The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.
● NH-Gov: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu confirmed Wednesday that he would not seek a fifth two-year term as New Hampshire's chief executive next year, a long-expected announcement that nonetheless instantly turns this race into one of the cycle's top battlegrounds.
Sununu, whose first victory in a tight 2016 race ended 12 years of Democratic control, went on to decisively win his next three campaigns. His departure gives Granite State Democrats their best chance in years to take back this post in a light blue state that hasn't backed a Republican for president since 2000.
Multiple Republican replacements, all of whom showed interest during Sununu's months-long deliberations, immediately started surfacing, but they all share one regrettable thing in common: each of them lost their last race for public office.
Former state Senate President Chuck Morse, who served as acting governor for two days in 2017, immediately confirmed he was in, but party leaders may not be excited to have him as their standard-bearer following his 2022 campaign for the U.S. Senate."Morse, who even a supporter characterized as someone who "is not flashy, and does not have charisma," struggled in the primary against retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, a Big Lie conspiracy theorist who'd called Sununu a "Chinese communist sympathizer" with a family business that "supports terrorism."
Sununu, unsurprisingly, sided with Morse in the race to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's allies also spent a hefty $4.6 million on an ad campaign to promote Morse and attack Bolduc as a surefire loser with "crazy ideas." Democrats, though, retaliated with an expensive ad campaign of their own tying Morse to lobbyists, a move aimed at weakening him for the general election if they couldn't keep him from the GOP nomination. But Democrats got exactly what they wanted in the primary: Bolduc edged out Morse 37-36 two months before losing to Hassan in a 54-44 rout.
Morse is once again likely to be in for a tough primary. Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who Hassan unseated in a 2016 squeaker even as Sununu was flipping the governor's office, put out a statement saying she "look[s] forward to announcing some big news in the coming days." State education commissioner Frank Edelblut, a self-funder who lost a close primary to Sununu seven years ago, also said Wednesday he'd reveal in the next few days if he'd run to succeed his boss.
A pair of prominent Democrats, meanwhile, had already announced campaigns even before Sununu confirmed he wouldn't be on the ballot. Cinde Warmington, who is the only Democrat on the state's unique five-member Executive Council, launched her bid in June while Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig joined her last week. No other notable Democrats have shown any obvious interest in running, though Rep. Chris Pappas didn't quite rule out his own campaign back in April.
● Latinos have played an increasingly crucial role in our elections, but Democrats' understanding of these voters has often lagged. This week's guest on "The Downballot" is Carlos Odio, the co-founder of EquisLabs, an organization devoted to rectifying this problem. Odio helps us move away from viewing Latino voters as a monolith and offers a helpful framework for getting to know different subsets of this diverse group. He discusses key findings of Equis' 2022 post-mortem, including why Florida went so wrong and how Democrats can make a course correction. He also explains how Latino voter identity can wind up getting dialed up or down depending on the broader election environment.
Host David Nir and guest host Joe Sudbay, meanwhile, dive into Chris Sununu's retirement announcement and why it instantly makes New Hampshire's race for governor a top Democratic target; the Republican shenanigans in Alabama, where lawmakers seem dead-set on ignoring a court order to draw two majority-Black congressional districts or something close to it; why Democrats will take a new effort to recall several Michigan state representative seriously even if the state GOP is a clown-show; and yet another special election in Wisconsin where Republicans badly underperformed the top of the ticket.
● AL Redistricting: Each chamber in Alabama's Republican-run legislature passed a new congressional map on Wednesday, but neither complies with a court directive to include "two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it." Both plans retain a Black majority in the state's 7th District, but the new 2nd District falls well below that mark in each case: In the House version, just 42% of voters are Black, while in the Senate's, only 38% are. Lawmakers face a Friday deadline to enact a new map. If they fail to do so, or if their final product does not comply with the Voting Rights Act, a federal court will likely impose its own map.
● OH-Sen: Leadership for Ohio Fund, a super PAC that supports Secretary of State Frank LaRose, has released a late June GOP primary survey from Causeway Solutions that shows him leading state Sen. Matt Dolan 28-10, with businessman Bernie Moreno at 5%. This poll, which was taken weeks before LaRose announced his bid against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, isn't too different from the 24-11 advantage that Causeway showed in May.
Dolan, for his part, is continuing to air TV ads far ahead of the primary, and the self-funder's latest message features two sheriffs praising him as "tough on illegal immigration."
● IN-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in for the first six months of 2023, though as the Indiana Capitol Chronicle notes, candidates were forbidden from raising money during most of these first four months because the legislature was in session.
- Sen. Mike Braun (R): $2.2 million raised, $4.6 million cash on hand
- former state cabinet official Eric Doden (R): $1.8 million raised, $3.8 million cash on hand
- Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch (R): $1.1 million raised, $3.9 million cash on hand
- former state education superintendent Jennifer McCormick (D): $200,000 raised, $200,000 cash on hand
The Chronicle notes that about a third of Doden's haul came from his father.
Another Republican, former Attorney General Curtis Hill, launched his bid this month after the fundraising period ended. Hill, who lost renomination in 2020 after multiple women accused him of sexual assault, began with $20,000 left over from his prior campaigns.
● DE-AL, DE-Sen, DE-Gov: State Treasurer Colleen Davis announced Wednesday that she'd campaign for the statewide House seat that her fellow Democrat, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, is giving up to run for the Senate. Davis, who had also previously expressed interest in running for the Senate or governor, will face an expensive primary against state Sen. Sarah McBride, who would be the first openly trans person to ever serve in Congress: McBride launched her campaign June 26 and quickly raised $410,000 during the final five days of the quarter.
Davis, writes the Delaware Online' Meredith Newman, was "largely unknown in Delaware" before she entered the 2018 race to unseat Treasurer Ken Simpler, who was the last Republican in statewide office. But Davis, who had no intra-party opposition, rode the blue wave to a 52-46 victory, a win Newman says made her the rare statewide Democrat to hail from conservative Sussex County. The treasurer went on to win her second term 54-46 last year.
● MD-06: Former Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner tells the Frederick Post she's considering seeking the Democratic nod for this open seat, and the paper characterizes her timeframe as "fairly soon." Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin noted in mid-May that Gardner is a proven vote-getter in a community that's home to about 35% of the 6th District's denizens, which could make her a formidable contender in a race where most of the other candidates are likely to hail from Montgomery County.
● MI-04: Attorney Jessica Swartz on Wednesday became the first notable Democrat to announce a campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga in Michigan's 4th District, a historically red constituency around Kalamazoo that Donald Trump would have taken by a small 51-47 margin in 2020. Swartz, though, said that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer carried it last year, and new numbers from Daily Kos Elections find the governor did indeed prevail by a tight 50-49 as she was pulling off a 54-44 statewide landslide.
The Democrat is a first-time candidate, though she's not quite a political novice. Swartz previously volunteered for Voters Not Politicians, a nonpartisan organization that successfully promoted a 2018 referendum to create Michigan's independent redistricting commission. That body ended up drawing a map for the 2022 elections that led Huizenga, who'd previously represented the reliably red 2nd District along the western Michigan coast, to run for the more competitive 4th even though he only represented about a quarter of the new seat.
For months it looked like there would be an incumbent vs. incumbent primary clash between the Trump-backed Huizenga and longtime Rep. Fred Upton, who'd voted to impeach the GOP's leader after the Jan. 6 attack, but Upton ended up retiring ahead of what would have been a challenging race. Swartz, in an interview with the Holland Sentinel, argued the district needed someone more like Upton, whom she praised for working across party lines and providing for his constituents, than the hard-right Huizenga.
Huizenga, who won his last race 54-42 against an underfunded Democrat, finished June with $630,000 in the bank, though it's possible he won't use it on this contest. The congressman has expressed interest a few times this year in running for Michigan's open Senate seat, with his most recent public comments coming from a May interview with the conservative site The Dispatch. Huizenga acknowledged the state presents a "tough environment" for his party, but while he said he was "hoping to have a decision probably this quarter," June 30 came and went without any word about his plans.
● NY-17: Former Rep. Mondaire Jones has released an internal from Public Policy Polling giving him a wide 43-8 edge over local school board trustee Liz Gereghty in the Democratic primary to face freshman GOP incumbent Mike Lawler. This survey, which was conducted about a week after Jones launched his comeback campaign, is the first we've seen of this nomination contest. The poll did not test former Bedford Town Supervisor MaryAnn Carr, who did not report raising any money through June 30.
● PA State House: Democratic state Rep. Sara Innamorato, who won the May primary for Allegheny County executive, announced Wednesday that she'd resigned to focus on the November general election, and the chamber will be tied 101-101 until the already-scheduled Sept. 19 special election takes place. Innamorato's absence may not matter much, though, because state representatives aren't scheduled to return until Sept. 26. Her seat in the Pittsburgh area supported Joe Biden 61-38 in 2020.
If the lower house does reconvene early, however, Democrats, who won 102 of the 203 seats in November and defended their edge in a series of special elections this year, will still remain the majority party in the deadlocked body thanks to a rule they adopted in March. The majority is now defined as the party that "won the greater number of elections for the 203 seats in the House of Representatives" in the most recent general election, and should a vacancy open up, "the political party that won that seat at the last election shall remain the party that won that seat until any subsequent special election is held to fill that seat." Control would still shift, though, if the other side flipped enough seats before the next general election.
It's unlikely that will happen in the race to replace Innamorato, but Democrats will have a more competitive seat to defend later. State Rep. John Galloway won both the Democratic and Republican nominations for a judgeship in Bucks County, and once he resigns to take his new job, there will be a special for his 55-44 Biden constituency in the Philadelphia suburbs. Galloway told Spotlight PA Wednesday that he wouldn't be leaving his current office until he's officially elected in November.
● WI State Assembly: Republicans won a special election for a dark-red seat in the Wisconsin legislature Tuesday night, but once again, their candidate badly underperformed compared to other recent elections in the same district.
Republican Paul Melotik beat Democrat Bob Tatterson 54-46 in the 24th Assembly District, which became vacant after Republican Dan Knodl won a closely contested special for the state Senate earlier this year. The 24th is traditionally conservative turf in the northern Milwaukee suburbs: It voted for Donald Trump by a 57-41 margin in 2020 and backed Knodl for reelection 61-39 last year. But judged against Trump's share of the vote, Melotik ran 9 points behind, accounting for rounding. Knodl (whose new Senate district includes all of his old Assembly district) had likewise trailed the top of the ticket in his own special election by 3 points, prevailing by a narrow 51-49 spread.
Overall, Democratic candidates in special elections this year have outperformed the 2020 presidential numbers in their districts by an average of 7 points. Research by Daily Kos Elections contributing editor Daniel Donner has shown that these elections often correlate closely with the results of the ensuing general elections for the U.S. House.