Morning Digest: Election conspiracy theorist picks up Trump backing for Michigan attorney general

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

MI-AG: The Michigan GOP establishment got some very bad news Thursday when Donald Trump endorsed Matthew DePerno, an attorney who has made a name for himself spreading lies about the 2020 election, in the campaign to take on Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel. The move came a week after Trump backed another election denier, Kristina Karamo, in her quest to face Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Both parties pick their nominees for both offices at party conventions rather than through traditional primaries, and the GOP's event will take place in April.

Trump's endorsement in the attorney general race came about a month after another Republican, state Rep. Ryan Berman, announced his bid. The politician the party establishment reportedly has its eye on, though, is former state House Speaker Tom Leonard, who lost to Nessel 49-46 in 2018. The Detroit News writes that plenty of Republicans anticipated that their last nominee would run again and enter the convention as the favorite; it remains to be seen, however, if Leonard will get cold feet now that Trump has endorsed DePerno.

Plenty of major state party figures are hoping the answer is no. The paper writes that several Republicans "have privately expressed doubts that DePerno would be a viable general election candidate," and it's not hard to see why. DeParno, who describes himself as liberals' "worst nightmare," first attracted attention well before the election when he served as the attorney for ex-state Rep. Todd Courser, a Republican whose career came to a brutal end in 2015 after the public learned that he and colleague Cindy Gamrat devised a fake gay sex scandal to try to hide their real straight sex scandal.

Campaign Action

In 2017, when then-GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette was prosecuting Courser for perjury, a court hearing came to a dramatic end when the judge ejected DeParno from the courtroom for "offensive" statements. (Courser was eventually sentenced to 12 months of probation for a lesser offense after he reached a plea deal with the state.) The following year, DePerno​​ was Courser's lawyer in his defamation suit against the Detroit News. In 2019, a state judge not only dismissed that lawsuit, he also ordered Courser and DeParno to pay ​$80,000 in sanctions; the parties eventually reached a settlement requiring the pair to pay just $20,000, which was wired to the paper in May.

Trump's interest in DePerno, though, has nothing to do with his connection to one of the strangest scandals we've ever documented. The attorney stepped into the far-right spotlight after last year's election when he filed a lawsuit arguing that election fraud had taken place in Antrim County after vote totals initially showed Joe Biden leading Trump in this small conservative community. Those numbers were the result of a clerical error that was quickly corrected to reflect Trump's actual 61-37 win in the community, and a hand-count audit confirmed that the Dominion Voting Systems machines had correctly tabulated the results.

None of that stopped Antrim County, though, from becoming a prominent part of the fake Trumpian narrative about Dominion stealing the election. Indeed, Trump used his not-tweet endorsement to claim, "Dana Nessel, the Radical Left, and the RINOs are targeting Matt because he gets results and has exposed so much Voter Fraud in Antrim County, and many more places, in the 2020 Election."

But DeParno, who became a frequent conservative media guest, has had a tougher time winning over courts and even fellow Michigan Republicans. The attorney used his Antrim County lawsuit to argue there was a "strong presumption of ballot stuffing," but a judge dismissed it in May.

The GOP-led state Senate Oversight Committee even singled DeParno out in its report on the 2020 election, saying, "The committee closely followed Mr. DePerno's efforts and can confidently conclude they are demonstrably false and based on misleading information and illogical conclusions." The committee further recommended that Nessel investigate people who circulated false claims about the election results "to raise money or publicity for their own ends," an idea the incumbent said she'd act on.

DeParno himself has also been more than willing to pick fights with the GOP legislature. Last month, he told a party gathering, "What I've learned in the past six months is we elected people to Lansing who do not have courage. And that needs to stop." He also volunteered that just three state representatives had met with him about his Antrim County conspiracy theories.

Redistricting

AK Redistricting: Alaska's Redistricting Board recently released two draft proposals for the state's legislature, with plans to take more feedback from the public before settling on a single plan. In Alaska, state Senate districts (which are lettered) are made up of two state House districts (which are designated by number), a practice known as "nesting." The order is sequential, so House Districts 1 and 2 make up Senate District A, HD 3 and 4 make up SD B, and so forth.

Alaska's five-member board, which is made up of three Republicans and two independents, has final say over the maps; the legislature and governor are not involved, though any disputes over new lines would ultimately go before the state Supreme Court. The state only has sufficient population for a single congressional district, so federal redistricting is not at issue.

ID Redistricting: Idaho's bipartisan redistricting commission recently introduced a pair of proposals for the state's congressional map as well as a plan for the legislature. (Idaho uses the same districts for both the state House and state Senate, with each district electing two representatives and one senator.) Though Idaho is as red as a state can be, its equally divided commission was established several decades ago by an amendment to the constitution, and efforts to undermine it by Republican lawmakers have failed. As a result, the panel's members are likely to reach a compromise, as they did following the 2010 census, though the maps could wind up in court if commissioners fail to come to an agreement.

ME Redistricting: Maine's Apportionment Commission, which is made up of 10 legislators and five political appointees, has released first drafts of maps for Congress and state Senate. Maps for the state House "will be posted at a later date," according to the commission, which faces a Sept. 27 due date set by the state Supreme Court. Approval for any new districting plans requires a two-thirds supermajority vote by the full legislature, which has 10 days to act after the commission's deadline. If lawmakers fail to reach a consensus, the high court would take over the redistricting process.

MI Redistricting: Michigan's new independent redistricting commission has released its first draft congressional map, but as Bridge Michigan reporter Jonathan Oosting notes, "It's going to change, perhaps a lot, especially because it doesn't appear to create two required minority-majority districts, as required." Meanwhile, GOP operative Jeff Timmer, who helped draw the state's last set of maps but has since criticized his own work, slammed the proposal, saying, "I wouldn't have dared make public something this gerrymandered. I know, because I drew maps this gerrymandered and we buried them in a drawer."

The commission has not yet released complete plans for the state House and Senate, but an Excel file on the commission's site includes links to a variety of partial maps. The panel was supposed to publish maps for all three sets of districts by Friday under a deadline in the state constitution but acknowledged it would not meet this timetable due to the months-long delay in receiving necessary data from the Census Bureau.

NE Redistricting: A Democratic-led filibuster has blocked a Republican redistricting plan that would have made Nebraska’s only competitive congressional district considerably redder, prompting both sides to say they would begin negotiations anew on Monday. On a party-line vote on Thursday, a committee in the unicameral legislature had advanced the proposed map, which would have split Omaha's Douglas County, currently located entirely within the 2nd District, and placed half of it in the solidly Republican 1st District.

However, all 16 of the chamber’s 17 Democrats were joined by one Republican senator to filibuster the plan, and two other Republicans voted “present.” (The final Democrat was excused from attendance.) As a result, GOP leaders could only muster 29 votes to cut off debate, four short of the 33 required. If the parties can’t reach a compromise on a new map, redistricting would wind up in the courts.

The stakes here are higher than usual because Nebraska, along with Maine, is one of just two states that awards Electoral College votes to the winner of each congressional district. Joe Biden carried the 2nd District last year, as did Barack Obama in 2008. However, Republican Rep. Don Bacon won re-election in 2020 despite Biden's performance.

OR Redistricting: Democrats in Oregon's legislature released congressional and legislative plans on Thursday that they expect to vote on in a special session this coming week, but it remains to be seen whether they can actually pass them. In April, Democrats ceded their authority over redistricting by giving Republicans equal representation on the committees responsible for drawing new maps, essentially handing them veto power in exchange for a promise not to grind the legislature to a halt by once again fleeing the state, as they've done many times in recent years.

However, Democrats aren't acting as though the GOP represents a choke-point, since their congressional map is identical, and their legislative maps both very similar, to proposals they put out a couple of weeks ago. Republicans issued their own rather different proposals at the same time, but the latest Democratic maps don't seem like any attempt at a compromise.

Democrats could in fact bypass the relevant committees and directly vote on new maps before the full legislature, though that might lead to another quorum-busting GOP walkout. The signals are mixed: A spokesperson for House Speaker Tina Kotek said the speaker "is really disappointed House Republicans on the redistricting committee didn't engage more meaningfully during this process," but Kotek was the architect of the original deal to cede power over redistricting to Republicans. Kotek was pilloried on the record by high-profile Democrats for that decision, though, and she's now running for governor, so perhaps she's stiffening her spine in order to rehabilitate her partisan bona fides.

It's just as possible, of course, that Democrats are sticking to their guns now to avoid negotiating with themselves and will ultimately make concessions to the GOP once the legislative session gets underway. But if Democrats engage in hardball tactics to backtrack on Kotek's agreement, we could be headed toward another Republican-triggered meltdown.

Should lawmakers fail to pass any maps, legislative redistricting would be handled by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a Democrat. Congressional redistricting, however, would go to the courts.

Senate

SD-Sen: While Politico said back in March that Republican Sen. John Thune's colleagues were "certain" he'd seek a fourth term next year in this very red state, the incumbent sounded anything but sure about his own plans in an interview with CNN's Manu Raju. The senator said he would be making up his mind this fall.

Thune, who is the chamber's minority whip, acknowledged that retiring would cost him the chance to lead the caucus whenever Minority Leader Mitch McConnell eventually leaves. Still, the incumbent continued, "But there are lots of other (factors) too. ... I've been doing it for 25 years. I think you gotta get into family considerations, personal considerations." When Raju asked what was keeping Thune from making up his mind, the senator replied, "It's a six-year commitment."

Governors

CA-Gov: A UC Berkeley poll finished about a week before the Sept. 14 recall found Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom defeating four prospective GOP foes by landslide margins in hypothetical 2022 matchups. Newsom outpaced conservative radio host Larry Elder and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer 52-30 and 49-27, respectively, and he performed slightly better against 2018 nominee John Cox and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley.

Faulconer, who spent several years as one of the GOP's few rising stars in California before bombing on Tuesday, doesn't seem deterred by all this, though. The ex-mayor indicated he was interested in another run next year in an election night speech, declaring, "I'm not one that's part of a circus. I'm the guy that comes in to end the circus." He added, "Tonight was round one; there's more to come."

But Elder, of all people, seems to have finally acknowledged how unlikely it is that he or any other California Republican can win in 2022. While the radio host sounded very likely to try again after losing on Tuesday, he said later in the week, "It's hard to see how the outcome would be any different unless I was able to raise at least as much money as Gavin Newsom has spent, but even then the thing is daunting." Elder added, though, "I may change my mind over the next coming days."

MD-Gov: VoteVets has endorsed former nonprofit head Wes Moore, an author who previously served as a paratrooper in Afghanistan, in the Democratic primary for this open seat.

Meanwhile on the GOP side, the Washington Examiner's David Drucker writes that former RNC chair Michael Steele  is "likely" to decide by early November. Steele endorsed Joe Biden last year, and Drucker relays that many of his fellow Republicans aren't sure why he's still a member of Team Red, much less a potential candidate. State party Chairman Dirk Haire, who holds the post Steele had in the early 2000s, said, "If his plan over the past couple of years was to run for governor as a Republican, he's gone about it in an odd way."

A longshot bid by Steele, though, could still have an impact on the GOP primary to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in this very blue state. Drucker writes that some Republicans trying to talk the former RNC chair out of running worry that he could take enough votes from state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz to hand the nomination to Del. Dan Cox, who played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a bus of people to attend the riot.

NM-Gov: 2020 GOP Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti hasn't revealed anything about his plans in the weeks since local reporter Joe Monahan said he'd challenge Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham, but the would-be candidate's wife is a bit more vocal.

Kristy Ronchetti used a Facebook comment on Monahan's page to say, "We want to help serve the people of this state and we want to see it do better… I'm not sure it will be in a political arena or not - but it won't stop us for fighting for the people we've gotten to know, respect and heard." Kristy Ronchetti, writes Monahan, also "expressed discontent that the story was published here but notably her comment does not close the door on her husband running."

OR-Gov: The Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council has backed state Speaker Tina Kotek in what Oregon Capitol Insider identifies as "a key labor endorsement" in the Democratic primary.

House

CA-25: 2020 Democratic nominee Christy Smith has picked up an endorsement from the California Federation of Teachers in the top-two primary to take on Republican Rep. Mike Garcia.

CO-08, CO-Sen: Former state Rep. Joe Salazar said Thursday that he wouldn't run for Congress next year, an announcement that takes him out of the running both for the not-yet-finalized 8th Congressional District and as a potential Democratic primary foe for Sen. Michael Bennet. And while state Rep. Brianna Titone hinted back in June that she was interested in seeking the 8th District, she's endorsed fellow state Rep. Yadira Caraveo instead.

Caraveo, who would be the first Latina to represent Colorado in Congress, currently is the only major Democrat running for the 8th District, but other party members are eyeing the race. State Sen. Dominick Moreno acknowledged his interest to Colorado Politics' Ernest Luning. The legislator ran for the current 7th District in 2017 after Rep. Ed Perlmutter decided to campaign for governor, but Moreno dropped out with the rest of the field after the incumbent decided to seek re-election after all. Luning also says that Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco is thinking about running for the new seat as well, but there's no quote from him.

On the GOP side, Luning writes that state Sens. Kevin Priola and John Cooke are "eyeing the seat," but there's also no direct word from either of them.

FL-10: Both the International Association of Fire Fighters and its Osceola County chapter have backed state Sen. Randolph Bracy in what Florida Politics says are the first union endorsements for next year's Democratic primary for what is currently a safely blue Orlando seat.

MA-04: After an unreleased poll tested Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission chair Sam Hyun in a hypothetical Democratic primary against Rep. Jake Auchincloss, Politico spoke to Hyun and wrote that he "said he's not running for the seat right now."

OH-16: Ohio Rep. ​​Anthony Gonzalez, who was one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, announced Thursday evening that he would not seek re-election out of disgust for "​the toxic dynamics inside our own party."

Gonzalez, who also said that his family had received death threats following his January vote, further told the New York Times that he'd devote "[m]ost of my political energy" towards ensuring that Trump never returned to the White House. Trump, for his part, celebrated Gonzalez's departure by emphasizing his earlier endorsement for former White House aide Max Miller and gloating, "1 down, 9 to go!"

The current version of Ohio's 16th District, which contains the western suburbs of Cleveland and Akron, supported Trump 56-42 in 2020. The Buckeye State will lose a House seat during the upcoming round of redistricting, but it's unlikely this constituency will be the one that gets eliminated since the GOP has more or less complete control over the map making process. The Trump-backed Miller will also be hard to stop in a primary despite allegations that he physically attacked his then-girlfriend, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, last year.

Despite the nature of Gonzalez's departure, the two-term congressman began his political career looking like a GOP rising star not long ago. Gonzalez had a well-regarded football career at the Ohio State University, and he was named an Academic All-American. After he left the NFL following his stint with the Indianapolis Colts, he went on to serve as chief operating officer for an education technology company in San Francisco.

Gonzalez moved back to Ohio before he entered the 2018 race to succeed Rep. Jim Renacci, who initially launched a campaign for governor before switching to the Senate race later in the cycle. Gonzalez's main intra-party rival was state Rep. Christina Hagan, who was a prominent Trump backer in 2016 when Ohio Gov. John Kasich was also seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

Hagan pitched herself as the true Trump believer of the race and argued that Gonzalez's Silicon Valley connections made him an insider. Gonzalez, though, enjoyed a massive financial advantage over Hagan and benefited from outside spending from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; his ties to his locally popular alma mater also probably made it tougher for his opponent to frame this as a battle between the dreaded establishment and a Trump-flavored outsider. Ultimately, Gonzalez prevailed 53-41, and his easy general election win made him the first Latino to represent Ohio in Congress.

Gonzalez loyally voted with the Trump administration during his first term and opposed impeaching him in 2019, but he changed course after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. "The President of the United States helped organize and incite a mob that attacked the United States Congress in an attempt to prevent us from completing our solemn duties as prescribed by the Constitution," the congressman said as he explained his vote for impeachment, adding, "During the attack itself, the President abandoned his post while many members asked for help, thus further endangering all present. These are fundamental threats not just to people's lives but to the very foundation of the Republic."

That vote quickly made Gonzalez radioactive with the party base and enticed Miller, who hails from a very wealthy and well-connected family, to challenge him. Gonzalez raised a serious amount of money to defend his seat, but he acknowledged Thursday, "Politically the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now." The outgoing congressman continued, "You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? And the answer is, probably not."

Attorneys General

TX-AG: State Rep. Matt Krause, who is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, announced Thursday that he would take on scandal-ridden incumbent Ken Paxton in the GOP primary. Krause was an early supporter of Paxton's 2014 campaign, and he loudly stood up for the new attorney general after he was indicted for securities fraud the following year. (The case is still awaiting trial.) However, while Krause acknowledged that he had been close to Paxton, he argued, "I think Texas needs—and wants—an attorney general who can give his or her full focus to the job."

Paxton, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, also faces Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman for the nomination. A runoff would take place if no one secured a majority in the first round of the primary.

Secretaries of State

IA-SoS: Two Democrats recently announced bids against Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate: Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker and Linn County Auditor Joel Miller. Pate won his second term in 2018 by a 53-45 margin against Democrat Deidre DeJear, who is now running for governor.

Ballot Measures

Minneapolis, MN Ballot: Police reformers scored a big legal victory Thursday when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that this November's referendum to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new public safety agency would go forward. The decision overturned state Judge Jamie Anderson, who ruled days earlier that votes in this race would not be counted because the ballot measure was "vague, ambiguous and incapable of implementation."

Opponents of the ballot measure, which is listed as Question 2, also went up with what Axios reports is their first TV ad of the race. The spot features a barber store owner identified as Teto acknowledging, "Racism in policing has been around since policing began in this country." However, Teto argues that while reform is needed, "[T]o get rid of police I think would be a disaster. If we abolish the police, you know, scrap the whole system, then what?" Question 2's supporters have pushed back on the idea that the measure would eliminate the police department before a plan is put in place to replace it.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: City Council President Nury Martinez said Thursday that she would not run in next year's open seat race. Martinez would automatically take over as acting mayor should incumbent Eric Garcetti, who cannot run again in 2022 because of term limits, be confirmed as ambassador to India, which would make her the first woman to lead America's second-largest city. Martinez said that, while she was open to the idea of serving out the remainder of his term as interim mayor, she was "also not interested in playing political games."

Prosecutors

Los Angeles County, CA, District Attorney: Conservatives seeking to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón acknowledged Thursday that they failed to collect enough signatures to force a vote, but they pledged to try again at the end of this year. Gascón was elected last year as top prosecutor of America's most populous county on a criminal justice reform platform.

The incumbent's detractors needed to turn in more than 580,000 valid signatures by Oct. 26 but the campaign acknowledged that it gathered only 200,000 before shutting down the effort; the movement also reportedly only raised just a fifth of the estimated $5 million needed to get on the ballot.

International

Canada: Contributing editor David Beard previews Monday's federal election in Canada, where polls show a close battle between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's ruling Liberal Party and their rival Conservatives, led by Erin O'Toole.

Trudeau called an early election last month in an attempt to win back a majority for his centrist Liberal Party in Parliament, which for the last two years has depended on the support of the left-wing New Democratic Party. After a month of campaigning, however, that majority is probably out of reach as the Liberals are now trying to hold off their resurgent Conservative rivals and continue as a minority government.

When the election was called, the Liberals had seen polling leads ranging from 5-15 points, which would have likely delivered them a majority government. Almost immediately after the election began, though, that lead evaporated as swing voters rebelled against what they saw as an unnecessary election during a pandemic, while Conservative-leaning voters came home.

For about two weeks, the Conservatives even led in the polls, but the numbers have since stabilized, putting the Liberals either neck-and-neck or slightly ahead. That makes another Liberal minority government the most likely outcome, particularly as the Liberals won more seats despite narrowly losing the popular vote 34-33 in 2019, though a Liberal majority or a Conservative minority are still real possibilities.

Beard runs through what each of the six major parties competing in Monday's election are now hoping to accomplish as the campaign winds to a close and also offers a guide on how to follow the returns on election night.

We'll be liveblogging the results starting at 7 PM ET on Monday night at Daily Kos Elections, when the first polls close in eastern Canada. And with the race so tight, any number of possibilities could unfold, so be sure to check back in with us for our recap once the results are settled.

Once a GOP rising star, Ohio congressman retires following vote to impeach Donald Trump

Ohio Rep. ​​Anthony Gonzalez, who was one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, announced Thursday evening that he would not seek reelection out of disgust for “​​the toxic dynamics inside our own party.”

Gonzalez, who also said that his family had received death threats following his January vote, further told The New York Times that he’d devote “[m]ost of my political energy” toward ensuring that Trump never returned to the White House. Trump, for his part, celebrated Gonzalez’s departure by emphasizing his earlier endorsement for former White House aide Max Miller and gloating, “1 down, 9 to go!” 

The current version of Ohio’s 16th District, which contains the western suburbs of Cleveland and Akron, supported Trump 56-42 in 2020. The Buckeye State will lose a House seat during the upcoming round of redistricting, but it’s unlikely this constituency will be the one that gets eliminated since the GOP has more or less complete control over the map-making process. The Trump-backed Miller will also be hard to stop in a primary despite allegations that he physically attacked his then-girlfriend, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, last year.

Despite the nature of Gonzalez’s departure, the two-term congressman began his political career looking like a GOP rising star not long ago. Gonzalez had a well-regarded football career at the Ohio State University, and he was named an Academic All-American. After he left the NFL following his stint on the Indianapolis Colts, he went on to serve as chief operating officer for an education technology company in San Francisco.

Gonzalez moved back to Ohio before he entered the 2018 race to succeed Rep. Jim Renacci, who initially launched a campaign for governor before switching to the Senate race later in the cycle. Gonzalez’s main intra-party rival was state Rep. Christina Hagan, who was a prominent Trump backer in 2016 when Ohio Gov. John Kasich was also seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

Hagan pitched herself as the true Trump believer of the race and argued that Gonzalez’s Silicon Valley connections made him an insider. Gonzalez, though, enjoyed a massive financial advantage over Hagan and benefited from outside spending from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; his ties to his locally popular alma mater also probably made it tougher for his opponent to frame this as a battle between the dreaded establishment and a Trump-flavored outsider. Ultimately, Gonzalez prevailed 53-41, and his easy general election win made him the first Latino to represent Ohio in Congress.

Gonzalez loyally voted with the Trump administration during his first term and opposed impeaching him in 2019, but he changed course after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. “The President of the United States helped organize and incite a mob that attacked the United States Congress in an attempt to prevent us from completing our solemn duties as prescribed by the Constitution,” the congressman said as he explained his vote for impeachment, adding, “During the attack itself, the President abandoned his post while many members asked for help, thus further endangering all present. These are fundamental threats not just to people’s lives but to the very foundation of the Republic.”

That vote quickly made Gonzalez radioactive with the party base and enticed Miller, who hails from a very wealthy and well-connected family, to challenge him. Gonzalez raised a serious amount of money to defend his seat, but he acknowledged Thursday, “Politically the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now.” The outgoing congressman continued, “You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? And the answer is, probably not.”

Morning Digest: GOP field slowly develops for 2022 race to break Dems’ single-party hold on Nevada

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

NV-Gov, NV-Sen: The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Rory Appleton takes a deep look at the developing Republican fields to take on the two leading Nevada Democrats up in this swing state in 2022, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Republicans seem to agree that former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was Team Red’s 2018 nominee for governor, would have little trouble winning the Senate primary should he run, but the gubernatorial field appears to be wide open.

Sisolak, though, may have more immediate worries. Appleton reports that Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick is considering challenging the governor in the primary, though she has yet to confirm her interest. There’s no word on why Kirkpatrick might want to unseat a member of her own party, though Appleton says she’s come into conflict with the governor before.

No matter what, though, Democrats will need to prepare for a tough general election as they seek to hold the governor’s office. Until now, the only notable Republican who had publicly talked about running was Rep. Mark Amodei, who reaffirmed his interest this month. Appleton also says that former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who share a consultant, are considering; neither man has said anything publicly, though Amodei relays that he’s spoken to him about this contest recently.

Campaign Action

While things are unsettled now, there may be a Republican frontrunner before too long. Appleton writes, “The belief in Republican political circles is the potential candidates will come to an agreement in the next month and not compete against one another in a primary.”

Other Republicans, though, may decide to run no matter what any member of this trio does. Appleton notes that casino owner Derek Stevens, whom he describes as a “newcomer,” is thinking about getting in.

A few other Silver State politicos may also take their chances. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who previously served in the state Senate as a conservative Democrat, acknowledged he’s been “approached by different people in both parties” about switching to the GOP and running for governor. Lee didn’t rule the idea out, saying, “I’m flattered, but at this point, I’m still focused on some big projects in North Las Vegas, and I don’t want to be distracted.”

GOP state Sens. Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Gansert, whom Appleton characterizes as “wildcards,” also could run either against Sisolak or Cortez Masto. Kieckhefer said he was “still thinking about what a race for governor looks like” and “has had a few conversations about the Senate.” Kieckhefer, who portrayed himself as a moderate focused on “consensus building and problem solving in a bipartisan way,” said he hoped to make up his mind in June.

Gansert, for her part, was more evasive, but she did not reject the idea of a statewide campaign. Gansert, who is a former chief of staff to former Gov. Brian Sandoval, said, “I certainly see the growing frustration over the lack of checks and balances and the one-party rule in our government, but I have a lot to get done in the legislature.”

There are two big GOP names from yesteryear, though, who probably won’t run for anything in 2022. Appleton name-drops former Sen. Dean Heller as a possible gubernatorial candidate, though he writes that Amodei and most Republican operatives doubt he’ll campaign for anything this cycle “unless the waters change.”

Appleton also reports that, while both sides are watching to see if Sandoval will run for the Senate, few expect him to. Republicans tried hard to recruit him to run here six years ago, but he never seemed particularly interested in joining Congress. Sandoval is currently serving as president of the University of Nevada, Reno, and a spokesperson says that he “would prefer to keep his time and attention focused on that role.” Sandoval, who was a relative moderate during his time in office, could also be deterred from running by the threat of a difficult GOP primary against a possible conservative alternative.

1Q Fundraising

CA-Sen: Alex Padilla (D-inc): $2.6 million raised

NC-Sen: Jeff Jackson (D) $1.3 million raised

OH-Sen: Jane Timken (R): $2.1 million raised

PA-Sen: Chrissy Houlahan (D): $580,000 raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand (has not announced a bid); Jeff Bartos (R): $1.2 million raised

CO-03: Lauren Boebert (R-inc): $700,000 raised

MI-03: Peter Meijer (R-inc): $500,000 raised

NC-11: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D): $380,000 raised (in one month)

OH-11: Nina Turner (D): $1.55 million raised; Shontel Brown (D): $640,000 raised, $550,000 cash-on-hand

OH-16: Max Miller (R): $500,000 raised

Senate

AK-Sen: Republican Kelly Tshibaka has released a new poll from Cygnal that shows her leading Sen. Lisa Murkowski 34-19 in a hypothetical all-party primary with three other undeclared candidates to argue that the incumbent is in a "weak" position, but it doesn't address Alaska's new instant runoff for general elections. Under this system, the top four vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance from the primary, then compete via ranked-choice voting in November. Without simulating a potential runoff, it's impossible to know any candidate's true strength.

CA-Sen: Rep. Ro Khanna isn't ruling out a challenge next year to fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, whose appointment in January to succeed Kamala Harris made him the first Latino senator in California history. In new remarks to Politico, the Bay Area congressman said he's "keeping [his] options open" regarding a potential Senate bid.

PA-Sen: Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh kicked off a bid for the Senate on Monday, making her the third notable Democrat to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

Arkoosh, a physician, unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2014 for what was then numbered the 13th District, finishing last in a four-way primary with 15% of the vote. (The nomination was won by Brendan Boyle, who now represents the redrawn and renumbered 2nd District.) The following year, though, Arkoosh was tapped to fill a vacancy on the commission in Montgomery County, a large suburban county just outside of Philadelphia, and won election in her own right that fall. In 2016, her fellow commissioners selected her as the board's first woman chair, and she easily won a second term in 2019.

If Arkoosh were to prevail in next year's race, she'd also be the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate. First, though, she'll have to get past a primary that already features Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, with more poised to join.

UT-Sen: The Salt Lake Tribune's Bryan Schott runs down a whole host of possible primary challengers to Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who is largely drawing heat from those dismayed by his wholehearted embrace of Trumpism. In any other state, that would be unimaginable, but a sizable contingent of Mormon voters remain nonplussed with the GOP's direction over the last half-decade—enough, at least, to spur chatter about trying to take down Lee.

The roster of potential candidates includes former state Rep. Becky Edwards, whom we'd previously identified as running based on her statement that she was "all in"; Schott, however, says that she's "all in" on exploring a bid, which is really not a helpful use of the term. There's also businesswoman Ally Isom, who was previously reported to be interested but has now confirmed she's looking at the race. Isom quit the GOP in 2016 over Trump but re-registered as a Republican last year; like Edwards, she encouraged Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020.

Meanwhile, real estate executive Thomas Wright, who ended up last with just 8% in last year's four-way Republican primary for governor, didn't rule out a bid, saying that "there continues to be a desire to serve." However, the third-place finisher in that race, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, flat-out said he wouldn't run and would back Lee for re-election.

Schott adds that there have been "persistent rumblings" that Tim Ballard, the head of a nonprofit that combats child trafficking, could run, but there's no word on his interest. As for former CIA officer Evan McMullin, who took 22% in Utah running as a conservative independent in 2016's presidential race, Schott says any hope he might enter is "probably more wishful thinking than reality at this point."

Governors

TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke pointedly did not rule out a bid for governor in new remarks on Friday, saying only, "I've got no plans to run." After lots of folks (who aren't wicked smart Digest readers like you) misinterpreted this statement to conclude that O'Rourke had closed the door on a challenge to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott next year (he hadn't), his team released a further statement to clarify. "I'm not currently considering a run for office," said O'Rourke. "I'm focused on what I'm doing now (teaching and organizing.) Nothing's changed and nothing I said would preclude me from considering a run in the future."

In November of 2018, O'Rourke said, "I will not be a candidate for president in 2020. That's I think as definitive as those sentences get." O'Rourke launched a bid for president in March of 2019.

VA-Gov: Former Democratic state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy's campaign for governor just received a $500,000 infusion from a political advocacy organization thanks to state laws that place no caps on political giving. The PAC that made the donation, Clean Virginia, was created by a wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive named Michael Bills in an effort to oppose Dominion Energy, which the Virginia Mercury's Graham Moomaw describes as "the state-regulated utility many progressives see as exerting undue control" over state lawmakers.

Moomaw also notes that Clean Virginia had previously given $100,000 each to Foy and another rival in the June 8 Democratic primary, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. It does not appear that the group gave a comparable donation to McClellan this time.

Meanwhile, in an aside buried deep in a long profile piece, the New York Times indicates that former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman is still thinking about a bid. Riggleman, who lost renomination at a party convention last year and has since become a vocal critic of of Trump-fueled disinformation, has until June 8—the same day as the state's primaries—to file as an independent.

House

KS-03: Former state GOP chair Amanda Adkins, who'd reportedly been prepping for a rematch with Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids, kicked off a second bid for Kansas' 3rd Congressional District on Monday. Davids beat Adkins by a convincing 54-44 margin last year, as the district, based in the Kansas City area, moved sharply to the left, going for Joe Biden by the same spread—just eight years after backing Mitt Romney by precisely that margin.

However, last year, then-state Senate President Susan Wagle specifically exhorted supporters to preserve the GOP's supermajorities in the legislature to ensure Republicans could draw a new congressional map that "takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd." Republicans were in fact successful keeping their two-thirds majorities while also purging some of the moderates in their caucus in last year's primaries, meaning they'd likely be able to override a veto of any new districts by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

LA-02: A newly created PAC named Progress for the People has begun what The Advocate's Tyler Bridges describes as a "six-figure ad buy" against state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson ahead of the April 24 all-Democratic runoff. This appears to be the first negative TV spot of the runoff, though Peterson's opponent, fellow state Sen. Troy Carter, went up with a spot directed against her just ahead of last month's all-party primary.

The PAC's commercial declares that Peterson accepted her taxpayer funded salary even though she "missed 85% of her votes in the legislature last year," including on "COVID guidelines, voting rights, [and] gun safety." Peterson said at the time that she didn't feel safe going to the Capitol in the early months of the pandemic, and she put out a statement this month blaming the legislature's GOP leaders for rejecting her call "for a mask mandate and social distancing to protect the hardworking staff at the Capitol."

MA-09: Peter Lucas of the conservative Boston Herald relays that some unnamed observers believe that Republican Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito could challenge Democratic Rep. Bill Keating. Polito and Gov. Charlie Baker are up for a third term in 2022, and there's been plenty of speculation that Polito could run to succeed her boss should Baker retire.

Polito has said nothing about a potential bid for Congress, though she and her husband notably purchased a $1.8 million second home last month that's located in Keating's district. Polito, however, has continued to raise cash for her state campaign account, which is money she could not use on a federal campaign

Keating's constituency, which includes the South Shore region near Boston and stretches east to Cape Cod, is the most conservative of Massachusetts' nine congressional districts, though GOP presidential candidates have still struggled here. Joe Biden won 58-40 here last year, which was an improvement from Hillary Clinton's 52-41 victory in 2016. Legislative Democrats also have more than enough members to pass a new congressional map over Baker's veto, so it's unlikely this turf would dramatically change.

MI-06: Freshman state Rep. Steve Carra, who late last month posted on social media that "[i]t's time to replace Fred Upton with a proven conservative," says he's kicking off a campaign on Tuesday. He's by no means the only Republican elected official gunning for Upton over his vote to impeach Donald Trump, though: Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott, who expressed interest in a primary challenge in January, has now filed paperwork with the FEC, though he hasn't launched a bid yet.

NY-23: Several more Republicans are talking about bids to succeed GOP Rep. Tom Reed, who recently announced his retirement after a lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct. The newest names are Steuben County Republican Party Chairman Joe Sempolinski and businessman Matthew Burr, who both say they're considering the race. In addition, Chemung County Executive Chris Moss reiterated that he's looking at the contest, but added that he wants to wait to see how redistricting unfolds. Moss said that for now, he plans to seek re-election to his current post next year.

OH-12, OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Turns out it's door number three for Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor: The central Ohio Democrat, who'd previously been considering bids for Senate or statewide executive office, will instead wage another campaign for the House. O'Connor narrowly lost two competitive races for the 12th Congressional District to Republican Troy Balderson in 2018—a special election and then, not long after, the November general election—though redistricting could pit him against someone else.

It doesn't sound, however, as though he'd challenge Rep. Joyce Beatty, a fellow Columbus-area Democrat whom he called "a champion for working families" and suggested was someone (along with Sen. Sherrod Brown) he'd want to emulate in Congress. O'Connor could, though, wind up facing off against Balderson's 2020 opponent, businesswoman Alaina Shearer, who said last month that she's running again but plans to re-evaluate once a new map is in place.

TN-05: On Monday, community activist Odessa Kelly launched a primary challenge against longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition who survived a primary last year by an underwhelming 57-40 margin. Kelly charged Cooper with failing to do enough for the city of Nashville, where Tennessee's 5th District is based, during his "decades in Congress," and identified Medicare for All and the Green New Deal as her top priorities.

If elected, Kelly would be the first Black woman to serve in the House from the Volunteer State and also the first openly gay Black woman in Congress. (It was only after she died in 1996 that news accounts identified legendary Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan as a lesbian; she never discussed her sexuality during her lifetime.) However, Tennessee Republicans could chop up Nashville in the coming round of redistricting, dividing it between the dark red surrounding districts to create another safe seat for the GOP.

TX-06: Former Trump official Sery Kim unleashed a racist anti-Chinese rant at a candidate forum in Texas' 6th Congressional District last week, prompting two Asian American Republicans in Congress to withdraw their endorsements.

In her opening remarks, Kim launched into a conspiracy theory about the COVID-19 pandemic, baselessly claiming, "We were lied to for the last one year and two months and stayed at home because China created coronavirus in a Wuhan lab." Later, when answering a question about immigration, Kim said of Chinese immigrants, "I don't want them here at all. They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don't hold themselves accountable." She added, "And quite frankly, I can say that because I'm Korean."

California Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel, who were the first Korean American Republican women to win seats in Congress with their victories last year, took sharp exception to Sery Kim's remarks. Saying that she'd refused their demands that she apologize, the two congresswomen said, "We cannot in good conscience continue to support her candidacy." Kim responded by claiming that "the liberal media is targeting me" and filing a lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages against the Texas Tribune for calling her statements "racist."

On an entirely unrelated note, Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez has launched her first TV ad ahead of the May all-party primary, which the Tribune's Patrick Svitek says is backed by a "six-figure buy on cable and satellite." The spot features some basic biographical details (she "put herself through college and started a business from scratch"), then bashes "Washington politicians like Ted Cruz" for opposing $1,400 relief checks. Displaying a photo of Cruz lugging his suitcase through an airport during his notorious trip to Mexico amid Texas' devastating ice storm last month, Sanchez adds, "They even abandoned us when the lights went out."

WA-04: Businessman and Navy veteran Jerrod Sessler is the latest Republican to launch a challenge to GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. He also describes himself as a "former NASCAR driver," but his competitive involvement was limited to local competitions that could be considered the equivalent of baseball's minor leagues, and his name does not come up when searching the auto sports database Racing-Reference.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Tuesday brings a packed slate of five special elections across four states:

CA-AD-79: This Democratic district in the eastern San Diego suburbs became vacant when former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber was appointed as California’s secretary of state in January. There are five candidates seeking this seat and if no one takes a majority Tuesday, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held on June 8.

Four of the candidates vying to replace Weber are Democrats: La Mesa City Council member Akilah Weber (who is a daughter of the former Assemblywoman), organizer Leticia Munguia, criminal justice reform advocate Aeiramique Glass Blake, and middle school teacher Shane Parmely. Businessman Marco Contreras is the lone Republican in the running.

The is a solidly blue seat that backed Hillary Clinton 64-30 in 2016 and is one of two vacancies in this chamber, which Democrats control 58-19 (with one independent member).

MO-HD-54: This Democratic seat in the Columbia area became vacant when former Rep. Kip Kendrick resigned to become chief of staff for state Sen. Greg Razer. No Republican opted to run for this solidly Democratic seat that supported Clinton 60-32, so attorney David Smith will represent Team Blue against Libertarian Glenn Nielsen. According to Columbia Daily Tribune, Smith would be the first Black Missouri legislator elected from outside of Kansas City or St. Louis.

Republicans control this chamber 114-48 with just this seat vacant.

OK-SD-22: This seat located northwest of Oklahoma City became vacant after former Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to the U.S. House last year. Speech pathologist Molly Ooten is the Democratic candidate taking on businessman Jake Merrick, a Republican. Merrick ran in the GOP primary for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District last year, a race Bice won, and took 3%.  

This is a strongly Republican district that backed Donald Trump 68-25 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 38-9 with just this seat vacant.

WI-SD-13: This Republican district in central Wisconsin, which takes in a slice of Madison’s suburbs, became vacant when former Sen. Scott Fitzgerald was elected to the U.S. House last year. The Democratic candidate is teacher Melissa Winker who is taking on Republican state Assemblyman John Jagler. Two candidates from obscure minor parties are also in the race: Businessman Ben Schmitz from the American Solidarity Party and chauffeur Spencer Zimmerman from the Trump Conservative Party.  

This is a solidly red district that supported Trump 58-37 in 2016. Republicans control this chamber 20-12 with just this seat vacant.

WI-AD-89: This Republican district north of Green Bay became vacant when former Assemblyman John Nygren resigned last year. Democratic Marinette County Supervisor Karl Jaeger is facing businessman Elijah Behnke, a Republican. Jaeger ran for this seat last year, losing to Nygren by a 69-31 spread.  

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Trump 63-32 in 2016. Republicans hold this chamber 60-38 with just this seat vacant.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: State Rep. Jon Santiago earned an endorsement on Friday from the Laborers Local 223, a high-profile construction union that was led by Marty Walsh until he was elected mayor in 2013. The group is now run by Walsh's cousin, who also happens to be named Marty Walsh; the Boston Herald's Sean Philip Cotter tweets that the current union head is identified as "Big Marty" to distinguish him from his famous relative and the many other Marty Walshes in Boston politics.

P.S.: Marty Walsh, as in the former mayor turned U.S. secretary of labor, said last month that he would not be endorsing in this year's mayoral race.

New York City, NY Mayor: Politico reports that a PAC named New Start NYC has reserved $2.74 million on TV ads through early May in support of Shaun Donovan, a former director of the Obama-era Office of Management and Budget, ahead of the June Democratic primary. The group has received $1 million from the candidate's father, tech executive Michael Donovan.

Morning Digest: With Trump’s blessing, congressman seeks to oust Georgia’s GOP secretary of state

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

GA-SoS, GA-10: Far-right Rep. Jody Hice announced Monday that he would challenge Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in next year's Republican primary rather than seek a fifth term in the safely red 10th Congressional District in the east-central part of the state. Hice immediately earned an endorsement from Donald Trump, who last year unsuccessfully pressured Raffensperger to "find 11,780 votes" in order to overturn Joe Biden's win in the state.

Former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who lost the 2018 nomination fight to Raffensperger 62-38, also announced over the weekend that he would seek a rematch. Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-supporting ex-Democrat who joined the Republican Party right after the 2020 election, had also been mentioned, though he turned his gaze to the governor's race on Monday. Georgia requires a runoff in any primaries where no one takes a majority of the vote.

Campaign Action

Hice, though, will likely be Raffensperger's main foe thanks to Trump's endorsement and prominent position, but his many ugly views could also prove to be a liability in a general election in what's now become a swing state.

Hice, a pastor who worked as a conservative radio host before his 2014 election to Congress, made a name for himself with a 2012 book where he wrote, "Evidently there are many who believe a 'Gestapo-like' presence is needed by the government in order to corral and keep under control, all these 'dangerous' Christians." Hice also used that tome to attack LGBTQ people and Muslims, as well as compare supporters of abortion rights to Hitler.

Hice has remained a far-right favorite in Congress, especially this year. Hice posted on Instagram hours before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, "This is our 1776 moment." The message was quickly deleted after New York Times reporter Charles Bethea flagged it on Twitter in the midst of the assault on the building. Hice's spokesperson said the next day, "The 1776 post was our way of highlighting the electoral objection—we removed the post when we realized it could be misconstrued as supporting those acting violently yesterday and storming the Capitol."  

That violence was hardly enough to stop Hice from spreading conspiracy theories. Last month, the congressman used his CPAC panel titled "Who's Really Running the Biden Administration" to declare, "I guarantee you, Georgia is not blue, and what happened this election was solely because of a horrible secretary of state and horrible decisions that he made."

On the Democratic side, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that one of the "leaning potential candidates" for secretary of state is state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who is the first Vietnamese American to serve in the chamber. Nguyen has been in the news in recent days as she's spoken out against racism against Asian Americans following last week's lethal attack on Atlanta-area spas.

Meanwhile, Republicans are already eyeing the race to succeed Hice in Georgia's 10th Congressional District. This seat backed Donald Trump 60-39, and it will almost certainly remain safely red after the GOP devises new maps.

Two Republican members of the legislature, state Sen. Bill Cowsert and state Rep. Houston Gaines, expressed interest in recent days. The AJC also name-drops 2014 candidate Mike Collins, state Rep. Jodi Lott, and former state party chair John Padgett as possible candidates for Team Red.

Senate

AL-Sen: Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, a hard-right favorite who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, announced on Monday that he would compete in the Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. Brooks joins major GOP donor Lynda Blanchard, who served as ambassador to Slovenia, in a nomination fight that could attract more Republicans in this extremely red state.

Brooks previously competed in the 2017 special election for the Yellowhammer State’s other Senate seat in a race that turned out quite badly for him. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange and his allies at the Senate Leadership Fund aired ad after ad using footage from the previous year of Brooks, who had supported Ted Cruz in the presidential primary, attacking Donald Trump. One piece showed the congressman saying, "I don't think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says" before the narrator argued that Brooks sided with Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi against Trump.

The ad campaign worked, but not to the GOP’s benefit. Brooks took third place with 20%, but Roy Moore went on to defeat Strange in the runoff; Moore later went on to lose to Democrat Doug Jones after multiple women accused the Republican nominee of preying on them as teenagers.

Brooks, though, didn’t have to give up his House seat to run in that special, and he soon reinvented himself as one of Trump’s most ardent allies. Brooks proved to be an especially eager promoter of Trump’s election conspiracy theories, and in a speech delivered four hours before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, he told rally goers, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” CNN later reported that several Republicans later talked about ejecting him from his committee assignments after that day’s violence, though unsurprisingly, they didn’t actually do anything.

One Republican who was delighted by Brooks, though, was Trump, something that could go a long way towards helping the congressman avoid a repeat of his 2017 experience. Politico reports that Trump is leaning towards endorsing Brooks over Blanchard in part because of a major mistake from her campaign.

“The president doesn’t know Lynda all that well and it had gotten back to him and his team that people on her team had been overstating how close they supposedly are,” said one unnamed Trump ally, adding, “One of her aides was telling any donor who would listen that Trump was going to endorse her and that left him annoyed.” A Blanchard insider, naturally, countered, saying, “That’s bullshit. That’s somebody spinning someone to help Mo out. She would never oversell it, she’s not that kind of person.”

P.S. Brooks’ decision will open up the 5th Congressional District, a northern Alabama seat that backed Trump 63-37 in 2020.

AK-Sen, AK-Gov: Last week, the Associated Press' Mark Thiessen name-dropped a few Republicans as possible intra-party opponents for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has not yet said if she'll run again in 2022. The most familiar name is former Gov. Sarah Palin, who is perennially mentioned as a possible Murkowski foe even though she hasn't actually appeared on a ballot since her 2008 vice presidential bid.

Thiessen also lists Gov. Mike Dunleavy as a possibility, though he hasn't shown any obvious interest in doing anything other than run for re-election next year. Dunleavy hasn't announced his 2022 plans, though he said last week, "I enjoy the job and there's a lot of work to be done.

There's also Joe Miller, who beat Murkowski in a 2010 primary shocker but went on to lose to her that fall when the senator ran a write-in campaign. Miller, who unsuccessfully sought the 2014 GOP nod for Alaska's other Senate seat, campaigned against Murkowski as a Libertarian in 2016 and lost 44-29. Miller also does not appear to have said anything about another campaign.

MO-Sen: Less than three years after he resigned in disgrace, former Gov. Eric Greitens announced Monday that he would seek the Republican nomination for this open seat. We’ll have more in our next Digest.

NC-Sen: Meredith College takes a look at an extremely early Democratic primary scenario and finds former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and state Sen. Jeff Jackson tied 13-13. Former state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost the 2020 primary, takes 11%, while virologist Richard Watkins is at 4%. (Watkins ran in 2018 in the primary against veteran Rep. David Price and took just 6% of the vote.) Beasley is the only person tested who is not currently running.

Meredith also released numbers for the GOP primary but sampled just 217 respondents, which is below the 300-person minimum we require for inclusion in the Digest.

NV-Sen: The far-right anti-tax Club for Growth has released a survey from its usual pollster WPA Intelligence that finds its old ally, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Adam Laxalt, leading former Sen. Dean Heller 44-25 in a hypothetical GOP primary. Heller, who lost Nevada's other Senate seat to Democrat Jacky Rosen in 2018, has not shown any obvious signs of interest in taking on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto.

Laxalt has not said anything about his 2022 plans, though CNN recently reported that he is considering a Senate bid. McClatchy, citing an unnamed GOP aide, also writes that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "is also said to favor Laxalt's candidacy."

OH-Sen: 314 Action, which is trying to recruit former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton to run for this open seat, has released a survey from Public Policy Polling that shows her outperforming her fellow Democrat, Rep. Tim Ryan, in hypothetical general election matchups against a trio of Republicans. First up are the Acton numbers:

  • 42-41 vs. former state Treasurer Josh Mandel
  • 40-40 vs. former state party chair Jane Timken
  • 40-38 vs. author J.D. Vance

Next up is Ryan:

  • 38-42 vs. Mandel
  • 38-41 vs. Timken
  • 37-39 vs. Vance

314 publicized another PPP poll last week that had Acton leading Ryan 37-32 in a potential primary. Both Democrats are publicly considering running, though neither of them has announced a bid.

Mandel and Timken currently have the GOP side to themselves, but plenty of others could get in. Vance, who is best known as the writer of "Hillbilly Elegy," has not said anything about his interest, but Politico reports that he recently met with people close to Trump. Last week, the Cincinnati Enquirer also revealed that far-right billionaire Peter Thiel had contributed $10 million to a super PAC set up to help Vance if he runs.

Governors

GA-Gov: Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, an ardent Trump fan who left the Democratic Party in January, tweeted Monday that he was "looking closely" at a GOP primary bid against Gov. Brian Kemp.

Jones, unsurprisingly, echoed his patron's lies about election fraud by insisting, "If it weren't for Brian Kemp, Donald Trump would still be President of these United States." Joe Biden, of course, would still have earned an electoral college majority even if Trump had carried Georgia, but that's hardly stopped Trump from targeting his one-time ally Kemp.

Jones had a long career in Democratic politics, though he'd struggled to win higher office under his old party. After a stint in the state House in the 1990s, Jones became the first African American to lead DeKalb County following his 2000 victory for CEO of this large Atlanta-area community. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that during his tenure, Jones "drew intense scrutiny for angry outbursts and an accusation of rape that he said was a consensual act between three partners." Jones, however, was never charged.

Jones tried to use his high-profile post as a springboard to statewide office, but he lost the 2008 primary runoff for Senate 60-40 to Jim Martin, who went on to lose to Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss. Jones then challenged Rep. Hank Johnson in the 2010 primary for the 4th Congressional District and lost 55-26.

In 2013, a grand jury probing Jones' time as DeKalb County CEO recommended he be investigated for what the AJC calls allegations of "bid-rigging and theft." The following year, his campaign for DeKalb County sheriff ended in a landslide 76-24 primary defeat.

Jones, though, resurrected his political career when he won the 2016 primary to return to the state House in a safely blue seat. Months later, DeKalb District Attorney Robert James announced that he wouldn't be charging a number of figures, including Jones, for lack of evidence.

Jones spent the next few years often voting with Republicans and tweeting favorably of Trump, but he only burned his last bridges with his party in 2020 when he endorsed Trump's re-election campaign. Jones, who was already facing a competitive primary, ultimately retired from the legislature (albeit after initially saying he'd be resigning), and he spent the rest of the campaign as a prominent Trump surrogate.

Jones finally switched parties in January, and he's been eyeing another statewide bid over the last few months. Jones has been mentioned as a prospective Senate candidate, and he reportedly eyed a primary campaign for secretary of state against Brad Raffensperger as recently as last week. Trump, though, has touted former NFL running back Herschel Walker as a prospective Senate candidate and endorsed Rep. Jody Hice's bid against Raffensperger on Monday (see our GA-SoS item), which may be why Jones is now talking about taking on Kemp instead.

MO-Gov, MO-Sen: Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe announced Monday that he would compete in the 2024 race to succeed Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who will be termed-out, rather than run in next year's open seat race for the Senate.

Kehoe's kickoff is extremely early, but while it's not unheard of for prominent gubernatorial candidates to enter the race well over three years before Election Day, that preparation doesn't always pay off. Then-California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom notably launched his successful 2018 gubernatorial campaign in February of 2015, while Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin announced his 2022 bid in August of 2019 only to drop down to attorney general last month after Donald Trump backed a rival Republican primary candidate.

NY-Gov: A ninth woman, Alyssa McGrath, has come forward to accuse Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, making her the first current Cuomo employee to do so on the record. McGrath, an executive assistant in the governor's office, says Cuomo "would ogle her body, remark on her looks, and make suggestive comments to her" and a coworker. She also says Cuomo called her "beautiful" in Italian and on one occasion stared down her shirt.

Cuomo once again did not deny the interactions had taken place. Instead, a spokesperson insisted that "the governor has greeted men and women with hugs and a kiss on the cheek, forehead, or hand. Yes, he has posed for photographs with his arm around them. Yes, he uses Italian phrases like 'ciao bella.' None of this is remarkable, although it may be old-fashioned. He has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone."

PA-Gov, PA-Sen: Several more Republicans, including a few familiar names, have made their interest in running to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf known in recent days.

On Monday, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain formed a fundraising committee for a potential bid. That step came days after Rep. Mike Kelly said he was thinking about running either for governor or for the Senate. The Associated Press also writes that another congressman, Rep. Dan Meuser, "has said he is considering running" for governor, but there's no quote from him.

Former Rep. Lou Barletta, who badly lost the 2018 Senate general election, also acknowledged his interest in the gubernatorial race and pledged to decide over the next few weeks. Additionally, state Sen. Dan Laughlin said over the weekend that he was thinking about campaigning to replace Wolf. The Erie Times-News writes that Laughlin is one of the more moderate Republicans in the legislature, which could be helpful in a general but toxic in a primary.

VA-Gov: Wealthy businessman Pete Snyder has earned an endorsement from Rep. Bob Good ahead of the May 8 Republican nominating convention. Good himself won the GOP nomination last year through this system when he unseated incumbent Denver Riggleman.

House

LA-02: Two Democratic state senators from New Orleans, Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson (the two are not related), will face off in the April 24 runoff to succeed Cedric Richmond, who resigned in January to take a post in the Biden White House. Carter took first in Saturday's all-party primary with 36%, while Peterson edged out Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers by a surprisingly small 23-21 margin.

Carter has the backing of Richmond, the state AFL-CIO, and a high-profile Republican in the region, Cynthia Lee Sheng. On Monday, Carter also earned an endorsement from East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, whose constituency cast just under 10% of the vote. Peterson, for her part, has benefited from about $600,000 in outside spending from EMILY's List.

Both Carter and Peterson, who would be the first Black woman to represent Louisiana in Congress, have campaigned as ardent Democrats, though Peterson has argued she's the more progressive of the two. Notably, while Peterson and other contenders called for a Green New Deal, Carter merely characterized it as "a good blueprint" that won't be in place for a long time and that he doesn't support.

Both candidates also say they back Medicare for all, though only Peterson has run commercials focused on it. Carter, for his part, has insisted he'd have a far easier time working with Republicans than Peterson. Carter has additionally played up his relationship with Richmond, saying, "I would have the ear of the guy who has the ear of the president of the United States of America." Peterson, who is a former state party chair, has pushed back by saying she has her own ties to senior White House officials and does "not need to have the ear of the ear of the ear of the toe of the thumb of someone."

Peterson will likely need Chambers' supporters to disproportionately break for her in order for her to close the gap next month, and she may be better positioned to appeal to them than Carter. That's far from guaranteed to happen, though, and Chambers himself hasn't hinted if he's leaning towards supporting one of them over the other. Chambers, while acknowledging Sunday that his endorsement would be very valuable, said of the two runoff contenders, "I don't think either one of them is a true progressive."

Local politics in New Orleans, which is coterminous with Orleans Parish, also may impact this race, as the two state senators represent conflicting factions in local Democratic politics. Peterson is a leader in the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), a longtime power player in the Crescent City that has clashed with Richmond and his allies. Each side scored some big wins and losses in the 2019 legislative elections, and Clancy DuBos of the New Orleans weekly The Gambit recently noted, "Many see this contest as the latest bout between BOLD and Richmond."

In Orleans Parish, which cast just over half the vote on Saturday in this 10-parish district, it was Carter's side that very much came out on top in the first round. Carter led with 39%, while Chambers actually narrowly led Peterson 27-25 for second.

LA-05: University of Louisiana Monroe official Julia Letlow defeated Democrat Candy Christophe 65-27 in the all-party primary to succeed her late husband and fellow Republican, Luke Letlow, which was well more than the majority she needed to avoid a runoff. Luke Letlow won an open seat runoff for this safely red northeast Louisiana seat in December, but he died weeks later of complications from COVID-19 before he could take office.

Julia Letlow will be the first woman to represent Louisiana in Congress since Democrat Mary Landrieu left the Senate following her 2014 defeat, as well as the first Republican woman to ever serve in the state's delegation.

Letlow will also join Doris Matsui, a California Democrat, as the only member of Congress elected to succeed a late husband. (Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell won the 2014 contest to succeed John Dingell, which made her the first member elected to succeed a living spouse; John Dingell died in 2019.) Texas Republican Susan Wright is also currently running to succeed Rep. Ron Wright, who also died after contracting COVID-19.

NY-23: Chemung County Executive Chris Moss said Monday that he was interested in running to succeed Rep. Tom Reed, a fellow Republican who on Sunday apologized for sexually harassing a woman in 2017 as he announced he would not run for office in 2022. But Moss, who was the party's 2014 nominee for lieutenant governor, said that he would first run for re-election to his current office this year and would not decide on anything until he sees the new congressional map.

Moss has good reason to be wary, as no one knows what this 55-42 Trump seat, which currently includes Ithaca and southwestern New York, will look like next year. New York is very likely to lose at least one House seat, and Reed's departure could make it easier for mapmakers to eliminate this upstate New York seat.

It's also not clear, though, who those mapmakers will even be. An amendment to the state constitution backed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed in 2014 that, under the pretense of establishing an independent redistricting commission—a judge literally ordered that the word "independent" be stricken from the amendment's description because it was nothing of the sort—was actually designed to ensure Republican lawmakers would have a say in redistricting no matter if they lost their then-control over the state Senate. Legislative Democrats, though, now have the two-third supermajorities that would allow them to bypass this amendment―if they choose to try, that is.

All we know for now is that Reed's Sunday announcement will mark the end of a decade-long political career that included one unexpectedly competitive race. Reed was the mayor of Corning, a small city best known as the headquarters of the eponymous glassworks company, in 2008 when Democrat Eric Massa scored a pickup in what was numbered the 29th District at the time. The ancestrally red seat, though, had supported John McCain 51-48, and Republicans planned to make Massa a top target.

Reed entered the race to take on the freshman Democrat, but he never got the chance to take him on. Massa resigned in disgrace in March of 2010 after an aide accused him of sexual harassment, and Democrats had a very tough time finding a viable replacement candidate. Reed ultimately avoided any intra-party opposition and decisively outraised his Democratic foe, Afghanistan veteran Matthew Zeller. Major outside groups on both sides largely bypassed the race and Reed won 56-43; he also scored a similar win in a special election held that day for the final weeks of Massa's term.

Redistricting left Reed with a less conservative seat, but his huge financial advantage over Democratic Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa made him look like the heavy favorite to keep the new 23rd District red. It was therefore a big surprise when Reed only defeated Shinagawa 52-48 as Mitt Romney was carrying the seat 50-48, and Democrats were determined to give him a serious fight next time.

Fellow Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson stepped up for Team Blue, but 2014 proved to be a very difficult year for her party. Reed ran ad after ad portraying Robertson as an "extreme Ithaca liberal," including one commercial with a very strange cartoon of Robertson driving around in a hippie car as the narrator sarcastically threw in hippie slang.

Reed ended up winning 62-38, but Democrats hoped that the 2016 climate would revert back to something more like 2012. That's very much not what happened, though: Instead, Trump won 55-40 here, and Reed beat Democrat John Plumb 58-42. Reed had a closer 54-46 shave against cybersecurity expert Tracy Mitrano in 2018, but he won their 2020 rematch 58-41.

OH-16: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth has followed Donald Trump's lead and endorsed former Trump administration official Max Miller's Republican primary bid against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who voted to impeach the party's leader in January. The Club has also released a poll from WPA Intelligence that shows Miller beating Gonzalez 39-30, though no one knows what this district will look like after redistricting.

TX-06: 2020 state House candidate Lydia Bean has released a poll from the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group that shows her in contention to advance past the May 1 all-party primary:

  • GOP activist Susan Wright (R): 18
  • 2018 nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez (D): 9
  • State Rep. Jake Ellzey (R): 8
  • 2020 state House candidate Lydia Bean (D): 6
  • Former Trump administration official Brian Harrison (R): 6
  • Education activist Shawn Lassiter (D): 4
  • Former Homeland Security official Patrick Moses (D): 2
  • 2020 Nevada congressional candidate Dan Rodimer (R): 1

The only other poll we've seen was a Victoria Research survey for Sanchez released last week that showed Wright leading her 21-17, with Ellzey and Bean at 8% and 5%, respectively.

TX-34: In a surprise, Democratic Rep. Filemón Vela said Monday that he would not seek a sixth term in Texas' 34th Congressional District, a heavily Latino seat that snapped hard to the right last year. Vela is the second Democratic House member to announce his retirement following Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who made her 2022 plans known earlier this month.

This constituency, which includes Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley and rural counties to the north, went for Joe Biden 52-48 four years after it supported Hillary Clinton by a hefty 59-38 margin in 2016. This was the biggest shift toward Trump of any congressional district in Texas, and his third-largest improvement in the entire nation. Vela himself won re-election by a comfortable 55-42 against an underfunded Republican in a contest that attracted very little outside spending, but the dynamics of an open seat race could be very different.

Further muddling the picture for 2022 is redistricting. While Texas Republicans were ecstatic about their gains with Latino voters, they saw an even broader disintegration in their former suburban strongholds across the state that's left many of their incumbents on the brink. While the GOP will have full control over redistricting for the coming decade once again, Republicans in the legislature will have to make many hard choices about which districts to prop up and which to cut loose.  

Vela, for his part, has not had to worry about a competitive race since he won his first primary in 2012. Vela had never sought office before he entered that crowded contest for the newly-drawn 34th District, but his family had some very strong ties to the seat: His mother, Blanca Vela, was the first woman to serve as mayor of Brownsville while his father and namesake, Filemón Vela Sr., was a longtime federal judge who had a courthouse named for him in the city.

The younger Vela looked like the frontrunner especially after his most prominent opponent, Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, was indicted for racketeering weeks before the primary. (He was later sentenced to 13 years in prison.) Vela reached the runoff by taking 40%, while his opponent, former congressional staffer Denise Saenz Blanchard, was far behind with 13%.

Blanchard ran to Vela's left and portrayed her opponent, whose wife was a GOP member of the state Court of Appeals, as far too conservative. Blanchard hit Vela for having voted in GOP primaries in the past, and some Republicans even insisted that Vela himself had planned to run for Congress as a member of Team Red until he saw the new congressional map.

However, Blanchard had little money available in a contest that attracted very little outside attention (Daily Kos Elections at the time dubbed it, "The most under-watched nominating battle in the nation."), and Vela won 67-33. Vela had no trouble that fall or in any other campaigns.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Saturday's special election in Louisiana and a preview of Tuesday's race in Virginia:

LA-HD-82: An all-Republican runoff is on tap for April 24 after Eddie Connick and Laurie Schlegel were the top two vote-getters for this seat in the New Orleans suburbs. Connick led Schlegel 40-36 in the first round, while Democrat Raymond Delaney took third with 25%.

Despite some recent leftward movement in this solidly red district, the two Republican candidates outpaced the Democrat 75-25. The strong GOP performance here could partially be attributed to the Republican candidates' connections to well-known local political figures.

VA-SD-38: This Republican district in southwest Virginia became vacant after former Sen. Ben Chafin died earlier this year. Former Radford City Councilwoman Laurie Buchwald is the Democratic candidate taking on Republican Travis Hackworth, a Tazewell County supervisor.

Buchwald has run for office once before, losing a state House of Delegates race to GOP incumbent Joe Yost 58-42 in 2015.

This is a strongly Republican seat that backed Donald Trump 75-22 in 2016, and according to The News and Advance, Trump took 78% of the vote here in 2020. This is the only vacancy in this chamber, which Democrats narrowly control 21-18.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Joe Biden will be hosting a Friday virtual fundraiser for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, which is the president's first such event for any candidate since he became president. Bottoms faces a potentially competitive re-election fight this fall against City Council President Felicia Moore, while others are also considering taking her on.

Morning Digest: These are the top 10 state supreme court battles of the coming cycle

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

State Supreme Courts: In a new story, Daily Kos Elections' Stephen Wolf looks state-by-state at the supreme court elections in 2021-2022 where progressives or conservatives could gain majorities or make major inroads. The federal judiciary grew ever more hostile to voting rights during the Trump era, and the right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to curtail partisan gerrymanders designed to entrench one-party rule. But at the same time, state courts such as Pennsylvania's have started striking down these gerrymanders and issuing their own decisions defending voting access.

Crucially, these decisions have relied on protections found in state constitutions, meaning that they're insulated from U.S. Supreme Court review (at least for the time being). Almost every state constitution, in fact, offers similar protections—the issue is who's interpreting them. Unlike federal judges, most state supreme court justices are elected to their posts, and while the almost uniquely American practice of electing judges creates serious problems for judicial impartiality, it nevertheless presents progressives with the opportunity to replace conservative ideologues with more independent-minded jurists.

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​With 10 major states up for grabs over the next two years, progressives have the chance to flip Ohio's Supreme Court, gain a more solid majority in Montana, and make gains that could set them up to flip conservative-heavy courts in Georgia, Texas, and Virginia later this decade. Meanwhile, Republicans could take control of Democratic-leaning courts in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and North Carolina. Elections in these states could have major implications for efforts to constrain gerrymandering and protect the right to vote over the next decade.

Senate

AL-Sen, AL-Gov: Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, whose name had come up as a possible candidate for Alabama's open Senate seat, announced on Friday that he would not join the GOP primary. However, while Ainsworth did not mention next year's race for governor, he did say in a statement that he believes "that God's plan currently calls for me to continue leading on the state, not federal, level of government"—a hint that he could instead run for that post. The current incumbent, Republican Kay Ivey, could seek another term but hasn't yet announced her plans and may, at age 76, opt to retire.

OH-Sen, OH-Gov: Republican Rep. Warren Davidson said over the weekend that he's considering a bid for Ohio's open Senate race and also suggested he could primary Gov. Mike DeWine. In an interview with Fox at CPAC, Davidson criticized DeWine for his "overbearing" approach to fighting the pandemic and said he should have behaved more like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Of course, it's one thing to take jabs at an incumbent unpopular with conservatives when in the most friendly possible environment; it's quite a lot further to challenge him in an actual campaign.

Governors

MA-Gov: Democrat Joe Curtatone announced on Monday that he would not seek a sixth term this fall as mayor of Somerville, a city of 81,000 located just north of Boston, and he once again did not rule out a bid for governor in 2022. Curtatone said his decision was not a "political calculus to a calendar or timeline," adding, "I'm not even thinking about what I may or may want to do."

Back in December, the conservative Boston Herald reported that Curtatone was mulling over a bid against Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who has not yet revealed his own plans. While Curtatone still hasn't publicly expressed interest, though, one of his longtime advisors did say the mayor was thinking about it. Consultant Mark Horan, who acknowledged that it would have been "extremely difficult" for Curtatone to seek a promotion while also running for reelection, said of a potential gubernatorial run, "It certainly makes sense that he is considering it."

NY-Gov: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo will face an independent investigation into charges that he sexually harassed female members of his staff after a second aide, former health policy staffer Charlotte Bennett, accused him of repeatedly asking her invasive and unwanted questions about her sex life. Following Bennet’s allegations, a third woman, Anna Ruch, said on Monday that Cuomo made an unsought advance on her at a wedding, grabbing her face and asking if he could kiss her before she was able to pull away.

Bennett, who is 25, revealed to the New York Times's Jesse McKinley that the 63-year-old Cuomo, whom she served as an executive assistant, did not touch her but asked her questions like whether "she was romantically involved," "was monogamous in her relationships," "believed if age made a difference in relationships" and "had ever been with an older man." According to Bennett, Cuomo told her "he's fine with anyone above the age of 22." She told McKinley, "I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared."

Bennett contemporaneously documented her encounters in text messages with friends and family members. She also reported them to Cuomo's chief of staff in June and was soon transferred to a new position advising on health policy, explaining that she chose not to press for an investigation because she was happy with her new post and "wanted to move on." However, Bennett left her job in November, saying, of Cuomo, "His presence was suffocating. I was thinking that I could recover and have distance but that is so naïve."

Following the Times report on Friday, which came just two days after another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, accused Cuomo of fostering a hostile workplace and kissing her on the mouth without her consent, top Democrats across the state immediately demanded an inquiry. Cuomo sought to head off these demands on Saturday by trying to hand-pick his own investigator, former federal Judge Barbara Jones—a move that was met with instant derision given Jones' close ties to a former top Cuomo aide, Steven Cohen.

In a rare climb-down reflecting his precarious position, Cuomo quickly reversed course on Sunday and asked state Attorney General Tish James and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to jointly name an independent attorney to investigate the allegations. James, however, instantly shot down that proposal as well, saying that her office alone has the legal authority to handle the matter. (And though James didn't mention it, DiFiore was appointed to her position leading New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, by Cuomo.)

Remarkably, Cuomo backed down a second time later that same day and said he would refer the matter outright to James, which he did the following day. James promised to hire an outside law firm to lead the probe and pledged she would "oversee a rigorous and independent investigation."

Cuomo's response to the substance of Bennett's charges has also differed markedly from how he reacted to Boylan's accusations, which he simply denied entirely. On Sunday, in a statement that referenced Bennett but not Boylan, Cuomo said, "I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended," and added a no-pology: "To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that."

Bennett rejected Cuomo's remarks as insufficient on Monday, saying in a statement that the governor "has refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for his predatory behavior." She also offered encouragement to other women who might come forward.

Whether or not in response to Bennett’s entreaty, Ruch did just that. On Monday, she told the New York Times that, after she thanked the governor for making a toast on behalf of her newly married friends, Cuomo swiftly placed his hand on her bare lower back. A friend photographed the ensuing moments, in which Cuomo placed both hands on Ruch’s cheeks and, says Ruch, asked, “Can I kiss you?” Ruch’s friend says Cuomo kissed Ruch on the cheek as she removed herself from his grasp. A Cuomo spokesperson “did not directly address Ms. Ruch’s account,” says the Times, only directing reporters back to the Sunday statement described above.

While a number of prominent Democrats have said Cuomo should resign if James' investigation inculpates him, a growing chorus has called for him to leave office immediately. A telling example came from Rep. Kathleen Rice, who tweeted, “The Governor must resign” shortly after the Times published Ruch’s story. In 2010, Rice was Cuomo’s preferred candidate to succeed him as attorney general, though she lost the Democratic primary to Eric Schneiderman.

If Cuomo were to leave office early, he would be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman who is serving her second term as Cuomo’s number two.

House

NC-11: In a new report from BuzzFeed, two more women, Caitlin Coulter and Leah Petree, have publicly accused freshman Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of sexually harassing them while they attended Patrick Henry College in 2016 and 2017. Previously, three women (including two by name) came forward in the summer of 2020 to charge Cawthorn with similar acts both before and during his time at Patrick Henry.

Several other students also told BuzzFeed that Cawthorn had developed a reputation for predatory behavior despite his brief enrollment at the school (he was there for just over a semester), and two dorm leaders also confirmed that they'd warned women about him.

NJ-02: Democratic Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo has announced he'll run for a competitive state Senate seat that's open this fall due to a Republican retirement, which probably takes him out of the running for a challenge to Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew. Win or lose in November, it'd be unlikely that Mazzeo would want to immediately turn around and run another tough race.

OH-16: With the support of his old boss, former Donald Trump aide Max Miller has entered the GOP primary against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who was one of 10 House Republican who voted to impeach Trump in January. Miller, a Marine Corps reservist, hails from a family of prominent Jewish philanthropists in the Cleveland neighborhood of Shaker Heights but only recently moved into Gonzalez's 16th District, which lies to the west, south, and east of the area where Miller grew up (yes, it's that hideously gerrymandered).

The announcement makes Miller the first notable Republican to join the race, but former state Rep. Christina Hagan has also hinted at her interest. However, she's said she might instead choose to seek Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan's 13th District, depending on how redistricting turns out.

TX-06: Republican Brian Harrison, who served as chief of staff to former Trump Health and Human Services chief Alex Azar during his disastrous handling of the COVID pandemic, announced Monday that he could compete in the May 1 special election to succeed the late GOP Rep. Ron Wright. Politico wrote last month of the now-candidate, "In the West Wing, a handful of his detractors derisively referred to Harrison as 'the dog breeder'—a reference to the labradoodle-breeding family business that he helped run prior to joining the Trump administration." More on that here.

Meanwhile, The Hill reports that former Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson also plans to run. The filing deadline is Wednesday, so we'll have a full-line up for the all-party primary very soon.

WY-AL: State Rep. Chuck Gray just filed paperwork with the FEC ahead of a possible primary challenge to Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, though he has yet to speak publicly about his interest. Gray's name surfaced last month when a poll for Donald Trump's super PAC included him. His Twitter bio only describes him as a member of the legislature, not a congressional candidate, though his feed is mostly filled with attacks on Cheney. Another GOP lawmaker, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, is already running.

Legislatures

Special Elections: Tuesday brings the busiest special election night of the year so far, with three races on deck in Alabama, California, and Connecticut.

AL-SD-26: This Democratic Montgomery-based seat became vacant when former Sen. David Burkette resigned last year. Burkette did not cite a reason for his resignation at the time, but was arrested and sentenced to a year of probation just a few weeks later because of a campaign finance violation.

Democratic state Rep. Kirk Hatcher will take on Republican William Green, a minister. Alabama is a difficult state to wrangle data from, so we don't have presidential results for this district. Based on prior results for races here, though, this is a strongly Democratic district. Burkette twice defeated Republican DJ Johnson here in 2018; once in a special election by an 89-10 spread and again later in the year in the regular election 80-20.

Republicans have a 26-7 edge in this chamber with this and one other seat vacant.

CA-SD-10: This South Los Angeles-area seat became vacant when former Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell was elected to the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors last year. Three Democrats and two Republicans (plus two non-major party candidates) are vying to replace Mitchell in this strongly Democratic seat that backed Joe Biden 84-12 in 2020, according to data from Los Angeles County.

The Democrats are Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager, Culver City Council Member Daniel Lee, and Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles President Cheryl Turner, while businessman Joe Lisuzzo and business consultant Tiffani Jones are the Republicans. Community organizer Ernesto Huerta is representing the Peace and Freedom Party and Army veteran Renita Duncan is running without a party affiliation as an independent candidate.

Unlike other California elections, where the top two candidates advance to the next round even if one candidate wins a majority, special elections can be won in the first round if the leading candidate takes more than 50%. If no candidate does, though, a runoff will be held on May 4.

Democrats currently hold a 30-9 supermajority in this chamber, with just this seat vacant.

CT-SD-27: This seat located in Stamford became vacant when former Democratic Sen. Carlo Leon resigned to join the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont. The candidates for this race were selected by their parties, and Democrats nominated state Rep. Patricia Miller while Republicans tapped attorney Joshua Esses.

This is a safely blue district that Hillary Clinton won 66-30 in 2016. Democrats control this chamber 23-12, with just this seat vacant.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation on Friday that would avert a special election in the event that Mayor Marty Walsh resigns before March 5 to become U.S. secretary of labor. The regularly scheduled nonpartisan primary for a four-year term will still take place in September, and the two candidates with the most votes will compete in the November general election.

Morning Digest: Alaska Democrats cement control over state House as bulwark against GOP 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

AK State House: More than three months after the election, a deadlock in the Alaska House of Representatives finally broke when a Democratic-led alliance elected moderate Republican state Rep. Louise Stutes as the chamber's new speaker by a 21-19 margin.

For the prior four years, deep divisions in the GOP caucus had allowed Democrats to assemble what they called the Majority Coalition, which included independents and a handful of Republican pragmatists. But that arrangement appeared threatened after conservative purists ousted several coalition members in primaries last year, and even more so when Republicans emerged from Nov. 3 with a nominal majority of 21 seats.

But the House's 15 Democrats and three allied independents were able to woo a fourth independent to their side, and Stutes, who'd been part of the Majority Coalition from the start, remained in the fold. That left the House evenly divided between the coalition and GOP hardliners.

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After the legislature convened last month, Republicans unsuccessfully tried to elect a speaker from their own ranks several times but each vote failed in a 20-20 tie. That stalemate finally ended when sophomore Republican Kelly Merrick sided with the coalition to elevate Stutes to the top job. The Midnight Sun's Matt Acuña Buxton described Merrick's switch as a "surprise" but noted that she's been "quietly labor-friendly during her time in office."

Another key factor may have been Alaska's adoption of a novel "top-four" primary, which greatly reduces the chances for hard-right ideologues to punish Republicans like Merrick and Stutes. In fact, suggests Buxton, now that the logjam has at last been busted open, other Republicans might yet defect to the Majority Coalition, lured by the possibility of plum committee assignments or leadership posts. Merrick, however, emphasized that she was not joining the coalition but said she’d acted so that lawmakers could finally begin their substantive work.

Most importantly for Democrats and their allies, with the state Senate in GOP hands, this development ensures the House can continue to serve as a bulwark against Republican Gov. Matt Dunleavy, whose ongoing efforts to make draconian cuts to the state budget have played a key role in uniting his diverse array of opponents.

Senate

AL-Sen: Republican Katie Boyd Britt, a former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, says she's considering a bid to replace her old boss, though she didn't offer a timeline regarding a possible decision. Britt is CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, a Chamber of Commerce type organization.

OH-Sen: Josh Mandel didn't even wait 24 hours to prove once again that he's the most mendacious, fraudulent thug in the entire Republican Party. On the very same day he announced his third bid for Senate, Mandel repeated Donald Trump's bald-faced lie that the election was stolen, and even suggested this resoundingly debunked conspiracy theory had inspired him to run in the first place.

"I think over time, we're going to see studies come out that evidence widespread fraud," Mandel baselessly insisted. "You know, what you see with any type of fraud, it usually takes time to investigate it and to dig it out, and it might be months, it might be years, it might be decades. But I think when we look back on this election, we'll see in large part that it was stolen from President Trump."

We've already set a calendar reminder for Feb. 10, 2041 to whip this statement back out and shove it in Mandel's lying face. What makes it even worse is Mandel's further comment: "I've been watching this sham and unconstitutional impeachment, and it's really made my blood boil and it's motivated me to run for the U.S. Senate," he said—a statement that WKYC's Mark Naymik noted was repeated "nearly verbatim from his campaign press release," and indeed it is.

Mandel, in fact, is one of the most extreme examples of a robo-politician who's always on repeat. On his launch day, he also berated Gov. Mike DeWine over his aggressive efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, saying, "The fact that they shut down all these family-owned businesses and restaurants while they allowed conglomerates like Walmart and Target and Costco to stay open makes my blood boil." Someone better get him a transfusion stat—blood type A-hole-positive.

As the Cincinnati Enquirer's Jessie Balmert observes, Mandel's attacks on DeWine are particularly awkward because, at least in theory, Mandel wants to wind up on a ticket with the incumbent governor next-year. On top of that, he echoed the classic line used by anti-vaxxers everywhere, saying he might not get a COVID vaccination because "I'm a strong believer in individual liberty and personal freedom and it should be up to every individual to choose what's best for them." In other words, he'd like to prolong the day we finally (hopefully) achieve herd immunity and cause more needless deaths, even though he himself contracted the virus last year and lost his sense of taste.

And to leave no doubt about exactly whom Mandel would ally with should we have the grave misfortune to see him join the Senate in two years' time, he made sure to announce during his day-one media blitz that he'd have voted to overturn the results of last year's election. "If I was a United States senator, I would have been standing with Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rick Scott in holding up the certification of the election," he told reporters.

Having had the extreme displeasure of covering every moment of his failed 2012 bid, we can guarantee there's going to be much, much more like this from Mandel throughout his campaign. But as distasteful as it is, it's just as critical we document his every dangerous lie and diseased statement—and we will. We guarantee that, too.

OH-Sen: Wealthy businessman Mike Gibbons says he'll decide on whether to join the GOP primary for Ohio's open Senate seat in "the next few weeks" and says he'd self-fund $5 million if he does in fact get in. Gibbons pumped $2.7 million of his own money into his unsuccessful 2018 Senate bid, when he lost the Republican nomination to then-Rep. Jim Renacci 47-32.

Governors

FL-Gov: Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who recently confirmed he was considering seeking his party's nomination for governor a second time, now says he likely won't have a decision for "several months." Spectrum News' Mitch Perry adds that Crist expressed "enthusiasm" about a possible bid by state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who was Crist's running-mate in 2014 and said last week that she was thinking about a campaign of her own. However, Perry notes that Crist also offered "praise[]" for three other women who might run for governor: state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Rep. Val Demings, and state Rep. Anna Eskamani.

House

OH-16: You thought you were done with Josh Mandel for this Digest? Well, yeah, so did we. But while you might imagine Mandel would have slightly more important affairs to attend to, he says he's busy trying to recruit former Donald Trump aide Max Miller to run against Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who last month voted to impeach Trump. Miller hasn't yet said anything about his interest.

Morning Digest: Jim Jordan, bellicose Trump defender, eyes a Senate bid in Ohio

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

OH-Sen: Several Ohio Republicans publicly expressed interest on Monday in running to succeed GOP Sen. Rob Portman in the hours following his surprise retirement announcement, and a few more are now making noises about getting in. The most prominent among them is the far-right extremist Rep. Jim Jordan, who infamously delivered a speech on the floor of the House just before the Jan. 6 terrorist riot where he repeated Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 presidential race and questioned how "somehow the guy who never left his house wins the election?"

Jordan did not rule out the idea of a Senate bid when asked this week, saying, "We'll see. I'm focused on my work on the Judiciary Committee ... and this crazy impeachment trial." Back in November, Cleveland.com reported that Jordan was considering a primary bid against Gov. Mike DeWine, who infuriated Trump by recognizing Joe Biden's victory. However, at least one consultant was very skeptical Jordan would run to lead the state, and we haven't heard anything new about a potential gubernatorial campaign in the ensuing two months.

Several more of Jordan's current or former House colleagues are also talking about seeking the GOP nod for Senate. Rep. Bill Johnson said, "I am seriously considering this opportunity and over the next few weeks, I will talk to my family, friends and supporters to determine if this is the right time and the right opportunity." Fellow Rep. Brad Wenstrup also said he would talk to people about his future, though he didn't lay out a timeline for when he'd decide

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Former Rep. Pat Tiberi, for his part, said Monday that "there will be a time and place to discuss his successor, but that day is not today." Tiberi considered running for the state's other Senate seat in 2017 against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, but he not only passed, he decided later that year to resign from Congress altogether to lead a business group. Tiberi, though, retains a $5 million war chest that he could use on another bid for federal office.

Another Republican who has expressed interest is state Sen. Matt Dolan, who is a co-owner of the Cleveland Indians team and whom Cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias describes as "a more-moderate, business friendly Republican." Tobias also says of the potential electoral effects of Dolan's status as a team owner, “[W]hether or not that's an advantage depends on what the front office is doing, so that's open to debate right now."

Two Republicans, though, have said no to a Senate campaign: Rep. Troy Balderson and Youngstown State President Jim Tressel. Tressel, who is widely known as the championship-winning former head football coach at the Ohio State University, has been mentioned as a potential statewide candidate for years but has never gone for it, and the 68-year-old university head seemed to definitively rule out running for office this week when he said, "Too busy here at YSU to run for the Senate … it is time for the young guys to step up."

On the Democratic side, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley acknowledged to the New York Times that she was considering both a Senate run or a campaign against DeWine for governor. Whaley didn't indicate which office she'd prefer but seemed especially motivated to stop Jordan from representing Ohio in the Senate, saying, "If Jim Jordan decides to run [for Senate], it is highly likely he will win that primary. We recognize that the soul of our state is at stake, and that's a motivation to all of us."

Senate

AZ-Sen: Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich was reportedly likely to run for Arizona's governorship, but with Gov. Doug Ducey's recent announcement that he won't try to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly next year, Brnovich isn't ruling out that race, either. "I'm too busy watching the Packers game, enjoying a beer and a brat with my wife's family, to think about the Senate or anything else political," said Brnovich, whose high-profile clashes with Ducey have led some Arizona politicos to speculate that the term-limited governor is backing state Treasurer Kimberly Yee as a way to block Brnovich from succeeding him.

But Yee hasn't committed to a gubernatorial bid, and in fact she's now also surfaced as a possible Senate candidate. So has Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, another would-be Republican contender for governor who promised an announcement last month but didn't follow through. Rep. David Schweikert, however, sounds unlikely. In his first public remarks on a potential promotion, the Republican congressman said he was likely to stay put, explaining, "I'm probably an election cycle away from getting at least a subcommittee in Ways and Means," the powerful House committee he currently sits on.

GA-Sen, GA-Gov: An aide to Doug Collins confirms the former congressman is considering either a primary challenge against Gov. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, or a second bid for the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-supporting former Democrat who joined the Republican Party this month, could also run for Senate. Jones made a bid for Senate once before when he was still a Democrat, losing the 2008 primary in a runoff to former state Rep. Jim Martin.

NC-Sen: State Sen. Jeff Jackson announced his entry into the race for North Carolina's open Senate seat on Monday, making him the most prominent Democrat to join the contest to date. Jackson, an attorney and Afghanistan war veteran with the Army Reserve, considered a Senate bid last cycle but declined, claiming Chuck Schumer derided his plan to kick off his campaign with "100 town halls in 100 days." Undeterred, Jackson pledged to visit all 100 North Carolina counties in his launch video "just as soon as it's safe."

Jackson, who is white, will face off against a one-time colleague, former state Sen. Erica Smith, with whom he has some unpleasant history. Smith unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Senate last cycle and subsequently appeared to endorse Jackson's Republican challenger, Sonja Nichols, in September. Smith, who is Black, later claimed she never backed Nichols, but when asked at the time on Facebook whether she'd requested that Nichols stop touting her as an endorser, she declined to answer and retorted, "you cannot see beyond your sexist male privilege."

NC-Sen, FL-Sen: The New York Times reports that the possibility that Lara Trump could run for Senate in North Carolina is looking "less clear" following the loss of her father-in-law, Donald Trump, in last year's election. The same piece also reports that rumors about a Senate campaign in Florida by Ivanka Trump, whose potential candidacy was based on the most gossamer of whispers, are "unlikely to develop further."

PA-Sen, PA-Gov: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has declined to rule out a bid for either Senate or governor next year, saying of his possible interest in running for higher office, "The plan right now is to do my job. Things happen." Recently, a spokesperson did not deny reports that Kenney, a Democrat, was considering both races.

Governors

AR-Gov: To no one's surprise, Donald Trump has endorsed his former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in her newly launched bid for governor of Arkansas. Trump's statement of support reads just like the cookie-cutter endorsements he'd issue from his former Twitter account, only this one came in the form of a press release from his "Save America PAC" and went on for the length of about 1.5 tweets.

Meanwhile, Republican state Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of term-limited Gov. Asa Hutchinson, says he'll announce whether he'll enter the GOP primary "in the coming weeks."

FL-Gov: The South Florida Sun-Sentinel adds one more name to the mix of possible Democratic contenders for governor next year, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. The aside comes amid a longer interview with former Republican Rep. David Jolly, who's talked about running statewide as an independent but now sounds more inclined to seek the governorship rather than launch a bid for Senate.

MD-Gov: Former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, who last month declined to rule out a bid for governor, has now confirmed he's considering the race. Perez was recently replaced at the DNC by former South Carolina Senate candidate Jaime Harrison, Joe Biden's pick to run the committee.

MN-Gov: MyPillow guy Mike Lindell, who was just kicked off Twitter for promoting lunatic election conspiracy theories, is now suggesting that he won't announce a bid for governor until he gets to the bottom of his investigation, telling Axios' Torey Van Oot, "Why would anybody want to run if they had the same machines with the election fraud?" As Van Oot notes, though, this might just be Lindell's way of clearing an escape path if in fact he's not interested in running after all.

Or maybe not! In an NPR interview later the same day that Axios published its report, Lindell tried to claim that (LOL) Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had taken control of his account to post "fake" information, "acting like they were me, putting out a narrative that was completely not me." In other words, Lindell has now found the real killer, thus rehabbing his sullied reputation and once more opening the door to a gubernatorial campaign, right? Right.

TX-Gov: Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke said in a recent radio interview that a bid for governor next year is "something I'm gonna think about," though he added, "[W]hether I'm a candidate for governor or I support someone who's a candidate for governor, I want to make sure we have excellence in leadership." Last year, O'Rourke declined to rule out a run when asked.

VA-Gov: Wealthy investor Pete Snyder announced he would enter the race for governor on the GOP side on Tuesday, joining several other notable candidates who are seeking the Republican nomination this year. The Washington Post also reports that the GOP's convention will take place on May 1, though Republicans still have no idea how they'll host one amid the pandemic.

House

CA-22: 2020 Democratic nominee Phil Arballo launched a TV commercial Tuesday to announce a second campaign against Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who remains one of Donald Trump's most prominent toadies in Congress. Last year, Nunes won a very expensive campaign against Arballo 54-46 as Trump was carrying his Central Valley seat by a slightly smaller 52-46 margin.

This district, which is located near Fresno and Tulare, has long been reliably red turf, and any Democrat would have a very tough time unseating even a Republican as odious as Nunes. Arballo, though, told the Sacramento Bee that, while he didn't expect the state's independent redistricting commission to "dramatically change" the district lines, "we think they might be improved upon in terms of competitiveness." No one knows what the new map will look like, however, and Arballo acknowledged that he was starting his campaign now "to make sure we have the resources to roll out when the time comes."

Other Democrats might be interested in running if Nunes does become more vulnerable, but one familiar name has said no. 2018 nominee Andrew Janz, who lost to Nunes 53-47 and unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Fresno last year, told the paper that he was endorsing Arballo again.

NM-01: Democratic state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero has filed paperwork with the FEC for a possible bid in New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, though she doesn't appear to have said anything publicly about her interest yet. Leaders from both parties will pick their nominees in the likely special election to succeed Rep. Deb Haaland, whom Joe Biden has nominated to serve as his secretary of the interior.

OH-16, OH-13: Former Republican state Rep. Christina Hagan, who'd come up as a possible primary challenger to pro-impeachment Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, now says she'll wait until the redistricting process concludes before deciding whether she'll run. Depending on how the new map turns out, it also sounds like she might consider a rematch with Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who held her off 52-45 last fall in the 13th District.

SC-07: Republican state Rep. William Bailey says he's formed an exploratory committee to weigh a possible primary challenge to Rep. Tom Rice, one of 10 Republicans who recently voted to impeach Donald Trump. Bailey did not offer a specific deadline for when he might make a decision. Meanwhile, another possible GOP candidate, Horry County Schools Board chair Ken Richardson, says he'll wait until his school system is "through the pandemic" before making up his mind.

Mayors

Cincinnati, OH Mayor: Former Mayor Mark Mallory announced Tuesday that he would not run to regain his old post this year. Unnamed sources also tell the Cincinnati Business Courier that another Democrat, former state party chair David Pepper, also will sit the race out.

Data

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide goes to Tennessee, which once again was one of Donald Trump's strongest states. 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 carried the Volunteer State last year 61-38, which wasn't much different from his 61-35 performance in 2016, and as before, he won seven of the state's nine congressional districts. Trump scored at least 64% of the vote in each of these seats, all of which have been in Republican hands since the 2010 GOP wave. Biden, meanwhile, won both Democratic-held districts, carrying Rep. Jim Cooper's Nashville-area 5th District 60-37 and Rep. Steve Cohen's Memphis-based 9th District 79-20.

Interestingly, the GOP-controlled seat that gave Trump his smallest margin was the one that hasn't elected a Democrat since 1852, before the Republican Party was even founded, though it was still far from close: Rep. Tim Burchett's 2nd District around Knoxville supported Trump 64-34, which was just a tick down from his 65-30 performance against Hillary Clinton.

At the heart of the 2nd District is Knox County, which has in fact been represented by a member of the nativist Know Nothing Party more recently than a Democrat, with William Henry Sneed taking it during President Franklin Pierce's 1854 midterm. Sneed was replaced two years later by fellow Know Nothing Horace Maynard, who, like many anti-secession politicians in the years before and during the Civil War, identified with a number of different political labels.

Sneed's East Tennessee base remained loyal to the Union during the conflict, though he temporarily left Congress in 1863 when he was appointed state attorney general by military governor Andrew Johnson. Sneed returned in 1866 when Tennessee was readmitted to the Union after Johnson was elevated to the presidency following Abraham Lincoln's assassination, this time as a full-fledged member of the Republican Party.

After the federal government abandoned Reconstruction, however, Republicans throughout the South quickly found themselves with little influence. Knox County, though, remained a durable exception: The GOP continued to represent the area in Congress during the entire era of Democratic dominance known as the "Solid South," and it remained in power as the rest of Tennessee and neighboring states began their broader migration toward the Republican Party in the wake of Richard Nixon's "Southern strategy."

Democrats hung on in Tennessee longer than in other corners of the South, but those days are long gone. Republicans gained control of redistricting in 2010 for the first time since Reconstruction, and they'll once again decide the new congressional map.

Morning Digest: Three pro-impeachment Republicans have landed primary challenges—and more could soon

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

Impeachment: Following the House's recent move to impeach Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection, the 10 Republicans who voted in favor of holding Trump accountable for his actions are now almost all facing intense intra-party anger—including, in many cases, talk of potential primary challenges. Here's the latest on each:

CA-21: Republican leaders in Fresno County are enraged with Rep. David Valadao, with the local party's chair saying his organization wouldn't support the congressman "if the election were held today." But Valadao is at least somewhat insulated thanks to California's top-two primary system, which makes it exceedingly hard for partisans to oust incumbents in a primary since they'd have to finish third to miss out on the November general election—something that's never happened in a congressional race.

IL-16: Gene Koprowski, a former official with a conservative think tank called the Heartland Institute, recently told the New York Times that he was raising money for a potential campaign against Rep. Adam Kinzinger, but Koprowski​ added that he wouldn't enter the race until the Democratic-led state legislature finishes the redistricting process. Koprowski​ earned some very unfavorable notice in 2018 when HuffPost reported that he'd been charged with stalking a female colleague, and that senior Heartland officials sought to protect him.

Campaign Action

MI-03: Army National Guard veteran Tom Norton, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nod in Michigan's 3rd District last year when it was an open seat last year, is running against Rep. Peter Meijer once again. Norton raised very little and finished a distant third with just 16% of the vote. His Twitter feed is filled with remarks like, "If there is no such thing as gender, how can @KamalaHarris be a historic female?" and "If your gay go be gay that is your right. But when you remove a body part your not a woman your still a man.  We are normalizing crazy."

MI-06: Veteran Rep. Fred Upton was censured over the weekend​ by the Republican Party​ of Allegan County​, which is one of the six counties​ in his southwest Michigan seat. Upton, a relative pragmatist in today's GOP, has often been targeted in primaries for his previous apostasies, and last year, he turned in a relatively soft 63-37 win over businesswoman Elena Oelke, who appears to have raised no money at all.

NY-24: Local Republican and Conservative Party officials are quite pissed at Rep. John Katko, though there's been no real talk of a primary challenge yet. However, Katko was already on thin ice with the Conservative Party, whom he infuriated last cycle when he cosponsored a bill that condemned Trump's ban on transgender Americans serving in the armed forces. Some (but not all) of the damage was later repaired, but loss of Conservative support could prove very dangerous: In 2018, Katko defeated Democrat Dana Balter by 13,694 votes while earning 16,972 votes on the Conservative Party line. New York's 24th is one of just two districts Joe Biden won on this list (along with California's 21st), so defections on Katko's right flank could cause him serious trouble in the general election as much as in a primary.

OH-16: Former state Rep. Christina Hagan, who sought Ohio's 16th District once before, "is not ruling out" a challenge to Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, says Politico. Hagan lost to Gonzalez 53-41 in the GOP primary in 2018, when the 16th had become open, then ran unsuccessfully in the neighboring 13th District last year, falling 52-45 to Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan.

SC-07: We've previously written about two Republicans who are considering challenges to Rep. Tom Rice, but now a third is threatening to enter the fray. Former NYPD officer John Cummings, who raised $11 million in a futile bid against AOC last year, is reportedly thinking about taking his grift show down South for a potential primary bid. Rice may be the most vulnerable Republican on this list because South Carolina, alone among these nine states, requires runoffs if no candidate secures a majority, meaning Rice can't pin his hopes of survival on winning renomination with a mere plurality.

WA-03, WA-04: Republican leaders in Washington's 3rd and 4th Districts are hopping mad and say they expect both Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse to face primary challenges, though no names have emerged yet. However, like Valadao, both enjoy a measure of protection thanks to Washington's top-two primary system, which works just like California's.

WY-AL: Politico reports that Air Force veteran Bryan Miller is "expected" to run against Rep. Liz Cheney, though in a brief quote, he doesn't say anything about his plans. If he does enter, however, that might paradoxically be good news for Cheney, since she already landed one credible opponent, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, just the other day. Contra Tom Rice in South Carolina, Cheney could escape with a plurality because Wyoming has no runoffs.

Senate

GA-Sen: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests that former Republican state Rep. Earl Ehrhart might be considering a bid against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is up for re-election for a full six-year term in 2022. Ehrhart served in the state House for 30 years before retiring in 2018, making him the longest-serving Republican in the lower chamber, though he's still only 61 years old.

WI-Sen: Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who previously had not ruled out a bid against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson next year, now confirms he's "given consideration" to a possible campaign, though he hasn't offered a timetable for a decision. Barnes, a former state representative, was elected on a ticket with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in 2018 and would be Wisconsin's first Black senator.

Governors

RI-Gov: With Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee set to replace Gov. Gina Raimondo if she's confirmed as Joe Biden's new Commerce secretary, we were curious to know how well people who've ascended to the governorship in this manner fare when they choose to seek election in their own right. Fortunately, the University of Minnesota's Eric Ostermeier has answered this question in depth.

Since 1900, 174 second-in-command office-holders (including not only lieutenant governors but also—depending on the state—secretaries of state, state senate presidents, and state house speakers) have become governor in their own right, though only 128 were eligible to run in the following election (some, for instance, were only elevated after relevant primaries had passed). Of these, 109 chose to do so, but only a little more than half—59, or 54%—succeeded: 21 failed to win their party's nomination, while 29 lost general elections.

That's considerably lower than the overall re-election rate for governors, which from 1963 through 2013 was 75%, according to an earlier Ostermeier analysis. However, that figure includes these "elevated governors," so the actual re-election rate for governors first elected in their own right is even higher. That'll be something for McKee to think about both in terms of the Democratic primary and, should he prevail, next year's general election as well.

VA-Gov: Bob McDonnell, who was the last Republican to serve as governor of Virginia, has endorsed Del. Kirk Cox, who is hoping to break the GOP's long losing streak this fall. When McDonnell won office in 2009, that was in fact the last time any Republican won a statewide race in Virginia.

Mayors

Cincinnati, OH Mayor: Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus, a Democrat, said on Friday that she would not run for mayor this year.

Furious Trumpists are already lining up to primary Republicans who voted for impeachment

Following the House's recent move to impeach Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection, the 10 Republicans who voted in favor of holding Trump accountable for his actions are now almost all facing intense intra-party anger—including, in many cases, talk of potential primary challenges. Here's the latest on each:

CA-21: Republican leaders in Fresno County are enraged with Rep. David Valadao, with the local party's chair saying his organization wouldn't support the congressman "if the election were held today." But Valadao is at least somewhat insulated thanks to California's top-two primary system, which makes it exceedingly hard for partisans to oust incumbents in a primary since they'd have to finish third to miss out on the November general election—something that's never happened in a congressional race.

IL-16: Politico reports that Gene Koprowski, a former official with a conservative think tank called the Heartland Institute, "is already running" against Rep. Adam Kinzinger, but he doesn't appear to have done anything more than file paperwork with the FEC. Koprowski appears to have no social media presence, and if he did launch a campaign, he managed to earn zero attention from local press. He did, however, gain some notice in 2018 when HuffPost reported that he'd been charged with stalking a female colleague, and that senior Heartland officials sought to protect him.

MI-03: Army National Guard veteran Tom Norton, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nod in Michigan's 3rd District last year when it was an open seat last year, is running against Rep. Peter Meijer once again. Norton raised very little and finished a distant third with just 16% of the vote. His Twitter feed is filled with remarks like, "If there is no such thing as gender, how can @KamalaHarris be a historic female?" and "If your gay go be gay that is your right. But when you remove a body part your not a woman your still a man.  We are normalizing crazy."

MI-06: There hasn't been any reporting yet about backlash directed at veteran Rep. Fred Upton, but that doesn't mean there isn't any. Upton, a relative pragmatist in today's GOP, has often been targeted in primaries for his previous apostasies, and last year, he turned in a relatively soft 63-37 win over businesswoman Elena Oelke, who appears to have raised no money at all.

NY-24: Local Republican and Conservative Party officials are quite pissed at Rep. John Katko, though there's been no real talk of a primary challenge yet. However, Katko was already on thin ice with the Conservative Party, whom he infuriated last cycle when he cosponsored a bill that condemned Trump's ban on transgender Americans serving in the armed forces. Some (but not all) of the damage was later repaired, but loss of Conservative support could prove very dangerous: In 2018, Katko defeated Democrat Dana Balter by 13,694 votes while earning 16,972 votes on the Conservative Party line. New York's 24th is one of just two districts Joe Biden won on this list (along with California's 21st), so defections on Katko’s right flank could cause him serious trouble in the general election as much as in a primary.

OH-16: Former state Rep. Christina Hagan, who sought Ohio's 16th District once before, "is not ruling out" a challenge to Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, says Politico. Hagan lost to Gonzalez 53-41 in the GOP primary in 2018, when the 16th had become open, then ran unsuccessfully in the neighboring 13th District last year, falling 52-45 to Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan.

SC-07: We've previously written about two Republicans who are considering challenges to Rep. Tom Rice, but now a third is threatening to enter the fray. Former NYPD officer John Cummings, who raised $11 million in a futile bid against AOC last year, is reportedly thinking about taking his grift show down South for a potential primary bid. Rice may be the most vulnerable Republican on this list because South Carolina, alone among these nine states, requires runoffs if no candidate secures a majority, meaning Rice can't pin his hopes of survival on winning renomination with a mere plurality.

WA-03, WA-04: Republican leaders in Washington's 3rd and 4th Districts are hopping mad and say they expect both Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse to face primary challenges, though no names have emerged yet. However, like Valadao, both enjoy a measure of protection thanks to Washington's top-two primary system, which works just like California's.

WY-AL: Politico reports that Air Force veteran Bryan Miller is "expected" to run against Rep. Liz Cheney, though in a brief quote, he doesn't say anything about his plans. If he does enter, however, that might paradoxically be good news for Cheney, since she already landed one credible opponent, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, just the other day. Unlike Tom Rice in South Carolina, Cheney could escape with a plurality because Wyoming has no runoffs.