Morning Digest: Cuomo impeachment vote might not happen until September at the soonest

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

Leading Off

NY-Gov: The New York Times, citing an unnamed source, reports that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie believes "he has the support from most, if not all, of the Democratic majority" to impeach Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though at a Monday news conference, he was hazy about the timeline for proceeding. Heastie told reporters he thinks that lawmakers' impeachment investigation will be "dealt with in weeks, and not months," though it would then be some time before articles of impeachment could be drafted and voted on.

To get a sense of just how vague Heastie's guidance was, North Country Public Radio suggested that articles "could come as early as this month," while the Times said they "might not be considered until early September," and the Albany Times Union went with "mid-September." If and when the Assembly does impeach Cuomo (and for what it's worth, every Republican in the chamber is in favor), a trial could not take place in the Senate any sooner than 30 days later. All told, a vote on whether to convict Cuomo and remove him from office—assuming he doesn't resign first—may therefore not happen until October at the earliest.

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Cuomo has also been trying to convince legislative leaders not to impeach him in exchange for him not running for a fourth term, The City reported, but Heastie shot down the idea at Monday's press event. In the now-likely event of a Cuomo-less Democratic primary next year (or one featuring a deranged and mortally wounded ex-governor), our old friend the Great Mentioner is warming up for a very busy season of would-be candidacies. Politico starts us off with an extremely long and detailed list of potential successors, including a number of names we haven't previously cited, though there's pretty much no word yet as to whether any are interested. Don't worry, though: There will be, soon.

Senate

CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna, who'd been the lone holdout among California House Democrats in not yet backing Sen. Alex Padilla for re-election, has at last endorsed the incumbent for a full six-year term. Khanna had previously declined to rule out a challenge to Padilla, who was appointed to replace Vice President Kamala Harris in January, but with no major opponents in sight, the senator should be a lock next year.

MD-Sen: If Republican Gov. Larry Hogan wanted to put to rest any speculation that he might run against Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen next year, he could simply crib from ol' William Tecumseh Sherman, whose famous Statement™ they teach on the first day of politician school. Instead, he's continued to keep the door open just a crack, most recently telling Maryland Matters, "I've said like a million times I haven't really expressed any interest whatsoever in that." Added Hogan, "Van Hollen should not lay awake at night, every night, worrying about me." Precisely what Hogan would like—a complacent opponent! Seriously, though, this is getting silly, but it can end if Hogan wishes it to.

NY-Sen: When asked by CNN's Dana Bash whether she might challenge Sen. Chuck Schumer in next year's Democratic primary, sophomore Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn't rule out the possibility but also did not sound particularly interested in the prospect. The congresswoman insisted that she hasn't seriously considered the race, saying, "I can't operate the way that I operate and do the things that I do in politics while trying to be aspiring to other things or calculating to other things." She also added that she and Schumer "have been working very closely on a lot of legislation and that, to me, is important."

Ocasio-Cortez did not offer any sort of timetable for making a decision, however, and her comments were made in late June as part of a taping for a CNN special, so it's possible her stance has shifted since then.

Governors

CA-Gov: California Republicans aren't endorsing anyone in next month's gubernatorial recall election … and neither are California Democrats. Well, sort of, for the latter: Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday encouraged supporters to leave the second question on the recall ballot blank rather than choose a replacement candidate, saying his team is "just focusing on 'no' " on the first question, which asks voters whether they want to recall Newsom from office.

That's in keeping with Newsom's strategy all along, which was to discourage any high-profile Democrats from entering the race and unite the party behind him and him alone. Whether that'll work, though, is the number one question facing Democrats, especially since at least one pollster has suggested that the variety of options open to Republican voters on question two has generated enthusiasm on the GOP side that Team Blue lacks.

But that wide-open field has created its own problem for Republicans, who voted not to back any candidate at a state party gathering over the weekend. With several welterweights running, that could lead to a split vote among the various GOP choices and possibly allow a little-known Democrat like Kevin Paffrath to prevail on the second question—an outcome that a recent independent poll suggested could indeed come to pass.

That survey—which was the first to show the recall succeeding, by a 51-40 margin—also found Paffrath with a 27-23 edge on conservative radio host Larry Elder, though Paffrath was the only Democrat named along with six Republicans. Elder has emerged as the top Republican fundraiser in the race after he reported raising $4.5 million since kicking off his campaign last month, though Newsom has amassed 10 times as much, bringing in $46 million through the end of July, and has been spending heavily on ads.

CO-Gov: Jason Salzman of the Colorado Times Recorder writes that Republican state Sen. John Cooke, who is also the assistant minority leader of the chamber, did a radio interview last Thursday and shared some unflattering thoughts on his own party's outlook in next year's governor's race.

Cooke said he did not think Democratic Gov. Jared Polis could be beaten and even praised the governor as "smart and popular." He did name-check businessman Greg Lopez, the only officially announced candidate so far for the GOP but bemoaned his lack of money and name recognition.

Cooke also mentioned former state Sen. Ellen Roberts as someone who could give his party a chance in the race, but he said she told him she's not interested in running. Roberts thought about a statewide bid in 2016 for Senate but decided against it after receiving backlash from some Republicans for not being sufficiently conservative.

House

AR-01: State Rep. Brandt Smith kicked off a Republican primary bid against Rep. Rick Crawford, who's represented eastern Arkansas' 1st Congressional District since 2011. Smith claimed Crawford's lack of accessibility and responsiveness to his constituents, rather than any specific policy disagreements, as his reasons for taking on the incumbent, a lower-profile Trumpnik who voted to overturn the results of last year's election.

MO-04: Former Republican state Sen. Ed Emery died last Friday at age 71, just a few days after collapsing at a campaign event. Emery had launched a bid for Missouri's open 4th Congressional District in June.

Lieutenant Governors

GA-LG, GA-Gov, GA-Sen: As expected, Republican state Sen. Burt Jones will seek Georgia's lieutenant governorship, rather than run for Senate or governor. Jones is a wealthy businessman who was booted as chair of a key legislative committee by fellow Republicans for leading an effort to overturn last year's election, a demotion he refashioned as a badge of honor in his campaign kickoff.

Another state senator, Butch Miller, is already running for the GOP nod, but Donald Trump dumped on him last month, saying he "will not be supporting or endorsing" Miller "because of his refusal to work with other Republican Senators on voter fraud and irregularities in the State." Two notable Democrats, state Reps. Erick Allen and Derrick Jackson, are in the race, which is open because Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan chose not to seek re-election after disputing Trump's false claims that the election was stolen.

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.

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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.