Morning Digest: Trump’s forces take down Rep. Tom Rice in South Carolina, but Nancy Mace holds on

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

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Leading Off

SC-01, SC-07: Two members of South Carolina’s U.S. House delegation went up against Trump-backed Republican primary opponents on Tuesday, but while 1st District Rep. Nancy Mace secured renomination, voters in the neighboring 7th District ejected pro-impeachment Rep. Tom Rice in favor of state Rep. Russell Fry. Mace turned back former state Rep. Katie Arrington, who was Team Red’s unsuccessful 2018 nominee, 53-45, which was just above the majority she needed to avoid a June 28 runoff. Fry also averted a second round in his six-way race by lapping Rice 51-25.

Mace, who was the first woman to graduate from the state’s famed military academy the Citadel, became one of the GOP’s most promising rising stars in 2020 when she unseated Democratic incumbent Joe Cunningham in a very expensive race. Mace, however, broke with Trump in the days after she was forced to barricade in her office during the Jan. 6 attack, saying, “I hold him accountable for the events that transpired.” She never backed impeachment and soon stopped trying to pick fights with Trump, but the GOP master still decided to repay her by endorsing Arrington, who had denied renomination in 2018 to then-Rep. Mark Sanford, in February.

Arrington, who launched her new campaign by blasting the incumbent as a "sellout" who "sold out the Lowcountry" and "sold out President Trump,” released a poll in early March arguing that her all-Trump all the time strategy would carry her to victory. Those Remington Research Group numbers showed Mace’s 50-35 lead transforming into a 51-33 Arrington advantage after respondents were informed she was the “Trump Endorsed America First Candidate,” which led the pollster to conclude that “there is no path to victory” for Mace.  

The congresswoman, though, worked to frame the primary as anything other than a fight between her and Trump. Shortly after Arrington’s kickoff, Mace posted a video shot across the street from Trump Tower where, after talking about her longtime Trump loyalty, she says, “If you want to lose this seat once again in a midterm election cycle to Democrats, then my opponent is more than qualified to do just that.” The GOP legislature did what it could to make sure that no one could lose this coastal South Carolina seat to Democrats by passing a map that extended Trump’s 2020 margin from 52-46 to 54-45, but that didn’t stop Mace from convincingly arguing that Arrington would be electoral Kryptonite against the Democrats’ well-funded candidate, pediatrician Annie Andrews.   

Rice, by contrast, went far further than Mace by actually voting for impeachment last year, a move so shocking that his own consultant initially assumed the five-term congressman had simply hit the wrong button. That vote instantly ensured that Rice, who had been easily renominated every cycle since he’d first won this safely red Myrtle Beach-area constituency in a competitive 2012 primary, would be in for an extremely difficult campaign, and several Republicans soon began challenging him.

Fry, though, cemented his status as the frontrunner after Trump backed him in February, and he soon earned national attention of his own with a truly strange ad depicting the apostate incumbent attending a touchy-feely "Villains Anonymous" meeting with the likes of the Joker, Lucifer, a pirate, Maleficent, and Delores Umbridge of the "Harry Potter" franchise. Rice and his remaining allies fought back by arguing that the congressman was too influential to fire and that Fry wasn't actually the conservative he presented himself as, but it was far from enough.

Rice himself argued to the end that he’d made the right decision by voting to impeach Trump over Jan. 6, saying, “He sat there and watched the Capitol get sacked and took pleasure in that … That’s what a dictator would do.” That didn’t prove to be a very compelling argument, though, and GOP primary voters responded by decisively nominating Fry in his place.

Election Recaps

TX-34 (special): Conservative activist Mayra Flores flipped this Rio Grande Valley constituency to the GOP on Tuesday by taking a majority of the vote in the all-party primary to succeed Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned earlier this year to take a job at a lobbying firm. (Vela announced his retirement last year but hadn’t previously indicated he’d leave Congress early.) Flores outpaced former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez, a Democrat who is not running for a full two-year term anywhere, 51-43 after a campaign where Republicans spent over $1 million while Democrats only began airing TV ads in the final week.

Flores was already the GOP nominee for the new version of the 34th District, where Republican mapmakers extended Joe Biden’s margin of victory from just 52-48 to 57-42 in order to strengthen their position in nearby seats. Her opponent will be Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who decided to run here because that very GOP gerrymander made his own 15th District more conservative: This will almost certainly be the only incumbent vs. incumbent general election of the cycle other than the race for Florida’s 2nd District between Democratic Rep. Al Lawson and Republican colleague Neal Dunn.

While Flores will be in for a difficult fight in November on more Democratic terrain, though, Republicans are hoping that her win Tuesday proves that the GOP can still secure further gains in heavily Latino areas. Flores also will have a geographic advantage, as she’ll spend the next several months representing 75% of the new 34th District; Gonzalez, by contrast, currently serves the remaining quarter.

Primary Night: Here’s a look at where Nevada’s key races for Senate, governor, and U.S. House stand as of Wednesday morning. Note that, because a large number of ballots remain untabulated, these margins could change before the results are certified:

  • NV-Sen (R): Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt turned back an unexpectedly well-funded campaign from Army veteran Sam Brown by a 56-34 margin. Laxalt, who was the 2018 nominee for governor, will go up against Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto in what will be one of the most competitive Senate races of the cycle.
  • NV-Gov (R): Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who like Laxalt had Trump’s endorsement, defeated attorney Joey Gilbert 38-28 for the right to take on Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. Former Sen. Dean Heller, who lost re-election to Democrat Jacky Rosen in 2018, took a distant third with 14%; Heller never lost a race in his long career in Nevada politics until Rosen unseated him four years ago.
  • NV-01 (D): Rep. Dina Titus turned back progressive challenger Amy Vilela in an 82-18 landslide.
  • NV-01 (R): The Associated Press has not yet called this contest but with 89% of the estimated vote in, Army veteran Mark Robertson holds a 30-17 lead over conservative activist David Brog; former 4th District Rep. Crescent Hardy, who raised almost no money for his latest comeback, lags in fourth with just 12%. Democrats in the legislature, much to Titus’ frustration, made this seat in the eastern Las Vegas area considerably more competitive in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer, and Biden would have carried the new 1st 53-45.
  • NV-02 (R): Republican Rep. Mark Amodei secured renomination in this safely red northern Nevada seat by beating Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian 54-33. Tarkanian, who was a longtime resident of the Las Vegas area well to the south, finally ended his legendary losing streak in 2020 after moving to Douglas County, but he very much returned to form on Tuesday by failing to win a seat in Congress for the fifth time.
  • NV-03 (R): Attorney April Becker, who was the favored candidate of the GOP establishment, easily defeated self-funder John Kovacs 65-11. Becker will go up against Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in a southern Las Vegas area seat where Democrats extended Biden’s winning margin from just 49.1-48.9 to 52-46.
  • NV-04 (R): The AP hasn’t called this GOP primary yet but with 68% of the estimated vote in, Air Force veteran Sam Peters leads Assemblywoman Annie Black 48-41. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford, whose constituency in the northern Las Vegas area supported Biden 53-45 under the new map.

Senate

WA-Sen: NBC reports that the Democratic group Future Majority PAC has booked $860,000 for an ad campaign that will start in early July, which will make this the first major outside spending of the contest. Early this month the Northwest Progressive Institute released a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling giving Democratic incumbent Patty Murray a 51-40 lead over her likely Republican opponent, motivational speaker Tiffany Smiley.

Governors

IL-Gov: The Republican firm Ogden & Fry's new look at the June 28 GOP primary finds state Sen. Darren Bailey leading Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin 31-17, with venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan at 11%. This is the third poll in a row we've seen showing Bailey defeating Irvin, an outcome that would greatly please Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his allies.  

OK-Gov: Amber Integrated (R): Kevin Stitt (R-inc): 47, Joy Hofmeister (D): 29 (March: 44-30 Stitt)

TX-Gov: The Democratic pollster Blueprint Polling's inaugural survey of Texas shows Republican incumbent Greg Abbott fending off Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke in a 56-37 landslide. This survey, which the firm says was done "with no input or funding from any candidate, committee, or interest group," comes a month after UT Tyler gave Abbott a considerably smaller 46-39 advantage.

House

CA-40: The Associated Press on Monday night projected that Rep. Young Kim had defeated her fellow Republican, Mission Viejo Councilman Greg Raths, for the second spot in the general election despite a late Democratic effort to boost Raths. Democrat Asif Mahmood took first in last week's top-two primary with 41%, while Kim beat Raths 34-23 after she and her allies launched a significant last-minute spending spree to turn back the perennial candidate. Biden would have carried this eastern Orange County constituency 50-48.

FL-10, FL-Sen: Former Rep. Alan Grayson, whom longtime readers will know is one of our least favorite Democrats in America, announced Tuesday that he was abandoning his little-noticed Senate campaign in favor of running to succeed his now-former intra-party rival, Rep. Val Demings, in the safely blue 10th District in the Orlando area. He joins an August primary that includes state Sen. Randolph Bracy; gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost; pastor Terence Gray; and civil rights attorney Natalie Jackson, all of whom, like Demings but unlike Grayson, are Black.

The Orlando Sentinel notes that several Florida Democrats have argued that this area should continue to be represented by an African American. Indeed, Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge notably said in April, "My intent is to try to keep it [a Black] access seat because it is important to our community," though he predicted, "But, you know, someone can show up at noon on the last day of qualifying with 10 grand in their pocket, and boom, they're on the ballot." Grayson himself had just over $240,000 on-hand at the end of March, a paltry sum for a statewide contest but enough to put up a fight in a House race.

IL-06: Rep. Sean Casten's office announced Monday evening that his 17-year-old daughter, Gwen Casten, had died that morning. Fellow Rep. Marie Newman, who is Sean Casten's opponent in the June 28 Democratic primary, said in response that her campaign "is working to cease all comparative paid communications immediately."    

IL-07: The Justice Democrats have launched a $120,000 ad buy supporting gun safety activist Kina Collins' bid against longtime Rep. Danny Davis in the June 28 Democratic primary, which makes this the first outside spending on Collins' side. (A group called Opportunity for All Action Fund has deployed a similar amount for the incumbent.) The spot, writes Primary School, faults Davis for missing House votes as crime and inflation remain a serious problem, and pledges that the challenger would be a more focused representative. Davis fended off Collins 60-14 two years ago in this safely blue Chicago seat.

VA-02: The Democratic group Patriot Majority has launched a commercial designed to help far-right activist Jarome Bell win next week's Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria, which makes this the latest contest where Democrats have tried to pick their opponents. The narrator tells the audience, "Bell is a Navy veteran who calls himself an 'America First conservative' … He supports Trump's election audit in all 50 states, and Bell wants to outlaw abortion." Unsubtly, the narrator concludes, "If Jarome Bell wins, Donald Trump wins too." There is no word on the size of the buy.

Trump himself has not made an endorsement here, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is all-in for one of Bell's intra-party rivals, state Sen. Jen Kiggans. A late May internal for a pro-Kiggans group showed her decisively beating another primary candidate, Air Force veteran Tommy Altman, 43-9, with Bell at 8%.

DCCC: The DCCC has added 11 more candidates to its Red to Blue program, which is the DCCC's top-tier list of races where it plans to be heavily involved this cycle: 

  • AZ-01: Jevin Hodge
  • FL-27: Annette Taddeo
  • NC-01: Don Davis
  • NC-13: Wiley Nickel
  • NC-14: Jeff Jackson
  • NY-01: Bridget Fleming
  • NY-22: Francis Conole
  • OR-04: Val Hoyle
  • OR-05: Jamie McLeod Skinner
  • OR-06: Andrea Salinas
  • PA-17: Chris Deluzio

Most of these candidates have already won the nomination or face little intra-party opposition, but the DCCC is taking sides in a few contested primaries. In Arizona’s 1st Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, is going up against former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf for the right to take on GOP Rep. David Schweikert. (A third Democrat, environmental consultant Ginger Sykes Torres, failed to collect enough signatures to continue her campaign.)

Taddeo, likewise, has to get past Miami Commissioner Ken Russell before she can focus on Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar in Florida's 27th. Finally, Conole faces Air Force veteran Sarah Klee Hood, Syracuse Common Council member Chol Majok, and former Assemblyman Sam Roberts in the primary for New York's open 22nd District.  

Ad Roundup

Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.

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

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

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

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Redistricting

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

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

1Q Fundraising

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

41-29 vs. venture capitalist Guy Nohra

39-35 vs. attorney Joey Gilbert

39-39 vs. former Sen. Dean Heller

37-39 vs. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo

37-40 vs. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorneys General

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

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

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

Other Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Digest: Tennessee GOP’s bill would block Trump’s pick, but they’ll need courts to agree

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

Subscribe to our podcast, The Downballot!

Leading Off

TN-05: Tennessee lawmakers have sent a bill to Gov. Bill Lee that would impose a requirement that House candidates reside in their districts for three years before becoming eligible to run, a move that seems to be aimed at blocking one contender in particular: former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, who is Trump's endorsed candidate for the August Republican primary in the newly gerrymandered 5th District.

The legislation could have a tough time surviving a court challenge, however, because of a 1995 Supreme Court decision holding that states cannot add further qualifications to candidates for Congress that aren't already in the Constitution: namely, a minimum age and length of U.S. citizenship, and residency in the state—but, crucially, not the district—they're seeking to represent.

However, one of the measure's proponents said he hoped that the court would now revisit its earlier ruling, a five-to-four decision that saw swing Justice Anthony Kennedy join four liberal justices in the majority to strike down term-limits laws. On the other side, a well-financed group called Tennessee Conservative PAC says it would sue to stop the bill, though Ortagus herself hasn't said if she'd go to court.

Ortagus moved to Tennessee last year from D.C., and critics have cast her as an interloper. She didn't help her cause last month when, during an appearance on a conservative radio show, she bombed the host's quiz about the new 5th District and state. Many observers have argued that the legislature crafted this bill as an attack on Ortagus, especially since its sponsor, state Sen. Frank Niceley, has made it clear he's not a fan: Niceley said earlier this month, "I'll vote for Trump as long as he lives. But I don't want him coming out here to tell me who to vote for."

Another GOP contender, music video producer Robby Starbuck, has argued that this legislation is meant to harm him as well. However, the former Californian now says that he'd meet the residency requirements of the newest version of the bill.

The Downballot

Each week, Daily Kos' new podcast, The Downballot, explores key stories making news in the world of elections below the level of the presidency—from Senate to city council and beyond. This coming episode will mark our 10th so far, so we want to hear from you, our listeners (and soon-to-be-listeners!) about the races and topics you'd like to hear us discuss.

So drop a comment below, email us at thedownballot@dailykos.com, or tweet at us at @DKElections. We welcome any and all questions, and they don't even have to be in the form of a question! If there's a specific election you're interested in, just name it.

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And if you haven't had the chance to listen yet, our most recent episode is right here. You can also find a transcript here. We look forward to hearing from you!

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: As promised, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the new congressional map passed by Florida's GOP-run legislature, which responded by saying it would convene a special session starting April 19 to draw new districts. The Republican leaders of both chambers released a statement saying their goal is to pass a plan that would be "signed by the Governor," suggesting they aren't interested in working with Democrats to craft a veto-proof plan—at least for now.

MD Redistricting: Maryland's Democratic-run state Senate quickly passed a new congressional map on Tuesday after introducing it the prior evening, with action in the state House likely by Wednesday's court-imposed deadline to enact a remedial redistricting plan.

The new map would return the 1st District to dark-red status by resituating it almost entirely on the conservative Eastern Shore and undoing its jump across the Chesapeake Bay that had it take in blue-leaning turf around the state capital of Annapolis. As a result, the revamped 1st would have voted for Donald Trump by a comfortable 56-42 margin, according to Dave's Redistricting App, instead of giving Joe Biden a 49-48 edge as it did under the Democrats' now-invalidated map. The change would mean smooth sailing for the state's lone Republican congressman, Rep. Andy Harris.

The latest revisions also make the 6th District, held by Democratic Rep. David Trone, noticeably redder as well: It would have gone 54-44 for Biden, instead of 60-38, and just 47-46 for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The changes appear to be aimed at pleasing the courts, at least in part, by presenting a map that, to the naked eye, simply looks nicer than the one it's replacing. This superficial view that a map ought to appear pleasing can often lead to misleading analysis—we've dubbed the concept a "prettymander"—but even the Supreme Court has objected to election districts on the grounds of their "bizarre shape."

As for the other six districts, they'd all remain safely blue, even though their configurations would all change considerably. But this new map might not see use this year: Tucked in at the end of the legislation is a provision that would revert the state back to the prior map if the court ruling that struck it down is overturned on appeal. It's still not clear whether there will be an appeal, though a spokesperson for Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh said that the legislature's choice to move forward with a new map would not affect any decision on whether to appeal.

MO Redistricting: On a wide bipartisan vote, the Missouri House sharply rejected a new congressional map that passed the state Senate last week after far-right renegades caved to GOP leaders, despite the fact that the state's candidate filing deadline came and went on Tuesday.

In so doing, the House also voted to establish a conference committee with the Senate to hash out a compromise, but we might not even get that far: One House Republican said he believed that some senators would filibuster any motion for a conference committee—the same tactic hardliners used to hold up passage of the map in the first place. Lawsuits have already been filed asking the courts to step in and draw new districts in the event of a continued impasse.

OH Redistricting: Ohio's Republican-dominated redistricting commission passed a fourth set of legislative maps late on Monday night on a 4-3 vote by making relatively small adjustments to the maps the state Supreme Court most recently rejected. Just hours before Monday's court-imposed deadline, the commission abandoned efforts to have a bipartisan pair of consultants draw new districts from scratch; by instead approving maps similar to those that were previously struck down, it's courting yet another adverse ruling.

The commission, however, seems to have scored a lucky break on the congressional front, as it appears to have run out the clock on a separate legal challenge to the heavily slanted map it passed in favor of the GOP earlier this month, at least for this year. The state Supreme Court issued a scheduling order on Tuesday that would not see briefing conclude for another two months—well after the state's May 3 primary.

A group of voters backed by national Democrats has continued to argue that the map, which closely resembles a prior iteration that was struck down by the Supreme Court as an illegal partisan gerrymander, should again be invalidated. However, a second group of plaintiffs, led by the Ohio League of Women Voters and represented by the state chapter of ACLU of Ohio, has conceded the matter, saying in a filing that they "do not currently seek relief as regards to the 2022 election."

Senate

GA-Sen: AdImpact tweets that Senate Majority PAC has booked at least $24.4 million in fall TV time to aid Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock, which is $11 million more than previously reported.

MO-Sen: Former state Sen. Scott Sifton said Monday night, just one day before candidate filing was to close, that he was dropping out of the Democratic primary and endorsing philanthropist Trudy Busch Valentine, a first-time candidate who announced her own bid the following day. Busch Valentine is the daughter of the late August Busch Jr., who was instrumental in the success of the St. Louis-based brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, and she previously donated $4 million of her money to St. Louis University's nursing school (now known as the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing). Busch Valentine will face Marine veteran Lucas Kunce in the August primary.

OH-Sen: Rep. Tim Ryan's campaign says he's launching a $3.3 million opening ad buy for the Democratic primary, and he uses his first spot to repeatedly attack China. "Washington's wasting our time on stupid fights," the congressman says, continuing, "China is out-manufacturing us left and right. Left and right."

WI-Sen: Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes' new internal from Impact Research (formerly known as Anzalone Liszt Grove or ALG) gives him a 38-17 lead over Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry in the August Democratic primary, with state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson at 9% and 8%, respectively. Back in December, the firm found Barnes with a 40-11 advantage against Lasry.

Governors

CT-Gov: Democratic incumbent Ned Lamont uses his first TV spot to talk about how he managed to balance the budget without raising taxes, saying, "We turned a massive budget deficit into a $3 billion surplus. While investing in schools, healthcare, and public safety." The governor continues, "And now we are cutting your car tax and your gas tax."

GA-Gov: Former Sen. David Perdue is continuing his all-Trump all-the-time advertising strategy for the May GOP primary with a new commercial that uses footage of Trump bashing both incumbent Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams at his Saturday rally.

The spot begins with the GOP master bellowing, "Brian Kemp is a turncoat, he's a coward, he's a complete and total disaster." As the crowd repeatedly boos, Trump eggs on his followers by claiming that the governor was "bullied into a consent decree engineered by Stacey Abrams and allowed massive voter fraud to occur throughout the state of Georgia." The only mention of Perdue in the spot comes afterwards as Trump proclaims that he'll "never surrender to Stacey Abrams and the militant radical left, and with your vote we're going to rescue the state of Georgia from the RINOs."

Meanwhile, Perdue's allies at Georgia Action Fund are spending another $955,000 on TV advertising for him, which AdImpact says takes the group's total to $1.64 million.

HI-Gov: Civil Beat reports that Lt. Gov. Josh Green has received endorsements from two of the state's most prominent unions, the Hawaii State Teachers Association and Hawaii Government Employees Association, for the August Democratic primary. Several other labor groups, including the Hawaii Firefighters Association, are also behind Green, who has posted huge leads in the few surveys that have been released.

OH-Gov: Gov. Mike DeWine is spending $131,000 on cable for his first buy for the Republican primary, a spot that extols him for standing up to teachers unions and for police against "radicals."

The commercial comes a week after former Rep. Jim Renacci, who is DeWine's most prominent intra-party foe, deployed $104,000 on his own cable ads, which attack the incumbent for "turning his back" on both Trump and Ohio. Renacci's commercial continues by going after DeWine for "mandating masks on our kids" and argues he's been "governing Ohio just like his liberal friends Joe Biden and Andrew Cuomo would." This is the first time we've seen Cuomo appear in a TV spot outside New York since he resigned last year, and it doesn't even allude to the many scandals that resulted in his downfall.  

WI-Gov: Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch's new spot for the August GOP primary features her bragging about what an "unapologetic" conservative she is.

House

AK-AL: Former state Sen. John Coghill has announced that he'll compete in the June special top-four primary to succeed his fellow Republican, the late Rep. Don Young. Coghill served for 22 years in the legislature and amassed a number of powerful posts, but the Senate Rules Committee chair lost renomination by 14 votes to Robert Myers in 2020 under the old partisan primary system. Myers, who ran to Coghill's right, said of his tiny win, "I know that this election was not about how much people like me. This election was about how much people hated John Coghill."

GA-13: Rep. David Scott has received an endorsement from Stacey Abrams, the once and future Democratic nominee for governor, for his potentially competitive May primary.

MI-13: Public Policy Polling has surveyed the August Democratic primary for this open seat on behalf of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party Organization, and it finds hedge fund manager John Conyers III leading former Detroit General Counsel Sharon McPhail 19-9, with wealthy state Rep. Shri Thanedar taking third with 7%. The survey, which finds a 43% plurality undecided, was conducted days before Conyers announced his bid.

MO-01: State Sen. Steve Roberts announced Monday evening that he would challenge freshman Rep. Cori Bush, who is one of the most prominent progressives in Congress, in the August Democratic primary for this safely blue seat in St. Louis. Roberts said of the incumbent, "She made a comment that she wanted to defund the Pentagon. The NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) is a multi-million dollar project that's in my Senate seat, in the 1st Congressional [District], those folks don't have a voice." His campaign also faulted Bush for casting a vote from the left against the Biden administration's infrastructure package.

Roberts himself was accused of sexual assault by two different women in 2015 and 2017, though he was never charged. Bush's team highlighted the allegations after he announced his bid, saying, "Such men do not belong in public service, much less representing the incredible people of St. Louis in Congress."

PA-17: Navy veteran Chris Deluzio has earned an endorsement from the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, which the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review describes as the "largest labor coalition in the region," for the May Democratic primary for this competitive open seat.

attorneys general

SD-AG: A committee in South Dakota's GOP-run state House has recommended against impeaching state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, a Republican who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges last year for striking and killing a man with his car in September of 2020 but avoided jail time. A majority on the committee found that Ravnsborg had not committed a "crime or other wrongful act involving moral turpitude by virtue or authority of his office," but two Democrats disagreed, saying the attorney general had not been "forthcoming to law enforcement officers during the investigation" into the fatal crash.

The development comes despite an overwhelming vote in favor of the impeachment investigation in November, but the committee may not have the last word. The House will reconvene on April 12, when a simple majority could nevertheless vote to impeach.

Other Races

NY-LG: Multiple media outlets report that federal investigators are probing whether Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin had any knowledge of an alleged scheme to make fraudulent contributions to his unsuccessful bid last year for New York City comptroller. The investigation is centered around Gerald Migdol, a real estate investor whom prosecutors charged last year with faking the origin of dozens of donations so that Benjamin's campaign could more easily qualify for public financing.

The lieutenant governor has not been accused of wrongdoing, and his spokesperson says that Benjamin's campaign for comptroller donated the illicit contributions to the city's Campaign Finance Board as soon as it learned about them. However, the New York Times reports that investigators are looking further into whether Benjamin used his previous post in the state Senate to "direct[] state funding in some way to benefit Mr. Migdol in exchange for the contributions."

Last year, two months after Benjamin lost his bid for comptroller, newly elevated Gov. Kathy Hochul appointed him to fill her previous position as lieutenant governor. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor of New York compete in separate nomination contests before running as a ticket in the general election, but they can choose to campaign together in the primary and urge voters to select them both. Hochul and Benjamin have been running as an unofficial ticket in June's Democratic primary, but the governor's spokesperson on Monday didn't comment when asked if she'd keep Benjamin on as a running mate.

Morning Digest: MAGA House hopeful bails after Trump memory-holes endorsement and backs someone else

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

Check out our podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

MI-04: State Rep. Steve Carra on Tuesday ended his August Republican primary campaign against Reps. Bill Huizenga and Fred Upton days after he learned the hard way that Donald Trump's "Complete and Total Endorsement" isn’t actually complete and total when redistricting is involved. Carra on his way out joined Trump in supporting Huizenga's intra-party bid against Upton, who voted to impeach Trump and still hasn't confirmed if he'll even be running for a 14th term.

Carra last year had picked up Trump's backing when he was taking on Upton in the old 6th District, but that was before the new map ensured that Huizenga and Upton would be running for the same new 4th District if they each wanted to remain in the House. Carra himself eventually decided to run for the 4th even though it didn't include a shred of his legislative seat, and for more than a month he was able to take advantage of the GOP leader’s silence about where things stood post-redistricting and continue to run as the only Trump-backed candidate.

Huizenga himself acknowledged weeks ago that he wasn’t sure if Trump’s earlier endorsement of Carra in the 6th still applied, saying, “I'm aware that there are people within the organization that are looking at it and are trying to figure that one out.” Those calls seemed to have worked because on Friday, Trump announced that Huizenga was his man in southwestern Michigan. Carra, who is now seeking re-election, said Tuesday that he’d spoken to Trump’s people and learned that "[t]he key decision maker that led to this was the fact that I don't live in the district."

Upton, for his part, began a $213,000 ad campaign last month that seemed to confirm he'd be running again, but his camp insisted at the time that he still hadn't made a decision. We don't know if Upton was just being cute or really is still making up his mind, though prolonged public deliberations from him are nothing new. Last cycle the longtime congressman kept everyone guessing about his plans even after he handed out "Upton 2020!" buttons at a September 2019 party gathering; it was only the following February that he finally said he'd be running again.

We'll finally have our answer for 2022 before too long, though. Michigan's filing deadline is April 19, and since House candidates need to turn in at least 1,000 valid signatures to make the primary ballot, Upton would need to get moving before then if he's to go up against Huizenga. How long it would take for "Upton 2022!" buttons to roll off the printer, though, we can't say.

Redistricting

KS Redistricting: Kansas' Republican-run state House has introduced a new map for its own districts, following the same action in the upper chamber the other day. Just two states have failed to unveil any sort of legislative maps at all: Mississippi and Montana.

Senate

OH-Sen: Former state GOP chair Jane Timken's latest commercial for the May primary has her proclaiming that "border security is national security" and dubbing herself "the real Trump conservative." The spot ends with old footage of Trump, who is still making Timken and her many opponents grovel for his endorsement, calling her "unbelievable."      

OK-Sen-B: Former Rep. Kendra Horn, who represented Oklahoma's 5th District for one term, announced on Tuesday that she'll run in the November special election to replace departing GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe. Horn's entry gives Democrats an unusually credible candidate for a Senate race in Oklahoma, but it's still … Oklahoma. Democrats haven't prevailed in a race for statewide office since 2006, and they haven't won a Senate contest since David Boren's last re-election campaign in 1990 (which saw him romp in a remarkable 83-17 landslide).

Horn won the most astonishing upset of the 2018 midterms when she unseated Republican Rep. Steve Russell in a 51-49 squeaker for an Oklahoma City-based district that Donald Trump had carried by a wide 53-40 spread two years earlier. Russell had run a disastrous campaign—after his loss, he compared the people who'd voted him out to "a dog lapping up antifreeze"—but long-term suburban trends and outgoing Gov. Mary Fallin’s horrible numbers in the area were also working against him.

Unfortunately for Horn, though, those trends weren't enough to keep her in Congress: Even though Trump's margin shrank to 51-46, she lost her bid for a second term to Republican Stephanie Bice 52-48. And to win statewide, especially in a difficult midterm environment, would require an even more herculean feat than the one Horn managed four years ago, seeing as Trump carried Oklahoma 65-32 in 2020, making it his fourth-best state in the nation.

That makes Inhofe's seat a particularly attractive prize to Republicans, though one potential contender is reportedly staying out. Politico says that Rep. Kevin Hern, who had been considering a bid, won't run, though Hern himself has not yet confirmed the news.

Governors

GA-Gov: While Stacey Abrams faces no competition in the May Democratic primary, the once and future nominee is launching its opening $1 million TV and digital ad buy. The first spot features Abrams saying, "When I didn't win the governor's race, not getting the job didn't exempt me from the work. And so I didn't quit." She continues by talking about how her organization last year "paid off the medical debt of 68,000 Georgians," and how she aided small businesses. "I was raised that when you don't get what you want, you don't give up," Abrams says, "You try again. You try because it's how things get better, it's how the world moves forward."

IL-Gov: Candidate filing closed Monday for Illinois' June 28 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here. Not everyone who filed may make the ballot, though, because it's very common for candidates in the Prairie State to challenge their opponents' petitions to try to get them disqualified. Indeed, Barack Obama himself won his state Senate seat in 1996 by getting all his Democratic primary foes—including incumbent Alice Palmer—thrown off the ballot for a lack of sufficient signatures.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is seeking a second term in this very blue state, but Republicans are hoping they'll still have an opening in the fall. A total of eight GOP contenders are running, and the best-funded will almost certainly be Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. Irvin, who would be the state's first Black governor, has the support of billionaire Ken Griffin, and the state's wealthiest man has already given him $20 million. (Illinois has notoriously lax campaign finance regulations.) The mayor, though, has participated in several Democratic primaries in the past and has sometimes voiced moderate views, which could be a big liability in the primary.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, meanwhile, has received $1 million from a different conservative megadonor, Richard Uihlein, and he also has the backing of far-right Rep. Mary Miller. Another well-connected contender is venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, who launched his bid over the summer with $11 million in donations mostly from four California tech titans. Businessman Gary Rabine and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, who badly lost the 2014 general election for attorney general, are also in, but they haven't attracted much outside support yet.

NH-Gov: State Sen. Tom Sherman announced a bid against Republican Gov. Chris Sununu this week, making him the first notable Democrat to join the race. After serving two terms in the state House, Sherman, a physician, challenged Republican state Sen. Dan Innis in 2016 but lost 52-46. Two years later, he tried again, this time prevailing 53-47; he went on to win re-election in 2020. Sununu is seeking to become just the second person to win a fourth two-year term as governor in state history, following Democrat John Lynch, who left office in 2013.

OH-Gov: Former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is spending $280,000 on his opening spot for the May Democratic primary. The candidate is shown inspecting an abandoned factory as he declares that "Ohio deserves a comeback. I know it won't be easy, but I've faced long odds before." Cranley continues, "When we started the Ohio Innocence Project, they said it was impossible. It has freed 34 innocent people. When I became mayor of Cincinnati, they said the city would never grow again. We defied the odds."

House

FL-07: Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani, who previously hadn't ruled out a bid for Florida's open 7th Congressional District, announced on Tuesday that she'd seek re-election to the legislature.

FL-15: Former Rep. Dennis Ross announced Tuesday that he'd try to return to the House after a four-year absence by seeking the Republican nomination for the newly drawn 15th District in the Tampa area. GOP state Rep. Jackie Toledo is also campaigning for what would be an open seat even though Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has pledged to veto the congressional map that she and her colleagues passed.

Ross was elected in the 2010 tea party wave to succeed Adam Putnam, a fellow Republican who left to successfully run for state agriculture commissioner (he later lost the 2018 primary to none other than DeSantis) in what was then numbered the 12th District. Ross, whose reliably red constituency was redubbed the 15th two years later, rose to become senior deputy majority whip, but he rarely attracted much attention otherwise; indeed, national observers sometimes referred to him as the other Dennis Ross when they referred to him at all.

The congressman unexpectedly announced in 2018 that he would not seek a fifth term, though characteristically, his declaration was vastly overshadowed by Speaker Paul Ryan's own retirement that same day. (The Florida Man said he learned of Ryan's parallel departure as he was telling his own staff about his decision and happened to look at a TV tuned to Fox.) Ross explained his decision by saying, "Eight years takes its toll on you. When you feel like a stranger in your hometown, it's time to say, 'There's got to be an exit strategy at some point.'"

However, Ross now very much is looking for a re-entry strategy, declaring, "Seeing what's happened in the last few years has just forced me to get off the sidelines and get back in the game, and that's exactly the way I feel. And I feel compelled to do that in, I think, a very statesmanlike fashion (that) I think the voters are craving for."

GA-10: Marine veteran Mitchell Swan earned a mere 4% in the 2014 Republican primary for a previous version of this seat, but he seems to have decided that anti-trans bigotry will help him stand out this time. Swan is running a TV spot for the May primary where he declares, "I oppose transgenders in our ranks."  

IL-01: Rep. Bobby Rush is retiring after 15 terms, and a massive field of 20 fellow Democrats have filed to succeed him in a safely blue seat based in the South Side of Chicago and the city's southwestern suburbs. Rush himself is supporting Karin Norington-Reaves, who is a former CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. Another well-connected contender is construction contracting firm owner Jonathan Jackson, who is the son of two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and the brother of former 2nd District Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

The race also includes two sitting elected officials, state Sen. Jacqueline Collins and Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell. Another notable name is former Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority official Charise Williams, who lost a 2018 primary for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Also in the mix is businessman Jonathan Swain, real estate executive Nykea Pippion McGriff, and activist Jahmal Cole, who was running a long-shot campaign against Rush before the incumbent retired; it's possible one of the other 12 candidates could also attract attention in the two-and-a-half weeks ahead of the primary.  

IL-03: Legislative Democrats created a new seat based in heavily Latino areas in southwestern Chicago and the western suburbs, and four Democrats are competing for this safely blue constituency. The two frontrunners appear to be Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas, a Marine veteran backed by VoteVets, and state Rep. Delia Ramirez, who has EMILY's List in her corner. Ramirez has earned the backing of several progressive groups while Villegas, who has emphasized public safety, is campaigning more as a moderate.

Villegas ended 2021 with a wide cash-on-hand lead, while Ramirez has since picked up the support of 4th District Rep. Chuy Garcia, who currently represents 43% of the new 3rd. The only poll we've seen was a recent Lake Research Partners survey for the pro-Ramirez Working Families Party that showed her leading Villegas 19-11; a mere 1% went to Iymen Chehade, a history professor at the center of an ethics probe involving Rep. Marie Newman (who is seeking re-election in the 6th District). A fourth candidate, Juan Aguirre, has attracted little attention.

IL-06: Redistricting has led to an incumbent vs. incumbent Democratic primary between Marie Newman and Sean Casten in a seat in Chicago's western inner suburbs that would have favored Joe Biden 55-44.

Newman's existing 3rd District makes up 41% of this new seat while Casten's current 6th District forms just 23%. However, Newman also faces an ethics investigation into charges she sought to keep a potential primary opponent out of the race when she ran in 2020 by offering him a job as a top aide if she won. The only poll we've seen was a mid-February Newman internal from Victoria Research that showed a 37-37 deadlock.

Six Republicans are also campaigning here including two mayors of small communities: Keith Pekau of Orland Park and Gary Grasso of Burr Ridge, who has the support of state House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and DuPage County Board Chair Dan Cronin.

IL-07: Longtime Rep. Danny Davis faces a rematch against anti-gun-violence activist Kina Collins, whom he beat 60-14 in the 2020 Democratic primary for this reliably blue seat. Two other Democrats have also filed for this district, which includes Chicago's West Side and downtown.

IL-08: There's little indication that Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi has much to worry about in his primary, but he does face a notable intra-party opponent in the form of Junaid Ahmed, who runs a technology consulting firm. Ahmed, who is portraying himself as a progressive alternative to the incumbent, ended 2021 with $421,000 on hand, a credible sum that was still utterly dwarfed by Krishnamoorthi's $11.55 million war chest. No other Democrats filed for this seat in the Chicago western outer suburbs, which would have supported Biden 57-41.

IL-13: Republican Rep. Rodney Davis decided to run in the 15th District after Democratic mapmakers transformed the 13th into a seat that now stretches from East St. Louis northeast through Springfield to the college towns of Champaign and Urbana and would have backed Biden 54-43.

Three Democrats are campaigning here, but former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski quickly emerged as the clear frontrunner after raising a serious amount of money and consolidating support from Sen. Dick Durbin, much of the state's House delegation, and several unions. The field also includes financial planner David Palmer and progressive activist Ellis Taylor, but neither of them have picked up any major endorsements yet.

Four Republicans are campaigning here with the hope that the new 13th isn't as blue as it looks. The two main contenders seem to be former federal prosecutor Jesse Reising and activist Regan Deering, whose family ran the agribusiness giant Archer-Daniels-Midland for more than 40 years.

IL-14: Democratic mapmakers sought to protect Rep. Lauren Underwood in this seat in Chicago's western exurbs by augmenting Biden's margin of victory from 50-48 to 55-43, but six Republicans are still betting she's vulnerable. Team Red's field includes Kendall County Board Chair Scott Gryder, former Kane County Board member Susan Starrett, and conservative radio host Michael Koolidge.  

IL-15: Republican Reps. Rodney Davis and Mary Miller are facing off in a safely red seat in rural central Illinois, and both have powerful allies.

Donald Trump and the anti-tax Club for Growth are pulling for Miller, a far-right extremist who declared last year during her first days in office, "Hitler was right on one thing. He said, 'Whoever has the youth has the future.'" Davis, who has to present himself as a moderate in order to win under the previous map, has the Illinois Farm Bureau on his side, and he also ended 2021 with a huge financial edge. Miller's current 15th District makes up 31% of this constituency, while Davis' existing 13th forms 28%.

IL-17: Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos announced her retirement months before her party transformed this constituency in the state's northwest corner from a 50-48 Trump seat to one that would have favored Biden 53-45, and seven fellow Democrats are campaigning to succeed her.

Team Blue's field consists of Rockford Alderman Jonathan Logemann; Rockford Alderwoman Linda McNeely; Rock Island County Board member Angie Normoyle; former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen; former state Rep. Litesa Wallace; and two others. A January survey from Public Policy Polling for 314 Action, which has since endorsed Sorensen, gave him a 13-11 edge over Wallace in a race where most respondents were undecided. Things are far clearer on the Republican side where 2020 nominee Esther Joy King, who lost to Bustos 52-48, faces just one unheralded opponent.

MT-01, MT-02: Filing also closed Monday for Montana's June 7 primary, and the state has its list of candidates here. Big Sky Country has regained the second congressional district it lost after the 1990 Census, and all the action this year will almost certainly be in the new 1st District, a seat in the western part of the state that would have supported Trump 52-45.

The frontrunner among the five Republicans very much looks like Ryan Zinke, who resigned as the state's only House member in 2017 to serve as secretary of the interior. Trump endorsed Zinke's return to Congress last summer, a development that came about two and a half years after Trump reportedly pressured him to leave the cabinet in the face of 18 federal investigations.

Zinke since then has earned bad headlines over how much more time he's spent in Santa Barbara, California compared to his home state. Last month, federal investigators also released a report concluding that he violated federal ethics rules while in the cabinet by taking part in talks with developers about a project involving land owned by his foundation and then lying about his involvement in the negotiations. And while most of the probes into Zinke ended after investigators concluded he hadn't committed wrongdoing or because Interior Department staffers didn't cooperate, one matter looking into whether he lied about why he denied two tribes permission to operate a casino in Connecticut is still unresolved.

However, it remains to be seen if any of Zinke's four intra-party foes are strong enough to take advantage of his problems. The most notable of the group appears to be former state Sen. Al Olszewski, but he finished last in both the four-way primary for Senate in 2018 and the three-way nomination fight for governor two years later.

Meanwhile, three Democrats are campaigning here, all of whom also unsuccessfully sought office in 2020. Public health expert Cora Neumann left the Senate primary when then-Gov. Steve Bullock launched his bid, while attorney Monica Tranel, who rowed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, lost a close general election for a seat on the Public Service Commission. The third contender is former state Rep. Tom Winter, who ran for the at-large U.S. House seat that year but lost the primary to 2018 nominee Kathleen Williams in a 89-11 landslide; Williams went on to lose to Republican Matt Rosendale.

Rosendale, for his part, is running in the new 2nd, a 62-35 Trump seat in the eastern portion of the state, and there's no indication that any of his three intra-party foes are ready to give him a serious fight.

NC-13: Donald Trump has joined his one-time enemies at the Club for Growth in endorsing Bo Hines, a 26-year-old law student who previously played as a wide receiver at North Carolina State in 2014 before transferring to Yale, in the packed May primary for this competitive open seat in Raleigh's southern suburbs.

OR-05: Moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader is spending a reported $200,000 on his first TV ad for the May Democratic primary, which features the seven-term incumbent talking about his veterinary career while surrounded by cute animals. "In Congress, I'm making a real difference for their owners too," he says, before he talks about working to lower insulin costs and drug prices.

PA-17: Allegheny County Council member Sam DeMarco announced hours before candidate filing ended on Tuesday that he was abandoning his week-old campaign for the Republican nomination for this competitive open seat. DeMarco cited his duties as county party chair and argued that it "needs a full-time chairman who will devote himself 24/7 to making certain that the Republicans recapture the office of governor, secure a U.S. Senate seat and maintain control of the general assembly."

Morning Digest: Oregon’s new congressional district brings some old characters out of the woodwork

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

Check out our podcast, The Downballot!

LEADING OFF

OR-06: Two Oregon Republicans from yesteryear launched campaigns for the brand-new 6th Congressional District, a seat in the mid-Willamette Valley that Joe Biden would have carried 55-42, just ahead of Tuesday night's candidate filing deadline: former Rep. Jim Bunn, who was elected to his only term in a previous version of the 5th District during the 1994 red wave, and Mike Erickson, who was the 2006 and 2008 nominee for the next incarnation of the 5th. Bunn and Erickson join five fellow Republicans in the May 17 primary, while nine Democrats are also running here.

Bunn, who joined the state Senate in 1987, won a promotion to the U.S. House by winning a close open seat race as a "family values" candidate, but this victory proved to be the highlight of his political career. The new congressman married one of his aides just months after divorcing his wife of 17 years, and he soon promoted his new spouse to chief of staff and gave her a larger salary than any other Oregon congressional aide.

All of this made Bunn an appealing foil for Clackamas County Commissioner Darlene Hooley, a Democrat who also took the incumbent to task for his ardent opposition to abortion and gun safety. Hooley unseated the Republican 51-46; years later, he acknowledged that his brothers and even his soon-to-be-wife had cautioned him that the marriage could badly harm him politically, but that "I wasn't a bright enough person to listen and understand."

Bunn soon returned home and took a job as a prison guard at the Yamhill County Jail, which is one of the more unusual post-congressional career paths we've seen (though one dude served as a Capitol Hill elevator operator in the late 1930s), but he wasn't quite done trying to get back into office. In 2008 he ran for a state House seat, but he took third place in the primary with only 21%. Bunn last year applied to fill a vacant seat back in the state Senate, but party leaders chose someone else.

Erickson also has had a long career in Beaver State politics, though he's had even less success than Bunn. He lost general elections for the state House in 1988 and 1992, and his victorious opponent that second time was none other than now-Gov. Kate Brown. Erickson went on to challenge Hooley in 2006 but lost 54-43, and he tried again two years later when she retired from her swing seat.

First, though, he had to get through an ugly primary against 2002 gubernatorial nominee Kevin Mannix, who sent out mailers late in the race accusing Erickson of impregnating a girlfriend in 2000 and paying for her subsequent abortion. Erickson called these "unsubstantiated and untrue allegations," though he admitted he'd given the woman $300 and taken her to a doctor. Erickson narrowly won the primary but lost the general election 54-38 to Democrat Kurt Schrader. (And because this seems to be the year of Republican comeback campaigns in Oregon, Mannix is currently running for the state House.)

Given those histories it's likely that plenty of Republicans hope someone will beat Bunn and Erickson in the primary, but it remains to be seen if any of the other five primary candidates, all of whom began running last year, will emerge as the frontrunner. The contender who ended 2021 with the most money by far is Army veteran Nate Sandvig, though his $101,000 war chest wasn't very impressive. Well behind with $31,000 on-hand was state Rep. Ron Noble, who is a relative moderate. Also in the race are former Keizer city councilor Amy Ryan Courser, who challenged Schrader in 2020 in the 5th and lost 52-45; Dundee Mayor David Russ; and Air Force veteran Angela Plowhead.

Things are also far from defined on the Democratic side. The field includes state Reps. Teresa Alonso León and Andrea Salinas, who would each be the first Latina to represent the state in Congress; Alonso Leon would also be Oregon's first indigenous member. Salinas, for her part, has an endorsement from 1st District Rep. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who currently represents just over 40% of this new seat.

Also in the running are Cody Reynolds, a self-funder who has unsuccessfully run for office several times as an independent or third-party candidate (he was also once convicted of smuggling weed); economic development adviser Carrick Flynn; Oregon Medical Board member Kathleen Harder; former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, who would Oregon's first Black representative; cryptocurrency developer Matt West; and two others who have attracted little attention so far.

Most of these contenders were also running last year. Reynolds finished 2021 with $1.96 million on-hand that came entirely from himself. West, who has also self-funded a large portion of his campaign, had $476,000 compared to $159,000 for Salinas, while Harder and Smith had $123,000 and $86,000, respectively. Alonso Leon and Flynn entered the race in the new year, and Flynn has already benefited from $1.4 million in outside spending from Protect Our Future, a super PAC backed by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried.

There are several other races to watch in Oregon this year, and now that filing has closed, we'll be running down the state of those contests below starting with OR-Gov. You can find a list of 2022 candidates from the state here.

The Downballot

On this week's episode of The Downballot, we talk with Amanda Litman, the co-founder of Run for Something, an organization she formed in the wake of the 2016 elections to help young, diverse progressives run for office across the country at all levels of the ballot. Litman tells us about the resources they offer to first-time candidates, some of Run for Something's biggest success stories, and her favorite obscure post that you might not even know is an elected position in many states.

We also spend time exploring a trio of different stories out of North Carolina—one concerning Madison Cawthorn, one about redistricting, and one, believe it or not, about Vladimir Putin—and bring you up to speed on the just-concluded presidential election in South Korea. You can listen to The Downballot on all major podcast platforms, and you can find a transcript right here.

Senate

GA, OH, PA: Fox News has released new polls of Republican primaries in three states that are hosting races for both Senate and governor this year: Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. All the data, which was collected by the Democratic firm Beacon Research and the Republican pollster Shaw & Company, is below:

  • GA-Sen: Herschel Walker: 66, Gary Black: 8
  • GA-Gov: Brian Kemp (inc.): 50, David Perdue: 39
  • OH-Sen: Mike Gibbons: 22, Josh Mandel: 20, J.D. Vance: 11, Jane Timken: 9, Matt Dolan: 7
  • OH-Gov: Mike DeWine (inc.): 50, Joe Blystone: 21, Jim Renacci: 18
  • PA-Sen: David McCormick: 24, Mehmet Oz: 15, Kathy Barnette: 9, Jeff Bartos: 9, Carla Sands: 6, George Bochetto: 1, Everett Stern: 1
  • PA-Gov: Lou Barletta: 19, Doug Mastriano: 18, Dave White: 14, Bill McSwain: 11, Jake Corman: 6, Scott Martin: 3, Nche Zama: 1

All of these numbers are in line with other polling of each of these races, though DeWine's showing is the best he's posted to date. This is also the first survey from a reputable source to include Blystone, a farmer and first-time candidate running a chaotic campaign animated by the usual far-right grievances who could actually help DeWine by splitting the anti-incumbent vote with Renacci, a former congressman. It’s also worth noting that this poll did not include former Rep. Ron Hood as an option, while the Pennsylvania governor survey did not list former Rep. Melissa Hart and a few other minor contenders.

GA-Sen: A new survey from Democratic pollster Blueprint Polling finds Republican Herschel Walker leading Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock 49-45, which is the largest advantage for Walker anyone has found to date.

NC-Sen: Ruh-roh! Once again, Donald Trump is reportedly unhappy with a high-profile Senate candidate he's endorsed—in this case, North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, who continues to trail in polls of the GOP primary despite almost $4 million in outside spending on his behalf from the Club for Growth. Politico reports that those close to Trump speculate he's "grown to regret his early endorsement" and relays new audio of Trump asking state GOP chair Michael Whatley about the health of Budd's campaign—from the stage, in the midst of a delirious 84-minute speech at a recent RNC fundraiser in New Orleans.

"How's Ted Budd doing? OK?" Trump queried, before demanding, "All right, we gotta get Walker out of that race. Get him out of the race, Michael, right?" There's no word on whether Whatley shouted back from his spot in the audience, but Walker would be former Rep. Mark Walker, who's been floundering in third place, behind both Budd and the frontrunner, former Gov. Pat McCrory. Trump previously tried to lure Walker away from the Senate race with a reported offer to endorse him if he instead made a comeback bid for the House, but Walker didn't bite, and that ship has since sailed, as North Carolina's filing deadline closed last week.

Despite the former congressman's struggles, though, there's still (rather amazingly) a pro-Walker PAC called Awake Carolina that recently produced a poll of the race, which in turn fell into Politico's hands. The new numbers, from Ingress Research, show McCrory taking 29% of the vote to 18 for Budd and 11 for Walker, which is more or less where other surveys have shown the race.

Given the Club's massive spending—Politico says the group is increasing its pledge from $10 million to $14 million—it seems unlikely that Walker could catch Budd and become McCrory's main threat. That's doubly so given Walker's own poor fundraising and Trump's apparent antipathy for him. But if Trump grows as disillusioned with Budd as he has with Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, he could always switch horses.

The one trotter we can be pretty certain he'll never back, though, is McCrory, who just dropped a new ad that bashes Budd for praising Vladimir Putin—a man Trump continues to worship. This is both McCrory's first television spot of the race and one of the first we've seen raising the issue of GOP slavishness toward the Russian dictator: In the spot, McCrory charges, "As Ukrainians bled and died, Congressman Budd excused their killer," as footage of Russian destruction rolls.

Interspersed are clips of Budd calling Putin "a very intelligent actor" in a recent TV interview and saying, "There are strategic reasons why he would want to protect his southern and western flank—we understand that." McCrory then attacks Budd for voting against sanctions on Russia and adds, "I don't compliment our enemies."

OH-Sen: State Sen. Matt Dolan's latest commercial for the May GOP primary features Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn and a retired police sergeant praising him as a friend of law enforcement.  

OK-Sen-B: Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin's opening spot touts him as a conservative "fighter" and ends with an old clip of Donald Trump (from his infamous 2020 Tulsa rally no less) exclaiming that "you don't want to fight with him." Surprisingly, the ad doesn't actually touch on the congressman's time as a MMA fighter, though viewers will probably learn all about that before the June primary is over.

Governors

MD-Gov: Maryland Matters says that former nonprofit head Wes Moore is spending six figures on the first TV buy from anyone running in the June Democratic primary. The 30-second ad features the candidate telling the audience about his tough upbringing, saying, "When I was three, I watched my father die. I got handcuffs to my wrists by the time I was 11." He continues by talking about how he later became a Rhodes Scholar, an "Army captain in Afghanistan," and head of an influential anti-poverty group.

The 60-second spot has Moore discussing how much education mattered to his life and declaring, "Maryland has some of the nation's best public schools, but also some of its most neglected. We can't settle for that."  

ME-Gov: The RGA has given $3.87 million to the Maine Republican Party, which has reserved that same amount for fall TV time.

OR-Gov: Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is termed-out of an office her party has held since the 1986 elections, and both parties have competitive races to succeed her. The eventual nominees will face an expensive general election against former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, a conservative Democrat-turned-independent who has the most money of anyone the race.

There are 17 people competing for the Democratic nod, but only former state House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read appear to be running serious efforts. Kotek, who would be the first lesbian elected governor anywhere (Massachusetts Democrat Maura Healey would also have that distinction if she won this year) has the backing of EMILY's List and several unions, including the SEIU and Oregon Education Association. Reed, who is the only candidate in the entire race who has been elected statewide, meanwhile is running as more of a moderate.

The 19-person GOP field is similarly crowded, but considerably more contenders appear to have a shot at winning the plurality needed to secure the nod. Former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan has raised considerably more money from donors than anyone else, while former state Rep. Bob Tiernan, who served two terms in the 1990s, entered the race last month by self-funding $500,000 and receiving another $500,000 in donations from a California-based real estate company.

The field also includes two former nominees, Bill Sizemore and Bud Pierce. Sizemore, who lost in a 1998 landslide and performed poorly in the 2010 primary, still has not reported any fundraising, though. Pierce, for his part, challenged Brown in a 2016 special election and lost 51-43. Also in the running are consultant Bridget Barton; businesswoman Jessica Gomez; Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten; and Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, who made news last month when he acknowledged that he and his wife "explored mutual relationships with other couples."

House

CA-13: Agribusinessman John Duarte has announced that he'll compete as a Republican in the June top-two primary for this open seat in the mid-Central Valley, which Joe Biden would have carried 54-43.

CA-41: Former federal prosecutor Will Rollins' campaign against Republican incumbent Ken Calvert has earned an endorsement from Democratic Rep. Mark Takano, who is seeking re-election in the neighboring new 39th District. (Only about 2% of Takano's existing 41st District is located in the new seat with that number.)

FL-22: Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis says he hopes to decide by the end of the month if he'll seek this open seat. Another local Democrat, Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen, has decided not to run, however.

MD-01: Former Del. Heather Mizeur now has the support of all seven members of Maryland's Democratic House delegation in the June primary to take on Republican incumbent Andy Harris.

MN-05: Former Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels has announced that he'll challenge incumbent Ilhan Omar in the August Democratic primary for this safely blue seat centered around the city. Samuels, who previously considered running as an independent, argued that he and Omar are "both Democrats, but very often you wouldn't know it. When you build an infrastructure of contrarian divisiveness, even when you have good ideas, you can't get it passed because you don't have friends."

Samuels, who is originally from Jamaica, ran for mayor in the crowded 2013 instant-runoff election; he initially took third place with 11%, and he didn't rise much beyond that before he was eliminated in the penultimate 32nd round of tabulations. He returned to elected office the next year when he won a seat on the school board, and he retired in 2018.

Samuels, though, was far from done with politics. In 2020 he supported Antone Melton-Meaux, who went on to lose an expensive primary to Omar 58-39. Samuels last year was also one of the most high-profile opponents of Question 2, a ballot measure that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new department of public safety, while Omar was one of its most prominent backers. City voters rejected Question 2 by a 56-44 margin, and Samuels is now arguing that the congresswoman's stance demonstrates that "she's out of touch" with her constituents.

NC-11: State Sen. Chuck Edwards' opening spot for the May Republican primary focuses on his business background, conservative record, and "mountain values," which is a not-so-subtle swipe at Rep. Madison Cawthorn's failed attempt to district hop. In case that was too subtle, Edwards concludes that "this is my home, and it's worth the fight."

NY-24: Attorney Todd Aldinger has ended his Republican primary campaign against Rep. Chris Jacobs in this safely red seat in the Buffalo suburbs. A few other Republicans are still challenging the incumbent, but there's no indication that any of them are capable of putting up a serious fight.

OH-13: Gov. Mike DeWine has appointed former state Rep. Christina Hagan to the Ohio Elections Commission, a move that almost certainly means that the two-time GOP congressional candidate won't run again this year in the event that the state Supreme Court again orders new U.S. House boundaries.

OR-04: Veteran Rep. Peter DeFazio is retiring, and eight fellow Democrats are campaigning to succeed him in a seat where legislative Democrats extended Joe Biden's margin of victory from 51-47 to 55-42. The primary frontrunner in this constituency, which covers the southern Willamette Valley and Oregon's south coast, appears to be state Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, who has endorsements from DeFazio, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and EMILY's List.

Another contender to watch is former Airbnb executive Andrew Kalloch; Hoyle ended 2021 with a $205,000 to $148,000 cash-on-hand advantage over Kalloch, though candidates had just weeks to raise money following the congressman's early December departure announcement. Corvallis school board Chair Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, who took 16% in a 2016 state House race as a third-party candidate, entered the Democratic primary in January, and he would be the state's first Muslim member of Congress.

The only Republican in the running is 2020 nominee Alek Skarlatos, a National Guard veteran whose 52-46 loss last cycle was the closest re-election contest of DeFazio's career. Skarlatos ended December with $348,000 to spend.

OR-05: Rep. Kurt Schrader, who has long been one of the loudest moderates in the Democratic caucus (last January, he had to apologize after comparing the idea of impeaching Donald Trump to a "lynching") faces a primary challenge from the left in the form of attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner. There are no other Democrats running for this seat in the Portland southern suburbs and central Oregon, so she won't need to worry about splitting the anti-incumbent vote with other challengers.

McLeod-Skinner, who was Team Blue's 2018 nominee for the old and safely red 2nd District, would be Oregon's first LGBTQ member of Congress, and she also sports an endorsement from the Oregon Education Association. Schrader, for his part, represents just under half of the new 5th District, but the well-funded incumbent ended December with a massive $3.6 million to $208,000 cash-on-hand edge.

Six Republicans are also running for this constituency, which would have backed Joe Biden 53-44. The two most prominent contenders appear to be former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who lost two competitive races for the state House in 2016 and 2018, and businessman Jimmy Crumpacker, who took fourth place in the 2020 primary for the old 2nd District. Chavez-DeRemer finished last year with a $226,000 to $186,000 cash-on-hand lead.

PA-17: Allegheny County Council member Sam DeMarco, who also chairs the county Republican Party, has joined the race for Pennsylvania's open 17th Congressional District. Under a local "resign to run" law, DeMarco will have to quit his current post by March 23.

TN-07, TN-05: Community activist Odessa Kelly, who'd been challenging Rep. Jim Cooper in the Democratic primary in Tennessee's 5th District, has announced that she'll instead run in the redrawn 7th against Republican Rep. Mark Green, following an extensive GOP gerrymander that cracked Nashville to make the 5th much redder and prompted Cooper to retire. Both seats now tilt heavily to the right, though the 7th is actually the tougher district: It would have voted 56-41 for Donald Trump, compared to a 55-43 Trump margin in the revamped 5th.

Secretaries of State

CO-SoS: Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who has been one of the far-right's most prominent election deniers, was indicted by a state grand jury on Tuesday on felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly breaching the county's election systems during her attempt to demonstrate fraud in 2020. State GOP leaders responded by calling for Peters to suspend her campaign to take on Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

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

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

Leading Off

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

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

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

Campaign Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

Mayors

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

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

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

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

Other Races

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

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

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

Morning Digest: Progressives can flip a key seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court this April

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

WI Supreme Court: The battle lines for a crucial race for Wisconsin's Supreme Court have now been set following the results of Tuesday's primary, with incumbent Justice Dan Kelly facing off against Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky on April 7.

The officially nonpartisan election featured three candidates running on the same ballot: Kelly, a conservative appointed to his post by former Gov. Scott Walker in 2016, as well two progressives, Karofsky and law professor Ed Fallone. Kelly took 50.1% of the vote and Karofsky 37.2%, advancing both of them to the general election; Fallone, who was badly outspent, finished a distant third with just 12.7%. Combined, however, Karofsky and Fallone were less than 2,000 votes behind Kelly.

Campaign Action

That tight outcome suggests another very close contest in April. Last year, in a race for a Supreme Court seat held by a retiring liberal justice, conservative Brian Hagedorn slipped past progressive Lisa Neubauer by just 6,000 votes out of 1.2 million cast overall. It was a painful loss for the left, as Hagedorn's win shifted the court from a 4-3 majority in favor of conservatives to a 5-2 advantage.

Karofsky now has the chance to slim that back down to a one-vote edge for conservatives and put liberals in a position to flip the court in 2023, when Chief Justice Patience Roggensack's current term ends. April's vote will coincide with the Democratic primary for president, which could give Karofsky a boost. In fact, Republicans had sought to move the presidential primary during the lame-duck session of the legislature after Walker lost to Democrat Tony Evers in 2018, precisely to help Kelly, though they ultimately abandoned the idea despite passing legislation to grab power from Evers before he took office.

But by no means will the GOP give up on Kelly, who so far has outraised Karofsky $988,000 to $414,000. In last year's race, the Republican State Leadership Committee, which aids candidates in state races at all levels of the ballot, parachuted in at the last minute with a seven-figure expenditure on behalf of Hagedorn that may have proved critical to his victory. While some progressive groups stepped up for Neubauer, Democrats lack an equivalent "DSLC"—there's no formal party organization devoted to winning state supreme court elections—so they'll need to find a way to match resources with the right if Karofsky is to win.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The GOP pollster HighGround Public Affairs is out with a poll of their home state that gives Democrat Mark Kelly a 46-39 lead over appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally. The only other poll we've seen of this race this year was a January survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had Kelly ahead by a smaller 46-42 margin. HighGround did not identify a client for this poll.

McSally recently began running TV ads ahead Kelly, and she's now up with another spot. The commercial is titled "Bernie Bro," which pretty much tells you all you need to know about its content.

KY-Sen: Retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath launched her first TV ads of the year last week well ahead of the May Democratic primary to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the Democratic firm Amplify Media reports that she's spending another $418,000 from Feb. 18 through Feb. 24.

ME-Sen: On behalf of Colby College, SocialSphere is out with the first poll we've seen here in months, and they give Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon a narrow 43-42 edge over GOP Sen. Susan Collins. SocialSphere also takes a look at the June primary and finds Gideon, who has the support of the DSCC and other national Democratic groups, leading 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet by a 60-8 margin.

The last poll we saw testing Collins against Gideon was a July survey for the AARP from the GOP firm Fabrizio Ward that had the incumbent up 52-35, but no one is acting like Collins is well ahead. Both the Collins and Gideon campaigns, as well as outside groups from both sides, have already spent heavily on ads, and they don't show any sign of stopping. Indeed, Majority Forward has launched a new three-week $550,000 TV ad campaign, and they're out with another commercial hitting Collins for refusing to vote for legislation to lower prescription drug costs.

Collins herself also didn't dispute the idea that her once mighty approval rating has taken a dive back in July, and more recent polls have continued to show her struggling. Morning Consult gave Collins an underwater 42-52 approval rating for the final quarter of 2019, which was worse than any senator in the country but Mitch McConnell himself, while SocialSphere put her favorable rating at 42-54.

NC-Sen: On behalf of WRAL-TV, SurveyUSA is out with a poll off the March 3 Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, and they give former state Sen. Cal Cunningham a 42-17 lead over state Sen. Erica Smith. This result is considerably better for Cunningham than the 29-10 lead he posted in separate February surveys by High Point University and from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

The poll comes as the GOP-connected super PAC Faith and Power has been running a $2.9 million ad campaign praising Smith, who doesn't have much money to get her name out. National Democrats, who are supporting Cunningham, very much believe that Faith and Power is getting involved because they think Smith will be much easier for Tillis to beat, and they're devoting more money towards helping Cunningham.

Carolina Blue, a super PAC that was only recently created, has reserved over $3 million in ads, and Advertising Analytics reports that its first commercials began airing on Wednesday. Politico reports that VoteVets is also spending an additional $1.5 million on pro-Cunningham ads: The group's new commercial praises Cunningham's record in the legislature and progressive agenda and declares he "won't let anyone repeal Obamacare."

TX-Sen: The newly-formed Lone Star Forward PAC has launched a TV spot in support of nonprofit head Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary to face GOP Sen. John Cornyn, and the group says that the initial buy is in the "low six figures." The ad tells the audience that Tzintzún Ramirez is "running to be our first Latina senator" and will be a progressive voice on healthcare and gun safety issues.

Gubernatorial

AK-Gov: Stand Tall With Mike, the main group fighting to prevent GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy from being removed from office, announced on Tuesday that it would drop its legal opposition to the recall campaign. However, the Alaska Division of Elections is still challenging a lower court ruling that allowed the recall to proceed, and the state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on March 25.

Dunleavy's allies, though, say that they very much expect the justices to allow the recall campaign to reach the ballot. Stand Tall With Mike put out a Trumpy statement declaring that "it is clear that the Court is determined to let the recall effort go forward before it has even reviewed the parties' legal briefings."

While the Alaska Supreme Court has yet to rule on the legality of the recall, it has allowed Recall Dunleavy to collect the petitions they need to get a recall measure on the ballot. If Recall Dunleavy prevails in court, it will have to collect more than 71,000 signatures, which is 25% of the votes cast in 2018, to advance to the ballot. There's no time limit for gathering petitions, and a recall election would take place 60 to 90 days after the Division of Elections verified that enough valid signatures have been turned in.

If Dunleavy is removed from office, he would be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, a fellow Republican. No matter what, though, Alaska's regularly-scheduled gubernatorial election will take place in 2022.

NC-Gov: SurveyUSA is out with a poll of the March 3 GOP primary on behalf of WRAL-TV, and it gives Lt. Gov. Dan Forest a hefty 60-8 lead over state Rep. Holly Grange. High Point University also recently found Forest ahead by a similar 54-10 spread in the contest to take on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

House

IA-02: State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks picked up an endorsement this week from Sen. Joni Ernst ahead of the June GOP primary for this open southeastern Iowa seat. Miller-Meeks also recently earned the support of a number of state legislators including fellow state Sen. Chris Cournoyer, who talked about running here in April, and Roby Smith, who was also once mentioned as a prospective candidate.

Miller-Meeks announced in early October that she would run to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack, who beat her in 2008, 2010, and 2014. Her main opponent in the primary is Bobby Schilling, a former one-term congressman from across the Mississippi River in Illinois who has struggled to raise money for his first Iowa race. Miller-Meeks outpaced Schilling $250,000 to $26,000 during her opening quarter, and she ended December with a $215,000 to $50,000 cash-on-hand lead.

National Democrats are backing former state Sen. Rita Hart, who doesn't face any serious intra-party opposition, in the race to hold this 49-45 Trump seat. Hart raised $336,000 during the last quarter, and she closed the year with $648,000 in the bank.

NY-02: Suffolk County Director of Health Education Nancy Hemendinger announced on Wednesday that she was dropping out of the June GOP primary and endorsing Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino.

NY-27: On Tuesday, Donald Trump tweeted out his "Complete Endorsement" for state Sen. Chris Jacobs for the April 28 special election. Normally it wouldn't be remotely newsy that Trump is supporting the GOP nominee in an election, but this is an odd case.

That's because Jacobs, whose detractors fault him for refusing to back Trump in the 2016 general election, faces opposition in the June primary from both attorney Beth Parlato and Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw. While Trump's tweet explicitly referred to the April special, his message will allow Jacobs to tell voters he's the White House's pick from now until late June.

Pennsylvania: Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Pennsylvania's April 28 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders available here. However, challenges to nominating petitions are common in the Keystone State, and candidates are sometimes knocked off the ballot, so expect some changes.

PA-01: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick prevailed last cycle 51-49 in a Bucks County seat that Hillary Clinton had carried 49-47 in 2016, and he's now just one of two Republicans seeking re-election in a Clinton district (the other is New York Rep. John Katko). Fitzpatrick is a strong fundraiser, and he ended December with $1.4 million in the bank.

Three Democrats filed to take him on, but Pennsbury school board member Debbie Wachspress was the only one who had brought in a credible amount of money at the end of 2019. Wachspress had $355,000 on-hand while her intra-party opponents, Bucks County housing department official Christina Finello and businessman Skylar Hurwitz, each had less than $12,000 in the bank.

Fitzpatrick does face a primary challenge of his own from businessman Andrew Meehan, but Meehan had a tiny $6,000 war chest at the end of last year. Fitzpatrick's allies at EDF Action also released a poll on Wednesday from the GOP firm WPA Intelligence that showed the incumbent beating Meehan 59-19.

PA-06: Democrat Chrissy Houlahan easily flipped this 53-43 Clinton seat last cycle after GOP incumbent Ryan Costello dropped out after the filing deadline, and the GOP doesn't seem to be making much of an effort to take it back. The only Republican who ended up filing is businessman John Emmons, who has been self-funding almost his entire campaign but still trailed Houlahan in cash-on-hand by a wide $2.1 million to $221,000 at the end of 2019.

PA-07: Democrat Susan Wild decisively won an open seat race last cycle after national Republicans abandoned their nominee, but 2020 could be a more difficult year for her. This Lehigh Valley seat shifted from 53-46 Obama to just 49-48 Clinton, and this time, national Republicans have a candidate they're more excited about.

Former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller entered the race in October and quickly earned an endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Scheller has already begun self-funding. Wild outraised Scheller $516,000 to $250,000 during the final three months of 2019, but Scheller poured in an additional $300,000 of her own money. Wild ended the year with a $1.06 million to $432,000 cash-on-hand lead over Scheller.

Two other Republicans who have previously run for Congress are also campaigning here. Former Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning narrowly lost the 2018 primary despite being badly outspent, and he had $225,000 available at the end of December after self-funding a little more than half of his campaign. Race car driver Matt Connolly, a perennial candidate who most recently lost a 2016 contest to Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright in the old 17th District by a 54-46 margin, had only $4,000 to spend.

PA-08: This seat in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area swung from 55-43 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright turned back a self-funding opponent last cycle by a convincing 55-45 margin. Republicans are hoping that Cartwright will be in much more danger with Trump on the ballot, though, and six candidates have filed to take him on.

Earl Granville, an Army veteran who lost part of his left leg in Afghanistan, entered the race in mid-December and earned an endorsement the following month from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Granville only had $5,000 on-hand at the end of 2019, though his other rivals weren't exactly drowning in cash either. Former police officer Teddy Daniels had $65,000 to spend, while Luzerne County Councilor Harry Haas had just $8,000 available. Cartwright, by contrast, had $1.3 million on-hand to defend his seat.

Jim Bognet, who served in the Trump administration as a senior vice president for communications for the Export-Import Bank, entered the GOP primary in January after the new fundraising quarter ended. Two other Republicans, 24-year-old businessman Mike Cammisa and former Hazelton Mayor Mike Marsicano, are also in. Marsicano is a former Democrat who lost re-election all the way back in 1999 and has unsuccessfully run for office as a Democrat several times since then.

PA-10: This Harrisburg-based seat backed Trump 52-43, but GOP Rep. Scott Perry only won re-election last cycle 51-49 in an unexpectedly expensive contest. Democrats are talking Perry, who is a prominent member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, and the DCCC is supporting state Auditor Eugene DePasquale.

The other Democrat running here is attorney Tom Brier, who trailed DePasquale $468,000 to $203,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of December. DePasquale recently released a primary poll that showed him beating Brier 68-16, while Brier has not yet responded with better numbers. Perry had $622,000 available at the close of 2019 to defend his seat.

PA-16: GOP Rep. Mike Kelly won re-election last cycle just 52-47 even though Donald Trump carried this Erie-area seat by a strong 58-39 margin two years before, and he's repeatedly been busted by the local media since then for selling used cars that were subject to safety recalls. However, the only Democrat who ended up filing to run here, teacher Kristy Gnibus, only had a mere $15,000 available at the end of 2019, so it's not clear if Team Blue can take advantage of Kelly's weaknesses. Two other Democrats who previously announced bids, customer service supervisor Daniel Smith and auto salesman Edward DeSantis, did not end up filing.

PA-17: Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb decisively beat Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus 56-44 after court-ordered redistricting threw the two incumbents into the same suburban Pittsburgh seat, but Republicans are hoping to target Lamb this year in this 49-47 Trump district.

Trump has endorsed Army veteran Sean Parnell, an author who frequently appears on Fox News, and Parnell brought in a credible $255,000 during his opening quarter. Lamb still raised a considerably larger $585,000, though, and he ended 2019 with a $979,000 to $219,000 cash-on-hand lead.

Only one other Republican, businessman Jesse Vodvarka, is running, and he's unlikely to put up much of a fight. Vodvarka has served as campaign manager for his father, Joe Vodvarka, during his four forgettable Senate bids as both a Republican and a Democrat. Another Republican, Green Beret veteran Brian Thomsen, announced he was running last year but didn't end up filing.

TX-07: Army veteran Wesley Hunt is up with a new TV spot telling GOP voters that he has Donald Trump's endorsement (true), and that socialists "have a Green New Deal that would ban Texas oil and gas" (a lie). Politico reports that this is part of a new $100,000 buy from Hunt ahead of the March 3 primary to face Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher.

VA-05: Republican officials decided last year to nominate their candidate through a party convention rather than through a primary, and we now know that the gathering will take place on April 25. Freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman faces a notable intra-party challenge from Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good, and he could end up having trouble winning.

GOP conventions tend to be dominated by delegates who prize ideology above all else, and Riggleman infuriated plenty of social conservatives at home in July when he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his former campaign volunteers. This quickly resulted in a homophobic backlash against the congressman, and local Republican Parties in three small 5th District counties each passed anti-Riggleman motions.

This seat, which includes Charlottesville and south-central Virginia, backed Trump 52-41, and Riggleman defeated a well-funded Democrat 53-47 last cycle. A few Democrats are campaigning here already, though, and a messy GOP fight could give the eventual nominee more of an opening. While Team Blue also held a convention to pick its nominee last year, this time around, Democrats have opted to hold a traditional primary in June.

WI-07: On Tuesday, state Sen. Tom Tiffany defeated Army veteran Jason Church 57-43 to win the GOP nod for the May 12 special election for this conservative northwestern Wisconsin seat. On the Democratic side, Wausau School Board president Tricia Zunker, who would be the state's first Native American member of Congress, defeated underfunded businessman Lawrence Dale 89-11.

Tiffany had the support of former Rep. Sean Duffy, who resigned from this seat last year, as well as former Gov. Scott Walker. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth, two groups that often end up on opposite sides in GOP primaries, also both spent plenty of money to back Tiffany. Church raised a comparable amount of money as Tiffany and benefited from heavy spending from With Honor Fund and newly formed Americans 4 Security PAC, but the first-time candidate still fell short.

This seat was competitive turf a decade ago, but it's been moving sharply to the right ever since thanks to a high proportion of white voters without a college degree. Barack Obama actually carried the 7th (adjusting for redistricting) in 2008 by a 53-45 margin, but four years later, Mitt Romney won it 51-48. The bottom did not truly fall out until 2016, though, when Donald Trump prevailed by a giant 58-37 margin.

Things didn't get much better for Democrats in 2018 despite the blue wave: Walker carried the 7th 57-41 despite narrowly losing statewide, and even Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin lost it 52-48 while cruising to a 55-45 re-election victory. Given the trends in the 7th District, Tiffany will be favored in May, but as Nathan Gonzales put it after Duffy announced his resignation in August, it's "another potential special election for Republicans to mess up."

Mayoral

Milwaukee, WI Mayor: Wisconsin's largest city held its nonpartisan primary on Tuesday, and incumbent Tom Barrett and Democratic state Sen. Lena Taylor advanced to the April 7 general election. Barrett, who has served as mayor since 2004 and was Team Blue's nominee for governor in 2010 and 2012, took first with 50%, while Taylor beat self-funding Alderman Anthony Zielinski 31-16 for second.

Barrett has argued that the city has made progress during his tenure and that he can continue to improve things. But Taylor, who would be the city's first woman or African American mayor, is insisting that Barrett is "disconnected" from issues like race and jobs. Barrett held a massive $896,000 to $7,000 cash-on-hand lead over Taylor on Feb. 3.

Other Races

Milwaukee County, WI Executive: Milwaukee County also held its nonpartisan primary on Tuesday for the race to succeed retiring incumbent Chris Abele, and two Democratic state legislators advanced to the April 7 general election. State Sen. Chris Larson took first with 37%, and state Rep. David Crowley led Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb Sr., who doesn't affiliate with either major party, 34-17 for second place. The balance went to businesswoman Purnima Nath, a self-described conservative.

Both general election candidates have very different relationships with Abel, a Democrat who has often worked with the GOP legislature. Abel is supporting Crowley, who would be Milwaukee County's first black executive, and the incumbent's Leadership MKE group has spent $240,000 on ads for him. Larson, by contrast, challenged Abel in 2016 and lost 56-44. Larson held a $56,000 to $30,000 cash-on-hand lead over Crowley on Feb. 3.

Grab Bag

Demographics: We're about to enter a vexing new stage in the Democratic presidential primary: a whole lot of states having elections where we have little or no polling data. Knowing which states are demographically similar to each other can help fill in some of those data gaps, though, and David Jarman has put together a state similarity index using "nearest neighbor" analysis to guide that conversation. (In case you were wondering whether this year's candidates will play in Peoria, that's actually a good question, because Illinois is the nation's most demographically average state!