Jimmy Carter, Republican Harold Sawyer unseated Vander Veen 53-46. Ever since then, the GOP has continued to win each incarnation of whichever congressional district has been centered around Ground Rapids. The region momentarily slipped from the GOP's grasp in 2019 when five-term Rep. Justin Amash left the GOP to become an independent (and later a Libertarian), but he ultimately retired the next year. Meijer's win over Scholten kept Team Red's long winning streak going, but a combination of redistricting, the area's ongoing shift to the left, and intra-GOP troubles could give Scholten the chance to score a historic win this fall.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: Lawmakers in Louisiana's Republican-run state Senate have introduced several different congressional redistricting proposals as well as one plan for the upper chamber ahead of a special legislative session that was set to begin on Tuesday evening. The plans will be made available here. No maps have yet been released for the state House.

NY Redistricting: New York's Democratic-run state legislature introduced new draft maps for both the state Senate and Assembly late on Monday, a day after releasing their proposal for the state's congressional districts. Lawmakers will reportedly take up the new maps this week.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The Republican firm OH Predictive Insights takes a look at the August GOP primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, and it shows Attorney General Mark Brnovich leading retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire 25-11. OH's last poll, conducted in November, had Brnovich up by a similar 27-12 spread. The new survey also includes a scenario where Gov. Doug Ducey runs, which finds him beating Brnovich by a 35-13 margin.

FL-Sen, FL-Gov: Suffolk University is out with its first poll of Florida's Senate and gubernatorial races, and it finds both Republicans starting out with the lead. Sen. Marco Rubio defeats Democratic Rep. Val Demings 49-41, which is similar to the 51-44 advantage St. Pete Polls found in late November. (Believe it or not, no one has released numbers during the intervening period.)

In the contest for governor, incumbent Ron DeSantis outpaces Rep. Charlie Crist and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 49-43 and 51-40, respectively. St. Pete Polls' last survey had DeSantis beating the pair 51-45 and 51-42; neither poll tested the third notable Democrat in the race, state Sen. Annette Taddeo.  

NM-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján's office put out a statement Tuesday revealing that the senator had "suffered a stroke" on Thursday and "subsequently underwent decompressive surgery to ease swelling." It continued, "He is currently being cared for at UNM Hospital, resting comfortably, and expected to make a full recovery."

PA-Sen: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has publicized a new poll from Data for Progress that shows him outpacing Rep. Conor Lamb 46-16 in the May Democratic primary, with state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta at 12%. Our last look at this contest came in the form of a mid-December GQR survey for Kenyatta that had him trailing Fetterman 44-20, though the poll argued the state representative would pick up more support after voters learned more about each candidate.

Governors

GA-Gov: Donald Trump stars in a rare direct-to-camera appeal for former Sen. David Perdue, who is spending $150,000 on this opening spot for the May Republican primary, and it's just pretty much the TV version of one of his not-tweets.

Trump immediately spews as much vitriol as he can at the man Perdue is trying to unseat as well as the all-but-certain Democratic nominee by claiming, "The Democrats walked over Brian Kemp. He was afraid of Stacey 'The Hoax' Abrams. Brian Kemp let us down. We can't let it happen again." He goes on to say, "David Perdue is an outstanding man. He's tough. He's smart. He has my complete and total endorsement."

MI-Gov: Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hauled in $2.5 million from Oct. 21 through Dec. 31 and had $9.9 million to spend at the close of 2021, which left her with a far larger war chest than any of her Republican foes.

The governor also transferred $3.5 million to the state Democratic Party, money she was able to raise without any contribution limits thanks to multiple Republican efforts to recall her from office. Because those recalls all failed to qualify for the ballot, Whitmer was required to disgorge those additional funds, though the party can use that money to boost her re-election campaign. (A GOP suit challenging Michigan's rule allowing recall targets to raise unlimited sums was recently rejected.)

Things didn't go nearly as well for former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who looked like the Republican frontrunner when he announced his campaign back in July. Craig raised $600,000 but spent $700,000, and he had $845,000 on-hand. Wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke, by contrast, raised a mere $5,000 from donors but self-funded $2 million, and his $1.5 million war chest was the largest of anyone running in the August GOP primary.

Two other Republicans, chiropractor Garrett Soldano and conservative radio host Tudor Dixon, took in $250,000 and $150,000, respectively, while Soldano led Dixon in cash-on-hand $315,000 to $96,000. A fifth GOP candidate, businessman Perry Johnson, entered the race last week after the new fundraising period began, but he's pledged to self-fund $2.5 million.

MN-Gov: Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek declared Tuesday that he would seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. He joins an intra-party battle that includes state Sen. Michelle Benson, former state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, former state Sen. Scott Jensen, dermatologist Neil Shah, and healthcare executive Kendall Qualls, who was the GOP's 2020 nominee for the 3rd Congressional District.

Minnesota Morning Take reports that Stanek, just like all the other notable GOP candidates, will, in local parlance, "abide" by the endorsement process at the Republican convention in May. That means that none intend to continue on to the party's August primary if someone else wins the support of 60% of delegates required to earn the official Republican stamp of approval. Stanek launched his campaign hours before the start of precinct caucuses, which are the first step towards selecting convention delegates, so it may be too late for any other Republicans to get in if they want a shot at the endorsement.

Stanek, who previously served in the Minneapolis Police Department, is a longtime politician who got his start in the state House in 1995 and resigned from the chamber in 2003 when Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed him state public safety commissioner. Stanek quit his new post the next year after acknowledging he'd used racial slurs during a 1989 deposition that took place after he was accused of police brutality (Minnesota Public Radio reported in 2004 that this was "one of three police brutality lawsuits brought against him"), but the scandal did not spell the end of his political career.

Stanek made a comeback by pulling off a landslide win in the officially nonpartisan 2006 race for sheriff of deep-blue Hennepin County (home of Minneapolis), and he had no trouble holding it in the following two elections. The sheriff's base in the state's most populous county made him an appealing candidate for governor in 2018, but Stanek opted to seek a fourth term instead. His luck finally ran out in that Democratic wave year, though, and he lost a very tight race for re-election.

OH-Gov: Former state Rep. Ron Hood, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nod in last year's special election for Ohio's 15th Congressional District, has now set his sights on the Buckeye State's gubernatorial race. Hood, described by cleveland.com as "among the most conservative lawmakers" in the legislature, joins former Rep. Jim Renacci in challenging Gov. Mike DeWine, potentially splitting the anti-incumbent vote in the race for the Republican nomination. He didn't make much of an impact running for Congress, though, finishing third with 13% in the primary.

Financially, though, DeWine doesn't have too much to worry about. New fundraising reports, covering the second half of 2021, show the governor raised $3.3 million and had $9.2 million in the bank. Renacci, meanwhile, brought in just $149,000 from donors, though he self-funded an additional $4.8 million and had $4.1 million left to spend.

On the Democratic side, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley outraised former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley $1.3 million to $1 million, but the two campaigns had comparable sums on hand: $1.8 million for Whaley and $1.9 million for Cranley.

RI-Gov: The declared candidates in Rhode Island's race for governor—all of whom, so far, are Democrats—just filed fundraising reports covering the final quarter of last year, showing Gov. Dan McKee with a narrow cash lead. McKee brought in $176,000 and finished with $844,000 banked. Figures for his three main opponents are below:

  • former CVS executive Helena Foulkes: $971,000 raised, $100,000 self-funded, $831,000 cash-on-hand
  • Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea: $162,000 raised, $770,000 cash-on-hand
  • former Secretary of State Matt Brown: $63,000 raised, $38,000 cash-on-hand

House

CO-07: State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who earned the backing of retiring Rep. Ed Perlmutter last week, now has endorsements from Colorado's other three Democratic U.S. House members: Reps. Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse, and Jason Crow.

GA-07: Rep. Lucy McBath's allies at Protect our Future, a new super PAC funded in part by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, have released a Data for Progress survey of the May Democratic primary that shows her with a 40-31 edge over fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux, with state Rep. Donna McLeod a distant third at 6%. The only other poll we've seen here was a mid-December McBath internal from 20/20 Insight that gave her a far larger 40-19 advantage over Bourdeaux.

This may end up being the most expensive incumbent-vs.-incumbent primary of the cycle, especially if it goes to a runoff. McBath outraised Bourdeaux $735,000 to $430,000 during the fourth quarter, but both had sizable campaign accounts at the end of 2021: $2.5 million for McBath and $2 million for Bourdeaux. McLeod did not have a fundraising report available on the FEC site as of Tuesday evening.

IN-09: State Rep. J. Michael Davisson declared Tuesday that he was joining the May Republican primary for this very red open seat. Davisson, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, was appointed to the legislature last fall to succeed his late father, and this appears to be his first run for office. Indiana's filing deadline is on Feb. 4, so the field will take final shape before long.

MI-04: State Rep. Steve Carra has decided to test how "Complete and Total" Donald Trump's endorsement really is by announcing a campaign for Michigan's new 4th District, a move that sets him up for a very different primary than the one he originally got into. Carra picked up Trump's support back in September when he was waging an intra-party campaign in the old 6th District against Rep. Fred Upton, who'd voted for impeachment months before. Upton still hasn't confirmed if he'll run in the new 4th, but fellow GOP Rep. Bill Huizenga very much has. Carra unsurprisingly focused on Upton in his relaunch, though he argued, "It doesn't matter whether there's one or two status quo Republicans in the race."

The state representative, for his part, says he grew up in the southwest Michigan district, which would have backed Trump 51-47, though his legislative district is entirely located in the new 5th District. (Republican Rep. Tim Walberg is campaigning there, and he's unlikely to face any serious intra-party opposition.) Carra himself has spent his first year in the GOP-dominated state House pushing bills that have gone nowhere, including a resolution demanding that the U.S. House "adopt a resolution disavowing the January 2021 impeachment of President Donald J. Trump or expel [California] U.S. Representative Maxine Waters for continuing to incite violence."

Upton, meanwhile, seems content to keep everyone guessing about whether he'll actually be on the ballot this year. The congressman initially said he'd decide whether to run once more in January, but the month ended without any resolution. Upton told a local radio station on Jan. 25 that he was looking to see if the new map survives a court challenge, but he also said to expect a decision "in the coming days."

If Upton does run, he'd begin with a modest edge over his fellow incumbent in the cash race. Upton took in $720,000 during the final quarter of 2021 compared to $395,000 for Huizenga and ended the year with a $1.5 million to $1.1 million cash-on-hand lead. Carra, meanwhile, raised $130,000 and had $205,000 available.

MI-11: Rep. Haley Stevens has released an internal poll from Impact Research that gives her a 42-35 lead over fellow incumbent Andy Levin in their August Democratic primary, the first numbers we've seen of the race. Stevens raised $625,000 in the fourth quarter compared to $335,000 for Levin (who self-funded another $30,000), and she went into the new year with nearly $2 million on-hand compared to $1.1 million for her opponent.

MS-04: State Sen. Chris McDaniel told the conservative site Y'All Politics on Monday that he still hasn't ruled out a primary challenge to Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo, who is facing an ethics investigation into charges that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes. The two-time U.S. Senate candidate argued, "My polling numbers are stronger than they've ever been, so I'm keeping all of my options open at this time."

Several other notable Republicans, including state Sen. Brice Wiggins, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell, and banker Clay Wagner, are already taking on Palazzo in the June 7 contest, where it takes a majority of the vote to avert a runoff that would be held three weeks later. The candidate filing deadline is March 1.

RI-02: Former state Sen. James Sheehan said Tuesday that he'd stay out of the Democratic primary for this open seat.

SC-07: Donald Trump on Tuesday threw his backing behind state Rep. Russell Fry's intra-party challenge to Rep. Tom Rice, who voted for impeachment after the Jan. 6 attack, in the crowded June Republican primary. The congressman responded, "I'm glad he's chosen someone. All the pleading to Mar-a-Lago was getting a little embarrassing." Rice continued, "I'm all about Trump's policy. But absolute pledge of loyalty, to a man that is willing to sack the Capitol to keep his hold on power is more than I can stomach."

TX-26: There's little indication that 10-term Rep. Michael Burgess, who is perhaps one of the most obscure members of Congress, is in any danger in his March 1 Republican primary for this safely red seat in Fort Worth's northern exurbs, but the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek notes that he does face an opponent with the ability to self-fund. Businesswoman Raven Harrison loaned herself $210,000, which represented every penny she brought in during the fourth quarter, and she ended 2021 with $127,000 on-hand. Burgess, meanwhile, took in just $150,000, and he finished the quarter with $290,000 available.

TX-35: Former San Antonio City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran has picked up the support of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who is retiring this year after more than two decades in charge of this populous county, ahead of the March 1 Democratic primary. ("County judges" in Texas are not judicial officials but rather are equivalent to county executives in other states.)

Morning Digest: We’re looking back on Harry Reid’s long and storied career on the campaign trail

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

Leading Off

Deaths: Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who died Dec. 28 at the age of 82, is lying in state at the Capitol today. As his former colleagues honor his singular career, we've put together an obituary taking a look back at his long electoral history—a path that dealt Reid several setbacks on his way to the pinnacle of American politics.

Reid won elected office for the first time in 1968 when he took a seat in the Nevada state Assembly at the age of 28, and he made the jump to statewide office two years later when he was elected lieutenant governor. Reid’s career stalled, though, after he lost an extremely close 1974 Senate race to former Republican Gov. Paul Laxalt, and he hit his nadir the next year after he failed to win the mayor’s office in Las Vegas.

Of course, that was far from the end for Reid, who had several more competitive Senate races ahead of him beginning with his 1986 triumph in the open seat contest to succeed Laxalt. Reid went on to pull off an extremely tight 1998 win against his future GOP colleague, then-Rep. John Ensign, in a race that took over a month to resolve.

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The majority leader later looked like an all-but-inevitable loser ahead of his 2010 bid for a fifth term, but Reid, in the words of longtime Nevada political chronicler Jon Ralston, displayed a “Terminator-like single-mindedness, relentlessness and discipline turned preparation” that helped him upset former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle. We detail all those campaigns and more in our obituary.

Redistricting

CT Redistricting: Stanford Law School professor Nathan Persily, the special master appointed by the Connecticut Supreme Court to assist it in drawing a new congressional map, has asked the state's deadlocked redistricting commission to try to reach a compromise once more. The panel failed to settle on a final map last month, despite receiving a three-week extension from the court, prompting the justices to take over the process and tap Persily to help them. Commissioners have until Wednesday at 12 PM ET to submit a new map "or at least report progress," per the CT Mirror, while Persily himself must furnish a map to the court by Jan. 18.

NY Redistricting: As expected, New York lawmakers have rejected dueling sets of maps put forth by the state's bipartisan redistricting commission after the panel failed to agree on a single group of plans for Congress and the legislature. Because of that failure, legislators were under no obligation to consider the maps that the commission forwarded to them, one batch of which was produced by Republicans and the other by Democrats.

Commissioners have until Feb. 28 to take one more shot at reaching a deal, but such a deal looks unlikely. Even if they were to strike a compromise, though, legislative Democrats would still be able to override the commission thanks to their two-thirds supermajorities.

4Q Fundraising

  • NC-SenCheri Beasley (D): $2.1 million raised, $2.8 million cash-on-hand
  • UT-SenEvan McMullin (I): $1 million raised
  • WA-SenPatty Murray (D-inc): $1.5 million raised, $7 million cash-on-hand
  • GA-GovBrian Kemp (R-inc): $7 million raised (between July 1 and Jan. 9), $12 million cash-on-hand
  • KS-GovLaura Kelly (D-inc): $2 million raised (in 2021), $1.9 million cash-on-hand; Derek Schmidt (R): $1.6 million raised (in 2021), $1.3 million cash-on-hand
  • MN-GovTim Walz (D-inc): $3.6 million raised (in 2021), $3.6 million cash-on-hand; Paul Gazelka (R): $545,000 raised (since August)
  • NV-GovJoe Lombardo (R): $3.1 million raised (since late June)
  • SC-GovHenry McMaster (R-inc): $909,000 raised, $3 million cash-on-hand; Joe Cunningham (D): $343,000 raised, $422,000 cash-on-hand
  • IA-02Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $809,000 raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • KY-06Andy Barr (R-inc): $538,000, $1.9 million cash-on-hand
  • NE-01Patty Pansing Brooks (D): $210,000 raised (in six weeks)
  • NY-24Francis Conole (D): $202,000 raised, $280,000 cash-on-hand

Senate

AZ-Sen: Ugh. Rich guy Jim Lamon is dropping a reported $1 million on a TV buy to air the first—but undoubtedly not the last—ad we've seen featuring a candidate bleat, "Let's go, Brandon!" If for some reason you have no idea what this is all about, consider yourself blessed. Meanwhile, the super PAC run by zillionaire Peter Thiel that's supporting another rich guy, Blake Masters, is spending another $1.1 million, per Politico, to run a new spot tying Masters to Donald Trump.

NH-Sen: Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith resigned his post this week, saying that "it is my intent to formally announce my candidacy for the United States Senate in the not too distant future." Smith sought the GOP nod for governor in 2012 but lost badly in the primary.

PA-Sen: George Bochetto, a longtime Republican attorney in Philadelphia who also served as state boxing commissioner from 1995 to 2002, has joined the packed May primary and says he'll self-fund $1 million.

Bochetto recently attracted attention when he aided Donald Trump's defense team in his second impeachment trial. In August, he persuaded a judge to stop Philadelphia's city government from removing a prominent Christopher Columbus statue. Bochetto is also the leader in a lawsuit alleging that Mayor Jim Kenney's executive order replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day discriminates against Italian Americans.

Bochetto in the past has talked about running for mayor of his heavily Democratic city plenty of times and even waged a brief campaign in 1999, but he ended up dropping out before the primary; the eventual nominee, Sam Katz, ended up losing the general election 51-49 to Democrat John Street, which is likely to remain Team Red's high-water mark for decades to come.

Governors

MA-Gov: Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who'd been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor, instead announced a bid for lieutenant governor on Tuesday. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run in separate primaries but run together on a single ticket in the general election.

MI-Gov: The Glengariff Group's first survey of this year's contest, conducted on behalf of WDIV and the Detroit News, finds Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer well ahead of four potential Republican foes:

49-39 vs. former Detroit Police Chief James Craig

50-33 vs. chiropractor Garrett Soldano

50-33 vs. businessman Kevin Rinke

50-31 vs. conservative radio host Tudor Dixon

Polling from reliable firms has been rare here so far. A Strategic National survey for Craig from all the way back in September found him trailing Whitmer 47-46 (Craig and Strategic National have since parted ways). An independent poll from EPIC-MRA for the Detroit Free Press released the previous month had Whitmer ahead of Craig by the same 44-45 spread, while no other matchups were tested.

NY-Gov: Rep. Jerry Nadler, who as House Judiciary Committee chair is one of the most senior House Democrats from New York, has endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul's bid for a full term. Two upstate representatives, Brian Higgins and Joe Morelle, previously backed Hochul.

RI-Gov: Cranston Mayor Kenneth Hopkins said Tuesday that he's "forming an exploratory committee [to] possibly run for governor." Hopkins, who was first elected to his post in 2020, would be the most prominent Republican to enter the race to date should he decide to get in.

WI-Gov: Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who is resigning as interim president of the University of Wisconsin System in March, declined to rule out running for a fifth term as governor at the age of 80 in a new interview on Tuesday. "I'm not saying it's in the cards. But I'm physically and mentally capable of doing anything," insisted Thompson, who served as governor from 1987 to 2001 before stepping down to serve as George W. Bush's HHS secretary.

At a GOP debate in 2007 during his short-lived presidential campaign, Thompson had to apologize repeatedly after saying he thought employers should be allowed to fire gay workers, alternately blaming his response on needing to go to the bathroom and on a malfunctioning hearing aid. In 2012, Thompson ran for Senate but lost to Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin 51-46 after narrowly winning a bruising GOP primary with just 34% of the vote.

House

CO-07: State Sen. Britney Pettersen became the first Democrat to kick off a bid for Colorado's open 7th Congressional District on Tuesday, a day after Rep. Ed Perlmutter announced his retirement. Pettersen sought this seat once before in 2017 when Perlmutter ran for governor, but after the congressman abandoned his bid and later decided to seek re-election, she dropped out of the primary (as did every other notable Democrat).

Pettersen is unlikely to be the last contender to emerge, though. The Denver Post mentions two other Democrats as possible candidates, state Rep. Chris Kennedy and Jefferson County Commissioner Andy Kerr, who also ran in 2017. Kerr did not respond to a request for comment from Colorado Politics.

MN-03: Businessman Mark Blaxill, a former treasurer for the state GOP, announced a bid for Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District against Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips on Tuesday morning. He joins Navy veteran Tom Weiler in the Republican primary. Redistricting has yet to take place but will likely be handled by the courts due to a deadlock between the Republican-run state Senate and the Democratic-held state House.

NJ-11: Lobbyist Rosemary Becchi, who was the GOP's nominee against Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill in 2020, has closed her campaign committee with the FEC, a likely signal that she does not intend to seek a rematch. While Becchi could of course form a new committee, the New Jersey Globe notes she still owes $6,000 to a fundraising consultant, who previously filed a claim over the unpaid debt. Democrats also made the 11th District considerably bluer in redistricting.

Morning Digest: Facing Trump venom and GOP censure, Murkowski goes wobbly on seeking re-election

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

Leading Off

AK-Sen: Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski unequivocally said back in January that she was running for re-election, but she's sounding a lot less certain now. When reporters recently asked her when she would decide, the 18-year incumbent noncommittally responded, "Well, I have to do it before 2022, right?" If Murkowski does choose to retire, it would mark the first time that an incumbent senator has not sought re-election in Alaska since it became a state in 1959.

One person who would be incredibly happy if Murkowski decided to call it a career is Donald Trump, who talked about trying to unseat her even before she voted to remove him from office in January. Trump has continued to make it clear he'd try to help defeat Murkowski if she ran again, though the Washington Post reported in March that some members of his inner circle are skeptical "that he will be as much of a potent force in the race because traveling to campaign against her would require such a long flight, which Trump generally avoids." The Alaska Republican Party's central committee, which has a much shorter commute, also piled on Saturday when it voted to censure the senator over her vote.

If Murkowski did seek a fourth full term, she would compete under very different electoral rules that could actually make it easier for her to fend off a hard-right challenger regardless of whether Trump actually schlepps out to Anchorage. Last year, Alaska voters approved a referendum that would require all parties to now run together on a single primary ballot, with the top four vote-getters advancing to November. Such a system would make it all but impossible to block Murkowski from the general election, when voters would then choose a winner by means of an instant runoff.

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Senate

AZ-Sen: Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said back in January that he would not challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but CNN reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell still hasn't given up trying to recruit him. There's no word whether the termed-out governor is listening to McConnell's entreaties, though, and some very loud voices closer to home would prefer he just leave the political scene altogether. The Arizona Republican Party censured Ducey over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic around the same time that the governor took his name out of contention, vividly demonstrating the kind of primary he'd have been in for.

GA-Sen: Lt. Gov Geoff Duncan said over the weekend that he would not seek the Republican nomination to face Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

KY-Sen: Former state Rep. Charles Booker said Sunday that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination to face Republican Sen. Rand Paul. Booker campaigned for Kentucky's other U.S. Senate seat last year and lost a surprisingly close primary to national party favorite Amy McGrath, who in turn went on to lose badly to Sen. Mitch McConnell.

MO-Sen: Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports that major GOP outside groups are open to spending in Missouri’s open seat primary to stop disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens if he runs. Isenstadt says that Senate Leadership Fund, a major super PAC close to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, "has been engaged in talks about how to keep the former governor from endangering their hold on what should be a safe seat," though no one has settled on anything yet.

Isenstadt adds that GOP operatives in the Show Me State are aware that a crowded field could make it easier for Greitens to win the nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, though unnamed "top Republicans" acknowledge that they haven't come up with a plan to stop him at this early point in the cycle.

NV-Sen: CNN says that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red's 2018 nominee for governor, is considering challenging Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto next year. The incumbent will be a top GOP target as she seeks re-election in a state that backed Joe Biden by a close 50-48 margin, but a bit surprisingly, we've heard very little about the prospective field to face her until now.

Laxalt, who unsuccessfully sued to overturn Biden's victory in the state, has not yet said anything publicly about his interest, though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly sees him as a Republican who "could bring together the warring wings of the party." Back in December, the Las Vegas Review-Journal also relayed "rumors" that Laxalt was thinking about seeking a rematch with Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who beat him 49-45, but we've heard nothing new since then.

OH-Sen: While "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance hasn't publicly expressed interest in seeking the Republican nomination for Ohio’s open seat, that hasn't stopped a group of far-right billionaires from pouring massive sums into a super PAC set up to aid him if he does. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Peter Thiel has given $10 million to a group called Protect Ohio Values, while the PAC’s spokesperson says that Robert Mercer's family has also made a "significant contribution."

On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan recently told CNN he would decide "in the next few weeks" if he'll campaign to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

UT-Sen: Former state Rep. Becky Edwards recently told Utah Policy that she was "all in" for a Republican primary campaign against Sen. Mike Lee, but she'll be in for an exceedingly difficult race: Edwards, who retired from the legislature in 2018, spent last year encouraging fellow Mormon women to vote against Donald Trump.  

Governors

CT-Gov: New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said Sunday that she would not seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, a move that the Hartford Courant writes "appeared to take both parties by surprise."

MD-Gov: Nonprofit executive Jon Baron told the Baltimore Sun's Bryn Stole that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s open governorship. Stole writes that Baron, who is a former official in the Clinton-era Department of Defense, currently serves as vice president of Arnold Ventures, a group supported by a billionaire couple that describes its mission as "invest[ing] in evidence-based solutions that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice."

MN-Gov: Republican Rep. Pete Stauber said Sunday that he would not challenge Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. KSTP’s Ricky Campbell reports that some GOP operatives “had considered Stauber a favorite,” while one top Republican, former state House Speaker Kurt Zellers, was openly dismayed. “I'm a little shocked and, honestly, disappointed," said Zellers. "I would have loved to see Congressman Stauber run. I don't know if there's a clear path right now for any candidate."

NE-Gov, NE-02: In a development that will almost certainly be a relief to House Republicans, Rep. Don Bacon announced Monday that he would run for re-election rather than campaign for governor. While Republicans are the heavy favorites to keep the governor's office in deep red Nebraska no matter whom they nominate next year, holding Bacon’s Omaha-based 2nd District would be a much more difficult task without him. In its current form, the seat swung from 48-46 Trump to 52-46 Biden last year, but the congressman ran far ahead of the ticket and won his third term 51-46.

 NY-Gov: On Friday, reporter Jessica Bakeman became the seventh woman to accuse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. Bakeman wrote that she attended a 2014 holiday party at the executive mansion where Cuomo had held her in place without her consent and refused to let go of her after taking a picture with her even as she “practically squirmed to get away from him.” She further described how Cuomo went on to make a joke about what had just happened in front of her colleagues, which Bakeman said left her in “stunned silence, shocked and humiliated.”

Two days after Bakeman’s allegations became public, the New York Times and Washington Post both reported that Larry Schwartz, a longtime Cuomo adviser tasked with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, had been contacting county executives over the last two weeks to assess their loyalty to the governor.

One unnamed Democratic executive reportedly filed an ethics complaint with the state attorney general’s office because, as the Post wrote, they “feared the county’s vaccine supply could suffer if Schwartz was not pleased with the executive’s response to his questions about support of the governor.” On Monday, Cuomo’s attorney put out a statement insisting that Schwartz “would never link political support to public health decisions,” though she didn’t deny the calls had taken place.

Both stories attracted attention days after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Thursday that state lawmakers would open an impeachment investigation into Cuomo, a development that came after a majority of legislators called for his resignation. Notably, if a majority of the Assembly votes to impeach Cuomo, his powers would temporarily be transferred to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. The governor would regain his powers if he manages to avoid conviction.

Cuomo has repeatedly said that he won’t step down, but now one of his longtime allies is reportedly considering running to replace him. The New York Daily News writes that Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a moderate Democrat, has been talking to donors and fundraisers about a possible bid, though he has not yet said anything publicly. There’s no word if Bellone would be willing to challenge Cuomo if the governor is in a position to seek re-election next year.

VA-Gov: On Friday evening, the Virginia Republican Party's State Central Committee opted to allow convention delegates who will be choosing the party's statewide nominees on May 8 to vote at one of roughly 37 locations across the state. The decision came weeks after the party originally opted to hold its gathering at Liberty University in Lynchburg, only for the school to announce the next day that it hadn’t in fact agreed to host the event at all.

But if you thought the intra-party bloodletting over this convention is finally over, think again. The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Patrick Wilson writes that, even after the party reached its decision, "the meeting veered into a bitter debate related to minutia over how people will file to become delegates." The GOP also won't finalize its list of voting locations until April 24, about two weeks before the event itself.

Democrats, meanwhile, will pick their candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general in a traditional June primary―an event that will be open to any eligible voter and feature far more than 37 voting locations.

House

 NM-01: The U.S. Senate confirmed Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland as secretary of the interior on Monday, making Haaland, who is a member of the federally recognized Laguna Pueblo tribe, the first Native American to ever run a cabinet-level department. The congresswoman's departure from the House will also set off a special election in New Mexico’s 1st District in the Albuquerque area, which supported Joe Biden 60-37 last year.

In anticipation of a vacancy, several candidates from both parties have been running here for some time, but there won't be any primaries. Instead, state law requires each party's central committee to pick their candidate: The Democrats’ body is made up of about 180 members, while Republicans put their own membership at 119. Lawmakers introduced a bill this year to institute traditional primaries instead, but it looks unlikely to win the support of the necessary two-thirds of each chamber before the legislature's session ends on Saturday.

We’ll have a look at both parties’ fields in a future Digest, but there was one notable development on the GOP side shortly before Haaland was confirmed when state Sen. Mark Moores announced he would run. Political observer Joe Monahan writes that while Moores, who is the only Republican in the chamber who represents any part of the city of Albuquerque, would have a tough time flipping this seat, even an unsuccessful House campaign could help raise his profile for a bid against Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham next year.

Haaland’s confirmation also ends, at least for now, her brief but historic time in elective office. Haaland, who was a longtime Democratic activist, first appeared on the ballot in 2014, when she was then-Attorney General Gary King’s running mate in that year's election for governor. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s strong poll numbers and the terrible political climate for Democrats made the race very challenging, though, and the King-Haaland ticket lost 57-43.

Haaland soon won the race to chair the state party during the 2016 cycle, an election that saw Democrats retake the state House after two years of GOP control. Haaland got a chance to run for the 1st District to succeed Lujan Grisham when the congresswoman ran for governor, but she had to get through an expensive primary. The contest effectively turned into a three-way race between Haaland, who earned the top place on the ballot by winning the state party convention; retired University of New Mexico law school professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez; and former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez.

Haaland ran commercials talking about how she'd put herself through college and law school as a single mom, noting that she “doesn't look like most people in Congress.” She also received outside help from a new group called 7Gen Leaders that ran ads that promoted her chance to make history as the first Native American woman elected to Congress. (The group's name refers to the philosophy, attributed to the Iroquois, that those living today should strive to work for the benefit of those who will live seven generations from now.)

Still, while Haaland looked like she had a real chance to win, there didn’t seem to be an obvious frontrunner heading into the primary. Sedillo Lopez spent more than any other candidate, while Martinez received considerable outside help. EMILY’s List, meanwhile, aired ads attacking Martinez even though it didn’t endorse either Sedillo Lopez or Haaland.

Ultimately, though, Haaland beat Martinez by a surprisingly wide 41-26, and she had no trouble in November. In January of 2019, Haaland and a fellow Democrat, Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids, together made history when they were sworn in as the first American Indian women to serve in Congress, which Haaland did while wearing traditional Native dress.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and nonprofit executive Dianne Morales have both announced that they've raised enough money from small donors to qualify for the city's matching funds program. The city's Campaign Finance Board, though, will need to verify that they've met all of the requirements before they can receive public money.

Other Races

King County, WA Executive: It's been over a decade since there was a competitive race for the top elected position in Washington's most populous county, but that could change this year. Incumbent Dow Constantine has had no trouble winning since he was first elected in 2009, but state Sen. Joe Nguyen, a fellow Democrat who has represented West Seattle in the legislature since 2018, is now saying he's seriously considering a run against him this fall. The filing deadline is in late May.

Constantine may be in for a tough race because the backlog at the very top of Washington's political pyramid—where Democrat Jay Inslee took the unusual step of running for and winning a third term as governor last year—is starting to have some trickle-down effects on the next tier of political positions. Constantine had looked like a probable candidate for governor in 2020, but he backed Inslee once it became clear the governor wasn’t going anywhere. (As it happens, fully one-third of all elected King County executives have gone on to the governorship, so it's a good stepping stone.) That’s left Nguyen, in turn, stuck in line behind Constantine.

With King County's Republican bench currently consisting of blowing tumbleweeds, it's likely that if Nguyen does run, he and Constantine would face each other in this November’s general election thanks to Washington’s top-two primary system. Nguyen would presumably stake out terrain to the left of the already-progressive Constantine, though note that this race is officially nonpartisan.

Morning Digest: A blue House district in Nebraska could open up if this Republican runs for governor

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

Leading Off

NE-Gov, NE-02: Rep. Don Bacon, who is one of just nine House Republicans to represent a Biden district, confirmed to the Omaha World-Herald over the weekend that he was considering running to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts. Bacon, who previously served in the Air Force as a brigadier general, said he would "be very cautious" as he mulls whether to run statewide, but he did not give a timeline for when he'd decide.

Republicans have held Nebraska's governorship since the 1998 elections, and that streak is likely to continue no matter who wins next year's primary. The bigger consequence of a Bacon gubernatorial campaign, though, would likely be in the battle for the House. The Omaha-based 2nd District swung from 48-46 Trump to 52-46 Biden last year, but Bacon ran far ahead of the ticket and won his third term 51-46.

It also remains to be seen if Republican mapmakers will get the chance to gerrymander Nebraska's congressional map to ensure that they can easily hold the 2nd District with or without Bacon. That's because Nebraska's unicameral legislature, which is formally nonpartisan but run by the GOP, offers lawmakers an uncommonly strong filibuster. Republicans weren't able to win the two-thirds majority it would need to overcome a Democratic filibuster aimed at stopping new maps (a job that would then likely fall to the courts), but the GOP retains the ability to end the filibuster rule with a simple majority.

Campaign Action

Senate

AL-Sen: Politico reports that former Trump administration official Clint Sims has "told the former president's inner circle recently he's not running" for the Republican nomination for this open seat.

IA-Sen: CNN mentions a few Democrats as possible candidates for the Senate seat currently held by Chuck Grassley, who has not yet said if he'll seek an eighth term next year:

  • Former Gov. Chet Culver
  • 2020 candidate Mike Franken
  • Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart
  • State Sen. Liz Mathis
  • State Auditor Rob Sand
  • State Rep. Ras Smith

There is no word yet if any of these people are interested.

The only notable Democrat who has publicly talked about a Senate run is Rep. Cindy Axne, who said in January that she wasn't ruling out a bid for the upper chamber or for governor.

MO-Sen: Several more Republicans have expressed interest in running to succeed Sen. Roy Blunt, who surprised observers Monday when he announced he would not seek a third term in this conservative seat. Former Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in disgrace in 2018, had been talking about challenging the incumbent for renomination before this week, and a spokesperson said Tuesday that Greitens was mulling a bid for this now-open seat.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Reps. Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler additionally confirmed they were thinking about entering the contest. Former U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison also did not rule it out, saying, "I think I'm going to keep my powder dry for the moment. I may have more to say a little bit later."

No notable Republicans have announced yet, but one might make the first move soon. Scott Charton, a former reporter who now runs a communications firm, tweeted that party sources have relayed that Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft "will run." Ashcroft is the son of John Ashcroft, a former governor and senator who was George W. Bush's first attorney general.

On the Democratic side, Marine veteran Lucas Kunce announced his bid Tuesday. The Huffington Post's Kevin Robillard writes that Kunce "now works at a think tank dedicated to battling corporate monopolies." Kunce joins former state Sen. Scott Sifton, who was already running before Blunt made his plans known.

Meanwhile, a prominent Democrat also is showing some interest in another campaign. Rep. Cori Bush tweeted Monday, "I was surprised to learn of Sen. Blunt's retirement. I'm grateful to everyone reaching out. As always, I'm focused on how best to deliver for St. Louis." Bush actually ran in the 2016 primary for this seat but brought in little money or outside attention and lost to establishment favorite Jason Kander 70-13. Bush went on to run an unexpectedly strong 2018 primary campaign against Rep. Lacy Clay before defeating him two years later.

Jeff Bernthal of St. Louis' Fox affiliate also writes that state Sen. Brian Williams is one of the Democrats who “shared messages indicating they will examine how they can best serve the state," though there's no quote from Williams.

Governors

KS-Gov: On Tuesday, Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced that he would seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Schmidt is the first major Republican to say he's in, though former Gov. Jeff Colyer began raising money last week for a very likely campaign.

Schmidt, who was elected to his third term 59-41 in 2018, entered the campaign with Trumpian rhetoric claiming, "The intolerant left with its cancel culture and big tech censorship is trying to shame and silence conservative voices." Schmidt has also spent the last year shoring up his far-right credentials with more than just words. As the pandemic worsened last spring, Schmidt told police not to enforce Kelly's executive order limiting the size of indoor religious services. In December, Schmidt also supported a lawsuit to overturn Joe Biden's victory.

However, Colyer already began working to portray his would-be foe as too close to moderates with a statement reading, "I started my public service working for President Reagan, a conservative hero. Derek Schmidt worked for two US Senators – one of whom served in the Obama Cabinet and the other endorsed Barbara Bollier last year and Laura Kelly before that."

As the Kansas City Star notes, those are references to former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, who did indeed support Democrat Barbara Bollier's unsuccessful 2020 campaign for her old Senate seat, and former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, who went on to serve as Barack Obama's secretary of defense and backed Biden over Donald Trump. Schmidt, for his part, responded to Colyer's jabs by saying that "it's time to move forward, not backwards."

P.S. Despite the common joke that "A.G." actually stands for "aspiring governor" (we didn't say the joke was funny), the last Kansas attorney general to successfully make the jump to the top office was Republican John Anderson in 1960.

MN-Gov: Former state Sen. Scott Jensen, who made a name for himself last year by suggesting that medical authorities were exaggerating the threat of COVID-19, revealed Tuesday that he would campaign for the Republican nomination to face Democratic incumbent Tim Walz.

That declaration came a bit sooner than he planned, though: The Star Tribune's Briana Bierschbach wrote, "Jensen announced his campaign for governor in a news release embargoed for next week, but the Star Tribune did not agree to the embargo. His campaign said he will not be commenting at this time." The only other declared contender is Mike Murphy, the mayor of the small community of Lexington, though a number of other Republicans are considering.

Jensen, who worked as a family physician, attracted the wrong kind of attention last year even before COVID-19 became serious in the United States when he came out in opposition to mandatory vaccinations for children. Jensen went on to national infamy in April when he argued that health officials were inflating the death toll of the pandemic: When a radio host asked him why they would "skew" mortality figures, Jensen responded, "Well, fear is a great way to control people."

Jensen revealed months later that his comments had prompted an investigation by the Minnesota State Board of Medical Practice for spreading misinformation and providing "reckless advice," but he later said the complaints against him were dismissed. That hardly stopped Jensen from spreading more conspiracy theories, though: Jensen has released TikTok videos captioned, "Family doctor EXPOSES double masking craziness," and "You are being played (by the CDC and WHO)."

What Republicans may care more about, though, is Jensen's past support for gun safety measures. In 2018, Jensen joined his Democratic colleagues to support bills to increase background checks and require any firearm owners to report lost or stolen weapons.

NY-Gov: A sixth woman has accused Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, saying he inappropriately touched her last year. According to the Albany Times Union's Brendan Lyons, the woman, whose name the paper is currently withholding, is a state government employee and alleges the incident took place at the governor's mansion in Albany, where she'd been "summoned to do work." Other staffers also reported the matter to Cuomo's counsel, says Lyons. Cuomo denied the allegations, saying at a Tuesday press conference, "I never touched anyone inappropriately."

At the same press event, when PBS reporter Dan Clark asked Cuomo if he would still run for a fourth term next year, Cuomo dodged the question. "Today is not a day for politics. I'm focusing on my job—my job is vaccines, getting a budget done,” he said. "You know allegations. You don't know facts. Let's operate on facts." That stands in contrast with remarks he made in 2019 when he said simply, "I plan to run for a fourth term."    

TX-Gov: Former state Sen. Don Huffines recently told the Houston Chronicle that he is considering challenging Gov. Greg Abbott in next year's Republican primary. Huffines has spent the past year attacking the pandemic restrictions from the man he's labeled "King Abbott," and he was hardly appeased by Abbott's decision last week to end Texas' mask mandate and business capacity limits. "It'll be great to have our freedoms back next week," Huffines tweeted before adding, "Unfortunately, we still live in a dictatorship where @GregAbbott_TX can yank those the next time it's politically convenient to him."

The wealthy Huffines, though, has flirted with running for higher office a few times in the past but never gone for it. In 2015, Huffines didn't rule out a primary bid against Rep. Pete Sessions in the 32nd Congressional District in the Dallas suburbs. Huffines decided instead to remain in the legislature, but his constituents weren't so willing to keep him around: Huffines ran for re-election in 2018 in a seat that had swung from 57-42 Romney to 50-45 Clinton, and he lost 54-46. (His identical twin brother, Phillip Huffines, was defeated in a primary that same year for another state Senate seat.)

Sessions also lost re-election after the 32nd District made a similar lurch to the left, but Huffines still mulled a 2020 bid against the new incumbent, Democrat Colin Allred. Huffines sat this contest out, though, while Sessions successfully returned to Congress by winning the far more conservative 17th District.

The Houston Chronicle, meanwhile, also mentions another vocal Abbott critic, 2020 state Senate candidate Shelley Luther, as a possible primary contender, but there's no word if she's interested.

House

LA-02: Campaign finance reports are in for the time from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 for the March 20 all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond, and Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter had a modest financial advantage over his colleague and main intra-party foe, Karen Carter Peterson.

Carter, who is backed by Richmond, outraised Peterson about $500,000 to $450,000 while outspending her $585,000 to $515,000; Carter also enjoyed a $290,000 to $210,000 cash-on-hand edge at the end of February. A third Democratic candidate, activist Gary Chambers, hauled in $305,000, spent $265,000, and had $115,000 left. In the very likely event that no one wins a majority of the vote later this month, a runoff would take place April 24 between the top two contenders.

Clancy DuBos of the New Orleans weekly The Gambit also recently took a look at the divisions between the main Democratic candidates in this safely blue seat. DuBos wrote that Peterson, Chambers, and businesswoman Desiree Ontiveros, who has brought in little money so far, have been campaigning as ardent progressives, while Carter "offers general but nuanced support — depending on the issue."

Notably, while the other contenders have called for a Green New Deal, Carter called it "a good blueprint" that won't be in place for a long time. Peterson has also run commercials pledging to "make Medicare for all a reality," though she and Carter used similar language when talking about healthcare in interviews with the Gambit: Peterson acknowledged that she was "okay with it being phased in," while Carter said, "I'm for a public option and healthcare for all."

DuBos also notes that, while both Carter and Peterson are veteran New Orleans elected officials (Chambers hails from Baton Rouge at the other side of the district), they represent conflicting factions in local Democratic politics. Peterson is a leader in the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), a longtime power player in the Crescent City that has clashed with Richmond and his allies. Each side scored some big wins and losses in the 2019 legislative elections, and DuBos writes, "Many see this contest as the latest bout between BOLD and Richmond."

LA-05: University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow has always looked like the heavy favorite to succeed her late husband, Republican Luke Letlow, in this very red seat, and new campaign finance reports only underscore her advantage in the March 20 all-party primary. Letlow brought in $680,000 during the first two months of 2021, while Democrat Candy Christophe was a distant second with $70,000.

There are a total of 12 candidates on the ballot, though, so it's still very possible that Letlow won't be able to win the majority she'd need to avert an April runoff.

MD-05, MD-Sen: Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd announced Monday that he was ending his Democratic primary campaign against House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and would instead try to deny renomination to Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

NY-19, NY-Gov: Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said this week that he was mulling over a bid for Congress in addition to a second campaign for governor. House Republicans, though, may not be content to wait for him to make up his mind after the debacle they experienced last year when they tried to recruit him to take on Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado.

Molinaro was the 2018 Republican nominee against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a race he lost by a brutal 60-36 margin statewide. Molinaro, though, did carry the Hudson Valley-based 19th District by a wide 53-42 even as Delgado was unseating Republican Rep. John Faso, which made the county executive an attractive prospect for the NRCC.

The committee hoped that Molinaro would launch a House campaign after he was re-elected in November of 2019 as leader of Dutchess County, but it didn't have a viable backup candidate when he announced two months later that he would stay put. The nominee the GOP ended up with, Kyle Van De Water, raised very little money, and major outside groups on both sides ended up focusing their efforts elsewhere instead. Delgado ultimately won by a solid 54-43 as Joe Biden was carrying his seat by a much smaller 50-48 spread.

OH-12: 2020 Democratic nominee Alaina Shearer said Monday that she would run for Congress again. Last year, Shearer lost to Republican Rep. Troy Balderson 55-42 as Donald Trump was carrying this suburban Columbus seat 52-46.

TX-06: This week, Republican state Rep. Jake Ellzey earned an endorsement from his old ally, former Gov. Rick Perry, ahead of the May 1 all-party primary. Perry backed Ellzey during each of his previous campaigns, including his 2018 run for this seat.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on Monday publicized an endorsement from former Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel, a longtime power player in Harlem who served in Congress from 1971 until his retirement in 2017.

Other Races

New York City, NY Comptroller: City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced Tuesday that he was joining the crowded June Democratic primary for this open seat, which will be conducted using instant runoff voting.

Johnson, who is the first gay man to lead the New York City Council, was universally expected to run for mayor until he announced in September that he'd skip the contest in order to focus on his mental health. Johnson, though, began showing interest this year in campaigning for comptroller, a post that also has plenty of influence over the nation's largest city. Johnson said Tuesday, "I feel great. I feel better … Where I was in September is not where I am today."

Johnson raised $859,000 ahead of his anticipated mayoral bid, money that he can now use for the comptroller's race. WNYC's Gwynne Hogan reports that this puts him ahead of City Councilman Brad Lander, whose $816,000 haul had made him the fundraising leader in the contest.

SD-AG: On Monday, the state House overwhelmingly passed a resolution pausing impeachment proceedings against Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg as the criminal case against him proceeds. Ravnsborg was charged last month for striking and killing a man with his car in September.

Data

House: David Jarman takes a look at the last three cycles of Daily Kos Elections’ presidential results by congressional district, and finds that only 47 House districts flipped parties at least once in the last decade. That leaves 388 districts that stayed either Romney/Trump/Trump or Obama/Clinton/Biden.

Twelve districts went Romney/Clinton/Biden and 12 more went Romney/Trump/Biden; these, for the most part, are well-educated suburban districts. There are another 16 Obama/Trump/Trump districts, all in the Midwest or Northeast, many of which have below-median levels of college education.

There are also five perpetually swingy districts that went Obama/Trump/Biden. Finally, there are two interesting outliers: Florida's 26th went Obama/Clinton/Trump while Texas's 23rd went Romney/Clinton/Trump. These two seats are mostly-Latino districts where 2020's pro-Trump trend among Latino voters narrowly made the difference. You can find more on these seats, as well as some great maps, in Jarman’s post.