Morning Digest: Federal judges let Ohio GOP run out the clock and use illegal gerrymandered maps

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, 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

OH Redistricting: A three-judge federal court has hijacked Ohio's legislative redistricting process and rewarded Republican obstructionism by announcing on Wednesday that if the state's GOP-dominated redistricting commission fails to produce constitutional maps by May 28, it will implement maps that the state Supreme Court previously ruled were unconstitutional instead.

The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected four different sets of maps in a row for the state House and state Senate drawn by the commission, all for the same reason: They violated a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution barring partisan gerrymandering. That same amendment, however, forbid state courts from ordering the adoption of judicially crafted maps, leaving the Supreme Court with the power merely to order the commission—which consists of five Republicans and just two Democrats—to keep trying again.

But now Republicans have no incentive to try a fifth time, as the Supreme Court recently ordered, because if they fail to do so, the federal court will simply impose their third set of maps. In a 2-1 decision, two judges appointed by Donald Trump said they'd adopt those maps—despite the fact the Supreme Court found they violated the state constitution "beyond a reasonable doubt"—simply because Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is one of the five Republicans on the commission, told local election officials to prepare to use them before the justices had a chance to rule on their validity.

Federal courts cannot be barred by the Ohio constitution from imposing their own maps to remedy violations of the U.S. Constitution, and in fact they must do so in the event of an impasse to ensure that elections can be held using legal maps. (The GOP-drawn maps the state used for the last decade are now badly malapportioned in addition to being gerrymandered.) But in a dissent, Judge Algenon Marbley, who was named to the bench by Bill Clinton, castigated the majority for failing to "respect[] state policies to the maximum extent" by settling on plans that are "irredeemably flawed."

Instead, said Marbley, the state should use a plan crafted by a pair of outside map-drawers hired by the commission, which expert witnesses who testified before the federal court said "satisfies all constitutional requirements" with minor changes. The commission claimed it abandoned that plan because it was incomplete—a reason the majority cited for spurning it—but Marbley noted that an expert for opponents of the GOP's maps completed the necessary adjustments in a matter of hours.

Yet with the majority's decision, "Republican Commissioners will benefit directly from a crisis they created," wrote Marbley, "and which the Ohio Supreme Court has attributed squarely to them." And because the GOP's maps would only take effect for 2022, the same situation could unfold in future years. As Marbley explained, "The 2024 Commission, faced with the options of ceding political power or simply waiting out adverse court decisions, likely will be tempted to take the same course."

Unmentioned by the dissent is that Republicans are trying to wait out the state Supreme Court in another way as well: Republican Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, who sided with the court's three Democrats over her three GOP colleagues to strike down the maps, cannot run again in November due to age limits. If Republicans who oppose the redistricting ruling win her open seat and hold onto the other two GOP-held seats up this year, they would gain a 4-3 majority willing to uphold future GOP gerrymanders.

Democrats and redistricting reformers are essentially out of options for 2022 at this point. While an appeal of the federal court's ruling is possible, any such appeal would go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, where challengers would expect a very unfriendly reception. The Ohio Supreme Court, meanwhile, has contemplated holding commissioners in contempt. To date it's declined to do so, but even if it does, there's no reason to think Republicans would produce constitutional maps since they'll get exactly what they want as long as they hold out until May 28.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Florida's Republican-run state House approved Gov. Ron DeSantis' new congressional map in a party-line vote on Thursday, following a similar vote in the state Senate a day earlier. The map, which would establish 20 districts Donald Trump would have carried and just eight that would have gone for Joe Biden, now goes to DeSantis for his signature, though litigation challenging the plan is a certainty.

Senate

MO-Sen: Marine veteran Lucas Kunce has released a Public Policy Polling survey of the August Democratic primary that finds him leading philanthropist Trudy Busch Valentine by 25-18 with a substantial 56% of voters undecided. This is the first publicly available poll we've seen from anyone so far.

NH-Sen, NH-Gov: The University of New Hampshire has tested some potential matchups between Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and a few of her Republican challengers, and their new poll finds Hassan in a very tight race this fall:

47-46 vs. 2020 candidate and retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc

44-46 vs. state Senate President Chuck Morse

45-44 vs. former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith

46-40 vs. Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton

UNH also tested the Republican primary in September and found Bolduc with a large 33-4 lead over the nearest contender, but with 58% of voters undecided and Bolduc having significantly higher name recognition than his rivals thanks in part to his 2020 bid, that advantage could dwindle as his opponents become better known and more voters pick a candidate to support.

The GOP primary grew larger still on Thursday when author and investor Vikram Mansharamani kicked off his campaign. Vikram, who is also a lecturer at Harvard and the son of Indian immigrants, does not appear to have run for office before.

The UNH poll above also surveyed the election for governor, but the results are much less competitive than in the Senate contest. They have Republican Gov. Chris Sununu cruising to a 55-29 lead over state Sen. Tom Sherman, who is the only notable Democrat challenging the three-term incumbent so far.

OH-Sen: Protect Our Values PAC, which is supporting venture capitalist J.D. Vance in the May 3 Republican primary, has publicized a Fabrizio, Lee & Associates poll that finds Vance pulling into a 25-18 lead over former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, with investment banker Mike Gibbons taking 13%, former state party chair Jane Timken earning 11%, and state Sen. Matt Dolan winning 9%. Those numbers are an improvement for Vance since their March survey, which had Vance, Mandel, and Gibbons in a three-way tie with 18% each followed by Timken at 11% and Dolan at 9%.

This is Fabrizio, Lee & Associates' first poll since Donald Trump endorsed Vance on April 15, and it's undoubtedly intended to support the idea that Trump's support is helping put Vance ahead. However, it's worth noting that nearly every other poll here in recent months has found Vance stuck further back in third or fourth place, though no other pollster has released a survey yet since Trump made his endorsement.

Meanwhile, Buckeyes for a Strong Ohio PAC, which is supporting Gibbons, has released a new ad calling Mandel a career politician and a "total fraud." The spot disingenuously blasts Mandel for having supported Mitt Romney and former Gov. John Kasich without noting that Mandel did so when Romney at least was the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, not more recently when both he and Kasich have been among the few Republican Trump critics. The ad finishes by praising Gibbons as a businessman.

OK-Sen-B: Friday was also the filing deadline for Oklahoma's June 28 primaries, and the state has its candidate list here. A runoff would take place Aug. 23 for any contest where no one earned a majority of the vote.

Longtime Sen. Jim Inhofe announced in late February that he would resign, effective ​​when the current Congress ends, and 13 fellow Republicans are competing for the final two years of his term in this dark-red state. Inhofe is pulling for his former chief of staff, Luke Holland, and a new super PAC called OkieWay has spent $475,000 on ads starring the outgoing senator praising his would-be successor. The GOP side, though, includes several contenders who start out with more name recognition than Holland, who is a first-time candidate.

One familiar name is Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who represents a seat in the eastern part of Oklahoma. There's also former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who ran in the 2014 special election for the Sooner State's other Senate seat but lost the primary to then-Rep. James Lankford by a surprisingly wide 57-34 margin: Both Mullin and Shannon would be the first Native Americans to serve in the upper chamber since Colorado Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell retired in 2005, while Shannon would also be Oklahoma's first Black senator. Another prominent contender is former state Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who later served as Trump's first head of the EPA and resigned in the face of numerous scandals.

Also in the running is state Sen. Nathan Dahm, who took a close fourth in the 2018 primary for the Tulsa-based 1st Congressional District; Dahm, who was waging a longshot bid against Lankford before Inhofe announced his departure, has benefited from about $155,000 in TV ads so far from Protect Freedom PAC, which is allied with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Rounding out the field is former Trump White House staffer Alex Gray, while the other seven contenders don't appear to be serious.

Pruitt only entered the race just before filing closed last week so there are no fundraising reports available for him, but we have first quarter numbers from the rest of the GOP field:

  • Holland: $620,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $773,000 cash-on-hand
  • Mullin: $385,000 raised, additional $1 million self-funded, $1.96 million cash-on-hand
  • Shannon: $245,000 raised, additional $150,000 self-funded, $392,000 cash-on-hand
  • Dahm: $147,000 raised, $170,000 cash-on-hand
  • Gray: $132,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $299,000 cash-on-hand

The only Democrat in the race is former Rep. Kendra Horn, who raised $343,000 and had $369,000 available.

Governors

AZ-Gov: First quarter fundraising reports are available for candidates seeking to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, with the primaries for both parties taking place in August:

  • Former TV news anchor Kari Lake (R): $970,000 raised, $701,000 cash-on-hand
  • Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson (R): $718,000 raised, additional $2 million self-loaned, $357,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former Rep. Matt Salmon (R): $469,000 raised, $703,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Steve Gaynor (R): $35,000 raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand (thanks to prior self-funding)
  • Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D): $748,000 raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • Former homeland security official Marco López (D): $305,000 raised, additional $150,000 self-loaned, $450,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman (D): $275,000 raised, $759,000 cash-on-hand

FL-Gov: Sachs Media has conducted a Democratic primary poll on behalf of Florida Politics that shows Rep. Charlie Crist holding a 35-20 lead over state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, while state Sen. Annette Taddeo is far behind with 4%. This is Sachs' first publicly available poll; the few other pollsters who have released surveys here in recent months have also found Crist ahead but with a large share of voters still undecided with four months to go until the August primary.

GA-Gov: Former Sen. David Perdue is running a new GOP primary ad, which is backed by a modest $320,000 buy that his campaign says will grow to $500,000, that embraces the Big Lie and various other far-right themes. Perdue hits Gov. Brian Kemp for letting radicals "steal the election," by which he really means Kemp not helping Trump to actually steal it, and because of this he blames Kemp for inflation and other problems under Biden. Perdue touts Trump's endorsement and vows to eliminate the state income tax.

IL-Gov: Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin's latest GOP primary ad tries to portray state Rep. Darren Bailey as a phony conservative by highlighting how Bailey said last month that, "I might have voted for Biden," while the rest of the spot hits Bailey for having supported property tax increases while he was on a local school board.

However, the ad omits how Bailey was speaking about voting in the 2008 Democratic primary, which he claimed he had done as a way to stop Hillary Clinton, not the more recent 2020 general election. The Chicago Tribune noted that Irvin himself had refused to say whether he voted for Trump shortly after joining the race and that he had voted in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries, which Irvin justified by saying he was voting for conservative Democrats in local races.

MD-Gov: The filing deadline for Maryland's July 19 primary passed Friday, and the state has a list of contenders available here. (Both dates were twice postponed because of legal challenges to congressional and legislative maps.) The congressional and state legislative lists aren't quite final, though, as the State Board of Elections says, "These candidates are listed in the district where they live now. After election officials make changes to County, State, and Congressional districts based on final redistricting plans, some candidates may be assigned to a different district." The BoE adds that this will be finished "in late May or early June."  

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is termed out, and 10 Democrats and four Republicans are competing to succeed him in a state that Joe Biden carried 65-32. The only sitting elected official on either side is state Comptroller Peter Franchot, a moderate Democrat who has enjoyed a good relationship with Hogan. Team Blue's field also includes two former members of the Obama cabinet: former Secretary of Education John King and former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who later went on to head up the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic side also consists of two contenders who took second place in primaries for governor during the last decade: former Attorney General Doug Gansler, who lost in 2014, and former Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, who unsuccessfully campaigned four years later and is now the only candidate taking part in Maryland's public financing system. Also in the contest are former nonprofit leaders Jon Baron and Wes Moore as well as Ashwani Jain, a one-time Obama administration official who lost a 2018 primary for the Montgomery County Council; two little-known candidates round out the list.

The only recent poll we've seen was a March internal for Baker that showed him trailing Franchot 23-15, with Perez and Moore at 11% and 10%, respectively. New campaign finance reports aren't due until mid-June (the last available numbers are from mid-January), so it will be a while before we get a fresh look at everyone's financial strength.

On the GOP side, Hogan is backing Kelly Schulz, whom he previously appointed as state Commerce Secretary. Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, meanwhile, is Del. Dan Cox, who played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a busload of people to attend the rally that preceded it. Also in the race are wealthy perennial candidate Robin Ficker, who decided to continue his bid despite getting disbarred, and Some Dude Joe Werner.

NE-Gov: State Sen. Brett Lindstrom's newest ad ahead of the May 10 Republican primary shows the candidate talking up his record of cutting taxes, and he says he's "just getting started."

OK-Gov: Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has three intra-party foes, with Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director Joel Kintsel looking like the most serious of the challengers. The Trump-endorsed incumbent's biggest threat, though, likely comes from a pair of dark money groups that together have spent at least $3.3 million on negative ads. Stitt has fired back with his own messaging arguing he's the victim of a smear campaign by "insiders and casino bosses," and he's also received $577,000 in help from the RGA. The Democratic side is a duel between Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who left the GOP last year, and former state Sen. Connie Johnson, who lost the 2018 primary for this office.

House

AZ-06: EMILY's List has endorsed state Sen. Kirsten Engel ahead of the August Democratic primary.

Engel raised $225,000 in the first quarter and finished March with $639,000 on hand compared to her other notable primary opponent, state Rep. Daniel Hernández, who raised $154,000 and had $447,000 in the bank. On the Republican side is Juan Ciscomani, a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, who raised $443,000 and had $1.1 million in cash-on-hand.

FL-04, FL-05: Republican state Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean says he is "still exploring" a congressional run, which Florida Politics indicates would likely be in the new 4th District.

Republican legislators passed a new congressional map this week (see our FL Redistricting item above) that carves up Jacksonville to create two Republican-leaning districts by dismantling the existing 5th District, which is a predominantly Black and safely Democratic seat stretching to Tallahassee, but the redrawn 5th District corresponds more closely to GOP Rep. John Rutherford's existing 4th District and contains most of his current turf. Florida Politics treats it as a given that Rutherford would run there instead, meaning the new 4th is effectively the closest successor to the old 5th even though it's a very different constituency.

State Rep. Jason Fischer and Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond have both previously said they were also considering running, and Florida Politics says they would also run in the 4th if they join the August GOP primary. One Republican who won't be running for either seat, though, is term-limited Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who said he will finish out the rest of his term through 2023.

IL-01: SEIU Local 1, which says it represents 30,000 members across Illinois, has endorsed Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell ahead of the crowded Democratic primary in June.

Dowell led the pack in fundraising, raising $382,000 in the first three months of 2022, and he held $297,000 on hand at the start of April. Close behind was businessman Jonathan Swain, who reported $356,000 in donations, an additional $19,000 in self-funding, and $322,000 in cash-on-hand. Former Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin Norington-Reaves raised $291,000 and had $237,000 leftover to spend, while construction company owner Jonathan Jackson raised $145,000 and had $130,000 in the bank.

Four other candidates reported raising less than $100,000: Real estate executive Nykea Pippion McGriff raised $85,000, self-funded an additional $3,000, and had $79,000 remaining; former Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority official Charise Williams took in $83,000 and had $44,000 left in the bank; state Sen. Jacqueline Collins raised $69,000, self-funded an additional $10,000, and had $62,000 left to spend; and Pastor Stephany Rose Spaulding, whom we hadn't previously mentioned, raised a mere $50,000, self-funded $23,000, and had $27,000 on hand.

IL-15: Rep. Mary Miller has launched an ad going after fellow GOP Rep. Rodney Davis for voting to create the Jan. 6 investigation committee. The spot calls Davis a "RINO" while noting that Miller has Trump's endorsement.

Davis held a sizable edge over Miller in first quarter fundraising, though, raising $923,000 and finishing March with $1.9 million in cash-on-hand. By contrast, Miller brought in just $335,000 and had $511,000 left over at the start of April.

IN-01: Air Force veteran Jennifer-Ruth Green has debuted a GOP primary ad that portrays former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo as a "Never Trump liberal" who refused to back Trump in 2016 and criticized his immigration policies. Green touts her own support from Indiana Right to Life and her top rating from the NRA.

Milo led Green $208,000 to $155,000 in first quarter fundraising, but she had just $111,000 on hand compared to Green's $151,000 at the end of the quarter. The primary is on May 3.

IN-09: American Dream Federal Action, a cryptocurrency-aligned PAC on the Republican side, has reported spending at least $387,000 on GOP primary ads for former state Sen. Erin Houchin.

Houchin raised the most money of any Republican candidate from donors in the first quarter, having brought in $377,000 and holding $250,000 on hand. Army veteran Stu Barnes-Israel raised $264,000, self-funded an additional $101,000, and had $232,000 left to spend. Former Rep. Mike Sodrel took in just $38,000 from donors but self-funded an additional $429,000, almost all of which he spent to end up with only $58,000 on hand. Lastly, businessman Jim Baker, whom we hadn't previously mentioned, raised $64,000 and had $40,000 remaining on hand.

MD-01: Rep. Andy Harris, who is one of the Republican party's ​​leading election deniers, is defending a seat along the Eastern Shore that would have backed Donald Trump 56-42, which is considerably more conservative than the seat Democrats drew up last year for a map that was ultimately struck down in state court.

Harris still faces a well-funded Democratic challenger in the form of former Del. Heather Mizeur, who took third place in the 2014 primary for governor and would be the first lesbian to represent the state in Congress. Harris outraised Mizeur $468,000 to $372,000 during the first quarter of 2022, and he finished March with a $1.88 million to $1.12 million cash-on-hand edge. Foreign policy strategist Dave Harden is also competing in the Democratic primary, but he's raised little so far.

MD-04: Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown is leaving this safely blue seat, which is based around Prince George's County in the D.C. suburbs, to run for attorney general, and three notable candidates from the county are competing to succeed him.

One well-established contender is Brown's predecessor, former Rep. Donna Edwards, a progressive who left the House in 2016 to unsuccessfully run for the Senate; Edwards later waged a 2018 comeback campaign for county executive, but she lost that primary by a wide 62-24 margin to Angela Alsobrooks. Another familiar name is former county State's Attorney Glenn Ivey, whom Brown beat 42-34 in the 2016 primary to replace Edwards. Another person to watch is former Del. Angela Angel, who lost her 2018 primary for a state Senate seat 55-37.

Edwards, who entered the race this year and has EMILY's List's support, raised $612,000 during her opening quarter and self-funded another $13,000, and she finished March with $460,000 on hand. Ivey, meanwhile, took in $294,000 from donors and provided another $150,000, which left him with a larger $584,000 war chest. Angel, finally, raised $54,000, self-funded $45,000 more, and was left with $95,000 on hand.

MD-06: Democratic Rep. David Trone faces a potentially tough general election now that redistricting has cut Joe Biden's margin of victory from 61-38 to 54-44 (Hillary Clinton would have carried this version of the 6th just 47-46), though the extremely wealthy incumbent has proven in the past that he's more than willing to make generous use of his own wealth. Indeed, Trone self-funded $2 million during the first quarter, which was far more than the $41,000 he took in from donors, and ended March with just over $2 million on hand.

The most prominent Republican in the contest for this redrawn constituency, which includes western Maryland and the D.C. exurbs, is Del. Neil Parrott, whom Trone turned back 59-39 last cycle. Parrott raised just $25,000 during the first three months of 2022 and had $262,000 in the bank, though contributors may take more of an interest in this race now that the 6th has become more competitive. State House Minority Leader Jason Buckel briefly considered running here as well before filing closed, but he decided to seek re-election instead.

NC-01: The state AFL-CIO has endorsed state Sen. Don Davis in the May 17 Democratic primary for this open seat.

NC-04: Protect Our Future PAC, the group funded by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, is spending at least $771,000 to boost state Sen. Valerie Foushee in next month's Democratic primary for this safely blue seat.

NH-02: Brewery owner Jeff Cozzens announced Thursday that he was exiting the August Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster.  

OK-02: Republicans have a huge 14-person lineup to succeed Senate candidate Markwayne Mullin in an eastern Oklahoma seat that Trump would have carried 76-22, and there's no obvious frontrunner at this point. One contender, though, ended March with a big financial lead over their many foes:

  • Economy Pharmacy CEO Chris Schiller: $257,000 raised, additional $250,000 self-funded, $501,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Sen. Marty Quinn: $106,000 raised, additional $27,000 self-funded, $129,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Rep. Dustin Roberts: $83,000 raised, additional $25,000 self-funded, $105,000 cash-on-hand
  • Muskogee Chief of Police Johnny Teehee: $42,000 raised, additional $210,000 self-funded, $250,000 cash-on-hand
  • State party chair John Bennett: $27,000 raised, $23,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Rep. Avery Frix: $15,000 raised, additional $200,000 self-funded, $215,000 cash-on-hand

The race includes several other politicians who joined the race after the new fundraising quarter began:

  • businessman Guy Barker
  • former state Sen. Josh Brecheen
  • former state Rep. David Derby
  • former defense contractor Pamela Gordon
  • Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Wes Nofire

The remaining three Republicans don't appear to be serious contenders, though it's always possible one of them could advance to a runoff in this outsized field.

OR-06: Protect Our Future PAC has dropped an additional $1.9 million to aid economic development adviser Carrick Flynn in the May 17 Democratic primary for this newly created seat, which brings its total investment here to a staggering $7 million.

PA-08: 2020 Republican nominee Jim Bognet has launched the first ad for his rematch against Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, and he quickly makes it clear what kind of campaign he'll be running when he opens, "In 2020, President Trump endorsed me for Congress. But that election was stolen from us."

RI-02: Former state Rep. David Segal declared Wednesday that he was joining the September Democratic primary for this open seat, an announcement that came almost two months after he began raising money for a potential campaign to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Langevin.

Segal, as we've written before, was active in Providence progressive politics in 2002 when he was elected to the City Council as a member of the Green Party, and he briefly served as the chamber's minority leader. After joining the Democrats and winning a seat in the state House, Segal ran for the 1st District in 2010, which was the last time Rhode Island had an open-seat race for Congress. He campaigned to the left of his many primary foes and ended up in third place with 20%; the winner, with 37%, was Providence Mayor David Cicilline, who still holds the district today. Segal didn't seek elected office in the ensuing decade, though he did found the national liberal organization Demand Progress.

SC-01: Big Lie enthusiast Katie Arrington has earned an endorsement from 2nd District Rep. Joe Wilson, who infamously shouted, "You lie!" at Barack Obama during a 2009 presidential address to Congress, for her campaign to beat incumbent Nancy Mace in the June Republican primary.  

VA-02: Candidate filing closed on April 7 for Virginia's June 21 primaries, and we'll be taking a look at the state of play in each competitive congressional race now that first quarter fundraising numbers are in; you can find a list of contenders here.

Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria is defending a Virginia Beach-based seat where, following redistricting, Joe Biden's margin of victory was halved from 51-47 to 50-48. National Republicans, including the deep-pocketed Congressional Leadership Fund, have consolidated behind state Sen. Jen Kiggans, who won her seat in a close 2019 general election campaign. Luria outraised Kiggans $1.2 million to $435,000 during the first three months of 2022 and ended March with a huge $3.16 million to $593,000 cash-on-hand.

Before she can go up against Luria, Kiggans needs to get past high school football coach Jarome Bell, a Big Lie fanatic who has the backing of 5th District Rep. Bob Good. Bell, who earned last place in the 2020 three-way primary with 23%, had a mere $9,000, though, so he may not be much of an obstacle for Kiggans, who has been happy to entertain election conspiracies herself.

VA-07: While some Northern Virginia Democrats initially expressed interest in waging a primary bid against Rep. ​​Abigail Spanberger after the new congressional map replaced much of her suburban Richmond base with turf in populous Prince William County, Spanberger will face no intra-party opposition. Those dramatic changes boosted Biden's margin from just 50-49 to 52-46, but six Republicans are hoping to take her on.

Both state Sen. Bryce Reeves and Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson were running against Spanberger before the remap, and they've continued their campaigns here: Reeves outraised Anderson $269,000 to $232,000 during the most recent fundraising quarter, and he finished March with a small $390,000 to $371,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega, meanwhile, entered the race shortly after redistricting was completed, and she raised $357,000 in her first three months and had $294,000 to spend. Another new arrival, Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chair Crystal Vanuch, took in $82,000 but self-funded $402,000, which left her with $468,000 to spend. Spotsylvania County Supervisor David Ross, likewise, raised $42,000 and provided $101,000 more, which left him with a $121,000 war chest. The final Republican, 2021 state House nominee Gina Ciarcia, had less than $15,000 to spend. Spanberger herself raised $1.13 million to defend herself, and she finished March with $3.89 million in the bank.

ECU: The progressive group End Citizens United has endorsed six Democratic House contenders:

Attorneys General

ID-AG: While the Club for Growth doesn’t appear to have endorsed its old ally, former Rep. Raúl Labrador, in the May 17 Republican primary for attorney general, the group is spending nearly $300,000 to weaken five-term incumbent Lawrence Wasden. The commercial attacks Wasden for refusing to join 13 other GOP attorneys general in suing to overturn the Biden administration’s COVID relief bill, with the narrator arguing he “allowed Washington to shove their woke agenda down our throats.” The ad also goes after him for refusing to join the 2020 lawsuit aimed at overturning Biden’s win, saying he “looked the other way when election integrity hung in the balance.”

MD-AG: The Democratic primary to succeed retiring Democratic incumbent Brian Frosh is a duel between two well-connected candidates: Rep. Anthony Brown, who was the party's 2014 nominee for governor, and former Baltimore Judge Katie Curran O'Malley, who is the wife of former Gov. Martin O'Malley. The winner will be the heavy favorite in November for an office that the GOP last won in 1918.

MI-AG, MI-SoS: Michigan Republicans will hold a convention Saturday to choose their candidates to take on Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, races that Donald Trump has intervened in as he seeks to install adherents of the Big Lie into key offices like these nationwide. However, the weekend's results may not bring about a definitive resolution because the party's endorsement can be overturned in August with an affirmative vote of three-fourths of delegates, and at least one candidate hasn't ruled out pursuing this option if he loses.

MLive.com explains this strange state of affairs came about because, as GOP consultant John Sellek puts it, these springtime gatherings are "completely made up by the parties." Indeed, state law requires that the parties, rather than primary voters, pick their nominees for these offices (as well as for lieutenant governor) at conventions that take place in the "fall" (which has been interpreted, for some reason, to include August).

Democrats, though, decided several years ago that they wanted to choose their candidates far earlier in order to give them a head start for the general election. That's why they came up with the idea of the April endorsement convention, with the later event serving only to make the results official. (Michigan voters will select nominees in all other races in the state's Aug. 2 primary.)

Republicans decided to try this approach out themselves for the first time this cycle, but Trump's interventions have, unsurprisingly, complicated things. While many GOP leaders want their nominee for attorney general to be former state House Speaker Tom Leonard, who lost to Nessel by a close 49-46 margin in 2018, Trump has instead backed Matthew DePerno, an attorney who's made a name for himself advancing the conspiracy theories about the 2020 elections and recently called for the arrest of Nessel, Benson, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The GOP field also includes state Rep. Ryan Berman, who has tried to position himself as an alternative to Leonard and DePerno but has been willing to call out DePerno's lies. In the race for secretary of state, Trump is similarly pulling for Kristina Karamo, who has called the Jan. 6 insurrectionists "​​totally antifa posing as Trump supporters," to beat state Rep. Beau LaFave and Chesterfield Township Clerk Cindy Berry.

Sellek predicted that DePerno, who earlier this month called for his supporters to "storm" the county-level meetings where party activists pick delegates for the endorsement convention, would respond to a defeat on Saturday by trying to get the results overturned in August. Berman, though, was the only one who publicly addressed the idea, telling MLive, "It depends on what happens this weekend. We'll see how it plays out." Still, it would take quite a lot to convince 75% of the August delegates to adopt what Sellek called a "smash-glass-in-case-of-emergency" option.

And the glass may remain intact no matter what these insurgents might want. GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, who backs Trump's picks, predicted, "The party as a whole is going to coalesce around this team, starting Saturday afternoon," adding, "I will work my tail off for whatever candidates come out of this convention."

Former state party executive director Jason Roe, though, struck a very different tone when describing the stakes of the endorsement convention. "We're going to find out if we're going to be held hostage to second-tier candidates who can't win general elections in pursuit of genuflecting to the dear leader," he said, "or if we're going to focus on winning elections and making sure that conservatives control state government and make the policies that we all have to live under."

Morning Digest: Trump’s ‘bro’ now frontrunner following Ohio Republican’s unexpected retirement

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

OH-07: Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs said Wednesday that he was ending his re-election bid for Ohio's 7th Congressional District, a surprising announcement that came well after candidate filing closed and days following the start of early voting for the state's May 3 primary. The six-term congressman's abrupt retirement leaves former Trump aide Max Miller as the frontrunner to claim a seat in the Canton area and Akron suburbs that Trump would have carried 54-45. Gibbs' name will remain on the ballot, but the secretary of state's office says that any votes cast for him will not be counted.

Gibbs used his statement to express his anger at the state Supreme Court, which is not scheduled to rule on the fate of the new GOP-drawn congressional map until well after the primary. "It is irresponsible to effectively confirm the congressional map for this election cycle seven days before voting begins," said the incumbent, "especially in the Seventh Congressional District, where almost 90 percent of the electorate is new and nearly two-thirds is an area primarily from another district, foreign to any expectations or connection to the current Seventh District." To put it another way, a mere 9% of the residents of the new 7th are already Gibbs' constituents, so he would have been campaigning in largely unfamiliar turf.

Miller, by contrast, began the cycle by running against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in a primary for the old 16th District, which makes up 65% of the new 7th. Miller, who was one of Trump's favorite aides (an unnamed source told Politico that the two "had … kind of a unique 'bro' relationship") received his old boss' backing last year against Gonzalez, who voted for impeachment and later decided to retire.

Miller ended up taking on Gibbs, who was far more loyal to the MAGA movement, after redistricting led them to seek the same seat, and Trump's spokesperson said last month that the endorsement carried over to Miller's new campaign. Miller last year also filed a defamation lawsuit against his ex-girlfriend, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, after she accused him of physically attacking her in 2020.

Gibbs himself got his start in elected office in 2002 when he won a seat in the Ohio state House, and he won a promotion six years later to the state Senate. Gibbs in 2009 set his sights on challenging Democratic Rep. Zack Space in the now-defunct 18th Congressional District, a historically red area in the eastern part of the state that had favored John McCain 52-45, but he had to get past seven fellow Republicans in the following year's primary first.

Gibbs (who happened to share a name with the Obama White House's first press secretary), had the support of the party establishment, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, and he benefited after tea party activists failed to back a single alternative. The state senator ultimately beat 2008 nominee Fred Dailey, who had lost to Space 60-40, in a 20.9-20.7 squeaker, though it took another month to confirm Gibbs' 156-vote victory.

The general election turned out to be a far easier contest for Gibbs in what was rapidly turning into a GOP wave year. Space went on the offensive early by portraying his opponent as a tax hiker and a supporter of free trade agreements, but Gibbs ended up unseating him in a 54-40 landslide. Redistricting two years later left the freshman congressman with a new district, now numbered the 7th, that was largely unfamiliar to him, but unlike in 2022, he faced no serious intra-party opposition in this red constituency. Democrats in 2018 hoped that well-funded Navy veteran Ken Harbaugh could give Gibbs a serious fight, but the incumbent decisively turned him back 59-41.

The Downballot

On this week's episode of The Downballot, we're joined by Ali Lapp, the founder of the House Majority PAC—the largest super PAC devoted to helping Democrats win House races nationwide. Lapp discusses HMP's role in the broader Democratic ecosystem, how the organization decides which districts to target, and promising research showing the positive impacts of a new ad touting Democrats' record on the economy.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap elections this week in California and Wisconsin; explain why Republicans are finally turning on Madison Cawthorn (it's not really about cocaine and orgies); pick apart a huge blunder that led to the first attack ad in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary for Senate getting yanked off the air the very day it debuted; and provide updates on international elections in Hungary and France. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you'll find a transcript right here by noon Eastern Time.

1Q Fundraising

Senate

AL-Sen: The first half of Army veteran Mike Durant's ad details his near-death experience during the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" incident in Somalia, with the narrator declaring, "Mike Durant was saved by his brothers. His life spared by the grace of God." The spot then abruptly changes tone as the voice says the GOP primary candidate "believes the unborn deserve the same."

GA-Sen: Banking executive Latham Saddler is using his opening spot to contrast his service in the military with GOP primary frontrunner Herschel Walker's time as a football star. Saddler begins by acknowledging, "Herschel Walker was my childhood sports hero," before continuing, "I also wore a uniform: I ran on the battlefield as a Navy SEAL." He concludes that he's in the race "so that you can choose between a war fighter and a celebrity."

NC-Sen: The Republican firm Cygnal, which did not identify a client, has a new general election survey that finds GOP Rep. Ted Budd leading Democrat Cheri Beasley 45-43 as former Gov. Pat McCrory ties her 41-41.

NH-Sen: The NH Journal's Michael Graham writes that many GOP insiders believe that two-time New York Senate nominee Wendy Long will join the Republican primary to challenge Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan, though there's no word from her. Long earned just over one-quarter of the vote back in the Empire State against Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer in 2012 and 2016, respectively, and she's since moved to New Hampshire. Those showings didn't impress many people except perhaps off-and-on Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski, who has claimed with "100%" certainty that an unnamed woman will join the primary to take on Hassan.

Graham adds that Vikram Mansharamani, who is an author and lecturer at Harvard, "has been making media appearances and is reportedly speaking with potential campaign strategists and advisors," though he also hasn't said anything about his 2022 plans. The filing deadline isn't until June 10.

OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance's allies at Protect Ohio Values PAC have released a new poll from Fabrizio Lee & Associates that shows an 18-18-18 deadlock between Vance, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, and businessman Mike Gibbons in the May 3 GOP primary, with former state party chair Jane Timken at 9%. The firm warned back in January that Vance's numbers were in a "precipitous decline," but they're now crediting the PAC's ad campaign with propelling him forward.

Timken, for her part, has dropped a Moore Information survey that finds Gibbons leading Mandel 20-16, with her just behind at 15%; state Sen. Matt Dolan takes 13%, while Vance brings up the rear with 10%.  

PA-Sen: TV personality Mehmet Oz has publicized a survey from Basswood Research that shows him edging out former hedge fund manager David McCormick 25-22 in the May 17 GOP primary, with former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands at 13%. Oz released the poll on Trump's disastrous Truth Social platform, which may make him its most prolific user by default.

Governors

MI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson's new spot for the August GOP primary blames Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, Joe Biden, and the state's former governor, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, for high gas prices. The narrator goes after Whitmer for wanting to close Enbridge Line 5, which The Washington Post explains is "a 69-year old petroleum pipeline that runs under the Great Lakes" that is in danger of spillage.

PA-Gov: The very first negative TV ad of next month's packed GOP primary comes from former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, who manages to fit in attacks on wealthy businessman Dave White, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, and former Rep. Lou Barletta into just 30 seconds. The spot does not mention state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman or any of McSwain's other four opponents.

The narrator begins by declaring that White, who is a former member of the Delaware County Council, "is a career politician who voted to raise property taxes." She then goes after Mastriano for supporting what she calls "the unconstitutional mail-in voting law," which passed in 2019 before Trump and his allies started to wage war on vote-by-mail: The Philadelphia Inquirer explains that a state judge ruled the legislation unconstitutional earlier this year, but that the state Supreme Court has stayed the decision.

Finally, the narrator argues Barletta "supported higher gas taxes and approved Obama's budgets." The rest of the commercial touts McSwain as a "Trump-appointed prosecutor" who has "never run for office and will permanently cut the gas tax."

House

CA-22 (special): Former Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway took first place in Tuesday's special all-party primary to succeed her fellow Republican, former Rep. Devin Nunes, but she may need to wait a while to learn the identity of her opponent in the June 7 general election. (Whether Nunes will still have his gig running Trump's disastrous social media platform by June is a separate question.) With 64,000 votes counted Conway leads with 35%, while Democrat Lourin Hubbard, who is an official at the California Department of Water Resources, is in second with 20%; just behind with 15% each are GOP businessman Matt Stoll and another Democrat, Marine veteran Eric Garcia.

It is not clear how many votes are left to tabulate, but the Los Angeles Times says that any mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday have until April 12 to arrive. Neither Conway nor Hubbard are running for a full term in Congress anywhere, while Stoll and Garcia are challenging Democratic Rep. Jim Costa in the new 21st District.

CO-07: State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who already had the backing of retiring Rep. Ed Perlmutter and the rest of the state's Democratic delegation, will have the June Democratic primary to herself following her decisive win against minor opposition at Tuesday's party convention.

Colorado, as we've written before, allows candidates to advance to the primary either by turning in the requisite number of signatures or by taking at least 30% of the vote at their party convention, and no other Democratic contenders successfully pursued either route. Republicans, who are the underdogs in a seat that Biden would have carried 56-42, have not yet held their party gathering yet.

CO-08: State Rep. Yadira Caraveo became the sole Democratic contender for this new swing seat on Tuesday, while at least four Republicans will be competing in the June party primary. Caraveo took 71% of the delegate votes at her party's convention (also known as the party assembly), while Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco fell just short of the 30% he needed to appear on the primary ballot. Tedesco, like Caraveo, had originally planned to both collect signatures and take part in the assembly, but because he failed to turn in enough petitions ahead of last month's deadline, his showing Tuesday marked the end of his campaign.  

On the other side, Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine was the only major candidate to compete at Team Red's assembly on Saturday, and her easy victory earned her the top spot on the June ballot. Republican conventions often favor extreme contenders, and Saine offered just that with a video where she declared she "ran to expose, stop, and destroy the anti-family, anti-America, anti-God agenda" the Democrats presented; she also used her message to decry "weak, whiney moderates" in the GOP.

Unlike Caraveo, though, Saine's convention win doesn't ensure her the nomination. That's because state Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer, Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, and retired Army Green Beret Tyler Allcorn previously turned in the requisite 1,500 signatures they needed to make the ballot, so they did not need to take part in the assembly. A fifth Republican, business owner Jewels Gray, is still waiting to hear from election officials if she submitted enough petitions to make the ballot after she failed to win 30% of the vote at the convention. Biden would have carried this new seat, which includes Denver's northern suburbs, 51-46.

FL-22: Commercial airline pilot Curtis Calabrese announced this week that he would join the August Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Deutch. Calabrese, who is a first-time candidate, will take on Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz, who had the field to himself up until now. Calabrese, who would be the state's first openly gay member of Congress, served as a Navy combat aviator before working for the FAA, including as a labor official. Florida Politics writes it was in that capacity that he made several media appearances, including on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," to explain how the 2018-2019 government shutdown was impacting him and his colleagues.

GA-07: Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath has earned the support of the American Federation of Government Employees for next month's primary against fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux.

IL-15: Politico reports that the anti-tax Club for Growth is spending $400,000 on an ad campaign touting Mary Miller ahead of her June Republican primary showdown against fellow Rep. Rodney Davis. The commercial reminds viewers that Miller is Trump's choice and pledges she'll "never compromise on election integrity."

NJ-02: Monday was the filing deadline for New Jersey's June 7 primary, and the state has a list of contenders for the U.S. House available here.

Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew won a competitive re-election campaign in 2020 the year after he defected from the Democratic Party, and the state's new congressional map extended Trump's margin of victory in this South Jersey shore seat from 51-48 to 52-47. Civil rights attorney Tim Alexander has the backing of the local Democratic establishment and faces no serious intra-party opposition, but he struggled to raise money during 2021.

NJ-03: Redistricting transformed Democratic Rep. Andy Kim's South Jersey seat from a constituency Trump narrowly carried to one that Biden would have won 56-42, though it's possible this district could still be in play in a tough year for Team Blue. The most serious Republican contender appears to be wealthy yacht manufacturer Robert Healey, who is also a former punk rock singer.

NJ-05: Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who is one of the most prominent moderate Democrats in the House, got some welcome news when filing closed and he learned he had no primary opposition in this North Jersey constituency. Five Republicans, though, are competing here even though the new map extended Biden's margin from 52-47 to 56-43.

The most prominent challenger appears to be Marine veteran Nick De Gregorio, who has the influential GOP party endorsement in populous Bergen County. (We explain the importance of county party endorsements in New Jersey here.) Also in the mix are 2020 nominee Frank Pallotta, who lost to Gottheimer 53-46, and businessman Fred Schneiderman, who recently began airing his opening TV ad.

NJ-06: Longtime Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone faces his first notable Republican opposition in some time in the form of Monmouth County Commissioner Sue Kiley, but she's still very much the underdog in a seat that would have backed Biden 59-40. (Redistricting even made this seat, which includes northern Middlesex County and the northern Jersey Shore, slightly bluer.) A few other Republicans are also in including former RNC staffer Tom Toomey and Rik Mehta, who was Team Red's doomed 2020 Senate nominee.

NJ-07: Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski is defending a North Jersey seat where redistricting shrunk Biden's margin of victory from 54-44 to 51-47, and he's likely to face a familiar opponent in the fall. Former state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. is running again after losing to Malinowski just 51-49 in 2020, and he has the influential party endorsement in all six of the district's counties. Kean's most notable intra-party foe is Assemblyman Erik Peterson, but there are five other candidates, including Fredon Mayor John Flora and 2021 gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo, who could split whatever anti-Kean vote there is.

NJ-08: Democratic leaders responded to Rep. Albio Sires' retirement announcement in December by immediately consolidating behind Port Authority Commissioner Robert Menendez Jr., who is the son and namesake of New Jersey's senior U.S. senator. Four other Democrats are running in this safely blue seat in the Jersey City area, but there's no indication that any of them are capable of giving Menendez a serious fight.

NJ-11: The state's new congressional map augmented Biden's margin in this North Jersey seat from 53-46 all the way up to 58-41, but five Republicans are still hoping that Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill is vulnerable. The frontrunner looks like Morris County Commissioner Tayfun Selen, who sports important GOP county party endorsements; also in the race are Army veteran Toby Anderson and former prosecutor Paul DeGroot.

OR-06: Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that she was endorsing state Rep. Andrea Salinas in the crowded May 17 Democratic primary for this new seat.

TX-34 (special): Former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez announced Wednesday that he was entering the June special all-party primary with endorsements from former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela and 15th District Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who is Team Blue's nominee for a full term in the new version of the 34th.

Attorneys General

MD-AG: Former Judge Katie Curran O'Malley has picked up the support of former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who served from 1987 until 2017, for the July Democratic primary for this open seat. Rep. Anthony Brown, meanwhile, has received endorsements from 32BJ SEIU, which represents property service workers, and 1199SEIU, which is for health care employees: Maryland Matters writes that these groups represent a total of 30,000 Marylanders.

Legislatures

Special Elections: We have a recap of Tuesday's all-party primary in Georgia followed by a preview of a rare Thursday contest in New York:

GA HD-45: A runoff will take place May 3 between Republican Mitch Kaye and Democrat Dustin McCormick for the final months of former GOP state Rep. Matt Dollar's term. Kaye led McCormick 42-40, while the balance went to two other Republicans. Kaye is not running for a full term, while McCormick faces no intra-party opposition in the regular May primary to take on Republican state Rep. Sharon Cooper in the new version of HD-45.

NY AD-20: We have a special election in Nassau County to succeed Republican Melissa Miller, who resigned in February after she was appointed to the Hempstead Town Board, in a seat Trump carried 52-47 in 2020. The GOP is fielding Cedarhurst Deputy Mayor Eric Ari Brown while the Democratic nominee is David Lobl, a former advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Mayors

Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson decisively won Tuesday's special election to succeed his fellow Democrat, Tom Barrett, by beating conservative Bob Donovan 72-28. Johnson, who made history as the first Black person elected to lead Milwaukee, will be up for a full four-year term in 2024. He could also be in office for quite a long time to come, as Johnson is now only the fifth person elected to this post since 1945.

Morning Digest: Longtime congressman will retire rather than face Trump-backed colleague in primary

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

MI-04: Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who was one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump last year, announced Tuesday that he would not seek a 19th term this fall. In an email to supporters, Upton said he believed "it is time to pass the torch," though the person who will most likely be claiming that beacon in the new 4th Congressional District is his colleague and would-be primary foe, Trump-backed Rep. Bill Huizenga.

While it's possible that Upton's departure will entice someone else to run against Huizenga in the August GOP primary, they'd need to collect at least 1,000 valid signatures by the April 19 filing deadline. No notable Democrats have entered the race so far for the new version of the 4th, a southwestern Michigan seat Trump would have carried 51-47 in 2020.

Huizenga announced back in December, right after the state's new congressional maps were completed, that he'd be seeking re-election in the new 4th, and he earned an endorsement from Trump last month. Upton, by contrast, spent months keeping the political world guessing as to whether he'd go up against Huizenga in the primary or retire, though until Tuesday, it seemed that he had one more race in him: In February, Upton launched a $400,000 ad campaign in which he told viewers, "If you want a rubber stamp as your congressman, I'm the wrong guy. But if you want someone committed to solving problems, putting policy over politics, then I'm asking for your support."

Upton, though, said at the time that he was still undecided about 2022, and his retirement announcement proves he wasn't just playing coy. On Tuesday, he insisted that redistricting mattered more to him than any backlash from his impeachment vote, saying, "My district was cut like Zorro—three different ways." However, it was Huizenga who, at least on paper, was more disadvantaged by the new map: While about two-thirds of the residents of the new 4th are currently Upton's constituents, Huizenga represents only about a quarter of the seat he's now the frontrunner to claim.

Upton's decision ends a long career in politics that began in the late 1970s when he started working for local Rep. David Stockman, and he remained on his staff when Stockman became Ronald Reagan's first director of the Office of Management and Budget. In 1986, Upton decided to seek elected office himself when he launched a primary challenge to Rep. Mark Siljander, who had succeeded Stockman in the House in 1981, in an earlier version of the 4th District.

Siljander was an ardent social conservative well to the right of even Reagan: Among other things, he'd unsuccessfully tried to torpedo Sandra Day O'Connor's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1981 because he didn't feel she was sufficiently conservative, and he even threatened to vote against the White House's priorities in an attempt to thwart O'Connor. Siljander, though, had taken just 58% of the vote in his 1984 primary, which suggested that a significant number of primary voters were unhappy with him.

Upton argued that, while both he and Siljander were "conservative Republican[s]," the incumbent had ignored his constituents to focus on international issues. Upton, by contrast, insisted that he'd work better with the party's leadership and seek committee assignments that would allow him to direct his energies to domestic concerns. The race took a dark turn late in the campaign when audio leaked of Siljander telling local clergy members to aid him in order to "break the back of Satan," arguing that his loss "would send a shock wave across America that Christians can be defeated in Congress by impugning their integrity and smear tactics."

Upton ended up dispatching the congressman 55-45, a convincing thumping that both sides attributed to Siljander's comments. Upton's team, while denying that the outcome represented a loss for the religious right, predicted, "Fred's tactics will be much more moderate and more reasonable." Upton easily prevailed in the general election and had no trouble winning for decades; Siljander, for his part, was last in the news in late 2020 when Trump pardoned what an angry Upton described as "a series of federal crimes including obstruction of justice, money laundering and lobbying for an international terrorist group with ties to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban."

In 2002, Upton easily turned back a primary campaign from state Sen. Dale Shugars 66-32 in what was now numbered the 6th District, but when the burgeoning tea party turned its wrath on establishment figures in 2010, the longtime congressman had become much more vulnerable to intra-party challenges. His opponent that year was former state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, who had badly failed in his quest to unseat Democratic Sen. Carl Levin two years earlier but argued that Upton was insufficiently conservative. The congressman outspent Hoogendyk by an 18-to-1 margin but prevailed only 57-43, which enticed Hoogendyk to try again in 2012.

However, while the anti-tax Club for Growth ran commercials this time against Upton, who by now was chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the incumbent worked hard to emphasize his opposition to the Obama administration and won by a larger 67-33 margin. That was the last time he faced a serious primary challenge at the ballot box, but in 2014 he went through his first expensive general election campaign when law professor Larry Lessig directed his Mayday PAC, which he called his "super PAC to end super PACs," to target Upton.

Mayday spent over $2 million to aid a previously unheralded Democrat named Paul Clements, and while Upton didn't come close to losing in that red wave year, Democrats hoped his 56-40 showing meant he could be beaten in a better political climate. Clements sought a rematch in 2016, but Upton won by a 59-36 spread.

In 2018, though, the congressman faced a considerably tougher battle against physician Matt Longjohn at a time when the GOP was on the defensive nationwide. Upton got some surprising help during that campaign when Joe Biden delivered a speech in his district that was paid in part by an Upton family foundation; Biden, who was apparently motivated to praise Upton because of the congressman's work on a bill called the 21st Century Cures Act, declared the congressman was "one of the finest guys I've ever worked with" and "the reason we're going to beat cancer." Ultimately, the congressman prevailed 50-46 in what was by far the closest race of his career. Afterwards, Longjohn’s campaign manager said Biden’s involvement was "brutal at the time and stings even more today."

Democrats hoped they could finally take Upton down in 2020, but Upton returned to form and beat state Rep. Jon Hoadley 56-40 as Trump was carrying his district 51-47. Two months later, Upton responded to the Jan. 6 attack by voting for impeachment, a vote that arguably did more than anything else to close out his lengthy time in Congress.

1Q Fundraising

  • PA-Sen: John Fetterman (D): $3.1 million raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
  • NH-Sen: Kevin Smith (R): $410,000 raised (in nine weeks)
  • FL-07: Rusty Roberts (R): $173,000 raised (in 10 days)
  • MI-12: Janice Winfrey (D): $200,000 raised (in six weeks)
  • OH-13: Emilia Sykes (D): $350,000 raised
  • RI-02: Joy Fox (D): $175,000 raised (in two months)
  • SC-01: Nancy Mace (R-inc): $1.2 million raised, $2.3 million cash-on-hand

Senate

AZ-Sen: Monday was the deadline for candidates to file for Arizona's Aug. 2 primary, and the state has a list of contenders here. We run down all the major contests in their respective sections of the Morning Digest, starting with the Senate race.

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly won a tight 2020 election for the final two years of the late John McCain's term, and he'll be a top GOP target this fall as he seeks re-election. Five Republicans are running to take him on (though Gov. Doug Ducey, to the frustration of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is not one of them), and polls show that a large plurality of primary voters is undecided.

The most prominent contender may be state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, though he attracted heaps of abuse last year from Trump for not doing enough to advance the Big Lie. The only other current elected official is state Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson, but he's struggled to attract attention. The field also includes self-funding businessman Jim Lamon; former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, whose former boss is heavily financing a super PAC to boost him; and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire.

OH-Sen: Venture capitalist J.D. Vance and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel are each running commercials for the May 3 Republican primary espousing ultra-conservative ideas as they attack the very idea that their beliefs could be racist.

Vance is pushing that message in what the GOP firm Medium Buying says is his first-ever TV ad, though his allies at Protect Ohio Values PAC have already spent over $6 million promoting him. "Are you a racist?" Vance begins as he points right at the camera, "Do you hate Mexicans? The media calls us racist for wanting to build Trump's wall." The Hillbilly Elegy author continues by accusing the media of censorship before proclaiming, "Joe Biden's open border is killing Ohioans with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country." Mandel, meanwhile, exclaims, "There's nothing racist about stopping critical race theory and loving America."

On the Democratic side, former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official Morgan Harper has launched what her campaign says is a six-figure opening ad buy. Harper describes her local roots and service in the Obama administration before trying to contrast herself with Rep. Tim Ryan, the frontrunner for the nod, by declaring, "I'm the only Democrat for Senate who's always supported Medicare for All and a $15 living wage, who's always been pro-choice, and supports expanding the Supreme Court to protect women's rights."

PA-Sen: Allies of Rep. Conor Lamb at a super PAC called Penn Progress just dropped the first negative TV ad of Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary, but there's a huge problem with the spot.

The narrator begins by asking, "Who can Democrats trust in the race for Senate?" and contrasts Lamb—"a former prosecutor and Marine"—with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, "a self-described democratic socialist." The ad cites an NPR segment from 2020 for that claim about Fetterman, but at the bottom of the piece are not one but two correction notices that both read, "This story wrongly states that Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is a 'self-described democratic socialist.' He is not." Citing those corrections, attorneys for Fetterman's campaign sent a letter to TV stations demanding they take down the spot, calling it "false and defamatory."

Penn Progress responded by pointing to other news articles that have also called Fetterman a "self-described democratic socialist," but no one seems to have found a quote from Fetterman actually referring to himself this way. That's because, according to his campaign, no such quote exists. In their letter, Fetterman's lawyers say the candidate "has never described himself as a 'democratic socialist'" and link to a 2016 interview in which Fetterman says, "No, I don't label myself a democratic socialist."

Fetterman's team is seeking to have this advertisement bumped from the airwaves because TV and radio stations can be held liable for defamatory content in third-party ads. (Because they're obligated under federal law to run candidate ads so long as they're paid for, broadcasters aren't liable for the content of such spots.) On Tuesday evening, the Fetterman campaign said that one station, WPVI in Philadelphia, had complied with its request.

Aside from the factual blunder, Lamb's supporters may be making a political mistake as well: Attacking a rival as too liberal in a Democratic primary is rarely a winning move. If Penn Progress' ad gets bounced, it may actually be a blessing in disguise for the super PAC.

Separately, a new poll of the GOP primary from Public Opinion Strategies for Honor Pennsylvania finds hedge funder David McCormick (whom the group is backing) leading TV personality Mehmet Oz 22-16. In a previously unreleased POS poll from January, Oz enjoyed a 31-13 advantage, but both sides—and other candidates as well—have unleashed millions in attack ads since then.

SD-Sen: Candidate filing closed March 29 for South Dakota's June 7 primaries, and we'll be taking a look at the fields for any notable 2022 contests now that the Secretary of State's office has had a week to receive "the official certification(s) from county central committees or state political parties"; you can find a list of contenders here. A runoff would be required on Aug. 16 in the races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and governor if no candidate wins at least 35% of the vote, but there aren't enough contenders in any of those races to make this a possibility. Note also that the parties hold nominating conventions (typically later in June) instead of primaries for several offices, including attorney general.

Donald Trump used the last days of his time on Twitter to rant in late 2020 that Republican Sen. John Thune "will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!" but the Senate minority whip's political career seems like it will continue just fine. Only two little-known Republicans, Oglala Sioux tribal administrator Bruce Whalen and rancher Mark Mowry, ended up filing to take him on, despite Thune's long dalliance with retirement, and there's no indication that either poses a threat. Attorney Brian Bengs has the Democratic primary to himself in this very red state.

Ad Reservations: Last week we got preliminary information about the first fall TV bookings from the Democratic group Senate Majority PAC, and AdImpact now has full details about how much money is going into each reservation:

  • Arizona: $22.4 million
  • Georgia: $24.6 million
  • Nevada: $14.1 million
  • Pennsylvania: $25.8 million
  • Wisconsin: $11.7 million

Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada are Democratic-held, while SMP is going on the offensive in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These are the first general election reservations we've seen from any major outside groups on the Senate side.

Governors

AL-Gov: Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard is running more ads ahead of the May 24 Republican primary arguing that Gov. Kay Ivey is insufficiently conservative. One spot focuses entirely on attacking the governor, including a clip of her saying last year, "It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks." The other commercial tries to use the Big Lie against Ivey, with the narrator proclaiming, "Lindy believes the election was stolen from Trump. Kay Ivey thinks Biden's victory was legitimate."

Ivey, meanwhile, is running her own ads playing up her own far-right credentials. "The fake news, big tech, and blue state liberals stole the election from President Trump," says the governor, "but here in Alabama, we are making sure that never happens. We have not, and will not, send absentee ballots to everyone and their brother."

AZ-Gov: Both sides have competitive primaries to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Doug Ducey in swingy Arizona. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has long looked like the frontrunner on the Democratic side, and she picked up an endorsement Tuesday from the state branch of the American Federation of Teachers. Her two intra-party foes are former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman and former Homeland Security official Marco López, who is a one-time mayor of Nogales.

Republicans, meanwhile, have six contenders. Trump has thrown his endorsement behind Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned conservative conspiracy theorist. The only current elected official, by contrast, is Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who is backed by former Govs. Jan Brewer and Fyfe Simington.

Another name to watch is former Rep. Matt Salmon, who narrowly lost the 2002 general election to Democrat Janet Napolitano; his second bid has the support of the Club for Growth as well as Reps. Andy Biggs and David Schweikert. There's also self-funding businessman Steve Gaynor, who narrowly lost the open-seat race for secretary of state to Hobbs in 2018. Businesswoman Paola Tulliani Zen, who founded a biscotti company, also attracted attention earlier this year when politicos learned she'd self-funded $1.2 million, but she hasn't otherwise generated much press. Neither has the sixth GOP candidate, Scott Neely.

NM-Gov: Former Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block uses his first spot for the June Republican primary to proclaim that he was "a day-one supporter of President Donald J. Trump," who badly lost New Mexico twice. The ad goes on to tout Block's conservative ideas, including his desire to "finish the border wall" and "block the COVID mandates," though at times the narrator's message almost gets drowned out by the commercial's loud music.

SD-Gov: Gov. Kristi Noem faces a Republican primary challenge from state Rep. Steve Haugaard, a former state House speaker who, believe it or not, is trying to run to the incumbent's right. Noem, though, has a massive financial edge over the challenger, as well as Trump's endorsement, and there's no indication yet that she's vulnerable. The winner will take on state House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, who faces no opposition in the Democratic primary.

TX-Gov: YouGov's new poll for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation shows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O'Rourke 50-42 among likely voters.

House

AK-AL: 314 Action Fund, a group that supported independent Al Gross in his 2020 Senate race, has released a survey from the Democratic pollster Change Research that finds him locked in a close special election against former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin in the instant-runoff general election in August.

It's impossible to know which of the 48 candidates competing in the June top-four primary might advance to the general, but we know the final matchup will be different than the one Change polled because one of the candidates it included, Republican state Sen. Lora Reinbold, did not end up running; the survey was also conducted days before either Palin or the final Republican candidate tested, state Sen. Josh Revak, announced they were in.

The firm initially finds Gross leading Palin 33-30 in a hypothetical general election, with Revak and Reinbold at 9% and 8%, respectively. After the instant runoff process is simulated, not much changes, as Gross and Palin tie with 35% apiece, while 30% are undecided. In a separate question pitting the two head-to-head, however, Palin edges out Gross 42-40.

314 Action hasn't made an endorsement yet, but the organization made it clear it wanted Gross to win in its release, saying, "Dr. Al Gross has dedicated his life to improving health outcomes for Alaskans, and if elected to Congress he'll have a platform to craft policy that will do just that."

AZ-01: Republican Rep. David Schweikert is running for re-election in the revamped 1st District, a seat in eastern Phoenix and its eastern suburbs that's changed quite a bit from the 6th District he currently represents: While Trump would have carried his existing constituency 51-47, it’s Biden who would have taken the new 1st 50-49. (We explain the many changes to Arizona's congressional map here.)

Before he can focus on the general election, though, Schweikert needs to get past self-funder Elijah Norton in the primary. Norton has been attacking the ethics of the incumbent, who in 2020 agreed to pay a $50,000 fine, accept a formal reprimand, and admit to 11 different violations of congressional rules and campaign finance laws in a deal with the bipartisan House Ethics Committee to conclude a two-year investigation. Schweikert, though, has made it clear he'll focus on Norton's turbulent departure from his insurance company. The field also includes Josh Barnett, who badly lost to Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego last cycle in the safely blue 7th District.

Three Democrats are also competing for this competitive seat. The field consists of Jevin Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors; former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf; and environmental consultant Ginger Sykes Torres, who has the backing of southern Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

AZ-02: Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran is defending a seat in northern and eastern rural Arizona that would have backed Trump 53-45, which is a significant shift from Biden's 50-48 win in the 1st District that he currently holds.

Seven Republicans are competing to take him on, and there's no obvious frontrunner at this point. The two elected officials in the running are state Rep. Walt Blackman and John Moore, the mayor of the tiny community of Williams. Also in the running are Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane; Ron Watkins, the reputed founder of the QAnon conspiracy cult; and three others. Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer had announced he was running last month, but his name was not on the state’s final list of candidates.

AZ-04: Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton is defending the 4th District in the southern Phoenix suburbs that, at 54-44 Biden, is considerably less safe than the 9th District it replaces. Six Republicans are competing to take him on, including Tanya Wheeless, who served as a staffer to then-Sen. Martha McSally, and Chandler City Councilman Rene Lopez.

AZ-06: Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced her retirement last year before Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission drew up a new 6th District in the Tucson area that Biden would have carried by a tiny 49.3-49.2 margin—a sizable drop from Biden’s 55-44 win in the old 2nd District.

The Democratic contest pits former state Rep. Daniel Hernández, who as an intern helped save then-Rep. Gabby Giffords after she was shot in 2011, against state Sen. Kirsten Engel; a third candidate, engineer Avery Anderson, hasn't earned much attention so far. The GOP frontrunner is Juan Ciscomani, a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, though it remains to be seen if any of his four intra-party rivals can give him a serious fight.

FL-13: 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, who has Trump's endorsement, has released a Spry Strategies poll that shows her again winning the August Republican primary. The firm gives Luna the lead with 35%, while prosecutor Kevin Hayslett and 2020 candidate Amanda Makki are tied for second with 9% each.

GA-07: NBC reports that Rep. Lucy McBath is spending $74,000 on her first TV ad for the May 24 Democratic primary, which features her visiting the grave of her son, Jordan Davis, as she describes how he was murdered by a gunman. (The commercial features surveillance footage from the gas station where Davis was killed, with someone responding to the sounds of gunfire, "Oh my God. Somebody's shooting!") McBath tells the audience, "My tragedy turned to purpose. In Congress, I'm fighting to protect voting rights, to lower prescription drug costs, and to prevent gun violence."

McBath's longtime allies at Everytown for Gun Safety are also spending $1 million to help her, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says will come in the form of digital and radio ads and a mail campaign. McBath has already benefited from $1 million in advertising from another group, Protect Our Future PAC, while fellow incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux has not yet received any major outside support.

MD-01: Former Del. Heather Mizeur says she'll continue her campaign for the Democratic nod to take on Republican Rep. Andy Harris even though Trump would have carried the newest version of this seat by a tough 56-42 margin. Foreign policy strategist Dave Harden, who is the underdog in the July primary, also made it clear he'd remain in the race.

NH-01: The Associated Press reports that former Trump administration official Matt Mowers, one of the leading GOP candidates for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, voted twice in the 2016 primaries, which would be a violation of federal law.

According to the AP, Mowers cast a ballot in New Hampshire's primary in February, when he was working for Chris Christie's presidential campaign. (Christie finished sixth with just 7% of the vote and quit the race the next day.) Mowers then voted in the June primary in his home state of New Jersey, a month after Donald Trump became the GOP's de facto nominee, though there were other races on the ballot that day as well.

Any statute of limitations has long run out, so Mowers—who has a page devoted to "election integrity" on his campaign website—would be able to evade any legal ramifications. Politically, though, it's a different story, as his rivals for the nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas immediately went on the attack. Mowers' campaign has so far declined to respond directly to the story.

SD-AL: Rep. Dusty Johnson faces a Republican primary challenge from state Rep. Taffy Howard, a Big Lie supporter who launched her bid last year insisting, "I believe there was fraud in the last election that needs to be investigated. Our current congressman is not willing to admit that there was an issue." No Democrat ended up filing to run for the state's only House seat.

TX-15: EMILY's List has endorsed businesswoman Michelle Vallejo in the May 24 Democratic primary runoff for this open seat. Vallejo will face Army veteran Ruben Ramirez, who led her 28-20 last month in the first round of the nomination contest.

TX-34 (special): Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has scheduled the special all-party primary to succeed former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela for June 14, with the filing deadline set for April 13. A runoff date would only be scheduled if no one earns a majority of the vote in the first round.

Attorneys General

AZ-AG: Republicans have a six-way primary to succeed termed-out Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is seeking Team Red's nod for U.S. Senate, and this is another nominating contest without an obvious frontrunner. The only Democrat, by contrast, is former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes.

One familiar GOP contender is Tiffany Shedd, who lost a close general election last cycle in the 1st Congressional District against Rep. Tom O'Halleran. Another 2020 loser is Rodney Glassman, who narrowly failed to unseat the Maricopa County assessor in the primary; Glassman was the 2010 Democratic nominee against Sen. John McCain, but he now sports an endorsement from far-right Rep. Paul Gosar. The field also consists of two former prosecutors, Lacy Cooper and Abe Hamadeh; former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould; and manufacturing executive Dawn Grove.

TX-AG: YouGov surveys the May 24 Republican primary runoff for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and shows incumbent Ken Paxton fending off Land Commissioner George P. Bush 65-23, which is even larger than the 59-30 lead that CWS Research found in its recent poll for a pro-Paxton group. YouGov also has former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza beating former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski 46-31 for the Democratic nod.

YouGov tests hypothetical general election scenarios as well and finds that, despite his myriad of scandals, Paxton outperforms Bush. The attorney general leads Garza and Jaworski 48-42 and 48-41, respectively, while Jaworski edges out Bush 39-38 and Garza ties him at 39-all.

Secretaries of State

AZ-SoS: Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is running for governor, and four Republicans and two Democrats are running to replace her as this swing state's chief elections officer.

Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, has taken a strong interest in this contest and endorsed state Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol. Team Red's field also includes state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, who championed a bill that would have allowed the state legislature to decertify the state's presidential results at any point before Inauguration Day, and state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who has sponsored some of the most aggressive new voting restrictions in Arizona. The final Republican contender is advertising executive Beau Lane.

Democrats, meanwhile, have a duel between state House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding and Adrian Fontes, who narrowly lost re-election in 2020 as Maricopa County clerk, the post responsible for election administration in the county.

Prosecutors

Maricopa County, AZ Prosecutor: Republican incumbent Alistair Adel resigned late last month as the top prosecutor of America's fourth-largest county over serious questions about her ability to manage her office, and one Democrat and three Republicans quickly collected the requisite signatures needed to compete in the special election to succeed her. The partisan primary and general elections will take place on the same days as the state's regularly scheduled statewide contests, and the winner will be up for a full term in 2024.

The only Democrat in the race is 2020 nominee Julie Gunnigle, who lost to Adel by a close 51-49. The GOP field consists of Anni Foster, who is Gov. Doug Ducey's general counsel; City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere; and prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, whom Senate Republicans hired in 2018 as a "female assistant" to question Brett Kavanaugh and accuser Christine Blasey Ford. A fourth Republican, attorney James Austin Woods, does not appear to have filed.

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: We’re looking back on Harry Reid’s long and storied career on the campaign trail

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

Leading Off

Deaths: Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who died Dec. 28 at the age of 82, is lying in state at the Capitol today. As his former colleagues honor his singular career, we've put together an obituary taking a look back at his long electoral history—a path that dealt Reid several setbacks on his way to the pinnacle of American politics.

Reid won elected office for the first time in 1968 when he took a seat in the Nevada state Assembly at the age of 28, and he made the jump to statewide office two years later when he was elected lieutenant governor. Reid’s career stalled, though, after he lost an extremely close 1974 Senate race to former Republican Gov. Paul Laxalt, and he hit his nadir the next year after he failed to win the mayor’s office in Las Vegas.

Of course, that was far from the end for Reid, who had several more competitive Senate races ahead of him beginning with his 1986 triumph in the open seat contest to succeed Laxalt. Reid went on to pull off an extremely tight 1998 win against his future GOP colleague, then-Rep. John Ensign, in a race that took over a month to resolve.

Campaign Action

The majority leader later looked like an all-but-inevitable loser ahead of his 2010 bid for a fifth term, but Reid, in the words of longtime Nevada political chronicler Jon Ralston, displayed a “Terminator-like single-mindedness, relentlessness and discipline turned preparation” that helped him upset former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle. We detail all those campaigns and more in our obituary.

Redistricting

CT Redistricting: Stanford Law School professor Nathan Persily, the special master appointed by the Connecticut Supreme Court to assist it in drawing a new congressional map, has asked the state's deadlocked redistricting commission to try to reach a compromise once more. The panel failed to settle on a final map last month, despite receiving a three-week extension from the court, prompting the justices to take over the process and tap Persily to help them. Commissioners have until Wednesday at 12 PM ET to submit a new map "or at least report progress," per the CT Mirror, while Persily himself must furnish a map to the court by Jan. 18.

NY Redistricting: As expected, New York lawmakers have rejected dueling sets of maps put forth by the state's bipartisan redistricting commission after the panel failed to agree on a single group of plans for Congress and the legislature. Because of that failure, legislators were under no obligation to consider the maps that the commission forwarded to them, one batch of which was produced by Republicans and the other by Democrats.

Commissioners have until Feb. 28 to take one more shot at reaching a deal, but such a deal looks unlikely. Even if they were to strike a compromise, though, legislative Democrats would still be able to override the commission thanks to their two-thirds supermajorities.

4Q Fundraising

  • NC-SenCheri Beasley (D): $2.1 million raised, $2.8 million cash-on-hand
  • UT-SenEvan McMullin (I): $1 million raised
  • WA-SenPatty Murray (D-inc): $1.5 million raised, $7 million cash-on-hand
  • GA-GovBrian Kemp (R-inc): $7 million raised (between July 1 and Jan. 9), $12 million cash-on-hand
  • KS-GovLaura Kelly (D-inc): $2 million raised (in 2021), $1.9 million cash-on-hand; Derek Schmidt (R): $1.6 million raised (in 2021), $1.3 million cash-on-hand
  • MN-GovTim Walz (D-inc): $3.6 million raised (in 2021), $3.6 million cash-on-hand; Paul Gazelka (R): $545,000 raised (since August)
  • NV-GovJoe Lombardo (R): $3.1 million raised (since late June)
  • SC-GovHenry McMaster (R-inc): $909,000 raised, $3 million cash-on-hand; Joe Cunningham (D): $343,000 raised, $422,000 cash-on-hand
  • IA-02Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $809,000 raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • KY-06Andy Barr (R-inc): $538,000, $1.9 million cash-on-hand
  • NE-01Patty Pansing Brooks (D): $210,000 raised (in six weeks)
  • NY-24Francis Conole (D): $202,000 raised, $280,000 cash-on-hand

Senate

AZ-Sen: Ugh. Rich guy Jim Lamon is dropping a reported $1 million on a TV buy to air the first—but undoubtedly not the last—ad we've seen featuring a candidate bleat, "Let's go, Brandon!" If for some reason you have no idea what this is all about, consider yourself blessed. Meanwhile, the super PAC run by zillionaire Peter Thiel that's supporting another rich guy, Blake Masters, is spending another $1.1 million, per Politico, to run a new spot tying Masters to Donald Trump.

NH-Sen: Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith resigned his post this week, saying that "it is my intent to formally announce my candidacy for the United States Senate in the not too distant future." Smith sought the GOP nod for governor in 2012 but lost badly in the primary.

PA-Sen: George Bochetto, a longtime Republican attorney in Philadelphia who also served as state boxing commissioner from 1995 to 2002, has joined the packed May primary and says he'll self-fund $1 million.

Bochetto recently attracted attention when he aided Donald Trump's defense team in his second impeachment trial. In August, he persuaded a judge to stop Philadelphia's city government from removing a prominent Christopher Columbus statue. Bochetto is also the leader in a lawsuit alleging that Mayor Jim Kenney's executive order replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day discriminates against Italian Americans.

Bochetto in the past has talked about running for mayor of his heavily Democratic city plenty of times and even waged a brief campaign in 1999, but he ended up dropping out before the primary; the eventual nominee, Sam Katz, ended up losing the general election 51-49 to Democrat John Street, which is likely to remain Team Red's high-water mark for decades to come.

Governors

MA-Gov: Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, who'd been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor, instead announced a bid for lieutenant governor on Tuesday. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run in separate primaries but run together on a single ticket in the general election.

MI-Gov: The Glengariff Group's first survey of this year's contest, conducted on behalf of WDIV and the Detroit News, finds Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer well ahead of four potential Republican foes:

49-39 vs. former Detroit Police Chief James Craig

50-33 vs. chiropractor Garrett Soldano

50-33 vs. businessman Kevin Rinke

50-31 vs. conservative radio host Tudor Dixon

Polling from reliable firms has been rare here so far. A Strategic National survey for Craig from all the way back in September found him trailing Whitmer 47-46 (Craig and Strategic National have since parted ways). An independent poll from EPIC-MRA for the Detroit Free Press released the previous month had Whitmer ahead of Craig by the same 44-45 spread, while no other matchups were tested.

NY-Gov: Rep. Jerry Nadler, who as House Judiciary Committee chair is one of the most senior House Democrats from New York, has endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul's bid for a full term. Two upstate representatives, Brian Higgins and Joe Morelle, previously backed Hochul.

RI-Gov: Cranston Mayor Kenneth Hopkins said Tuesday that he's "forming an exploratory committee [to] possibly run for governor." Hopkins, who was first elected to his post in 2020, would be the most prominent Republican to enter the race to date should he decide to get in.

WI-Gov: Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who is resigning as interim president of the University of Wisconsin System in March, declined to rule out running for a fifth term as governor at the age of 80 in a new interview on Tuesday. "I'm not saying it's in the cards. But I'm physically and mentally capable of doing anything," insisted Thompson, who served as governor from 1987 to 2001 before stepping down to serve as George W. Bush's HHS secretary.

At a GOP debate in 2007 during his short-lived presidential campaign, Thompson had to apologize repeatedly after saying he thought employers should be allowed to fire gay workers, alternately blaming his response on needing to go to the bathroom and on a malfunctioning hearing aid. In 2012, Thompson ran for Senate but lost to Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin 51-46 after narrowly winning a bruising GOP primary with just 34% of the vote.

House

CO-07: State Sen. Britney Pettersen became the first Democrat to kick off a bid for Colorado's open 7th Congressional District on Tuesday, a day after Rep. Ed Perlmutter announced his retirement. Pettersen sought this seat once before in 2017 when Perlmutter ran for governor, but after the congressman abandoned his bid and later decided to seek re-election, she dropped out of the primary (as did every other notable Democrat).

Pettersen is unlikely to be the last contender to emerge, though. The Denver Post mentions two other Democrats as possible candidates, state Rep. Chris Kennedy and Jefferson County Commissioner Andy Kerr, who also ran in 2017. Kerr did not respond to a request for comment from Colorado Politics.

MN-03: Businessman Mark Blaxill, a former treasurer for the state GOP, announced a bid for Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District against Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips on Tuesday morning. He joins Navy veteran Tom Weiler in the Republican primary. Redistricting has yet to take place but will likely be handled by the courts due to a deadlock between the Republican-run state Senate and the Democratic-held state House.

NJ-11: Lobbyist Rosemary Becchi, who was the GOP's nominee against Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill in 2020, has closed her campaign committee with the FEC, a likely signal that she does not intend to seek a rematch. While Becchi could of course form a new committee, the New Jersey Globe notes she still owes $6,000 to a fundraising consultant, who previously filed a claim over the unpaid debt. Democrats also made the 11th District considerably bluer in redistricting.

Morning Digest: New York lawmakers launch impeachment investigation into Andrew Cuomo

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

Leading Off

NY-Gov: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Thursday evening that lawmakers would "begin an impeachment investigation" into Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, with a majority of state legislators now calling for his resignation.

The development came after the Albany Times Union reported additional details about a sixth woman who has accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct, as conveyed by "a person with direct knowledge of the woman's claims." According to the paper's source, the unnamed woman, a Cuomo aide, was summoned to the governor's mansion "under the apparent pretext" of helping him with an issue with his cell phone. Alone in Cuomo's private quarters, the governor "closed the door and allegedly reached under her blouse and began to fondle her," said the source, who added that the woman said Cuomo had touched her on other occasions.

Following the publication of the Times Union's article, the governor's counsel, Beth Garvey, said the incident had been referred to the Albany police. "As a matter of state policy, when allegations of physical contact are made, the agency informs the complainant that they should contact their local police department," said Garvey.

Campaign Action

The Assembly's investigation will be led by Judiciary Committee chair Charles Lavine, a Long Island Democrat. Heastie's statement announcing the inquiry did not specifically reference the many sexual harassment accusations against Cuomo but rather said the committee would "examine allegations of misconduct." That broad wording suggests that Lavine might also look into the burgeoning scandal involving the Cuomo administration's attempts to conceal the number of nursing home deaths due to COVID, his abusive treatment of staff and elected officials, or other topics.

To impeach Cuomo, a majority of the 150-member lower chamber would have to vote in favor. Unusually, while a trial would involve the state Senate, the members of New York’s highest court, known as the Court of Appeals, would also sit as jurors. Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins would not participate, however, because she is second in the line of succession after the lieutenant governor. As a result, the jury would consist of seven judges—all of whom are Cuomo appointees—and 62 senators, with a two-thirds majority, or 46 votes, needed to convict the governor and remove him from office. Should that happen, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, would ascend to the governorship.

Senate

AL-Sen: Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard has launched a $100,000 opening TV buy for next year's Republican primary. The ad opens by arguing that "transgender athletes who participate in girls' sports" are part of the "madness" in Biden-era D.C. It then moves on from that transphobic message to predictable Trump-era themes as Blanchard plays up her ties to Donald Trump and her conservative values.

MO-Sen: Unnamed sources close to former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon tell the Missouri Independent's Jason Hancock that Nixon is giving some "serious thought" to the idea of a bid for this open Senate seat, though they still think it's "highly unlikely he'll give up life in the private sector." Nixon left office in early 2017 after two terms as governor and now works as an attorney.

On the Republican side, the conservative Missouri Times writes that unnamed sources close to Attorney General Eric Schmitt expect him to enter the race "in the coming days." Numerous other politicians could end up running for Team Red, and St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum name-drops state Sen. Bob Onder as a possibility. Gov. Mike Parson, meanwhile, said Thursday that he will not be running, which didn't seem to surprise anyone.

NC-Sen: Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday that he would not run for Senate next year, though there'd been no indication that he'd even been thinking about entering the race. Cooper told Politico, "I've promised the people four years as governor and that's what I want to do," though he also noted that his early departure would put Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a far-right extremist with a history of anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and transphobic screeds, in charge of the state.

NH-Sen: Saint Anselm College gives Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who's said he's still months away from deciding whether to run for Senate, a 47-41 lead in a hypothetical matchup against Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan.

OH-Sen: A day after longtime talking head Geraldo Rivera, a Republican who mulled a 2013 Senate run in New Jersey, tweeted from Siesta Key, Florida that he was considering a 2022 Senate run in Ohio, Rivera followed up by saying he'd "decided not to seek public office." No vaults were harmed in the making of this un-campaign.

Governors

PA-Gov: Republican state Rep. Jason Ortitay tells the Pennsylvania Capital-Star that he is considering a bid for governor either next year or "sometime in the future." Ortitay, who runs a delicious-sounding enterprise called Jason's Cheesecake Company, sought the party's nomination for the 2018 special election to succeed disgraced Rep. Tim Murphy in the old 18th Congressional District. Regrettably for Ortitay and Republicans who wanted to keep that seat red, however, delegates opted for fellow state Rep. Rick Saccone instead.

TX-Gov: When actor Matthew McConaughey was asked if he was interested in a run for governor on a recent podcast, he responded, "It's a true consideration." McConaughey, who has described himself as "aggressively centrist," did not reveal if he was interested in running under either party's banner.

House

LA-02: Local Louisiana pollsters Edgewater Research and My People Vote have released a survey of the March 20 all-party primary in the 2nd Congressional District, which was done on behalf of Xavier University in New Orleans. The poll finds state Sen. Troy Carter leading with 35%, while fellow state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson beats a third Democrat, activist Gary Chambers, 24-11 for the second place spot in the all-but-assured April runoff.

LA-05: Donald Trump has endorsed University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow in the March 20 all-party primary to succeed her late husband, Republican Luke Letlow.

NC-11: The Mountaineer's Kyle Perrotti writes that local Democrats have speculated that pastor Eric Gash, who previously played football for the University of North Carolina, could enter the race against Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Gash himself, however, doesn't appear to have said anything yet about his interest in competing in this red district in western North Carolina. Another Democrat, state Rep. Brian Turner, didn't rule out a campaign of his own in an interview with the paper, though Perrotti says that he sounds unlikely to go for it.

On the Republican side, 2020 candidate Lynda Bennett didn't quite close the door on a rematch against Cawthorn, who defeated her in the GOP runoff in a giant 66-34 upset last year. Bennett instead told the Mountaineer, "As of now, I'm not planning on running." Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper also relays that there are "rumors" that state Sen. Chuck Edwards "is interested in the seat." There's no other information about Edwards' possible interest, though he's been very willing to criticize the congressman in the past.

Edwards notably put out a statement days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol taking Cawthorn to task for trying to delegitimize the 2020 election, declaring, "Congressman Cawthorn's inflammatory approach of encouraging people to 'lightly threaten' legislators not only fails to solve the core problem of a lack of confidence in the integrity of our elections system. It exacerbates the divisions in our country and has the potential to needlessly place well-meaning citizens, law enforcement officers, and elected officials in harm's way."

WY-AL: On Thursday, a committee in the Wyoming state Senate advanced a bill that would require a runoff in any party primaries where no candidate won a majority of the vote—but not until 2023. The legislation was championed by Donald Trump Jr., who has argued that it would make it easier to defeat Rep. Liz Cheney in next year's Republican primary, but those supportive tweets came before the measure was amended to only take effect next cycle.

Doug Randall of WGAB writes that this important change came Thursday following testimony from members of the Wyoming County Clerks Association. The bill as originally written would have moved the first round of primaries from August to May of 2022 so that any potential runoffs could take place in August. However, Randall reports that this shift could have given election officials "less than two months to get ready for the primary election after the results of re-districting are known," which proved to be a convincing argument to committee members.

It is, however, unlikely to appease the legion of Cheney haters who suddenly developed an intense interest in Wyoming election policy after the congresswoman voted to impeach Donald Trump in January. Cheney currently faces intra-party challenges from two legislators, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard and state Rep. Chuck Gray, and it's very possible that other Republicans could also join the contest. A crowded field could split the anti-incumbent vote and allow Cheney to win with a plurality, which is why Junior wants to change the rules for 2022 to avert this possibility.

Mayors

Fort Worth, TX Mayor: Tarrant County Democratic Party chair Deborah Peoples earned an endorsement this week from the Tarrant County Central Labor Council, which the Fort Worth Star-Telegram describes as the county's "largest group of organized unions," for the May 1 nonpartisan primary.

New York City, NY Mayor: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams earned an endorsement this week from 32BJ SEIU, which is one of the four major unions active in city politics, for the June instant-runoff Democratic primary. 32BJ SEIU, which represents building workers and airport employees, joins the Hotel Trades Council in Adams' corner. Meanwhile, Loree Sutton, the city's former commissioner of veterans' affairs, announced Wednesday that she was dropping out of the primary.

San Antonio, TX Mayor: In a major surprise, the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association announced Wednesday that it would remain neutral in the May 1 race for mayor rather than back conservative Greg Brockhouse's second campaign against progressive incumbent Ron Nirenberg. Similarly, another longtime Brockhouse ally, the San Antonio Police Officers Association, has yet to take sides this time but also appears to be unlikely to give him much, if any, support.

Two years ago, Brockhouse held Nirenberg to a 51-49 victory after a nasty race to lead America's seventh-largest city. Brockhouse, who used to be a consultant for both the city's police and firefighter unions, spent that campaign arguing that the mayor was "needlessly" battling first responders in ongoing contract negotiations. The two labor groups in turn were ardent supporters of Brockhouse: Joshua Fechter writes in the San Antonio Express-News that they deployed a combined $530,000 on Brockhouse' behalf, which was more than twice what the candidate spent, and helped him mobilize voters.

However, Fechter says that things have changed quite a bit since Nirenberg was re-elected. For starters, the city reached a new contract with the firefighters that won't expire until 2024. Union head Chris Steele also said his members weren't happy that Brockhouse, as Fechter puts it, "ducked questions about a pair of domestic violence allegations from a former spouse and his current wife, Annalisa, during the 2019 campaign."

San Antonio Police Officers Association head Danny Diaz, meanwhile, says it's "more than likely" it will take sides in the mayoral campaign, but it may not amount to the boost Brockhouse is hoping for. As Fechter notes, the police union is concentrating on defeating Proposition B, a measure that would repeal the group's right to engage in collective bargaining.

Morning Digest: Conspiracist GOP lawmaker joins Iowa Senate race without waiting on Grassley

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

IA-Sen: While Sen. Chuck Grassley has yet to make a decision about seeking an eighth term, one fellow Republican has already announced a bid for his seat: state Sen. Jim Carlin, a pro-Trump die-hard who has baselessly claimed the 2020 election was stolen and spouted antisemitic conspiracy theories blaming wealthy Jews like Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros for the outcome.

Carlin didn't appear to address the incumbent in recent remarks discussing his run, though earlier this month, Grassley said he'd finalize his plans within "several weeks." Carlin may be hoping to push Grassley to the exits, but he doesn't seem like a particularly imposing presence: Iowa Starting Line notes he "doesn't start with much of a political infrastructure in the state."

Just last week, Carlin introduced legislation requiring that all employees of Iowa's public universities be interrogated about their political beliefs, part of a long-running conservative crusade against higher education. He's also pushing a "bathroom bill" that would target transgender people and has proposed a measure requiring that schoolchildren be taught cursive handwriting.

Campaign Action

Senate

AL-Sen: Wealthy businesswoman Lynda Blanchard, who served as Donald Trump's ambassador to Slovenia until earlier this year, says she's considering a bid for Alabama's open Senate seat. "I am deeply interested in promoting President Trump's MAGA agenda," she said in a statement, "while fighting the socialist policies of the Biden/Pelosi/Sanders/Schumer crowd."

NH-Sen: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who previously hadn't ruled out a bid for Senate, now says he'll "take a look" at the possibility but suggested he wouldn't have an answer until he "get[s] through the legislative session maybe six, seven months from now." The current session is not scheduled to conclude until the very end of June. Sununu's indecision is therefore likely to freeze the field of other potential GOP candidates, robbing whoever does ultimately run of precious time to campaign against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.

OH-Sen: Republican Rep. Steve Stivers, who has reportedly been considering a bid for Ohio's newly open Senate seat, now confirms that he's looking at the race in a new interview. Stivers insisted he would not "rush into a decision" and said he'd likely wait "months" to decide. When asked about the possibility that Donald Trump could endorse another candidate in the primary, the congressman ever-so-slightly edged away from Trump, saying he's "not putting my faith in any one individual that could deliver this race for anybody.

Stivers' 15th District is conservative turf in the southern Columbus area. He served as chair of the NRCC during the 2017-18 election cycle, when Republicans lost control of the House.

Governors

CA-Gov: Politico reports that former Trump apparatchik Richard Grenell is interviewing staff for a possible run for governor in the event a recall of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom makes the ballot. Grenell himself says the report "isn't true" but did not dispute that he's considering a bid.

IL-Gov: Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf kicked off a bid for governor on Monday, making him the first notable Republican to challenge Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Schimpf served a single term in the legislature but declined to seek re-election last year without explaining why. In 2014, he ran for state attorney general but got crushed 59-38 by Democratic incumbent Lisa Madigan.

House

CT-02: Republican state Rep. Mike France has filed paperwork for a possible challenge to veteran Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney, but he hasn't yet announced a campaign and did not respond to press inquiries. After ousting Republican Rep. Rob Simmons by just 83 votes in the 2006 Democratic wave, Courtney's never faced a difficult re-election, winning with at least 59% of the vote every time.

The 2nd District, which occupies the entirety of eastern Connecticut, normally is reliably blue turf, but in 2016, Hillary Clinton carried it just 49-46. However, according to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, it returned to form last year, supporting Joe Biden 54-44. Simmons described himself as "excited" about France's potential candidacy, though the former congressman, who had a relatively moderate reputation during his time in office, recently went full tinfoil and blamed the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection on "antifa."

LA-02: Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter is spending at least $100,000 on a TV buy ahead of the March 20 all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond. "Throughout my career I've remained laser focused on the simple ways to improve people's day to day lives," Carter says, "like guaranteeing access to COVID-19 vaccine, equal pay for women, criminal justice reform, and fighting for a living wage."

Carter continues by pledging, "In Congress, I'll have your back and I'll get things done." The candidate does not mention Richmond, though on-screen text informs the viewer that Carter has the former congressman's endorsement.

TX-06: Republican Brian Harrison, who served as chief of staff to former Trump HHS chief Alex Azar during his disastrous handling of the COVID pandemic, is reportedly considering a campaign for the late Rep. Ron Wright's vacant 6th Congressional District. Notes Politico, "In the West Wing, a handful of his detractors derisively referred to Harrison as 'the dog breeder'—a reference to the labradoodle-breeding family business that he helped run prior to joining the Trump administration." More on that here.

Judges

PA Supreme Court: Both of Pennsylvania's major parties have endorsed candidates in the May 18 primary for a key open seat on the state Supreme Court, with Democrats backing Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin and Republicans giving their support to Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson.

Judicial candidates in Pennsylvania who don't earn their party's official seal of approval often drop out, and we may yet see that happen. While PoliticsPA says that Superior Court Judge Carolyn Nichols, who is hoping to become the first Black woman to sit on the high court, intends to continue her bid for the Democratic nod, she said in a statement that she will "consider the next steps in this election," which could presage a departure.

The situation for the GOP is even more uncertain, since the party's two other hopefuls, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Paula Patrick and Commonwealth Court Judge Patty McCullough, both declined to comment when asked about their plans. Any questions will be resolved soon, though, since the filing deadline is March 9. Democrats currently hold a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court but could expand it in November since this year's race is for the seat held by Republican Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75.

Mayors

St. Louis, MO Mayor: The Missouri Scout has released a survey from the GOP firm Remington Research of the March 2 nonpartisan primary, which will be the city's first experience using the "approval voting" system.

Approval voting allows voters to cast as many votes in the primary as there are candidates, and Remington finds that 59% of the sample plans to back Aldermanic President Lewis Reed. City Treasurer Tishaura Jones has the support of 51% of respondents, while a third Democrat, Alderman Cara Spencer, is in third with 40%. Just 19%, however, intend to vote for the final contender, Republican Andrew Jones. The two candidates with the most votes will face off in the April 6 general.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also reports that the pro-Spencer group Gateway to Progress is spending at least $45,000 on a TV ad praising her for "cracking down on predatory lenders, slum landlords, and City Hall insiders."

Morning Digest: Trumpworld’s favorite pollster is pushing unhinged election conspiracy theories

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

WY-AL: Donald Trump's "Save America" PAC is trying to put the hurt on Republican Rep. Liz Cheney by publicizing a poll of next year's primary purporting to show the congresswoman in dire straits, but there are some serious problems we’re obligated to address.

We’ll spare a quick look at the numbers first, though as we’ll show in just a moment, there’s good reason to question their veracity because they’re from the notorious firm McLaughlin & Associates—and not just for the usual reasons.

The survey shows Cheney trailing both state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (who's already announced a bid) and state Rep. Chuck Gray (whose name hasn't come up previously) by the same 50-23 margin, and it even has her losing a three-way matchup, with Bouchard taking 28, Cheney 21, and Gray 17. McLaughlin’s track record for sheer wrongness is so well-known we don't even need to get into it, but there’s something else we do want to get into.

Campaign Action

In particular, we need to shine a spotlight on recent comments made by the firm's principal, John McLaughlin, who's veered deep into the land of election conspiracy theories. In promoting a poll his firm conducted last month, McLaughlin tried to buttress support for a number of long-debunked lies:

  • "It is concerning that in this poll where a majority of voted for Biden, they still can't say it was an honest election."
  • "Since Election Day, and despite media spin the election fraud story is a big nothing, belief among voters of serious vote fraud has grown."
  • "Weeks have passed since the presidential election, but in spite of Big Media and Big Tech's promotion of Joe Biden, more American voters believe the election was marred with fraud — and it's growing."

The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported that McLaughlin happily obliged a rage-filled Trump with similarly unhinged polling after the election, including numbers that—impossibly—showed him with a positive job approval score. (The article memorably featured one White House adviser comparing Trump to "Mad King George, muttering, 'I won. I won. I won.'" It listed McLaughlin first among aides “happy to scratch [Trump’s] itch” for validation.)

Most extreme of all, on the night of the Georgia Senate runoffs, McLaughlin approvingly retweeted a Trump tweet that read, "Looks like they are setting up a big 'voter dump' against the Republican candidates. Waiting to see how many votes they need?" Pointing to heavily Democratic DeKalb County, McLaughlin wondered aloud, "Are they deciding how many votes the Democrats need to win?" and later that night grimaced, "The big dump came." Needless to say, no such thing happened.

As we said when we recently surveyed similar statements by the head of another Republican polling outfit, Trafalgar Group:

We take a heterodox approach to polling—there are many ways to get it right, and no one has a monopoly on the truth. But the truth is what we all must seek. Excluding polls is not something we do lightly, but when a pollster espouses beliefs about elections that are demonstrably false, we are unable to conclude that such a person does in fact believe in seeking the truth.

So too with McLaughlin. While he's long been an object of ridicule, he's now demonstrated that it's not just incompetence that lies behind his many errors but a fundamental disregard for the truth—and we’ll treat him accordingly.

Senate

FL-Sen: Politico reports that the DSCC and Joe Biden are working to recruit either Rep. Val Demings or Rep. Stephanie Murphy to run against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio next year, though both have been "noncommittal." Demings said last month she was considering a bid while Murphy declined to rule out the race in December.

IN-Sen: In a new interview, former Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly didn't rule out a possible challenge to Republican Sen. Todd Young next year, saying that "we'll see what the future holds." However, Donnelly cautioned that he has "not made any kind of decisions on those types of things" and declined to specify any sort of timetable. Donnelly, who won a remarkable upset in 2012, lost his bid for a second term to Republican Mike Braun by a 51-45 margin in 2018.

NH-Sen, NH-Gov: WMUR's John DiStaso reports that Republican operatives believe that former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, whose name has more frequently come up as a possible gubernatorial candidate if Gov. Chris Sununu decides to run for Senate, will herself "take a hard look" at a bid against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. DiStaso notes, though, that Ayotte and Sununu are "very unlikely" to run against one another, so presumably Ayotte would be more inclined to consider the governorship if Sununu goes for the Senate but would have greater interest in the Senate race if Sununu seeks re-election.

OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Far-right Rep. Jim Jordan’s team said Thursday that he would not run to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Sen. Rob Portman. Buckeye State Republicans had speculated that if Jordan, who has long been a key Donald Trump ally, had run, he would have been able to deter many of his would-be primary opponents. That won’t be happening now, though, and Jordan’s decision could encourage the many Republicans eyeing this race to make the jump.

Jordan’s spokesperson did not mention a Cleveland.com report from November that the congressman was considering challenging Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who fell out with Trumpworld after he recognized Joe Biden's victory. However, we haven’t heard anything new about a potential Jordan gubernatorial campaign in the ensuing two months, and it’s not clear if the congressman is even still considering the idea.

DSCC: Democrats have chosen Michigan Sen. Gary Peters to lead the DSCC for the coming cycle. Peters has experience winning difficult elections, holding off Republican John James by a close 50-48 margin last year.

Governors

FL-Gov: Politico reports that Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist is "maneuvering with the governor's mansion in mind," which is the first time we've seen reporting that the former governor might actually be considering a bid. The only other hint we've seen from Crist came in November, when he ran some unusual post-election ads thanking voters for re-electing him. That prompted observers to wonder if he was laying some early groundwork for another statewide bid, a possibility that he appeared not to rule out.

Crist won the governorship in 2006 as a Republican but waged an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 2010 (during which he left the GOP to become an independent) rather than seek re-election. Crist became a Democrat two years later, and, after falling just short in a gubernatorial comeback bid in 2014, won the St. Petersburg-area 13th Congressional District in 2016.

IL-Gov: Wealthy businessman and Trump megadonor Gary Rabine, the founder of a paving company, is "expected" to launch a bid for governor next month, according to Politico. It's not clear just how much Rabine is worth, but a 2016 report described his business operations as "a $210 million dollar conglomerate of 11 companies," so if he still owns a large chunk of that enterprise, it's likely he could at least partly self-fund a campaign.

MD-Gov: Ashwani Jain, a 31-year-old former Obama administration official and son of Indian immigrants, just became the second Democrat to enter next year's primary for governor, joining state Comptroller Peter Franchot. In 2018, Jain ran for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council and finished eighth in a 33-candidate field (the top four vote-getters won seats). Maryland Matters described the showing as "relatively strong" and said Jain "impress[ed] political professionals" during his bid.

OH-Gov, OH-Sen: Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley says he'll report raising $350,000 in the second half of 2020 and has $500,000 on-hand ahead of a likely gubernatorial bid against Republican Gov. Mike DeWine next year. Cranley is the only Democrat who's filed paperwork so far, and while he hasn't announced a campaign, he says he's "extremely serious about running." He also just ruled out a run for Ohio's newly open Senate seat.

House

MD-01: Former Del. Heather Mizeur formally announced a challenge to Republican Rep. Andy Harris on Thursday, a few weeks after saying she might do so in response to Harris' role in inciting the Jan. 6 assault on Congress. Maryland's 1st Congressional District, which voted for Donald Trump 59-39 in November, is safely red, but because Democrats control the redistricting process, they could adjust the lines to make it competitive.

MI-08: Real estate agent Mike Detmer has announced he'll once again seek the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin in Michigan's 8th Congressional District. Detmer lost last year's primary to former ICE official Paul Junge just 35-29 despite raising almost no money. He did, however, gain attention for a Facebook post defending the far-right white supremacist group the Proud Boys.

NM-01: Democratic state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, who filed paperwork the other day, officially joined the likely special election for New Mexico's 1st Congressional District on Wednesday.

WA-04: Republican state Rep. Brad Klippert has launched a challenge to Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, though in a lengthy statement announcing his bid, he didn't actually use the word "impeachment" once.

Morning Digest: Darrell Issa thought he had an easy path to a comeback. A new poll says guess again

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

CA-50: While California Republican Darrell Issa looked like a sure bet to return to the House after he narrowly prevailed in the March top-two primary, a new SurveyUSA poll finds him locked in an unexpectedly close open seat contest with Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar. The poll, which was done for KGTV-TV San Diego and the San Diego Union-Tribune, shows Issa up just 46-45. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the sample finds Joe Biden ahead 48-45 in California's 50th Congressional District, an ancestrally Republican seat in inland San Diego County that backed Donald Trump 55-40 in 2016.

This is the first independent poll we've seen since the top-two six months ago. Last month, Campa-Najjar released numbers from Strategies 360 that found him down 47-43, but his campaign did not mention any presidential results. So far, though, no major outside groups on either side have booked air time here, though that could always change over the next two months.

Campaign Action

Issa infamously decided to run here the cycle after he retired as the congressman from the neighboring and more Democratic 49th District just ahead of the 2018 blue wave, and it's possible that his weak connections to this area are hurting him. SurveyUSA finds Issa with an even 32-32 favorable rating, while Campa-Najjar sports a 37-26 score.

If SurveyUSA is right, though, then there's also been a big shift to the left in this seat over just the last two years. Back in 2018, then-Rep. Duncan Hunter managed to fend off Campa-Najjar 52-48 even though the Republican incumbent was under indictment at the time for misusing campaign money. That was a much better performance than Democrats usually pull off in this area, but the fact that this district still decided to return Hunter to Congress even in a terrible year for Republicans didn't seem to bode well for Campa-Najjar's second campaign, especially after Hunter took a plea deal in late 2019 and resigned.

We'll need to see if more polls find a close race, and we'll also be keeping an eye out to see if major outside groups spend here. However, if this contest is tight, Campa-Najjar will have the resources to run a serious campaign. The Democrat ended June with a $890,000 to $516,000 cash-on-hand, though Issa is more than capable of self-funding if he needs to.

Senate

AK-Sen: A newly formed PAC called Independent Alaska has launched an ad campaign supporting Al Gross, an independent who won the Democratic nomination last month. The commercial touts Gross' time as a fisherman and a doctor and informs the audience, "Dr. Al's father was Alaska's AG [attorney general], and his neighbor and fishing partner growing up was Republican Gov. Jay Hammond." The narrator concludes, "We're in a pandemic. It's time to send a doctor to D.C." There is no word on the size of the buy.

GA-Sen-B: Republican Rep. Doug Collins is running his first ad on broadcast TV, and he begins by saying of the appointed GOP incumbent, "Kelly Loeffler spent $30 million on slick ads telling lies—now it's my turn to tell the truth."

Collins continues, "I'm not a billionaire. I'm a state trooper's kid, a husband, a father, an Air Force chaplain and Iraq War veteran." He adds, "I'm President Trump's top defender against the sham impeachment, and yes, his preferred pick for the Senate." Trump reportedly did very much want Collins to be appointed to this seat, but he hasn't taken sides in the Nov. 3 all-party primary between the congressman and Loeffler.

On the Democratic side, pastor Raphael Warnock, who would be the state's first Black senator, is using his newest commercial to talk about his experiences with systemic racism. The narrator begins, "1982. A 12-year-old is accused of stealing and dragged out a store, told he looks suspicious because his hands are in his pockets." The audience then sees it's the candidate speaking as he continues, "I'm Raphael Warnock and that boy was me."

Warnock goes on, "Back then I didn't understand how much the system works against those without power and money, that the rules were different for some of us. Too often that's still true today, especially in Washington." Warnock ends by saying that it's time for this to change.

MI-Sen: The Glengariff Group's new poll for WDIV and the Detroit News finds Democratic Sen. Gary Peters leading Republican John James 44-41, while Joe Biden is ahead 47-42. Glengariff's last poll was all the way back in January, and it showed Peters up by a similar 44-40 spread.

MN-Sen: Citizens United (yes, the Citizens United) has launched what the National Journal's Dylan Wells reports is a six-figure buy supporting Republican Jason Lewis. The commercial, like Lewis' own ads, promotes Lewis as a supporter of the police and an opponent of violent mobs; both Lewis and Citizens United's spots also ignore racism and police brutality.

NC-Sen: Democrat Cal Cunningham has the first commercial we've seen anywhere focusing on allegations that the Russian government put out a bounty on American troops in Afghanistan. Cunningham says that his fellow veterans are the first ones to answer the call and continues, "So when [Republican Sen.] Thom Tillis fails to act while the Russians pay bounties for dead Americans, something is deeply wrong in Washington."

TX-Sen: Democrat MJ Hegar is airing her first TV ad of the general election as part of what her campaign says is a $1.5 million buy in six media markets that are home to 80% of the state's voters. As faint sounds of explosions are heard, the candidate tells the audience, "It was my third tour in Afghanistan. I was flying a medevac mission when I was shot through the windshield and we went down."

The camera gradually pans out to reveal a smoking helicopter in the canyon behind Hegar as she continues, "So I strapped myself to the skids of the helicopter that rescued us and returned fire on the Taliban as we flew to safety. For that I was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor." The candidate goes on, "I'm MJ Hegar, and we fought like hell to get everyone home safe that day. And I approved this message because my mission isn't over while Texas families are still in danger."

Gubernatorial

WV-Gov: Democrat Ben Salango is airing his first TV spot since he won the primary three months ago. As old photos from his childhood fill the screen, the candidate says, "I grew up in a two-bedroom trailer in Raleigh County. It was a big deal when we got our first washer and dryer."

Salango then goes after Republican Gov. Jim Justice, declaring, "My family worked hard to build a business and even harder to pay the bills. Jim Justice is a billionaire who's been sued over 600 times for not paying his bills. And who made a secret deal with the government he controls to give himself tax breaks." Salango concludes, "I mean c'mon. I'll never betray West Virginia like that. I was raised better."

House

CA-25: Democrat Christy Smith is running her first commercial since her defeat in the May special election. Smith talks about how her mother survived domestic violence and "rebuilt our lives" with a nursing degree from the local community college. The candidate says she went on to work three jobs to pay for her education at that same institution and went on to found an education nonprofit.

CA-48: In its opening TV spot for this race, the DCCC declares that Republican Michelle Steel's allies were at the center of a major corruption scandal, but she "voted to defund the anti-corruption unit in Orange County."

The ad is also running in Vietnamese, which makes this one of the very rare examples of an American political commercial that's aired on TV all or mostly in a language other than English or Spanish. Back in 2018, Democrat John Chiang ran a spot entirely in Mandarin in his unsuccessful bid for governor of California, while Republican Ed Gillespie added Korean subtitles to a commercial during his 2017 primary for governor of Virginia.

There have been a few instances of American political ads airing on the radio in a language other than English or Spanish (and obviously, without subtitles.) In 2016, Arizona Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick recorded some ads in Navajo, which she speaks, for her unsuccessful Senate bid. That same year, Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman's campaign did a Ukrainian radio ad for his re-election campaign.

IA-01: Back in July, Republican Ashley Hinson blamed her campaign staff after the New York Times reported that several op-eds credited to her, as well as material on her campaign site, were full of passages plagiarized from other sources, and the DCCC is using its first TV spot to go after Hinson over this.

The narrator begins, "In tough times, we need leaders we can trust. But Ashley Hinson was caught plagiarizing—word for word—from the Des Moines Register, the New York Times, even her opponent's own policy positions." He then focuses on Hinson's record, declaring, "And Hinson took thousands from the nursing home industry. When the Coronavirus struck—Hinson voted to protect them with special legal immunity. Instead of protecting seniors and workers."

OH-01: House Majority PAC has released a survey from the Democratic firm Normington Petts that shows Democrat Kate Schroder leading Republican Rep. Steve Chabot 50-46, while Joe Biden has a tiny 48-47 edge in this Cincinnati-based seat. We've seen a few other polls this year from Schroder and her allies that have found a tight race, while Republicans have yet to drop their own numbers.

HMP is also running a commercial that targets Chabot over the truly strange scandal that engulfed Chabot's campaign last year, a story that Schroder has also focused on in her ads. The spot begins by reminding viewers that Chabot became a member of Congress in 1995 when "[b]aseball was on strike" and "Toy Story debuted. The first one." The narrator continues, "But now, a confirmed FBI investigation into $123,000 missing from Chabot's campaign. And Chabot's campaign paid his son-in-law's company nearly $200,000." The narrator concludes, "Twenty-four years in Congress has taken its toll on Steve Chabot."

PA-01: Democrat Christina Finello's first general election ad focuses on her own struggles with college loans and healthcare. She says that, while she "understands the struggles of the middle class," Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick "votes with Trump. Giving tax cuts to the rich and ending protections for people with pre-existing conditions."

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, uses his own ad to tout his endorsements from groups that usually pull for Democrats like the AFL-CIO, the League of Conservation Voters, and Everytown for Gun Safety, as well as the local police and firefighter unions. The congressman's mom also makes it clear she's backing Fitzpatrick.

SC-02: EMILY's List has endorsed Adair Ford Boroughs' campaign against Republican Rep. Joe Wilson.

TX-21: While freshman Republican Rep. Chip Roy has shown absolutely no desire to actually vote or behave like anything other than the far-right Freedom Caucus member that he is, the former Ted Cruz chief of staff is using his opening ad to portray himself as a bipartisan figure. Roy declares he'll "hold my party accountable if they're wrong, and work across party lines when it's right for Texas."

TX-23: Republican Tony Gonzales uses his first general election commercial to talk about how he went from growing up in an abusive home where he was abandoned by his father to the Navy.

Meanwhile, VoteVets has launched a $533,000 ad campaign against Gonzales. The ad stars an injured veteran who tells the audience that Gonzales "supports taking away health coverage from half a million veterans."

UT-04: The Congressional Leadership Fund is running a very rare positive TV commercial promoting Republican Burgess Owens, whom House Majority PAC recently began attacking.

CLF promotes Owens as a "pro-football star, political outsider, conservative, successful businessman, and mentor to troubled kids." As the ad shows footage of a football game, the narrator declares Owens will "heal our nation, tackling a virus and protecting the vulnerable." Those feel good themes are not, shall we say, the type of things that CLF likes to fill its ads with.

VA-02: This week, a third staffer from Republican Scott Taylor's 2018 campaign was indicted for allegedly submitting fraudulent signatures in order to get a former Democrat on the ballot as an independent that year. Special prosecutor John Beamer predicted that he would seek at least one additional indictment, and he said of Taylor, "He's part of the campaign and the whole campaign is under investigation."

Taylor is seeking a comeback against freshman Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, who narrowly unseated him in 2018. Last month, Taylor sent a cease-and-desist letter to Luria demanding that she stop making statements claiming that he is under investigation for ballot access fraud only for Beamer to publicly contradict him. Luria soon began running commercials focused on the ongoing scandal.

VA-05: Democrat Cameron Webb is up with two commercials that decry the "lies and dirty tricks" being waged by Republican Bob Good, who recently ran a truly racist spot against Webb.

In Webb's first ad, the narrator declares that the candidate "is not for defunding the police," and adds that "a senior Trump official is praising Webb." The commercial highlights the law enforcement officials backing Webb before the candidate himself appears and talks about his work in the Obama and Trump administrations and support for "free market solutions to bring healthcare costs down."

The second Webb spot stars several former sheriffs as well as Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Hingeley, who praise Webb and implore the audience not to let "Bob Good scare you from electing a good man."

Ballot Measures

CA Ballot: Probolsky Research has released the first poll we've seen of Prop. 15, the so-called "split roll" initiative that would scale back a significant part of the law passed by anti-tax crusaders in 1978, and finds it down 49-41. Probolsky has worked for Republicans in the past, but it says this survey was not done for a client.

The poll was taken just before the pro-Prop. 15 group Schools & Communities First launched its opening TV commercials. One ad declares that wealthy corporate tycoons "think they're entitled to tax handouts. Prop. 15 closes the loopholes." The narrator continues, "The richest 10% of corporate properties provide 92% of the revenue, while homeowners, renters, and small businesses are protected." The second spot argues, "Prop. 15 would raise billions of dollars that our communities and schools need" and would make "wealthy large corporations pay their fair share, while small businesses get a tax break."

As David Jarman has written, Prop. 15 would dramatically alter California's property tax landscape and lead to a massive increase in tax revenue by repealing a portion of 1978's Prop. 13. That measure limits the annual property tax on a particular property to no more than 1% of its assessed value and, most importantly, limits the increase in a property's assessed value to no more than 2% per year—even if its actual market value has soared. This has resulted in municipalities and school districts taking in revenues far smaller than they ought to be.

However, voters finally have their chance this fall to modify the system Prop. 13 set up decades ago. This year's Prop. 15 would essentially split the "roll" of properties every municipality maintains by requiring commercial and industrial properties to be reassessed at actual market value while keeping residential and agricultural properties under Prop. 13's rules.

Mayoral

Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: On behalf of the Miami Herald, the Democratic pollster Bendixen & Amandi International is out with a survey that finds Democrat Daniella Levine Cava leading Republican Steve Bovo 39-32 in this November's officially nonpartisan contest. This sample also found Joe Biden ahead 55-38 in a county that supported Hillary Clinton 63-34.

Primary Result Recaps

NH-Sen: Corky Messner, a wealthy attorney endorsed by Donald Trump, beat retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc 51-42 in the Republican primary. Bolduc responded to his defeat by declaring that he wouldn't back Messner in the general election against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. "I will not support a man who is being investigated for fraud by the attorney general," Bolduc said, "No. I will not support him. I will not disgrace my name to support a man like that."

Last month, Mary Mullarkey, a former chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, asked that state's attorney general and secretary of state to investigate the charitable foundation run by Messner, who lived in Colorado until last year. Mullarkey's request came after the Washington Post reported that the Messner Foundation, whose stated purpose is to provide college scholarships to low-income students, had only awarded a grant to one student in its first 10 years of existence. However, despite what Bolduc said, there are no reports that a legal investigation is underway.

No matter what happens with this story, Messner will be in for a difficult race against Shaheen, a longtime figure in New Hampshire politics. A recent poll from the University of New Hampshire found Shaheen beating Messner 54-36, and no major groups have booked ad time here. Messner's ability to self-fund could still give him an opening if Donald Trump performs well in this swing state, though, so Daily Kos Elections is keeping it on the big board at Likely Democratic.

NH-Gov: State Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes won the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Gov. Chris Sununu by defeating Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky 52-48. On the GOP side, Nobody lost.  

Sununu has polled well during his tenure, and a recent survey from the University of New Hampshire found him beating Feltes 57-33. However, Sununu's allies at the RGA don't seem to think the governor is a lock in this swing state, since they reserved $3.6 million in television time for the general election earlier this year. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican.

NH-01: Former Trump aide Matt Mowers, who had his old boss' endorsement in the Republican primary, beat former state party vice chair Matt Mayberry 60-26. Mowers will face freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in the fall.

The 1st District, which includes eastern New Hampshire, has been very competitive turf for a long time, and both Barack Obama and Donald Trump only narrowly won it. Pappas, however, prevailed 54-45 during the 2018 blue wave, and he holds a huge financial edge over Mowers with less than two months to go before voting concludes. A recent poll from the University of New Hampshire also showed Pappas up 52-34, though we haven't seen any other numbers here.

Still, Team Blue isn't leaving anything to chance in this swing seat, and House Majority PAC has reserved $2 million for this race; Republicans have not yet booked any air time. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Democratic.

NH State Senate, Where Are They Now?: Former Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes lost Tuesday's Democratic primary for New Hampshire's 15th State Senate District to Becky Whitley, a disability rights attorney, 41-33. This seat backed Hillary Clinton 58-37, and Whitley will be the clear favorite to succeed state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, who is the Democratic nominee for governor.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: Ever heard of a ‘top-four’ primary? It could be coming to a state near you soon

Leading Off

Election Reforms: This November, as many as five states will vote on ballot measures that could dramatically change how their elections are conducted.

In Florida, voters will decide whether to institute a top-two primary system, while Massachusetts could implement instant-runoff voting. Alaska, meanwhile, could become the first state in the nation to adopt a "top-four" voting system, which, as we'll explain, is something of a hybrid between top-two and instant-runoff.

Top-four ballot measures have also been certified for the ballot in Arkansas and North Dakota. However, there's still ongoing litigation in each state that could impact whether or not these referendums would take effect if they won.

Campaign Action

We'll start with a look at the Florida top-two ballot initiative, Amendment 3, which needs to win at least 60% of the vote in order to pass. If this measure takes effect, starting in January of 2024, all the candidates in races for governor; the other three state cabinet offices (attorney general, chief financial officer, and commissioner of agriculture); and for the state legislature would each compete on one primary ballot rather than in separate party primaries.

The two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, would then advance to the general election. Candidates would not be able to avert the general election by taking a majority of the vote in the primary. Amendment 3 would not apply to federal elections such as the presidential or congressional contests due to limitations on the scope of any single initiative.

California and Washington already use the top-two primary (Louisiana also uses a similar all-party primary system that does allow candidates to avoid a second round of voting if they win a majority), and as we've written before, it's notorious for producing outcomes that don't reflect the desires of the electorate. One chief reason why: A party can win a majority of votes cast in the primary, yet get shut out of the general election simply because it fields a large number of candidates while the minority party only puts forth a few, or even just two.

Furthermore, primary electorates often feature very different demographic compositions than higher-turnout general elections, producing greater partisan and racial dissonance between the two rounds. These distortions have seen one party or the other get shut out of general elections in recent years in California and Washington, including in contests they likely would have won if the parties had gotten to nominate candidates through traditional primaries.

Indeed, if the top-two had been in place in 2018 when both parties had competitive primaries for governor, Democrats would have been locked out of the general election. That year, Republican Ron DeSantis would have taken first place with 29%, while fellow Republican Adam Putnam would have beaten Democrat Andrew Gillum 19-17 for second, even though Republicans outvoted Democrats just 51-49.

The only poll we've seen all year of Amendment 3 was a late May survey from St. Pete Polls, which found the "no" side ahead 44-35. However, Amendment 3's backers have received at least $6.2 million from conservative billionaire Mike Fernandez, who has been leading the effort to get the top-two implemented, which gives the campaign the resources to put up a serious fight.

Over in Massachusetts, meanwhile, supporters of instant-runoff voting (also known as ranked-choice voting), are trying to pass Question 2 this November. If Question 2 receives a majority of the vote, then starting in 2022, instant-runoff would be used in both primaries and general elections for governor and other statewide offices; U.S. Senate and House seats; the state legislature; and countywide posts such as district attorney and sheriff. The measure would not impact presidential elections or races for city and town offices.

The only poll we've seen this year was an early August survey from MassINC that showed voters deadlocked 36-36 on whether to adopt Question 2. If the measure passes, then Massachusetts would become the second state after Maine to use this method to decide many of its elections.

Finally, voters in Alaska, Arkansas, and North Dakota each will have the opportunity to become the first states to adopt a top-four primary. This system would require all the candidates to face off on one primary ballot, and the top four vote-getters would advance. In the general election, voters would then be able to rank their choices using instant-runoff voting. Each of these referendums only needs to win a majority of the vote to pass, but there are some key differences between them.

While each would apply to all congressional, legislative, and statewide races, only Alaska's Measure 2 would also institute instant-runoff voting for the presidential contest. North Dakota's Measure 3, meanwhile, would additionally remove the legislature's unfettered control over legislative redistricting and put it in the hands of a bipartisan commission.

North Dakota's top-four law would also take effect 30 days after approval, Arkansas' would start Jan. 1, 2021, and Alaska's measure would begin in 2022. The only poll we've seen from any of these three states was a mid-July survey from the Arkansas League of Women Voters, which supports the top-four measure, from Mercury Analytics that showed respondents agreeing by a 60-28 margin that they support "[a]llow[ing] voters to rank their top four candidates when voting in the general election so voters can have more say in their second choice candidate."

Senate

MA-Sen: The Sept. 1 Democratic primary has become particularly heated on the airwaves in recent days.

Sen. Ed Markey is running a commercial accusing Rep. Joe Kennedy of running a desperate campaign, while a spot from Kennedy's allies at New Leadership PAC features audio from the congressman's recent speech declaring that Markey was questioning his family's integrity. The ads come at a time when Markey has been trying to use Kennedy's membership in what is arguably America's most prominent political family (the congressman is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy) against him.

In an Aug. 11 debate, Markey took aim at New Leadership PAC, which Kennedy's twin brother and other relatives have been raising money for. Markey also brought up speculation that the congressman's father and namesake, former Rep. Joe Kennedy II, could fund the PAC with the $2.8 million in campaign funds he still has available almost 22 years since he left Congress. "Tell your father and tell your twin brother you don't want any money to be spent on negative ads," Markey said in a clip that generated plenty of attention and quickly made it into the senator's digital advertising.

Markey also generated headlines with an online commercial that didn't mention Kennedy or his family directly, but concluded with the senator putting his own spin on the famous 1961 inaugural address delivered by the congressman's great uncle. "With all due respect," Markey said, "it's time to start asking what your country can do for you."

On Monday, Kennedy responded with the speech that was used in New Leadership PAC's new commercial. Kennedy declares, "I'm here today to talk about my family, because Sen. Markey is questioning their integrity, weaponizing their history." The congressman goes on to talk about his grandfather's record as U.S. attorney general during the civil rights era before saying he understands that "a legacy is earned." Kennedy continues by describing his own work in Congress and declares, "We deserve a senator who will not stand by."

Kennedy's campaign is also running a commercial where the narrator says he "knows how a legacy is earned." The spot goes on to show footage of RFK and the congressman's two legendary great uncles, JFK and Ted Kennedy, and says that for the younger Kennedy, battles for racial justice and healthcare for all are "a fight in his blood."

Markey's campaign, meanwhile, is airing their own commercial that contrasts the senator with Kennedy. After decrying how Kennedy is attacking the incumbent, the narrator quotes from the Boston Globe's Markey endorsement. The narrator reads how the senator has "been ahead of the curve championing progressive causes," while Kennedy "lacks the chops and track record Markey brings."

Markey's allies at United for Massachusetts are also up with a spot that also quotes the Globe endorsement, though it doesn't mention Kennedy. The ad extols Markey as "a progressive champion with chops" who has been "achieving real results on healthcare and the environment." The commercial also features images of Markey with two of his most prominent supporters, fellow Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

This has been a very expensive contest. From July 1 to Aug. 12 (the time the FEC defines as the pre-primary period), Markey outraised Kennedy $1.4 million to $930,000, while Kennedy outspent the incumbent $4.3 million to $2.8 million during this time. Markey had a $3.5 million to $1.4 million cash-on-hand edge for the homestretch.

NH-Sen: Saint Anselm College's new poll of the Sept. 8 GOP primary finds wealthy attorney Corky Messner, who is Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, with a 31-29 edge over retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc. A late June Remington Research poll for Bolduc had Messner up 17-8, while a mid-July Tarrance Group internal for Messner had him ahead 39-27. The winner will be the underdog against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Gubernatorial

MT-Gov: Campaign finance reports are in covering June 15 to Aug. 15. Democrat Mike Cooney outraised Greg Gianforte $725,000 to $582,000, while the wealthy Republican threw down an additional $1 million of his own money. Gainforte outspent Cooney by a lopsided $1.7 million to $209,000 during this time, though it was Cooney who ended the period with $670,000 to $330,000 a cash-on-hand lead. However, Gianforte likely can afford to do much more self-funding over the next few months.

NH-Gov: Saint Anselm College has released the first poll we've seen of the Sept. 8 Democratic primary, and it gives state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes a narrow 22-19 lead over Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky; an additional 13% say they'd back "someone else," though there aren't any other candidates on the ballot.

Feltes, meanwhile is using his second TV spot to go right after Republican Gov. Chris Sununu over his handling of school reopenings. Feltes appears with his wife and young children and says, "As parents, we just want to know our kids will be safe. That's why it's so distressing that Chris Sununu refuses to even put forward a plan." Feltes continues, "He says nobody has to wear masks. There are no clear guidelines. Teachers are afraid. Why shouldn't they be?"

House

CA-08: The general election for this open 55-40 Trump seat hasn't generated much attention, but Democrat Chris Bubser has released a poll from Global Strategy Group to try to change that. The survey gives Republican Assemblyman Jay Obernolte a 48-38 lead, which Bubser, who is a first-time candidate, argues will dramatically narrow once she gets her name out. The sample also finds Donald Trump ahead only ahead 49-44 in this seat, which contains northern San Bernardino County and the geographically vast, but sparsely populated, High Desert to the north.

Bubser ended June with a small $325,000 to $300,000 cash-on-hand edge over Obernolte, but she'll need much more to effectively communicate her message: Almost all of this seat is located in the Los Angeles media market, where it costs quite a lot of money to air TV commercials.

FL-18: Immediately after Pam Keith decisively won the Democratic primary for Florida's 18th Congressional District, Republican Rep. Brian Mast launched a $150,000 TV buy against her. The commercial, like so many Republican ads we've seen this cycle, ties Keith to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.

The narrator alternates between praising Mast's record and portraying Keith as an extremist, declaring at one point that the Democrat "called all Republicans 'traitors,' 'racist,' 'stupid,' and 'white supremacists.'" Parts of Keith tweets going after Donald Trump and his allies fill the screen, including an October 2019 message written during the House's impeachment inquiry into Trump where she asked, "I wonder if the GOP realizes that an entire generation of Americans is growing up knowing no other version of Republicans than the racist, white supremacist, bigoted, woman-hating, anti-science, delusional, gun-worshiping, treasonous greed-mongers currently on display."

Mast held a huge $1.8 million to $100,000 cash-on-hand lead over Keith on July 29, and he's likely going negative now to weaken her before she can effectively respond. Still, it's a bit surprising that Mast feels he needs to do this, since he's looked safe for a long time.

This seat, which includes the Palm Beach area and the Treasure Coast to the north, moved from 51-48 Romney to 53-44 Trump, and it remained tough turf last cycle. Mast won re-election 54-46 against a well-funded opponent, and according to analyst Matthew Isbell, both Republicans Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis carried it 52-47 as they were narrowly winning the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial contests statewide.

Still, this district could be worth watching this fall, especially if 2020 turns out to be a better year for Florida Democrats than 2018 did, which may be why Mast has decided he needs to take action now.

GA-07: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the far-right Club for Growth has booked $900,000 on TV to attack Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, though there's no copy of the spot yet. The Club is backing Republican Rich McCormick, who badly trailed Bourdeaux $760,000 to $106,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of June.

MA-01: Democratic Majority for Israel recently launched a $100,000 ad buy against Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse ahead of the Sept. 1 Democratic primary, and their newly released commercial attacks him over the condition of the local school system. American Working Families, a PAC supported by labor, also began airing commercials earlier this month going after Morse on this.

DMFI's new campaign is the latest in what has become a very expensive intra-party battle for this safely blue western Massachusetts seat. OpenSecrets reports that, as of Friday, outside groups supporting Rep. Richie Neal have spent a total of $1.3 million, while organizations like the Justice Democrats and Fight Corporate Monopolies have dropped $995,000 to oppose the incumbent.

Neal's campaign also maintains a huge financial edge over Morse, though the challenger has been bringing in a credible amount of money. Morse outraised Neal $470,000 to $360,000 during the pre-primary period, while the incumbent outspent him by a $1.8 million to $490,000 margin during this time. Neal held a $2.8 million to $295,000 cash-on-hand edge for the final weeks of the race.

MA-04: Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss uses his new commercial for the Sept. 1 Democratic primary to contrast his time in the Marines, where he says leadership was "on you," with Donald Trump's refusal to take responsibility for his many failures.

NY-01: In the previous Digest, we wrote that an internal poll for Democrat Nancy Goroff found Donald Trump leading Joe Biden 46-42 in New York's 1st Congressional District. However, those numbers were transposed by the outlet that originally reported the poll. Goroff's poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group, in fact found Biden ahead 46-42.

Ads: The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund is spending $2.5 million on August advertising in seven Democratic-held seats that Donald Trump carried in 2016. Politico provides a breakdown:

  • ME-02 (Jared Golden): $200,000
  • NM-02 (Xochitl Torres Small): $500,000
  • NY-11 (Max Rose): $260,000
  • NY-22 (Anthony Brindisi): $650,000
  • OK-05 (Kendra Horn): $500,000
  • SC-01 (Joe Cunningham): $200,000
  • VA-07: (Abigail Spanberger): $200,000

It is not clear if these buys come from CLF's existing reservations in these seats, or if it's new money. The only spot that is available right now is the group's ad against Horn, which ties her to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Other Races

PA-AG: Josh Shapiro, a rising star in Pennsylvania Democratic politics, won his bid for attorney general 51-49 in 2016 as Donald Trump was carrying Pennsylvania 48-47, but Republicans are hoping to unseat him this fall and regain a seat they'd previously held for decades. Shapiro is only the second Democrat to win this post since it became an elected office in 1980: The first was Kathleen Kane, who decisively won in 2012 but resigned in disgrace in 2016.

Republican nominee Heather Heidelbaugh recently launched what her campaign says is a $200,000 opening ad campaign. Heidelbaugh doesn't mention Shapiro directly in her spot as she talks about her tough upbringing, but her pledge to "serve my full term" was very much a dig at the incumbent, whom politicos widely expect to run for governor in 2022. Indeed, when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who will be termed-out, was asked last year about the contest to succeed him, he pointed at Shapiro and said, "That's my guy right there."

Shapiro held a massive $4.1 million to $210,000 cash-on-hand lead over Heidelbaugh on June 22, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that a group called Commonwealth Leaders Fund has booked a total $435,000 to help the Republican. The PAC, which the paper says has already spent $144,000, has been running commercials that ditch Heidelbaugh's subtlety and tear into Shapiro as "a career politician already looking to run for governor."

Shapiro responded in mid-August with what the Inquirer writes is his first TV spot. The ad says Shapiro is being attacked by dishonest commercials "paid for by people backing the insurance companies' candidate, hack lawyer Heather Heidelbaugh." The narrator goes on to praise the incumbent's service as attorney general, including his high-profile role in "holding Catholic Church officials accountable for covering up sexual abuse."

Ad Roundup