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

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

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

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redistricting

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

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

1Q Fundraising

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

41-29 vs. venture capitalist Guy Nohra

39-35 vs. attorney Joey Gilbert

39-39 vs. former Sen. Dean Heller

37-39 vs. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo

37-40 vs. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General

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

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

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

Other Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Downballot

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

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

Redistricting

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General

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

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

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

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

Prosecutors

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Digest: MAGA House hopeful bails after Trump memory-holes endorsement and backs someone else

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

Check out our podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

MI-04: State Rep. Steve Carra on Tuesday ended his August Republican primary campaign against Reps. Bill Huizenga and Fred Upton days after he learned the hard way that Donald Trump's "Complete and Total Endorsement" isn’t actually complete and total when redistricting is involved. Carra on his way out joined Trump in supporting Huizenga's intra-party bid against Upton, who voted to impeach Trump and still hasn't confirmed if he'll even be running for a 14th term.

Carra last year had picked up Trump's backing when he was taking on Upton in the old 6th District, but that was before the new map ensured that Huizenga and Upton would be running for the same new 4th District if they each wanted to remain in the House. Carra himself eventually decided to run for the 4th even though it didn't include a shred of his legislative seat, and for more than a month he was able to take advantage of the GOP leader’s silence about where things stood post-redistricting and continue to run as the only Trump-backed candidate.

Huizenga himself acknowledged weeks ago that he wasn’t sure if Trump’s earlier endorsement of Carra in the 6th still applied, saying, “I'm aware that there are people within the organization that are looking at it and are trying to figure that one out.” Those calls seemed to have worked because on Friday, Trump announced that Huizenga was his man in southwestern Michigan. Carra, who is now seeking re-election, said Tuesday that he’d spoken to Trump’s people and learned that "[t]he key decision maker that led to this was the fact that I don't live in the district."

Upton, for his part, began a $213,000 ad campaign last month that seemed to confirm he'd be running again, but his camp insisted at the time that he still hadn't made a decision. We don't know if Upton was just being cute or really is still making up his mind, though prolonged public deliberations from him are nothing new. Last cycle the longtime congressman kept everyone guessing about his plans even after he handed out "Upton 2020!" buttons at a September 2019 party gathering; it was only the following February that he finally said he'd be running again.

We'll finally have our answer for 2022 before too long, though. Michigan's filing deadline is April 19, and since House candidates need to turn in at least 1,000 valid signatures to make the primary ballot, Upton would need to get moving before then if he's to go up against Huizenga. How long it would take for "Upton 2022!" buttons to roll off the printer, though, we can't say.

Redistricting

KS Redistricting: Kansas' Republican-run state House has introduced a new map for its own districts, following the same action in the upper chamber the other day. Just two states have failed to unveil any sort of legislative maps at all: Mississippi and Montana.

Senate

OH-Sen: Former state GOP chair Jane Timken's latest commercial for the May primary has her proclaiming that "border security is national security" and dubbing herself "the real Trump conservative." The spot ends with old footage of Trump, who is still making Timken and her many opponents grovel for his endorsement, calling her "unbelievable."      

OK-Sen-B: Former Rep. Kendra Horn, who represented Oklahoma's 5th District for one term, announced on Tuesday that she'll run in the November special election to replace departing GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe. Horn's entry gives Democrats an unusually credible candidate for a Senate race in Oklahoma, but it's still … Oklahoma. Democrats haven't prevailed in a race for statewide office since 2006, and they haven't won a Senate contest since David Boren's last re-election campaign in 1990 (which saw him romp in a remarkable 83-17 landslide).

Horn won the most astonishing upset of the 2018 midterms when she unseated Republican Rep. Steve Russell in a 51-49 squeaker for an Oklahoma City-based district that Donald Trump had carried by a wide 53-40 spread two years earlier. Russell had run a disastrous campaign—after his loss, he compared the people who'd voted him out to "a dog lapping up antifreeze"—but long-term suburban trends and outgoing Gov. Mary Fallin’s horrible numbers in the area were also working against him.

Unfortunately for Horn, though, those trends weren't enough to keep her in Congress: Even though Trump's margin shrank to 51-46, she lost her bid for a second term to Republican Stephanie Bice 52-48. And to win statewide, especially in a difficult midterm environment, would require an even more herculean feat than the one Horn managed four years ago, seeing as Trump carried Oklahoma 65-32 in 2020, making it his fourth-best state in the nation.

That makes Inhofe's seat a particularly attractive prize to Republicans, though one potential contender is reportedly staying out. Politico says that Rep. Kevin Hern, who had been considering a bid, won't run, though Hern himself has not yet confirmed the news.

Governors

GA-Gov: While Stacey Abrams faces no competition in the May Democratic primary, the once and future nominee is launching its opening $1 million TV and digital ad buy. The first spot features Abrams saying, "When I didn't win the governor's race, not getting the job didn't exempt me from the work. And so I didn't quit." She continues by talking about how her organization last year "paid off the medical debt of 68,000 Georgians," and how she aided small businesses. "I was raised that when you don't get what you want, you don't give up," Abrams says, "You try again. You try because it's how things get better, it's how the world moves forward."

IL-Gov: Candidate filing closed Monday for Illinois' June 28 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Not everyone who filed may make the ballot, though, because it's very common for candidates in the Prairie State to challenge their opponents' petitions to try to get them disqualified. Indeed, Barack Obama himself won his state Senate seat in 1996 by getting all his Democratic primary foes—including incumbent Alice Palmer—thrown off the ballot for a lack of sufficient signatures.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is seeking a second term in this very blue state, but Republicans are hoping they'll still have an opening in the fall. A total of eight GOP contenders are running, and the best-funded will almost certainly be Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. Irvin, who would be the state's first Black governor, has the support of billionaire Ken Griffin, and the state's wealthiest man has already given him $20 million. (Illinois has notoriously lax campaign finance regulations.) The mayor, though, has participated in several Democratic primaries in the past and has sometimes voiced moderate views, which could be a big liability in the primary.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, meanwhile, has received $1 million from a different conservative megadonor, Richard Uihlein, and he also has the backing of far-right Rep. Mary Miller. Another well-connected contender is venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, who launched his bid over the summer with $11 million in donations mostly from four California tech titans. Businessman Gary Rabine and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, who badly lost the 2014 general election for attorney general, are also in, but they haven't attracted much outside support yet.

NH-Gov: State Sen. Tom Sherman announced a bid against Republican Gov. Chris Sununu this week, making him the first notable Democrat to join the race. After serving two terms in the state House, Sherman, a physician, challenged Republican state Sen. Dan Innis in 2016 but lost 52-46. Two years later, he tried again, this time prevailing 53-47; he went on to win re-election in 2020. Sununu is seeking to become just the second person to win a fourth two-year term as governor in state history, following Democrat John Lynch, who left office in 2013.

OH-Gov: Former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is spending $280,000 on his opening spot for the May Democratic primary. The candidate is shown inspecting an abandoned factory as he declares that "Ohio deserves a comeback. I know it won't be easy, but I've faced long odds before." Cranley continues, "When we started the Ohio Innocence Project, they said it was impossible. It has freed 34 innocent people. When I became mayor of Cincinnati, they said the city would never grow again. We defied the odds."

House

FL-07: Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani, who previously hadn't ruled out a bid for Florida's open 7th Congressional District, announced on Tuesday that she'd seek re-election to the legislature.

FL-15: Former Rep. Dennis Ross announced Tuesday that he'd try to return to the House after a four-year absence by seeking the Republican nomination for the newly drawn 15th District in the Tampa area. GOP state Rep. Jackie Toledo is also campaigning for what would be an open seat even though Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has pledged to veto the congressional map that she and her colleagues passed.

Ross was elected in the 2010 tea party wave to succeed Adam Putnam, a fellow Republican who left to successfully run for state agriculture commissioner (he later lost the 2018 primary to none other than DeSantis) in what was then numbered the 12th District. Ross, whose reliably red constituency was redubbed the 15th two years later, rose to become senior deputy majority whip, but he rarely attracted much attention otherwise; indeed, national observers sometimes referred to him as the other Dennis Ross when they referred to him at all.

The congressman unexpectedly announced in 2018 that he would not seek a fifth term, though characteristically, his declaration was vastly overshadowed by Speaker Paul Ryan's own retirement that same day. (The Florida Man said he learned of Ryan's parallel departure as he was telling his own staff about his decision and happened to look at a TV tuned to Fox.) Ross explained his decision by saying, "Eight years takes its toll on you. When you feel like a stranger in your hometown, it's time to say, 'There's got to be an exit strategy at some point.'"

However, Ross now very much is looking for a re-entry strategy, declaring, "Seeing what's happened in the last few years has just forced me to get off the sidelines and get back in the game, and that's exactly the way I feel. And I feel compelled to do that in, I think, a very statesmanlike fashion (that) I think the voters are craving for."

GA-10: Marine veteran Mitchell Swan earned a mere 4% in the 2014 Republican primary for a previous version of this seat, but he seems to have decided that anti-trans bigotry will help him stand out this time. Swan is running a TV spot for the May primary where he declares, "I oppose transgenders in our ranks."  

IL-01: Rep. Bobby Rush is retiring after 15 terms, and a massive field of 20 fellow Democrats have filed to succeed him in a safely blue seat based in the South Side of Chicago and the city's southwestern suburbs. Rush himself is supporting Karin Norington-Reaves, who is a former CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. Another well-connected contender is construction contracting firm owner Jonathan Jackson, who is the son of two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and the brother of former 2nd District Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

The race also includes two sitting elected officials, state Sen. Jacqueline Collins and Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell. Another notable name is former Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority official Charise Williams, who lost a 2018 primary for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Also in the mix is businessman Jonathan Swain, real estate executive Nykea Pippion McGriff, and activist Jahmal Cole, who was running a long-shot campaign against Rush before the incumbent retired; it's possible one of the other 12 candidates could also attract attention in the two-and-a-half weeks ahead of the primary.  

IL-03: Legislative Democrats created a new seat based in heavily Latino areas in southwestern Chicago and the western suburbs, and four Democrats are competing for this safely blue constituency. The two frontrunners appear to be Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas, a Marine veteran backed by VoteVets, and state Rep. Delia Ramirez, who has EMILY's List in her corner. Ramirez has earned the backing of several progressive groups while Villegas, who has emphasized public safety, is campaigning more as a moderate.

Villegas ended 2021 with a wide cash-on-hand lead, while Ramirez has since picked up the support of 4th District Rep. Chuy Garcia, who currently represents 43% of the new 3rd. The only poll we've seen was a recent Lake Research Partners survey for the pro-Ramirez Working Families Party that showed her leading Villegas 19-11; a mere 1% went to Iymen Chehade, a history professor at the center of an ethics probe involving Rep. Marie Newman (who is seeking re-election in the 6th District). A fourth candidate, Juan Aguirre, has attracted little attention.

IL-06: Redistricting has led to an incumbent vs. incumbent Democratic primary between Marie Newman and Sean Casten in a seat in Chicago's western inner suburbs that would have favored Joe Biden 55-44.

Newman's existing 3rd District makes up 41% of this new seat while Casten's current 6th District forms just 23%. However, Newman also faces an ethics investigation into charges she sought to keep a potential primary opponent out of the race when she ran in 2020 by offering him a job as a top aide if she won. The only poll we've seen was a mid-February Newman internal from Victoria Research that showed a 37-37 deadlock.

Six Republicans are also campaigning here including two mayors of small communities: Keith Pekau of Orland Park and Gary Grasso of Burr Ridge, who has the support of state House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and DuPage County Board Chair Dan Cronin.

IL-07: Longtime Rep. Danny Davis faces a rematch against anti-gun-violence activist Kina Collins, whom he beat 60-14 in the 2020 Democratic primary for this reliably blue seat. Two other Democrats have also filed for this district, which includes Chicago's West Side and downtown.

IL-08: There's little indication that Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi has much to worry about in his primary, but he does face a notable intra-party opponent in the form of Junaid Ahmed, who runs a technology consulting firm. Ahmed, who is portraying himself as a progressive alternative to the incumbent, ended 2021 with $421,000 on hand, a credible sum that was still utterly dwarfed by Krishnamoorthi's $11.55 million war chest. No other Democrats filed for this seat in the Chicago western outer suburbs, which would have supported Biden 57-41.

IL-13: Republican Rep. Rodney Davis decided to run in the 15th District after Democratic mapmakers transformed the 13th into a seat that now stretches from East St. Louis northeast through Springfield to the college towns of Champaign and Urbana and would have backed Biden 54-43.

Three Democrats are campaigning here, but former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski quickly emerged as the clear frontrunner after raising a serious amount of money and consolidating support from Sen. Dick Durbin, much of the state's House delegation, and several unions. The field also includes financial planner David Palmer and progressive activist Ellis Taylor, but neither of them have picked up any major endorsements yet.

Four Republicans are campaigning here with the hope that the new 13th isn't as blue as it looks. The two main contenders seem to be former federal prosecutor Jesse Reising and activist Regan Deering, whose family ran the agribusiness giant Archer-Daniels-Midland for more than 40 years.

IL-14: Democratic mapmakers sought to protect Rep. Lauren Underwood in this seat in Chicago's western exurbs by augmenting Biden's margin of victory from 50-48 to 55-43, but six Republicans are still betting she's vulnerable. Team Red's field includes Kendall County Board Chair Scott Gryder, former Kane County Board member Susan Starrett, and conservative radio host Michael Koolidge.  

IL-15: Republican Reps. Rodney Davis and Mary Miller are facing off in a safely red seat in rural central Illinois, and both have powerful allies.

Donald Trump and the anti-tax Club for Growth are pulling for Miller, a far-right extremist who declared last year during her first days in office, "Hitler was right on one thing. He said, 'Whoever has the youth has the future.'" Davis, who has to present himself as a moderate in order to win under the previous map, has the Illinois Farm Bureau on his side, and he also ended 2021 with a huge financial edge. Miller's current 15th District makes up 31% of this constituency, while Davis' existing 13th forms 28%.

IL-17: Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos announced her retirement months before her party transformed this constituency in the state's northwest corner from a 50-48 Trump seat to one that would have favored Biden 53-45, and seven fellow Democrats are campaigning to succeed her.

Team Blue's field consists of Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann; Rockford Alderwoman Linda McNeely; Rock Island County Board member Angie Normoyle; former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen; former state Rep. Litesa Wallace; and two others. A January survey from Public Policy Polling for 314 Action, which has since endorsed Sorensen, gave him a 13-11 edge over Wallace in a race where most respondents were undecided. Things are far clearer on the Republican side where 2020 nominee Esther Joy King, who lost to Bustos 52-48, faces just one unheralded opponent.

MT-01, MT-02: Filing also closed Monday for Montana's June 7 primary, and the state has its list of candidates here. Big Sky Country has regained the second congressional district it lost after the 1990 Census, and all the action this year will almost certainly be in the new 1st District, a seat in the western part of the state that would have supported Trump 52-45.

The frontrunner among the five Republicans very much looks like Ryan Zinke, who resigned as the state's only House member in 2017 to serve as secretary of the interior. Trump endorsed Zinke's return to Congress last summer, a development that came about two and a half years after Trump reportedly pressured him to leave the cabinet in the face of 18 federal investigations.

Zinke since then has earned bad headlines over how much more time he's spent in Santa Barbara, California compared to his home state. Last month, federal investigators also released a report concluding that he violated federal ethics rules while in the cabinet by taking part in talks with developers about a project involving land owned by his foundation and then lying about his involvement in the negotiations. And while most of the probes into Zinke ended after investigators concluded he hadn't committed wrongdoing or because Interior Department staffers didn't cooperate, one matter looking into whether he lied about why he denied two tribes permission to operate a casino in Connecticut is still unresolved.

However, it remains to be seen if any of Zinke's four intra-party foes are strong enough to take advantage of his problems. The most notable of the group appears to be former state Sen. Al Olszewski, but he finished last in both the four-way primary for Senate in 2018 and the three-way nomination fight for governor two years later.

Meanwhile, three Democrats are campaigning here, all of whom also unsuccessfully sought office in 2020. Public health expert Cora Neumann left the Senate primary when then-Gov. Steve Bullock launched his bid, while attorney Monica Tranel, who rowed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, lost a close general election for a seat on the Public Service Commission. The third contender is former state Rep. Tom Winter, who ran for the at-large U.S. House seat that year but lost the primary to 2018 nominee Kathleen Williams in a 89-11 landslide; Williams went on to lose to Republican Matt Rosendale.

Rosendale, for his part, is running in the new 2nd, a 62-35 Trump seat in the eastern portion of the state, and there's no indication that any of his three intra-party foes are ready to give him a serious fight.

NC-13: Donald Trump has joined his one-time enemies at the Club for Growth in endorsing Bo Hines, a 26-year-old law student who previously played as a wide receiver at North Carolina State in 2014 before transferring to Yale, in the packed May primary for this competitive open seat in Raleigh's southern suburbs.

OR-05: Moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader is spending a reported $200,000 on his first TV ad for the May Democratic primary, which features the seven-term incumbent talking about his veterinary career while surrounded by cute animals. "In Congress, I'm making a real difference for their owners too," he says, before he talks about working to lower insulin costs and drug prices.

PA-17: Allegheny County Council member Sam DeMarco announced hours before candidate filing ended on Tuesday that he was abandoning his week-old campaign for the Republican nomination for this competitive open seat. DeMarco cited his duties as county party chair and argued that it "needs a full-time chairman who will devote himself 24/7 to making certain that the Republicans recapture the office of governor, secure a U.S. Senate seat and maintain control of the general assembly."

Morning Digest: Wisconsin court picks Democratic House map, but it still heavily favors Republicans

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

Check out our new podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

WI Redistricting: In a surprising turn of events, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the adoption of congressional and legislative maps proposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday after he and the Republican-run legislature deadlocked last year. The move was unexpected because, in a 4-3 ruling handed down in late November, the court's conservative majority decreed that it would adopt "least-change" maps that would, in effect, enshrine the GOP's existing gerrymanders.

However, one of those conservative justices, Brian Hagedorn, sided with the court's three liberals in Thursday's decision. The outcome doesn't favor Democrats, though, since the new congressional map looks very similar to the extremely tilted one it's replacing: The new lines would continue to feature six districts won by Donald Trump and just two carried by Joe Biden, despite the fact that Biden carried Wisconsin in 2020.

But in the future, one of those Trump districts could be winnable for Democrats. The 1st, in southeastern Wisconsin, was one of just two districts whose partisan makeup changed by more than a negligible amount: It would have gone for Trump by just a 50-48 margin, compared to Trump's 54-45 margin under the old map. (The neighboring 5th, a safely Republican seat, grew correspondingly redder).

This shift is the result of the district gaining a larger slice of the Milwaukee suburbs and shedding its portion of conservative Waukesha County. The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Bryan Steil, who succeeded former House Speaker Paul Ryan in 2018. Given the difficult midterm environment Democrats face, it's unlikely Steil will be seriously threatened this year, but he could be down the line.

It also bears noting that thanks to the constraints imposed by the court—constraints Republicans advocated for—the plan preferred by the GOP does not differ all that much from the Evers map. The Republican proposal, which was the same one passed by GOP lawmakers and vetoed by Evers, would also have featured a 6-2 split in Trump's favor. The 1st, however, would have remained unchanged on a partisan basis, while the 3rd, held by retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, would have gotten several points redder, shifting from a 51-47 win for Trump to a 53-45 Trump margin.

The court said it chose Evers' approach because his map moved the fewest number of people to new districts: 324,000, or 5.5% of the state's total population. The GOP's map would have moved 60,000 more people, or 6.5% in total.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: The Florida Supreme Court has approved the new legislative districts passed by lawmakers last month as part of a mandatory review under the state constitution. As the justices noted in their ruling, however, no party opposed the maps in this proceeding, and a traditional lawsuit challenging the lines could yet be forthcoming.

Senate

AR-Sen: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Arkansas' May 24 primary, and Arkansas Online has a list of contenders. A runoff would take place June 21 for any contests where no one earns a majority of the vote.

We'll start with the Senate race, where Republican incumbent John Boozman, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, faces three intra-party opponents. The only high-profile challenger is Army veteran Jake Bequette, a former football player who had a successful stint as a defensive end with the University of Arkansas in the 2011 season but didn't do nearly so well in a brief career with the New England Patriots. Boozman has enjoyed a huge fundraising advantage, but Arkansas Patriots Fund, a super PAC that received $1 million from conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, has been running commercials promoting Bequette. The winner should have no trouble in the general election in this very red state.

NM-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján returned to the Senate on Thursday, one month after he suffered a stroke. In a statement, Lujan did not comment directly on his health but said, "I am back in the Senate and eager to get the job done for New Mexicans."

AZ-Sen: Gov. Doug Ducey once again said Thursday that he would not enter the Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but this time, everyone seems to be accepting his latest "no" as final. The governor made his declaration in a letter to donors, which is about the last group any politician would want to play games with. Arizona's April 4 filing deadline is also rapidly approaching, so this declaration carries more weight than those in the past.

A crowded field took shape after Ducey first said no all the way back in January of last year, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and NRSC chair Rick Scott refused to give up trying to get him to change his mind because of what the Arizona Republic characterized as "the perceived weakness of the existing GOP field." They had some big-named backup, as the New York Times now reports that George W. Bush, among others, tried to appeal to the governor. An about-face would have put Ducey on the receiving end of more abuse from Donald Trump, who has never forgiven him for accepting Joe Biden's victory, but the paper writes that recruiters tried to woo him with polling that found Trump's "declining influence in primaries."

The story says that anti-Trump Republicans hoped that a Ducey nomination "would also send a message about what they believe is Mr. Trump's diminishing clout." McConnell, the Times said last month, wanted to land Ducey for non-electoral reasons as well in order to stop the GOP caucus from filling up with even more Trump minions. The minority leader had unsuccessfully tried to convince two other governors, Maryland's Larry Hogan and New Hampshire's Chris Sununu, to run for the Senate, but he still hoped to get his man in Arizona.

That didn't happen. Ducey, in his letter to his donors, wrote, "If you're going to run for public office, you have to really want the job," adding that "by nature and by training I'm an executive." South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who flirted with leaving the upper chamber earlier this year, responded to the governor's refusal to join him there by telling NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell, "That's a sad story." When she followed up by asking if Ducey's refusal was a sign that the GOP had had a tough time recruiting electable candidates, Thune responded, "That is the existential question." It's also a question that McConnell and his allies will have plenty of time to mull over as the August primary draws ever closer.

Governors

AR-Gov: While state politicos originally expected a very competitive Republican primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders essentially cleared the field last year and now faces just one unheralded opponent. Five Democrats are campaigning in this conservative state, including physicist Chris Jones, who generated national attention over the summer with an announcement video that went viral. A new poll from the GOP firm Remington Research finds Sanders leading Jones 58-28 in a hypothetical general election.

CO-Gov: The Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group's newest general election numbers for ProgressNow Colorado show Democratic incumbent Jared Polis beating University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl 53-37, which is similar to his 52-35 advantage in October.

The firm also tested real estate broker Danielle Neuschwanger for the first time and found her trailing Polis 51-40, which, surprisingly, is better than Ganahl's performance. Neuschwanger, a far-right activist who has been running a longshot bid for the Republican nod, made news in December when, among many other things, she absurdly accused the governor of being "not gay" and being in "a sham" marriage after previously being "married to a woman, who he used to abuse the heck out of." As Advocate put it of these looney tunes claims, "There is absolutely no evidence that Polis was ever married to a woman or that he ever sexually assaulted anyone."

GA-Gov: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gov. Brian Kemp has booked $4.2 million in TV time from March 30 until the May 24 Republican primary. That reservation is more than four times the amount that his intra-party foe, former Sen. David Perdue, had on hand at the end of January.

IL-Gov: State Sen. Darren Bailey, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, earned an endorsement this week from former state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a far-right politician who almost wrested the Republican nomination from then-Gov. Bruce Rauner four years ago. Politico says of this news, "Ives' support in the governor's race gives Bailey an edge that could only be upped if Donald Trump were to endorse."

NE-Gov: Tuesday was also the second and final filing deadline for Nebraska candidates looking to compete in the May 10 primary (any sitting office holders had to turn in their paperwork two weeks earlier on Feb. 15, regardless of whether they were seeking re-election or another office), and the state has a list of contenders here.

Nine Republicans are competing to succeed termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts, though only three of them appear to be running serious campaigns. Donald Trump is supporting agribusinessman Charles Herbster, a self-funder who attended the infamous Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol, though the candidate claims he left before insurrectionists began their violent assault. Ricketts, however, has long had an ugly relationship with Herbster, and the outgoing governor is backing one of his rivals, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen.

State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who has parted with conservative orthodoxy at times, has also brought in a credible amount of money, but he doesn't have much big-name support so far. The field also includes former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau, who was briefly Herbster's candidate for lieutenant governor, but she hasn't raised much. The only notable candidate on the Democratic side is state Sen. Carol Blood, who is trying to win an office the GOP has held since the 1998 elections.

House

AR-01: Rep. Rick Crawford faces opposition in the Republican primary from state Rep. Brandt Smith and attorney Jody Shackelford, but neither of them look like they'll give him a tough time in this eastern Arkansas seat. Smith launched his campaign in August but ended the year with just over $7,000 on hand, while Shackelford didn't start fundraising until this year. The only Democrat is state Rep. Monte Hodges, who faces a very tough task in a district Trump would have carried 69-28.

AZ-02: Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer announced this week that he was joining the August Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran, who is defending a sprawling constituency in northeastern Arizona that would have backed Trump 53-45. Lizer was elected to his current post as the running mate of Jonathan Nez, who identifies as a Democrat, but the VP was an ardent Trump supporter in 2020. Last week, he also defied the Navajo Nation's strict masking requirements when he appeared maskless to greet the so-called "People's Convoy" and told them, "The People are rising up. The People are dissatisfied."

CO-05: State Rep. Dave Williams, who is challenging Rep. Doug Lamborn in the June Republican primary for this safely red seat, has announced that he'll try to make the ballot by competing at the April 8 party convention. U.S. House candidates in Colorado can advance to the primary either by turning in 1,500 valid signatures or by winning at least 30% of the delegates' support at their party gatherings, which are also known locally as assemblies.

While Lamborn has struggled in the past to reach the primary, state officials say he's already turned in the requisite number of petitions. The incumbent, though, says he'll still take part in the convention. Candidates are allowed to try both routes, and while anyone who takes less than 10% of the vote at the assembly is automatically disqualified no matter how many signatures they've gathered, there's probably little chance Lamborn fails to clear this very low bar.

CO-08: State Rep. Yadira Caraveo has earned a Democratic primary endorsement from 1st District Rep. Diana DeGette in her bid for the all-new 8th District in the northern Denver suburbs. Caraveo faces Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco and former Commerce City Councilman Steve Douglas in the June nomination contest. All three say they'll both collect signatures and take part in their party conventions in order to make the ballot.

FL-10: Democrat Aramis Ayala, who is the former state's attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, announced Wednesday that she was ending her congressional campaign and would instead challenge Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody.

FL-22: Two more local Democrats say they're considering running to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Deutch: state Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, who served as mayor of Parkland when the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre occurred in 2018, and attorney Chad Klitzman, who lost a tight 2020 primary for Broward County supervisor of elections. On the Republican side, Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer has taken his name out of contention.

MS-04: Mississippi's filing deadline for its June 7 primary passed Tuesday, and the state has a list of candidates here. Candidates must win a majority of the vote in order to avoid a June 28 runoff.

The only major race this year is the Republican primary for the safely red 4th Congressional District along the Gulf Coast. The holder of that seat, Rep. Steven Palazzo, is facing an ethics investigation into charges that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes. The incumbent has six intra-party opponents, and no candidate has emerged as his chief challenger at this point. The only poll we've seen was a December Palazzo internal from Public Opinion Strategies that showed him in strong shape with 65% of the vote.

Four of the congressman's rivals, though, have the resources to make their case against him. The candidate who ended 2021 with the most money is self-funder Carl Boyanton, who had $525,000 to spend; Boyanton, however, ran in 2020 as well and took fourth with a mere 9%. Banker Clay Wagner, who has also poured his own money into his campaign, had $305,000 to spend while two elected officials, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell and state Sen. Brice Wiggins, had $155,000 and $123,000 on hand, respectively, while the remaining two had less than $5,000. Palazzo himself had $385,000 available to defend himself.

NC-04: Singer Clay Aiken has filed to seek the Democratic nomination for this open seat, which puts an end to what reporter Colin Campbell said was "speculation about whether he'd still run" after state courts ordered the adoption of a map that differed considerably from the one in place when Aiken first announced his campaign. North Carolina's filing deadline is Friday at noon local time, so we'll have a full candidate list soon.

NC-13: Law student Bo Hines and Army veteran Kent Keirsey have each announced that they'll seek the Republican nomination for this competitive open seat. We hadn't previously mentioned Keirsey, who ended 2021 with $323,000 on hand thanks in part to self-funding.

NE-01: Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry seemed to be on track for another easy win until he was indicted in October. The congressman was charged with allegedly lying to federal investigators as part of a probe into a foreign billionaire who used straw donors to illegally funnel $180,000 to four different GOP candidates, including $30,000 to his own campaign, and his trial is currently set to start March 15. Four candidates are competing against him in the primary, but the only notable contender is state Sen. Mike Flood, a former speaker of the state's unicameral legislature who has endorsements from Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman.

Fortenberry began running commercials in late January attacking his rival on immigration, and he's arguing his efforts have worked. The congressman recently publicized a Moore Information internal, which is the only poll we've seen here so far, showing him leading Flood 36-25; 36% of the vote, however, is still a dangerous place for any incumbent to find themselves. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks faces only one little-known opponent in an eastern Nebraska seat that would have favored Trump 54-43.

NE-02: Rep. Don Bacon, who is one of nine House Republicans who won election in 2020 in a district Joe Biden carried, is defending a redrawn Omaha-area seat that, just like his existing constituency, would have favored Biden 52-46. (It's still very much a gerrymander, though, as the GOP mapmakers grafted on rural Saunders County, a piece of deep-red turf that has little in common with Omaha, to keep the seat from getting bluer.) His lone intra-party foe is roofer Steve Kuehl, who only jumped in on Friday.

It remains to be seen if Kuehl can run a serious campaign with just over two months to go before the primary, but one prominent Republican may end up rooting for him: Donald Trump responded to Bacon's vote last year for the Biden administration's infrastructure bill by not-tweeting, "Anyone want to run for Congress against Don Bacon in Nebraska?" Bacon concluded last year with $978,000 to spend to protect himself.

Two Democrats are also campaigning to take on the incumbent. State Sen. Tony Vargas ended 2021 with a $440,000 to $89,000 cash-on-hand lead over mental health counselor Alisha Shelton, who lost the 2020 Senate primary but now has EMILY's List in her corner. Vargas would be the state's first Latino member of Congress, while Shelton would be Nebraska's first Black representative.

NY-11, NY-12: The Working Families Party has endorsed Army veteran Brittany Ramos DeBarros in the June Democratic primary for the Staten Island-based (but now much bluer) 11th District and nonprofit founder Rana Abdelhamid for Team Blue's nod in the safely blue 12th in Manhattan.

NY-16: Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi has confirmed to Jewish Insider's Matthew Kassel that he'll challenge freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the June Democratic primary for the safely blue 16th District, which includes part of Westchester County and the Bronx. Gashi took issue with Bowman for casting a vote on the left against the Biden administration's infrastructure bill, saying, "I've been frustrated that the Democrats control the House, the Senate and the presidency, and we're not able to get as much done as we can because of two senators and a handful of congresspeople who are furthering a more extremist agenda."

Kassel also reports that pastor Michael Gerald, who is a deputy commissioner at the Westchester County Department of Correction, is gathering signatures to appear on the primary ballot.

NY-22: Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler, whom The Ithaca Voice identifies as a "moderate Republican," announced last week that he would campaign for the open 22nd District, which Joe Biden would have won 58-40. Another new GOP candidate is Navy veteran Brandon Williams, who has the backing of several county-level Conservative Parties. Williams, unsurprisingly, is campaigning as anything but a moderate, baselessly claiming that Democrats used the pandemic to "drive through mandates that were meant to reinforce the fear."

NY-23: While Republican state Sen. George Borrello last month declined to rule out running for Congress based on an extremely slender hope that the GOP will successfully challenge the new map in court, he seems to have since committed to running for re-election. Earlier this week, the Chautauqua County Republican Committee endorsed Borrello's bid for another term in the legislature at the same time it was backing Rep. Claudia Tenney in the redrawn 23rd Congressional District.

TX-08: The Associated Press on Thursday called the March 1 Republican primary for Navy SEAL veteran Morgan Luttrell, who secured an outright win by taking 52% of the vote in an expensive 11-way contest. Political operative Christian Collins, who is a former campaign manager for retiring Rep. Kevin Brady, was a distant second with 22%. This seat, which includes the northern Houston area and nearby rural counties, is safely red.

The frontrunners, who both stressed their conservative credentials and loyalty to Trump, disagreed on little, but they had the support of very different factions within the party. Luttrell had in his corner House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which aired ads for him, as well as former Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Collins, meanwhile, had the support of Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies in the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus, while a Cruz buddy, banker Robert Marling, financed several super PACs that have spent heavily here. Luttrell far outspent Collins, and while Collins' outside allies deployed $1.4 million compared to $1 million for Luttrell's side, it wasn't enough to even force a second round of voting.

Mayors

San Jose, CA Mayor: City Councilmember Raul Peralez has dropped a Tulchin Research poll of the June nonpartisan primary for San Jose mayor that shows Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez leading with 28% while Peralez edges out fellow Councilmember Matt Mahan 13-7 for the second spot in a likely November general election; a third councilmember, Dev Davis, takes 6%. The poll was released one day before the influential South Bay Labor Council, which Chavez used to lead, backed the county supervisor. That was unwelcome news for Peralez, who was hoping the organization would issue a dual endorsement or an open endorsement that would have allowed individual unions to choose whom to support.

In San Jose, local elections for decades have been skirmishes between labor and business: Both Chavez and Peralez fall in the former camp, while termed-out Mayor Sam Liccardo, Mahan, and Davis are business allies. Liccardo's team has made it clear that they very much prefer Mahan over Davis, though the incumbent hasn't yet made an endorsement. Liccardo's official backing could mean quite a lot if it eventually materializes, though: He recently formed a super PAC that reportedly raised $400,000 in just a day.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Michael Madigan, a Democrat whose nearly four decades as the powerful speaker of the Illinois state House came to an involuntary end last year, was indicted Wednesday on 22 counts of racketeering and bribery. Federal prosecutors allege that Madigan, who also gave up his post as state party chair after he was ousted as speaker, illegally used his many influential positions "to preserve and to enhance [his] political power and financial well-being" and "reward [his] political allies." Madigan responded by proclaiming his innocence.

Morning Digest: The year’s biggest special election so far is on Saturday

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

TX-06: Texas' 6th Congressional District will kick off this year's first competitive special election for the House on Saturday, though we'll almost certainly have to wait until an as-yet-unscheduled runoff before we know the winner. That's because, under state law, all candidates from all parties are running together on a single ballot. In the event that no one captures a majority—which is all but certain, given the enormous 23-person field—the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to a second round.

Exactly who that lucky twosome might be is difficult to say, given the paucity of recent polling and, in any event, the difficulty of accurately surveying the electorate in a special election like this one. The few polls we have seen have all found the same two contenders at the top of the heap: Republican Susan Wright, the widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright (whose death in February triggered this election), and Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez, the party's 2018 nominee who lost to the former congressman by a closer-than-expected 53-45 margin.

The numbers have all been extremely tight, however, and "undecided" has always remained the most popular choice, while several other candidates have trailed closely behind the frontrunners. On the Republican side, the more notable names include state Rep. Jake Ellzey, former Trump administration official Brian Harrison, and former WWE wrestler Dan Rodimer (who lost a bid for Congress in Nevada last year). For Democrats, also in the mix are educator Shawn Lassiter and businesswoman Lydia Bean, who unsuccessfully ran for a nearby state House district in 2020.

Campaign Action

Wright earned what's typically the most important endorsement in GOP circles these days when Donald Trump gave her his blessing on Monday, which could be enough to propel her to the runoff on its own. However, early voting had already been underway for a week, potentially blunting the announcement's effectiveness. What's more, Wright's top Republican rivals, led by Ellzey, have all outraised her. The top outside spender in the race, the Club for Growth, also seems to view Ellzey as a threat, since it's put at least $260,000 into TV ads attacking him. Two other super PACs, meanwhile, have spent $350,000 to boost Ellzey.

There's been less third-party activity on the Democratic side, with two groups spending about $100,000 on behalf of Sanchez, who raised $299,000 in the first quarter, compared to $322,000 for Lassiter and $214,000 for Bean. The biggest concern for Democrats right now may be making the runoff altogether, since there's a chance two Republicans could advance. It's theoretically possible the reverse could happen, but overall, Republicans have dominated in fundraising, collectively taking in $1.7 million to just $915,000 for Democrats.

That disparity may reflect the traditionally conservative lean of the 6th District, which covers much of the city of Arlington but juts out to take in rural areas south of Dallas. The area has always voted Republican, though in 2020, Trump's 51-48 win was by far the closest result the district has produced in a presidential race in many years. Ron Wright, however, ran well ahead of the top of the ticket, defeating Democrat Stephen Daniel 53-44.

To have a chance at flipping this seat, Democrats will need the district's overall trend to the left to continue, though first, of course, they'll need to make sure one of their candidates gets to the runoff. Exactly when that second round might happen is unknown, though, because Texas law only permits runoffs to be scheduled after an initial election takes place.

Governors

FL-Gov, FL-Sen: An unnamed source tells Politico that Democratic Rep. Val Demings is "more likely than not" to seek statewide office next year, adding that "if she does, it's almost definitely running for governor" against Republican Ron DeSantis rather than for Senate against Marco Rubio.

MD-Gov: Nonprofit head Wes Moore, who said in February that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, has filed paperwork with state election officials to create a fundraising committee. Maryland Matters reports that Moore is likely to make an announcement "within the next few weeks."

NJ-Gov: Though New Jersey's primary is not until June, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli is acting as though he already has the nomination in the bag, judging by his TV ads attacking Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. His latest slams Murphy for ordering a shutdown of businesses at the start of the coronavirus pandemic—without actually mentioning the pandemic, making it sound like Murphy just arbitrarily forced pizza places to close their doors. Perhaps this kind of messaging will work as the worst of the pandemic begins to fade, but voters are apt to recall just how terrifying the virus' devastation was.

One person trying to remind voters of precisely this is none other than … Jack Ciattarelli. In an ad he released last month, he berated Murphy for nursing home deaths that happened on his watch, saying that 8,000 seniors and veterans died "scared and alone."

VA-Gov: Former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign has announced that it's spending $450,000 on a new TV buy in the Washington, D.C. media market, which is home to a little more than a third of the state's residents, ahead of the June 8 Democratic primary.

Carroll Foy also has a new spot where she talks about how, after her grandmother had a stroke, "we were forced to choose between her mortgage and medicine." She continues, "So when my babies were born early, I was grateful to have healthcare that saved their lives and mine." Carroll Foy concludes, "I've been a foster mom, public defender, and delegate who expanded Medicaid. Now, I'm running for governor to bring affordable healthcare to all of us."

House

MT-02: Former Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke has filed paperwork with the FEC to create a campaign committee that would allow him to run in Montana's as-yet-undrawn—and entirely new—2nd Congressional District. (Yes, that was weird to type. We're still writing "MT-AL" on our checks.) Zinke previously served as the state's lone member of the House after winning an open-seat race in 2014 but resigned not long after securing a second term to serve as Donald Trump's interior secretary.

It was a promotion that worked out very poorly. Like many Trump officials, Zinke was beset by corruption allegations, including charges that he'd spent tens of thousands in taxpayer funds on personal travel and used public resources to advance a private land deal with the chair of the oil services company Halliburton.

In all, he was the subject of at least 15 investigations, but what appears to have finally done him in was Democrats' victory in the 2018 midterms, which would have exposed him to congressional subpoenas. The White House, the Washington Post reported, told Zinke "he had until the end of the year to leave or be fired." He resigned in mid-December.

Zinke's old seat is now occupied by Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale, who won his first term last year after Zinke's successor, Greg Gianforte, decided to run for governor. Fortunately for Zinke, he and Rosendale are from opposite ends of the state: Rosendale lives in the small town of Glendive, not far from the North Dakota border, while Zinke's from Whitefish, another small town located in Montana's northwestern corner. It's impossible to say, of course, when the next map will look like, but these two burghs almost certainly won't wind up in the same district.

We also don't know if Zinke will in fact seek a comeback, since he hasn't yet spoken publicly about his intentions (and as we like to remind folks, it's easy to file some forms with the FEC—it's a lot harder to actually run a campaign). But whether or not he does, it's very likely that other ambitious Montana pols will also want to kick the tires on this brand-new district.

NC-13: The conservative site Carolina Journal reports that some Republicans have already begun to express interest in running for North Carolina's 13th District, just a day after GOP Rep. Ted Budd kicked off a bid for Senate.

Former Davidson County Commissioner Zak Crotts, who's also treasurer of the state Republican Party, says he's "thinking about" the race, though he cautioned that "we have to see what the district looks like" following redistricting. Meanwhile, law student Bo Hines, who's been challenging Rep. Virginia Foxx in the GOP primary in the 5th District (which doesn't currently neighbor the 13th), didn't rule out the possibility of switching races, saying he's keeping "all options open."

Mayors

Three of Texas' 10 largest cities, Arlington, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, are holding mayoral races on Saturday, and we preview each of them below. All races are officially nonpartisan and all candidates compete on one ballot. In any contest where one candidate does not win a majority of the vote, a runoff will be held at a later date that has yet to be determined.

Arlington, TX Mayor: Arlington, home to Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers and the iconic Dallas Cowboys football team, is hosting an open-seat contest to replace termed-out Republican incumbent Jeff Williams. Business owner and former police officer Jim Ross has raised by far the most money of any candidate, having spent $311,000 so far, and has the support of Williams and former Mayor Richard Greene. Other prominent candidates include City Councilman Marvin Sutton and former City Councilman Michael Glaspie. Sutton is backed by former Mayor Elzie Odom, who was the first (and so far only) Black mayor in Arlington history.

Five other candidates are also on the ballot. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes that most of the contenders are people of color, with one longtime observer, local columnist O.K. Carter, calling it the most diverse field he's ever seen in the city.

One of the lesser-known candidates, talent purchasing agent Jerry Warden, was declared ineligible to run because of his status as a convicted sex offender. Due to Texas' election laws, however, Warden will still appear on the ballot, which could have an unpredictable impact as his name will be listed first.

Economic issues, particularly those affecting small businesses, have dominated this contest. Ross has spoken about the need to focus on Black businesses, saying, "When we have a 23% African American community and 1% of our businesses are owned by African Americans, there's a disparity there." Sutton has also discussed equity issues and the need to address economic disparities, while Glaspie has focused on helping Arlington businesses recover from the pandemic.

Fort Worth, TX Mayor: This is another open-seat contest to replace outgoing Republican Mayor Betsy Price, who is retiring as the longest-serving mayor in the city's history.

Eleven candidates have lined up to succeed Price, including her chief of staff, Mattie Parker, who has received the mayor's backing along with the support of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association. Parker also sports the biggest fundraising haul in the field, with $1 million raised. Also on the GOP side is City Councilman Brian Byrd, who is endorsed by Rep. Kay Granger. Byrd has raised $324,00 for this race and injected an additional $310,000 into his campaign via a personal loan.

Fort Worth is one of the country's largest cities with a Republican mayor, but Democrats are making a strong push to change that this year. Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairwoman Deborah Peoples and City Councilwoman Ann Zadeh are Team Blue's top contenders. Peoples has been endorsed by Dallas-area Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks, and state Sen. Royce West. Additionally, Rep. Marc Veasey, whose district takes in part of Fort Worth, reportedly will endorse one of these two progressives if either wins a spot in the runoff. Neither Peoples nor Zadeh have been as prolific fundraisers as their GOP counterparts, with the candidates reporting hauls of $286,000 and $128,000, respectively.

Diversity and equality has also emerged as a top issue in this campaign, even among Republicans. Peoples has made focusing on the needs of people of color and improving relations between police and communities of color a central focus of her campaign. There have been multiple incidents of police violence targeting Black residents of Fort Worth in recent years, and even Price acknowledged this issue was among the most challenging to deal with during her time in office.

Byrd has also spoken on racial issues, kicking off his campaign in a historically Black neighborhood in the city. However, Byrd, who is white, has sent out mailers with racial overtones that emphasized his support for police and commitment to "public safety," while another specifically targeted Peoples, who is Black.

San Antonio, TX Mayor: Incumbent Ron Nirenberg is seeking a second term as mayor of Texas' second-largest city and faces a rematch against a familiar foe. Nirenberg, a progressive independent, won a 51-49 contest over conservative Greg Brockhouse in 2019. Brockhouse is back again, and the pair are the top contenders in a wide field of 15 candidates.

Nirenberg, who has been endorsed by former Mayor Julián Castro, has a wide advantage in fundraising over Brockhouse, beating him $218,000 to $14,000 in the last fundraising period. Additionally, local pollster Bexar Facts, polling on behalf of KSAT and San Antonio Report, released a survey earlier this month that showed Nirenberg leading Brockhouse 56-21. Nirenberg's underlying numbers appeared strong in this poll as well, as he boasted a 67% approval rating.

Observers have noted this race has been a departure from the intense tone of 2019's contest, though issues surrounding police and firefighters unions have remained contentious. Brockhouse, a former consultant for both the city's police and firefighter unions, received strong support in his last bid from both labor groups, which deployed a combined $530,000 on Brockhouse' behalf—more than twice what the candidate himself spent.

This time around, though, the two unions have stayed neutral, as Nirenberg has successfully managed to navigate thorny issues with them. Nirenberg and the city negotiated a new deal with the firefighters union while also sidestepping questions about Proposition B, a measure that would repeal the right of the police union to engage in collective bargaining. Nirenberg has not taken a stance on the proposition and claims his focus is on the current round of negotiations with the union.

Other Races

KS-AG: We thought we were done with Kris Kobach, but we thought wrong. The notorious voter suppression zealot and former Kansas secretary of state kicked off a campaign for state attorney general on Thursday, following a failed bid for the Republican nomination for Senate in 2020 and a disastrous turn as the GOP's gubernatorial nominee two years earlier that handed the governorship to the Democrats.

Team Blue would certainly love another shot at Kobach, since his too-many-to-mention failings could once again put a statewide race in play. There's one we certainly have to note, though, since it directly impacts his qualifications to serve as Kansas' top law enforcement official: that time three years ago when a federal judge found Kobach in contempt for failing to comply with her orders in a suit that struck down a law he championed requiring new voters to provide proof of citizenship, then made him take a remedial legal education class titled "Civil Trial: Everything You Need to Know."

Of course, Republicans would like to avoid one more go-round with Kobach as much as Democrats would enjoy one. The GOP successfully kept Kobach at bay in last year's Senate race (which Republican Roger Marshall went on to win), though so far, he's the only notable candidate to announce a bid for the attorney general's post, which is open because Republican incumbent Derek Schmidt is running for governor. The Kansas City Star says that state House Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch and state Sen. Kellie Warren could run for Republicans, while no Democratic names have surfaced yet. With Kobach now in the mix, that will likely change.

VA-LG: EMILY's List has endorsed Del. Hala Ayala, who also recently earned the backing of Gov. Ralph Northam, in the June 8 Democratic primary. The six-person field also includes another pro-choice woman, Norfolk City Council member Andria McClellan.