Republicans aren’t worried about the midterms … as long as no one says the word ‘abortion’

Veteran Republican strategist Mike Madrid gets points for being honest about the current political landscape after the GOP’s radical Supreme Court majority upended 50 years of settled law on abortion rights.

“With inflation as high as it is, for the first time I think it’s a jump ball. The Democrats are now back in it,” Madrid told NBC News.

The high court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade was, Madrid said, "a massive gift to the Democrats and one they could not have conjured up for themselves."

Campaign Action

True enough—congressional Democrats couldn’t have dreamed up anything more enraging than conservatives taking a hatchet to the fundamental rights of some 50% of the country. Still, Republicans have only themselves to thank for putting Congress in play amid such a thorny political cycle for Democrats. They could have neutered Donald Trump's political future during his second impeachment following the deadly Jan. 6 coup attempt. But instead Republicans made Trump the epicenter of their party for at least another cycle or more. If Republicans had shown the fortitude to vanquish Trump, their entire slate of candidates would look entirely different heading into November. Imagine, for example, if word-challenged former football star and alleged wife abuser Herschel Walker weren’t the GOP's best shot at scoring a pickup in the Senate.

Republicans had hoped a uniquely unified party would head to the polls in November to register their disgust with soaring inflation and President Joe Biden's leadership after an election many Republican voters baselessly believe Trump won.

Instead, the abortion ruling upended the cycle by firing up Democrats and independent women, while the Jan. 6 probe has left a weakened Trump leading a party that is starting to fray at the edges. By November, GOP voters might already be duking it out over whether to stick with Trump in 2024 or toss him for a fresher face like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

But Republicans are either still in denial about their shifting fortunes or they're lying through their teeth. NBC reports that on one hand, most GOP officials in Washington dismiss the fallout from the Dobbs ruling. At the same time, however, they are advising GOP candidates to steer clear of talking about abortion.

In other words, we're not worried … but whatever you do, don’t utter the word “abortion.”

Even politicians like former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who revels in controversy and hopes to recapture the governor's mansion this fall, said, "I don't have time for abortion" when questioned about it last week.

That type of dodge is a far cry from May just after the decision first leaked, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was assuring everyone the final decision would be a "wash" in federal races even if it might impact state contests.  

At the time, endangered GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin pooh-poohed the notion that overturning Roe would even register in the Badger State.

“It might be a little messy for some people, but abortion is not going away,” Johnson said, adding that Wisconsinites could still drive across state lines to Illinois for reproductive care. “I just don’t think this is going to be the big political issue everybody thinks it is, because it’s not going to be that big a change.”  

Easy for the white male conspiracy-pusher with the cushy job to say. But last month, Johnson got a little taste of reality when the Marquette Law School poll found him trailing three of his potential Democratic challengers.

DeSantis is taking a more circumspect approach, settling for the moment for a 15-week ban on abortion as he seeks reelection.

“The strategy is obvious,” one GOP operative told NBC. “Do it after the gubernatorial so as to not piss off suburban women, then screw them over after the election in order to appease fire-breathing pro-lifers in a presidential primary.”

In other words, the guy who took on Disney for political sport doesn’t want to get anywhere near abortion until he has secured another four years.

Morning Digest: Three House incumbents lose renomination during a huge primary night

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

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

IL-06, IL-15, MS-04: Tuesday was one of the biggest primary nights of the cycle, and not just because a trio of House incumbents lost renomination. We’ll start with a look at those three contests below as we begin our summary of where things stood as of 8 AM ET in the big contests. You can also find our cheat-sheet here.

 IL-06 (D & R): Two-term Rep. Sean Casten defeated freshman colleague Marie Newman by a wide 68-29 margin in their Democratic primary for a seat in Chicago's inner western suburbs. Newman’s existing 3rd District makes up 41% of this new seat while Casten's current 6th District forms just 23%, but she was hurt by 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 race largely paused about two weeks before Election Day after the congressman's teenage daughter died suddenly and Newman announced that she was halting negative ads.

Casten will face Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, who won the GOP nod by beating Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso 39-27, in a constituency Biden would have carried 55-44.

 IL-15 (R): Freshman Rep. Mary Miller, who had support of Donald Trump and the Club for Growth, beat five-term incumbent Rodney Davis 57-43 in a safely red seat in rural central Illinois. While neither member had much of a geographic advantage in this new seat, the far-right Miller proved to be a better fit for local Republicans than Davis, who had long sought to present himself as a moderate in order to win under the previous map and voted for a Jan. 6 commission.

Davis tacked right during this campaign and pledged to investigate the Jan. 6 committee if he became chair of the House Administration Committee, but it was far from enough. Miller, by contrast, told Trump at a rally on Saturday, “I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday.” (Her campaign responded by insisting she’d meant to say “right to life.”)

 MS-04 (R): Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell defeated six-term Rep. Steven Palazzo 54-46 in the Republican runoff for a safely red seat along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The incumbent led Ezell only 31-25 in the first round of voting on June 7, and all five of the defeated candidates quickly endorsed Ezell for the runoff. Mississippi Today says that this is the first time a House incumbent has lost renomination in the Magnolia State since 1962, when Jamie Whitten beat fellow Rep. Frank Smith in their Democratic primary. (Whitten, who was elected in a 1941 special, retired in 1995 as the longest serving House member in American history, though the late Michigan Democrat John Dingell later broke that record.)

Palazzo spent the campaign dogged by an ethics investigation into allegations that he illegally used campaign funds for personal purposes. His many critics also portrayed him as an absentee congressman uninterested in doing his job, and Palazzo gave them more fodder earlier this year when he posted a picture on Facebook of himself and his son at a restaurant in Mississippi hours after he abruptly canceled a campaign forum for what his staff said were “meetings dealing with national security.”

election recaps

 Primary Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of 8 AM ET Wednesday. We’ll start with a surprisingly close special election in Nebraska:

 NE-01 (special): Republican state Sen. Mike Flood only defeated Democratic colleague Patty Pansing Brooks 53-47 to win the contest to succeed Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who resigned in March after he was convicted of concealing illegal campaign funds he received from a foreign national, in a Lincoln area constituency that Trump would have won 54-43 in 2020 and 56-38 four years before. Bizarrely, the special was held under the new district lines even though the winner will fill out the remainder of Fortenberry's term, which he of course won under the old lines; Trump carried the existing 1st by a stronger 56-41 in 2020.

National Democrats, though, were not prepared for things to be anywhere near as close as they were: Indeed, Pansing Brooks’ media consultant, Ian Russell, says that Flood outspent her $860,000 to $80,000 in a contest that attracted no serious outside spending. The two state senators will face off again in November for a full two-year term.

We’ll move on to Colorado, where Democrats spent serious amounts in what proved to be unsuccessful efforts to get Republicans to nominate Team Blue’s preferred opponents:

 CO-Sen (R): Self-funding businessman Joe O’Dea turned back state Rep. Ron Hanks, a vocal proponent of the Big Lie, 55-45 in the GOP primary to face Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet. A poll from the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group showed both Republicans losing to Bennet by the same 13-point margin, but Team Blue believed that the extremist Hanks would be easier to defeat.

 CO-Gov (R): University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl, who is Colorado’s only remaining statewide Republican, defeated businessman Greg Lopez 54-46 for the right to take on Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. That same GSG poll showed Polis winning by identical 51-32 spreads against both, but Democrats tried to get GOP voters to select the underfunded Lopez.

 CO-03 (R): Another far-right freshman, Rep. Lauren Boebert, beat self-described moderate state Sen. Don Coram 65-35 in a western Colorado seat that Trump would have taken 53-45.

 CO-05 (R): Rep. Doug Lamborn turned back state Rep. Dave Williams 48-33 in a Colorado Springs-based seat Trump also would have carried 53-43. Lamborn, who has struggled to win renomination in the past, is the subject of an ongoing ethics investigation into allegations that he misused official resources by having congressional staff perform personal and campaign-related tasks for him and his wife.

 CO-07 (R): Former oil and gas executive Erik Aadland defeated businessman Tim Reichert 48-36 in the GOP primary to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter. Aadland will be the underdog against state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who had no Democratic primary opposition, in a seat in the western Denver suburbs that Biden would have carried 56-42. 

 CO-08 (R): State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer beat Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann 40-23 in the GOP primary for this newly created seat in Denver's northern suburbs. Democrats had aired ads trying to block Kirkmeyer and convince Republicans to instead nominate far-right Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine, but Saine ended up taking only third with 20%. Kirkmeyer will go up against state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, who had no opposition in the Democratic primary, in a constituency Biden would have won 51-46.

 CO-SoS (R): Former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson defeated economic development specialist Mike O'Donnell 43-29; the balance went to Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who was indicted in March for allegedly breaching the county's election systems during her attempt to demonstrate fraud in 2020. Anderson, who was the one Republican candidate who acknowledged that Biden won the 2020 election, will go up against Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

Next is Illinois, which was home to the bulk of Tuesday’s biggest contests:

 IL-Gov (R): Both Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Donald Trump got what they wanted from the Republican primary as far-right state Sen. Darren Bailey beat venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan in a 57-16 blowout; Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who looked like the frontrunner until early June, took third with just 15% despite the $50 million in donations he’d received from billionaire Ken Griffin.

Pritzker and his allies at the DGA very badly wanted to face Bailey instead of Irvin, and they spent massive amounts to make that happen. NBC reports that the incumbent dropped $32 million on TV ads during the GOP primary, most of which went towards hitting the mayor, while the DGA deployed another $18 million on commercials either touting Bailey as a conservative or attacking Irvin. Another conservative megadonor, Richard Uihlein, spent $17 million to promote Bailey as well and go after Irvin’s record as mayor and past moderate stances.

 IL-01 (D): Businessman Jonathan Jackson, who is the son of two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson and benefited from $1 million in support from crypto-aligned PACs, won the nomination to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush in this safely blue seat by defeating Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell 28-19. Rush, who is the only person to ever defeat Barack Obama, supported former Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership CEO Karin Norington-Reaves, who finished third with 14%.

 IL-03 (D): State Rep. Delia Ramirez, who had several progressive groups on her side, beat Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas 66-24 in a safely blue seat centered around heavily Latino areas in southwestern Chicago and the city's western suburbs.

 IL-07 (D): Longtime Rep. Danny Davis turned back anti-gun violence activist Kina Collins 52-45 in what was easily his closest renomination fight ever in this heavily Democratic seat in downtown Chicago. Davis beat Collins 60-14 in a 2020 contest that attracted little attention, but this time, there was notable outside spending on both sides. President Joe Biden also endorsed the 13-term incumbent two days before the primary.

 IL-08 (D): Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi defeated businessman Junaid Ahmed 70-30 in a seat based in Chicago's outer western suburbs. Biden would have prevailed 57-41 here.

 IL-13 (R & D): The AP has not yet called this GOP primary, but with 95% of the projected vote in, activist Regan Deering leads former federal prosecutor Jesse Reising 35-33. The Democrats are fielding former Biden administration official Nikki Budzinski, who won her own primary 76-24, in a seat that now snakes from East St. Louis northeast through Springfield to the college towns of Champaign and Urbana. Democratic mapmakers transformed what was a 51-47 Trump constituency into one Biden would have carried 54-43, which is why GOP Rep. Rodney Davis decided to take his chances in the 15th instead of run here.

 IL-14 (R): The AP also has not yet made a call in the GOP primary, but conservative radio host Mike Koolidge leads perennial candidate James Marter 31-24. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood in a constituency in Chicago's western exurbs where Democratic legislators augmented Biden's margin of victory from 50-48 to 55-43.

 IL-17 (D): Former TV meteorologist Eric Sorensen, who would be the first gay person to represent Illinois in Congress, won the Democratic nod to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos by beating former state Rep. Litesa Wallace 38-23. Republicans are once again fielding 2020 nominee Esther Joy King, who lost to Bustos 52-48 as Trump was taking the old version of this northwestern Illinois seat 50-48; Biden would have carried the new version of the 17th 53-45.

Mississippi also had another big runoff Tuesday:

 MS-03 (R): Rep. Michael Guest avenged his June 7 embarrassment by beating Navy veteran Michael Cassidy 67-33 in the runoff for this safely red seat in the central part of the state. Cassidy led Guest, who voted for a Jan. 6 commission, 47.5-46.9 in the first round in a campaign that almost everyone expected the incumbent to win with ease. The congressman, who himself acknowledged he'd run a complacent campaign, used the next three weeks to air ads attacking Cassidy for the first time, while his allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund spent serious amounts on anti-Cassidy messaging.

New York held primaries for statewide races and the state Assembly, but because the courts redrew the maps for the U.S. House and state Senate, those nomination contests won't take place until Aug. 23.

 NY-Gov & NY-LG (D): Gov. Kathy Hochul won her primary for a full term by beating New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams 68-19, while Rep. Tom Suozzi took 13%. Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, a former congressman who served as Hochul’s informal running mate, won his separate primary by beating activist Ana Maria Archila, who was aligned with Williams, 61-25. Hochul and Delgado will campaign together as a ticket in November.

 NY-Gov (R): Rep. Lee Zeldin defeated former Trump White House staffer Andrew Giuliani, the son of Donald Trump's most embarrassing attorney, 44-23. Zeldin and running mate Alison Esposito, who had no intra-party opposition in the primary for lieutenant governor, will try to unseat Hochul and Delgado in a state where Republicans haven’t won a single statewide race since 2002.

Oklahoma also went to the polls: A runoff will take place Aug. 23 in any contests where no one earned a majority of the vote.

 OK-Sen-B (R): Rep. Markwayne Mullin and former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon will compete in the runoff to succeed longtime Sen. Jim Inhofe, a fellow Republican who announced in late February that he would resign, effective ​​when the current Congress ends.

Mullin took a firm first place with 44% while Shannon, who lost to now-Sen. James Lankford in the 2014 primary for Oklahoma’s other Senate seat, outpaced state Sen. Nathan Dahm 19-12. Another 11% went to Luke Holland, Inhofe’s former chief of staff and preferred successor, while former Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt barely registered with just 5%.

 OK-Gov (R): Gov. Kevin Stitt decisively beat state Department of Veterans Affairs head Joel Kintsel 69-14 even after dark money groups spent millions against him. Stitt will be favored in the fall against Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who left the GOP last year.

 OK-02 (R): State Rep. Avery Frix will compete in the runoff to succeed Mullin in this dark red eastern Oklahoma seat, but the AP has not yet called the second runoff spot. With 99% of the expected vote in for this enormous 14-person field, Frix leads with 15% while former state Sen. Josh Brecheen holds a 14-13 edge over Muskogee Chief of Police Johnny Teehee.

 OK-05 (R): Despite her vote for a Jan. 6 commission, freshman Rep. Stephanie Bice defeated her underfunded foe, conservative YouTube show host Subrina Banks, 68-32 in a newly gerrymandered seat in the Oklahoma City area.

The big night concluded with Utah.

 UT-Sen (R): Far-right Sen. Mike Lee turned back former state Rep. Becky Edwards, who centered her challenge around Lee's unbending fealty to Donald Trump, 62-30. The incumbent will go up against conservative independent Evan McMullin, whom Democrats decided to support rather than field their own candidate.

 UT-01 (R): Freshman Rep. Blake Moore, who also voted to create a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attacks, beat retired intelligence officer Andrew Badger 59-27 in this safely red northern Utah seat.

 UT-03 (R): Finally, Rep. John Curtis, who also voted for a Jan. 6 commission, defeated former state Rep. Chris Herrod 71-29 in what was their third GOP primary contest. This seat in the Provo area and southeastern Utah is also dark red turf.

  Redistricting

LA Redistricting: In an unsurprising move, the Supreme Court's far-right supermajority voted without explanation to block a lower court decision that struck down Louisiana's congressional map for violating the Voting Rights Act over the objections of the three liberal justices. The court said it would hear a full appeal next term. As a result, Louisiana will use a map this year that features just a single Black congressional district out of six, despite the fact that the trial court determined that African Americans, who make up a third of the state's population, are entitled to a second district in which they can elect their preferred candidates under the VRA.

Senate

AK-Sen: Sen. Lisa Murkowski's allies at Alaskans For Lisa are using their first negative TV ad to attack former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka as "​​so extreme she wants to outlaw receiving contraceptives by mail," which is almost never the type of messaging we hear in a contest between two Republicans. However, the state's new top-four electoral system gives Murkowski's side an incentive to appeal to Alaska's entire electorate, not just the social conservatives who usually dominate GOP primaries

And there's good reason to think that this sort of ad could resonate even in a red state like this one. Civiqs finds that registered voters agree that abortion should be legal in most or all cases by a 50-45 margin, while other surveys have also shown that a majority of Alaskans support abortion rights.

AZ-Sen: Former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters' newest commercial for the August primary features him standing next to Donald Trump as the GOP's actual master delivers a rare direct-to-camera appeal for one of his candidates. (Trump previously made a personal pitch for David Perdue in the primary for governor of Georgia which … did not end well for either man.)

After praising Masters as "strong on election fraud," Trump also uses this occasion to argue that two of his intra-party foes, Attorney General Mark Brnovich and wealthy businessman Jim Lamon, "will only let you down," though he uncharacteristically refrains from dissing them further. Masters himself only chimes in at the end to approve the commercial and shake Trump's hand, a practice Trump once dismissed as "barbaric."

MO-Sen: John Wood, a former Republican who served as a senior advisor to the Jan. 6 committee until last week, announced Wednesday morning that he’d run for this open seat as an independent. Wood previously served as U.S. Attorney for the Kansas City area under George W. Bush.

Wood launched his campaign shortly after former Republican Sen. John Danforth starred in a commercial that was part of what AdImpact reported is a $1.4 million buy from a PAC called Missouri Stands Unite. Danforth, who left office in 1995, didn’t mention Wood or anyone else by name but instead spent the 90 second commercial expressing his disillusionment with the state of American unity and argues that a victory for a nonaligned candidate would send a "message to politicians throughout America." Danforth, though, called for Wood to run before the independent launched his campaign.

NV-Sen, WI-Sen: Two new ads from two pro-choice groups in top-tier Senate races both focus on abortion in the wake of the Dobbs decision, but they use strikingly different language.

In Nevada, Women Vote, which is the super PAC arm of EMILY's List, says it's spending $2.1 million to castigate Republican Adam Laxalt for calling the Supreme Court's ruling an "historic victory." The narrator elaborates: "Unapologetically pro-life, Laxalt has made a career pushing to limit abortion rights, committed to taking control of every woman's personal decision and giving it to politicians."

Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, says it's putting $1.5 million behind an ad warning that the Supreme Court's decision will "trigger[] a ban on nearly all abortions in Wisconsin" because of an 1849 law outlawing abortion that's still on the books. She explains that Sen. Ron Johnson "sided with them on overturning Roe v. Wade—punishing doctors and hurting people. Putting our health and reproductive rights in danger." The voice-over concludes, "Johnson even said, if you don't like it, you can move." (Yep, he sure did.)

What's surprising is hearing an organization like EMILY's List use the term "pro-life"—a dastardly bit of Orwellian rhetoric deployed by the right for decades that has worked wonders to soften the image of a cruel movement designed to render women second-class citizens. Planned Parenthood wisely avoids the problem by eschewing labels altogether and simply describing the implications of Johnson's vision.

WA-Sen: Tiffany Smiley, who is the only serious Republican challenging Democratic incumbent Patty Murray, has released an internal from The Tarrance Group showing her trailing the senator only 48-43. An early June survey for the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute gave Murray a larger 51-40 edge, but the Democrat has been taking this contest seriously. Politico reports that Murray has spent over $1 million on her opening ad campaign, including a recent spot where an OB-GYN warned, "You think women's reproductive health care is safe here in Washington? Not with Mitch McConnell's handpicked candidate in the U.S. Senate, Tiffany Smiley."

Governors

AZ-Gov: Former Rep. Matt Salmon announced Tuesday that he was dropping out of the August Republican primary, saying, “Unfortunately, numbers are numbers, and it has become clear to me that the path to a first-place victory is no longer a realistic possibility.” While Salmon only narrowly lost the 2002 general election for this post to Democrat Janet Napolitano, he lagged in polls and fundraising in his second campaign 20 years later.

The former congressman’s departure five weeks ahead of the primary leaves former TV news anchor Kari Lake, who has Trump’s endorsement, and Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson as the only two major GOP contenders. Self-funding businesswoman Paola Tulliani Zen is also in, but while she recently aired an ad declaring, “I’m going to cut the fat off our government like I cut the fat off my prosciutto,” she’s otherwise attracted very little attention.

MD-Gov: Goucher College, polling on behalf of the Baltimore Banner and WYPR, finds close contests in both party's July 19 primaries.

On the Democratic side, the school gives state Comptroller Peter Franchot the edge with 16% as former nonprofit head Wes Moore and former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez are just behind with 14% each; former Attorney General Doug Gansler is a distant fourth with just 5%, while a 35% plurality of respondents are undecided. The only other independent poll we've seen here was an early June OpinionWorks poll that also put Franchot on top with 20% as Moore and Perez took 15% and 12%, respectively.

In the Republican primary, Goucher has Del. Dan Cox outpacing former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz 25-22, with 44% undecided and no other candidates breaking 3%. OpinionWorks earlier this month gave Schulz, who has termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan's endorsement, a 27-21 advantage over the Trump-backed Cox.

House

AZ-01: Self-funder Elijah Norton's newest GOP primary commercial against incumbent David Schweikert features the congressman's former campaign treasurer, Karen Garrett, expressing some choice words about her old boss and the scandal that dogged him last cycle. Garrett tells the audience that Schweikert "reported a fraudulent $100,000 loan, $279,000 in illegal contributions, and more than $500,000 missing." She concludes, "Then he blamed his staff. He lied to us. Discovering the kind of person David has become has been one of the heartbreaks of my life."

FL-02: The local firm Sachs Media gives Republican Rep. Neal Dunn a small 43-40 edge over his Democratic colleague, Al Lawson, in the first poll we've seen of this incumbent vs. incumbent matchup. There's reason to think the undecided voters lean Republican, though: The sample also favors Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis 53-41 in a general election against Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist (Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is also seeking the Democratic nod for governor, was not tested), which closely matches Trump's 55-44 performance here in 2020.

FL-04: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Tuesday became the latest prominent Republican to endorse state Sen. Aaron Bean in the August primary for this open seat.

FL-23: Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz has earned an endorsement from Hillary Clinton ahead of the Democratic primary.

FL-27: State Sen. Annette Taddeo has released an internal from SEA Polling and Strategic Design that shows her outpacing Miami Commissioner Ken Russell 51-15 in the Democratic primary to take on freshman Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar.

OH-09: Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur is using her first TV ad against her opponent, QAnon-aligned activist J.R. Majewski, to highlight the Republican's involvement in the Jan. 6 attack. The narrator recounts, "He broke past the police barricades at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot" as the audience sees photos of Majewski in the crowd, continuing, "140 police officers were injured, one died." The speaker, who is now identified as a local voter, goes on to praise Kaptur's record supporting the police and funding a new jail before adding, "Look, reckless guys waving assault weapons don't make our families safer, more police in our neighborhoods do."

Ballot Measures

AK Ballot: Alaskans will vote this November on whether to hold a state constitutional convention, and the Alaska Beacon's Lisa Phu writes that this once-in-a-decade referendum has become an abortion rights battleground now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. The Alaska Supreme Court in 1997 recognized that the state's governing document protects the right to an abortion, and pro-choice groups are urging voters to keep the status quo in place by voting "no."

Anti-choice forces, likewise, understand that a victory for the "yes" side would give them a chance to outlaw abortion in a state where it's otherwise difficult to amend the state constitution. It takes two-thirds of both the state House and Senate to put a constitutional amendment proposal on the ballot, and while two state Senate committees last year advanced a proposal reading, "To protect human life, nothing in this constitution may be construed to secure or protect a right to an abortion or require the State to fund an abortion," it failed to receive a floor vote in either chamber. Senate Republicans and their one Democratic ally currently hold a 14-6 supermajority, but the House is run by a coalition of Democrats, independents, and a few Republicans.  

If a majority voted "no" this fall, then this referendum would next take place in 2032. (Alaska is one of 14 states where constitutional convention questions automatically appear on the ballot after a set number of years; in 2012, "no" won 67-33.) If "yes" came out on top, however, the lieutenant governor's office says, "The process could take as long as four-plus years or, depending on the legislature, it could be as short as, say, two years." Phu explains that after the convention finished its work, voters would need to approve any amendments or other revisions to the constitution. The Last Frontier held its last constitutional convention in 1955 and 1956, which was a few years before Alaska became a state.

CA Ballot, VT Ballot: On Tuesday night, both chambers of California's Democratic-led legislature mustered up the two-thirds majorities needed to place a constitutional amendment on November's ballot that would affirm that "the state shall not deny or interfere with an individual's reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives."

Politico explains that, while "[p]rivacy rights already embedded in the state Constitution have been widely interpreted as protecting the right to abortion," Democratic leaders want to do everything they can to avoid any legal ambiguity especially now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. Back in February, Vermont's Democratic-controlled legislature voted to place a similar constitutional amendment on its general election ballot that would safeguard "reproductive autonomy." Civiqs finds that at least 70% of registered voters in both states believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: On the very day of the special election to fill the vacancy caused by his resignation, former Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry learned that he would receive zero time in jail after he was convicted in March of lying to federal investigators in an effort to conceal illegal campaign funds he received from a foreign national.

Remarkably, U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Blumenfeld handed down the light sentence—two years of probation, community service, and a fine—because he concluded that "by all accounts the man is of exceptional character," adding, "The court is convinced that this wrongful, dishonest choice was out of character by Mr. Fortenberry." Making the sentence all the more inexplicable, Fortenberry still denies wrongdoing and once again said he would appeal—the very opposite of the sort of showing of contrition that might motivate a judge toward leniency.

Ad Roundup

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

Morning Digest: Meet the Republican that the other Republicans don’t want to see run for the House

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

MN-01: Despite lots of grumbling from fellow Republicans, former Minnesota GOP chair Jennifer Carnahan on Monday announced a bid for the vacant congressional seat that had been held by her late husband, Jim Hagedorn, until his death last month.

Carnahan has given her party plenty of reasons to wish she'd just go away, but the other day, she added yet one more: According to former state GOP official Michael Brodkorb, a frequent Carnahan critic, the newly minted candidate got into a "physical altercation" with a member of Hagedorn's family at a DC restaurant following a memorial service. But that's just a capper on a long string of ugliness that's surrounded Carnahan for quite some time.

A wide array of figures called on Carnahan to resign as GOP chair last August after Tony Lazzaro, a close friend and party donor, was arrested on sex-trafficking charges. Carnahan denied knowing anything about the allegations against Lazzaro, with whom she once co-hosted a podcast, but the brief against her was much broader. Shortly after Lazzaro's arrest, a group of former staffers came forward to charge that Carnahan had "presided over a toxic workplace culture and unchecked sexual harassment"; a day later, under severe pressure, she resigned—after casting the deciding vote to give herself a $38,000 severance check.

And while widows of deceased office-holders are often greeted sympathetically, Carnahan has to contend with a recording of a phone call released last year in which she was heard saying of her husband, "I don't care. Jim, he's going to die of cancer in two years." Carnahan later said she'd uttered those words "in grief" after drinking at an RNC event.

She also apparently posted messages on Facebook last year complaining of her husband's supposed ingratitude regarding a birthday celebration, according to Politico. "I bought you dinner and wine at Chankaska. There is not a single post about it," she allegedly wrote, "but the post about your birthday is of your employees? It's degrading, condescending and upsetting to me on many levels."

The special election for Hagedorn's seat is set for Aug. 9, with a primary to take place on May 24.

Redistricting

MO Redistricting: A panel of six appellate judges released a new map for Missouri's state Senate on Monday and says it plans to file the proposal with the secretary of state's office on Tuesday, which would make the map final. The judicial panel was assembled by the state Supreme Court in January and was tasked with crafting new districts after Missouri's bipartisan Senate redistricting commission failed to come up with a map of its own.

Meanwhile, the congressional redraw remains incomplete, as GOP leaders and far-right hardliners in the Senate still haven't reached a compromise: The former want a map that maintains the party's 6-2 advantage in the state's delegation, while the latter are pushing for a 7-1 gerrymander. The chamber just adjourned for a "weeklong spring break" and won't return until Monday, but lawmakers will have little time to act, since the candidate filing deadline is March 29. Two lawsuits have already been filed asking the courts to take over the redistricting process due to the ongoing impasse.

WY Redistricting: Both chambers in Wyoming's Republican-dominated legislature passed new legislative maps late on Friday night, resolving a split between the two bodies and sending the plans to Republican Gov. Mark Gordon. The final maps add two new members to the House and one to the Senate, as the House had sought. The boundaries differ somewhat, though, from those the House approved last month, and the population differences between the largest and smallest districts are larger than those the courts typically allow, making the map susceptible to a possible legal challenge.

Senate

AL-Sen: Alabama's Future, a super PAC that Punchbowl News says "has ties" to retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, is running a new commercial against Rep. Mo Brooks ahead of the May Republican primary. The narrator charges the congressman with "voting to cut off funding to destroy ISIS terrorists in the middle of the fight." The spot continues by resurrecting an attack that derailed Brooks in the 2017 special election for Alabama's other Senate seat by reminding viewers that "he even said that voters faced a 'tough choice' between Trump and Hillary."

Meanwhile, former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt, who has Shelby's backing, uses her latest ad to once again talk about her conservative views and implore the audience to "stand with me in choosing faith and freedom."

CA-Sen: Candidate filing closed Friday in three states—California, Georgia, and Idaho—and throughout this Digest, you'll find our rundowns of all the major candidates in all the key races. We begin with the biggest one of them all, California, which hosts its primary on June 7.

However, the state automatically extends the filing deadline five extra days in contests where the incumbent chooses not to file for re-election, so the field won't be set for several more races until Wednesday. (Five open House districts are affected by this extension: the 3rd, 13th, 15th, 37th, and 42nd.) The secretary of state will publish an official candidate list in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, we're relying on an open-source spreadsheet created and maintained by California political operatives.

The Golden State's top-two primary requires all candidates running for Congress and for state office to compete on a single ballot rather than in separate party primaries. The two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, will then advance to the Nov. 8 general election—a rule that sometimes results in two candidates from the same party facing off against one another. Note that candidates cannot win outright in June by taking a majority of the vote except in some nonpartisan elections for local office.

At the top of the roster is the race for U.S. Senate, where appointed Democratic incumbent Alex Padilla faces no serious opposition in his bid for a full six-year term. A special election will also be held in June for the final months of now-Vice President Kamala Harris' term, but that contest should be just as uneventful.

GA-Sen: Six Republicans have filed to take on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is seeking a full term after winning a crucial special election in January of last year, but almost all of the attention has gone to former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker. The GOP field also includes state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, former state Rep. Josh Clark, businessman Kelvin King, and banking executive Latham Saddler.

Walker's intra-party opponents have been hoping that ongoing media reports about his past, including allegations that he threatened to kill his ex-wife in 2005, will give them an opening, but none of them seem to be gaining any traction. Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have remained firmly in Walker's corner, and every poll we've seen has shown him taking well over a majority of the vote in the primary.

As for the general election, because Libertarian Chase Oliver is also running, it's very possible his presence could be enough to force Warnock and his eventual GOP rival into yet another runoff—which would take place in December rather than January after Republican lawmakers changed the timing last year in response to their dual Senate runoff losses.

WI-Sen: In her opening ad for the August Democratic primary, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski begins, "Dairy farms disappearing, prices up, COVID still not gone." She then says of the Republican incumbent, "And what's Ron Johnson done? Voted against new jobs and told us to take mouthwash to cure COVID." (Yes, Johnson really said that.) Godlewski continues, "I grew up in Eau Claire where we're more interested in common sense than conspiracies," and calls for "[p]ractical ideas that just help people. Not mouthwash." The campaigns says the spot is part of a seven-figure TV and digital buy.

Governors

CA-Gov: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom's landslide win in last year's recall election has deterred any strong Republicans from challenging him in this very blue state. Newsom's most prominent foe is state Sen. Brian Dahle, who the San Francisco Chronicle reported last month was still unvaccinated against COVID.

GA-Gov: With Friday's filing deadline just passed, two new polls of the May 24 Republican primary find Gov. Brian Kemp with wide leads over former Sen. David Perdue, but they disagree whether the incumbent is already taking the majority of the vote needed to avoid a June 21 runoff.

A survey from the GOP firm American Viewpoint on behalf of Secure Democracy USA, an organization the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes as a "nonpartisan group that aims to improve voter access," has Kemp winning 51-35. But BK Strategies, a different Republican firm which did not mention a client, has the governor only at 48%, though Perdue lags well behind with 33%. Three other Republicans also filed (you can find a complete candidate list here), but none have generated much attention.

We've seen two other polls in recent weeks, and they also diverge on Kemp's precise standing. Fox5 Atlanta's numbers—from yet another Republican pollster, InsiderAdvantage—had the incumbent leading only 44-35. However, a Fox News survey from the Democratic firm Beacon Research and the Republican pollster Shaw & Company finds Kemp in stronger shape with a 50-39 edge. All these polls and Perdue's weak fundraising numbers, though, haven't deterred Donald Trump from going all-in on his quest to deny renomination to Kemp, a one-time ally who wound up on the MAGA shitlist when he refused to participate in the Big Lie despite Trump's interference.

Indeed, Trump has a March 26 rally set for Perdue and other endorsees that's taking place in the small city of Commerce, which is close to the governor's hometown of Athens. Trump last month also starred in a very rare direct-to-camera ad for Perdue that featured him trashing Kemp. The governor, meanwhile, has benefited from spending from the Republican Governors Association, which for the first time is running ads to support an incumbent in a primary.

The eventual winner will go up against 2018 Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, who has no intra-party opposition in her second campaign. Georgia requires candidates to win a majority of the vote in the Nov. 8 general election in order to avoid a runoff on Dec. 6, so the presence of Libertarian Shane Hazel and independent Al Bartell could be enough to force a second round of voting.

Hazel himself played a small but crucial role in Perdue's 2020 re-election defeat: Perdue outpaced Democrat Jon Ossoff 49.7-48.0 in November while Hazel took a crucial 2.3%, but Ossoff quite famously went on to win the January rematch. GOP leaders soon changed the law to slash the time between the first general election and any potential runoffs from nine weeks to four.

ID-Gov: Candidate filing also closed in Idaho Friday for the May 17 primary, and the state has a list of contenders here.

Gov. Brad Little faces seven fellow Republicans in this overwhelmingly red state, but the most prominent of the bunch is Trump-endorsed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. No one has released any polling this year to indicate if Little is at all vulnerable, but he's enjoyed a massive fundraising edge over McGeachin, who spent the pandemic trying to undermine the governor's efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus. Also in the race are Bonner County Commissioner Steven Bradshaw and financial advisor Ed Humphreys.

MD-Gov: Two SEIU unions representing 30,000 Marylanders have endorsed former Labor Secretary Tom Perez in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor: Local 500, which represents education personnel, and 32BJ, which represents property services workers.

NV-Gov: A new poll of Nevada's GOP primary for governor, conducted by Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling on behalf of the DGA, finds Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo leading with 26% of the vote while former Sen. Dean Heller and North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee are tied at 13 apiece. Attorney Joey Gilbert is just behind at 12%, Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore takes 8, and businessman Guy Nohra brings up the caboose with just 1%, though a 27% plurality are undecided. The general picture is similar to that found in the only other public poll released this year, a survey from GOP firm OH Predictive Insights that had Lombardo at 28 and everyone else in single digits.

PA-Gov: Democrat Josh Shapiro's allies at Pennsylvania Works are airing a commercial commending him for standing up to "goliaths" and "bullies" as attorney general.

RI-Gov: Businesswoman Ashley Kalus, who filed paperwork for a possible bid for governor last month, will reportedly enter the contest "within the next two weeks," according to NBC 10 News. Kalus would be the first notable Republican in the race.

House

CA-05: Republican Rep. Tom McClintock faces intra-party opposition from Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig and three others in a 55-43 Trump constituency in the upper Central Valley and Sierra foothills. McClintock's existing 4th District makes up just over 40% of the new district, while fewer than 5,000 people are Magsig's constituents.

CA-06: While Sacramento County Registrar of Voters Courtney Bailey-Kanelos took out paperwork last month for a possible independent bid against Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, she didn't end up filing ahead of Friday's deadline. Bera should have little trouble winning this 58-39 Biden seat based in Sacramento and its northern suburbs.

CA-08: Democratic Rep. John Garamendi is the favorite for another term even though his existing 3rd District makes up just over 20% of this new seat, which is home to suburbs east of Oakland. However, he does face noteworthy intra-party opposition from Richmond City Councilman Demnlus Johnson. Johnson, who is Black, has argued, "The new congressional district was created to represent people like us. We can finally elect someone who knows our community because they're from our community."

People of color make up close to three-quarters of this new constituency, but Garamendi, who is white, is arguing that he knows this area well from his time "not only as a member of Congress, but also as lieutenant Governor and as insurance commissioner." (Garamendi is of Basque descent but does not identify as Hispanic.) Three other Democrats and one Republican are competing for this seat, which would have backed Biden 76-22.

CA-09: Democratic Rep. Josh Harder decided to seek re-election in this seat, a Stockton-area constituency that would have backed Biden 55-43, right after fellow Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney announced his retirement in January. Just over a quarter of the new 9th's denizens live in Harder's existing 10th District, but he doesn't appear to have any serious intra-party opposition. Three Republicans are running here, though the only one who looks noteworthy is San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti.

CA-21: Democratic Rep. Jim Costa should be the heavy favorite in a Fresno area district that Biden would have taken 59-39, though he struggled in the 2014 general election against a weak GOP foe in a similarly blue constituency. The only Republican who is going up against him this time is businessman Michael Maher, who is also campaigning in the special election for the old 22nd District.

CA-22: Rep. David Valadao, who was one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump last year, is running for re-election in a southern Central Valley seat that Biden would have won 55-42. Valadao faces two fellow Republicans, King County School Board Member Adam Medeiros and former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, but neither of them has attracted any public support yet from Trump. Mathys ran for office a few times in New Mexico including in 2020, when he took last place with 24% in the three-way primary for the 2nd Congressional District.

On the Democratic side, state and national leaders have consolidated behind Assemblyman Rudy Salas, who doesn't face any serious intra-party opponents.

CA-27: Republican Rep. Mike Garcia is defending a seat based in Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley that would have gone for Biden 55-43, and three Democrats are facing off against him. The most familiar name is former Assemblywoman Christy Smith, who badly lost the spring 2020 special election to Garcia but came just 333 votes shy months later as Biden was winning the old 25th District 54-44; Smith recently earned the endorsement of the state Democratic Party for her third bid.

The two other Democrats are Navy veteran Quaye Quartey and Simi Valley City Councilwoman Ruth Luevanos. Luevanos continued to run after her community was moved to the new 26th District, but she barely had any money available at the end of 2021.

CA-31: While Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano, who will be 86 when the new Congress is sworn in, has long been the subject of retirement speculation, she's running for a 13th term. She faces no serious opposition in an eastern San Gabriel Valley seat that Biden would have won 64-33.

CA-34: Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez beat former prosecutor David Kim just 53-47 in the 2020 all-Democratic general election, and Kim is seeking a rematch. One Republican and an independent are also running, but it's very likely Gomez and Kim will advance to November in a downtown Los Angeles seat that Biden would have carried 81-17.

CA-40: Freshman Republican Rep. Young Kim is seeking re-election in an eastern Orange County district where she currently represents just 20% of the population, a seat that Biden would have carried by a close 50-48 margin. Four fellow Republicans are challenging her. The most notable is Mission Viejo Councilman Greg Raths, a frequent congressional candidate who most recently challenged Democratic Rep. Katie Porter in 2020 for the old 45th District and lost 53-47. On the other side, state Democratic leaders have consolidated behind physician Asif Mahmood, who took third in the 2018 race for state comptroller.

CA-41: Well, so much for that: While state Sen. Melissa Melendez took out paperwork last week for a potential intra-party challenge to her fellow Republican, 15-term Rep. Ken Calvert, she doesn't appear to have submitted it before Friday's deadline.

Calvert now faces only minor intra-party opposition in this suburban Riverside seat, though he could have his first serious general election fight since his surprise near-defeat in 2008. While the congressman's existing 42nd District backed Trump 53-45, the new 41st would have supported him only 50-49. For the Democrats, the state party has endorsed former federal prosecutor Will Rollins over engineer Shrina Kurani.

CA-45: Freshman Republican Rep. Michelle Steel is seeking a second term in a western Orange County that would have supported Biden 52-46 and where only 16% of the population lives within her existing 48th District. State and national Democrats are backing community college trustee Jay Chen, who ran a respectable 2012 campaign in the old 39th against longtime Republican Rep. Ed Royce back when Orange County was considerably redder than it is now.

CA-47: Rep. Katie Porter, who is one of the best fundraisers in the Democratic caucus, is seeking a third term in a seat located in coastal Orange County and Irvine that Biden would have won 55-43; just over 40% of the new 47th's residents live within Porter's existing 45th District. Her only notable foe appears to be former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh, who ran against Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher in the 2018 top-two primary for the old 48th and finished a close fourth.

CA-49: Three notable Republicans are competing to take on Democratic Rep. Mike Levin in a coastal San Diego County seat that would have favored Biden 55-43. One familiar name is 2020 nominee Brian Maryott, who lost to Levin 53-47 even as Biden was carrying the old version of the 49th by that same 55-43 margin and has the state party endorsement for his second bid. The field also includes Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett and Oceanside City Councilman Christopher Rodriguez.

FL-22: Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Ben Sorensen is the latest Democrat to say he's considering a bid for Florida's open 22nd Congressional District, though he adds that he's in "no rush" to make a decision.

GA-02: Veteran Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop hasn't faced any serious general election foe since he almost lost in the 2010 GOP wave, but six Republicans are now taking him on in a southwestern Georgia seat that would have favored Joe Biden 55-44.

Only half of the field reported raising any money before the end of the year. Businessman Wayne Johnson, who is a former Trump official in the Department of Education, led Air Force veteran Chris West in cash-on-hand $135,000 to $104,000 thanks mostly to self-funding, while perennial candidate Vivian Childs had just over $6,000. The other Republicans are Army veteran Jeremy Hunt, teacher Paul Whitehead, and Rich Robertson, who is another Air Force veteran. Bishop, for his part, had $393,000 on hand to defend himself.

GA-06: The new Republican gerrymander led Democratic incumbent Lucy McBath to seek re-election in the neighboring 7th District, and nine Republicans are competing for an open seat in the northern Atlanta suburbs that would have favored Trump 57-42.

The most familiar candidate may be physician Rich McCormick, who narrowly lost last year's race for the old 7th District to Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux (the old 7th makes up 30% of the new 6th) and once again has the backing of the anti-tax Club for Growth. Another well-connected contender is former state ethics commission chair Jake Evans, whose father, Randy Evans, is Trump's former ambassador to Luxembourg. McCormick ended 2021 with a small $1.15 million to $1 million cash-on-hand edge over Evans, who has also been doing some self-funding.

The field also includes pastor Mallory Staples, who had $476,000 on-hand thanks mostly to self-funding, and former state Rep. Meagan Hanson, who had $279,000 available. It remains to be seen if any of the other five candidates can stand out in this crowded race.

GA-07: The Democratic primary for this 62-36 Biden seat in Atlanta's northeastern suburbs is a three-way contest between Rep. Lucy McBath, who represents the current 6th District; Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, who holds the existing 7th; and state Rep. Donna McLeod. Bourdeaux represents 57% of the new seat compared to just 12% for McBath. However, the more progressive McBath may be more in line with primary voters than Bourdeaux, who last year joined a group of nine renegade Democratic moderates who threatened to derail Biden's Build Back Better agenda if they didn't get a vote on Congress' bipartisan infrastructure bill first.

McBath also has the backing of Stacey Abrams, who will be Team Blue's gubernatorial nominee again, while a super PAC called Protect Our Future funded by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried has pledged to spend $2 million for her. The only poll we've seen this year was a January Data for Progress survey for that group that showed McBath leading Bourdeaux 40-31, with McLeod at 6%.

GA-09: Freshman Rep. Andrew Clyde faces four opponents in the Republican primary for this safely red northeastern Georgia seat including Ben Souther, a former FBI agent and University of Georgia football player who launched his campaign last month specifically citing the fact that Clyde does not live in the new district. The congressman, for his part, has claimed that his home county of Jackson was moved into the 10th District as the result of "a purposeful decision made by a handful of establishment politicians" to target him for being a "hardcore conservative." Clyde ended 2021 with just $41,000 on hand, though it remains to be seen if any of his foes can put up a serious fight.

GA-10: Far-right extremist Jody Hice is leaving to run for secretary of state with Donald Trump's blessing, and eight fellow Republicans are facing off to replace him in a safely red constituency based in Atlanta's eastern exurbs and Athens. The most prominent contender is former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a conservative Democrat-turned-Republican who earned Trump's support right after he ended his campaign for governor and started running here last month. Jones, though, never represented any of this area in the legislature or as DeKalb County CEO, and his opponents have sought to portray him as an outsider.

The contest also includes a few other familiar names. There's former Rep. Paul Broun, who gave up the previous version of the 10th in 2014 to unsuccessfully run for the Senate and went on to lose comeback bids for the old 9th in both 2016 and 2020. There's also businessman Mike Collins, the son of the late Rep. Mac Collins, who sought to succeed Broun in 2014 but lost to Hice 54-46. State Rep. Timothy Barr, meanwhile, has the support of Hice and 9th District Rep. Andrew Clyde.

The primary also features former Georgia Revenue Commissioner David Curry, businessman Marc McMain, retired Air Force Col. Alan Sims, and Mitchell Swan, who took a mere 4% in the 2014 primary. Former Trump administration official Patrick Witt was also running until last week, but he switched to challenging Insurance Commissioner John King in the GOP primary and endorsed Jones on his way out.

GA-13: Rep. David Scott, who has long been one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, took just 53% of the vote in the 2020 primary, and he now faces intra-party opposition from former state Sen. Vincent Fort, South Fulton City Councilor Mark Baker, and consultant Shastity Driscoll. This seat in Atlanta's western and southern suburbs would have backed Biden 80-19.

Fort, who was one of Bernie Sanders' most prominent Georgia supporters during the 2016 presidential primaries, is arguably Scott's top foe, though the former state senator took just 10% of the vote in the 2017 race for mayor of Atlanta. Scott ended 2021 with $1.1 million on-hand, while none of his foes had yet begun fundraising as of the end of last year.

ID-02: Longtime Republican Rep. Mike Simpson faces a primary rematch against attorney Bryan Smith, whom he beat 62-38 in 2014, while three others are also running in this dark-red eastern Idaho constituency. A group called Idaho Second Amendment Alliance recently began airing an ad accusing Simpson of supporting "[r]ed flag gun confiscation, a federal gun registry, [and] universal background checks," though there's no word on the size of the buy. Simpson, meanwhile, has been running commercials arguing that Smith "got rich targeting veterans who can't pay medical bills."

MI-04: In a painful blow to state Rep. Steve Carra, Donald Trump just snatched back his rose and instead awarded it to Rep. Bill Huizenga in the multi-way GOP battle for Michigan's revamped 4th Congressional District.

In September, Trump pledged his support for Carra at a time when the legislator was challenging Rep. Fred Upton—who had voted for impeachment—in the Republican primary for what was then the 6th District. But as a result of redistricting, Upton and Huizenga got tossed together in the new 4th, though Upton still hasn't confirmed his re-election plans. Carra, meanwhile, found himself drawn into the 5th but decided to test just how "Complete and Total" Trump's endorsement was by running in the 4th District anyway. The answer: not very.

NM-02: Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez earned the support of 80.4% of delegates to the New Mexico Democratic Party's recently concluded statewide convention, earning him automatic placement on the June 7 primary ballot. A question remains, however, about the fate of the only other Democrat in the race, physician Darshan Patel, who took 19.6%—seemingly just shy of the 20% necessary for securing a ballot spot without having to collect further signatures. Patel contends that his total should be rounded up, but a party spokesperson says they'll leave the matter up to state election officials.

NY-22: The Working Families Party has endorsed attorney Josh Riley in the multi-way Democratic primary for New York's revamped 22nd District, an open seat that Democrats made considerably bluer in redistricting.

PA-12: Edgewood Borough Council member Bhavini Patel has abandoned her campaign for the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania's 12th District, a safely blue seat in the Pittsburgh area that's the successor to the old 18th. Several other Democrats are still running for this district, which is open because longtime Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle is retiring.

Attorneys General

CA-AG: Democrat Rob Bonta was appointed state attorney general last year after incumbent Xavier Becerra resigned to become Joe Biden's HHS secretary, and he now faces a potentially difficult fight for a full term.

Bonta's most formidable foe may be Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a former Republican who became an independent in 2018 and, with the support of law enforcement unions, has been campaigning as a tough-on-crime prosecutor. While Schubert's lack of a party affiliation could be an asset in a general election in this blue state, though, she'll need to first put together enough votes to get past the actual Republicans in the top-two primary. Team Red's most notable contender is former federal prosecutor Nathan Hochman.

GA-AG: Republican Attorney General Chris Carr is seeking re-election, and he faces credible opposition from Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan. Libertarian Martin Cowen is also in.

ID-AG: Five-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden faces an intra-party challenge from former Rep. Raúl Labrador, who spent his four terms in the House as one of the most prominent tea party shit-talkers before losing his 2018 bid for governor in the GOP primary, as well as conservative activist Art Macomber. Labrador has been trying to take advantage of the incumbent's many battles with a legislature that's dominated by far-right hard-liners by arguing that he'd "be a true partner with conservative lawmakers in the Legislature as they work to draft and write good laws that will stand up against the gamesmanship of activist judges."

Secretaries of State

GA-SoS: Republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger's refusal to participate in the Big Lie earned him a Trump-backed primary challenge from Rep. Jody Hice, who eagerly went along with Trump's attempt to overturn his defeat. The GOP field also includes former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who lost to Raffensperger in 2018, and one other contender. On the Democratic side, state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who would be the first Asian American elected statewide, is the overwhelming favorite to advance, while Libertarian Ted Metz is also running.

Prosecutors

Suffolk County, MA District Attorney: Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo has earned an endorsement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the September Democratic primary against appointed incumbent Kevin Hayden.

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: 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.

Campaign Action

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.

The McConnell-Trump war reignites, as Republicans threaten his leadership over impeachment

The minority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is getting threats from his conference over what they perceive to be his abandonment of their one true leader, Donald Trump. Though only one is dumb enough to do so publicly, rather than anonymously.

"'No, no, no,' Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican and Trump ally, told CNN when asked if he could support McConnell if he voted to convict Trump, calling such a vote a 'dangerous precedent' and adding: 'I don't even think we should be having a trial.'" (You knew it was him, didn't you.) Another, asked the same question, told CNN "If he does, I don't know if he can stay as leader." This is after McConnell's remarks Tuesday on the floor, when he said "The mob was fed lies. […] They were provoked by the President and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like. But we pressed on."

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According to Sen. Mitt Romney, McConnell told Republicans to "vote your conscience." The Utah Republican said that McConnell "has not in any way tried to pressure folks to go one way or another." That's not enough for Johnson and the more circumspect Republicans who aren't showing their hands right now. They want him to fight the upcoming trial and protect their leader. So the old days of the Republican civil war between Trump and McConnell are back. Which is fun.

The part that isn't fun is that these Republicans are still downplaying the insurrectionist attack of January 6, when the lives of their colleagues—and former Vice President Mike Pence!—were very much threatened. Republican Rep. John Katko, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee and one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach, has hinted at just how dangerous the situation was without revealing any classified information he's received in intelligence briefings.

"I've had a lot of classified briefings on it, and it's deeply troubling," Katko said in an interview with local press this week. "I was left with a profound sense that it was much worse than people realized." Bad enough that he is behind the effort to create a 9/11 type commission that has subpoena power to investigate. "There are a lot of unanswered questions here, from possible security lapses to who was involved and when they were involved," Katko said. "We need to have a full stem to stern look back on this to see what happened, how it happened, the sequence of events, who contributed to it, and how we make sure it never happens again." McConnell would have also been getting these briefings, and so would Johnson, who is the outgoing chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

McConnell is smart enough to recognize the threat to the Republican Party—including losing lots and lots of funding from big donors who don't want to be associated with the rabble that tried to overthrow Congress—posed by the insurrection and its aftermath. There will be an aftermath because there will be a commission that investigates it. There will also be more arrests and more court proceedings that uncover what happened behind the scenes. Johnson hasn’t caught up with that eventuality yet.

The first political ads of the next cycle are already here … and Republicans aren’t happy

Having made it past November, and even past the Jan. 5 runoff in Georgia, it may seem like the airwaves and signboards near you would finally be free of political ads. However … that’s not quite true. While the idea that ads are already showing up for the 2022 election cycle might even be enough to generate howls, there’s a reason that these ads should be welcomed. Because these ads are all about holding Republicans accountable for what they’ve done over the last four years.

That starts with ads that are going on the air in Wisconsin to detail the explicit connection between Sen. Ron Johnson and the violent attempt to overthrow the government. Voters to the south might not be catching those ads, but they could still run across a Josh Hawley billboard from MeidasTouch. It’s all just part of the move to clear the halls of Congress … of the people who promoted a violent attack on the halls of Congress.

During Wednesday night’s impeachment hearing, newly seated St. Louis Rep. Cori Bush took down white supremacy in 30 seconds flat. Just a day before, she filed a resolution calling for the expulsion of 100 or more House Republicans who didn’t just vote against certifying the results of the Electoral College, but promoted the idea that the election had been “stolen”—the big lie that drove rioters into the Capitol on Jan. 6.

It’s unlikely that House members will garner the necessary votes to discharge a quarter of their members. However, if the investigation into members who actively assisted in planning the insurrection turns up definitive evidence, there is a very good chance that some members might not just be expelled, but indicted.

On the Senate side, both Hawley and Ted Cruz are likely to survive their support for overturning the outcome of the election, even with Hawley continuing to signal his support for that effort in the hours immediately after the Senate had been forced to flee for their lives. However, it’s very likely voters are going to get plenty of reminders about which senator was giving terrorists a raised fist salute on that terrible day.

However, as The New York Times reports, Wisconsin voters don’t need to wait to see the lines between Johnson and the insurgency traced. A television ad from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin hit the air Wednesday morning. It signals the start of a solid week in which Johnson will be pounded on both television and social media for his role in spreading lies about the 2020 election. 

Johnson—who has always topped the chart of senators most likely to be Russian assets—initiated and promoted lies about the election both before and after the votes were counted. And he added one more lie, because after telling voters that he was going to self-limit to two terms in the Senate, he might just decide to stay in the Senate so he can block legislation from the Democratic House. That would put Johnson up for his next term in 2022, and also turns him into a big target for Democrats seeking to dislodge a Trump-Putin fan from a state Joe Biden won.

The ad pulls no punches. It features pictures of the mob swarming over the Capitol while recalling a stinging editorial in the Milwaukee Journal that goes after several members of the Senate’s “sedition caucus,” including both Johnson and Hawley. That editorial calls on Johnson to resign immediately rather than waiting 21 months for Wisconsin voters to send him packing.

Johnson is unlikely to quit. Neither are the ads.

Senate Republicans authorize subpoenas in bogus probe angling for October surprise to boost Trump

As Republican Sen. Mitt Romney acquiesced to voting to approve some three dozen subpoenas for one of two bogus partisan probes being conducted by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, he worried that at least one of the investigations "had the earmarks of a political exercise."

That's the understatement of the century. In fact, the committee chair, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, just came out last month and confirmed in an interview that one of his two ongoing  investigations "would certainly help" Trump.

Johnson, who is desperately trying to deliver an October surprise to boost Trump's reelection bid, currently has two probes going in his committee. He's hell-bent on delivering the Biden probe that Trump had tried to force on Ukraine before he hit that impeachment wall. But just in case that entirely baseless probe fails to curry favor with the public, Johnson's got a second investigation in the works focusing on the work of Obama administration officials during the transition period following the 2016 election.

That's the investigation for which Republican senators, on a party-line vote, approved a raft of subpoenas targeting people like former FBI director James Comey and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, according to Politico. Both men participated in the transition period and ultimately briefed Trump on the intelligence community's conclusions that Russia attacked the 2016 election to help boost his presidential bid. Another GOP target is former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who temporarily took over for Comey after Trump ousted him. Romney's opposition to the Biden-Ukraine probe, however, forced Sen. Johnson to scrap a subpoena vote related to that pet investigation. In fact, that investigation is such a heap of trash, the U.S. Treasury Department recently declared one of the pro-Russian Ukrainians who helped fuel the probe an "active Russian agent for over a decade."

But the GOP's approval of dozens of new subpoenas prompted Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Homeland Security committee member, to introduce a resolution Wednesday afternoon "opposing efforts to launder Russian disinformation through Congress." 

From the Senate floor, Schumer charged that "While the rest of the country has been focused on fighting a global pandemic, for the last few months the chairman and Republicans of the committee have wasted taxpayer resources to run a hit job on President Trump’s political rival." Schumer said he would have more to say on the matter later, but added, "for one of our most important committees to be echoing a Kremlin-backed conspiracy theory is beyond the pale."

Johnson reportedly plans to release an interim report within the coming days on his Kremlin-driven probe into Biden's diplomatic efforts in Ukraine when he was serving as vice president. In the other investigation, Johnson will maintain the power to deliver headlining-grabbing subpoenas into October, even after Congress has recessed in the run-up to Election Day. How convenient. 

Top GOP senators give Trump the Biden probe he got impeached for trying to force on Ukraine

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is using his investigative powers as chair of a Senate panel to push forward with a thinly veiled attempt to stir up Russian disinformation about presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Johnson, who chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, says he's investigating if the hiring of Biden's son Hunter by a Ukrainian gas company posed a conflict of interest for Biden while he was serving as vice president. Hunter Biden, a trained lawyer, served on the board of Burisma Holdings from 2014 to 2019 as the company sought to repair its image following allegations of corruption in its ranks.

No credible news organization has found any meat to the allegation that Biden's diplomacy in Ukraine was improperly influenced in any way. In fact, Biden's work in 2015 and 2016 to help oust the corrupt Ukrainian top prosecutor had the support of U.S allies across the international spectrum.

But however thoroughly discredited this right-wing conspiracy theory is, The Washington Post reports that Johnson is intent on rehashing it along with the help of GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. And Democrats charge the probe is just a gateway into fanning the flames of a bunch of Russian disinformation about Biden and Ukraine. In other words, Johnson and Grassley are giving Trump the investigation he got impeached over—trying to force Ukraine into doing his dirty work. Ukraine officials ultimately declined to even announce such a probe, let alone conduct one. 

But Johnson and Grassley? Sure, let's give legitimacy to an investigation Ukrainian officials already declared illegitimate. Apparently, there aren't more important things to do right now as Senate Republicans let a relief package flounder that's critical to keeping the country from sliding into an economic depression.

“Senator Johnson is diverting his committee from oversight of the failing response to the pandemic — even though over 4.5 million Americans have been infected — and is instead facilitating a foreign influence operation to undermine our democracy,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said.

But Johnson's no neophyte when it comes to doing Trump's bidding on Ukraine. During the House impeachment probe, Johnson admitted to The Wall Street Journal that he had been alerted early to Trump's quid pro quo pressure campaign in which he withheld $400 million in U.S. aide from Ukraine. But Johnson was content to raise the issue with Trump and take his denial of the allegation at face value—because Trump's nothing if not a man of his word. Just FYI, that’s the type of interview a senator gives to a friendly outlet when they want to frame a story before it’s publicly revealed by someone else. In fact, a House impeachment probe might be just the type of incentive that makes a senator want to come clean.

Ukraine is currently a hotbed of disinformation on the topic. "Johnson’s probe is proceeding as Ukrainians with a variety of competing agendas and links to Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani have been releasing apparently pilfered official conversations that Biden conducted while vice president with Ukraine’s then-President Petro Poroshenko, aiming to tarnish the presumptive Democratic nominee and his longtime interlocutor in Kyiv," writes the Post. So there's lot of dubious fodder for Johnson to blow up.

When the Post asked Johnson if he was getting information from "pro-Russian Ukrainians," he offered only that he was receiving input from "a variety of sources," including the U.S. government. He also said that they would "verify" all information before publicizing it in a report he's promising to deliver in September. 

In response to the probe, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have asked the FBI to deliver a “defensive counterintelligence briefing” to all members of the House.

“Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign influence campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote in a July letter to the FBI.

Of all people, even Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former GOP intelligence chair Richard Burr of North Carolina have raised concerns about Senate staffers potentially using Russian disinformation supplied via Ukraine as the basis for a bogus investigation. 

Johnson declined an interview with the Post but issued a statement saying he refused to be deterred by "despicable tactics designed to discredit a legitimate investigation."

Nothing good will come of this. Not with Johnson behind it. He already discredited himself by admitting how easily he let Trump off the hook for soliciting foreign interference in the upcoming election. But now Johnson is actually doing Trump's dirty work for him. Can't imagine why a sitting U.S. senator would do that.

Democrats ask for FBI briefing on foreign disinformation efforts around Sen. Ron Johnson

Monday, top Democratic lawmakers asked FBI director Christopher Wray to provide classified briefings to Congress on an unspecified but "ongoing" "concerted foreign information campaign" targeting Congress with the aim of disrupting the 2020 presidential elections.

Reporters have now been able to get a bit more information on what those lawmakers have been getting at: Both Politico and The New York Times are reporting that the classified addendum to the letter touches on Sen. Ron Johnson's would-be investigation of Hunter Biden, which has been the pipeline through which Trump "personal lawyer" Rudy Giuliani has been funneling known-false information from his network of Ukrainian criminals and disinformation brokers. Specifically, notes the Times, Sen. Ron Johnson has been relying heavily on a Ukrainian figure thought by the FBI to be a "conduit" for Russian disinformation.

None of this information is new. Johnson's eagerness to solicit testimony from ex-Ukrainian official Andrii Telizhenko was the subject of public alarm and a previous intelligence community warning. Johnson has been dismissive of complaints about his reliance on known dodgy sources, though he was pressured into giving up on the idea of taking Telizhenko's testimony directly.

Reading between the lines here, then, at least one part of Democratic lawmakers’ concerns appear to be that Sen. Johnson is using his committee and "Biden" investigations to legitimize foreign disinformation operations targeting Biden in the 2020 election—or, rather, that at least one foreign disinformation campaign is targeting Johnson, using his eagerness to boost Trump's election chances to dispense election disinformation directly from the mouths of Republican senators.

There are a few things to know here. Most importantly, Johnson cannot claim gullibility in stovepiping foreign disinformation here. After a specific intelligence community warning and after mountains of public reports on the sketchiness of Giuliani's Ukrainian associates, many of whom are pro-Russian Ukrainians forced from their positions by the public and new government, and their debunked claims against their enemies. Johnson has continued to "investigate" information that has already been discredited, and it is clearly intended, like "Benghazi," as means of influencing upcoming elections. Ron Johnson knows precisely what he is doing and who he is dealing with.

So the question is not whether Russian and other foreign disinformation campaigns are targeting Johnson, but the extent to which Johnson is co-conspiring with those brokers to craft and release election-bending smears cooperatively. In his defense, Sen. Ron Johnson is widely regarded as one of the dullest senators in the institution, if not the most dull, and so there is the slightest possibility he does not see himself as coordinating with the disinformation campaign—or, more accurately, does not connect the dots as to what that coordination means, when tied to foreign disinformation sources.

Johnson has long been a puzzle, and that is putting it mildly. He was one of a collection of hard-right Republican lawmakers who inexplicably traveled to Moscow for the Fourth of July, in 2018, and who came back claiming that the Russian hacking and disinformation campaigns in the 2016 presidential elections were being blown "way out of proportion."

There's no particular reason to believe Johnson is not stovepiping foreign disinformation willingly. That was the very premise of Rudy Giuliani's "legal" help to Trump's electoral needs. Johnson was also vociferous in defending Trump when Trump extorted the Ukrainian government by withholding military aid until that government agreed to give a public announcement supporting that disinformation, leading to Trump's impeachment.

What Democrats are not publicly saying, but should, is that Johnson is not acting as target of a foreign disinformation effort, but a co-conspirator. He is a full ally of the Trump-Giuliani-Ukraine-Russia disinformation campaign.