Morning Digest: Trump backs longtime coal operative in Ohio special election for red House seat

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.

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OH-15: Donald Trump waded into the crowded August Republican primary to succeed former Rep. Steve Stivers by endorsing coal company lobbyist Mike Carey on Tuesday.

Trump's decision came days after Stivers, who officially resigned from this very red suburban Columbus seat last month, backed state Rep. Jeff LaRe. That move, as well as Stivers' decision to use his old campaign committee to air ads for the state representative, briefly made LaRe the primary frontrunner; another candidate, state Rep. Brian Stewart, subsequently dropped out and acknowledged he didn't think he could compete against his Stivers-supported colleague. Trump's support for Carey, though, likely upends this contest.

Carey himself doesn't appear to have run for office since his 1998 defeat in an eastern Ohio state House seat against the late Charlie Wilson, a Democrat who went on to represent that area in Congress from 2007 to 2011, but he's long been influential in state politics.

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Back in 2011, Politico described Carey, who worked as an operative for the state coal industry, as "a one-man wrecking ball for Democrats who have strayed too far green for voters' liking." It noted that Carey's political organization ran TV ads in Ohio in 2004 savaging the Democratic presidential nominee as "John Kerry, Environmental Extremist," and he also targeted Barack Obama four years later.

Carey went on to work as a lobbyist for the coal giant Murray Energy, which was renamed American Consolidated Natural Resources Inc. last year after it emerged from bankruptcy protection. The company and its leadership has long been a major foe of environmentalists in Ohio and nationally, with former chief executive Robert Murray, a close Trump ally, lavishly funding global warming deniers.

Senate

AK-Sen: A new poll from Change Research for the progressive group 314 Action finds Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski faring poorly under Alaska's new top-four primary. In a hypothetical matchup against fellow Republican Kelly Tshibaka (who is running) and independent Al Gross (who unsuccessfully ran for Senate last year with Democratic support and is considering another bid), Tshibaka leads with 39%, while Gross takes 25 and Murkowski just 19. John Wayne Howe of the far-right Alaska Independence Party would get 4%, and 12% are undecided.

Murkowski would still advance to the general election in this scenario, since, as the name implies, the four highest vote-getters in the primary move on, but she'd do no better then. To reduce the risk of spoilers, November elections will be decided via ranked-choice voting, but in a simulated instant runoff, Tshibaka would beat Gross 54-46. 314 Action, which endorsed Gross last cycle, is arguing that the poll suggests that Murkowski's weakness offers Democrats an opening, but Tshibaka's performance—and recent history—show just how tough it is for Democrats to win statewide in Alaska.

AL-Sen: The Club for Growth has dusted off a late April poll from WPA Intelligence showing Rep. Mo Brooks leading businesswoman Lynda Blanchard by a wide 59-13 margin in next year's GOP Senate primary, with Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt at 9 and 19% of voters undecided. (The survey was conducted well before Britt, who just kicked off her campaign the other day, entered the race.) The Club hasn't endorsed Brooks yet, but sharing this poll is a signal that it may do so.

FL-Sen: On Wednesday, several weeks after a consultant said Rep. Val Demings would run for Senate, Demings herself made her campaign against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio official. Demings, who was a manager during Donald Trump's first impeachment trial and reportedly was under consideration as Joe Biden's running-mate last year, is by far the highest-profile Democrat to enter the race, though she faces Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell and (apparently?) former Rep. Alan Grayson for the nomination.

OH-Sen: A new poll of next year's GOP Senate primary in Ohio from former state Treasurer Josh Mandel unsurprisingly finds Mandel leading former state party chair Jane Timken 35-16, with all other candidates (actual and hypothetical) in the mid-to-low single digits and 34% of voters undecided. The survey, from Remington Research, is likely intended as pushback to a recent set of Timken internals from Moore Information that showed her gaining on Mandel, the newest of which had Mandel up just 24-19.

Governors

MI-Gov: A new poll from the Michigan Republican Party from Competitive Edge finds former Detroit police Chief James Craig (who hasn't actually kicked off a campaign yet) leading Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer 45-38 in a hypothetical test of next year's race for governor. Somewhat strangely, the survey also finds Whitmer beating Army veteran John James, who lost back-to-back Senate bids in 2018 and 2020 (and also hasn't announced a gubernatorial run), by a 50-45 margin.

These numbers are peculiar for two reasons: First, why would the state GOP want to make a prominent potential recruit like James look less electable—unless party leaders actually would prefer he stay out of the race, that is? The second oddity is the data itself. The 12-point difference in Whitmer's share as between the two matchups suggests that Craig, who's never run for office before, has an ability to win over Democratic voters so strong as to be almost unique in American politics today.

This extremely bifurcated take also stands in contrast to an independent poll last month from Target Insyght for the local tipsheet MIRS News, which found Whitmer up 48-42 on Craig and 49-39 on James. We'll need more polling before we can get a better sense of where things stand, but in today's extremely polarized political environment, the results from Target Insyght make much more sense than those from Competitive Edge.

NJ-Gov: Just hours before polls closed in the Garden State for Tuesday's primary, Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics released a poll of a matchup between Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and former Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli that showed Murphy comfortably ahead 52-26. The survey found 10% of respondents undecided and an additional 11% who declined to choose either candidate.

The poll only pitted Murphy against Ciattarelli, a matchup that's no longer hypothetical since Ciattarelli secured the GOP nod with 49% of the vote on Tuesday and Murphy faced no intra-party opposition.

OR-Gov: Businesswoman Jessica Gomez has joined next year's race for governor, making her the second notable candidate to seek the Republican nod after 2016 nominee Bud Pierce. Gomez has run for office once before, losing an open-seat race for the state Senate to Democrat Jeff Golden 55-45 in 2018.

PA-Gov: The Associated Press reports that Republican strategist Charlie Gerow is considering a bid for governor, though there's no quote from Gerow himself. Gerow's run for office twice before, losing bids in the GOP primary for Pennsylvania's old 19th Congressional District in both 1996 and 2000. (The closest successor to the 19th is the present-day 10th District, as both are centered around York and Cumberland counties.)

VA-Gov: With the general election matchup between former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin now set, Youngkin immediately began attacking his opponent, releasing two ads the day after McAuliffe clinched his party's nod.

The first commercial prominently features former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, who finished second in the Democratic primary, and shows several clips of her criticizing McAuliffe. Youngkin appears at the end to call himself "a new kind of leader to bring a new day to Virginia". However, before the ad even had a chance to air, Carroll Foy had already unambiguously endorsed McAuliffe's bid for a second term as governor.  

The second spot follows a similar theme of a "new day". It begins showing a legion of grey-haired white men in suits while Youngkin's voiceover decries "the same politicians taking us in the wrong direction". Youngkin, a younger, less-grey white man wearing a vest, then appears amid the crowd to describe the policies he would pursue as governor.

House

TX-08: Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton, who previously hadn't ruled out a bid for Texas' open 8th Congressional District, says he won't run for the seat held by retiring GOP Rep. Kevin Brady.

Legislatures

NJ State Senate, Where Are They Now?: Michael Pappas, a Republican who represented New Jersey in the U.S. House for a single term from 1997 to 1999, won Tuesday's state Senate primary for the open 16th Legislative District by a 65-35 margin. Pappas will take on Democratic Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker for an open GOP-held seat in the west-central part of the state that Hillary Clinton carried 55-41.

Pappas earned his brief moment in the political spotlight in 1998 when he took to the House floor to deliver an ode to the special prosecutor probing the Clinton White House that began, "Twinkle, twinkle, Kenneth Starr/ Now we see how brave you are." Politicos would later blame that bit of awful poetry for Pappas' 50-47 defeat against Democrat Rush Holt that fall. Pappas tried to return to Congress in 2000, but he lost the primary to former Rep. Dick Zimmer, who in turn lost to Holt.

Special elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in New Hampshire:

NH-HD-Merrimack 23: Democrat Muriel Hall defeated Republican Christopher Lins 58-42 to hold this seat for her party. Hall improved on Joe Biden's 55-44 win in this suburban Concord district last year, which was the best showing of any of the last three Democratic presidential nominees.

Republicans control this chamber 213-186, with one other seat vacant.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Former Mayor Kasim Reed filed paperwork Wednesday to set up a campaign to regain his old office, and while he has yet to make an announcement, there's little question he'll be on this year's ballot.

Local NBC reporter Shiba Russell tweeted that Reed "could officially announce he plans to enter the race" at a Thursday birthday fundraiser, a message the ex-mayor retweeted. If Reed wins this fall, he would be the first Atlanta mayor to secure a third term since the city's first-ever Black leader, Maynard Jackson, won back this office in 1989.

Reed himself had no trouble winning re-election the last time he was on the ballot in 2013 (term limits prevented him from seeking a third consecutive term in 2017), but a federal corruption investigation that ultimately resulted in bribery convictions for two senior city officials generated plenty of bad headlines during the end of his tenure. The matter isn't over, as Reed's former chief financial administration officer and director of human services are currently under indictment but unlikely to go on trial before this year's election.

Last month, Channel 2's Dave Huddleston asked Reed whether he was under investigation, to which the former mayor replied, "The Justice Department under [former Attorney General] Bill Barr has looked into every aspect of my life for more than three years and took no action." The former mayor also said of the scandals involving his old staffers, "Anything on my watch, I take responsibility for," adding, "I'm sorry I didn't see it faster."

Reed himself used that interview to argue that he could tackle Atlanta's rising crime rate if he returned to office, declaring, "I do know how to fix crime, and I do know I could turn our crime environment around in 180 days, and I know that I've done it before."

A number of fellow Democrats are already campaigning in this November's nonpartisan primary to succeed incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms, who shocked the city last month when she decided not to seek a second term, and others could still get in ahead of the August filing deadline. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Tharon Johnson, whom the paper identifies as a "veteran Democratic strategist and businessman," is one of the prospective contenders thinking about running.

Boston, MA Mayor: This week, state Rep. Jon Santiago became the first candidate to air TV commercials ahead of the September nonpartisan primary; Politico's Lisa Kashinsky says his "six-figure ad buy is for two 30-second spots that will air on the city's cable systems and Spanish-language broadcast."

Both Santiago's English and Spanish spots focus on his work as an emergency room physician and military service, with the narrator in the former ad asking, "You want a mayor who's got a pulse on Boston and its problems, literally?"

New York City, NY Mayor: Attorney Maya Wiley picked up an endorsement Wednesday from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams ahead of the June 22 Democratic primary. Williams, who was elected in 2019 as an ardent progressive, is one of just three citywide elected officials: The others are termed-out Mayor Bill de Blasio and one of Wiley's rivals, city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Eric Swalwell files second major lawsuit against Trump, allies for inciting deadly Capitol siege

Rep. Eric Swalwell filed a new lawsuit Friday in DC's federal District Court against Donald Trump and his closest allies for inspiring the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol that claimed five lives and injured more than 100 police officers. The second federal suit of its kind, it accuses Trump, Don Jr., Rudy Giuliani, and GOP Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama of violating federal civil rights and anti-terrorism laws by inciting the riot, aiding the rioters, and inflicting lasting emotional harms on members of Congress, according to CNN.

Last month, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi filed a lawsuit against Trump, Giuliani, and the right-wing extremist groups the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. Both lawsuits cite violations of a Reconstruction-era law designed to insulate Black Americans from intimidation by white supremacists. 

Swalwell, who was in the House chamber on Jan. 6 and later served as an impeachment manager, charges that the defendants incited the Capitol attack through their repeated claims that the election was stolen, their urging of supporters to attend the rally, and their specific encouragement of rally attendees to march to the Capitol and commit violence.

"Trump directly incited the violence at the Capitol that followed and then watched approvingly as the building was overrun," the lawsuit said. "The horrific events of January 6 were a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants' unlawful actions. As such, the Defendants are responsible for the injury and destruction that followed."

Trump told rally attendees they must "show strength" and "fight like hell" and then directed them to "walk down Pennsylvania Avenue," while falsely telling his supporters that he would march with them to the Capitol.

Brooks told rally goers, "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass."

Giuliani famously declared, "Let's have trial by combat!"—a reference to settling disputes through a personal battle between two opposing sides.

Naturally, Don Jr. offered rally goers the most dismal slogan of them all, but also literally threatened anyone who failed to act. "You can be a hero, or you can be a zero," he said at the rally. "If you're gonna be the zero, and not the hero, we're coming for you, and we're gonna have a good time doing it." Nice touch.

The lawsuit alleges, "The Defendants, in short, convinced the mob that something was occurring that—if actually true—might indeed justify violence, and then sent that mob to the Capitol with violence-laced calls for immediate action."

The defendants are all named in their personal capacities, forcing them to hire private attorneys and depriving them of hiding behind their public offices. As CNN notes, if either lawsuit proceeds, Trump and his allies would have to go through the discovery process and be subject to depositions—all of which could turn up fresh evidence about their personal involvement in the event.

12 people besides Donald Trump spoke at January 6 rally. Remember their names, but know who to blame

On January 6, after months of telling his supporters the election had been stolen and weeks of telling them to gather in Washington, D.C., on that day to protest (“Be there, will be wild!”), Donald Trump stood in front of the White House and told a crowd “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” and then moments later called on them to march on the Capitol. Trump is now on trial in the Senate following impeachment in the House. But he wasn’t the only person to speak that day, whipping up the crowd in the hours before it attacked the Capitol.

One speaker after another—12 of them—told the crowd to be angry, to believe that the election had been stolen, to believe that America itself was being stolen from them. (The not-very-buried subtext was “stolen from white people.”)

Two of the speakers were current members of the House of Representatives: Mo Brooks and Madison Cawthorn, the former telling the crowd to “start taking down names and kicking ass” and the latter urging them to hold members of Congress “accountable” if they didn’t try to overturn the election. A motion to censure Brooks didn’t get through the House Ethics Committee.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was another public official on the state, accusing states that counted their votes and named President Biden the winner of having “capitulated.” After the attack on the Capitol, he did not join every other state attorney general in signing on to a statement condemning the violence. Paxton faces legal trouble, but it’s not because of this—it’s because he’s extremely corrupt.

Other speakers included Trump’s sons Don Jr. and Eric, as well as Trump campaign fundraiser/Don’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle and Eric’s wife Lara. Daddy Trump “has more fight in him than every other one combined, and they need to stand up and we need to march on the Capitol today,” Eric told the crowd. Don Jr. said, “You have an opportunity today: You can be a hero, or you can be a zero. And the choice is yours but we are all watching.”

Then there was the usual assortment of Trump hangers-on, people eager to elevate themselves by associating with him, to suck up to him by lying to his supporters, to bask in the cheering of an angry crowd themselves: former campaign adviser Katrina Pierson; personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani; “Women for America First” head Amy Kremer, who had done much of the rally organizing; law professor and conspiracy theorist John Eastman; former Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones, who announced from the stage that he was becoming a Republican.

All of these people are terrible in one way or another. They all participated in inciting the crowd to violence—to believing that violence was righteous rather than an effort to overturn a democratic election. The public officials who participated—Brooks, Cawthorn, Paxton—bear some special blame for encouraging an attack on democracy itself and, in the former two cases, on their own coworkers. So, yeah, they should all be shunned and disdained and booed when they show their faces in public. 

But Donald Trump is the root of it all. Trump is the one who refused to concede the election and instead tried to overturn it and to undermine the legitimacy of U.S. democracy. Trump is the one who pressured Mike Pence to try to block the congressional counting of the electoral votes, something Pence was very clear he could not do. Trump is the one who called the crowd there on that day to disrupt that constitutional process. The crowd was not there to hear Katrina Pierson or John Eastman or even Eric and Don Jr. They were there because Donald Trump summoned them, and once they were there, he told them what to do: “fight like hell” and march on the Capitol.

Republicans helped Trump inspire a violent insurrection. They have done nothing to disavow it

In the wake of a deadly attack many of them helped incite, Republicans are only continuing their descent into ignominy. The only way out is for them to take responsibility for their actions and actually admit that they helped their mentally unhinged leader—Donald Trump—sic a mob of his foaming-at-the-mouth cultists on U.S. lawmakers at the Capitol last week. 

Instead, they have dug in their heels and unleashed a Gatling gun round of finger-pointing at Democrats, who are moving swiftly to hold Trump to account through impeachment charges. Democrats, they claim, are being divisive by trying to protect the country from further abuses by a madman.

The Washington Post writes:

Shortly before convening a conference call of House Republicans on Monday, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sent a missive asserting that “an impeachment at this time would have the opposite effect of bringing our country together when we need to get America back on a path towards unity and civility.” ...

“After the abhorrent violence we saw last week, our country desperately needs to heal and unify,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. “I have concerns that impeachment proceedings will only divide us further.”

McCarthy's empty rhetoric about "unity and civility" is particularly precious given his role in perpetrating Trump’s lie that the election was stolen. Not only did he sign on to the GOP legal challenge to the election results and vote to oppose congressional certification after the siege, he also used his platform to push Trump's baseless claims into the ecosphere.

.@GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy was laying the groundwork for the attack on the Capitol for months. 11/5/2020: “President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes... join together and let’s stop this.” pic.twitter.com/9Ys6elhUln

— Jesse Lee (@JesseCharlesLee) January 12, 2021

Immediately following the election, McCarthy started pumping Trump's crap to the GOP base. “President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet," McCarthy told Fox News viewers on Nov. 5. "We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes ... join together and let’s stop this.”

Other GOP lawmakers also bear unique responsibility for helping to foment the deadly violence:

  • Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama speaking at the MAGA rally last week: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass. ... Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?"
  • First-term Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado called the day Republicans’ “1776 moment.”
  • Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona repeatedly called Joe Biden an "illegitimate usurper" while promoting numerous "Stop the Steal" events. “Be ready to defend the Constitution and the White House,” Gosar counseled in an op-ed titled “Are We Witnessing a Coup d’État?” 

There's much much more, and The New York Times has a nice roundup of it

But the GOP, and particularly its leadership, is continuing to prove that there's no end to how morally bankrupt the party is—not even after they helped inspire a violent coup attempt that cost lives. Just like with Trump, there’s no bottom.

Morning Digest: Oregon Democrat who likened Trump impeachment to a ‘lynching’ could face primary

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.

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OR-05: Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader prompted a massive outcry—and may have opened himself up to a primary challenge—when he opposed impeaching Donald Trump and compared the idea to a "lynching" on a call with fellow House Democrats on Friday. Just hours after his remarks were first reported, Schrader issued an apology, and the following day he came out in favor of impeachment, but the damage may have already been done.

In response to Schrader's comments, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who represents a neighboring district, took the unusual step of publicly upbraiding her colleague. "Comparing a lynching to holding the President accountable is hurtful and insensitive and ignores the overt white supremacy on display during the insurrection Wednesday," she said. Of more immediate impact, Schrader's longtime consultant, Mark Wiener, immediately dropped the congressman as a client, saying, "Comparing the impeachment of a treasonous President who encouraged white supremacists to violently storm the Capitol to a 'lynching' is shameful and indefensible."

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Meanwhile, the Democratic Party in Polk County, which makes up about 10% of the 5th District, demanded that Schrader resign, citing not only his statements on impeachment but his vote last month against $2,000 COVID relief checks, which made him one of just two Democrats to oppose the measure (along with now-former Rep. Dan Lipinski). And Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, who ran against Schrader from the left in last year's primary, said he'd give it another go and started soliciting donations online.

Gamba, however, didn't raise much money and lost by a wide 69-23 margin, which may explain why, in other comments, he indicated an openness to supporting an alternative option. One possibility would be state Rep. Paul Evans, who almost ran for this seat when it was last open in 2008 (a race ultimately won by Schrader) and whose legislative district is contained entirely in the 5th.

In fact, a great many Democratic legislators represent turf that overlaps with Schrader's, with state Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner and state Sen. Deb Patterson among the more prominent. In the House, aside from Evans, potential candidates could include Reps. Teresa Alonso Leon, Mark Meek, Karin Power, Rachel Prusak, and Andrea Salinas, among others.

One of Oregon's most prominent politicians also hails from the area: newly elected Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, whose former district in the state Senate overlapped partly with Schrader's House seat. With voting rights under siege, and as first in line to the governorship (Oregon has no lieutenant governor), Fagan likely has her sights elsewhere, but she'd be a formidable challenger.

Oregon's 5th has long been swingy territory, but it shifted noticeably to the left last year, supporting Joe Biden 54-44, according to Daily Kos Elections' calculations, after backing Hillary Clinton 48-44 in 2016. Schrader actually ran behind the top of the ticket, however, turning in a 52-45 win against an unheralded Republican foe. The district currently takes in Portland's southern suburbs and the Salem area but will likely be reconfigured in redistricting, particularly since the state is on track to add a sixth House seat.

Senate

AK-Sen: In response to last week's terrorist attack on the Capitol and Donald Trump's role in fomenting it, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski suggested she might leave the GOP, saying, "[I]f the Republican Party has become nothing more than the party of Trump, I sincerely question whether this is the party for me." Murkowski later clarified, though, that she would "[a]bsolutely, unequivocally not" join the Democratic caucus in the Senate.

If she did, however, become an independent, she'd still have a well-defined path to re-election in 2022 thanks to a new ballot measure Alaska voters passed in November that radically reforms how elections are conducted in the state. Under Measure 2, all candidates from all parties will now run together on a single primary ballot, with the top four vote-getters advancing to a November general election. Voters would then choose a winner from that quartet by means of an instant runoff, greatly reducing the chance of a spoiler effect and giving popular, relatively moderate politicians like Murkowski the chance to prevail even without a party banner.

PA-Sen: The same day he told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was taking a "serious look" at a Senate bid, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman filed paperwork with the FEC—and he's already put his nascent campaign committee to good use. In a press release, Fetterman says he's raised $500,000 since his remarks first appeared in the Inquirer on Friday, via 15,000 contributions.

Meanwhile, former Republican Rep. Ryan Costello, who unsuccessfully tried to goad Fetterman with some feeble Twitter trash-talk about his own interest in a Senate bid, is reportedly "expected to form an exploratory committee" sometime "soon." Costello has set himself up for a difficult GOP primary, though, since he said he'd campaign on an explicitly anti-Trump platform: In response to an RNC spokesperson slamming Republicans for having "abandoned" Trump, Costello recently tweeted, "If I run I will literally take this entire bullshit head on."

Governors

CT-Gov: Connecticut Post columnist Dan Haar describes New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, who last year confirmed she was considering another bid for governor, as a "likely Republican entrant" for the race to take on Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont in 2022, though we haven't heard directly from her since the election. Stewart briefly sought the GOP nod in 2018 but dropped out to run for lieutenant governor instead; however, she lost that primary 48-33 to state Sen. Joe Markley. Since her failed bids for higher office, she's sought to push the Connecticut GOP in a moderate direction in a bid to regain relevance and offered some very indirect criticism of Trump in the wake of last week's insurrection at the Capitol.

MA-Gov: While Republican incumbent's Charlie Baker's meager fundraising in recent months has fueled speculation that he'll retire in 2022, the Salem News reports the governor's $165,000 haul for December was his largest monthly total in over two years. Baker himself has not publicly announced if he'll seek a third term next year.

NM-Gov: Republican state Rep. Rebecca Dow says she's weighing a bid for governor but will not decide until after the conclusion of New Mexico's legislative session, which is scheduled to start next week and end on March 20. This is a very common formulation you'll hear from state lawmakers across the country as they contemplate running for higher office, so it's helpful to keep Ballotpedia's guide to session dates for all state legislatures bookmarked.

House

AL-05: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey all but called for a primary challenge to Rep. Mo Brooks, a fellow Republican, after Brooks helped foment last week's violent assault on the Capitol, saying, "If the people of the 5th District believe their views are not being properly represented, then they need to express their disappointment directly to Congressman Brooks and, if necessary, hold him accountable at the ballot box."

Just before the invasion of the Capitol complex, Brooks incited the pro-Trump brigades that had descended on Washington, D.C. to overturn the results of the November election, telling them, "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass." Brooks refused to back down following the violence, saying "I make no apology" for instigating the attacks and adding, "I call again for kicking that 'ass' all the way back to the communist dictatorships that 'ass' now worships."

In 2017, after Brooks launched an ultimately fruitless challenge to appointed GOP Sen. Luther Strange, some pissed-off establishment Republicans sought to primary Brooks in response and rallied around Army veteran Clayton Hinchman. Brooks wound up prevailing the following year, but by a relatively soft 61-39 margin. Hinchman hasn't said anything about a possible rematch, but during his race, he chided Brooks for preferencing "ideology over pragmatism," a criticism that suggests he might side with Ivey's views of the congressman.

NJ-02: A consultant for Democrat Amy Kennedy, who lost to Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew 52-46 in November, tells the New Jersey Globe that Kennedy hasn't yet considered whether to run again but says she's furious at the congressman for voting to overturn the results of the 2020 elections following Wednesday's assault on the Capitol by pro-Trump mobs that left five people dead. Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro, who himself was a potential candidate against Van Drew last year, also encouraged Kennedy to seek a rematch, though he didn't rule out a bid of his own should she decline.

The Globe mentions a bunch of other possible contenders, including Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, Cape May County Democratic Party chair Brendan Sciarra, Cumberland County Commissioner Joe Derella, and former union leader Richard Tolson. Montclair State University professor Brigid Callahan Harrison, who lost the Democratic primary to Kennedy 62-22, is another option. None of these would-be candidates have spoken about their interest yet.

NJ-05: Former Rep. Scott Garrett is all but guaranteed to lose his specially created job at the Securities and Exchange Commission when Joe Biden becomes president, and remarkably, the New Jersey Globe reports that some fellow Republicans think he could make a comeback bid for his old seat. Garrett himself didn't rule out the possibility when contacted by the Globe, saying only, "I appreciate your phone call. I am no longer a public figure."

But unless Republicans hit the redistricting jackpot, Garrett is unlikely to find himself at the top of the GOP's wishlist. Garrett was ousted after seven terms in Congress by Democrat Josh Gottheimer after his Wall Street allies abandoned him thanks to his virulent anti-gay rhetoric, and he was so unpopular with his former colleagues that the Senate refused to advance his nomination when Donald Trump named him to run the Export-Import Bank—a federal agency that Garrett had long sought to abolish.

Garrett later wound up with an even better-paying position (at $215,000 a year) in the office of the general counsel at the SEC, which Politico reported had been set up for him alone. Garrett was hired without any sort of competitive process, or even having to submit a job application, even though the commission was in the midst of a hiring freeze. As the Globe notes, though, that plum gig is unlikely to survive the coming Biden housecleaning.

NM-01: Former state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn announced last week he would run for this Albuquerque-area seat if Rep. Deb Haaland is confirmed as Joe Biden's secretary of the interior. While Albuquerque Journal notes Dunn plans to run as an independent, he has spent time as a member of both the Republican and Libertarian parties.

Dunn was the GOP nominee for state land commissioner in 2014, narrowly turning back Democratic incumbent Ray Powell 50.07-49.93. In 2018, Dunn became a Libertarian and sought the party's nomination for Senate that year. After he won the nomination, however, he decided to drop out of the race (former Gov. Gary Johnson was named his replacement and took 15% of the vote).

The GOP is already a longshot in a seat that backed Biden by a 60-37 spread, but Dunn's presence could make things even more difficult for Team Red. This would represent the inverse of the last special election this district hosted in 1998, when a Green Party candidate took 13% of the vote, allowing Republican Heather Wilson to narrowly win.

Legislatures

AK State House: The Alaska Supreme Court has rejected a challenge by former state Rep. Lance Pruitt, who as minority leader had been the most senior Republican in the state House, to his 11-vote loss in the November elections, upholding Democrat Liz Snyder as the winner. The decision confirms that Democrats and their allies will have control over 20 seats in the 40-member chamber as the legislature gears up to start its new session on Jan. 19, though they'll need at least one more Republican defection to take control.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: City Councilor Michelle Wu earned an endorsement on Saturday from Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Wu was one of Warren's students at Harvard Law and later worked on Warren's successful 2012 Senate campaign.

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

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

Leading Off

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gubernatorial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grab Bag

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

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