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

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

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

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redistricting

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

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

1Q Fundraising

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

41-29 vs. venture capitalist Guy Nohra

39-35 vs. attorney Joey Gilbert

39-39 vs. former Sen. Dean Heller

37-39 vs. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo

37-40 vs. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General

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

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

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

Other Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Digest: 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: The 7th time was finally the charm for ‘Little Tark.’ Will he press his luck an 8th?

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

Check out our new podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

NV-02: Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian, a Republican who finally ended his legendary losing streak last cycle, revealed to the Nevada Independent that he's considering challenging Rep. Mark Amodei in the June primary for Nevada's 2nd Congressional District. The congressman quickly responded to the news by telling the site, "[I]t's America. ... If somebody thinks that they've got a better mousetrap, then those are the avenues available to them." The filing deadline is March 18, and whoever wins the GOP nod will be the heavy favorite in a northern Nevada seat that, according to Dave's Redistricting App, would have backed Donald Trump 54-43.

While it remains to be seen what argument Tarkanian might put forward to persuade primary voters to oust Amodei, the congressman's experience last cycle could preview what's to come. In September of 2019, Amodei pissed off conservatives nationwide when he became the first House Republican to identify as impeachment-curious, saying of the inquiry into Trump, "Let's put it through the process and see what happens." Amodei added, "I'm a big fan of oversight, so let's let the committees get to work and see where it goes." Where it went was a firestorm of far-right outrage, with angry conservatives convinced that Amodei had actually called for impeaching Trump.

Campaign Action

Amodei quickly responded by protesting, "In no way, shape, or form, did I indicate support for impeachment," though even expressing openness to an inquiry was enough to infuriate not only the rank-and-file but top Republicans as well. The Trump campaign soon rolled out its state co-chairs for 2020, and politicos noticed that Amodei, who was and remains Nevada's only Republican member of Congress, was snubbed.

The far-right Club for Growth joined in the fracas by releasing a poll showing former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt beating Amodei in a hypothetical primary, but all of this sound and fury ended up signifying nothing—for 2020 at least. Amodei joined the rest of the GOP caucus in voting against both the inquiry and Trump's first impeachment, and neither Laxalt nor anyone else of stature ended up running against him.

Things played out in a familiar manner right after the Jan. 6 attack when Amodei told Nevada Newsmakers, "Do I think he [Trump] has a responsibility for what has occurred? Yes." The congressman, though, this time used his interview to say upfront that he'd oppose an impeachment inquiry, and he soon joined most of his party colleagues in voting against impeachment. However, as South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace just learned the hard way, Trump is very happy to back primary challenges to members who dared blamed him for the attack on the Capitol even if they sided with him on the impeachment vote.

Tarkanian, for his part, is also a very familiar name in Silver State politics, though not entirely for welcome reasons. Tarkanian himself comes from a prominent family: His late father was the legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, while his mother, Democrat Lois Tarkanian, was a longtime Las Vegas city councilwoman who now serves on the state Board of Regents. The younger Tarkanian—sometimes distinguished from his more famous father with the sobriquet "Little Tark"—was a resident of Las Vegas' Clark County when he lost the:

But while Tarkanian's long string of defeats has made him a punchline to state and national political observers for years, his name recognition, personal wealth, and connections to Nevada's hardcore conservative base mean that he was never just another perennial candidate either party could dismiss. Notably in 2016, Tarkanian overcame $1.6 million in outside spending directed against him in the GOP primary to defeat state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, the choice of then-Gov. Brian Sandoval and national Republicans, by a surprisingly large 32-24 margin. That result might have cost Team Red the swingy 3rd District, but only just: Tarkanian lost to his Democratic foe, now-Sen. Jacky Rosen, 47-46 as Donald Trump was carrying the district 48-47.

Republicans also took Tarkanian seriously in 2017 when he launched a primary challenge to Sen. Dean Heller and a pair of polls showed him winning. Trump, however, managed to redirect Tarkanian just before the filing deadline when he convinced him to drop out and run for the 3rd District a second time, with his endorsement. Tarkanian, though, lost to Democrat Susie Lee by a wide 52-43 spread as Rosen was unseating Heller.

Tarkanian decided soon afterwards that he'd had enough of Vegas and moved to Douglas County, a small rural community located well to the north, near the Reno area. But he was hardly done with politics: Amodei himself suggested in April of 2019, months before his impeachment inquiry flirtations, that Tarkanian could run against him.

Tarkanian didn’t follow through but instead devoted his efforts to denying renomination to an incumbent with a far lower profile, Douglas County Commissioner Dave Nelson. The challenger joined a pro-development slate of candidates seeking seats on the five-member body, and this time, fortune was, at last, just barely on his side: Tarkanian won the nomination 50.1-49.9―a margin of 17 votes―and he had no opposition in the general election. We'll find out in the next five weeks if, now that he's finally an elected official, Little Tark decides to test out his newfound luck by going after Amodei.

Redistricting

LA Redistricting: Louisiana's GOP-run state House has passed a new congressional map with two independents joining all 68 Republicans to total 70 votes in favor—exactly the number that would be needed to override a veto by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. However, the plan differs somewhat from the map that the state Senate approved a few days earlier (also with a two-thirds supermajority), so the two chambers will have to iron out their differences. Edwards has indicated he would veto a map that does not create a second Black district, which neither the House or Senate proposals do.

Senate

AL-Sen: Former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt's new ad for the May Republican primary is centered around her opposition to abortion.

AZ-Sen: The Republican pollster co/efficient, which tells us they have no client, finds no clear favorite in the August GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Attorney General Mark Brnovich edges out businessman Jim Lamon 17-13, with Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters just behind with 12%. Two other Republicans, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire and state Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson, barely register with 3% and 1%, respectively. The firm also tests out a scenario in which Gov. Doug Ducey runs and finds Brnovich narrowly outpacing him 14-13 as Lamon and Masters each take 11%.

These numbers are quite a bit different than those another GOP firm, OH Predictive Insights, found a few weeks ago. That earlier survey of the current field had Brnovich leading McGuire 25-11; when Ducey was added, he beat the attorney general 27-12.

OH-Sen: The Republican firm co/efficient has released the very first survey of the May primary that wasn't done on behalf of a candidate or allied group, and it shows businessman Mike Gibbons leading former state Treasurer Josh Mandel 20-18, with state Sen. Matt Dolan in third with 7%; former state party chair Jane Timken takes 6%, while venture capitalist J.D. Vance grabs fifth with 5%.

Gibbons, who badly lost the 2018 primary for Ohio's other Senate seat, also has dropped a Cygnal poll giving him a wider 23-11 edge over Mandel, which is a huge improvement from the 16-13 edge the firm gave him two weeks ago,

Vance's allies at Protect Ohio Values, meanwhile, are going up with their first TV spot since mid-November, a move that come days after Politico reported that the Peter Thiel-funded group's own polls showed that "Vance needs a course correction ASAP that will resolidify him as a true conservative." The commercial seeks to do that with clips of the candidate attacking "elites" and concludes with footage of Fox host Tucker Carlson telling him, "You've really, I think, understand what's gone wrong with the country."

Governors

LA-Gov: Republican state Rep. Daryl Deshotel attracted lots of local attention when he recently gave his own campaign $1 million, and he told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser on Thursday, "I'm open to everything, but I honestly don't have a target right now." While much speculation has centered around next year’s open-seat race for governor, Deshotel, who has described himself as "fiscally conservative but more moderate on social issues," didn’t specifically mention the contest, and he didn't even commit to using the money to aid himself. Deshotel instead said, "It may be that I end up using the money to support other candidates who I believe can help the state."

MI-Gov: Blueprint Polling, which describes itself as a "sister company" to the Democratic firm Chism Strategies, is out with a survey showing Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer deadlocked 44-44 with former Detroit Police Chief James Craig. Blueprint, which says it did this survey "with no input or funding from any candidate, committee or interest group," did not release numbers testing Whitmer against any other Republican.

NY-Gov: Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who previously backed Attorney General Tish James during her abortive six-week campaign for governor, has now thrown his support behind Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul.

House

CA-03: Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones received an endorsement from Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents an inland San Diego County seat, for the June top-two primary for this open district in Sacramento's eastern suburbs. While Issa's constituency is located hundreds of miles to the south of the new 3rd District, he may have some clout with conservatives more broadly thanks in part to his long history of using his influence in Congress to torment Democrats.

IL-03: State Rep. Delia Ramirez has picked up an endorsement from 14th District Rep. Lauren Underwood ahead of the June Democratic primary.

NJ-07: On Thursday evening, 2020 nominee Tom Kean Jr. narrowly defeated Assemblyman Erik Peterson at the Hunterdon County Republican Convention, which gives him the important party endorsement in the June primary to take on Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski. Peterson is a longtime politician from Hunterdon County, which makes up 17% of the population this six-county congressional district, and he's enjoyed the county's support in past bids for local races.

Endorsements from county parties are typically very important in New Jersey primaries on both sides of the aisle. That's because, in many counties, endorsed candidates appear in a separate column on the ballot along with other party endorsees, a big deal in a state where party machines are still powerful. (This designation is known colloquially as the "organization line.")

You can see an example of this on the 2018 Democratic primary sample ballot from Burlington County. Sen. Robert Menendez and 2nd Congressional District candidate Jeff Van Drew, who was still a year away from his infamous party switch, appeared in the column identified as "BURLINGTON COUNTY REGULAR DEMOCRATS," along with party-backed candidates running for other offices. Lisa McCormick, who was challenging Menendez for renomination, was listed on her own in the second column while the three candidates running against Van Drew each had a column entirely to themselves.

Kean will likely have another line before long: The New Jersey Globe writes that he recently received the unanimous support of the Republican Executive Committee in Warren County, which forms another 14% of the 7th District, meaning "he is the favorite to win the county organizational line there as well."

NJ-11: Morris County Surrogate Heather Darling has announced that she'll stay out of the Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill.

PA-18: Nonprofit executive Stephanie Fox, a Democrat who didn't report any fourth quarter fundraising with the FEC, has announced that she'll run for a state House seat rather than continue with her congressional bid.

RI-02: Allan Fung, a former Cranston mayor who twice was the Republican nominee for governor, announced Friday that he'd run to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin in the 2nd Congressional District. He joins a September primary that includes state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz and 2020 nominee Bob Lancia, who lost to Langevin 58-42.

The current version of this constituency, which is unlikely to change much when redistricting is finished, moved from 51-44 Clinton to a stronger 56-43 Biden. But in between those presidential contests, according to Dave's Redistricting App, Fung lost this seat by a close 47-43 margin in his 2018 general election against then-Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Fung was decisively elected to lead Rhode Island's second-most populous city in 2008 on his second try, an accomplishment that made him the state's first Chinese American mayor, and he quickly emerged as a Republican rising star in the heavily Democratic Ocean State. Fung went ahead with a long-awaited campaign for governor during the 2014 red wave, and while he lost to Raimondo 41-36 (a hefty 21% went to the late Robert Healey of the Moderate, or "Cool Moose," Party), he remained the state GOP’s biggest name following his near miss.

After easily winning re-election in Cranston, Fung soon launched a 2018 rematch with Raimondo, and it looked like he had a real chance to finish what he'd started. While the national political climate very much favored Democrats, Raimondo had posted unimpressive poll numbers throughout her tenure. That was due in part to her turbulent relationship with progressives ever since she pushed through pension reforms as state treasurer and some bad headlines on a variety of topics while in office.

The incumbent, though, enjoyed a huge fundraising lead over Fung, and she and her allies worked to tie him to the toxic Trump administration―a task the mayor made pretty easy the previous year when he posted a picture on Facebook of him at Trump's inauguration smiling and wearing a Trump wool cap. Things got worse for him when national Republicans began canceling their TV ads weeks ahead of Election Day, while Fung himself had to run commercials warning that conservative independent Joe Trillo's presence on the ballot would make Raimondo's re-election more likely. The governor this time captured the majority that eluded her in 2014 by beating Fung by a decisive 53-37, with Trillo taking 4%.

But Fung, while termed-out as mayor in 2020, was far from finished exerting influence in local politics. On his way out of office, Fung put serious effort into supporting his eventual successor, Councilman Kenneth Hopkins, in both the GOP primary and the general election, while Fung's wife, Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung, scored a huge win in November by unseating state House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. (Many Democrats weren't at all sad to see the conservative Mattiello go, since the party easily hung on to its majority.) Fung himself showed some interest in a third run for governor this cycle but seemed far more intent on campaigning for state treasurer, though all that changed when Langevin announced his retirement last month.

TX-28: Democrat Jessica Cisneros' newest ad is narrated by a woman named Esther who says she's lived in Laredo for four decades but complains, "Nothing changes—even the problems stay the same." She goes on to say she "used to like Henry Cuellar," the congressman Cisneros is hoping to unseat in the March 1 primary, but criticizes him for "taking money from big insurance and drug companies" even as the cost of medication and insurance has risen for her. "You ask me, Henry Cuellar's been in Washington too long," she concludes.

The left-wing group Justice Democrats is also reportedly spending $78,000 to air a spot on Cisneros' behalf, attacking Cuellar for living it up as a politician (he "got rides in donors' private jets" and "fixed his BMW with campaign cash"). It also mentions the FBI raid of his home last month. "After 36 years in politics," says the narrator, "Cuellar has changed." The spot concludes with the voiceover saying, "We need someone who works for us" and shows a photo of Cisneros along with her name on screen, but for no clear reason, the narrator doesn't actually say her name aloud.

TX-30: Web3 Forward, a new super PAC with ties to the crypto industry, is out with its first TV spot in support of state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, and the group says it will spend $1 million to aid her in the March 1 Democratic primary. (A different crypto-aligned PAC, Protect our Future, has also pledged to deploy $1 million for Crockett.) The opening ad praises Crockett for leading "the fight to stop voter suppression efforts in Texas" and reminds the audience that she's backed by retiring Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.

VA-02: In an email to supporters that begins with the line, "I don't know what I'm doing," former Republican Rep. Scott Taylor says he's giving "serious consideration" to yet another comeback bid in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District.

Taylor's tenure in D.C. was short. In 2016, he easily won election over Democrat Shaun Brown following an unusual series of events that began when a federal court threw out much of Virginia's congressional map for illegally diminishing the political power of Black voters. After the court drew new lines, GOP Rep. Scott Rigell announced his retirement, which prompted another Republican congressman, Randy Forbes, to say he'd seek re-election in Rigell's district, since his own had been made unwinnably blue. But Forbes didn't represent any part of the 2nd District, and Taylor, a former Navy SEAL who'd been elected to the state House in 2013, defeated him in the primary 53-41.

Two years later, however, Taylor ran headlong into the blue wave, as shifting demographics in the Virginia Beach area plus a far stronger Democratic opponent in Navy veteran Elaine Luria combined to give him a difficult race. But in the end, Taylor was likely done in by his own hand: His own staffers conspired to put Brown on the ballot as an independent in order to siphon votes from Luria, but they were busted for forging signatures on her petitions. Taylor disavowed all knowledge, but an investigation into the scandal (which resulted in multiple aides getting indicted) consumed his campaign and was the focus of countless Democratic ads.

Luria wound up unseating Taylor 51-49, then beat him again by a wider 52-46 margin in 2020. (In between those two campaigns, Taylor briefly tried his hand at a bid for Senate.) One favorable development for Taylor since then, though, is the fact that the 2nd became a couple of points redder in redistricting: Under the old lines, it voted for Joe Biden by a 51-47 margin, but the new version would have supported Biden by a slightly narrower 50-48 spread.

Taylor, though, would have to contend with a few candidates who are already seeking the Republican nomination, including state Sen. Jen Kiggans and high school football coach Jarome Bell, both of whom are also Navy vets (Virginia Beach is home to a huge Naval air station). Kiggans raised $251,000 in the fourth quarter and had $342,000 on hand, while Bell, who finished third in the primary last cycle, brought in $112,000 but finished with just $121,000 in the bank. Luria swamped them both, however, with a $672,000 haul and a giant $2.3 million cash stockpile.

WV-02: Republican Rep. Alex Mooney's allies at the Club for Growth have released a new internal poll from WPA Intelligence showing him beating fellow Rep. David McKinley by a 43-28 margin in the May 10 primary. That is similar to a January poll from Mooney's own campaign that had him up 45-32, though a McKinley survey from December featured McKinley leading 40-34.

Morning Digest: Ohio Supreme Court strikes down GOP’s legislative gerrymander

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

OH Redistricting: The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the new Republican-drawn state House and Senate maps as an unconstitutional gerrymander and ordered the state's Ohio Redistricting Commission to adopt new lines within 10 days. This decision does not apply to the Republican-drafted new congressional map, which is the subject of a separate case that the justices have yet to issue a decision in.

Republican Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor joined the three Democrats in Wednesday's 4-3 ruling, which blasted just how much the lines drawn by the GOP majority on the bipartisan Redistricting Commission benefited Republican candidates. As we've written before, a voter-approved constitutional amendment requires maps to not unfairly benefit one party or the other compared to their statewide support, which Republicans acknowledged was roughly 54% Republican and 46% Democratic according to an average of the last decade's statewide elections.

The justices, though, noted that the state House map favored GOP candidates in 67 of the 99 seats―which would give Team Red the edge in 68% of the districts―while Republicans likewise enjoyed an advantage in 23 of the 33 state Senate constituencies.

Campaign Action

The Redistricting Commission, which has a 5-2 GOP majority, will now need to redraw the lines, and the justices said they retained jurisdiction "to review the plan that the commission adopts for compliance with our order." Ohio's candidate filing deadline is currently set for Feb. 2, though lawmakers can alter that date.

Redistricting

MO Redistricting: The state House's redistricting committee voted Wednesday to advance a congressional map aimed at preserving the Republicans' current 6-2 majority in the delegation.

MS Redistricting: The state Senate on Wednesday approved a new GOP-drawn congressional map, which now goes to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves for his signature.

NC Redistricting: The Wake County Superior Court on Tuesday upheld the new Republican-drawn congressional and legislative maps. Plaintiffs immediately made it clear that they'd appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court, where Democrats have a 4-3 majority.  

PA Redistricting: The Republican-controlled state House has passed a new congressional map that would almost certainly be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf should it reach his desk.

SC Redistricting: The GOP-run state House Judiciary Committee has advanced a new congressional map aimed at shoring up Republican Rep. Nancy Mace in the 1st District. Last month, the chamber introduced a different map that would have actually made the 1st more competitive, but Republicans seem to have reversed course since then. State Senate Republicans previously proposed boundaries that also would have strengthened Team Red in the 1st District.

TN Redistricting: The state House's redistricting committee on Wednesday advanced a congressional map that, as Democrats have long feared, aims to turn the 5th District red. The blue bastion of Nashville, which is coterminous with Davidson County, is currently entirely located in longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper's 5th District, but these proposed boundaries would split the city between the 5th, 6th, and 7th Districts. This map would leave the Memphis-based 9th District as the only Democratic-friendly seat in Tennessee.

4Q Fundraising

  • CO-SenMichael Bennet (D-inc): $2.1 million raised, $4.7 million cash-on-hand; Gino Campana (R): $450,000 raised, additional $500,000 self-funded, $760,000 cash-on-hand
  • NE-GovJim Pillen (R): $5.4 million raised (since April), $4.1 million cash-on-hand
  • FL-10Maxwell Frost (D): $407,000 raised
  • IL-14Michael Koolidge (R): $100,000 raised (in six weeks)
  • MN-02Angie Craig (D-inc): $875,000 raised, $2.9 million cash-on-hand
  • NH-01Matt Mowers (R): $400,000 raised, $600,000 cash-on-hand
  • NJ-05Nick De Gregorio (D): $403,000 raised, $375,000 cash-on-hand
  • NV-04Steven Horsford (D-inc): $478,000 raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • OR-06Matt West (D): $600,000 raised, $480,000 cash-on-hand

Senate

MD-Sen: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan once again declined to rule out a bid against Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen on Wednesday one day after the Associated Press detailed national Republicans' ongoing efforts to convince him to run. Hogan downplayed his interest when asked but didn't do anything to take his name out of contention, saying, "I don't have much desire to be in the US Senate." The filing deadline is Feb. 22.

OH-Sen: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth has launched what NBC's Henry Gomez reports is a $750,000 TV and digital buy attacking former state Republican Party chair Jane Timken ahead of the May primary. The Club, which backs ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel, had been training its fire on venture capitalist J.D. Vance, but it recently released a poll finding that Timken is now Mandel's main threat.

The narrator declares, "Timken claimed she didn't know how she would have voted on Trump's impeachment while passionately defending her RINO congressman after he voted to impeach Trump." That last bit is a reference to retiring Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year. Timken initially said that the congressman had a "rational reason why he voted that way. I think he's an effective legislator, and he's a very good person." While she soon backtracked and called for Gonzalez's resignation, she didn't do it fast enough to insulate her from attacks like this one.

VT-Sen: Former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan last week filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential run for the Republican nod, and she now tells VTDigger, "I am definitely exploring the possibility, but I am not yet ready to announce a formal decision or make a formal announcement."

The last time Green Mountain Republicans won a federal election was 2000, when moderate Sen. Jim Jeffords easily secured another term; Jeffords famously abandoned the GOP (and his all-Republican barbershop quartet, the Singing Senators) the following year to caucus with the Democrats as an independent, a move that handed Team Blue control of the upper chamber.

PA-Sen: Ad Impact tells Politico that American Leadership Action, a super PAC set up to aid TV personality Mehmet Oz in the Republican primary, has booked $550,000 in TV time for a negative campaign aimed at former hedge fund manager David McCormick that will begin this month. McCormick is still officially in exploratory mode, but there's little question that he's planning to run especially now that he's resigned from the hedge fund giant Bridgewater Associates.

House

CA-15: While Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale had mulled campaigning for this safely blue open seat last year, the Democrat announced this week that she would run for the state Assembly instead.

CA-37: Former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry has filed FEC paperwork for a potential campaign to succeed Rep. Karen Bass, a fellow Democrat who is leaving to run for mayor of L.A., in the June top-two primary for this safely blue seat. Perry would be the first member of Congress who is both Black and Jewish.

Perry ran for the city's top job in 2013 and ultimately placed fourth in the nonpartisan primary with 16%. She went on to endorse Eric Garcetti in the second round, who named her head of his administration’s Economic Development Department following his victory. Perry stepped down in 2018 and ran for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors two years later, but she took a distant third with just 12%.

The only notable Democrat who has announced a campaign for the 37th District, which includes Central Los Angeles, is Culver City Vice Mayor Daniel Lee. State Sen. Sydney Kamlager, who decisively won her current post last year by beating Lee in a special election, also filed FEC paperwork in late November, but she still hasn't said if she's running.

FL-07: Businessman Scott Sturgill, who lost the 2018 Republican primary for the old version of this seat, has announced a bid to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy in a state where redistricting is still underway. Sturgill self-funded $150,000 for his last campaign but still lost the primary 54-30 to state Rep. Mike Miller, whom Murphy beat months later.

FL-20: Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick pulled off a 79-20 victory over Republican Jason Mariner in this 77-22 Biden seat in a contest that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis infamously scheduled to take place a whole nine months after the death of longtime Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings. Cherfilus-McCormick, who beat now-former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness by five votes in the very crowded November primary, will be the first-ever Haitian American member of Congress.

The new congresswoman, though, will likely need to prepare for another serious nomination fight. Holness, who never conceded defeat, filed paperwork for another bid last month, and The Sun Sentinel reported at the time that he planned to seek a rematch. Former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, who earned third place, also told the paper for that article that she was "more than likely" to run again but was "waiting to see what the districts look like."

IN-09: Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth announced Thursday that he would not seek a fourth term in Indiana's safely red 9th District in a very unexpected move that bookends what has been a short but surprising congressional career. The revised version of this southeastern Indiana seat, which includes Bloomington, backed Donald Trump 63-35, and Republicans should have no trouble holding onto it.

Hollingsworth had given no obvious indication that he was looking to hit the eject button, especially since he had no serious primary or general election opponent on the horizon. The congressman, though, used an op-ed for IndyStar to remind readers that he'd pledged to only serve four terms total, continuing, "I want to be the change I want to see in this world, so, as I contemplate how I can work for you in new and better ways in the future, I won't run for reelection this year." Hollingsworth added, "I ran for Congress to return this government to the people from the career politicians who had broken it, and I will be damned if I become one in the process."

Hollingsworth began running for Congress in the 2016 cycle very soon after the Tennessee businessman, who had ties to several other states that weren't named Indiana, moved to the Hoosier State. He initially seemed like an afterthought in the Republican primary to succeed now-Sen. Todd Young, but he attracted attention after he used his personal fortune to finance a huge early ad campaign at a time when his more established but cash-poor rivals couldn't get on TV. He also got help from his wealthy father, who financed a super PAC that aired commercials praising the younger Hollingsworth and attacking the presumed frontrunner, Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

Another candidate, state Sen. Erin Houchin, saw where things were going and eventually went up with her own spot warning viewers that Hollingsworth was "a Tennessee millionaire who just moved here to try and buy our seat in Congress," but she lacked the resources to sufficiently blast her opponent. Republicans said just before the primary that Hollingsworth had little ground game and few, if any, local allies, but that didn't stop him from defeating Houchin by a convincing 34-25.

Republican gerrymandering and southern Indiana's continued shift to the right made Hollingsworth the clear favorite in a district that had supported Mitt Romney 57-41 in 2012, but Democrats hoped that a weak GOP nominee would give Monroe County Councilor Shelli Yoder an opening. And for a long time, it seemed like it was possible that Hollingsworth's flaws could indeed sink him, especially after the DCCC released an October poll giving him just a 44-42 edge.

National Democrats backed up their talk with action in the final weeks, and they ultimately spent $1.8 million compared to $1.3 million from their GOP counterparts. Hollingsworth also earned some ugly headlines in the final days when the Associated Press reported that legal papers he filed to serve as a "registered agent" for his real estate business obligate him to simultaneously reside in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Ohio. The Republican blamed it all on a clerical error, though he didn't help things when, after acknowledging he'd lived in South Carolina, he refused to say where else he'd resided.

All of this, though, was far from enough in a seat as red as the 9th District. Donald Trump carried the seat 61-34, and while Hollingsworth badly trailed the top of the ticket, his 54-40 victory was still far from close. Democrats still hoped that the new congressman could be vulnerable in a very different political climate, but he won by a similar 56-44 spread in 2018 and had no trouble taking what would ultimately be his final term.

MO-04: Retired Navy SEAL Bill Irwin announced this week that he was joining the crowded Republican primary for this safely red open seat.

NE-01: The Omaha World-Herald's Don Walton recently asked state Sen. Mike Flood if he had anything to do with a reported poll testing him in a hypothetical May Republican primary against indicted Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, to which Flood notably responded, "No comment."

Flood previously served as speaker of Nebraska's unicameral state legislature from 2007 until he was termed out in 2013, and he returned to the chamber last year. (Nebraska forbids legislators from serving more than two consecutive terms, but they can come back after a break.) The senator is also the owner of News Channel Nebraska, which Walton describes as "a network of radio and television stations that combine into a statewide media network."

Fortenberry, whom federal prosecutors have charged with lying to investigators as part of a probe into a foreign billionaire who used straw donors to illegally funnel $180,000 to four different GOP candidates, has a trial date tentatively set for Feb. 15, which coincidentally is the day that Flood would need to make a final decision by. That's because Nebraska has a unique law that sets up two filing deadlines, one for current elected officials and one for everyone else. All office-holders who want to be on the 2022 ballot need to file by Feb. 15, even if they're seeking a different post than the one they currently have, while the deadline for everyone else comes two weeks later on March 1.

Whoever emerges with the GOP nod will likely go up against state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, a Democrat who currently faces no serious intra-party opposition. The new version of the 1st District, which includes Lincoln and rural areas in the eastern part of the state, supported Donald Trump 54-43.

NJ-07, NJ-11: Phil Rizzo, a Republican who took a distant second in last year's gubernatorial primary, announced Wednesday that he was switching from the 11th to 7th Districts following redistricting and would now take on Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski. Rizzo will have a very tough task ahead of him, though, if he's to defeat the local and national establishment favorite, former state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., in a June nomination contest that also includes Assemblyman Erik Peterson.

VA-07: The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Del. Elizabeth Guzman and Prince William School Board Chair Babur Lateef are each considering challenging Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger for renomination now that redistricting has relocated a majority of populous Prince William County to the new 7th District. However, two other Northern Virginia Democrats, state Sen. Jeremy McPike and Del. Luke Torian, say they won't campaign here, while county party chair Tonya James relays that former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy has also told her she won't run.

On the Republican side, 2020 candidate Tina Ramirez announced this week that she was ending her campaign now that redistricting has moved her out of the 7th. Ramirez will instead challenge state Sen. Amanda Chase, who also dropped out of the congressional race this month, for renomination in 2023.

Ballot Measures

San Jose, CA Ballot: The San Jose City Council on Tuesday voted to place a measure on the June ballot that would move mayoral contests from midterm to presidential years. This year's open seat mayor race would only be for a two-year term if voters approved this measure, but the winner would be allowed to seek two additional four-year terms.

The City Council is also reviewing other ideas, such as adopting instant-runoff voting, that could go on the November ballot. However, an earlier proposal to greatly enhance the mayor's power appears to be off the table for now.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's contest in Maine:

ME-HD-27: Former state Sen. James Boyle held this seat for the Democrats by beating Republican Timothy Thorsen 57-38. Hillary Clinton won 53-40 here, and preliminary numbers from Daily Kos Elections have Joe Biden prevailing by a larger 60-37 spread in 2020.

Democrats are back to a enjoy an 81-64 majority in a 151-person chamber that also includes three independents, one Libertarian, and one member of the Independent for Maine Party; one Republican-held district, the very red HD-145, is open.

Mayors

Austin, TX Mayor: Democratic state Rep. Celia Israel announced Tuesday that she would compete in this year's race to succeed termed-out Mayor Steve Adler as the head of Texas' famously liberal capital city; Israel would be Austin's first gay or Latina mayor.

Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for the special election to succeed Tom Barrett, who resigned last month to become ambassador to Luxembourg. All the candidates will face off on one nonpartisan ballot on Feb. 15, and the top-two vote-getters will advance to the April 5 general; the winner will be up for a regular four-year term in 2024.

The only surprise on filing day came when Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer, who had previously announced a campaign, did not submit any signatures. The candidates who turned in the required amount of petitions are:

  • Alderman Marina Dimitrijevic
  • Former Alderman Bob Donovan
  • Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson
  • Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas
  • Businessman Michael Sampson
  • State Sen. Lena Taylor

Most of the field to lead this very blue city identify as Democrats, though Donovan, who badly lost to Barrett in 2016, is active in conservative groups.

Morning Digest: Biden improved across North Carolina but red districts stayed red

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

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide hits North Carolina, where Donald Trump pulled off a narrow win last year. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Trump's margin in the Tarheel State shrunk from 50-47 in 2016 to 50-49 in 2020, but it was still just enough to allow him to capture the state's 15 electoral votes again. In between those two presidential cycles, the boundaries of North Carolina's congressional districts changed due to court-ordered redistricting (the map was also redrawn for the same reason earlier in the decade in 2016), so the numbers we're presenting to you—for both the 2016 and 2020 elections—have been calculated based on the boundaries used last year.

Trump won the same eight GOP-controlled seats in both contests, while the remaining five Democratic-held constituencies supported both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. Biden, who, as he did in many other states, likely benefited from a decline in third-party voting, did improve on Hillary Clinton's margin in 12 districts, but it wasn't enough to bring any Republican seats into play.

Campaign Action

Democrats made a serious attempt to unseat Republican Rep. Richard Hudson in the 8th District, which is located in Fayetteville and the Charlotte suburbs, but Trump didn't lose nearly as much support here as Team Blue had hoped. Trump only ticked down from 53-44 to 53-46, while Hudson prevailed by a similar 53-47 spread against Democrat Patricia Timmons-Goodson.

The only other seat that Trump carried by single digits this time was Rep. Dan Bishop's 9th District in the Sandhills and the Charlotte suburbs, where his margin flattened from 54-43 in 2016 to 53-46. The previous version of this district hosted a nationally-watched 2019 special election, which took place after 2018's results were thrown out due to Republican election fraud. Bishop won that contest 51-49, and Democrats hoped that redistricting, which left the congressman with a redrawn seat that was slightly bluer and 20% new to him, would make him more vulnerable. It was not to be, though, as Bishop won his first full term 56-44.

The GOP-held seat that moved furthest away from Trump was the 11th District, which supported him 57-40 four years ago but 55-43 in 2020. That spread, however, was still more than enough to let one of the most notorious Republican extremists in the freshman class, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, easily defeat Democrat Moe Davis 55-42.

The biggest shift to the left anywhere in the state came in freshman Rep. Deborah Ross' 2nd District in the Raleigh area, which zoomed from 60-36 Clinton to 64-34 Biden. The 2nd was also one of two GOP-held seats that Team Red all but conceded after redistricting transformed the old Republican gerrymanders into compact seats that heavily favored Democrats. The other was Rep. Kathy Manning's 6th District in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem areas. Looking at the new district lines, the seat moved from 59-38 Clinton to 62-37 Biden.

The one place where Trump improved on his 2016 margin was another Democratic-held constituency, the 1st District in inland northeastern North Carolina. Clinton won 55-44 here compared to 54-45 Biden, while veteran Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield was re-elected by a comparable 54-46 in a contest that attracted little outside spending. (This district was also made much redder in the most recent round of redistricting.)

Republicans maintained their iron grip on both chambers of the state legislature last year thanks in part to their existing gerrymanders, and state law doesn't give the governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, a veto over redistricting. The only potential constraint on GOP mapmakers is the Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court, but the justices' involvement is no sure thing.

P.S. A note on our methodology: The precinct-level data provided by the North Carolina Board of Elections includes a small number of votes added algorithmically as "noise" to protect voter privacy in small precincts. We've used this data solely for counties that are split between congressional districts; for unsplit counties, we've used certified county-level results. As a result, our statewide totals reflect 514 more votes than the state's certified totals.

Senate

NY-Sen, NY-Gov: Sophomore Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is "seriously considering" a primary challenge to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, according to unnamed sources who spoke with Politico's Holly Otterbein, but these same people say her decision will be governed by how aggressively Schumer pushes progressive priorities from his new perch. A spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez didn't rule out the possibility, saying only that the congresswoman is focused on addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

Otterbein also reports that some Schumer allies think Ocasio-Cortez "is more likely" to run for governor or lieutenant governor, though it's not clear why they'd be in any position to know what AOC is planning. A gubernatorial bid would of course set her on a collision course in next year's Democratic primary with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has already said he plans to seek a fourth term in 2022.

The lieutenant governorship would be a strange choice, though, as the post is almost entirely powerless in New York. Going that route could create a bizarre spectacle, however: If Ocasio-Cortez were to defeat Cuomo's preferred choice in the primary (possible current Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who hasn't yet announced her plans), she and Cuomo would be flung together on the same general election ticket—the political equivalent of a shotgun wedding.

Otterbein also name-drops a few other possible Schumer challengers, including Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi. A Bowman aide, however, said the congressman is not considering the race, while Williams and Jones did not comment. Biaggi, however, did not rule out the idea, only saying that she wasn't thinking about a bid "at this very moment" but would "certainly have to revisit it." In 2018, Biaggi defeated state Sen. Jeff Klein, a powerful Cuomo ally who ran the faction of breakaway Senate Democrats known as the IDC, in that year's Democratic primary.

OH-Sen: The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno is "likely" to seek the Republican nomination to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Rob Portman, and Moreno acknowledged his interest when asked. "I [do] not have any new information to share," Moreno told WYKC, before continuing, "As you can imagine, this is a monumental decision for my family and it's important for me to make certain they are 100% on board." The Journal describes Moreno as "an active donor in recent years," but not "well known in national Republican circles."

The paper added that businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who is the founder of the healthcare company Roivant Sciences, is also considering for Team Red. Ramaswamy himself told the Cincinnati Business Journal last week that he was being encouraged, and while he didn't explicitly say he was interested, he added, "It's important that the right candidate runs."

Forbes estimated Ramaswamy's net worth at $400 million in 2016, so he'd likely be able to do at least some self-funding if he wanted. Ramaswamy, who is the author of an upcoming tome called "Woke Inc.," has spent the last several weeks attacking social media companies for banning Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

CNBC also says that unnamed "power brokers in Ohio" have been trying to recruit a business leader more to their liking in order to stop a pro-Trump candidate from winning, but so far, they don't seem to be having much luck. Alex Fischer, the head of the business advocacy group The Columbus Partnership, and venture capitalist Mark Kvamme were both approached about possible GOP primary bids, but each has publicly said no. Additionally, state Attorney General Dave Yost said Monday that he'd seek re-election rather than run for the Senate.

On the Democratic side, CNBC reported that businesswoman Nancy Kramer has been "approached" by these anti-Trump leaders, but there's no word on her interest.

PA-Sen, PA-17: Republican Sean Parnell is reportedly "torn" between seeking Pennsylvania's open Senate seat next year or running for the House again, which could involve either a rematch with Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, who defeated him 51-49, or a bid for another House seat depending on how redistricting turns out.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Braithwaite, who served as Donald Trump's secretary of the Navy, says he's considering a run for Senate. One unnamed source described Braithwaite as "a little bit Trump-y, a little bit Arlen Specter," which makes about as much sense as saying you're a little bit Oscar and a little bit Felix.

WI-Sen: Politico notes that Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who has yet to say whether he'll seek a third term next year, raised very little money for his campaign account in the final quarter of 2020, especially when compared with other senators who are likely to face difficult re-election campaigns, like Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly. However, Johnson's FEC report in the fourth quarter of 2014 looked almost exactly the same, and he went on to win again two years later.

Meanwhile, the AP adds a new possible Democratic name to the mix, state Sen. Chris Larson. Last year, Larson lost a bid for Milwaukee County executive to state Rep. David Crowley, a fellow Democrat, in a squeaker.

Governors

CA-Gov: Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who launched an exploratory committee for a possible gubernatorial run last month, now promises he'll make an announcement "shortly." It's not clear whether Faulconer, a Republican, has his sights on 2022 or a potential recall election of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, though presumably we'll find out soon enough.

However, if he's thinking about running in a recall, which is looking more and more likely to take place, the relatively moderate Faulconer just got some unwelcome news. Conservative businessman John Cox, who got obliterated by Newsom 62-38 in 2018, says he'll run again if there's a recall, in which voters would be faced with two questions. On one, they'd be asked if they want to recall Newsom. On another, they'd vote for the candidate they'd like to replace Newsom in the event a majority vote "yes" on the first question.

That second question, however, would feature all candidates from all parties running together on a single ballot, with the first-place finisher victorious no matter how small a plurality they might win (again, only if "yes" prevails on the recall question). If two prominent Republican candidates were to split the vote, whatever hope the GOP might have of victory would be small indeed—unless Democrats happened to do the same.

FL-Gov: Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist for the first time publicly suggested he's considering a bid for governor, saying "I'm opening my brain to the idea a little bit more" in a recent interview. Crist did not offer a timetable for making a decision.

MD-Gov: Former RNC chair Michael Steele, who somehow is still a Republican after turning into a fierce critic not only of Donald Trump but of the GOP in general, said on Friday that he plans to take "a very strong, long look" at running for governor. How exactly he might win a Republican primary, however—especially after endorsing Joe Biden last year—is a mystery. "I know I'm not everyone's favorite cup of tea within my party," said Steele. "I don't let those things bother me." Problem is that these things bother GOP voters, i.e., the folks who matter to Steele's future dreams.

SC-Gov, SC-01: After messing with us by promising a "[b]ig announcement" that turned out to be a podcast launch (yes, seriously), former Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham said he would "be sharing my plans for 2022 very soon." Cunningham hasn't ruled out a bid for governor or a rematch with Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, who narrowly unseated him last year. He also hasn't ruled out starting a TikTok account, either.

VA-Gov: Rich guy #2 Glenn Youngkin is following rich guy #1 Pete Snyder and going up on the air with a reported "six-figure" ad buy behind some biographical spots. It's not clear why either man, both wealthy finance types, are spending money on TV given that the Republican nomination will be decided by a relative handful of convention delegates, but perhaps they're trying to boost their general election poll numbers to demonstrate their electability. Who can say?

House

FL-27: Former Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala, who lost in an upset last year to Republican María Elvira Salazar, tells the Miami Herald that she's interested in a rematch but wants to see how redistricting pans out before deciding and would only seek a seat that includes her home in Coral Gables. The paper adds that, according to unnamed sources, Shalala "hopes a Latina will challenge Salazar." We haven't heard about any such names that would fit the bill, though the Herald says that state Rep. Nick Duran and Miami Commissioner Ken Russell "are rumored to have interest."

GA-14: Politico reports that physician John Cowan is considering a rematch against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who defeated him in last year's GOP primary runoff 57-43. There's no direct quote from Cowan about his plans, but he did say, "I'm a neurosurgeon. I diagnose crazy every day. It took five minutes talking to her to realize there were bats in the attic. And then we saw she had skeletons in the closet." Apparently, Cowan also runs a Halloween pop-up store.

NJ-07: State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. has announced he will not seek re-election this year, a move that may presage a second congressional bid in 2022. Kean lost 51-49 to Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, but according to new calculations from Daily Kos Elections, the 7th Congressional District supported Joe Biden by a much wider 54-44 margin. District lines, however, are set to shift thanks to redistricting.

SC-07: State Rep. Russell Fry says he's considering running against Rep. Tom Rice, who was censured by the South Carolina Republican Party over the weekend for voting to impeach Donald Trump. Several other Republicans have floated their names in the past couple of weeks, but the Post and Courier says that Fry, who is chief whip in the state House, "is considered a more serious threat," calling him "an up-and-comer in state GOP politics" with strong fundraising potential.

TX-32: Republican Genevieve Collins, who lost to Democratic Rep. Colin Allred 52-46 last year, has filed paperwork for a possible rematch. Collins does not appear to have said anything publicly about her intentions.

Mayors

Anchorage, AK Mayor: Candidate filing closed Friday for this open seat, and 14 contenders will compete in the April 6 nonpartisan primary for a three year term. (Anchorage is the only major city in America we know of where terms last for an odd number of years.) If no one takes at least 45% of the vote, a runoff would take place May 11. This race will take place months after Democratic Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who was already to be termed-out this year, resigned as the result of a sex scandal; the city’s new leader, Austin Quinn-Davidson, decided not to compete for a full term.

The field includes Forrest Dunbar, a member of the Anchorage Assembly (the equivalent of the city council) who was the 2014 Democratic nominee against Republican Rep. Don Young before winning his current office in 2016. The Anchorage Daily News’ Emily Goodykoontz additionally identifies Bill Falsey, who resigned as the city's municipal manager in November to concentrate on his bid, as another prominent progressive candidate. Alaska Humanities Forum head George Martinez, who is a former aide to Berkowitz, is also in the running.

The most prominent contender on the right may be former Republican City Assemblyman Bill Evans, who is the only conservative candidate who has held elected office. Evans also has the support of former Mayor Dan Sullivan (not to be confused with the U.S. senator with the same name), who served from 2009 through 2015

Another candidate to watch is Air Force veteran Dave Bronson, whom Goodykoontz writes “is new to politics and has gained popularity among a crowd that is vehemently opposed to the pandemic restrictions.” The field also includes Mike Robbins, a local GOP leader backed by former Mayor Rick Mystrom, a Republican who left office in 2000. Eight others are on the ballot as well.

Other Races

AK-AG: Alaska Attorney General Ed Sniffen has stepped down due to sexual misconduct allegations, making him the second state attorney general to resign over such charges in six months. Sniffen is accused of commencing a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl 30 years ago, when he was a 27-year-old attorney. He has not addressed the allegations.

Sniffen was selected by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy in August to succeed Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, who quit after it was revealed he'd sent hundreds of unwelcome text messages to a junior colleague. Sniffen had originally been appointed in an acting capacity, but last month Dunleavy nominated him to Clarkson's permanent replacement, pending approval by state lawmakers.

On Friday, Dunleavy named Treg Taylor, a division head in the attorney general's office, as his newest pick for the job at the same time he announced Sniffen's departure, just before the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica published their exposé about the misconduct accusations against Sniffen.

The presidential race was tight in this New Jersey district, but a freshman Democrat ran well ahead

Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide takes the turnpike through New Jersey, which is home to a number of competitive House seats. You can find our detailed calculations here, a large-size map of the results here, and our permanent, bookmarkable link for all 435 districts here.

Joe Biden’s 57-41 victory in the Garden State was only slightly larger than Hillary Clinton’s 55-41 performance in 2016, an improvement due in part to the decline in third-party voting, but there were plenty of big changes below the surface. Biden captured nine of the state’s 12 House seats, which was two more than Clinton took last time, while Donald Trump held on to the remaining three seats. All of the Biden districts are controlled by Democrats, while Republican representatives prevailed in two of the trio of Trump seats.

We’ll start with a look at the one Democratic-held Trump seat, Rep. Andy Kim’s 3rd District, which was also the state’s closest district in the 2020 presidential race by far. Barack Obama had carried this South Jersey constituency, which is located in the Philadelphia suburbs and central Jersey Shore, 52-47 days after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area in 2012, but it swung hard to the right four years later and backed Trump 51-45. This time, the 3rd settled between those poles and supported Trump 49.4-49.2, a margin of about 800 votes.

Local Republicans in past years have run well ahead of the top of the ticket here, but the opposite happened in 2020. Kim won a second term by beating Republican David Richter 52-45, a result that was considerably wider than his 50-49 victory against Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur in 2018.

GOP outside groups opted not to spend to boost Richter, a decision that may have had to do with the sheer cost of running for office in what may be the most expensive place in the nation to advertise: About 57% of the 3rd is in the pricey Philadelphia media market, while the balance is in the very expensive New York City market. To reach all voters on television, it's necessary to blanket both—an extremely costly proposition. Kim's mammoth fundraising made that heavy lift possible, but Richter's weak finances put such an undertaking out of reach.

Republicans, however, had more success in the 2nd District just to the south. This coastal seat swung from 54-45 Obama to 51-46 Trump in 2016, and it favored Trump again last year, though by a smaller 51-48 margin. National Democrats worked hard last year to deny a second term to Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who had switched from the Democrats to the GOP in late 2019 after opposing Trump’s first impeachment. But Congress' most infamous turncoat ran ahead of the man he’d pledged his “undying support” to and defeated Democrat Amy Kennedy 52-46.

Trump’s best seat by far, unsurprisingly, was once again the 4th District to the north in the Monmouth County area, though he did drop from 56-41 in 2016 to 55-44 last year. This constituency is held by 21-term Rep. Chris Smith, who was the only Republican in the state’s delegation from January 2019 until Van Drew switched parties nearly a year later.

We’ll now move up north and hit the two Trump/Biden seats, both of which began the decade as conservative turf. The 5th District in northern Bergen County and more distant exurban areas had lurched slightly to the left, going from 51-48 Romney to 49-48 Trump in 2016, but Trump’s toxicity in the suburbs helped propel Biden to a 52-47 win. The seat is held by Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a moderate who unseated arch-conservative Scott Garrett in 2016 and secured his third term 53-46 last year.

The swing to the left was even more pronounced in the neighboring 11th District in the Morris County area. This ancestrally red region had gone from 52-47 Romney to 49-48 Trump in 2016, but Biden took it 53-46 this time. Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill flipped this seat in 2018 by winning the race to succeed longtime Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen and successfully defended it 53-47 in 2020.

Trump also bombed in the 7th District just to the south, though the GOP showed signs of life downballot. This seat, which includes Hunterdon County and New York City's western exurbs, had already swung hard from 52-46 Romney to 49-48 Clinton, and Biden’s margin ballooned to 54-44. Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, though, won his second term by a considerably smaller 51-49 margin in a very expensive race against state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., who is the son and namesake of well-regarded former Gov. Tom Kean Sr.

While Trump’s margin took a nose dive in all of New Jersey’s competitive seats, though, he did make gains in a trio of safely blue constituencies in the northern part of the state. Rep. Albio Sires’ 8th District in Jersey City dropped from 76-21 Clinton to 73-26 Biden, which fits with the pattern we’ve seen in other seats with large Latino electorates. Rep. Donald Payne’s heavily Black 10th District in Newark likewise ticked down from 85-13 Clinton 83-16 Biden. Finally, Rep. Bill Pascrell’s diverse 9th District, which is home to Paterson and some of New York City's closer-in suburbs, shifted from 64-33 Clinton to 62-37 Biden.

Democrats have full control of the New Jersey state government, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll get a favorable congressional map for the coming decade. That’s because a 1995 state constitutional amendment created a bipartisan redistricting commission consisting of six Democrats, six Republicans, and a tiebreaking member. Last time, the crucial 13th member favored GOP-drawn boundaries over those proposed by Democrats, though Republican mapmakers didn’t anticipate the leftward swing that would later unfold in the state’s northern suburbs.

Morning Digest: The next stop on our tour of 2020’s presidential results by district: South Carolina

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

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide makes its second stop in South Carolina, where Team Red enjoyed a stronger-than-expected year. You can find our complete data set here, which we're updating continuously as the precinct-level election returns we need for our calculations become available. You can also click here to learn more about why this data is so difficult to come by.

Campaign Action

While most Palmetto State polls showed Donald Trump running well behind his 55-41 2016 margin of victory, Trump ended up taking South Carolina by only a slightly smaller 55-43 last week. Trump once again carried six of the state's seven congressional districts, with Joe Biden winning House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn's heavily Democratic 6th District.

The closest constituency, not surprisingly, was the 1st District along the coast, where Trump moved downward from 53-40 to only 52-46. This shift to the left, though, wasn't quite enough for freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham, who lost re-election 51-49 against Republican Nancy Mace.

Trump carried his other five seats by double digits. The closest was the 2nd District in the Augusta and Columbia suburbs, which supported him 56-39 in 2016 but by a smaller 55-44 in 2020. Democrats hoped before Election Day that veteran Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican who infamously screamed "You lie!" at Barack Obama during a congressional address in 2009, could be vulnerable there against well-funded Democrat Adair Ford Boroughs, but Wilson won by a comparable 56-43. The 6th District, meanwhile, moved from 67-30 Clinton to 67-32 Biden.

Georgia Runoffs

GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: Though the Georgia runoffs are little more than a week old, Advertising Analytics reports that $45 million has already been spent on the airwaves in both races, with $31 million coming from the campaigns themselves.

Republicans so far make up most of that spending: David Perdue has shelled out $19 million and Kelly Loeffler $6 million, while Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have spent $4 million and $2 million, respectively. Meanwhile, two super PACs aligned with Mitch McConnell, the Senate Leadership Fund and American Crossroads, are each reportedly putting in $4.5 million.

Loeffler, unsurprisingly, is using her airtime to launch attacks against Warnock, who largely avoided getting targeted with negative ads during the first round of voting since Loeffler was pre-occupied with staving off fellow Republican Doug Collins. Now she's amping the usual GOP playbook to 11.

The first of her two new spots starts with a shot of young school kids (all but one of whom are white) with hands on hearts, presumably reciting the pledge of allegiance. A scary-sounding narrator declares, "This is America—but will it still be if the radical left controls the Senate?"

It gets predictably worse from there. Among other things, the ad claims Warnock "hosted a rally for communist dictator Fidel Castro" while showing some grainy footage from 1995. Warnock doesn't appear in the clip, though: His campaign says he was only a junior member of the staff at the church where Castro spoke and wasn't involved in the decision to invite the late Cuban leader.

The second ad resurfaces Jeremiah Wright, the former Chicago pastor whose incendiary sermons attracted great scrutiny during Barack Obama's first presidential campaign in 2008. It features footage of Wright angrily orating from the pulpit, interspersed with clips of Warnock defending Wright. The spot concludes with the narrator spitting, "Raphael Warnock: a radical's radical."

Warnock was one of several Black clergyman who spoke out on Wright's behalf at the time, saying his most inflammatory remarks had been divorced from the full context of the sermons from which they were drawn. Earlier this year, he stood by his past statements, saying, "Any fair-thinking person would recognize that everything a government does, even the American government, is not consistent with God's dream for the world."

Uncalled Races

Quite a few contests remain uncalled, but we’re tracking all of them on our continually updated cheat-sheet, and of course we’ll cover each of them in the Digest once they’re resolved.

IA-02: Democrat Rita Hart announced Thursday that she'd seek a recount in this open seat contest; Hart trailed Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks by 47 votes as of Thursday afternoon. Miller-Meeks, for her part, has declared victory while refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden's win.

NJ-07: While the Associated Press called this contest for freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski just after Election Day, the race has dramatically tightened over the following week and plenty more ballots remain to be counted.

Malinowski went from holding a 28,400 vote lead over Republican Tom Kean Jr. on Nov. 4 to an edge of 6,275 as of Thursday afternoon. The New Jersey Globe's David Wildstein projects that there are close to 38,800 ballots left to count at the very minimum, and "that number could be as high as around 60,000." The AP, though, has not retracted its call.

Called Races

IL-14: On Thursday, the Associated Press called the race for this seat in Chicago's western exurbs for freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood. The congresswoman's victory also means that Republican Jim Oberweis has yet another high-profile defeat in his ledger.  

NY-11: Republican Nicole Malliotakis reclaimed this Staten Island-based seat for her party, and freshman Democratic Rep. Max Rose conceded on Thursday.

CA Ballot: The Associated Press has called a victory for Proposition 19, known as the Property Tax Transfers, Exemptions, and Revenue for Wildfire Agencies and Counties Amendment. CBS San Francisco describes Prop. 19, which passed 51-49, as a measure that "gives exemptions to older homeowners, the disabled and wildfire victims and strips breaks from people who inherit homes but don't live in them."

Maricopa County, AZ Recorder: Republican Stephen Richer reclaimed this post for his party by unseating Democratic incumbent Adrian Fontes 50.1-49.9, and Fontes conceded on Thursday. The recorder is tasked with administering elections in Maricopa County, which is home to more than 60% of the state's population and whose 4.5 million residents make it the fourth-largest county nationally. However, Republican county Board of Supervisors members took control of key powers from Fontes' office following his 2016 victory.

NC Auditor: The AP has called this race for Democratic incumbent Beth Wood, who turned back Republican Anthony Street 51-49.

Gubernatorial

AR-Gov: Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson is termed-out in 2022, and the GOP primary to succeed him has been underway for well over a year now. Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who previously represented central Arkansas in the U.S. House from 2011 to 2015, announced that he was running all the way back in August of 2019. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, whose 2014 victory made her the first woman and the first Republican to ever hold this post, also entered the contest in July of this year.

There may also be more takers for Team Red before too long. The potential candidate who has generated the most chatter for years is former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee: When Sanders was asked about her interest in this post in a September appearance on "Good Morning America," she only replied, "We'll see."

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren was more direct this month, and he acknowledged he was considering a gubernatorial bid on election night. Political columnist Steve Brawner recently wrote that Hendren could be a hard sell for GOP primary voters, though, saying he "made the career-killing mistake of trying to craft workable bipartisan solutions to challenging problems."

AZ-Gov: Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is ineligible to run for a third term in 2022, and this swing state is very likely to be a major battleground. One Democrat who has gotten plenty of attention as a possible candidate is Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and she expressed interest in running at the end of 2019. Hobbs also predicted at the time she'd decide "probably in early '21."

On the Republican side, the Arizona Republic's Laurie Roberts wrote last month that state Treasurer Kimberly Yee seemed to be positioning herself for a bid. Yee, Roberts noted, appeared in commercials this year opposing Proposition 208, a ballot measure to create a new tax on high earners to fund schools.

Prop. 208 ultimately passed 52-48, but Yee's campaign against it may have boosted her name recognition. Indeed, Roberts notes that then-state Treasurer Doug Ducey himself increased his profile in 2012 by chairing the successful campaign against a referendum to fund education, a campaign that took place two years before Ducey was elected governor. Republican politicos also speculated last month that Ducey was behind Yee's anti-Prop. 208 campaign, with one consultant saying, "It's Ducey's attempt to anoint somebody in the next cycle because we know he's not happy with other elected officials in this state."

Roberts added that the Republican that Ducey seems to want to block is state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, whom she says is "expected to make a run" for governor in 2022. Brnovich, who will be termed-out of his current post that year, has repeatedly clashed with Ducey; in September, Brnovich notably challenged Ducey's order closing bars in order to stop the spread of the pandemic.  

MN-Gov: Republicans have struggled statewide in recent years in Minnesota, which Joe Biden took 52-45 last week, but they're hoping that Democratic Gov. Tim Walz will be vulnerable in two years. Retiring state Sen. Scott Jensen recently told the Star Tribune's Patrick Condon that he was thinking about running, and Condon adds that state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka is "seen as a likely candidate."

A few other Republicans aren't closing the door. Rep. Pete Stauber responded to speculation by saying he was flattered but focused on his current job, which is not a no. State Sen. Carla Nelson, who lost the 2018 GOP primary for Congress to now-Rep. Jim Hagedorn, also said when asked if she was interested in running for a statewide post, "I never closed any doors." Last week, Minnesota Morning Take also relayed, "Other names from solid sources on the 2022 Republican short list for Governor" include state Rep. Barb Haley and NBC sportscaster Michele Tafoya as possibilities, though there's no word if either are actually thinking about it.

Finally, it seems we're in for another cycle of trying to decipher My Pillow founder Mike Lindell's political intentions. A reporter tweeted last month that Lindell had told the crowd at a Trump event that he'd run, but KTTC quoted him at the time as saying, "Absolutely, if the president wins I'm gonna run." (Emphasis ours.)

Later on Nov. 4, Lindell told the Minnesota Reformer he had planned to run if Trump carried Minnesota, something that the far-right pillow salesman acknowledged at the time didn't end up happening. Lindell added, "But now I've gotta debate and I've gotta pray about it and see what happens with the presidential election. (They) might need me now more than ever." Days later, Lindell baselessly accused Joe Biden of only winning Minnesota through fraud.

NE-Gov: There will be a wide-open race to succeed GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts in 2022, and there are plenty of Republicans who could campaign in this very red state. The only one we've heard publicly express interest so far is state Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who acknowledged he was considering in November of last year.

On the Democratic side, 2018 nominee Bob Krist announced in April of 2019 that he was running again, a move that came months after he lost to Ricketts 59-41. Krist went on to endorse Republican Rep. Don Bacon in his successful re-election campaign this year.

PA-Gov: While there are plenty of Democrats who could run to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Sen. Bob Casey said this week that he'd stay out of the 2022 contest.

SC-Gov: Republican Gov. Henry McMaster's campaign chief said in May of 2019 that the incumbent would seek a second full term in 2022. McMaster was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor in 2017 when Nikki Haley resigned to become Donald Trump's first ambassador to the United Nations, and he was elected in his own right the following year.

Morning Digest: Alaska’s bipartisan state House coalition is imperiled following GOP primary results

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

AK State House: A coalition of 15 Democrats, two independents, and five Republicans (known as the House Majority Caucus) currently run Alaska’s 40-person House of Representatives, but at least one of these renegade Republicans lost renomination on Tuesday while two others are in trouble. We won’t have complete results for a while, though, because the Alaska Division of Elections says it won’t “even start counting absentee ballots until Aug. 25.” Absentee ballots make up a large portion of the vote in Alaska, so several races could shift quite a bit when all is said and done.

Campaign Action

One Republican member of the coalition has definitely lost after being targeted by the Republican State Leadership Committee, which is the national GOP’s legislative campaign committee, and a second incumbent is badly trailing. The Associated Press has called the primary in House District 28 in Anchorage for James Kaufman, who unseated state Rep. Jennifer Johnston 73-27. This seat backed Trump 49-43, and Democrats are fielding Adam Lees.

A second GOP Majority Caucus member, state Rep. Chuck Kopp, is trailing challenger Thomas McKay 67-33 with 1,800 votes in, though the AP has not yet made a call here. HD-24, which is also in Anchorage, went for Trump by a 52-40 margin; the Democratic nominee is Sue Levi, who lost to Kopp 59-41 in 2016 and was defeated 60-39 two years later.

A third Republican member of the bipartisan alliance, state Rep. Steve Thompson, currently has a 51-49 edge over primary challenger Dave Selle with 700 votes tallied in another contest that the AP has not called. HD-02, which is located in Fairbanks, went for Trump 60-30, and the Democrats are running Jeremiah Youmans. The final two GOP coalition members, Bart Lebon and Louise Stutes, were renominated without any opposition.

National and state Republicans in the mainstream GOP caucus (the House Minority Caucus) also appear to have scored some other wins Tuesday that will make it easier for them to control the state House next year.

A sixth Republican, Gary Knopp, was part of the coalition, but he was killed last month in a mid-air collision. Knopp, who remained on the ballot, posthumously took third place with 14%; the winner with 61% of the vote is Ron Gillham, who earned the endorsement of the local GOP back in June. (If Knopp had won, Republicans would have been able to petition to choose a replacement nominee.) HD-30, which is located in Kenai is the south-central part of the state, backed Trump 71-21.

Republicans also appear to have denied renomination to state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, who isn’t part of any alliance. The AP hasn’t called this contest yet, but with 500 votes in, challenger David Nelson leads 79-21.

LeDoux was originally a member of the coalition, but she was stripped of her committee assignments in March of 2019 after she voted against the chamber’s leaders on the budget; LeDoux didn’t rejoin the regular GOP caucus afterwards, though. In March, LeDoux was charged with voter misconduct. HD-15, which is in Anchorage, backed Trump 52-38, and the Democratic primary has not yet been called.

Finally, national Republicans may have fallen just short in toppling state Rep. David Eastman, who is part of the House Minority Caucus but has been a pain for its leaders, though the contest has not yet been called. With 2,200 votes in, Eastman leads primary foe Jesse Sumner 52-48. HD-10, which is based in Sarah Palin’s old Wasilla stomping grounds, favored Trump 71-21, so it’s likely out of reach for Democrat Monica Stein-Olson no matter how this primary ends.

While Eastman never joined the coalition, his intra-party critics remember how, after the 2018 election, he said he wouldn’t back a GOP speaker without some preconditions. Eastman was supposed to be one of the 21 Republicans who was to form the new majority, and his enemies blame him for causing the deadlock that eventually led to the bipartisan alliance. Since then, Eastman has spoken against a number of his party’s priorities, and House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt announced in March that he was on “probation.”

Senate

GA-Sen-B: Pastor Raphael Warnock, who is supported by national Democrats, is launching his debut TV ad with a $400,000 buy ahead of the all-party first round in November. The minute-long spot starts off with Warnock speaking to the camera from the housing project where he grew up in Savannah. Warnock highlights his background coming from a large family that taught him the value of hard work, followed by a series of news clips touting his role as the lead pastor of the prominent Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, a position that Martin Luther King Jr. once held. Warnock emphasizes his efforts fighting for affordable health care and the right to vote.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Doug Collins is airing a new TV ad where he focuses on how he was supposedly "Trump's preferred pick" for the appointment to this seat, using a clip of Trump praising the congressman.

Polls:

  • AZ-Sen: OnMessage (R) for Heritage Action: Mark Kelly (D): 48, Martha McSally (R-inc): 48 (51-48 Trump)
  • GA-Sen-A: Garin-Hart-Yang (D) for Jon Ossoff: Jon Ossoff (D): 48, David Perdue (R-inc): 46 (July: 45-44 Ossoff)

OnMessage's survey for the conservative Heritage Action group is one of the very few polls we've seen all year that hasn't shown McSally trailing.

House

IA-01: Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer's newest commercial focuses on the derecho storm that hit Iowa earlier this month. Finkenauer, speaking from her backyard, talks about how neighbors have been helping each other in the aftermath, and she pledges not to "stop until Iowans get the resources we need."

Republican Ashley Hinson, meanwhile, is going in a more partisan direction in her newest spot. After talking about her previous career as a local TV newscaster, Hinson rattles off some of Donald Trump's favorite talking points about "socialists trying to abolish the police, radicals trying to tear down our country."

IN-05: The far-right Club for Growth's first general election ad accuses Democrat Christina Hale of voting for higher taxes before the narrator declares, "And, like Nancy Pelosi, Hale backs the kind of public option plan that would radically expand the government's role in healthcare."

MA-01: Democratic Majority for Israel has launched a $100,000 TV buy against Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse ahead of the Sept. 1 Democratic primary. We do not yet have a copy of the commercial.

MA-04: Data for Progress has released an in-house survey of the crowded Sept. 1 Democratic primary, and it finds a tight contest with no obvious frontrunner.

Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss: 14

Newton City Councilor Becky Walker Grossman: 13

Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell: 13

Former Wall Street regulator Ihssane Leckey: 9

Public health expert Natalia Linos: 9

City Year co-founder Alan Khazei: 7

Attorney Ben Sigel: 3

Businessman Chris Zannetos: 1

A 29% plurality are undecided, while 1% goes to former assistant state attorney general Dave Cavell, who dropped out last week and endorsed Mermell.

The only other recent numbers we've seen was an early August survey for Leckey from Frederick Polls. That poll showed Grossman leading Auchincloss 19-16, with Leckey and Mermell at 11% and 10%, respectively.

NJ-07: Republican Tom Kean uses his first TV commercial to portray himself as a bipartisan legislator.

OH-10: Longtime Rep. Mike Turner seems to be taking Democrat Desiree Tims seriously, since he just launched a commercial against her that highlights a massive scandal … involving Turner's fellow Ohio Republicans.

As the screen shows a newspaper headline about a $60 million bribery scheme, the narrator begins, "It's disgraceful. Lobbyists have bought seats in the Ohio State House." Last month, then-state House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested on federal corruption charges, and prosecutors accused the nuclear power company FirstEnergy of illegally funneling $61 million to a group controlled by Householder and his allies in order to pass and preserve a 2019 law that Leah Stokes described in Vox as "widely recognized as the worst energy policy in the country."

And what does this have to do with Tims? Nothing, but that’s not stopping Turner from attempting to connect her to the scandal anyway. After briefly talking about the scandal involving lobbyists and state Republicans, his narrator awkwardly transitions to attacking Timms by continuing, “Now Washington lobbyist Desiree Tims has moved back to Ohio and is trying to buy a seat in Congress" by accepting out-of-state contributions. Turner himself, though, does have a link to FirstEnergy: According to the Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay, the congressman has taken $20,000 in campaign contributions from the company during his career.

OK-05: The Club for Growth is running a new commercial against state Sen. Stephanie Bice ahead of next week's Republican primary runoff that begins with someone dancing while wearing a unicorn mask. The narrator responds, "Ok, that's just weird! Like when Stephanie Bice voted for the biggest tax increase in state history, but claims to care about taxpayers."

Our grooving half-unicorn friend (a reverse centaur, but a unicorn?) pops up again, and the narrator responds, "Really, a bit odd. Like how Bice denounced Trump in 2016, but now claims she'll stand with him." This process repeats one more time, with the ad volunteering the dancer is "strange," just like "Bice voting to weaken criminal penalties on looting, but claims she's a conservative." Bice faces businesswoman Terry Neese in next week's contest for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn.

VA-02: After former Republican Rep. Scott Taylor sent a cease-and-desist letter to Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria demanding that she stop making statements claiming that he is under investigation for ballot access fraud, the Roanoke prosecutor John Beamer's office announced that an investigation is still ongoing, stating, "The entire campaign is under investigation." Taylor's staff was exposed during his unsuccessful 2018 re-election campaign for forging signatures on behalf of Democrat-turned-independent Shaun Brown (who was booted off the ballot by a judge), and Democrats ran ads slamming Taylor's campaign for its illegal scheming.

The story surfaced again in March when a former Taylor staffer pleaded guilty for her part in the scheme, and Beamer's office now says that more indictments are possible. Taylor himself has consistently denied any knowledge of the scheme, but his staff had previously claimed the congressman was indeed aware of their plans.

WA-10: Democratic state Rep. Kristine Reeves, who finished in third place with 13% in this month's top-two primary, has endorsed former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland over state Rep. Beth Doglio in the all-Democratic November general election.

Primary Result Recaps

FL-03: Kat Cammack defeated 2018 candidate Judson Sapp 25-20 in the Republican primary to succeed her old boss, retiring Rep. Ted Yoho, in this 56-40 Trump seat in north-central Florida.

Cammack served as Yoho's campaign manager during his four bids for office, including his 2012 upset win against incumbent Cliff Stearns and his 2018 contest against Sapp, but Yoho was hardly in her corner. In a weird twist, Yoho, who did not endorse anyone, confirmed in June that he'd "demoted" Cammack seven years ago "from Chief of Staff in my Washington, DC office to Deputy Chief of staff and reassigned to the district in Florida for reasons not to be disclosed."

Yoho concluded, "She continued to work for our office in a satisfactory manner until she decided to run for Congress herself. No further comments are warranted." No more comments came, and Cammack is now poised to win the seat of the man who demoted her. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican.

FL-05: Democratic Rep. Al Lawson took just 56% of the vote in the primary against two unheralded opponents in this safely blue North Florida seat, which was not a strong performance for an incumbent. Chester Albert, whose old anti-LGBTQ writings surfaced weeks before the primary, was far behind with 28%. While Lawson didn't come close to losing, though, Tuesday's results indicate that he could be in trouble in the future against a stronger intra-party foe, especially with redistricting just around the corner.

FL-08: Republican Rep. Bill Posey won renomination 62-38 against Scott Caine, a Navy veteran who ran some anti-Posey TV ads in the final weeks of the contest for this safely red seat along Florida's Space Coast.

FL-13: Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna defeated attorney Amanda Makki, who had the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, 36-28 in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist. While both candidates campaigned as ardent Trump allies, Luna worked especially hard to foster a far-right image. Luna, who compared Hillary Clinton to "herpes," also enjoyed the support of Rep. Matt Gaetz, a rabid Trump fan who represents the 1st District well to the northwest.

This St. Petersburg seat went from 55-44 Obama to 50-46 Clinton, but neither party has been acting like Crist is in much danger. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Democratic.

FL-18: Navy veteran Pam Keith, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nod last cycle, defeated former state deputy solicitor general Oz Vazquez 80-20 in the primary to face Republican Rep. Brian Mast.

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 Mast doesn't look vulnerable. The incumbent won re-election 54-46 against a well-funded opponent, and he had a hefty $1.8 million on-hand in late July. Daily Kos Elections rates this as Safe Republican, though things could get interesting if Trump truly wrecks his party down the ballot.

FL-19: State Rep. Byron Donalds appears to have claimed the GOP nomination for this safely red seat in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers area after a very tight expensive battle. The Associated Press has not called the contest as of Wednesday afternoon, but second place candidate House Majority Leader Dan Eagle, who trails 23-22 with 104,000 ballots counted, has conceded to Donalds. Two self-funders, businessman Casey Askar and urologist William Figlesthaler, finished just behind with 20% and 18%, respectively.

Askar and Figlesthaler decisively outspent the rest of the field, while Eagle had the support of Sen. Marco Rubio. Donalds, though, benefited from millions in spending from the anti-tax Club for Growth and like-minded groups. Donalds would be the second Black Republican to represent Florida in Congress since Reconstruction; the first was Allen West, who is now the chair of the Texas Republican Party.

Donalds ran here back in 2012 and took fifth place with 14% in what turned out to be the first of four open seat contests during the decade. The winner was Trey Radel, who was elected in the fall but arrested the next year by an undercover officer in D.C. after he attempted to buy cocaine, and he resigned months later under pressure from party leaders. Radel was succeeded in a 2014 special by Curt Clawson, who retired in 2016 and was replaced by Francis Rooney, who announced last year that he would not seek a third term.

FL State House: Two terrible Democratic state House members representing safely blue seats were ousted Tuesday by far more progressive opponents.

In Jacksonville’s HD-14, community organizer Angie Nixon defeated incumbent Kim Daniels by a 60-40 margin. Daniels, who has faced a number of serious questions about her ethics, defied her party this year by co-sponsoring a bill requiring parental consent for abortions, and an official with Equality Florida dubbed her “probably the most anti-LGBTQ Democrat in Tallahassee.”

Daniels also made a name for herself as a Trump loyalist, and in 2018, she delivered a prayer giving thanks to Donald Trump that also included attacks on witches. Daniels had the backing of charter school interests and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, while the local chamber and state AFL-CIO were for Nixon.

Meanwhile, in Palm Beach County’s HD-88, Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Omari Hardy beat state Rep. Al Jacquet 43-26. Jacquet has a long history of homophobia, and he used an anti-LGBTQ slur against Hardy during the campaign; Hardy responded, “While I am not gay, I was raised in a same-sex household by my two mothers, and I am offended for them and for the broader LGBTQ community here in Palm Beach County, where I serve.”

Jacquet said later, “I apologize for my words that have offended some of my colleagues.” That non-apology didn’t satisfy anyone, and Jacquet soon stepped down from his post as the top Democrat on the Rules Committee.

Broward County, FL State Attorney: Former prosecutor Harold Pryor won the eight-way Democratic primary to succeed incumbent Mike Satz, who is retiring after an astounding 44 years in office. Pryor, who would be the first African American to hold this office, defeated defense attorney Joe Kimok 21-20.

Pryor is the heavy favorite in the fall in this 66-31 Clinton county. However, Republicans do have a notable candidate in Gregg Rossman, who has prosecuted a number of high-profile murders; another local prosecutor, Sheila Alu, is also competing as an independent.

Miami-Dade County, FL Mayor: Two county commissioners, Republican Steve Bovo and Democrat Daniella Levine Cava, will face off in November's nonpartisan general election to succeed termed-out incumbent Carlos Gimenez, who is the GOP nominee for Congress against Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Bovo took first place with 29.3%, while Levine Cava beat former Democratic Mayor Alex Penelas 28.8-24.5 for the second general election spot.

The following day, Levine Cava released an internal poll from Change Research taken in early August that showed her leading Bovo 39-28. However, while Miami-Dade County is solidly blue in presidential contests, a Bovo win is far from out of the question. Republicans often do very well in this area downballot, and it's hardly a certainty that supporters of Penelas, whom Al Gore dubbed "the single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with" due to his actions during the 2000 campaign, will overwhelmingly break for Levine Cava.

Miami-Dade County, FL State Attorney: Incumbent Katherine Fernández Rundle, who has been in office for 27 years, defeated progressive opponent Melba Pearson 61-39 in the Democratic primary. No other candidates filed for the general election, so Fernández Rundle's victory gives her another term by default.

Orange/Osceola Counties, FL State Attorney : Former defense attorney Monique Worrell, who campaigned as the most progressive candidate in the four-person Democratic primary, decisively won the nomination to succeed retiring incumbent Aramis Ayala as state attorney for the Ninth Circuit, which covers both Orlando's Orange County and neighboring Osceola County. Worrell, who had Ayala's endorsement and benefited from heavy spending by a group close to billionaire philanthropist George Soros, beat former judge Belvin Perry 43-31.

No Republicans are running in the November election, and Worrell will be the heavy favorite to defeat independent Jose Torroella.

WY-Sen: Former Rep. Cynthia Lummis, to no one's surprise, beat Converse County Commissioner Robert Short 60-13 in the Republican primary to succeed retiring Rep. Mike Enzi. Wyoming was Donald Trump's single best state in 2016, and Lummis should have no trouble in the fall in a contest Daily Kos Elections rates as Safe Republican.

Grab Bag

Deaths: It may be hard for younger people to believe, but for much of the second half of the 20th century, the states of the Pacific Northwest routinely elected center-right Republicans to higher office. One of the last remaining big names from that tradition died on Wednesday at the age of 92: Washington's former Sen. Slade Gorton.

Gorton spent nearly 40 years in elective office, getting his start representing a north Seattle state House seat in the 1960s. Gorton then was elected in 1968 to his first of three terms as state attorney general, where he engaged in a long fight with the state's Native American tribes over fishing treaty rights.

Gorton went on have two separate tenures in the U.S. Senate. He was first elected in 1980 with some help from Ronald Reagan's coattails in a 54-46 upset victory against local institution Warren Magnuson, a Democrat who served in the chamber since 1944. Like a number of Senate Republicans elected in 1980, though, he found himself bounced out in the 1986 midterm, losing to former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams, who had previously been a Democratic congressman, 51-49.

Gorton, however, quickly won the state's other Senate seat in 1988, prevailing 51-49 against Democratic Rep. Mike Lowry in the contest to succeed retiring Republican incumbent Dan Evans. (Lowry would win his single term as governor four years later.) Gorton was re-elected in 1994 fairly easily against the backdrop of a good Republican year over then-King County Councilor Ron Sims, who would later become the executive of Washington's largest county.

Gorton's political career, though, didn’t survive the state's gradual move toward the Democrats in 2000. Gorton ended up being unseated by former Rep. Maria Cantwell in an extremely close race, losing by only 2,200 votes after an automatic recount.

Gorton was a largely party-line vote in the Senate though with occasional deviations, of which one of the most notable was his decision to vote against the perjury charge in Bill Clinton's impeachment (though he did vote to convict on the obstruction of justice charge). One of Gorton's notable post-Senate achievements will survive him for a few more years: He was the chief Republican member of Washington's redistricting commission in 2011, which is generally regarded as having produced mildly Republican-favorable maps.

Incidentally, thanks to the longevity of Cantwell and fellow Democratic Sen. Patty Murray (and the even greater longevity of Magnuson and Henry Jackson before them), Gorton's passing means that Washington is in the unusual position of having only one living ex-senator: Dan Evans, still going at 94.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete summary of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to elections and voting procedures as a result of the coronavirus.

Delaware: Republicans have filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to overturn a new law passed by Democratic lawmakers earlier this year that loosened Delaware's excuse requirement to enable everyone to vote by mail this November due to the pandemic. The law also directed officials to mail an application for an absentee mail ballot to all voters in the Sept. 15 downballot primary and November general election.

Louisiana: Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards says he won't sign a new election plan proposed by Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin that would keep in place the state's requirement that voters under age 65 present a specific excuse to request an absentee ballot and would only expand eligibility to those who have documentation that they have tested positive for COVID-19 (note that we previously said incorrectly that Edwards did not have the power to veto this plan). The latest GOP plan is more limited than the exceptions that Ardoin backed in the state's July primary, and the Republican legislature is set to take up the plan this week.

New Jersey: The Trump campaign and national and state GOP organizations have filed a federal lawsuit aiming to overturn Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's recent executive order adopting a full vote-by-mail system for November, where every voter will be mailed a ballot directly and in-person voting will still be available on a limited basis of at least one location in each of the state's 565 municipalities.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: In primary delayed by chaos, Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood party dumps governor

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

PR-Gov: Puerto Rico's gubernatorial primaries finally came to an end on Sunday, and former Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi ousted Gov. Wanda Vázquez 58-42 to win the nomination of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. Vázquez did not endorse Pierluisi, declaring instead, "I say to Pedro Pierluisi, that it is the thousands and thousands of people who supported me, and gave me their vote ... it is those people whose endorsement he should be seeking." Pierluisi, for his part, said that statehood would be one of his top goals if elected.

Meanwhile, Isabela Mayor Carlos Delgado decisively won the contest to lead the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party by defeating Puerto Rico Sen. Eduardo Bhatia 63-24. Pierluisi and Delgado will face off in the November general election for a four-year term along with Alexandra Lúgaro of the Citizens' Victory Movement, a party that NPR describes as "promoting anti-colonialism and a constitutional assembly to make a final decision on Puerto Rico's political relationship with the United States."

Campaign Action

The primary was originally set for June, but Vázquez signed legislation postponing it to Aug. 9 because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, ballots arrived late, or did not arrive at all, at a majority of voting centers that day, and the commonwealth's major political parties postponed voting a week. On Thursday, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled that voting would take place on Sunday in any precinct that was not open for the legally required eight hours last week.

The second round of voting mostly proceeded as planned, but not everyone who wanted to vote ended up being able to cast a ballot. Many people left closed polling places on Aug. 9 only to eventually learn that their precinct had opened later in the day for the prescribed eight hours, but that it was now too late for them to vote.

Pierluisi, who represented Puerto Rico in the U.S. House as a non-voting member from 2009 to 2017, briefly served as governor last year under some very unusual circumstances. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who had narrowly defeated Pierluisi in the 2016 primary, was badly damaged after a series of online chats between the governor and his allies leaked in which participants lobbed violent, misogynist, and homophobic insults at their enemies and joked about Puerto Ricans who died during Hurricane Maria. Mass protests soon broke out calling for Rosselló to quit, and the legislature began laying the groundwork to impeach him.

After two weeks of protests, Rosselló announced on July 24 that he would resign nine days hence, but it was unclear who would succeed him. Normally the commonwealth's secretary of state would take over, but Luis Rivera Marin had previously resigned from that very post because of his own role in the chat scandal. Vázquez, who was justice minister, was next in the line of succession, but she said on July 28―less than a week before Rosselló's Aug. 2 departure―that she hoped that Rosselló would pick a new secretary of state, and that this new person would be governor instead of her.

Rosselló tried to do just that, and he announced on July 31 that he was appointing his old rival Pierluisi. However, the commonwealth's constitution requires the secretary of state to be confirmed by both Puerto Rico's House and Senate, but Pierluisi was sworn into that job that very evening before any legislators had a chance to vote.

The House gave Pierluisi an affirmative vote on Aug. 2 about an hour before Rosselló's departure took effect, but the Senate postponed their own hearings until the following week. However, that didn't stop Pierluisi from being sworn in as governor right after Rosselló left office. Pierluisi cited a 2005 law that said that the secretary of state didn't need to have received legislative confirmation from both chambers if they need to take over as governor to make his case that he was indeed Puerto Rico's legitimate leader.

However, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ruled that this provision was unconstitutional days later in the decision that ousted Pierluisi from the governor's office and put Vázquez in charge. While Vázquez said she hadn't wanted to be governor, she soon quashed speculation that she would only stay long enough to appoint a new secretary of state who would then take over as the commonwealth's leader, and she announced in December that she'd seek a full term.

Pierluisi argued during his campaign that Vázquez wasn't fixing mistakes made by her administration during the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the special independent prosecutor's office announced that it had launched a criminal investigation into allegations that Vázquez and her administration had mismanaged emergency supplies after Puerto Rico was struck by earthquakes in January.

Primary Preview

Primary Night: The One Where Ross Tries Not To Get Fired: Primaries are concluding on Tuesday in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming for congressional and state offices, and as always, we've put together our preview of what to watch.

We'll be keeping a close eye on the GOP primary for Florida's 15th District, where freshman Republican Rep. Ross Spano, who is under federal investigation for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his successful 2018 bid, faces a serious intra-party threat from Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. We'll also be watching the GOP primaries for the open 3rd and 19th Districts, as well as the contest to face Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist in the 13th District.

And the action isn't confined to the Lower 48. In Alaska, national Republicans are spending to deny renomination to members of the Democratic-led cross-partisan coalition that runs the state House. Check out our preview for more on these contests.

Our live coverage will begin at 7 PM ET Tuesday night at Daily Kos Elections when the polls close in most of Florida. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates. And you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates of the cycle's remaining down-ballot primaries, as well as our separate calendar tracking key contests further down the ballot taking place nationwide this year.

Senate

CO-Sen: Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who has long had a dismal record on climate issues, is continuing to pitch himself as a supporter of the environment in his advertising campaign. Gardner's newest commercial features two conservationists praising him for securing "permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund."

GA-Sen-A, IA-Sen, MT-Sen: The Democratic group Duty and Honor is out with ads against three Republican incumbents:  Georgia's David Perdue, Iowa's Joni Ernst, and Montana's Steve Daines.

While Perdue has been running spots claiming he wants to cover pre-existing conditions, Duty and Honor takes him to task for trying to take those protections away. The Iowa commercial, meanwhile, goes after Ernst for "calling for Iowa schools to reopen, trying to score political points instead of prioritizing our kids' health and safety."

Finally, the Montana ad argues that Daines voted to give drug companies huge tax breaks when they're causing the opioid crisis and "raised their prices so high that nearly two-in-five Montanans can't afford their prescriptions."

GA-Sen-B: Sen. Kelly Loeffler uses her newest commercial to accuse Rep. Doug Collins, a fellow Republican, of working with Democrats to undermine her. The narrator begins, "The Trump Justice Department says Kelly Loeffler did nothing wrong," a reference to how the DOJ dropped its investigation into her sale of millions in stock just before the markets tanked due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ad then goes on to say that Collins "voted with Stacey Abrams in the legislature and Nancy Pelosi in Congress," though it doesn't actually mention anything that Collins saw eye-to-eye with either Democrat on. The spot later features a clip of Donald Trump praising Loeffler for being "so supportive of me and the agenda." Trump hasn't taken sides in the November all-party primary, and he's also talked up Collins.

IA-Sen: The conservative group One Nation's newest commercial declares, "As an assault survivor and military veteran herself, Sen. Joni Ernst is standing up to sexual assault in the military." It goes on to show a clip of Ernst saying, "Abuse is not something you can simply forget."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: East Carolina University has released a new survey of its home state:

  • NC-Sen: Cal Cunningham (D): 44, Thom Tillis (R-inc): 40 (June: 41-41 tie)
  • NC-Gov: Roy Cooper (D-inc): 52, Dan Forest (R): 38 (June: 49-38 Cooper)

The sample finds a 47-47 tie in the presidential race, which is a very small shift from Joe Biden's 45-44 edge in June.

TX-Sen: YouGov has released a new survey for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and Rice University that finds Republican Sen. John Cornyn leading Democrat MJ Hegar 44-37, while Donald Trump holds a 48-41 edge in Texas. YouGov's July survey for CBS, which was taken just before Hegar won the Democratic primary runoff, had Cornyn up by a similar 44-36 margin, though Trump was ahead only 45-44.

WY-Sen: Last week, Donald Trump backed former Rep. Cynthia Lummis in Tuesday's GOP primary for this open seat. The former congresswoman has a few intra-party opponents in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Enzi in this extremely red state, but none of them appear to be very strong.

Lummis' most notable foe is Converse County Commissioner Robert Short, a self-described "centrist Republican." Lummis outspent Short, who has self-funded almost his entire campaign, $725,000 to $255,000 from July 1 to July 29, which is the time the FEC defines as the pre-primary period.

Gubernatorial

MO-Gov: The Republican firm Remington Research's newest poll for the Missouri Scout newsletter finds Republican incumbent Mike Parson leading Democrat Nichole Galloway 50-43, which is a small shift from Parson's 50-41 edge in June. The release did not include presidential numbers.

VT-Gov: Attorney John Klar announced Friday that he was endorsing Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who defeated him 73-22 in last week's primary, and would not run as a conservative independent in the general election.

House

MA-01: Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has released a new survey from Beacon Research that finds Rep. Richie Neal, his opponent in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary, ahead by just a 46-41 margin. The poll was conducted over the weekend, after Morse accepted an apology from the Massachusetts College Democrats for the harm that followed the release of the organization's letter accusing Morse of inappropriate conduct toward students.

Meanwhile, the Justice Democrats, which said late last week that it was resuming its support for Morse, is spending another $150,000 on TV ads attacking Neal. Their newest spot says that "last year, Neal took more money from corporations than any other member of Congress—almost $2 million" while at the same time he "hasn't held a town hall in years."

MA-04: Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell is airing her first TV spot ahead of the Sept. 1 Democratic primary. Mermell, who appears to be recording the ad using her smartphone, says that voters struggling to pick between the many candidates could opt for "the one who protected abortion and birth control coverage at Planned Parenthood."

To underscore just how crowded the race is, the audience sees several other copies of Mermell gradually appear in the shot to talk about her support for Medicare for all and the Green New Deal and her endorsements from "[Rep.] Ayanna Pressley, [state Attorney General] Maura Healey, Planned Parenthood, Mass Teachers, Mass Nurses, SEIU." Mermell, who by this time has three other images of herself behind her, concludes, "We approve this message because you got some good options, but one clear choice."

Meanwhile, businessman Chris Zannetos is trying to distinguish himself from his rivals by running to the center. In his new commercial, the narrator touts Zannetos as the one candidate opposed to "eliminat[ing] private health insurance." Zannetos goes on to say he backs Joe Biden's plan and says, "Let's expand Obamacare and lower the cost of prescription drugs."

MO-02: House Majority PAC has released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that shows Democrat Jill Schupp leading Republican Rep. Ann Wagner 48-45. The sample also finds Joe Biden ahead 48-46 in a suburban St. Louis seat that supported Donald Trump 53-42 but has been moving to the left in recent years. This is the first survey we've seen here since February, when the GOP firm Remington Research's poll for the Missouri Scout newsletter had Wagner up 50-40.

NH-01: On Monday, former state GOP vice chair Matt Mayberry earned an endorsement in the Sept. 8 Republican primary from former Sen. John Sununu, who represented a previous version of this seat before he was elected to his one term in the Senate in 2002.

Mayberry faces a challenging battle against former White House aide Matt Mowers, who has Donald Trump's backing, for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in this swing seat. Mowers ended June with a wide $440,000 to $73,000 cash-on-hand lead over his intra-party rival, while Pappas had a far-larger $1.5 million campaign account.

NJ-07: In his opening commercial, freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski decries, "Some people just want to divide us, even over wearing a mask. It's exhausting." Malinowski goes on to call for "getting things done" instead, and continues, "I passed a bill to fix America's stockpile of critical medical equipment."

Other Races

Broward County, FL State's Attorney: Eight Democrats are competing in Tuesday's primary to succeed Mike Satz, who is retiring after 44 years as Broward County's top prosecutor, and most of the outside money has favored one candidate.

George Soros, the billionaire progressive donor who has poured millions into backing criminal justice reformers in many recent key races around the country in recent years, has been funding a group called the Florida Justice & Public Safety PAC that has raised $750,000 to support defense attorney Joe Kimok. Kimok, who had planned to challenge Satz before the incumbent decided not to seek re-election, is the one candidate who has pledged not to seek the death penalty if elected.

Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that a group known as Victims Have Rights has raised a considerably smaller $110,000 to help veteran prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy, who has Satz's endorsement. The PAC has run mailers against Kimok and another contender, Coconut Creek City Commissioner Joshua Rydell.

Orange/Osceola Counties, FL State's Attorney: State Attorney Aramis Ayala is retiring as state's attorney for the Ninth Circuit, which covers both Orlando's Orange County and neighboring Osceola County, and four fellow Democrats are competing in Tuesday's party primary to succeed her. No Republicans are running in the November election, and the winner will be the heavy favorite to defeat independent Jose Torroella.

The Appeal's Samantha Schuyler writes that the one candidate who has pledged to keep Ayala's criminal justice reforms in place is former defense attorney Monique Worrell, and she's getting some major late support from like-minded allies.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Our Vote Our Voice, a group funded in part by a group founded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, launched a $1.5 million ad campaign in the last two weeks in the contest to help Worrell. Some of the group's commercials have gone towards promoting Worrell while others have gone after attorney Belvin Perry, who served as the judge during the high-profile Casey Anthony murder trial that took place here in 2011.

The other two Democratic candidates are Deb Barra, who serves as chief assistant state attorney, and former prosecutor Ryan Williams. Ayala initially backed Barra, but the incumbent later threw her support to Worrell after she launched her own campaign.

Barra, Perry, and Williams are all arguing that Ayala's decision never to seek the death penalty has harmed the office; Williams even resigned in 2017 over this policy. This trio has pointed to Ayala's struggles against the GOP-led state government to make their case. After Ayala announced that her office would not seek the death penalty, then-Gov. Rick Scott transferred 23 first-degree murder cases to a considerably more conservative state's attorney in another jurisdiction. The Florida Supreme Court sided with Scott after Ayala sued over this, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has continued to remove first-degree murder cases from her jurisdiction.

Worrell herself has said of the Republican governors' actions, "It put me on notice that the rules of the game have changed significantly … And those opposed [to criminal justice reform] will use any means necessary." However, Schuyler writes that even Worrell "is running on a platform that is significantly less assertive than Ayala's and has backed away from Ayala's death penalty position."

Election Changes

 Indiana: Republicans on the Indiana Election Commission have blocked a proposal by Democrats that would have allowed all voters to request an absentee ballot for the November general election without needing an excuse. The measure failed after the bipartisan panel deadlocked, with both Republican members voting against the plan and both Democrats voting for it. The Commission had unanimously waived the excuse requirement for the state's June primary.

Voting rights advocates filed a federal lawsuit challenging the requirement in late April, and briefing on their request concluded at the end of last month, so a ruling may be imminent.

 Kentucky: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams have reached an agreement that will permit Kentucky voters to cite concerns about the coronavirus to request an absentee ballot for the November general election.

Beshear had wanted to waive the excuse requirement altogether, as the state had done for its June primary. However, a law passed earlier this year by Kentucky's Republican-run legislature required the governor to obtain approval for such a change from Adams, who had resisted a wider expansion of mail voting. The difference may nonetheless be minimal, as many other states have relaxed their own excuse requirements by allowing concerns about COVID to qualify and seen a surge in mail ballots.

 Louisiana: Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has proposed a plan to Louisiana's Republican-run legislature that would keep in place the state's requirement that voters present an excuse to request an absentee ballot and would expand eligibility only to those who have tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved a plan put forth by Ardoin that offered a limited expansion of absentee voting for the state's July primary for those at heightened risk from the coronavirus after Republicans rejected a broader proposal.

Legislators are slated to take up Ardoin's latest plan this week, and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards says he is reviewing it. Before it was released, Edwards said he hoped it "would look substantially similar to the one" put in place for the primaries. However, that earlier plan did not require the governor's approval, nor does the new one. Voting rights advocates, including the NAACP, filed a suit challenging Louisiana's excuse requirement in federal court earlier this month.

 New York: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will sign a measure passed by New York's Democratic-run legislature to allow all voters to cite concerns about the coronavirus in order to request an absentee ballot. Cuomo had signed an executive order earlier this year making the same allowance ahead of the state's June primary.

Last month, lawmakers passed several other bills to improve voting access, which the governor must sign or veto soon. Another measure that would allow county election officials to deploy ballot drop boxes has yet to come up for a vote, but Cuomo says he supports the idea.

grab bag

 Deaths: Former Illinois Gov. James Thompson, a moderate Republican whose tenure from 1977 to 1991 was the longest in state history, died Friday at the age of 84. We take a look at his lengthy and eventful career in our obituary, which features appearances by Spiro Agnew, Lyndon LaRouche, the founder of Weight Watchers, and Lenny Bruce.

Thompson successfully won four terms as governor, but his last two campaigns were quite eventful. In 1982, Thompson defeated former Democratic Sen. Adlai Stevenson III by just over 5,000 votes in a contest that wasn’t resolved until days before he was inaugurated for a third term.

Thompson and Stevenson faced off again four years later in a rematch that became infamous for reasons that had nothing to do with either man. While Stevenson easily earned the nomination, a candidate affiliated with the fringe political activist Lyndon LaRouche won the primary to become his running mate. Stevenson opted to run as an independent rather than “run on a ticket with candidates who espouse the hate-filled folly of Lyndon LaRouche.” You can find out more about this campaign, as well as the rest of Thompson’s career, in our obituary.

Ad Roundup