Voting Rights Roundup: Alaska court upholds new top-four primary and ranked-choice general election

Leading Off

Alaska: A state trial court has upheld the constitutionality of Alaska's new law that created a "top-four" primary followed by a general election using ranked-choice voting (aka instant-runoff voting). The ruling rejected arguments by the plaintiffs, who consisted of the right-wing Alaskan Independence Party and members of the Libertarian and Republican parties, that the law approved by voters in a 2020 ballot initiative violated political parties' rights under the state constitution to freely associate.

One of the plaintiffs, former Libertarian legislative candidate Scott Kohlhaas, said he and the other plaintiffs would likely appeal. However, Alaskan Independence Party chairman Bob Bird expressed skepticism that they have much of a chance at success before the state Supreme Court, which has a 4-1 majority of justices appointed by Republican governors.

Consequently, Alaska remains on track to become the first state in the country to implement a "top-four" primary with ranked-choice voting in the general election after Maine in 2016 became the first state to adopt ranked-choice voting overall; Maine's law differs in that it maintained traditional party primaries. By contrast, Alaska's variant of this system will require all the candidates for congressional, legislative, and statewide races to face off on one primary ballot, where contenders will have the option to identify themselves with a party label or be listed as "undeclared" or "nonpartisan."​

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​The top four vote-getters regardless of party will advance to the general election, where voters will be able to rank their choices using instant-runoff voting. The law will also institute ranked-choice voting in presidential elections, though traditional party primaries will remain in effect for those races. The law further sets up new financial disclosure requirements for state-level candidates.

The implementation of the new top-four ranked-choice voting system may play a key role in next year's Senate election, where Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is facing a tough challenge from the right by former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka after she voted to convict Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial earlier this year. Tshibaka has been endorsed by the state GOP and Trump himself, but rather than face the constraint of needing to win a Republican primary dominated by Trump diehards to advance to the general election, Murkowski is all but assured of making it to the general election ballot under the top-four system.

However, the new voting system is hardly a guarantee that Murkowski will win another term in this conservative state. If Democratic voters consolidate around a Democratic candidate whom they rank ahead of Murkowski, the incumbent could end up getting squeezed out of the ranked-choice process in the general election; if she is many voters' second choice but few voters' first choice, she could be eliminated before a Democrat and Tshibaka. Thus, Murkowski will likely need some measure of initial support from Democratic and independent voters in addition to more moderate Republicans if she's to make it to the final round of the ranked-choice voting process.

Redistricting

2020 Census: Mark your calendars: The U.S. Census Bureau will release the population data essential for redistricting at a press conference on the afternoon of Aug. 12. The deadline was originally set for April 1, but it was delayed because of the disruptions from the pandemic.

Colorado: Colorado's state Supreme Court has agreed to extend the deadline for the new independent congressional redistricting commission to complete its work because of the delay in the release of the Census Bureau data needed to conduct redistricting until Aug. 16; the commission now plans to pass a final map by Oct. 1 instead of Sept. 1. Commissioners previously unveiled a preliminary map in June drawn using data estimates.

Voting Access Expansions

Guam: Democratic Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has signed a law that permanently adopts in-person absentee voting after the Democratic-run legislature temporarily adopted it last year due to the pandemic, effectively allowing voters to vote early in-person.

Maine: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has signed a law that will allow voters to register online beginning in 2023. With Maine's adoption of online registration, every state where Democrats control the state government has passed such laws. Only seven states that require voters to register have not allowed full online registration, all of which are run by Republicans, and Texas is home to roughly three-fourths of the people living in those states, who constitute roughly one in eight Americans.

Massachusetts: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a bill passed by the Democratic-run legislature with bipartisan support to extend pandemic-era voting access measures through Dec. 15 so that they will remain in place for upcoming local elections (such as Boston's mayoral contest) while lawmakers decide whether to make them permanent. The provisions in question include expanded early voting and no-excuse mail voting.

Voter Suppression

Georgia: Republican legislators have taken the first step toward a potential state takeover of election administration in Fulton County after key GOP lawmakers signaled their support for a "performance review" of the county, which could eventually lead to the GOP-run State Board of Elections temporarily replacing the officials in charge of elections in the county. Fulton County is a Democratic stronghold with a large Black population that is home to Atlanta and one in ten state residents, making it Georgia's largest county.

An eventual state takeover is possible under a law Republicans passed earlier this year that contained several new voting restrictions, which prompted a national backlash of condemnation and numerous lawsuits that argued it was a way to make voting harder for key Democratic-leaning groups and enable GOP officials to overturn election results after Trump's attempt to do so with the 2020 elections failed. Georgia is just one of several states where Republican lawmakers have passed legislation to give partisan GOP officials more control over election administration ahead of the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election.

Texas: Democratic Party organizations and civil rights advocates have reached a settlement with Republican officials in Texas that will see the latter permanently implement a limited online voter registration system after a federal court last year ruled that Texas was violating federal law and ordered the state to establish partial online registration. The court found that Texas had violated the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the "motor voter" law, by failing to offer online registration updates for eligible voters renewing their driver's license or updating their address with the DMV online, and roughly one million voters have registered online since the court's ruling.

Morning Digest: Texas progressive kicks off primary rematch against conservative House Democrat

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.

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TX-28: Immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros announced Thursday that she would seek a rematch against Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, a conservative Democrat who defeated her 52-48 in a very expensive 2020 primary. The current version of the 28th District, which includes Laredo, has been reliably blue turf for some time, but like other heavily Latino seats in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley, it lurched hard toward Trump last year: Joe Biden won 52-47 in a seat that Hillary Clinton had carried 58-38, though Cuellar won his general election 58-39 against an unheralded Republican foe.

Cuellar is a longtime force in local politics who has spent his decades in public life frustrating fellow Democrats, and his nine terms in Congress have been no different. In 2014, for instance, the congressman joined with Republicans on legislation to make it easier to deport child migrants. During the first two years of the Trump administration, FiveThirtyEight found that Cuellar voted with the administration nearly 70% of the time, more than any other Democrat in either chamber.

Cuellar, who is the extremely rare Democrat to have ever been endorsed by the radical anti-tax Club for Growth, is also no stranger to crossing party lines. In 2000, he supported George W. Bush's presidential campaign, and in 2018 he came to the aid of a home state colleague, John Carter, during the Republican's competitive re-election fight in the 31st District.  

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While Cuellar inflamed national Democrats, though, he went over a decade without attracting a serious primary foe until Cisneros decided to challenge him from the left last cycle, but she quickly proved she could raise a serious amount of money for what turned out to be a pricey and nasty race. Cisneros went after Cuellar for his conservative voting record, with one ad declaring, "Not only did Cuellar vote for Trump's wall twice, but he's taken over $100,000 from corporations that build facilities and cages to detain families." EMILY's List also spent $1 million to back her, while many labor groups were in Cisneros' corner as well.

The congressman, meanwhile, ran a race that could have easily passed for a GOP campaign against the woman his team derided as "the Socialist Cisneros." He argued that Cisneros' support for environmental protection policies would destroy local oil industry jobs, and he aired a commercial arguing that she "supports allowing minors to have an abortion without parents' knowledge."

Cuellar and his allies also tried to portray Cisneros, who was born and raised in South Texas and returned home after briefly practicing law in New York, as an outsider; one particularly ugly mailer from a pro-Cuellar group charged that the challenger was "bringing New York flavor to Texas," complete with pictures of "NYC Pizza" and "NYC Bagel."

Cuellar benefited from spending from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and, remarkably, the Koch network, the first Democrat ever to do so. Republican voters also likely pushed him across the finish line in what turned out to be a tight race: Texas does not have party registration, which left GOP voters who didn't participate in Donald Trump's uncompetitive primary free to vote in the Democratic race.

Cisneros kicked off her new campaign Thursday arguing that not only did Cuellar remain too conservative, he'd also done a poor job aiding his constituents during the pandemic: She specifically took him to task for helping obtain coronavirus testing kits for the district last year that turned out to be defective.

Cisneros' entry into the race attracted far more attention than her launch did two years ago, but that's not the only way that the 2022 primary will be different from last cycle's fight. Perhaps most importantly, no one knows what this constituency will look like after the GOP legislature finishes redistricting, much less whether map makers will try to make it more Republican. And even if the new 28th District doesn't change much, Trump's gains last year could leave some Democrats nervous about losing Cuellar as their nominee.

One other factor is that while the 2020 race was a duel between Cuellar and Cisneros, next year's race could be more crowded. One other contender, educator Tannya Benavides, kicked off her own campaign in mid-June: While Benavides brought in just over $10,000 over the next few weeks, her presence on the ballot could make it tougher for anyone to win the majority of the vote they'd need to avoid a primary runoff.

Cuellar, for his part, raised $240,000 during the second quarter of 2021 and ended June with $1.7 million in the bank. That's considerably less than the $3 million he had available at this point in the 2020 cycle, but it does give him a big head start ahead of his rematch with Cisneros.

Redistricting

Redistricting: Mark your calendars: The U.S. Census Bureau will release the population data essential for redistricting at a press conference on the afternoon of Aug. 12. The deadline was originally set for April 1, but it was delayed because of disruptions from the pandemic.

Senate

GA-Sen: CNN reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of the many prominent Republicans who is worried that former football star Herschel Walker will jeopardize Team Red's chances against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock should he run, and that he's hoping one prominent name will reconsider his plans to stay out of the race. Former Sen. David Perdue took his name out of contention back in February, but CNN writes that ​​McConnell "has suggested to allies" that he'd like for Perdue to switch course.

Perdue met with McConnell last month in D.C., and while we don't know exactly what was discussed, it's a good bet this contest came up. Perdue himself ignored questions at the time inquiring if he'd run again, and CNN says he also attended a party donor dinner on that trip and "indicated he had nothing to say about whether he would launch another Senate campaign."

The story also says that McConnell would like it if another former GOP senator, Kelly Loeffler, ran as well. Loeffler, unlike her ex-colleague, has shown some public interest, but it's not clear if she's willing to take on Walker if he gets in. An unnamed source did tell CNN that Loeffler would "likely" run should Walker, whom Donald Trump has been aggressively trying to recruit, ultimately stay out, though that would hardly solve McConnell's immediate dilemma.

A trio of notable Peach State Republicans are already in, and McConnell reportedly will be meeting with at least some of them. The top fundraiser so far is banking executive Latham Saddler, who raised $1.4 million and ended June with $1.1 million to spend. State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, meanwhile, brought in just over $700,000 during his opening weeks and had $680,000 in the bank. Businessman Kelvin King, finally, took in $380,000 from donors, self-funded an additional $300,000, and had $570,000 on-hand.

So far, Black has been the only one to attack Walker, though he hasn't yet brought up the allegations that his would-be rival threatened to kill his ex-wife in 2005. Instead, the commissioner released a digital ad this week making fun of a video where Walker, a longtime Texas resident, got out of a car sporting what appeared to be his new Georgia license plate. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that plate is suspended.) "For fun, my ride's a tractor," said Black, "And I've had Georgia plates all my life."

Whoever emerges with the GOP nod will be in for an expensive race against Warnock, who remains a strong fundraiser months after his January special election win. The senator brought in $6.9 million during the second quarter, and he had $10.5 million on-hand.

Governors

AL-Gov: Gov. Kay Ivey raised $525,000 during July ahead of a potential Republican primary challenge from state Auditor Jim Zeigler, and she had $1.7 million on-hand. Zeigler, who says he'll announce if he'll run on Aug. 21, did set up a fundraising committee this week, though he says state law required him to do that because his GoFundMe campaign fundraiser brought in more than $1,000.

CA-Gov: SurveyUSA's first poll of the Sept. 14 recall election shows two very unexpected outcomes: a majority of voters are ready to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom, but a fellow Democrat leads in the race to replace him.

While almost every other poll has found at least a plurality of voters saying they'll vote against firing Newsom, SurveyUSA has a 51-40 majority in favor of the pro-recall yes side. Recent numbers from UC Berkeley and Core Decision Analytics showed the anti-recall side ahead 50-47 and 49-42, respectively―closer than Democrats might feel comfortable with, but nowhere near as bad as what these newest numbers show.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, SurveyUSA finds Democrat Kevin Paffrath, a financial analyst who is best known for his YouTube videos about personal finance, leading conservative radio host Larry Elder 27-23 in the race to replace Newsom. Both the aforementioned polls found Elder ahead of other Republicans, with Paffrath, who has no establishment support, taking a mere 3% of the vote.

We always caution that you should never let one poll determine your outlook of a race, and that's especially true when that poll has such startling results. We'll almost certainly get more numbers here before too long, though, which will give us a better idea of the state of next month's race.

HI-Gov: Honolulu City Councilwoman Andria Tupola, a Republican, announced Wednesday that she would not run for governor next year. Tupola was Team Red’s 2018 nominee against Democratic Gov. David Ige, a contest she lost 63-34.

Tupola is the only Republican who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for this office so far, which Republicans have not won since 2006.

IL-Gov: Kirk Dillard, who heads the board of directors for the Regional Transportation Agency, said on Wednesday that he was considering seeking the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker next year. Dillard was the runner-up in the 2010 and 2014 Republican primaries for this seat, losing both races by narrow margins.

NH-Gov: John DiStaso of WMUR writes that some New Hampshire Democrats are urging Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington to run for governor next year. There’s no quote from Warmington about her 2022 plans, though DiStaso also relays that she’s focused on her current job, which is not a no.

Warmington is the lone Democrat on the five-member Executive Council, a body that is key for certain legislation along with approving executive and judicial appointments. Currently, Democrats do not yet have a notable candidate for this seat, though Rep. Chris Pappas and 2020 nominee Dan Feltes have not ruled out bids.

NY-Gov: Following Tuesday’s bombshell release of the state attorney general's investigation report concluding that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, five New York district attorneys have confirmed that they’re investigating sexual harassment allegations against the governor, with two of them saying that they’ve already opened criminal investigations. Cuomo may have more immediate worries, though, as the Associated Press reports that 86 of the 150 members of the state Assembly say they support opening impeachment proceedings.

If a majority of the lower chamber votes to impeach him, Cuomo’s powers would be temporarily transferred to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul; the governor would only regain his powers if he manages to avoid conviction in the Senate. It will likely be a little while, though, before impeachment can start. The Democratic-run Assembly has given Cuomo until Aug. 13 to submit evidence in his defense, and two members of the Judiciary Committee, Tom Abinanti and Phil Steck, tell the AP they expect the chamber’s investigation to end in “weeks or a month.”

The pair said that plenty of their colleagues want Cuomo impeached much faster following the release of Attorney General Tish James’s report. However, they argued that the Assembly needs time to build a strong argument for the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats and would ultimately decide Cuomo’s fate.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris said that should the Assembly vote to impeach, his chamber could begin Cuomo’s trial weeks later. As we’ve written before, members of New York’s highest court, known as the Court of Appeals, would also sit as jurors. Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins would not participate, however, because she is second in the line of succession after the lieutenant governor. As a result, the jury would consist of seven judges—all of whom are Cuomo appointees—and 62 senators, with a two-thirds majority, or 46 votes, needed to convict the governor and remove him from office.

Cuomo could avoid all this by resigning, but he’s continued to proclaim his innocence and refuse to quit. The governor was similarly defiant in March as more and more allegations surfaced about his behavior and other alleged abuses in office, but while he had enough allies back then to hang on, his situation has very much deteriorated following James’ Tuesday press conference. Several longtime Cuomo backers, including state party chair Jay Jacobs and the state’s influential unions, have turned against him, and the New York Times notes that he has very few prominent defenders left.

Indeed, Cuomo’s most high-profile advocate at this point may be disgraced Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who characteristically compared Cuomo’s situation to the multitude of allegations leveled at his old client. Giuliani’s son, former White House staffer Andrew Giuliani, announced earlier this year that he’d run against Cuomo.

House

FL-20: State Sen. Bobby Powell said Wednesday that he would support state Rep. Bobby DuBose rather than compete in November's special Democratic primary. The filing deadline is Aug. 10.

MO-07: GOP Rep. Billy Long kicked off a Senate bid earlier this week, and several Republicans have already been mentioned or expressed interest in replacing the six-term congressman in this 70-28 Trump seat.

State Sen. Mike Moon, former state Sen. Jay Wasson, and physician Sam Alexander all indicated they were considering getting in. State Sen. Lincoln Hough, whom the Missouri Independent mentioned as a possible candidate on Wednesday, also did not rule out a bid. State Rep. Cody Smith and former state Sen. Gary Nodler likewise did not rule out bids, but both sound unlikely to run.

State Sen. Bill White, former state House Speaker Elijah Haahr, Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon, and former state Sen. Ron Richard all said they would not enter the contest, while former U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison was mentioned as a possible candidate by St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum.

Mayors

Cleveland, OH Mayor: EMILY’s List has endorsed Democratic state Sen. Sandra Williams for mayor of Cleveland.

Morning Digest: Our new Minnesota data shows a divergent election for Biden and Senate Democrats

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-LD: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present new data from Minnesota breaking down the 2020 presidential results for every district in the state House and Senate—which, unusually, are held by opposite parties.

Democrats went into last year's election hoping to net the two seats they'd need to retake the upper chamber after four years in the minority, but despite winning more Senate votes statewide, Team Blue only flipped a single seat. More painfully still, Joe Biden carried 37 of the Senate's 67 seats, a comfortable majority similar in proportion to his share of the statewide vote, which he won 53-45.

Compounding the Democrats' poor showing, two of the party's sitting senators, Tom Bakk and David Tomassoni, announced weeks after the election that they would become independents, which earned the duo committee chairmanships from the GOP majority. This state of affairs has given Republicans and their new allies a 36-31 edge in the chamber.

Altogether, six Republicans sit in Biden seats. The bluest of this bunch is SD-26 in the Rochester area in the southern part of the state, where GOP state Sen. Carla Nelson hung on by a 51-49 maring even as Biden was carrying her constituency 54-44. By contrast, Kent Eken is the one Democratic member of the Senate who represents Trump turf: Eken won SD-04 in the northwest part of the state 55-45 while Trump took it 50-48. Tomassoni, for his part, holds a Trump seat, while Bakk's district went for Biden.

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It's also possible that, but for the presence of a third-party candidate on the ballot in the 27th District in the southern part of the state, Democrats would have won back the Senate. Veteran Democratic Sen. Dan Sparks lost to Republican Gene Dornink 49-44, but Tyler Becvar of the Legal Marijuana Now Party captured 7% of the vote, greater than the margin between the two leaders.

While the cannabis legalization movement is generally associated with the political left, many candidates who ostensibly ran under a pro-weed banner in Minnesota last year received Republican help or espoused right-wing views—including Becvar. But Sparks' seat would have been a very difficult hold regardless: Trump won it 55-43, so it's very possible some of those votes for Becvar would have gone to Dornink instead.

Democrats were able to maintain their majority in the Minnesota House, but their edge slipped from 75-59 to 70-64. Biden took 72 districts to Trump's 62, and though crossover voting benefited Republicans overall, the GOP's advantage wasn't as large as it was in the Senate on a proportional basis: Six House Republicans won Biden seats, while four Democrats took Trump districts.

The Democrat with the reddest turf is Paul Marquart, who earned his 10th term 53-47 even as Trump was romping to a 58-39 victory in his HD-04B. (In Minnesota, two state House districts are nested within one Senate district, and Marquart represents half of Eken's aforementioned 4th Senate District.) Marquart's Republican counterpart is Keith Franke, who had lost re-election in 2018 but reclaimed HD-54A by a 51-48 margin despite Biden's 54-43 victory in his suburban Twin Cities constituency.

Minnesota is one of just two states where the same party doesn't hold both houses of the legislature; the other is Alaska, where Republicans have nominal majorities in each chamber but the House is run by a coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

This state of affairs makes it extremely unlikely that the Minnesota legislature and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz will agree on new congressional and legislative maps. This deadlock would mean that the courts would take over redistricting, which is exactly what happened a decade ago—and each of the last several decades.

Once new maps are implemented, each party will immediately have another chance to try to win both chambers. The entire House is on the ballot every two years, while the Senate is up in years ending in 0, 2, and 6, meaning that senators who won election in 2020 are currently serving two-year terms but will run for four-year terms next year. (This system, known as "2-4-4," is used in eight states.)

P.S. You can find all of our district-level data at this bookmarkable permalink.

Senate

GA-Sen: Rep. Buddy Carter appears to have gotten his hands on a cellphone number that his fellow Republicans have had a hard time getting ahold of: The southwest Georgia congressman says he's had "a number of conversations" with former NFL star Herschel Walker, who's been encouraged by Donald Trump to run for Senate but hasn't been in communication with top GOP operatives about his intentions.

Carter, however, says that Walker, who lives in Texas, told him that he'll make some sort of decision "around the first of the summer." (Since "summer" isn't a month, we'll mark that down as June 20, the summer solstice.) Like all Peach State Republicans, Carter is eagerly awaiting a final announcement from Walker, who's largely frozen the Senate field. Carter himself says he's already prepped a campaign team for his own Senate bid but that he's "waiting on Herschel" before entering the race.

PA-Sen: Republican Reps. Guy Reschenthaler and Mike Kelly have published a joint op-ed endorsing Army veteran Sean Parnell in his bid for the Senate, making them the first members of Congress from Pennsylvania to take sides in next year's GOP primary.

Governors

IL-Gov: Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman says he's considering a bid against Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker next year and says a decision will come "later this summer" after the conclusion of the current legislative session. Barickman also suggested that the outcome of redistricting, which Democrats will control in Illinois, could affect his thinking.

MI-Gov: A new poll from Target Insyght for MIRS News finds Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer up 48-42 on outgoing Detroit police Chief James Craig, who is considering seeking the Republican nomination. The same survey (which is our first of the race) also finds Whitmer beating Army veteran John James by a wider 49-39 margin. James was the GOP's Senate nominee in both 2018 and 2020, though he hasn't yet publicly expressed any interest in a possible gubernatorial bid.

NY-Gov: Rep. Elise Stefanik easily won election as House GOP conference chair on Friday to replace the ousted Liz Cheney, defeating Texas Rep. Chip Roy 134-46 in a secret ballot. If Stefanik sticks to her word, we can cross her off the list of potential Republican gubernatorial candidates for next year since she said she wouldn't run for governor if she won the race for chair.

VA-Gov: Former Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman, who'd been threatening to run for governor as an independent, says he's less likely to do so now that the GOP has tapped finance executive Glenn Youngkin as its nominee. "If Amanda Chase or Pete Snyder won," he told CBS's Aaron Navarro, "I would have more heavily considered it." Riggleman has until the June 8 filing deadline for independents to decide.

House

FL-13: Democratic state Rep. Michele Rayner, who'd reportedly been considering a bid for Florida's open 13th District, now confirms that she is in fact looking at the race. Another Democrat, term-limited St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, has also made it clear that he's weighing a campaign; his earlier comments had us slotting him into the "hasn't ruled it out" category, which we regard as a notch below on the level-of-interest scale.

GA-10: State Rep. Timothy Barr has entered the race for Georgia's open 10th Congressional District, making him the second notable Republican to join after former Rep. Paul Broun.

Mayors

Atlanta, GA Mayor: Two more members of the Atlanta City Council, Andre Dickens and Antonio Brown, have announced that they're running in the November nonpartisan primary to succeed retiring incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Dickens is the co-founder of City Living Home Furnishings, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes as "a multi-million dollar retail business with two locations." Dickens sold the business two years before he was elected to the City Council in 2013 by unseating an incumbent.

Brown, for his part, has been a prominent progressive critic of Bottoms since he was elected in a 2019 special election, an accomplishment that made him the body's first Black LGBTQ member. Brown, though, has been under federal indictment since July on fraud charges, allegations he denies.

Two other contenders, City Council President Felicia Moore and attorney Sharon Gay, have been running since before Bottoms announced her departure earlier this month, and a big name is publicly expressing interest for the first time. Former Mayor Kasim Reed recently told Channel 2's Dave Huddleston that he is thinking about running for his old job again, though political insiders have been chattering about a potential comeback for a while.

Reed had no trouble winning re-election the last time he was on the ballot in 2013, but a corruption investigation that resulted in indictments for six members of his staff generated plenty of bad headlines during the end of his tenure. (Term limits prohibited Reed from seeking a third consecutive term in 2017, but he's free to run again now that he's not the incumbent.) Huddleston asked Reed whether he was under investigation, to which the former mayor replied, "The Justice Department under [former Attorney General] Bill Barr has looked into every aspect of my life for more than three years and took no action."

Finally, former Rep. Kwanza Hall confirmed his interest on Thursday and said he would "make my decision soon." Hall, who was a city councilman at the time, took seventh place in the last mayoral contest, but he went on to win a 2020 all-Democratic runoff for the final month of the late Rep. John Lewis' term in the 116th Congress.

New York City, NY Mayor: The Democratic firm Change Research's new survey of the June 22 Democratic primary finds Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leading 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang 19-16, with city Comptroller Scott Stringer at 9%. After the poll simulates the instant runoff process, Adams is left with a 53-47 edge over Yang. Change tells us that, while this was conducted as part of a larger survey for a client, the pollster paid for the horserace portion itself.

St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: St. Pete Polls' new survey of the August nonpartisan primary for Florida Politics finds City Councilwoman Darden Rice and former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch deadlocked 16-16, with former state Rep. Wengay Newton at 12%. All three leading contenders are Democrats, though Newton worked with Republicans on some issues in the legislature and backed former GOP Mayor Rick Baker's unsuccessful 2017 comeback campaign.

St. Pete Polls also finds Welch outpacing Rice 31-24 in a hypothetical November general.

Prosecutors

Manhattan, NY District Attorney: Former State Chief Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg has earned the backing of the United Federation of Teachers, which is one of the major unions in New York City politics, in the eight-way June 22 Democratic primary. Bragg already had the support of two other influential labor groups: the healthcare workers union 1199 SEIU and 32BJ, which represents building and airport employees.

Redistricting

Redistricting: Our friends at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project are hosting a new contest that will be of interest to many Digest readers:

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project at the Electoral Innovation Lab is proud to announce the launch of its Great American Map Off, a contest challenging the public to draw redistricting plans for seven crucial states—Wisconsin, Colorado, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, and New York—in anticipation of the 2021 redistricting cycle. Maps will be judged in the contest's four unique categories: partisan fairness, stealth gerrymander, competitiveness, and communities of interest. Participants can enter any or all categories, which are fully detailed within the contest rules on the group's website. The site also includes links for mapping tools and resources, including Representable, Dave's Redistricting, and All About Redistricting. The competition will formally open on May 15, 2021. All competitors should submit their prospective maps by the deadline of 11:59 PM ET on June 15, 2021. Prizes will be awarded.

Full details here. Let us know if you submit!

House Democrats just passed the most important democracy reforms since the 1965 Voting Rights Act

On Wednesday, House Democrats voted 220-210 to pass H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” which is the most important set of voting and election reforms since the historic Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965. These reforms, which House Democrats previously passed in 2019, face a challenging path to in the Senate given Democrats’ narrow majority and uncertainty over whether they can overcome a GOP filibuster, but their adoption is critical for preserving American democracy amid unprecedented attack by Republican extremists both in and outside Congress.

H.R. 1 would implement transformative changes to federal elections by (1) removing barriers to expanding access to voting and securing the integrity of the vote; (2) establishing public financing in House elections to level the playing field; and (3) banning congressional gerrymandering by requiring that every state create a nonpartisan redistricting commission subject to nonpartisan redistricting criteria.

Using Congress’ power to regulate Senate and House elections under the Elections Clause and enforce anti-discrimination laws under the 14th Amendment, the bill would:

  • Establish automatic voter registration at an array of state agencies;
  • Establish same-day voter registration;
  • Allow online voter registration;
  • Allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so they'll be on the rolls when they turn 18;
  • Allow state colleges and universities to serve as registration agencies;
  • Ban states from purging eligible voters' registration simply for infrequent voting;
  • Establish two weeks of in-person early voting, including availability on Sundays and outside of normal business hours;
  • Standardize hours within states for opening and closing polling places on Election Day, with exceptions to let cities set longer hours in municipal races;
  • Require paper ballots filled by hand or machines that use them as official records and let voters verify their choices;
  • Grant funds to states to upgrade their election security infrastructure;
  • Provide prepaid postage on mail ballots;
  • Allow voters to turn in their mail ballot in person if they choose;
  • Allow voters to track their absentee mail ballots;
  • Require states to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting (possibly not until the 2030s round of redistricting);
  • Establish nonpartisan redistricting criteria such as a partisan fairness provision that courts can enforce starting immediately no matter what institution is drawing the maps;
  • End prison gerrymandering by counting prisoners at their last address (rather than where they're incarcerated) for the purposes of redistricting;
  • End felony disenfranchisement for those on parole, probation, or post-sentence, and require such citizens to be supplied with registration forms and informed their voting rights have been restored;
  • Provide public financing for House campaigns in the form of matching small donations at a six-for-one rate;
  • Expand campaign finance disclosure requirements to mitigate Citizens United;
  • Ban corporations from spending for campaign purposes unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its shareholders; and
  • Make it a crime to mislead voters with the intention of preventing them from voting.

Ending Republicans’ ability to gerrymander is of the utmost importance after Republicans won the power to redistrict two-to-three times as many congressional districts as Democrats after the 2020 elections. If congressional Democrats don’t act, Republican dominance in redistricting may practically guarantee that Republicans retake the House in 2022 even if Democrats once again win more votes, an outcome that could lead to congressional Republicans more seriously trying to overturn a Democratic victory in the 2024 Electoral College vote than they did January, when two-thirds of the House caucus voted to overturn Biden's election.

If this bill becomes law, Republicans would lose that unfettered power to rig the House playing field to their advantage. Instead, reform proponents would gain the ability to challenge unfair maps in court over illegal partisan discrimination, and the bill would eventually require states to create independent redistricting commissions that would take the process out of the hands of self-interested legislators entirely.

Protecting the right to vote is just as paramount when Republican lawmakers across the country have introduced hundreds of bills to adopt new voting restrictions by furthering the lies Donald Trump told about the election that led directly to January's insurrection at the Capitol. With Republican legislatures likely to pass many of these bills into law—and the Supreme Court's conservative partisans poised to further undermine existing protections for voting rights—congressional action is an absolute must to protect the ability of voters to cast their ballots.

The most important remaining hurdle, however, is the legislative filibuster: The fate of these reforms will depend on Senate Democrats either abolishing or curtailing it. Progressive activists have relaunched a movement to eliminate the filibuster entirely, while some experts have suggested that Democrats could carve out an exception for voting rights legislation. Either way, Democrats will need to address the filibuster in some fashion, since Senate Republicans have made it clear they will not provide the support necessary to reach a 60-vote supermajority to pass H.R. 1 into law.

Democrats in Congress must pass new election reforms to save democracy from an ever more radical GOP

Republicans around the country are plotting a new wave of voter suppression laws in reaction to their 2020 losses, but many of their proposals can be defanged if congressional Democrats take decisive action. Just last month, Democrats introduced sweeping bills that would enact the most transformative changes to our democracy since the 1965 Voting Rights Act and provide a critical bulwark against GOP efforts to suppress votes. These reforms include:

These reforms are urgently needed. Last year saw Republicans almost win full control of the federal government despite receiving millions fewer votes than Democrats at all levels—from the Electoral College down to the Senate and House. Donald Trump then followed up on this near miss by trying to overturn the results in court and in Congress, and through inciting mob violence once it was clear he had lost.

The case of the House is instructive. Thanks to widespread GOP gerrymandering, Republicans very nearly retook the lower chamber last year and might very well have done so had Democrats not brought successful lawsuits over the last decade that resulted in new maps in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. But it might only be a temporary reprieve: Thanks to a strong performance at the legislative level, Republicans are poised to dominate redistricting across the country just as the Supreme Court's GOP hardliners threaten to turbocharge gerrymandering.

The Senate presents a different sort of problem. As our newly published data illustrates, Democratic senators have collectively won more votes and represented more Americans than Republicans continuously since 2000 but have only run the chamber half the time since. Had Senate Republicans won just over 1,000 votes more in New Hampshire in 2016, GOP minority rule would have continued in 2020 despite Democratic senators representing tens of millions more constituents. Of course, there’s also the Electoral College: A shift of just 40,000 votes in three key swing states could have seen Trump again win the presidency last year in spite of a second popular vote loss.

Republican minority rule isn't just a threat to our elected offices. It's already a reality on the U.S. Supreme Court, where five conservative justices have been confirmed by senates where the Republican majority had won fewer votes and represented fewer people than the Democratic minority. Three of those justices were also appointed by a president who lost the popular vote.

And that’s before we even get to January’s unparalleled attacks on democracy by Republican extremists. These included the far-right insurrection that saw a violent mob ransack the Capitol, leave several dead in their wake, nearly cost elected officials their lives, and led to Trump's impeachment for the second time after he and his allies in Congress incited the violence by telling lies about voter fraud and stolen elections.

Despite that violent coup attempt, two-thirds of House Republicans and several prominent GOP senators voted just hours later that day to overturn the Electoral College results in the hopes of stealing the election for Trump. Our democracy has been increasingly under siege by the far right for years, but these attempts to overthrow it both through mob violence and congressional action mark the lowest ebb in American civic health since the Civil War.

We can reverse this decline, however, by adopting the reforms currently before Congress. But to pass them would require unanimous support among Senate Democrats and a newfound willingness to curtail the filibuster in the face of certain Republican obstruction. If Democrats don't take advantage of their fleeting chance to pass transformational reforms to our democratic institutions and protect voting rights, our democracy may not survive much longer.

A failure to act could see Republicans regain a gerrymandered majority in the House in 2022 and another majority in the Senate next year despite once again failing to win more votes or represent more Americans than Democrats. A Republican-run Congress could even try to overturn democracy outright in 2024 by rejecting the outcome of the Electoral College, just as Trump and his many allies sought to do last month.

Democracy reform must be at the top of the agenda this year, because the future of our political system—and every other policy effort—depends upon it.

Morning Digest: Expected delay in census data release could wreak havoc with redistricting timelines

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

2020 Census, Redistricting: On Wednesday, the Census Bureau revealed that the state-level population data from the 2020 census that is needed to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state receives is not expected to be released until April 30, four months after the original deadline. This delay is the result of pandemic-related disruption to census operations last year and Donald Trump's so far unsuccessful attempt to manipulate census data for his own partisan ends.

Additionally, the census also announced that the more granular population data needed for states to actually draw new districts won't be released until at least after July 30, which is also a delay of at least four months from the original March 31 deadline. Consequently, these delays will create major disruptions for the upcoming 2020 round of congressional and legislative redistricting.

New York University Law School's Brennan Center for Justice released an in-depth report in 2020 looking at which states have deadlines that are in conflict with a potentially delayed data release schedule and what the impact of a delay may be. The most directly affected states are New Jersey and Virginia, which are the only two states that are set to hold legislative elections statewide in 2021 and would normally redraw all of their legislative districts this year.

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However, New Jersey Democrats passed a constitutional amendment in 2020 that will require legislative redistricting be delayed until the 2023 state elections if the census doesn't provide the necessary data by Feb. 15, 2021, which is now virtually guaranteed. In Virginia, primary elections are currently planned for June 8, but if redistricting data isn't released until August, it would be practically impossible to conduct redistricting, hold delayed candidate filing, and hold a delayed primary with enough time before November, meaning that the current legislative districts drawn in 2011 would likely remain in place for November's elections.

The situation isn't much better for several other states that have constitutionally mandated redistricting deadlines set to kick in this summer before they could feasibly draw new districts if data isn't released until late summer. Every state constitution requires a lengthy process for amendments that includes a required voter referendum, passage in multiple years, or both, and it's thus too late to amend these constitutions to alter those deadlines this year, increasing the likelihood of litigation over failure to meet key deadlines.

One major state in particular that could be thrown into turmoil due to a delayed release of census data is Illinois, whose constitution sets a deadline of June 30 for passing new legislative districts following a census year. If legislators fail to adopt new districts by the June 30 deadline, legislators would cede control over legislative redistricting to a bipartisan backup commission where the tiebreaking member is chosen in a 50-50 game of chance between the two parties. Democrats currently hold the legislature and have been expected to have total control over redistricting, but if the process reverts to the backup commission, Republicans would have even odds of controlling legislative redistricting in this blue state.

However in the case of Illinois, the situation pivotally would depend on which year would be categorized as the census year. Normally, that would be a year ending in zero—i.e. 2020—but the Brennan Center details how Illinois leaves open the possibility for 2021 to instead be considered the census year, which would give lawmakers until June 30, 2022 to draw new legislative districts (congressional redistricting does not use the same timeline or process as legislative redistricting). It's unclear how such a determination of the census year is made, and litigation over it is a strong possibility.

Meanwhile, nearly every state has different procedures and timelines for congressional redistricting than they do for legislative redistricting, and the delayed release of census data will be less disruptive nationally at the congressional level than it may be for state legislatures.

Senate

FL-Sen: Oh, vom. Politico reports that former Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson is making calls about a possible challenge to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, and when asked about it, Grayson's only response was, "Repeal Rubio. That's all I have to say." Anyone but Grayson—that's all we have to say.

KS-Sen: Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who last month did not rule out a bid for governor next year, just accepted a position at a conservative think tank in D.C., which is not the kind of gig you usually take if you're planning to run for office in your home state. It's certainly not impossible, though—we've seen politicians do brief stints as Washington lobbyists before staging comebacks—so don't count Pompeo out just yet.

OH-Sen: Team Blue is hoping that Republican Sen. Rob Portman's surprise retirement will give them a better shot at prevailing in a state that has been trending the wrong way, and more Democrats are publicly and privately discussing running. One familiar name who told CNN he was considering the contest is Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor, who lost two close 2018 races in the conservative 12th Congressional District against Republican Troy Balderson.

State House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, who would be the state's first Black senator, also said she was thinking about entering the Senate race. Sykes previously expressed interest last month in campaigning to succeed cabinet nominee Rep. Marcia Fudge, if there's a special election for the safely blue 11th District, and it's not clear if she's also considering running there.

Cleveland.com's Seth Richardson also relays that former state health director Amy Acton is considering running as a Democrat, though she hasn't said anything publicly. Acton attracted state and national attention during the opening months of the coronavirus crisis through her prominent place at Republican Gov. Mike DeWine's afternoon briefings, and Richardson writes that she impressed many through her "her frank discussion of the dangers of coronavirus and the need for mitigation." Acton, who was also the target of conservative attempts to undermine her, as well as antisemitic attacks, stepped down in June.

On the GOP side, 2018 nominee Jim Renacci said Tuesday he was interested in another Senate bid and would "be exploring my options to reenter public office over the next 60 days." Renacci, who previously served four terms in Congress, has spent the last several months talking about challenging DeWine for renomination in part over the governor's efforts to limit the spread of the pandemic. Republicans who remember his 53-47 loss to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, though, probably won't want him as their standard bearer for either race.

State GOP chair Jane Timken also confirmed Wednesday that she was "seriously considering" a Senate run. Timken, who won her post in early 2017 by unseating an incumbent with the Trump campaign's support, is also part of a prominent donor family in state party politics.

Two other Republicans who had shown some interest in getting in, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and former Rep. Pat Tiberi, each said Wednesday that they wouldn't enter the race. Several unnamed Republicans also suggested to Cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias that others could stay out should Rep. Jim Jordan, a key Trump sycophant, get in, including 2012 nominee Josh Mandel. However, some unnamed observers pointed out that Jordan has talked about running statewide but never done it, and they predict that 2022 will be no different.

VT-Sen: Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who was hospitalized for a few hours on Tuesday after suffering what he described as muscle spasms, said on Wednesday that "of course" he'll continue to serve out the rest of his term but said he wouldn't make a decision about whether to seek a ninth term until the end of the year.

"You all know this, I never make up my mind until November or December the year before and I'm not going to now," said the 80-year-old Leahy. "Usually when we start skiing and snowshoeing then we talk about it." Leahy, who is currently the longest-serving member of the Senate, sounded ready to run again, saying "the latest polls show me winning easily."

Retirement Watch: With Ohio Sen. Rob Portman's surprise announcement on Monday making him the third GOP senator to retire so far in this young election cycle, Republicans are nervously waiting to see how many more of their brethren might also call it quits. Among those on the watch list:

AL-Sen: Richard Shelby is 86 and has been in office since 1987. After last year's elections, Shelby promised a decision by January, but now he tells Roll Call's Bridget Bowman that he won't say anything more until after Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, which will not begin until Feb. 8. When asked about his plans this week by CNN, Shelby would only say, "I'll let you know." Bowman says the senator "is not expected to run for reelection."

AR-Sen: John Boozman, 70, said a year ago that he’s planning to run for a third term, and he repeated that intention this week to CNN. However, the senator has experienced some health problems that required heart surgery in 2014 and again in 2017, and he hasn’t yet announced a re-election bid.

IA-Sen: 87-year-old Chuck Grassley, who was first elected in 1980, said in February of last year that he'd come to a decision eight to 12 months before Election Day 2022, though now he seems to have moved his timetable up. In new remarks, he says he'll make an announcement in "several months." If Grassley were to run and win again, he'd be 95 years old at the end of what would be his eighth term.

ID-Sen: Mike Crapo, 69, also told CNN he plans to run for a fifth term but likewise hasn’t actually kicked off a campaign. He was treated for prostate cancer in 2000 and 2005.

MO-Sen: A spokesperson for Roy Blunt, 71, said in November that the senator would seek a third term, but now he's sounding less definitive. Blunt told Roll Call's Bowman that he's "planning on reelection, but I haven't made a final statement on that yet." In separate remarks about his plans to Politico, Blunt said, "I really have not been thinking much about it to tell you the truth. ... I keep thinking there will be a little breathing space, so far it’s not happening."

SD-Sen: John Thune, whose 60 years of age put him just below the senatorial average of 63, would only tell CNN that he'll make an announcement about a fourth term "at some point in the future." Trump exhorted Republicans to primary Thune late last year after the senator said that efforts to overturn the Electoral College "would go down like a shot dog."

WI-Sen: Ron Johnson, 65, pledged prior to his last election in 2016 that he would only serve one more term if he won, but now he's contemplating going back on his word. However, he still hasn't made up his mind about whether to break his promise and run for a third term, saying, "I don't think I have to for a while."

CNN also notes that Kansas’ Jerry Moran and South Dakota’s John Hoeven have not launched re-election bids yet, but both are in their mid-60s—relatively young by Senate standards—and joined the Senate in 2011.

Governors

CA-Gov: Tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya has announced that he'll run to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the event a recall election moves forward, though he didn't specify which party banner, if any, he'd fly. Palihapitiya has given $1.3 million to Democratic candidates and causes over the last decade, along with one $5,000 donation to Ted Cruz in 2011.

MD-Gov: Unnamed advisers to Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, who previously did not rule out a run for governor, say Olszewski is now considering a bid for the Democratic nomination. Another Democrat, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, is also not ruling out the race, according to Maryland Matters. Meanwhile, 2018 Democratic nominee Ben Jealous, who last year said he had not "closed the door on running for governor again," is staying involved in Maryland politics by taking the helm of a new marijuana reform initiative.

SC-Gov: 2018 candidate John Warren recently refused to rule out a second GOP primary bid against incumbent Henry McMaster, and The State’s Maayan Schechter reports that he might not be the only Republican looking at this race.

Schechter writes that there’s “buzz” that state Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey could challenge the governor, and that he would not comment for her story. Massey has been a loud critic of McMaster’s response to the pandemic: Last month, Massey was one of several Republicans to prepare bills that would give legislators the final say over emergency orders.

Catherine Templeton, who also ran in 2018, said back in August that she was likely to run, though we haven’t heard anything from her since then. A runoff would take place if no one wins a majority in the first round of the primary, so McMaster couldn’t slip by with a plurality.

South Carolina has been a very tough state for Democrats especially in recent years, but a few local politicians have shown some interest in running. Former Rep. Joe Cunningham told Schechter he would consider his future "[o]ver the next few months.” Cunningham also expressed interest last year in seeking a rematch with Republican Nancy Mace, who narrowly unseated him in November, though redistricting could make that contest less attractive.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who would be the state’s first Black governor, has also been mentioned as a prospective candidate for years, and he once again did not rule it out when asked. Benjamin and McMaster faced off in the open 2002 race for attorney general, a race McMaster won 55-44. Benjamin is up for re-election this year, and he hasn’t said if he’ll seek a fourth term.

State Sens. Marlon Kimpson and Mia McLeod also said they were thinking about a gubernatorial bid as did 2018 contender Marguerite Willis, an attorney who lost that year’s primary to James Smith 62-28. Schechter also lists former state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, who was Smith’s candidate for lieutenant governor, as considering, though there’s no quote from her.

VA-Gov: A second rich dude, former private equity executive Glenn Youngkin, has entered Virginia's Republican primary for governor, just days after another finance guy, Pete Snyder, did the same. Snyder, by the way, has already released a TV ad, which the National Journal says is backed by a $250,000 buy, complaining about the slow pace of reopening schools and calling himself a "disruptor." It's not clear who he's trying to reach with this sort of advertisement, though, given that the GOP nomination will be decided by, at most, just a few thousand delegates at the party's May 1 convention.

House

CA-21: Former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, who was last seen taking a distant third in the GOP primary for New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District last year, has announced a challenge to Rep. David Valadao, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump earlier this month. Fresno isn't located in California's 21st Congressional District either, though it is closer than New Mexico.

CA-39: Democrat Jay Chen, a Navy Reserve officer and local community college trustee, has announced a bid against freshman Republican Rep. Young Kim. Chen previously ran for California's 39th Congressional District in 2012, losing 58-42 to Republican Rep. Ed Royce, though the area was considerably redder back then: That same year, Mitt Romney carried the district 51-47, while in 2020, Joe Biden won it 54-44.

Chen also briefly ran here in 2018 after Royce retired, but to help avoid a disaster in the top-two primary, he took one for the team and dropped out in order to reduce the number of Democratic candidates and, thereby, the chance that a fractured voted would allow two Republicans to advance to the general election.

PA-07: Republican Lisa Scheller, who lost to Democratic Rep. Susan Wild 52-48 last year in Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District, has filed paperwork with the FEC in anticipation of another congressional bid, though it's not clear exactly where she might run. Redistricting is set to scramble Pennsylvania's map, and mindful of that, Scheller changed the name of her campaign committee from "Scheller for PA-07" to "Scheller for Congress, Inc." (no, we don't know why she thinks she's running a corporation). She's promised "a more formal announcement" about her plans over the summer.

PA-10: Politico reports that, according to an unnamed source, the DCCC is trying to recruit 2020 nominee Eugene DePasquale for another go at Republican Rep. Scott Perry in Pennsylvania's 10th District. DePasquale, whose press list has understandably been largely dormant since November, recently put out a statement calling on his former opponent to resign after the New York Times reported that he played a central role in trying to overturn last year's presidential election.

Perry, the Times said, introduced Donald Trump to a Justice Department attorney who proposed ousting acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and directing the DOJ to pressure Georgia officials into altering their state's results. The congressman later confirmed the report. DePasquale wound up losing to Perry by a 53-47 margin last year but he insisted to Politico that the surge in Republican enthusiasm generated by Trump's presence on the ballot "will not be in play in 2022."

Legislatures

Special Elections: Here's a recap of Tuesday's special election in Iowa:

IA-SD-41: Republican Adrian Dickey defeated Democrat Mary Stewart 55-45 to hold this seat for the GOP. An unusual complicating factor arose on Election Day when a major snowstorm hit southeastern Iowa, and Democrats were reportedly leading in mail ballots heading into Tuesday. This was enough to make Dickey himself nervous about the final outcome, but the red tilt of this district was enough for him to prevail.

While Stewart did worse than in her first bid for this seat, a 52-48 loss to Mariannette Miller-Meeks in 2018, she was able to once again improve upon Hillary Clinton's 57-38 loss here in 2016.  

This chamber moves to a 32-18 advantage for Republicans with no other vacancies.

Mayors

Detroit, MI Mayor: Incumbent Mike Duggan got his first notable opponent for the August nonpartisan primary on Tuesday when Anthony Adams, who served as deputy mayor in former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's administration, launched his campaign.

Adams, who is also a former school board president, argued that “there is a dramatic need for mayoral change in the city of Detroit." Adams also played down his ties to Kilpatrick, who resigned in disgrace in 2008, saying, "I am my own man and I'm running on my own record." Kilpatrick, who was later sentenced to 28 years in prison for corruption, was in the news last week after Donald Trump commuted his punishment, a decision that Duggan praised.    

Meanwhile, school board member Sherry Gay-Dagnogo said this week that she planned to sit the contest out. The former state representative didn't quite rule out a bid, though, saying instead that she wouldn't run "[u]nless there is a massive cry for me to reconsider." The candidate filing deadline is April 20.

New York City, NY Mayor: Businessman and 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang has released a survey of the June Democratic primary from Slingshot Strategies that gives him a 25-17 lead over Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, with City Comptroller Scott Stringer in third with 12%, though a hefty 32% of respondents are initially undecided. The survey then simulates the instant runoff process and shows Yang defeating Adams 61-39 on the 11th and final round of voting. This poll, which was in the field Jan. 15-19 and sampled 800 people, is the first survey we've seen since Yang joined the race earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Marine veteran Zach Iscol announced this week that he was dropping out of the race and would instead run to succeed Stringer as controller. Around that same time, though, businesswoman Barbara Kavovit, who was a regular on the "Real Housewives of New York City," kicked off her own campaign for the Democratic mayoral nomination.

Seattle, WA Mayor: Colleen Echohawk, who leads the nonprofit Chief Seattle Club, announced Monday that she would run to succeed retiring Mayor Jenny Durkin this year. Echohawk, who is a member of both the Kithehaki Band of the Pawnee Nation and the Upper Athabascan people of Mentasta Lake, would be the first woman of color to lead Washington's largest city.

Echohawk has not run for office before, but she has been prominent in local government. In addition to serving on the Community Police Commission, she also founded the Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness and previously served on the Downtown Seattle Association's board.

Echohawk joins Lance Randall, the director of economic development of the nonprofit SEED, and architect Andrew Grant Houston in the August nonpartisan primary, though it remains to be seen if either of them have the connections to run a serious bid. The candidate filing deadline is in May.

Other Races

New York City, NY Comptroller: The City's Rachel Holliday Smith takes a look at the June Democratic primary to succeed Scott Stringer, who is running for mayor, as New York City comptroller, a post that has plenty of influence over the nation's largest city. Democrats have controlled this office since 1946, and Team Blue's nominee should have no trouble holding it.

First, though, Smith discusses what the comptroller actually does. Among other things, the office is responsible for reviewing contracts, auditing and overseeing city agencies, and "[e]nsuring transparency and accountability in setting prevailing wage and vigorously enforcing prevailing wage and living wage laws." The comptroller is also one of only a trio of citywide elected offices: The other is public advocate, where Democratic incumbent Jumaane Williams doesn't face any serious opposition for re-election this year.

What the comptroller's post hasn't been, though, is a good springboard to the mayor's office. The last person to successfully make the jump was Democrat Abe Beame, who was elected mayor in 1973 on his second try and lost renomination four years later. Since then four other comptrollers have unsuccessfully campaigned for the city's top job, a streak Stringer will try to break this year.

Six notable Democrats are competing in the June primary, which will be decided through instant runoff voting. The two with the most cash by far are City Councilman Brad Lander and state Sen. Brian Benjamin, who have both brought in enough to qualify for matching funds (a system we explain here).

Benjamin, though, earned some unwelcome headlines earlier this month when The City reported that multiple donors said that they had not actually contributed any money to his campaign, and some even volunteered that they had never even heard of Benjamin. One of his unwilling donors said that he didn't blame Benjamin for what happened and instead said the problem rested with his former employer. Benjamin's team soon announced that they would give the New York City Election Campaign Finance Fund $5,750, which represented 23 donations of $250 each.

Assemblyman David Weprin, who unsuccessfully ran to succeed the disgraced Anthony Weiner in the 2011 special election for what was numbered the 9th Congressional District at the time, and state Sen. Kevin Parker have also been campaigning for a while. Neither of them have the resources that Lander or Benjamin do at the moment, though they could receive a big boost if they qualify for matching funds: The New York Times reports that Weprin has likely brought in enough, though the campaign finance board needs to confirm this before it dispenses any public money.

Two other Democrats also joined the race this week. Marine veteran Zach Iscol, a moderate who is close to Hillary Clinton, abandoned his mayoral bid to run here. Iscol will be able to transfer the cash he raised for his previous campaign to his new race, which could matter quite a bit: While he fell about $20,000 short of the minimum needed to qualify for public money for mayor, the Times reports that he's likely already hit the lower threshold needed for the comptroller contest.

The other new contender is Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC anchor who challenged Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in last year's Democratic primary. Caruso-Cabrera, who ran well to the congresswoman's right, raised millions from AOC haters nationwide and self-funded over $1 million, but she lost by a lopsided 74-18 margin.

Data

Pres-by-CD: Our project to calculate the 2020 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide hits Kentucky. 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.

Donald Trump won the Bluegrass State 62-36, which was pretty similar to his 63-33 performance in 2016, and he once again carried five of Kentucky's six congressional districts. The one exception was, as before, Rep. John Yarmuth's 3rd District in Louisville, which is also the only Democratic-held seat in the commonwealth: Joe Biden took the seat 60-38, compared to 55-40 for Hillary Clinton four years earlier, a shift due in part to the decline in third-party voting.

The closest constituency was again the 6th District in the Lexington area, where Trump's margin shrunk a bit from 55-39 in 2016 to 54-44 in 2020. Republican Rep. Andy Barr won re-election in 2018 by beating Democrat Amy McGrath just 51-48 in a very expensive race, but Barr had a much easier time last year and prevailed 57-41.

Trump took at least 65% of the vote in the remaining four GOP-held seats. His strongest performance in the state was his 80-19 romp in veteran Rep. Hal Rogers' 5th District in rural eastern Kentucky, which makes this the Trumpiest of the 345 seats we've released numbers for so far. (The seat that got displaced for that title, though only just, was Texas' 13th District, which backed the top of the ticket 79-19.) Believe it or not, though, Trump's 2016 margin in this coal country constituency was slightly larger at 80-17.

The 83-year-old Rogers has decisively won re-election 20 times, but this area was extremely divided when he was first elected in 1980. The current version of the 5th District contains several ancestrally Democratic areas that favored Team Blue even in tough years, including Elliott County, which famously never supported a Republican presidential nominee from the time of its formation in 1869 through 2012—the longest streak of Democratic support in any county in the country. Those days are long gone, however, as Trump carried Elliott County with 70% in 2016 and 75% last year.

The 5th is also home to areas that were deep red even when Democrats were the dominant party statewide, as they were at the time Rogers was first elected. This includes Jackson and Leslie Counties, which have not once backed a Democrat for president since they were created in the 19th century. They're not likely to start anytime soon, either, as Trump won close to 90% in both.

Kentucky Democrats, thanks in large part to their downballot dominance in parts of the eastern part of the state, ran the state House nonstop from the early 1920s through the 2016 elections, which always gave them at least a seat at the table for redistricting. The GOP took firm control of the legislature for the first time ever when Trump first won the state, though, and they have more than enough votes to override any possible veto by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and pass their own maps for the first time.

This Week in Statehouse Action: 2 Lock 2 Down edition

Hello, and happy early Independence Day to all who observe!

(And, of course, as an erudite consumer of this missive, I know you’ll observe in a responsible, socially-distanced way. Because Lockdown 2: The New Batch is going to suck enough as it is.)

As a lot of states whose Republican governors reopened businesses prematurely in the middle of a damn pandemic begin to grapple with the obvious and avoidable fallout, a lot of state-level action right now is extremely coronavirus-related.

… but not all of it.

Body Double: … but some of it!

Campaign Action
  • In Pennsylvania, GOP Rep. (and noted Terrible Human) Daryl Metcalfe is coopting “my body, my choice” as a slogan to justify his reckless refusal to wear a face mask to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
    • Metcalfe has also introduced a resolution calling for the impeachment of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, saying in a statement that Wolf’s businesses closures and other measures he’s taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus have “caused immeasurable harm an hardship for far more Pennsylvanians than the virus!”

I dunno, getting a deadly disease seems like a pretty severe hardship

Double or Nothing: In Kansas, where I’m sure the GOP-controlled legislature is contemplating a measured and reasonable response to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s new mandatory face mask order, one Republican lawmaker is super worried about losing his primary election in August.

Okay, this has all been interesting, but I did promise you non-coronavirus related content.

And, well, tomorrow is an important day.

No, not because it’s Independence Day Eve.

And not because it’s my half-birthday.

(Which it is.)

Election Day is four short months from July 3.

And this is a year that ends in zero.

Which makes this Election Day the final chance for Democrats to flip legislative chambers and put themselves in position in states across the country to prevent another decade of GOP gerrymandering.

Thousands of seats are on the ballot this fall.

And yes, all state legislative elections in each and every state are important.

But because redistricting is at stake, some are a bit more important than others this fall.

Democrats taking a birds-eye view of these elections (c’est moi) have to weigh a number of factors when it comes to prioritizing states, chambers, and seats this year.

  • How many seats do Democrats need to flip to win a majority in the chamber?
  • Do past election results, political trends, or other factors indicate that Democrats can flip that many seats in a single election?
  • Was Democratic recruitment strong?
  • Do legislators in that state impact redistricting (some states, like California, task independent commissions with drawing legislative and congressional maps)?

These are the chief factors I’ve weighed in determining my state legislative chamber priority target list for 2020.

Topmost among those targets are (in alphabetical order, nothing to read into here):

  • Arizona House (Dems need to flip two for a majority)
  • Arizona Senate (Dems need to flip three)
  • Michigan House (Dems need to flip four)
  • Minnesota Senate (flip two)
  • North Carolina House (flip six)
  • North Carolina Senate (flip five)
  • Pennsylvania House (flip nine)
  • Texas House (flip nine)
    • In Arizona, flipping either chamber would break the Republican trifecta. While legislative and congressional maps there are drawn by an independent redistricting commission, Republicans have spent the entire decade trying to undermine and dismantle the body; as long as the GOP has complete control of the state, fair redistricting is in real danger.
    • In Michigan, flipping the House would help stymie ongoing GOP efforts to dismantle or defang the independent redistricting commission the party’s been attacking since voters approved it in 2018.
    • In Minnesota, flipping the state Senate would give Democrats a governing trifecta (governorship, House, Senate) and complete control of the redistricting process.
    • Flipping at least one chamber in North Carolina is essential to preventing another GOP gerrymander of the state. The Democratic governor is generally favored to win reelection here, but it doesn’t matter—the legislature has complete control of legislative and congressional redistricting.
    • While Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is positioned to veto egregious partisan gerrymanders sent to him by the legislature, flipping a chamber in Pennsylvania would give him a redistricting partner, so to speak, which would send him a fair map to approve, levy against the GOP in negotiations, or be considered by the Democratic-majority state Supreme Court in litigation.
    • Flipping the Texas House would break the GOP trifecta in the state and give Democrats a say in the redistricting process for the first time since the infamous DeLay-mander of 2003.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be going in to detail on each of these chambers—challenges, opportunities, available paths to victory, targeted districts, and the like. And I’ll be adding target chambers as the electoral landscape shifts and solidifies as we approach November.

  • But let’s start with the relative layup of the bunch: Minnesota Senate.
    • As ever, much love to the beautiful brains at Daily Kos Elections who crunch the numbers that give us presidential and other statewide elections results broken down by legislative district.
      • And after this crunching, they’ve spit out multiple opportunities for Democrats to win that coveted trifecta this fall.
        • Republicans currently have a 35-32 majority in the Minnesota Senate.
        • In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried just 28 seats in the 67-seat chamber.
        • In the special U.S. Senate election in 2018, Democrat Tina Smith carried 39 out of 67 districts.
        • Democrat Tim Walz carried those same 39 seats, plus two more.
        • Sen. Amy Klobuchar annihilated her GOP opponent and carried a ridiculous 52 of the 67 Senate seats, but let’s look at the closer elections to map out the most viable targets in the fall.
          • Those targets can be found among the eight Smith/Waltz districts currently represented by Republicans.
    • It’s worth noting, though, that only two of those seats supported Clinton in 2016 (SDs 44 and 56).
      • … which, well, is fine, since Democrats only have to flip two for that sweet Senate majority and hot trifecta action.

Welp, that’s a wrap for this week. Thanks for checking in before checking out for the holiday!

Whatever you end up doing this weekend, I hope you enjoy the heck out of it.

You deserve it.

You’re worth it.

Hang in there.

And wear a mask.