Morning Digest: Abortion rights supporters win massive victory at the ballot box in Kansas

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

Leading Off

 KS Ballot: Abortion rights supporters won a resounding victory in deep-red Kansas on Tuesday night, sending an amendment that would have stripped the right to an abortion from the state constitution down to defeat in a 59-41 landslide.

Republican lawmakers placed the initiative on the ballot in January of last year in response to a 2019 decision by the state Supreme Court that overturned legislation banning an abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. In their ruling, a majority concluded that the state constitution protects "the right of personal autonomy," which includes "whether to continue a pregnancy." Only restrictions that "further a compelling government interest" and are "narrowly tailored to that interest" would pass muster, said the justices. The ban in question did not, and so more aggressive restrictions would not as well.

That infuriated Republicans, who were eager to clamp down on abortion if not ban it outright. They therefore drafted misleading language that would undo this ruling by amending the constitution. "Because Kansans value both women and children," the amendment superfluously began, "the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion"—even though the Supreme Court case had no bearing on such funding.

The accompanying explanatory text was also heavily tilted to the "Yes" side, saying that a "No" vote "could restrict the people, through their elected state legislators, from regulating abortion by leaving in place the recently recognized right to abortion."

Republicans further sought to tilt the scales in their favor by scheduling the vote to coincide with the state's August primary, almost certainly expecting light mid-summer turnout that would favor their side. That emphatically did not come to pass. Remarkably, the total vote on the abortion amendment was 25% greater than the combined tally in both parties' primaries for governor, meaning at least 150,000 voters showed up just to vote on the ballot measure.

In the state's most populous county, Johnson County in the Kansas City suburbs, at least 243,000 voters participated in the vote on the amendment, 90% of the turnout of the hotly contested general election for governor in 2018. What's more, the "No" side demonstrated considerable crossover appeal: While Democrat Laura Kelly carried Johnson 55-38 four years ago, the pro-abortion position prevailed by a far wider 68-32 margin on Tuesday.

A similar phenomenon repeated itself across the state, even in deeply conservative Sedgwick County, home to Wichita—the longtime headquarters of the anti-abortion terrorist group Operation Rescue and the city where abortion provider George Tiller was assassinated in 2009 while leaving church. Donald Trump won Sedgwick 54-43 in 2020, but "No" also won, 58-42.

Both sides spent heavily, about $6 million apiece, with half of the "Yes" funding coming from the Catholic Church. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the leading group that worked to defeat the measure, carefully targeted its messaging: Ads in Democratic-leaning areas warned that the amendment "could ban any abortion with no exceptions," while those in more conservative parts of the state avoided mentioning abortion at all and instead decried the measure as "a strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions."

Amendment supporters, meanwhile, relied on more partisan framing, blasting "unelected liberal judges appointed by pro-abortion politicians" who "ruled the Kansas constitution contains an unlimited right to abortion, making painful dismemberment abortions legal." But even though Trump won Kansas by a wide 56-41 margin just two years ago, this sort of message failed to break through.

The final result also defied the only public poll of the race, a survey from the Republican firm co/efficient that found the amendment passing by a 47-43 margin. It will also buoy activists in Kentucky, who are fighting a similar amendment in November, as well as those in Michigan, who are seeking to enshrine abortion rights into their state's constitution. And it should serve as a reminder to Democrats that protecting the right to an abortion is the popular, mainstream position in almost every part of the country.

election recaps

 Primary Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of 8 AM ET Wednesday, and you can also find our cheat-sheet here. Before we dive in, though, we’ll highlight that the margins may change as more votes are tabulated; indeed, we should expect considerably more ballots to be counted in both Arizona and Washington, as well as Michigan’s Wayne County.

In Maricopa County, which is home to over 60% of the Grand Canyon State’s residents, election authorities say that they’ll use Wednesday to verify signatures for any early ballots that were dropped off on Election Day and that they expect an updated vote tally by 10 PM ET/ 7 PM local time; a large amount of votes remain to be counted in the other 14 counties as well. Washington, meanwhile, conducts its elections entirely by mail, and ballots postmarked by Election Day are still valid as long as they're received within a few days.

Finally, a huge amounts of votes remain to be counted in Wayne County for a very different reason. Officials in Michigan’s most populous county said on Tuesday evening, “Based on the recommendation of the Voluntary Voting Systems Guideline 2.0 issued by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, coupled with AT&Ts decision in March 2022 to no longer support 3G modems, 65 out of 83 Counties in Michigan are no longer modeming unofficial election results.” The statement continued, “We do not have a definitive time of when we will reach 100 percent reporting, but will continue to work throughout the evening and morning until this is achieved.”

 AZ-Sen (R): Former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, who picked up Trump’s endorsement in June, beat wealthy businessman Jim Lamon 39-29 for the right to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in what will be one of the most contested Senate races in the nation.

 AZ-Gov (R): Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned far-right conspiracy theorist, leads Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson 46-44―a margin of about 11,000 votes―with just over 637,000 ballots tabulated; the Associated Press, which has not called the race, estimates that 80% of the vote has been counted so far. Lake, who trailed until the wee hours of Wednesday morning, has Trump’s endorsement, while termed-out Gov. Doug Ducey is for Robson.

 AZ-Gov (D): Secretary of State Katie Hobbs defeated former Homeland Security official Marco López in a 73-22 landslide.

 AZ-01 (R): Republican incumbent David Schweikert holds a 43-33 lead over wealthy businessman Elijah Norton with 96,000 votes in, or 82% of the estimated total. The winner will be defending a reconfigured seat in the eastern Phoenix area that, at 50-49 Biden, is more competitive than Schweikert’s existing 6th District.

 AZ-01 (D): Jevin Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, defeated former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf 61-39.

 AZ-02 (R): Trump’s candidate, Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane, enjoys a 34-24 lead over state Rep. Walter Blackman in another uncalled race; 76,000 votes are in, which the AP says is 90% of the total. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran, who is defending a seat in northern and eastern rural Arizona that Trump would have taken 53-45.

 AZ-04 (R): In potentially bad news for the GOP establishment, self-funding restaurant owner Kelly Cooper leads former Arizona Bankers Association president Tanya Wheeless 30-25; 56,000 ballots are counted, and the AP estimates this is 82% of the total. The powerful Congressional Leadership Fund supported Wheeless, who benefited from $1.5 million in outside spending to promote her or attack Cooper. The eventual nominee will take on Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton in a reconfigured 54-44 Biden seat in the southern Phoenix suburbs.

 AZ-06 (D): Former state Sen. Kirsten Engel defeated state Rep. Daniel Hernandez 60-34 in the primary to succeed their fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. This new Tucson-based seat would have backed Biden just 49.3-49.2.

 AZ-06 (R): Juan Ciscomani, who is a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, turned back perennial candidate Brandon Martin 47-21. Ciscomani always looked like favorite to capture the GOP nod against an underfunded set of foes, though his allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund unexpectedly spent $1 million to support him in the final days of the race.

 AZ-AG (R): The GOP primary has not yet been resolved, but Trump’s pick, former prosecutor Abe Hamadeh, leads former Tucson City Councilor Rodney Glassman 32-24 with 605,000 ballots tabulated; the AP estimates that 80% of the vote is in. The winner will go up against former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes, who had no opposition in the Democratic primary, in the contest to replace termed-out Republican incumbent Mark Brnovich.

 AZ-SoS (R): State Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Biden's victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol, defeated advertising executive Beau Lane 41-25 to win the GOP nod to succeed Democratic incumbent Katie Hobbs. Trump was all-in for Finchem while Ducey backed Lane, the one candidate in the four-person primary who acknowledges Biden’s win.

 AZ-SoS (D): Former Maricopa County Clerk Adrian Fontes leads House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding 53-47 in another race that has not yet been called. A total of 467,000 ballots are in, which the AP estimates is 77% of the total vote.

 Maricopa County, AZ Attorney (R): With 328,000 votes in, appointed incumbent Rachel Mitchell leads former City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere 58-42 in the special election primary to succeed Allister Adel, a fellow Republican who resigned in March and died the next month. The winner will face Democrat Julie Gunnigle, who lost to Adel 51-49 in 2020; this post will be up for a regular four-year term in 2024.

 KS-AG (R): He’s back: Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach defeated state Sen. Kellie Warren 42-38 in a tight primary to succeed Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who easily won his own GOP primary to take on Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Kobach, a notorious voter suppression zealot who lost to Kelly in a 2018 upset, will take on attorney Chris Mann, who had no Democratic primary opposition.

 MI-Gov (R): Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon won the nomination to face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by defeating wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke 41-22; Dixon picked up Trump’s endorsement in the final days of the campaign, though he only supported her when it was clear she was the frontrunner. Note that these totals don’t include write-ins, so we don’t know yet exactly how poorly former Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s last-ditch effort went.

 MI-03 (R): Conservative commentator John Gibbs’ Trump-backed campaign denied renomination to freshman Rep. Peter Meijer, who was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote for impeachment, 52-48. Meijer and his allies massively outspent Gibbs’ side, though the challenger got a late boost from Democrats who believe he’d be easier to beat in November.

Gibbs will now go up against 2020 Democratic nominee Hillary Scholten, who had no primary opposition in her second campaign. Meijer defeated Scholten 53-47 in 2020 as Trump was taking the old 3rd 51-47, but Michigan's new independent redistricting commission dramatically transformed this Grand Rapids-based constituency into a new 53-45 Biden seat.

 MI-08 (R): Former Trump administration official Paul Junge beat former Grosse Pointe Shores Councilman Matthew Seely 54-24 for the right to take on Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee. Junge lost to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin 51-47 in the old 8th District in 2020 and decided to run here even though the old and new 8th Districts do not overlap. Biden would have carried the revamped version of this seat in the Flint and Saginaw areas 50-48.

 MI-10 (D): Former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga beat former Macomb County Health Department head Rhonda Powell 48-17 in the Democratic primary for a redrawn seat in Detroit's northeastern suburbs that's open because of the incumbent-vs.-incumbent matchup in the 11th (see just below).

Marlinga will face Army veteran John James, who was Team Red's Senate nominee in 2018 and 2020, in a constituency Trump would have taken 50-49. James narrowly lost to Democratic Sen. Gary Peters within the confines of the new 10th by a 49.3-48.6 margin last cycle, but he begins this general election with a massive financial lead.

 MI-11 (D): Rep. Haley Stevens beat her fellow two-term incumbent, Andy Levin, 60-40 in the Democratic primary for a revamped seat in Detroit’s northern suburbs that Biden would have carried 59-39. Stevens represented considerably more of the new seat than Levin, whom some Democrats hoped would campaign in the 10th instead of running here; Stevens and her allies, led by the hawkish pro-Israel organization AIPAC, also massively outspent Levin’s side.

 MI-12 (D): Rep. Rashida Tlaib turned back Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey 65-20 in this safely blue seat. The AP estimates only 66% of the vote is counted because of the aforementioned delays in Wayne County, but the agency has called the contest for the incumbent.

 MI-13 (D): Wealthy state Rep. Shri Thanedar leads state Sen. Adam Hollier 28-24 with 51,000 votes tabulated in this loyally blue Detroit-based constituency, but the AP estimates that this represents only 49% of the total vote and has not made a call here.

 MO-Sen (R): Attorney General Eric Schmitt beat Rep. Vicky Hartzler 46-22 in the primary to succeed their fellow Republican, retiring Sen. Roy Blunt; disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, who was the other “ERIC” Trump endorsed one day before the primary, took third with only 19%. (Yet another Eric, Some Dude Eric McElroy, clocked in at 0.4%.) Republican leaders who weren’t Trump feared that the scandal-ridden Greitens could jeopardize the party’s chances in this red state if he were nominated, and Politico reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s allies at the Senate Leadership Fund quietly financed the main anti-Greitens super PAC.

Schmitt, though, will be the favorite against businesswoman Trudy Busch Valentine, who claimed the Democratic nod by beating Marine veteran Lucas Kunce 43-38. A onetime Republican, former U.S. Attorney John Wood, is also campaigning as an independent.

 MO-01 (D): Rep. Cori Bush turned back state Sen. Steve Roberts 70-27 to win renomination in this safely blue St. Louis seat.

 MO-04 (R): Former Kansas City TV anchor Mark Alford won the nod to succeed unsuccessful Senate candidate Vicky Hartzler by beating state Sen. Rick Brattin 35-21 in this dark red western Missouri seat. Brattin had the backing of School Freedom Fund, a deep-pocketed affiliate of the anti-tax Club for Growth, while the crypto-aligned American Dream Federal Action and Conservative Americans PAC supported Alford.

 MO-07 (R): Eric Burlison defeated fellow state Sen. Jay Wasson 38-23 to claim the nomination to replace Rep. Billy Long, who gave up this safely red southwestern Missouri seat only to come in a distant fourth in the Senate race. Burlison had the backing of both the Club for Growth and nihilistic House Freedom Caucus.

 WA-03: The AP has not yet called either general election spot in the top-two primary for this 51-46 Trump seat in southwestern Washington. With 105,000 votes counted, which represents an estimated 57% of the vote, Democrat Marie Perez is in first with 32%. GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who voted for impeachment, holds a 25-20 edge over Trump’s candidate, Army veteran Joe Kent.

 WA-04: Things are similarly unresolved in this 57-40 Trump seat in eastern Washington with 74,000 votes in, which makes up an estimated 47% of the total vote. GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, who also supported impeaching Trump, is in first with 27%; Democrat Doug White leads Trump’s pick, 2020 GOP gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, 26-22 for second.

 WA-08: Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier took first with 49% in this 52-45 Biden seat in suburban Seattle, but we don’t yet know which Republican she’ll be going up against. With 110,000 ballots in, or 53% of the estimated total, 2020 attorney general nominee Matt Larkin is edging out King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn 16-15; Jesse Jensen, who came unexpectedly close to beating Schrier in 2020, is in third with 13%.

 WA-SoS: Appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs easily secured a spot in the November special election, but he may need to wait a while to learn who his opponent will be. With 965,000 votes in, which the AP estimates is 47% of the total, Hobbs is in first with 41%; Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party, enjoys a 12.9-12.4 edge over a first-time GOP candidate named Bob Hagglund, while Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner is just behind with 12.2%.

Governors

 NY-Gov: Siena College's first general election poll finds Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul defeating Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin 53-39; this is the first survey from a reliable pollster since both candidates won their respective primaries in late June.

 RI-Gov: Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has publicized a Lake Research Partners internal that shows her beating Gov. Dan McKee 27-22 in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary; former CVS executive Helena Foulkes takes 14%, while former Secretary of State Matt Brown is a distant fourth with just 7%. The last survey we saw was a late June poll from Suffolk University that gave Gorbea a similar 24-20 edge over the governor as Foulkes grabbed 16%.

Campaign finance reports are also now available for all the candidates for the second quarter of the year:

  • Foulkes: $550,000 raised, $1.4 million spent, $690,000 cash-on-hand
  • McKee: $280,000 raised, $140,000 spent, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
  • Gorbea: $270,000 raised, $380,000 spent, $790,000 cash-on-hand
  • Brown: $50,000 raised, additional $30,000 reimbursed, $90,000 spent, $70,000 cash-on-hand

The only serious Republican in the running is businesswoman Ashley Kalus, who raised only a little more than $60,000 from donors during this time but self-funded another $1.7 million. Kalus spent $1.1 million, and she had that same amount available at the end of June.

House

 HI-02: While former state Sen. Jill Tokuda has far outraised her only serious intra-party rival, state Rep. Patrick Branco, ahead of the Aug. 13 Democratic primary for this open seat, outside groups have spent a total of $1 million to help Branco. One of the state representative's allies, VoteVets, recently aired an ad attacking Tokuda for receiving a 2012 endorsement from the NRA; the spot does not mention Branco, a former U.S. Foreign Service diplomat who served in Colombia and Pakistan.

Another major Branco backer is the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which is hoping to elect Hawaii's first Latino member of Congress. The other organizations in his corner are the crypto-aligned Web3 Forward and Mainstream Democrats PAC, a new group with the stated purpose of thwarting "far-left organizations" that want to take over the Democratic Party. The only poll we've seen here was a late June MRG Research survey for Civil Beat and Hawaii News Now that put Tokuda ahead 31-6, but it was conducted before Blanco's allies began spending here.

 IL-02: Rep. Robin Kelly on Friday evening ended her bid to stay on as state Democratic Party chair after acknowledging that she did not have a majority of the Central Committee in her corner. The next day, the body unanimously chose state Rep. Lisa Hernandez, who had the backing of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, as the new party chair.

 OK-02: Fund for a Working Congress, a conservative super PAC that has gotten involved in a few other GOP primaries this cycle, has deployed $400,000 to aid state Rep. Avery Frix in his Aug. 23 Republican primary runoff against former state Sen. Josh Brecheen. The group made its move around the same time that the Club for Growth-backed School Freedom Fund dropped a larger $1.1 million to boost Brecheen.

 TN-05: Retired National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead has released a Spry Strategies internal that shows him trailing former state House Speaker Beth Harwell 22-20 ahead of Thursday's Republican primary for this newly-gerrymandered seat; Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles is in third with 15%, while an underfunded contender named Timothy Lee takes 10%.

Mayors

 Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday endorsed Democratic Rep. Karen Bass ahead of November's officially nonpartisan general election to lead America's second-largest city. Bass' opponent this fall is billionaire developer Rick Caruso, a former Republican and independent who is now a self-described "pro-centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat."

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Tennessee GOP’s bill would block Trump’s pick, but they’ll need courts to agree

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.

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

TN-05: Tennessee lawmakers have sent a bill to Gov. Bill Lee that would impose a requirement that House candidates reside in their districts for three years before becoming eligible to run, a move that seems to be aimed at blocking one contender in particular: former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, who is Trump's endorsed candidate for the August Republican primary in the newly gerrymandered 5th District.

The legislation could have a tough time surviving a court challenge, however, because of a 1995 Supreme Court decision holding that states cannot add further qualifications to candidates for Congress that aren't already in the Constitution: namely, a minimum age and length of U.S. citizenship, and residency in the state—but, crucially, not the district—they're seeking to represent.

However, one of the measure's proponents said he hoped that the court would now revisit its earlier ruling, a five-to-four decision that saw swing Justice Anthony Kennedy join four liberal justices in the majority to strike down term-limits laws. On the other side, a well-financed group called Tennessee Conservative PAC says it would sue to stop the bill, though Ortagus herself hasn't said if she'd go to court.

Ortagus moved to Tennessee last year from D.C., and critics have cast her as an interloper. She didn't help her cause last month when, during an appearance on a conservative radio show, she bombed the host's quiz about the new 5th District and state. Many observers have argued that the legislature crafted this bill as an attack on Ortagus, especially since its sponsor, state Sen. Frank Niceley, has made it clear he's not a fan: Niceley said earlier this month, "I'll vote for Trump as long as he lives. But I don't want him coming out here to tell me who to vote for."

Another GOP contender, music video producer Robby Starbuck, has argued that this legislation is meant to harm him as well. However, the former Californian now says that he'd meet the residency requirements of the newest version of the bill.

The Downballot

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Redistricting

FL Redistricting: As promised, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the new congressional map passed by Florida's GOP-run legislature, which responded by saying it would convene a special session starting April 19 to draw new districts. The Republican leaders of both chambers released a statement saying their goal is to pass a plan that would be "signed by the Governor," suggesting they aren't interested in working with Democrats to craft a veto-proof plan—at least for now.

MD Redistricting: Maryland's Democratic-run state Senate quickly passed a new congressional map on Tuesday after introducing it the prior evening, with action in the state House likely by Wednesday's court-imposed deadline to enact a remedial redistricting plan.

The new map would return the 1st District to dark-red status by resituating it almost entirely on the conservative Eastern Shore and undoing its jump across the Chesapeake Bay that had it take in blue-leaning turf around the state capital of Annapolis. As a result, the revamped 1st would have voted for Donald Trump by a comfortable 56-42 margin, according to Dave's Redistricting App, instead of giving Joe Biden a 49-48 edge as it did under the Democrats' now-invalidated map. The change would mean smooth sailing for the state's lone Republican congressman, Rep. Andy Harris.

The latest revisions also make the 6th District, held by Democratic Rep. David Trone, noticeably redder as well: It would have gone 54-44 for Biden, instead of 60-38, and just 47-46 for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The changes appear to be aimed at pleasing the courts, at least in part, by presenting a map that, to the naked eye, simply looks nicer than the one it's replacing. This superficial view that a map ought to appear pleasing can often lead to misleading analysis—we've dubbed the concept a "prettymander"—but even the Supreme Court has objected to election districts on the grounds of their "bizarre shape."

As for the other six districts, they'd all remain safely blue, even though their configurations would all change considerably. But this new map might not see use this year: Tucked in at the end of the legislation is a provision that would revert the state back to the prior map if the court ruling that struck it down is overturned on appeal. It's still not clear whether there will be an appeal, though a spokesperson for Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh said that the legislature's choice to move forward with a new map would not affect any decision on whether to appeal.

MO Redistricting: On a wide bipartisan vote, the Missouri House sharply rejected a new congressional map that passed the state Senate last week after far-right renegades caved to GOP leaders, despite the fact that the state's candidate filing deadline came and went on Tuesday.

In so doing, the House also voted to establish a conference committee with the Senate to hash out a compromise, but we might not even get that far: One House Republican said he believed that some senators would filibuster any motion for a conference committee—the same tactic hardliners used to hold up passage of the map in the first place. Lawsuits have already been filed asking the courts to step in and draw new districts in the event of a continued impasse.

OH Redistricting: Ohio's Republican-dominated redistricting commission passed a fourth set of legislative maps late on Monday night on a 4-3 vote by making relatively small adjustments to the maps the state Supreme Court most recently rejected. Just hours before Monday's court-imposed deadline, the commission abandoned efforts to have a bipartisan pair of consultants draw new districts from scratch; by instead approving maps similar to those that were previously struck down, it's courting yet another adverse ruling.

The commission, however, seems to have scored a lucky break on the congressional front, as it appears to have run out the clock on a separate legal challenge to the heavily slanted map it passed in favor of the GOP earlier this month, at least for this year. The state Supreme Court issued a scheduling order on Tuesday that would not see briefing conclude for another two months—well after the state's May 3 primary.

A group of voters backed by national Democrats has continued to argue that the map, which closely resembles a prior iteration that was struck down by the Supreme Court as an illegal partisan gerrymander, should again be invalidated. However, a second group of plaintiffs, led by the Ohio League of Women Voters and represented by the state chapter of ACLU of Ohio, has conceded the matter, saying in a filing that they "do not currently seek relief as regards to the 2022 election."

Senate

GA-Sen: AdImpact tweets that Senate Majority PAC has booked at least $24.4 million in fall TV time to aid Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock, which is $11 million more than previously reported.

MO-Sen: Former state Sen. Scott Sifton said Monday night, just one day before candidate filing was to close, that he was dropping out of the Democratic primary and endorsing philanthropist Trudy Busch Valentine, a first-time candidate who announced her own bid the following day. Busch Valentine is the daughter of the late August Busch Jr., who was instrumental in the success of the St. Louis-based brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, and she previously donated $4 million of her money to St. Louis University's nursing school (now known as the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing). Busch Valentine will face Marine veteran Lucas Kunce in the August primary.

OH-Sen: Rep. Tim Ryan's campaign says he's launching a $3.3 million opening ad buy for the Democratic primary, and he uses his first spot to repeatedly attack China. "Washington's wasting our time on stupid fights," the congressman says, continuing, "China is out-manufacturing us left and right. Left and right."

WI-Sen: Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes' new internal from Impact Research (formerly known as Anzalone Liszt Grove or ALG) gives him a 38-17 lead over Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry in the August Democratic primary, with state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson at 9% and 8%, respectively. Back in December, the firm found Barnes with a 40-11 advantage against Lasry.

Governors

CT-Gov: Democratic incumbent Ned Lamont uses his first TV spot to talk about how he managed to balance the budget without raising taxes, saying, "We turned a massive budget deficit into a $3 billion surplus. While investing in schools, healthcare, and public safety." The governor continues, "And now we are cutting your car tax and your gas tax."

GA-Gov: Former Sen. David Perdue is continuing his all-Trump all-the-time advertising strategy for the May GOP primary with a new commercial that uses footage of Trump bashing both incumbent Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams at his Saturday rally.

The spot begins with the GOP master bellowing, "Brian Kemp is a turncoat, he's a coward, he's a complete and total disaster." As the crowd repeatedly boos, Trump eggs on his followers by claiming that the governor was "bullied into a consent decree engineered by Stacey Abrams and allowed massive voter fraud to occur throughout the state of Georgia." The only mention of Perdue in the spot comes afterwards as Trump proclaims that he'll "never surrender to Stacey Abrams and the militant radical left, and with your vote we're going to rescue the state of Georgia from the RINOs."

Meanwhile, Perdue's allies at Georgia Action Fund are spending another $955,000 on TV advertising for him, which AdImpact says takes the group's total to $1.64 million.

HI-Gov: Civil Beat reports that Lt. Gov. Josh Green has received endorsements from two of the state's most prominent unions, the Hawaii State Teachers Association and Hawaii Government Employees Association, for the August Democratic primary. Several other labor groups, including the Hawaii Firefighters Association, are also behind Green, who has posted huge leads in the few surveys that have been released.

OH-Gov: Gov. Mike DeWine is spending $131,000 on cable for his first buy for the Republican primary, a spot that extols him for standing up to teachers unions and for police against "radicals."

The commercial comes a week after former Rep. Jim Renacci, who is DeWine's most prominent intra-party foe, deployed $104,000 on his own cable ads, which attack the incumbent for "turning his back" on both Trump and Ohio. Renacci's commercial continues by going after DeWine for "mandating masks on our kids" and argues he's been "governing Ohio just like his liberal friends Joe Biden and Andrew Cuomo would." This is the first time we've seen Cuomo appear in a TV spot outside New York since he resigned last year, and it doesn't even allude to the many scandals that resulted in his downfall.  

WI-Gov: Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch's new spot for the August GOP primary features her bragging about what an "unapologetic" conservative she is.

House

AK-AL: Former state Sen. John Coghill has announced that he'll compete in the June special top-four primary to succeed his fellow Republican, the late Rep. Don Young. Coghill served for 22 years in the legislature and amassed a number of powerful posts, but the Senate Rules Committee chair lost renomination by 14 votes to Robert Myers in 2020 under the old partisan primary system. Myers, who ran to Coghill's right, said of his tiny win, "I know that this election was not about how much people like me. This election was about how much people hated John Coghill."

GA-13: Rep. David Scott has received an endorsement from Stacey Abrams, the once and future Democratic nominee for governor, for his potentially competitive May primary.

MI-13: Public Policy Polling has surveyed the August Democratic primary for this open seat on behalf of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party Organization, and it finds hedge fund manager John Conyers III leading former Detroit General Counsel Sharon McPhail 19-9, with wealthy state Rep. Shri Thanedar taking third with 7%. The survey, which finds a 43% plurality undecided, was conducted days before Conyers announced his bid.

MO-01: State Sen. Steve Roberts announced Monday evening that he would challenge freshman Rep. Cori Bush, who is one of the most prominent progressives in Congress, in the August Democratic primary for this safely blue seat in St. Louis. Roberts said of the incumbent, "She made a comment that she wanted to defund the Pentagon. The NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) is a multi-million dollar project that's in my Senate seat, in the 1st Congressional [District], those folks don't have a voice." His campaign also faulted Bush for casting a vote from the left against the Biden administration's infrastructure package.

Roberts himself was accused of sexual assault by two different women in 2015 and 2017, though he was never charged. Bush's team highlighted the allegations after he announced his bid, saying, "Such men do not belong in public service, much less representing the incredible people of St. Louis in Congress."

PA-17: Navy veteran Chris Deluzio has earned an endorsement from the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, which the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review describes as the "largest labor coalition in the region," for the May Democratic primary for this competitive open seat.

attorneys general

SD-AG: A committee in South Dakota's GOP-run state House has recommended against impeaching state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, a Republican who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges last year for striking and killing a man with his car in September of 2020 but avoided jail time. A majority on the committee found that Ravnsborg had not committed a "crime or other wrongful act involving moral turpitude by virtue or authority of his office," but two Democrats disagreed, saying the attorney general had not been "forthcoming to law enforcement officers during the investigation" into the fatal crash.

The development comes despite an overwhelming vote in favor of the impeachment investigation in November, but the committee may not have the last word. The House will reconvene on April 12, when a simple majority could nevertheless vote to impeach.

Other Races

NY-LG: Multiple media outlets report that federal investigators are probing whether Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin had any knowledge of an alleged scheme to make fraudulent contributions to his unsuccessful bid last year for New York City comptroller. The investigation is centered around Gerald Migdol, a real estate investor whom prosecutors charged last year with faking the origin of dozens of donations so that Benjamin's campaign could more easily qualify for public financing.

The lieutenant governor has not been accused of wrongdoing, and his spokesperson says that Benjamin's campaign for comptroller donated the illicit contributions to the city's Campaign Finance Board as soon as it learned about them. However, the New York Times reports that investigators are looking further into whether Benjamin used his previous post in the state Senate to "direct[] state funding in some way to benefit Mr. Migdol in exchange for the contributions."

Last year, two months after Benjamin lost his bid for comptroller, newly elevated Gov. Kathy Hochul appointed him to fill her previous position as lieutenant governor. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor of New York compete in separate nomination contests before running as a ticket in the general election, but they can choose to campaign together in the primary and urge voters to select them both. Hochul and Benjamin have been running as an unofficial ticket in June's Democratic primary, but the governor's spokesperson on Monday didn't comment when asked if she'd keep Benjamin on as a running mate.

Morning Digest: Mo Brooks just found out Trump’s Complete and Total endorsements are anything but

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

AL-Sen: Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he was "withdrawing my endorsement" of Rep. Mo Brooks ahead of the May Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, a move that came after months of stories detailing the GOP master's unhappiness with the congressman' campaign. Trump concluded his not-tweet by saying, "I will be making a new Endorsement in the near future!"

There are two remaining available candidates in the GOP primary that Trump could back: Army veteran Mike Durant and Shelby's choice, former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt. Trump had disparaged Britt as "not in any way qualified" for the Senate back in July, but he's warmed up to her in recent months and, per a CNN report last month, even told her that "he would speak positively of her in private and public appearances."

That same story relayed that Trump saw Durant, whom he derided as "a McCain guy" because he functioned as a surrogate for John McCain's 2008 campaign, as unacceptable. That seems to also be changing, though, as Politico reports that Durant met with Trump on Monday. As for Brooks, who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, the Club for Growth responded to Trump's Wednesday announcement by saying it was still sticking with him.

Trump argued he was abandoning the "woke" Brooks because the candidate told an August rally, "There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft in 2020. Folks, put that behind you." However, while CNN said last year that Brooks' performance at this event, as well as Trump's brief but friendly conversation with Britt backstage, were what "first sowed frustration" with the congressman inside Trumpworld, few observers believe that those seven-month-old comments from Brooks are the reason Trump is now leaving him for dead.

Instead, almost everyone agreed that Trump decided that Brooks was running a doomed bid and wanted to avoid being embarrassed by his primary defeat. Indeed, CNN reported all the way back in December that Trump, GOP insiders, and even Brooks' allies were unhappy with his weak fundraising and other aspects of his campaign: The candidate responded that month by "reassessing his campaign strategy" and replacing several members of his team, but CNN said last week that this shakeup only granted him a temporary reprieve from Trump's gripes. "He feels he has been more than patient and that Mo hasn't risen to the occasion despite many opportunities to do so," said one unnamed person close to Trump.  

But things intensified last week when Trump began to publicly discuss yanking his "Complete and Total" endorsement over the August comments. Brooks responded by saying that Trump had been told "that there are mechanisms by which he could have been returned to the White House in 2021 or in 2022, and it's just not legal." An unnamed Trump advisor told CNN afterwards that a Republican saying that the 2020 election couldn't be overturned represented a "cardinal sin," and that Brooks had just said "the quiet part out loud and it might cost him (Trump's) support." Brooks himself last week used his very first ad of the race to proudly showcase the Jan. 6 speech he delivered to the pro-Trump rally that preceded the day’s violence, but that messaging wasn't enough to keep Trump on his side.

Things got even worse for Brooks on Tuesday when the Republican firm Cygnal released a survey for the Alabama Daily News and Gray Television that showed the former frontrunner in a distant third place. Durant led with 35%, while Britt led Brooks 28-16 for the second spot in an all-but-assured June runoff; last August, before Durant joined the race, the firm showed Brooks crushing Britt 41-17.

There's no word if those ugly numbers influenced Trump, but he announced just a day later that he was finally done backing Brooks. The congressman himself responded with a statement saying, "President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency." He continued, "As a lawyer, I've repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit(s) what President Trump asks. Period." Brooks also declared that Trump has allowed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to "manipulate" him.

The Downballot

Joining us on The Downballot for this week’s episode is Jessica Post, the president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee—the official arm of the Democratic Party dedicated to winning state legislatures nationwide. Jessica talks with us about how the DLCC picks its targets and helps candidates, the impact of freshly un-gerrymandered maps in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and how Democrats are protecting vulnerable seats in a challenging midterm environment.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also discuss yet another shameful redistricting ruling from the Supreme Court, Donald Trump pulling the plug on Mo Brooks' Senate campaign in Alabama, and a brand-new special election for the top prosecutor's post in America's fourth-largest county. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.

Redistricting

WI Redistricting: The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Wisconsin's new legislative maps in an unsigned "shadow docket" opinion on Wednesday, ruling that the state Supreme Court had violated the Voting Rights Act when it selected a map for the state Assembly earlier this month that would increase the number of Black-majority districts in the Milwaukee area from six to seven. However, the high court rejected a separate challenge on different grounds to the state's new congressional map.

As a result, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will now have to either pick new legislative maps or provide further evidence in support of the plans it originally selected, which were submitted by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. But as election law expert Rick Hasen noted, in a piece calling Wednesday's ruling "bizarre on many levels," the U.S. Supreme Court is using the Wisconsin case to "chip away at the Voting Rights Act." That suggests the justices would be hostile to the Evers maps no matter what additional arguments the Wisconsin court might adduce.

The decision also showcases the high court's stark hypocrisy: Six weeks ago, the Supreme Court blocked a lower federal court ruling ordering Alabama to redraw its congressional map in order to create a second Black congressional district, as mandated by the Voting Rights Act—the same law the Wisconsin Supreme Court cited as motivating its choice of maps. At the time, Justice Brett Kavanaugh explained in a concurring opinion that the lower court's order in the Alabama case had come too close to the election for the state to revise its existing map, which included only a single district with a Black majority.

Now it's late March, yet the Supreme Court has nevertheless seen fit to send Wisconsin back to the drawing board. There's simply no legitimate reason for the differing outcomes: The original lower court ruling in Alabama came down four months before the state's primary, while the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision was issued just five months ahead of the primary there. In both cases, however, Republican interests benefit, and the cause of Black representation suffers.

Senate

NC-Sen: Rep. Ted Budd, aka the far-right congressman running for Senate that Trump still backs, is running a spot for the May primary based around his support for finishing Trump's border wall.

NH-Sen: Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton tells Politico that he's considering entering the September Republican primary to face Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan and would self-fund $5 million if he gets in. Felton adds that he'll decide early next month after, naturally, the Bitcoin 2022 gathering.

NV-Sen, NV-Gov: The Club for Growth has released a WPA Intelligence survey of the June Republican primary that gives its endorsed Senate candidate, former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a wide 57-19 lead over Army veteran Sam Brown.

The Club also takes a look at the race for governor, where it has yet to take sides: WPA shows Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo leading former Sen. Dean Heller 28-22, with North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee at 13%. A recent PPP survey for the Democratic Governors Association had Lombardo ahead with a similar 26%, while Heller and Lee tied with 13% each.

Governors

GA-Gov: Newt Gingrich has waded into his home state's May Republican primary for governor by backing former Sen. David Perdue's intra-party bid against incumbent Brian Kemp.

MD-Gov: Former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker has publicized a GQR internal of the twice-delayed Democratic primary, which is now set for July, that shows him trailing state Comptroller Peter Franchot 23-15; former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez and former nonprofit head Wes Moore aren't far behind with 11% and 10%, respectively. Baker, who was the runner up in the 2018 primary, has released these numbers to argue that he's the strongest alternative to Franchot.

On the Republican side, termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan has endorsed former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, whom the Washington Post called his "handpicked candidate" last year.

PA-Gov: State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman's newest spot for the May Republican primary consists of him calling for the impeachment of Larry Krasner, Philadelphia's reform-minded district attorney.

House

CO-08: While Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco initially sought to collect signatures to qualify for the June Democratic primary ballot for this new seat, he didn't end up turning in enough petitions before last week's deadline. Tedesco will instead seek to advance by competing at the April 5 party convention, where he'll need to win the support of at least 30% of the delegates in order to keep his candidacy alive.

The other major Democratic candidate is state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, who did turn in the requisite number of petitions. She's also competing for the party endorsement next month, but she'll make it to the primary ballot as long as she wins at least 10% of the delegates.

FL-07: Longtime congressional aide Rusty Roberts announced this week that he was entering the Republican primary to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Roberts previously served as chief of staff for John Mica, the Styrofoam-obsessed Republican whom Murphy unseated in 2016. (Politico wrote during that campaign that Mica "obsessively hordes throwaway coffee cups in his office and home, insisting that his companions reuse the same paper or Styrofoam carries because 'it's recyclable!'")

MO-01: Republican state Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this month that Democratic state Sen. Steven Roberts wants lawmakers to modify the boundaries of the safely blue 1st District to strengthen his chances for a potential primary campaign against Rep. Cori Bush. Roberts rejected Schatz's claim about his interest in shaping redistricting, though he did not deny he was considering a campaign against the high-profile freshman. "Is this on the record or off the record?" he asked a reporter, and when he was informed he was on the record, Roberts simply said he was focused "on my legislative duties."

Roberts appeared in the news again on Monday when The Intercept reported that someone with an IP address in the Missouri Office of Administration edited Roberts' Wikipedia page to delete a section describing how he'd been accused of sexual assault by two different women in 2015 and 2017, though he was never charged. A spokesperson for Roberts denied any knowledge of the edits and also deflected a question about a possible campaign against Bush. Missouri's candidate filing deadline is still set for March 29 even though the GOP-run legislature hasn't yet passed a new congressional map.

NC-13: Law student Bo Hines uses his first spot for the May Republican primary to talk about his time as a college football player and to inform the viewer that he's Donald Trump's endorsed candidate. The spot features a montage of Hines jumping rope, lifting weights, and, in one weird moment at the 12-second mark, apparently talking to himself in the mirror.

NJ-11: For the second cycle in a row, former Kinnelon Council President Larry Casha has dropped out of the Republican primary to face Democratic incumbent Mikie Sherrill.

TN-05: Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles has announced that he's joining the August Republican primary for the open 5th District, which Republicans recently transformed from blue to red by cracking apart the city of Nashville. Ogles is a former state director for the Koch network's Americans for Prosperity, and he launched a primary bid in 2017 against Sen. Bob Corker days before the incumbent decided to retire. Ogles, though, attracted little attention in the new open seat race from the Kochs or anyone else, and he soon dropped out and launched a successful bid for Maury County mayor.

Ogles, who established himself as a loud opponent of Gov. Bill Lee's pandemic measures, responded to Lee's summer declaration that school districts could decide for themselves if a mask mandate would be required in elementary schools by calling for the legislature to hold a special session to address his "continued abuses of power." Ogles also didn't rule out a primary campaign against Lee before the new congressional maps were unveiled, but he soon shifted his focus to the 5th District.

Ogles joins a contest that includes former state House Speaker Beth Harwell; businessman Baxter Lee; retired Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead; music video producer Robby Starbuck; and Trump's choice, former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. Ortagus' campaign, though, has attracted scorn from plenty of loud conservatives who have cast the recent Tennessee arrival as an outsider.

Ortagus gave her critics some fresh material last month when, during an appearance on Michael Patrick Leahy's conservative radio show, she bombed the host's quiz about the new district and state. Among other things, Ortagus couldn't answer when asked which "three interstate highways" are in the 5th, the names of the four living former Republican governors (she only got Lee's predecessor, Bill Haslam), and the identity of "[o]ne of the most famous NASCAR drivers living today [who] lives in the 5th District and has a large auto dealership in Franklin." (The answer is Darrell Waltrip.)

Each chamber of the state's GOP-dominated legislature has also passed a bill that would impose a three-year residency requirement on congressional candidates, and while its state House sponsor denied it had anything to do with any specific contender, observers were quick to note that it would keep Ortagus off the ballot. However, while the Senate version would take effect this cycle, the House bill wouldn't come into force this year. It likely wouldn't matter what the legislature ends up agreeing to, though, because of a 1995 Supreme Court decision that ruled that states cannot add further qualifications to candidates for Congress that aren't in the U.S. Constitution.

VT-AL: Sianay Chase Clifford, who is a former aide to Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, announced last week that she was joining the August Democratic primary for Vermont's open House seat and campaigning as "a real progressive option." Chase Clifford, who is 27, moved to the Bay State for college, and she returned to Vermont during the pandemic. The candidate, whose mother is from Liberia, would be the first Black person to represent the state in Congress.

Attorneys General

GA-AG: Donald Trump has endorsed Big Lie proponent John Gordon, who renewed his law license last year to try to help Trump overturn his Georgia defeat, against Attorney General Chris Carr in the May Republican primary. Carr warned his counterparts in other states against joining Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's lawsuit to throw out the results in Georgia and other states Biden won, and Trump lashed out Tuesday by saying the incumbent did "absolutely nothing" to aid him.

Gordon, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "has little statewide profile," though he does have a close connection to another Trump ally. The paper reports that former Sen. David Perdue, who is trying to deny renomination to Gov. Brian Kemp, lives on property owned by Gordon because his own place is undergoing construction, though Perdue denied he had anything to do with this endorsement.

Carr and Gordon are the only Republican candidates, so this contest will be decided without a runoff. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Jen Jordan is the undisputed frontrunner against attorney Christian Wise Smith.

ID-AG: The Club for Growth has dropped a survey from WPA Intelligence that shows former Rep. Raúl Labrador, who was one of the far-right's most prominent members during the tea party era, lapping five-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden 35-14 in the May Republican primary. The Club hasn't made an endorsement, though it supported Labrador in his unsuccessful 2018 bid for governor.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Attorney: Three more GOP candidates have announced that they'll run in this year's special election to succeed their fellow Republican, soon-to-be-former County Attorney Allister Adel: City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere, attorney James Austin Woods, and prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. Republicans need to turn in just over 4,500 valid signatures by April 4 in order to make the primary ballot; Anni Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel, launched her own bid earlier this week.

Godbehere on Tuesday earned a supportive tweet from former TV anchor Kari Lake, the far-right conspiracy theorist that Donald Trump is supporting for governor. Woods, for his part, is the son of the late Grant Woods, who served as state attorney general from 1991 to 1999. That link may not be helpful with GOP primary voters, though, as the elder Woods was a vocal Trump critic who became a Democrat in 2018.

Finally, Mitchell is a longtime sex crimes prosecutor who attracted national attention during Brett Kavanaugh's 2018 Supreme Court hearings when the all-male Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee brought her in as a "female assistant" to question him and accuser Christine Blasey Ford. She went on to tell the GOP senators that no "reasonable prosecutor" would prosecute Kavanaugh for sexual assault.

The next year Mitchell temporarily served as Maricopa County attorney after Bill Montgomery resigned to join the state Supreme Court: Both she and Godbehere were named as finalists for the appointment for the final year of his term, but Adel was ultimately selected. Mitchell made news again last month when she was one of the five division chiefs to tell their boss to resign due to serious questions about her sobriety and ability to serve as the county's top prosecutor.

On the Democratic side, 2020 nominee Julie Gunnigle said Tuesday that she'd already collected the requisite petitions in less than 24 hours.