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.
● AL Redistricting: The Supreme Court stayed a lower court ruling that stuck down Alabama's new congressional map for violating Section Two of the Voting Rights Act on Monday, ensuring that the November election will take place using the map Republicans passed late last year.
Two weeks ago, a panel of three federal judges ruled that lawmakers were required to draw a second district where Black voters would be likely to elect their preferred candidates, determining that Black Alabamians are "sufficiently numerous" and "sufficiently geographically compact" to allow the creation of a second "reasonably configured" district with a voting-age Black majority.
Without issuing a written opinion explaining its rationale, the Supreme Court blocked that order from taking effect pending final resolution of the case, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's three liberal members to oppose the stay. In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh claimed a stay was necessary because the lower court issued its ruling too close the 2022 elections.
Justice Elena Kagan responded in a dissent that Alabama's primary is not until May 24 and that the court has in the past declined to stay redistricting decisions issued on similar timelines. Kagan further chastised the majority for failing to identify any way in which the three-judge panel might have erred, saying the only way its ruling could be reversed is if the Supreme Court were to adopt a brand-new requirement advocated by the Republican defendants that a computer, programmed to ignore race entirely, must automatically generate an unspecified number of maps that would yield a second Black district.
As a result, Alabama will use the GOP's preferred map, which features six majority-white districts and just one majority-Black district, despite the fact that African Americans make up 27% of the state's population. While it's possible that the lower court's ruling could eventually be sustained by the Supreme Court, the majority's move—and the high court's long hostility toward the Voting Rights Act—is a poor augur for the case's future.
Stay on top of the map-making process in all 50 states by bookmarking our invaluable redistricting timeline tracker, updated daily.
● NJ Redistricting: New Jersey's Legislative Apportionment Commission has released two draft maps for the state legislature, which uses the same map to elect both chambers (each district elects one senator and two assemblymembers). The panel is evenly divided between the parties, with a tiebreaking member, retired appellate judge Philip Carchman, who was appointed by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. Carchman has his roots in Democratic politics, though he was first named to the bench in 1986 by Republican Gov. Tom Kean.
The commission must complete its work by March 1. Because New Jersey elects its legislature in odd-numbered years, new maps will not be used until 2023 (elections last year were held under the old maps because of delays in receiving data from the Census Bureau).
● LA Redistricting: A committee in Louisiana's Republican-run state Senate has advanced a new congressional map that would not create a second district where Black voters could elect their preferred candidate, instead maintaining the status quo of a single Black district. A committee in the state House also passed a similar plan. Given the ease with which a second such district could be drawn—Democrats submitted several maps that would have done so—the state could be at risk of seeing its map overturned on the grounds that it violates the Voting Rights Act, though the U.S. Supreme Court gave voting rights advocates discouraging news Monday with its move in Alabama.
A more immediate question is whether Democrats can sustain a potential veto by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. In the Senate, Republicans hold 27 of 39 seats, one more than the 26 needed to muster a two-thirds supermajority. The picture is cloudier in the House, where Republicans have 68 seats but would need 70 votes to override Edwards. The chamber is home to three independents who have sometimes sided with Democrats, but one independent and one Democrat voted for the GOP's plan in the House (the Senate vote broke along party lines).
● OH Redistricting: The Ohio Supreme Court once again ruled that legislative maps passed by the state's Republican-dominated redistricting commission violate the state constitution, ordering the panel to convene for a third time to produce a compliant plan by Feb. 17.
In a 4-3 opinion released Monday evening, the court chastised commissioners for merely tweaking the invalid maps rather than starting afresh as they had been ordered to do. The majority also said that the commission failed to meet a constitutional requirement that the number of districts that favor each party must "correspond closely" to voters' statewide preferences, improperly classifying tossup districts as tilting toward Democrats.
"Bluntly, the commission's labeling of a district with a Democratic vote share between 50 and 51 percent (in one case, a district having a 50.03 percent vote share) as 'Democratic-leaning' is absurd on its face," wrote Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican who joined with the court's three Democrats.
The justices once more noted, as they did in their initial ruling, that they "retain jurisdiction for the purpose of reviewing the new plan." They also advised state lawmakers to delay the upcoming May 3 primary "should that action become necessary."
● PA Redistricting: Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, who last week was tasked by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court with recommending a new congressional map, has selected the plan passed by Republican lawmakers but vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in January. However, the Supreme Court, which has a 5-2 Democratic majority, is all but certain to reject the advice of McCullough, a conservative Republican who herself ran for the top court last year by pitching herself as "the ONLY Judge in America to order the 2020 Presidential Election results not be certified." (She lost the primary 52-33 to the eventual winner, Kevin Brobson.)
The justices will hold oral arguments on Feb. 18 and will likely settle on a final map soon after.
● TN Redistricting: Republican Gov. Bill Lee has signed Tennessee's new congressional and legislative maps, which Republicans in the legislature recently passed. The congressional plan dismembered the 5th District, splitting the blue city of Nashville between three solidly red seats and prompting Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper to retire.
● AK-Sen: Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski earned an endorsement over the weekend from Joe Manchin, her Democratic colleague from West Virginia, in the August top-four primary.
● Alabama: While a panel of three federal judges last month moved Alabama's filing deadline for U.S. House races from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11, the earlier date still applied to candidates for all other offices on the May 24 primary ballot. WHNT has put together a list of statewide contenders; a runoff would take place June 21 for any contests where no one secured a majority of the vote.
● AL-Sen: Six Republicans are facing off in a closely watched primary to succeed their fellow Republican, retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, in this dark red state. Rep. Mo Brooks, who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, has endorsements from Donald Trump and the Club for Growth, while Shelby is pulling for his one-time chief of staff, former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt.
Army veteran Mike Durant, who was held as a prisoner of war in Somalia for 11 days in 1993 after his helicopter was shot out of the sky in the incident later depicted in the book and film "Blackhawk Down," doesn't have the same big-named allies, but he's using his personal wealth to get his name out. Three little-known Republicans are also competing in a race that Democrats aren't seriously targeting.
While Brooks looked like the frontrunner after winning the support of his party’s supreme leader, even Trump has reportedly been complaining that he’s running a weak campaign. One of the biggest gripes about the congressman for months has been his underwhelming fundraising, and the fourth quarter numbers only led to a fresh round of skepticism about his abilities:
- Britt: $1.2 million raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
- Brooks: $380,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand
- Durant: $165,000 raised, additional $4.2 million self-funded, $2.5 million cash-on-hand
The Club has already spent $1.4 million to boost Brooks, and it recently released a poll putting him in the lead with 35% as Durant led Britt 30-25 for second. However, that’s a big drop from its October survey, which was done before Durant entered the race, which gave Brooks a dominant 55-12 advantage over Britt. Shelby, for his part, reportedly plans to send $5 million of his campaign funds to a pro-Britt super PAC.
● Indiana: The filing deadline to appear on Indiana's May 3 candidate filing deadline was Friday, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Alabama’s U.S. House deadline is Friday while the state to watch afterwards will be Maryland, where major party contenders have until Feb. 22 to submit their paperwork.
● IN-Sen: Even though the Hoosier State has hosted several competitive and expensive Senate races over the last decade, Republican incumbent Todd Young is the overwhelming favorite to win a second term in a state that Donald Trump took 57-41. Young outraised his most prominent Democratic foe, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, $1.5 million to $75,000 during the fourth quarter, and he ended December with a $6.2 million to $50,000 cash-on-hand lead.
● ND-Sen: Republican state Rep. Rick Becker, a far-right lawmaker with a history of trying to undermine public health during the pandemic, launched a long-shot primary campaign against Sen. John Hoeven on Sunday. Becker, who previously was best known for trying to curtail the use of surveillance drones by police, campaigned for governor in 2016 but dropped out before the primary following a disappointing showing at the state party convention. There is no indication that Hoeven, who ended 2021 with $3.1 million on-hand, is vulnerable in the June nomination contest.
● OH-Sen: You know things are bad when your own allies are talking about how your poll numbers are in a "precipitous decline," but that's exactly where venture capitalist J.D. Vance finds himself with about three months to go before the Republican primary. Politico's Alex Isenstadt obtained a 98-page report from Fabrizio Lee for Protect Ohio Values, the super PAC funded by megadonor Peter Thiel, that found the "Hillbilly Elegy" author in fifth place in mid-January with just 9%.
Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel edged out businessman Mike Gibbons 15-14, while former state party chair Jane Timken took a close third with 13%. Vance was even behind businessman Bernie Moreno―a self-funder who has since exited the race―who was at 11%. To make matters worse, Fabrizio Lee's October poll had Vance trailing Mandel only 19-16.
The pollster was blunt about why Vance could soon be authoring his own political elegy. While the one-time Trump critic has tried to refashion himself as an all-out MAGA champion, Mandel's allies at the Club for Growth and USA Freedom Fund spent last fall running ads based around 2016 footage of Vance saying, "I'm a Never Trump guy," as well as a screenshot of him tweeting about his party's nominee, "My god what an idiot."
Those attacks seem to have done exactly what they were intended to do: Fabrizio Lee now says that Vance's "association as a Never Trumper has only grown since November," and "being anti-Trump is the #1 reason voters do not like Vance." It adds, "The groups where Vance has improved are those we don't want him doing better with: Trump disapprovers and moderate/liberals." The presentation, of course, argued that Vance still had a path, but it didn't hide how bad things are for him at the moment: "Vance needs a course correction ASAP that will resolidify him as a true conservative. He has a ton of strong messaging to make that happen and he should push it hard."
● AL-Gov: Gov. Kay Ivey faces an expensive Republican primary battle against former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard and businessman Tim James, who took a tight third in the 2010 nomination battle for this post. Six other Republicans, including nonprofit director Lew Burdette, are also in, but none of them have emerged as serious intra-party threats to the governor yet. The eventual nominee should have no trouble in the general election.
AdImpact reported Friday that the self-funding Blanchard, who dropped out of the Senate race to run here, is spending $4.1 million on advertisements compared to $2.6 million for Ivey. James, who is the son of two-time former Gov. Fob James, is far behind right now with $705,000.
James, though, did debut a new TV ad this week that tries to stoke as much conservative fury as he can. "Our leaders tell us that our country is racist to the core, that looting and burning down cities is normal and there are 50 genders," says the candidate, who does not mention Ivey.
● GA-Gov, GA-10, GA-06: Former state Rep. Vernon Jones announced Monday that he was exiting the Republican primary for governor and would instead run for Congress in an as-of-yet unnamed constituency. Jones, a Trump-obsessed Democrat-turned-Republican, also endorsed former Sen. David Perdue's campaign to deny renomination to Gov. Brian Kemp in May.
As for what's next for Jones, unnamed allies tell the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he plans to seek the 10th District instead of the 6th, another open and safely red seat. CNN previously reported that Donald Trump had offered to endorse the former Democrat if he dropped down to a House race.
● NE-Gov: Agribusinessman Charles Herbster has an almost-painfully generic ad for the May Republican primary that informs the audience that the contender, whom the narrator claims is "not a politician," is also "the only candidate endorsed by President Trump."
● NY-Gov, NY-AG: In a long interview with Bloomberg published Monday, disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeatedly refused to directly address whether he was interested in running for office in 2022, while CNN reported hours later that he was "seriously considering a political comeback as early as this year." Cuomo's allies, said CNN, "have called to solicit opinions about his prospects should he decide to challenge New York Attorney General Letitia James in a Democratic primary." The candidate filing deadline is about two months away.
● PA-Gov: State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman's campaign describes his opening spot for the May Republican primary as a piece starring "Corman, his daughter, Bella, and a 1990s hair-band rocker," and let's just say it probably played better on paper than it does on TV.
● CA-15: AFSCME Local 829 has endorsed David Canepa, a Democrat who serves on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, in the June top-two primary for this safely blue seat.
● IA-02: State Sen. Liz Mathis has released the first survey we've seen of the race for this northeastern Iowa seat, and her internal from Public Policy Polling shows her trailing Republican incumbent Ashley Hinson only 43-42.
● IN-01: Freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan faces several Republicans in the redrawn 1st District, a northwestern Indiana constituency that would have backed Joe Biden 53-45, though only former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo looks like a serious opponent at this point. Mrvan finished December with $330,000 on-hand, while Milo launched her campaign in the following month.
● IN-09: Rep. Trey Hollingsworth surprised just about everyone last month when he announced he would not seek a fourth term in the 9th District, a southeastern Indiana constituency that would have backed Donald Trump 63-35, and nine fellow Republicans are campaigning to succeed him. Only four of these contenders look serious, though Hollingsworth himself initially looked like just Some Dude in 2015 before the recent Tennessee transplant used his fortune to get his name out.
Perhaps the most familiar name is former Rep. Mike Sodrel, who is trying to return to the House after a 16-year absence. Sodrel ran five consecutive campaigns for a previous version of this southeastern Indiana seat—four of which were against Democrat Baron Hill—starting from 2002, but his one and only win came in 2004. After losing to Hill in 2006 and 2008, Sodrel's last campaign came to an unceremonious end in 2010 when he took third in a tight three-way primary against Todd Young, who went on to unseat Hill in the fall. While the one-term congressman has been out of the game for some time, his personal wealth gives him the resources to reintroduce himself to voters.
Another notable name is state Sen. Erin Houchin, who ran in 2016 when Young left to campaign for the Senate seat but she lost the primary to Hollingsworth 34-25. Houchin's second bid has the support of Rep. Larry Bucshon of the neighboring 8th District, as well as 2nd District Rep. Jackie Walorski. Rounding out the field are state Rep. J. Michael Davisson and Army veteran Stu Barnes-Israel.
● KY-03: Retiring Rep. John Yarmuth on Monday endorsed state Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey in the May Democratic primary to succeed him in what remains a reliably blue seat. McGarvey faces state Rep. Attica Scott, who launched her campaign in July well before the incumbent announced his departure; McGarvey, by contrast, kicked off his own bid in October less than 10 minutes after Yarmuth said he wouldn't be seeking re-election.
Despite Scott's head start, though, McGarvey went into the new year with a massive financial lead. The minority leader outraised her $795,000 to $80,000 during the fourth quarter, and he concluded the period with a $700,000 to $20,000 cash-on-hand lead.
While Democrats initially feared that Republicans would try to gerrymander this Louisville seat, they ended up making only very minor alterations to the 3rd: We've crunched the 2020 presidential results here, and like the old district, the new one would have voted for Joe Biden by a 60-38 margin.
We're also pleased to present the results of the 2020 presidential election for Kentucky's other five new congressional districts: You haven't previously seen this data because last cycle, all but one county in the state reported returns solely at the county-wide level. (This was the consequence of a pandemic-related decision to establish large "vote centers" where any eligible voter can vote, rather than require them to cast ballots at their own specific precinct.) That means there's insufficient precinct-level data available, so systems that use precinct results to calculate district-level results have nothing to work with.
Fortunately, there's a workaround. Only six counties are split between districts on Kentucky's new map, and one of them is Jefferson. Not only is it the largest in the state (it's the home of Louisville), it's also the one place that provided precinct results for 2020, letting us calculate results for the districts it encompasses in the traditional manner.
The other five, meanwhile, are relatively small, ranging from Bath County (pop. 13,000) to Nelson County (pop. 47,000). That allows us to treat each of them as, in essence, one giant precinct that we can divide proportionally between districts based on population. That's not ideal, and it means some district-level calculations will have error bars. Luckily, though, these five counties only amount to 3% of the state's total population, and they're also fairly homogenous: All are heavily white and voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. What's more, precinct results from 2016 show the Trump vote was evenly distributed throughout these counties.
Ultimately, the new boundaries changed very little. Kentucky Republicans notably drew an extended tongue from the rural 1st District, which starts at the Kentucky Bend in the far western reaches of the state, to absorb the state capital of Frankfort—an appendage that is more vividly seen than described. The maneuver was designed to shore up Republican Rep. Andy Barr, whose 6th District was the site of a competitive election in 2018, but the toplines did not shift much: The old 6th voted for Trump by a 54-44 margin (about 9 points without rounding), while the revamped district would have gone for Trump 55-44.
● MI-11: The local pollster Target Insyght finds Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens deadlocked 41-41 in their August Democratic primary showdown. Last week, Stevens released an Impact Research internal giving her a 42-35 advantage in this incumbent vs. incumbent race.
● NC-11: Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning declared Friday morning she was "planning on running," and she correctly predicted that the state Supreme Court would strike down a GOP gerrymander. Had that map stood, Manning would have most likely gone up against Republican incumbent Virginia Foxx for a 57-42 Trump seat.
● NY-03: State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi announced Monday that she would compete in the June Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District, an open Long Island-based seat that just picked up a slice of her base in the Bronx and Westchester County in its latest incarnation. Data from Dave's Redistricting App shows that the revamped 3rd, which is open because Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi is waging a long-shot bid for governor, would have supported Joe Biden 56-42, which makes it a hair bluer than his 55-44 showing in the old version.
Biaggi is the granddaughter of the late Rep. Mario Biaggi, who was elected to a Bronx-based seat in 1968 and resigned in 1988 after becoming ensnared in a tangle of several different corruption cases. The younger Biaggi, who worked as an attorney for then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a staffer on Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, first sought elected office in 2018 when she launched a primary campaign against state Sen. Jeff Klein, the well-financed leader of the renegade faction of Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference.
While Klein and the rest of the IDC were despised by the party's grassroots for helping Republicans stay in control of the state Senate even when Democrats held a majority of the seats, the incumbent easily defeated a prominent intra-party foe in 2014 and very much looked like the frontrunner to hold on again. Biaggi, though, quickly consolidated support from notable mainstream Democrats; Klein was also on the defensive after a former Senate staffer accused him of forcibly kissing her in 2015.
Ultimately, Biaggi defeated Klein 54-46 as five of his seven IDC allies were also going down, an outcome that helped Democrats months later secure their first stable majority in the chamber since World War II. Biaggi quickly established herself as a progressive star who was talked about as a possible candidate for higher office: In early 2021 she didn't rule out running against Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and she reportedly considered challenging her old boss, Cuomo, just before he resigned in disgrace.
While Biaggi enters the race with experience winning a tough primary, the new 3rd Congressional District's shape still poses a potentially big obstacle for her. Only about 6% of the seat's denizens are currently her constituents, so the state senator starts out without much of a geographic base. Still, a total of 18% of the seat lives in Westchester County with another 5% in the Bronx, and Biaggi may be able to appeal to these voters especially if she's the only serious contender from the northern part of the district.
However, the bulk of the 3rd is still based in or near Long Island: 36% of its residents live in Nassau County compared to another 29% in Suffolk County to the east, with the remaining 11% in Queens. Several Long Island-based politicians are already seeking the Democratic nod including Deputy Suffolk County Executive Jon Kaiman, who lost to Suozzi in 2016 when the 3rd was last open; Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan; DNC member Robert Zimmerman; and Melanie D'Arrigo, a progressive activist who lost to Suozzi in the 2020 primary. Lafazan outraised D'Arrigo $455,000 to $80,000 during the fourth quarter and held a $405,000 to $115,000 cash-on-hand lead, while Kaiman and Zimmerman entered in the new year.
Whoever wins the Democratic nod will be favored in November, though Republicans are hoping that their good showing in last year's local elections in Nassau and Suffolk counties mean they'll have an opening. Team Red's only notable contender is 2020 nominee George Santos, who lost to Suozzi 56-43; Santos raised $250,000 for the quarter and had $320,000 on-hand.
● NY-16: Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said last week he was "looking at" challenging Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the June Democratic primary, though the "hardcore moderate in the middle" seemed more interested in backing the bid that Westchester Public Works Commissioner Tom Meier is reportedly planning in what remains a safely blue seat. Spano was far more direct about what he thought of the congressman, who was arrested last month at a pro-voting rights protest: The mayor declared that "they should have arrested him for his vote on the infrastructure bill," with the local NAACP quickly responding, “To call for the arrest of a congressman, the first Black one to represent us in the 16th Congressional District, was intentional and we are outraged.”
● NY-22: Former Assemblyman Sam Roberts announced Monday that he was joining the Democratic primary for the new 22nd District, an open Syracuse area seat that would have supported Joe Biden 58-40. (About 70% of the new 22nd's residents live in the old 24th, where Republican Rep. John Katko is retiring.) Roberts made history in 2010 when he became the first Black person elected to represent Central New York in the legislature, and he resigned in 2015 to lead the state's Office of Temporary Assistance and Disability.
● TN-05, TN-07: Former State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Monday that she would compete in the August Republican primary for the newly-gerrymandered 5th District, an announcement that came less than two weeks after Donald Trump pre-endorsed her.
Several MAGA talking heads have already expressed their disappointment that Trump didn't instead back music video producer Robby Starbuck, who was running even before the new map transformed this from a 60-37 Biden district to a 54-43 Trump constituency, but it remains to be seen if primary voters will care. Other Republicans could also get in including attorney Kurt Winstead, a retired brigadier general in the Tennessee National Guard who filed FEC paperwork on Monday.
On the Democratic side, community activist Odessa Kelly's team acknowledged that she could switch to the 7th District and take on Republican Rep. Mark Green. Trump would have prevailed 56-41 here, which makes it on paper even less friendly turf than the 5th.
● TX-28: For the first time, attorney Jessica Cisneros is running a TV ad focused on the recent FBI raid on conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar's home and campaign headquarters ahead of their March 1 Democratic primary rematch. The spot begins with several news reports about Cuellar's troubles before the narrator promotes Cisneros as "a better choice."
● TX-35: State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez's first TV spot ahead of next month's Democratic primary parodies the old Dos Equis "most interesting man in the world" ad campaign with a narrator proclaiming near the end, "He is … the most interesting candidate for Congress." Before that, the commercial commends Rodriguez for being one of the rare state legislators to cast a vote against a pro-Iraq War resolution, defending an Austin Planned Parenthood clinic from Republicans, and helping "Democrats escape on a plane to protest voter suppression" while remembering "a case of beer."
● TX-37: Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett's new spot promotes him as a "true blue progressive."