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.
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● WI Redistricting: In a surprising turn of events, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the adoption of congressional and legislative maps proposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday after he and the Republican-run legislature deadlocked last year. The move was unexpected because, in a 4-3 ruling handed down in late November, the court's conservative majority decreed that it would adopt "least-change" maps that would, in effect, enshrine the GOP's existing gerrymanders.
However, one of those conservative justices, Brian Hagedorn, sided with the court's three liberals in Thursday's decision. The outcome doesn't favor Democrats, though, since the new congressional map looks very similar to the extremely tilted one it's replacing: The new lines would continue to feature six districts won by Donald Trump and just two carried by Joe Biden, despite the fact that Biden carried Wisconsin in 2020.
But in the future, one of those Trump districts could be winnable for Democrats. The 1st, in southeastern Wisconsin, was one of just two districts whose partisan makeup changed by more than a negligible amount: It would have gone for Trump by just a 50-48 margin, compared to Trump's 54-45 margin under the old map. (The neighboring 5th, a safely Republican seat, grew correspondingly redder).
This shift is the result of the district gaining a larger slice of the Milwaukee suburbs and shedding its portion of conservative Waukesha County. The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Bryan Steil, who succeeded former House Speaker Paul Ryan in 2018. Given the difficult midterm environment Democrats face, it's unlikely Steil will be seriously threatened this year, but he could be down the line.
It also bears noting that thanks to the constraints imposed by the court—constraints Republicans advocated for—the plan preferred by the GOP does not differ all that much from the Evers map. The Republican proposal, which was the same one passed by GOP lawmakers and vetoed by Evers, would also have featured a 6-2 split in Trump's favor. The 1st, however, would have remained unchanged on a partisan basis, while the 3rd, held by retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, would have gotten several points redder, shifting from a 51-47 win for Trump to a 53-45 Trump margin.
The court said it chose Evers' approach because his map moved the fewest number of people to new districts: 324,000, or 5.5% of the state's total population. The GOP's map would have moved 60,000 more people, or 6.5% in total.
● FL Redistricting: The Florida Supreme Court has approved the new legislative districts passed by lawmakers last month as part of a mandatory review under the state constitution. As the justices noted in their ruling, however, no party opposed the maps in this proceeding, and a traditional lawsuit challenging the lines could yet be forthcoming.
● AR-Sen: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Arkansas' May 24 primary, and Arkansas Online has a list of contenders. A runoff would take place June 21 for any contests where no one earns a majority of the vote.
We'll start with the Senate race, where Republican incumbent John Boozman, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, faces three intra-party opponents. The only high-profile challenger is Army veteran Jake Bequette, a former football player who had a successful stint as a defensive end with the University of Arkansas in the 2011 season but didn't do nearly so well in a brief career with the New England Patriots. Boozman has enjoyed a huge fundraising advantage, but Arkansas Patriots Fund, a super PAC that received $1 million from conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, has been running commercials promoting Bequette. The winner should have no trouble in the general election in this very red state.
● NM-Sen: Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján returned to the Senate on Thursday, one month after he suffered a stroke. In a statement, Lujan did not comment directly on his health but said, "I am back in the Senate and eager to get the job done for New Mexicans."
● AZ-Sen: Gov. Doug Ducey once again said Thursday that he would not enter the Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but this time, everyone seems to be accepting his latest "no" as final. The governor made his declaration in a letter to donors, which is about the last group any politician would want to play games with. Arizona's April 4 filing deadline is also rapidly approaching, so this declaration carries more weight than those in the past.
A crowded field took shape after Ducey first said no all the way back in January of last year, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and NRSC chair Rick Scott refused to give up trying to get him to change his mind because of what the Arizona Republic characterized as "the perceived weakness of the existing GOP field." They had some big-named backup, as the New York Times now reports that George W. Bush, among others, tried to appeal to the governor. An about-face would have put Ducey on the receiving end of more abuse from Donald Trump, who has never forgiven him for accepting Joe Biden's victory, but the paper writes that recruiters tried to woo him with polling that found Trump's "declining influence in primaries."
The story says that anti-Trump Republicans hoped that a Ducey nomination "would also send a message about what they believe is Mr. Trump's diminishing clout." McConnell, the Times said last month, wanted to land Ducey for non-electoral reasons as well in order to stop the GOP caucus from filling up with even more Trump minions. The minority leader had unsuccessfully tried to convince two other governors, Maryland's Larry Hogan and New Hampshire's Chris Sununu, to run for the Senate, but he still hoped to get his man in Arizona.
That didn't happen. Ducey, in his letter to his donors, wrote, "If you're going to run for public office, you have to really want the job," adding that "by nature and by training I'm an executive." South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who flirted with leaving the upper chamber earlier this year, responded to the governor's refusal to join him there by telling NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell, "That's a sad story." When she followed up by asking if Ducey's refusal was a sign that the GOP had had a tough time recruiting electable candidates, Thune responded, "That is the existential question." It's also a question that McConnell and his allies will have plenty of time to mull over as the August primary draws ever closer.
● AR-Gov: While state politicos originally expected a very competitive Republican primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders essentially cleared the field last year and now faces just one unheralded opponent. Five Democrats are campaigning in this conservative state, including physicist Chris Jones, who generated national attention over the summer with an announcement video that went viral. A new poll from the GOP firm Remington Research finds Sanders leading Jones 58-28 in a hypothetical general election.
● CO-Gov: The Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group's newest general election numbers for ProgressNow Colorado show Democratic incumbent Jared Polis beating University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl 53-37, which is similar to his 52-35 advantage in October.
The firm also tested real estate broker Danielle Neuschwanger for the first time and found her trailing Polis 51-40, which, surprisingly, is better than Ganahl's performance. Neuschwanger, a far-right activist who has been running a longshot bid for the Republican nod, made news in December when, among many other things, she absurdly accused the governor of being "not gay" and being in "a sham" marriage after previously being "married to a woman, who he used to abuse the heck out of." As Advocate put it of these looney tunes claims, "There is absolutely no evidence that Polis was ever married to a woman or that he ever sexually assaulted anyone."
● GA-Gov: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gov. Brian Kemp has booked $4.2 million in TV time from March 30 until the May 24 Republican primary. That reservation is more than four times the amount that his intra-party foe, former Sen. David Perdue, had on hand at the end of January.
● IL-Gov: State Sen. Darren Bailey, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, earned an endorsement this week from former state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a far-right politician who almost wrested the Republican nomination from then-Gov. Bruce Rauner four years ago. Politico says of this news, "Ives' support in the governor's race gives Bailey an edge that could only be upped if Donald Trump were to endorse."
● NE-Gov: Tuesday was also the second and final filing deadline for Nebraska candidates looking to compete in the May 10 primary (any sitting office holders had to turn in their paperwork two weeks earlier on Feb. 15, regardless of whether they were seeking re-election or another office), and the state has a list of contenders here.
Nine Republicans are competing to succeed termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts, though only three of them appear to be running serious campaigns. Donald Trump is supporting agribusinessman Charles Herbster, a self-funder who attended the infamous Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol, though the candidate claims he left before insurrectionists began their violent assault. Ricketts, however, has long had an ugly relationship with Herbster, and the outgoing governor is backing one of his rivals, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen.
State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who has parted with conservative orthodoxy at times, has also brought in a credible amount of money, but he doesn't have much big-name support so far. The field also includes former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau, who was briefly Herbster's candidate for lieutenant governor, but she hasn't raised much. The only notable candidate on the Democratic side is state Sen. Carol Blood, who is trying to win an office the GOP has held since the 1998 elections.
● AR-01: Rep. Rick Crawford faces opposition in the Republican primary from state Rep. Brandt Smith and attorney Jody Shackelford, but neither of them look like they'll give him a tough time in this eastern Arkansas seat. Smith launched his campaign in August but ended the year with just over $7,000 on hand, while Shackelford didn't start fundraising until this year. The only Democrat is state Rep. Monte Hodges, who faces a very tough task in a district Trump would have carried 69-28.
● AZ-02: Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer announced this week that he was joining the August Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran, who is defending a sprawling constituency in northeastern Arizona that would have backed Trump 53-45. Lizer was elected to his current post as the running mate of Jonathan Nez, who identifies as a Democrat, but the VP was an ardent Trump supporter in 2020. Last week, he also defied the Navajo Nation's strict masking requirements when he appeared maskless to greet the so-called "People's Convoy" and told them, "The People are rising up. The People are dissatisfied."
● CO-05: State Rep. Dave Williams, who is challenging Rep. Doug Lamborn in the June Republican primary for this safely red seat, has announced that he'll try to make the ballot by competing at the April 8 party convention. U.S. House candidates in Colorado can advance to the primary either by turning in 1,500 valid signatures or by winning at least 30% of the delegates' support at their party gatherings, which are also known locally as assemblies.
While Lamborn has struggled in the past to reach the primary, state officials say he's already turned in the requisite number of petitions. The incumbent, though, says he'll still take part in the convention. Candidates are allowed to try both routes, and while anyone who takes less than 10% of the vote at the assembly is automatically disqualified no matter how many signatures they've gathered, there's probably little chance Lamborn fails to clear this very low bar.
● CO-08: State Rep. Yadira Caraveo has earned a Democratic primary endorsement from 1st District Rep. Diana DeGette in her bid for the all-new 8th District in the northern Denver suburbs. Caraveo faces Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco and former Commerce City Councilman Steve Douglas in the June nomination contest. All three say they'll both collect signatures and take part in their party conventions in order to make the ballot.
● FL-10: Democrat Aramis Ayala, who is the former state's attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, announced Wednesday that she was ending her congressional campaign and would instead challenge Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody.
● FL-22: Two more local Democrats say they're considering running to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Deutch: state Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, who served as mayor of Parkland when the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre occurred in 2018, and attorney Chad Klitzman, who lost a tight 2020 primary for Broward County supervisor of elections. On the Republican side, Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer has taken his name out of contention.
● MS-04: Mississippi's filing deadline for its June 7 primary passed Tuesday, and the state has a list of candidates here. Candidates must win a majority of the vote in order to avoid a June 28 runoff.
The only major race this year is the Republican primary for the safely red 4th Congressional District along the Gulf Coast. The holder of that seat, Rep. Steven Palazzo, is facing an ethics investigation into charges that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes. The incumbent has six intra-party opponents, and no candidate has emerged as his chief challenger at this point. The only poll we've seen was a December Palazzo internal from Public Opinion Strategies that showed him in strong shape with 65% of the vote.
Four of the congressman's rivals, though, have the resources to make their case against him. The candidate who ended 2021 with the most money is self-funder Carl Boyanton, who had $525,000 to spend; Boyanton, however, ran in 2020 as well and took fourth with a mere 9%. Banker Clay Wagner, who has also poured his own money into his campaign, had $305,000 to spend while two elected officials, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell and state Sen. Brice Wiggins, had $155,000 and $123,000 on hand, respectively, while the remaining two had less than $5,000. Palazzo himself had $385,000 available to defend himself.
● NC-04: Singer Clay Aiken has filed to seek the Democratic nomination for this open seat, which puts an end to what reporter Colin Campbell said was "speculation about whether he'd still run" after state courts ordered the adoption of a map that differed considerably from the one in place when Aiken first announced his campaign. North Carolina's filing deadline is Friday at noon local time, so we'll have a full candidate list soon.
● NC-13: Law student Bo Hines and Army veteran Kent Keirsey have each announced that they'll seek the Republican nomination for this competitive open seat. We hadn't previously mentioned Keirsey, who ended 2021 with $323,000 on hand thanks in part to self-funding.
● NE-01: Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry seemed to be on track for another easy win until he was indicted in October. The congressman was charged with allegedly lying to federal investigators as part of a probe into a foreign billionaire who used straw donors to illegally funnel $180,000 to four different GOP candidates, including $30,000 to his own campaign, and his trial is currently set to start March 15. Four candidates are competing against him in the primary, but the only notable contender is state Sen. Mike Flood, a former speaker of the state's unicameral legislature who has endorsements from Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman.
Fortenberry began running commercials in late January attacking his rival on immigration, and he's arguing his efforts have worked. The congressman recently publicized a Moore Information internal, which is the only poll we've seen here so far, showing him leading Flood 36-25; 36% of the vote, however, is still a dangerous place for any incumbent to find themselves. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks faces only one little-known opponent in an eastern Nebraska seat that would have favored Trump 54-43.
● NE-02: Rep. Don Bacon, who is one of nine House Republicans who won election in 2020 in a district Joe Biden carried, is defending a redrawn Omaha-area seat that, just like his existing constituency, would have favored Biden 52-46. (It's still very much a gerrymander, though, as the GOP mapmakers grafted on rural Saunders County, a piece of deep-red turf that has little in common with Omaha, to keep the seat from getting bluer.) His lone intra-party foe is roofer Steve Kuehl, who only jumped in on Friday.
It remains to be seen if Kuehl can run a serious campaign with just over two months to go before the primary, but one prominent Republican may end up rooting for him: Donald Trump responded to Bacon's vote last year for the Biden administration's infrastructure bill by not-tweeting, "Anyone want to run for Congress against Don Bacon in Nebraska?" Bacon concluded last year with $978,000 to spend to protect himself.
Two Democrats are also campaigning to take on the incumbent. State Sen. Tony Vargas ended 2021 with a $440,000 to $89,000 cash-on-hand lead over mental health counselor Alisha Shelton, who lost the 2020 Senate primary but now has EMILY's List in her corner. Vargas would be the state's first Latino member of Congress, while Shelton would be Nebraska's first Black representative.
● NY-11, NY-12: The Working Families Party has endorsed Army veteran Brittany Ramos DeBarros in the June Democratic primary for the Staten Island-based (but now much bluer) 11th District and nonprofit founder Rana Abdelhamid for Team Blue's nod in the safely blue 12th in Manhattan.
● NY-16: Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi has confirmed to Jewish Insider's Matthew Kassel that he'll challenge freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the June Democratic primary for the safely blue 16th District, which includes part of Westchester County and the Bronx. Gashi took issue with Bowman for casting a vote on the left against the Biden administration's infrastructure bill, saying, "I've been frustrated that the Democrats control the House, the Senate and the presidency, and we're not able to get as much done as we can because of two senators and a handful of congresspeople who are furthering a more extremist agenda."
Kassel also reports that pastor Michael Gerald, who is a deputy commissioner at the Westchester County Department of Correction, is gathering signatures to appear on the primary ballot.
● NY-22: Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler, whom The Ithaca Voice identifies as a "moderate Republican," announced last week that he would campaign for the open 22nd District, which Joe Biden would have won 58-40. Another new GOP candidate is Navy veteran Brandon Williams, who has the backing of several county-level Conservative Parties. Williams, unsurprisingly, is campaigning as anything but a moderate, baselessly claiming that Democrats used the pandemic to "drive through mandates that were meant to reinforce the fear."
● NY-23: While Republican state Sen. George Borrello last month declined to rule out running for Congress based on an extremely slender hope that the GOP will successfully challenge the new map in court, he seems to have since committed to running for re-election. Earlier this week, the Chautauqua County Republican Committee endorsed Borrello's bid for another term in the legislature at the same time it was backing Rep. Claudia Tenney in the redrawn 23rd Congressional District.
● TX-08: The Associated Press on Thursday called the March 1 Republican primary for Navy SEAL veteran Morgan Luttrell, who secured an outright win by taking 52% of the vote in an expensive 11-way contest. Political operative Christian Collins, who is a former campaign manager for retiring Rep. Kevin Brady, was a distant second with 22%. This seat, which includes the northern Houston area and nearby rural counties, is safely red.
The frontrunners, who both stressed their conservative credentials and loyalty to Trump, disagreed on little, but they had the support of very different factions within the party. Luttrell had in his corner House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which aired ads for him, as well as former Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Collins, meanwhile, had the support of Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies in the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus, while a Cruz buddy, banker Robert Marling, financed several super PACs that have spent heavily here. Luttrell far outspent Collins, and while Collins' outside allies deployed $1.4 million compared to $1 million for Luttrell's side, it wasn't enough to even force a second round of voting.
● San Jose, CA Mayor: City Councilmember Raul Peralez has dropped a Tulchin Research poll of the June nonpartisan primary for San Jose mayor that shows Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez leading with 28% while Peralez edges out fellow Councilmember Matt Mahan 13-7 for the second spot in a likely November general election; a third councilmember, Dev Davis, takes 6%. The poll was released one day before the influential South Bay Labor Council, which Chavez used to lead, backed the county supervisor. That was unwelcome news for Peralez, who was hoping the organization would issue a dual endorsement or an open endorsement that would have allowed individual unions to choose whom to support.
In San Jose, local elections for decades have been skirmishes between labor and business: Both Chavez and Peralez fall in the former camp, while termed-out Mayor Sam Liccardo, Mahan, and Davis are business allies. Liccardo's team has made it clear that they very much prefer Mahan over Davis, though the incumbent hasn't yet made an endorsement. Liccardo's official backing could mean quite a lot if it eventually materializes, though: He recently formed a super PAC that reportedly raised $400,000 in just a day.
● Where Are They Now?: Michael Madigan, a Democrat whose nearly four decades as the powerful speaker of the Illinois state House came to an involuntary end last year, was indicted Wednesday on 22 counts of racketeering and bribery. Federal prosecutors allege that Madigan, who also gave up his post as state party chair after he was ousted as speaker, illegally used his many influential positions "to preserve and to enhance [his] political power and financial well-being" and "reward [his] political allies." Madigan responded by proclaiming his innocence.